Home > In Death #35 - Delusion in Death

In Death #35 - Delusion in Death
Author: J.D. Robb

J.D. Robb - In Death #35 - Delusion in Death

Delusion in Death (In Death #35)
J.D. Robb




After a killer day at the office, nothing smoothed those raw edges like happy hour. On the Rocks on Manhattan’s Lower West Side catered to white-collar working stiffs who wanted half-price drinks and some cheesy rice balls while they bitched about their bosses or hit on a coworker.

Or the execs who wanted a couple of quick belts close to the office before their commute to the ’burbs.

From four-thirty to six, the long bar, the high-tops and low-tops bulged with lower-rung execs, admins, assistants, and secretaries who flooded out of the cubes, pools, and tiny offices. Some washed up like shipwreck survivors. Others waded ashore ready to bask in the buzz. A few wanted nothing more than to huddle alone on their small square of claimed territory and drink the day away.

By five, the bar hummed like a hive while bartenders and wait-staff rushed and scurried to serve those whose workday was behind them. The second of those half-price drinks tended to improve moods so the laughter, amiable chatter, and premating rituals punctuated the hum.

Files, accounts, slights, unanswered messages were forgotten in the warm gold light, the clink of glasses and complimentary beer nuts.

Now and again the door opened to welcome another survivor of New York’s vicious business day. Cool fall air whisked in along with a blast of street noise. Then it was warm again, gold again, a humming hive again.

Midway through that happiest of hours (ninety minutes in bar time), some headed back out. Responsibilities, families, a hot date pulled them out the door to subways, airtrams, maxibuses, cabs. Those who remained settled back for one more, a little more time with friends and coworkers, a little more of that warm gold light before the bright or the dark.

Macie Snyder crowded at a plate-sized high-top with her boyfriend of three months and twelve days, Travis, her best work pal, CiCi, and Travis’s friend Bren. Macie had wheedled and finagled for weeks to set CiCi up with Bren with the long view to double dates and shared boy talk. They made a happy, chattering group, with Macie perhaps the happiest of all.

CiCi and Bren had definitely connected—she could see it in the body language, the eye contact—and since CiCi texted her a couple times under the table, she had it verified.

By the time they ordered the second round, plans began to evolve to extend the evening with dinner.

After a quick signal to CiCi, Macie grabbed her purse. “We’ll be right back.”

She wound her way through tables, muttered when someone at the bar stood up and shoulder bumped her. “Make a hole,” she called out cheerfully, and took CiCi’s hand as they scurried down the narrow steps and queued up for the thankfully short line in the restroom.

“Told ya!”

“I know, I know. You said he was adorable, and you showed me his picture, but he’s so much cuter in person. And so funny! Blind dates are usually so lame, but this is just mag.”

“Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll talk them into going to Nino’s. That way, after dinner, we’ll go one way, and you’ll have to go the other to get home. It’ll give Bren a chance to walk you home and you can ask him up.”

“I don’t know.” Always second-guessing with dates—which was why she didn’t have a boyfriend of three months and twelve days— CiCi chewed at her bottom lip. “I don’t want to rush it.”

“You don’t have to sleep with him.” Macie rolled her round blue eyes. “Just offer him coffee, or, you know, a nightcap. Maybe fool around a little.”

She dashed into the next open stall. She really had to pee. “Then text me after he leaves and tell me everything. Full deets.”

Making a beeline for the adjoining stall, CiCi peed in solidarity. “Maybe. Let’s see how dinner goes. Maybe he won’t want to walk me home.”

“He will. He’s a total sweetie. I wouldn’t hook you up with a jerkhead, CiCi.” She walked to the sink, sniffed at the peachy-scented foam soap, then beamed a grin at her friend when CiCi joined her. “If it works out, it’ll be so much fun. We can double date.”

“I really like him. I get a little nervous when I really like a guy.”

“He really likes you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Abso-poso,” Macie assured her, brushing her short curve of sunny blond hair while CiCi added some shine to her lip dye. Jesus, she thought, suddenly annoyed. Did she have to stroke and soothe all damn night?

“You’re pretty and smart and fun.” I don’t hang with jerkheads, Macie thought. “Why wouldn’t he like you? God, CiCi, loosen up and stop whining. Stop playing the nervous freaking virgin.”

“I’m not—”

“You want to get laid or not?” Macie snapped and had CiCi gaping. “I went to a lot of trouble to set this up, now you’re going to blow it.”

“I just—”

“Shit.” Macie rubbed at her temple. “Now I’m getting a headache.”

A bad one, CiCi assumed. Macie never said mean things. And, well, maybe she was playing the nervous virgin. A little. “Bren’s got the nicest smile.” CiCi’s eyes, a luminous green against her caramel skin, met Macie’s in the narrow mirror. “If he walks me home, I’ll ask him up.”

“Now you’re talking.”

They walked back. It seemed louder than it had, Macie thought. All the voices, the clattering dishes, the scraping chairs ground against her headache.

She told herself, with some bitterness, to ease off the next drink.

Someone blocked her path, just for a moment, as they passed the bar. Annoyed, she rounded, shoved at him, but he was already murmuring an apology and moving toward the door.

“Asshole,” she muttered, and at least had the chance to snarl as he glanced back, smiled at her before he stepped outside.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing—just a jerkhead.”

“Are you okay? I probably have a blocker if your head really hurts. I’ve got a little headache, too.”

“Always about you,” Macie mumbled, then tried to take a calming breath. Good friends, she reminded herself. Good times.

As she sat again, Travis took her hand the way he did, gave her a wink.

“We want to go to Nino’s,” she announced.

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