Ronnie teetered on the edge of consciousness, no thanks to the large, calloused hand that mindlessly ran over her head and entangled itself in her hair. The gentle gesture, when paired with the fingertips brushing delicately against the nape of her neck and dancing along her shoulders, was enough to weigh down her eyelids and taunt her with the alluring notion of sleep.
It had been at least a week since she had managed a cumulative eight hours in a single night. She had spent the last seven days cooped up in her office, her desk a mountain of papers and unwashed coffee mugs. Ronnie had been preparing her defence for her client’s sexual assault trial when she’d gotten the call from her bed-ridden assistant who’d come down with a terrible strain of the flu that had conveniently been passed around the office. None of the other partners’ assistants were able to take on the added work load, nor were they familiar enough with the case, which left Ronnie responsible for the mindless, mundane office work she loathed. Between the research, photocopying case law and precedent, a couple trips to the Osgood Law Library, and countless hours cursing her own stupidity in only hiring one assistant, Ronnie managed to rest her eyes for a few hours, either against her keyboard or sprawled across the leather couch in her office.
This was the first time she had been in a bed in roughly one hundred and sixty-eight hours. And it was glorious.
The strong, calloused hand stopped abruptly and an involuntary whine passed through her slightly swollen lips, eliciting a deep, rumbling chuckle from the man she was unceremoniously using as a pillow. “I’m sorry,” he murmured softly before continuing with the soothing action that left Ronnie humming in response.
Her eyelids drooped once more, her body lulled into a semi-conscious state by the taunting pull of sleep. “You better be. I was nearly asleep.” The words tumbled from her mouth before her tired mind was able to sift away the malic and frustration that coated them religiously, and the hand pulled away from her head without a word.
A groan rumbled up from deep in Ronnie’s chest before she turned her body on the luxurious mattress and hauled herself into a sitting position as her feet settled into the plush carpet. The dark grey sheet that had previously shielded her body from the chilly morning air pooled near her waist and exposed her bare back to the owner of the large, calloused hand. Her eyes dropped to the floor alongside her feet and in one quick, fluid motion, Ronnie swept up her discarded outfit and was on her feet the next second, as naked as the day she was born. She could feel his eyes follow her as she maneuvered around the carnage that spanned his bedroom towards the adjoining bathroom and purposefully left the door ajar.
There was a brief, fleeting moment of silence as Ronnie examined her kiss-swollen lips in the mirror above the sink before it was shattered by resounding sigh from the adjoining room and a smirk tugged at the corners of her mouth. She could hear him muttering to himself as she re-dressed in yesterday’s outfit, save for the pantyhose he had savagely torn through in his haste to feel her skin against his. All the huffing and puffing, punctuated by the odd curse, from the large bedroom threatened to make the smirk that was stretched across her face a more permanent entity.
“Ron,” he finally called out, his voice void of the heavy slur of sleep, “come back to bed.”
Ronnie grabbed her long, dark brown hair and twisted it before securing it at the base of her head in a haphazardous excuse for a bun. There were a few untamableflyaways that had her fingers itching for some hairspray but would have to settle for a little bit of tap water to smooth them into place, even temporarily. It would have to do, at least until she could get to her office and fix it with the supply of toiletries, hair supplies, and makeup she kept stashed in the bottom drawer of her dark, wooden desk for the times she slept in her office.
She swished some of the mouthwash in the bathroom cabinet around in her mouth, enjoying the way the burn intensified the longer she moved it from cheek to cheek, before spitting it out and rinsing with a palm full of tap water. Ronnie spared herself one final glance in the mirror before she opened the door to the bathroom and stepped back out into the carnage. She half expected Oliver to still be wrapped in the cotton sheets, though she wasn’t surprised in the slightest when she looked up to see him standing about a foot away from the bathroom door, clad in nothing but a pair of navy-blue boxes that he had left hanging low on his hips.
“I said I was sorry,” he breathed out in his naturally gruff and curt tone, “just come back to bed already.”
Ronnie easily sidestepped his outstretched hand with an elegance and grace that should have left him a little dazed and confused; however, as she stooped to retrieve her red-bottomed shoes near the front door, she felt his rough, calloused hands curl around her biceps. Without so much as a warning, Ronnie was twirled around and pressed up against the nearby wall as Oliver took a step forward, eliminating the space between the two until it was impossible to tell where one of them ended and the other began. His thumb and forefinger curled around her chin and tilted her head back, though she only dared to look at him through long, sooty eyelashes.
The bastard cop knew she enjoyed it when he took charge and didn’t treat her like a porcelain doll, but now was not the time for history to repeat itself.
Ronnie and Oliver had enough history together to fill an encyclopedia. They’d met in high school, though they really didn’t have anything to do with each other at the time as they ran with different social circles. There were a handful of parties and social gatherings where they’d exchanged pleasantries; however, that had been the extent of their relationship. A mutual friend set them up on a blind date years later when Ronnie was an articling student and Oliver had been a fourth-class constable for 52 Division. They’d hit it off, kept in touch for a few months, and lost contact when Ronnie was in the process of being called to the bar.
Oliver had been the Crown Attorney’s witness during her very first trial. He had been promoted to 52 Division’s Detective Constable and she nearly hadn’t recognized him prior to beginning questioning. His dark brown hair that had been unruly during high school had been neatly cropped and maintained, and complemented the dark patch of scruff that covered his strong jawline deliciously. His piercing blue eyes had stolen her breath away and she’d stupidly stumbled over her simple identifying questions when the realization had dawned on her.
He’d shown up at her office the next day, the day after that, and the day after that, each time trying to persuade her to go on another date with him. Ronnie had held out for another week before he’d been able to get her to agree to, as he put it,a ‘long overdue’ second date.
The date had been a shit show, in every sense of the word. The waiter had been clumsy and Ronnie had worn her meal instead of eaten it, ruining her beautiful dress. Oliver’s card had been declined at the Dairy Queen when he’d tried to make up for the lousy meal. And they’d ridden back to her apartment in what felt like a hurricane on the back of his Harley, laughing as if they’d lost their mind at the incredulous nature of their night. Even though everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, Ronnie had still invited him upstairs to her apartment and dated him for two years.
During that span, Ronnie had been offered a partnership with the firm, catapulting her into local law journals as the youngest partner in a Bay Street firm. Her case load had increased tenfold and, more often than not, she had found herself standing in front of a judge alongside someone from the Crown Attorney’s office. And, more often than not, they had been out for her client’s blood like a starving vampire. What had pissed Ronnie off and had destroyed the trust she had in him was when the Crown Attorney’s office had managed to turn Oliver into a blood thirsty leech, willing to say or do anything to get what he wanted.
That had been the day Ronnie lost her first high-profile case, and that had been the day when the relationship came to an abrupt, screeching halt.
Ronnie turned her head to the side and forcefully pushed herself away from the wall, focusing her attention on getting her shoes on her feet. She could feel his presence behind her as she bent at the waist, securing the expensive pumps in place, before she stalked towards the kitchen to fetch her affairs. “I have to be at the station in twenty minutes to meet with that guy you brought in on assault charges yesterday, and I would like to swing by my office first to freshen up first,” she said over her shoulder as she dug around her moderately-sized Kate Spade purse for her phone and keys.
With the latter in hand, Ronnie turned on a dime and sauntered back to the front hallway where Oliver was casually leaning against the doorframe and squeezed her small stature through the small space his large body left. Her free hand had just closed around the doorknob when she felt his strong, calloused hand encircle her wrist. He didn’t tug her back into him nor did he try and get her to move in the slightest, he merely held on with a grip that wouldn’t let her continue forward.
“You’re being ridiculous,” he chastised quickly, his bright blue eyes fixated on hers. Oliver took a lengthy step in her direction and tugged at her arm gently until her other hand dropped from the doorknob. “Let that asshole sit down at the station. Any man who thinks they can put their hands on a woman deserves to rot in a cell, especially given the shape the woman was in.”
Ronnie rolled her eyes before letting them drop to where his hand had latched onto her wrist. “Any man who thinks they can put their hands on a woman deserves to rot in a cell, hmm?”
Oliver’s eyes clouded over and the once clear blue that belonged to the waters of a tropical island turned into the sky as storm clouds rumbled in. His grip tightened for a fraction of a second before loosening. “That’s not what I mean,” he huffed. “Jesus, Ronnie, do you have to be so difficult all the fucking time? I’m just trying to say that the pig down at the station roughed up a woman and I don’t really think he deserves anything less than to get his ass beat in general pop, much less your help to walk about as a free man.”
“Oh, that’s right, I forgot. You were there that night, right? You picked him up?”
A sigh fell from Oliver’s lips before he released his hold on her wrist and crossed beefy arms over his broad chest and fixed her with a look that was anything but content. “Do you always have to be difficult?”
Ignoring his question, Ronnie turned to face him and mimicked his stance. “Did you actually see him assault that woman? Or, more specifically, did Richard see him assault the woman?”
“Ron that’s not the point.”
Ronnie took a step forward, bringing them back into each other’s personal space, and jabbed her pointer finger into his left peck. “That is the point,” she exclaimed incredulously. There was a small part of her that wanted to throw her hands up in the air and turn this into much more of a tantrum than an argument; however, the professional side of her managed to keep that particular emotion in check as she withdrew to mimicking his stance once more. “You seem to forget time and time again that people are innocent until proven guilty. It’s in the Goddamned Charter for crying out loud! And yet you and your officers continue to be a puppet for the Crown Attorney’s office, corrupted—”
“Enough!” he roared impatiently, straightening himself up to all but loom over her short stature. “I’ll let you talk a lot of shit out of your ass, Veronica. But I won’t stand here and listen to your bullshit about me and my fellow officers being corrupt or a puppet for the Crown Attorney’s office just because of one case you lost a year ago.”
“But he didn’t do it!”
“In your eyes they never do, Veronica!” he quipped back. “You seem to have convinced yourself that everyone is good and that we – that I’m the bad guy here.”
She fixed him with a look, eyebrow threatening to jump into her hairline, as her next words eagerly perched themselves on the tip of her tongue. It took every ounce of resolve she had to swallow them down and to stamp out the fire that had ignited in the pit of her stomach that wanted desperately to seep into her veins and wreak havoc. Ronnie huffed out a breath through her nose and turned on the sole of her expensive heel without a word, reaching out again to grasp the doorknob.
Behind her, she could hear Oliver groan in frustration mere moments before she felt his chest brush against her back and his fingers curl possessively around her waist. He breathed against the shell of her ear and placed a kiss at the base of her neck, eliciting an involuntary shiver to rake the length of her spine. “I’ll see you down at the station, Ronnie,” he murmured softly as she pried the door open and stepped away from him.
Ronnie hummed a response and traipsed down the hallway towards the elevator. The frustration she felt towards him loomed far too close to the surface for her tongue to cooperate with a civilized goodbye. Instead, she aggressively jabbed her thumb at the elevator call button and stepped into the giant metal box, forcing the doors close behind her, the second she could. Ronnie let out a breath through clenched teeth as she made her way to the underground garage, watching the neon-red numbers change as she descended quite quickly. She wanted to throttle him for being such a narrow-minded, brain washed cop.
Above her head, the elevator tinged and opened its doors, and Ronnie stepped out feeling like hell on heels as she entered the very empty garage. Which, in hindsight, was a blessing because that meant no one would be around to hear her complain about the asshole she had shared a bed with last night or hear her turn her music up to an ear-shattering level as she screamed at her steering wheel all the vile insults she wanted to hurl at his face.
Oliver’s unquestioning loyalty to the force and, by extension, to the Crown Attorney’s office made her want to strangle him with his walkie-talkie cord. How he could be so smart but so incredibly stupid at the same time was infuriating.
It took a few moments, and a few attempts at leveling her breathing, to calm herself enough to shift the large SUV into reverse and sling her arm over the passenger seat to pull out of the spot. Despite its size, the beast beneath her maneuvered itself and handled tight corners with the ease of Oliver’s two-seater sports car. In no time at all, Ronnie was waving at the sweet parking attendant that watched over Oliver’s building and was forcing her way onto Richmond Street West, earning a few honks and one-fingered salutes from both drivers and pedestrians alike.
Even though the drive from Oliver’s condo was about five minutes, the near bumper to bumper traffic she had emerged into was enough to double, if not triple, her estimated travel time. Ronnie chanced a glance at the dashboard navigator and groaned when she saw the time. The prolonged departure from Oliver’s apartment had set her back more than she had anticipated and reduced her chances of being able to swing by her office greatly. She palmed her eyes hard enough to see little bursts of white light before a blaring horn jarred her moment of self-pity and forced her to blink away the stars and move the large Acadia forward.
By the time she pulled into the small lot at 52 Division, Ronnie only had about three minutes to get inside before just about every single officer in the station would hassle her for being late. She chanced a brief look at her appearance in the rearview mirror before ungraciously tumbling out of the SUV and practically running across the parking lot in her four-inch pumps, internally cursing herself for not setting an alarm on her phone. While she would have killed to have had time in front of the mirror with the entire contents of her makeup bag, all she currently wanted was a quick flick of black eye liner, a swish of mascara, and her rouge lipstick to make it look like she hadn’t just rolled out of bed less than an hour ago. At least she didn’t look like she had just had sex. The guys in the station would never let her live it down.
Ronnie pulled open the heavy door and instantly squared her shoulders and lifted her head, forcing herself to walk with a purpose and announce her presence with the constant clacking of her heels on the tiled floor. She pulled the attention of multiple people in the room as she paraded towards the front desk and fought back the smirk when Officer McAllister made eye contact with her and leaned backwards in his chair.
“How’d the broomstick handle this morning?” he chirped as she stopped in front of the desk and leaned her forearms on the top. “Still pulling to the left?”
A slight smirk tugged at the corner of her lips, lifting the right side of her mouth in a devious way. “Fine,” she replied quickly, unable to keep the humor from her voice, “and no, I got that fixed last week. He handles like a dream now.”
Officer McAllister’s eyebrows jumped towards his hairline before a mischievous smile contorted his mouth in a devilishly handsome way. “Your broomstick’s a he now?”
Ronnie didn’t miss the surprise and excitement that laced the officer’s words and chuckled lowly. “Mmh,” she mused with a wink, feeling quite daring as she watched the mischief dance in Officer McAllister’s dark brown irises. “He gets me off - I mean, gets me here every time.”
Someone cleared their throat. Ronnie drew her attention off of the officer in front of her and turned around just in time to catch the disapproving look Oliver was shooting towards Officer McAllister. She rolled her eyes and turned back to McAllister, a silly grin still playing across her heart-shaped face. “You could have warned me, Dick,” she chastised him, leaning a bit into the counter to swat at his shoulder.
Officer Richard McAllister chuckled. “And where’s the fun in that, Ronnie?”
She fixed him with a one fingered salute over her shoulder as she turned on her Louboutin-clad heel and stalked towards the door that would lead her to the holding cells. Behind her, she could hear Office McAllister continue to chuckle before she heard the telltale buzz that granted her access to her potential clients. Ronnie could also hear footsteps behind her and braced herself when a hand appeared above her head, holding the door open long enough for both her and Oliver to squeeze through.
“I thought you said you’d meet me here later?” she finally piped up as they made their way down the main hallway of the station. Ronnie was genuinely surprised that they seemed to be the only two people in the hall, it was normally full of such life and commotion that she found herself actively looking for Oliver’s fellow officers behind her shoulders and in every room they passed.
Oliver walked alongside her and, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the boyish smirk that tugged at the lower half of his face. “Well,” he began, his tone rather serious, “it is technically later.”
“Ha ha,” she laughed dryly, coming to an abrupt halt. Oliver continued on a few steps before he, too, stopped and turned to look at her. “Seriously. I didn’t think your shift started for a while.”
“Why? Are you trying to get rid of me or something?” he asked and Ronnie couldn’t help but pick up on an unknown something interwoven with his voice that sent her senses on high alert. Oliver took a step towards her and it took quite a bit of mental coaxing to keep her legs locked in place as he quickly closed the space between the two. There was a moment where his face was covered by a blank mask before he dropped it and a teasing smile danced across his eyes and uplifted his mouth. “I’m just being a jerk, baby, relax. I got a call from the Chief just after you left asking me to come in early to go over some things in his office.”
Ronnie stalked around him, rolling her eyes despite herself. “You can’t call me that anymore, Oliver,” she said definitively, not caring that she had her back to him as she said it. The hall was quiet enough that her voice would carry even over the consistent click of her heels. There were more words that rose to the tip of her tongue but she managed to swallow them down and focus her attention, instead, on the potential client that was being kept in a holding cell.
“Why not, Ronnie? Last I checked, you’re still mine.”
Her fingers froze on the door handle for a brief, fleeting moment before she turned towards him, ready to give him a piece of her mind. Only, he wasn’t where she’d left him. The door to the Police Chief’s office closed softly, leaving Ronnie staring venomously at the plane of glass that separated her from the asshole who vexed her to no end.