TWELVE

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"Oh, God," Virginia whispered from the backseat of Walt's car when they turned the corner, bringing the mob of reporters mulling around her front lawn into view. "Janine . . . Janine is at my neighbor's house."

Cap reached over the front seat and patted her knee. "It's okay. I'll get Janine." The strain she felt must have been obvious, prompting him to add, "This is all going to blow over. Stories like this get old quick with these guys." He turned to Walt. "Let me out here."

Walt pulled to the curb and the captain hopped out, making it to her neighbor's front door before the reporters had a chance to react. They watched as he disappeared into the house.

Then all heads turned to the car he had exited.

Walt eased his way into the driveway, restricted by the bodies that were slow to separate and provide access. Any leeway they provided was swallowed up when the car came to a stop. When she opened her door, the flashes and questions started immediately.

"How long did you and Mr. Spinelli have a relationship?"

"What caused the breakup?"

"Any secrets passed to each other between the sheets?"

"Will you lose your badge over this?"

"Is the whole department in bed with the Chilvatis?"

Virginia winced with that one. It was one thing to have her reputation ruined, totally another to have doubts cast on the police force as a whole.

Without a word, the two of them wedged their way through the crowd and made it to her front door. Once inside, Virginia leaned back against it with a groan and looked at Walt, realizing he hadn't said a word since her questioning in court.

They had been on a few dates in the last month, not as many as he would have liked but she had been busy with the gym—at least that's what she had told him. Coward, she thought to herself. She should have been honest from the beginning. Although a romantic relationship was not in the cards for them, she did not want to lose his friendship, and being friends meant being honest.

"Thanks, Walt," she said, hoping he'd look at her.

"No problem," he muttered.

"You okay?"

Finally, he met her gaze. "You could have told me, spared me the shock of having to hear it in court today, saved me the embarrassment."

"You're embarrassed? Think about how I feel." She laughed, trying to lighten his mood.

"I'll make some tea," he said, walking away from her.

"Wait."

He stopped, but refused to turn around. His shoulders lifted and fell with a deep inhale.

She circled in front of him and touched his arm. "I know you're angry—" She shook her head at the poor choice of words. "Hurt . . . but I never lied to you. I was just so used to keeping it a secret that I thought it best to keep it that way. To help me forget."

"The problem is you're not able to forget, are you?" he asked, his eyes heavy with accusation.

Could she? Would she? She had no idea how to answer that, yet the silence spoke for itself.

"I'll take that as a yes."

She sighed. "I'm not perfect, Walt."

With his frown, she pushed on, "I get this feeling you put me high up on some pedestal, with such unrealistic expectations that it's impossible not to fall."

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