Copyright 2010 Total-e-Bound
“I’m losing my God damned mind.” Sheriff Laine Stenley ran his fingers through his hair, tugging at the dark strands until his scalp tingled with pain. A frustrated sigh slipped from his lips as he stared at the spinning tin star that denoted his position of sheriff, lying on the sidewalk because it had once again popped off. He released the grip on his hair and slapped the Stetson back on his head. Laine bent and picked up the star, grumbling as he pinned it back on, again. If he had one more run in with the dead, he might just pop an artery.
The voice came from behind him and nearly gave Laine a heart attack. That would be one way to be done with this mess. He managed not to jump—barely—but he just knew the man behind him had to be able to hear his heart slamming against his ribs. And it is all that particular man’s fault!
Laine turned slowly and glared at Ezekiel Mathers. If Mathers hadn’t unwittingly given Laine his introduction into the paranormal… But that wasn’t fair, and Laine knew it. It wasn’t Zeke’s fault his mama had decided to…hang around, so to speak, after she died. Not really.
Zeke’s lips were tipped up in a smirk, and that just made Laine scowl even more. Beside Zeke, Brendon was giving Laine a scowl of his own. Brendon’s soft brown eyes were usually alight with laughter, and a softer emotion would gleam in them when he looked at his lover. The man was easygoing and kind, for the most part, but he never hesitated to call Laine—
“Don’t be a dumbass, Laine.” Brendon rolled his eyes and bumped his shoulder against his lover’s. “Zeke didn’t mean to startle you. It isn’t his fault you were daydreaming and didn’t hear us walking up behind you.”
Zeke’s lips spread into a shit-eating grin and he arched one brow at Laine. Laine pushed down the urge to snarl at the man; he was pretty sure that’s what Zeke wanted. Not that he and Zeke hated each other or anything. They just had a competitive friendship…that often seemed to border on combative. Laine wasn’t in the mood to trade insults today, though, so he just shook his head and glanced away from the teasing he saw in Zeke’s green eyes. He felt too old, too worn out and aching inside, to play their usual games right now.
“Morning.” Laine mumbled it, not looking at Zeke or Brendon as he stepped into the street to walk around them. He might be screwed up in the head, but he still was aware of the fact that Zeke was recovering from an attempt on his life. The cane the man had to use was another weight on Laine’s shoulders, a reminder that Laine hadn’t acted quick enough, hadn’t been smart enough, to keep Zeke safe. It was a burden Laine felt shoving him down beneath the surface every time he tried to catch his breath.
As he walked back towards his office, Laine couldn’t help but wonder how much more he could take before he broke. God willing, he wouldn’t ever get an answer to that.