Home > Connor's Baby (SEAL Daddies)

Connor's Baby (SEAL Daddies)
Author: Annie J. Rose

Chapter 1

 

 

Connor

 

 

Inventory was one of my favorite times in the pub. It was ordered, precise, and silent, aside from my own movements. It appealed to the clockwork accuracy that my time in the military had ingrained in me. I inspected, counted, noted, and planned for the upcoming order. Efficiency was bred in my bones. I didn’t order any excess, didn’t run out of supplies. The details—shipping times, average consumption, planning for a bigger than usual influx of tourists off a cruise ship—were something I managed easily.

It gave me time to reflect on how far I’d come, how far this place had come in two short years. I’d had to get out of Chicago, out of the crowds and noise and chaos after I left the service. Twenty years in the Navy sets your character in stone, and there were things I didn’t tolerate well any longer—disorder, the cacophony of the sidewalks in the city, hype or excitement over something inconsequential. I didn’t belong there anymore. I chose a slower, more peaceful setting for my second act.

St. Martin was more than the tropical paradise that travel sites sell. It was a refuge. There were parts of the island tourists never ventured to, parts that were overgrown, places of relative seclusion. A natural quiet I had never been able to replicate with a white noise machine or earbuds back in the city. The place loosened the permanent tension a little, even though I remained on 24/7 high alert. That was something else a military career did—taught me to never let my guard down.

The eldest of five brothers, all of us sturdy Irish stock who grew up in Chicago, I forged the path in this as in everything. I was the one who chose the Navy, and the others followed suit. I relocated to St. Martin and, one by one, my younger brothers made their way down to join me, to be part of the business I started or expand it. Because I came here to this out of the way spot in the middle of the sea to begin again. The best way I knew to do that was by building something I knew well—an authentic Irish pub. The locals thought it wouldn’t last six months in this land of tiki bars and fluorescent cocktails. But there was something they didn’t count on—two things, really. Myself, with a strong will and a good head on my shoulders, and the desire for novelty. It seemed like the tourists, especially the young ones, liked to go someplace different. Anybody could post an Instagram of themselves at a cheesy island-themed bar. It added some prestige to be able to say you uncovered a hidden gem, a genuine Irish pub out in the middle of the Caribbean.

The Guinness wall was my nod to the influencers, the twenty-something girls who traveled in giggling crowds and posted photos of each other with a distinctive backdrop. I scored an old tin Guinness sign on eBay and hung it in a corner. Tommy, my loudmouth baby brother who brought the charm while I brought the brains to the joint, installed a light over it like it was a dam piece of art. We flanked it with black and white vintage photos of our Grandad’s pub in Chicago as well as one of the homestead back in County Cork where the O’Shea clan originated. It had an old-world look to it, and it amused me to see tourists line up to take their pictures there and post them. We had a sign reminding them to add #OSheasStMartin to their posts.

Two years ago, it was nothing but a rundown storefront I bought for a song. I hired some locals to help rehab it and had it open within four months of arrival. By the time I’d been open six months, Brendan joined me with Mickey not far behind. I had brothers on-site to pitch in. We worked together, but it was my bar. The project, right down to refinishing the floors, was my transition back to civilian life.

I’d held an open house to invite the skeptical locals to try the pints, the shots, the shepherd’s pie. The reaction was about fifty-fifty, but we picked up some regulars, including some management from a four-star hotel. Nothing like attracting the locals who had money and ones who would advertise for us. We expanded our menu and started serving lunch three days a week. We had enough business then that I ran a promotion, a few weeks of discount drinks that got us a tourist following, and we distributed promo vouchers to a couple of the major beachfront resorts.

By the start of the second year, we courted the influencers and the first-class travelers, and got some promos on the major cruise line ships as well. A combo of upmarket appeal for the kitsch factor and midlevel tourist trade had us in the black and then some. Brendan got his investment back and started a surfing business, which got him out of my ass, but more brothers just kept coming. It was my own damn fault for sending them pics of the pub. I was so damn proud of its success. How could they resist the temptation? I was only half-joking. I loved my bros, and I was glad they were with me. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I also think they were so used to following in my footsteps that all roads led to St. Martin for them after they got out of the service. The success of O’Shea’s Irish Pub was just an added inducement.

The bar has kept me busy day and night, which was fine by me. I didn’t sleep for shit anyway thanks to the fucking nightmares that I brought along as a souvenir of my SEAL days. It was good to have a focus, like the routine of inventory to reset my brain when I was in a cold fear sweat at four in the morning. Days like that I was only fit for the stock room because I was so goddamn cranky.

By the time Tommy, my youngest brother, charged in at half-past ten, I was finished with the order for the week and mocking up ads for the upcoming rush of summer vacationers. He clapped me on the back, cheerful as ever. He was the poster boy for island life, tanned and relaxed, happy go lucky. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was too chill to ever have been a decent Navy man. But he was an O’Shea at his core and had seen as much action as the rest of us. Still, his tropical print shirt and khaki shorts, his dark tan and his damn hemp and shell necklace made him look like an ad for some bullshit designer sunglasses.

“Hello, brother of mine. How long you been here?” he asked.

“Since five,” I grunted.

“I would’ve been here sooner, but I had goodbyes to say. Fond ones.”

“Your latest girlfriend shipping out?”

“Her vacation and our love affair have come to a tragic end,” he joked. “I have her number in case I decide to give up paradise for some shithole in Alabama where she’s from.”

“That’s not likely,” I snorted.

“Agreed, but it’s always so nice when they don’t want to say goodbye. It’s like getting a good review.”

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