Home > Sin & Salvation (Demigod of San Francisco #3)(5)

Sin & Salvation (Demigod of San Francisco #3)(5)
Author: K.F. Breene

Stupid morals.

We neared a small strip of buildings in what was probably the most run-down set of businesses in all of San Francisco. A brick wall rose up to the left, beyond the sand-swept clearing behind the houses, blocking off the magical zone. The rumble of a crashing wave drifted through air that carried the smell of sea foam. Someone groaned loudly from the gutter up the way.

“I found this place when I was out scouting the area,” Bria said in an unneeded but fitting hush. She weaved between the cars lining the sidewalk, her gaze taking in each one. “Looks like a shit-hole. My kinda place. You’d be surprised how much people know in a shit-hole.”

“Not this shit hole,” I said, slowing as we neared the familiar worn door with the dull metal handle. “No one knows squat in this place, alive or dead.”

She narrowed her eyes at me before yanking open the door. “How do you know?”

I gave her a dry look before forcing myself to cross the threshold. “It’s four blocks from my house and I have no friends. Of course I know this bar.”

The same stooped figures I’d committed to memory over the years lined the bar, some with beers in front of them, some without, all of them dead. I walked behind them, along a series of empty tables to my right, and rounded the bend to my usual seat at the end of the bar, next to the surliest Irishman I’d ever met in my life. He was a living resident, and his horrible attitude (which I found humorous) kept my seat vacant from the living and dead alike.

“Let me get this straight…” Bria’s gaze roamed the row of what probably looked like empty seats—drunks didn’t make for strong spirits—before darting to the pool table in the room at the back where anyone even remotely cool and/or normal gravitated. It was too early for the party crowd coming back from better bars to seek out their neighborhood dive, however, and the balls lay strewn carelessly across the green velvet. “You’ll let me into your house to have a few drinks after a hard day, but I’m not a good enough friend to bond with over a speedball at your local dive bar?” She huffed over the imagined offense, her gaze sticking to Mick, who was hunched over his drink, leaning his forearms against the bar. If memory served, this pose meant it had been a long day of beer drinking, and he’d either head home shortly or tuck into the whiskey and fall asleep where he sat. Bets could be placed on this constant dilemma of his. “You think you know a person.”

“I haven’t been here since I’ve known you,” I murmured, stopping behind my seat and putting my hand on the chair back. “Hey, Mick.”

“Well, how’s things?” he grunted, not looking over. I was the only person he ever said hi to. In his mind, I’d probably forced my friendship on him, and now he just had to roll with the punches.

“Jesus,” Bria said, staring at him. “What’s with the Irish Crypt Keeper?”

“He’s a pillar of the community, what do you mean?” I edged around my seat before pulling it out to sit.

“The whole bar is open, and we’re going to crowd into the corner?” Bria swung her gaze down the seats again before following my lead. An old man with a grizzly beard gave her the stink-eye before flickering and disappearing. “I find myself delighted and mystified by how odd you are, Alexis. Even here, in a place I should be infinitely more comfortable than you—since I’ve made dive bars my thing since I was twenty-two—you out-weird me. It’s shocking.”

I didn’t see how dive bars and out-weirding someone fit together, but let it go.

Liam, an older bartender without a fuck left to give, made his slow way down to us.

“Here’s what else I find shocking,” Bria went on, resting her forearms on the bar like Mick was doing. “You’re dressed in that expensive training gear Kieran bought you, with the glowing skin and shining eyes from all that fancy skin cream and good sex, and yet, you still fit into this place better than I do. I’m wearing a fucking dog collar. I should be the one who fits in here, not you.”

“First, I think you are taking this too personally. Fitting in here isn’t a good thing—”

“Fucking right it isn’t,” Mick muttered. “Shit hole.”

“Second…practice,” I said as Liam reached us. “Lots and lots of practice.” I half smiled at the bartender. “Guinness, please.”

He stopped, turning his gaze to Bria, and waited.

“Jack and Coke,” she supplied.

He started to turn, and guilt ate through me. I put up my finger. “I’ll… I got… I’ll pay,” I muttered. “I’ll pay for this, not Miles.”

“Eh?” Liam squinted one eye at me. “You don’t want to put this on Miles’s tab?”

Bria touched my arm and leaned farther over the bar. “Who is Miles?”

“No, I’ll…” I circled my finger in front of us before pointing at the Guinness tap down the bar. “I got it.”

“We want to put it on Miles’s tab,” Bria rushed to say. “Put it on the tab, just like…normal?” She shot me a questioning glance.

Liam moved his finger back and forth in front of us. “Both?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “No, I should—”

“Yes, both,” Bria chirped. “Both of us. Miles and I go way back. Just like”—I got another questioning glance— “you guys?”

Liam nodded and continued to turn, making his slow way back down the bar.

“We shouldn’t charge it,” I said quietly. “We should pay.”

Bria turned and rested her elbow on the bar, lowering her chin to her fist. Her eyes glittered with mirth. “Well now…that depends. Who is Miles?”

“She rode the boss,” Mick said in a series of grunts. “Liam, I’ll have a shot of Jameson.”

Bria’s eyebrows lifted. “Rode…as in…”

“Shifted. Fucked. Buggered,” Mick said. “Made a bad fuckin’ mistake, at any rate.”

“We dated,” I said, my face flaming. “He had just bought this place when we started dating.”

A slow smile curled Bria’s lips. “You get free drinks…whenever you want…because you screwed the owner? And you didn’t invite me here first thing?”

“He’s a fuckin’ coont,” Mick said in his thick brogue. “Not worth the free drinks.”

“Don’t mind him,” Liam said, reaching us with the Jack and Coke. The Guinness sat under the tap, resting. Liam hooked a thumb Mick’s way. “He’s a fan of the ol’ gargles.” He shook his thumb at his mouth and leaned back like he was drinking.

“I’m a fan of the ol’ fecking whiskey.” Mick spread his hands wide, growing surlier by the moment. “I’m dyin’ of thirst. Any day, man.”

Liam thinned his lips, the effect giving him a dimple on his right cheek, before turning back.

“Young man, young man, young man,” Mick muttered, and though he’d randomly said it as long as I’d known him, I’d never figured out the context.

“Does Kieran know about this?” Bria asked, indicating the bar at large.

“Yes,” I said, remembering when I’d first seen him in this bar. He’d done his homework.

“You don’t…” Bria moved her finger back and forth above the bar. “You don’t still bump uglies with the owner, right?”

“No.” I huffed and smoothed my hair. “He’s just an ex-boyfriend who wants to lord his good fortune over the harlot who broke up with him. These are pity drinks, as far as he’s concerned.”

“Oooooh.” Bria grinned while nodding. “I get it. Because”—she leaned closer with a smirk—“Miles would be dead now if you were screwing both him and Kieran at the same time. Demigods don’t like to share their prized possessions.”

There was that word again. I scowled at her. “I’m no one’s possession.”

“Fuckin’ right,” Mick said.

Bria clucked her tongue. “I’ll admit it. I can’t believe Kieran knows you get free drinks from your ex and hasn’t pitched a fit. What dimension am I living in? Is this an alternate reality? I even mentioned this bar to him! He must’ve known I’d drag you here, and he said nary a word.” She huffed out a laugh. “I am tickled.”

I opened my mouth for a rebuttal I hadn’t quite thought of yet, but she held up her hand.

“No, no. Don’t say anything. Just let me soak in the shock for a moment. Somewhere, a pig is flapping its wings, taking to the sky. This is history, and I am witnessing it. Hark.”

“What is she on about?” Mick asked, looking over.

“I haven’t a clue.” I took a sip of my Guinness, barely sparing a glance for the woman who’d just walked in and looked around. This was clearly her first time in the bar, and Narnia had turned out a bit different than she’d expected. I’d seen the same expression—unsure and a little disgusted—a million times.

Bria studied the new arrival. “What’s her game? She’s in the wrong place.”

The new woman sat down at the other end of the bar and waited patiently for Liam to approach her. Her posture screamed confidence, from her slightly upturned chin to her glimmering eyes. Bria was right—this woman wasn’t at home in dive bars. This woman expected people to do things for her, and do them quickly. I could see it in her soft scowl as she waited. In her tapping fingers as Liam took his sweet time. She was used to being kowtowed to by underlings.

So what was she doing wearing an outfit that wouldn’t have looked out of place in my pre-Kieran wardrobe?

“Maybe she came here on business and is trying to dress like the clientele so as not to get mugged,” I muttered, answering myself.

“Those clothes fit her too well,” Bria said quietly, lowering her gaze to her drink. Something in her tone, plus the set of her suddenly stiff shoulders, set me on edge.

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