I promised a sneak peek and well, guess it’s time to pony up to the bar and pour a few out. So, here’s a small cut from the first chapter. Hope it tickles your interest. Still a bit rough but close to finished.
Premise: Former musician Miki St. John is hiding from the world. Quite successfully until a cop named Kane Morgan pushes his way into Miki’s life. Oh, and there’s a small matter of a murderer leaving a dead body in Miki’s garage. But Kane will help him take care of that. As well as a few other things.
Sinner’s Gin Sneak Peek
The fucking dog was back again.
Kane Morgan eyed the scruffy blond terrier suspiciously. It sat at the edge of the cement pad, right under where the rolling door to the converted docking bay would land if it were closed. He’d already lost a chamois to the mutt and God knew what else when his back was turned. The thing was a thief and a menace.
And irritatingly enough, the dog always seemed to be laughing at him.
“Leave my stuff alone, mutt,” Kane growled and pointed warningly at the smiling terrier. “Just cause I rent this place doesn’t mean I’m one of those tree-hugging hippie artists who’ll let your shit slide. I’m a cop. I’ve got a gun. Keep stealing my shit and I’ll shoot you.”
He’d chosen to rent the work space from the art gallery and co-op mostly because it was close to his apartment. The quiet was soothing, despite the added bonus of a thieving neighbhourhood terrier. The brick building’s main space had been turned into a long showroom on the main and art studios on the second level while its three docking bays sunk halfway down from the first floor had been framed out and drywalled to use as studios. Kane’d taken the end bay, liking how the industrial square windows overlooked the Bay below.
With the windows open, a faint hint of the shore reached him as he worked. The perfume of the exotic woods he worked with mingled pleasantly with the permeated metal scent of the ex-ironwork’s girders and the converted docking bay was big enough to hold his larger lathe, something he’d been itching to use since he’d gotten it out of storage. Fitting a seasoned, enormous slab of a red-brown burl, Kane locked the wood into place, easing the scissor clamps in until the teeth lightly bit into the slab to keep it from flying free of the lathe as it spun.
Despite the cold lingering in the late morning air, Kane left the docking bay door open as he worked the wood. Kane could almost see the graceful lines of the bowl under the burl’s mass and the shape of the lip still framed in the burl’s rough bark. He liked the slight chill and as his shoulders and arms strained to keep his carving tool firm against the hard wood, he set his foot onto the lathe’s pedal so he could lean into the grain’s curve. The whine of the motor lulled him as he worked, the tip of his blade finding the form he wanted to bring out of the amboyna burl.
That’s when he noticed the dog with its nose buried deep into the shelves where he kept his exotics.
“Fucking son of a bitch,” Kane spat out as the terrier dashed out of the docking bay with a large chunk of koa clamped in its jaws. Stopping only long enough to roll down the door, Kane dashed after it.
Like the gallery’s building, the warehouse was built by the same architect and a mirror version of the co-op’s. A small alley barely large enough for two men to walk shoulder by shoulder separated the buildings’ back walls. Unlike the co-op, the other warehouse had been transformed into a home but the long wall facing the alley way retained its solid brick lower level and the frosted glass square panels on the second level had been left in place, effectively preventing anyone from looking into the home from the gallery’s broad glass windows. The warehouse’s front glass panels had been replaced with long art nouveau style windows but Kane couldn’t see past the thick curtains that swaddled the glass from the inside.
“Damn it,” Kane swore as he spotted the dog slipping under a door much like the one on his studio. He’d almost caught up with the mutt but it was gone and a tug on the metal rolling door only rattled it loudly. He squatted and tried to look through the half foot wide opening but saw nothing but darkness. “Locked.”
He paced down the front sidewalk and stared at the thick wooden door with its elaborate curlicue ironwork. There didn’t seem to be a doorbell or at least not one Kane could see. Frowning, Kane was about to turn around and head back to the studio but the koa’d been a bitch to get.
“And it’s not my damned problem that dog’s not on a leash,” He muttered angrily. “Fuck it. Time for whoever owns it to reap what they sow.”
The pounding woke Miki up first. It echoed through the converted warehouse until it seemed like the bricks picked up the beat and bounced it back on top of him. Mumbling in disgust, he turned over, pulling the soft sheets over his naked body. His bones ached in the cold San Francisco morning and from the throb pulsating through his right leg, Miki knew in his gut that the fog rolled in thick over the water and there would be hell to pay in pain if he crawled out of his warm cocoon.
A wet tongue wormed into Miki’s ear and he recoiled, spitting softly in disgust. The ripeness of the waterfront’s salty stink tickled his nose and he reached out to shove the dog off the bed but the canine was too quick. Dodging the man’s wildly flung arm, the dog returned to lave the grumbling man’s face. In counterpoint to the slurping, the pounding continued, growing louder although Miki hadn’t thought it was possible.
“Fuck, is it Thursday? Is that the grocery guy?” He sat up suddenly and instantly regretted when the throb turned into quick stabbing pains. Gritting his teeth, he reached for the bottle of ibuprofen he’d dropped to the floor the night before and dry swallowed four of the burnt orange tablets. Bleary-eyed, he tried holding off the dog’s enthusiastic greeting and rolled out of the bed he’d set up on the warehouse’s lower floor.
The two-storied narrow brick building had been refurbished while he’d been out on the road and he’d slunk back to a home he’d never lived in, hoping to lick his wounds and maybe drink himself to death before anyone noticed he was gone.
Setting up a king-sized bed in a door-less guest room cordoned off the warehouse’s open first floor had initially been for convenience as he healed from his injuries but it’d been a long time since he’d given a damn about the rest of the place. All of the furniture he’d picked out with the designer languished on the partial second floor and the studio he’d had built into one of the docking bays sat as untouched as the car in the bay next to it. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d climbed the sweeping metal staircase to go upstairs or walked along the ironwork upper deck that faced the Bay. There’d been talk before of creating a space on the roof for parties since the façade extended nearly four feet, giving the area some privacy.
He’d wanted to hold barbeques and drink beer on that rooftop. It would have made life feel…real. Like he was finally real. Now the roof just held run off from the rain and fallen leaves from the oak and maple trees nearby.
The terrier mix chewed something out of his light blond hair and grinned a mouthful of teeth at Miki as he hunted for something to tug over his nakedness. The polished wooden floor was cold under Miki’s feet and he cursed when the pounding began again.
“Fucking cut it out! I’m trying to find some clothes!” He shouted over the repeated hammering. A pair of grey cotton drawstring pants peeked out of the pile of laundry he’d done and dumped on the floor. Pulling them on, he left them untied, letting the waistband slithered down to hug his narrow hips.
Scraping his unruly hair out of his eyes, Miki stood up and immediately sat back down when his nerves screamed and twisted in pain. His mouth filled with blood and he swallowed it, tentatively poking at the shreds of his cheek where he bit through the soft flesh.
“Yeah, laugh it up, furball,” Miki growled at the dog. “Find me some socks, Dude.”
The terrier went back to chewing on his rump and Miki grabbed the wooden cane he’d dropped to the floor when he fell onto the bed. The floor’s chill moved up from the bottom of his feet then into his ankles and he cursed to himself when his nipples pricked from the cold. The sharp, bitter pain in his leg grabbed him by the balls with each step he took and after a few feet, the front door began to seem like a trek across Death Valley.
Shuffling from the guest room into the main area, he used as much of the back of his battered couch as he to support him while he limped to the front door. The knocking renewed itself just as Miki reached the heavy wooden door. Undoing the dead bolts, he pulled it open and stared at the very large, very angry man on his door step.
The man ate up the air around him. Taller than Miki’s near six-feet, he looked like a brawler with wide shoulders and lean hips, possibly one that spent his time breaking smaller men in half just to suck out the marrow in their bones. His black hair would fall over his thick eyebrows if it hadn’t looked as if he’d been pulling at it in frustration. His rough, handsome face was blurred with a more than a day’s growth of scruff along his strong jaw but the laugh lines at the edges of his blue eyes said he smiled more than frowned. Although by the scowl on his face, it’d been an eternity since his sensual mouth had seen a grin.
The man had been about to set off on another pounding spree and pulled himself up when the door swing open.
“What?” Miki growled before the intruder on his day could say something.
The cold morning struck him fully and he shivered, wishing he’d taken the time to hunt up a sweat shirt. He wanted to wrap his arms around himself to ward off the biting chill but he couldn’t let go of the cane. Not without falling flat on his ass. His leg was too sore and twisted to support his own weight and there was no way in hell he was going to let go of his hold on the door. If the stranger decided to push his way in, he’d need the leverage to shove the heavy metal and wood door in the man’s face.
But at least the pounding stopped.
“You live here?” The man definitely had a better growl than Miki’s. His voice was darker and deeper. A faint lilt ghosted through the man’s words and the roll of his anger warmed the whiskey tone of his voice to a burbling heat. “That dog yours?”
The man looming over him was huge and if push came to shove, Miki knew he’d lose more than a few teeth if they got into it but he’d never backed down from a fight, even when he was bleeding out, Miki’d always been proud of giving as good as he got. Even crippled and half-asleep, that wasn’t going to change.
“What. The. Fuck. Do. You. Want?” Miki spat back.
They exchanged glares and the man took a deep breath as if to calm his temper. From what Miki could see, it didn’t work.
“If you’re going to own a dog, you should keep it on a fucking leash.”
“I don’t own a dog,” Miki spat back.
“Then what’s that furry thing next to you? A fucking kangaroo?”
Miki glanced down at the terrier sprawled by his feet. The dog’s tongue lolled to one side out of his open mouth and his ears perked up as a bird flew by. Looking back up at the furious man on his stoop, Miki shrugged, “Yeah, that’s not my dog. He just lives here.”
The man closed his eyes and slowly exhaled out through his pressed lips. “Who owns him, then?’
“I don’t know who owns him,” Miki said. “He came by one day. Hasn’t left. Why?”
“Because the little thief stole a piece of my koa.” The man took a step forward and Miki’s chin rose, a silent challenge even if he had to look up to meet the man’s eyes. “I want it back.”
“Your what?” Miki shifted his feet. The cold finally reached his spine, its stiff fingers digging into his bones. His knee, on the other hand, was a searing, hot spot and he gritted his teeth against the pain. “Your cone? Like an ice cream cone? How the hell am I supposed to get that back? Dig around in his stomach?”
“Koa,” He said slowly, enunciating each flowing syllable. “It’s wood. From Hawai’i. Your dog took a big piece of it. I want it back.”
“He’s not… screw it, what does it look like?” Miki wasn’t going to argue over ownership of the terrier. Not with his brain sending hot fiery tendrils up and down his spine and leg.
“It’s wood. How many damned pieces of wood does the dog have?” The hint of Ireland in his voice thickened. Sighing, he held his hands out in front of Miki’s face. “Look, it’s about this big, rough and dark red. . Shit! It’s nearly the same size as the dog. The damned mutt grabbed it and ran off before I could stop him.”
“I’ll go look.” Miki gritted his teeth when he shifted his weight to turn around and his bad knee nearly buckled. The rubber tip on the end of the cane squeaked loudly as it caught on the wooden floor and he recovered his balance, breathing heavily from the spikes of pain grabbing at his balls and thighs.
Throughout the noise and Miki’s flailing, the dog lounged back when he’d been sitting and began licking his lower belly.
Miki left the door open. The cold was already deep in his bones and if he closed it, he couldn’t trust him to open it up again. Bed seemed like a good place to crawl back into but instead he hobbled past the room and opened the door to the garage.
And stopped to take a breath.
He could face the garage. The steel and glass pink elephant in the space was covered by a drop cloth that obscured most of its shape but the car’s lines were still visible. Averting his eyes, Miki stumbled through the space, using what little light coming from under the terrier-height pulled up garage door.
Most of what the dog brought in from outdoors was small, a cast-off plastic toy here or a sun-bleached bone he’d found in another dog’s yard. Braving the garage every week or so, Miki tossed away nearly all of it, saving only the occasional tennis ball to bring into the house for the mutt to chase after. All of the canine’s dubious treasures were piled up in a far corner and there on the top of a torn, stained towel sat a milk-carton sized piece of wood, its rough bark still moist from the dog’s mouth.
Bending over, he nearly lost his balance when he picked up the wood. “Fuck, dog. How the hell did you carry this? It’s a damned brick.”
It was heavier than Miki expected and he grimaced at the twisting pain in his knee when he stood back up. Cradling the wood against his side, he shook his head in both disgust and amazement at the dog’s tenacity. The warehouse’s open space gave the man a clear view of when Miki came back into the house and he looked as if he were going to cross the threshold but stopped when Miki’s glare dared him to take a step.
“Do you need…” The man started to say.
“I don’t need anything,” Miki grunted at him as he slowly walked towards him. The dog was gone and by the time Miki got to the front door, he had a light sheen of sweat on his face. Holding out the chunk of wood, he said, “Here’s your cone.”
“Koa,” The man corrected. The hardness seeped from his green eyes and he reached to take the wood from Miki’s hands. “Sorry about the…you know. It’s been a really rough day and… damn it, you’re turning blue. You should…”
“Yeah, whatever.” Miki shivered and his body prickled with goose bumps. The heavy door swung smoothly shut on its balanced hinges and the world slowly closed behind him. “Take your fucking wood and go.”