“I hate flying,” I said, leaning my head against the uncomfortable headrest. We were fortunate in that at least there were only two seats on the row we were in. No stranger to squeeze us into tiny spaces. We were both pretty tall, with long legs and arms. “Should have gotten first class.”
Zach snorted. “At twice the price. It’s not ideal, but we’re managing.”
“Yeah, but at least I could be drunk and pampered by the time we got to LA.”
“No amount of pampering is going to make a difference.”
“How about the drunkenness?”
“Probably make it worse. Mick, I know you hate having to deal with this.”
I sighed. “Yeah. You know, I never intended to stay away for this long. It just… Things got out of hand, and it just never happened. And then part of me never wanted to go back.”
For a long time Zach stared at me in silence, his chocolate-brown eyes unreadable in their intensity. “You really loved Joe, huh?”
“I did at the time. I was young and stupid.”
“There’s nothing stupid about love,” Zach said.
“Says the guy who sometimes beds two different guys in one night.”
Zach rolled his eyes. “An exaggeration. You were saying?”
“It was so damn awesome having someone like Joe as into me as I was into him,” I said. Then I shook my head, pulling myself out of painful memories that served no purpose anyway. “So, yeah, it hurt a lot to find out it wasn’t true.”
“Maybe he was at first.”
“Yeah, who knows? We didn’t do a lot of talking about it once he dumped me for Raine.” I shrugged. “Of course I didn’t really want to listen to anything either of them said. I think if it had been any other girl I could have gotten over it. But my own sister? That hurt worse.”
“I think I’m numb, honestly. I stopped caring about Joe years ago.” I closed my eyes. “I think I stopped caring about any of them.”
Zach’s hand briefly touched mine and gave it a squeeze. “And yet here you are, the prodigal son racing back to them.”
“Ten years is hardly racing back, but yeah, makes no sense.”
“Family rarely does, my friend,” Zach in a matter-of-fact voice. “Try and get some sleep, Mick. I think you may need it.”
“Yeah,” I whispered, but my stomach was tied in knots.
* * * *
I snatched the car keys out of Zach’s hand. “I used to live here. I know the traffic. I’ll drive.”
“You haven’t live here for ten years, Mick. And you were younger and less grumpy.”
“No, I wasn’t.”
Zach gave me one of his trademark smirks together with a little lift of his dark eyebrows. “So you’ve always been this grumpy?”
“Pretty much.” I approached the numbered spot for Car 1212 in the rental lot. A ubiquitous white sedan awaited us. I clicked the button to pop the trunk. “Just put your suitcase back there and get in the passenger side.”
I had decided to rent a car for the duration rather than inconvenience my already grieving sister to come pick us up at LAX. We’d need to have a car to get around on our own while there anyway. I slung my suitcase into the trunk after Zach’s and headed for the driver’s side after closing it.
Once I pulled the car out of the lot and got on the road, I risked a glance at Zach, who was staring ahead, seemingly serenely.
“Are you really going to ask that flight attendant out?”
Zach shrugged. “Maybe. He was pretty cute. And his home base is Miami.”
“Even on funeral flights you’re picking up guys.”
“The flight wasn’t a funeral. And I didn’t pick him up. He slipped me his number.”
“Didn’t slip me
his number,” I muttered.
He patted my leg. “You want his number? I can give it to you.”
“No,” I said quickly. “He’s not my type.”
“Hmm.” Zach sounded far too pensive. “What is your type? When was the last time you actually saw a guy, anyway?”
“I see guys.”
I slowed down to the almost crawl of the other cars on the 405. My sister’s place was in Santa Clarita, so we still had a somewhat long drive ahead of us. “That guy, um, Lennie.” It was true I had to drag his name up from the bowels of hell.
“Right,” Zach said, as though he actually remembered Lennie. “Thinning hair, glasses?”
“That’s him. He’s a shrink.”
“I don’t think you seeing a psychiatrist counts as a date.”
“Funny. I wasn’t seeing him. I mean I was. God, you’re impossible.”
Zach laughed and reached into a small bag in front of his seat and pulled out dark sunglasses, which he set upon his face. “How many Lennie dates?”
I tried to recall. The truth was they were all entirely unremarkable. “Five. Four. Five.”
He snorted. “Did he fuck you?”
“Oh, don’t get all prim and proper on me. Did he?”
“That means no.”
“He tried. He wasn’t successful.”
“Yep.” I shrugged. “I did get a rather sloppy blowjob out of it though.”
“All right,” Zach said. “Lennie sort of counts. Who else?”
“I don’t know. Jeez. You know I’m not like you.”
“I’m not asking you to be like me, Michael.”
I winced at his use of my full name. Zach used it whenever he was becoming annoyed with me. It wasn’t often, but when he did, I was usually in trouble. And it bothered the hell out of me.
“Don’t get all lawyerly on me and bombard me with questions like it’s the third degree,” I said. “I’ve dated. Not often. I’m picky.”
“No one compares to Joe?”
No one compares to you, I thought. But squelched the desire to blurt that out pretty quickly.
“I don’t compare anyone to Joe. Never have.”
“Okay.” He patted my leg again. “Lot of cars.”