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"I need to join a gym or karate class, or something. I'm so stressed lately." Paige swiveled the chair around to look out over the other operators.
Becca leaned toward the computer screen, her plump stomach pressed against the edge of the desk, eyes intent on the screen and talking into her mouthpiece. Tammy, with her dark hair pinned tight to her scalp, was pecking information on the keyboard.
Their voices mingled, making all words and sentences join together to form only one constructive meaning for Paige ... someone was in pain, someone was hurt, someone needed help ... and their voices were the only soothing comfort at this exact moment in time to the person on the other end.
No one in the world could ever fathom the stress the operators endured on a daily basis, to be the only link between life and death to a stranger. The victims were nothing more than a shrilling voice and a name across a computer screen, yet their lives were in the operator's hands. Paige's quick action and words could mean the difference between a frantic trip to the hospital or a slow drive to the morgue.
Having that responsibility could be overwhelming, making Paige want to scream out her fury or sometimes just curl into a ball and cry out her sorrow.
"That's odd you say that." Gail walked between their desks to lean against the wall. It was her normal hiding spot when she didn't want any other ears to listen. "I joined an online group."
Paige narrowed her eyes, wondering how in the hell some Yahoo group could relieve stress. "And?"
Gail's brown eyes twinkled and a smile jerked the corner of her lips. "A BDSM group. You wouldn't believe how at ease I am after ... well,after." She grinned and straightened.
"A what!" Paige briefly looked around to make sure prying eyes hadn't zoned in on a private conversation without their knowledge. "BDSM?" she whispered.
Gail nodded. "Yep. It's the greatest thing in the world, awesome stress reliever."
Paige smiled sarcastically. "Do you get to use cyber whips and chains, pretend floggers and butt plugs? Ooh. That must be so much fun for you." She rolled her eyes. "How in hell can that possibly ease stress?"
"It just does, smartass. Here." Gail snatched a sticky note from the top of the cube, picked up a pen, and scribbled a few words. She tossed the pen down and stuffed the paper in Paige's hand. "Go see for yourself. I know how much you want my body, cause it's so sexy and all, but you can't have me. So don't try any funny stuff, or I'll have to block you." She winked.
Paige gave her a mocking grin before she glanced at the paper.
"Ooh. Gail's got a kink." Paige batted her lashes.
Someone cleared her throat.
They both turned to see their boss, Veronica, watching them with her normal scowl, her piercing eyes nothing more than slits of jade. "You ladies should clear your desks before you leave for lunch." She ran her gaze down Gail's tall frame before leaving.
Paige watched her walk away. "Bitch. She needs the corncob removed from her ass."
"Nah. She just needs a good woman to show her what she's missing in her boring sex life." Gail turned back to Paige. "From the look she just gave me, I might have to invite her to dinner one night very soon." She wiggled her brow.
"She's married, nimrod. To a man!"
A smile stretched Gail's lush mouth. "My point exactly."
Paige shook her head and pushed out of the chair. "You're a freak. A sick freak on top of that." She removed her sweatshirt from the back of her chair, checked to make sure the only sheet of paper on her desk was snug in the corner so tightassed Veronica wouldn't have anything to scold her for, then rolled her shoulders in a useless attempt to help ease the stiff knots in her back and neck.
"Don't be jealous. There's enough of me to go around." The dimple in Gail's cheek deepened with a joker smile. She pushed off the wall and grabbed her jacket. "Time to get the hell out of here. Where we going today?"
Paige followed her out of the office and down the long, echoing corridor that led to the north tower where the police headquarters were housed. The wide halls always made her feel like she was back in high school, minus the crowd of students. "I dunno. Franks? As long as I'm out of that office, I don't give a shit what we eat."
"I saw a bunch of cops going across the street to the pizzeria. Shall we go bust up their party?" Gail scooted next to Paige and lowered her voice. "Maybe you could squeeze into a booth with her, play footsy under the table."
Paige snorted and gave her a glare. She stalled outside the precinct office, wishing she was a teen again back in those crowded halls and not thirty-three, so she could flirt to get attention. However, it was boys who returned the affection back then, long before she realized it was women who made her heart go pitty-pat.
She quickly let her gaze travel over the officers walking around the room, sitting at their desks, some writing, some with phones pressed to their ears. She was looking for one in particular.
Her ... Kellie Hamrick. The mental sound of her name alone awoke the sleeping butterflies in her gut. And why, Paige didn't know. Kellie was the Sarge's favorite niece, who basically kept to herself and hardly ever spoke a word. She didn't know Paige existed, walked right past her with barely a glance, sometimes with a curt nod, as if that's all Paige deserved. The woman came across as a snotty bitch, yet for some unknown reason, Paige couldn't rattle her from her brain, or stop thinking about her.
Recently, Kellie had been hanging around the precinct. The grapevine usually spread fast through the halls, but no one was talking about why Kellie was always in her office instead of on the beat with her asshole partner. The gossip was she'd been given a cushy job because of her uncle. Whether that was true or not, Paige didn't know. What she did know was Kellie's presence caused her insides to short circuit every time she passed their office door.
She'd stepped in behind Kellie on several occasions to absorb her musky scent and watch her tight ass shift in her army-green uniform slacks, imagining what Kellie could do with the baton attached to her hip, or the shiny handcuffs dangling from her side.