My Tuesday Teaser is from Collared Souls, book four of Sentries and possibly my favorite in the series.
All of that, factual as it might be, was probably little consolation to Nick about now. He’d forgive himself in time, Todd knew that. It was simply watching Nick’s inner turmoil and anguish in the meantime that was so painful for Todd.
They’d placed their order and were waiting.
“I hope it’s not too long before the food shows up. I just realized we haven’t eaten in a while,” Todd said.
“Uh-huh.” Nick propped his elbows against the table, chin resting against his palm, staring out the window.
“The new depot was nice.” Todd leaned forward and looked out the window, too.
Todd tried a different subject. “Good smells coming from the kitchen.”
“Oh, thank goodness,” Todd said. Sitting back, he smiled up at their waiter. “‘Cause my small talk wasn’t working.” He reached over and tapped Nick’s hand. “Food’s here, Nicky.”
Sprinkling some pepper on his eggs, Todd said casually, “You really should stop staring out the window and check out the group sex thing going on behind me.”
“Huh? What?” Nick straightened and turned, facing Todd again before leaning slightly to one side and looking beyond him.
Todd chuckled and rubbed his chin, quirking an eyebrow when Nick’s gaze finally met his. “That’s what gets your attention?”
“I…uh…well…our lunch!” Nick made a big show of turning his plate, arranging his napkin on his lap, and snagging the pepper from Todd.
Todd shook his head, filled up his fork, and stuffed food into his mouth. “Damn, this is good,” he said around a mouthful.
Nick nodded. This time he didn’t answer, not because he was lost in his own world, but because he seemed to be enjoying his meal as well. Todd took Nick’s appetite as a good sign.
“You want another beer?”
“No, thanks.” Nick shook his head. “Could go for some iced tea, though.”
Todd nodded and turned in his seat, seeking out one of the waitstaff. When he made eye contact, he held his glass up. A minute later he was ordering a second beer and Nick’s tea. He was trying to hide his sore throat from Nick and the beer was cold, slightly numbing, and helping his efforts. In a few days, the bruises would fade and Todd was confident Nick would stop punishing himself.
Another bite and Todd’s throat stung. He’d overdone it with the pepper again. Trying desperately to stifle the gag and cough about to burst out, he slurped down a gulp of beer, hoping that would fix things.
Instead, it made the situation worse. Much, much worse.
Setting his beer glass down with more of a clunk than he’d intended, the beer sloshed in the glass, some spilling onto the table. He leaned over, gripping his fork hard with his other hand, and tried not to cough. He only succeeded in snorting a rough hack out of his nose, which then erupted in a genuine cough.
Nick immediately stopped eating, his fork halfway to his mouth. Eyes going wide, some of the color oozed off his face and he bit down on his lower lip.
Todd let go of the beer glass, tried for a smile, and thumped his chest. Todd could salvage this. “Oh, wow, went down the wrong way, and I gotta cut back on the pepper.”
Looking down, Nick let his fork clatter to his plate.
He wiped one hand over his face, looked around at everywhere but Todd for a few seconds then fumbled his way out of the booth.
Before Todd could stop him, Nick had vanished through
the dining car access door. Todd sighed heavily and took another drink of his beer.
“I’m never eating pepper again.”
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