Nicki Sosebee book 8, Blind, is the last Nicki book I wrote before Bullet exploded and “put me on the map,” so to speak. Somehow during that time (when Facebook was cool), I connected with some of my favorite indie bands and actually collaborated with a local band–Fighting the Phoenix–so that they could “guest star” in the book. That was a lot of fun! I then bought a few copies of their new CD that I gave away as prizes on my Facebook page in celebration of the release of Bullet.
My Nicki muse sort of abandoned me for a while (but I forced out book 9, Fake, anyway, because it was long overdue). The good news is my muse has finally blessed me with her presence in all things Nicki, and I am ready to write the next four books and finish out the series.
In the meantime, you can read this chapter from Blind. Faithful readers enjoyed this addition to the series!
Nicki is angry. Now that she’s seen what the people in power will do to keep their control, she knows she has to play it safe. She’s threatened to topple their thrones and they’re feeling nervous. But she’s also feeling guilty about the murder of a prostitute whom she thinks she was responsible for, so she makes it her mission to help all the women of the night working in Winchester. And she does it the only way she knows how—by reporting what she’s learned. And with Sean behind her, she knows she can do anything she’s set her mind to.
The following excerpt is for readers 18+
Chapter Four from Blind (November 2012)
Sean managed to leave for work on time, and Nicki wasn’t surprised. Sean might have cultured his image as an irresponsible, motorcycle-riding, headbanging bad boy, but when it came to his business, he was driven, serious, and conscientious. Nicki knew a real boss never would have ridden Sean like he rode himself. He wasn’t like he used to be, working constantly, but he rarely took a weekday off, even if he didn’t feel well. Nicki also knew he would close up shop for lunch and things like that, but he’d trained his regular customers to know he sometimes did that, so even when he stayed in his shop for lunch, he hardly ever had visitors during that time. And his customers knew too that if Sean gave a time estimate or a price estimate, he wasn’t just honest—he’d honor his promise, no matter what it took. Sean’s business was important to him, and Nicki knew that’s why it had thrived over the years, in spite of the forces that had worked against him.
It had taken him a little bit to get up off the bed, though, and Nicki could tell he would’ve loved to sleep after their lovemaking session. His orgasm had wiped him out.
What Nicki couldn’t get out of her head, though, and it was why she was still lying in bed, her arms wrapped around his pillow, the side of her head buried in it, was the way he’d looked at her before he got out of bed. There was something in his eyes, something unspoken, and it took her breath away. She’d seen that look in other men’s eyes before when they’d looked at her, and she knew exactly what it meant.
She’d known it before his eyes had given it away, though, and she doubted he’d ever say the words.
Nicki knew she’d have to be first to confess her love for him, to say the l word, and why not? It wasn’t like her feelings for Sean were secret. And she thought she’d be okay if he never said it. Seeing it on his face was enough. But did she have the strength to say it without hearing it back? And would Sean feel like a total shit not being able to say it?
She didn’t know for sure. She just knew Sean well enough to know that he might not be able to do it. She knew most of it stemmed from his childhood and his lack of a real male parent combined with questionable father figures growing up. He’d never seen another man model a healthy relationship. In fact, he’d seen his mother pick some real winners when it came to men, so Nicki was almost surprised Sean had even been able to maintain the girlfriends he’d had in the past. He himself had said, though, that women didn’t stay, and maybe the fact that he couldn’t say those words had something to do with it.
Maybe…but Nicki also doubted he’d even had those feelings for most of the girls he’d been with over the past decade. Being one of Sean’s closest friends, even without his ever saying so, Nicki knew he’d come close to loving a couple of those girls, but he’d never quite made it there. They’d never stayed long enough. She wondered if maybe he’d pushed them away.
Nicki rolled over to look at the alarm clock. A few minutes after eight. She needed to get up and get moving. She had a short shift at Napoli Pizzeria later that night, but she wanted to be prompt for her scheduled meeting at ten o’clock. She was going to see a guy named T that she’d met a couple of weeks earlier while doing some of the most intense investigative reporting she’d done to date. T was a scary guy and Sean would have freaked out if he’d known Nicki was meeting him again, but she’d been relieved and even humbled when he’d honored her request to another interview, especially after the interview subject who’d put Nicki in touch with T, the prostitute who’d gone by the street name Mercedes, had wound up dead just days later.
She sat up and stretched. She decided to jump in the shower after another cup of coffee, and if Jillian still wasn’t awake by the time she was ready to leave, she’d write her friend a note. But after she threw on the tank top she’d been wearing earlier and a pair of sweats, she walked out to the kitchen. Sean had placed the newest edition of the Winchester Tribune on the table, and Nicki planned to glance through it, but not without a cup of coffee.
She located the coffee mug she had earlier and poured and doctored herself another cup, sitting down at the table and glancing through the paper. That’s when she heard her bedroom door open. She looked up and saw Jillian peeking out. “Is the coast clear?” her friend asked.
Nicki laughed. “Depends on what you mean.”
“Let’s just say I don’t want Sean to see me running around his apartment in pajamas, but I really gotta go.”
“He’s at work. You’re safe.”
Jillian nodded and ran into the bathroom. Nicki refrained from laughing at her friend’s bedhead. For the past four years, Jillian had worn her black hair super-short, but she’d been growing it out the last few months. It wasn’t so short it couldn’t get messed up anymore, but it wasn’t long enough to avoid the problem either. It was now the perfect length to look completely fucked up in the morning.
When Jillian exited the bathroom, Nicki asked if she wanted some coffee. “Yes. I’d love some. I was going to get dressed first, but I guess it’s safe enough, right?”
“Yeah, Sean’s coffee hasn’t killed anyone yet.”
Jillian smiled and rolled her eyes at her friend’s stupid joke and walked into the kitchen. “Where are the coffee mugs?”
“In the cabinet right over the coffee pot.” While Jillian opened the cabinet door, Nicki asked, “So…you’re planning to go home today, right?”
Jillian looked over at Nicki, one of her eyebrows pressing down. “Sick of me already?”
“No…no, that’s not it. I just…I’m worried about the kids.”
Jillian started laughing, pouring coffee into the black mug she’d set on the counter. “You…worried about my kids?” She laughed again. “That’s rich.”
Nicki turned her head to the side. “You know, just because I’m not a fan of children doesn’t mean I don’t care. And I know your children adore you.”
Jillian’s expression turned sour but she asked, “Where’s the sugar?” Before Nicki could reply, she said, “Oh, never mind.” Jillian pulled a small bowl away from the wall and scooped a couple of spoonfuls of sugar into her cup. Then she backed away from the counter to look for a silverware drawer. Without even asking, she opened one drawer (full of knives) and then another (pay dirt!) and pulled out a teaspoon. She started stirring her coffee. “Well, they adore Nate more. I’m always the bad guy, and daddy’s who they always want to see. So, trust me. They’ll be okay without me for a day or so.”
Oh, shit. Apparently, there was a lot more going on with her friend than Nicki had at first realized. What really sucked was Nicki had no real frame of reference. Never having been a mother or a wife and not having other friends who were parents, she couldn’t really relate to a lot of the dilemmas Jillian faced on a day-to-day basis. All she could do would be to offer support and friendship. She took a deep breath, struggling for words, as Jillian started walking toward the table and sat down. “Jilly, I’ve seen you with your kids. They love you.”
Jillian sighed, staring into her coffee cup. “Yeah, I know they do. I’m just so…pissed at Nate right now.”
Nicki remembered her conversation with Sean. “Are you sure Nate’s cheating on you?”
“Oh, no. I’m not entirely convinced. I just know he’s not happy with us right now, and maybe that’s where my feelings are coming from.”
“Is it something you can talk to him about?”
“Believe me, I’ve tried. Just the other night, I asked him what was going on, why he’d been so distant. He denied that he even was and just said he’s been really busy with work. He’s tired and under a lot of pressure. And I wanted to believe him. I really did.”
“But…well, like…he complains about our sex life. Not exciting enough, he says, but then when I want to have sex, he’s too tired or too busy. Have you ever known a man who’s too busy to have sex? Seriously? It’s bullshit, Nick, and yesterday I just snapped. And, honestly, I don’t have the guts to ask him about the hang-up phone calls, the ones with no caller ID. I think if the calls were for him, he might lie about it.”
Nicki remembered the idea Sean had planted in her head last night and refused to acknowledge it. “Don’t you think you’d be able to tell if he was lying, especially if you caught him off guard?”
Jillian shrugged and took a sip of her coffee. “I don’t know. I just…wish things could be like they were. You know, before little Nathan became such a little shit and dominated our every waking moment.”
Nicki smiled. Yeah, their oldest child was a little shit, but he was still a cute kid, and Nicki knew they loved him. “Have things changed that much?”
“It seems like they have…like we don’t have much time together anymore. I know part of that is just having three kids. They’re demanding. I’m sure it will help some this fall when Nathan Junior goes to school.”
“Seriously, Jilly, if it were me, I’d talk to him about it. Really talk to him. Can you see if maybe your mother-in-law could keep the kids over the weekend and the two of you go away somewhere? Maybe to a ski resort or, hell, even just to a nice hotel in Colorado Springs? Maybe if you guys could just get away from all the distractions and problems for a day or so and just focus on each other…”
Jillian was staring inside her mug at the dark liquid inside. She nodded. “Yes, I guess it’s worth a shot.” She took a drink of her coffee. “So, now that my mind is clearer, tell me again—how the hell did you and Sean happen?”
It was a long story, Nicki thought, one her friend probably wouldn’t want to hear. But Nicki could sum it up in just a sentence or two. “It just sorta happened. I think it was ‘cause we were in each other’s presence constantly, you know? It was pretty hard to resist each other anymore.”
Jillian smiled. “You mean it was hard for him to resist you anymore.”
“Well, yeah, sure.”
“And how’s it working out? I mean, sure, I’ll give you this—Sean was pretty weird last night, and by weird I mean nice. Making dinner, being real cool, but how’s he the rest of the time?”
“He’s Sean, Jilly. He’s fine.”
“You know he’s kind of a dick most of the time, don’t you?”
“He’s not, and I don’t know why you always say that.”
“He is, Nick, and you just don’t see it because you’ve carried a torch for him for so long. But that part of him has never bothered you.”
“I promise you, Jilly, if you got to know him, you’d see what I see.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“So…how long are you planning to stay? Seriously, no pressure.”
“Oh…I’ll probably shower here in a while and then head home. But I want to wait a while. I want to make sure Nate is gone. Right now, I can deal with his mom a whole lot better than I can deal with him. I’m just not in the mood, especially after how he acted all sweet on the phone last night when I called—all apologetic and saccharine. Sorry, but actions speak louder than words, right? And I don’t want sweet talk followed with distant behavior.” She took a deep breath and sipped her coffee. “We’ll see how he acts tonight after work. Until then…. Oh, and I don’t plan to wash his underwear anymore until he shapes up.”
Wow. Jillian was a lot angrier than Nicki had even suspected. She knew, though, that she’d sensed it over the last couple of months based on things Jillian had said. A few snide comments here and there and weird questions, but she’d blown it off, knowing Jillian would come to her in due time. She had, but she’d hit Nicki with something heavier than she’d expected.
They sat in silence for a few moments, Jillian apparently feeling some relief. Nicki finally said, “You okay if I get ready? I have an interview at ten.”
“Oh, yeah, sure. I didn’t mean to disrupt your whole life.”
“You didn’t.” Nicki stood up to fill her coffee cup one last time. “Besides, isn’t that what friends are for?”