Colton by Marie James

 

 

Chapter 1

Colton

“That’s correct,” I sigh, head bent over my keyboard, eyes squeezed shut as if it will help to stave off the irritation of having to deal with this for a third time. “I submitted my request two weeks ago.”

“We can’t find it, Detective Matthews. You’ll have to submit it again.” The voice on the other end of the line seems just as annoyed as I’m feeling.

Mondays suck.

Pinching the bridge of my nose, I take another deep breath. The first ten didn’t help, and this one doesn’t seem like it’s going to either.

“That’s the same thing I was told last week, so I submitted the request again. Is there a supervisor I can speak with?”

“Hold, please.”

Ridiculous elevator music fills the line as my eyes dart to the growing stack of cases on my desk. Farmington isn’t a huge town, so every questionable death lands in front of me. I contemplate taking a vacation, but I know the work will only be waiting for me when I return.

“Hey.”

My eyes snap up to the doorway. I’ve only been at work for twenty minutes, but I’m still not capable of reflecting back the grin that’s being aimed at me.

I raise an eyebrow when my chief doesn’t immediately open his mouth to speak.

“What’s up?”

“Don’t forget you have Professor Wesley from that community college coming today.”

How could I forget?

The answer is simple, I have a million other things to worry about than entertaining the idea of speaking to a bunch of gore-hungry college students about police work. They don’t want to know a damn thing about the ins and outs of the job. Of course their questions start off simple, but they always end with wanting to know about the gruesome side of the job. I blame television for desensitizing today’s youth.

“Tell me that isn’t today.”

“It is,” Chief Monahan confirms as he looks down at his watch. “She should be here any minute.”

“Thanks,” I mumble, holding up a finger when the music stops and someone comes back on the line.

“Detective Matthews?”

“Still here,” I mutter because her voice is filled with the hopefulness that I’ve hung up the phone while waiting.

“I’ve found your request for those documents. I’ll start processing it now.”

“Will it be expedited due to the delay?”

Light from the outer room fills my office when Monahan walks away.

“Did the precinct pay for the rush fee?” My eyes narrow.

“No, but the initial request was made over two weeks ago.”

“Without the correct fees applied, it will be five business days.”

“Perfect.” It’s anything but perfect, but the request is for a cold case I’ve been dabbling with for the last six months. Another week, honestly, won’t make a difference.

“The requested documents will be ready for pickup next Monday.”

My lip twitches, the agitation I’ve felt since my alarm went off this morning coming to a head.

“Thank you,” I tell the clerk before dropping the phone back on the receiver.

If my first thirty minutes at work is a reflection of how today is going to go, I may need that vacation after all. With my eyes closed, I roll my head around on my shoulders, but the back-and-forth motion doesn’t alleviate the stress that’s been building nonstop since I graduated from the academy fourteen years ago.

“Looks like you could use a massage.”

My eyes snap open, but before I can open my mouth to tell the interloper to fuck off, I notice her smile.

Yes, it’s the first thing I see, but I’m a cop, so the ability to take in the full picture in the blink of an eye is a skill I honed many, many years ago.

Mysterious dark eyes, haloed by long lashes, watch me. A slender neck leads to a regretfully fully buttoned blouse. The no doubt sexy curve of her breasts is hidden behind a suit jacket. The soft flare of her hips is covered by a pencil skirt that flirts at the top of her knees. Her tan skin glistens, which should be an anomaly considering the harsh florescent lights.

She’s utter perfection. Younger than I would think a college professor would be, but what the hell do I know? There’s so much cosmetic stuff on the market these days, fifty is the new thirty-five. Going by that math, I’d say this woman may look no older than twenty-five, but she’s probably about ten years older—same age as me.

Suddenly, helping this woman out with her class seems like the best idea my chief has ever tossed my way. When her smile widens, I understand completely. As a married man, Monahan probably didn’t want the trouble that would come with this woman. Not that he would cheat, the man is as loyal as they come, but this woman is clearly meant for sin.

“May I have a seat?”

I blink up at her, my brain refusing to come back online.

“What?”

“A seat?” She points a perfectly manicured nail at the chair in front of my desk.

“Oh, yeah.” I stand like a starstruck idiot and point.

She chuckles, and it makes me wonder if she gets this reaction all the time. I wouldn’t doubt it. I see crazy stuff nearly every day, and I’m certain this is the first time my brain has been fried by a good-looking woman.

“Monahan reminded me this morning you’d be here.”

Her brow furrows, and I give myself an internal pat on the back. It’s the only way I can think to regain some power, to let her know I may be acting like a fool now, but that I haven’t been waiting around for her to show up.

“Who?”

“Chief Monahan,” I clarify.

She gives me a small smile as she lowers a leather computer bag beside the chair at her feet.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t know Chief Monahan very well. I think I’ve only met him once.”

“Great guy,” I say as I settle back in my chair. “Surprised you wanted to meet with me instead of him.”

“I’m not very interested in the administrative side of the department, Detective Matthews.”

Is her voice actually as sultry as it sounds when she says my name, or has it just been too long since I’ve had a woman under me?

I clear my throat, the office being no place to even contemplate the things that seem to want to infiltrate my head right now.

“What exactly are you interested in?”

I lean back in my office chair, finding it strange that I’m being weird about where my hands are situated. Clasping them together, I settle them on my lap, but then realize I look like a teen trying to hide an erection, so I curl my fingers around the armrests. The woman is smoking hot, but I’m a grown-ass man in control of my damn body.

Then she shifts, lifting her leg slightly to cross it over her other, and my hands go right back to my lap.

Clearing my throat, I scoot further under my desk.

“You seem a little out of sorts.” She bends, the top buttons on her blouse stretching and sadly holding when she reaches into her laptop bag. “Is it because it’s Monday or does every day on the job stress you out?”

My brain doesn’t come back online again until she straightens in her chair with a notebook on her lap and a pen in her hand.

“Some days are better than others.”

“You make it sound like all days have some degree of bad.”

“I’m a homicide detective,” I remind her. “Every day is bad for someone.”

Her smile drops from her pretty face when she takes in the gravity of my words.

“You don’t seem as rabid for information. Are the students in your class the same?”

I’m probably not the first person she’s approached to speak to her class. Most criminal justice programs are smaller, and the students take the majority of the classes offered. I imagine recycling the same guest speakers would get boring.

“I guess like with any class, the personalities range from disinterested to rabid as you called it.” She lifts the end of her pen to her mouth, her plump lips pursing against it, and I’m fascinated at the sight.

I can’t concentrate, not even a little.

“I have a pretty full schedule today. Maybe we should get together over dinner to discuss the finer details?” I keep my focus on her mouth, praying she’s savvy enough to understand my hesitation to continue a discussion in my office.

“Dinner?” My skin heats when her gaze focuses on my own mouth. “It’s not even nine yet. We could get so much done between now and then.”

“We could,” I agree. “But I have to work.”

“Won’t you be tired by the end of your shift?”

“I have a very good feeling my energy level won’t be an issue.”

“No?” That fucking pen teases her lower lip, and the erection I was certain I could keep at bay is throbbing behind the zipper of my slacks.

I lower my voice. “Not a chance. We could meet at Wright’s, the little diner off Main. Say six o’clock?”

“For dinner?”

“Yes.”

“Seems like a waste of time.” Her eyes lift to mine, sparkling with mischief and desire. “Wouldn’t the Hampton Inn be better?”

“Get right to the point?” I tease.

“Is there any other way?”

“We’ll have to discuss your class, eventually.”

“It can wait another day, or we could chat while you’re recharging.”

“You assume you’ll wear me out.”

“I know I will.” Perfect teeth dig into her lower lip, and although I’ve never done it before, I have the sudden urge to feign illness and leave for the day.

I shift in my seat, and she gives me a knowing look.

“Besides,” she leans closer, “are you really going to get anything done with a hard co—”

“Matthews!”

Guiltily, I snap my head up, and I want to unleash a territorial growl when Detective Haden Gaffey smiles down at my visitor.

“What?” I snap, but he ignores me.

“Are you serious?” Gaffey asks the woman opposite of me as he draws closer. “I didn’t know I’d be seeing your beautiful face today.”

“Haden,” the professor says with an easy smile.

I nearly come unglued like a psycho when she stands and his arms automatically go around her waist.

“You look amazing. How’s your dad?”

“He’s good. Staying busy with work. You know how it is.”

I release a breath I didn’t know I was holding when she steps back, putting a couple feet of distance between them.

Gaffey has been on the police force for almost twenty years, and he was one of my training officers when I was first hired. I’ve always respected the hell out of the man, and it’s shocking I was ready to chew his face off when he first walked in here.

“Don’t let this one give you a hard time,” Gaffey says, hitching his thumb over his shoulder in my direction.

Oh, I have a hard time for her alright.

She grins at me. “I can handle him.”

“Yeah?” Gaffey laughs. “I don’t imagine it’ll be too bad working with him. I don’t think there’s a man alive that would want to get on the wrong side of your dad.”

She rolls her eyes, making her appear much younger than her attire is hinting at.

“It’s good to see you, Soph.” Gaffey turns in my direction. “That professor from the college is waiting in the lobby for you.”

He walks away, but my eyes snap to the woman in front of me.