Authors: Allison Gatta
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Comedy
For Elsie—my sweetest and dearest friend and the best editor a girl could ever ask for
. Chirp. Chirp.
Jade Lockhart gripped the down pillow and shoved it over her ears. Stupid birds. Didn't they know she'd only just fallen asleep? All she needed was a few more precious moments of beauty rest and then—
She sat up in bed, holding her breath while she stared around for her cell phone.
"I should never fall asleep with that damned thing." She grumbled, then shook out the sheets and tossed all the pillows from the bed. The phone flopped onto the floor with a dull clunk and she snatched it up and pressed the power button.
"Shit," she hissed, then pulled on a pair of slacks that had been laying on top of her dresser from the laundry she still hadn't gotten around to putting away. After she shoved on a reasonably work-ready blouse from her closet, she sprinted down the hall, toward the kitchen and—
"Double shit." The neon green numbers on the oven flashed 8:00. She was late. Again.
"Okay, okay, okay," She scurried into the living room, grabbed her sidearm from the hook near the wall, and shoved her cell phone into her pocket. She'd just have to charge it when she got to the station. If she hurried, she'd still be on time to catch the meeting, and once she got there—
The damned speech was on her phone. The reason she'd been up half the night was lost in the ether of her notepad app and she was left with nothing. All those beautifully worded arguments. Poof. Gone.
She slipped on her shoes and pulled her blond hair into a messy knot on top of her head.
"How am I gonna fix this?" She glanced at her cat, Lisa, who rolled over as if to say: "not my problem."
"Very helpful. Right," Jade said, then dropped some cat food into Lisa's bowl before fumbling through her cluttered living room and out her front door.
"Keys," she reminded herself, then grabbed them from the table beside the door and headed out again.
"Okay. Okay. I can totally do this." She squinted in the early morning sunlight then slid into her not-so-glamorous, yet inconspicuous 2010 Camry. That was the one thing people never warned other people about being a detective—the chances of getting a car you'd actually be proud to drive were slim at best. She just counted herself lucky that her car had actually been manufactured within the last ten years.
"Maybe if I think really hard, I can remember what I was going to say," she said. "Okay. New Badges. I was going to say..."
She tried to recall the polite wording for the fact that the rainbow on their new Hawaii State Criminal Investigations Unit Badges looked, well, like a multicolored dildo. Of course, the two little clouds at the base did nothing to help that impression.
Honestly, didn't the police have enough problems without walking around sporting big old d—
"Hey!" She honked her horn as someone cut her off on the interstate into Honolulu. She should pull them over and show them just...
No, she didn't have time for that. She had to come up with a plan for what she was going to say. How she was going to say it. And, of course, how she was going to convince the unit supervisor that she was not, in fact, an hour late for work but rather fashionably tardy.
"Yep, that's gonna be an easy one." She shook her head. "Okay. The badge. I'll just walk in there and say 'ladies and gentlemen, I've put a great deal of thought into this case and I feel there are a number of pros and cons to this badge situation. While I understand we're all busy, we need to band together to rectify—"
But could she say
? Didn't that sound a little too much like “erection” given the circumstances?
"No, what about...When you get to the bones of it—"
Nope, that wouldn't work either. Maybe the best option was just to blow the thing up and outline the problem area. Like a little crime scene unto itself.
She pulled into the lot and parked, barely taking the time to lock her car before sprinting into the building and making for the elevator. When she got to the third floor, she summoned her courage, stepped out, and headed for the conference room. Through the slats on the wide, glass wall, she could already tell that Supervisor Sanders was detailing something or another, some other unfamiliar outline was standing beside him.
"Okay. Here goes nothing," she mumbled, and then she pushed the door open. "Supervisor, I'm so sorry I'm late, but I have a pressing matter to discuss that cannot—"
Her gaze fell on the man beside the already boiling supervisor, and she lost her ability to speak. And think. And possibly to breathe. He was here. Right here in her unit standing in front of all her coworkers. Staring back at her.
And why shouldn't he stare? She was probably gaping at him like he had three heads. That had always been the problem with him. She could never keep herself from falling apart whenever she took in his lean, toned muscles and his sleek chestnut hair. Like James Marsden and James Dean rolled into one.
"Detective Lockhart," The supervisor practically chewed on the word. "I was just thinking it was blissfully quiet in here. I should have known why."
She did her best to concentrate on the older man whose hair looked especially white now that his plump cheeks were growing redder with every second. Oops.
"Yep, I'm here." She let out a frail little laugh and someone at the conference table covered their face with one hand. Derrick. She could only see his thick, dark hair now. Well, that and the fact that he was shaking his head at her.
"Well, could your very pressing matter wait until after I've finished introducing Detective Flynn to our unit? Or is it really that urgent?" The old man's mouth pursed so hard she knew which answer he expected.
"Nope, I can, uh, wait. I guess." She chanced a glance at "Detective Flynn" then skirted around the table to drop into the empty seat beside Derrick. As soon as she sat, he scrawled a message on the legal pad in front of him
She pulled another pad toward her snatched a pen, then wrote back
Ha ha. What did I miss?
Nothing much. I may have pointed out that the new badge looks like a dick and balls.
Jade blinked. Of course he did.
"As I was saying," The supervisor pressed on with a very pointed glance at Jade. "We're pleased to welcome Zac Flynn to the department. He's an expert in mafia behavior and he's agreed to come on with us to help build our case against Paulo Scaglietti."
"Hey." Zac raised a hand and offered them all a dazzlingly white smile.
Jade crossed her legs, all too aware of the heat rushing to her cheeks. She still couldn't believe it. After all this time. Here he was. Right here. Ready to help with a case she was working on.
Need a tissue for your drool?
She glanced at Derrick's note and rolled her eyes.
Oh please. He's a coworker.
Derrick eyed her and gave a little shake of his head, but she ignored him. She was going to focus on Zac. Zac Flynn. Their new coworker and her high school crush.
Dreams really did come true.
, Detective Flynn. You can take a seat. Unfortunately, we're getting you started on the Scaglietti case even sooner than we'd anticipated. Last night, we apprehended a suspect whom we believe to be connected to Scaglietti. He was discovered not long after a robbery in a nearby restaurant. Flynn, while you're debriefing yourself on the case, I'll need Detective..." The old man scanned the table, pausing briefly on Derrick and Jade before moving along and saying, "Fitzsimmons to interview the perp. Archer, Lockhart—you two can interview the witnesses."
Derrick gritted his teeth. It was obvious by the other man's tone that this was bound to be some kind of punishment. Odds were that the witnesses were Looney Tunes themselves or otherwise impossible to work with. Whatever the case, he could be sure that his work would be cut out for him.
He grabbed his pen, about to write as much to Jade, when the new guy cleared his throat and started to speak.
"Excuse me, sir, but if we have this person apprehended, I should be able to review the file in time for an interview this afternoon. We don't need to bother Detective Fitzsimmons—"
Fitzsimmons, a balding red headed man, shot Flynn a nasty look that everyone at the table was apparently deciding to ignore, including the supervisor. The old man shook his head and said, "No, no. We've been working this case for months. We need you to study up, not rush it. With any luck, you'll have plenty more chances." He let out a rusty laugh and everyone offered their fakest half smiles in return.
Not Derrick, though. He was focused on Flynn. There was something about the guy that he couldn't place. Or maybe it was just that he'd never learned to trust a man who intentionally used hair gel. Before Jade came in, the supervisor had been praising all Flynn's military training and awards. Apparently he'd been a Navy man.
It figured, too. A guy like that
be in the Navy instead of the Army.
Oh well, just so long as he didn't intend on swapping war stories, Derrick could manage.
He flicked another sidelong glance at Jade. She was staring at Flynn, her blue eyes glazed over with something that looked dopey and strange on her square, serious face.
You know this guy or something?
He scrawled the message while the supervisor moved on to overviewing what each detective would be working on that day.
That was it? All she had to write?
No, the other new guy
She rolled her eyes.
We went to high school together.
High school. He always forgot Jade was from Hawaii. He always assumed that everyone around was an implant like him, using their military experience to get a leg up in their detective training. But no, she'd gone and done things the old fashioned way.
So this guy was from Hawaii, too?
She didn't bother to respond, and for the rest of the meeting he watched as her expression dipped in and out of dreaminess while she stared at Flynn. Or, more accurately, poorly concealed her efforts not to stare at Flynn. She was unusually, quiet, too. She didn't even mouth off when Fitzsimmons made a crack about female detectives.
He wanted to reach over and shake her, ask what was wrong with her. He'd never seen her this way before, and in the year they'd worked together that was really saying something.
When the meeting was over, the other detectives slowly filtered out of the room with the supervisor leading the charge, but Derrick hung back and grabbed a donut from the box on the counter, then poured himself a cup of coffee and stirred.
Eventually, there was nobody in the room but Flynn and Jade, the later of whom was scrawling absentmindedly on a notepad and trying her best to look important. She was failing.
Staying in the corner, he took a bite of his donut and pretended not to pay attention.
"Long time no see," Flynn said to her and she let out a little gasping sound.
"Oh my gosh, yeah, sorry, I was just—"
Derrick rolled his eyes. She couldn't do better than that?
"No, no problem. That was quite an entrance you made. I don't think Supervisor Sanders ever let you say what you came in here on fire about."
"Oh it was nothing. Just, you know, some...reforms. For a children's shelter. That...caught on fire."
Derrick nearly choked on his coffee.
"Wow, sounds important. I hope he lets you talk about it soon." Derrick chanced a glance behind him and caught Flynn beaming down on a clearly flustered Jade.
"Yeah, it's my passion. Helping the less fortunate." She bit her bottom lip.
"I remember," Flynn said.
"Oh, right, duh. You totally would."
An awkward silence fell between them, and then Flynn knocked his knuckles against the wooden conference table and said, "You know, I should probably start in on that case file. By the looks of it, this unit moves fast."
"Super fast. So fast you might not even notice how...fast it is." She finished lamely and Derrick closed his eyes, a coil of embarrassment slithering through his stomach on her behalf.
"Right, well, I hope we can catch up later." Flynn nodded, then headed out the beige office door.
Derrick waited until the other man as gone to turn and face his friend, but as soon as their eyes met she hissed the word, "Don't."
"Don't what?" Derrick had to restrain his laughter.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean. Or maybe you're just talking so fast I didn't even notice how fast you were going." He grinned, and she shuddered.
"Okay, that was bad."
"Very. Very bad." Derrick nodded.
"It's not my fault!" Jade hid her face in her hands, then glanced up at him between her fingers. "Did he say what time the witnesses are supposed to come in? Do I have enough time to drown myself in my shame?"
"I don't think there's enough time in the world for that one."
She made a sound that was something like a cross between a gurgle and a cat dying.
"Look at it this way," Derrick offered, "At least you'll have a whole bunch of time to get used to him being around. There's so many more occasions when you'll talk to him and—"
"Ugh, you are so not making this better."
"Oh, that was never my intention." Derrick raised his hands in mock innocence.
"Why are you the worst?"
"It's a gift." He shrugged. "Now come on, you should probably prep before the interview. When we're done, we'll have lunch and go over the notes. It'll be fun."
"Like a root canal is fun," she groaned, then leaned back in her metal fold out chair until she was practically prostrate, her long gold hair swinging in the air behind her.
"Still more fun than that train wreck I just witnessed." He walked over to her and held out a hand. "Come on, work is calling."
She glanced at the hand, then allowed him to help her up. Walking over to the coffeemaker, she looked over her shoulder and said, "Did you really tell the supervisor that the new badge looks like a...you know what?"