{twenty-two}

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Alessandra looked at another hair fiber under the microscope. Her concentration was shot. All because of some words on a paper.

"How's that coming along?" Dave asked her.

"Just great, "Alessandra responded.

"Keep at it. You'll get something." He walked back to his station.

With the way this was going that would happen when ice skaters performed in hell. At least she was back in her own lab. Too bad Nate wasn't around. He had taken a much needed personal day. Alessandra sighed and pushed the microscope away. Break time.

"I'll be back."

She went outside and let the unusually warm day wash over her. The sun reflected against the glass on the nearby buildings in a shimmering haze of blue and gray. It reminded her of a rainy day by the ocean.

Right outside the door, a man yelled at someone on his phone. A few feet away two friends ate sandwiches and talked on a bench. The exhaust that hung in the air gave way to the smell of freshly laid concrete and seafood tacos.

An ambulance tried to drive on the crowded street. Three buildings down a cab horn blared. Alessandra found a bench and sat down when she sensed him coming. How had he even noticed her?

Never mind that. He wasn't wearing the suit jacket! His vest and tie combination made her wish she was somewhere she could take them off. Now she remembered the way his biceps rippled under his gray dress shirt this morning while he'd been eating. Alessandra stopped her racing mind. This had to stop.

"Hey." Her pulse quickened, and her breath caught yet she attempted to maintain some calm. "Wasn't sure you'd make it."

"I said I'd be here." Dylan sat down next to her. They both looked out at the street. A bus went by.

"What happened?" Alessandra faced forward. Easier to get out of her fog of lust if she didn't have to look at him.

"I'm grounded."

Dang! She touched his arm. "That sucks."

"I know. Especially since I hate being stuck inside that sardine can they call an office." He looked at her. "This also means the official death of our partnership."

Alessandra looked down. Now that it was out in the open she thought about how much she'd miss him during the day. Somehow he'd wormed his way into her routine. That was crazy, right? Alessandra chewed her lip wondering about how on Earth she'd be able to see him. She snapped her fingers when she thought of something.

"When you take your lunch breaks, you can leave the building, right?"

He tapped his thigh. "Sure."

Alessandra leaned in closer to him. "Since I won't see you as much maybe we could go somewhere."

"A date?" he asked. "I still owe you for that rain check. I'd hoped the Bears game would make up for it, but that fell through too."

Was he listening to anything? She gave him the benefit of the doubt with the day he'd had. "I asked about lunch."

"Oh right. So every day?"

She looked away. "Not if you don't want to." Wrong move, Alessandra. Way too eager. Where had that even come from? It was already done so she should just go with it. "It could be once or twice a week if you've got other plans."

"We'll work it out."

Great! "Okay. Maybe we could start next week." She grinned so hard her cheeks hurt.

Dylan returned her smile until he looked over to his left. Alessandra followed his gaze. A huge, bald man walked over.

"Sorry to interrupt."

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