No coy looks or subtle flirtations. Nothing. They were just friends. Maybe he was a masochist, because that just seemed to make him want her more.
The elevator ride to her floor was quick as usual. And her floor was empty, again as usual, considering the time he was getting here. The security at Red Stone was tight, however, so the most protective part of him didn’t mind how late she worked. Not that she’d asked him, and not like he had the right to an opinion. He also liked that she was working and not out with some douchebag.
He cared about her safety. Some intrinsic part of him simply needed to know she was cared for.
The hallway leading to her office was lined with prints of classic paintings, like most of the building. Everything here was designed to be soothing. Unlike where he worked. The PD was loud no matter the time of day or night, and the color of paint on the walls or type of art wouldn’t make a damn difference.
When he reached her office, the door was slightly ajar. He pushed it open to find her in front of her computer screen, the soft glow highlighting her sharp cheekbones. Her long blonde hair was pulled up in a ponytail and her heels were lying haphazardly near the full-length window overlooking downtown.
He watched her for a long moment, taking in the myriad of facial expressions as she clicked away on the keyboard. He was certain she had no idea he was even there. When she got in the zone of working, everything else faded away. She made these adorable little sounds of frustration, then one of triumph before she nodded at the screen victoriously.
God, he adored her.
“You need better awareness,” he murmured, stepping into the room.
She let out a squeak and glanced up at him, pinning him with those dark espresso eyes that completely captivated him. “You’ve got to stop sneaking up on me.” Frowning, she looked at her screen and her eyes widened. “Jeez, I didn’t realize how late it was.”
“I figured,” he said dryly, setting the takeout bag on the front of her desk. He’d brought her favorite.
“You’re my hero.” She smiled, eyeing the big brown bag.
Yeah, he’d love to actually be her hero. Her lover, her…something other than her friend.
“Please tell me that’s what I think it is.”
He just snorted and started pulling out the utensils and paper plates. Of course it was. She loved a Chinese restaurant a few blocks away, called it a hidden gem in the city. She wasn’t wrong. “Have I ever disappointed you?”
“No. I wasn’t sure if you were coming today though, when you didn’t call.”
He flicked a glance at her at the tone in her voice. He couldn’t quite pin it down, but something was off. “You can always call me too, you know.”
“Yeah I know, but with that case you’re working on, I didn’t want to bother you. Figured you had a lot going on this week.”
He’d never be too busy that he couldn’t make time to talk to her. “I’ve wrapped everything up, for the most part.” And thank God for that. Holidays seemed to bring out the crazy in people though—and crime never took a break—so he knew he’d be assigned another case probably tomorrow. Maybe sooner if a call came in tonight.
She turned off her computer screen, dimming it to black. Some of the things she worked on were confidential. Not just anyone could waltz up into the offices on her floor. The only reason he was able to was because of his relationship with Grant and the entire Caldwell family.
“I bet you skipped some paperwork though.” Her half-smile was knowing as she rounded the desk, pulling her chair with her so they could eat on the same side. She was wearing a sweater dress that pulled at the soft swell of her breasts. The dress was definitely professional but it didn’t hide anything. Her smooth, toned legs drew his eyes as they always did. Without her heels on she was about five feet five inches and he loved seeing her so relaxed around him—loved looking at her curves. Who was he kidding? He loved looking at all of her.
He lifted a shoulder as he pulled out a box of sesame chicken and broccoli. He slid it over to her, loving the way her eyes lit up as she eyed it.
“I seriously love you,” she said, laughing. “I only had a protein bar today because of Lizzy. That woman is crazy.”
His heart skipped a beat at the casual way she said the “L” word. He knew she didn’t mean anything by it, and that was a huge disappointment. Jesus, what was wrong with him? He rolled his shoulders once and pulled out his Mongolian beef and rice.
“Why did she make you skip lunch?” Because a protein bar did not count as food.
Emerson shook her head, still laughing. “She’s on this crazy exercise kick where she works out for her entire lunch break, running up and down all the flights of stairs in the entire building. More than once. She decided she needed a buddy and I’m apparently a sucker.”
Carlito let out a short laugh and sat in the chair in front of her desk. “How long do you think you’ll keep it up?” He knew she preferred yoga or Pilates to running and other cardio.
“Maybe another day or two. I’m working on a new job and know I’ll be busy for the next couple weeks so I figured it was good to stretch my legs while I can.”
For some reason those benign words made him think of stretching her legs out in a very different scenario. Stretching them around his waist or draping them over his shoulders as he buried his face between her legs. Clearing his throat, he shifted uncomfortably and focused on his food. “So…you headed to see your dad tonight?”
“Yeah.” Her voice took on that odd tone again but when he looked at her, she was scooping out chicken onto her plate. “What are you up to after this?” Something about her voice was strained. It was slight, but he knew her well enough by now to pick up on it.
“I…thought I’d go with you.” He always went with her to visit her dad in his assisted living facility. Which was more like a posh golf resort. Frowning, he set his fork down. “Unless you’d rather go alone?”
“No, I… I just talked to Camilla earlier and she made it sound like you couldn’t go tonight.”
“She did?” His oldest sister and Emerson talked all the time. They had ever since his sisters and mom had met Emerson at a Halloween party a month and a half ago.
“Yeah.” Again with that weird tone. And he noticed she wouldn’t look at him, was way too focused on her food.