No Need to Regret: Chapter 27
From the Beginning
Being in London with Niall still felt like a dream. That first night had started the process of my emotional tank refilling. I hadn’t realized just how empty it had become. I was so drained but everything about being here was helping me recover.
We had all walked down to a local fish and chip shop for dinner, Olivia’s hand laced through mine and Bethany chattering about what she knew about British history through what she had learned in school. Niall had looked so at ease, his hand occasionally reaching up to brush against my lower back. Every time we went to cross a street, his hand went up almost protectively, and it wasn’t just for me. He wouldn’t let the kids go until he was certain the cars were going to stop or pass us by.
At the shop, he had belly laughed when Olivia had made the realization that chips were french fries, not potato chips and he had bantered playfully with Ethan over where the appropriate place to put ketchup on fries was. He was good natured in his loss when the shop owner took Ethan’s side, even as Ethan and Olivia teased him mercilessly.
On the way back to his flat, though, was when my heart had really started to feel the effect of what this trip would do for me. The sun had gone down and the temperatures had dropped. My siblings weren’t used to it being cold in March and Beth was wearing a thin jacket. When she shivered, Niall didn’t even seem to think about it before he was slipping out of his own coat and handing it over to my little sister. We were still fifteen minutes from his house and he didn’t complain once about being cold. He didn’t make a comment about her needing to remember to bring a better one next time.
How did I manage to find someone like him?
We have fallen into a comfortable schedule for while we’re here. Niall wakes up and goes down to the gym while I shower and get dressed. By the time he gets back, I’ve woken up the kids and started the process of getting everyone fed and getting ready for the day. While he has work commitments in the morning, my siblings and I head out to see some of the more touristy parts of London.
The afternoons are spent with Niall. On Saturday he had taken us to a museum, Sunday we relaxed in a park while he passed a soccer ball back and forth with Ethan and Olivia, Monday we had all gone to see a movie together, and Tuesday we took a trip to Windsor. In the evenings we would make dinner in his kitchen and he would do things like play video games with Ethan or teach all of us how to play poker, minus the money part of it. It was easy to focus on the good moments and look past the moments where Ethan whined because we were going somewhere he didn’t care about, Olivia whined about her feet hurting, or Bethany whined because the other two weren’t getting in trouble for whining.
There were so many more good moments than bad.
It was easy for my mind to wander, to imagine this as life all the time. The practical part of me knew it wasn’t possible, the kids were normally with dad and Niall is gone so often-- this is more of a tease than anything else. But the bittersweet feeling of knowing that there was a potential out there in the world for my younger siblings to know a good life, a life full of love and attention, was a near constant presence.
Our schedule on Wednesday was completely thrown off from the moment I woke up, though. Instead of waking up to Niall slipping out the door of his bedroom in his workout clothes, I woke up to fingers tracing down my neck and a gorgeous, blue eyed Irishman staring at me lovingly.
“Happy birthday, Kendra,” he whispered softly before peppering my cheeks, forehead, and finally lips in soft kisses.
I closed my eyes again and stretched, groggy and surprised by the greeting but pleased. “Thank you,” I murmured, my voice deep with sleep as I caught his lips with mine. He grinned, his hand sliding from my neck, down my shoulder and my side to rest at my hip. He squeezed gently and swallowed the soft moan that escaped my lips. As wonderful as it was having my family here getting to truly know Niall, I was trying to calculate how long we had before they woke up if we stayed quiet.
“None of that,” he whispered. “The kids are already awake and making breakfast.”
Every trace of tiredness evaporated immediately as I opened my eyes to give him an exasperated look and started to sit up, pushing the blankets off of me as I went. “You left them alone in the kitchen? Bethany burns cereal!”
A swift kiss put a halt to my attempts to get up. “Don’t worry so much, they’re fine. I’m doing the hard part; they’re just washing fruit and getting all the ingredients together. They love you, they wanted to do something special for you.”
“As much as I’m enjoying the kissing--” another one was planted on my lips for the compliment, “Don’t you think you should get back in there before one of them finds their ambition and burns this entire flat to a crisp?”
“I just wanted to make sure you were awake and let you know that you need to go ahead and shower. I’ve got a busy day planned for you, birthday girl.”
I sat up at that. “Don’t you have work this morning?”
His mischievous grin made my insides melt. “I rearranged some things.”
My brain was waking up now and making better sense of what he was saying. “Wait. You’re telling me you woke them up this morning, early, and they all just cheerfully went to make my breakfast?”
“No, they knew the plan.”
“When did you have a chance to plan this with three kids?”
He kissed me gently as he grabbed my hands and pulled me out of bed. “Now, darling. A man should never share his secrets. Go shower. Take all the time you need to do your hair. I’ve got breakfast and the kids covered and a full day of exploring London with you.”
“What are you…”
I wanted all of the details, but the draw of the shower was stronger. One thing I had learned to appreciate about Niall’s flat was his water pressure. It was a thing of true beauty and I stood using all of his hot water for as long as I could stand it, washing and conditioning my hair. Leisurely stealing his expensive soap. Allowing the stream of water to massage out the pleasant exhaustion Niall assured me was normal for a vacation.
I’d sleep on a thin mattress full of nothing but feathers if it meant I got to use that shower every day.
There was a crashing sound from the kitchen as I finally stepped out and I almost rushed to see what had broken but paused at the sound of deep laughter. He was spoiling me in ways I never could have imagined. It was a relief to be able to pick up a hair dryer and take time brushing out my hair knowing there was another adult who had it handled.
When I finally joined them there was flour all over the counters, stray raspberries scattered across the floor, and four grinning faces greeting me. “Happy birthday!” they chorused together before my younger siblings attacked me with hugs.
“No cake,” Niall said, holding out a plate in front of him. “But we made you waffles with all of your favorite toppings.” Sure enough, there were thick waffles with syrup, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and raspberries on top-- completed with a single candle.
“I told him that if we put all 21 candles on it, we might set off the fire alarm,” Ethan teased. I pushed his head playfully and he grinned again.
Even with Niall leading them, there still managed to be six different keys between the four of them for singing happy birthday to me, and they ended in three different places, but I couldn’t get the smile off my face. It was by far the best birthday I’d ever had and it was only the morning. Behind the residual smoke from my single candle being blown out, Niall’s glowing face promised a day that I’d never forget.
And how could I? He had planned everything out perfectly with my interests in mind. He remembered conversations I would have never thought to hold onto. He thought of everything and expected no work on my part from beginning to end.
Breakfast was homemade waffles made to perfection with scrambled eggs and sausages that I watched Ethan scarf down as fast as he could. He participated in a video chat with each of my siblings still in the States so they could all wish me a happy birthday, as well. He took charge of cleaning up and directing the kids on what to do to streamline everything. Once he and the kids were dressed, he ushered us out the door and down to the car.
“Where are we going?” Ethan asked as he crawled into the back with his sisters.
Niall shook his head, “Does no one in this family enjoy a good surprise?”
“No,” all three kids chorused together.
“Get used to it.”
Traffic was as hectic as ever but we eventually made it to a parking garage in London near all the tourist attractions. “Won’t you be recognized?” I asked nervously as we all piled out of the car. Niall pulled on a ball cap and gestured to his nondescript clothing. “I really hate to break it to you, but you’re no less gorgeous dressed like a frat boy than you are when you’re standing on a stage in skinny jeans.”
Ethan wrinkled his nose. “Ew.”
“As long as we’re moving, I should be fine.”
We walked for nearly ten minutes, keeping the kids close to us, Niall’s hand firmly gripping both mine and Olivia’s. Seeing him so protective of all of us did things to me. When I saw where we were headed, I couldn’t help the smile that was starting to hurt after half a week of it being nearly constant.
“The Tower of London?” I asked and he nodded. It had already been on our agenda for today and Niall had remembered, even though I hadn’t been detailing our plans to him much before the day of. I had mentioned it a few weeks ago, in passing, that it was the plan for the morning of my birthday.
He wasn’t playing around, either. We were met near the start of the line by a woman who introduced herself as our guide. He had arranged a privately guided tour for all five of us, allowing plenty of time for me to absorb every detail that I wanted.
And we did. Between the four Americans, we kept her on her toes asking questions and looking at everything we could. Niall kept track of Livy so I wouldn’t have to worry constantly about where she was. Ethan and Bethany did their part to not wander too far away and only squabbled a little, which I still had to manage but I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my morning.
When we were done, we wandered down the street towards a sandwich shop and I got my next surprise in the form of a familiar face. “Mark!” He wrapped me up in a friendly hug with a happy birthday. “I thought you’d be spending time with your family, not slumming it in London on your break.”
“My family’s in the city while I’m here. Don’t worry about me.” Niall introduced him to my younger siblings and Mark joined us in the shop for lunch.
When we were done, Mark took the kids back up to the counter to buy sweets and Niall turned to me with nervousness in his eyes for the first time this trip. “Mark’s actually here for a reason. I want your trip to be special and today to be all about you. I want the rest of the day to be just you and me.”
My heart squeezed in my chest. I wanted that, too, but… “Niall, the kids. We can’t just leave them to their own devices, even at the flat. It’s not right.”
“I know, I thought about that. That’s why Mark’s here. If you’re comfortable with it, Mark has agreed to take the kids for the rest of the day. I figured you’d be happier if it was someone you knew and trusted.”
“But, his time with his family…”
“They have their own stuff today.”
I sigh, wanting so desperately to give in because I want it, too. Time with just Niall outside the moments we stole before we fall asleep at night seemed like a dream. When they came back to the table, I laid it out on the table for them. “Are y’all comfortable spending the rest of the day with Mark?”
Ethan, predictably, eagerly agreed. He was convinced the man was more than he let on and had been asking about exercise in ways that implied he believed Mark had killed a man. Nothing was cooler to a twelve year old boy. Bethany nodded her own agreement, seeming unconcerned with the plan. “You and Niall need some time to do whatever it is adults do in this city.”
Livy was the only hold out. She glanced nervously between me and Mark. Abandonment issues were a real and constant thing with her these days and I couldn’t blame her. If she said no, I’d tell Niall we needed to reevaluate the plans. But she quietly asked, “Are you coming back tonight?”
“Yes,” Niall assured her. “And if you’re asleep before we get back, I’ll make sure she goes and wakes you up long enough to know she’s home.”
She chewed the inside of her lip and asked, “Will Bethany be there all day?”
“Absolutely,” I tell her, wanting to touch her, reassure her. It’s hard to give her the space she needs to make decisions on her own in an attempt to prevent any more codependency issues. My first instinct is to make everything better for her and it’s hard to let that go.
Finally, she nodded. “I’ll go with Mark.”
It was huge for her, but I couldn’t make a big deal about it without making her take another three steps back so I settled for smiling at her and assuring her that Mark was very nice and that I knew him well from his time in Texas and when I had visited the band.
It’s still hard watching them walk away and back towards Niall’s car, which he gave Mark the keys for. “I’ve got a service picking us up tonight,” he explained when I questioned it. “Mark hasn’t got a car big enough for all four of them.”
I set my shoulders and smiled up at him. “So, what’s on the plans for an adult’s afternoon?”
He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and steered me down the street. “We’re gonna take a little stroll before our next tour.”
I glanced up at him, taking in his relaxed features. He was happy, content. Well rested even though I knew tour was exhausting for all of them already, and this had only been the first leg. “I bet it’s boring playing tourist in a city you already know so well.”
“I’d play tourist in Mullingar if it meant I got to spend the day with you,” he replied easily. “Besides, I don’t get many opportunities to explore London like this. It’s nice to be a tourist, again.”
“You do nothing but travel.”
“Ken, you’ve been with me on tour before. There aren’t many opportunities to get out and see the sights. Last year they had to put us in a bread van just to get us out of a hotel to go see the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil. It doesn’t exactly allow for taking pictures in front of pretty buildings.”
We walked quietly while I wrapped my head around having to sit in a delivery van in order to leave my hotel. Things had been hectic when I had visited him on tour, but it had never been that bad. “How is it that you have to hide to leave a hotel, but you can walk through London without any problems? Why do we need two security guards to go around New York, but I haven’t even seen Howie since we got here?”
Niall kicked a coffee cup out of our way, keeping his head down as we moved. “It’s different when we’re supposed to be somewhere. When they can anticipate us leaving an airport or showing up to a venue, that’s when it’s the worst. And some countries have fewer restrictions on what the paps are allowed to do and that makes it inherently more dangerous. When we’re off, it’s easier to blend in.”
I looked around, taking in the blend of modern buildings with older ones mixed in, like they had forgotten them when they were cleaning the streets. It spoke to the nature of London as a whole, tradition laced into a fast paced, modern world. “Do you ever wish you could go back and do the normal tourist thing? Just walk down the street, taking pictures of obscure trellises without worrying about ending up in next week’s magazine print?”
“More often than you know.”
We rounded a corner and Niall led me up to a modern building. “What are we doing here?” I asked skeptically. Modern anything was more his taste than mine and so far the entire day had been geared towards my interests and likes. I was trying to not feel selfish, but this had been his idea of a birthday gift for me.
“Just trust me,” he urged me, gave me a soft kiss, and pushed the doors open for me.
If I could spend every day watching the way Keni’s eyes light up in the face of historical information, I’d die the happiest man on Earth.
When I led her down to the basement, she’d given me a funny look and said, “You do realize you’re famous, right? People are going to know it was you if you kill me in a basement.”
“If I was going to kill you, don’t you think I would have done it back in the woods in Texas? Just trust me.” Fact was, I was nervous. This hadn’t been on her list of things she wanted to do while she was here. Nothing about the rest of our day was something she had wanted to do, but I was ready to shit myself with anxious hope that she’d love it anyway.
Either I knew her, or I didn’t, but I was sure she’d love her surprise.
The moment she saw where I’d brought her, she was speechless and I knew I’d been right. It filled me with a certain amount of pride when she looked at me with glowing eyes. “I didn’t even know this was here,” she told me, gesturing at the sign declaring that it was the Billingsgate Roman House & Baths remains.
My girl likes old things, and I’m here to provide.
“I didn’t either until I started planning for your birthday,” I confess. “I know it’s not a castle, but I thought you’d enjoy it, nonetheless.”
She nearly hugged our guide when she learned that taking photos wasn’t prohibited inside, as long as she didn’t use flash. But best of all was the soft “Oh!” she uttered and the wonder that filled her eyes as she looked at the 2,000 year old remains for the first time. It just looked like a collection of dirt and rubble to me, but I would have bought her an entire excavation site just to see that look on her face for one minute longer.
Drugs had nothing on the way she made me feel.
It wasn’t that I found the tour to be boring, because it really was full of information on London when the Roman’s still had control here and the way the bath house worked, but I didn’t find it interesting in the way Keni did. She asked questions constantly, her eyes taking in details that I would have ignored completely. She asked questions about social structure that even with a textbook in front of me, I wouldn’t have thought to ask.
Watching her mind work was as attractive as watching her clothes come off.
She was beside herself with giddiness an hour later when we made our way back up to ground level. “I can’t believe that it was in such good condition! Just… there. Right below London. It’s amazing! Who could even imagine?”
She could, if she gave herself enough credit. The thought made me smile as I looked at her fondly. “Well, we’re not done here, yet. Do you see that church door?” I ask, pointing up a walking path. Her lips purse as she nods. “Walk up that way.”
For a girl who had just joked about me killing her in a basement, she was awfully trusting. She didn’t even hesitate as she walked up towards what looked like a church building. I kept close enough that I could hear her gasp when she got her first glimpse at the church ruins. “Oh, they’re magnificent!” she breathed. “I would have never thought to look back here. And with all those business offices all over the place…”
“I know. It’s an oasis. Keep walking, there’s a gate up here.”
“We can go in?!”
I grinned at her and her face positively glowed with light as she rushed up the path. I followed behind her, watching her explore among the ruins and the ivy. “The church was ancient,” I told her as her fingers brushed along a window frame. “I don’t know much about the history, but it was bombed during the Blitz. The church of England made the decision not to rebuild it and at some point, they decided to turn it into a public garden.”
“Our government would have just torn it down.”
I chuckled, watching as she nearly tripped over a paving stone as she stared up at a higher window. “Don’t start thinking too highly of the British. There was plenty of that, too. But these walls have stood for a thousand years, why tear them down now?”
But she wasn’t paying attention anymore, her focus was on the ruins surrounding us.
She was too beautiful for words and I couldn’t help myself. While she was distracted wandering around, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and started taking pictures of her. The wonder in her eyes. The way her hair blew lightly in the wind. Framed in doorways. Through what was left of a window. I could see her mind working, imagining what it had looked like. How the stain glass would have looked. The way people would have walked through the doors for centuries, looking for faith in faithless times.
I had pieced together Keni’s love of history bit by bit over time, through conversations and other pieces of her life that I knew about. Her working in a museum and her fascination with Greek Mythology had been the most obvious, but there had been more. When we talked, she always had random bits of trivia for a lot of the places I was traveling to. She watched documentaries fairly often on Netflix and the majority were history related. She had never met a museum she didn’t love and when she was planning this trip, she had been the most excited for the tours of all of the historic places in the area.
It wasn’t hard, if you were paying attention.
I’m glad that I was because I can tell how much she’s loving this. I was worried that I was trying to shove too much into one day, but we needed this. She needed this; being able to enjoy the history of a place without worrying about how bored Ethan was or if Liv had wandered off or if Bethany was starting to get hangry.
We’re both going to be exhausted but it’s worth it to experience what it would be like if we could travel together.
Keni was reluctant to leave, but I had another surprise up my sleeve, more that I thought she needed to see. More that I wanted to show her.
“You really love this sort of thing, don’t you? History and all of that.” We were plodding our way down a sidewalk, hand in hand, towards the street. She had just trailed off from talking about what the buildings that were still standing had seen.
“History, culture, how people live and used to live… It’s always been a passion of mine. Getting that job in the museum was like a dream come true. Where are we going, now?”
I gently nudged her and pulled her back against my side. “Have I supplied any clues so far today?”
“And did you like it all, anyway?”
“Please? A clue?”
I shook my head and gestured to the car with a business emblem on a sticker in the windshield pulling up onto the side street. “We’re getting in this car.” She turned wide eyes to me and I chuckled. “It’s a car service. They’re supposed to be picking us up, Keni.”
“I think you’re trying to get me killed.”
Opening the door for her, I grinned. “That’s not a very good birthday present, is it?”
The glare she gave me before she slid into the backseat of the car held no heat and yet it sent heated desire through me. I was starting to think that she could do no wrong. There was nothing about her or the things she did that made me want to duck and run. If I wasn’t so sure that where we were going next was going to be the best part of her day, I’d skip straight to the end of our day where I could finally get her alone after everyone went to bed.
That peaceful look on her face as she holds my hand across the middle seat and gazes out the window at the buildings passing by… I’d sell everything I own to have this moment forever. It always feels so right but so surreal to be in her space. To breathe in the scent of my soap on her skin as she brushed past me. To be able to reach out and touch her whenever I wanted.
The car turned onto a small street off Piccadilly and pulled to a stop. “A bookstore?” I asked, looking at the display window of a shop with a sign declaring that they sell rare books and prints, interest and confusion swirling around in my mind.
“Antique books, to be precise,” Niall said, his face neutral but a smug look in his eyes. “Prints, too. I thought you might want to look around for Noah. And before you get fussy about how expensive something is, it’s a gift to him from me, since he couldn’t make it on the trip with the rest of ya.”
Noah’s art. He always remembered Noah’s art.
Stepping through the doors was like walking into a warm embrace. It was like a library had been condensed and intensified. All around us were cases full of books, the familiar musty smell overpowering and riddled with age. They weren’t anything I had ever considered for myself-- why buy books that were so old you couldn’t even read them for pleasure? I found myself drawn to the nearest case, however. From surprisingly vibrant covers with finely embedded gold lettering to thick leather cracked with age, long life marked by discoloration.
“I hoped you’d like it,” Niall said, his hand brushing lightly across my lower back. “Take your time, Ken.”
Everywhere I looked there was something new drawing my attention. The way covers were painted. The detailing on leather bindings. I was touched that Niall had not only remembered my love of history and books but found a way to combine them in a way I hadn’t expected. “How did you guess I would enjoy this?” I asked as I took in the details on a book called Bill the Minder, light green with gorgeous gold detailing.
He shrugged like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I’ve been in a library with you, Ken. And you always have a book on you when you leave the house. Too many sometimes, but that’s an old argument.” We both smirked at the memory of us arguing about how many books it took for me to write a paper.
After looking at all of the bookshelves, I went to look at the prints. I won’t lie, it’s not really something I’m overly interested in but I knew Noah would be all over it. He paints and draws, but he’s interested in every art medium there is. In the end, I find a vintage Olympic poster from the 1972 Olympics in Munich and a piece entitled “Gentleman Commoner & Nobleman, Pro Proctor” with three men wearing what looked to be graduation regalia from some time around the Victorian era, if I had to guess. It wasn’t my major area of interest when it came to history but it fits with Noah’s high school graduation coming up and I knew he’d appreciate it.
I had thought to argue with Niall about the prices until he gave me a look that promised his full stubborn rebuttal. I left well enough alone. In the end, it wouldn’t be nearly as much as buying Noah a ticket here and back would have been.
When we made our way up to the counter, I noticed a book sitting casually on its surface. I perked up instantly as I saw the black lettering embossed on the deep red cover: A Collection of Greek Mythology. There was an image that was taken from a Greek vase depicting a battle in the same black under the title and my fingers itched to pick it up.
“You can look through it, if you’d like,” the man standing behind the counter offered as he started on working up our order. I hesitated, not wanting to damage something that probably cost a fortune. In the end, curiosity got the best of me.
The top edge of the spine and the corners were frayed in a way I was familiar with-- the sign of a frequently used book. When I gently opened the cover, I discovered a list of names, previous owners I’m sure, in fuzzy pencil markings. The text was in clunkier letters than what you’d see now, and the spacing was different. Like it had been done on a typewriter. All of the most popular Greek myths were present, with pictures depicting key scenes at the beginning of each story. Occasionally, written in the margins were small notes or lines would be underlined. It was like peeking into someone’s textbook notes.
“How old is this?” I found myself asking the man who had been helping us.
He typed something into his computer and said, “The item intake says this edition was published in 1852.”
I would have ripped my hands away from it if they hadn’t been supporting the front cover and the pages I’d already turned. It wasn’t as old as some of the other books in the shop, I’m sure, but it was the oldest thing I’d touched in my life besides maybe a rock or a building.
I shut it gently and sighed.
“Do you like it?” Niall asked, leaning against the counter as he watched the man carefully pack away Noah’s gifts.
Nodding, I pulled my hands away from the cover. Every history documentary I’d ever seen had antique pieces handled with gloves. While this book wasn’t that old, I felt weird leaving the oil from my skin all over it. “I love it.”
“Good. Cause it’s yours.”
I stared at him blankly, my mind rushing to catch up. “Niall, you can’t. It’s too…”
Warm, thick fingers reach out and wrap around mine. “Don’t start in on the price again. It’s your birthday, Keni and I know how much you love Greek mythology. I already bought it.”
Today had already had too many surprises and my brain was struggling to keep up. “You already…”
His eyes were dancing. He knew he’d done well. “That book right there is the real reason we came, I needed to pick it up for you. I scoured every rare book shop in London looking for a book on Greek mythology for you. Had to use the online catalogues since I’ve been out of the country and you wouldn’t believe how hard it is finding one.”
My hand spasmed in his, gripping his fingers tighter as I looked at the book laying in front of me. “Most guys get a girl a bear or a cheap necklace for her first birthday after they start dating. You’re setting the bar way too high, Irish.”
His smile matched the delight in his eyes. “I’m planning on outdoing this birthday for many years to come.”
I stepped into his chest, wrapping my arms around him as the smell of him mixed with the smell of books in my senses. “It’s perfect. I don’t think you’re going to be able to top this one.”
“We’re still not done.”
Not being done included walking around looking at all of the shops before taking me to dinner at a nice French restaurant. I felt ridiculously underdressed but Niall either didn’t notice our relaxed attire or simply didn’t care. His attention was solely on me.
He flipped back to the wine selections and pointed at them. “I know you could drink here legally yesterday but it still seems momentous.”
I wasn’t even sure what to get, but our waiter was more than enthusiastic about helping me decide based on what I had enjoyed in my limited experience and what I was ordering to eat. Once he was gone, I asked Niall, “What did you do for your 21st birthday?” I thought about it for a minute and then corrected myself, “Probably what you do for all your birthdays. I forget that it’s not that magical number in most countries.”
Niall chuckled and shook his head. “We made a pretty big deal of it, alright. We had a concert day of, but I went to Vegas as soon as I could, since I could finally have the full experience. Don’t remember much of it, to be honest.”
“How very rockstar of you,” I tease. “Six months later and you’re having to be home in time to put a 7 year old to bed. My, how the mighty have fallen.”
Blue eyes lock onto mine. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be, Ken.”
Say what you want about the man, but Niall knows exactly where to get good food. The waitstaff are all attentive and in no time at all, I have a steaming plate of food right in front of me. He waited until I had a mouth full of fish before asking, “If you like history and anthropology so much, why aren’t you studying them?”
I nearly choke and take a few moments to chew properly and get my mind in order. “I have taken courses for them.”
“You know what I mean, Ken.”
I spin my fork around on my plate, half wondering if there’s someone with impeccable manners watching me and about to have a stroke. “I love them, but it’s not easy to make a career out of them. The financial risk is too great, especially with me helping out so much with the kids. I need something that has better odds of me finding a well-paying job.”
“Even if you’re not passionate about it?”
Thumbing the stem on my wine glass, I mulled over how to respond. “It’s not like I don’t care about helping people, it’s just not… my biggest interest. I don’t think there’s any harm in allowing your passion to just be a hobby in the name of doing what’s best for you and your family.”
“If you could have any job in the world, what would it be? Don’t worry about risks or your siblings for just a few minutes. What would it be?”
“I’d love to work in a history museum as an archivist or curator. Or take on a research position about ancient civilizations. Artifact research. It doesn’t really matter, as long as culture and history are involved.”
“So, you want to be Indiana Jones?”
I scrunched up my nose at him. “Would you hate me if I told you that I’ve never actually seen those movies?”
He stared at me, his jaw hanging slightly loose. “You’ve been living under a rock. Hurry up and finish your food. We’re going to go pick up cupcakes and get back to my place to fix that. Tonight.”
It wasn’t Vegas, but I couldn’t imagine a better day that he could have planned for me.
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