“Right,” I said. All at once, I was having trouble caring. It was such a long time ago. It wasn’t like there was going to be a happy ending for the poor kid. I rubbed my forehead. I really should have had the coffee because I felt as tired as if I’d made the trip from Los Angeles on foot.
“Did you want another beer?”
I shook my head, blinked tiredly at her. She looked like she was sitting a mile away from me. “I think I’m going to bed.”
“It’s just a little after ten.”
“Yeah, but it’s late, and I’m meeting Pat in the morning.”
Hailey squeaked, “You’re what?”
One leg off the barstool, one leg still hooked over it, I squinted at her, trying to remember what I’d said.
I put my hand up, crossing-guard style. “Forget I said what.”
She hissed, “You’re interviewing Pat? Pat’s agreed to see you?”
I waved discouragingly, then tried to unhook my leg, which seemed stuck over the barstool, by giving a little hop backward. I managed to free myself, but the stool went over with a bang that had everyone in the place looking at me.
I blinked down at the stool.
“Skylar, are you okay?” Hailey asked. When I didn’t answer, she said, “How much did you have to drink?”
A lot? I couldn’t remember.
“Shhhhhh… Shhhhh.” I looked around to see if anyone had noticed, and I spotted Simon sitting at the bar, talking to George. Only they weren’t talking. They were looking at me. Everyone was looking at me. I clamped my lips together to keep from bursting out laughing.
“How the hell drunk are you?” Hailey whispered.
I thought the whispering was hilarious. Like it was some big secret. I whispered back, “Pretty drunk.”
“Do you need help?”
That was the funniest thing she’d said yet. She was so short. She was like an inch tall. I was a giant compared to her. I shook my head, laughing, and started for the door.
The back exit doors, as it turned out.
I walked very, very carefully across the ice, and then, weaving side to side like I was on the Starship Enterprise and we’d just been hit by a photon torpedo, I body-slammed my way down the hallway and burst out through the fire doors into outer space.
The cold should have sobered me up. It was fucking freezing. I was pretty sure my lungs were icing over. I could barely get my breath. And the lights were shooting all over the place.
I stumbled away from the pub and into the trees, and then I couldn’t remember which of the dark cabins was supposed to be mine. They all looked alike when they were asleep. Which started me laughing so hard, I had to grab the nearest tree to stay upright.
“Can I have this dance?” Beneath my bare hands, the bark was rough and textured, and I leaned my face against it and breathed in the bittersweet, earthy scent of tree skin. I stopped laughing and just breathed with the tree. The endlessly spinning tree.
What the hell is happening?
A hand landed on my shoulder. “May I cut in?” someone asked.
I rolled over, but somehow that meant I was no longer leaning on the tree, no longer leaning on anything. I staggered backward, and the hand on my shoulder became two hands, hauling me back on my feet.
“Whoa,” Rory said.
I tossed my hair out of my face and nearly fell over again. “I know you.”
“You forgot your coat. And hat. And gloves. The good news is you still have your pants on.”
“You wish!” I shot back.
He gave a funny laugh. “Uh…well. It’s not high on the list, but…”
I raised my hand and made a broad cutting motion—and found my arms full of my jacket, scarf, hat, and gloves.
“Would you like some help getting to your cabin?”
“Which one’s mine?”
“You got me there.”
“I got myself there.”
“Hey.” He patted my face with his gloved hand. “Brennan?”
I ignored him, dropping my coat and things, patting my pockets for my keys. I frowned into his face. “Did I leave my keys inside?”
“No. Brennan, hey. Hello? Skylar? Sky? Still with me?”
I opened my eyes. Shook my head.
“How much did you have to drink?”
I held my hand up and began to count it out.
“You think? Because I was watching. It didn’t look to me like you had that much. Is it possible someone spiked your beer?”
Even in the shadowy light I could see he was taken aback. “Me? No. Not me.”
I said confidently, “I think it was you. I think you’re up to no good, Rory Whatever Your Name Is.”
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