“Is it over already?” Josiah trotted down the steps to meet Darzsa, who was leaning against the car. “How did you like it?”
“I have a better question for you.” Darzsa wasn’t for small talk at the moment. “Did you tell her anything about me? Personal or otherwise?”
“No. I told Lottie I invited someone today. She doesn’t like to know names before readings.” Josiah’s eyes darted across Darzsa’s face, landing on his quivering mouth and chin. “What happened?”
Darzsa closed his eyes and exhaled a shaky breath. “You told her. Didn’t you?”
“Told her what?”
“When I left home. The date. She knew the exact date they—she knew, and you’re the only one who could have told her.”
“I didn’t tell her anything about you.” Josiah prompted Darzsa to get in the car, and Darzsa was thoughtful enough to not cause a scene twice in one day. Darzsa slammed the door behind him, and Josiah’s face tightened when the car shook. Josiah took off down the street without another word.
“Are you sure it didn’t slip when you were having one of your intimate talks?” Darzsa folded his arms and looked out the window. “I heard you, all throaty from chinning. If you brought me there to dangle me in front of her, I— ”
“Darzsa, it’s nothing like that. And you know that she has ways to—”
Darzsa banged his fist against the door panel. “It’s bull, and you know it. I know you told her.”
Josiah gripped the steering wheel and pulled over but kept the engine running. “I know you’re upset about whatever you think I told Lottie, but keep your hands to yourself in my car.”
“Why should I be inclined to listen to a liar?” Darzsa whipped his head around to cast a baleful glare at Josiah. “I hope she’s paying you well to be her errand boy while she sits on her ass and does nothing. This is like how Daniel used to treat you.”
Wood creaked under Josiah’s hand as his hold tightened on the steering wheel. He sucked in a breath and held it. Darzsa had done it now; he was close to pushing Josiah past his limit. Maybe Darzsa wanted to see where the line was.
“I’m not one of those maroons at that house.” Darzsa scratched at the upholstery of the seats, leaving jagged grooves. “Don’t be a flat tire the next time she’s under you and—”
Josiah caught Darzsa’s hand and quelled any more destruction from him. “Yes, I told Lottie that I would be bringing a special guest today, but I never told her what his name was. She was wrong for how she spoke to you, so I handled it. For you.” He clutched Darzsa’s hand before releasing it. “I’m no one’s errand boy, so you best remember that.”
Darzsa nursed the stinging skin on his hand. He’d be surprised if it didn’t leave a bruise, but it wouldn’t be as big as the one to his ego. Darzsa often toed the line and played with fire, rarely getting burned. Other men would have tucked tail and ran if he ruffled their feathers or threatened them a little.
Here Josiah was, hard and fast with his words and didn’t hesitate to put his foot down—it left Darzsa shaking like a leaf. Indeed, he’d not forget that Jo wasn’t one to be trifled with. No, Darzsa was thinking about the different ways he’d etch it into his skin with those forceful hands. Darzsa sat tall in his seat, flexed his fingers, and wiped the grin forming at his lips.
Josiah and Darzsa didn’t speak much the rest of the ride home beyond Darzsa giving him instructions to his apartment. Josiah didn’t so much as wait for Darzsa to have all ten toes down before he peeled out and disappeared in a red streak down the road. Darzsa didn’t mind it too much; he knew his egregious behavior was excessive even for him today. Up the stairs he went, and after cleaning his face, he plopped down on his bed.
The events from today reeled through his mind. That message, those words. Did it have to do with Daniel? He had a better sense of direction than anyone Darzsa knew. Something could have happened at home, and he had to stay. His mother or father would have sent a letter to Bea if something happened. Or was the ‘d’ for Darzsa, after all? Darzsa could hear the ceaseless rapping on the table as he closed his eyes.
Darzsa had no reason to be mad at Jo, he surmised after potentially causing a rift between them. If Darzsa saw him soon, he’d swallow his pride and apologize. Josiah would never divulge that to anyone, and he’d only know the date if Daniel told him.
That day was seared into the deepest parts of him—scabbed, cracked, and left to fester over and over. Damn that Lottie Howard for interfering with the first good thing he had in ages. Darzsa rolled on his side and looked at the picture of his brother on the nightstand and turned it over. After the day he had, Darzsa didn’t want to think about anything that reminded him of home.