The excerpt today begins a new chapter. New characters will be introduced in the coming weeks.
"I see you like to ride in class," Alexis said jokingly, as Frost opened the passenger-side door of his truck for her. The door springs creaked and something made a sort of metallic popping noise as he forced it open.
"Hey, don't knock it," he said. "It gets me from A to B."
She crawled into the middle of the bench seat and Becky sat beside her. Frost jumped in the driver's side and shut the door with a hollow thump. They drove the short distance down South Boulevard to an all-night diner, the light from the big yellow square-lettered sign diffused through the truck's dirty windshield as they pulled into a parking spot. Frost ran ahead and held the door open for them.
"Such a gentleman," Becky said, as the two girls tried to squeeze through the door at the same time.
"It's just the way my momma raised me," Frost said to Becky, but he looked at Alexis, winking at her as she walked through the door of the diner.
They found a booth and Frost again waited until her and Becky sat on one side before he slid into the seat on the other side. She ordered a half-stack of pancakes and coffee, and Frost followed suit, ordering the same thing, right down to the coffee. Becky ordered some kind of mega-special with three eggs, a full-stack of pancakes, three slices of bacon, and grits.
"Where do you put it all," Alexis asked, as Becky handed her menu back to the server.
"Dancing is hard work," Becky said. "Burns a lot of calories moving around that stage, climbing up and down that pole."
Frost shook his head in agreement. Lexi thought about it. It made sense. Becky's workday must've been like a six-hour marathon of aerobics. No wonder she was so skinny. The food arrived quickly, and when the server asked, Frost motioned for her to keep the coffee coming. They fell into silence as they ate their food. The only noise was the occasional grunt from Becky as she stuffed food into her mouth with a fork in one hand, and a spoon in the other.
Alexis stole a glance at Frost to watch him eat whenever she thought he wasn't looking. He was a quiet eater, very deliberate, and well mannered. His upbringing was clearly better than his current circumstances. His biceps stretched the material on his shirt each time he brought the fork to his mouth, and it sent a little thrill through her. She found his reserved power somehow alluring and sexy. She looked away when he caught her looking at him a few times. On the other hand, maybe she caught him looking at her. Either way, she felt she was getting to know him almost without words.
Frost finished his food, but Becky was still going at it. In fact, she asked to eat the food Frost left on his plate. Alexis caught him glancing over at Becky, then back at her with a strange look on his face, and she nearly blew coffee through her nose trying not to laugh. She thought she even heard a little chuckle out of Frost, the first since she'd met him. She wanted to know more about him, but she didn't want to have to reveal too much of herself. Not yet, anyway.
"So, Frost," She said. "Do you do anything else in your spare time, besides roughing up hoodlums?"
"I used to, but now, that's what I do—rough up hoodlums."
Alexis shook her head. She wanted to ask him more, but was afraid it might lead to questions about her. But she'd opened the gate with her question, and she could tell, when he brought his coffee cup slowly down to the table, staring at her, he was about to force her hand.
"What about you, Paulina?" he said. "I know you're new here. Where are you from?"
"Florida," was the first thing that came to mind. "Just moved up from Panama City."
he looked at her as if he could see right through her lie. He was probably thinking of some way to catch her in the lie, maybe not then, some trap he'd set for her to fall into later. She was a terrible liar, always had been, and now she wished she did not have to lie, and despised Leonidas even more for putting her in this position.
"What made you decide to move from Panama City to Montgomery?" Frost brought his coffee cup to his lips, pausing to look over the rim of the cup at her.
"I don't know. It's just where I ended up." She wasn't going to last long under this kind of interrogation. She figured changing the subject might help. "What about you," she said, blurting out the first thing that came to mind. "Have you always lived in Montgomery?"
"Born and raised here," he put his cup down. "Did a stint with the Army, but had to quit that gig to help my sick mother."
"How is she now?"
Frost fell silent, looking down at his napkin. Alexis thought she saw tears welling up in his eyes, but he played it off, trying to make it look like he had a sneeze coming on, or something.
"His mother passed about six months ago," Becky said in a low voice, as she reached over and placed her hand over Frost's big mitts.
"I'm so sorry."
He looked up at her and said, "It's okay. It's just that she was the last of my family. She was a good person, but she got the cancer. It tore her up. She tried to hide it from me, but I could tell when I talked to her on the phone, she was really sick."
Becky glanced over to Alexis, nodded, and moved her hands to her lap. Alexis reached for his hands, and he allowed her to take them in hers, or rather, lay her tiny hands on top of his big mitts. He smiled at her, and continued.
"It started affecting me on missions, so I was told to go take care of her."
"They kicked you out of the Army because of your sick mom?"
"No," he said. "The job I was in, I wasn't really in the Army anymore. It's hard to explain. They gave me the option to come back after things were settled, but I couldn't"
"Why not," she asked, wondering what could have happened to make him live a life as a bounty hunter after doing something obviously more important for the government.
"My mom was sick for a long time. The last few months, she was in hospice care. She didn't have enough insurance to cover it all, and the bills piled up."
"Wouldn't the Army help with that?"
"Well, like I said, I was technically out of the Army, and besides, their insurance doesn't extend to parents. I realized after she died, if I went back in my old job, I wouldn't make enough to pay off her medical bills and burial costs."
"You make that much as a bounty hunter?"
"Recovery agents can make as much as they want, as long as they're willing to accept the risk."
"Yeah," Becky added. "And plus, rumor has it, Frost's the best around."
Alexis noticed Frost made no response to Becky's comment. He fell silent until they all finished their coffee. Afterward, he drove them home, dropping off Becky first. She, surprisingly, lived in a small row house along South Boulevard. As soon as Alexis told him she lived at the Woods RV Park, he needed no other directions. He didn't speak until they were turning down the gravel road in the back of the RV Park where the trailers lined its length.
"Which trailer are you in?"
She told him it was the last one on the left. It was so quiet in the cab of the truck, Alexis heard the gravel and sand moving under the tires as Frost brought the truck to a stop in front of her rental. He got out and ran around the front of the truck to open her door.
"You working again tonight?" Frost asked, as she stepped out of the truck.
"Yep," she said. "I'm working every night I can."
"Maybe I'll see you there," he said.
She saw his eyes reflecting the moonlight. He looked sad, hurt, but he also looked like he wanted to say something. They stood, motionless for a moment, and then she reached up and kissed his cheek.
"Goodnight," he said, and ran back to the driver side of the truck, sliding quickly into the cab.After he drove away, she stood at the front of her trailer for a moment, wondering why she kissed him. She wondered why he left so quickly. Maybe talking about his mother was not the best way to avoid talking about her own past.