Thomas turned to me with the smallest hint of a smile. “Why do you think I brought you here?”
“Will you arrest him?” I asked. “What will you do?”
He shrugged. “I doubt we’ll keep using him as a translator.”
Thomas walked with me down the hall and out to the parking lot, tossing his coffee and opening an umbrella. “You should invest in one of these, Liis. It’s spring, you know.”
He hadn’t said my name as acerbically as before. He’d spoken it softly, his tongue caressing each letter, and I found myself glad that we had the excuse of the rain to keep close.
I dodged puddles, inwardly enjoying it when Thomas struggled to keep the umbrella over my head. Finally, he resorted to putting his free hand around my waist and squeezing me to his side. If we came upon a puddle, he could simply and effortlessly lift me over it.
“I have never liked the rain,” Thomas said as we stopped in front of the lobby doors while he shook off his umbrella. “But I might have changed my mind.”
I grinned up at him, trying my best not to make obvious the ridiculous giddiness I felt over his innocent flirtation.
Once inside the lobby of the main building, Thomas was back to his typical ASAC demeanor. “I’ll need a FD-three-oh-two on your findings by the end of the day. I’m going to need to report this to the S.A.C.”
“On it,” I said, turning for the elevator.
“Will you be working out today?”
I relished the flicker of disappointment in his eyes. “I’ll be there tomorrow.”
“Yeah, okay,” he said, trying to play off the small blow to his ego.
If he looked any unhappier, I wouldn’t be able to thwart the smile threatening to break out across my face.
Once inside the elevator, when the thrill wore off, I was thoroughly annoyed with myself. I’d essentially kicked him out of my bedroom the night we met because I was sure I would be too busy enjoying my freedom. Being with Jackson had been suffocating, and a transfer had seemed like the perfect solution.
Why in the hell do I feel this way about Thomas? Despite my feelings about starting a new relationship and considering his temper and emotional baggage, what is it about him that makes me lose my ability to reason?
Whatever it was, I needed to get a handle on it. We had to focus on getting through our assignment in St. Thomas, and something messy like feelings wouldn’t help anyone.
The elevator opened to reveal Val smiling brightly in the hallway. After taking in the sight of me, her good mood vanished. “Haven’t you heard of an umbrella, Liis? Jesus.”
I rolled my eyes. “You act as if I’m covered in dog shit. It’s rain.”
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.”
“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.”
“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.
Five seconds later, my landline rang, and I picked up the phone. “Lindy,” I snapped.
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.”
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.”
I shrugged. “We’re going to spend the night in Illinois, and then we’ll go to St. Thomas.”
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.”