My hands fall to my lap. “I suppose now is a good time to tell you what I’m looking for,” I say quietly.
“What you’re looking for?” he asks.
I tilt my chin, wondering why he seems confused. “Well, yes. I have certain needs that I’m hoping you’ll help me with.”
His grip to his pen tightens. “Needs? For yourself?”
“For my unit,” I clarify. I wish like his brother, Declan also understood American Sign Language. Then I could sign and not give away how nervous I sometimes feel around him. I roll my ankle, trying to shake off some of my anxiety. For all he drives me crazy, he’s doing a hell of a job making me feel self-conscious. That doesn’t mean I’ll cower or stay quiet. “It’s my understanding that the assistant D.A.s currently assigned to SACU are burnt out and requesting reassignment.”
“That’s right,” he says, his expression sour. “Just a few hours on the job and I’ve already received transfer requests in writing.”
“I’d like to help select their replacements.” “Excuse me?” he asks.
Okay, here we go. Boob appreciation hour is officially over. “I’m not trying to step on your toes.”
“But?” he asks, leaning back against his chair.
“But nothing. I respect that the decision is ultimately yours. I’m only asking for the opportunity to provide input.” He keeps his expression neutral, and I can’t be sure he’s listening. I force myself to continue. “There have been a few new hires, and a few D.A.s looking to be challenged. I’d like to observe them in court and see how they perform on their feet. More importantly, I want to observe how they interact with victims of the more violent crimes.”
Declan appears anything but pleased. Either I’ve pissed him off or I’ve pushed him into something he’s not ready for. “I’m going to lay it right out for you,” he says, his tone matter-of fact. “SACU is the unit attorneys least want. I’m surprised the A.D.A.s currently there have lasted as long as they have.”
All right. I did annoy him. “They’ve lasted because it takes a while to become acclimated,” I counter. “But once there, they realize their importance and how much the victims and their families depend on them to help them through the process.”
“I’m not saying the work or the victims aren’t important. What I’m saying is no one is exactly begging to work there.”
“I realize SACU is the last place our attorneys want to be placed,” I say, staring straight at him. “Especially those who enter this office strictly to make connections and jump start their political careers. But it’s one of the most important units because of the sensitive subject matter and the degree of violence we see.”
I don’t mean to be so blunt, and maybe he doesn’t either, but here we sit with our gazes locked and the tension between us escalating.
Damn it. Dad wants us to work as a team. But the more we speak, the more I’m reminded Declan doesn’t want to be a part of this unit, and nowhere near me.
I inadvertently trail my fingers above the collar of my dress, it’s a nervous habit, much like when women tuck a strand of their hair behind their ear. But I never tuck my hair with my hearing aids in place. Any sound that brushes too close to the receiver such as the movement of hair, putting on a hat, resting my head against a pillow, even an intimate whisper, creates back noise similar to nails on a chalkboard.
My fingertips stroke close to the swell of my right breast as I think our situation through. I freeze when I realize Declan’s stare is following each subtle movement.
This is too weird. No way can Declan O’Brien be eyeing me like he wants to take a lick.
I ran into him at a restaurant a few weeks back. I was picking up takeout following a five mile run, still wearing the shorts and sports bra I ran in. Of course I had to see him. And of course he had to look good . . . and so did the blonde on his arm. She was a total stick and all legs, wearing a dress I don’t think I could have shoved my left breast into. I’m so not his type. So then why . . .
“I’ll allow the input,” he says.
“I’ll allow the input,” he says, a little louder.
This time I don’t correct him. I didn’t hear him, too busy watching him watch me which is absolutely ridiculous―ludicrous even―and good God, why does he have to look so good in that damn suit!
“Thank you,” I say, tripping over the word.