Hell, what had just happened here?
Dax stood, zipping himself back up as he tried to collect his thoughts. If he was having second thoughts, then so was Patty, judging from the way she jerked upright, tugging her clothing back in place.
“I’m sorry.” They both said the words in unison, and she gave a nervous laugh.
His legs were still not quite right, and he had to force them beneath him to avoid having to lean against his desk. “That shouldn’t have happened.”
“No.” Her agreement was expected, but it still struck a nerve. “And I—I’m not sure we should be working together. Not sure we can work together.”
Was she saying he should quit?
Maybe he should. But it was Patty who had kept things secret, not him. If she had just responded to any of his texts asking to meet or asking her to call him, maybe they wouldn’t be at this point. Maybe they would have tied up all their loose ends and gone their separate ways. Or maybe they’d still be together.
But neither of those things had happened. And by leaving him with a boatload of unresolved emotions, she’d stolen the trust that came with being with someone. Much like his father had stolen his trust during his formative years. It had taken him too long to get over her. And to have had sex with her within days of seeing her again?
He wasn’t the only one who’d gone through hell, though. He’d heard the tremor in Patty’s voice as she shared what had happened. The loss. The grief. The unbelievable pain.
What he couldn’t do, however, was go down this road again, although it didn’t sound like she wanted to, either.
“So what do you suggest we do? I think if you continue to erase your name from my cases, one of us is eventually going to have to answer some questions.”
“I know.” She clasped her hands in front of her. “My aunt needs me right now, so I can’t just go back to St. Lucia.”
She would leave the island? Because the prospect of working with him was too hard to face?
“What if I promise that whatever happened here will never happen again?”
“How can you be so sure?”
“The same way it never happened the whole time we were in high school.”
Patty flinched. At least he thought that’s what she did. It could have just been the way she was fiddling with her skirt. “You make it sound so easy.”
It wasn’t going to be easy. It was going to be damned hard. So he was just going to have to focus on those months after she stopped texting, those months when he thought his world was ending. He’d promised himself he would never mourn another woman the way he’d mourned her. And so far, he’d kept that promise. All involvement with women was superficial, and they’d seemed just as happy to keep it that way. It wasn’t the most satisfying thing in the world, but surely he could get any fulfillment he needed from his work.
“It can be. Maybe this—” he motioned between them “—was about unresolved issues. Now that we’ve set the record straight, it should be easier.”
“If you say so.” She didn’t sound any surer than he was.
“We’ll just avoid being alone. Or talking about anything that can bring up emotions from the past.” He gave a tight smile. “The only conversation between us will be about our jobs.”
“Okay,” she agreed. “From now on, no talking about anything…except work.”
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