The roughness of his own howl.
Images of the night before, bright then dark, blinked like the busted out liquor store neon along the swamp highway. Yes. No. Yes. No. Cade never did maybe. Maybe was a wicked bitch, a waste of time. Weeks. Fuck, years. He pulled a slow, deep breath in through his nose then coughed against a sour stench that seeped into his brain like red tide. His shoulders shook. The flashes in his mind returned, beckoned, promised, and called to that one thing—the answer to what the hell happened. Did he get what was promised. There was no deliverance, just more pain.
He gave up on the possibility of remembering and put all his effort into breathing through his mouth. The impact of the stench faded to a manageable level. The coughing slowed then stopped but the damage was done. The neon in his skull had exploded, causing sending shards of agony into his brain. He squinted and tried to put his forearm over his eyelids, but something sharp bit his wrist. He tried again. His arm jerked in response. He opened one eye.
On the floor of his truck were three cans of ReddiWip, two chocolate and one plain. There was also a pile of Taco Bell trash and an empty fifth of Jack. A lavender thong hung from the truck's shifter; Cade’s t-shirt was twisted around his left forearm and his wrist was handcuffed to the steering wheel. So it had been yes. He opened the other eye.
The 45 on the dashboard was a beauty. Black. Solid. Looked trustworthy. But seeing it there probably meant that yes should've been no.
Especially because it wasn’t his gun.
"If I go get the bolt cutters, will you put your pants on? Please?"
Laurent, appearing out of nowhere to rescue Cade’s sorry ass once again. Not as surprising this time as the others. Seeing as Cade was parked in the far corner of Laurent’s southern Florida fish camp.
Cade nodded, then closed his eyes as he dropped his head back. After what felt like twenty-five minutes but was probably six, Laurent reached through the open window to cut the links between the cuffs. Once Cade's wrist was free, he righted himself. He wanted to check out the Colt but, in deference to Laurent, grabbed the pants. That's when he noticed the gash on his left thigh and the tear in his plaid boxers. He touched the wound. Not too big, but the skin on each side of the cut was smeared with dried blood and something else. Something sticky.
Laurent grunted. "Pants?"
Even though they were spattered with mud, Cade tugged his jeans on then rolled out of the truck barefoot. The sand and gravel yard in front of the fish camp was already hot from the sun. That was bearable. The sour stench wasn't.
"What the fuck is that smell?"
"Hell if I know. Something from last night. You don't remember?"
Cade shoved his hair off his forehead. His scalp was sticky. His jaw was sticky.
There was only one thing he could think of that smelled that nasty, but when he looked on the floor of his truck for signs of vomit, he came up empty. Whatever that hideous odor was, it hadn’t come from inside him. One solid shove closed the truck door and he wobbled forward, toward Laurent’s building. "I need a shower.”