It was just after nine p.m. when Fanshawe and Abbie entered the Squire's Pub. The comfort he felt by being with her-the idealism of a first date notwithstanding-continued to ease the turmoil he'd been dwelling on all day. Additionally, he was pleased by how easy it was to slip his arm around her waist; he could tell she was glad he did that. Closer now, her subtle perfume and shampoo scents were driving him nuts, to an arousing degree, yet not once had he even re-framed the vision he'd stolen last night, when he'd peeped on her and seen her utterly naked.
Several tables full of loud professors took up the pub's rear section; Fanshawe noticed the two joggers, too, who didn't seem to be having quite the raucous time as their inebriated elders, which was understandable.
Most of the bar, however, was empty. Perfect, Fanshawe thought. Mr. Baxter stood in attendance, and at first Fanshawe was worried what the proprietor might think of him walking in with his arm around his daughter. The instant he spotted them, though, he seemed to perk up, as if somehow energized by their entrance. Fanshawe let his hand slide across the small of Abbie's back when they parted for him to pull a barstool out for her.
"Well, hey there, you two," the older man greeted, a crackle in his voice. "How was dinner?"
"Excellent, Mr. Baxter," Fanshawe said, then sat down next to Abbie. "A perfect meal for a perfect evening." He wondered if he should take Abbie's hand so quickly in front of her father, but before he could finish the consideration, she took his.
"Oh, yeah, Dad, it couldn't have been better," she augmented, "and Stew says the curries are as good as the Thai places he goes to in Manhattan."
"Your daughter has great taste in cuisine, Mr. Baxter."
Baxter, thumbing his suspenders, failed to restrain an amused frown. "That she does, but not such good taste in what she chooses to let come out of her mouth. I'd like to put my boot to her behind for telling you all that gory baloney about Wraxall and his daughter."
"Listen to Dad," Abbie mocked, looking at Fanshawe. "You should've seen how excited he was when we found all those black-magic relics in the bas.e.m.e.nt. *The Salem of New Hamps.h.i.+re!' he said. *We'll make a fortune from all these sucker tourists!'"
"Mind your mouth, girl..."
"Well, it's true, Dad. For someone who thinks witchcraft is just a bunch of *silly drivel,' you sure jumped all over it."
"You did a little jumpin' yourself, missy," Baxter replied, wagging a finger. "So don't ya go puttin' it all on me in front of Mr. Fanshawe."
Abbie laughed and drifted off her stool. She went behind the bar, to make drinks.
Fanshawe smiled through the vocal volley. "Well, it certainly looks like it's working; you've got a pretty solid business here. But tell me, Mr. Baxter. It can't all be baloney and drivel, can it?"
Baxter scoffed mildly. "Oh, I'm sure a little bit of that religious
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