Authors: Elizabeth Reyes
Pretending to be too caught up in what he was reading on his screen to be bothered, Brandon listened anyway as Evans confirmed he
gotten a load of her.
“Yeah, yeah,” Evans said. “The girl with the glasses.”
“You seen her today?” Rodriguez asked.
“Nah,” Evans responded.
“Holy shit!” Rodriguez said a bit too excited. “She must be going out tonight or something because her hair is down and she wasn’t wearing glasses. I thought she was sexy before but
.” He lowered his voice a little since the door to the office was still half open. “Swear to God I’d risk my job and fuck her in the bathroom if she’d let me. I mean, shit, the girl’s got it going on. I just about popped a boner, watching her walk down the hall.”
. Technically, as Rodriguez’s superior, Brandon could tell him so and end the conversation right there, but he never had before, and Rodriguez had always been this vivid with his stories. Since Brandon had only been here a little over a week, he didn’t want to make a big stink about some raunchy guy talk amongst them. He always figured, since it was in the privacy of their own office and most of the stories Rodriguez told were of past conquests or women outside the base, it was no big deal.
“And she’s gotta be at least a full C cup. Damn,” Rodriguez laughed. “I’m getting a chubby just thinking about—”
“Well then, stop,” Brandon said, sounding more annoyed than authoritative, so he cleared his throat before he continued. “She works in the same building. If someone outside this office,” he motioned toward the open door, “gets wind of you talking like this, I may have to write your ass up. In fact,” Brandon turned his chair around to face him, glad Rodriguez had been stupid enough to make the comment about risking getting fired, “based on what you just said, I don’t wanna see or even hear that you’ve been anywhere near her. Unlike you, I’m not about to risk my job. So to play it safe and not force me to keep an eye out for what you might be doing behind closed doors around here, I’d be more comfortable if we just make the
sexy little thing
off limits to you. Is that understood?”
Rodriguez and Evans exchanged humorous glances
, and before either of them could ask if he was serious, because Brandon had never been more so in his life, he asked again, only this time he used that tone he was known for using out in the field. “I asked you a question, Rodriguez. Is that understood?”
The moment it registered in Rodriguez’s face that Brandon was indeed serious was a little too satisfying. He didn’t even care if they thought him an asshole. His reputation had preceded him, so these two shouldn’t even have been surprised.
“Understood, sir.” Rodriguez nodded, the smile he’d worn just moments ago completely gone. “And I apologize if—”
“No need for that.” Brandon turned around to face his screen again. “As long as I don’t see you anywhere near her, we’re good.”
That last part was even more satisfying than shutting Rodriguez up, but it was also a bit disturbing because Brandon knew making Ms. Brady off limits to Rodriguez was not at all for the reason he explained it was. His subconscious was already making decisions he didn’t approve of.
nly hope now was that, after this, Rodriguez would change his mind about getting together for drinks tonight. Aside from knowing Rodriguez would be staying the hell away from Ms. Brady, which shouldn’t be a good thing—yet it sure as hell felt good—getting out of his night with the guys would be the other good thing about this unanticipated confrontation.
Unfortunately, before the day was over, Rodriguez once again apologized to Brandon about his behavior and said he was looking forward to having drinks with
him later that evening. So much for hoping he’d burned that bridge.
Trying not to do the middle school girl thing and squeal when Janecia walked up to the outdoor table where Regina was sitting, she
still jumped up and hugged her tight. “Oh my God, it’s so good to see you,” she said as she continued to squeeze her friend.
Finally pulling away, Janecia laughed. “It’s good to see you too, G. It’s been just too long.”
“I know!” Regina said, taking a seat and pointing across the table for Janecia to take hers. “It’s been like over a year.”
The sudden reminder of why it’d been that long had Regina picking up her drink and sipping it. Luckily, before Janecia could comment, the waiter brought Janecia’s drink.
“I took the liberty of ordering for you,” Regina smiled, glad for the change in subject.
“White Russian.” Janecia smiled, pleased as she picked it up. “Still my favorite.”
Wanting to avoid any talk of anything depressing, Regina went right into her plan of action for the night. “So I figured instead of full meals we can have a drink and split an appetizer then move on to the next restaurant and do the same.” She glanced around the brightly lit and bustling street lined with restaurants and bars. “I think it’s the only way we’ll start making a dent in this place if we plan on trying all these restaurants eventually.”
“Hey, we said we’d do this, and we’re doing it." Janecia held up her drink. "To doing Gaslamp, girl.”
Regina picked up her drink and clinked Janecia’s glass. “Let’s do this.”
To Regina’s relief, they caught up on the lighter stuff, and Janecia began telling her about the new guy she’d started dating. “Be warned he’s a little different from some of the guys
I’ve dated in the past.”
Intrigued, Regina stirred her drink and leaned in. “Different, how?”
“Well, for starters, he rides a Harley.”
Regina jerked back, feeling her heart sink. Janecia reached her hand out, quickly placing it on top of Regina’s. “I said
does. I’ve already told him I’d never step foot on it.”
Exhaling, Regina glanced around, feeling a little silly about her knee-jerk reaction. She still couldn’t help asking, “You promise?”
Janecia smiled. “Yes, I promise. I just wanted to get that out there before you found out some other way.” She took a sip of her drink and continued. “He’s also not white collar or a college graduate like the guys I normally date. He’s a longshoreman—hard labor man. He’s a little rough around the edges and a bit of a hothead, but he can also be so sweet.” She giggled. “And, girl, so sexy.”
Regina smiled, trying to shake the thought of Janecia’s new, sweet, sexy boyfriend coaxing her onto his Harley. Janecia went on, filling her in on how she met Clay as they finished u
p and paid their bill. They moved on to the next few restaurants, catching up on family gossip and laughing about old times. Regina was so glad she’d decided to do this. It was a good thing Gaslamp was so long and there were
many restaurants. It would take many returns here before they got through the whole thing. Having this to do with her best friend definitely gave her something to look forward to.
Beginning to feel a little tipsy as they left their fourth or fifth restaurant—she’d lost count—Regina d
ecided at their next stop she’d be having water. They walked down the street, trying to decide which restaurant to hit next, and then she saw him. Sergeant Billings was at the bar of the very next restaurant in their route. This was the first time she’d seen him out of uniform. He wore a simple black long-sleeved shirt and a pair of black jeans. He stood by the bar with a couple of other guys and two girls. One of the girls was very obviously flirting with him, and then it happened.
“Well, I’ll be damned,”
she said, staring at him as her heart did the weirdest flutter. She actually felt a tingly sensation. “The man
And by God, did it have to be such a beautiful smile? Even his eyes lit up sweetly, and at this distance, she could still admire how
bright white and perfect his teeth were. Her heart fluttered in that weird way again, and the tingling spread through her insides.
Janecia turned to look in the direction Regina’s eyes were glued to now. “Who?”
“Sergeant Billings,” she said with no other explanation as they continued walking toward the restaurant. Just as they reached the entrance to the outside patio of the restaurant, Sergeant Billings looked up past the blonde he’d been smiling at, and his eyes met Regina’s. Not only did his smile immediately dissolve but his expression went hard and rigid, turning into the very expression she was now beginning to think was reserved just for her.
,” Janecia said, clearly noticing the icy change in his disposition as well. “Do you know him?”
ort of.” Regina was finally able to look away and at the hostess asking them if they’d like a seat inside or out. “Outside.” She smiled and followed the hostess to their table.
Taking the seat that would face the bar, Regina sat down. She wasn’t sure why s
he hadn’t just kept walking on to the next restaurant or one even further where she wouldn’t have to deal with his lethal glare. What the hell was his problem? His “lack of desire to get to know her” was one thing, but the way he looked at her now said something entirely different. Obviously, he couldn’t stand her, and Regina was at a total loss as to what she could’ve possibly done to warrant such severe detestation from a total stranger.
Janecia sat across from her, glancing back at the sergeant as she ma
de herself comfortable. Billings had gone back to talking to the girl, but that annoyingly beautiful and playful smile she’d been privy to for too short of an instant was
. “So what’s his deal? He doesn’t like you?”
“Apparently not,” Regina said, looki
ng down at the menu the hostess had handed them before walking away.
Regina filled in her friend about first seeing him at the airport and the first few run-ins she’d had with him, including last night when he’d made her go fetch h
er photo ID, knowing full well she was authorized.
“What a jerk!” Janecia frowned, glancing back at him again. “Maybe he’s one of those guys who get a hard-on from playing the power card. Aren’t most of those drill instructors like that? I mean isn’t that
why they go into that field in the first place?”
“My dad was a drill instructor back in the day, Janecia,” Regina reminded her. “He’s never been that kind of person, and he always said it was one of the most rewarding duties he ever had. I don’t think it’s
that at all.”
She glanced up at the sergeant but quickly looked away when she saw his head turn slightly in her direction. “I just don’t know what to make of it. From the moment I first saw him at the airport, there was this disdainful way he looked at me
. It’s like there was just something about me that had immediately turned him off.” She shrugged. “I asked him about it this morning.”
Janecia’s eyes opened in curiosity as the waitress arrived to take their order. They both ordered water, and Janecia agre
ed to the first appetizer Regina suggested. She was obviously more interested in hearing about that morning’s happenings.
“What did you ask him?” Janecia asked as soon as the waitress walked away.
Frustrated and not even sure why she cared so much, Regina exhaled. “I started thinking maybe I did know him from somewhere. Maybe I’d blown him off in the past and didn’t even remember, or maybe he’d mistaken me for someone else, so I asked him if it was either of those things.” Feeling as little as he’d made her feel when he’d told her about his lack of desire to get to know her, she repeated his awful words to Janecia.
Her friend’s mouth fell open. “You’re kidding me!”
“Nope,” she said, shaking her head. “For whatever reason, the man’s decided he hates my guts.”
Thanking the waitress for their waters, Regina sipped hers. Regina decided she’d keep to herself the fact that he’d stepped in front of her, forcing her to finish what she’d begun say. She also wouldn’t say what being that close to those acutely blue eyes
had done to her. She knew her best friend too well. Janecia would want to overanalyze it, and the truth was she was done thinking about the uptight sergeant. She’d already spent the better part of her day, trying to figure it out. Even when he was looking at her with what she assumed was unexplained indignation, he did so with such intensity that it was confusing as hell. But even more confusing was what she’d thought she’d seen in his eyes when he asked her to finish what she’d begun to say that morning. The guy shouldn’t feel anything for her either way. Good or bad. He still didn’t know much about her at all. Yet even tonight there was no hiding the ill will he had toward her.
“But it doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t even know you. And you’re so damn cute.
” Janecia leaned across the table and whispered. “You think maybe he’s gay?”
Laughing, Regina nearly spit up her water. Sergeant Billings gay? That still wouldn't explain why he would dislike her so much. One glance up and Janecia’s theory flew out the win
dow along with Regina’s laughing mood. The sergeant was now whispering something in the ear of the same blonde he’d been smiling at so cheerfully earlier. “He might be married,” she said, unable to move her eyes away from him and the giggling blonde.
again, following her eyes, Janecia turned to observe him and the girl. “Stop looking,” Regina whispered.
Janecia did, even though Regina couldn’t. Suddenly flustered with herself, she wondered why it hadn’t occurred to her that he might be married or even
in a relationship. Even more frustrating was why the hell did it even matter? The guy was obviously a jerk who didn’t like her. It was annoying enough that he’d decided to hate her on little to nothing to go by, but even worse was the fact that, on just as little, she’d been taken enough by him to have given him and his unreasonable abhorrence to her so much thought.
Regina swallowed hard, glancing away when she realized how intensely she’d been staring at the pretentious sergeant and his girl. “Hmm?”She took a very casual sip of her water but still didn’t look Janecia in the eyes.
“Are you sure you’re not leaving out anything about you and this guy?”
Now she looked at Janecia curiously. “No, why?”
Janecia lifted a very telling brow as she leaned
over and put the straw between her lips. She took a drink of her water then raised a shoulder. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because ever since you spotted him and his little female friend your mood seems to have taken a dive.”
Regina scoffed, a little too loud
and the waving of her hand in front of her might’ve been overkill because she nearly knocked her water over in the process. Janecia stared at her, clearly unimpressed, but Regina wasn’t about to tone her response down because it
an act. She
care. The guy was practically a monster to her. Why on earth would she even be looking at him in terms of anything other than someone she should hate?
because she wouldn’t lower herself to his level and hate someone she didn’t even know, at the very least she should be irked with him for being rude. He could take his lack of desire to know more about her and shove it up his ass.
About to further protest Janecia’s ridiculous insinuation, she was caught in his eyes as he began to walk off with the blonde h
and in hand. As much as she knew she should look away, his eyes were like a magnet. It seemed the longer she stared at him the darker his stare went until he leaned over and kissed the girl deeply. That instantly snapped the pull he’d had on her, and she closed her eyes.
“You okay?” Janecia asked gently.
Regina opened her eyes, turning back to Janecia, feeling completely embarrassed. “Yeah. Yeah.” She cleared her throat and smiled weakly at her very concerned-looking friend.
“You don’t have to tell me if yo
u don’t want to, G. But clearly there’s more going on.”
After successfully convincing Janecia that she was fine and there was nothing else to tell about the stuck-up sergeant—or maybe not so successfully—her friend let it go anyway.
On her drive home, Regina came to the conclusion that nothing good could come from trying to figure out why this man, who might even be married, didn’t like her. From that moment on, she decided her best bet was to avoid him at all costs, and when it wasn’t possible to, she’d just ignore him completely. It was what he seemed to want anyway, so that was that. She was done giving any more thought to Sergeant Jerk Face!
After a long day of supervising one of his newest DIs as he did his first evaluations of the newest re
cruits, Brandon made his way back to his office. He rode with Sergeant Miller in the golf cart they’d used to drive out to the field where the evals had taken place. Miller was in the middle of some long-winded story about his days as a DI when Brandon noticed Rodriguez and Ms. Brady just outside his office building, chatting. Slowing as he drove by them, they both turned to him. The big smile Rodriguez had worn up until that moment flattened, his face going even paler than it already was. Ms. Brady’s smile wasn’t as big as Rodriguez’s, but it did seem to fade gradually at the sight of him.