Home > Notorious (NeXt #1)

Notorious (NeXt #1)
Author: K.M. Scott

Chapter One

 

 

Cade

 

“This is the life. You know that?” I say as I weave in between cars on my way to nowhere in particular.

It’s a gorgeous spring day that would be a crime to waste inside, so Alex and I are riding around listening to music and enjoying the freedom that comes from being single guys beholden to not a damn soul.

When I glance to my right, I see him nod his head and lean back in the passenger seat of my Jag. Closing his eyes, he says, “It’s days like this that make going to work hard as fuck sometimes. Thank God I don’t have to go in today. The last thing I want to do is spend an eight hour stretch slaving in that kitchen.”

“I don’t know how you do it. Really, I don’t. If I had to work with my father and uncle day in and day out, I’d kill someone. I’d turn into one of those guys who goes on a rampage and then when the cops and the news talk to the neighbors, they always say things like, ‘He was a quiet guy. Never bothered anyone. I can’t believe he took a meat cleaver and hacked up an entire kitchen staff and both the owners of such a fine restaurant. I just can’t.’”

Alex laughs at my imitation of every next-door neighbor ever seen on the news talking about some homicidal maniac who lived next to them. “Yeah, and they always have that look on their faces like they really can’t believe that was the guy who lived in the blue house across the street. ‘He looked so nice. I swear I never knew.’”

I take the corner hard onto a side street and chuckle. “They just can’t believe their dumb luck that the crazy guy who snapped didn’t come over and kill them that time they let him borrow the weed whacker.”

“My favorite is when they say things like, ‘It’s such a shame. He comes from such a good family. I know his mother. She’s a very nice lady.’ As if that’s why he’s a mass murderer. Like it’s in the genes.”

That thought rolls around my head for a minute. Is there some DNA marker for mass murderer? I don’t think so. Not that I’ve ever heard of, but maybe. Anything’s possible.

If that’s the base, though, the whole lot of us in my family would be screwed. My mind wanders to the idea of seven mass murderers. That would be something. A whole family of killers.

Although I can’t imagine Ava even killing a fly, and Annalea doesn’t seem to have the killer instinct in her either. Wilder’s definitely got it. That’s for sure. But he’s not blood, even if he is part of the family.

“Hey! Pull over into that restaurant,” Alex says, ripping me from my thoughts about the March and Jackson family’s potential as killers.

“What?”

I look around and don’t see anywhere we’d want to go. Just some diner that makes me think I can taste the grease by just looking at the place. He can’t want to go there. Alex is a chef, for God’s sake. There’s no way he wants to eat at this greasy spoon.

Pointing at the very building I’m sure he can’t want to go to, he repeats himself. “Pull over! Let’s stop in that restaurant.”

He looks like he’s going to practically jump out of the car while it’s still moving he’s so eager to get to this diner. What the hell did I miss?

“Relax. It’s not like the place is going to disappear before I get the car parked. Jesus. You’d swear this is some five star restaurant. It’s a diner. I would have thought you hated these kinds of places.”

I look up at the sign as I pull into the parking lot. Comfort Food. Catchy name for a dive. They probably have things like meatloaf and grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu. Not exactly what I ever pegged Alex being into.

When I stop the car and kill the engine, I look over to see him flinging the door open. “Wait! Why are we here? You have a craving for some fried food or something?”

He shrugs like I’m making a big deal out of nothing. “Not really, but don’t worry. It’ll be fine. This place has great desserts.”

Before I can ask when he became such a big dessert fan, he jumps out of the car and slams the door. Great desserts, huh? By the looks of the building, I’d be surprised. Gunmetal grey block walls with silver trim around the windows makes me wonder if he’s gotten this place mistaken with somewhere else.

I walk toward the entrance and mumble, “You’d think at somewhere called Comfort Food the outside wouldn’t look like I was walking into some dive bar off a dusty highway. Doesn’t feel very comforting to me.”

By the time I find him, he’s all settled into a booth complete with silver seats that have a distinct pleather vibe to them. It’s not pleather, though. By the way the seat squeaks as I slide into the booth, I know it’s vinyl.

“Is this place going for some retro vibe or something? I feel like there should be a jukebox somewhere around here. You know the kind with actual little records in them. Forty-fives I think is what they were called.”

Alex taps his knuckles on the table. “Check it out. Real, honest to goodness Formica! Definitely retro. I love it.”

I arch one eyebrow and study him suspiciously, sure someone has stolen my best friend and replaced him with this hipster sitting across from me admiring the white Formica table with silver and gold designs that look like the nuclear symbol. He actually traces the design with his fingertip, like he’s enchanted by it.

“Remember in fifth grade when the teacher told us all about fallout shelters. That’s what that looks like. Not a good omen for a food place. Radiation poisoning on the menu?” I joke.

He looks up at me and scowls. “It’s not a nuclear symbol. I think it’s got more of a Star Trek vibe with the two swooshes, one silver and one gold.”

Sitting back against the silver vinyl behind me, I shake my head. “You’re sort of freaking me out here, Alex. I was worried that maybe being a serial killer runs in our family, but now I’m more worried about whatever you’re exhibiting at this moment.”

Alex rolls his eyes and goes back to studying the oh-so-interesting ancient table. “Do you remember that server I was seeing a while back? She was into all that fifties stuff big time, so I got to know a little about it. That’s all.”

My mind wanders back to which girlfriend of his he could be talking about, but there have been a lot, so I can’t be blamed for not recalling this particular one. “Which one? The girl who had the Minnie Mouse obsession and loved to wear those big bows in her hair? That, by the way, was bizarre. If you hadn’t told me she was a freak in bed, I would have thought you lost your mind going out with her in public.”

His dark eyebrows come in toward his nose as he makes that pissed off look he gives me any time he’s really angry at something I’ve said. “No, I don’t mean Misty, asshole. And she wasn’t that bad with those bows. She just liked dressing up sometimes. You didn’t like her because of her friend.”

Ugh. That I do remember.

Shaking my head, I try to get rid of the image of her best friend Sandi and her ruby red lips plastered with lipstick. “Damn. How did I let you talk me into going out with her that time? You still owe me for that, and since you made me remember her, you owe me twice. Dude, that was a nightmare.”

“Well, you brought up Misty. That’s on you, not me. But I wasn’t talking about her. I was talking about Tori. You remember. She had black hair and she wore it in that way that pin-up models from the fifties did.”

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