Authors: Kristen Ashley
to be here! It’s gonna be the party of the decade!” Tod screeched like I just told him I turned down a marriage proposal from Prince Wil iam.
“Um…” I said.
“Come over anyway. I’l get out a bottle of sparkling wine and the Yahtzee game.”
“I’m going on a date with Hank.”
Then, “Shit, those boys don’t fuck around.” He could say that again.
Because I needed help, I took a deep breath and confided, “I’m not sure what to wear.”
Tod answered immediately, “Tel me what you’ve got.” I described the contents of my suitcases. The whole time I spoke, he muttered, “Mm hmm. Mm hmm.” Then, when I described my black top with the wide, scoop neck, he yel ed, “That! With jeans and heels and a rock ‘n’ rol scarf.
Do you have a good belt? Forget it. I’m coming over with belts… and scarves. Be there in ten.”
Then he disconnected.
I stared at the phone.
Was he serious?
He couldn’t be serious.
I couldn’t worry about it. Time was ticking by and I’d only just begun my preparations. I started on my makeup and just got through the first phase of a five phase production when the phone went again.
My body didn’t tense this time, I could see the display saying “Al y Cal ing”.
I was no longer surprised by this bizarre string of phone cal s.
“Hi,” I answered.
“Hey chickie, Daisy texted me your number. You got an outfit for your date with Hank?”
“No, but I think Tod’s coming over with belts and scarves.”
“Good to hear, Tod’l sort you out. How long you staying in Denver?”
“I don’t know.”
“Wel , it’s October and the Haunted Houses are opening and we’re going, al of us, Indy, Jet, Daisy and me. You gotta go. It’s hilarious.”
“I don’t do scary,” I informed her, thinking she’d understand.
She didn’t understand.
“Perfect. Don’t worry. The chainsaw man never has a chain on his saw. We’l keep you in the loop. Gotta go.
Before I could ask, she disconnected.
I was staring at the dead phone in my hand when the hotel phone rang. I walked over and picked it up, this time worried that Bil y’d found me too soon. Or worse, Hank had come early.
“It’s Tod, what room number are you?”
I was silent a second.
serious. How did he even know where I was?
I didn’t want to know.
“Three thirty-three,” I said.
Now I knew how Uncle Tex had been so wel , truly and quickly ensconced in the fold. These people acted as fast as lightening.
There was a knock on the door and I opened it. Tod walked in carrying enough scarves and belts to accessorize the entirety of the Purdue Boiler Babes Dance Team.
He charged in tossing everything on the bed.
I closed the door and walked back into the room.
“Tod, he’s going to be here in…” I looked at my watch.
Then I let out a little scream.
“Calm, calm,” Tod said, his hands out in front of him, palms down, pressing the air. “Let’s get crackin’. Finish your face, I’l sort through this.”
Then, without further ado, he started digging through my suitcases.
I didn’t have time to flip out that some guy I barely knew was digging through my suitcases. Hank was going to be there in twenty minutes and I hadn’t even moved to phase two of makeup.
I was shading and blending through phase four when Tod walked into the bathroom. “Outfit’s on the bed, I unpacked you because, girlie, you’re getting wrinkles in some of your fab-you-las blouses. So I hung them up, unmentionables and PJs in the drawers. You can return the belt and scarf to Indy and I’m borrowing those Manolo Mary Janes for my act this weekend if you’re stil in town. They fit like they were made for me.”
“Sure,” I said, even though it wasn’t a request.
We air-kissed and he took off.
I finished the makeup, fluffed out my hair and put on the black top, jeans, a black belt of Tod’s, the Manolo Mary Janes and looped once around my neck a thin, long rock ‘n’
rol scarf made entirely out of silver bugle beads stitched together. I put a wide silver cuff on my wrist, my Raymond Weil on my other wrist and some seriously long hoops dangling at my ears. I was spritzing with Boucheron at six twenty-nine and trying to breathe calmly and reach my zen zone (and failing) when my cel rang again.
It said, “Jet Cal ing.”
I flipped open the phone. “Hel o?”
“Hey Roxie, Daisy gave me your number.”
Daisy was a busy little beaver.
“How’s your Dad?” I asked.
Jet’s Dad had been shot, stabbed, beaten, then thrown out of a moving car on Broadway outside of Fortnum’s just days before. They moved him out of ICU that morning and Jet spent the day in the hospital with him.
“A lot better. Breathing, talking,
.” I smiled. “I’m glad.”
“I hear you’re going out with Hank tonight, you got something to wear?”
Cripes! I had four new best friends and I’d known them only a day. Next thing, Indy was going to be cal ing, asking me to a slumber party.
Before I could answer, the hotel phone rang.
I let out another little scream.
I heard Jet laugh.
“Hank’s there,” she surmised.
“Ohmigod, ohmigod,” I chanted.
“Deep breaths,” Jet said.
“Ohmigod, ohmigod,” I chanted.
“It might help if you answer the phone,” Jet suggested but I could tel it was through a smile.
“Hang on” I said to her, took the cel from my ear and picked up the room phone.
It was Hank.
My legs gave out and I sat on the bed.
“Hey,” I replied.
“I’m at reception. What room are you in?”
I did not want Hank in my room. I wanted Hank nowhere near my room. In fact, Hank was already nearer to my room than I ever wanted him to be.
“I’l come down.”
He ignored me.
“What room are you in?” he repeated.
“I’l be right down,” I said.
His voice dropped low. “Sunshine, I’m gonna ask one more time. What room are you in?”
His voice shivered through me.
“Three thirty-three,” I replied.
I put the cel back to my ear, “Ohmigod, ohmigod,” I said to Jet.
She was laughing. “Word of advice?” she offered.
“Don’t fight it.”
“Jet… there are things…” I stopped. Then I started again, “I can’t –”
She interrupted me. “I can’t either but I real y don’t need to because Eddie can. It, like,
freaks me out,” she confided.
“Eddie adores you. I could tel that the minute I saw you two, and Uncle Tex said so,” I said to her.
“Yeah. I’m beginning to believe it. It stil , like, total y freaks me out.”
There was a knock on the door. My eyes swung to the door and I stared at it.
“Ohmigod, ohmigod,” I chanted.
Jet laughed again. “Get the door.”
I nodded, got off the bed and walked to the door. Then, to focus on something,
that was not what was behind the door, I said, “Uncle Tex is taking your Mom out tonight.”
“I know,” she replied. “That works out, we could be related.”
I knew in an instant I’d like that.
I opened the door and looked at Hank.
He smiled at me.
My knees went weak and I wasn’t thinking about anything but Hank.
“Gotta go,” I said to Jet.
“Tel Hank I said hi.”
She disconnected and I flipped the phone shut.
Hank’s eyes went to the phone.
“Jet,” I told him.
Without a word, he walked forward, even though I was in his way.
He seemed bigger than I remembered, tal er, broader of shoulder. His presence seemed to invade the room. He was wearing a black leather jacket, a dark gray turtleneck sweater, jeans and black boots.
He looked fantastic.
I quickly moved out of his way, he finished entering and turned. I stood in the door.
“She says hi,” I shared.
He grabbed my arm and pul ed me out of the doorway and then shut the door behind me. I watched the door close and just (barely) stopped myself from screaming again.
“Uncle Tex is going out on a date with her mom tonight,” I kept sharing.
His hand was stil on my arm and now he was pul ing me to him. He stil didn’t say anything.
“If this works out, Jet and I could end up related,” I went on, completely unable to stop talking.
He pul ed me closer, then his hand left my arm and went around my waist. The other hand went to the side of my neck.
“We’l be, like, cousins or something,” I carried on.
His face came toward mine. His lips weren’t smiling but his eyes were.
My lips and eyes weren’t smiling, my body was preparing to have a heart attack.
“Is it cousins? Or would I be her niece? How does that go?” I asked, desperately re-designing my family tree in an effort to avoid what was happening in real time.
“Sunshine?” he said against my mouth.
“Sunshine?” he said against my mouth.
“Yeah?” I breathed.
Then he kissed me.
It was just like the night before, just as serious, just as hot, just as quick to scramble my brain and make me go dizzy.
He lifted his head.
When I could think straight again, I said, “You’re supposed to do that after the date is over.”
“I’m gonna do it then too,” he returned, his arm stil around me, his hand stil at my neck.
“I’m sorry but you Denver people are nuts. I’ve known you al , like, a day and I just got cal s from Daisy, Al y and Jet.
Tod actual y came over bringing half of Neiman Marcus’s accessory department with him to help me get dressed.
The entire Denver experience is weird. Beyond weird.
Denver is “The Twilight Zone,” I told him.
“You can say that again.”
He ignored my comment and asked, “You hungry?” I wasn’t hungry, I’d eaten a mountain of food only a few hours before.
If I said no, I wasn’t certain what my options were and since we were in a room that consisted mainly of furniture on which a girl could only find trouble (or, in my case, more trouble), I lied.
It was then, the smile in his eyes hit his mouth.
My phone rang.
“Shit!” I cried, pul ing out of his arms and lifting the phone to look at it. “Who could it be now? It has to be Indy.” I stopped talking when Hank plucked the phone out of my hand, flipped it open and put it to his ear.
I stared at him in disbelief.
“Yeah?” he said into the phone.
“Whisky, you can’t just answer my phone,” I snapped, sounding a lot like Jet when she snapped at Eddie, that was to say, ful of shit. I reached to take it away from him but he jerked his head away from my reach.
“Hel o?” he said, sounding far more serious.
My body froze and my heart stopped.
This was not good. I thought it would be Indy, Duke, Stevie, Lee, Eddie and half dozen other people I barely knew who were al of a sudden my friends. Not Bil y.
He took the phone from his ear and flipped it shut.
“Who was it?” I asked, wondering if I should ask for CPR
pre-heart attack and deciding Hank’s lips on mine (again) was not a good idea.
The phone rang again.
I reached for it, knowing now who it was and feeling panic spreading through my body but Hank stepped away, flipped it open and put it to his ear. “Hel o?” he said.
I moved toward him and got in his space. “Hank,” I I moved toward him and got in his space. “Hank,” I whispered.
“Is someone there?” Hank said into the phone.
I closed my eyes.
This was not happening.
I opened my eyes again and Hank was watching me. He took the phone from his ear and flipped it shut. “No answer,” Hank informed me. He opened it and started pressing buttons.
I knew what he was doing, looking at the received cal s.
Normal y, I would have been angry at his nerve but I was too busy freaking out at what he might find.
“Give me my phone, Hank.”
He got to what he was looking for. “It says unknown cal er.”
Bil y was on the road and likely his cel had run out of juice.
“Give me the phone,” I repeated.
It rang again.
Without delay, he flipped it open and put it to his ear.
“Hank!” I yel ed, making a play for it but he caught me, snatching me around the waist with his arm and he pul ed me up against his body.
“This is Detective Hank Nightingale. Who’s cal ing?” he said in a voice that rang with so much authority, if it was me on the other side, I would have answered in a flash.
Bil y was going to have a shit hemorrhage: a man answering my phone, a man with a deep, sexy, authoritative, no-nonsense voice and a police title.
authoritative, no-nonsense voice and a police title.
“Identify yourself,” Hank demanded.
He waited. I waited.
Hank was looking pissed off. I was holding my breath.
He pul ed the phone from his ear, flipped it shut one-handed and looked at me.
“No answer?” I asked.
I closed my eyes.
His arm tightened.
I opened them.
“Your trouble catching up with you?” he asked.