Johnny Come Lately

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Chapter 1

Love ‘em and leave‘em was supposed to be his mantra.

For way too long Johnny Hazard had been called a badass with women, but all that was behind him now. For the past two years he had lived on the straight and narrow. Or so he’d thought.

Jet-lagged from the three-hour time shift between the West Coast and Florida, but home at last, he dumped his carry-on bag in the great room—and the back of his neck prickled. In that instant all the pointless script discussions in LA were forgotten.

The total silence in the house struck him like a blow. So did the complete lack of everyday chaos—toys everywhere, a pair of small sneakers abandoned on the tile floor—and the very neatness of the room itself.

Odd. Where was Tyler? It was next to impossible not to notice a three-year-old boy. He missed seeing the flash of joy in the kid’s eyes when he spied Johnny, the death grip of his arms around Johnny’s neck almost before he got inside, the sound of his voice, too loud but welcoming, in his ear, and most of all that little Elmer Fudd thing that just cracked him up. Hi, Johnny! I’m so gwad you’re back!

God, he loved that little bundle of energy. Tyler was maybe the best thing about living with Kit. Maybe the best thing in his whole life.

Little else in his thirty-two years could be called entirely wholesome, and he had to admit being known as a Bad Boy had done some amazing things—once—for his sex life. But in fact, it was Johnny who’d fostered that reputation in the first place as sheer self-protection. For lots of reasons commitments—relationships—weren’t normally his thing. Until now…

Curious about the silence, he wandered down the hall to glance into Tyler’s room but he wasn’t there either. Some of Johnny’s expectation of his homecoming—a relatively new sensation for him—fell flat. Trying not to panic, he strolled back through the house, checking the family room with its silent TV (no boyish body sprawled on the floor too close to the huge screen), then wandered out to the Florida room—and stopped.

Through the sliders he glimpsed Kit on the stone patio.

She wasn’t alone.

Wade Blessing, Hollywood’s favorite action hero and the star of the film series Johnny wrote for him, was there too. Johnny’s best friend.

For a moment he just stood there, stunned. On the two-for-one cushioned lounge Johnny had often shared with Kit, the poolside lounge he had paid for, she lay with Wade, their limbs entwined, heads close together, Wade’s hand—was Johnny seeing right?—resting on Kit’s shapely breast. Johnny couldn’t tell in the darkness what Wade’s other hand was doing. His view of Wade’s back told Johnny he wore only a skimpy Speedo and all he could see of Kit’s barely-there bikini was…he couldn’t see bottom or top, really, from his vantage point.

Still, if past experience counted, he should have known—even expected this.


The imaginary blow to Johnny’s solar plexus stemmed from deep inside. He’d always had a vivid mental life that provided plenty of ideas for screenplay plots and characters and kept him sane, more or less—but in that moment the punch felt very real.

He could never write this scene. Didn’t know how to play it either. Well, just…hell.

Johnny couldn’t help himself. He should turn away, but instead, feeling like some fascinated pervert, he propped a shoulder against the doorframe and watched their bodies shift in the dim light, heard Kit moan in an all-too familiar way. Were they really doing it right there? Un-freaking-believable.

His left eyelid began to twitch, a sure sign he needed to keep a firm grip on himself. Taking a deep breath, he walked outside. His sense of betrayal stung even worse when the two on the lounge didn’t jerk apart or even notice him. Kit, her cinnamon-red hair streaming around her shoulders, kept making those little sounds to Wade-the-bastard-Blessing, who didn’t resist. She sure wasn’t holding him down.

Struggling to maintain his dead-pan expression, Johnny folded his arms.

“Looks like plain old vanilla sex to me,” he murmured. “You guys oughta be glad I’m not the jealous type. Ran out of shells for my shotgun years ago.” He didn’t own one, matter of fact. “Never did like that slice-and-dice stuff with a sharp butcher knife. Not in real life, anyway. To be honest the sight of blood and gore makes me hurl.”

Still, they didn’t respond. Like a limp flower, Kit’s head fell back against Wade’s shoulder, and a second later his mouth was pressed to her throat.

“What the hell—” Johnny muttered.

No one was listening.

After another minute of playing the reluctant voyeur, he turned and went back inside. At the kitchen counter Johnny methodically opened his mail. He tossed out the usual advertising circulars and the latest batch of investment offers. Ever since his second Oscar, the stuff had come flooding in from every kind of media. Hauling a bottle from a cupboard, he splashed a slug of Johnny Walker Black into a stubby Waterford glass then stared out at the patio, Wade’s dark hair shining like an otter’s pelt in the reflected glow of the pool lights.

Forget the past two years with Kit, the surprising, amazing bond he’d formed with Tyler, and his own reformation from pseudo-playboy to surrogate dad. Just a part to play after all? Maybe he even deserved this.

Johnny gulped down some Scotch. Trying to keep calm, he ripped through his mental files—impeccable, alphabetized, in perfect order—through a hundred humiliating experiences from his miserable, obviously misspent life. His childhood came to mind first, his erstwhile father then his mother, and of course Savannah Pride, who had introduced him to Kit and who had tried so hard at one point to mess with his head.

Bad boy…

Even the old song lyrics made popular on Cops failed to soothe him. He didn’t know what to do before this eerie sense of déjà vu overwhelmed him, before the little weasel of fury that lived inside him burst through, and at last, at long last, he murdered someone.

In this case, two someones.

If he wasn’t such a tight-ass inside, which few people knew, he’d go for it.

He could see the headlines now. Action Screenwriter Commits Double Homicide. Two-time Oscar Winner Two-Timed. Sheds Film for Reality: Kills Friend and Lover. Florida Beauty Brutally Slain. Then there’d be all those articles underneath about Johnny’s ruined career. With about three thousand mentions of dead movie hero Wade Blessing. Great post-mortem PR.

How long would instant gratification last then before guilt and sorrow and a dozen other unwelcome emotions strafed Johnny like automatic gunfire in one of Wade’s, and his own, Razor Slade movies?

Thank God he hadn’t married her.

Despite his legendary libido—and if that was half true, he’d be dead himself by now—he wasn’t setting any record for relationships.

Which he didn’t want anyway. Loser.

The word battered the inside of his skull where he felt the beginnings of a vicious cluster headache. His left eyelid twitched even harder.

Before he could get it under control, Kit appeared in the kitchen doorway, looking uncertain and sleepy, no, make that thoroughly satisfied. She was wearing the new bikini Johnny had given her for her birthday. Both pieces. “Hey, Johnny. I thought you weren’t coming home until tomorrow.”

Johnny stared back. “Guess you did.”

He decided he was in the middle of some bizarre made-for-television movie on Lifetime. Nine to eleven p.m. Lead roles reversed. At twenty minutes before the credits rolled, like some heroine-in-jeopardy he would take charge of his life again. Instead of the wronged wife with a cheating spouse, he was now playing the jackass boyfriend of a woman on the make. “You and Wade have a good time tonight?”

She smiled, tentatively. “Sure. We always do.”

Johnny bolted the rest of his Scotch. What is wrong with this script?

His head throbbed. Then Wade came in, behind Kit, putting one meaty hand on her bare shoulder, and Johnny blinked. Right into Wade’s dark eyes. Should he kill them after all? Feed their bodies to the wood chipper—if he had one—then scatter the pieces, little bone fragments and all, even teeth, in the yard beyond the pool? No, too grisly. Go for a different scenario instead. Plan B. He could drive to Panama City where he and Kit had screwed their brains out on their first weekend together and dump their bodies into the ocean to feed the gulls.

Or, a third plot option, he could take the more temperate approach. His usual.

Wade, how’s it going? But the words refused to come out.

“You okay, Jack?” Wade said, daring to use his nickname for Johnny.

He felt a weird buzzing in his brain and the edges of his vision blurred.

“Fine,” he said. “No problem.”

“You got three steaks in the fridge, baby?” Wade asked Kit as if nothing in their three-way friendship had changed. “Think I’ll stay for dinner.”

Johnny grunted. “You stay for dinner, and you will be the steak.”

He had spoken under his breath—what else?

Wade grinned. “Great dialogue, man.”

“He’s kidding,” Kit murmured but the look she gave Johnny was puzzled. Big blue eyes full of innocence. “Let me get the meat.”

Wade headed toward the patio again. “I’ll fire up the grill. Kitten, wrap some baking potatoes in foil while you’re at it. Maybe fix some salad while I do my manly thing with the meat. Must be some decent wine around here too.” Sure, take over my woman, my food, my house. Good old Johnny. Except the house was really hers. “I sent Jack here a case of Napa Valley’s finest for Christmas, remember?”

“Yep. You’re right. I am Jack.”

Jack Shit. Johnny set his empty Scotch glass down on the counter. “Tell you what. Make that two steaks, okay?” Taking his pounding head with him, scooping up his bag on the way, he headed for the master bedroom suite.

With slow, deliberate motions—no need to hurry, he tried to tell himself—he opened drawers, pulled out clean underwear, dropped it in his bag without unpacking first. He slipped shirts from their hangers and slacks off the rack in the dressing room. Dumped them in, too.

He winced at the mess but he knew time was actually running out.

He’d never been good at emotional confrontation. Didn’t want to start now.

His left eye was jerking madly. If he dared to let the weasel out of his inner closet, there’d be no containing the havoc he could wreak. No calling it back. With all those garish fantasies in mind, he didn’t trust himself to stay.

Kit wandered into the bedroom, still wide-eyed. “Johnny, what’s going on?”

“Good question.”

“Wade and I were just hanging out. I didn’t think you’d—”

“Mind?” he finished for her. She’d already commented on his early return from LA so that wasn’t what she meant. And after all, this wasn’t California, Land of Weirdos. And Even Weirder Domestic Arrangements. One big reason he’d settled in Florida.

“Clearly I’m in the way here,” he said.


His tone stayed mild. “You wanna tell me where Tyler is right now?”

“Spending the night with Savannah. Why?”

Johnny groaned inwardly. Savannah Pride. His long-time nemesis.

“Convenient,” he said. “You can always count on her.”

Johnny zipped his bag shut and started for the door.

“Where are you going, baby?” Kit asked.

Out in the hallway he froze. She’d used Wade’s endearment for her, like another reminder that their relationship—if it had ever really deserved to be called that—was now toast, but he kept his voice cool and even, one finger pressed to the spasm in his twitching eyelid.


“You’re not—”

“Upset? No way.” What, me worry? He was the king of the short-term hookup. His best—if mostly fictional—defense.

Johnny carried his bag to the front door. He didn’t look back. He could hear Wade out on the patio, smell the burning meat from the gas barbeque. If the guy—his best friend—even turned around, much less spoke to him again, Johnny wouldn’t be responsible for his actions. He envisioned Wade with grill marks on his face.

Kit touched his arm. “Johnny, wait. Let’s talk.”

He glanced at her bikini. “Not your strongest suit.” And he kept going.

“Oh. Oh,” she repeated, which was a bad habit of hers. Kit clattered after him on her kitten-heeled sandals. “I know how it looked but it’s not what you think…” On the porch she shut the door after them. “Johnny, don’t leave.” He kept on walking to his car and with every step her voice grew louder, more desperate. “If you do, you’ll be sorry!”

“Believe me. I already am.”

Slinging his bag into the Ferrari—the one he would soon no longer be able to afford since he’d never work with Wade again—Johnny got in and revved the powerful engine. Overlooking any thought of the Razor Slade script he owed the studio on his contract, he peeled backward out of the drive.

Good riddance, he tried to think. His old catch phrase.

Bad boy, bad boy…

He would never tell anyone, but he hadn’t felt this gutted in years, this totally humiliated. Not since Savannah Pride.