“Which bike out there is yours?” she purred. “I’d love to have a ride.”
Of course, she would. And she wasn’t thinking about riding his bike either.
“John, give the lady here what she wants. On me,” said Saks. He then twisted away on the stool.
“You’re leaving?” she said in bewilderment.
“Sorry, sweetie. Family thing. Another time. Maybe.” Like never. When he was younger and more impulsive, he would’ve taken the woman to bed in a heartbeat. But he was growing older, and bedding anonymous women had lost its shine. At Luke and Emily’s wedding, he got an inkling he wanted what they had. Seeing the looks they gave each other, and watching over these past two years how they stood together against every challenge, he came to realize he wanted that.
A lover. Partner. Best friend.
That would not be this woman, who could be had for the price of a beer and a motorcycle ride.
“See you around,” said the woman.
“Sure,” said Saks. Walking away from her eased the queasiness in his stomach she’d elicited. The rumble of his bike’s engine shook away the sleazy feeling that clung to him from the woman’s touch. Pushing out on the highway relaxed him. His engine sang, a serenade created from the precision action of pistons perfectly timed to send its life’s blood through the engine. Though he drove on blacktop, he felt connected to the earth, wheels on road, sliding seamlessly toward his destination. If it weren’t for his roiling thoughts about the family dinner, he would be perfectly at peace.
“Anthony!” shouted his mother as Saks entered the kitchen door. “Finally! Your Uncle Vits is going crazy thinking you weren’t going to show.”
Saks kissed his mother on the cheek and took in the familiar Italian food smells of his mother’s kitchen. Sauce bubbling on the stove, fresh baked Italian bread sat on the table, the scent of meat in the air. He reached for a slice of bread but his mother slapped his hand away. “Of course I’m here for Sunday dinner. I always am, aren’t I? Why does Uncle Vits care?”
“Here,” his mother said as she handed him a platter of fried calamari, “take this to the table.”
“Don’t you need some help?” he said, studying her face. Her bright brown eyes were more lined than usual, and her face seemed drained of color. “You’re looking tired, Ma. You should sit down.”
“Sush!” she said, waving him away. “Terri’s helping me.”
“Then where is my sister?”
“Here, Anthony,” said Terri. She stood at the top of the basement stairs with a long flat tray in her hands. On the tray were freshly made ravioli ready to be cooked.
Saks set the calamari on the kitchen table. “Let me help you.”
Terri rolled her eyes. “I’m perfectly capable of carrying a tray, thank you very much.”
“Sorry,” said Saks sarcastically, “for trying to be a gentleman.”
Terri stuck her tongue out at him while she walked past.
“Take off that jacket,” his mother said. Her voice was full of disapproval as she eyed his Hades’ Spawn leather. “Your uncle will have a fit if he sees it.”
Saks shrugged off the coat and hung it carefully on a kitchen chair. “He’s good with the club, Ma.” Why had he come again?
“No.” She shook her head. “He tolerates it for your sake.” She stared with distaste at the club’s patch, a skull over a pair of wings. His mother fingered the leather, pulling the front of the jacket closer for her to see. “And what is this? Saks?”
“I’ve told you before. That’s my club name.”
“Why in the world would they call you ‘Saks’?”
“Because, Ma,” said Terri, setting the ravioli tray on the counter, “look at him. Khakis? White button-down? He dresses better than the rest of them, like Saks of Fifth Avenue? Get it?”
His mother rolled her dark eyes again. “Named after a store. What’s wrong with those people?”
“Those people,” said Saks, “are my friends.” He scooped up a piece of fried calamari and scarfed it down.
“Hey!” protested Terri.
Saks grinned at her.
“That’s for the table,” said his mother. “And take it now before it gets cold.”
“You need to sit.”
“I’ll sit after I cook the ravioli.”
“I’ll do it, Ma,” said Terri. “Go sit down with dinner. The water’s boiling now. It’ll take five minutes.”
Marie Parks grumbled, but she picked up the basket of bread. Saks walked behind her into the dining room; the curtains were drawn tight, giving the room a thick, gloomy air. Any other day they would be pulled apart, letting the sun in, but today Uncle Vits was visiting.
Uncle Vits sat at the head of the table facing the kitchen while Saks’ father stood, pouring a glass of wine. The elderly man sat hunched in the chair. He was shorter than most men, with a rounded belly that led him to play Santa at Christmas for the family. But his sharp, predatory, blue eyes commanded the room, giving the distinct impression that anyone who crossed him would feel his wrath.