Home > Officer Off Limits (Line of Duty #3)

Officer Off Limits (Line of Duty #3)
Tessa Bailey

Chapter One

He’s breaking our engagement in a seafood restaurant.

Clinking ice cubes, silverware scraping against china, and soft laughter all faded into a tornado of sound, numbing Story Brooks to her surroundings. She suspected Fisher brought her here specifically, one of San Diego’s finest seafood restaurants, to dump her in style, because he suspected she wouldn’t make a scene in such a lavish setting. Fisher hated making a scene.

A steakhouse would have been so much more appropriate. More sharp metal objects with which to stab me in the heart.

For once, Story welcomed her rambling inner monologue. It served to block out Fisher’s decidedly unwelcome words as he spoke to her from across the candlelit table, using sweeping hand gestures to make his point. She should be listening, but she’d pretty much tuned out after hearing the words, I’m calling off the wedding.

Searching for something to focus on, her eyes dropped to his empty plate, finding it a little odd that he’d managed to keep his appetite while cutting her loose. In addition to hating scenes, Fisher adored lobster, probably another reason for the elegant venue.

He’s killing two birds with one stone. And you almost married this ass**le.

At that point in Story’s reverie, everything in her present snapped back into sharp focus. Fiancé breaking engagement. Right.

“I didn’t mean for it to happen, Story. We work closely together and things just kind of…progressed.”

“Hold up. What?”

Visibly flustered, Fisher took a sip of water. “This isn’t easy for me, you know. Can you please try and tune in?” He slumped back in his chair. “I was explaining to you that Diana and I didn’t seek out a relationship with each other, it simply developed into something more over time.”

Whoops. Looks like she’d missed out on some important details during her little trip to outer headspace. So he’d met someone else. She registered the information calmly, as if he’d told her they were out of milk. Maybe she was simply in shock. Or dealing with the effects of three glasses of wine and no food in her stomach. She couldn’t tell. “Which one is Diana, again?”

He released a long-suffering sigh. “The oncologist.” She showed no reaction. “From Boston…?”

Story tilted her head. “The one with the bob haircut?”

“Yes.”

“Huh.”

Story recalled meeting her apparent replacement, Diana, at a dinner party a month prior. Had they already been seeing each other? Did she even want to know? Their destination wedding in Maui wouldn’t be taking place either way.

The white noise of the dining room combined with the over-the-top nautical decor transported Story to the ocean and the time she almost drowned. Sipping her sparkling water, she recalled the day with perfect clarity.

Ignoring her mother’s caution and the signs warning of a dangerous undertow, twelve-year-old Story swam out much too far, only to be pulled under by a massive wave. As her arms and legs pinwheeled in every direction, breath whooshing from her lungs, she could still remember her brain registering the thought, maybe it’s better to just die now than have to deal with my mother saying “I told you so.” But somehow, she’d finally managed to make it to the surface, sucking in air and blinking saltwater from her eyes.

Then she’d grabbed her board and paddled out ever farther.

What happened to that girl? The brave girl who refused to sit still for lectures. Or let people force her into eating seafood. She used to be fearless. With regularity, her grade school teachers used to throw up their hands in resignation, muttering, “She has a mind of her own.”

At some point between graduating from college three years earlier and now, she’d lost her pluck. Her moxie. Her chutzpah. She’d met the slightly older, ambitious Fisher as a young postgrad and could admit now that she’d been more than a little dazzled by the attention he paid her—especially after being surrounded for four years by inexperienced college boys.

While trying to fit into his world of sophisticated dinner parties and foreign films, had she let little parts of herself chip away in the process? Obviously. The old Story, the one who’d regarded her near-drowning as an adventure, would not approve of the girl who listened politely while someone made her feel two inches tall.

That Story would kick ass and take names.

The waitress approached then, drawing her attention. “Are you still working on your halibut, miss?”

Looking down at the untouched piece of fish—Fisher knew she didn’t like seafood, the bastard—Story shook her head. “No, I’m finished, thank you.”

She cleared the plate with efficiency. “Would you like to see our dessert menu?”

“No, thank you,” Fisher replied, already reaching for his wallet.

And honestly, denying her a look at the dessert menu was the straw that finally broke the chocoholic’s back. Perhaps it made her childish, but Story figured her wasted months of planning a wedding that would no longer take place had at least earned her some damn tiramisu. Call off my wedding, but leave me my desserts.

“Actually,” Story interceded with a bright smile, “I’d like a slice of chocolate cake and a bottle of your most expensive champagne, please. To go.”

Fisher’s valuable surgeon’s hand froze in the act of removing his credit card. “Very funny.”

She merely raised an eyebrow at the waitress, who shifted rather uncomfortably. “Ma’am, we can’t sell you alcohol to leave the premises. It’s against the law.”

“Really?” She jerked a thumb toward Fisher. “Because my fiancé brought me here tonight to break off our engagement. Two weeks before the wedding.”

She nodded primly when the waitress’s mouth dropped open, her eyes flashing wide at Fisher. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Story clapped her hands once. “Excellent.”

As the waitress scurried off toward the kitchen, Fisher turned to her. “You’re making this harder than it needs to be. I didn’t want it to be like this.”

With a calm she didn’t feel, Story pushed back her chair and stood. “I think I’m going to head home now. Unless you were planning on offering me some kind of severance package…?”

“I’m sorry,” he responded, looking as though he wanted to say more, but ultimately remaining silent.

Deciding then and there that Fisher wasn’t worth another moment of her time, Story ignored him. Between his distant attitude the last few months and now his halfhearted apology, she’d had enough of feeling undeserving. Never again. She spotted the waitress exiting the kitchen holding a bottle of champagne. Her posture and expression communicated how indignant she felt on Story’s behalf and it made her want to cry for the first time that evening. A fact that definitely needed further investigation, since she hadn’t yet shed a single tear over her broken engagement.

Placing the to-go box and a bottle of chilled champagne on the table, the waitress ignored Fisher, addressing only Story. “I’m supposed to tell you that any open containers must remain inside the restaurant. But if you happen to slip out without me noticing, I guess I can’t do anything about it, can I?” After casting one final glare at Fisher, she pivoted on a heel and stalked away.

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