The Bourbon Thief by Tiffany Reisz
There wasnâ€™t much in the world Cooper McQueen cared about more than a good bourbon. In his forty-five years, not one single beautiful woman had managed to persuade him to set down his drink and leave it down. But when the woman in the red dress walked into his barâ€”a gift from the gods tied in a tight red bowâ€”McQueen decided he might have seen the one woman on earth who could turn even him into a teetotaler. Her dress was tight as old Scroogeâ€™s fist, red as Rudolphâ€™s nose, and looking at her, McQueen had only one thoughtâ€”Christmas had come awfully early this year.
Miss Christmas in July glanced his way, smiled like she knew what he was thinking and was thinking along the same lines herself, and McQueen figured heâ€™d be leaving the bar early tonight and nobody better try to talk him out of it.
Not wanting to appear too eager, he continued to sip his bourbonâ€”neatâ€”as he kept her in his peripheral vision. Christmas in July walked over to the bar and took a seat. He watched her study the menu and he smiled behind his glass. In one minute heâ€™d go over to her, buy her a drink, let it slip he owned the bar, dangle out the bait, see if she was in the mood to nibble. Heâ€™d seen his fair share of beautiful women in his bar, usually too youngâ€”he had some pride, after allâ€”but Miss Christmas looked a respectable thirty-five. A real woman. A grown woman. The sort he could sleep with without apology. She had dark skin and black hair that lay in heavy coils down her back and tied at the nape of her neck with a red ribbon he fully intended to untie with his teeth given the opportunity.
One minute up, he went to claim the opportunity.
It didnâ€™t break McQueenâ€™s heart to excuse himself from his current conversation with someone who was either an investment banker or a venture capitalist. He had stopped listening the moment Miss Christmas walked in. He went over to her and sat in the empty bar stool to her left without waiting for an invitation. He owned the place. No reason not to act like it.
He didnâ€™t say anything at first. He let the silence linger and grow as heady as the muddy Ohio River on a hot night, the kind that made even the sidewalks sweat. Maybe he could talk the lady into a stroll over to the river while the night was still warm. Maybe he could talk her into something more.
â€œWhat can I get you?â€ Maddie, the pretty blonde bartender, asked the woman.
â€œHow about a shot of Red Thread?â€ the woman said. â€œI like to match my drinks to my hair ribbon.â€
â€œRed Thread?â€ Maddie glanced at McQueen, a silent plea for help. â€œI donâ€™t think…â€
â€œRed Threadâ€™s been out of business for thirty-five years,â€ McQueen said to Maddie.
â€œOh, good. Thought I was going crazy. Could have sworn I knew every bourbon there was,â€ Maddie said. â€œAny bottles left?â€
â€œNot a one,â€ McQueen said, not a white lie, not a black lie. A little red lie.
â€œWhat a shame,â€ Miss Christmas said, although she sounded neither surprised nor disappointed. Christmas was right. Her voice had a frosty tone to it. She was cool. He liked cool.
â€œA damn shame. They say it was the best bourbon ever bottled.â€ McQueen waited for the lady in the red dress to speak again, but she stayed silent, listening, alert, eyes only for Maddie at the moment.
â€œWhat happened to it?â€ Maddie asked him.
â€œWarehouse fire,â€ McQueen said, shrugging. â€œIt happens. You distill alcohol and store it in wooden barrels? Fireâ€™s your worst nightmare. Red burned to the ground in 1980 and never reopened. No one knows who owns it anymore.â€ McQueen had tried to buy the old Red Thread property himself but had no luck. Heâ€™d gotten as far as finding the shell companyâ€”Moonshine, Ltd.â€”that owned the acreage and the trademark, but it didnâ€™t seem to have a human being behind its name. â€œI would know because Iâ€™ve looked.â€
â€œIsnâ€™t that interesting…â€ Miss Christmas said with the hint of a smile on her red lips, and he couldnâ€™t tell if she meant it or if she was being sarcastic. She spoke with a Kentucky accent, faint but recognizable to someone who spent half his time in New York and half his time in Louisville. Kentucky accents sounded like home to him and his ears always perked up when he heard one.
â€œCan I get you something else?â€ Maddie asked the woman.
â€œFour Roses, neat. Double pour.â€
â€œA lady who knows her bourbon and isnâ€™t afraid to drink it straight.â€ McQueen turned ten degrees on his bar stool toward her. â€œA woman after my own heart.â€
â€œIâ€™m a Kentucky girl,â€ she said with a graceful shrug. â€œAnd bourbonâ€™s like the truth, you know.â€
â€œThe first taste burns, but once you get used to it, itâ€™s the only thing you want in your mouth.â€
Miss Christmas brought the shot glass to her lips, took a sip and didnâ€™t flinch as she drank it. The bourbon didnâ€™t burn her.
â€œTell me something true, then,â€ McQueen said. â€œWhatâ€™s your name?â€
â€œThank you, Mr. McQueen.â€
â€œYou know who I am?â€………………………..
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|Epub||May 30, 2020|