"There's a new fellow in town for auditions," said Jasper.
His sister, Jade, looked at him with one eyebrow raised in challenge. "There's a hundred new fellows in town, and all for Rose and Thorns auditions," she reminded him. "And I only care about them if they're bringing their business to my pub."
It was in that very pub that the two of them currently sat. It was past closing time, and they were the only ones there. Even the boy who swept the floors had long since finished up and gone to bed.
Jasper shook his head and persevered. "No, I mean, I think this fellow's got potential, you know?"
Her reply was cautious. "What makes you say that?"
"Just something about him. He's got a presence."
"He'd be a damned poor actor if he didn't."
"No, no. There's an air about him that feels like the mountains."
Jade sighed with a weariness that was only partially due to long hours on her feet tending to customers. "You and your mountains."
"They're your mountains, too."
She shook her head. "We live here now, boyo. You need to let go of the past."
"I have!" he protested.
She turned on her seat and leaned an arm on the wooden bar. Her keen eyes regarded him closely. "Have you? Jasper, you're my little brother and you know I want you to be happy. I'm just worried about you, is all."
He knew what she meant. There was no way he couldn't. He looked away. "I'm fine."
"I'm sure you are." Her tone belied the words.
The empty bar room was quiet around them. The few lanterns that were still lit glowed warmly. The darkness beyond the windows was absolute. They might have been the only people left in the world.
It was Jade who finally broke the silence, her voice soft and kind. "I just don't want you getting your heart broken again. You open it up so quickly, and you hurt so much when someone disappoints you like that."
He met her gaze once more, and this time he held if fast. "I'll be careful. I promise."
Letting that subject go, Jade chose another. "And what about the job? If you don't get it? How will you be then?"
"I can handle it," he said firmly. "I'm an actor. I'm used to rejection. I know how not to take it personally." He gave her a little smile, which she returned.
"All right," she relented. "Maybe I'm worried about you for no good reason. You're a grown man, and I should mind my own business."
Jasper reached out and took her hand in his and squeezed it gently. "You're family, and don't you dare."
They both chuckled at that.
"In that case, off to bed with you, young man!" scolded Jade, a twinkle of mirth in her bright blue eyes. "You need your sleep. You may well be starting a new job in the morning, and they're going to want your best work."
Grinning, Jasper called her on her contractions. "First, you say I won't get it, and now you say I will?"
She made a dismissive noise and waved a hand at him. "Since when does logic apply to theater, or to me, for that matter? Now off you go!"
He hopped off the bar stool and stood up especially straight. "Yes, ma'am!" Letting his amusement go, he reached out and hugged her. "Thanks, sis."
She returned the embrace warmly. "I'm always here for you, Jasper."