They have an interesting conversation with Kai’s friends.
“I’m working at Antonio’s Italian restaurant,” Billy said. “My folks own it.”
“I thought you were Hispanic,” Paisley said.
“Yeah, Dad is, but Mom’s Italian, and a hell of a chef. I’m waiting tables for her, and she’s teaching me to cook. Who knows, maybe I’m the next winner of Iron Chef?”
“What’re you doing, TM?” Paisley asked.
His dark eyes sparkled with humor. “Homeboy’s gonna laugh at me,” he said.
“Come on, the others told us!” Paisley leaned forward excitedly, not realizing that her shirt gaped, exposing the top of her breasts.
Mouth slacking, TM wrenched his eyes back to her face, knowing Kai hadn’t missed the momentary indiscretion. A slip-up would be excused. Full on ogling, would not.
“Me? I’m going to college. Gonna head to the seminary after that, and become a preacher.”
Kai’s mouth dropped open. He didn’t laugh, in fact he couldn’t make a sound. Paisley nudged him. Blinking, he closed his mouth, inhaling.
“Wow! That’s amazing, TM. I gotta say, I’m really impressed.”
“You ain’t laughin’,” TM said with awe. “These other mother f**kers laughed they ass off when I said that.”
“I always thought you hid your true nature from everyone, including yourself, man. You’ve always walked in faith, no matter how hard you tried to deny it. I think it’s great you’ve finally decided to accept it.”
“You knew? All this time? And you didn’t say?”
“Would you have listened? You buried yourself in drugs and women. Hell, we all did, for a while.”
“Not you, Kai. You always had one woman and you drank some. Most you did was weed,” TM said quietly.
They sat in silence a few moments, none of the men making eye contact with one another. Paisley knew she had to do something, or somebody was going to start crying, and she suspected it was her. Her heart went out to these men. All of them were trying to get their lives on track, running away from whatever demons haunted them, just like she was.
“Anyone want a beer?” she asked brightly, standing so fast, she lost her balance.
Kai’s hands steadied her. It took him a moment to realize he was grabbing her crotch and ass. Blushing, he dropped his hands.
“Beer?” she asked again, as if that hadn’t just happened.
TM cleared his throat. “Yeah. I’d like one. Let me give you a hand.” He stood up, adjusting his jeans.
The other men agreed to a beer, so they went in the kitchen and got them out of the case Nina had bought for her. Paisley insisted on washing and drying the tops before taking them out.
“You don’t know what’s been on them,” she said with a shudder. “I wash every can I open.”
“Works for me,” TM said. “We all have our OCD moments. Me, it’s car keys. I’ll check my pocket six times, before I leave the house to make sure I got ’em. I keep ’em in the front pocket, so folks mostly think I’m checking my balls.” His hand dropped unconsciously to his pocket as he spoke.
Paisley giggled. “If they think that, they’re dumb. Your balls are a little farther to the left.”
“Thanks for noticing,” he said with a deep chuckle.
“No problem,” she replied, flashing him a grin.
TM watched her almost hungrily as she walked into the living room ahead of him, three beers in her hands. He brought the other three, distributing them before sitting down.
“So how did you meet?” Billy asked, sipping his beer.
Kai told them.
“What brings you to Florida?” It was an innocent enough question. Sushi had no idea what monsters chased her.
Paisley paled, leaning against Kai.
“She’s got a lunatic ex. Guy was abusive, possessive, wacko.”
“So, you’re on the run?” This from Billy.
Paisley nodded, shivering.
“We got your back, chica,” he replied. “You ever need to disappear, we’re the guys who can do it. You need new ID, place to stay, anything, we got it covered. We got mad skills and all at your disposal.”
“Plus, I got a cousin down the way’s a bona fide criminal,” TM told her. “He’s got more fire power at his disposal than a seven nation army. That aside, he’s a good guy. Misdirected, but a good guy.”
© 2019 Dellani Oakes