Rodeo sat down at the bar next to Eberron. “Eb,” he said.
“Rodeo,” Eberron said in return.
Gideon looked between them and decided he didn’t want to know. He did a double take at Rodeo. Rodeo wore thick black eyeliner. Gideon decided he also didn’t want to know. The steel earrings and bars in Rodeo’s ears made more sense to him than the eyeliner.
“What do you want to drink?” Gideon asked. “However, if you want a mixed drink you better know how to make it because I can guarantee I don’t know and don’t expect me to remember it for next time.”
Rodeo snickered. “Whisky.”
Gideon turned around and began looking. He muttered to himself and pointed at bottles until he found the one he wanted. Rodeo smirked. Whelp, Rodeo thought, the prospect was definitely new if he was still learning the placement of all the liquor bottles. Gideon grabbed the right whisky bottle, turned, grabbed the right glass from under the bar, and poured it full. He set the bottle on the bar and shoved the glass at Rodeo. Rodeo picked it up, raised it a little at him and drank half of it in one go. Rodeo set the glass on the bar.
Gideon glanced at him. He wasn’t sure about this whole eyeliner business and he had to check again to see if he was seeing right. No one else seemed to be phased by it.
“Good trip?” Eberron asked.
“Trip was fine.”
“No pie for the rest of us.”
Rodeo smirked at him and turned the glass around in his hands. He’d hidden the rest of the pie. “My pie.”
Eberron scowled. “You shared with Brand.”
“Only to not have to deal with the crankies.”
Eberron picked up his beer bottle and snorted. “Most of us don’t disturb him when he is brooding.”
Rodeo screwed his face into solemnity. “He was simply being mysterious.”
Eberron took a sip of beer so he didn’t have to answer that.
Gideon had a theory but with all the kissing and the hugging that went on around the club he needed more information before he put the theory to the test. “How are you related to Savannah?”
“Related?” Rodeo asked.
“She calls you uncle,” Gideon said and leaned against the bar with his elbows.
“She calls Eb uncle too,” Rodeo pointed out.
“When she’s annoyed with me,” Eberron said and tilted his beer bottle at Rodeo.
Rodeo looked at him and said in all earnestness. “Maybe you should go away more often and she’d appreciate you more.”
Eberron went back to his beer.
Rodeo grinned and looked back at Gideon. “Her dad, Archer, was my sponsor into the club. I spent a lot of time around his and Seraphina’s place when Savannah was a pup. Eb here painted it.”
Eb spoke up, his voice a low rumble, “Not by choice.”
Rodeo riposted, “There is always a choice.”
“He had my sparkplugs.” Eb’s voice growled at the lowest point of his register, sounding annoyed.
Rodeo looked down his nose at Eb. The man was still pissed off at Archer’s meddling and it’d been seventeen years. “You could have bought more.”
Gideon nodded not paying attention to what sounded like an old argument. He’d been in Jasper a couple of weeks and he’d found out by accident that Brand was Savannah’s grandfather. And though she was his sponsor, she still hadn’t mentioned her parents. Maybe they were out of town or something.
“They were my sparkplugs,” Eberron said. “And Archer stole them.”
Rodeo coughed and picked up his whisky and finished it.
Gideon tried not to feel a little hurt that Savannah hadn’t introduced her parents to him. “I guess I haven’t met them yet.”
Rodeo slowly set his glass back on the bar. He looked over at Eberron. “He’s that new?” he asked.
Eberron looked back and nodded. “He’s that new.”
Rodeo stood up. “Come on Prospect,” he said. “Eb will mind the bar a few minutes.”
Gideon set the towel on the bar. He looked at Eberron. Eberron jerked his chin after Rodeo. Gideon followed Rodeo down a back hall he hadn’t explored yet. He wished he had. The walls were lined with curio cases, shadow boxes, and hung with pictures of Heaven’s Heathens memorabilia, what felt like a history of motorcycles and Jasper in its infancy.
Rodeo stopped by a room with a set of glass double doors, a style of small glass panes held together with lead to make a picture. He took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and then pushed them open. Gideon couldn’t tell what the design was before Rodeo opened the doors. Rodeo gestured him inside.
The room didn’t have any lights, and the windows were thin and set with colored glass, like church windows. There was an old wooden pew in the middle of the room set before a small raised black pedestal. Something sparkled in the walls and Gideon turned his head and realized that in the walls were clear crystals, he couldn’t tell if they were diamonds or not, set in patterns of the stars. Under each star was a small engraved silver plaque. Gideon couldn’t read them from where he stood.
“This is where we remember our dead,” Rodeo said in a low voice. He moved forward and Gideon heard a small buzz and above the pedestal a hologram sprung to life. A man in his prime with thick brown hair and piercing gray eyes stood there. “A memorial for those that have gone on before,” Rodeo paused. The hologram changed. “And the lost.” He moved to a sidewall, held his hand over something and a keyboard and screen appeared. He used his finger to push pictures to the side until he came to the one he wanted, pushed it to select it and froze the entire show. “This is Archer and Seraphina.”
Gideon stared at the hologram, a couple on their wedding day. The man who he assumed was Archer looked like a younger, slightly softer version of Brand. They shared the same brown hair, the same build, the same gray eyes and the same nose. Archer wore eyeliner, like Rodeo did.
The woman had round cheeks and long brown hair and dark green eyes. He saw Savannah in their coloring but not really in their faces, maybe a little with her mother. However, that’s not what stuck out to him. It was their faces. They smiled at each other. It didn’t matter that there was a camera. Or that when the picture was taken there had probably been an audience. The two looked at each other as if there wasn’t anyone else in the world. The word he found to describe it was joy.
Gideon’s gut twisted and he felt a little shamed about his hurt feelings from earlier. It wasn’t that Savannah was stingy with information. Though she could be. Or that she was hoarding them to herself or keeping him away from them. They weren’t out of town. They were gone, gone beyond all reach. It wasn’t any wonder that she didn’t want to talk about them. She was an orphan.
If he had been an orphan coming from a family like the one he had, he wouldn’t want to talk about it either. As it was, he didn’t want to talk about his family for completely different reasons. He tore his gaze away from the happy couple beaming at each other in their wedding finery. “Thanks,” he said to Rodeo, meeting his eyes before dropping them.
“Don’t mention it,” Rodeo said.
Gideon met his eyes again and the two men came to an understanding that Savannah was not to know about this. Gideon nodded and for once he completely meant his usual off handed quip, “I won’t.”
Rodeo turned his gaze back to Archer and Seraphina. He didn’t say anything. His face said it all for him, filled with nothing but pure pain. He turned away and set the slideshow back to normal. It reverted to the first man again. Rodeo gestured for Gideon to go first and the two left the room. The hologram clicked off as soon as they were out of its sensor range. Rodeo shut the doors and Gideon blinked. It looked like the same moon that Savannah had on her shoulder. He wondered what came first, the doors or Savannah’s tattoo.
They entered the bar and Gideon ducked back behind the bar area. He scanned the place. Savannah had settled onto a couch with her feet up on an ottoman and her nose behind a real book, meaning one with a cover and paper pages versus the holographic ones many people read.
Rodeo turned to Eberron and started a conversation up about sports, mainly if there was any chance in getting a game of basketball going before he left. The two debated the merits and points of who would play versus who was a good player and half the names Gideon still didn’t know who they were. Rodeo turned to him.
“What do you play, Prospect?” he asked.
Gideon blinked and used a thumb to point at himself. “Me?”
“He says he plays a lousy game of pool unless money is involved,” Eb said. “I haven’t been able to confirm the lousy part.”
Gideon eyed him and then turned back to Rodeo. He shrugged. “I’ve played a bit of everything.”
Rodeo tried to not look too amused and failed.
Gideon shrugged. “Never cared about one more than the other. It depended on what coach got their hands on me first.”
Savannah must have been listening. “Oh, the burdens of being popular,” she said from her seat.
Gideon’s eyes narrowed and he glared at her. It didn’t have anything to do with popularity. He hadn’t been popular. She wasn’t looking at him and her tank top today had a low cut to it. He saw the beginnings of her cleavage. He reached over into the ice bucket, picked up a piece of ice, gauged the distance and tossed it at her, up into the air, over her book, and right down her shirt. Savannah jumped and squealed.
He turned back to Rodeo and kept his face bland. “Since I never played the same sports two years in a row, obviously I never wore a letter jacket.”
Savannah set her book down and glared at Gideon. She reached down into her shirt, pulled the ice cube out and dumped it into her drink glass. Gideon ignored her. She picked her book back up.
He looked down at his hands and tried to remember. “Football, soccer, swim team, basketball,” He reached over for another piece of ice and tossed it, once again across the room and down Savannah’s shirt. He continued talking. “Wrestling, lacrosse, track and field, baseball.” He glanced at Savannah out of the corner of her eye. She dumped the ice cube into her drink again, flicking her hand to get the excess water off.
Rodeo slouched on the bar stool and tugged his hat down, trying not to snicker.
“A couple of my friends in the service like racquetball, a little volleyball if the girls watching were hot.”
“There’s a distinction.” Rodeo’s lips twitched.
“Of course, there is no point in taking off your shirt if the audience isn’t appreciative,” Gideon said and began a little mental countdown. He shrugged a shoulder.
Eberron sounded as if he was choking on laughter. “As long as you have your priorities straight.”
Gideon grinned, turned to the side and tossed another ice cube at Savannah. He didn’t look to see if it went where it was supposed to and turned back to Rodeo and Eberron. “Am I supposed to enjoy one sport more than the other?”
Rodeo raised an eyebrow. “Most folks do.”
Gideon nodded, and tossed another ice cube at Savannah behind his back. “I see, and the sport of choice around here is basketball?”
“I think if it involves a ball no one really much cares,” Rodeo replied.
Savannah jumped again, reached down her shirt for the second ice cube in the last thirty seconds and glared at Gideon. Enough. She set her book down and used her toes to take her boots off. She walked off to the kitchen, her bare feet not making any noise against the hardwood floor.
Eberron toyed with his beer bottle. “Fighting is popular too,” he said and took a sip of beer.
“Different type of balls,” Gideon said.
Eberron coughed and set his drink down.
Rodeo grinned. “Wait until you go against Frankie, Prospect. Then you’ll know it has nothing to do with balls.”
Gideon nodded. He turned his head to check on Savannah while reaching for another ice cube. He froze. She was gone. Her book was there. Her drink was there. Her boots were there, however Savannah herself was missing.
Savannah returned from the kitchen holding a small ice bucket to her chest. She saw he was turned away and grinned. She stole up behind him, found the box the smaller prospects used for tending bar, stepped on it and waited.
Gideon turned and saw something out of the corner of his eye in the bar mirror. He turned all the way around. She smirked at him. His eyes widened. Oh shit. Savannah lifted the bucket over his head and dumped a whole thing of slushy ice water over his head. Gideon barely closed his eyes in time. His back stiffened as the freezing cold water hit him.
Rodeo coughed and started to laugh as quietly as he could. Eberron didn’t bother with being quiet. He started to laugh hard and slid off the stool.
Gideon opened his eyes again, wiping at them with the back of his hand. Water dripped down his nose and off his clothes and, damn it was cold.
Savannah tilted her chin up slightly. “Clean that mess up, Prospect,” she ordered, setting the bucket on the bar. She turned around, jumped off the box and over the water puddle and sauntered, hips swaying, back to her couch and her book.
Gideon sighed. He shook his head rapidly. Water drops flew off his hair. He shrugged out of his kutte and put it on the coat hook behind the bar. He stripped his shirt off and since the floor was already wet, he figured it wouldn’t matter. He wrung it out over the puddle, before putting it under the bar.
Rodeo sank into his seat and joined Eberron in laughing loudly.
Gideon glowered at him and went for the mop and bucket.
Rodeo glanced over at Savannah. He sobered. She watched Gideon over the top of her book. Her eyes hungry and appreciative, the smile on her face very satisfied. Rodeo reached over and poured more whisky into his glass. He slugged it back in one go. Survival, when Brand said it, it had sounded plausible at the time. What was Brand really up to?