© 2016 – Nicola Trwst
All rights reserved
You can read a summary of this novel Here
I stepped over two balled-up men’s socks and kicked a blue high-top out of my path. The shoe thudded against the baseboard. Neither socks nor shoe were mine. Neither socks nor shoe belonged to a lover or one-night stand because my sex life was dryer than burnt toast. That made me want to kick something else.
Instead, I yanked the cord of the dirty white blinds covering the front window of my apartment. As the vertical slats slapped together, they made a heck of a racket. Good thing I wasn’t trying to be quiet.
At the table, I switched on my laptop, drumming my fingers as it booted.
The bell on Fifi’s collar jingled as she trotted past me and into the kitchen. Fifi was a high-strung toy poodle with issues. She’d been willed to me by my best friend. Hard to believe a friend would do that to a friend.
Fifi stopped at her empty food bowl, twitched her nose, and turned to me with her paws on her hips. Well, not really, but if her paws could go on her hips, they’d be there.
I opened the music folder on the laptop and launched Ha Ha You’re Dead by Green Day. I cranked up the volume, hoping to feel the floor beneath me rumble, but without real speakers that clearly wasn’t going to happen.
Fifi backed away from her bowl and cowered near the fridge. My finger paused on the volume slider. Fifi’s hearing was more sensitive and she wasn’t my target. I slid down the volume a tad.
“What the hell, Briana?”
Ah. Conor, my soon-to-be ex-husband, stood half in the hallway and half in my living room. A stretched-out pair of briefs clung to his bony hips; otherwise he was naked.
“Oh, sorry,” I said, “I forgot you were still here. By the way, when are you leaving?”
He scratched his scraggly hair, which made it stick up even higher. “I’m waiting on a call. You know that. Once I make the delivery, I’m out of here. Now, why don’t you come to bed with me and let me relieve some of that stress?”
“Oh baby, baby. I want you so badly… TO GO AWAY.” I turned down the music a little more and stalked into the kitchen.
I picked up Fifi’s bowl, forked a tablespoon of canned food into it, mashed the stinky mound into bite-sized chunks, and sprinkled in some dry nuggets. I set it on the floor next to her water bowl. Even turned down, the music drowned out the slurping sound she always made while scarfing up her food.
I switched on the coffeemaker and opened the cabinet for the bag of ground coffee. My formerly half-full bag now had barely enough for one cup. “Conor! I said you could crash here, not drink my coffee!”
Now wearing a pair of straight-legged jeans and a black tee shirt stenciled with the words I Taste Like Chicken, Conor shuffled through the kitchen doorway. “I had to drink it. There’s nothing else. Not even a beer.”
“I told you, I’m off the sauce. That’s why I need my coffee!” I tossed the last of the grounds into a clean filter and threw the empty bag at him. I checked the water level, but was no longer in the mood. I switched off the machine.
Conor came up behind me. He ran a hand down the length of my ponytail and then stepped closer whispering, “Ginger.” A nickname only he used, referencing my hair color.
He wrapped his arms around me. I smelled the scent of his skin. His embrace felt familiar and irritating at the same time. Once upon a time, I couldn’t bear to be away from him. I needed to breathe the same air he breathed; I needed his touch to feel secure. He was my best friend, Haylee’s, cousin. We’d started dating my last year of college and he’d proposed on graduation day.
Maybe if I’d grown up with a mom, instead of a father and six brothers, I would have known that our need to smother each other was unhealthy. I’d always envied Haylee and her “normal” family and with Conor’s proposal I would become part of her family. What was there to think about?
I broke from his embrace. “Don’t do that, Conor.”
“What are you afraid of…you might like it? You used to love it. Come on now, come with me to bed, babe. Let me remind you of how good I can make you feel.”
My body tingled at his words. Sex had never been the problem. “Fifi, let’s go for a walk.”
Fifi scampered past me to the apartment door.
“I’m here when you’re ready,” Conor said, and strutted off to his room.
“I’ll be ready when you sign the divorce papers,” I called, snatching up Fifi’s leash. I hooked it on her collar and picked her up. After six weeks, she still hadn’t conquered her fear of going down the outside stairs. Or maybe she’d trained me well.
At the bottom of the stairs, I put Fifi on the ground and she took off across the asphalt parking lot until the leash lead jerked her to a sudden stop. I chuckled. That never got old.
She swung her head around and gave me an annoyed look.
“All right.” I walked faster. Fifi was one of those female dogs that prefers to lift her leg rather than squat, and today she lifted her leg and gave the tire of Conor’s pickup truck a soaking. Nothing made him madder. My day was getting better and better.
We walked south to the patch of green between the apartments and the pier where the boats were docked. Two side hatches and the door of my friend Dusty’s schooner were open, but he was nowhere in sight. About two months ago, when I’d left D.C. for Marin County, Dusty had found me this apartment in the small six-unit complex. So much had happened in the last two months that it felt as if I’d lived in California for half my life. I was actually getting used to the summer fog, although I’d forgotten my jacket again.
Fifi headed toward the pier.
One of the things that had happened was that Dusty and I almost lost our lives to a paid-for-hire killer. Another was that Dusty had kissed me, tickling parts I hadn’t known I had. It didn’t bother me much that he didn’t remember the kiss; he’d been pretty drugged up. What did bother me was that since he’d left the hospital, he’d been treating me as if I were growing barnacles and fangs.
Fifi sniffed the concrete wall that ran along the sidewalk. Another few steps and her leash line would jerk again.
Dusty stepped out onto his deck. He was wearing a pair of chinos and a blue golf shirt the same robin’s egg blue as the awning of his boat.
“Hey,” I called.
He waved before turning to close the wooden door at the top of his boat. He snapped the padlock into place while I waited for him to come ashore.
“I have to run,” he said, crossing to the dock.
“Robbery at the drugstore near the station.” He unconsciously touched the top of the gun holstered at his hip.
“But you’re a detective.” I said. There was no reason for him to take this call.
“I know, but it turns out there was an off-duty Fed in the store and he decided to claim the glory. Now, we have a hostage situation.”
“Oh. Oh! Can I come?”
Dusty was a big guy, six-two and solid muscle. I had to look up at him and as I did the sun blinded me. I sidestepped so that his big, shaved head blocked the rays. He was a budding Buddhist monk and he shaved his head at the full moon.
He looked down at Fifi, who was baring her teeth at him. “What about your husband?”
“Ex-husband.” I snatched up Fifi, ready to run her upstairs if he gave me the sign.
He started walking toward the harbor parking lot. “It’s been a month and he’s still there. Maybe you should rethink the ex part.”
“I told you, I’m doing something for him so he’ll do something for me.”
What I hadn’t told him was that I was giving Conor a place to crash until his job came through in exchange for Conor finally signing the divorce agreement. This was saving me a ton of money because I’d hired a detective to find Conor. Now, I didn’t have to pay the detective since Conor had found me.
We reached the spot where I either had to cross over to the dock and walk with Dusty or head around the building to the apartment. “Let me run Fifi upstairs and I can ride with you. I might get a story out of this.”
“I don’t have time,” he said, and kept walking.
You can read the rest of this novel in its Kindle edition or Paperback version below.