The next morning, I was relieved not to see Thomas in the elevator.
As the weeks passed, it became less of a worry and more of a memory.
Thomas would make sure to arrive at work before me and to stay far later. The meetings were short and tense, and if we were given an assignment, Val, Sawyer, and I hated to come back to Constance empty-handed.
The rest of Squad Five kept their heads down, scowling at me when they thought I wouldn’t notice. The days were long. Just being in the squad room was stressful, and I had quickly become everyone’s least favorite supervisor in the building.
Eight straight days went by without any run-ins with Thomas at Cutter’s, and then another week passed.
Anthony had given me the number of a friend who knew someone who shipped vehicles, and once I’d called and mentioned Anthony’s name, the price dropped in half.
By May, my Camry had been delivered, and I was able to explore more of San Diego. Val and I went to the zoo, and I began systematically visiting all the beaches, always alone. It became sort of a thing.
It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the city, and I wondered if falling quick was going to start being a thing with me, too. That was squashed after several outings with Val as I began to understand that every interaction with a man just reminded me of how much I missed Thomas.
One hot, sticky Saturday night, I pulled into the Kansas City Barbeque parking lot and shoved my keys into my purse. Even in a sundress, I could feel the sweat dripping from under my breasts and down to my stomach. It was a heat only the ocean or a pool could alleviate.
My skin was slick, and my hair was pulled into a loose knot at the top of my head. The humidity reminded me of the island, and I needed to distract myself.
I pushed the door open and froze. The first thing in my line of sight was Thomas standing in front of the dartboard with a blonde, holding her in one arm as he tried to help her aim a dart with the other.
The moment we made eye contact, I turned on my heels and walked quickly to my car. Running was not conducive in wedges. Before I could even clear the front patio, someone rounded the corner, and I plowed into him, getting knocked off my footing.
Before I hit the ground, large hands swooped me up.
“What the hell is your hurry?” Marks said, releasing me once I’d found my balance.
“Sorry. I was just coming in here for a late dinner.”
“Oh,” he said with a knowing smile. “You saw Maddox in there.”
“I, uh…can find somewhere else to eat.”
“She doesn’t want to eat here since you’re here,” Marks yelled back, cupping my shoulder.
Everyone dining on the patio turned to look at me.
I pushed Marks’s hand away and lifted my chin. “Fuck off.”
Marks called after me, “You’ve been hanging out with Val too long!”
I didn’t turn around. Instead, I reached into my purse for my keys and pressed the keyless entry.
Before I could open the door, I felt hands on me again.
“Liis,” Thomas said, breathless from jogging across the parking lot.
I jerked my arm away and yanked the door open.
“She’s just a friend. She worked in Constance’s position for Polanski when he was the ASAC.”
I shook my head. “You don’t have to explain.”
He pushed his hands into his pocket. “Yeah, I do. You’re upset.”
“Not because I want to be.” I looked up at him. “I’ll figure it out. Until then, the avoidance thing is working for me.”
Thomas nodded once. “I’m sorry. Upsetting you is the last thing I want to do. You, um…you look gorgeous. Were you meeting someone?”
I made a face. “No, I’m not meeting someone. I’m not dating. I don’t date,” I snapped. “Not that I don’t expect you to,” I said, motioning to the restaurant.
I began to sit in the driver’s seat, but Thomas gently held my arm.
“We’re not dating,” he said. “I was just helping her with darts. Her boyfriend is in there.”
I glared at him, dubious. “Great. I have to go. I haven’t eaten.”
“Eat here,” he said. He offered a hopeful small smile. “I can teach you how to play, too.”
“I’d rather not be one of many. Thank you.”
“You’re not. You never have been.”
“No, just one of two.”
“Whether you believe it or not, Liis…you’ve been the only. There has never been anyone else but you.”
I sighed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up. I’ll see you at work on Monday. We have an early meeting.”
I slid into the driver’s seat and then stabbed the ignition with the key. The Camry made a dainty growl, and then I backed up and pulled away, leaving Thomas alone in the parking lot.
The first lit drive-through sign I saw, I pulled in and waited in line. Once I received my non-Fuzzy burger and small fries, I drove the rest of the way home.
My sack crinkled as I shut my car door, and then I walked to the lobby doors, feeling abysmal that my brilliant plan for distraction couldn’t have been more of a failure.
“Hey!” Val called from across the street.
I looked over at her, and she waved.
“You’re a hot bitch! Come to Cutter’s with me!”
“Gross!” she yelled. “Liquor will be more satisfying!”
I sighed and then glanced each way before crossing the street. Val hugged me, and then her smile faded when she noticed my expression.
“I went to KC Barbeque. Thomas was there with a very tall and pretty blonde.”
Val pursed her lips. “You’re way better than her. Everyone knows she’s a total skank.”
“Do you know her?” I asked. “She is Polanski’s assistant.”
“Oh,” Val said. “No, Allie is super sweet, but we’re going to pretend she’s a skank.”
“Allie?” I whined, puffing out a breath like the wind had been knocked out of me. The name sounded exactly like the perfect girl who Thomas could fall in love with. “Kill me now.”
She hooked her arm around me. “I’m packing heat. I can if you want.”
I leaned my head onto her shoulder. “You’re a good friend.”
“I know,” Val said, guiding me to Cutter’s.
I FORCED A SMILE FOR AGENT TREVINO while stopped at check-in, and then I steered my Camry toward the parking garage. I was already in a foul mood from the weekend, and the fact that it was Monday wasn’t helping matters.
Thomas was right. I did hate driving on the freeway, and that annoyed me as well. I found a parking space and pushed the gear forward into park. Then, I grabbed my purse and brown leather messenger bag. Shoving the door open, I stepped out to see Agent Grove struggling to get out of his blue sedan.
He simply nodded, and we headed for the elevator bay. I pressed the button, trying not to tip him off that I was nervous to have him standing behind me.