Jack was playing basketball in the parking lot when Jo arrived at the Night Moves Center. There was an indoor court, too, since the center was housed in an old high school building, complete with gym, but this was just an informal pickup game, two-on-two, not the team builder he organized once a week.
The Night Moves Center is actually a fictional merging of two real life places I knew when I volunteered in Chicago. The outside is the buildings and parking lot where the Night Ministry bus used to park and the inside is the common room of Emmaus Ministries.
Jack looked good, Jo had to admit, even with his dark hair dripping with sweat. Who plays that hard in heat like this, she wondered. His damp t-shirt showed off the muscles in his shoulders and lean belly. And then, of course, there were those delicious, tight-ass buns.
“Good pass, TJ,” Jack shouted, even though the boy he complimented was on the opposing team.
“Yeah, but not good enough to beat us, hey, Jack-man?” A skinny kid Jo didn’t recognize stole the ball and lobbed it in the net. “That’s ten! You got beat down, bro. We the winners!”
Despite his obnoxious glee at winning, all the players shook hands with each other willingly enough, then patted Jack on the back and thanked him for a great game. Jack waited till the others had walked off before he came over to where Jo was watching.
“Lily here yet?” he asked.
I’m thinking one of these books needs to have a little Jack on Jo action, don’t you think? And I’m not talking about basketball.
He lifted the hem of his t-shirt to blot the sweat beads on his forehead. Jo tried not to be distracted by the glimpse of his abs. “I haven’t seen her. I’m early, though. Hopefully she shows.”
She had contacted him first thing that morning to tell him Avril had called and said Lily agreed to talk to them. Jack’s voice had been all professional over the phone, so Jo hadn’t been able to determine whether he was still pissed at her. At least he had agreed to join her and Lily when they met at the Center to talk about Maddy’s Place.
Even now, though Jo studied his face for frowns of disapproval, he seemed neutral enough when he answered, “Why don’t we go stake out a private room inside where we can talk when she gets here.”
“I thought you had an office here,” Jo asked as they walked inside. There were at least fifteen kids lounging in the “front room” area. A small window air conditioner rattled so loud in its attempts to cool off the huge space that they had turned up the television to its max volume. Reruns of NCIS blasted across the sound of talking and laughter.
“Not officially.” Jack led the way upstairs. “Most of my time is spent over at the shelter now, although they’re thinking of changing that. Splitting me between both places more.”
“I suppose that means more work for the same pay.”
“I don’t mind.” Jack walked past the director’s closed door and pointed at it with one thumb. “Marge needs the backup. They lost two caseworkers last month and the number of kids always doubles in summer.”
“Lost as in quit, or fired?”
Jack had opened a door on the right, glanced in, and entered without giving her an answer.
“I’m not asking for a story or anything,” Jo continued, feeling flushed and awkward. “Just curious, not scandal seeking.”
“This should do.” Jack sat behind the desk and waved to a couch along the wall for Jo to use. “Trevor Banks and I used to share it, but he’s one of the ones that moved on. Voluntarily,” he told her with one eyebrow raised. “Are you apologizing for something?”
The question took her by surprise. “What do you mean?”
“You don’t usually try to explain yourself.” Jack’s deep voice grew even more weighty and calm. “Did I strike a nerve the other day? I told you I was sorry. I thought we knew each other well enough by now not to hold grudges.”
Jo took a deep breath and let it out. “We do. Sorry. Just touching a sore tooth with the tip of my tongue. I’ll stop now.”