Something to Prove

Something to Prove

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by Shannyn Schroeder

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Two ambitious people team up to prove themselves to their families—and find there may be more to their partnership than just business. . .Elizabeth Brannigan is determined to show her father she's capable of running the family business. Saving his struggling Chicago bar seems like the perfect project. But she'll need a little help dealing with the rough crowd.

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Two ambitious people team up to prove themselves to their families—and find there may be more to their partnership than just business. . .Elizabeth Brannigan is determined to show her father she's capable of running the family business. Saving his struggling Chicago bar seems like the perfect project. But she'll need a little help dealing with the rough crowd. Who better to assist her than the handsome co-owner of a thriving Irish pub? Of course, with so much work to do, there are bound to be a few late nights. . .Colin O'Leary's father passed away before he could prove to him that he wasn't a screw-up. Now he wants to show his brother he's responsible enough to own a bar of his own—and Elizabeth may be able to help him. But when their professional aspirations clash, tempers—and passions—flare. Are they mature enough to mix business with pleasure—or will they have to choose between the two?85,000 Words

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Floridian Elizabeth Brannigan finds herself in Chicago clandestinely investigating one of her father's investments, a biker bar named the Irish Pub. Elizabeth is out to prove to her father and brother that she is accomplished enough to become CEO of their million-dollar family business when her father retires. On a recognizance mission to size up her competition, Elizabeth meets handsome Colin O'Leary, who tends bar at his family's pub. Colin and Elizabeth are both on missions to prove their worth to their relatives. Will our pair realize they've got to match wits as well as hearts to find success? VERDICT Reveling in the give-and-take between these protagonists with very different personalities, readers will learn how a spark of romance can complicate or simplify personal challenges. [Xpress Reviews, 1/10/14.]—Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL

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O'Learys , #3
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Something TO PROVE The O'Learys



Copyright © 2014 Shannyn Schroeder
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60183-183-5


Elizabeth drove up and down Addison, west, then east again, watching the addresses. No matter which way she went, the gray slab of a building had to be the right place. She parked and climbed out of the rental car. Motorcycles leaned against the building—not at the curb, but on the sidewalk actually touching the building.

Why the hell would Dad own a biker bar?

She glanced up at the rusty sign, THE IRISH PUB. It didn't look much like anything Irish. She pushed through the door and a cloud of smoke smacked into her lungs. Chicago was supposed to be smoke-free. Didn't the manager know this? That alone was fine-worthy. Trying to keep her breaths shallow to avoid inhaling too much smoke, she walked toward the bar, hoping to find someone in charge. The room, what she could see of it, was dark and tables were scattered haphazardly.

"Excuse me, I'm looking for the manager," she called out.

"Are you the health inspector?" a grizzled man asked while drying a glass with a dirty cloth. His pasty skin reminded her of a vampire's, but she doubted he'd sparkle if she took him into the sunlight.

"No, I'm the owner."

He laughed and the men sitting on stools at the opposite end of the bar joined him. She stiffened. It wasn't like this was the first time she'd been laughed at, and it undoubtedly wouldn't be the last. She produced a card from her suit coat pocket and slapped it on the bar. "Elizabeth Brannigan. My father has owned this bar for more than ten years. Feel free to call the office to check."

She prayed her bluff would work. If he made the call, she'd be caught.

The man sobered and took the card. He brushed his stringy salt-and-pepper hair from his eyes. "So you're here to finally sell?"

"No. I'm here to save it." Until the words left her mouth, she didn't even know that was her plan. She had arrived in Chicago thinking she wanted to know more about this property, but now she knew it would be her mission. Her chance to prove her worth to her father.

Her statement set off another round of laughter.

"Then, when it's turning a profit, I'll sell."

The man leaned forward and extended his hand. "Mitch, your manager. I was hired on about ten years ago and have seen many men come through from your daddy's company talking about change. It ain't happened yet."

She shook his hand, trying to ignore whatever diseases she was accepting in the action. "Maybe that was the problem."


"They were all men." She paused. "I'll need to see the books and any other pertinent information. I'll be back tomorrow morning at nine a.m."

"We don't close until two. I won't be here at nine." His eyes were already bloodshot, so she couldn't imagine him more sleep-deprived.

"Then give me a copy of the key and leave the information in the office. I assume there is an office?"

"You got ID on you? It'd be just my luck to give keys to someone who isn't the owner."

Elizabeth reached into her wallet and slipped out her driver's license.

Mitch took it from her hand and tilted it in the light, glancing from the card to her face. Satisfied, he tossed it on the sticky bar for her to retrieve.

"Hold on." He walked to the end of the bar and flipped up a piece of the counter. He disappeared into the back and returned a few moments later with a ring of keys. He tossed them on the bar.

"Thank you." She slipped the keys into her pocket and walked back outside. Within a few minutes she had already learned more about the bar than the audit of her father's properties had taught her.

From behind the wheel of the rented Mercedes, she stared at the building. It must've meant something to her dad. He'd never done any work on it, but never sold it either. If she could turn this place around, prove to him that she could handle this task, he would have to hand the reins of the business over to her instead of Keith.

She'd never taken the lead like this before. They tended to treat her more like the clean-up crew. Dad didn't even know she was here. He'd been keeping this place a secret. This was her moment to shine. If she fixed this, he'd have to see that she could handle doing it all.

And if he didn't?

She shook her head. She'd cross that bridge later. Right now, she needed to do some research, starting with finding a place to live.

While allowing her GPS to guide her to a hotel, she called the office. "Hi, Meg."

"How was the flight?"

"Fine. Listen, I need you to get some information for me about a property." She heard some rustling and knew Meg was getting her notepad out.


"My dad owns a bar called The Irish Pub here in Chicago. It's part of his personal holdings, not Brannigan Enterprises."

"I don't have access to his personal information," Meg said, uncharacteristically nervous.

"I want you to talk to Claire. She's been with my dad forever. Talk to her, assistant to assistant. Tell her that I need whatever information she has."

"Can I ask what's going on?"

"I'm not sure. I'm going to call my dad, but I have a feeling he won't give me all the details, so I'm making a preemptive strike. I also need everything you can get me on the codes for bar ownership in Chicago."

"Anything else?"

"Not yet. I'm sure that once I hit the ground on this, I'll need some more support."

"I could do my job from Chicago. I've never been there."

Elizabeth smiled. "I'll let you know if I need you. In the meantime, if Keith asks, play dumb. I don't want him following me here trying to help."


They clicked off, and Elizabeth pulled into the lot of a chain hotel. No five stars here, but it would have to do. Her mother would choke if she knew. At the reception desk, she negotiated a month's stay for a decent price and went to her room to set up her office away from home.

She tossed her suitcase on the brown paisley bedspread and pulled her laptop from her shoulder bag. While the computer booted up, she hung her suits in the minuscule closet and placed the remaining clothes in the dresser. From the front pocket of her suitcase, she pulled the frogs. For this trip, she had four.

She set the frogs beside her computer: two plastic, one stuffed, and one metal. It was her niece's way of making her feel at home. Before every business trip, Melissa snuck some frogs into the suitcase. It had started when Mel was little more than a toddler and offered Elizabeth her stuffed frog to keep her company. She'd just moved into Keith's carriage house, and her relationship with Mel was nonexistent. What did she know about kids?

But they'd bonded over frogs.

Over the years, it had bloomed into a collection. Family now gave Elizabeth frogs for gifts. It was almost a competition to see who could find the ugliest one.

Smiling at her family of frogs, she set to work. Her first order of business would be to check out the competition. Returning to the computer, she Googled Irish bars in Chicago and then narrowed her search for the neighborhood.

The results stared at her, a mass of red pushpins on the screen. "How can there be so many damn Irish bars in one area?"

She expanded the map and looked closely. In a ten-mile radius, she counted twenty-three Irish pubs. She'd bet she wouldn't find that many in the entire state of Florida. Zooming in on the map, she copied the addresses of the five closest to The Irish Pub and sent the information to the GPS on her phone.

The Irish Pub.

What a dumb name. The total lack of creativity or originality grated on her nerves. She checked the time. Six o'clock. After-work hours for most. Tucking a notepad into her purse, she headed out to the first bar, figuring she'd get dinner along the way. The research and reconnaissance was the worst part of the job. Keith usually handled it. He was good at reading people.

She was better with the finances, which was why Brannigan Enterprises should be hers. The CEO didn't need to be a people person. The job required an understanding and ability to wrangle the bottom line. Definitely her forte.

Pulling into the lot alongside a bar called Duffy's, her stomach growled and her eyes felt dry. It promised to be a long night, and she planned to be back at the bar at nine. She climbed out of her car and pushed on. The sooner she got started, the sooner she'd be done.

For a Monday night, she hadn't expected to find crowds at any of the bars she'd chosen to investigate. She pushed through the glass doors of the bar and was met with chaotic noise. The crowd wasn't huge and the patrons were mostly young, early twenties. Two TVs blared in competition with the jukebox that played some kind of rock. As she moved toward the bar, her feet squeaked in the stickiness of the floor, and she cringed.

The lighting wasn't bright enough for her to see what made the floor gross or for her to make sure there wasn't anything stuck to the stool as she took a seat. The bar itself was made from a nice dark wood, walnut, if she had to guess, but puddles of some indeterminate liquid lingered across the surface.

Not very inviting.

She slung her purse over the back of the stool and waited. Within moments the bartender asked what she wanted.

"Do you have a menu?"

He slapped a laminated sheet of paper down in front of her. The menu consisted of the usual bar food: hot wings, burgers, nachos. "I'll have a burger, everything. Do you have a drink menu?"

"Huh?" His eyebrows rose with the question.

"A drink menu? So I can decide what to drink?"

"Uh, no."

Huh. How was a customer supposed to know what to order if choices weren't presented? "Can I have a wine spritzer?"

"Coming right up."

While she waited, she took in the atmosphere. Tuning out the noise, she focused on what she saw. Young people, dressed casually, congregated in clusters at tables. Waitresses circulated, but the only thing that distinguished them from the customers were the aprons tied around their waists. No uniforms, no name tags. Cardboard decorations hung drunkenly from the soffit above the bar. Beer promotions and green-clad leprechauns dangled lopsided, and their discoloration told her they'd been hanging there far too long.

Her drink was delivered. She only took a small sip to find it relatively tasteless. When her burger arrived, it wasn't much better. She tossed money on the bar beside her half-eaten food. Regardless of location, when she was done, Duffy's wouldn't be much competition.

Four hours and three bars later, Elizabeth was ready to call it quits. She was tired of drinking cheap alcohol and being hit on. Her last stop for the night was O'Leary's. She'd almost decided against it, but after checking out their Web site on her phone, it looked too promising to pass up. Cars filled most of the lot, but spots were still available. She tugged the heavy oak door open and walked through, pleasantly surprised. No cigarette smoke and the noise level was tolerable. She eased her way toward the bar, scanning the crowd as she moved.

The main bar area had a variety of seating from booths to tables and in the back area she saw high-top tables and dartboards. All of the waitresses wore O'Leary's Pub T-shirts with jeans and they each had a name tag. She took a seat at the end of the bar. On a small stand was a menu for both food and drinks.

This bar was doing something right.

The bartender came over as she was reading the menu. "Hi. What can I get you tonight?"

She looked up and swallowed hard. The man in front of her was mouthwateringly gorgeous. His mussed black hair framed a face dominated by a happy-go-lucky smile. She lost her ability to form coherent sentences. "Uh ..."

He tilted his head and studied her face. "You look beat. Tough day?"

She nodded. What was wrong with her? She didn't do this around men. She'd had no fewer than eight different men try to pick her up tonight. This one was just doing his job, and she had to fight for focus.

"How about an Irish coffee?" Dark brows arched over navy eyes.

She cleared her throat. "Sounds good."

He walked away. She studied the menu. It wasn't fancy. Like the rest of the bars, it offered burgers and hot wings, but they had more traditional pub fare, like fish and chips and shepherd's pie. Her mouth watered at the thought of real food. The drink menu was plain as well, but at least displayed a list of drinks with the basic ingredients. Pictures and descriptions would've been better, but this bar had already exceeded the competition from the other Chicago neighborhood pubs she'd visited.

The bartender returned with her Irish coffee. She sipped and found it perfect. The whipped cream puffed and floated on top and she used her straw to scoop some up. She ran her tongue over the cream-laden straw and heard a groan.

She looked up to find the bartender looking at her. Replacing the straw, she waited for an explanation.

His mouth quirked up at the corner. "Sorry. I couldn't help it. That was downright sinful."

Her cheeks flamed. She was blushing? No. The alcohol from earlier in the evening was catching up with her and colliding with her exhaustion. He broke eye contact and mumbled, "Give me a holler if you need anything else."

He walked away and picked up a conversation with other customers. She tried not to be obvious in studying him and the way he interacted with people. This was something the other bars had been missing as well. A personal touch.

She finished her drink, tossed cash on the bar, and took a few moments to wander toward the back of the bar. There was a small stage, a jukebox, and dartboards. Down a dimly lit hallway were the bathrooms. Too tired to think, she opted to leave. Part of her wanted to talk to some of the patrons, get their perspective as to why they came here, but it would have to wait.

By morning, hopefully Meg would have information about The Irish Pub and, with any luck, the books wouldn't be as bad as she imagined. As she wound her way back toward the front, raucous laughter exploded at the bar. The sexy bartender was enjoying something.

He caught her eye as she passed. His laughter made his eyes twinkle with mischief, his smile lighting his face, like he had the best life in the world. She wondered what it would be like to feel that even for a night. It wasn't that she was unhappy; she liked her life very much, in fact, but it had been too long since she'd experienced a laugh that shook her whole body.

* * *

Morning came much too soon for Elizabeth, especially when she realized that she hadn't thought to pick up her own coffee for the maker. Now she'd be stuck with whatever the hotel offered. The coffeemaker didn't brew fast enough for her sloggy brain, so she put her cup directly under the drip. After a measly half-cup, she took her shower and prepared for the day.

Meg hadn't called, so she dug around a little on her own, gathering information on both IP, as she'd begun to call The Irish Pub, and O'Leary's. Something about that bar had stuck with her into her dreams last night. She couldn't call it a classy bar; it wasn't. It was more like a neighborhood hangout for adults. Truth be told, she wouldn't have ever stepped foot in the place if she hadn't been doing research. It wasn't the kind of establishment she normally frequented, at least not since college. Maybe that's why she liked the place.

She toyed with the frogs on the small table that acted as her desk. Before heading to IP, she sent a quick e-mail to Meg. She hadn't even gathered her keys when her cell rang.

"Hi, Meg."

"Hi. I've got bad news and more bad news."

"Give me whichever is the least bad."

Meg blew out a breath. "Claire doesn't know much about that bar.

Mr. Brannigan—your dad—doesn't talk about it."

"Not a big surprise. What's worse?" She jingled the keys in her hand.

"The one thing she did know was that your dad bought it for Keith."

The keys bobbled in the air and she missed them. They hit the floor with a clunk, as did her heart. "It's Keith's?"

"It's in your dad's name. You were right about that, but Claire is sure that he bought it after Keith brought it to him and convinced him to buy it."

"Okay, thanks."

"Do you want me to book your flight home?"

"No. Not yet. I'm not done here." She poked at the keys on the floor with her toe.



Excerpted from Something TO PROVE The O'Learys by SHANNYN SCHROEDER. Copyright © 2014 Shannyn Schroeder. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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