She was killing him, all soft and warm and leaning against him. Her eyes were a little blurry with the beer and the lateness of the hour. He told himself not to let her feathery touches go to his head, or rather his lower regions.
She couldn’t feel too good about men right now, after having run into her ex, yet she hadn’t gone cold on him. Drew hoped her less-restrained reaction to him had more to do with her faith in him than in the amount of beer he’d poured down her throat.
“Suzie.” He stopped dancing – if you could call what they were doing dancing, crammed so tightly together on what passed for a dance floor at the Cardinal bar. “Suzie, let’s go home.”
“Yeah.” She nodded drunkenly, a silly smile on her face, her arms around his neck, making no effort to release him. “Good idea.”
Now he had a problem. He had a bulge in the front of his pants that wasn’t going away. He’d been waiting on it for a long time already, but with Suzie holding him so tight, it just got worse. He had an urge to hold something over his front like a teen-age boy grabbing a pillow to hide behind. He could just hear Vin saying “Smooth move, Ace.”
“Come on Cinderella, time to leave the ball.” He winced at his own poor choice of words.
Gently prying her fingers loose, he turned her around. With his hands on her hips he was able to guide her out of the bar while keeping himself covered. They staggered out of the hot, humid room into a cool, humid night. A handful of stars winked down on them. In this muggy land, the stars hardly ever showed in full force. He wished they did, so he could stand close to her and point at constellations.
“I’m not the designated driver,” she said as he guided her to the passenger’s side of his car.
“You most certainly are not.”
“But I’m not really drunk! You don’t have to be a gentleman or anything, because I’m only a little drunk.” She let him ease her into the seat and reach across for the buckle.
“I’m sure you’re not,” he assured her as he moved away.
She wouldn’t let him go. She grabbed on to his head, and kissed him until he stopped trying to back out. Only when his heart started racing and the zipper on the front of his pants started to crimp and bind did he pry himself away.
“Just remember, I know what I’m doing.” She nodded to the windshield as if talking to a phantom there.
“Yeah.” He closed her door carefully before getting in the driver’s seat.
“Still, I’m glad it’s you driving.” She curled up on the seat with her knees toward him, put a hand on his shoulder, and closed her eyes.
Drew sighed. Looked like he’d plied her with a little too much beer. He wasn’t going to get lucky tonight.
He parked behind the house, and carried her in through the kitchen. She came alive in his arms as he juggled her to get the burglar alarm turned off, and he reluctantly put her on her feet.
“Vin? Miranda?” Suzie stumbled forward a few feet into the room lit dimly by the light over the stove. “Shouldn’t she be back now?”
“What do you mean back?”
“She was going to the Caribou to find Joseph and Sean, remember?”
“Oh. The Caribou.” He had wondered where Miranda thought she’d find the deadly brothers. “Oh course.”
Suzie blinked owlishly at him for a minute or two, then her eyes went very wide and she put her hand over her mouth in a cartoon-style surprise. “I wasn’t supposed to tell you that.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Drew looped and arm over her shoulder. “Let’s get you to bed.” He guided her toward the central hall, which lead to the stairs.
“But what about Miranda? What if she runs into them?”
“I’m sure she will be fine.”
She stopped on the staircase, refusing to go up, and shook her head in a wobbly way. “But what if she actually finds them? Oh! I never thought of that. We have to go rescue her.” Suzie tried to turn toward the kitchen, but Drew simply guided her all the way around until she faced the steps.
“She won’t find them. I shot them. If they aren’t in the hospital, then they must be some other place licking their wounds. Regardless, they won’t be in any bars.”
“Oh.” Suzie blinked at him a couple of times. Then her eyes narrowed. “You knew that all along, didn’t you. You knew what we were doing and you let us because you knew we wouldn’t get hurt.”
He answered with a hint of a smile as he gently pushed on the small of her back, trying to get her up the stairs.
“You, Drew **, are a bad man. A very bad man.” She said it with a grin of admiration, and an unsteady wag of her finger.
“Oh, I don’t know about that.” He cozied up behind her so he could be sure she wouldn’t fall, wrapped an arm across her middle, and walked her up.
She was sloppy and loose in his arm, but didn’t fight him so they made it to the upstairs hall with only one incident, that being when she stopped to kiss him after having kept her head craned around for half the journey so she could look at his face.
“Suzie,” he groaned. “You’re killing me here.”
“I can tell,” she taunted with a provocative wiggle.
Tucking under an arm while she clung to him like a high-school date, he headed for her bedroom.
“Are you sure Miranda will be all right? Maybe we should check on her.”
“I’m sure she’s fine,” he told Suzie, but he noticed Miranda’s door stood open though the light was off. Generally when Miranda went to bed, she closed the door. Wasn’t it bar time yet? He glanced at his watch. Not yet, but close.
Suzie planted her feet in front of Miranda’s room. “What’s her door doing open? She knows I hate it when she leaves it open. She’s such a slob.”
“I don’t know.” Drew gently tugged on her, but she had her feet spread in a solid stance and didn’t budge. “Maybe Vin went in for something.”
“I’m pretty sure it wasn’t open when … Vin! We should check on him.” Suzie spun on her heel and marched off the way they’d come, no doubt intended on knocking on Vin’s door.
“He’s probably resting, Suzie. We should leave him alone.”
“I won’t wake him up.” Suzie wobbled into a chair, making it clatter loudly. “I’ll just make sure
“He’d probably rather Miranda did it.”
“Of course he would.” Suzie gave Drew a sharp look over her shoulder, or rather a look that would have been sharp if her eyes had focused better. “But she isn’t here. We will have to do it.”
Exasperated, Drew scrambled to keep up with her, keeping her from bumping into the walls. “At least be subtle about it. Don’t go slamming the door open or anything.”
“Of course not.” She grabbed the doorknob, then hesitated. She rested her forehead on the wooden door, then rolled it toward Drew, still leaning into the door. “Do you hear breathing?”
Drew put his ear to the door. It was muffled, but clear. “Yes, I do.”
“You’re probably right. We should let him rest.” Suzie let go of the knob.
From deep within the room came a low, almost tortured sounding moan. Vin must be in horrible pain to make such a sound. Drew and Suzie shared a wide-eyed look of alarm. They threw open the door.
Vin and Miranda looked up from the bed like dogs caught raiding the kitchen table.