Chapter 60

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You'd think the Happy Monkey, with a name like that, would be a casual place. But it wasn't, really.

Located at the western end of the Central Plaza, the Happy Monkey was every fancy Uptowner's favorite spot to have a drink, play cards, chat, and listen to music.

It was also an inn. Upstairs, the two other levels had well-appointed rooms that were occupied by travelers from the mainland or other Rengleam-owned islands, their ships docked in West Harbor.

Right now, on the stage in the back, a charming middle-aged Rengleam gentleman in proper suit and hat played the guitar. He played well, too – better than Rilien. Though Leithan wouldn't have told his friend that.

Rilien sat at the central table with three other serious-looking men in elegant tailored suits, cards in hands and on the table before them, playing a game of Fool's Bet.

Leithan was all for rooting for his friend but, at some point, he got tired of looking at their studiously blank faces.

Instead, Leithan meandered across the crowded room, to the bar section. Pulling a cushioned stool, he dragged it over to the tall counter and sat, leaning his arms across the glossy mahogany surface.

The manager of the Happy Monkey, Gina Dancingeyes, waltzed by and smiled at him from the other side. She was an older lady, past her sixtieth year, but quite spry and generally awesome, everyone agreed – even her name was fun. In Leithan's opinion, Gina was the best reason to hang out at the Happy Monkey.

Offsetting her formal black bartender uniform, Gina wore large, bronze-rimmed glasses that curled upward at the top edges and she had a full head of long braids – a mix of black, gray, and white.

"What can I get you, young man?" she asked, splaying ringed fingers onto the counter between them.

Leithan looked up, his gaze wandering across the shelves and their countless fancy bottles. Soft chandelier light cast a warm glow over the bottles' colors – gold, amber, red, brown, black.

"You're over eighteen, right?" Gina suddenly asked, her smile faltering.

Leithan smiled. "Yeah, I am. But you know what? I think I'll stick to water, for now." Cancelled lectures equaled cancelled salary, he reminded himself.

As Gina picked up a metal pitcher and poured him a glass, Leithan spun around in his stool, observing the room. At the round table, Rilien studied his cards, rubbing pensively at his chin with his free hand.

Leithan sighed.

Then, the front door opened, and he straightened, craning his neck to see who had just walked in. Leithan smiled, and waved at her when she saw him too.

Quin Shimmerlake.

She gave him her small, charming smile from across the room, then slowly made her way over to the bar, saying hi to a few people. Quin paused for a brief moment beside her brother, seemed to realize how concentrated Rilien was, and left him alone.

Quin sat on the stool next to Leithan, unbuttoning her slim jacket.

"Hi Leithan," she said, smiling.

"Hey," he said. "How come you're alone?"

He picked up his glass of water and took a sip. Before Quin could answer him, Gina asked her what she wanted. The woman's grin was about a hundred times warmer for Quin than it had been for Leithan. Nothing surprising there. Quin was Uptown's little darling.

"A glass of Ruby Red, please," Quin said, her voice as elegant and polite as her smile. "Thank you, Gina."

As her wine was poured, Quin completely took off her jacket, revealing a corset-inspired top that showed off her slim shoulders but had long flowing sleeves. It was all in shades of white and silver, setting off the rich dark browns of her skin, eyes and hair. She had a slim white and gold watch at her wrist.

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