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- VI -



“Sleeping with your eyes open?” he asked and I jumped slightly, startled.

“Something like that”, I nodded and finished my pizza.

“What was the name of the private dick?” he asked casually.

I knew him well enough.

“What are you going to do?” I looked in his eyes and he smiled the same old way.

“Research”, he shrugged lightly.

“That’s all?” I narrowed my eyes.

“For now”, he nodded calmly. “What was the name?”

“Dinah Waters”, I sighed and slid off the windowsill.

I wiped my hands on the towel and when I turned around he was standing right behind me.

“Jesus”, I muttered. “Wear a bell or something!”

He put both arms on the counter and I was caught in the middle. For someone with several broken ribs he moved surprisingly swift. I pressed my lips tight and stared at him. I am not going down that road again, dammit! He didn’t say anything, he just looked at me.

“What?” I asked finally after several minutes.

“Kiss me”, he said simply.

I didn’t even smile at that.

“No”, I looked at him without shifting my gaze. “You are going to heal and then you will get the hell out of my life…”

“Kiss me”, he repeated as if he didn’t hear a single word that I just said.

“No”, I said with a little more desperation than I liked. “Dylan, I already told you… I am not going down that road again…”

He leaned closer and brushed his lips against mine. Damn him…

“Kiss me”, he whispered.

I wanted to smack him hard, I wanted to yell at him, push him away, kick him out into the rain. I didn’t. Instead I planted a very light kiss on his mouth. He closed his eyes and then we just stood there for God knows how long, lips brushing, breaths flowing into one another. Then I gave him another very light peck. And another. The next one wasn’t as light. And the one after that. And then I couldn’t hold back anymore.

I buried my fingers in his hair and kissed him so hard that he let out a groan. I felt like someone who just found out that they will be executed tomorrow morning. And I didn’t even care. His tongue was driving me crazy after a while with the same old blistering speed. Finally I pulled him off of me, afraid that I’ll end up crushing his damn ribs if I don’t stop right now.

“Stop”, I whispered and he didn’t say anything. “Your ribs… The cuts… Stop…”

He took a very shaky breath and dropped his head into my shoulder. He was shaking like he had a fever.

“God, I missed you…” he muttered in barely audible voice. “I missed you so much…”

“I missed you too, you psychotic son of a bitch”, I whispered into his hair.

He raised his head and looked at me, his transparent eyes pulling me in like quicksand.

“Let’s not go down the same road again”, he said softly and I just looked at him. “Let’s take a different one…”

I slowly ran my fingers through his silky hair.

“No”, I whispered. “With you there is only one road… And it leads straight to hell…”

His mouth twisted in resemblance of a smile.

“Hell I can handle”, he said seriously. “As long as you are with me, I can handle anything…”

“You are a selfish prick”, I snorted.

“I know”, he agreed and buried his face in my throat.

I wrapped my arms around his neck and closed my eyes. Some people never learn. I am one of them. Hell, I am the President of the freaking club!



****



My phone was screaming bloody murder and I peeled one of my eyes open. Jesus, what time is it? My one open eye found the clock. Seven in the morning… You gotta be kidding me… I rolled off the couch and reached for the damn phone.

“Yeah…” I breathed with annoyance. “Hello…?” I repeated louder when there was no answer. “Hello…”

Someone exhaled loudly on the other end of the line and then the phone clicked dead. Just for the hell of it I dialed *69. Huh, I thought after a few seconds when the pleasant automated voice informed me that the number was blocked.

“Who was that?” Dylan yawned, appearing in the doorway of my bedroom.

“No idea”, I shrugged and put the phone down.

“Star-six-nine them”, he said.

“Thank you, Captain Obvious”, I said very seriously. “I would be so lost without your guidance.”

“Yeah, you would be”, he yawned again and absent mindedly scratched his leg with one bare foot.

I stretched and twisted furiously. I like my couch but sleeping on it for more than one night in a row does not go well with me. Dylan stopped yawning and looked at me with interest.

“You know, you could sleep in your bed… I don’t bite… Well”, he hemmed. “I do but…”

I threw a dark look at him.

“I know you better than you think”, I said and popped something in my back. It felt good. “Your damn ribs will never heal if I sleep in the same bed with you.”

He stretched carefully and winced.

“You might be right”, he admitted. “Do you have any doughnuts?”

I looked at him with amusement.

“Have you seen any laying around?”

“No”, he smiled with the corners of his mouth. “Doesn’t hurt to ask though, does it?”

“You want doughnuts, is that it?” I sighed in defeat.

“It’s a sudden craving”, he nodded.

“Fine”, I said. “I’m gonna brush my teeth first…”

…Fifteen minutes later I grabbed my keys and my phone.

“Don’t answer the phone”, I said warningly. “And don’t open the door.”

He gave me the look that practically screamed “Duh!” I shrugged.

“With you one never knows”, I said.

“Right”, he snorted. “Get some coffee too.”

“I have coffee”, I rolled my eyes. “You are advanced enough to use the coffeemaker, aren’t you? You’ve done it before.”

He just looked at me.

“Never mind”, I muttered. “I’ll make it when I get back. You are completely useless, did you know that?”

“When it comes to anything domestic, yes”, he nodded seriously. “But I come in handy in other aspects.”

“Yeah”, I said softly. “I remember.”

And once again I am going to use the same old defense - “I have no idea how it happened…” Well, it’s true. I have no clue how but we were in each other’s mouths again. God, I missed him… Finally I pushed him away.

“Either you want your doughnuts or you don’t”, I breathed.

“Doughnuts can wait”, he muttered and I shook my head.

“Stay away from the window”, I said before walking out and closing the door. “Smoke inside, I don’t care.”

“Right”, he nodded, his breath uneven. “Okay…”

“I’ll be back in half an hour or so.”

“I’m gonna do some research”, he said thoughtfully and I shrugged.

“As long as it doesn’t get you noticed I don’t care.”

“I am good at what I do”, he looked very serious when he said that.

“I am sure”, I muttered and closed the door.



****



It took me longer than I thought. Krispy Kreme appeared to be a catnip for everyone under the age of seventy five this morning. Apparently they had some insanely great doughnut give-away today. Oh well, I thought melancholically, maybe it’ll stop raining by the time it’s finally my turn. I grabbed the newspaper and was reading the comics section when someone slapped my shoulder and said in almost awed voice:

“Blake, is that you?!”

I recognized that voice immediately and slowly turned my head. He beamed like he just saw one of his very best buds on the face of the planet. I mastered a rubber smile.

“Tanner”, I said and put the paper away.

He grabbed my hand and shook it with so much enthusiasm as if I just informed him that he won the lottery.

“How are you? God, I haven’t seen you in what…? Eight years?”

“Yeah”, I nodded with the same stretchy smile. “Eight years… I am good, really good… You?”

“Yeah”, he wouldn’t let go of my hand. “I am doing all right… Got my own business and all…”

“Right on”, I nodded. “What kind of business?”

“I am running a small magazine”, he said with a wide smile. “It’s not great or anything like that but it pays the bills.”

“Right on”, I nodded again. “So you live here in town?”

“Oh no”, he shook his head. “I just came for a couple of days. It’s Wes’ anniversary and all…”

“Oh yeah”, I blinked. “That’s right… When was it again?”

“November thirtieth.”

“That’s tomorrow…”

“Yeah…” he still held onto my fingers and that made me uneasy. “So you live here, I take it?”

“Yeah”, I nodded and pulled my hand free. “I lived here for the past six months or so.”

“I see”, he nodded. “I see… Hey, have you heard what happened to Mickey?”

Here we go… Took him a while to finally spit it out…

“Yeah”, I glanced at the line ahead of me. Almost my turn, good.

“Ain’t that awful?” He frowned with great concern.

“Yeah”, I said again. “Terrible… I wonder if it had something to do with his Uncle…”

“Maybe”, he shrugged. “Who knows…”

“Have you seen him yet?” I had one more person in front of me.

“No”, he shook his head. “He’s still in the hospital and it’s harder to get to him there than to the Oval office…” he chuckled.

I laughed along. The woman in front of me decided to get a lifelong supply of doughnuts it seemed. Hurry up, you miserable cow, I thought desperately. I didn’t like the fact that I ran into Tanner. Of course that could be just a complete accident but I don’t believe in accidents. Especially now, with Mickey in the hospital, his bodyguard or whoever it was with him dead (I was sure of that), and Dylan far from fully functional in my apartment right now. Shit, he is alone there… I felt cold. I had a great desire to kick an impressive size behind that the woman in front of me had. I restrained myself.

“We should get together before I leave”, Tanner said. “You know, maybe shoot some pool or something… Hell”, he laughed again. “We could even go bowling!”

“I am swapped at work”, I soaked as much regret into that as I possibly could.

“Oh that’s too bad”, he cocked his head to the left, his eyes never leaving my face. “Well, I’m sure I’ll come back again soon enough… Gotta check up on Mickey.”

“Yeah”, I nodded. The woman in front of me finally settled on three dozens doughnuts and some other crap. She was making her way to the register now. She moved excruciatingly slowly.

“Hey, Connor”, Tanner said quietly when the miserable cow finally moved away from the glass display.

“We have a special today!” The girl behind the display announced to me in a bright and enthusiastic voice. “If you buy a dozen, you get six doughnuts free!”

“That’s great”, I nodded. “Give me one of each flavor, will you?”

“Connor”, Tanner said again and I looked at him. “I was always wondering what happened between you and Wes back then… Remember that?”

“Would you like peach or raspberry?” the girl glanced up at me.

“Raspberry”, I said automatically.

“Lemon or chocolate sprinkle?”

“I don’t care”, I muttered. “Surprise me.”

“You remember?” Tanner repeated.

“Not really”, I shook my head. “I mean, I remember how we beat the shit out of each other but I don’t remember why…”

“Huh”, he said thoughtfully. “He didn’t say anything back then… And then that whole thing happened…”

“I don’t remember, Tanner”, I looked at him steadily. “It was probably something stupid… I just remember being really pissed off but that’s about it.”

He nodded slowly, his eyes studying my face as if looking for something. I didn’t look away, I didn’t even blink. Finally he glanced at the girl behind the glass display.

“Your doughnuts are ready I think”, he said and smiled.

I turned around. Sure enough, they were ready. I grabbed the box and marched towards the register.

“Well, I am off to try and see Mickey”, Tanner said behind my shoulder. “I’ll say hi to him for you.”

“Please do”, I nodded. “Hope he gets better.”

“Yeah… Hey, we should get together sometimes… Are you in the phonebook?”

I grabbed my box and stepped away from the register.

“No”, I said calmly.

“Give me your phone number then”, he laughed.

“Tell me yours”, I balanced the box on one knee and pulled my phone out.

He told me the number and I punched it into my phone. Several seconds later his pocket was vibrating and mewing. I blinked and he shrugged.

“My girlfriend likes cats”, he said apologetically. “She put this crap on my phone… I don’t care though.”

He flipped it open, looked at the screen and nodded with satisfaction.

“Got it”, he said. “I’ll save it later. Have a good day, Connor… Was really great seeing you again!”

“Yeah”, I shook his hand and shoved my phone back into my pocket.

I followed him outside and got to my car. He saluted me and walked away. I watched him get into a light brown, almost golden color Pontiac and drive away. It started raining again. Just slightly, almost lazily. I knew that by the time I get back to the apartment it’ll get worse though. I got inside the car, sat the box onto my passenger seat and soon enough I was driving back home. Of course I was thinking about what happened between me and Wes all the way there. I lied to Tanner. I remembered exactly what started the whole thing. I lied to him and he knew that.
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