- Beautiful Redemption
She followed me to my office and sat in one of the twin chairs in front of my desk. She crossed her legs and arms and glared at me. “Spill it.”
“What are you talking about?” I said, kicking off my heels and placing them next to each other by the floor vent.
“Really?” She tucked her chin. “Don’t be that girl. Chicks before dicks.”
I sat down and laced my fingers together on top of my desk. “Just tell me what you want to know, Val. I have things to do. I think I just got Agent Grove fired—or arrested.”
“What?” Her eyebrows shot up for half a second, and then she was frowning again. “You might be an ace at diversion, but I know when someone’s not telling me something, and you, Liis, have a secret.”
I covered my eyes with my hand. “How can you tell? I’ve got to get better at this.”
“What do you mean, how can I tell? Do you know how many interrogations I’ve sat in on? I just know. I’d say I’m psychic, but that’s stupid, so I’ll just say, ‘Thank you, Dad, for being a cheating bastard and heightening my bullshit-o-meter.’”
I pulled my hand away and gave her a look.
“What? I tell the truth—unlike you, you…fake, foul friend.”
I wrinkled my nose. “That was harsh.”
“So is knowing that your friend doesn’t trust you.”
“It’s not that I don’t trust you, Val. It’s just none of your business.”
Val stood and walked around the club chair, placing her hands on the back. “Quite frankly, I’d rather you not trust me. And…you’re no longer invited to Fuzzy’s.”
“What?” I shrieked. “C’mon!”
“No. No Fuzzy’s for you. And they love me, Liis. Do you know what that means? No Fuzzy’s for lunch. No Fuzzy’s forever.” She emphasized every syllable of the last word. Then, she widened her eyes and turned on her heels before shutting the door behind her.
I crossed my arms and pouted.
Five seconds later, my landline rang, and I picked up the phone. “Lindy,” I snapped.
“Hurry up. I’m hungry.”
I smiled, grabbed my purse and shoes, and hurried to the hall.
“SO,” VAL SAID AS SHE CHEWED, wiping the mixture of mayo and mustard from the corner of her mouth, “you have a date with Maddox in three weeks. Is that what you’re telling me?”
I frowned. “No. It was what you pulled out of me.”
She smiled, pursing her lips to keep the large bite of BLT from tumbling out.
I rested my chin on my fist, pouting. “Why can’t you just leave things alone, Val? I need him to trust me.”
She swallowed. “How many times have I told you? There are no secrets in the Bureau. Maddox should have assumed that I’d find out eventually. He’s acutely aware of my talents.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Curb the jealousy, O.J. I mean that Maddox knows we’re friends, and he knows I can sniff out any secret better than a coon dog.”
“A coon dog? Who are you right now?”
“My grandparents live in Oklahoma. I used to visit every summer,” she said dismissively. “Listen, you’re doing a crackerjack job as supervisor. The S.A.C. clearly has an eye on you. You’re going to be at Quantico before you can say office affair.”
I nearly choked on my fry. “Val, you’re killing me.”
“He can’t keep his eyes off of you.”
I shook my head. “Stop.”
She teased me with a knowing look. “He smiles sometimes when you walk by. I don’t know. It’s kind of cute. I’ve never seen him like this.”
“So, what about Travis’s wedding?”
I shrugged. “We’re going to spend the night in Illinois, and then we’ll go to St. Thomas.”
Val’s grin was contagious.
I chuckled. “What? Knock it off, Val! It’s work.”
She threw a fry at me, and then she allowed me to finish my lunch in peace.
We left Fuzzy’s to head back to the office.
As we passed Marks’s office, he waved at Val. “Hey! Meet me at Cutter’s tonight,” he said.
“Tonight?” She shook her head. “No, I have to buy groceries.”
“Groceries?” he said, making a face. “You don’t cook.”
“Bread. Salt. Mustard. I have nothing,” she said.
“Meet me afterward. Maddox is coming.” His eyes floated to me for just a fraction of a second, long enough to make my cheeks flush pink.
I retreated to my office, not wanting to seem eager to hear of Thomas’s plans. Just as I sat in my throne and woke up my laptop, Sawyer knocked on the partially open door.
“Bad time?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, rolling the mouse. I clicked on the icon for my email and frowned as I read the numerous subject lines. “How in the hell does this happen? I’m gone for an hour, and I have thirty-two new messages.”
Sawyer shoved his hands into his pockets and leaned against the doorjamb. “We’re needy. There’s an email from me.”
“Do you want to go to Cutter’s tonight?”
“Is that the only bar in the neighborhood?”
He shrugged, walking toward my desk and falling into a chair. He leaned back, his knees spread and his fingers intertwined at his chest.
“This isn’t my living room, Agent.”
“Sorry, ma’am,” he said, sitting up. “Cutter’s is just where we go. It’s close for a lot of us who live in the area.”
“Why do so many of us live in that area?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Housing has a good relationship with the property owners. It’s fairly close to the office. It’s a nice neighborhood, and for Midtown, it’s pretty affordable.” He smiled. “There’s a little eatery in Mission Hills called Brooklyn Girl. It’s pretty fantastic. Want to go there?”
“Where is Mission Hills?”
“About ten minutes from your condo.”
I thought about it for a second. “Just food, right? It’s not a date.”
“God, no—not unless you want to buy me dinner.”