Officer Off Limits Online - Tessa Bailey
He’s breaking our engagement in a seafood restaurant.
Clinking ice cubes, silverware scraping against china, and soft laughter all faded into a tornado of sound, numbing Story Brooks to her surroundings. She suspected Fisher brought her here specifically, one of San Diego’s finest seafood restaurants, to dump her in style, because he suspected she wouldn’t make a scene in such a lavish setting. Fisher hated making a scene.
A steakhouse would have been so much more appropriate. More sharp metal objects with which to stab me in the heart.
For once, Story welcomed her rambling inner monologue. It served to block out Fisher’s decidedly unwelcome words as he spoke to her from across the candlelit table, using sweeping hand gestures to make his point. She should be listening, but she’d pretty much tuned out after hearing the words, I’m calling off the wedding.
Searching for something to focus on, her eyes dropped to his empty plate, finding it a little odd that he’d managed to keep his appetite while cutting her loose. In addition to hating scenes, Fisher adored lobster, probably another reason for the elegant venue.
He’s killing two birds with one stone. And you almost married this asshole.
At that point in Story’s reverie, everything in her present snapped back into sharp focus. Fiancé breaking engagement. Right.
“I didn’t mean for it to happen, Story. We work closely together and things just kind of…progressed.”
“Hold up. What?”
Visibly flustered, Fisher took a sip of water. “This isn’t easy for me, you know. Can you please try and tune in?” He slumped back in his chair. “I was explaining to you that Diana and I didn’t seek out a relationship with each other, it simply developed into something more over time.”
Whoops. Looks like she’d missed out on some important details during her little trip to outer headspace. So he’d met someone else. She registered the information calmly, as if he’d told her they were out of milk. Maybe she was simply in shock. Or dealing with the effects of three glasses of wine and no food in her stomach. She couldn’t tell. “Which one is Diana, again?”
He released a long-suffering sigh. “The oncologist.” She showed no reaction. “From Boston…?”
Story tilted her head. “The one with the bob haircut?”
Story recalled meeting her apparent replacement, Diana, at a dinner party a month prior. Had they already been seeing each other? Did she even want to know? Their destination wedding in Maui wouldn’t be taking place either way.
The white noise of the dining room combined with the over-the-top nautical decor transported Story to the ocean and the time she almost drowned. Sipping her sparkling water, she recalled the day with perfect clarity.
Ignoring her mother’s caution and the signs warning of a dangerous undertow, twelve-year-old Story swam out much too far, only to be pulled under by a massive wave. As her arms and legs pinwheeled in every direction, breath whooshing from her lungs, she could still remember her brain registering the thought, maybe it’s better to just die now than have to deal with my mother saying “I told you so.” But somehow, she’d finally managed to make it to the surface, sucking in air and blinking saltwater from her eyes.
Then she’d grabbed her board and paddled out ever farther.
What happened to that girl? The brave girl who refused to sit still for lectures. Or let people force her into eating seafood. She used to be fearless. With regularity, her grade school teachers used to throw up their hands in resignation, muttering, “She has a mind of her own.”
At some point between graduating from college three years earlier and now, she’d lost her pluck. Her moxie. Her chutzpah. She’d met the slightly older, ambitious Fisher as a young postgrad and could admit now that she’d been more than a little dazzled by the attention he paid her—especially after being surrounded for four years by inexperienced college boys.
While trying to fit into his world of sophisticated dinner parties and foreign films, had she let little parts of herself chip away in the process? Obviously. The old Story, the one who’d regarded her near-drowning as an adventure, would not approve of the girl who listened politely while someone made her feel two inches tall.
That Story would kick ass and take names.
The waitress approached then, drawing her attention. “Are you still working on your halibut, miss?”
Looking down at the untouched piece of fish—Fisher knew she didn’t like seafood, the bastard—Story shook her head. “No, I’m finished, thank you.”
She cleared the plate with efficiency. “Would