So sorry this is late, but the life of romance writers is, unfortunately, not always glamorous. If you’re here for the first time, please check out Part One and Part Two. Otherwise, please enjoy and help Samantha decide what to do at the end.
Samantha pressed her spirit through the door handle as the stranger tried to open it again. Warmth spread through her at his touch, and their souls mingled for another moment. He didn’t even try to open the door. She watched him step away from the red head and look around the bar. It would have to be enough, but he’d most likely drive off once his bike was fixed.
The ringtone echoed. Samantha relinquished her small amount of control over the bar and removed her hands from the tabletop. The cellar came back into focus. “What’s up Shannon?” she asked after pulling her phone out of her back pocket. The feel of his wanderlust lingered until her sister spoke.
“Make my fucking headache go away.”
“Ummm, take two aspirin and call me in the morning?”
“It’s Harrigans calling me.”
Samantha didn’t know what to say—it was exactly what she’d worried about, but she still couldn’t understand why Harrigans would want Shannon when she’d left so long ago. After a second, she took the tact she always did as a bartender. “How’s life treating you?”
“No. This is not about my divorce or job loss. This is about–”
“You lost your job?”
Silence answered Samantha. The divorce had been painful to hear about only by phone, and now her sister had no job. “There were massive layoffs last month. I haven’t found a new one yet.”
Maybe Harrigans was loosening his grip to make room for her sister—not a replacement, but a partner. “Come home, Shannon. You should be here.”
“I don’t even know where you are.”
“But you always know how to get here.”
The line went dead.
The bar was usually placid, but as soon as Shannon hung up, the ground of the cellar tilted Samantha toward the stairs. “If you wanted me to go after him, why did you block his soul from me?”
The only answer was a gentle lift up to the stairs. She took them two at a time and burst out of the doorway. But the stranger was gone along with the red head. As she stared through the crowd, the front door of the bar opened as if the wind had blown it.
Samantha caught her breath—the outside. She only ever saw glimpses like postcards of distant places she’d never visit. Staring out gave her the shakes. It was almost as if the bar was telling her to leave. It couldn’t just kick her out like this. Not after all these years of being together.
The sunlight reflected off red metal. She squinted—she actually had to squint. When her eyes adjusted, she saw a crimson motorcycle, which was old fashioned in style, but appeared mint. Something about it tugged at Samantha; she wanted to sit on it, to ride it. She realized with a jolt that there was already someone on it: the red head. The stranger stood with his hands across his chest, watching the mechanic. He appeared angered or maybe just annoyed.
The door waved back and forth as if it beckoned her outside. Samantha stepped behind the bar, afraid to get too close to the door. She placed her hands on the bar, ready to serve, but no one needed a drink. A breeze blew by her ear and seemed to whisper, “It’s okay,” but she decided it was only her imagination, at least she only wanted it to be her imagination.
And then she met eyes with the stranger again.
At that distance, she only saw black, but she thought, or maybe she wished, that the eyes smiled at her. The frown, though, as her turned back to the mechanic was unmistakable. He shook his head and said something that made her get off the bike and strut back into the bar as if she’d been extremely put out.
The stranger followed her in, but headed straight for the bar while the red head returned to her booth. The door remained open.
Samantha grabbed a rag and began wiping down the bar like she hadn’t been standing there watching anything going on. Her heart pounded faster when he spoke, and Samantha felt another pull away from Harrigans.
“Could I have whatever you have on tap?” His voice was strangely intimate, as if he only wanted Samantha to hear him speak.
She opened her mouth, but her eyes glanced outside again, making her mute. She turned away, took a beer mug off of the shelf, tilted it under the tap and watched a dark stout flow out.
“Nice,” he said behind her. “I got a taste of that when I was traveling through Europe. I don’t see it much on tap back here.”
Samantha turned back to him and set the mug down. She stared at the motorcycle again and said in a strangely breathless voice, “Did you take your bike over there?”
“Yeah, she’s beautiful isn’t she?”
“I’ve never seen one like her.” Samantha found it odd that she called the motorcycle her, but the bar was always male in her mind. Maybe it wasn’t so strange.
“I’m Levi,” he said.
She gazed back into his umber eyes and said, “I’m Samantha. Was she able to get your motorcycle to start?” Samantha knew the answer, but she wanted to hear more of what had happened.
“She had no idea. Of course, I don’t either, but I couldn’t believe she suggested that I was out of gas.”
“Yeah, how dare she.” Samantha tried to hide a smile when he looked up, but didn’t quite manage it. She was glad because the grin that spread across his face made even the music in the bar play with a happier beat.
“You caught me. I can be a bit of an ass when it comes to my bike.”
“Everyone’s a pain in the ass over something.”
“And what about you?” His hand reached out and took one of hers.
Wanderlust wrapped around her heart. She searched his eyes, determined for a hint as to what he needed from the bar besides a working motorcycle, but Harrigans kept blocking her. His eyes widened, and she realized maybe he could sense something from her spirit. She slid her hand out from his and said, “I can be a bitch when it comes to the bar.”
“I imagine you’ve kicked a fair share of people out of here. And you play pool like a shark.”
“Seems like I missed my shot when you walked in.” That was the wrong thing to say, or maybe the right thing.
He leaned in closer and said, “I’d like to think it was because of my incredible presence.”
Samantha broke into laughter. “You’re quite full of yourself.”
“Only around gorgeous women. Want to get a closer look at my bike? Maybe you have the magic touch to get it started.”
The door to the outside world stood wide open. Samantha couldn’t see much beyond the bike and the parking lot. She looked down at the beer she’d drawn from the tap. She never left the bar. It’d be the first time since her grandma had died if she went out. She hadn’t even realized she missed the open world until today when Levi walked in.
Maybe if her sister was here, she could go outside, but not now, not when the bar seemed to be loosening its hold on her. If she left, the bar could crumble, well, okay, she had no idea what would happen to the bar if she left.
What should Samantha do? Go outside with Levi, or play it safe and remain in the bar?