Escape With Me by Kristen Proby
What in the hell am I doing?
The pastor we booked fourteen months ago speaks, but I’m not listening. I stare up at the man I’m in the process of marrying, hoping to feel just a glimmer of the love and excitement I felt when he proposed last year on Valentine’s Day. I want to feel the joy.
But his blue eyes are cold, his lips curled into a smirk, replacing the sweet smiles he once gave me—back when I fell in love with him.
He’s the appropriate man. His credentials look great on paper. My father loves him to death. Our families have been close for as long as I can remember.
But I feel…nothing.
“Izzy,” he whispers, squeezing my hands painfully to get my attention.
“What? Oh.” I swallow and look at the pastor. “Can you please repeat that?”
“Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
I glance at my parents and then back up at the man before me and know in my heart of hearts what the answer is.
What it’s been for a long, long time.
“No.” I shake my head and pull my hands away as Troy’s face scrunches up in a furious scowl. “No, this isn’t what I want at all.”
I turn to the audience. My father stands, his face full of confusion.
“I’m sorry. I’ll call later.”
And with that, I take off down the aisle and into the bridal suite so I can grab my purse and phone. Then, I hurry to my little convertible waiting outside, the one covered in balloons and a JUST MARRIED sign on the back.
As I pull out of the church parking lot, I see Troy walking out the door, his hands in his pockets, his mouth set.
He’s not heartbroken.
And I just dodged a proverbial bullet.
“You’re on my last bleeding nerve, Mary Margaret.” I toss the white towel onto the bar and glare at my youngest sister.
“Back at you.” She rolls her eyes as she flips her red hair over her shoulder and stomps away to the kitchen, most likely to bitch about me to our brother, Shawn, and his lovely new wife, Lexi.
Running a family business is at once satisfying and a pain in my ass.
I bought O’Callaghan’s Pub from my da about five years ago when he told me that he and Ma wanted to retire and move back to Ireland. The pub is my passion, so the decision was a quick and easy one. And, I can admit, having my siblings around to help is one of the reasons I love it so much.
We’re a big family. Loud and opinionated, but loving and ready to jump in at a moment’s notice if any of us needs the other.
The O’Callaghans are a tight clan, and that’s the truth.
Maggie is the baby of the family and one of my best friends. She works for me full time as a waitress and a fill-in cook when the need arises.
But she’s been in a foul mood all day, which isn’t like her. Though when I asked what had her panties in a wad, she snarled and snapped at me like an angry badger.
I hear a dish break in the kitchen, and then Maggie stomps out of the swinging door, looking just as happy as when she went in there moments ago.
Which is to say, not happy at all.
“Maggie.” I try a different tactic, calming my voice as I open my arms. “Come here, darling.”
She looks as if she might flip me the bird, but then her shoulders slump, and she walks into my embrace, hugging me back.
“What’s bothering you today, love?”
Given that I’m her brother, and she doesn’t see me as a man, I don’t take offense.
“Man trouble, is it, then?”
“I’m being silly. And I’m sorry for calling you a horse’s ass.”
“Well, in my head, I did.” She pulls back with a smile. “And I broke a plate in the kitchen. You can take it out of my pay.”
“We’ll let this one pass,” I reply, relieved to see that her feathers are somewhat smoothed for now. I don’t like seeing either of my sisters out of sorts. “If you need to talk, I have two ears that work just fine.”
“Yeah.” She sighs and then shrugs a shoulder. “There’s really nothing to talk about. I’ll just go splash some water on my face and get back to it. It’s not even dinnertime yet. I can’t let a man’s lack of consideration ruin my whole day.”
She saunters off to the ladies’ bathroom just as the front door of my pub opens, and I feel my eyes go wide.
Having worked in this establishment all of my life, I’d thought I’d seen everything there was to see.
I was wrong.
Because right there, before my very eyes, is a princess.
There’s a princess in my bar.
She walks in, looking a bit lost and worse for wear now that she’s inside.
Soaking-wet from head to toe, her gown looks damn heavy. Her blond hair is saggy and coming loose from some sort of fancy up-do. Her makeup is smeared under her eyes as if she’s been crying or got caught in a torrential downpour.
Given the state of the rest of her, I’d say it was the latter.
“Come on in, lass.”
She looks at me and walks to the bar, hops up onto a stool, and leans on her elbows.
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