Page 49

“Long time, no see.” She smiled, showing off caps. “Can I make you a drink?”

“Where’s Moose.”

“Out back. Where else would he be. It’s not like all of his friends are coming over and he’s expecting me to do all of the work by myself. Hey, why don’t you help me in here? I’ve got lasagna made with gluten-free noodles, and gluten-free bread, and I was just cutting up organic vegetables. You could toss my salad.”

Her hair was lighter by a couple of shades, and he wondered, if this trend kept up, whether she’d have a triple-H chest and Daenerys Targaryen’s coloring by Easter. And he knew exactly what she was playing at.

Danny shook his head. “I’m not good in the kitchen. Sorry.”

Deandra’s heavily lashed lids lowered, her smoky eye going down right stinky. “Anne’s not coming, you know. I spoke with her this afternoon.”

Ah, yes, all the charm I remember so fondly, he thought.

“She’s really busy.” He turned for the back door. “Let us know when the food’s on.”

If it had been anybody else, he would have stayed and helped because it was rude to have only one person cooking for five or six. But considering it was Deandra? He was going to follow Moose’s example.

Opening the slider, he stepped out into the unseasonably warm night. The back porch was half finished, the planks stopping halfway across the frame—and the project was going nowhere until after the winter, Danny was willing to bet.

Ah, yes, the sprawl was starting. The back acreage was all cleared meadow circled by a ring of forest, and Moose was starting to fill it with crap. The two-car garage had been turned into a car workshop and there was a commercial dumpster, a transport box trailer, two rusted-out cars, and half a dozen drums full of God only knew what metastasizing outward.

No doubt the guy was going to gradually fill the field to the property’s tree line with that kind of stuff.

Danny got to walking, closing in on the glow as Bruce Springsteen’s The River got louder.

“Dannyboy!” Moose’s voice boomed from the garage. “My man!”

The guy ducked out from under a raised, rusted out Shelby Mustang that was about as structurally complete as his porch and far, far older than he was. With a Bud in one hand and a wrench in the other, grease was his middle name: the stuff was on his UMass T-shirt and his old Levi’s and his work boots were black from gunk.

Danny clapped palms with him, nodded at Duff and Duff’s cousin T.J., and gave Deshaun a bear hug. And he was surprised, in a good way, to see Jack, his supposed roommate.

“Where you been, asshole?” Danny gave Jack at hard embrace. “I keep thinking I hear you coming in at night, but nope.”

“At least I’m still paying rent.”

“Good point.”

“Beer?” When Danny nodded, Jack went over to the red-and-white cooler. “Coors Light?”

“You remembered. I’m touched.” As the longneck came flying at him, he caught it and cracked the thing open. “How’s your sister?”

Everyone got quiet, and Danny wanted to curse. Some things were best not asked about. On that note, he was hoping no one else brought up Anne.

“She’s the same. You know . . . the same.”

“I’m sorry.” He took a swig and looked at the car carcass. It had been blue once, and the engine as well as all four tires had been removed and were off in the corner. “So, Moose, what’s this mess?”

“Mess? Can you not see the potential?” The guy banged on the steel frame. “Come on, she’s a ’66 Shelby GT350, bitch—one of the first two hundred fifty-two that were ’65 Mustang K-Code Fastbacks before Shelby-American converted them.”

“Jesus Christ, Moose, how’d you get a hold of her?”

“I bought her out of Ohio and just shipped her in. She’s gonna be gorgeous.”

“After a lotta plastic surgery.”

“All women want that,” Moose muttered.

No, not all, Danny thought as he pictured Anne on that climbing wall. Some recognized they were perfect just the way God made ’em.

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