TWENTY-NINE

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Mark walked into the deli right on her heels. 

"Hey, Jimmy," Virginia called out.

The man behind the counter smiled as his shameless gape got its fill, looking like he'd just struck gold. . . until his eyes drifted right and upward, catching Mark's glare. The guy cleared his throat and snapped to attention, suddenly a consummate server. "Lieutenant, what can I get you?"

That's good, Jimmy. Keep your eyes where they should be and we'll get along just fine.

Virginia didn't seem to notice the sudden formality. After ordering twenty-five assorted sandwiches with salads, along with a case of water and a case of soda, she placed the drinks in Mark's arms before gathering up the two large bags of food. On the way back to the car, she stopped at the ice storage bin to claim what she'd bought. The food was placed on the ground to free up her hands and open the door. Bending down, she stuck her head inside.

Mark couldn't tear his eyes away as the already snug fitting shorts tightened around one perfectly shaped ass. "Shit," he muttered, not thinking she could hear him.

She turned her head, peeking under her arm to see what his problem was while grabbing for the ice. When she straightened and faced him, the ten pound bag was lifted high and dropped onto the two cases of drinks in his arms. A quick jostling on his part was necessary to prevent a spray fest of soda all over the pavement.

"Let's go," she ordered.

As she leaned down to retrieve the bags, he got a full view from the front this time, right down her shirt. He managed to keep that expletive in his head.

On the drive back to the gym, she pointed out some run-down buildings and abandoned parking lots, areas that she hoped would someday be improved. "Future dreams," she called them.

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They were greeted with glee when they returned. Virginia grabbed the cooler from storage and filled it with ice and drinks while Spinelli spread the sandwiches and salads out on the table near the front door. Everyone took a break to grab some grub and chat.

Virginia disappeared to her office, claiming paperwork. But try as she might, she couldn't concentrate. Agitation surrounded her, an invisible aura that sucked all her attention away. She stared out her open door at Spinelli, sensing it was related to him. But why? He had been nothing but supportive when she was telling him Jack's story, especially when his hand had reached for her shoulder. That had been unexpected. And he was surprising her again as she watched him now—looking right at home with the group of men and women he was standing with.

Eventually giving up on what she was doing—or rather, not doing—she went out to start painting again as the others finished their food and returned to their stations.

The rest of the afternoon was spent working.

By five o'clock the job was done.

After saying goodnight to the last group of volunteers and locking the door behind them, she inspected the day's work. The walls looked clean and fresh, and she felt pride of ownership mixed with immense satisfaction over a job well done. It was starting to resemble an actual gym.

Laughter drew her attention to Dominique and Spinelli as they carried the last of the paint trays over to the back room to be cleaned. She felt herself bristle as she watched that now-familiar expanse of wide shoulders lean over the laundry sink. What is your problem, Virginia?

Deciding to ignore the hormonal influx she must be having, she gathered up the drop sheets scattered on the floors and placed them in a neat pile, to be washed another day. She was far too tired to tackle that now.

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