Just a little sneak peek of Book Of Daniel, St. Nacho’s 4. Due out August 30th, 2011:
“Here he is.” Jake’s smile went critical and flooded the area around us with happiness. “Hi, babe.”
“Hey.” JT embraced my brother warmly and gave him a kiss.
“Dan.” JT turned to me and offered his hand. I took it with my bionic dexter and noticed he was gentle when he held it in his. He’d been the EMT to triage and treat me when they pulled me from the car after the accident, and while he’d seen a thousand injuries like mine — and far worse — he’d taken his time and been genuinely compassionate. I’d always be grateful for that. “Good to see you.”
“You too,” I answered. Gzzzzzzt. The lie detector in my head mocked me only minutes after I’d declared myself prevarication-free.
I looked behind JT and saw Cam Rooney walk in. I glanced up at him in some surprise. Both JT and Cam? To what did we owe the pleasure?
Cam raised a supercilious eyebrow — something you don’t expect from a brute like him — and stayed silent. It was no secret that Cam and I hadn’t exactly become BFFs. That was odd, really, and I’m sure he attributed it to sour grapes, since he was on the crew that cut my Lexus in half with the Jaws of Life, and I’d teased him about it. Not so. My gratitude for the men of the St. Nacho’s fire department was genuine; it was only Cam that chapped my ass. I had the feeling he didn’t think too much of me either.
The thing is, I was on constant alert around the man because he did something to my gut — something that made me go all boneless and vulnerable — and I knew if I didn’t protect myself, I’d fall into his blue eyes and drown. I might have let myself do just that if it weren’t for the fact that once I sank to the bottom, I’d only be one of hundreds, thousands maybe who’d done the very same thing.
“Well if it isn’t the abominable fireman.”
Cam’s smile didn’t fool me for a second. “That just never gets old.”
“Cut it out, you two.” Jake buffeted me with his shoulder. “You’re like toddlers.”
“But he cut my car in half.” I am not above making a bad situation worse. “I want it back.”
“I suppose you’d like the use of your hand back too.” Cam pulled out his chair and sat down, startling me. “Must get pretty lonely without it.”
“You would know.” Jake always invited me, and JT always invited Cam. I assumed they’d given up any matchmaking aspirations because it seemed clear we couldn’t thaw out, but maybe they just did it because it added a weird kind of tension, like sweet and sour. Like every party needed contrast, and we were it.
I finally opened up the menu and glanced at the selections, although it was perfectly obvious what I would order. I always ordered the same thing when the four of us went to Nacho’s together — anything with shrimp in it — because Cam was allergic to shellfish. Why I did that, I don’t know, except he looked at my shrimp with longing, and I liked to get his goat.
St. Nacho’s was a small town, and there wasn’t a lot to do. Certainly nothing much more fun than finding myself the object of Cam Rooney’s undivided attention, even if it wasn’t the good kind. Jake argued that I spent too much time on things like that, but from the moment we met, and especially after he saved my life, I’ve had an unholy jones for the big blond fireman. Maybe the thing I liked was his corny fresh-faced charm. Maybe it was the fact that we were the two biggest players in St. Nacho’s.
Maybe it was because he looked at me like he knew exactly who I was and he found it disappointing. Even so, I shivered whenever he caught my gaze across the table.
The waiter brought appetizers and with them beer for all of us. I shoved a lime into the neck of my bottle and sipped it slowly because I was already enjoying a really good buzz. Since JT and Cam arrived, smoking was out, but that was okay. Once the platter of nachos, taquitos, and chips with homemade guacamole came, there wasn’t much need for the emotional camouflage of tobacco.
JT and Jake lived in a happy world all their own. Cam and I might as well be furniture for all we mattered.