- Beautiful Redemption
Sawyer placed a file on my desk and opened it, pointing to a paragraph highlighted in bright orange. “I’ve previously brought this up before to Maddox, but now that we have a pair of fresh eyes—”
Maddox stomped into my office.
Sawyer stood up like he’d been shot at. “Morning, sir.”
Maddox simply nodded toward the door, and Sawyer scurried off without a word. Maddox slammed the door shut, and the glass wall shuddered, so I didn’t have to.
I leaned back into my throne and crossed my arms, both anticipating and hoping for a dick comment to come out of his perfect mouth.
“How do you like your office?” he asked.
“Your office,” he said, pacing and throwing his hand out at the empty shelves. “Is it to your satisfaction?”
Maddox’s eyes targeted me. “Is that a question?”
“No. The office is satisfactory, sir.”
“Good. If you need anything, let me know. And”—he pointed to the glass wall—“if that slimy piece of shit bothers you, you come directly to me, understand?”
“I am capable of handling Sawyer, sir.”
“The moment,” he seethed, “he makes a snide remark, questions your authority, or makes a pass at you, you come straight to my office.”
Makes a pass at me? Who does he think he’s fooling? “Why did you assign him to this case if you dislike him so much?”
“He’s good at what he does.”
“Yet you don’t listen to him.”
He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger, frustrated. “Just because I have to put up with his bullshit to use his talent doesn’t mean you have to.”
“Do I seem weak to you?”
His brows pulled in. “Pardon?”
“Are you trying to undermine me?” I sat up. “Is that what your game is? I’ve been trying to figure all of this out. I guess it would look much better to make me seem whiny and incompetent than for you to just run me out on the rails.”
“What? No,” he said, looking genuinely confused.
“I can handle Sawyer. I can handle my newly appointed position. I am capable of running this squad. Is there anything else, sir?”
Maddox realized his mouth was hanging open, and he snapped it shut. “That will be all, Agent Lindy.”
“Fantastic. I have work to do.”
Maddox opened the door, slipped both of his hands into his pants pockets, nodded, and then left, walking toward the security door. I looked up at the clock and knew exactly where he was headed.
Val scampered in, eyes wide. “Holy shit, what was that?”
“I have no idea, but I’m going to find out.”
“He was in a hurry to leave the pub last night. Did he walk you home?”
“No,” I said, standing up.
I ignored her. “I need to burn off some steam. Care to join me?”
“The fitness room during the ASAC’s time? Hell no. You shouldn’t push him, Liis. I get that you two have some weird competition going on, but he is famous for his temper.”
I picked up my gym bag off the floor and jerked it over my shoulder. “If he wants me to push back, I’ll push.”
“To where? Over the edge?”
I thought about that for a moment. “He just came in here all pissy about Sawyer.”
Val shrugged. “Sawyer is a jackass. He makes everyone pissy.”
“No, I got the distinct feeling Maddox was…I realize how this sounds, but he was behaving like a jealous ex-boyfriend. If that’s not it, then I think he gave me this promotion to make me look incompetent. It falls in line with what you’ve said about him before and what he did to me before I got the promotion.”
Val reached into her pocket and opened a small bag of pretzels. She held one to her mouth and chewed on it in small bites like a chipmunk. “I’m leaning more toward your theory that Maddox is jealous, but that’s impossible. First of all, he would never be jealous of Sawyer.” Her face twisted. “Second, he just isn’t wired that way anymore, not since that girl made him hate anything with a vagina.”
I wanted to remind her that he hadn’t slept with anyone before me either, but that would imply that I wanted him to be jealous, and I didn’t. “What makes you think it was her fault?” I asked.
That made her pause. “He was in love with that girl. Have you been in his office?”
I shook my head.
“Those empty shelves used to hold several frames with pictures of her. Everyone knew how much he struggled to do the job and love her the way he thought she deserved. Now, no one talks about it—not because he did something wrong, but because she broke his heart, and no one wants to make him more miserable than he already is.”
I ignored her. “I’m an intelligence analyst, Val. It’s in my nature to piece together bits of information and form a theory.”
Her nose wrinkled. “What does that have to do with anything? I’m trying to argue the point that he’s not jealous of Sawyer.”
“I never said he was.”
“But you want him to be.” Val was confident she was right. It was maddening.
“I want to know if I’m right about him. I want to know if he’s trying to sink me. I want to peel back that top layer and see what’s underneath.”
“Nothing you’ll like.”
“We’ll see,” I said, walking past her toward the door.
MADDOX STOPPED MIDWAY in an inverted sit-up and sighed. “You’re joking.”
“Nope,” I said, heading straight for the women’s locker room.
He let his back fall flat against the bench he was sitting on, his legs bent and his feet firmly planted on the floor. “Do you want us to hate each other?” he said, looking at the ceiling. “I’m getting the feeling that you do.”
“You’re not far off,” I said, pushing through the swinging door.
After removing my workout clothes from my small duffel bag, I shimmied my navy pencil skirt over my hips and unbuttoned my light-blue blouse, and then I switched out my C-cup for a sports bra. It was amazing how one piece of fabric could take me from modest curves to the build of a twelve-year-old boy.