It was late, and I was doing my little dance routine at the office after a particularly draining conference call with a counterpart in Shanghai. My main music man and I were letting our souls guide us as I was packing it up. The cleaners had just finished and even my best friend and coworker Lisa had left ages ago. Grabbing my phone, I sent off a text to let Dante, the other love of my life, know I was on my way home, and he could start dinner. Silencing the music, I grabbed my keys and slung my suit jacket and laptop bag over my shoulder.
Turning off the desk lamp, I decided to pick up a quick reference book from the firm law library to take home. Heading out of my office and down the hallway, I reached the end, entering my favorite room on the left just past Lisa’s office. The dim, partial fluorescent lighting from the hallway allowed me to find what I was looking for quickly without incurring the pain of the full lighting array. Shoving the book into my laptop bag, the heebie-jeebies ran up my spine.
Quietly, I moved away from the doorway and crouched low against the wall behind a large mahogany table and chairs to stay out of the eyeline. I saw feet pass, heading in the direction I had just come from. Considering the enormous pair I’d seen were wearing leather boots unlike anything Sue or Jessie wore to clean the office space, it clearly wasn’t either of them coming back. Picturing the men in the office who might be in this late also confirmed that black field boots would not be a part of their wardrobe.
Great, now dinner’s going to get cold. I breathed in and out a few times to clear away the annoyance before sending a text to Dante. One rat in office. Possibly more scurrying about. Bring rat poison ASAP. xoxo.
Looking around the room, I realized my weaponry choices were quite limited. Counting them and stopping when reaching six, I added the three in my bag and two in my hair, along with my advantage. The rat didn’t know I was aware he was sneaking about. Most likely, he thought, I had already left. However, if he’d been waiting for me to come out, it was highly likely that he knew I was in here somewhere and it was only a matter of time.
Our office was not huge by any stretch, just the fourth floor. I set my bag down and out of the way silently. I felt movement and shrank back in time to see a second set of feet go by in a fresh pair of boots. At least they had good taste as these were tan light assault boots, like a pair Dante had. Crap. I closed my eyes for a moment, thinking. Damn. All I want to do is go home and have dinner. Assholes were going to ruin my Friday night.
It had been a long Friday already without the inconvenience of two men obviously here for me. Sending another quick text to Dante, I let him know they’d doubled. I had a general idea of where they were and an idea where I might find additional, more effective weapons, which might be necessary given their choice of footwear. Assault boots certainly screamed professional to me and I should know based on recent experience. Picturing Lisa’s new assistant, I let my thoughts travel to the inordinate number of things she would have based on her general appearance. Her desk was also within sight of this doorway.
Using my phone’s camera to take a floor level picture of the hallway, I noted the coast was clear for the moment. Shoving my phone down the front of my shirt, followed by my family medallion, I was glad I had worn my six-inch heels today. Crouching, I peeked out again and checked before crossing to kneel behind Chloe’s desk, praying she kept a stash here as well as at home. Opening the drawer brightened my evening. Time to go find my new friends and show them how I play with others.
His partner had a quiet confidence. Stripes on his uniform showed he should be in charge, and I wondered why he was taking a back seat. The man was a tasty specimen with a face like a Roman god, high cheekbones, strong jawline, dark eyes, and a mouth made for kissing. Even the uniform couldn’t hide the fact that he had muscle definition to rival Michelangelo’s David. Then there was that thick, wavy, jet-black hair making my fingers itch. He was tall, but compared to my five feet three inches of willowy arms and legs, most were. Unlike him, I could easily disguise the fact that all of me was lean, defined muscle honed from hours of daily training. He was watching me intently, so I studied him openly, hoping he couldn’t tell what I was thinking. Being a master at hiding in plain sight, I could usually conceal my thoughts in an instant if I chose to.
Rookie cleared his throat, and I shifted my attention to him reluctantly, refraining from licking my lips, which showed considerable restraint on my part. I gave myself a mental shake from the distraction. “Ma’am, why don’t you take a seat so that we can discuss what happened here?” He waited as I continued to stand, expressionless. We regarded each other silently. Realizing I wasn’t giving in, Rookie glanced at Hottie, who merely watched the exchange. “Now, is the person who attacked you still in the house somewhere?”
I narrowed my eyes, jaw tightening automatically at his stupidity. It took all my willpower to keep a filter in place. I exhaled in a quiet hiss. What a dumbass… why would anyone stay in a house with their attacker? I refused to look at Hottie. Noting my silence, Rookie rushed on. “Did your husband surprise him when he came home, resulting in his injuries?” I stifled a laugh at the further ineptitude. My husband, was he for real?
Taking a mental step back, I contemplated how this must appear. Understanding why he would think I needed someone to defend my honor didn’t help. Still pissed off, I crossed my arms, left hand in front, no ring visible, and waited. Resting bitch face in place, it was a good bet my eyes were black with fury instead of their usual midnight blue at this point as well.
Hottie stared intently and noted the change. He caught it all, starting with my bare feet, their bright pink nails illuminating the fact that while I played hard, I was still a woman. I felt my girls stand at attention, grateful my arms covered them. What the hell. Our eyes met and while brain trust consulted his notebook, Hottie and I shared a moment. I wondered if he was aware of his gasoline effect on my internal fire or staring for the hell of it. The larger part of me prayed he didn’t know how my body was betraying me at such an inappropriate time. If we had met in a bar, maybe I would have tried to flirt. Scratch that as I didn’t frequent bars, and my flirting skills were beyond rusty from lack of use.
Pulse racing under his gaze, I saw the ‘a-ha’ moment, his eyes widening before shooting back down to glance at my hand. Narrowing, they moved again to my clothing and then shot back to Hairy. The entire recognition process took about five seconds. I watched the emotions play across his face, recognition and a hint of something, anger or frustration maybe, I wasn’t sure. Glad to know I wasn’t the only one who found the situation idiotic on the verge of absurd. With a glance at the ceiling, nostrils slightly flared, tightening of the mouth, and an impatient look at Rookie, Hottie clear his throat as our eyes locked again. We played chicken before he addressed his partner, his eyes never leaving mine. “Officer Ridgeway, have Roan and Marchesi cuff that guy.”
Something on my face must have changed as the sound of his voice rippled through my body like a shot of espresso and Baileys. It was intoxicating. His eyes crinkled slightly at the corners and I couldn’t look away. Rookie didn’t notice the tension crackling between Hottie and I, obviously unsure what was going on.
“My name is Sergeant Parisi. You’re the one who called us about the break-in and attempted assault?”
“Yes.” My voice held steady, albeit a little breathy, and I tempted fate some more. “My name is True McLaren, and I live here alone.” I broke away from Parisi and looked at Ridgeway’s reddened face. “The man being treated is the animal who tried to attack me.” It became clear the young officer understood and I could refrain from chalkboard diagrams. His face got to me, and my anger dissipated as quickly as it had come. I felt sorry for him since he was obviously inexperienced. “It was a simple mistake considering the sheep pajamas and my size.” I smiled, which made him blush deeper, and Parisi sent him off.
Ce jolted awake, pulse racing as she fought to separate reality from the darkness pulling at the edge of her conscience. Glancing at the clock, she noted the time. A thin sheen of sweat covered her body, and she blinked, pushing the images away as she worked to slow her breathing. Running her fingers along the skin of her taut abdomen, she still felt the knife, the pain of being eviscerated. “Dammit.” She hissed between clenched teeth. Jumping out of bed and rushing to the bathroom, she pushed her thick hair away from her face just before emptying her stomach.
When she finished retching, Ce brushed her teeth, observing her amber, bloodshot eyes, noting the now visible lines of tension. Finished, she pulled an herbal balm from the recessed cabinet and applied it to her temples and the pulse points of her wrists, hoping to keep the migraine at bay. She had no time for it now. Sighing, she headed to her office.
Pouring two fingers of bourbon, she sat down behind the mahogany desk and opened the worn leather-bound journal, recording the date and time of her waking before putting pen to paper with every detail she could remember. Done, she noted the current time and downed her drink before grabbing her cell phone. Fingers poised, she weighed the pros and cons of calling now rather than in the morning. Ce had felt the all-consuming pain of the blade as it had sliced her open. Shaking, she tapped the screen and opened favorites before selecting the first name on her list. Then she waited.
“Cerulean, are you okay?” His voice was alert, even at this ungodly hour.
“No, I’m not. This is bad.” Regarding her now empty glass, she contemplated a refill. “Terrible Benoit.” Hearing his quick intake of breath followed by a calming exhale, she waited, knowing he was composing himself before responding.
“Consider me gone.” He said before disconnecting.
Ce rushed, needing to grab a shower and dress within a brief window of time. Having been down this road before, she knew everything would move at supersonic speed once he arrived.