“It’s okay, buddy,” Danny murmured with his lids still down. “Take your time.”
Soot sniffed a hand first. Reared back. Sniffed the arm. Sniffed the chest. Sniffed the face.
Danny slowly opened his eyes. “I’m a friend of your mom’s. It’s good to meet you.”
Soot and Danny stared at each other for what felt like an hour. And then the dog curled into a sit, his skinny body leaning against Danny’s torso. It was only then that a hand lifted and gently stroked the animal’s flank.
“See? I told you he’d like me.”
Anne crossed her arms over her chest and glared at the pair of them. She’d had to offer bribes of Fiber One, FFS. But for Danny? Soot gave it up for free.
“So,” Danny said, “you got any dinner plans?”
Anne opened her mouth. Closed it. And somehow ended up muttering, “Just leftover pizza and a salad.”
“Perfect. I’m starved.”
There was a long moment of quiet, and then somehow, for reasons she didn’t want to look too closely at, she took him into her house, into her kitchen, over to her table. And after she had reheated the pizza, she sat down across from Danny with her salad.
“So what are you working on?” Danny said between bites of the pepperoni-and-onion.
She tried out the salad and decided it tasted like cardboard. “You know what a fire investigator does.”
“How’s it going?”
“Your salad good?”
She put her fork down. “Danny, this is—”
He wiped his mouth with a paper towel. “Look . . . I just wanted to see you when I was sober. Last night, I was outta my mind, and not making any sense. And I would have called first, but you’d’ve told me not to come over.”
“So you just showed up. Have you ever waited for an invitation in your life, Danny?”
“Not any more often than you have, Anne.”
“I hate when you smile like that,” she muttered as she poked at her lettuce some more. “And can we just stipulate that you’re sorry about trying to kiss me—”
“I’m not sorry about that.” When she looked up at him, his lids lowered. “I’d be lying if I told you otherwise.”
Instantly, she was back in that dark, messy apartment of his, standing face-to-face with him, her name a hoarse sound leaving his lips. And then his mouth was dropping toward hers.
Arousal came hard and fast to her body, and she shifted in her chair. “So I’m working on a fire just like ours, actually. I mean, our last one. You know.”
Danny sat back and crossed his legs, ankle to knee. Then he peeled off a piece of crust and offered it to Soot, who had curled up on his new bed. After a moment, the dog hobbled over and took it as gently as an English nobleman, whispering back to his bed and chewing it down on a oner.
“He’s so quiet,” Anne said. “And mild-mannered.”
“That’s a good dog, right here. You lucked out. Both of you.” Danny’s shoulders eased up. “So what about this fire you’re on. Which one is it?”
“The one on Harbor Street? From two days ago?”
“Yes, that’s it. Same vintage structure as the one we were—well, you know. Anyway, there are some similarities between the two. And get this, there have been others. I’m wondering if there’s a connection.”
“Lot of crazies in that area. Sometimes they burn shit for fun.”
“True.” She put some lettuce in her mouth.
“Is it safe for you to be down there? Do you go in a pair or something?”
“I have a handgun. I’m licensed to carry concealed.”
“Woman.” She chewed. “Not girl.”
“Sorry.” He smiled a little. “So can we go back to the elephant in the room?”
“Did Moose come into my house and I somehow missed him?”