*Another unused chapter from my first book. Changed some names so it could stand on it’s own. Hope you like it. Let’s meet Liz and Mark*
*unedited and subject to change.*
The early spring sun was already a quarter of the way up the baby blue sky by the time I pulled up to the courthouse. I parked my silver Honda Civic and darted toward the stairs. I was barely in time for the press conference, a crowd already gathered at the steps. I scanned the faces quickly to see if I could spot my new partner in crime, but didn’t see Mark anywhere. Why was I even looking for him? He should be looking for me. He can’t be here on time, I don’t need him.
“Please, one at a time,” the District Attorney asked of the crowd. They had started spewing questions at him the moment he walked up to the microphone on the podium. My arm shot into the air. “You in the blue shirt.”
“Damn,” I whispered cursing my shorter stature to the men and women I was surrounded by.
I looked around for a way to make myself easier to be seen. I hadn’t seen this many people gathered together in this tiny town since I’d lived here.
“When you say the defendant has ‘conditions’ to his terms, what exactly do you mean?”
The question came from across the crowd. His question unnerved me and a sick feeling swelled in my stomach. There couldn’t be any ‘conditions’ to his terms. It was pretty straight forward they’d gotten the right guy and that he had been the one who had pulled the trigger. The evidence all pointed to him.
“There was a plea bargain made on Friday night.”
The DA’s short and simple answer made me feel as if there was more to this. He made it sound as if it was no big deal this guy would be free and my heart started racing.
“Rockies ball cap, go.”
I had to find a way to make myself more noticeable.
“Thank you, sir.”
Another male voice. Really? Was he ignoring me on purpose? Just because I’d been in his office at least once a week trying to get updates on the trial, he was going to just pretend I wasn’t here?
“Can you elaborate on what kind of deal was made? Is Williams still going to jail?”
Finally, someone asking a relevant question. I found myself a low wall surrounding a planter housing a stubby elm of some kind. I jumped up, it making me a good six inches taller than everyone surrounding me. Satisfied with my height, I shot my hand into the air.
“Does that really help?”
The smooth, deep voice startled me and I wobbled a bit on the small brick planter turning to be nearly a head taller than my new ‘partner.’ I felt his hands brace me on my legs. My hands landed on his shoulders.
A wave of calm consumed me.
And confused the hell out of me.
I quickly removed my hands. Chafed at his impeccable timing of walking up at the worst moment the word “what” came sharply out of my mouth. His hands left my legs and he shrugged.
My head snapped between the podium and Mark causing me to teeter precariously toward him.
His hands flinched toward me.
“Standing up there,” he continued looking slightly worried.
I stabilized myself and he relaxed his arms back to his side before he continued, “Does it make them want to take your question when you annoyingly try and get their attention?”
My eyes met with his bright green ones. I froze unable to turn away. Dark hair was disheveled over his head making his eyes really pop today. He looked like he’d just climbed out of his bed and came straight here. Oh, dear lord. That thought. Those eyes, that hair, in bed. A strange fluttering bubbled in my stomach. My fingers twitched. I was fighting the urge they had to get tangled in his hair, to trace along the light, unshaved shadow that covered his chin and cheeks.
It tried swallowing it down. It was in no way what I thought I was feeling. I’d just heard some disturbing news, plus I’d had a light breakfast. It was simply hunger pains, that was all, plain and simple.
“The plea bargain offered allowed for us to get more information on an organization we’ve been going after for some time now. It allows for Mr. Williams to be free after serving six months IF he continues his service with us even after his release. If he breaks these terms, he will be taken back into custody and fulfill the full term of his sentence. Taking into account his time served he will be out by the next week’s end. I’ll take two more questions.”
“Shit!” I blurted waving my hand frantically in the air.
I was missing the whole press conference because of this guy who wouldn’t shut up. I threw my hand in the air noticing I was much taller than all the rest of the reporters around me now. I couldn’t help the smile I felt tugging my lips when I saw the DA looking my way.
“Yes, Ms. Cole,” I ignored the tone in which he said my name.
“What about all the evidence? The gun? The residue found on his hands and clothes? The fingerprints? The shell casings? Is that all just irrelevant now? And how are you so sure he will be brought back into custody if he breaks terms while free?”
“Ms. Cole, we are well aware of all that. It does not make that evidence irrelevant. Sometimes it’s about the greater good. I have no doubt that if Mr. Williams tries to break his terms with us that we’ll bring him back. Last question,” the DA turned from me and pointed to another bobbing hand.
“Wow, he just didn’t answer anything you asked, did he?” Mark not so subtly pointed out.
Jumping off the wall I glared at Mark for his comment and started to walk away.
“That’s bullshit,” I was fuming, how could the so called justice system just let this guy walk free?
“You don’t think it’s right they use this guy to get to some bigger bad guy?” Mark asked following me.
I stopped walking and spun around to him, suddenly livid at his question, “I don’t think it’s right that they let a guy go free who obviously had shot the gun that killed those men. I don’t think it’s right for their families to know that the man who took their Father, Husband, Son, Brother, away from them is now WORKING for the same government that their loved one gave their life for.”
I was pacing in front of Mark, one hand on my forehead, the other on my hip spewing my frustrations. They just couldn’t let this guy walk? Could they?
“Somebody has to do something,” I continued. “What is more important than getting this guy and making an example out of him? Wouldn’t that be enough to show all the other organized crime bosses that they can’t get away with thinking they are above the law?”
“I don’t think the crime bosses really care what you do with the guys that get caught. I think they just get someone to replace them and figure the one they lost was a casualty of their business,” Mark answered, his voice calm. “If Williams gets caught by whatever organization he worked for, they’ll kill him. He knows this. The law knows this. That’s why they aren’t afraid to send him out.”
I stopped my pacing and turned to face Mark. How could he be so damn calm about all this? Nothing about his expression told me he was mocking me, though. His hands were shoved into his pockets. His shoulders were relaxed. Nothing about the way he was looking at me said he was judging the way I felt. He was just stating a fact and I had nothing to say to argue his point.
“I know this great little café just down the street,” he offered out of the blue. “I think we should go grab a bite. Get some coffee?”
I looked at my wrist as if I had a watch on it and fumbled with what I wanted to do with my hands. Why did his offer make me suddenly nervous? I was searching for excuses in my head for why I couldn’t go to a simple meal with him. I suddenly lost track of my train of thought. I’d had something I was going to do but, looking into Mark’s eyes seemed to erase the world around me. This had never happened before.
“I, um, I have to really get going right now. Thanks for the invite, though.” Somehow I broke the spell he’d put me under. I turned to leave hoping I was faster than I thought he would be to respond.
My feet moved fast. One in front of the other, I felt I had the upper hand. Unfortunately for me, my hands decided to quit functioning. I fumbled with the key ring stupidly unable to figure out which key was the correct one to unlock my escape vehicle. The keys fell from my hands to the asphalt.
“You have something against lunch?”
His voice was close…very close. And it sent a shiver through me. It was suddenly harder to breathe. Some small part of me, as much as I tried to deny it, was relishing the close proximity I could feel he was in, which irritated me to no end. He reached down and picked up my fumbled keys.
“No, it’s just… I have a story I need to complete and I have some research to do and phone calls to make. I’m really busy for the rest of the day.”
“And you aren’t allowed a break to eat?”
He dropped the keys into my hand letting his fingers graze over my palm. My breath caught in my throat and my skin heated at the contact.
“I…I don’t know. I haven’t paid much attention to the rules. I just know I have things to do. If I don’t get this into them by morning they’ll have my ass. That I do know.”
I don’t know what possessed me to, but I paused and looked over at Mark. Maybe because my training had told me that the eyes don’t lie, and if I showed him with my eyes I said no, he’d drop the subject and know I meant it. Instead, when his green eyes locked onto mine I found myself unable to say no to him. The word wouldn’t even form in my head. Even though every ounce of my being told me to jump in that car and go home to finish up the story I’d started, make my phone calls to find out more details, I couldn’t. My stomach grumbled and I found myself nodding in agreement while walking beside Mark to the little café down the street he’d wanted me to go to.
I don’t know how I did it, but somehow I’d talked the most stuck up reporter in town who happened to be the apple of the eye of my new boss to check out the café I’d suggested. I don’t know why I even suggested it or pushed so hard. The invitation came out of my mouth before I could stop it. It had been a shot in the dark. I expected her to say no, especially with the way she’d been acting lately. I knew she wasn’t going to easily accept my offer.
How utterly surprised was I when I did talk her into it.
We sat in a booth across from each other. She fidgeted with her fingers interlacing together and rubbing them waiting intently for our food to arrive. She looked ready to spring from that seat and bolt out the door. So, I decided to break the ice.
“So, how long you lived here?” I asked.
She blinked in surprise, “What?”
“I asked how long have you lived here,” I said with a slight smile.
“Um, well, I guess my whole life,” she answered simply.
“Why are you still here? I mean, why haven’t you left for some place like beautiful sunny California or the hustle and bustle of New York instead of these snow-capped mountains? I can only imagine the opportunities for a reporter in locations like that,” I asked again.
I knew why I was stuck in this sleepy town. I was curious as to why anyone would choose to stay.
“What makes you think I haven’t wanted to leave?” she asked back. “Why are you here by choice? Wouldn’t you rather be in, well, any other city than this?”
I laughed, “You got me. Yeah, I suppose I’m here by choice. Maybe I like sleepy small towns.”
She smirked and looked down at the table playing with the straw in her water glass. I suddenly felt guilty for asking.
“I have my personal reasons,” she simply replied.
“Like what?” I asked.
“Like if I wanted you to know, I would have told you,” she said looking back to me.
“You have family in town?”
Her eyes looked down to her glass and she frowned, “Um, yeah, I do.”
There was a touchy subject I should probably avoid.
“Got a boyfriend?”
Her gaze shot back up, “What business of that is yours?”
“Sorry. Not looking to offend, I’m just trying to make conversation. Don’t worry, I won’t spill any secrets. Word gets out you’ve got a man tying you down you might lose your edge around here.”
Her brow furrowed and eyes narrowed. I winked at her. I must have hit a nerve.
“How dare you assume you know my reasons. Is that why you bought me this breakfast, lunch, whatever you want to call it, so you can find out my personal history. You really want to know more about me? Or did you just want to know if it’s worth it to get into my pants?”
“I just want it to be on record that you said it, not me. And no, it has nothing to do with getting into your pants. Although…”
“I knew it,” she exclaimed and stood from the table. “You’re no different from any of the others!”
I laughed, “Whoa, I was kidding. You are wound up too tight.”
“Just stay out of my way, Mr. Bishop and let me do my job. No need to get all touchy-feely with each other and swap stories. We both have jobs to do.”
She slammed her napkin to the table and stormed out.
©2014 Amanda Davis