“Tess, we’re having a barbecue at my place on Saturday, you in?” Nathan asked, looking up from his paperwork as Tess finished a report. I had now been a CPS police officer for over a year and loved every moment of it. Nathan had recently proposed to Taylor and was having a BBQ to welcome her into the policing family. It was mostly an excuse to drink and party. Of course, we were all in.
“Yeah,” she said with a duh face, sitting back down at her desk. “Are you gonna catch the game?”
“Yeah,” Nathan imitated her as he flashed her a similar look. “It’ll be awesome; it’d be good for you to have some girl time; Taylor really likes you.” Tessa glanced back up with that knowing smile and nodded.
“Oh, girl talk!” Derek, a new transfer from Vancouver, cheered from his desk, “you going to talk about makeup? Cute boys? Maybe your periods will sync!”
“Hopefully,” she muttered back, “heaven knows Alex is getting tired of all of us PMSing at once!”
“Tess, bring Don,” Greg said after the laughter died down. I looked up curiously.
“Yeah, I haven’t seen him in ages!” Nathan agreed.
“Who’s Don?” I asked sharing a look with Derek who shrugged. They all flashed me a look as if I had asked what the Criminal Code was.
“That’s her husband,” Greg answered after a horribly awkward silence. I nodded and turned my gaze to Tess who stared at the floor.
“I don’t know guys,” she muttered, shrinking into her chair, “I don’t want him scaring off either of the new kids. God knows can’t afford to lose any more members.”
“Jeez, bring him, Stark!” I argued shaking my head. “I’ve been here for over a year; nothing can scare me at this point, and I’ve heard Nathan sing!” I got an insulted cry from Nathan.
“And I worked in Undercover Drugs in Vancouver,” Derek said, “I doubt your husband can beat that.” All eyes watched her as she bit the corner of her lip.
“Okay, I’ll see if he’s busy, but no guarantees.”
“No need,” Nathan shot back with a wicked grin, “I already called him and he said he’d love to join us! You need to spend more time with him, girl.”
“Alright,” Mark growled from behind the sergeant’s desk, “you had your fun and games, now let’s focus! The chief wants us to get these reports done!” We hunkered down and continued writing but I glanced up at the girl; she never let anyone have the last word. Ever.
She was staring at her work with such an intensity I could see the sun burning in her eyes. Her fingers were white around her pen while her teeth were still locked around her lip, cutting through the soft, delicate skin.
Saturday came without any big hiccup and soon we were crowded in Nathan’s small backyard sipping cheap beer and eating hamburgers and hot dogs. The wives- I was now single- and children were playing with the dogs while we were standing around the fire, staring into the coals.
“Hey, Stark, you finally made it!” Nathan called as Tessa stepped into the backyard. “Tess, I thought you were a better navigator.” She flashed him a smile and stood next to us, accepting the beer Derek pressed into her hands.
“She is,” a gruff voice answered as Tess flinched staring into the flames. “I was just too pigheaded to listen to her.” A man in his late twenties followed her. He had a fit build, looking like he could run forever and pump weights. His face was squarish with dark stubble covering his sharp jawline. His hair was dark with two pairs of unmoving, blue eyes completing his facial features. and I didn’t like him.
“Don!” Everyone called as they welcomed him into their circle. “Haven’t seen you in a while; how have you been?” They continued useless pleasantries as I watched him curiously unable to wipe the scowl from my face. He was attractive with his sharp features and sharp clothing, but something made me think of a slippery snake. I couldn’t imagine Tessa with a mountain like this; she needed someone soft who could control her fire and challenge her intellect.
“Whatcha looking at, kid?” Don asked, pulling me away from my thoughts.
“Nothing,” I muttered taking a sip of my beer.
“Are you old enough to be a cop?” He asked with a sharp, cruel grin, “I thought you had to be able to shave to get in with the fuzz.” The others laughed as I clenched my teeth together.
“Wow, then I’ll look really well when I’m your age; what are you pushing forty?” I hissed back causing more laughter but Don’s eyes grew colder and his lips formed a sneer.
“Funny,” he growled snatching Tessa’s beer from her hands taking a long drink. “Tessie said you were.” He wrapped his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close. Tessie?
“I’m gonna find Taylor and have that girl time you mentioned,” Tessa muttered twisting out of her husband’s grip. With a small smile, she joined the women and children.
“Strange,” I muttered, remembering all the times she refused to join the women insisting her place was with her team, no matter what.
“Not really,” Mark whispered into my ear as we watched Tessa’s departing shadow. “She does that often. Whenever we have a giant get together, she joins the spouses and talks to them; she might act like one of us but she is a girl after all. She’ll be back to normal when the set begins again.” I nodded and returned to sipping my beer listening to Don’s stories.
He worked as a businessman for several important companies in Calgary. Most of his job involved networking and closing deals with other companies, so he spent most of his job away from home. He hated hockey and football but loved NASCAR. He hated the snow and consistently talked about moving to the States to escape the Canadian winter.
Tess hated NASCAR claiming it was the most boring sport in the world and loved winter; she hated summer with a passion and counted down the days when snow would return. Otherwise, he seemed like a charming man, witty, strong, and handsome but something was there. I just didn't see it until it was too late.