Zach pushed open the door to Rediscovered Books in downtown Boise. The shop was crowded, and most of the customers looked up when he walked in. Looked up, stared, with all of the feminine eyes, and a few of the masculine, dropping to his feet and slowly working their way up his muscular legs, flat belly, enormous chest and shoulders. He was used to it. It was his job.
A man on Saturday duty with the kids came over and offered a hand. "You're Zach Kelly, right? Minnesota Vikings? I'm a big Vikings fan."
Zach nodded and shook his hand, didn't say anything when a couple of little towheads in Seattle Seahawks T-shirts rushed over and clutched Daddy around the leg.
"Hey, would you sign their T-shirts?"
"Sure, be happy to." Zach had a Sharpie in his pocket. Wherever he went, people asked him to sign things, and he hated the scramble for a good pen. It was easier just to carry his own. He scrawled his name over the shoulders of the kid's T-shirts, and got a dirty look for his trouble from the little girl. She was about four, and he suspected Dad was going to get an earful about asking some giant to write on her little pink Seahawks tee.
When Zach straightened back up, he looked toward the cash register. Nonna had said Denny was working today, and Zach hoped he could just snag him and then split. He should have come the last hour before the bookstore closed. It would have been quieter then.
He recognized Denny right away. He looked just like himself, Zach thought, then grinned at his own foolishness. Denny was leaning over the counter, black curls and eyes so blue they made Zach smell salt water and tropical breezes. He was talking to a tall man leaning over the other side of the counter. The man was lanky, with golden-brown eyes and long brown hair curling over the collar of his vest. Zach frowned, studied him a bit closer. He was wearing old-fashioned clothes, tweed trousers and a full white shirt, with a brown tweed vest unbuttoned. He was rumpled and sleepy, sexy, and looked like he had just crawled out of a four-poster bed in some Merchant Ivory film. He turned around and looked at Zach, his eyes making the familiar up-and-down, and drawled, "Well, well, look what just walked in the door, Denny. Big balls and trouble."
Denny bit his lower lip to keep himself from laughing, then he straightened up and met Zach's eyes. "Can I help you?"
Denny didn't even recognize him? He reached into his pocket, pulled out the deep blue marble that was always there. He rolled it across the glass counter, watched color flush in Denny's cheeks. Denny picked it up, stared at the marble like it was going to tell his fortune. The other man leaned over, picked it up out of Denny's palm. "That's a pretty little marble."
Zach thought the affected drawl was a bit annoying. Denny took the marble back, handed it to Zach without a word. Zach stuck it in his pocket.
"Zach Kelly, this is Kendall Armitraiding. Kendall, this is my boyhood friend Zach. Our grandmothers were best friends. They lived next door to each other for more than forty years." Zach couldn't help but notice that Denny's voice wasn't very warm, and not particularly welcoming.
Kendall gave him a hand that was so faux-limp Zach was tempted to crush his bones. What an asshole.
"Let me guess. You played marbles together."
Zach ignored him, turned to Denny. "I'm staying with Nonna. She wants you home for dinner at six."
Kendall leaned back against the counter. "I think Denny and I have plans for tonight."
Denny put a hand on his shoulder. "Give me a rain check, Ken. I always come when my grandmother calls." His face had shaded with color when he turned to Zach. "Sorry I didn't recognize you. It's been a long time."
"Yes, it has. I'll see you later."
He pushed through the door of the shop, took a deep breath out on the sidewalk. He could hear Kendall's voice in his head. Big balls and trouble. Asshole. That boy didn't know the half of it.