Rory checked with the other customers to see if they needed anything before making his way back to Brick. He leaned his elbows on the bar and lowered his voice. "I could use a little advice."
"Okay." Considering the request was from Rory, any subject from blackjack to financial planning to sex was possible. Brick took another drink and braced himself.
"Next week is Kelly's birthday and I'm planning to surprise her with a party. Here, of course." Rory hesitated and seemed to swallow hard. "I...ah, I'm going to propose to her."
"At this surprise party?"
"Have you two talked about getting married?"
"Sort of. I mean we've talked about living together but if we're going to do that, I want it to be permanent." Rory shrugged his shoulders. "I figure if I screw up, it will be harder for her to kick me out."
"Always good to plan ahead." Brick laughed and took another drink. "Is that really the reason?"
"No, although I have been known...anyway, I want us to have a life together, to be a family. Have kids someday."
"Is that what she wants?"
"I think so."
"But you're not sure?"
"Not a hundred percent." Rory shook his head. "You're a good judge of people. What do you think I should do?"
There was a time when Brick felt he deserved Rory's confidence, but not anymore. Trusting the wrong person was a regret he would live with for the rest of his life. Still, he saw no harm in answering Rory's question. "I don't know Kelly that well, but she strikes me as someone who isn't comfortable being the center of attention. Am I right about that?" Rory nodded as Brick continued. "I think the surprise birthday party, as long as it's not too big, is okay. But save the proposal for a private time, just the two of you."
"Like a romantic dinner?"
"Better yet, go to a country inn or a B&B. You know, one of those places in Charlottesville or Williamsburg."
Rory winced. "I hate those feckin' places. It's like trying to have sex at your grandmother's house."
"I know but it's one night out of your life. Suck it up."
"Yeah, you're right. Kelly has mentioned a place in Charlottesville."
"Well, there you go. That should seal the deal."
Rory seemed to consider what Brick had said, but he didn't look convinced. "I guess that makes sense and if she says no, I won't feel like a feckin' eejit." Rory picked up Brick's empty glass. "I mean I will, but at least no one else will know."
Brick couldn't help laughing. "There is that to consider."
"Thanks, I'll let you know how it goes. Another Guinness?"
"No, but I'll have a corned beef sandwich and an order of fries. You can make it to go." Brick tried unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn. "I know this place will get crazy soon and I'm just not up for it tonight."
"That makes two of us." Rory sighed and walked away.
* * *
Maybe jet lag was catching up with him after all, but Brick was determined to get back on East Coast time and not give in to it. He watched the local news while he ate his sandwich then cleared the table. He logged on to his computer and checked email. Nothing that needed his immediate attention except an Evite from Ron and Jasmine for the baptism of their twins. Brick confirmed he would attend. Seeing his former partner was something to look forward to. Then he hit new message and started composing a memo to Lieutenant Hughes. He described the program Professor Alexander had proposed, mentioning the case of Henry Yang as a possibility.
He concluded with a request that if the lieutenant was interested, a meeting with him and the professor should be arranged to discuss the specifics. Brick reread what he had written, making sure autocorrect hadn't screwed up something. Satisfied, he hit send.
This excerpt ends on page 15 of the hardcover edition.
Monday, October 17th, we begin the book Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger.