Coming Home Excerpt

Here’s an excerpt from Coming Home:

It was clear that she didn’t want to be here. She sat stiffly in her seat and looked everywhere else around the sports bar but at him.

“You can pretend to watch that baseball game if you want to,” he said dryly, opening up his menu and looking it over, “but don’t think for a minute that I’m buying it.”

“What?” she returned. “Maybe I like baseball now. For all you know, I could be the Yankees’ biggest fan.”

“Fine,” he said without looking up. “Then tell me what a ground rule double is.”

She mulled it over. “Oh, shut up,” she muttered finally.

He grinned at her then, unable to help himself, and she reddened.  But she smiled a little, too.  He felt a sweet stab of pleasure at the sight and told himself not to ruin things by saying anything else.

Their waitress stopped by their table and turned her attention immediately to Danny. “Ready to order?”

“Steak,” Danny said. “Medium rare.”

“The same,” Callie echoed. “And a side order of onion rings.”

“Anything to drink?”

“A beer.” He glanced at Callie.

“Make that two.”

The waitress upped the wattage of her smile, and Danny returned it politely but only for a moment, and she left.  “Quite the appetite,” he observed.  “I remember you as more of a soup and salad kind of person.”

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me anymore.”

“I suppose so. It’s a little unnerving.”

“Really?”

“Don’t look so pleased.”

She smiled again, and he felt a little more of the tension between them melt away.

“So tell me,” he asked, careful to keep his voice casual, “what else don’t I know about you now?”

Their waitress delivered their beers and the onion rings, smiling coyly at Danny again. “Anything else I can get you?”

“Thanks,” Callie said with a pointed stare.  “We’re good now.”  She waited until the other woman left before answering Danny’s question.  “Hmm. Let me think…I’m unemployed now.”

He nearly choked on his first swallow of beer.  “What?”

She shrugged in an apparent lack of concern and sampled an onion ring.  “My choice.  I’ll find something else when I’m ready.”

“When you’re ready?”  He thought he felt his blood pressure rise on the spot.  Did she not have a practical bone in her body?  “Callie, jobs aren’t just—”

“Have an onion ring,” she interrupted, thrusting one into his open mouth.

“Callie—”

“And don’t talk with your mouth full. It’s rude.”

How could she make him want to shake her and laugh with her at the same time?  He considered himself to be a laid-back sort of person, but she brought out tension in him that he hadn’t even known existed.  No one else made him worry quite like she did.

She took a drink and leaned back in her chair.  “What else…I’m addicted to salsa.”

“The condiment?”

“The dance. Oh, and I’ve been mugged a couple of times.”

“You were mugged?  Why didn’t you tell anybody?”

“Oh, come on.  You haven’t truly experienced New York City until you’ve been mugged,” she said.  “And I’ve got a tattoo, a pimp, and a coke habit, too.”

“What?”  He watched as a wicked grin spread across her face, and his eyes narrowed.  “You little sadist.  Was any of that true, or was it all BS?”

“The tattoo part was true.”

Picking up his beer, he put it to his lips to stop himself from asking where the tattoo was. Bad enough that images were already popping into his mind of inked artwork in intimate places…

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