It’s a fact that a disturbingly high percentage of men drop dead within a few years after retiring from work they’d done for decades. I wasn’t anywhere near retirement age, nor was I contemplating death, but by early Saturday afternoon, I was convinced I understood those old retired farts better than I ever had before. The rain had started around midnight, not monsoon deluge style but steady, promising to let up every now and then while lying in its soggy teeth. I was therefore forcibly retired for one day–one stinking day!–and it was driving me bonkers.
Spring rain, Montana style. It was getting to me. On a workday, it wouldn’t have been noticeable. Welders and the bosses of welders, even sole corporate owners, are not much discomfited by sky juice unless they’re oil patch or construction welders who work outside. But it had to go and do it on a Saturday.
Dirty rotten rickin’ rattenfrack.
The lunch dishes were done and put up; I’d even taken my turn wielding a dish towel, drying them. There was literally nothing else to do. The Mahindra backhoe sat calmly out there, ignoring the drizzle, willing to scoop mud if the powers that be so decreed. But in this case I was one powerless power. Stirring mud soup around did not strike me as the most effective way to dig a basement. Sissy and Judi and I had enjoyed the morning well enough, but hormones or not, none of us felt we needed to take that particular exercise set past noon.
We were satiated, the soil was saturated, and still the rain came down.
Not that we had any right to complain, mind you. ‘Tis the season and all that. Late enough in the year that the ranches all had their spring calves up and going, no rain-soaked newborns to consider. Early enough that nobody would lose any hay; the grasses were just getting a good start, both here in the foothills and in the lower meadows devoted to timothy and alfalfa.
No right to complain at all. Which did not mean I was a happy camper. I felt restless, caged, mildly irritated, bordering on cranky.
“I’ve been ducking the issue,” I said abruptly, causing both girls to look my way. Six foot Sissy Harms, a descendant of Native American warriors and a warrior herself. Five-three Judi Minske, a petite Caucasian with movie star looks and an indomitable spirit. Without them, I’d be a hollow shell. “I haven’t been in balance for a while, but I have been in denial.”
They waited me out, assuming I’d get around to telling them what was on my mind. They were good at waiting, those two.
“Coffee still hot?” I moved away from the window and settled into my favorite kitchen chair.
“Just made a fresh pot,” Sissy advised. Neither female pointed out the obvious, that I’d been standing right there in the living room, staring out at the rain, when she’d done it. Judi had our mugs in place by the time Sissy was ready to pour.
They waited some more while I blew on the steaming brew. Yes, I was stalling. But there comes a time when a guy just can’t stall any more.
“I’m worried,” I said, and that opened the floodgates. “Our inner circle is…it’s not right, right now. Jack Hill and I’ve never before disagreed on a potential threat. It bothers me that we can’t seem to see Soren Kirk the same way. Dossier on us or no dossier on us, I can’t find it in my heart to really suspect the man of evil intentions, but Jack can. Jack and I are out of synch, and that’s a bad thing.”
I took a deep breath. Took a sip of coffee. Burned my tongue. Again. Not about to admit it, though. “Even more worrisome is the WEF, Worst Enemies Forever, between B.J. and Diamond Paws. Neither of them has asked me to choose sides, but I’m pretty sure either one could slice and dice the other to itsy bitsy bits and never lose a night’s sleep over it. My uncle hasn’t accused the Umthnn of anything, nor vice versa, but we’re not the solid monolith we’ve been in the past. We’re like…cracked. Fissured. If feels like getting hit even lightly at just the wrong point could shatter the entire Rodeo Iron / Trace Ranch combine into a jillion little quivering pieces. I’m…sweethearts, I’m scared.”
Sissy was seated around the table to my left, Judi to my right. I felt them want to place their hands over mine, to offer physical comfort, but they didn’t move. Instead, Sissy spoke quietly. “You’re not the only one, Tree.”
Surprised, I stared at her. “Sis, I didn’t realize anything could scare you.”
She snorted. “You know better than that, Tree Man.” Play on my given name, Treemin. She’d never come up with that one before. “Anything that threatens our clan, you know it scares the dickens out of me.”
“Me too,” Judi echoed. She punctuated that with a full-on swallow of coffee. No sign of the brew being too hot for her to handle. Huh.
I felt some of the weight roll off of my shoulders. Not all of it, but more than half. It felt like I could breathe again, at least.
“So,” Sissy smiled, “let’s figure it out, eh?” Her whole face lit up when she smiled like that.
“Suggestion,” Judi added. “Let’s take this one at a time. You and Jack versus Soren Kirk. I don’t really think it’s all that bad, you and Hill having different opinions about the man at this point.”
“No?” I tried the coffee again. It was still pretty hot. Judi must have a cast iron palate.
“No. Look at it this way: If Kirk turns out to be a bad guy, Jack’s ready for him, locked and loaded so to speak. On the other hand, you feel a natural friendship for the dude, so if he’s a good guy, you’re a welcoming presence in the neighborhood. Either way it turns out, you and Jack have got it covered between the two of you. Jack will make sure he doesn’t blindside us and you will make sure we don’t misjudge a friend and ally. Win-win.”
“Never thought of it that way.” The concept didn’t completely alleviate my worries, but it did dent them some. “Do either of you get a sense of the man? I realize you haven’t met him, but sometimes a sixth sense doesn’t require that.”
The girls looked at each other, then back at me. “We’re split a bit, kind of like you and Jack,” Sissy said. “I’m the big bad skeptic, but that could be due to my generally suspicious nature and the fact that my duties as Security Chief make me think it’s best to doubt everyone at first.”
Judi chimed in. “My gut says he’s a white hat, Tree, but I could be leaning that way due to my tendency to like whoever you like. You know, rather than judging only by solid evidence one way or the other.”
Hm. Well, that didn’t help a whole lot. I sat there, spacing off, only marginally aware of my fingers tapping the table. Yes. “Believe I’ll just drop down to Soren’s place and say howdy.” I shoved my chair back and got to my feet. “Judi, would you grab a batch of that Kona coffee for me? It ought to make a decent house warming gift. Or shed warming gift, I guess, if I’m being technical.”
“Sure thing.” Judi popped up and headed for the cabinet housing the coffee.
“You’re going alone?” Sissy didn’t look alarmed, exactly, but she clearly wasn’t entirely pleased, either. Our Security Chief obviously figured I was recklessly ignoring safe operating procedures.
“Then at least take your Walther, for Pete’s sake.”
“Oh. Sure.” She had a point. I didn’t go much of anywhere without the .22 snugged in its holster in the small of my back, but I didn’t always wear it around the house, either. I actually hadn’t realized I’d been about to walk in on a possible adversary without packing my usual heat.
The rain wasn’t letting up. I decided to take the work truck. It was only four miles or so, looping around to Kirk’s property, but from the description of his homesite, the last quarter mile would undoubtedly be nothing but a slick clay track upslope and into the timber a bit. The four wheel drive would be essential.
It was also essential that I go without Jack Hill in tow. I knew in my bones that this little meeting had to be one on one. Jack was worried about a relative stranger. Maybe he would have been worried about anybody who ended up being his across-the-property-line neighbor. But if I got to know our neighbor, at least he wouldn’t be such a stranger, eh? Diamond Paws surveillance was one thing, but friend or no–and I did see Diamond as a friend–the big Umthnn was not human. He’d report things honestly as he saw them; I believed that. But would he understand everything he saw? For one thing, the bit about Kirk spending most of his time surfing the Net, that didn’t fit very well with the other things we knew about the man.
A Mechanical Engineer and inventor who could type on a laptop while remaining utterly aware of his surroundings in warrior mode…I just didn’t see him spiraling down into full blown porn perv mode, divorced and lonely or not. The rain suddenly seemed less like an oppressive tyrant and more like the hand of the Creator providing an opportunity.
It also provided an impressive lack of friction on the track leading up to Kirk’s shed on skids. The big Ford slid sideways at random, the lengthy wheelbase threatening to spill us into the grass and/or an occasional Douglas fir tree with adrenaline producing regularity. Probably should have chained up, I admitted to myself. But I hated throwing chains. They get you filthy, chains do. Not so bad in snow–in fact, no big deal–but mud like this? Ee-ew-w!
Soren Kirk’s temporary domicile sat in a small clearing, what I’d learned to call a park. The mini-meadow was fairly level, allowing the Ford to ease up alongside his Dodge Ram without looking out-of-control stupid. I rolled down the window and yelled, “Hello the house!”
The door opened within seconds, Soren framed in the doorway yet remaining dry, thanks to the covered porch. His shed was painted a sage green color and looked like a little house except for the fact that it really was on skids. “Treemin!” He called out through a sudden rain increase that amped up the rattle factor on the metal roofs of the trucks as well as the building, “Come on in!”
I slogged through the mud, handing my host the house warming gift before bending over to unbuckle my rubber overboots. His own pair lay on their sides, open tops snugged against the house wall. I positioned mine beside his and went inside.
“Welcome to the neighborhood,” I grinned, my expression making it understood I was a purified lunatic for playing Welcome Wagon in the rain. “Or rather, welcome back.”
“Thanks. Have a seat. Oh my! This is Kona!”
“Yep.” I picked a chair opposite the one I guessed was his. It put my back to the door, but nobody was going to open that thing silently in this storm. His kitchen table was a little round item, four feet in diameter or so; sitting any closer to Soren would only be appropriate if I intended to make a pass at the man. “I presume you’ve got a coffee pot?”
“That I do.” He worked swiftly, not looking like he was rushing but not wasting any motions, either. We’d be testing my kidneys in short order, what with all the coffee–Folger’s, not Kona–I’d consumed at home.
“So,” he inquired, settling down in his chair, the only captain’s chair with arms in the set, “you just had to play Let’s Get a Little Mud on the Tires today?” It was a polite way of asking what the bleep was I up to, coming calling on a day like this. Even the Jehovah’s Witnesses would be staying indoors today.
I reminded myself never to underestimate this man.
Which made me think. There hadn’t really been a plan, at least not beyond handing him a pound of, in my opinion, the best coffee in the world. Lacking any brilliant insight, I’d thought maybe I could just make it up as I went along. Why not? “Kinda sorta,” I shrug, disarmingly I hoped, with a deliberately wry half-smile. “But most of all, I was going nuts, what with the rain stopping me from excavating for our new home’s basement. Figured maybe visiting you for a bit might keep me from cursing Mother Nature and proving myself a complete moron.”
“Ah.” He grinned at that. “You’re building? I wasn’t aware.”
“Yeah. Been living in a well used mobile home on Jack Hill’s property, right across the driveway from his house, ever since I first arrived in Montana. Came out here from Connecticut, getting a girl out of the ‘hood to safety. She was under a death sentence from a two bit gang back there.”
He nodded, clearly curious now. “She’s with you? Her knight in shining armor?”
I snorted at that. “Not hardly. Her Mama came out later, hooked up with my uncle B.J. for a while, but then Mommy and Daughter Dearest cleaned out what cash they could find and split in the middle of the night. Haven’t seen nor heard from either one of ’em since. Seems like they decided they weren’t cut out for rural Montana living.”
“But you said our.”
“Our new home’s basement. Not my new home’s basement.”
“Oh. Yeah, guess I did.” Sheesh. This was getting personal in a hurry. But then I’d asked for it, hadn’t I? Besides, opening up with a stranger, other things being equal, is sometimes a good way to get the stranger to open up in return. What the heck. Might as well find out how shockable this guy was. “There are three of us who live together. Me, Sissy, and Judi. Both girls work for Rodeo Iron. Sissy is our Security Chief; Judi manages the main office.”
Something stirred behind Kirk’s eyes, but I couldn’t pin down the emotion. “That’s…nice.”
Whoa. A fellow could take that any number of ways. “Well, yes, it is nice. We get along well.”
He nodded. “I’m envious, Treemin. I’m as derailed by the rain as you are. I wouldn’t want to have to share the day with my ex, but a couple of compatible cuties? I could go for that. Frankly, I was glad to see you pull up. Been meaning to drop by Jack’s place–didn’t realize you lived right there, too–but there’s something…I wasn’t quite sure I’d be welcome. You stood up for me in Missoula, but old Hill….” He trailed off, looking uncomfortable. Likely figured he’d said too much. Then I saw him decide to take the plunge and lay it all out there. Softly, he said, “I’m pretty sure…I know you and he have to be close friends, okay? But I had this knowingness, this absolute certainty that he felt like killing me on the spot. And that he wouldn’t hesitate, should it come to that. Not that I’m all that easy to kill, you understand, but then again, I’m pretty sure that old man isn’t, either. So I’ve hesitated to go knocking on his door.”
My eyelids were blinking, machine gun style. At least, that would explain the strobe effect. Or else my brain had simply shorted out. In the near darkness of the storm, the power drain when he turned the coffee maker on was enough to dim the overhead light a little. Must be using a fairly small generator, I thought, mentally scrambling for a response to the man’s spot-on revelation. Impressions crashed into my consciousness, things I hadn’t noticed at first.
He’s already painted the bare plywood floor, a hard enamel deck paint in a gray-green tone that repells water and disguises mud. His custom computer is right there on the table, which means the window Diamond Paws used to spy on him had to be the one over the sink. There’s no other window in the building, at least that I can see. The word “shed” doesn’t do his temporary domicile justice. It must be 14 feet wide by what, 40 feet long? There are obviously other rooms down that wall-hugging hallway. Diamond Paws would not have been able to observe what Kirk was doing except when he was in the kitchen.
Come on, Jackson! He’s waiting for a response! Since I wasn’t coming up with any better idea, I decided to go with the truth. “That sounds about right.”
His eyebrows raised. He hadn’t expected that. “I got it right? He really is that hostile toward me?”
“Maybe not looking to kill you, but he’s got some issues, yes.”
“Huh.” He sat back down, studying my face. “Do you know why?”
“Not for sure. You realize, Soren, I’m kind of talking out of school here. This conversation can’t be getting back to Jack.”
He just looked at me, insulted that I’d had to say it. For my part, I was wondering what the Hell had gotten into me, running my mouth about my best friend like I was doing. It still didn’t feel wrong, but I sure hoped I didn’t end up hating myself in the morning.
“Any clue why?” Kirk asked.
“Mostly guesses. I suspect it’s more than one thing.”
“So name a few.”
“All right. One: You just bought a big chunk of land he’d been able to treat more or less as his own for years, so he may be feeling a bit hemmed in, justified or not. Two: He believes there’s more to you than meets the eye; he’s wondering why an inventor as successful as you’ve been would suddenly decide to head on back to the Montana boonies. Three: Word is out you’ve been compiling a dossier on us–Jack and me in particular–and that raises a red flag for him.” Damn. Had I just said what I thought I said?
“A dossier?” Kirk’s eyes went cold, though his voice remained level and he still had both hands in sight atop the table.
“That’s the word.” My own voice, I suddenly realized, had a chill in it. If Soren Kirk took this the wrong way and took it far enough, one of us would die right here in his shed, the coffee maker still burbling away on the makeshift plywood counter. I found myself thinking it might have been a good thing, the girls insisting I pack heat on this visit.
Although the Walther tucked in its holster at the small of my back did not lend itself to a fast draw in any sense of the word.
Kirk surprised me then. “How did you know?”
“How did you know I was building a dossier on you? You and Hill?”
I had an eight foot alien spy on you through the kitchen window, idiot. No, that wouldn’t do. It couldn’t hurt to give the impression of being a bit more omniscient than we were, though. We have our ways was far too cliché; I could do better than that.
“You undoubtedly read the news accounts over the years, know that we’ve had troubles here, at least at the Trace Ranch, right?”
“Sure. Couple of shootouts with outlaw mercenaries, one resulting in Sam Trace’s death. Made the national news, that one.”
“Exactly.” The news had gone national? None of us had realized that. “Well, call us paranoid, but after all the commotion, we figured we’d best come up with the most advanced security we could. Jack’s got a friend who set up a bit of software that identifies the source computer whenever anybody downloads a Google image or an Internet article on either one of us. His fee was reasonable considering we’d already lost one damned good man, the only requirement being that we’re bound by contract not to divulge the software writer’s identity.”
That load of bull should at least have made him wrinkle his nose at the smell, but danged if he didn’t buy it. “Makes sense,” he nodded sagely. “I should have thought of that.” His eyes warmed up, no longer crackling glaciers. “So Jack Hill, identifying me as a suspicious snoop, figured I might end up being a real threat to all of you.”
I shrugged, zipping my lip, not wanting to compound my lies any further.
“Coffee’s ready,” Soren said abruptly. He only had two mugs showing on the counter. Fortunately, I got the maroon one, which looked clean. His own sage green monster, capable of holding a good 20 ounces of liquid, showed evidence of hard use and little concern about stains. One advantage of a guy living alone, no doubt about it. “Sugar? Creamer? All I have is Coffee Mate. No fridge yet, so no milk or half and half unless I steal those little packets from a restaurant here and there.” He set the goodies on the table, leaving the flavoring up to me.
“Coffee Mate is fine,” I said, “never mind the purists who would gag, scream, and vomit at the idea of desecrating Kona with nondairy creamer.”
“Yeah, well, -bleep!- the purists.”
It was a good thing I hadn’t yet taken a drink; I would have spluttered coffee all over the place. He really caught me off guard. I hadn’t heard Soren Kirk use the f-word when discussing a frustrating day of rain or a neighbor who might want to kill him, but he blasted away when the word “purists” was used? That meant something, if I could only figure out what it was. Not being interested in burning my tongue yet again on the same day, I held the steaming mug in my hands, savoring the warmth.
“Your turn.” I grinned to take the sting out of it. “Fair is fair. I told you how we knew you were compiling dossiers on us. Now you get to tell me why we’re of interest. I’m pretty sure it’s not due to our overwhelming good looks, even though I am such a handsome fellow. And humble, too.”
He didn’t answer for a long moment. I could almost hear the gears turning inside his head, organizing his thoughts. “It’s a damn long story, Treemin.”
“With this rain,” I pointed out, “we got all day. Oh, and feel free to call me Tree. Treemin sounds just a little too…formal.”
“Fair enough, Tree. You’re right; we’ve got the time.” He took a deep breath, let it out with enough force to stir the surface of his coffee. “This isn’t easy, but…all right, the bottom line is, I’m a bit leery of going into the basics. My thinking isn’t exactly the sort that most people around here would find…acceptable.”
A hunch hit me then, low, deep, and hard. “You think outside the box a bit, do you?” I said it easy-like; he was a woods-wise buck, on guard against the predator that would take him down. He’d spook if I screwed this up even a little bit.
“Outside the box, yes.” He looked relieved; I was sure of that. “Hell, outside the factory that made the box. I believe in all sorts of things, Tree, things you have to understand if you’re going to understand why I came back here to the Ovando country, why I’ve been studying you and Hill, any of it.”
“I wouldn’t have said a word, but…when you mentioned you’ve got two women living with you, that’s not that common in these parts, so….”
Maybe I could nudge him along a little. “Hill’s got two women living with him, too, except one of them’s in a male body. A gay dude, that is.”
“Ah.” He lightened up a little more. I was sure of it. “Well…reincarnation. I believe in that.”
“So do I. And by the way, so does Jack Hill. We have a history that way, him and me. He cut my throat one time, saved my life another.”
“Past life recall? You two have actual past life recalls?” Kirk was starting to light up; I could see him getting excited. Trying to hide it, but the flame was clearly flickering into life.
I couldn’t tell him all of it, of course. It wasn’t up to me to let this man know about Jack Hill’s longevity, that the lives I’d referenced had been multiple for me but not for him. “Kinda sorta,” I hedged. “There’s certainly no question about the key events. They definitely happened.”
“Well then.” He didn’t really rub his hands with glee, but it felt like he was doing it. “That’s a start. Oh hell, guess I better just spit it out. For the past twenty, twenty-five years, I’ve been learning and growing and screwing up. My ex? I should have enslaved her, she gave me all the signs, but I wasn’t ready; does that make any sense? Now I know the dreams I was having, they were telling me what needed to be done, but I blew it, misinterpreted them, and away we went in a slightly less than friendly divorce. And about that time, I started drifting, not really, but it seemed like the Universe was moving me somewhere every year at least, sometimes more often than that. I had money by that time, the Super Screw was bringing me cash enough that I could live anywhere I wanted, but why was I moving? Every move seemed to make sense at the time, but then life would make me start over again in a new state or at least a new town or whatever.
“It took about three years of that, the frequently confusing moves, before it sank into my thick skull what was happening. I was being sent by whatever force decides my destiny. Every place I’d been, when I looked back, there’d been a reason for me to be there at least briefly. Somebody I’d meet, something I’d learn, a person who needed help or needed to teach me something. And once I figured that out, I thought, well, hey, I’d better get with the program, and the moves…well, they didn’t slow down, but they did start to go smoother. They weren’t as hard on me when I was consciously getting with the program.
“And then one day, I had that itch again, that feeling that I needed to make another move. I was eating lunch at my favorite café in a little town in upstate New York. Bought a newspaper, and there was this little classified ad that caught my eye, offering this exact piece of property for sale. An Ovando property classified ad placed in New York state; that was way too out of bounds to be coincidence. Who on Earth would do that? I knew it was telling me that’s where I was going next…but I had no clue as to why.”
I’d been sipping my coffee as he spoke–without burning my tongue–but Soren’s coffee was getting cold. He stopped talking for a bit, glugged down about half the mug, got up to top it off, and sat back down. I stayed quiet, afraid to disturb the man, until a thought came to mind, one that might help.
“Jack Hill’s housemates…he’s enslaved them. Long term; both the guy and the gal have been with him for years and both are obviously devoted to him. My two girls…Sissy, our Security Chief, she was his third slave before she became my girl.”
Kirk’s eyes went wide. “He really has–TPE? 24/7?”
I’m pretty sure my brow furrowed. “They’re definitely 24/7 live-in folks, but…TPE? I don’t believe I know that term.”
“Oh. Uh. TPE. Stands for Total Power Exchange. The slave relinquishes everything to his or her Master.”
“Let me think about that.” Total Power Exchange? I had no doubt that whatever Jack asked of Carolyn West or Wayne Bruce, they’d give, but–“I’m not sure TPE fits exactly. He’s definitely the boss of them, but they’re perfectly capable of taking initiative, and do.”
“Oh.” He looked slightly disappointed. “And you? With your girls?”
Me? I was simply…blessed. “Not Master/slave. I’m definitely the lead dog on that sled team, but–just for example–if either Judi or Sissy sees me doing something stupid, she’ll definitely bring it to my attention.” Like reminding me not to leave the house without my .22 tucked in at the small of my back, for instance.
“Well. Well then.” Kirk gathered himself. “Both you and Jack Hill have found a way to make your relationships work, right? That’s a good thing. Gives me hope. Because one thing I have figured out for sure is that I’m not suited for the standard one man one woman King James Bible Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, or LDS relationship. Well, maybe LDS, if it were the polygamous verion, but–anyway, I bought this place, I knew I had to come here, but like I said, I still didn’t know why. It ate at me; I hate not knowing why. It wasn’t until after the closing, when the property was mine and the seller and real estate agent both knew I couldn’t back out, that the agent let slip about Trace Ranch. That is, that I’d just bought land in the same general neighborhood as the place where the shootings had taken place.
“That Realtor, he looked kind of smirky when he told me. No doubt thought he’d pulled a fast one, not telling me till he did. But it hit me loud and clear that Trace, and of course Rodeo Iron, which spun off from Trace if I understand it correctly–”
“It did.” I nod. “Rodeo Iron was nothing but a little Trace Ranch sideline a couple of years ago.”
“Right. So I decided, all that–Trace Ranch and/or Rodeo Iron–must have something to do with why Spirit told me to come here. I researched the ranch a bit, but there didn’t seem to be anything unusual there that I could see, just a longstanding rodeo ranch operation being continued by Mrs. Trace after her husband was gunned down. But Rodeo Iron, that was different. Big good looking young black man running it, growing the business like gangbusters, grabbing market share like there was no tomorrow. Even bigger black uncle out there handling the sales end of things. And all this in an otherwise white part of the country.”
He was looking down into his coffee mug as he talked, avoiding my eyes now. “Then, a while back, I figured out who Jack Hill was. That is, that he may not be connected to Rodeo Iron in any legal manner, but you and he are seen together as often as not. Plus, he’s my neighbor, the owner of the property bordering my north side. So I still hadn’t figured out why you two were so important to my life, but the likelihood that you were, that could not be ignored.”
That was it. Soren Kirk lifted his head, looked me in the eye. There was no deceit in his gaze; he’d told it straight or I was a monkey’s uncle.
“So,” I cocked an eyebrow, “you’ve been just pure dee…curious?”
“Especially after Missoula,” he said. “You didn’t know me from Adam’s off ox when you stood up for me at the Half Castle.”
Time for the million dollar question. “And have you found Jack and me…interesting? Or has your dossier building been an exercise in boredom?” I tried not to put any spin on the question.
“Truth?” He smiled. I wasn’t sure why.
“Well…what I’ve been able to find on the two of you doesn’t really amount to all that much. Or didn’t,” his smile widened to a full-on grin, “until you waltzed in here today and cut through all the bullshit. Reincarnation, multiple lovers, and a bit of Master/slave thrown in–that’s definitely interesting.”
“Thought it might be.” I sipped the last of my coffee. Dead cold. I got up to refill the mug. “You realize, of course, that since we had this little talk, we are now best friends forever.”
“Oh?” His grin slipped a little; something warned him. “I’m not overloaded with friends, Tree, but I do have to ask…why?”
“Simple.” I saluted him with my reloaded coffee mug. My right hand remained free, though, not far from the Walther, in case he took the answer the wrong way. “You know too much.”