Fiona took one whiff of Jesse as he slid into her car and made a face. “New cologne. You must be plotting something.”
He shook his head, popped his collar and glanced in the rear-view mirror. “Nope.”
“I think I know when you’re plotting something,” Fiona declared, peeling out of the parking lot. “I expect you to tell me by the time we hit the last light…” She slid around a parked car and gunned to the next red. “Or I’ll make this ride extremely unpleasant.”
Jesse winced as she pulled to a sudden, and very abrupt, stop. “I’ve got a date tomorrow night.”
She raised an eyebrow, watching his expression as she pulled a u-turn and shot up the express ramp to Fort Lauderdale. “With anyone we know.”
“Someone Mike knows,” he evasively said.
“Oh,” she said. “It’s the first time since Marie.”
“Yep,” he shrugged. “need to jump back on the horse at some point.” Fi took a sharp left and stopped hard at the light, jamming Jesse painfully into the dashboard. “It’s Pierce,” he gasped. “I’m going out with Pierce.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Does Michael know?”
“I’m not planning on telling him. We’re just going out for beers.”
“You’re going out with Michael’s handler for a dinner date and you both think you can hide it from him. He’s the most suspicious man on the planet!”
“It’s none of his business,” Jesse replies.
“He’s a spy – it’s his job to find out what you don’t want him to know.”
“Do you have any real advice for me?” Jesse asked, rubbing his sweaty neck.
“Yeah,” she said, settling her sunglasses upon the bridge of her nose. “Bring her flowers, pay attention, and don’t distract the driver.” She sped away.
“So you’re dating Pierce?”
Jesse banged his forehead against the undercarriage of the Charger. “Fi promised me she wouldn’t tell anybody!”
“She had her cell on,” Sam declared casually, leaning against the front bumper. “So you and her. Bout ‘time it happened.”
“I don’t need anyone else giving me the pom-pom treatment,” Jesse sighed. “Unless you’ve got something useful to say.”
“I never thought you’d ask.” Sam, quite dramatically. Then he gave Jesse a laundry list of positions, instructions and maxims for treating a woman well. He concluded with, “and if you can help it, don’t come first.”
Jesse stared at him blankly. “You didn’t just give me tips for getting my freak on.”
Sam grinned and took a sip from his omnipresent bottle of beer, his silence utterly insulting.
“Do you need any more money, honey?”
Jesse checked his jacket in the mirror over Maddie’s armoire. “You’ve done more than enough for me, Maddie.”
She puffed on a cigarette. “Are you sure you don’t need any advice.”
“I’ve had enough,” he growled.
“They all mean well.”
She pecked his cheek as he reached for his keys. “I won’t wait up.”
He looked over his shoulder. “You’re the one with real experience, Maddie – what should I do?”
“Don’t smack her around,” Madeline said. Blunt, truthful, and simple – Madeline Westen through and though.
He bent to kiss her hand. “I’ll be back soon.”
Jesse heard the bushes rustle as he left the house. One glance toward the moonlit shrubbery showed what it tried so hard to conceal; Michael’s shoes, and the nosepiece of his glasses. Michael was giving him a long, one that told him as he slipped into his borrowed Escalade that he would need to watch himself around his heart’s desire.
Jesse could handle that.