Notorious (NeXt #1) by K.M. Scott

Chapter One





Cade



“This is the life. You know that?” I say as I weave in between cars on my way to nowhere in particular.

It’s a gorgeous spring day that would be a crime to waste inside, so Alex and I are riding around listening to music and enjoying the freedom that comes from being single guys beholden to not a damn soul.

When I glance to my right, I see him nod his head and lean back in the passenger seat of my Jag. Closing his eyes, he says, “It’s days like this that make going to work hard as fuck sometimes. Thank God I don’t have to go in today. The last thing I want to do is spend an eight hour stretch slaving in that kitchen.”

“I don’t know how you do it. Really, I don’t. If I had to work with my father and uncle day in and day out, I’d kill someone. I’d turn into one of those guys who goes on a rampage and then when the cops and the news talk to the neighbors, they always say things like, ‘He was a quiet guy. Never bothered anyone. I can’t believe he took a meat cleaver and hacked up an entire kitchen staff and both the owners of such a fine restaurant. I just can’t.’”

Alex laughs at my imitation of every next-door neighbor ever seen on the news talking about some homicidal maniac who lived next to them. “Yeah, and they always have that look on their faces like they really can’t believe that was the guy who lived in the blue house across the street. ‘He looked so nice. I swear I never knew.’”

I take the corner hard onto a side street and chuckle. “They just can’t believe their dumb luck that the crazy guy who snapped didn’t come over and kill them that time they let him borrow the weed whacker.”

“My favorite is when they say things like, ‘It’s such a shame. He comes from such a good family. I know his mother. She’s a very nice lady.’ As if that’s why he’s a mass murderer. Like it’s in the genes.”

That thought rolls around my head for a minute. Is there some DNA marker for mass murderer? I don’t think so. Not that I’ve ever heard of, but maybe. Anything’s possible.

If that’s the base, though, the whole lot of us in my family would be screwed. My mind wanders to the idea of seven mass murderers. That would be something. A whole family of killers.

Although I can’t imagine Ava even killing a fly, and Annalea doesn’t seem to have the killer instinct in her either. Wilder’s definitely got it. That’s for sure. But he’s not blood, even if he is part of the family.

“Hey! Pull over into that restaurant,” Alex says, ripping me from my thoughts about the March and Jackson family’s potential as killers.

“What?”

I look around and don’t see anywhere we’d want to go. Just some diner that makes me think I can taste the grease by just looking at the place. He can’t want to go there. Alex is a chef, for God’s sake. There’s no way he wants to eat at this greasy spoon.

Pointing at the very building I’m sure he can’t want to go to, he repeats himself. “Pull over! Let’s stop in that restaurant.”

He looks like he’s going to practically jump out of the car while it’s still moving he’s so eager to get to this diner. What the hell did I miss?

“Relax. It’s not like the place is going to disappear before I get the car parked. Jesus. You’d swear this is some five star restaurant. It’s a diner. I would have thought you hated these kinds of places.”

I look up at the sign as I pull into the parking lot. Comfort Food. Catchy name for a dive. They probably have things like meatloaf and grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu. Not exactly what I ever pegged Alex being into.

When I stop the car and kill the engine, I look over to see him flinging the door open. “Wait! Why are we here? You have a craving for some fried food or something?”

He shrugs like I’m making a big deal out of nothing. “Not really, but don’t worry. It’ll be fine. This place has great desserts.”

Before I can ask when he became such a big dessert fan, he jumps out of the car and slams the door. Great desserts, huh? By the looks of the building, I’d be surprised. Gunmetal grey block walls with silver trim around the windows makes me wonder if he’s gotten this place mistaken with somewhere else.

I walk toward the entrance and mumble, “You’d think at somewhere called Comfort Food the outside wouldn’t look like I was walking into some dive bar off a dusty highway. Doesn’t feel very comforting to me.”