- Beautiful Redemption
I yanked off my headphones. “What?” My mind raced with different awful scenarios, all leading back to Thomas’s family.
“You’re avoiding me, and Constance said you were on the phone with a car dealership when she walked by. What’s going on?”
“Uh…I need a car?”
“Why? I drive you to and from work.”
“I do go to other places besides work, Thomas.”
He walked to my desk and put his palms flat on the smooth wood, looking me in the eyes. “Be straight with me.”
“You said you were going to explain more about Camille. How about now?” I asked, crossing my arms.
He looked behind him. “What? Here?”
“The door is closed.”
Thomas sat in a chair. “I’m sorry I called you Camille. We were talking about her, tensions were high, and I could hear her and Trent laughing. It was an honest mistake.”
“You’re right, Jackson. I forgive you.”
Thomas’s cheeks flushed. “I feel terrible.”
“You’re not really done, Liis, not after one stupid mistake.”
“I don’t think we ever really got started, did we?”
“I have some pretty strong feelings here. I think you do, too. I know you don’t like to be out of your comfort zone, but this is just as frightening for me. I assure you.”
“I’m not afraid anymore. I took the leap. You just didn’t go with me.”
His expression changed. He was looking inside of me, into the depths I couldn’t hide. “You’re running. I scare the hell out of you.”
His jaw muscles danced under his skin. “I won’t chase you, Liis. If you don’t want me, I’ll let you walk.”
“Good,” I said with a relieved smile. “Saves us both a lot of time.”
He begged me with his eyes. “I didn’t say I wanted you to.”
“Thomas,” I said, leaning forward, “I’m busy. Please let me know if you have any questions about my FD-three-oh-two. I’ll leave it with Constance by end of day.”
He stared at me in disbelief and then stood, turning for the door. He twisted the knob but hesitated, looking over his shoulder. “You can still catch a ride with me to and from work until you figure out the car situation.”
“Thank you,” I said. “But I’ve got something worked out with Val.”
He shook his head and blinked, and then he opened the door before closing it behind him. He turned right instead of left toward his office, and I knew he was going to the fitness room.
In the time it took Thomas to clear the security doors, Val scurried into my office and sat down. “That looked ugly.”
I rolled my eyes. “It’s done.”
“We…kind of had a thing over the weekend. It’s over.”
“Already? He looks miserable. What did you do to him?”
“Why is it automatically my fault?” I snapped. When Val arched an eyebrow, I continued, “I agreed to try something similar to a relationship, and then he admitted to still being in love with Camille. Then, he called me Camille, so…” I played with the pencils in their holder, trying to keep from getting angry about it all over again.
“He called Camille?” she asked, confused.
“No, he called me Camille—as in, called me by her name by mistake.”
“In bed?” she shrieked.
“No,” I said, my face twisting into disgust. “On the beach. We were arguing. I’m still not sure about what.”
“Oh, this sounds promising. I guess we should have known two control freaks weren’t going to get along.”
“That’s what he said, too. Oh, by the way, you and I have a lunch date.”
“That’s what I told Thomas, so yes.”
“But I have plans with Marks.”
“Oh no, you owe me.”
“Fine,” she said, resting her elbow on my desk and then pointing at me. “But you’re going to give details about the whole weekend.”
“Sure. Right after you tell me all about your marriage.”
She rolled her eyes. “No!” she whined. “See? This is why I didn’t want you to know.”
“Realizing that not everyone wants to spill their every thought, feeling, and secret is a good lesson for you to learn. Glad I finally have some leverage.”
She glared at me. “You’re a bad friend. See you at lunch.”
I smiled at her, situating my headphones back onto my ears, and Val returned to her desk.
The rest of the day went on as usual as did the day after that.
Val would wait for me every morning, right outside the building. The better days were when I wouldn’t catch Thomas in the elevator. For the most part, he would be polite. He stopped coming to my office, instead directing me through emails from Constance.
We collected evidence against Grove, and in turn, used Tarou’s trust in him to gain intelligence. The answers hid within the small talk and smug comments between Grove and Tarou and his associates, like how gullible the Bureau was and how easy our system was to get around if one knew the right person.
Exactly two weeks after Thomas and I had given Polanski the disputably good news about Travis, I found myself in Cutter’s alone, bantering with Anthony.
“So, I told him, ‘Bitch, you don’t even know me,’” he said, cocking his head to one side.
I offered a weak clap and then held up my glass. “Well done.”
“Sorry that I got ratchet for a second, but that is what I told him.”
“I think you handled it well,” I said before taking another sip.
Anthony leaned over and jerked up his head once. “Why don’t you come in here with Maddox anymore? Why doesn’t Maddox come in here at all anymore?”
“Because the women of the world are systematically ruining his favorite places for him.”
“Oh, that’s lame. And they say I’m a drama queen.” His eyes widened for a beat.
“Who are they?”
“You know,” he said, dismissively waving his hand. “They.” He pointed at me. “You all need to fix it. It’s screwing with my tips.” He glanced up and then back down. “Uh-oh, Aqua Net, eleven o’clock.”