Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice:
Title: Miss Me, -Kait
Riley Black and her psychic voodoo creeped me out. Hell on a man who liked her, thought he could maybe even love her, but… I didn’t know if I’d ever get used to her brand of hocus pocus. What if she saw beneath the calm surface I always showed her?
When I first met her some five years ago, she made me a promise.
I never look where I’m not invited, Detective Murray. It’s better for everyone’s peace of mind.
She could be lying, but after what I’d just seen I found myself more convinced than ever of her honesty. I didn’t doubt for a second that the peace she worked for most was her own.
I knew from our work together particularly strong psychic experiences could fray her control. Channeling someone’s emotional distress left her extra sensitive and more than once she’d warned people away.
I braved the danger—to my privacy, to my heart—and held her in my arms. She felt so good, strong and warm and real. I needed the contact as much as she seemed to. I focused on breathing normally, on projecting comfort. And as she trembled like she might fall to pieces, I made promises.
“I won’t let go,” I whispered, terrified twice over that I might mean it and that she might pick up on it.
Her hold on me tightened and she tucked her face against my throat, the shivers of her warm breath dampening my skin.
I’d always been so careful around her. Even though I found her crazy beautiful with her no nonsense, sarcastic attitude and sleepy bedroom eyes, I’d maintained a hands-off policy. Cops and psychics blended like oil and water; shake us up enough and we cooperate. But once things settle, we go our separate ways.
She let me go and pushed free.
Riley and me—we always went our separate ways.
“We need to get going,” she said.
Riley didn’t do damsel in distress.
I didn’t argue. I followed her to the front door where she slipped her key ring from a hook thing that invited order and organization. It reminded me I’d never been to her home before. She usually came to us when we called. Looking around, I saw the same neatness carried through the tidy living area and remembered the man I’d seen in the window and the way the emotions surrounding Kait Quinn seemed to supersede Riley Black. If that was the kind of shit Riley lived with in her mind—if her mind was never entirely hers—I understood the need to establish control here.
I stuffed down the need to grab her close again, to tell her I’d take it from here and to go back to bed.
She didn’t offer to let me drive, so I plucked the keys from her fingers.
“Let me,” I said.
“I got it, Murray.”
Another space she wedge between us. I liked it better when she called me Adam, but I didn’t tell her.
“You’re in no shape to drive, Riley.” I emphasized her name slightly, feeling the edge in my tone. My professional armor cracked under the weight of a man’s basic need to protect, and I’d chosen to protect Riley. Fuck me if she ever looked beneath the façade. “You’ll end up in a ditch the first time you see Kait or Mr. Obsessive in your windows.”
She paled. “Okay, yeah. You should drive.”
I locked the front door to her patio home. On the other side of the wall Riley shared with a neighbor, the curtains of the front window twitched.
“Nosy neighbors,” I said.
“Is she spying again?” Riley made a growling sound of frustration and I grinned. “The woman is a menace. You should flash your badge.”
“She’ll think I’m arresting you.”
“I know, it’ll be great. You’ll totally make her night.”
“And reaffirm her peeping Tom tendencies.”
Riley laughed. “Okay, you may have a point there.”
I made a gentlemanly show of opening the passenger door of my standard issue sedan for Riley and seeing her settled. I could practically feel the neighbor’s steady gaze.
“Is she taking notes?”
“She’ll probably tell the HOA all about my late night assignations.”
“Remind me to bring you home with a police escort,” I said.
“Really?” Riley’s delight made the inside of the car brighter, I swore.
“I wish we could acknowledge you more,” I said softly. “You should have the key to the city by now.” We both knew it was better for the department, and safer for her, to keep our working relationship hushed.
“Your department is—nicer,” she said after a pause. “Even the ones who don’t really believe.”
“Are there any left?” I asked. “I’m pretty sure we’re convinced.”
“Please.” I snorted. “She’s a politician, not an investigator.
I felt her smile like a touch. Then her fingers breached the distance between us and drifted over mine as I put the car in reverse.
Breathe, man. Just breathe.
“Where am I headed, boss?”
I cursed myself six ways to Sunday as she withdrew, physically and emotionally. I wanted to stop her. Instead, I dug a file folder and some other personal effects of Kait’s from the backseat and handed them to Riley. She accepted them with a heavy sigh.
“Head toward the lake,” she said.
Once more, we wore the masks that protected us.
“I’ll let you know more when I have it.”
I drove northeast, sunrise just starting to lighten the sky.
Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.