Haven’t heard back yet but we’re still within the range of “Do we want this thing Rhys has written” parametres so I’m good. However, I promised another sneek peek of Sinner’s Gin. Hope you enjoy Miki and Kane as much as I loved
torturing writing them.
At the very least, I have this done and scribbling away on Dirty Laundry, book three in the Cole McGinnis series.
*dances off and falls into ditch*
Without further ado…or beedo, Sinner’s Gin Sneek Peek.
Fragile wasn’t a word Kane would have associated with the young man who’d served him back his attitude a few days ago but when Mieko St. John came out of the bathroom, the young man looked like he was made out of glass. Ghostly pale and dressed in Kane’s too-large t-shirt and the pair of sweats Kane knicked from his younger brother’s locker, the young man struggled to pull on the black hoodie he’d been given.
And looked as fragile and as dangerous as a million shards of broken glass as he did it.
A pair of socks was all the footwear Kane could find to protect Miki’s feet from the cold and the man wore them like tabi with the flip-flops he’d been given. Miki fought with one sleeve and Kane stepped in, grabbing the material bunched up around his elbow.
“What?” Miki narrowed his eyes. The menacing effect was lost under the swaddle of the hood as it fell over his forehead and smashed his hair into his face.
“Stop.” Kane grinned and resisted the urge to brush the hair from Miki’s eyes. He straightened the sleeve out and pulled it over the man’s arm. “Just let me help you. It’s not going to kill you.”
“Might one day,” He grumbled but let Kane adjust the hoodie on him.
“Yeah, well for right now, it’s not.”
Kane led Miki down the sterile hallway and into the enormous maze of cubicles and offices that housed the station’s Personal Crimes division. The bullpen vibrated with activity but curious eyes followed their progress towards the far side of the room. One uniformed officer brought up a cell phone and Kane narrowed his eyes at the man, warning him off with a shake of his head. A trail of murmurs followed them through the low-walled maze, a whispering tide rising and falling as Kane guided Miki.
When Kane turned his head, he could have sworn he heard Miki singing softly to himself, his hooded green eyes hazy from lack of focus. Touching his shoulder jerked Miki’s attention back to his surroundings and he blinked, seemingly surprised to find himself in the middle of a police station.
The late afternoon chill turned into a brisk cold evening by the time they left the police station in Kane’s SUV. Dark tinted windows protected Miki from prying eyes as they drove past the front of the building where a gaggle of cameras and equipment had been set up. Suited men and women were isolated into circles of bright lights, tiny theatres where they were the sole stars. Miki snorted as they drove past, pulling Kane’s attention from the road.
“What’s so funny?” Kane glanced at the pack, worried one of the reporters had spotted them but the SUV eased by without anyone’s notice, lost in the stream of police cars coming in and out of the garage.
“They look like they’ve each got their own stage,” Miki replied. The line of his mouth softened and his eyes took on a dreamy glaze. The green in his eyes shone through the gold, chopped emerald spun with topaz. “Must be why shit like that’s called a three-ring circus. They’re all little ringmasters looking for a stage and their own lion to tame.”
“Do you miss it?” Kane asked. “The stage? The screams of the crowd?”
“No.” The wistfulness of Miki’s smile evaporated. “And I don’t want to talk about … then.”
“Okay. How about something else then?” The SUV came to a stop beneath a tree of red lights and Kane bent forward, watching a family of tourists cross the street. “So, Dude, huh?”
“What?” Miki shifted in the seat, trying to get his leg as comfortable as he could. “Who?”
“Dude. You called the dog Dude.” Kane mulled. “Does he come when you call him that?”
“If he comes when you call him that, then that’s his name,” He chuckled. “If he’s got a name and he comes when you call him, then that’s your dog. Just once, I’d like to hear you admit that is your damned dog.”
“He’s not my dog. He comes and goes when wants. One day, he’ll bail,” Miki murmured. “Then what?”
“Then you go look for him ‘cause he’s yours.” Kane said. “And he should have a collar on it with his name and your number so the next idiot he suckered can save himself by calling you to come get him.”
“I call him a lot of things. Dude’s just the one I use the most. Sometimes, I call him Dipshit. He doesn’t seem to care so long as he’s got food in his bowl.” He shrugged off Kane’s laughter. “Names are shitty things, sometimes. Look at mine.”
“Why’d they name you Mieko if that’s a girl’s name? I’ve seen you without a shirt. Not much girl there.”
“Seen a lot of girls then?” Miki’s mouth quirked when Kane laughed.
“I’ve got sisters. Even gay men sometimes see girl parts.”
Shifting in his seat, Miki turned to face the window, leaving Kane to stare at the reflection of the man’s face in the glass. Miki’s breath steamed the window. “They showed some cop a picture of the half-assed tattoo on my arm and he told them what it meant Mieko. Found out later it doesn’t but by then it was too late. Don’t know what it means but it sure as shit isn’t Mieko.”
“What cop?” Kane swore as the car behind him honked and he looked up, surprised to see the green light. Pulling forward, he let the sedan behind him swerve past. “Where?”
Miki shrugged. “I don’t know. Some guy that was there when Social Services brought me in, I guess.”
“No, I mean what did you mean; when they found you?”
“Someone was taking the trash out one morning and I guess I was wandering around on the street.” He grunted as he shifted his legs. Kane didn’t miss the wince when Miki hit his leg on the SUV’s side panel. “So CPS came and took me.”
“How old were you?”
“I don’t know. Two? Maybe three?” Miki wrapped the hoodie tighter around his chest. “Not like they could cut me open and count the rings.”
“Shit,” Kane whispered under his breath. “And St. John? Was that the family that adopted you?”
“Street I was found on,” He replied softly. “I went into the system. No one wants someone else’s kids, dude. Especially not some fucked up mongrel kid with a shitty undies and a tattoo. Trust me on that.”
“It’s not like that…” Kane objected. “Not everyone’s like that.”
“Yeah, they are,” Miki asserted. “Life might be a magic mushroom ride for some kids but most of us live in the cow shit it grows in. You just have to do what you can, that’s all.”
“And you became a rock star.”
“No.” Even in the watery reflection of the glass, Kane could see Miki’s eyes tear up. “The other guys were the rock stars. I was just there when it happened to them.”
“I’ve got some of your stuff, you know. It’s good.” Kane said, softening his voice. “Even Kel said you’re a big deal.”
“Kel was that guy in the room with me?”
“Yep, that’s Kel. Kel Sanchez. He’s my partner.”
“Yeah, he’s an asshole,” Miki said, turning around to face Kane. “Where are we going?
“Small Mexican food place I know. They’ve got some seating outside and heaters.” Kane said. “Give me a few minutes to get there. It’ll be fast.”
One thing Kane learned as he drove was that Miki St. John was never really quiet. The man hummed. Constantly. The snippets of song were barely audible but they rose and fell without stop. At times, whispers would follow, melodic drops of words following some tune Miki had in his head. Sitting in Kane’s SUV and staring out the window at San Francisco, Miki St. John sang to himself, building a soundtrack for a life he seemed to live behind brick and glass with only a mutt to keep him company.
Kane turned the SUV into a parking lot next to a brightly painted faux-adobe building. Despite the late hour, the place was busy and the smell of carnitas and carne asada permeated the air. Kane got out first and waited as Miki grabbed at the passenger side door to maintain his balance.
The stiffness in the younger man’s knee was obvious and it clicked loudly when he took his first step. It was difficult not to reach for Miki. Even when he stumbled, Kane was held back by the piercing glare Miki gave him. Beyond the stubbornness and pride in the man’s set full mouth and hazel stare, Kane still saw the pain and hurt Miki fought to hide. The brittleness he’d hoped to coax from Miki was back, his spirit as tenuous as a pane of thin glass riddled with spiderweb cracks.
“You warm enough?” Kane asked.
Miki nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You can talk to someone, you know,” Kane said softly. He gave in to the temptation to touch Miki and his fingers glided over the man’s shoulder blades, rubbing at the jut of bone he found hidden under the thick fleece. “About Shing, I mean. I can help you find someone to talk with. Someone discreet and private. We…the police… don’t need to know what you spoke about but it might… help you heal, Miki. I can tell there’s something there you need to heal from.”
“I…can’t. I won’t.” Miki stopped walking and Kane wondered if the young man would pull away from him but instead, Miki leaned back, resting his slight weight against the flat of Kane’s hand. “Not about Shing. I’d sooner talk to you about the band and I think we both know, that’s not going to happen any time soon.”
“Okay, no rush.” Kane led Miki to an empty wooden picnic. “Have a seat. What do you want to eat?”
“Tacos? A burrito?” Miki eased onto the seat and stretched his leg out. “No beans. I don’t like beans.”
Kane strolled up to the counter and placed a hefty order of carne asada burritos and quesadillas. Leaning on the tiled shelf, he watched Miki as he scanned the crowd. The singer kept his head down with his face nearly buried in the fleece hood.
“Salsa? Spicy carrots?” The young woman behind the counter asked. Kane nodded and grinned at sight of the red peppers poking out amid the carrot and onion chunks.
“The carrots look deadly tonight.” He carried the overloaded tray back to the table. “Don’t choke on one. I come here a lot. Don’t embarrass me.”
“Are you talking to me or yourself?” Miki lowered the hood, exposing his face.
“You,” Kane replied, setting a burrito and quesadilla in front of Miki. “Horchata okay? I should have asked. I can grab something else if you want.”
“No, it’s good,” Miki said, taking a sip of the cold spiced rice milk.
“You eat meat, right?” Kane glanced up and caught the smirk on Miki’s face. “Yeah, okay. Right now, I’m going to assume that’s a yes.”
Miki picked at his food at first then Kane nudged his foot under the table and nodded at the burrito. A few tentative nibbles then Miki dug in. Chewing, he said around his mouthful. “It’s good. How’s yours?”
“Not as good as what’s across the table but it’ll do,” Kane smiled as innocently as he could as Miki choked. “Don’t die on me just yet. I’ve got plans for you later. Especially teaching you a thing or two about dogs.”