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“So, so nice to meet you.” Rowan pumped her arm, his face splitting into a smile. “Such an honor.”

“An Irishman amongst the Americans. I like it.” She turned back to me. “Addie, your brother here is quite the writer. I was very impressed.”

“You—you were?” Ian’s face lit up like a birthday cake, and he stumbled back a few steps. I’d never seen a compliment hit him so hard, and on the field they rained down on him constantly. “Thank you,” he choked out.

Miriam slapped him heartily on the back. “And I love that you’re so young. When you get to be my age, you realize that age has nothing to do with what you can accomplish—if you’ve got it, you’ve got it. Why wait until you grow up? And then once you’re all grown-up, why stop? Or at least that’s my motto.”

Forget Titletrack. We should start a fan club about her.

She kept going. “I want all of you to find a table. I’ve been on the road all summer, but they let me back in the kitchen today and I made my famous Guinness beef stew. Bruce Springsteen claims it changed his life.”

“Bruce Springsteen?” Ian looked like he was about to collapse.

She tapped her chin with one finger. “Or was it Sting? Funny, I sometimes get those two confused. I’ll tell the kitchen staff you’re here—see you in two jiffs.” She bustled away, leaving ripples of shock in her wake.

“Ian, that was savage!” Rowan enthused.

Ian turned to me, his eyes round. “I just talked to Miriam Kelly.”

“No, you were just complimented by Miriam Kelly,” I pointed out, pride bubbling up in my chest. Whenever Ian was this happy, it always spread to me.

Miriam had ushered Ian to a table near the small stage, so Rowan and I chose another one closer to the door, in an attempt to give Ian some space for the interview.

“So why is Miriam such a big deal?” I asked, keeping one eyeball on Ian. His face had settled on a subtle shade of cranberry, and so far he’d dribbled stew onto his T-shirt and dropped his pen twice. If he was going to be a music journalist, he was going to have to work on the starstruck thing.

Rowan nodded. “She’s like an informal talent director. At first she was just booking people to play here at her pub, but after she pushed some of the biggest acts in Ireland, all the record companies started hiring her to scout talent. Fifteen years ago, she heard Titletrack playing at a university contest and invited them here for a summer. It’s how they started building up their fan base.”

I dug my spoon into my bowl. “She’s also an incredible chef.” Miriam’s Springsteen stew was a mixture of carrots, potatoes, and gravy topped off with two big ice-cream scoops of mashed potatoes. It was so rich and warm that I wanted to crawl straight into the bowl.

“Hey, did you read the guidebook homework yet?” Rowan asked, nudging the book across the table to me. “We have to build a paper boat and put it in the water.”

“Are you going to do it or are you going to bail again?” I teased, flipping open to the Cobh section.

“Look, as long as it doesn’t involve body fluids, I’m in.”

“Fair.” I leaned back in my chair happily. I was stuffed, and relaxed for the first time in days. The live music had been replaced with a Queen album that I recognized from when my dad cleaned out the garage, but mostly all I could hear was Ian. He kept dropping his head back and laughing.

When was the last time I’d seen him laugh so hard? Over the past few years, he’d gotten more solemn, which was probably football-related. You’d think that being the star player meant you got special treatment, but if anything it seemed to make the coaches harder on him. And he took his games so seriously. I didn’t even have to check the schedule to know when a game was coming up because he always became quiet and moody for a few days beforehand.

Thinking about football reminded me of Olive’s message, and I glanced down at my phone, a pit forming in my stomach. DID IAN REALLY GET KICKED OFF THE TEAM???? The text was obviously something I had to deal with. If rumors of Ian were flying around back home, then he deserved to know about them. But what if it isn’t a rumor? my brain asked quietly. I quickly shushed it. Of course it was a rumor. Ian would have to set the school on fire before they’d do something as crazy as kick him off the team.

Regardless, I needed to tell him about it the next chance I got. The last thing our relationship needed was another secret.

I glanced over at Ian, and he met my gaze, waving us over. At their table, Ian’s bowl sat half-full, the lines of his notebook packed full of his cramped writing. His face glowed with excitement. “Guess what? Miriam said we can stay here tonight.”

“Are you serious? Where?” Rowan turned like he expected a bed to appear on the bar.

Miriam smiled, pushing her chair back. “Upstairs. We keep a few rooms to rent out, usually for the talent. Jared must have stayed in that main bedroom for an entire month. Which reminds me, he still owes me for that month, the gobshite. I think he can afford it now, don’t you? I’m going to give him a call.”

“Jared?” Rowan’s mouth dropped open. “Lead singer Jared? He stayed here? And you have his number?”

“Of course I do.” She shrugged lightly, looking at Ian. “Let me know when your article is finished. If you’d like, I could forward it on to Jared.”

“You—” Ian choked on his own words, his face reverting to a deep vermilion. “I—”

He gasped, and I whacked him on the back. “Ian, breathe.”

Miriam raised her eyebrows at him. “Ian, you’ll be okay. Once you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you figure out that musicians are just people. Interesting people, but people just the same.” She turned to me. “Speaking of interesting people, let’s talk about you, Addie.”

My face attempted a copycat of Ian’s. Miriam’s attention felt sparkly, and a little too heavy. “What about me?”

She poked her finger at me. “I hear you are quite the mechanic. That’s a talent. Maybe not one I can book, but a talent just the same. Ian said this trip wouldn’t have worked without you.”

Happiness bloomed in my chest. “Ian, you said that?”

He shrugged, a hint of a smile on his face. “Well, it’s true, isn’t it?”

Rowan piped up. “If it weren’t for Addie, we’d still be dragging our tailpipe across Ireland. She even saved us today. Right after Blarney, my car started overheating and she managed to get us to the mechanic shop down the street.”

Miriam sighed. “Let me guess, Connor Moloney’s place? I hate to say it, but that man is as useless as a chocolate teapot.” She crossed her arms. “So, mechanic. What do you have to say for yourself?”

What did I have to say for myself? “Uh, cars are just something I enjoy.”

“And that you’re good at,” she insisted.

“I call her Maeve,” Rowan said. “Because the first time I saw her, she was tackling Ian in a parking lot. She’s like a warrior queen.”

Now I was really blushing. “Sorry, why are we talking about this?”

“Because we need to!” Miriam pumped her arm. “We need more warrior queens around here. Especially ones that own up to their power.” She leaned in, studying my embarrassed expression. “Addie, you know what I do, right? For work?”

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