When he finally let me go, I grieved. Even though it had been my lips against his, when we’d parted, I was still left with that awful feeling.
“Damn it, Liis. I’m sorry,” he said, looking just as shocked as I was.
I was breathing slow but deep, still leaned in a bit.
“I know you don’t want a relationship,” he said, angry with himself. “But I’ll be goddamned if I can’t stay away from you.”
“I can relate,” I said, smoothing my hair away from my face. “Trent?” I asked, nodding to his cell phone.
He looked down and then back at me. “Yeah.”
“What did he say that upset you?”
Thomas hesitated, clearly not wanting to answer. “He was talking to me about Travis’s bachelor party.”
Thomas shifted nervously. “He, uh…has a deal with Camille.” He shook his head. “A while back, she agreed to marry him if he did something crazy and embarrassing. He’s going to do it at Trav’s party, and then he’s…” His eyes fell. He looked heartbroken. “He’s going to ask Camille to marry him.”
“The one you’re still in love with. And then you kiss me to stop thinking about it?”
“Yes,” he admitted. “I’m sorry. It was a shit thing to do.”
My first reaction was to be angry. But how could I be angry when kissing him was all I’d thought about since we met? And how could I be jealous? The woman he loved would very soon be engaged, and he’d practically just given his blessing. All of that logic did me no good. I was envious of a woman I’d never met and who would never be with Thomas. I couldn’t be mad at him, but I was furious with myself.
I pulled at the lever. “Squad Five is meeting at three.”
“Liis,” he called after me.
I walked away as fast as my heels would allow, all the way to the elevator.
The doors closed behind me, and I stood in silence as the numbers climbed. People got on and off—agents, assistants, city leaders—all speaking in hushed tones, if they spoke at all.
When the doors opened on the seventh floor, I stepped out and tried to hurry past Marks’s office. He was always early, and Val was usually in his office, chatting. I snuck by his open door, hearing Val’s voice, and quickly slipped through the security doors. I walked around the corner of the first cubicle, passed another two, and then ducked into my office, closing the door.
I sat in my throne and turned my back to the wall of windows, and I stared at my bookshelf and the view of the city below. I heard a knock but ignored it, and then someone put a file in the holder on my door, leaving me alone. I let the high back of the chair conceal me from the squad room, and I twisted the long black strands of my hair around my finger, thinking about the kiss, the night before, and every time I’d been alone with Thomas since I met him.
He was still in love with Camille. I didn’t understand, and worse, I wasn’t sure of my feelings either. I knew that I cared for him. If I were being honest, that was a gross understatement. The way my body responded to his presence was addictive and impossible to ignore. I wanted Thomas in a way that I’d never felt for Jackson.
Is it worth the mess it might make at work? Is it worth the mess he could make of me?
I pulled my hair out of my mouth after realizing I had been chewing on it. I hadn’t done that since I was a girl. Thomas was my neighbor and my boss. It was illogical and unreasonable to attempt to be anything more, and if I wanted to stay in control of the situation, I had to surrender to that fact.
I slowly turned around and sat up straight. The anguish in his eyes was unbearable. He was being pulled in two directions just like I was.
“It’s okay,” I said. “You’re not the one I’m mad at.”
He shut the door and walked over to one of the club chairs before sitting down. He leaned down, putting his elbows on the edge of my desk. “That was totally out of line. You didn’t deserve that.”
He stared at me, rattled by my answer. “You’re not a moment, Liis.”
“I have a set goal that I am determined to achieve. Any feelings I might have for you won’t get in the way of those goals. Sometimes, you make me forget, but I always come back to the original plan—a plan that doesn’t include a significant other.”
He let my words simmer for a bit. “Is that what happened with you and Jackson? He didn’t fit into your guidelines for the future?”
“You don’t talk about him much.” He sat back.
Shit. I didn’t want to get into this conversation with him.
“Not that it’s any of your business, but yes.”
“Exactly like that night at Cutter’s. So, I guess we’re even.”
Thomas’s mouth fell open, not even attempting to hide his wounded ego. “Wow. I guess so.”
“Thomas, you of all people should understand. You were faced with the same decision when you were with Camille. You chose the Bureau, didn’t you?”
“No,” he said, slighted. “I tried to hang on to both.”
I sat back and clasped my hands together. “And how did that work out for you?”
“I don’t like this side of you.”
“That’s unfortunate. From now on, this is the only side you’re going to get.” I stared him straight in the eyes, unwavering.
Thomas began to speak, but someone knocked on the door and pushed it open.
“Agent Lindy?” a smooth but high-toned voice came from the hall.
“Yes?” I said, recognizing Constance standing in the doorway.
Before I had the chance to wonder who on earth would be visiting, Jackson Schultz walked around Constance and stood in my doorway.
Jackson was in a French-blue button-down shirt and patterned tie. The only times I’d seen him look so well dressed was the night he proposed and at Agent Gregory’s funeral. The hue of his shirt set off his azure eyes. They used to be my favorite thing about him, but in that moment, I could only notice that they were as round as his face. Jackson had always been fit, but his smoothly shaved head made him appear more portly than he was.
The longer we had been together, the more his less appealing features and habits had grown noticeable—the way he’d suck food through his teeth after a meal; lean to the side when he passed gas, even in public; or not always wash his hands after he had been in the restroom for half an hour. Even the three deep wrinkles where his skull met his neck made me cringe.
“Jackson Schultz, Chicago SWAT. Who the hell are you?”