Twice in a Lifetime

Twice in a Lifetime by Jodie Griffin
 
Author: 
eBook ISBN: 
978-1-62649-718-4
eBook release: 
Jan 22, 2018
eBook Formats: 
pdf, mobi, html, epub
Print ISBN: 
978-1-62649-719-1
Print release: 
Jan 22, 2018
Word count: 
~53,600
Page count: 
~202
Type: 
Cover by: 
 
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Print $16.99   $13.59 (20% off!)
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When widow Talia Wasserman applies for a job with the local police department, she’s shocked to discover she’ll be working for Lieutenant Eve Poe, an officer she’d met—and been attracted to—during a long-ago citizen’s police academy workshop. Fifteen years later, the spark is still there, and no one’s currently in Talia’s life or in her bed. But there’s just one teeny, tiny problem. Eve is her boss, so she’s completely off-limits.

Eve feels a sizzling connection with Talia from the very first, but Talia works for her, and that’s just a bad idea. Besides, Eve needs to focus on the person sending disturbing emails to her office, and not on the woman who quickly makes herself invaluable to the department. It’s too bad her heart doesn’t agree with her.

Then Eve is badly injured in the line of duty, and Talia’s worst fears are realized. She may lose her chance at happiness with the woman she’s come to love, and she can’t survive that kind of loss twice in a lifetime.

This title comes with no special warnings.

Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish.

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Chapter One

With a bounce in my step, I walked into the police station and stopped at the metal detector. I gave a half laugh as the officer at the door told me to put my things on the table. Poor planning on my part. I’d brought two tote bags full of stuff I wanted to put on my desk this first day of my brand-new job. Photos of my girls. A potted plant. A mug that said World’s Okayest Mom. He looked through the items and lifted the mug out. With a snort, he put it back in, then moved my bags to the far end of the table and waved me forward to the detector.

I stepped through . . . and set the damn buzzer off. I flinched.

He ran the wand over me, up and down my arms and legs, over my back and then my front. When he got to my waist, the thing beeped.

Oh, hell.

“Are you wearing a belt, ma’am?”

If only. “No. But I have a navel piercing with a metal charm on it.”

A low female voice came from the line forming behind the metal detector, and an unexpected shiver slid down my spine. “I can verify for you, Ramirez, if you’d like to get all these people moving along.”

“Thanks, Lieutenant.”

A middle-aged Black woman in a police uniform stepped into view, and my heart sank. My new boss, Lieutenant Eve Poe. Great. Just great. Way to make an impression.

“Good morning, Talia. Would you step over here, please?” She led me to a private corner facing away from the people coming into the lobby, which fronted the public entrance to both the police station and the courthouse. “Standard procedure.”

I must’ve turned purple, but after I looked over my shoulder to make sure no one was staring, I lifted the edge of my blouse and nudged down the waist of my trousers. “I meant to take it out before I came to work, but I forgot.”

My stomach fluttered when her deep-brown eyes lingered maybe a fraction of a second too long before she nodded. “Good enough. Usually piercings don’t set off the detectors. Not sure why this one did.”

“My lucky day?” I quipped, trying to cover my embarrassment—and my unsettled libido. I’d only met her twice before this, once during a Citizen’s Police Academy class I’d taken when my daughters were little, and once a few weeks ago during my interview for this community liaison job. Both times, I’d had the same instant reaction to the woman in front of me. A visceral attraction, simmering under the surface, an awareness I’d only ever had with one other person in my life. My late husband, Seth.

She grinned then, and it changed her angular brown face from average to heart-stoppingly gorgeous in a single beat. This was the smile I remembered from that long-ago class, one that had zinged me when I’d had no business being zinged. And it was a grin that had recently fueled some intense fantasies while I’d waited for my paperwork and background checks for this job to clear.

Focus, Talia.

She led me back to the officer manning the metal detector. “Talia Wasserman, this is Officer First Class Juan Ramirez. Juan, Talia’s the new civilian community liaison working in my office. She’ll get her credentials today.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Lieutenant Poe—Eve, I reminded myself—led us down the hallway to a small office at the end of the floor. She unlocked the door, and nudged it open with her hip. “I’m usually here earlier than this, but I had a personal issue to deal with. And I left my access pass at home, which is why I had to come in the public entrance.” She grimaced as though she’d tasted something sour, then shook her head and pointed to the desk that faced hers. “Anyway, make yourself at home. Supply cabinet is in the next office. I need about fifteen minutes to get my system up and running, and then we can get your laptop from IT and pick up your building ID. Once you have that, you can park out back with the rest of the employees and avoid the whole metal-detector thing.”

“Sounds good.” I moved around my new-to-me but probably forty-year-old desk and dropped into the chair, which creaked. Obviously the police department didn’t spend much money on office furniture. I had plenty of my own padding on my ass, but I was going to need a cushion or I’d wreck my back inside of a week. I pulled out my phone and jotted a reminder—because what brain?—and noticed I’d gotten two texts during my fifteen-minute commute this morning, one from each of my girls.

I glanced at my new boss before taking a minute to open the texts. I didn’t want it to look like I was goofing off first day on the job, but they were my babies.

I read Rissa’s text first. Have a good first day. Keep your eyes open for hot cops to date. For me, not for you. Okay, for you too. Love you, Mom.

My eyes flew to Eve. Did she count as hot? Well, for a woman who was probably close to my own fifty-two and was in incredible physical condition, yeah. She did. My stomach fluttered again, and I turned my attention back to my phone. Thanks, sweetie. Love you too. I’ll call you tonight.

Lila’s text was next. At her prodding this morning, I’d sent her a picture of what I was wearing to the office. *whistles* You’re one hot mama, Mama. I smiled and kept reading. You’ve got this. Love ya!

I texted her back. LOL! Love you too. You still coming over for dinner?

I was so lucky. My girls were one hundred percent awesome, and I was proud of the young women they’d become. Lila had decided college wasn’t for her and had instead gone to trade school to become an electrician, and Rissa was away at her second year of college studying engineering. There were times when they’d been teens that I’d understood why some species ate their young, but once they’d passed into adulthood, things had evened back out.

I set my phone down and looked up to see Eve watching me.

“Everything okay?”

“Texts from my daughters.” I smiled, then pulled out my favorite-ever mug and the plant Lila had given me from a cutting she’d made me from the one I’d given her for her apartment. Full circle, which amused me. “First-day-on-the-job good-luck wishes.”

“How old are they?” She leaned forward, tapped a few keys, and frowned, tapping a few more.

“Lila’s almost twenty-four and Rissa is twenty.”

“It’s nice they keep in touch.” She sounded almost wistful. “My son is twenty-five. He’s a Marine deployed to Iraq, so I don’t get to talk to him too often.”

“Oh, that’s hard.” My heart clenched. I couldn’t imagine fearing for my girls day in and day out. Not that I didn’t worry about them. I absolutely did. But not they’re in a war zone worry. That had to be a special hell for a parent.

It took a moment for her words to click in another way, and when they did, my heart stuttered. She was married? I glanced at her hands. No rings. I wanted to smack myself, though. It didn’t matter, because there were a few teeny tiny items I needed to remember.

First, she was my boss.

Second, I had no idea if she was interested in women.

And third, even if she was, I had exactly zero experience in being with another woman. Fantasized about it, felt the attraction and the sexual desire, but had never put any of that to the test.

I berated myself for thinking of this now. First day on a new job, remember?

I locked my libido away and spent the next fifteen minutes grabbing supplies from the cabinet—notepads, sticky notes, pens, a ruler—and organizing things on my desk. By the time I was done, so was Eve.

“Ready for a full tour?”

“I’d love one, thanks. And while I hate to sound like a typical addict, is there coffee?”

“There is, in the squad room and also in the lunch room. Sorry I didn’t think about it. I’m not a coffee drinker. I prefer tea.”

I eyed her suspiciously. “Really? I didn’t know people like you actually existed.”

She let out a full-bodied laugh that blasted my good intentions all to hell. “A snarky sense of humor. We’re going to get along just fine, Talia.”

As we left our office, she brushed against me. I swear I’m not a sex-crazed maniac, but the electric jolt I got from her innocent touch made me reconsider my opinion of myself. I cleared my throat and tried hard not to notice the amazing way her ass filled out the khaki uniform pants she wore.

We spent much of the morning hunched over Eve’s desk as she showed me the calendar she kept for community events. My mind was boggled by the sheer number of requests that came through the office, and I told her so.

“I can’t believe you’ve been managing this by yourself for so long,” I added.

She sighed, leaning back in her chair. “It hasn’t been all that long, though it feels like it. Your predecessor was the organizational genius on this team. When her husband retired, they decided to move to Florida. Can’t blame her, but she left a giant hole. I’m barely holding it together.” She sat back up, flashed teeth. “Not that I want to scare you away from the job or anything.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh, it takes a lot to scare me off.” The minute the words left my mouth, I mentally cringed. Stop it, Talia.

“Duly noted.” She grinned, then glanced at the clock. “Time for lunch.”

I startled. “Already? Wow, the morning went fast. An hour, right?”

She nodded. “How does Thai sound to you?”

I blinked. I’d brought yogurt and a piece of fruit, which would take me just a few minutes to eat. “I figured I’d eat at my desk and then go for a walk to get some fresh air and exercise.”

“I try to take my new people out for lunch their first day. It’s a chance to get to know each other a little better, away from the office.” She tilted her head, and gave me a puzzled look when I didn’t answer right away. “Unless you’d rather not?”

“No, I’d love to. Thank you.” When her confusion slid into a slow grin, I got yet another zing, this time low in my belly. Oh, hell, I was in so much trouble.

Do not, under any circumstances, flirt with your new boss, Talia. Do. Not.

We walked to the restaurant, which was only about two blocks away. People clearly knew Eve, liked her, and it was patently obvious how important community relations were to her. She smiled and chatted with shopkeepers and passersby and, at one point, crouched to show her badge to a fascinated preschooler. It took us a full fifteen minutes to get to the Thai place, but if we were late getting back, who would complain? She was the boss. Mine, anyway.

They took us to a table immediately, even though there were others waiting. I flicked a glance at the line, where several grumpy businessmen stood, frowning. She followed my gaze and grinned. “I promise we’re not getting special privileges. I called Friday and reserved a table. Dudes should’ve tried that and not assumed they’d get a seat right away, at noon on a workday.”

I agreed. We sat, and I picked up the menu, scanning the whole thing. I didn’t know too much about Thai food, but every single description sounded good. “Do you recommend anything special here?”

“It’s all good. Which is why I’m going to get the buffet.” She glanced down at her flat stomach and sighed. “Of course, at my age, that’ll require extra sit-ups tonight. My metabolism went haywire when I hit forty-five.”

I choked on a laugh. Nothing but the truth there. Once I hit my late forties, everything I looked at or smelled landed on my hips. Eve and I were close to the same height, but I probably had fifty pounds on her. I waved my hand in the general direction of my thicker-than-in-my-twenties waist. “You seem to be handling it much better than I am.”

“Have to, for the job. It’s easier because I’m always on the move. I spend half my workday out and about.” She paused, gave her head a little shake as though she’d changed her mind about what she was going to say. Then she spoke anyway, the words coming as a fast barrage. “If you’re interested, I run every morning before work and shower at the station. You can join me if you’d like.” She swore softly and pushed up from the table. “That . . . did not come out right. I just meant that if you’re interested in getting some exercise with me, I’m game.” Air hissed out from between her lips as she muttered something indecipherable under her breath.

Oh, good lord. Exercise? Shower? Now my mind was going places it really shouldn’t be going because hello, my boss for a job I both wanted and needed. I kept my tone light and shoved the inappropriate thoughts away. “I may take you up on that. I used to run, and I always felt better afterward.”

I followed her to the buffet. Since I didn’t know what anything was, she pointed out the different dishes to me. People gave her space—you know, woman with a badge and a gun—but crowded me as I tried to decide what to choose. The person behind me bumped into me twice, and then I felt a hand fondle my ass. I turned and sent him a withering glare. He was one of the men who’d been waiting for a table, and he now held an empty carryout box. He was close to my age, maybe mid-fifties, and I’d met so many men like him after Seth died.

Instead of looking ashamed, he gave me what he likely thought was a sexy grin, but it was wolfish and not at all welcome. If he assumed I was the kind of woman who’d take it quietly, or who’d fall at his feet for even being noticed at my age, he was sadly mistaken.

“If you touch my ass again, I’m going to knee you in the balls. I don’t care who you are, and I don’t care who sees it. Are we clear?”

Eve turned sharply at that and delivered a frosty, one hundred percent cop stare in his direction.

He almost tripped over himself apologizing. “It was an accident. My apologies, ma’am.” He didn’t look my way again as he filled his carryout box, and kept a good foot between us.

Eve and I went back to our table, where the waiter had filled our water glasses, and sat.

“Jesus, it’s no wonder I only date women.” Eve picked up her fork, stabbed at her food. “You okay? You handled that like a pro.”

I couldn’t help but laugh, even as my heart stuttered at her revelation about her sexuality. “I’m a little shaken, but it doesn’t trigger anything for me except contempt, if that’s what you mean. I’ve never been . . . I’m one of the lucky ones.”

“You are.” Her eyes clouded over, then cleared. “That’s one of the reasons I like being a cop and working in this department. Women should be able to feel safe wherever they are. They sure as hell shouldn’t get their asses grabbed—or worse—in a restaurant, or at school, or walking down the street. And kids—both girls and boys—need to learn that early on, so Community Relations is incredibly important.”

I started eating. The food was decadently good, and I let out a noise that was almost embarrassing. “Exactly. I worry about my girls more than I worry about myself, honestly. But since my husband died, you’d be surprised at how many men think I should be grateful for their attention, especially at my age.” I paused, fork to my mouth. “Or maybe you wouldn’t.”

A tiny smile quirked her full, lush lips. “You’re right, I wouldn’t.” Her smile faded. “I know this is going to sound weird, but we’ve met before, haven’t we? I feel like we have, only I’m drawing a blank at where.”

So much for my zing moment being something we’d shared. I’d put the Citizen’s Police Academy training on my application, but we hadn’t discussed it in detail during my interview. “We have. It’s been a while, though. I’m surprised you remember. I’m sure you meet a lot of people.”

Her grin flashed again, and damn it, it still affected me. “I do. Are you going to tell me when and where? Or do I have to guess?”

“I think you should guess.”

This time she laughed outright. “We really are going to get along great. Clue me in, Talia.”

I grinned back. “About fifteen years ago. You helped at the practical exercise day for the Citizen’s Police Academy class I took. You showed me how to fire a gun during our target practice. I kept missing the target completely and everyone in my group was laughing at me for being such a mess, so you got behind me and helped steady my stance.”

I had never forgotten the feel of her body against mine, the heat of her chest against my back, even though we’d both been wearing body armor that day. Her hands had been warm and capable and strong, and her minty breath had fanned across my cheek. I’d been incredibly, blissfully married to Seth, but she’d made me think things I’d had no business thinking as a married woman. She’d made me wonder, for the first time in a very long time, What if?

Her eyes widened, and she set down her fork and took a long swallow of her water. “Christ. I . . . Yeah. I remember now.” She blinked, picked up her fork again, and pointed it at me. “You did suck at that.”

I snorted. “Which is why you’re the cop, and I’m the civilian.”

“Good point.”

Between bites of food, we got to know each other. I told her becoming a widow at forty-eight had knocked me for a loop, and how excited I was about this job and the new chapter in my life now that my girls were out and on their own, though I was looking forward to having them both home for the holidays. She told me how she’d started out as a beat cop right out of college, how she worried about her only child being deployed in a war zone, and how she couldn’t wait to see him when he came home on leave at Thanksgiving. Conversation flowed as though we’d known each other for years, and the half hour passed quickly. Eve paid the tab, and we left, making our way back to the police station. When we got there, I took off my jacket and sat, but Eve stayed on her feet.

“I hate to do this to you on your first day, but I’ve got an unavoidable meeting from two until five. Can you answer the phones and take notes on what people are looking for? I’ll deal with it when I get back. I’d rather have them speak to someone than make them leave a voicemail. More personal, less bureaucratic. And check group email too. Respond if you can, and if you can’t, forward them to me.”

“Answer phones? Send email? No problem.” I smiled at her. “You’re the boss, so you tell me what to do, and I do it, whatever it is.”

It wasn’t until I caught her raised brow that I realized what I’d said, and heat rushed into my cheeks. But she let it slide, maybe because of her own unintended innuendo earlier. “Thanks, Talia. Don’t wait for me to get back, because it’s likely we’ll go past five.”

I nodded. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks for lunch.”

She picked up a thick folder from her desk and headed toward the door, then glanced back over her shoulder at me. “I’m glad to have you on board.”

 

Chapter Two

When I walked in the house after work, I found Lila sitting at the kitchen table, twisting paper napkins into confetti.

My motherly instincts went on red alert. “You’re here early, honey. Is everything okay?”

She wrinkled her nose—the one she’d gotten from Seth and shared with her sister and her cousins due to some seriously strong family genes—and stilled her hands. “Not really, no. I mean, nothing I haven’t heard a thousand times before, y’know? But I’m getting sick of it.”

“Let me guess. A customer wouldn’t let you touch his stuff because you’re a woman.” Lila had worked for Seth’s brother for almost three years now and loved being part of a family business with her cousins—and breaking down stereotypes of what women could do—but she rarely went a week without a homeowner questioning her abilities.

She wadded the shredded napkins into a ball. “Yep. And Uncle Noah had my back like he always does, but I hate that he has to do it. How long do I have to keep proving myself?” Before I could answer, she waved it away. “I know, I know. And I knew what I was getting into, but I like this work. I’m good at it too.” Her pretty blue eyes flashed and her chin went up. “I’m better at it than Jacob is. Even he says so.”

Jacob was her cousin, Noah’s son. He’d never shown interest in being an electrician, but he’d once told her that, as the oldest, he’d felt like he had to join the family business. He’d been a straight-A student who had an affinity for numbers and was better suited to run the business, not do the field work. The sooner Noah pulled his head out of his ass, the better off they’d all be. I nodded, then kept prodding. “So, what else is bugging you?”

More napkin shredding.

“I went to surprise Ryan today because the job site was close to his office, and he always goes out for lunch at noon. I pulled up just in time to . . .” She hunched her shoulders and her eyes filled. “To see him in a lip-lock with some other woman.”

If Ryan had been standing here with us, I would’ve given him hell for breaking my girl’s heart. “Oh, honey. I’m sorry.” I drew her to her feet and into a hug. “Did he see you?”

She squeezed me once, really hard, then let go and paced the room. Of my daughters, Lila was the one who was always on the move. “He did. He seemed surprised I was upset. I don’t even know what the hell he was thinking.” She snorted. “Or maybe I do. She was gorgeous, tall, and model-thin with tiny but perky boobs. Pretty much everything I’m not.”

My eldest child was barely five two and what Seth’s mother called zaftig. Her curves had curves, but she was beautiful—inside and out—and damn Ryan for making her feel bad about herself. “Perky boobs are overrated. They’ll sag eventually.”

Lila laughed, as I’d hoped, but she was obviously hurt by his infidelity. Who wouldn’t be? They’d only been dating a few months, but I knew she’d thought maybe he would be the one. “Anyway, I told him to come get his stuff this weekend. I already texted Yas and Tee to come over at the same time so I don’t do anything stupid like take him back.”

I hid a grin. The three were best friends and had been since middle school. In their teens, they’d protected each other from cruel classmates who’d taunted them for their otherness—Jewish girl, Muslim girl, gay Black girl. Many friends had come and gone, but Lila, Yasmin, and Tamara had stayed close, and I was grateful. “Good. But don’t let Yasmin near him. Didn’t she just get her third-degree black belt?”

“Yep.” She rubbed her eyes and squared her shoulders. “So, enough about that. Tell me about your new job. How’s your boss?”

I hugged her again, then nudged her to the fridge. “The job is good. Get some veggies out, would you? I’m making stir-fry with shrimp I picked up tonight.”

She whirled toward me and gaped. “Shrimp? Mom, no.”

I grinned. “Gotcha. I got chicken.” Seth and I had decided to raise our kids as practicing Jews, and that had included keeping a kosher house. He’d been more diligent about it than I was—he’d been raised that way, and I hadn’t—but I still tried my best, especially around the girls.

“That was just mean.”

I opened a cupboard and pulled out my wok. “I know.”

Lila giggled, and the sound warmed me. “Does your boss know you’re a smart-ass?”

I laughed. “Oh, she knows. I think she’s the same way, so it should be a fun place to work.”

Lila plopped half the contents of the vegetable bin on the counter. “Any hot cops out there? I mean, now that I’m single again?”

The only one I noticed was her. I wasn’t ready to say that to my kid, so I reached out and tugged her hair. “I’ll keep my eyes open. But I have to warn you, your sister asked first.”

“Hah. I talked to Rissa yesterday. Sounds like she’s digging her classes this semester. I was worried. She seemed stressed out about going back to school over the summer.”

Yeah, I’d been worried too. My youngest child was an overthinker, and she’d convinced herself she should stay home and take classes locally. I knew, though, that she’d always wanted to go to Seth’s alma mater, and when she’d gotten in, it had been a Really. Big. Deal. Once I got her to understand we wanted that for her too—both Lila and I—she’d gone back. And she was thriving. “That’s what she told me, especially the mechanical engineering one. And I’m glad you two talk.”

“Well, duh.” She lined all the veggies up in size order from baby carrots to zucchini, which amused me to no end. “We’re plotting against you.”

I snort-laughed. “Lovely.”

I studied my daughter’s too-pale face as she concentrated on chopping the vegetables, maybe with a little more force than was needed, but who was I to stop her from venting her frustrations? She still looked upset, but less so by the time she was done, and I hoped talking about normal things was helping ease the pain of betrayal. I still wanted to hurt Ryan, but if my daughter could deal, so could I.

“Tell me about work.”

So I did exactly that as I cooked, including the fact that I’d met Eve before, but excluding the fact that I’d been attracted to her. Though same-sex relationships weren’t any different than hetero relationships to my girls—we knew a lot of people on the LGBTQ rainbow—I wasn’t sure how they would deal with me being attracted to someone not their father, even after four years.

By the time I was finished talking, dinner was ready. After I said the blessing, we ate.

Lila took a bite of broccoli. “It sounds like a lot of fun. Will you get grief about not working on Shabbat?”

“I don’t think so. There may be weekend events, but right now it looks like I’ll take the ones on Sundays. But if I have to, I have to. I’m sure others have to work on days they’d normally be in church or have other obligations.”

“True.” She swiped a piece of chicken around her barely touched plate. “Mom? Why do they do shit like that?”

I knew what she meant immediately. “I don’t know why some do, but they don’t all. Dad didn’t. And the good ones will break up with you before they move on. Still painful, but at least they’re not being jerks about it.” I reached out and squeezed her hand. “But if he’s the cheating kind, better you know now than later.”

“Yeah.” She tore apart a dinner roll, sighed, then set it down. “Pretty sure I’m done with guys for a while. First Ben. Then Ryan.”

Ben was a kid she’d known since preschool at the synagogue, and they’d dated on and off through high school. They’d been prom dates, but I’d never seen them really click. “Oh, honey. The right guy is out there for you, somewhere, and there’s no hurry. I want you to have fun before you settle down, anyway. Travel, do what you want to do before the responsibility of kids and mortgages. Speaking of which, where are you and Tee and Yas going for vacation this year?”

She brightened slightly. “One of the Comic-Cons. We’re still trying to figure out which. Maybe San Diego. There’s a lot to do there outside the con too.”

I had to laugh. These girls—women, yes, but always girls to me since I’d known them forever—had been crazy over comic books and action movies based off of them for as long as I could remember. “Sounds like a great idea.”

Not long after we finished, she headed home because her work day started early. Mine would too, and I found myself looking forward to it, to being at work.

To seeing Eve.

While I loaded the dishwasher, I gave myself a stern talking-to about keeping things with Eve purely professional. When I was done with both the dishes and the lecture, I locked up and went upstairs. I’d taken the night off from the class that I taught at the synagogue, because I’d figured I’d be exhausted after my first day. It had been a good decision.

I stepped into my bedroom. This past spring, I’d decided it was time for me to move on, but I’d cried ugly tears as I’d covered over the blue walls Seth and I had painted together ten years earlier. The weekend we’d done it, the girls had been away on some scout trip, and we’d had the house to ourselves. We’d gotten so much paint on us that we’d shucked our clothes and had wound up making love on the drop cloth–covered carpet. I’d had a blue handprint on my ass that had lasted for weeks.

Painting the room had been painful but cathartic. The walls were now a light lavender, a color Seth had hated but I loved. I wouldn’t say the room was frilly, but I’d definitely added more feminine touches to it. I’d treated myself to new furniture too, moving our old things to the room that had been the girls’ playroom. It was a big space, nice for my parents to stay in when they came north from Florida to visit.

As always, when I dropped my jewelry onto the dresser, I touched Seth’s picture. I missed him every damn day, and probably always would, even if I found someone else. Twenty-three years was a lot of time together, and sometimes it was still hard to believe he was gone. He’d been my other half, and I’d been devastated by his death. But he was gone, and I wasn’t. I didn’t think he’d begrudge me finding someone to fill my days and nights, someone to share my thoughts and hopes and dreams with.

After a quick call with Rissa, who asked me if we could talk another night since she was studying for an exam, I got ready for bed, grabbed my Kindle, and settled in with my favorite mystery writer.

* * * * * * *

I woke just as the alarm went off, which was nothing short of a miracle. Usually it took me several smacks of the Snooze button to get my ass out of bed. Which explained why I had said ass, probably. When the girls had been little, I’d risen early and run with two of the other moms on the block while our husbands had gotten the kids ready for school, but it had been years since I’d run. Was I really considering starting again, running with Eve before work?

Maybe, but not today. I’d have to set my alarm even earlier than this, and I had to build up to that.

Since I had my credentials and could use the employee door now, I left my belly button ring in. Getting it had been one of those spur-of-the-moment things I’d done after Seth died, egged on by my girls after I’d admitted that I thought they were cool. It had hurt like a son of a bitch and taken forever to heal, but I loved it.

I showered, then dressed for work—khakis and scoop-neck thin sweater—and headed down to the kitchen. It only took me fifteen minutes to get to the police station, so I drank a cup of coffee before pouring myself a second in a travel mug.

When I got to the office, it was still early. I didn’t start until eight, and it wasn’t quite seven thirty. I noticed Eve’s computer was already on, and my pulse tripped.

We talked about this, remember? Boss. Off-limits.