"I wanna know what happened," Adam said.

Tess was known for her toughness, she couldn't back down, even if he was her superior. "I can't explain now."

"Well, you'd better explain now. I don't put up with this from anyone." He leaned close to her, his eyes hard.

Tess tried to match his stare. "That's bull, I've never given you any trouble, and you know that as well as I do."

"I won't stand for this on my force."

Tess ripped a piece of paper off his desk and scribbled her address on it. "If you want to talk to me, come find me," she whispered, shoving the note in his pocket before walking away.

She walked to the women's locker room, never a busy place, and changed into her street clothes, a short skirt and a thin blouse, then slipped on her black pumps, and looked very unlike a police officer. She was furious, not so much with Adam, who was doing his job, as she was with her partner, Kevin, who had been doing something other than his job. She didn't know what he had been doing or where he had been, but she wanted an explanation from him, although she knew any explanation he'd offer would probably be a lie.

Tess steeled herself before opening the door. She needed to let her fellow officers know she was just as tough as they were, even though she was "only a woman," as she was so often reminded. She was a damn good cop, she knew she was. She slipped out the back door, climbed into her car, and drove home with the windows open and the radio on loud. Tess often found a little heavy metal cleared her head. She parked her car and went in the door that was never locked, then up the three flights of stairs. Her apartment was an attic, but it was the only apartment on the fourth floor. Small though it was, it felt private to her, and she liked her privacy.

The apartment was tidy. She always kept it tidy. Nobody ever visited, but if they had, she wouldn't have been embarrassed to have them come inside. Her mother had taught her well. She was just deciding whether or not to make a pot of coffee when there was a knock on the door. She looked through the peephole and saw Adam. She unlocked the door quickly and opened it.

"Come in, Adam." She closed and locked the door after he entered.

"Nice place," he said, obviously uncomfortable.

"Would you prefer a cup of coffee or a glass of wine?"

"Oh, I don't know. I don't want to trouble you."

She patted his arm lightly. "Trust me, it's no bother at all. What'll it be?"

"Maybe a glass of wine."

Tess opened her cabinet and produced two wine glasses and a bottle of red wine. She poured healthy servings for each of them. Adam was sitting on her couch, which was her polite word for her futon in its folded up position. She sat beside him and handed him his glass.

"To figuring this mess out." She raised her glass.

Adam clinked glasses with her and had a sip of his wine. He pressed the glass to his lip for a moment. "You know, Tess, it's really hard to be mean to you when you're dressed like that."

"I know."

He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. "What the hell happened out there?"

Tess pulled her feet up under her, her knees pointing toward Adam. "The guy came out of the building and Kevin was just gone. I don't know where he was."

Adam let out his breath slowly, very audibly. "We've been watching Kevin for a while, Ned and I."

"Yeah?"

"He's crooked, we're sure of it, but we have no absolute proof."

"He's gone so much, Adam. I think he's more of a hazard to me than he is a help. Especially after tonight." Tess stretched her feet out and rested them on the table.

"God, Tess, I wish you wouldn't do that," Adam said.

"Do what?"

"Those legs."

Tess laughed but didn't move them. "It bothers you?"

"No, it turns me on." Adam shifted slightly, moving away from Tess.

"Seriously?"

"You know Barry said you're frigid."

"That's because I hated him." Tess thought briefly of the man who had hunted her for months before moving on to friendlier prey.

"What was wrong with Barry?" Adam asked.

Tess put her feet on the floor. "Too arrogant."

Adam nodded.

"I really turn you on?" Tess looked intently at Adam, pleased to see him blush.

"I'm your supervisor," he said.

"And?"

Adam shrugged.

"Would anyone know?" She crossed one leg over the other, and let her shoe dangle loosely on her foot.

"Not likely," he said.

She reached her hand out and touched Adam's cheek, very gently. She loved the rough feel of the stubble. Adam was so wonderfully large, tall, big bone structure, a very slight belly, all man. She loved working for and with him, loved his solid dependability, both physical and psychological.

"I haven't..." Adam said.

"Haven't what?"

"Been with anyone since the divorce."

Tess kissed his forehead gently, then rested her lips on his hair. He had been screwed over in the divorce. His ex had the house, the kids and the big car.

"Are you all hard?" Adam ran a hand down Tess's well-toned leg. "I swear, you're one of the favorite topics of conversation at the station."

"Soft where I'm supposed to be," she said. "Tough where I need to be."

Adam kissed her then, warm, strong lips on hers, his rough face pushing into hers. "Soft lips." He pressed against her until she was lying down. "You don't mind one night?"

"No." Tess loved having him near her. "You don't know how hard it is to find someone I can trust."

"You wouldn't trust me if you knew what I had in mind." Adam untucked Tess's blouse, then unbuttoned it. He held his hand toward her, but didn't touch.

Tess guided his hand onto her neck. "They're real. Soft, too."

Adam's hand moved down and touched only the exposed flesh. "They, um..." He kissed her neck gently. "They stay in position well."

"Hardware," Tess said. "When the bra's gone, gravity takes its toll."

There was a knock at the door and Adam jumped to his feet. He took both glasses into the kitchenette and put them on the table. Tess removed her blouse, unhooked and removed her bra and turned to face Adam. She made sure he got a good, long look before she took a thin tank top from her closet and pulled it on. She tossed the blouse and bra onto the closet floor before answering the door.

"Tess," Kevin said, talking directly to her chest.

"Kevin?"

"What?"

Tess rolled her eyes. "Why are you at my door?"

Kevin looked toward the kitchen and Adam waved. "Why the hell are you dressed like that?"

"I'm off-duty," she said. "It's hot up here."

"But..."

"Adam? He doesn't..."

Kevin laughed. "Good point. No, he wouldn't."

"Why are you here?" Tess leaned against her door, partially hiding her body.

"I wanted to apologize for this afternoon," he said. "I was, uh, indisposed in the rest room."

She looked directly into his eyes. "No problem," she said. "I really like having people we're supposed to have under surveillance shooting at me."

"Oh, come on!"

"What? That's what happened, Kevin. Easy for you to think it's a minor thing, you were safe on the toilet or wherever the hell you were."

"Will you talk to me in the hallway?" Kevin took a step backwards.

"No."

"I don't like you distrusting me, Tess," he said.

Tess stepped out from behind the door and shrugged. "Get used to it." She let him stare at her before slamming the door in his face.

She walked into the kitchen and sat on the counter looking longingly at Adam.

"Kevin's cute. Girls like him," Adam said. "You don't like him?"

"Too skinny," Tess said.

"That's not one of my problems." Adam laughed at himself. "I think he likes you."

"He likes anything in a skirt."

"The gravity has a nice effect." Adam looked at Tess's chest before looking into her eyes. "Want to be my partner for a few days? Ned could probably get under Kevin's skin pretty quickly."

"Is that fair to Ned?"

Adam shrugged. "I bet he'd love it. Let's call and find out."

Tess handed Adam the phone and stood beside him as he dialed. He rubbed his hand over her legs. She ran her fingers through his hair and kissed the top of his head.

"Ned" Adam took Tess's hand in his and kissed it. "I'm with Tess right now. We wondered if you'd be willing to do a partner switch for a few days."

Tess could just make out what Ned was saying. "Kevin's partner?"

"You got it." Adam leaned back in his chair.

Tess couldn't hear Ned's words, only his voice, but she could hear him laughing.

"Can you come here before lunch tomorrow?" Adam said. "How about eleven or so?"

Tess took a sip of her wine.

Adam burst out laughing. "Of course she's not going to let me into her pants!"

Tess took the phone from Adam. "Ned, you there?"

"Sure am," Ned said. "Why can't I come over now?"

"You just can't," Tess said. "Very private negotiations going on here."

"Private?"

"Yes, hang on a sec while I take off my shirt." Tess put the phone on the table and pulled her shirt over her head. "There, very liberating. And I think I'll slip off my skirt, too. Once Adam sees me in heels and a thong, it's a done deal."

Tess slipped her skirt down over her hips and Adam stared at her with total shock on his face.

"You're so full of shit," Ned said.

Tess giggled. "Be here at eleven and we'll tell you whatever we've talked about, okay?"

"I just feel like I'm being left out of something."

"You are being left out of something," Tess said. "We're going to be having wild, passionate sex all night long. You don't want to watch that."

Adam pulled at the phone. "What the hell are you saying?" he said.

"Bye, Ned," Tess hung up the phone.

"What was that all about?" Adam pulled Tess toward him, kissing her once before pushing her away.

"He doesn't believe me for a minute," she said.

"Thank goodness." Adam rushed to undress. "You sure as hell aren't frigid."

Tess put her futon into the bed position and threw herself onto it. Adam was beside her in a moment, so much man she felt her arms were straining just to get around him. He slipped off her underwear and looked into her eye quickly for approval. The phone rang. Tess didn't answer it, but nodded at Adam. The answering machine picked up.

"Come on, guys," Ned said. "Don't do this to me."

Tess grabbed the phone. "We're both naked now, Ned. He's about to ravage me, so if you'd stop interrupting, I'd be awfully happy."

Ned laughed again. "Why can't I come?"

"We'll talk tomorrow, Ned, I promise. If all goes well, you'll be waking us up and we'll answer the door in our underwear." Tess hung up the phone.

"What the hell was that?" Adam pulled away from Tess.

"He doesn't believe me."

"I sure as hell hope not."

"Anything else I said, he'd be suspicious," Tess said. "It's the only thing I can say that I can afford to have him not believe."

"But if he does believe it..."

Tess shrugged. "We can deny it."

"How about we stop talking?" Adam kissed her into silence, a silence that was interrupted the next morning by a knock at the door.

"Shit!" Adam said, looking at his watch. He grabbed all of his clothes and went into the bathroom.

Tess straightened her bed and put on her tank top and a pair of thin boxers, then opened the door for Ned. She yawned as soon as she knew he was looking at her.

Ned laughed hard at her. "You're too much!"

Tess smiled and motioned for him to enter.

"Where's Adam?"

"In the shower." Tess stretched her arms over her head.

"Too much, Tess," he said.

"Would you mind sitting in the kitchen so I can get dressed?"

Ned didn't answer but sat, drumming his fingers on the tabletop.

"No peeking." Tess hid herself in the entryway to put on her panties and skirt. She walked back to the living room area, within sight of the table.

"Where is Adam really?" he asked.

"We fell asleep," Tess said. "He's really in the shower. Still no peeking."

She removed her shirt and put on a bra and a clean shirt. She assumed Ned really was peeking. Adam emerged from the bathroom and Tess went in to freshen up. When she came out, Ned and Adam were discussing Kevin.

"Sorry that guy got away yesterday," Ned said. "You okay, Tess?"

Tess shrugged. "He missed me and we got a positive ID on him. Adam was pissed at me."

"Really?" Ned looked at Adam.

"Not pissed," Adam said. "More frustrated with the whole situation. I don't know how we didn't have any civilians injured."

"You working with Kevin?" Tess sat in Adam's lap.

"What the hell?" Adam said.

Tess stood and kissed his head. "What can I say? I'm in love. Can we get some food? I'm famished. You used up all my energy."

"You're so funny," Ned said.

"Will one of you drive me to work today?" Tess asked. "I'll need a ride home, too."

"Is your car broken?" Ned asked.

"No," Tess said. "I just don't feel like driving."

"I'll drive you," Adam said. "If I can trust you to keep your hands off me."

Tess frowned. "You spoil all my fun."

"You two are crazy." Ned laughed and rose to his feet. "Let's go!"

Tess raced down the stairs and waited for Adam to open the doors. She climbed inside his awful car, angry with his ex-wife for a moment. No man should be treated like that.

Adam started the engine and opened the windows. "I think you're right."

"I'm always right." She laughed at herself. "About what?"

"About telling the truth. It's the only thing he won't believe."

Tess didn't say anything, but she patted Adam's hand and squeezed it gently.

"Thanks, Tess," Adam said. "Best night of my life, honest it was. Pity it was only one night, but at least we had that."

"But..."

Adam placed a finger gently on Tess's lip. "It's okay, I understand. I'll never forget. Not another word."

Tess slumped in her seat, far from the tough image she normally showed, but then again, Adam had seen her in some very untough positions. They pulled into the restaurant parking lot and waited for Ned to park before they got out of the car. They walked in and sat at a corner table in total silence until they had placed their orders.

"Tess, what's your take on Kevin?" Ned asked.

Tess inhaled deeply, holding the air for a moment before letting it out slowly. "Hedonistic."

"That's it? Hedonistic? What does that mean?"

"That means if it feels good, he does it. If he thinks it would be good for him, he does it. Doesn't matter if it's right or wrong, legal or illegal." Tess took a long sip of her coffee.

"He's never made a play for you?"

"Of course he has," Tess said. "He's not my type."

"What's wrong with him?"

Ned had definitely peeked, Tess was sure of it.

"Aside from being inept as a partner, as crooked as his tales are tall, and too skinny? Hmmm...let me think. He just doesn't do anything for me," Tess said.

"I'm not too skinny," Adam said.

"Hell, no," Ned said. "Your appetite is intact. The rest of you might be a mess, but not the appetite."

"What do you think about Kevin?" Adam looked at Tess the way a boss would look at her.

Tess played with her fork for a moment. "He's gone maybe ten percent of the time. If it's a simple call in the right neighborhood, he disappears. Ever wonder why his signature doesn't show up on so many of our reports?"

"I sure did wonder," Adam said. "Why didn't you report it?"

"He's always following me around the station, almost like he knows I want to."

"I've noticed that," Ned said. "I just figured you were sleeping together."

Tess dropped her fork. "Ew, Ned. That's so wrong. I'm very selective about who I sleep with."

"Think he'll be pissed we made Ned his partner, Tess?" Adam asked.

"Just tell him you want to keep an eye on me because you don't trust me," Tess said. "He should get a kick out of that."

The waitress brought their meals to the table and they ate them silently. Tess was glad to get into Adam's car and ride to the station.

"About last night..." she said.

"Not another word," Adam said. "I can't thank you enough, though."

"But..."

"Shhh." He pressed a finger to her lips.

In the locker room, Tess put on her vest, making doubly sure it was secure. Being fired at the day before had unnerved her. She wasn't quite ready to die. It seemed an eternity to her, going through all the formalities of her work, before she was able to pull the cruiser onto the street. This time she was the driver and Adam was the passenger.

"We're following Kevin," Adam said.

"Sure thing, boss." Tess slipped in behind Kevin's car. "How obvious are we being?"

"As obvious as you can possibly be." He looked at her quickly with a smile. "And I know you can be very obvious."

"You know, Adam, I wanted to talk to you about..."

"No," he said. "No need to. I have no regrets. Do you?"

"None."

"He's stopped already?" Adam climbed out of his seat and approached Ned.

"What's up, boss?" Ned asked.

"Working together, that's all," Adam said.

Kevin got out of his car and walked toward Tess, still in the cruiser. She opened the window for him.

"What the hell is this all about?" Kevin asked.

"Safety in numbers," Tess said.

"Bullshit."

Tess shrugged. "Backup for Ned in case you take another prolonged shit, then."

"Back off," Kevin said. "Just keep your distance."

Adam climbed into his seat. "Good afternoon, Kevin. Go on, get back to work."

Kevin walked back to his car, his skinny legs propelling him awkwardly.

"He told me to back off," Tess said.

"You were hitting on him?"

"No." She pulled the car back onto the street. "I save that for you."

"I didn't think we'd get to him this soon." Adam turned his eyes toward Tess. "I think he likes working with you."

"He thinks I'm a wimp."

"I think it's the sex appeal. You're a lot prettier than Ned."

"Don't let Ned hear you talking like that, he'll be crushed." Tess stopped her car and listened to the radio. "Domestic dispute, guess we just watch."

They watched as Ned and Kevin entered a home, waited a long time in silence, then watched as Kevin led a handcuffed man to his car. Tess followed them to the station and Adam went in to watch them fill out paperwork. Tess was already sensing this would be a boring day.

"Back at last," Adam said as he slid into his seat. "Looks like he's a bit unnerved."

"Good," Tess said.

There was a series of simple calls, no arrests, nothing of interest. Adam had fallen silent and Tess didn't interrupt. Perhaps she was the one who was silent and Adam didn't interrupt. Either way, they weren't speaking when Kevin stopped at a hot dog stand on Pine Street.

"Early dinner," Adam said, climbing out of the car. "I hate hot dogs."

"I'll cook for you when we get off," Tess said.

Adam leaned against the hood of his car and Ned got out of his car and assumed a similar posture. Kevin slipped behind the hot dog stand and Adam followed. Tess heard gunfire and jumped out of the car and ran to where Adam had gone. She didn't even think about her own safety. Ned was chasing a man into an alley and Adam was on the ground.

"Where are you hit?" Tess picked up her radio. "Send backup to 46 Pine Street, officer down, shots fired."

"My shoulder," he said. "Get under cover, Tess."

Tess pressed her abdomen against Adam's shoulder. "Keep your head covered." She leaned over him and pulled out her gun and looked carefully around her, although she saw no one.

"He'll be back in a minute and he's not going to let me live."

Tess kissed him once, very quickly. "Shut up and cover your head."

Adam obeyed. "Drugs."

Tess nodded. "I figured. Pretty stupid to do it when we could all see."

"He'll be a hero," Adam said. "The three of us will be dead, the dealer will be dead, and he'll say it was revenge for killing us."

"Get off him now," Kevin said, appearing from around a corner and waving his gun as if it would move Tess aside. "I don't want to kill you, Tess."

Tess aimed her gun between his eyes and hated him for thinking she was weak. She steadied her elbows on the pavement and squeezed the trigger. It seemed to take Kevin a minute to realize he was dead. He just stood there with a completely blank face before falling to the ground.

Ned ran back through the alley, his gun drawn. He stopped when he saw Kevin on the ground.

"You okay?"

"I'm fine, Adam's been hit," Tess said. "Did you catch him?"

Ned nodded. "Behind the building."

"Go get him. We're okay here."

Ned turned and went behind the building again. He didn't even check Kevin for a pulse.

"That was so unsafe," Adam said. "What were you trying to prove?"

"Listen here, Adam" Tess pressed harder on his shoulder. "You're going to let me talk."

"Why the hell are you on top of me?"

"Stopping the bleeding with pressure. First Aid, Adam. Early stuff."

"It hurts." He moved his hand toward his shoulder.

"Of course it hurts, you were shot." Tess took his face in her hands. "About last night..."

"It's okay, Tess. One night was great, you don't have to apologize, honest you don't."

"Would you shut up?" she said. "One night was not enough, you big, dumb fool."

"What?"

She kissed him once, desperately pressing her lips into his. "Don't you dare die on me."

"I won't die, I promise."

Tess lifted herself off of Adam for a moment, pressed gently on his shoulder and looked at her hand. It was wet with his blood. She heard sirens and then she heard voices. Other officers approached her, but she didn't move until the ambulance crew arrived. Kevin was very dead. The EMTs loaded Adam onto a stretcher and took him away.

"That lucky son of a bitch," Ned said.

Tess smiled. "I'm the lucky one."

"You weren't lying, were you?"

Tess pressed her finger against Ned's lip. "Shhh."

Ned bit her finger gently.

"Ow," Tess said. "What was that for?"

"You didn't have to give me the play by play last night."

Tess shrugged. "You really didn't need to come watch."

"You need a ride to the hospital?" Ned opened the door of his car.

"No," she said. "I can take care of myself."

Ned nodded. "No doubt about it."

 

Copyright 2001 by Lisa Christine Svenson