{thirteen}

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The knockout roses blooming outside of the twenty-fifth precinct of the Chicago PD were the first thing Alessandra noticed. Although she was downtown where there was mostly concrete and glass, she appreciated Chicago for its abundance of perennial foliage. It was also weird to be here during the day.

She hoped to catch the scent of the bright pink roses but got a whiff of Cal's world famous deep dish pizza instead. That was like waking up to fresh baked cookies on Christmas morning. It also made her boring salad much less appetizing.

Alessandra checked the time. The meeting was still over an hour away, but Pat had said the conference room was open. She hadn't expected to be here so soon after picking up her food, but that's what happened when she found herself caught up in the smells of the city. Might as well go in and enjoy the solitude while she had it.

She dropped her lunch down on the table and went over to the window. The sun as it sparkled over the city was a sight. The Willis Tower drew her eye as it always did. It looked much better out there than the walls of this room. Alessandra was certain they were the same color as whatever concoction produced the smell in here. They claimed it was coffee, but that couldn't be true.

"Hey. Wasn't expecting anyone."

The door closed. Dylan stood close enough to her that their shoulders touched. Her pulse quickened even as she held back a smile at the sound of his voice. Once she caught a hint of his clean, citrus scent, goosebumps covered her skin and her stomach fluttered. Alessandra closed her eyes. He had the distinct ability to trigger opposite reactions in her and she wanted it to stop. How was she supposed to focus?

"Fantastic view, right?"

"Yep." She opened her eyes and walked back over to the table.

Just open the salad and eat. Avoid any contact. Alessandra took a bite while she watched her partner over by the window. She wondered what he enjoyed watching when he looked at the city.

"You okay?" Dylan asked with a hint of a smile.

Her eyes met his. This was ridiculous. She wasn't a pre-teen. Even if he had this effect on her, she would have to suck it up.

"Everything's fine, all things considered."

"I hear ya." He laughed. "Hopefully, we'll have another plan of attack after this meeting."

"I hope so." The leads were blowing up in their face faster than Ronda Rousey delivered a knockout punch.

She tried to ignore Dylan when he turned on the TV which was already on the news. A press conference by the mayor was live.

"Councilwoman Zensenbacher made some mistakes like we all do. It doesn't mean she deserved to die. I've been assured by the Chicago PD and the FBI that they won't rest until this killer's been brought to justice."

Chief Superintendent James stepped forward. "The Mayor's Office is offering a reward for any credible information that leads to the apprehension of The Chicago Cold Cocker."

"I know what you think about that?" Dylan said as the station returned to some court show.

Alessandra took another bite of food. "What? That stupid name?"

"I thought it was pretty creative for something the media came up with," Dylan said. "But I meant the reward and the press conference."

To each their own. "As long as we catch the guy I can't keep going on about preferential treatment of victims."

Dylan sat down next to her. "It's unfair, but that's life."

"Don't I know it."

She'd already spent the past couple of weeks lamenting over her own situation. Why on Earth would someone be after her? Had scaring off Mel's husband invited this kind of response? She was a firm believer in karma, but he was also an abuser. She couldn't be sure.

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