But he didn’t seem surprised to see her. ‘Hey.’
‘Hey, yourself.’ Okay, that was stupid. Her grandmother used to say Hey, yourself. Great, she was turning into her grandmother at the most inopportune time. She didn’t want to sound like a well-adjusted sixty-year-old.

But she was quick to add, “I’m not saying I believe you’re related to Kid Gallagher—”
“For the love,” I said, “of God . . . ”
“Jamie,” A.J. interrupted her. “Not Kid. Jamie.

Hi, mom,” he said. “I’m fine.”
“How are you? Are you still seeing . . .?”
“Yep,” A.J. said. “Jamie’s sitting right here, next to me.”
“Let’s freak her out, okay?” Jamie said, mischief glinting in his eyes as he popped away—which worked more to freak A.J. out.

If I were haunting A.J., he’d damn well know it.

I’m not a big drinker and I’ve had enough secondhand smoke for this decade and the next, so . . .”
Great. All she had to do was complain about the deafening volume of the music, and she might as well slap a sticker on her forehead saying old next to the one that already said nerd.
“Band’s good, though,” she added. “Country’s not my thing, but the players are . . . proficient.” And great, now she sounded like a professor. Proficient. God.
But he was nodding. “Country’s not my thing, either.”
“But you have a cowboy hat,” she said, and as soon as the words left her lips, she realized how stupid she sounded, no—not that she sounded, but that she was.

I was still a novice at the caped crusader super-sleuth thing, but it didn’t take a degree from the Sherlock Holmes Detective School to see exactly what had happened here. Alison had come home, put her lunch in the zapper, poured herself a beverage, turned on her computer and . . .
vanished off the face of the earth.

Jesus,” A.J. said, because he still hadn’t gotten used to Jamie popping in and out like that. He still couldn’t believe his eyes—if it truly were his eyes that needed to be believed, and not his brain that was responsible for sending him hallucinations of the old man he’d adored back when he was a child and life was so much less complicated.
And great, now Alison was looking at him as if he’d just shouted Jesus in the middle of her office, which he had, and there was nothing to do about it but plunge onward. “Yes, Jesus, yes,” he said, which sounded even more stupid than he’d thought it would.

She was looking at the cab, looking right through me, and I knew that she was curious because she’d seen A.J. talking to me. Which, to her, looked an awful lot like A.J. was talking to himself.
“Say, I gotta run, mom, I’ll call you later,” I instructed the kid, and then pretend to hang up your phone.

Showtime,’ Jamie said, heavy on the sh. ‘You gonna tell her your real name or make something up? I always liked Ferd McGurgle. It’s not one of those names you forget, where you have to stop and think, Now, who did I say I was again, Tom Smith or Bill Jones . . .?’
‘Actually,’ A.J. said, trying his best to ignore Jamie’s help, ‘you do know my name.’ He cleared his throat as she looked puzzled, that little ever-present almost-smile ready to expand across her face. He exhaled and just said it. ‘It’s Gallagher.’
‘Nicely done.’ Jamie applauded. ‘Good segue, good choice—honesty. Much better than Ferd. I’m proud of you, kid.’
But Allison was still puzzled, still about to smile, until she realized what he’d said. Her mouth dropped open, but she closed it fast. ‘Gallagher?’ she repeated and the smile was definitely gone. ‘As in Gallagher?’
‘As in Austin James Gallagher,’ A.J. told her with a nod. ‘I’m A.J. for short. I was named after my great-grandfather.’ He lifted her file. ‘Jamie. He dropped the Austin after he came west. Too many people thought he was from Texas, which kind of pissed him off.’ He tried to make a joke. ‘He’d met a few Texans he didn’t particularly like, so . . .’

That was the word she used to describe herself - fit. A.J. would've used other words. Like holy shit and sweet baby Jesus.

A) If it were up to me, Alison, you'd never wear clothes again. Nor, for that matter, would I....

Things not to say.

They were big and black and rubber—the kind of boots you might be wearing as you came in the kitchen door, shaking off your rain slicker and saying, Grab the young’uns, Ma. Crick’s a-rising.

Um,' he said, because she was smiling at him and he was an idiot.

We are not, not now, not ever, talking about sex,” A.J. said flatly.
I had to laugh. “We’re both grown men,” I pointed out. “I don’t see what the big deal—”
“Do it,” he said, “and I will walk over to the church, wake up the priest, and demand that he perform an exorcism. On the spot.”
“Well, now, that won’t work,” I scoffed. “I’m not a demon. Not even close.”
“Yeah, well, I’m willing to try it,” he said. “So go on. Make my day.

What if I told you that you were a hundred percent wrong?’
‘Wow,’ she said. ‘You are good. Talk about not being the bad guy in your own movie. 'You are a hundred percent wrong,’ she repeated, with a horrendous, over-the-top-Yankee-fied imitation of his barely-there drawl.

While I sleep, and I sleep often these days, he spends much of his time in the church downtown. The very one I never could convince him to attend. He claims he is praying. But I know he is trying to strike a bargain with our Maker.
One hand of Black Jack, I know he says. Winner gets to keep the girl.
I know for sure, were J. granted that game of cars with the Almighty, he’d go into it with both an ace and a jack up his sleeve.