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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

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Amazing art by Mickie!

 

 

Molly pushed open the door of the restroom and made her way into the hallway between the back room and the main bar, heading for the front. Preoccupied with going over a list of closing duties she needed to get done, she didn’t even notice Cullen standing at the end of the hallway until he reached out and snagged her by the waist, pulling her back into the hall and tucking her back tight up against his chest. “What?!” She craned her neck around, startled by this out of character action.

“Shh,” Cullen whispered, pressing a finger to his lips and then pointing at the bar.

His eyes sparked with amusement, effectively derailing her train of thought. Maker, she’d never seen them this close up before. She could so easily get lost in their rich brown depths, if she let herself. Instead, she yanked her eyes from his, and they fell next to the scar on his lip. Her fingers itched to reach out and trace it, wondering for the millionth time how he had come by it and knowing she’d never get up the courage to ask.

Cullen’s smile was one she hadn’t seen before, and she filed it away in her mind, to be called up later during one of the rare free moments she might take to daydream. It had been months since those daydreams had been about anything—anyone else. His arm was still wrapped around her waist, though he didn’t seem to realize it. Molly held her breath, lest he notice and turn awkward about it. She adored when he was awkward, but found she enjoyed being pressed up against him even more. Even through their sweaters, she could feel the heat of him burning into her back. It was fueling another type of heat, growing inside her from the center out, and she was only seconds away from blushing. Cullen wasn’t the only one with a tendency toward awkwardness.

Voices filtered into her consciousness and she at last turned her attention to what held Cullen’s focus. The barroom was empty, save for Cassandra and Josephine behind the bar, preparing the bank deposit. “…am glad things quieted down for the last hour,” Cassandra told Josephine. “It was busier tonight than expected.”

“I suspect people were taking advantage of the break in the weather to get out after being cooped up inside all week by that dreadful rain,” Josephine murmured.

She was standing much closer to Cassandra than usual, and Molly blinked when she reached up as if to brush Cassandra’s cheek, but let her fingers drop without making contact. Cassandra did not notice.

“I was thinking I might take tomorrow off,” Josephine said in an attempt at a casual tone.

Understanding began to dawn for Molly. Tuesday was Cassandra’s usual day off.

“Oh?” Cassandra glanced up at Josephine. “Did you wish me to come in then, in case we are busy again?”

“No,” Josephine managed a genuine laugh. “I have already spoken to Leliana. She will come in for the whole night, and Molly’s picked up enough that she can help Cullen make any of the less complicated drinks.”

Cassandra tilted her head in thought and then nodded. “Yes, you’re right about that.” Molly felt a new burst of warmth at this bit of approval. Cassandra hadn’t been too keen on hiring a new server when Molly started working at Divine, but she had been warming up to Molly in the past month or so. Cassandra’s brows drew down and she gave Josephine a questioning look. “It sounds as if you’ve got things covered. Why are you telling me, if you don’t need me to come in?”

“Oh, sweet Cassandra,” Josephine said with a warm smile. “I asked for the day off because it is your day off. I was hoping you might like to spend it together?”

Cassandra’s eyes widened and Molly was delighted to see a blush spread across her cheeks. “What did you have in mind?” Surprised she might be, but she definitely sounded interested. From where she stood, Molly could see Cassandra lean in a little bit closer to Josephine, a hopeful smile appearing on her face.

With a soft laugh, Cullen backed up, pulling Molly along into the back room. When he stopped, he said in a low voice, “Let’s let them have a few more moments, shall we?”

“Josephine and Cassandra?” Molly whispered, trying not to focus on how much she missed the warmth of Cullen’s body as he stepped away. “I had no idea!”

“Neither did they,” he whispered back, grinning. “At least, Cass had no suspicion of Josephine’s feelings.” A strange look flashed across his face and he glanced away, staring back down the hallway. “Funny,” he muttered, “how you can spend so much time around a person and not know what they’re thinking.”

“Do you think she feels the same way?” Molly asked, hoping to draw him into a bit more conversation. He had known Cassandra for years. If anyone had an inkling of how she felt, it was probably him.

He glanced back at her. “Cass is hard to read,” he said, tilting his head as if in thought. “But I believe she does. She is warmer when Josephine is around.”

Molly considered it and realized that he was right. Plus, that smile before Cullen pulled Molly to the back room had been pretty telling. “Good for them,” she said, leaning back against the pool table.

“Yes,” Cullen agreed, moving to stand beside her and crossing his arms. Molly fought the urge to lean against him, instead trying to focus on his words. “Cass is a hopeless romantic, really, for all that she doesn’t let it show. I suspect Josephine is just the one to sweep her off her feet.”

“Now that I’d pay to see!” Molly giggled, picturing their diminutive manager actually scooping up the much taller bartender.

That drew a chuckle from Cullen and he bumped her shoulder with his. “You know what I meant,” he said. “Come on, we should probably get back out there. Not even Josephine can keep Cass distracted from her work for long.”