So, this book has no title yet – it has working title options, but I haven’t decided on one yet. For now, just know that it’ll be published before Summer ends, exclusively on my site for a while, and that it takes place in the Night Shift universe – potentially familiar to you from Equivalent Exchange.
As always, samples are unedited and subject to change – and possibly redacted to eliminate certain spoilers.
“I’m really not dressed for a bar like this,” I said, eyes wide as we approached the glowing sign.
The pale blue sign, affixed to the top corner of the building, high above street level, was a sharp contrast to the inky-blue sky, beckoning drinkers for miles. I doubted they were missing their underwear beneath joggers and a tee shirt, wearing sneakers with no socks, reeking of eau de fire.
My hesitance made Ellis stop, turning to offer me a grin in rebuttal.
I’d bet that smile had turned plenty of well-intentioned refusals into acquiescence.
He had that vibe about him.
“We’re dressed the same,” he shrugged, calling my attention to where he was, indeed, dressed similarly enough. The difference was the huge BFD emblazoned across his chest.
Blackwood Fire Department.
He motioned for me to come on, and when I didn’t, he strode back in my direction, quickly covering the distance my reluctance had put between us on the sidewalk. There was a momentary fear he’d grab my hand again – that he’d send another one-sided jolt of electricity, like back in the hospital parking lot.
His hands went to my shoulders instead.
He’d stepped behind me, and with a gentle push I was moving again – partially in compliance, and partially trying to get away from his touch.
I didn’t like what it was doing to me.
There was entirely too much to consider – to plan, to fix, to pay for – with a damn fire. I still hadn’t even seen the damage, didn’t know the first thing to do after a fire, had no idea how I was going to explain this to the people who hadn’t wanted me to come out here for any of this in the first place.
And what was I doing?
Walking into a bar, entirely too aware of the handsome firefighter behind me.
Inside, I quickly realized I wasn’t nearly as out of place as I thought – there were a few people really dressed, but mostly it was a sea of BFD, BPD, BEMS, BRH tee shirts.
Blackwood Fire Department.
Blackwood Police Department.
Blackwood Emergency Medical Services.
Blackwood Regional Hospital.
As soon as we stepped into the main area, a chorus of “Boyd!” went up, coming from seemingly all sides. His hands left my shoulders in favor of greeting his… friends, I guess. I caught a few nasty looks in the crowd, and could easily guess what those were about.
I put up a mental block to that energy and tuned my antennae to the bar.
He didn’t even notice when I slipped away, which was fine – I was where I needed to be. His suggestion of a drink had been an excellent one, and I was all set to have the pretty bartender put something strong in front of me when I remembered… shit.
I didn’t have my purse.
“Can you accept a mobile wallet payment?” I asked, holding up my phone to illustrate what I meant.
“Of course,” she agreed, giving me a good reason for the relief that washed through me before she added, “but you walked in with Ellis, right? He’s paying.”
Immediately, I shook my head. “I don’t even really – I don’t know him,” I explained. “I’m just… we…”
“What are you drinking?” she asked, obviously not interested in my clarification. “We’ve got Rebirth, No Angel, and Auntie’s House on tap right now, or… you need something stronger?”
“Well,” I sighed. “A lot has gone wrong tonight, so… I kinda think the stronger the better.”
Her lips fell apart in a little gasp, eyes wide. “Oh, shit. I’m so sorry, sis.”
“Yeah. Me too,” I told her, blinking away the sudden urge for tears. “So um… whatever you think would work.”
She nodded. “I’ve got you,” she said, reaching way up to the top shelf for an expensive-looking bottle with a large K etched into the glass. “This one is on me – next one on Ellis,” she grinned, pouring me a generous shot of what I identified as bourbon – incredibly good bourbon – as soon as it hit my tongue.
I wanted to savor it, I really did.
Instead, I followed the impulse to knock it back, relishing the smoothness as it went down my throat. By the time I put the glass down on the glossy bar top, there was already another in front of me.
If I could drink away the last several hours, even momentarily… I damn sure would.
“Hold up now,” Ellis’ deep voice rumbled in my ear as I slid the shot toward me. A moment later, he’d taken the open seat beside me. “I thought we were supposed to be drinking together?”
“Was that the agreement?” I asked, already raising the glass to my lips, but not drinking. “You seemed busy.”
“I’m here now.”
“I already started.”
“Even more reason to wait on me,” he insisted, flagging down the same bartender from before. “What you got her drinking, Lark?”
She smirked. “Top shelf, on your dime.”
“Damn, it’s like that?” he chuckled, looking back and forth between the two of us. “Shit… pour me one too, I guess.”
The bottle was still down, so it only took a second for him to have a glass in his hand too. When he held it out like we were supposed to toast or something, I frowned.
“What the hell would we be drinking to?”
He nodded, meeting my gaze. “It’s been a rough night, for sure. But you’re here to tell the story, aren’t you?”
My eyebrows shot up. “Wow. Yeah. You’re right.”
“That’s something to drink to.”
“Indeed,” I agreed, tapping my shot to his. “To shifted perspectives.”
He lifted an eyebrow at me, then nodded. “To shifted perspectives.”