SNEAK PEAK! Trixsters Anonymous is Coming!
“You fucking JERK! How could you do this to me?” Maren screams, the sound bouncing off her walls and ricocheting around the room.
“Baby, don’t be like that. She was nothing to me. It was a mishap,” Carlton, otherwise known as the douche-tool, limp-dick, ass-mongling, dickhead, pleads his case in his cocky, slimy, smarmy tone, making me want to scratch his eyes out.
I try to peek through the slats of Maren’s pantry door to see his face, but his back is facing me.
“Mishap! You call fucking your father’s secretary for the last few months a MISHAP?”
“Sweetie, it was a lapse in judgment. She kept coming after me and caught me when I was vulnerable. I regret it immensely. You know I love you. We’re getting married. Don’t let this ruin us. Think of all the wonderful memories we’ve built.”
I wait, barely able to make out Maren’s chest heaving as she takes a few deep breaths. She squeezes her fist tight and props it on her hip as a sign to me that she’s ready.
Here we go!
“Wonderful memories? You call years of being the town dumbass a wonderful memory? I didn’t want to believe it, but the signs were there, so I decided it was time to smarten up. You know what I discovered? I discovered that my loving and caring fiancé has the most generous dick in the city, spreading the joy around to anyone who would take it.”
His body stiffens, turning slightly so I can finally see his profile.
He’s dressed in his high dollar business suit, looking every bit the pretentious asshole he is. Cufflinks shine with his initials, as does a tie pin with a matching monogram. His uptight attitude starts to waver as he stares, eyes narrowed, at my best friend. It’s apparent when realization starts to sink in. He shifts uncomfortably, then steps closer, closing in on her. She shoots him an evil glare and side steps.
I lean in, holding my breath to watch the rest of the show unfold. So far, Maren has stuck to our plan, standing strong and not backing down. After Saturday’s discovery, she is ready to slay him.
“Oh, yeah, Carl. I know about them all.”
I fist pump in the air with a silent HELL YEAH at the use of the name Carl. He hates it worse than having mud on his precious Jaguar.
“Your daddy’s secretary isn’t the only one I know about. My Pilates instructor, your weekly masseuse, the pharmacist at CVS, the nurse who helps your grandma, and let’s not forget the young, starry-eyed server at your parents’ party last Saturday. Do you really think I didn’t see you disappear in Miss Ware’s bedroom with that girl? Poor woman has no idea that, while she was working her ass off to make sure your dad’s birthday was perfect, you were getting a blowjob in her room!!!”
I cringe at the memory of being stuck in the closet that night. I witnessed him flirting with her all evening and then quietly telling her to meet him in the housekeeper’s room after the champagne toast. I snuck in and waited, knowing Maren was already through with him, but this was an insurance policy. She would now have leverage if there were any backlash with his family and friends. I have to hand it to him—he’s sly, and there was no telling how he’d spin their breakup.
So, I was stuck in the closet snapping pictures as he convinced that girl to drop to her knees. The image replays in my head, and I fight back a gag. Watching Carlton in action as she tried to deep throat him was gross. He just doesn’t have the equipment.
“What the fuck?” he hisses, crossing his arms defensively. “You want to go there, Maren? I haven’t had a blowjob from you in forever. She was dying for it. As a matter of fact, you haven’t given me any kind of sex for months. This idea we needed to wait until we are married came out of left field. What’d you expect me to do when you cut me off cold turkey? I have needs, and you aren’t there to fulfill them, so take the hit. This is your fault.”
Wait for it… wait for it…
He’s so smug and proud of himself, he never sees her hand coming. The sound of the slap cuts through the air, and his head jerks to the side where I get a full-on view of his shock.
Satisfaction and pride surge through me as a wicked grin crosses her lips and her eyes start to gleam.
“I’m not taking the blame for this one. You want to know why I put a moratorium on our sex life? This is a big city, but a small town. Your little tryst with the secretary gave you syphilis. You may have wanted to be discreet, but I found the antibiotics in your car.”
He pales, understanding washing over his face. Tears start to prickle, and my throat tingles as I try to hold in my laugh.
“It didn’t take long for word to spread. Why do you think you’ve been cut off by everyone, except, of course, the one woman who already had a venereal disease?”
“Are you done? You’ve had your childish fit and made your point. The secretary is history. Say the word, and she’s gone.”
“Nope, I’m not even close to being done. By the time I get through with you, you’ll have to travel three counties to get laid, not to mention the wreckage in your path. What’s your mom going to do when I blow the lid off the biggest wedding of the year?”
He rubs his cheek where the red mark from her palm is still glowing, but instead of taking his lick, he decides to get cocky. “Maren, stop being so rebellious. I may have had some fun on the side, but even you aren’t going to let that stop you from marrying me. I’m the best thing that’s happened to you. What will you do without me?”
I was afraid of this. He’s a master at tearing down her self-confidence, but hopefully, my days of coaching her will pull through and she can remain strong.
“What I’ll do without you is exactly what I should have been doing all along. Exactly what I want. Being a socialite wasn’t my cup of tea; it was yours. Now, I’m free to be myself and not live under a cloud of judgment. As of this second, you are no longer in my life. Get out!”
She points toward the door, jerking her head as he stands there with a genuine look of surprise. My Maren is kicking his ass to the curb—with style.
“You’re going to regret this, Maren.” He steps closer, but she throws her hand in his face and motions toward the door again.
He stomps out, and we both remain quiet until her front door slams. I stay crouched until his car engine roars out of the parking lot and then tumble out, ready for her to rush to me.
Instead, she stands in place, staring at me with an unreadable expression. My stomach coils, wondering if she’s finally going to have the breakdown I’ve been expecting.
She doesn’t burst into tears. She breaks out dancing. Her arms fly in the air, and she twirls in place while screaming, “We did it! The douche-dick is history!”
I join in, breaking into song and dancing until we’re out of breath. I don’t question her sanity because this is the happiest I’ve seen her in the four years since she met that shithead and he tried to groom her for high society.
A sparkle on her finger flashes, and I catch her hand, eyeing this ostentatious ring she’s worn for eighteen months.
“You didn’t give it back,” I state.
“Nope, and I’m not going to. Carlton Breen owes me, and he’s given me the best going away present ever.” She giggles.
“He’s given me a down payment on our new business. This ring is going to ensure the start-up of the next step in our lives.”
I stop moving mid-hip swing and raise my eyebrows. “Mare, you’ve lost me.”
“Even though it sucked, this has been so much fun.”
“Well, maybe it wasn’t fun. It was invigorating, though, and we were good at it. I want to do it some more.”
“Still lost here. What’s going on in your head?”
“We’re starting a business. Something where we can help other unsuspecting women, and maybe men, find the truth.”
“You want us to be PIs? Don’t we need to have some sort of license?”
“Come on, Emi. If we put our heads and resources together, this could be a real business. We did great.”
“Carlton wasn’t exactly hard to catch. He was cheating on you right under your nose. We snuck around, followed him, and took some pictures. I’m not sure we’re actually qualified to do this as a business.”
“I think the opposite. It took me way too long to finally wake up. Thank God, I stopped having sex with him, but I still was an idiot. What if we can help others who suspect their significant others are cheating?”
“We’ll set out to destroy relationships? It sounds pretty horrible.”
“You can’t possibly understand because you aren’t in my shoes. But what’s horrible is being the laughing stock of the community when it comes out that Carlton has been cheating on me for months—the questions, the smirks, the sympathetic and questioning glares. It’s humiliating, so I see this from a different perspective. It’s saving someone’s pride and self-worth, and besides, if there’s nothing to discover, then it’s not destroying relationships.”
“Maren, are you sure you’re okay here? This is crazy. Maybe ending your relationship has made you delusional.”
“No, Emi, I’m of sound mind. When we suspected Carlton of cheating all those months ago, I was devastated, but after crying myself to sleep for a week, I got mad. The range of emotions has cycled its course. Now, I’m perfectly fine. Actually, I’m better than fine. I feel like I just shed two-hundred pounds of dead weight. Knowing he was a lying, cheating bastard and having to pretend things were okay was slowly killing me inside. Now, I can fly high.”
I scan her face for signs of hysteria or that she’s lost her mind, but she’s cool as a cucumber, staring back at me with sincerity and hope.
Ripples of excitement shoot through me. She’s right about a few things.
This was fun. If you don’t count the blowjob debacle, we really did well. We took our time, scouted our moves, and flawlessly found the evidence she needed to prove her fiancé was a lying sack of shit. We saved her a lifetime of being Maren Breen.
“Okay, I’ll call your bluff. We can try this, see what happens, but where do we even start?”
Her eyes start to gleam, and the smile returns. “We start with a name. I think Tricksters Anonymous has a nice ring to it.”
The name bounces around my head, and another jolt of excitement bubbles inside. “Tricksters Anonymous has a certain flair to it.”
No hesitation, no reservation, I know my answer. “Hell yes.”
My eyes scan the restaurant as I walk through the door. There’s a roar of laughter at the far end of the bar, and without seeing him, I know I’ve found Marcus.
Fucking great, he’s surrounded by a bunch of suits. I should have known that him choosing this place was a set-up. It was too coincidental that he’d select a place close to the station. He lured me with the promise of a few beers after a shitty day. Absentmindedly, I agreed, not checking the place out.
But now I see it, the swanky restaurant-bar combination. Perfect place for a bunch of lawyers to congregate and brag or sulk, depending on the situation. I’d prefer a hole in the wall with good food and cold beer. I consider ducking out and going to the local bar by my house, sending a text that I’ve been called back to work. Before I can bolt, Marcus stands and spots me.
He narrows his eyes suspiciously and bustles through his crowd, coming my way.
“Walker, timely as usual.” He claps his hand in mine and yanks me into a man hug unnecessarily. When his mouth is close to my ear, his jovial mood changes. “You even think about leaving now, I’ll shoot your ass on Saturday and leave you in the woods.”
He steps back, drops my hand, and raises an eyebrow.
“You couldn’t shoot my ass on your best day. Come up with something more believable. I see you’re sporting the suit today.”
“Court all day. Brutal couple. Reconfirms why both men and women should have a prenup and consider sterilization after they’ve finished having children.”
“You have no idea. This guy’s mistress showed up with their two-year-old, clearly pregnant with baby number two. My client had her three children present, and all of them were devastated.”
“Your client gonna get what she deserves?”
“Let’s just say this case is going to pay for our trip to Costa Rica this summer. I’m treating you to some fishing.”
“That’s something to look forward to.”
“Yeah, so, don’t try to leave me with these pompous idiots tonight or I’ll make good on shooting you.”
“If you know they’re idiots, why are we here?”
“It helps with morale around the office. A few drinks once in a while does a lot for camaraderie.” He gives me a grin before turning back to the bar.
Marcus has been my closest friend since seventh grade. We grew up in a small town outside of Charleston. We were known as the rebel rousers among our community, never expected to amount to anything. But we surprised the hell out of everyone. Two weeks after high school graduation, Marcus got in his old pickup truck and headed to Columbia to attend USC. I boarded a bus a few hours later, also headed for Columbia. My destination—United States Army Basic Combat Training. I’d never seen our parents so proud of us on that day.
Throughout the years, our lives took different paths, but we remained close. Marcus went on to graduate law school from USC at the top of his class. He had offers from the top law firms all over South Carolina but decided to come back to Charleston. I spent twelve years in the Army, finishing my career as a Military Police Officer. When I got out, the natural move was to come back to Charleston as well.
I spend my days as a detective in the Charleston Police Department, while Marcus finds himself in the pits of hell as a divorce and family lawyer.
We get together several times a month, and usually, I can avoid his coworkers. Tonight, I’m not so lucky. They’re not all bad guys, but sometimes, the bullshit is too thick even for me. There’s always one in the crowd who feels the need to boast the loudest with intentions of impressing everyone around him.
As we approach, I recognize many of the men and tip my head in greeting as I motion to the bartender. The perky blonde bounces to me with a smile, her eyes sizing me up before she leans over, resting her tits on the bar.
“What can I get ya?” she drawls out.
“Beer, Budweiser, cold.”
“Comin’ right up.” She makes a show of going to the beer cooler, popping the cap, and strutting the five feet back to me. “Anything else, handsome?”
“Start me a tab.” I lay a credit card on the bar and flash her a smile.
She takes it and winks at me before sashaying to her next customer. I turn back to the group of men and take a long slug, welcoming the cold beer as it slides down my throat.
God, how times have changed. Ten years ago, I’d say fuck these guys and focus on getting the hot little blonde under me by the end of the night.
Now, I rest my back to the bar and listen in as Marcus tells another obnoxious story about our last hunting trip. I have to laugh at his tale, knowing damn good and well he didn’t do half the shit he’s spewing. But watching him is entertaining. That’s where we are completely opposite. His style and charisma have always given him an upper hand in dealing with people, hence why he’s a great divorce lawyer. He can make even a desperate time in someone’s life seem like a positive beginning.
I, on the other hand, prefer the straight shooter method. The Army taught me a lot about myself. I’m methodical and precise, always deciphering the facts, and patience is not one of my strong points. That’s why it’s ironic I became a detective. Some of my cases take weeks and months to close, but somehow, I’ve found a balance.
By the time I’ve downed my second beer, I’m completely relaxed and actually enjoying myself.
“Walker Scott, right?” A guy comes to my side and waves to the bartender for another drink.
“John Fields, I’m a new colleague of Marcus’s. He mentioned you were joining us.”
I shake his hand and detect his northern accent immediately. “Nice to meet you. I take it you’re not from around here?”
“I’m a transplant, relocated here a month ago from New Jersey.”
“Long way from home, aren’t you?”
“Absolutely, and couldn’t be happier. My wife’s a southern girl, born and bred in Carolina. She’s been homesick for years. When the opportunity for a transfer came through, I took it. Best move I’ve ever made.”
Years of training embed into my soul, and I can typically tell a scum-sucking asshole from a mile away. This guy is anything but.
“Put his drink on my tab,” I tell the bartender, this time a guy, and raise my beer to John. “Welcome to Charleston.”
He clinks his glass to mine. “Thanks. So, Marcus says you’re a cop.”
“Cop, detective, part-time paper pusher. Basically, a hybrid.”
“Man of many hats, I like it.”
“You have no idea. But I’m not complaining. You specialize in divorce law, too?” I ask, sliding my eyes between John and Marcus.
“Hell no. Too much fucking drama for me. I’m a contracts lawyer. Sometimes, I cross over to help review, but it’s rare. I stay as far away from Family Law as possible. The firm did a large diversification recently, which opened a spot for a transfer.”
Marcus joins us, right as the sound of glass shatters behind me. The three of us turn to see a man pointing angrily at the blonde bartender from earlier. One hand is on her hip, the other pointed right back at the man. She’s speaking low, which seems to aggravate him more.
“Don’t give me that shit, Camille! Pour me another drink and keep your opinions to yourself. You have one damn job, do it!”
My skin prickles when he leans over the edge, reaching for the bottle of scotch. The other guy behind the bar is there in an instant, swiping the bottle and pushing the drunk man back in his seat.
“You’ll fucking regret that, barboy. I’ll have your job!”
“Fucking dick,” Marcus hisses under his breath. “Doesn’t know when to quit.”
“What’s his story?” I don’t take my eyes off him.
“Carlton Breen, spoiled little rich boy and town socialite. Thinks he can get away with anything. Word around town is that he believes he’s untouchable. He fucked around on his fiancée, and she gave him his walking papers a few weeks ago.”
“Good decision on her part. He looks like an asshole.”
“Yes, but breaking the engagement wasn’t the gossip. It was what came after.”
“What do you mean?”
Marcus opens his mouth to answer and his jaw drops. His eyes grow wide, staring over my shoulder. The entire bar quiets, and I turn to see two women walking in with all attention on them.
They stroll in casually, hugging the hostess with smiles on their faces. I focus on the taller of the two, whose mouth is moving fast as she waves her hands in the air. The three of them laugh loudly, the sound traveling through the bar.
My eyes stay on her as she follows the hostess, still smiling wide. Her hair is the color of honey, falling to the middle of her back in large curls that sway as she walks. The body-hugging blue pants mold to her body, plastered to the curves of her hips, thighs, and calves before disappearing into spike-heeled black boots. She twists, leaning into her friend to say something, bending slightly. The instant my eyes lock on her ass, there’s a stir in the pit of my stomach.
I’ve always been an ass man, and this woman has the most perfect ass I’ve ever seen. When the women disappear behind a wall, I have to consciously stop myself from leaning.
“Well, shit, things are about to get interesting,” Marcus mutters.
“What do you mean?” My attention is drawn back to him.
“That’s Emerson Baker and Maren Caine.”
“Maren is the ex-fiancée of Carlton Breen. You can bet that was an orchestrated play. Word has it, Carlton wasn’t keen on her dissolution of the engagement. His last words to her were something along the lines that she wasn’t shit without him. That right there, the grand entrance, was the purest form of revenge. She just sent a huge fuck you message, loud and clear.”
“Jesus, Marcus, when did you become such a gossip?”
“Don’t knock it. Every divorce lawyer in this town was drooling over these nuptials. No doubt, the marriage wouldn’t have lasted a year. Her ditching him was the biggest news of the community. Like I was saying before they walked in, his shit is now plastered all over town. Rumor is he can’t touch pussy even if he pays for it.”
“I’m new in town, and even I knew this was happening,” John adds with a laugh.
“Sorry, small town gossip isn’t my style.”
“Charleston is such a mecca for crime and illegal activity. I can see how your days are buried in investigative duties.” Marcus busts my balls sarcastically, joking with John.
“I’m pretty sure the three of us are going to get along great.” John seems to approve of our banter. “Next round on me.”
I glance at Carlton, who’s staring in the direction the women went. His face is a mix of anger and defeat. Then it hits me. “Which one was Maren?” I ask Marcus.
“The pretty blonde.”
That means Emerson was the bombshell with the perfect ass. I realize I didn’t even look at the blonde. My eyes never veered from Emerson.
“Be back.” I place my beer on the bar and go in the direction of the restrooms. When I’m out of Marcus’s view, I lean into a wall and look around for the two women. They are seated in a corner, glasses of wine in front of them, and Maren’s pointing at something on her phone screen.
Emerson starts to giggle, covering her mouth and glancing up to see if anyone’s watching. For a brief second, our eyes lock, and she gives me a small smile. My heartbeat picks up, her eyes shining the exact shade as her hair. The honey- brown glows brightly. The air around me stills as I get my first full look at her face. Too soon, she drops her attention back to Maren’s phone.
That feeling at the pit of my stomach stirs again, this time accompanied by a fiery hot sensation traveling through my veins. My body comes alive as I continue to stare at her from across the restaurant, soaking in everything I can.
Those eyes, that smile, and the musical sound of her laughter—she’s the whole package. Without a word spoken, she’s grabbed my attention and left me wanting more. I’ve never seen a woman quite like her. It’s not only her beauty but her radiance.
What the hell is wrong with me? As the thought passes through my mind, she peers up again, her gaze falling on me. Her cheeks turn pink, and she flashes another grin my way.
The waiter approaches them, breaking our eye contact, and the moment is lost.
I shake my head and force myself to walk away, the image of her smile burned into my brain.
I do one last review of the report and hit send, satisfied we’ve pretty much handed over another win for the State Attorney’s Office.
“Scott!” Captain yells from his office, heads jerking up around the room.
“He’s left for the weekend! Currently drinking a beer and preparing to shoot a ten-point tomorrow!” I shout back.
“Always a fucking comedian! Get your ass in my office before you hightail it out of here,” he grumbles.
I close down my computer and grab my things, planning to leave straight from his office. Nothing short of a national catastrophe is keeping me from the hunting camp this weekend.
I stroll into the Captain’s office without knocking and sit across from him, kicking my feet up on his desk. His face heats up as he narrows his eyes at me.
“You’re a cocky little bastard. Get your fucking feet off my desk.” He swats at my shoes, forcing them to fall.
“What’s on your mind?” I grin, enjoying his irritation.
“Anyone else would be on their ass right now. Show some respect.”
“Okay, Captain Corny, how can I help you?” I deepen my voice and mock his name. His real name is Cornelius, but I decided in my first week, that was way too long and shortened it to Corny. He hates it, I love it, so therefore, it sticks. No one else dares to use it to his face, but since I’m an ass, I use it every chance I get.
We have a love-hate relationship. He’s former Army MP, doing several tours in the Gulf War before retiring and joining the force.
There aren’t many people I respect more than him, and he knows it. That’s where the love comes in.
Me being a smartass sets him on edge. That’s where the hate comes in.
“Tell me again why I don’t fire your ass?”
“Because I’m your favorite, and as fun as this sparring sounds, Marcus will be at my place in forty-five minutes, so I’m on a time crunch.”
“Jesus, help me.” He looks to the ceiling in prayer.
“Got a call today from the Attorney General’s Office. Something’s going on that’s got the attention of SLED. As far as they can tell, it started as petty theft then moved on to boosting cars. Now, these cars are showing up all over the state. They may want to enlist our help.”
This gets my attention, and I sit up, leaning my elbows on my knees and waiting for him to continue. SLED is the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, similar to a state bureau of investigation. If they’re involved, it’s coming from the top.
“Told them you’re one of the best we have. One of the best I’ve ever seen.”
“Seems like a huge jump for SLED to get involved in auto theft. Do you know anything else?”
“Something is fishy. They’re putting a man on it and want us to watch for any unusual patterns or rise in theft in the area.”
“Do they think we’re amateurs? We’d do that anyway.”
“Told them the same thing. You’re taking over a special assignment. Any type of theft that comes through the station will be investigated by the unit assigned, but every report will pass your desk. I want you to review for similarities, repetitions, and anything that sticks out. You may be a grunt, but you’re a smart son of a bitch.”
I let out a short laugh and shake my head. “Not sure I’m interested in getting into bed with SLED.”
“No one’s getting in bed with anyone. You find something, come to me.”
“So, I’m going to be pushing paper for the foreseeable future?”
“Right now, everything remains the same and stays confidential. I’m not sure what we’re dealing with.”
“Basically, I’m looking for needles in haystacks?”
“I’ve got a call scheduled next week, hope to have more details then. This was a heads up. But, clear warning, if we come across something, we’ll be obligated to report it.”
I stand, my head swimming with this information. I’ve never been interested in working with SLED and purposely bypassed the application process when transitioning out of the Army. But I can’t deny a part of me is intrigued.
“Keep me updated,” I tell him, heading out.
“When are you going to invite me up to that hunting camp of yours? I understand there’s some decent deer running those woods.”
“Open invitation, old man. This is the last weekend of regulations, but the season opens back in eight months. The only requirement is you don’t shoot yourself or me. Marcus is fair game.”
His laughter roars until the door closes behind me. I smile to myself, not paying attention to anyone around as I make my way to the exit. The sound of an enraged shout stops me in my tracks.
My eyes sweep the bullpen and grow wide when they land on Emerson Baker, who is in the face of a uniformed officer, stabbing her finger in his chest as she rants.
I stare at the woman whose face has flashed through my mind more times than I can count the last few days. Today, she’s more casual in jeans and a white sweater. Her hair’s swept on top of her head in a high bun, exposing the creamy skin of her neck and chest. I take a second to appreciate the view, watching her face turn pink as she yells at Oliver.
“It was him! I know it. You need to get your butt to his office, arrest him, and tell that ass I’m pressing charges. He’s going to pay for this.”
“Em, that’s not how this works. You know that.”
“Ollie, if you don’t take care of this, I’m going to take it to your boss!”
Oliver’s face heats up at the nickname, and he twists around to see who heard. There are a few snickers, including my own.
Oliver is a beast of a man, towering over Emerson with at least eighty pounds on her. He demands respect when he walks into a room from his size alone. Any man with sense would be smart not to bait him. Obviously, she has no fear.
Similar to the other night at the bar, all eyes are on her and she’s oblivious to the attention.
I check my watch and see that I’m already late, but Marcus will have to wait. Without a second thought, my feet start moving, taking me to where they are standing. Her fingers are still jabbing his chest while she glares at him.
“What’s happening here?” I direct my question to Oliver first.
“What’s happening is that asshole keyed my car the other night. My beautiful baby. The shop says it’ll take three thousand dollars to do a full paint job, and I want to press charges.”
Three thousand dollars to fix a key job? Anger starts to simmer inside; someone’s taking advantage of her.
“I told you I’ll look into it when I have some time, Emerson. The law can’t walk in and accuse and arrest someone. Have some sense.” Oliver lowers her hand from his chest and holds it between them. It doesn’t go unnoticed to me that he doesn’t let go.
The anger stirring inside ricochets up a notch seeing him holding her hand. At the same time, the feeling from the other night rolls in my gut. I watch for any sign of affection, wondering if these two have something going on, but my question is answered when she yanks her hand from his and turns her full body toward me.
Her face is flushed, there are splotches on her neck, and the small vein on her forehead is popping out. The honey-brown glow from the other night has been replaced with a blazing inferno in her eyes. There’s a flash of something that crosses her face the second her eyes hit mine.
“Who are you?” My chest spasms at the small sound of her breath hitching.
“This is Walker Scott. He’s a detective on the force,” Oliver answers for me.
Irritation sparks, but I don’t break my stare. In a split second, her eyes go from heated to sparkling.
“Awesome!” She bounces, her lips splitting into a smile. “A detective! You can help me!”
“I can help you wha—”
“Em, he investigates crime, not petty vandalism,” Oliver interrupts again, and this time I slice my eyes to him, signaling I’m not happy about the double interruption.
“Petty vandalism? You wait until I tell your mama you aren’t taking me seriously. She’s going to be miffed, Ollie.”
“How many times do I have to tell you, my name is Oliver at the station,” he mutters.
She shoots him another nasty look and then turns her attention back to me. “Hi, I’m Emerson Baker, and I’m here to report a van-da-lism.” She emphasizes the word while extending her hand to mine.
When I grasp her hand, a small tingle travels up my arm. Our eyes drop to our joined hands, and I know she feels it, too. Neither of us lets go until Oliver clears his throat.
“Em, if you actually want to report this, let’s sit down, and you give me the details without screaming.” He tries to appease her.
“Humph! You won’t take me seriously.”
His head falls in frustration, and I decide to intervene. “I’m on my way out. Let’s take a look at your car, and you can explain what’s going on.”
“Thank you, Walker. Nice to know the law enforcement in this town takes its citizens seriously!” She smiles triumphantly and spins on her heel, but not before giving Oliver one last evil glare and storming away.
My eyes immediately go to her ass, appreciating the view of her swaying away in her jeans.
“I’ll handle this,” I tell him and follow, trying not to growl at his stare, which is also on her ass.
When I get outside, I find her standing beside a bright red Audi S5. Even from the distance, it’s obvious the sports car is scratched to hell.
She’s staring at her driver side door, where the word bitch is keyed perfectly all the way to the metal.
“Shit,” is all I can say.
“It’s like this all the way around. He was brutal.”
“You know who did this?”
“Carlton Breen. He blames me for his failed engagement.”
The asshole from the bar pops into my head. “Are you sure?”
“That’s a big accusation. Did you see him do it?”
“You’re not from around here, are you?”
“Grew up close but went away for a long time. Been back close to a year.”
“I’ll break it down for you. My best friend, Maren, was set to marry that fiddle-dick. She found out he was cheating on her forever, with people we knew. She broke it off. He blames me, saying I’m a bad influence and it was my fault. He can’t stand the fact he was caught.”
I cross my arms, curious how she fits into this. “Why would he blame you?”
“Because I’ve hated him since college and took every opportunity to try to open Maren’s eyes. She finally wised up on her own, but he can’t stomach the fact that she is better off without him. Hence, he’s punishing me.”
“Yeah, the other night, we went out to dinner, and he happened to be at the bar. He was drunk, and before the night was over, he came to our table and caused a scene. He was escorted out. When Maren and I got to my car, this is what we found.”
I walk around the entire vehicle, snapping a few pictures on my phone. Now, I understand why it’s going to take so much money. The whole car will need to be repainted.
“A few of those guys in the station went to school with me. Some of them like to refer to me as dramatic. I prefer passionate. This car is my baby, and everyone knows it. This is Carlton’s way of getting back at me.”
“Keying a car is mostly reserved for teenagers and juveniles.”
“Exactly! Carlton is juvenile!”
“Have you spoken to your insurance company?”
“Yes, that’s why I’m here today. Limp-dick needs to pay for this, or else, my premiums are going to skyrocket, and I may lose my insurance.”
It’s on the tip of my tongue to argue that insurance generally doesn’t drop you after one claim, but seeing her spirit, I assume this isn’t her first claim.
“Did you tell Oliver this?”
“He didn’t give me a chance. He tried to placate me the instant I mentioned Carlton.”
I stand beside her, crossing my arms, and survey the damage. If this was my car, and the situation was reversed, Carlton Breen would undoubtedly have his ass kicked.
“I’ll look into it.”
“Arggg! All of you are alike! You think I’m being overdramatic!” She throws her arms in the air, her voice escalating.
I bite my tongue to stop from grinning as her fiery spirit from earlier returns.
“No, Emerson.” I reach to clasp her wrist gently. She snaps her face to mine. “I’m not like anyone else. When I say I’ll do something, it’s my word, and I’m telling you, I’ll look into it.”
Her face softens. “Really?”
“Yes. I’m headed out of town for the weekend, but when I get back on Monday, I’ll make some calls.”
The air between us starts to buzz, and she nibbles on her lower lip, lowering her eyes to where I’m still holding her wrist.
“Can I give you my number so you can call me when you find something?”
Without answering, I hand her my phone. “Put it in.”
She tugs her hand free and does as I ask, a small smile forming on her lips. When she hands it back, she opens her door and slides inside. “Thank you, Detective Scott. I hope to hear from you.”
I step back, watching her back out and drive away. When she turns the corner, I look at my screen and see she’s entered her number and left me a message.
My friends call me Emi.
“Emi,” rolls off my tongue, and I tap my phone in my hand. I make a mental note to myself; I’m going to make it my business to find out more about Emerson Baker.
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