SIX

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Virginia was sitting at the kitchen table, staring down at her coffee. It was her third cup, caffeine the only thing keeping her going after the night she'd had. Sleep had been elusive. Each time she'd drifted off, her dreams had morphed into broken bits of memories, forcing her wide-awake to rearrange and reflect on the images in her head. They went all the way back to the lecture hall of her fourth-year political science class where she'd spent most of the semester trying to concentrate while being dazzled by the handsome man in the seat beside her.

A noise sounded above her head. Tom had been in bed by the time she'd made it home, but he was up and moving around now. He'd probably slept like a baby.

Eleven years. Where had the time gone? They had married right after graduation. Thinking back on it now, she had to ask herself, Why the big rush? But they were 9/11 students, their final year of college forever marked by America's devastating losses. Maybe that was part of it, people being drawn to each other in grief, even those with little else in common, and the realization that time was a precious commodity. That day had certainly been a big factor in her becoming a police officer, although she'd already been leaning in that direction. Law enforcement was in her blood, having a grandfather and two uncles that were former cops and a circuit court judge for a father. She'd grown up on stories of police chases told during backyard parties with friends and family, whereas Tom had spent most of his childhood at the country club. His family had a long history in politics and had pushed Tom in that direction.

Virginia's parents had been a little wary of the speed of it all but had supported her nonetheless. Tom's parents would have preferred he'd picked one of the daughters of their many friends at the club. They were cold, stuffy people--around her anyway--but Tom had reassured her that his parents' opinion didn't matter, as long as they were together.

She'd joined the LAPD right away while Tom continued on in grad school. Back then he'd had some great ideas, ways to streamline the system of government and make it more accessible. To everyone. It had been tough during those first few years, having little money and busy schedules, but they'd been happy. Hadn't they?

Things had changed once Tom went to work. Starting out as a political consultant, he ran for a seat on the City Council and won, becoming popular with the city's big shots and important officials. Sadly, their influence won him over, and he turned into the type of government bureaucrat they'd both rallied against in school--a political climber whose campaign strategy was more about his own needs then the needs of the city he was serving. His run for mayor came with an eight-year, two-term plan of running for governor. He had made his parents proud.

Yes, they'd grown apart, but she had never suspected he was cheating on her.

Until now.

Approaching footfalls brought her head up.

Tom entered the kitchen, coming to a halt when he saw her. "I figured you'd be sleeping in after such a late night with the boyfriend." He went over to the cupboard and began shuffling things around, on the hunt for his favorite mug.

"Jack is my partner," she snapped. "Kindly refer to him as such."

Stilling, Tom glanced over at her and frowned before resuming his search. "I hate that asshole," he muttered.

The feeling's mutual, believe me.

He wasn't going to find what he was looking for. She had taken it out to the garage earlier and smashed it with a hammer. Yes, yes, it was childish, but hey, it was better than throwing things at his head.

Tom gave up and settled on another. "You know, after yanking me away from a conversation I was having at one of your little work events years ago, your partner had the nerve to tell me to treat my wife with more respect or he was going to punch my lights out. I mean, who says that? The guy didn't even know me." He poured his coffee while he complained, and then he turned to her and lifted the consolation cup. "That's why I stopped going to those things."

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