Tris looked up at the sound of her name, into the deepest blue eyes she’d ever seen, stifling a sigh and conjuring up a smile. “Hey Tobias,” she said, trying to ignore the flip in her stomach. She moved her briefcase to the other side of the bench so he could sit next to her.
He gracefully dropped down beside her, and she couldn’t help but admire how well he moved. Or how good he smelled. Or how his dark eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled at her. She cleared her throat when she felt the familiar burn in her cheeks, and hoped he didn’t notice. “So, what are the feds doing slumming down here in state court?”
Tobias flashed a grin at her and Tris nearly sighed again. He was so ridiculously adorable she couldn't believe he didn’t have a girlfriend; she’d checked with Will after making him swear on his law license he wouldn’t tell either Tobias or Christina that she’d asked. “We’ve got federal charges on a guy who’s also up for state charges. We were here working out the jurisdictional details.”
“I'm here with Will. He and the state prosecutor are up there now hammering out the details.”
“So how are you down here?”
He grinned again. “Time off for good behavior.” He bumped his knee against hers companionably. “What are you still doing here? It’s after 6.”
Tris glanced down at the phone in her hand. “Court didn’t let out until 5 and I was chatting with the state’s attorney. Now I’m waiting for Peter. We’re supposed to go to dinner and he’s picking me up.”
Tobias felt an ache in his chest; he always did when she referred to her boyfriend. He’d never met the guy, but Tobias was positive he wasn’t good enough for her. He couldn’t imagine anyone who was. “Oh.” He shifted around a little. “I should shove off then, I guess.” He started to rise but she put her hand on his forearm.
“No, don’t,” she said, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “Why don’t you hang out with me until he gets here? He’s already late.”
Tobias hesitated a minute. He really didn’t want to hang around and meet the boyfriend, but he had a hard time turning down more time with her. “Okay.” He shifted to partially face her. “What were you in court for today?”
“I was testifying for this kid who has been acting out. Running away, shoplifting, that kind of thing. Nothing big, yet, but we needed to get him away from his drug addicted mom so he can have a chance to straighten up before he really runs into trouble.” Tris sighed, thinking of the young boy and his big brown eyes, betraying the aura of indifference he tried to portray. He was such a sweet kid stuck in such a bad place; it was all Tris could do not to bundle him up and take him home with her. “I found him an amazing foster home though, so I think he’ll be okay.” She smiled softly, remembering the shy hug the boy had given her before leaving the courtroom with his new foster parents.
Tobias loved watching how animated she got when talking about the children she helped. He wished idly there’d been someone as great as her looking out for him when he was a troubled kid. But he did have Hana, Zeke, and Uriah, which wasn't so bad. Tobias didn’t think the system could have given him a better foster family than the one he’d found for himself. “The kid’s lucky you’re there to look out for him,” he said.
She ducked her head and smiled at the compliment. “I love my job,” she confessed. “Even though it’s thankless most of the time.” She glanced at him. “I guess you know what that’s like.”
He nodded. “Nobody likes the FBI. When I was a new agent, I actually lost count of the times somebody told me to go fuck myself. I remember this one time…” he broke off when her phone chimed.
She smiled apologetically and looked down at her phone, swiping her finger across it to read the text. It figured Peter would show up right as she and Tobias were chatting. She pulled up his text message and sighed deeply.
She looked up at Tobias. “Looks like I got stood up.” Tris looked at her shoulder bag with distaste; it was bulging with case files she’d planned on bringing home. “I hate lugging this stuff on the L.”
“Then why don’t I give you a ride? We could stop for dinner.” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. He reached up and rubbed the back of his neck nervously; sure they were friends but she had a boyfriend, and he had no business asking out a woman who was taken. But he just couldn’t help it; in the few weeks that he’d known her, he found that thoughts of her took up a lot of his time. He even agreed to tag along with Will today on the off chance that Will would meet up with Christina – and by extension, Tris – after work for a drink.
Tris stared at him for a moment with those big blue-grey eyes. “Sure, why not.”
Tris directed Tobias to a neighborhood restaurant a couple of blocks from her apartment. It was just a little place that Peter hated going; nobody who was anybody would show up there, he’d gripe. It was part of why she liked it. Peter had great ambitions to be a real estate mogul: even though he was just a gopher for corporate real estate company, he still thought he was pretty important. Tris would never voice it out loud, but she had serious doubts about his potential to be a mogul.
It wasn’t until they were halfway through their food that Tobias even brought up her annoyance at Peter. “So,” he said, scooping up a forkful of mashed potatoes, “What happened to the boyfriend?”
Tris poked at her ravioli. “He had a business dinner come up suddenly…” She broke off and put her fork down. “You know what? No. Christina is right. I have to stop making excuses for his messed up behavior.” She snatched up her glass of rose wine and took a sip. “He’s going out for drinks,” she said, practically sneering the words, “With his jerk-off supervisor. Probably at a strip club.”
Tobias’s fork stopped half-way to his mouth. “Are you kidding?”
Tris shook her head. “Nope.”
Peter was dumber than Tobias thought. Why would he go to a strip club when he’s got a woman like Tris at home? “Does he know you’re not cool with that?” He shoveled some meatloaf into his mouth to stop himself from telling her how stupid he thought Peter was.
She shrugged and speared a piece of broccoli off his plate. “He thinks he’s going to ride his way up on his supervisor’s coat tails.”
“But you don’t think so?” Tobias asked, taking one of her ravioli. Peter hated sharing food, but Tobias didn't seem to mind; he'd offered some of it up when it first arrived.
Tris laughed. “No way. Eric looks out for Eric. Plain and simple. I tried telling Peter that but what do I know about business? I’m just a ‘civil servant.’” She shook her head.
Tobias toyed with the last of his mashed potatoes. There were a few things he wanted to say to her, but he was wary of how she would receive it. Tobias felt like he had a devil on one shoulder egging him on, and an angel on the other, telling him to behave. Fuck it, he thought. “Why are you with a guy like that?”
Tris finished off her wine. She stared at Tobias, wondering why in the world she wasn’t with a guy like him. Tell him the truth: that Peter’s a tool, a little voice whispered inside her head. She smirked and leaned forward, planting her hands firmly on the table. “Can I confess something?”
“This isn’t flattering to him or me, but honestly, out of habit. We’ve been together since I was in grad school and I guess he’s just….comfortable.”
Tobias’s finger lightly brushed over one of hers; if she hadn’t watched him do it, she’d swear it was her imagination. But the spark it set off felt like she had touched a live wire. “Comfortable doesn’t sound all that great.”
His eyes were so dark and blue, she felt like she was drowning in them; she ducked her head after a moment, feeling the burn in her cheeks again. The tension between them was so thick, Tobias wondered if you could actually cut it. He found himself leaning forward, mesmerized by the fullness of her lips.
“Can I get you guys anything else?” the chipper waitress said as she bounced up, breaking the spell between them. Tris blinked at her blankly while Tobias responded.
“No, thanks. Just the check.”
“Okay!” The blonde winked and flounced off to get the check.
Tobias leaned back. “Sorry. You didn’t want anything did you?” he asked, suddenly aware that he’d responded without consulting her.
She shook her head and smiled bashfully; Tobias knew in that instant he wanted to be with her, no matter what it took. “No,” she said. “I should probably get home.”
The flouncy waitress brought the check and Tobias pulled out his wallet. Tris held out her hand to see it but Tobias ignored her and put a couple of bills into the black check holder. The waitress offered another toothy grin when Tobias said, “I don’t need change.”
As the waitress left, Tobias stood and offered his hand to Tris. She took it, allowing him to help her up. She reached for her bag but he beat her to it, slinging it over his shoulder without releasing her other hand.
They walked the two blocks back to her apartment in silence, their fingers twined together. Tris was surprised at how easy it was to be with him; they didn’t have to talk, they could just be and it felt better than her best time with Peter ever had.
She stopped in front of her apartment; it was an older building, not more than four stories, but it did have a locked entrance. She squeezed his hand.
“Thanks, Tobias. I had fun tonight.”
“So did I.” They stared at each other, each waiting for the other to make a move. Tobias pushed past his nerves and stepped closer to her; he was rewarded by hearing her breath catch. He was more than six inches taller than her, so she had to tilt her head back to maintain eye contact.
Tris took a deep breath, his cologne going straight to her head. “Tobias,” she whispered, “What’s happening here?”
He leaned down, his lips close to hers but not touching; he’d leave the final step to her. “Whatever you want to happen, Tris,” he murmured.
Throwing caution to the wind, she raised up on her toes and pressed her lips to his. Tobias wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her against him. Peter wasn’t soft, but Tobias’s chest felt so firm pressed against her. Tris ran her hands up his muscled arms to his shoulders, winding his silky, dark hair around her fingers.
Tobias took a chance and deepened the kiss, brushing his tongue against hers. For the first time in his life, Tobias lost himself in another person. All his senses were saturated by Tris and Tobias never wanted it to end. Several long moments passed before Tris reluctantly pulled away. She stared into Tobias’s blue eyes and suddenly thought of Peter. She took a wobbly step back.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” she said quietly. She held out her hand and took her briefcase off his shoulder, hurrying up a couple of steps before turning back to him. He had shoved his hands in his pockets and was just staring at her, his expression inscrutable. She felt tears well in her eyes; she didn’t want to say goodbye but she couldn’t cheat. It just wasn’t her. “I’m sorry, Tobias. I’m just really confused.”
He shrugged. “I’m not going anywhere, Tris.”
She unlocked the glass security door and let it close behind her. Tris turned and looked outside one last time; Tobias was still standing on the sidewalk, watching her.
Tris felt as though she was going to jump out of her skin. She’d put off talking to Peter for the last two days but she knew she couldn’t avoid it much longer; she could not stop thinking about Tobias. His lips, firm on hers; his strong shoulders against her hands; his arms, banded around her, drawing small circles on the small of her back. God, what if she had done what she wanted, and pulled him up the stairs to her apartment…
A Starbucks cup appeared in front of her. Tris looked up to see Christina leaning on the edge of her desk. “I’ve been standing here a full minute,” she said, raising a perfectly shaped eyebrow. “Where were you?” She held up a hand. “No, let me guess. Are you back in a certain FBI agent’s car a couple of nights ago?”
Tris’s eyes widened and she wondered, not for the first time, if Christina had some kind of hidden camera on her. “How did you know?”
Christina chuckled. “Will was leaving the state’s attorney’s office and saw you getting into Tobias’s car.”
Tris rolled her eyes. She should have known but she was honestly surprised it had taken Christina so long to say something. “He kissed me,” she blurted out.
Christina’s dark brown eyes widened. “Well this is better than I thought!” She grabbed Tris’s guest chair and brought it closer. “Spill.”
So Tris did. The whole story came tumbling out, including how conflicted she’d been since that kiss. Christina listened without commenting until Tris finally said, “So what should I do?”
Christina sat back and stared at her best friend. She hated Peter, and Christina thought Tobias might be the kind of guy she needed. “Okay, well, you know I think Peter is a selfish, self-absorbed, snarky, insensitive asshole with delusions of grandeur.”
For the first time in days, Tris grinned. “You really need to learn how to express your opinions, Christina. This holding back can’t be good for you.”
“I know, it’s a problem.” She waved the comment off. “But this isn’t about me. Why are you still with Peter?”
Tris thought back to what she’d told Tobias. “He’s comfortable.”
“And do you want comfortable?”
Tris stared down at her desk. “I don’t know.”
“Okay, let’s take a different track. How did it feel kissing Tobias?”
Tris looked up at her and smiled. Christina nearly crowed in triumph; Tris had never looked like that when thinking of Peter. Christina pushed the phone to Tris. “I think you know what you need to do,” she said, standing and walking back to her cubicle.
Tris reached for the phone while thumbing through the business cards on her desk. She found the one she wanted and dialed swiftly.
“Hey, it’s Tris. Do you think we can meet for coffee?”