Authors: Jenna Byrnes
Tags: #Erotic Romance Fiction
Bryan glanced down then back up again. He seemed nervous. “That’s not the, uh, only reason I stopped by. It’s about what your friend said last night.” He glanced around surreptitiously.
Dix waved his hand. While he didn’t usually conduct personal business in the squad room, everyone knew he was gay. It wasn’t a concern. “Don’t worry, it’s cool. But please don’t mind Abby. She thinks she’s being helpful when she’s actually not.”
“It was helpful to me.” Bryan smiled. “Dating since I came out as gay has been a lot harder than it was in high school when I dated girls because that’s what guys were supposed to do. Unless you’re at a GLBT rally or someplace like that, it’s impossible to tell if people are gay or straight.”
The words resounded in Dix’s head. “Since you came out… You’re telling me you’re gay?”
Bryan’s smile was more sheepish this time. “Yeah. I guess that’s what I’m telling you.
I’m telling you, well, I’m not exactly sure. My daughter kind of pushed me into it. Sami thought you were cute, and well, hell, I couldn’t deny that.”
Dix couldn’t hold back his grin. “Sami, your daughter. I thought she was your girlfriend, the first time I saw her kiss your cheek.”
“You could have set me straight.” Dix realised his choice of words and when Bryan laughed, he did, too. “Okay, you know what I meant. You could have corrected my mistaken impression.”
“Why would I want to do that? You were the suave, debonair detective with all the answers. I liked that you finally got something wrong.”
Dix nearly choked. “Is that how I come across? Somebody should nominate me for a fucking Golden Globe, then. I sure as hell don’t feel that way on the inside.”
“Really.” It wasn’t spoken as a question, more of an observation. Bryan studied him for a moment. “I’d like to learn more about how you feel, Detective Dixon. I wondered if you’d like to stop by the place for dinner some night. Oh hell, I meant tonight. If you’re interested, that is. And you’re not busy.”
Dix watched him just as thoughtfully. “I am.”
“Busy?” Bryan’s face fell.
“Interested. I’m always busy, but even cops make time to eat…and unwind a little bit.”
“Great.” His expression changed from disappointment to relief. He feigned wiping his brow. “Damn, I’d forgotten how much work that was.”
Dix chuckled. “I hadn’t. That’s why I didn’t make the first move. Well, that, and the fact I had no idea you were gay. Anyway, I’m glad you stopped by. Dinner sounds great. I should be done here by about six. That work for you?”
“Six would be fine.” He rose. “Whenever you get there is good. I’ll look forward to seeing you.” He turned to leave.
“Oh, Bryan? Think I could get your cell number?”
The man faced him again.
Dix smiled apologetically. “First rule about being friends with a cop. Sometimes work gets in the way. I try not to let it, but you know.” He nodded towards the evidence board.
Bryan glanced at the board but looked away quickly. “Understood. Sure, here, I’ll write it down for you.” He jotted the number on a piece of paper and passed it over. “Call anytime.” He reconsidered. “Not to cancel, of course.”
“Of course.” Dix grinned. “If I had to, it wouldn’t be
. It would be
“Cool. See you later.” He walked off.
Dix watched his retreat. The man’s jean-clad ass definitely gave credence to the old expression, ‘hate to see you go but love to watch you leave’. His heart soared at the thought of the evening to come.
He turned back to the evidence and sighed. Miles to go before nightfall. Places to go, people to see. Homicide cases to solve.
With a little luck, and by the grace of God.
* * * *
Shortly before six p.m., Dix removed his necktie and tucked it into his jacket pocket. The tie spent almost as much time there as it did around his neck. He usually kept one handy in case he needed it for work. But most of the day, an open collar sufficed.
Tonight, especially, he didn’t want to look like a choirboy. He’d be more comfortable in jeans and a leather jacket, but didn’t want to waste time driving home and back.
He strolled into Last Chance and glanced around. Another decent crowd—he was glad to see evenings were better than the one lunch he’d witnessed.
Maybe that was just a slow day.
He wasn’t sure, and
wasn’t sure why Bryan’s business concerned him. For some reason, it just did. He wanted to see the man do well. But tonight, he just wanted to see the man.
Bryan was nowhere in sight. His daughter approached and smiled. “Good evening, Detective Dixon. My father said to give you a table and a drink. He’ll be out shortly.”
He smiled. “Hey, Sami. Thanks. I’ll take you up on that drink. A vodka martini, please.”
“You got it.” She pointed to the corner. “This table okay?”
“Sure.” He pulled out a chair. “So how was your day?”
“Not bad. Gearing up for finals in a few weeks.”
“What’s your major?”
“Restaurant management. My sister wants to be a chef. We’re thinking maybe one day we can go into business together.”
“Your sister?” He raised his brows. “Haven’t heard about her yet. What’s her name?”
“Kayla. She’s twenty-four. She’s a sous-chef at La Maison.”
“Wow, impressive for someone so young.”
“Daddy says she’s a real go-getter. I’ll be right back with your drink.”
“Thank you.” He watched her return to the bar. She seemed friendly and easy to talk to.
The longer he sat, the more his nerves kicked in. Dix truly hoped her father would be just as affable.
Sami brought his drink and Dix tried to nurse it, but had polished it off before Bryan ever showed up. It was nearly six-twenty when the man breezed in from the back, stopped to talk with the bartender then headed to the table with two drinks in his hands.
“Sorry I’m late.” He set one of the drinks in front of Dix. “As you mentioned this morning, sometimes work gets in the way.” Bryan sat opposite him and took a sip of his own martini.
“It does,” Dix agreed. He glanced at the drink in front of him. “I usually keep it to one on work nights.”
Bryan smiled. “Special occasion. One more won’t hurt. Please accept my martini-bribe for making you wait.”
Dix relented and picked up the glass. “No bribe required, you weren’t that late.”
Bryan tossed back half his drink, and as he set it down, his words tumbled out in a rush. “I swear, sometimes the kitchen staff is totally clueless. Galen’s here all damned day and he does about half the prep work we need for an evening shift. The two night-time guys are on their phones as much as they are working. Texting, playing games, who knows what? They’re worse than little girls.” Another deep breath, then he polished off his drink and deposited the glass on its coaster with a
He looked at Dix and sighed. “Hello.”
Dix grinned. “Hi there. Man, I didn’t know restaurant work could be so gruelling.”
“What, you thought I leaned up against the bar all day?”
“No, I just…” He wasn’t sure what to say. He’d honestly never thought about it.
Bryan waved a hand. “I’m kidding. It’s nothing compared to your line of work, but it can get stressful. A different kind of stress, I guess.”
“Of course it can. Every job has its good and bad points.”
“That’s right. Take this place, for instance. We’re barely making ends meet. The bank is going to foreclose if I don’t come up with an interest payment in sixty days. And people are dying after they come in here. But on the bright side, I met you. So it’s not all doom and gloom.” He smiled, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.
Dix set his jaw. “I’m sorry, Bryan. I had no idea. What am I saying? Of course I had no idea, I hardly know you. And ‘people’ is just one woman who may or may not have come in here. I hardly think her death can be attributed to your establishment.”
“So that’s another checkmark in the positive column. A woman died, but we’re not blaming me.”
Dix didn’t know what to say. “Wow. You have had a bad day, or a bad week, whatever the case may be. Perhaps we should do this another time.”
Bryan studied him. “I think we should get the hell out of here. I know I promised you dinner, but can we eat someplace that won’t make me crazy?”
Dix saw anguish brimming in his eyes. The emotion looked like it could spill over into tears, and it wouldn’t take much to set it off. “We can go anywhere you like, my friend. Hell, a drive-through joint would be fine, and we could just talk. Would you like to talk?”
“Maybe.” Bryan chewed on his lower lip. “I’d rather do something else. Could I convince you to come to my place if we brought a bottle, maybe order a pizza?”
Their gazes were locked. While Dix’s mind insisted that he didn’t know the guy, and going
with him would be crazy, his libido was telling him something else.
Crazy sounds fun.
Dix couldn’t believe he was considering the invitation. The guy obviously had issues. Part of him said
turn and run
but a bigger part was curious to discover more about the sexy hunk. “I don’t need a bottle. Pizza sounds good…for later.”
Bryan breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you. Here’s my address.” He wrote it on the cardboard coaster and pushed it towards Dix. “Want to follow me?”
Dix smiled. “For now. I may want to lead later.”
Bryan stood and leaned in. “I just might let you. Come on.”
They walked to the bar and Bryan told his daughter, “We’re getting out of here. I’ll be back later to close up.”
“We can do it, Daddy,” she insisted. “Carlos, Evan and I know what to do. Just go, and have a nice evening.” She looked at Dix. “I never thought you should have dinner here in the first place. He needs to get away some times. I mean, Christ, he’s always here! Open to close. He hates leaving responsibility to other people.”
“Obviously.” Dix smiled.
“I’m not sure—” Bryan was cut off by the man behind the bar.
“We’ll take care of things and make sure Sami gets to her car safely. Go, and we’ll see you tomorrow.”
The owner finally nodded and turned to Dix. “I drive a blue Blazer. I’ll pull around front so you can follow me.”
Sami rolled her eyes. “Two cars. How romantic.”
Dix wagged his brows at her. “Not leaving mine in this neighbourhood.” He glanced at Bryan. “Why’d you open your place here, anyway? Seems like you could have found better digs.”
“My father opened Last Call in the seventies. It was a different area back then.”
“Ah, gotcha.” It did make sense. And Bryan’s frustration with not making ends meet made even
sense. Letting the business his old man had started go down the tubes would play heavily on any man. “Let’s go.” To Sami he said, “Thanks.”
He returned to his Navigator and started it up, waiting until he saw the Blazer moving slowly down the street. Dix pulled out and followed him on the ten minute trip to the man’s house.
The house was in a good area, another five minutes and they’d be to Dix’s own townhouse.
He pulled into the driveway behind Bryan, who motioned him to enter through the garage.
Dix followed and Bryan closed and locked the door behind them.
“Nice place.” He glanced around the kitchen, which was neat if slightly cluttered.
“It’s okay. Lived here with my wife before she died. It’s been five years, but for the girls’ sake, I never changed much.”
They moved on into the living room and Dix saw what Bryan meant. Family pictures were everywhere. Bryan, two daughters and a pretty blonde-haired woman. One photo of them and the woman with
hair. He glanced at Bryan. “Cancer?”
“Yeah.” He tossed his keys on the coffee table. “We’d just filed for divorce when she got the diagnosis, pancreatic cancer. It was pretty far advanced. I’d met someone else, a guy who’d done some remodelling work on the bar, and I’d finally come out to Elaine. But when we got the news, I just couldn’t leave her and the girls. I broke it off with Tom and stayed with Elaine for the last few months of her life. It was horrible, and it was amazing, all at the same time.”
Dix processed the story. “That’s rough. I’m so sorry.”
“I’m curious. Did you ever go back and look up Tom?”
“Yeah. He’d moved on. He didn’t value loyalty, which spoke volumes about the guy in hindsight.”
“Yeah.” Dix wasn’t sure what to say. “My partner’s wife has breast cancer.”
“Sorry to hear it. I hope she’s doing well.”
“She’s a fighter, and they caught it early.”
“Makes all the difference.” Bryan glanced around the room. “Jesus, I never realised what a shrine this place turned out to be. Not exactly a bachelor pad. Sorry.”
Dix grinned and took a step closer. “For what? It’s nice to see another side of you. We don’t know anything about each other.”
Bryan gazed at him. “Makes what we’re doing here that much crazier. I’m generally not a fast and loose kind of guy. The most recent relationship I had— Oh, God, I can’t even remember, it’s been so long.”
“Mine was just over six months ago. An Italian artist named Raphael, if you can believe that. He was quite a guy, but it was never going to last. I knew he’d be off to New York or L.A. or someplace more cultural than Kansas City.”
“Where did he go? And why didn’t you want to go with him?”
“Italy, actually.” They both chuckled. “I just didn’t. I wouldn’t have gone to New York, either. I like the Midwest. I was born and raised here. My folks are gone, but I have a sister and some family. My kid’s twenty-five, stationed overseas in the Marines.”
“Just the one?”
Dix’s heart thudded.
A loaded question and a sore subject.
But if he was going to get intimate with the guy, perhaps he needed to open up a bit. “We had a daughter, a couple years younger than Jared. She was killed in a traffic accident, on the night of her junior prom. The kid who was driving had been drinking, and of course he walked away from the wreck. My wife wanted to sue him and his parents, but I didn’t see the point. It wasn’t going to bring Julie back, you know? We just couldn’t get past it.”