Andrea Speed shares some free fiction from Infected to celebrate the 1st anniversary of DSP Publications.
Dylan found himself at a booth in Gracie’s all night diner, watching a drunk guy meticulously deconstruct a burger. He became fascinated by this because he wasn’t sure what the guy was actually trying to do.
Dylan thought he was just trying to pull off things he didn’t like, but then he pushed everything off the burger save the paddy, frowned at it, and started putting the stuff back on again. Then, perhaps because he didn’t like the way he piled them on, he pushed them off again. Dylan was finding this all weirdly fascinating. Maybe he had OCD? He was so caught up in this fascinating display, he only knew Roan had finally shown up when he slid into the seat across from him.
Roan had what looked like cat scratches across his right cheek, and they were still bleeding faintly, although they looked generally shallow. Roan followed his gaze, and turned to look at the drunk. “Let me guess,” he said. “This is for the pilot of CSI: Diner?”
Dylan sighed, shoving the iced tea he’d ordered earlier across to Roan. He hadn’t ordered it for himself. “Let me guess why you’re late. Taking selfies?”
Roan glowered at him, in a way that was totally sarcastic. You’d have to know him to understand the difference between his real one and his sarcastic one. “You have my permission to kill me if you ever catch me taking a selfie.” He picked up the sweaty iced tea glass. “Thanks.”
While Roan took a long swallow of tea, Dylan grabbed a napkin and leaned over the table, dabbing at the blood on his face. “How many wild animals did you have to wrestle on your way over?”
“Just the one,” he said, putting the glass down. “A cougar. I got there so early in the proceedings that I beat all the uniforms to the scene by almost ten minutes. I had to wait for someone to show up.”
“That’s what you get when you’re too good at your job.”
A new waitress, one neither of them knew, came over and dropped off the plate of fries Dylan had ordered earlier. It was a large one, so they could share it. “Is this officially our anniversary?” Dylan wondered, picking up a fry. They were very hot.
Roan scratched his head. “I guess it depends. We didn’t meet under the most auspicious circumstances.”
“Our first official date was … holy shit, I am in so much trouble.” Roan said, putting his head in his hands.
Dylan smiled as he chewed his fry. Considering Roan had just wrestled a cougar and was probably on pain pills, he was willing to forgive him for his lapse in memory. “It’s okay. I like to think our anniversary is today. Not that it was our first date, but we did first meet here to talk, and I think that’s when I first realized you were more than just a hot guy struggling with grief.”
Roan looked at him and smiled. “You thought I was hot?”
“Do not fish for compliments, Mister. You know you’re hot.” Dylan grinned. “How do you think you got someone as hot as me? I wasn’t simply attracted by your standoffish personality or smart ass charm.”
“No? Damn.” Roan smiled at him. “I always thought you were hot.”
“You damn well better have.” After a pause for another fry, he said, “I do have a present for you.”
“I unplugged the phones, and forgot where I put all the chargers.”
Roan raised an eyebrow, not understanding at first, but then he got it. “So we’ll be radio silent, is that it?”
“Yep. No one will bother us.” Dylan picked up the plastic bag at his feet, and put it on the table. “But I got you something else too.”
Roan gasped and his eyes lit up as he pulled the book from the bag. “The new Ken Bruen novel. Oh, honey, you shouldn’t have, but I’m so glad you did.” He leaned over the table and gave him a kiss. Once he was seated again, he stole a fry from the plate.
“I have your present at home,” Roan told him, eating the fry. “And it’s a good thing too, because it might have gotten crushed when I was wrestling the cat.”
“Now I’m intrigued.”
Was it really just a year ago he was on his own painting on a Saturday night, wondering if he’d ever meet a guy he could tolerate for more than ten minutes? Dylan shook his head at the thought of how weird life could be.
Roan raised his glass, and said, “Happy anniversary, Dylan.”
Dylan raised his glass in response. “Happy anniversary, Roan.”