Saison for Love

By: Meg Benjamin

Chapter One

Liam Dempsey surveyed the crowd filling the Black Mountain Tavern. It was early May, and the last weekend before the resort closed down for the season. It had been a good year for skiing, but they wouldn’t stay open much longer. Even if the snow stuck around, the skiers usually didn’t.

This might be one of the last weekends when he stood to make a fair amount of money. Right now, the bar was packed with the edgiest of winter-sports types, all of them with their own dreams of X Games glory. Ice climbers, back-country skiers, half-pipe boarders—all getting their last adrenaline shots until rock-climbing season began. Hell, some of the people on the dance floor even jumped off mountains with wingsuits.

Maniacs, all.

But maniacs who liked to tip any bartender who could supply them with an obscure craft brew or the most lethal moscow mule. Liam was their main man, and his ample tips reflected his skills. He regarded the packed dance floor with a brief flash of nostalgia. He’d miss these guys when he shook the dust of Antero from his heels in another month or so. Of course, he had a lot of work to do before that happened.

He’d spent the previous night helping his sister, Bec, bottle a particularly nice red ale at the brewery they owned, a task that had taken them a lot longer than he’d anticipated. He’d gotten maybe four hours of sleep before he’d had to drag himself out of bed and in to work. Another thing he’d miss—that rush from creating something new, something that would make people sit up and take notice. But the red ale was Bec’s beer—he was just helping out. In fact, most of what they put out now was Bec’s beer. His own stuff was pretty much a thing of the past.

He’d miss Antero Brewing, too, but maybe not as much as he once would have.

He didn’t begrudge Bec her success. She was a genius brewmaster, and she deserved all the success and praise she was getting. After he left, she’d hire some eager young brewer to do what he was doing now without losing much. He appreciated all the things they’d been able to do, but he didn’t have much of a role to play there anymore.

He’d miss Black Mountain Tavern more, to tell the truth. He’d tended bar there for over a year, and he liked the place. Or he’d liked it until he’d started seeing telltale signs that the bar was headed for the skids after the new owner took over—forgotten repairs, reduced menu, general neglect. He’d started asking around about bartender openings a couple of weeks ago. Lucky for him, he’d found a place in Park City that needed not just a bartender, but a manager. He’d be moving on in another month or so when the new bar opened. Quick and painless.

Landing on your feet. Always leave them wanting more.

A couple of women leaned against the end of the bar, trying to get his attention. He headed their way after delivering the drinks he’d just mixed for a trio of sunburned guys who were either boarders, or weirdly dressed skiers.

The women were probably over twenty-one, but he carded them anyway. Letting a woman know she still looked eighteen was never a bad idea. They leaned over the bar in low-cut, Spandex tops that gave him a great view of their cleavage.

“What can I bring you ladies?” He switched on his bartender smile.

One of them—the one with the blonde ringlets—gave him a slow smile. “What’s good?”

“We’re known for our craft beer. The list of drafts is on the blackboard, and we’ve got more by the bottle. If you’ll tell me what kind you like, I can make some recommendations.” He managed to turn up the wattage on the smile. Anemic smilers did not get great tips.

The hennaed redhead pushed out her lower lip in a pout, leaning forward a little more to show him her rack. “I don’t like beer. All those carbs.”

Liam thought about pointing out that the carb level of beer could be balanced by the vitamins it provided, and that some research suggested it lowered cholesterol. But he suspected that would be irrelevant to his current audience.

“We also have a small wine list and lots of mixed drinks. Let me get you a bar menu.”

He started to turn away, but stopped when the blonde put her hand on his arm. “What do you like to drink? When you’re off duty.” Her eyes widened slightly as she studied him.