THE COVEN LOUNGE WAS a landmark in Larkin City; established by Roderick Larkin in December 1933, a few weeks after the repeal of prohibition. It began as a public house, but was transformed into a private club by his son Patrick ten years later. He renovated the inside, laying down red carpets, dark oaken walls and tables, and plush furniture. He also made additions to the club, building a second level that included an intimate restaurant and a poker room with a half-dozen rounded tables and an individual bar.
Patrick's son Brian later abolished the private club policy in mid-1960s, opening the Coven Lounge to anyone who had a mind to walk through the front door. The pub and eatery was a popular place in the city, and was typically full to capacity any night of the week. Fridays and Saturdays were particularly festive, most patrons enjoying the end of a work week by having a few drinks and a game of pool in the billiard room.
Kevin Larkin usually tended bar on weekends, taking a break from his position at the family lumber and hardware store. He enjoyed the interaction with locals and meeting new people that walked through the door. Being a bachelor in the environment was also beneficial as Kevin met many women during his sojourn as weekend bartender, loving and leaving several of them along the way.
Liam Larkin often joined the fray on Saturday nights, mingling with his friends and hoping to find a date or two among the throng. October was especially brisk in Larkin City, so Liam arrived at the Coven dressed in tight black jeans, a white polo shirt and his favourite dark green leather jacket. His dark hair was a bit long, but he kept it styled off his face.
Liam went directly to the bar to visit with his brother Kevin. After ordering a beer, he asked: "How's business tonight?"
Kevin began to fill another order from the lounge, setting up a tray and glasses. "Two of the waitresses called in sick, so I had to pool my vast resources of local talent to fill in."
Liam laughed. "In other words, you conned a few of your old flames to come in and work. What did you promise them this time? A romantic dinner for two followed by a movie? Or perhaps you lured them with a promise for a rendezvous at the Amber Whale for the night?"
Kevin grinned. "A bit of both, I'm afraid. Jane likes dinner and a movie, and she tends to invite me in when I take her back to her apartment. Beatrice, on the other hand, likes to go straight for the sex. Since her husband is at home, she prefers meeting at the Amber Whale, at my expense, of course."
"Naturally," Liam snorted as he took a sip of beer. "One of these days some jealous husband is going to beat the hell out of you. Try sticking to single women."
"Nah," Kevin replied. "Most single women want a bloody commitment. Married ladies are safe; they want nothing more than a tumble in the hay. Besides, I don't know of one man in Larkin City who can take me on."
"True," Liam admitted. "You're bigger than an ox."
Kevin began mixing drinks for the order. "Yes, I took after Daddy while you have Mum's delicate frame."
"I'll thank you to keep your barbs to yourself," Liam retorted.
Kevin glanced up from his task to reply, but then suddenly stopped short. "Holy Moses," he whistled. "Look at the piece of work that just walked in the front door."
Liam swivelled in his barstool to get a better look at the entryway to the pub. There was a small landing by the door, with a half-dozen wide steps that led into the lounge area. Liam spied the woman Kevin was referring to at once. His eyes widened in surprise and then appreciation. The woman was tall and slender, at least five-foot-ten-- inches tall with blonde hair that fell just past her shoulders. Her bangs were overlong, obscuring a clear view of her eyes. She was wearing a dark red dress that came up to her thighs, with a wide gold belt fastened around her slim hips. Her legs were bare, but her feet were encased in pair of high-heeled dark red shoes. Liam noted her breasts were high and firm, but not over-large. The clothes might have appeared cheap or gaudy on anyone else, but somehow the woman managed to carry herself with an air of reserved austerity.
"I have never seen anyone that beautiful in all my life," Kevin declared from behind the bar. "And she's not alone."
The woman appeared to be with a group of girlfriends. As they descended the steps into the lounge, all eyes went to them. However, none of the group held a candle to the blonde woman. As she walked through the tables, not one soul had the temerity to approach her. Her height also made her appear intimidating, and there were few men able to muster the courage to address her directly. She carried a small half-purse under her arm, occasionally brushing her hair behind her ears. Leaving her friends at a table in the middle of the lounge, she made her way to the bar and sat next to Liam. She did not glance his way, but he was highly aware of her presence and the smell of her musky perfume.
"What can I get for you?" Kevin asked the woman.
"A margarita, please, with a slice of lemon."
"Coming right up," Kevin replied. "By the way, my name is Kevin Larkin, and this is my brother, Liam. We own the Coven. I haven't seen you in here before. Are you new in town?"
Liam rolled his eyes. Leave it to Kevin to get the conversation going with small talk. Yet his brother had a way of drawing women into inane discourse in which they revealed more about themselves, more so than they normally would in front of a stranger.
And it worked….