“I don’t know.” He picked at his jeans and shook his head. “I didn’t really know him, and I wasn’t privy to that many rumors or gossip.”
“But you did hear some things?” I asked.
“Nothing, really.” He sighed. “Just …”
“Just what?” I pressed.
Daniels chewed his lip and looked down at Stella. I got the sense that he didn’t want to say something in front of her, and I seriously considered sending her away, but then Daniels spoke.
“I asked Clark to sleep on the couch downstairs. I told him it was longer then the twin beds and it’d give him room to spread out.”
“But that’s not why you asked him to do that?”
“No.” He let out a deep breath. “Boden was sleeping with Stella, but you were by yourself in the room. And…” He shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“You were afraid to leave him alone with me or Stella?” I asked.
“No. I don’t know.” He ran his hand through his hair and stared out the window.
My heart dropped. “Did I do something bad bringing him back here?”
“No, I’m sure he’s fine.” Daniels tried to shrug it off. “And he’s a soldier. He’ll be an asset if we have to fight more zombies. He’ll be… he’ll be good.”
“Daniels,” I said.
He forced a smile at me. “Really. It’s fine. I’m just paranoid.” He knew I wouldn’t let it go, so he changed the subject. “Stella, your hair is looking so good.”
“Thank you.” She smiled at him.
I’d brushed it out, and I’d moved on to a French braid. It had been a very long time since I’d done one, but I remembered it. When it was all neat and done, I grabbed a hair tie from the bedside table and finished it up.
“There you go, Stella. All done and beautiful.”
“Thank you.” She hopped off the bed, touching the braid tenderly.
“That does look really great,” Daniels said as he stood up. “I didn’t know you could do girly things like that.”
“Well, you may not believe it, but back in the day, I used to be a girl,” I told him with a wry smile. “I used to wear dresses and put on makeup and even do my hair.”
“No way,” Daniels gasped and pretended to be stunned.
“Let’s go show Max!” Stella grabbed my hand and started pulling me out in the hall.
I’d actually wanted a moment alone, to find out more from Daniels, but he followed us. She dragged me all the way down the stairs to the dining room, where she proceeded to show off her new do and clothes for the guys.
Serg and Boden responded in the appropriate ways, telling Stella that she looked very nice. Max was more focused on the poker game, so he offered a very quick, “Yeah, pretty,” before turning his attention back to the pile of pennies in front of him.
“When are you gonna play dress-up?” Clark asked me, totally ignoring Stella. He leaned back in his chair, the glass of scotch in his hand.
“I… I’m good,” I stammered. “Daniels was actually the one playing dress up.”
“Got the nice beads to prove it.” Daniels gestured to the necklace he hadn’t taken off.
“I’d love to see you dress up.” Clark smiled at me, ignoring Daniels.
“Wow, sir.” Boden scratched behind his ear and looked at Clark. “How much have you had to drink? I think that’s probably enough.”
“Oh, Boden, are you jealous?” Clark asked. “Your hair’s long enough. I’m sure Remy can put braids in your hair just like she did the little girl.”
“Very funny, sir,” Boden muttered.
“Stop being such a girl!” Clark playfully punched Boden in the shoulder, and I could see Boden clench his jaw. “Have a little fun, Boden! It’s the end of the goddamn civilized world! We can do whatever we want!”
“Max, I think it’s time for you to go to bed,” I said, because I didn’t know what else to say, and I didn’t want him around this anymore. Clark was getting drunk and rowdy, and Max didn’t need to be exposed to that.
“But Remy – ” he started to protest.
“Max!” I snapped.
“I was winning,” Max grumbled, but he set down his cards and pushed out his chair.
“Take Stella up to bed with you,” I told him.
“Come on, Stella.” He took her hand, and the two of them trudged up the stairs.
“You sent the kids to bed, so the real party can start,” Clark said, taking a drink of his scotch.
Serg laid down his cards and stood up. “I think I’m out, too.”
“You’re no fun.” Clark glowered at him, then turned his attention back to Boden. He leaned forward, almost rubbing Boden’s shoulder. “You like to have fun, don’t you, kid?”
“I’m tired, sir.” He pulled away from Clark and stood up.
“Oh, come on!” Clark groaned. “Doesn’t anybody know how to have a good time?”
Boden paused as he brushed past me on his way upstairs and spoke into my ear. “We’re leaving first thing tomorrow morning, whether he comes with or not. Preferably not.”
Ripley had been hiding out in the garage, and she definitely didn’t like the cold. It had warmed up significantly from the other day, and the snow was turning the ground to mud and puddles.