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Undercover Siren

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Chapter Three

It wasn’t a terrible bar. In truth, she was anticipating a real hole in the wall given the neighborhood but was surprised to find the place well lit and rather busy. Everyone was dressed in their red and golds for a match which was winding down. That left a great mass of drunk fans stumbling around tables covered in used chicken wing baskets and empty beer bottles.

Kristen was quick to take the first table she could, gathering up the remains of the party that was celebrating a win on their way out the door. Judging by the TVs in back, there’d be another crowd walking in in a half hour or so. The influx and outflow of people shrouded in the garb of their teams was proving to be a colorful distraction. She took the time to adjust her clothes and take a breath. In running a hand over her hair, her eyes were drawn up to a mirror positioned in the corner.

Instinctively, she scoped out the place making a hard note where everyone stood. It seemed unlikely anyone here would be on the hunt for her, having left the choice of where to drink fully up to someone else, but there was no reason to get sloppy. When the door cracked open and a blonde head sheepishly stuck through, it suddenly struck her to check her makeup.

Too late.

Colton Davies eyed up the edges of the bar as if he hadn’t been inside one in a decade. Work by its very definition was work, often requiring unwelcome sacrifices. But in this matter, she considered herself very fortunate. God, watching his arms tug against the constricting flannel alone would be enough to hold her attention. Luckily, there was far better attached to the package.

Sliding to the edge of the booth, Kristen waved a hand. “Over here!” she called in her soft voice. It took a moment to drop upon the man’s head. He looked as if he already resigned himself to her not appearing. It wasn’t until his scrubbed and shaven face swung over that those amber eyes lit up.

She considered herself a sucker for the dour type, the man that would grimace even in the middle of puppies wrestling with kittens, but as his lips slid upward, inwardly Kristen sighed. His was a smile that blushed against his features, lifting the world-weary brow and dangling cheeks until he looked a good ten years younger and far lighter in the soul. That was certainly worth a second or third look.

Dipping his head a moment, a hand brushed against the back of his neck as Colton strode over towards the booth. Kristen smiled up at him, her head craned back to watch as his eyes darted around the place a bit, before dropping down to her cleavage. She’d hoped for it, having chosen a sweetheart neckline with black straps that were at most an inch wide, but it was so intense for a moment her spine trembled.

“You found the place,” he spoke, already back to the uncertain man she anticipated stumbling through the door. Rather than keep staring at her chest, he was far too focused on her eyes. Hm. Maybe this would be harder than she thought.

“I did,” Kristen smiled. “And I thought to claim a booth. This bar is rather popular,” she whispered as he slid across from her, the seat squeaking as only vinyl can.

“Yeah, I…I didn’t expect that.”

“Oh? Don’t come here often?”

“Not particularly,” Colton admitted, eyes glancing around the place as if he’d never been inside. “But, I’d heard it was good. Better than most in the area and thought that…it seemed an acceptable starting place.”

He was adorable. The dossier never mentioned how bumblingly adorable he was, focusing more on the concrete stats of work and past accomplishments. They needed to get more women to work on compiling those. Absently, Kristen reached over for a menu card stacked on the table, but in doing so her hand happened to glance across Colton’s forearm. His eyes bit into her movement, that intense ‘make you wet your panties’ stare watching for the brief moment she let herself touch him. And then it was over.

“Hm,” she mused, twisting around the card as if she hadn’t already looked it up online. “Are you hungry?”

“Uh,” he waffled back and forth on his haunches, which were also top notch judging by the cut of his pants. Jeans could hide flaws well, but if you knew what to look for, they could also amplify the finer qualities. “Not particularly.”

“Me neither,” Kristen laughed while dropping the card back in place.

Colton chuckled too, clearly looking as if he sat on a flaming hot tack. He couldn’t cease fidgeting, seeming to be terrified that she’d stand up and walk out at any second. “How…how are you settling in?”

Rolling her eyes, she sighed, “Given that I’ve lost half my furniture between here and DC, just got internet hooked up about two hours before, and found a dead mouse in my bathtub I’d say…it’s going pretty well.” She smiled at the end, causing his eyes to bulge a moment. “Moving’s a pain in the ass no matter what.”

“Too true. Not that I have a lot of experience with…” his words trailed off as he watched a waitress approach their table.

She was dressed like the queen of hearts if the royal woman fell on hard times and had to take up hooking on the side. Kristen felt a pang of sympathy for the girl having to put on such an outlandish costume every night just to earn her $2.50 an hour. That didn’t stop the woman from cranking her ruby red lips wide in a blinding smile, “Are you ready to order?”

“I’d like a whiskey sour,” Kristen said first and watched the woman write it down before the waitress glanced over at Colton.

“What do you have on tap?” After going through a surprisingly robust selection he picked the most down to earth IPA and seemed to collapse after such a decision.

“Oh,” the waitress said before turning away, “do you want me to start a tab?”

At that the poor man sat up higher, his eyebrows practically huddling under his hairline. Kristen waved to the woman, “We’ll see how the night goes.”

The waitress smiled, probably not understanding what the big deal was and trundled off to put in their orders. No doubt her whiskey sour would be half water in a place this devoted to theme, but she was hoping for such an event. Being truly drunk on the clock was frowned upon no matter what.

The door opened and it drew Kristen’s eye right to it. Three men of the college and bro variety stumbled in, their arms nearly akimbo as they fought for dominance at the bar. They began to heckle any and all in their way, not particularly caring who as long as it got them attention.

A mirthless chuckling drew her away and she stared at her companion. “The big city, is it all you imagined?”

“It’s got a few charms,” Kristen shrugged, then she lifted the edge of her pink lips, “One, at least.” It was hard to say if he caught her intentions; the man was always looking flustered. “But,” she leaned back, an arm sliding along the top of the booth, “the decor is far more appealing than DC.”

“Really?” he winced, “That playing card wallpaper’s liable to cause internal bleeding.”

Kristen chuckled at how certain he said that, “It’s nice to be out and not have to rub elbows with a dozen men in suits, and another dozen women in suit dresses.”

“Right, DC, all the politics money can buy.” His eyes glimmered despite the harsh red and blue light of the bar. She found herself scooting closer, wanting to bathe in them.

“It’s exhausting, knowing the first thing out of anyone you meet’s mouth will be who they work for and their chances of being re-elected. It’s like if chickens had the vote, one giant pecking contest with pricey booze and cheap cologne.”

“Sounds like hell,” he laughed. Their waitress stopped by and dropped off the drinks. Kristen glanced up, watching her bend over a bit so the low cut corset showed off practically everything but her nipples. When the woman unloaded the beer, Colton only looked over for a moment. He said his thanks but gave no other slathering reaction. Curiouser and curiouser. They couldn’t have possibly have gotten his alignment wrong, right? That was step one in these matters.

Kristen bought some time while trying to reassess her plan by stirring the tiny straw around. “Dating is not for the faint of heart in DC. Nor anyone with a heart. Actually, I think they make you check it the moment you cross city lines.”

He laughed at the thought, happy to talk shit about politics because everyone did. Tipping back the beer, he took a draught and smiled. Was that stick finally working its way out? “This city’s not much better way I hear it. Instead of pompous senator aides, you get bankers bragging about the size of their accounts.”

“Or incredibly helpful policemen,” Kristen said simply with a shrug. She curled her lips around the tiny straw, giving a little suck before looking right up into his eyes.

The blush was practically a grade seven fever. He sat back further from the table but didn’t stop staring down at her. Come on, this should be simple.

“You, uh,” Colton’s focus faded and he whipped around, “you didn’t happen to have anyone waiting for you here? I mean, to, uh, to help settle in or look forward to meeting?”

Kristen failed to shake off her sneer. Why wasn’t he already taking the bait? Luckily, she could hide it under a look of confusion. “No. Just me. A bit of an adventure I suppose to set off all alone.”

“Right, just, sometimes people move to be closer to loved ones. Or, they, ya know, have to leave one behind. Or so I’ve been told.”

Sweet bloody God! Was he concerned she was already spoken for? That was…sweet. Surprising. And making her steady heart flip up and down a moment. “No,” she felt a blush rising that for once wasn’t an act, “Nope, just me. Been that way for a…a while now. What about you?”

Colton snorted and jabbed the lip of his beer back at himself, “Me?”

“There must be someone in your life. Perhaps a busty blonde who works at a tanning salon?” she threw out, causing him to curl his nose up. “Or an athletic redhead lawyer?”

“It’s bad enough I have to talk to any lawyers at my job, the idea of stumbling home to one is…” the growl slowed as he sheepishly glanced up at her. “Why do you think I’d…that there must be someone?”

Kristen shrugged, “You’re, um…ya know,” she glared down at her drink that was more ice than whiskey, “Handsome. And kind enough to help stupid women stuck at the side of the road.”

A hand wrapped around her fingers clinging to the glass. “You’re not stupid,” he whispered as if she really thought that. As if she needed to have her self-esteem boosted.

“Ah,” crap, that damn blush returned a moment. “So, surely someone’s got to have taken advantage of that. You know, if there is a God they would have.”

Colton winced a moment, “I was married but it…didn’t work out.”

Kristen waited for the long story about a crazy cheating ex, but he fell silent while swirling his beer around in his fingers. Those haunting amber eyes shut tight while he moaned, “I’m afraid I’m not very good at, uh, putting myself out there.”

“Was the divorce recent?” she asked.

“Finalized six months ago,” he shrugged, “but even before then. It never should have gotten that far, one of those cases where it seemed easier to file the paperwork than breakup so later down the line it’s far harder. We’d been apart nearly a year before we called it quits. Two separate lives, two lonely people.”

There was more lurking under there, she could taste it. But he looked less like a man who wanted to unravel all of his pain sweater onto her and more someone that needed a warm body — whether it was for a hug or better depended on her. Kristen trailed her hand up and down Colton’s arm, her teeth nibbling on her bottom lip, “I haven’t been on a date in two years.”

“I’ve been on those edates that everyone does now, but a real one, meeting someone, getting to know them…five years or more,” he admitted as if it was a huge weight. She smiled, her palm cupping against his arm. He moved to pat her fingers, his eyes shining before they suddenly opened wide and he gasped, “Not that I think, I mean… Do you need another drink?”

She moved to nod, despite her glass remaining half full, when the door opened and silence fell upon the patrons. Two people entered the bar, their heads hidden by outlandish cowls coated in ornamental golden filigree, that ended in furs circling their throats.


Fuck, she did not need this mess right now.

Unaware of the sudden drop in noise, or perhaps despite it, the pair of practicing filonis strode confidently towards the bar and placed in an order. Colton twisted around, catching sight of what caused such a change in atmosphere, but he didn’t say anything. No, that was all courtesy of the sports bros who were eyeing up the filonis like lambs led to the slaughter.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” one shouted loudly at the two cowled men but towards his friends. “Don’t this place have a strict no robes policy?”

The friends both bobbed their heads as if it were the height of wisdom while the filonis shrunk deeper inside their religious garb. They were both glancing over at the bartender who froze in place, no one else wanting to get into the middle of this. Kristen glared daggers at her drink, her nose twitching while tension sang in the air. It’d take nothing more than a spark to light the rising powder keg, but she was trapped by her role. Maybe if they…

“Hey,” the biggest of the assholes was prodding a finger towards the filonis, “hey, you toad fuckers. Aren’t you supposed to be at home burning books?”

“Yeah,” another bro snickered, “you don’t drink. Everyone knows that.”

The two filonis who were being schooled about their own religion by the drunk men both shared a glance. It’d be best for everyone if they stepped out, maybe try another bar. There were plenty around. Her knuckles were practically bulging against her drink from how tightly she gripped it. All of her hard-won muscles hidden below a layer of padding locked tight, begging to be let loose. She didn’t raise her head to glance across the table, fairly certain she knew what the small town cop’s reaction would be.

“We’re only trying to live our lives,” the taller filoni spoke up, “nothing more.”

“After what you did in Rennert…” the biggest bro hissed, spittle flying off the side of his mouth, “You’re lucky we don’t skin you in the streets. Get the fuck out of here. This bar’s only for Americans, go back to your shit hole of a country.”

He began to advance upon the filoni, beer-sweat stained hands lashing out to pluck up the holy collar and chuck them into the street, or worse. Probably worse knowing this lot. Kristen reached over towards her purse when a voice shouted.

“That’s enough!”

Her head snapped up to watch as Colton leaped out of the booth to turn upon the pair of men about to come to a one-sided brawl. “Step back now,” he commanded with such clarity it punctured through the drunk’s haze. The bro opened his hands and staggered back a step before his head snapped up.

“What? You gonna defend the ragheads? This ain’t got nothing to do with you, so fuck off.”

Colton lashed a hand forward, snagging onto the drunk bro’s fist and holding it safe. He roared at that, his bloodshot eyes flailing open wide while he tried to squirm away. With all of the drunkard’s attention, Colton flashed his badge before their eyes. The change was instantaneous; like sitting on a balloon, their egos and chests deflated to nothing at a cop of all things ordering them to act civilized.

“Sit down, be quiet, drink your beer, and walk home,” Colton growled at all three while keeping a tight grip to the instigator’s fist. “These men have the same right to be here as you do.” The bros dropped their eyes like scolded school children but they kept sneering at his hard logic as if it was a lie. Not caring, Colton continued, “Unless you wish to be pulled in on disorderly conduct…”

The two back-up bros grumbled but slunk quickly to the barstools. It was the leader who hissed near Colton, “You’re a fucking gudg.” But even as he made his bold claim and yanked his arm back, he too sat down and glared at nothing ahead of him.

Colton stood watch a moment, like a grade school teacher surveying children he caught brawling on the playground. But when no more words or fists appeared, he stomped back to the booth. He didn’t look over at the men he stood up for, just glared at his beer while all the people around suddenly grew a lot more respectful about the cop in the room.

If there was really justice in the world, the filonis would have taken a seat, would have enjoyed a beer or two on the house. Instead, both men — realizing how close they came to not escaping unscathed — dashed out the door before ordering. In the end, the assholes got what they wanted, even if they too were glowering into their drink for it.

“So…” Kristen whispered to herself while watching the man across from her glare through space itself. She wanted to compliment him on his style, on how he surprised her which was exceptionally rare, but he seemed angry at himself for having to voice the words. Amber eyes broke away from the empty bottle and she spotted a crack buried deep inside. A shaft of hope was leeching out of it, crying for anyone to stuff it back inside.

“I changed my mind,” Kristen said. For a moment his eyes flickered down in defeat when she smiled, “I think I am hungry. Wanna split an order of chili fries?”

Colton’s grateful gasp of a laugh brought one to her as well. They kept the conversation light while gorging on a plate of potatoes covered in meat and cheese. Midway through the appetizer, the drunk bros stumbled to their feet and left without saying anything to anyone. Though the leader paused right beside the back of their booth and whispered, “Gudgeon,” under his breath at Colton. The cop didn’t even flinch or respond, no doubt having heard worse in his line of work.

Still, Kristen memorized the bros faces. No doubt they lived near here. It was good to keep tabs on potential riffraff, both for fear of future problems or as fodder.

“You, uh,” Colton paused in his gorging to look over at her side of the picked apart plate, “you like this?”

“Course. Be weird to order it and not like it.”

“Right, sure, just…” his words faded as he swirled around the second beer of the night.

“Most girls out of DC are on some kind of weird-ass diet based upon ancient clay tablet writings or what cavemen used as bedding?”

He cracked a smile and nodded before that hand swiped back against his neck. It wasn’t so much a tell as a massive beacon when he felt uncomfortable. “I can’t keep up with what people can and can’t eat, shouldn’t eat. Whichever.”

Kristen picked up one of the fries nearly drowned in sauce, plopped it in her mouth and licked off her fingers. “It may not be good for you, but it’s tasty. Which is good enough.”

The red-blooded cop smiled, “My thoughts exactly.” As if that was hard to guess. She dipped down to slurp up the last of her drink and mused internally. This was probably enough toying, why not get to the main event? Most of her ‘dates’ rarely lasted longer than an hour, but — God take her — she was enjoying this. How did a random farm boy ex-soldier turned cop wind up holding her fascination so?

Colton, unaware of her thoughts, was piling up the mess of napkins onto the plate. He looked about to turn towards the waitress to order another when Kristen lashed her fingers out to cup his. When he turned in confusion, she smiled wickedly, “Wanna get out of here?”

“Yes,” the hungry smile mirrored her own, until he blinked, “I, I still have to show you other parts of the area.”

Right. She sighed, slipping back into the booth. Calm down already. There’s no reason to go rushing things, take your time before squeezing the trigger. But as he stood up to try and get the check from the waitress, Kristen’s eyes darted down the taut muscles straining under his grey t-shirt and red flannel before landing on his ass. God’s breath. She squirmed at the thought of what all that bare flesh looked like, better yet felt like under her thighs.

By the time the waitress dropped off the bill, Kristen instinctively fished out her wallet. Colton’s eyes drooped at the move, his fingers frozen near his back pocket. Shit. Regroup, rethink. Smiling, she yanked out a twenty and placed it on the table. “I get the tip, and you take care of the rest?”

The smile that tugged his tantalizing lip scar up caused her to suck in a breath. Colton nodded his head, seeming to have that sudden burst of anxiety evaporate in an instant. While he counted out the change, Kristen inspected her purse. In particular, she made certain the hidden compartment was locked up tight and the tech inside remained out of anyone’s questing view.

“Ready?” he asked, already standing up.

Gathering her hands under her, she slid along the booth until she stood up on her heels. The black dress with a crimson under layer ruffled by the a/c’s breeze. Very blatantly, Colton’s eyes traveled across her curved hips and down to her raised up and bare legs. He snorted to himself as if he just struck a great realization. Reaching forward, Kristen wrapped her arm around his and smiled.

“Let’s go.”

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