So, yeah-- this is still going on--but we're drawing to a close and that's exciting!
Anyway-- in honor of MoonFish, and me being way behind, we're postponing Kermit Flail until May--so don't forget to send in your stuff if you have a book to pimp! (If I get a ton of stuff for April in the next week, I'll do one for next Monday, but in the meantime, Squish is having a birthday and I'm planning a party... and a class... and some events. So let's just say, you know. Busy.)
So Kermit Flail, first Monday in May, watch for it then.
So Kermit Flail, first Monday in May, watch for it then.
And in the meantime, enjoy the MoonFish!
“Oh dear God,” Jason muttered, struggling to sit up in the bed of the house they’d co-opted for the operation. “What now?”
“Craft fair,” Burton told him from the computer console that tapped into all the cameras they’d placed around Ellery Cramer’s house in the past week. “Jackson texted last night after we got in.”
Burton grimaced. Technically he never should have contacted Rivers at all, but after things like, say, an emergency trip to the Sierras to rescue a kid out of a tree, he figured that maybe Jackson’s pithy advanced notice comments did more good than harm.
“Wanted us to know. Craft fair during the day, King’s game at night. I already got us tickets.”
“Kings game? They’re not bad this year.” Jason blinked hard, trying to wake up and Burton let out a sigh.
“You need a break.”
And maybe because they’d been working the op together for four days and Jackson had almost given Constance a heart attack when he’d climbed that fucking tree, Jason actually said something real.
“I am having nightmares.”
Well of course. The things they’d seen, the things they’d known had happened, and, worse, the things they were anticipating that hadn’t happened yet. Burton had Ernie to go home to, but Constance, he watched over the whole lot of Psycho Unit USA (as some asshole had dubbed their detail, whom Burton would never forgive.)
“I… Ernie helps,” Burton admitted, because hearing his CO and boss and friend admit that he wasn’t handling shit was a big admission. Nobody took advantage of the free psyche program in their detail.
“Burton, can I ask you something?”
Constance rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and scowled. “Very funny. How did you know? About being…gay?”
“Bi?” Burton shot back, but then took pity on his boss. “I knew. Girls were easier. And since, you know, this job, relationships not a thing, I did easy.”
“Then why Ernie?”
Ernie hadn’t been easy at all. Ernie had been a spacy, bitter, kind mass of contradictions—who had known deep in his witchy bones that they were destined to be lovers from the moment he’d first heard Burton’s voice.
Which was about three days before he’d seen his face.
Burton blew out a breath and smiled. “He, uh, wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Constance’s look of surprise made him laugh. “Really.”
Well, Burton cultivated his silence, his body, his entire demeanor, to be the guy people didn’t mess with. But then, Ernie cultivated his spaciness, his flexibility, his quiet yielding to the brutal winds of the world to be the guy people didn’t notice.
And yet Ernie had kept bending Burton to his will. Burton had just looked at him and melted. And every time he tried to put up a barrier or put the brakes on, he’d thought about living without Ernie and…
“I can’t explain it,” he said humbly.
Constance let out a bark of laughter. “And I came to you for advice?”
Burton rolled his eyes. “About what?”
Constance shook his head. “Nothing—it’s unimportant.”
Burton let out a sigh. “Jason, do you see those screens?”
“To the left of screen four, we’ve got a bad guy in waiting in a follow car. At nine o’clock, our three targets are going to leave the house in that ridiculous SUV of theirs and drive through this weird-ass city to go to a craft fair in the Rainbow District. Which means that in forty-five minutes one of us is going to go first and set up, and the other one is going to follow, and we’re going to be kind of busy for the next couple of hours. But until then, you and me got nothing but time. Now what? We’ve worked together for five years and you are the one person—including my parents—who knows about me and Ernie. So what is it you can’t tell me?”
Jason raised an eyebrow. “One person?”
Burton tilted his chin just enough. He didn’t talk about Ace and Sonny, and their little garage that managed to sustain itself on word of mouth alone. Jason knew, but Burton didn’t talk about them.
“Fine.” Jason blew out a breath. “Not bi, Lee. Gay. Me. Gay. And I haven’t hooked up since I became your CO. Because I’m ten years older than you, and ten years ago that sort of thing could have gotten me fucking killed.”
Burton was conscious that he had to close his mouth. He did that and swallowed to get rid of the dryness. “Really?”
“Would I fucking lie—”
“No. Not about this.” Burton held his hands. “But you heard me calling out for Ernie…” Neither of them liked to talk about the early days in Psycho Unit USA. Knowing who was out there, knowing what they’d been trained to do, knowing that someone from their military had basically set monsters loose on the world—nobody in their unit was okay.
“I guessed. I was right. And so I can talk to you.”
Burton grimaced. “Look. You know that place I don’t talk about?”
“It’s home. I… I made myself a home, even before I had myself an Ernie. Do you still live at the base?”
Constance scrubbed his face. “Yeah. God yeah.”
“Make yourself a home. Take your own advice. Get the fuck off the base and find a thing that’s human and real. You don’t need to hookup—you need to connect. And that’s a whole different thing.”
Constance gave half a laugh and nodded. “That’s… that’s some wise words,” he said softly. “I’ll remember that.”
“My pleasure, sir,” Burton said dryly. “You want to shower before we have to get to it? These people have a shower with a steam setting—I feel like all my dangly parts are clean, you know?”
Constance laughed outright then. “I’ll try to make it quick.”
“You completely missed the point. Now go!”
Burton watched his CO disappear into the bathroom and looked back at his screens. Nope, nothing yet. He knew they were out there—he’d seen flashes of one guy, shadows really. They needed them both. Getting one wouldn’t do it—both would help them put pressure on the people who issued the contract.
He was ready for this detail to end already.
Usually when he was sent to guard a target, there was a hint of wrong doing—some sense that this person had agreed to live dangerously. Ellery Cramer’s mother had done nothing more than issue a few delicate inquiries as to where Karl Lacey had gotten his money. Yes, it was officially poking her nose where it didn’t belong—but issuing a hit wasn’t usually the first protocol for that kind of thing. A runaround would have done just fine.
He thought about the way the woman had ruthlessly dragged her son and his boyfriend through pretty much every public experience known to man.
Well, maybe not the runaround—but at least try a sternly worded letter of discouragement before death, right?
At his belt his pocket buzzed, three short bursts, like he’d programmed his phone to do with Ernie and Ernie alone.
See you tomorrow, Cruller. Can’t wait!
Burton blinked, and a buzz of excitement hit his stomach, like it had when he’d been deployed and action had been in the air. He didn’t ask if Ernie knew that for certain, and didn’t ask how he knew.
Took Ernie on faith, which was the only way to take his flaky, witchy, sexy as hell boyfriend.
Me neither. Love you.
Love you back.
Burton smiled softly at the phone, not feeling dumb in the least. One way or another, he would see Ernie tomorrow—and he was damned if he’d let grieving over friends ruin his homecoming.
He was going to get these guys and he was going to leave Rivers, Cramer, and the woman he was starting to think of as Lucy Satan in his rearview, safe as bunnies on his watch.