Stuffed and fried potato, Aisha answered. I’m not sure what I was thinking.

She laughed as she returned my kisses. But I like the talking, she said, her voice husky.

When I got to work, I instantly realized I wouldn’t get through this with any of my dignity still intact. Okay, grunt, you listening, ’cause I don’t want to have to explain this twice. I nodded so my instructor would get on with the mindless orientation. You take this wrench, and when this piece comes down your line, you insert ten bolts in these ten holes, then tighten them. You send that piece on its merry way, then start on the next one. Sound like something you can handle, newbie?I gave him a blank stare. Putting in ten bolts and tightening them? Yeah, I think I can manage that.

He clapped me on the back so hard, I stumbled forward a little. Great. Don’t mess up the rest of production by being a slow ass. Break is at eleven sharp. Try not to nod off.With that, he left me to my menial task. I’ll admit, the first piece was a challenge, and I let out some sailor-worthy curses, especially when I pinched my finger and started bleeding, but by my seven millionth bolt, I could have done it with my eyes closed.My mind wandered while I worked. I pictured myself onstage at Pete’s, the guys beside me and a horde of adoring fans in front of me. Remembering that time made an ache expand inside my chest. It was painful, and I wanted to think of something else to get rid of it, but I apparently wasn’t done torturing myself, because my mind wouldn’t let go of the memory of hopping offstage.

Matt squeezed my shoulder and told me I’d done awesome. Evan gave me a thumbs-up before wrapping Jenny in a hug, and Kellan gave me a bright smile and asked if I wanted a beer. It felt like a million years ago, and yet, at the same time, it seemed like only yesterday.With nothing to do with my mind during work, I had daydream upon daydream during my shift. A lot of them were centered on the band, but even more were about my wife. Her eyes filled my mind, her laugh filled my ears, and her body…well, let’s just say it was a good thing the work table was hiding everything below my waist.

I kept picturing moments we’d had together. Our first kiss, dancing in the middle of my old living room. Then pulling her into my bedroom and stripping her bare. Her body had blown my mind. She was everything I loved in a woman, wrapped up in one perfect person. And she was just as dirty as me. She was game for anything I wanted to try, anything I wanted to do. She was exactly what I’d wanted in a partner…and I’d let her leave. As the day wore on, it got harder and harder to remember just why I’d done that. Anna was the right girl for me. She was the only girl for me. Then why are you still here?

By the end of my shift, I wasn’t sure what hurt worse, my head or my hands. They were so raw, it was hard to hold the steering wheel on the drive home; even my blisters had blisters. After the noise from the factory all day, the anticipation of the chaos waiting for me at my parents’ busy house was almost intolerable. Dustin was finally home, and we were all celebrating. I was happy for my sister, but I really wasn’t in a partying mood. My feet felt like lead weights, my arms felt like rubber, and my heart…well, that was just fucked.I agree, said Eddie. Especially since Anders fired a weapon at our suspect. Our guy was the aggressor in our other scenes. What went wrong this time?

Come look back here. Truman gestured for the agents to follow him. They trailed him down a long hallway to a small room at the back of the house. In the closet a gun safe stood wide open. And full of guns.He didn’t take the weapons. Mercy looked stunned. Was he scared off?

Anders Beebe’s sister showed up at five this morning to drive him to Portland for a doctor’s visit later this morning.All the way in Portland? asked Eddie.