Eagan withdrew a pocket knife from the inside of his jacket and released the stiletto switchblade. He stared at the weapon beneath the edge of the bar. He could release himself from all his problems in an instant. He knew it, but something in the back of his mind implored him not to. Perhaps it was because if there was a God, he would certainly not appreciate this rebel man, now outlawed from his family. Surely if such a God could be so displeased, there would be a hell. And if there was a hell, Eagan would definitely have his own place in it. He rolled up the sleeve on his left arm and winced at the sting as he etched a second line on the underside. Should he get one more strike, he would be out.

Perhaps he should end it this time. After all, he already proved himself useless to those he loved. An image of Rearden appeared in his mind as he said, "I am never going to let you go."

He carefully wiped each side of the blade on his jeans and pushed it back into concealment. After he slipped it back into its pocket, he pointed to his glass. The bartender placed another before him and returned to wiping down the end of the counter.

"Hey."

Anita Connor approached and seated herself on a bar stool beside him. Although he knew she was around often and was recognized by everyone, she rarely approached him. This time, she stared at him with concern in her brown eyes.

"You're on your fourth straight shot of whiskey. Are you all right?"

He drained the remainder of his glass and rasped, "Get outta here, Princess."

She released a smirk and leaned against the bar. "I'm actually a preschool teacher. What do you do?"

"I ruin everything."

He watched her immediately sober out of the corner of his eye. She stared at him as though attempting to unravel something.

"Get away from me."

"Meant no harm," she assured him calmly, then rose and moved toward the pool table to challenge one of the men. He stared at the back of her worn chocolate brown leather jacket and her dense brown ponytail and shook his head. Girl acted as strong as anyone in that bar, but she was only a girl.

Another shot of whiskey was pursued by another. As he stove to compose a plan of what to do with himself that night, his mind seemed to melt into water that could maintain no form and was diverted in every direction.

There was a woman with curls at her shoulders the same sheen as gold, and she was dressed in a revealing scarlet gown and a navy purse shimmering with rhinestones. She was seated several stools to his right and was evidently being teased by several of the men who wanted more than she was willing to give. Eagan made up his mind that he would charm her into inviting him home with her and rose to make the attempt, keeping steady by planting his palms on the counter.

But the moment she raised her blue eyes to him, he collapsed on the wood at her shoes. She leapt up with a shriek and stormed out of the bar. Declan rolled his eyes and threw down his damp rag, griping in Gaelic as Anita crouched down behind Eagan and convinced a couple of the men to help her transport him to the bench against the back wall to sleep it away.