Story Orgy – I Am Not Myself, Part 4

Good Monday morning! Has the weekend come and gone already? Sigh. Well, at least it’s Story Orgy time!

First things first! The Story Orgy Goddess, Em Woods, is part of a hot, hot, hot anthology titled His Hero, available from Total E-Bound. Click on over to download His Hero, a collection about, well, heroes! Those men in uniform who go above and beyond to save us all. Mmm. You’re going to love her story, “Only Sam,” about a firefighter and the sparks that fly between him and the owner of a restaurant.

Your Story Orgy writers are up for an award and we need your help! We’d just love you to pieces if you’d click on over to Dawn Roberto’s reading nook and vote for our Breathless Press anthology, Word Play in the LRC Loop’s Best of 2011 Contest!

Did you get yourself over to Breathless Press to download Lee Brazil’s latest story, The Librarian, which was released on January 6? Click here to go there now and get the latest romance from a great writer.

As always, our lovely picture this week was found by Jade Baiser. Ahh, isn’t he a sight for sore eyes?

Next week, your Story Orgy writers have something very special planned. We don’t want to just spend the morning with you, we want to spend the whole DAY with you! Why? Well, let’s just say it has something to do with our very first posts as a group. Think you know what it is? You’ll want to check in on JR Boyd’s site first thing next Monday morning, 1/30/2012, to find out, and that’s all you’re going to get from me.

Okay, on with the post. My post this week is a full length installment, and our prompt is: Something has been mail ordered and is going to be delivered today…what is it? what is it for? What happens? Interesting. Lots of things can be ordered and delivered by mail. Let’s scroll down and see what’s going on, shall we?

I Am Not Myself

by Hank Edwards

(c) 2012

After another 13 hour day trying to close the cold case homicide files he had been assigned, Dan decided to avoid the bar down the block from the station where all the cops hung out. He wanted to go somewhere dark and quiet, removed from the gruesome photos, years-long grief, and unanswered questions of the files stacked on his desk. So, instead, he drove across town to a small Italian place near his house. Just a few couples were dining in the dimly lit restaurant, their conversations covered by quiet music as the hostess led him to a corner table, apparently sensing his desire to be on his own.

He ordered a top shelf whiskey on the rocks, his one vice, and pushed the menu aside. He knew what he wanted. Too bad that statement couldn’t apply to other aspects of his life, say, for instance, his romantic life.

The waitress set his drink down before him, scribbled his order on her pad, picked up the menu and moved briskly off.

Dan sipped the whiskey, closed his eyes, and savored the sting and soothing warmth. He wasn’t going overboard, he wasn’t about to become a caricature of a cop by drinking too much; just one glass when he really felt it was needed, or deserved.

A new arrival to the restaurant joined a couple at their table and greetings of “Happy New Year!” took Dan back to New Year’s Eve a week ago. He swirled his glass and noticed the sharp edges of the cubes were now softened. That was what Jack did to him: softened Dan’s rough edges. Soothed the hard, cold nugget of a heart Dan kept bolted up inside his chest.

With a quiet snort of a laugh, Dan realized he was sounding more and more like that cop caricature he so wanted to avoid, but it was all true. His six years riding in a patrol car with Jack had given them a lot of time to talk. Jack managed to pull things out of Dan, things no one else knew, and they had gotten close. Too close, almost, for partners. It was always dangerous to feel too strongly for your partner. It put everyone at risk to think with emotion, and not your head.

But they weren’t partners any longer, and at midnight on New Year’s Eve, Jack had kissed him. It had thrilled and terrified Dan; he had never thought in a million years that someone like Jack, someone so open, warm, and compassionate, could be interested in him.

As if summoned by his thoughts, the restaurant door opened, and Jack stepped inside.
A thrill surged through Dan at the sight of him, and he sat up straight in the booth, waving to Jack without pausing to wonder what Jack was doing there. His hand came to a sudden stop. What if Jack was meeting someone for a drink before heading home to spend the night? What if Dan’s lack of follow up communication after their kiss on New Year’s Eve had put Jack off and he’d already moved on? Why did Dan automatically think Jack was looking for him?

“Thought I’d find you here,” Jack said as he slid into the booth.

Dan tried to calm his pounding heart, but it was difficult. That was one question answered: Jack had been looking for him.

“What’s going on?” Dan asked, trying to will his eyes to move away from their study of Jack’s face: his brown hair cut short, pointed chin with the slight indent, hidden beneath a dark shadow of beard, and those dark brown eyes that seemed to be able to look right into Dan and read his very thoughts.

“Just had something weird happen,” Jack said, and then sat back when the waitress arrived with Dan’s food.

“Would you like something?” the waitress asked.

Jack looked at Dan’s plate and pointed. “I’ll have the same thing he’s having.”

“The drink too?”

Jack picked up Dan’s glass and took a sip, then grinned and nodded up at the waitress. “Definitely.”

After watching Jack sip from his drink, Dan had to shift his position to make room for his sudden erection. The quick swipe of Jack’s tongue across his lips almost made Dan groan aloud.

“So, something weird happened?” Dan asked, digging into his angel hair and meat sauce.

“Yeah. I was at the coffee house studying.”

“Studying?”

Even in the dim lighting Dan could see his blush. Jack dropped his gaze and cleared his throat. “Oh, yeah. I was going to tell you about that. But later. For now, I was in the coffee shop, and I noticed this guy watching me.”

Dan raised his eyebrows, just managing to head off a jealous comment. He had to take it easy. They had only shared one kiss, and that was on New Year’s Eve. It didn’t mean Jack belonged to Dan. There was no claim staked, especially since Dan had avoided talking about the kiss since that night.

“Watching you?” Dan thought his question had sounded casual, but apparently Jack saw through it and grinned at him.

“Not that way. Well, I didn’t really know what way he was watching, to be honest. So I packed up my stuff and left. But he followed me.”

“Followed you?”

Jack nodded. “Yeah. I ducked around a corner and grabbed him.”

Dan narrowed his eyes. “Did he fight you?”

“Nope. He said, ‘They’re in danger,’ about eight times as I kept asking him who he was.” Jack sat back so the waitress could set his food and drink in front of him.

“Who’s in danger?”

“Well, that’s the thing, see.” Jack spun his fork in the pasta and took a bite before continuing. “I finally asked him who was in danger, and he said Angelica and Nora.”

A cold shock of fear went through Dan. “My mother? He said my mother’s in danger and you didn’t tell me about this?” He reached for his cell phone, but stopped when Jack reached his hand out across the table.

“She’s fine, Dan. She’s fine. I stopped by and checked on her on the way here.”

“You’re sure?”

Jack nodded and Dan set his cell phone aside. “Did he say what kind of danger she was in?”

“I couldn’t really get anything more out of him. He’s about 10 years older than us and has this wild-eyed stare.” Jack opened his eyes and let his face go slack in imitation.

“Great, I feel much better,” Dan grumbled. He pushed his plate away, no longer hungry.

“I’m still confused. Who is this guy? Why is he telling you and not me that my Mom’s in danger?”

Jack shrugged. “Guess he knows we’re friends.” He raised his eyes from his plate to look at Dan. “We are still friends, right?”

Dan took a breath and had to look away. He wasn’t comfortable talking about this with Jack. Not yet. “Of course we’re still friends. Why wouldn’t we be?”

“Just thought something might have changed.” Jack sounded sad, and Dan felt a tiny ball of guilt form deep in his gut. He knew the guilt would roll around in there, getting bigger and bigger, like a snowball rolling down a snowy hill, until it filled him and took him over. He’d have to do something about the situation, sooner rather than later, but for now, he needed to understand the warning this stranger delivered to Jack about his mother.

“So who is this guy? Did you get his name? An address?”

“All I managed to get out of him was his first name: Russell.”

“Russell?”

Jack nodded. “Russell. I asked him what his name was, and he said Russell, I’m Russell. And then he broke out of my grip and ran off.”

Dan sat back. “A man named Russell approached you and told you my mother and the woman she cares for are in danger, and then he runs off. What the hell?”

“I know, that’s why I tracked you down. Had a feeling I’d find you here, since you weren’t at home.” Jack finished up his pasta and sat back to sip at his whiskey. “I like this place. I can see why you come here so often.”

The waitress dropped off two separate bills and they slid cash into the folders. Efficiently tossing back the last of their drinks, they got up and headed for the parking lot. Dan suddenly felt awkward, unsure how to say good-bye to Jack. He knew how he’d like to say good-bye: he’d like to invite Jack back to his house and pour them each another glass of whiskey, see what the privacy of his own home might encourage him to do.

But that would be opening himself up even more to Jack, and he didn’t know if he was ready for that. Yet.

“Well, thanks for telling me about the crazy stranger,” Dan said.

“Russell.”

“Yeah. Russell. Thanks for telling me about him.” He turned his head to squint at Jack.

“You’re sure my Mom’s not in danger?”

Jack nodded. “I checked on her. And I asked a couple of the guys out on patrol tonight to keep an eye on her house. She’s okay.”

Dan sighed as a sliver of relief slipped inside his gut to somewhat calm the anxiety.

“Thanks. I appreciate it.”

“Of course.” Jack looked down at the icy asphalt and kicked aside a pebble before he raised his hand, gave Dan a tight smile, and turned away. “Well, good night, Dan.”

“Night.” Dan got in his car, cursing himself through his sense of relief, and drove the six blocks to his house. The sweep of his headlights as he pulled into the driveway revealed a small package leaning against the front door. He parked in the detached garage behind the house and crunched through the ice-crusted snow to the front door. He picked up the package and tucked it under his arm to carry back around to the side door where he let himself into the kitchen.

The furnace was breathing warm air through the rooms as he kicked off his wet shoes by the door. He stepped into the kitchen, studying the package. It was addressed to him, and the return address was a company out of state. He hadn’t ordered anything that he could remember.

He slit the packing tape with a scissor and carefully pried the flaps apart to peer inside. A box of cashew turtles, his favorite, lay within a nest of shredded paper. He lifted out the box, and a small card fluttered to the floor at his feet. Stooping down to retrieve it, Dan stopped and a warm feeling filled him, so alien to how he’d been feeling recently, he couldn’t at first recognize it for what it was: affection.

The note read: Dan, I don’t regret our kiss New Year’s Eve, and we can take it as slow as you like. I think we’re good together now, and can be great together if you give us a chance. I know these are your favorites. Best, Jack.

“Jack,” Dan whispered and stood up, shaking his head. “That damn Jack.”

~~ * ~~

Things are getting a little crazy in that town! Next week there will be no spooky dolls or strangers warning about danger because of our special event. But don’t worry, we’ll get back to all that the first Monday in February. Now, let’s click on over to the other Story Orgy blogs and see what’s cooking there. Enjoy the rest of your Monday, and I’ll see you next week!

J.R. Boyd,    Lee Brazil,     Havan Fellows,     Em Woods,     Jade Baiser

Follow our tweets during the week:

J.R. Boyd: @JR__Boyd

Lee Brazil: @leebrazil

Hank Edwards: @hanksbooks

Havan Fellows: @HavanFellows

Em Woods: @EmWoodsAuthor

 

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