At the end of the day, Reggie came over and practically yelled at me to leave. The filing I was in the middle of could wait until tomorrow. I was sure it could, but I was enjoying my job. It gave me a small sense of purpose and kept my mind busy. It was like another way for me to stay numb.

Busy equals numb

I’d have to remember that.

I didn’t see Jake around the shop, so I headed back to the apartment. I heard the shower running and assumed he’d beaten me home. My attention was captured by what was on the counter. A camera, a state of the art Canon, with three long lenses lined up next to it. Next to that was what looked to be a brand new camera bag.

There was no way this was his dad’s old camera.

Jake came out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel and nothing else. Steam billowed out after him. He halted when he saw me standing in the kitchen. His carved abs were on full display, the tattoos I’d only seen portions of before were now in full view, winding up around his shoulder in beautiful vine type lines connecting smaller pictures and letters I couldn’t quite make out. I followed them with my eyes up to where they ended at his neck. The stirring in me came back.

“Hey, sorry. I didn’t know you were home yet,” Jake said.


I tore my eyes from his bare chest and focused on the floor instead. “Oh, don’t worry about me I was just…looking at the camera.”

“Yeah, check it out while I put some damned clothes on. Don’t want you thinking this is one of those nakey houses.” He smirked. “Unless you’re into that kind of thing.”

“I don’t even know what that means,” I said. But I had an idea. Something told me it was him who didn’t know what a nakey house really was.

He gave me an exaggerated wink and disappeared into the bedroom, emerging just a few seconds later in a pair of black draw string sweat pants and a gray wife-beater.

“He owns something with color in it!” I covered my open mouth in mock surprise.

“Is gray considered a color?”

“I think it is.”

“Then, I’m gonna burn it tomorrow!” he shouted. “I wouldn’t want to ruin my rep.”

“No, you wouldn’t want that,” I agreed. I looked back at the counter and gestured to the camera and equipment. “What is all this?”

“I told you. It’s my dad’s old camera. You can have it. He left it here years ago and hasn’t ever used it.”

“Really?” I asked him. “Your dad’s old camera?”

“Yeah, why?” he asked nervously.

“What do you mean why?” I picked up the camera bag and showed him the price tag still stuck underneath it.

“So dad left the tag on. He does stuff like that.” He grabbed a bottle from the fridge and twisted off the cap. “Beer?”

“Yes, but don’t change the subject.” He grabbed another beer, opened it and handed it to me. “Did your dad also go to Herman’s Electronics at two this afternoon and spend two-thousand four-hundred dollars on a brand new Canon, a camera bag, accessories, and two prepaid phones?”

“Shit,” he said. He knew he was caught, and his face told me didn’t really care. He was smiling from ear to ear.

“Yeah, shit! You left the receipt in the box.” I lifted the little white slip of paper up to him and waved it in the air. “You didn’t have to buy this for me, Jake. It’s too much. I can’t accept it.”

“Yes, you can. I make good money. I’ve never bought anything expensive other than my bike. I wanted to get this for you, and I’m not taking it back.” He might as well have said the sky is blue, it was that matter-of-fact.

“Yes, you are!” I argued. I’d never owned something that valuable, and I never planned to. In my experience, bad things happened to people with nice things. Besides, Jake had already done too much for me, and I had no way of repaying him.

“Nope. Here’s how I see it.” He leaned his elbows on the counter and played with the label on his beer. “You can either accept the camera and say ‘thank you Jake for my new beautiful camera’ or…” He took a sip of his beer, amusement passing through his blue eyes. “…I will throw it off the Matlacha Pass.” He took another sip. “Your call, Bee.”

“You wouldn’t!” I shouted. Something told me he didn’t bluff, and I wasn’t about to take that chance with equipment this expensive.

“Oh yes, I would. You have no idea what I’m capable of.” I had a feeling he was talking about more than his willingness to toss camera gear from high places.