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Seeing Red
By EponinesGhost

Chapter Eight

It had been two hours since she had called Salazar. It had been nearly four since she'd walked away from her run-in with Rochelle in a daze. All of that time had passed and Kelly still didn't know what to do or what to believe. The whole world had tilted on its axis. She'd spent all morning pulling herself together, being productive and professional ... preparing to accept the fact that Tracey was unattainable. She'd been focused on salvaging her working relationship, on not losing her status as a valued colleague ... possibly even preserving what she had thought of as a friendship. Last night she had even questioned that. Today ... today she was just trying to keep her head above water until she could get her feet back on the ground. And now ... she was trying to process Rochelle's bombshell. Now she was supposed to trust this woman's word over what she had seen with her own eyes.

Yet she desperately wanted to believe. That it had all been a mistake. That regardless of what she had witnessed or the way Tracey had acted, that it was still possible ... for what exactly? What had she had to hang onto before last night? Certainly, the moment she had seen ... them ... she had felt as if something were ripped away from her. She'd spent most of the afternoon trying to reconstruct the past. Pinpoint memories and observations that had fed her ... fantasy? Surely it had been more than that. It had felt like so much more. The way Tracey held her eyes several beats longer than necessary when they were talking ... the way she leaned in to whisper to her, even when it wasn't relevant or warranted ... the effortless rapport and the bond that they had developed ... all could be explained away, she reasoned. They worked well, and closely, together.

But there was that one time that Tracey had reached up to brush a strand of hair away from Kelly's forehead, absently ... so naturally ... so intimately. It had left her breathless. She could have sworn that Tracey was as affected by those few seconds as she had been. And that other time ... when they were working late and she had caught Tracey staring at her mouth ... making her so self-conscious that she had rubbed her lips, wiping away the unseen crumb, speck ... whatever ... and Tracey had just blinked awkwardly and returned to her reading. Oh ... and the day that they were examining medical evidence, both leaning over the light table, peering down at the slides and scans, in such close quarters that Tracey had been practically lying on half of Kelly's back. And how they had both stayed like that ... barely moving ... getting warmer and warmer where their bodies pressed together. Each of them, she had been sure, pretending to search for something else to hold them there, prolonging the experience, until she was finally afraid she would moan or faint so she had cleared her throat ...

It was hardly what she would have called 'flirting' ... although she had felt like Tracey did that too. Could she have imagined all of it? If she was completely honest with herself ... she couldn't be sure. Most of it barely qualified as circumstantial. Rochelle on the other hand ... She was a smoking gun. You definitely didn't imagine her. Or Tracey's tongue in her mouth. Shit. Everything brought her back to that. Could you kiss someone like that if you had real feelings for someone else? She certainly wouldn't ...

Before she could congratulate herself too proudly, a darker memory haunted her. She'd practically offered to sleep with Ravell. Of course she wouldn't have gone through with it, not really ... but she'd considered it ... God. None of this was helping. She had to make a decision. She couldn't just sit here all day.

Yet she did.

It had only taken her a minute to realize that she was in no condition to return to the office. Not after the mugging her equilibrium had just taken. So she had reversed her steps, away from the building, and toward some sort of refuge. Almost randomly, she had ended up wandering the length of Columbus Park. At first, the area was strangely quiet. Or maybe she had just been so absorbed with her internal dialogue. She had no idea how long she'd been strolling around when she spotted the hot dog cart. That solved her lunch dilemma, even though she ate mechanically, not really tasting anything.

Curiously detached, she found a bench and settled there, belatedly realizing that at some point she'd be expected, missed. Laughing mirthlessly, she dug out her cell. Wouldn't want them to think she'd been shanked at the prison. She didn't bother to analyze why she chose Hector's number to dial. Or how casually she was able to lie to him, her voice remarkably even as she explained that her meeting with Canton's counsel had run long, she was going to stop for lunch ... and that there were some other things she needed to take care of before she could come in. Would he leave any new information that he and Ravell had collected so far on her desk? She had to stop by and pick up several things before she finally headed home anyway.

As she closed her phone, she wondered momentarily if Tracey would buy it, or if she would even notice. She told herself that she really would go over everything tonight, make up for any time she wasted this afternoon by burning the midnight oil. Truthfully, as debilitated as her mental abilities were at the moment, she didn't want her issues to affect their progress on the case. And she didn't want to let Tracey down.

She'd just regroup for a little bit longer, watching the kids play ball, the dogs being walked. She'd pull herself together, put on her game face and get back to work. After she figured a few things out.

Shaking herself slightly, she was disconcerted to discover that the sun had almost completely set. How long had she been sitting here? Crumpling up her trash from lunch and tossing it into the trashcan near the bench, she stood up. Damn. She was stiff all over. Smart move, Gaffney. Your back is going to pay for it. Stretching and twisting, she tried to jumpstart her circulation. All of that introspection and all she had to show for it were some physical aches to compliment her emotional ones. She'd had no epiphanies, no breakthroughs. All she had successfully done was play hooky. Taking a deep breath, she plodded back across the park, occasionally rotating her shoulder or neck. Maybe she'd take a hot bath before she hit the books tonight.

She was more than a little conscience-stricken as she stepped off the elevator. Maybe she should have called again ... what if something had broken this afternoon that required more than some extra homework? There were no maybes about it. She wouldn't have to be worried about not calling in if she had shown back up. She wasn't a child. So she had had her feelings hurt ... stomped on ... crushed. This was the big leagues. People counted on her. As she reached the door, she vowed that no matter what ... this would never happen again. She wouldn't ditch her responsibilities over personal problems, regardless of the complications. Emphatically she flicked on the light, practically jumping out of her skin as it revealed Tracey, sitting quietly in her chair.

"Goddammit!" Kelly could feel her heart thumping wildly, the adrenaline rocketing through her. "Tracey! You scared the hell out of me ... what are you doing?! Sitting here in the dark ..."

She slouched against the edge of her own desk, not completely trusting her knees to hold her up.

"Waiting for you."

Part 9

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