Today's Reading

"I'll have another look around. It looks like a case of vandalism more than anything. Probably some teenagers thinking it's funny, or after the cash for booze or pot, and smashed some stuff for show." His gaze touched hers. "Kids can be really dumb at that age."

Her cheeks heated. He hadn't had to say the actual words for her to catch his meaning. "You never know. They might have been dared to do it. Or some sort of stupid bet."

He held her gaze a few seconds longer, and she could tell by the look in his eyes that he acknowledged the hit. He'd kissed her because of one of those bets...more than kissed her. They'd been parking in his car and he'd rounded second base and had been headed for third. And then she'd found out about the wager and lost her cool. Publicly. With the milkshake.

The only thing she regretted was saying yes to going on that drive in the first place.

"So you still haven't forgiven me for that."

Laurel lifted her chin. "To my recollection, you haven't asked for forgiveness."

Aiden frowned, his brows pulling together. "We were seventeen. Kids. That was years ago."

Which didn't sound much like an apology at all.

"Yes, it was. Now, I have a lot of mess to clean up. Is there any more information you need or are we done here?"

He stared at her for a long minute. Long enough that she started to squirm a bit at his continued attention. Finally, when she was so uncomfortable she thought she might burst, she turned away and retrieved the broom and dustpan from where she'd left them.

"Do you want some help with this?"

She didn't want him to offer. The idea of spending more time with him was so unsettling that she immediately refused. "No. Don't you have to get back to work? Besides, I have someone coming in at eight. You go do what you need to do, Officer Gallagher."

"Officer Galla...oh, for Crissakes, Laurel. Is that necessary?"

She pinned him with a glare. He was standing with his weight on one hip, accentuating his lean, muscular physique, one perfect eyebrow arched in response to her acid tone.

She wasn't the kind to hold a grudge. Not generally. Heck, she'd forgiven Dan months ago, and that was for something far bigger than a silly teenage bet. Why did Aiden get under her skin so easily?

Maybe it was because he'd been so callous, even after the fact. If he'd shown any remorse at all...but he hadn't. He'd taken the paper cup the milkshake had been in, and fired it across the cafeteria floor before charging out. And he'd never once spoken to her again.

Until today. And despite the change in circumstances, she felt much the same as she had that night in the back-seat of his car. Out of her depth, over her head, and at a distinct disadvantage.

She looked away. "Sorry. I just want to clean this up and get ready to open."

She picked up the broom and began sweeping the little bits of broken pots and dirt into the dustpan. She saw his shoes first; big sturdy black ones that stopped in front of her. Then his hand, warm and reassuring, touched her shoulder. She'd been rude and brusque, and he was being kind. Damn him. Emotion threatened to overwhelm again. Couldn't he see that gentle compassion was harder for her to handle than cool efficiency?

"Are you afraid to stay here alone this morning?"

Her throat tightened. "No, of course not."

"I'm on duty until this afternoon. I can check in from time to time."

"I'm fine." She looked up at him and set her jaw. "I can take care of myself. I'm a big girl."

He stepped back. "All right. But if you think of anything or anything else happens, call right away."

"Okay."
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