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.”
“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.
“No, he called me Camille—as in, called me by her name by mistake.”
“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.”
“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.
“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.”
I didn’t turn. I didn’t need to. Sawyer was breathing in my ear in much less time than it should have taken him to walk to my chosen stool.
“They won’t take your money at the strip club?” I asked.
He grimaced. “You’re in a shitty mood. I know you’re not teacher’s pet anymore but no need to project your anger.”
I took a drink. “What do you know about being teacher’s pet? No one likes you.”
“I’m sorry. That was harsh. But in my defense, you would make at least one friend if you signed your damn papers.”
He blinked. “Wait—what are we talking about?”
“I know, but are you saying we’re not friends anymore?”
“We are not,” I said before taking another drink.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Liis. You spend one weekend with Maddox, and you’re drinking the Kool-Aid.” He shook his head and took a swig from the beer bottle Anthony had set down in front of him. “I’m disappointed.”
“Just sign the papers. How hard is that?”
“Really? I thought it would be easier for a cheater.”
“Her”—he gestured to his eyes and head—“thing was driving me nuts. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be with someone and not be allowed to have any secrets?”
“Then, why would you cheat on her? You were basically asking for a divorce, and now, you won’t give her one.”
He laughed once, chugged his beer, and then set it on the bar. “Because I thought she’d stay out of my head after that.”
“That,” I said, nodding to Anthony when he set down a fresh Manhattan, “makes you sound like an idiot.”
He fingered his bottle. “I was. I was an idiot. But she won’t let me fix it.”
I craned my neck at him. “You’re still in love with Val?”
He kept his eyes on his beer. “Who do you think gave her the bunny on her desk for her birthday? Damn sure wasn’t Marks.”
“Oh, shit,” Anthony said. “I had a bet going with Marks that you were gay.”
One side of Anthony’s mouth curved up. “I bet that he was straight.”
I cackled, and just as Anthony leaned over to speak, Thomas sat in the stool next to me.