The Risk (Page 5)
This is the most human I’ve felt in so long. And it’s just a coffee drive-by on his way to work.
We both order, and the waitress walks away after giving him a quick once over and winking at me as though she approves. Not that I need her approval.
“So, what made you agree to meet me?” he asks, apparently skipping small talk. I guess that’s wise, since our time will be limited. Not to mention he interrogates for a living, so it’s only natural to start a date out that way with him.
I decide against telling him that he makes me feel like a woman instead of the monster I’ve had to become, since he’d sort of lock me up and throw away the key.
“What made you want to ask me out?” I ask him instead.
His grin spreads wider. “You’re deflecting, but I’ll bite. You’ve been in my head. Your turn,” he says, leaning up on the table with his elbows.
“You’ve been in my head too.”
“Ah, see, that’s cheating. You can’t just parrot my words to keep from disclosing too much. That’s a commonly used tool in a detached personality.”
“Stop profiling me,” I say with a teasing smile, but secretly hoping he really does stop.
What if he sees too much? What the hell am I thinking? This is the stupidest date I could possibly go on.
I finally meet a guy I want to see, perhaps even date, and it has to be the one guy who could see right through me?
He’s studying me too intensely, but I keep my smile in place, hoping it doesn’t seem strained.
“Occupational hazard. I can’t turn it off. I wish I could, but I can’t.”
He continues to await my reaction, and I try to think of how to properly react. How do normal women react? Do they gush and goo over his badge and skills? Do they get offended by his admission of constant profiling, feeling like he won’t let them have that privacy? I have no idea.
“How much has that affected your dating life?” I ask, deciding not to react at all and keep my expressions masked.
He groans while shaking his head and leaning back. “More than I care to admit. Women prefer to tell me how they feel, as opposed to me pointing it out. I’ve tried to stop, but can’t. Consider it a weird personality quirk. I was hopeful with you; you seem to do the same thing.”
His eyes find mine, and he really does seem hopeful. He’s right. I do the same thing. But for completely different reasons.
He serves justice the best he can.
I serve revenge in the way it needs to be.
“What’s your dating life like?” he asks, probing once again.
Like a cobweb with a bunch of dead bugs in it… Again, not the most appropriate answer.
As the waitress comes and drops off our small order, I try to think of the best answer, waiting until she leaves to respond.
“A little dry at the moment.”
“Ouch,” he says, but he grins.
“Well, not at this exact moment,” I say, feeling that stupid, uncontrollable smile spread again.
“So tell me about you.” He gestures toward me with one hand while using his other to bring the coffee to his lips.
“Twenty-six. New to the area. Constantly moving. And I have an odd fixation with socks. You?”
He frowns, as though something doesn’t sit well with him.
“You move a lot?” he asks, not answering my question.
We do that to each other, I guess. Avoid answering questions to ask our own.
“Yeah. I’ve lived in almost thirty states. Growing up was sort of boring. We lived in one town. It was small, and everyone knew everything about everyone. After my parents died, it just got worse. Anyway, I’ve moved all over, trying to find what feels like home.”
“Any luck here?” he asks, clearing his throat.
“Maybe,” I say with a shrug.
I barely know him, so telling him he’s the first thing that’s piqued my interest this much would definitely be coming on too strong.
“So your parents…” He lets the words trail off, seeming reluctant to fully ask what he wants to know.
“Car accident,” I partially lie, forcing a tight smile.
“Sorry,” he says, blowing out a breath.
“It was years ago. Now, about you?” I muse, desperately ready for a subject shift.
He flashes me a smile, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Twenty-nine. I own a house on a quiet piece of land. It was my stepdad’s, but he left it to me before he died. My mother is living with her newest husband in Miami. So it’s just me.”
“What about your birth dad?” I realize too late that I shouldn’t be prying that deep, when I don’t want him prying too.
Neither of us gets the chance to pry.
His phone chirps, drawing his attention to it, and he sighs in a way that probably means our short and sweet talk is over.
“Fuck,” he says under his breath, causing my lips to twitch.
It’s just a word, but I was starting to worry that he was a total choir boy.
His eyes pop back up to meet mine. “I hate to leave this early, but—”
“It’s fine,” I interrupt, ignoring the small pang of disappointment.
He tosses down a twenty, which is more than enough to cover the possible ten dollar bill.
“I really am sorry,” he says, cursing under his breath as he stands.
I stand and make things awkward, because I don’t know if I should hug him, touch him at all, or wave like an idiot.
I wave like an idiot.
He smirks, arching an eyebrow at me. “I’ll call you later?” he asks, his smirk turning into a smile.
I’m busy feeling like an ass, so I just nod. I really don’t trust my mouth to be any less stupid than this incredibly awkward wave that I’m still doing. It’s like my hand has lost touch with my brain, and the damn thing is still waving.
His phone rings this time, and he turns and walks away before answering. I drop back down to my seat, wondering how planning out a brutal murder is easier than dating.
The world is entirely too fucked up.
Force always attracts men of low morality.
LOGAN: Steak. I’ll be taking you out for steak. Maybe even lobster too. You like red meat and shellfish?
I grin when I see the random text from Logan. Yesterday I was awkward, but then he called and made me forget how unversed I am with all this, because he didn’t seem to mind. If anything, he seemed more intrigued.
ME: Yes and yes. I like wine too. Just FYI.
LOGAN: Wine, got it. What are you doing today? Any chance you’ll be in town for more coffee? Or a muffin, rather?
I finish concealing the final camera over the entry of the doorway. Getting inside wasn’t easy, considering Tyler or his wife locks the doors immediately when they get home or leave. But I finally managed to slip in and leave a window unlocked for later.
No security system. There’s only one of my targets planned who has a security system. That’ll be on Jake to handle. Jake is a true best friend. How many people do you walk up to, tell them you want revenge, tell them your plan, and then they start helping you keep from getting caught?
I grab my phone and text Logan back, finding it oddly calming to have a normal conversation while plotting.
Maybe I really am psychotic.
ME: Not today. I’m on a trade review. I won’t be back in until tomorrow.
That’s not entirely a lie. I did do a trade review… It just happened to be in the same town.
Tyler’s wife is out of town on a conference for work, which gives me plenty of time to check out his home.
The flooring is new, just like the rest of the home. No creaks is a damn good thing. My phone buzzes in my pocket as I make my way through the hallways, checking for anything and everything that might pose a problem.
LOGAN: Tomorrow I’ll be a few towns over. Juggling a few cases right now. People just can’t seem to stop killing other people.
Gotta love irony.
We’re so terribly mismatched that it’s not even funny.
If he’d seen the evil I’ve seen, he’d understand why some people deserve to die.
ME: Have you ever had to kill someone?
Pretty sure that’s not the best question to ask a guy you’ve only had one coffee house date with—if you can call that a date.
LOGAN: Many times. Not all cases end with the perp in jail, unfortunately.
Well, he’s killed numerous people the same way with the same methodology and reasoning…so technically he’s a serial killer too. It’s logically truthful. Other than wearing a badge to find it legally justifiable, we’re the same. Well, I torture my victims first, but that’s just nitpicking at facts.
LOGAN: Does that bother you?
I’m laughing before I can stop myself, and I groan while shaking my head, happy that there’s no one here to hear me. Morbid humor is probably not going to get me far in this relationship.
ME: Not at all. I’m sure you had to do it, or you wouldn’t have done it at all.
Sometimes people don’t find justice. Sometimes they have to take it.
“Want to play, Victoria? You know you do.” Ben’s breath feels like acid against my forehead, and I manage to slam a knee up, connecting with his side.
He curses and turns his head.
“Hold her down!” he yells at Tyler. “Or I’ll make sure she nails you a few times too.”