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A frown creased the smooth brow of Ellie Holden, her deep blue eyes narrowed in concern as she paced up and down on the sidewalk outside the offices of the Police Department, occasionally turning toward the stairs, only to falter and return to her pacing, the envelope clutched in her hand becoming creased and moist from the sweat of her palm.
What the hell was she doing? This was none of her business. If Professor Munro wasn't bothered, why should she be?
But she couldn't make herself walk away. She liked the professor, he didn't deserve this.
Ellie turned determinedly toward the stairs and managed to climb three before groaning and doing a 180 and planting her backside on the bottom stair.
Problem was, she didn't want Professor Munro to get mad at her--he had already made his feelings on the subject clear. He might not like her making decisions for him.
Maybe he was right. Maybe it was nothing...
...or maybe it was something.
Ellie hung her head and groaned again.
"Ellie?" Her head snapped up at the sound of her name.
"Are you okay, sweetie?" Anna Keegan asked, balancing two Starbucks cups in one hand to push back a stray lock of red hair that had escaped the neat bun at the nape of her neck.
"Hey, Anna." Ellie smiled wanly, standing and brushing off the seat of her jeans. "I was just..." She trailed off with a shrug.
Anna tried not to show her concern, unused to the younger woman being anything other than outgoing and cheerful. "You here to see Nathaniel?" she asked.
Ellie glanced at the crumpled envelope in her hand. "I was just, uh, well..." She sighed in exasperation at her own indecision. Okay, this didn't have to be abig thing. She could show him the letter, see what he thought--the professor didn't even have to know.
"Yes, yes I am," Ellie said, more firmly than she felt.
Anna indicated the stairs with a cup laden hand. "After you."
After only the slightest of hesitations, Ellie climbed the stairs to the front door, aware of Anna watching her closely. She held the door open for Anna and pressed the button for the elevator. As they rode up to the third floor in an uncomfortable silence, Ellie could feel the tension in her shoulders travel down her arms, and panic seized her breath. She had to fight the urge to press the stop button.
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open at the third floor. Ellie moved toward the bullpen on leaden legs, nodding and returning greetings from detectives and uniforms alike.
"Yo, Nat, you've got a visitor." Ellie flinched at the sound of Anna's voice next to her, feeling inexplicably exposed.
Detective Nathaniel Holden looked up from the file on his desk, deep blue eyes lighting up, a smile turning up the corners of his mouth at the sight of his daughter. He uncurled his long, muscular frame from the chair, crossed the bullpen in a few strides and enveloped Ellie in a bear hug. "Hi, honey, come to visit the old man?"
"Hi, Daddy," Ellie replied, returning the hug.
Her lack of enthusiasm caught Nathaniel's attention. He pulled back and held Ellie at arms length. "Honey? Something wrong?"
Ellie looked at the envelope, her fingers flexing, her whole body exuding indecision. She finally looked up at Nathaniel. "Can we talk? Somewhere quiet?"