“In as many days,” Anthony added. He set a Manhattan on the napkin in front of me. “Are you going to speak to me this time?”
“You’re lucky I’m speaking to you now,” I said.
Anthony nodded, conceding, and then looked to Val. “If she’d ordered only one drink, I still would have remembered. Whose bar do you think this is?”
Val cocked an eyebrow. “This is not your bar, Anthony.”
“It’s my bar,” he said, sitting a short tumbler in front of her. “Do you see anyone else running this shit?” He motioned all around him. “Okay.”
Val chuckled, and Anthony took Marks’s order. I was used to more pleasantries, more courtesy. I liked the sharp wit and jagged edges of their banter—no hurt feelings, no seriousness. After a day at the office, it was refreshing.
The door chimed, and a quick glance turned into a long stare while Maddox made his way to the stool next to Marks. Maddox’s eyes caught mine for a fraction of a second, and then he greeted his friend. Before Maddox could settle into his seat and loosen his tie, Anthony had already set a beer bottle on the counter in front of him.
“I’m glad I never tried undercover work. I’m beginning to think my thoughts and feelings are surrounded by glass walls and subtitled just in case I’m not obvious enough.”
Val helped me to carry on a semi-normal conversation, but then Maddox ordered another drink.
I tried to remember if he’d had more than one drink the first time we met.
I gestured to Anthony for my check, and Marks leaned forward.
He seemed miffed by my silence. “You don’t talk now?”
“Just trying to help you stay out of trouble.” I signed the small strip of paper for Anthony, leaving behind a tip that covered all three nights, and then I slipped the strap of my purse over my arm.
The night air begged me to take a stroll in a different direction than my condo, but I rounded the corner and crossed the street, climbing the stoop of my building. Once inside, my heels clicked against the tile floor until I stopped in front of the elevator bay.
The entrance door opened and closed, and then Maddox slowed to a stop when he saw me.
I stared at him with a blank expression, and he looked around as if he were lost, or maybe he couldn’t believe he’d said something so stupid. We were on the ground floor.
The doors slid open with a cheerful chime, and I stepped inside. Maddox followed. I pressed the buttons for the fifth and sixth floors, unable to forget that Maddox lived directly above me.
I thought I caught his attempt to soften his gruff I’m-the-boss voice.
While the elevator climbed five floors, the tension swirled around my supervisor and me, increasing just like the illuminated numbers above the door.
Finally, as my floor came into view, I stepped out and let out the breath I’d been holding. I turned to nod to Maddox, and just before the doors slid closed, he stepped out.
As soon as his feet hit the fifth-floor carpet, he seemed to regret it.
“The next floor up. Yes,” he said. He looked over at my door and swallowed.
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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.