- Beautiful Redemption
Upon seeing the scuffed blue paint on my door, I wondered if the memories came as fast and as hard for him as they did for me.
“Liis…” He paused, seeming to choose his words carefully. He sighed. “I owe you an apology for the first night we met. If I had known…if I had done my job and thoroughly reviewed your file, neither of us would be in this position.”
“I’m a big girl, Maddox. I can shoulder the responsibility just as well as you can.”
“I didn’t give you the promotion because of that night.”
“I certainly hope not.”
“You know as well as I do that your report was exceptional, and you have a bigger set of balls than most of the men in our unit. No one has stood up to me the way you have. I need an agent like that as supervisor.”
“You questioned me in front of everyone just to see if I would stand up to you?” I asked, both incensed and dubious.
He thought about that, and then he put his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “Yeah.”
“You’re an asshole.”
My gaze involuntarily fell to his lips. I was lost for a moment in the memories and how amazing it’d felt when he held me. “Now that we’ve established that, I think we got off on the wrong foot. We don’t have to be enemies. We work together, and I think it’s in the best interest of the squad to be cordial.”
“I think, given our history, trying to be friends would be a particularly bad idea.”
“Not friends,” I said quickly. “A…mutual respect—as colleagues.”
“Colleagues,” he deadpanned.
“Professionals,” I said. “Don’t you agree?”
“Agent Lindy, I just wanted to clarify that what happened between us was a mistake, and although it was quite possibly one of the best nights I’ve had since being back in San Diego…we…we can’t make that mistake again.”
“I’m aware,” I said simply. I was trying very hard to ignore his remark about what a great night it was because it had been great, more than great, and I would never have it again.
“Thank you,” he said, relieved. “I wasn’t looking forward to this conversation.”
I looked everywhere but at Maddox and then pulled my keys from my purse. “Have a good night, sir.”
“Just…Maddox is fine when we’re not at the office. Or…Thom—Maddox is fine.”
“Good night,” I said, pushing the key into the knob and twisting it.
As I closed the door, I saw Maddox turn for the stairs with an angry expression.
My couch was being held hostage, surrounded by cardboard. The white walls with no drapes felt uncomfortably cold, even with the mild temperature outside. I went straight to the bedroom and fell onto my back, staring up at the ceiling.
The next day would be long, organizing my office and figuring out where we were on the Vegas case. I would have to develop my own system for tracking everyone’s progress, nailing down where they were in their current assignments and what they would be working on next. This was my first assignment as supervisor, and I was working under an ASAC who expected perfection.
In the corner, the ceiling had a small water stain, and I wondered if Maddox had once let his tub run over or if there was just a leak somewhere in the walls. A faint knock filtered through the drywall that separated our condos. He was up there, probably getting in the shower, which meant he was getting undressed.
I had known him as something other than my boss, and now, it was hard not to remember the intoxicating man I’d met at the bar, the man who belonged to the pair of lips I’d lamented before he’d even left my bed.
Anger and hate were the only ways I was going to get through my time in San Diego. I would have to learn to hate Thomas Maddox, and I had a feeling he wasn’t going to make that hard for me.
The shelves were empty but dust free. A space bigger than I could ever hope to fill, the office of the supervisor was everything I had strived for, and at the same time, the next step felt like just another broken rung on my climb up the Bureau’s ladder.
What might look to the average person like a mess of photos, maps, and Xerox copies was my way of keeping straight what agent was assigned to which task, which leads were promising, and which person of interest was more interesting than others. One name in particular caught my eye and came up over and over again—a washed-up poker legend by the name of Abernathy. His daughter, Abby, was also in a few black-and-white surveillance photos although I hadn’t gotten to the reports on her involvement yet.
Val came in and watched in awe as I tacked the final pin into the last frayed edge of red yarn. “Whoa, Liis. How long have you been at this?”
“All morning,” I said, admiring my masterpiece while climbing down off my chair. I put my hands on my hips and puffed. “Fantastic, isn’t it?”
Val took a deep breath, seeming overwhelmed.
Someone knocked on the door. I turned to see Agent Sawyer leaning against the doorway.
“Morning, Lindy. I had a few things I’d like to discuss with you, if you’re not busy.”
Sawyer didn’t look like the creep Val had made him out to be. His hair was freshly trimmed, long enough to run his fingers through but still professional. Maybe he used a bit too much hair spray, but the James Dean coif flattered him. His squared jaw and straight white teeth set off his bright blue eyes. He was kind of beautiful, but something behind his eyes was ugly.
Val made a face. “I’ll let the janitor know you have trash in your office,” she said, shouldering past him.
“I’m Agent Sawyer,” he said, taking the few steps to shake my hand. “I meant to introduce myself yesterday, but I got caught at the courthouse. Late day.”
I walked behind my desk and attempted to organize the stacks of papers and files. “I know. How can I help you, Sawyer?”
Sawyer sat in one of the twin tufted leather club chairs set in front of my large oak desk.
“Have a seat,” I said, making a show of gesturing toward the seat he’d sat in.
“I’d planned on it,” he said.
Slow and without looking away from the pair of ocean-blue eyes across from me, I lowered myself into my oversized office chair, the tall back making me feel like I was sitting in a throne—my throne, and this joker was trying to piss in my court. I stared him down like he was a mangy dog.