Page 16 of The District

“It made sense at the time.”

“At the time, you were in crazy town.” She sniffed and dabbed a corner of the napkin under her bottom lashes.

She was right. He’d been out of his mind with grief and anger after losing Noah. When he’d turned to his fiancée for comfort and support, he’d found her notes about his father and his family and a nosy reporter feeding him lies.

Over the past few years, he’d had time to think about it all. It did seem pretty far-fetched that Christina would get into a relationship with him, agree to marry him, sleep with him—all to get the goods on his family tragedy to write a killer book.

She stuck out her hand, wiggling her fingers. “Can we call a truce while we’re working on this case together?”

“Sure.” He clasped her fingers, still chilly from mopping up the ice water. “I think I can even manage an apology. I overreacted to seeing those notes—bad timing all around.”

She squeezed his hand. “Me, too. I should’ve never kept...that from you. I figured if I told you I had been researching your father’s case, you’d think I was a creepy stalker.”

“Truce.” He dropped her hand and held up his own.

“So you’re done with the well-aimed barbs?”

Truth was, he’d forgiven her a while back when he’d been on his leave of absence and was able to think clearly about the situation. It helped that no book had come out, and he hadn’t heard anything linking her to Lopez.

And the barbs? Self-preservation against her charms. Just because he’d forgiven her didn’t mean they should resume their engagement. She’d kept things from him, and he didn’t like secrets—had grown up with too many of them.

“No barbs, well-aimed or otherwise.” He pushed the rest of his drink aside and tore into a roll. The tension he’d been holding in his shoulders all day had slipped away. She’d been right about that, too—get everything out in the open.

They had a job to do.

Their food arrived and between bites, they discussed her cases and his task force in South America.

If someone had told him two years ago that he’d be sitting across the table from Christina laughing and sharing stories, he never would’ve believed it. The time off had done him good. Talking with his brothers had done him good.

As he signed the credit card receipt, Christina pinged his glass of scotch, sending ripples through the amber liquid. “Are you leaving this? By my calculations, that’s about eight bucks sitting in that glass, eight bucks the Bureau isn’t paying for.”

“I’m good. Do you want the rest?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Only if you toss it in with some sweet liqueurs and mixers and stick a colorful umbrella in it.”

“Uh, no.” He folded the receipt and stuck it in his pocket. “Are you ready?”

“Kindred Spirits is around the corner.” She picked up her phone and tipped it back and forth. “Open until midnight on Friday night.”

“Let’s go inhale some incense.”

He placed his hand on the small of her back and steered her out of the crowded restaurant.

As they passed their car on the street, Eric fed a few more quarters into the meter. “You don’t want to stick the Bureau with a parking ticket.”

She rolled her eyes. “Do you really think they’d pay for my parking ticket?”

“Even more reason not to get one.” He slipped another quarter into the slot.

They turned the corner and he dipped his head against the sharp wind that whipped around the building. Even during the summer, the San Francisco Bay kept the city cool. “Is it on this block or the next one?”

Holding up her phone, she answered, “It’s actually in an alley off this street.”

They walked about halfway down the sidewalk, and Christina jerked her thumb to the right. “Down here.”

The alley dropped two steps and the ground beneath their feet changed to cobblestones. Music wafted or blared from the storefronts, depending on the wares inside. A wooden sign with Kindred Spirits printed in red along with a bubbling cauldron creaked in front of one of the stores.

He tugged on a wayward lock of Christina’s long hair. “That’s our store.”

“Cute logo.” She tapped the edge of the sign as they ducked into the store.

The top of his head brushed a tassel of bells hanging from the doorway and their light tinkle announced their arrival.

Soft New Age music played in the background and Eric’s nose twitched at the smell of sandalwood incense. He sniffed. “Told you so.”

“Smells nice.”

A woman emerged from the back of the store, throwing one impossibly long gray braid over her shoulder. “Welcome, kindred spirits. Can I help you with something, or are you here to browse?”