By the time they left the restaurant it was dark, the sidewalks only half-full of people on their way to or from somewhere. Dean glanced around, quickly scanning the passers-by, a fact Kirby didn’t miss. “My car’s that way,” Dean told him with a nod of his head in the right direction.
“I’ll walk with you.”
“Kirby, I’m quite capable of going on my own.”
“You said I needed to walk, we’re walking. In fact,” Kirby turned in the opposite direction, “we’re taking the long way there.”
A flash of panic filled Dean’s eyes. “I…”
“Dean,” Kirby said quietly, “it’s perfectly safe. If he is here, he’s not going to do anything while I’m with you. I am a cop, and if he’s been watching you he knows that.”
“How did you..?”
“Because I’m good at reading people, especially those I’m interested in. The minute we left the restaurant you wound up tighter than a clock spring. Relax. It’s a nice evening, we had a good meal, let’s just enjoy it a bit more before we head home.”
Dean took a deep breath. “All right, I can do that.”
“Good.” Kirby resisted patting his shoulder. He knew without a shadow of a doubt Dean would, at best, flinch away, and at worst immediately turn around to go to his car. “So,” he said, smiling, “how about those Cardinals?”
“Cardinals?” Dean looked around. “I don’t think birds come out at night, well except owls.”
“Not a baseball fan I take it.”
Dean grinned. “I knew what you were talking about. I’m not a big one but I do know they’re a team. So are…” he rattled off the names of a few others. With a laugh, Kirby pointed out that the Seahawks were a football team. “I knew that,” Dean replied. “I was just testing you.”
“Uh huh, sure you were.”
By then they’d reached the corner. “How about we go up a block or two,” Kirby said.
Again, Dean glanced around.
“I told you, you’re safe. Come on.”
“Two blocks, then we go back. And no more baseball talk, okay? Or football, or hockey or any other sport.”
“You don’t like sports?”
Dean grinned. “Is auto racing considered a sport?”
“You are so kidding me. You like that?”
“Honest truth, yes and no. It’s good background noise when I’m working, and some of the crashes are spectacular.”
“You, my man, have a warped sense of… something or another. Why not music instead?”
“I tend to sing along and loose track of what I’m doing.”
“Don’t tell me you like musicals. How cliché.”
Dean nodded then laughed in agreement. “It is, but I do none the less.”
Kirby leaned in to whisper, as if it was the deepest, darkest secret in the world, “I do too sometimes, but if you breathe a word of it to anyone…”
Dean stiffened at Kirby’s closeness, the touch of soft breath against his ear sending a thrill through him. But if anyone saw He pulled away quickly.