{twenty-six}

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We're done here," said the agent. She coughed. "Also don't forget about the mandatory sexual harassment refresher course." Her voice got louder over the noise of people talking and moving chairs. "Oh, and make sure to hand in those surveys by next week."

Dylan couldn't get out of his seat fast enough. A meeting today of all days. This was the only window of time Jay and a couple of other Assistant Special Agents in Charge were available. It happened sometimes and was part of the job. No choice but to roll with it.

"Hey, Jameson."

He groaned and turned around. Eric Jay again. He would be glad when this was over. The guy was nice enough, but he sure could be annoying as hell.

"What's going on?"

"Was just talking with Baines here and he says you've really been stepping up. I had no idea how good that investigator was either. Why didn't you say something?"

That was a good question. Probably because he'd been too focused on himself. Add another strike to the list.

Dylan shrugged. "Don't know what I was thinking."

"I heard she just applied to be at the FSRTC."

The Forensic Science Research and Training Center. He'd had to look it up. "She did," Dylan said. He wasn't sure where his boss was going with this.

"Don't worry so much, Jameson. I'm willing to admit when I'm wrong. Let's just hope she's able to crack our case open." His boss patted him on the back.

"You got your faith in the right person. If anyone can do it then she's the one," Dylan said.

She worked too damn hard to keep coming up empty. Even so, Dylan still didn't feel terribly confident. They should've found something. He still believed the guy had to make a mistake sometimes.

"It's Saturday. We all wanna leave so let's get the hell outta here." Jay locked the door. "I'll be by your office Monday, Jameson."

"Sure thing, sir."

Dylan's phone buzzed with a text. His phone rang next. Once Dylan finished up his phone call, he sat outside and checked his text. It looked like Carla had something to show him but she had to get to the morgue first. He had about forty minutes to wait.

Figured. Every minute felt like a day now that he knew Alessa was waiting. A few more hours was nothing. He still couldn't believe he'd said all the stuff he had. It was just like the first time he saw her at the lot.

Her reaction had immediately put him on the defensive. It hadn't been his intent to force her hand. Hell, he wanted to feel bad. But with the result, that would be hard to do.

And that kiss. Knowing he was the reason for her response proved one hell of an ego boost for sure.

Now they could see where this went. This wasn't the way his relationships usually went, but Alessa was very different from any woman he'd wanted to be with. She wouldn't take his shit, but she would be supportive.

Worked for him. Change was good.

Now that he knew how she felt, going back to DC would be difficult. But it was still the best thing to do for his career. He knew that would come first with her the same as it did with him. If their positions were switched, he'd have to deal with her decision. Good thing they weren't.

He'd seen her as a means to an end when he'd first arrived. She worked hard and somehow without realizing it, he'd taken advantage of that. Wouldn't even consider what she said when she was the one processing the evidence. Her point about the differences between him and Baines was spot on. She deserved better. Dylan frowned and sat down. He'd make it up to her. Just start with tonight and keep building.

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