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"No," Deputy U.S. Marshal Adam Logue said to the company shrink, sitting across from her in her second-story loft located in the center of Portland's artsy Pearl District.
"Now what kind of attitude is that?" The middle-aged woman eyed him with a concerned frown before consulting her clipboard. The clipboard on which she'd somsehow managed to cram everything that'd been going on in his head. Private stuff. Stuff he'd never told another soul — so how had it ended up there?
"Mr. Logue," Dr. Margaret Davey said, resuming her former all-business smile. "Or, Adam, if I may call you that?"
"Mr. Logue works for me."
"All right." She made a note on her clipboard. Great. After that San Francisco shooting, all he needed was another mark on his record.
"Look," he said. "If I get brownie points for allowing you to call me by my first name, that's cool. I just — "
She wrote faster and faster. "Did you hear me?"
She stopped. Looked up. "Sure, I heard you, Mr. Logue. My question for you is, are you hearing yourself? Because I'm sensing an enormous reserve of pent-up anger. But even more importantly — fear. Care to expand on that?"
"Well " He leaned forward, gracing her with an acid smile. "I could tell you everything that led me here, but what's the point? You've got it all there on my chart."
"True, but I have someone else's version. What I'm after is your own."
"My version?" With a sharp laugh, he began. "Here goes. I fell for the wrong girl. She was shot and killed. I couldn't do a damn thing to save her. When I saw a guy threatening to whack my brother and the woman he loves, I shot him. I was doing my job as a U.S. Marshal.Am I angry? Hell, yeah. But not at the world. Not at the system. I'm mad at myself. I'm especially pissed my dad's behind this." He gestured to the sparse surroundings — the gray walls, the black-leather furniture. Even the curtains were gray, blocking out a gray Portland, Oregon, day. "Even though my old man's retired, he still plays golf with my boss. Over an afternoon of too much sun and beer, the two of them hatched this plan for me to get my head straight. So when you so cavalierly suggested I start dating again, my answer was no. Will always be — no."
"So then there's really no point in being here?"
"Right. Glad you finally see this my way." He pushed himself up from the stupid, too-soft black armchair he'd spent the past thirty minutes drowning in. "I take it the boss gets the bill?"
She nodded. "Great. Have a nice life, and sorry if I come across as rough around the edges, but I'm not a touchy-feely guy. Never have been, never will be."
"Sit down, Mr. Logue. You're on my time, and I still have another thirty minutes."
He ignored her, heading for the door. "Your boss feels that, because of what happened in San Francisco and years earlier with Angela Jacobs, you've become a shell of a person. A robot. Which, in turn, has affected virtually every area of your life — including your work. Would you say this is a fair assessment?"
"I'd say," he said, fingers clenched around the cold, brass doorknob, "it's none of your business — or Franks'. I do my job. Was cleared of any wrongdoing."
"Fair enough." Scribble, scribble. "More orthodox psychiatrists prefer slow, methodical treatment, but I've never been that long-suffering. Hence your prescription."
"Yes, earlier, when I suggested you resume dating, it wasn't just an idea I tossed out. I believe when a patient has fallen off their horse, they should climb right back — "
He marched across the room, planting his hands on her chair's armrests. "Angela isn't a freakin'horse. She's a flesh-and-blood woman who — "
"Are you even aware you're speaking of her in present tense? As if she's still alive?"
At the shrink's venomous words, Adam abruptly released her chair. Took about ten steps back, parking himself in the relatively safe back end of her office.
"Before next week," she said, "I'll expect you to have gone on one date. It doesn't have to be long or elaborate. Meeting a woman for coffee will do. But, Adam, whether you believe it or not, your boss is serious about getting you help. And after meeting with you today, I must say that in my professional opinion, his concerns are valid. Now " She cleared her throat. "I believe I've sufficiently explained your assignment. Do you have any questions?"
Oh — he had questions. Such as, was this invasion of his personal life even legal? And how long would he be put in the slammer for kidnapping his boss, then forcing him to sit through an hour of this asinine psychobabble?
"All right, then." She stood and flashed him what he took as a pitying smile. "If you have no questions, I'll look forward to seeing you next week."
Not if he had anything to say about it. "BUG," Adam complained, "you wouldn't believe the crap she said to me. I mean, it was as if I wasn't even in the room. I swear, the woman's got it in for me."
Deputy U.S. Marshal Charity Caldwell — "Bug," as friends, co-workers and family called her because of her vast insect collection — didn't look up from pinning the Goliathus cassicus she'd ordered off theWeb.Wow, was he a beauty — the West African beetle, not Adam.
Well, Adam was a beauty, too. But not because of his gold iridescent wings. She snort-laughed.
"I'm pouring out my heart, here. What's so funny?"
"You had to be there," she said, attention back on her acquisition. Adam had been on this tirade for a good thirty minutes. And truthfully, though she felt for the guy, she'd heard enough. She agreed that he shouldn't be dating — at least no one but her. Charity loved him. Had loved him ever since their first stakeout when her foot-long chili dog fell out the van window — long story — and he'd given her his.
"Where have you been lately that I haven't?"
"Nowhere," she said. "You had to be there' is a figure of speech."
"I knew it. While I was stuck in traffic getting to and from the shrink's, not to mention the time I wasted there, something good went down and I missed it. Let's hear it."
She rolled her eyes. Shoved her obnoxiously thick glasses higher on her nose. "Tell me " Like some powerful, long-legged cat, he sprung from his chair, lunging at her mounting plate. "Talk, or the cockroach gets it."
"It's not a cockroach, and — " You're seriously invading my personal space. For just a second she squeezed her eyes shut, breathing him in. Had any man in the history of manhood ever smelled this good? Adam's scent was this crazy-hot mixture of everything she loved. Being outside on cold rainy days, gun powder and fast-food hamburgers. In short, he was her total package — only to him, she was just another of the guys.
Why, oh, why, couldn't she love someone else? Why was Adam's eternally messy dark hair such a turn-on? Why did she melt with just one look into his chocolate-brown eyes? Why did his big old toothy grin turn her stomach upside down? And the biggest question of all — why did she love him when she wasn't even sure he realized she was a woman?
Okay, and maybe that wasn't the biggest question, because an even more burning question was, when her biological clock was tick, tick, ticking to the point she no longer had the luxury of being choosy, why couldn't she for once banish the guy from her heart?
"Spill," he continued to tease, taking the mounting plate from her lap, setting it on the coffee table.
"Don't think I won't tickle you, because you know I will."
Before she had time to fight him, he'd wrestled her up and out of her chair, down to the floor, tickling her ribs and underarms until she couldn't breathe from laughing.
"Stop!" she shrieked. "I'll tell you!"
"Bout time," he said, breathing heavy, straddling her hips. Crossing his arms with a look of utter victory, she wiped the smirk off his face by pulling her best wrestling move, flipping him off of her and square into the recliner.
"Ouch!" he complained. "What'd you do that for?"
"You told me to spill," she said with a sweet smile.
"You just never said what."
"Anyone ever told you you're mean?"
"Been hearing it ever since I gassed my first water bug."
"That is pretty harsh," he said, leaning back against the recliner.
"My perfect sister thought so, too." But for as long as she could remember, Charity hadn't had a problem with any aspects of her predominantly male-oriented world — even if it meant gassing her own insect specimens. It wasn't something she liked thinking about, but she used to be a girly girl, hanging out with her mom and big sister while her twin brother, Craig, was tight with their dad. Then Craig had died when they'd been only seven. He'd fallen out of a tree house he and their dad had built that past summer.
It had taken her father a year and another summer to recover from Craig's death, and Charity liked to think that in large part, she'd been the reason Dad had begun to live again. Trouble was, in her heart of hearts, she knew that to her father she'd stopped being a daughter and had assumed the role of surrogate son. She'd taken up softball, stamp and bug collecting. Even as an adult, she still very much enjoyed her bugs — the hobby her father launched. The activity was calming. The camaraderie of sharing exciting new acquisitions with her dad — even if it was now mostly over the phone or Internet, seeing how he and her mom lived in Wyoming. The best part of the pastime was the order it brought to her world, where chaos typically reigned — at least where Adam was concerned.