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Freedom means the opportunity to be 

what we never thought we would be.

-Daniel J. Boorstin


Months Ago, Spring

Beckett Roberts preferred not to spend time considering life's many difficulties. Instead, he was a man who took each day as it came, one moment, one experience, at a time. The way he figured it, there was less ache, less loss, when one had low expectations and few ties. Since boyhood he'd taken life with a grain of salt. And since he'd passed over the thin threshold into adulthood, he'd taken life with a grain of salt alongside a shot of tequila when it suited him.

But then again, being part owner of the Plumber's Pub, there was never a shortage of salt or tequila nearby.

With a spring storm thrashing outside, busting its way through Stonebridge, Connecticut, Beckett hunkered down in preparation to ride out the storm that similarly brewed inside of his domain—the kitchen.

Danielle, who'd loyally waitressed at the Plumber's Pub for years to earn extra cash that subsidized her scholarship to Yale, had been steady, dedicated, and as far as Beckett could tell, thoroughly enjoyed his company while they worked. Until now.

Sure, in response to her insulting him during one of their friendly verbal spars, he'd told her he would show her romance. And she'd told him no.

Fine. Her prerogative. But what part of that was cause to be pissed?

Beckett consolidated two bins of chopped white onions into a stainless steel container, loaded a mountain of shredded cheddar into gallon size baggies, moving through his kitchen with one eye on the woman who clanged and stomped her way through the nightly routine of side-work. She topped off the pepper containers, slamming each glass jar down with a finalized thud, then moved on to taking her mood out on the poor, defenseless bottles of malt vinegar.

Beckett braced himself, figuring he could very well be the next poor, defenseless recipient of Danielle's anger.

And just what was the woman angry about anyway? He'd never seen her this upset. Usually she was chipper and smart with a side of sass, an easy comrade to banter with. But somehow, something along the way had been his fault—which wasn't unusual in his world.

"We're leaving," Beckett's older brother, Ben, pushed through the kitchen door with famed author Kara Keaton in tow. "Keep an eye on the front."

"Sure, no problem," Beckett told him, dropping the collection of the day's steam bins into the industrial sink with a clang. "Sex emergency?"

Ben glared at him—an occurrence that pleased Beckett to no end. Having watched Ben drool daily over the mystery writer, Beckett was glad to see his brother finally making his move. Despite the occasional evil eye he received from either of his siblings, seeing them happy also pleased him to no end.

"Storm emergency. Just watch the front. Of the pub," Ben finished before Beckett could make any further inappropriate jokes.

From her workstation, Danielle let out a sigh that rivaled the deep blows of the brewing storm. "I'll take care of it."

Beckett frowned after Danielle as she departed through the kitchen door. The woman was pissed and she was letting him know it—she just hadn't let him know why, exactly. But as a man who preferred to let those jagged-edged difficulties ride out on their own accord, he wasn't sure he wanted to know her reasoning. To his way of thinking, life went its own way, people went their own way, regardless of his involvement, so why spend energy on the matter? There were better ways to put one's energy to use—like tending to sex emergencies, for example.

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