THE SEVENTH CROSS

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CLAIRE RETURNS TO DEREK

She wanted to surprise him. He wasn’t expecting her until the following day so she called his buddy, Roger, and asked him to arrange a late dinner at their favourite place. Use whatever excuse he had to, but make sure Derek showed up. And then of course, excuse himself, go to the bathroom or something, and then get the heck out of there. Leave the rest to her.

It didn’t take long for Roger to “get it.” He’d figure out something. But Claire would be owing him big time and she’d better not forget it!

All Derek could think of when Roger asked to meet him at that particular restaurant, which certainly wasn’t where they would normally meet, was that Roger must be in some kind of trouble, probably with Shelly again, his on again, off again girlfriend. Like he could offer any advice! If he was on the ball himself, he would have long ago told Claire exactly how he felt. None of this beating around the bush stuff! Oh well, he’s a good friend. See you at 8.

So he and Roger met. Roger seemed nervous. Maybe there was a lot more to this than he had thought. Just as they were about to get into it, Roger suddenly excused himself and headed to the bathroom. Crap, is he ever acting weird, thought Derek. Oh well, he’d invited me so I might as well let him tell me in his own way.

He studied the menu, although that was unnecessary. He and Claire had been here a number of times . . . Jeez, I wish she were here . . . He chuckled to himself “Garçon, the young lady would like the . . . “. If only. And that’s when he looked up . . . “Claire!”

“Can I sit down or are you just gonna stare?” she was loving this.

“Yes, of course. I thought you weren’t back until . . . God, you’re beautiful.” And she was. She had chosen the dress carefully. Dark red, flowing skirt, plunging neckline, and freshly coiffured hair. And his reaction. Priceless!

“I hope you don’t mind if I take Roger’s place. Apparently he got called away. Will I do?” Oh yes, she would do fine, thank you very much!

So now Derek knew what to order “Garcon, the young lady would like . . .” but before he could finish, she shewed the waiter away, bent over and kissed Derek passionately, and then returned to her chair as if nothing had even happened. But it had! And then “Derek, I love you, and you’d better love me too, because otherwise I’m going to look like a complete idiot!”

“I do. Oh my God! Yes!” And before he knew it, he’d blurted out what he had been longing to say forever “Will you marry me?” He didn’t even have a ring. Of course he didn’t have a ring, after all, he was meeting Roger.

“Yes! Yes, my God, Yes!”

As for the ring? Well, they’d pick that out together!

They both wanted this, but neither would make the move, and now in a matter of moments they had committed their lives to the other. As for the food? Who cared!

And then it was back to work for both of them. Claire’s boss found her unusually chipper when they spoke the following morning. Claire was usually so acerbic that he always had to be on the ball to ensure he caught what she was really saying. Today? Definitely not the Claire he knew.

“Okay, what’s up?”

“Excuse me?”

“Spit it out. What’s going on?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I thought you wanted an update.”

“I do but first of all, I want to know what’s going on.”

My God, was she that obvious? She’d better give him something. I know, I’ll tell him about my brother.

“You remember I told you that I was going to dig into my brothers case when I had the time? Well, I went up to see him this past weekend. That’s all.”

“Do I need to remind you that I’m no fool. I know you Claire, probably better than you know yourself. Now, spit it out!”

He knew her alright. She loved her boss. Go figure. He’d followed his gut and let her fly when others would have preferred that he clip her wings. She’d proven him right and she certainly owed him more than she was giving him right now.

“You’re right. There’s lots happening up here. I can’t wait to tell you, honest. But, could it wait until I’m in Houston on Thursday? I promise, I’ll tell you everything!”

He had to chuckle. That’s my Claire! “Okay, but you come see me the moment you get here!”

“I promise!” In actuality, she was excited to talk to him. He was one of the few people she could really confide in. But now, it was time for an update!

When Derek got back to the office the first person he went looking for was Greta. When he found her, he grabbed her and started to dance but she was having none of it. “What’s got into you? Let go of me!”

“I did it! I did it! I asked Claire to marry me! And she said yes!”

“Lucky girl.” She deadpanned. “Now let me go!”

As Derek floated off down the hallway, Greta couldn’t help but chuckle to herself. “I guess all he needed was a kick in the butt. But he’d

better not try that again or next time I’ll smack him!” to no one in particular.

Derek had a couple of cases that were nearing completion and he was hell bent on putting them to bed. In both cases the perpetrators had been identified and were now under police supervision. It was just a matter of time. Two more families would be able to move on knowing that the killers were finally paying for what they’d done to their family members. Hopefully they would get closure. At least some.

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