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CHARLEY & ALEC
keep it slutty
edited January 2015
Alec Abel was not having a good morning.
That said, Alec Abel rarely had good mornings. Or mornings at all. Or true definitions of what constituted a morning, and what constituted a night. See, what you’d learn very quickly about Alec Abel was that the days and nights and mornings all seemed to blur together, fragmented memories of sunlight and foggy inklings of the darkness of night. Last night had, unfortunately, been a night devoid of any strict definition, and he’d woken up on his couch, fully dressed with the exception of his blazer, which laid strewn on the spotless floor of his barren apartment.
He’d woken up late, too, which was another thing that Alec Abel failed to have much of a strict detonation of – his early was others on time, and his late was something utterly inexcusable, even for the slow-moving South … for most. But not for Alec Abel. Of course not –Alec Abel was an Abel. The Abels were an exceptionally old family to Jackson, Tennessee, the family who had become renowned over the years.
A Huguenot colonist, eager for money and disbelieving in the ideology of religious freedom, had quickly established himself as a prominent slave holder in the late 1700s, in the flourishing times of slavery and revelry. He did not fight in the Civil War, but gained affluence among the gubernatorial figures in fledgling republic, paving a precedent for Abel involvement in politics. Besides affluence, of course, the prominent Abel had taken home with him a fiery Irish woman, allowing for a legacy of red-hair and staunch Catholicism. The shame the Abels thought the Irish immigrants wrought during the Potato Famine, however, led to the scorning of those of red-hair in the blood lines, ultimately leading to the fading of the color over the years. Alec possessed largely French facial features – a slightly upturned nose, light green eyes, a slim frame, a taste in clothing – but he also carried remnants of his Irish heritage, his feathered hair a lightish strawberry blonde, annoyingly freckled cheeks, a passionate personality. Unfortunately, Alec Abel was passionate about nothing. Nothing was inexcusable for an Abel, whether it be his uncle’s embezzling or his ancestor’s slave holding or his own, more illicit habits. But let’s not mention those quiet yet.
As a lawyer, Mr. Abel was fully aware of his right to remain silent.
As fun as it was to revel in the pass (and Alec did that plenty), it was time to return to the blurry present. Alec had managed a cold, quick shower, forgoing a shave and tossing on a casual suit for the day. He had to meet his client at the police station, and he was dreadfully late, but the detectives knew not to interrogate one of his clients when he wasn’t there. That would, ultimately, be career suicide. He hopped into his black, Audi R8 – and gaudy car, perhaps, but he was a man of appearances – and sped to the station, swearing as he searched for a parking spot. Finally, spotting one, and spotting another car seemingly about to merge onto the lane, Alec accelerated into it with a complete disregard for the other party. Putting his car into park, he reached into his glove compartment, snatching out an Adderall from one of his plentiful orange containers and swallowing, following it with coffee. Satisfied, he grabbed his coffee and headed out of the car.
Charley could not be late to work. Not on the fourth day of her first week at her new job, especially. She barely even knew anyone yet—she had absolutely zero clout beyond her résumé. She could not—would not fuck this up.
What she hadn't anticipated, however, was the overturned semi-truck accident near her house that'd blocked the I-40, which was the only way she knew to get to work. She'd been living in Jackson only a few days longer than she'd been working in it, and, regrettably, she wasn't familiar with the area just yet. "Shit," she hissed through gritted teeth as she pulled over into a gas station parking lot, typing the address to the police station into Google Nav on her phone. She should've been concerned for the lives and safety of whomever was involved in that wreck, but right now... she was only concerned for Charley Ackerman and making sure she didn't get started off on the wrong foot at her new job. Hideous thought process, yes, but so it was. Having gotten an alternate route set, she pulled out of the gas station and sped ahead on one of the main roads.
Typically, Charley was at least fifteen minutes early for work, but given the unexpected detour and the fact that some raccoon or something had knocked over her dumpster in the night—once she'd discovered it on her way out, she'd had to go in, change, hastily clean it up, then go back inside to wash her hands thoroughly and re-dress—she was running a bit behind. "MotherFUCK-errrr," she sang irritably along with the melody some song on the radio as she turned carefully but speedily onto Auditorium Street, then Institution, eyeing the clock on her dashboard. "Hah!" she said aloud to herself, a bit manic with her luck of having spotted a decent place to park. She was going to be—at most—three minutes late. She'd feel guilty about it all day, but she could talk her way out of it if anyone brought it up.
Of course, some fucking asshole in a black Audi spotted her, gunning it into her spot. "NooOOOOOO," left her throat, a mixture of a groan and a shriek. "Are you fucking—" she said aloud as she hit the steering wheel, horn chirping briefly. Charley didn't have a lot of people to talk to outside of work, and she found herself talking to herself. A lot. Even though she was really talking to this bastard in the Audi who'd just cut her off, despite the fact that he couldn't hear her. And it had to be a man, she just knew it. She huffed irritably, shifting into reverse to maneuver into another row. It wasn't as if the JPD parking lot were huge, or that anywhere she might park would make her any less late or on time than any other parking spot, but it was the principle of the thing. She was from Atlanta, home to some of the worst drivers in the United States, but this was ridiculous.
Once she'd parked elsewhere, she quickly pulled her purse over her shoulder, smoothed over the lap of her pants (out of habit), grabbed her coffee, and headed quickly across the parking lot, heels clicking noisily against the pavement. A hundred yards or so ahead of her, she spotted him—of course it was a him—striding casually toward the white, four story building. She quickened her pace, clutching her travel mug tightly so as not to drip any coffee on herself. Charley wasn't shy—her profession wouldn't allow her to be—and she wasn't particularly confrontational before and after work, but today had begun disastrously and this motherfucker had swooped in all nonchalantly and exacerbated everything. And she didn't really feel sympathetic toward the ~male plight~. From the back, she could see that he was slim, wore a blue suit, and had fair hair. She couldn't tell his age. She had her phone in an iron grip in her hand (another habit), and flicked her arm toward him as she passed him. "You were in such a hurry a minute ago," she said irritably. She looked over her shoulder at him, a few steps ahead. He was handsome, she could tell at just the glance, but he appeared tired, and a bit rumpled. She didn't feel sympathetic toward him. She hitched the strap of her purse up on her shoulder and turned around again, huffing.
As Alec left his car, walking towards the police station, he felt the gust of someone’s vehement walking. And a someone it was, the woman he’d seemingly cut off in the parking lot moments before, her ire evident. He chuckled. Ah, right. The damnation of the woman he’d dared to scorn this morning. Alec liked women – he was straight, and he’d been married to two years ago, and he had a daughter. Women were a constant in his life, though, admittedly, strong ones were not, discontenting the occasional presence of his sister. She was in Washington. He missed her, but didn’t have much time to think about her, so he didn’t. As for other women, and the women he entertained, he didn’t have the time or the care for that, either, despite his constantly dishelved appearance and arrogant demeanor. While Alec came off as the typical, rich womanizer, he hadn’t been in a relationship since the culmination of his marriage last year. He didn’t think about that, either.
He didn’t think about many things, really. Anything that was uncomfortable, at the very least.
But what Alec was good at, however, was his job. He excelled in the art of deceit and lying, and seemingly possessed no moral fiber. He did. Just not for the right things, really, or the most typically altruistic of reasons. He had a daughter. She was five. He only had partial custody, and he wanted to provide for her – the least he could, he figured. That, despite being uncomfortable, was what he did think about.
And so as much as he hated to cut the woman off this morning (spoiler alert: he didn’t really care), he just had to do it, lest he be late in a rude manner for even himself. But, naively, he hadn’t expected to encounter the victim of his ministrations, a fair-haired, angry woman in a pantsuit – which he thought she looked rather majestic in, really – for what he’d done to her, flicking her arm at him and glancing over at him over her shoulder. He raised his brows, the corner of his lips twitching in the vaguest hint of amusement. “I am in a hurry,” he corrected, because he was, in his own way, and in his own leisurely pace, which was hurried. For the sake of his enjoyment – and Alec rarely indulged himself in such levity, really! – he quickened his pace to a level that was almost hurried in a common person’s sense – and it didn’t take much effort, considering he was lean and tall, reaching around six-two - striding past her to the door, reaching into his pocket before holding open the door for her. He flipped a card out of his steel, engraved holder, a watermarked card with his name embossed in the middle. The card, in itself, was irritatingly smug in its starkness and assertiveness, all white with black lettering. He knew it. “Just in case you find yourself in any more car troubles,” he teased with the smallest of smirks, holding out his card with two fingers.
Charley wasn't interested in getting into a verbal altercation in front of her workplace with the man who'd cut her off in the parking lot. She didn't have the time nor the mental energy to spare—she'd gone over her files until late last night and again before leaving for work, and wanted to remain focused on her interview first thing this morning. It was her own fault, really, that she was late, not his. But that didn't mean she was going to let this attorney—he was obviously an attorney—think what he'd done was acceptable to her. She preferred her admonishments to be more subtle and dry, not screechy or emotional. Still, she couldn't stop the frustrated huff from leaving her. She was irritated at him, obviously, but she was also a bit frustrated in general with how her morning was going.
He corrected her, saying that he was indeed in a hurry, and she rolled her eyes, sensing him quickening behind her, trying to catch up. Great. He wanted to chitchat. His stride being longer than hers, and the fact she was wearing heels, he reached the door before her easily, opening it for her. "Thanks," she muttered, with no real gratitude, but before she was able to step through, he pulled out a silver business card holder, passing his card to her as he made a smug remark—a remark that made it sound as if she herself were the one with "car troubles." What an arrogant ass. Yep. Defense attorney. She confirmed it with a quick glance over his card, an unamused expression on her face. Her lip might have even begun to curl a little in contempt. He had an alliterative name, which somehow irritated her, and she scoffed at his suggestion. "I highly doubt that," she said, but dug into her purse for her own business card holder. She didn't want to make nice with Alec Abel, but she figured they'd be seeing each other in courtrooms or at the station—like now—from time to time, and she needed to network. She passed her own card to him, tucking his card neatly back into her business card holder, to be filed away later.
He was handsome, in a WASP-y sort of way—early to mid thirties, maybe? But the fact that he so obviously knew it diminished a little of that attractiveness. That, and the slight rumple to his three piece suit, which she could now see up close, and the red-rimmed glassiness of his eyes. Either he was lazy, sick, or hungover. Maybe a combination of two or all three. "You'll probably need that at some point," she said flatly, referring to the business card she'd just pressed into her hand. She figured no further explanation was needed, if he were smart enough to pass the Tennessee bar. She turned to walk into the building, but then, having a sudden, uneasy thought, turned back around to the irritating man. "Wait. Who are you here for?" she asked, taking a couple backward steps before turning around, urging him to walk and talk.
edited January 2015
The card was a smug move. He’d admit that, at the least, but it was also a gesture of introduction. Alec wasn’t much of a flirter, considering that his tendencies oriented themselves to work, pills, and being a conceited asshole the majority of the time. People didn’t necessarily understand his humor, and he wasn’t very funny, either. Still, he possessed that characteristic Abel likeness in the sense of introduction – he was proud of his family name, and he wanted others to know it, and know his superiority. Surely, then, as soon as the woman glanced upon his last name, she wouldn’t be quite so angered. However, Alec was having a hard time distinguishing whether or not he’d met her or seen her at the precinct before – he was there frequently, considering the idiocy of some of his clients, and he didn’t tend to forget many names, given his job. Then again, maybe that blurriness of time was beginning to apply to more major things, such as faces.
Oh, well. He didn’t think about it.
Upon her reading the card, however, her lips curling in contempt, Alec found his brows raising again, a bit confused but still amused. She didn’t seem to recognize his last name, which struck him as odd – or maybe she did recognize it, but held some sort of vendetta against it. She didn’t find his comment concerning the possible car trouble too funny, though, but he simply shrugged. “Doubt isn’t certainty,” he reminded, still smirking a bit to himself as they walked into the police precinct. What a lawyerly reply, really. He was a bit proud of that one.
To his surprise, however, rather than throw his card on the ground and scuff it out with her heels, she placed his card in her own holder, pulling out her own to hand to him. Again, the corners of his lips twitched. Smart woman. “Detective,” he read, glancing up at her before tucking her card into his holder. “Don’t look much like one,” he said, and not because she was a woman. Well, there was probably some lingering Southern misogyny in his blood, but Alec was more perplexed at how she appeared, nearly an antithesis to herself. He nearly found himself laughing, really, at how they nearly appeared to be opposites. In fact, she looked more like an attorney than he did, all ironed, dark pants and neat, light hair, a stern glance, while he was unkempt and uncaring.
After handing him her card, she seemed to remember she was in a hurry, and she turned to walk into the building. Alec shoved his hand into his pocket, letting his other arm hang loosely to the side, like arms generally did. She turned back around, however, asking who he was here for, urging him to walk alongside her. “Ah,” he started, running a hand through his feathered hair. “Ramirez,” he remembered. “Aggravated assault or something.” Ah, Ramirez. Drunken driver and utter scum who’d been tried for various misdemeanors, which Alec had helped him out of easily enough He paid him plenty, though. He glanced over at her as she walked. “Why? You’ve known me, what? Two seconds? Already investigating me?” he teased. He clicked his tongue. “Typical detective.”
Charley wanted to roll her eyes at his "doubt isn't certainty" comment, but miraculously refrained, instead giving him a blank look that indicated he'd have to try a little harder to amuse her. She couldn't tell if this was his attempt at flirting, or rather just a ploy to try and get on her good side so maybe she'd be a little more sympathetic toward him if she had to testify in any of his trials. She was receptive to neither possibility.
Such an expected thing for him to say, however, that she didn't "look like" a detective. A predictable observation, but one that always simultaneously stung and offended her. She wanted to come up with some smart retort, to shut him down. She was constantly mentally preparing herself for confrontations like this, talking to herself in the shower, imagining exactly what emasculating reply she'd have at the ready. But somehow, these turns of phrases always abashed her, and it frustrated her more that she clammed up than the actual fact that men still said ridiculous shit like this to her. Her cheeks heated, and she turned away from him, untucking her folder from under her arm and glancing over it.
They walked past a few rows of desks, a couple officers milling about with coffees, making small talk. A phone rang at one of the desks, annoyingly unanswered. Alec Abel walked astride her toward the elevator, teasing her once more, accusing her of being a typical detective. She pressed the "up" button and leveled her gaze at him after a moment, pressing her lips together. "I wouldn't be a very good one if I didn't, would I?" she asked, but her tone wasn't as confident as she'd have liked. She almost sounded as if she really was asking him his opinion rather than presenting a rhetorical question.
They stepped onto the elevator together and she sighed. "This guy?" she asked, holding up the paper with Ramirez's mugshot paper-clipped on top. He confirmed, his patronizing expression turning slightly dour. She slipped the paper back into her folder and tucked it under her arm again. "Yeah. That's who I'm interviewing this morning," she said, staring up at the number 3 as it lit up. The doors open, and she stepped out. She glanced back over her shoulder at him, her heels clacking on the hard floor. "Come on," she said, resigned. "Let's get this over with."
Alec hadn’t necessarily meant to be condescending. Really, he was scarcely condescending, and if he was, he never intended to be. Alec Abel was more the type to simply say nothing and let his thoughts stew in his mind, bottled up until they were forgotten. Unlike his mother, who continuously commented on the lives and choices of others, Alec really didn’t care. What he did care for, however, were inconsistencies. His mind and emotions dulled by narcotics, he was a man of simple, logical reasoning a majority of the time. He liked patterns, and he hated change, and he found this detective – Charley, he had to remember – to be a complete inconsistency so far.
He noted the irony in his own inconsistencies, but ignored them. Frequently.
And so that comment on how she didn’t look like a detective wasn’t about her being a women. It’d been more about the cleanness of her clothing, the stark contrast in her strict demeanor and attitude in comparison to the other detectives here. Alec had been a defense attorney for years, and he’d knew all the detectives that mattered, and he knew their favorite beers and steaks, and knew the way to keep them on his good side. Alec wasn’t corrupt, but he certainly wasn’t a paragon of morality.
Back to the inconsistencies, however, before more damning evidence is revealed about the true nature of the golden boy Abel. The woman’s existence was entirely an unfortunate inconsistency to the life of an addict like Alec, an addict who had systematically boiled his life into a cycle of consistency – the drugs, the suits, the fog, the ease of his work. He waited for the elevator alongside her, leaning against the wall lazily as she replied defensively to his observation. He didn’t object, given she’d made a valid point.
In the elevator, she held up a paper with his client’s mugshot. His smirk feel, as it often did when he was reminded of his client’s continued stupidity, and yet, he wasn’t too bothered, because this was simply another consistency. And the cycle repeats. “Yeah. That’s him,” he confirmed, running a hand through his feathery hair, noting the way it stood up in reflection of the elevator wall. What she said next, however, had Alec’s eyebrows raising. So she was interviewing his client? “Really,” he noted quietly, processing it in his mind. The door opened, and she was out of the elevator as if her ass was on fire, but she was urging him to hurry. He complied.
He was livid. Alec Abel was livid, and if you’d remember, he was not one to let his emotions get the best of him. Hell, he’d thought for a long time he didn’t have emotions – that he’d somehow managed to erase them with his hobbies, but it became quickly apparent that they still unfortunately existed. And he was furious, and all because of that bitch.
He didn’t like to use the word bitch, but it felt right. He liked to feel that word ferment in his mouth and attach itself to his brain, liked to feel the mental pleasure of saying it without saying it. Charley – the detective who looked nothing like a detective, the one he’d cut off – had ruined everything. He needed some pills or something to hit, but he had nothing. All he had was a pen in one pocket and an Armani suit, and that wasn’t helping his current situation or remedying his emotions. Alec hadn’t been prepared. He hadn’t expected her to press Ramirez because no one pushed his client, because everyone knew who he was, and they knew the kind of leverage and benefits he had. He was Alec Abel, in in Jackson, you didn’t fuck with Jackson.
But she’d pushed Ramirez and he’d said something so incredibly stupid it had taken Alec a moment to realize exactly what was happening. In a moment, he was talking about something Alec had stressed he should never mention, and now everything was fucked. He could still salvage it, of course, but this meant more trouble than Alec had been wanting to put into Ramirez. Once the questioning was over and Alec had seethed, assuring he’d undo whatever the fuck he’d just did – what that bitch had done – he stepped away, making his way to Charley. He found her easily enough with her clean lines and neat posture, and he placed a hand on her shoulder. “Detective,” he began, and his tone wasn’t amused. “We need to talk. Now.”
Once she’d obliged, he dragged her into an office, giving a look to whoever it was in there to leave. They did what he asked, closing the door on the way out. Alec shut the blinds before turning towards her. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, messing with my clients?”
That morning, going over her files while distractedly spooning her yogurt into her mouth, she felt about as confident as she could've felt, given that this was only the fourth day at her new job. She was in a new town, a new precinct, and even though it was quite a bit smaller than Louisville, the pressure to make a good impression—to start off on the right foot—to be GREAT at her job... was cloying. Admittedly, the incident with Attorney Alec Abel this morning (on top of the other, more minor hiccups) had her a bit rattled. She tried not to let it show. Tried to let it roll off her back. She'd mostly succeeded.
That was how she felt, however, until she'd absolutely nailed the Ramirez interview. Something about his story had never quite added up for her, and when she heard his voice quaver, the way he'd stumbled over one of her questions, she knew her instincts had been correct. She saw the way Alec's eyes had widened, the way he'd tried to stop Ramirez from answering the question, but the damage had already been done. She had his client on tape tripping over his earlier lies, backtracking. Charley got off on being right. She got off on JUSTICE, as cheesy as it might have sounded, but selfishly, she really enjoyed it when she'd outsmarted someone. Especially a man. Especially TWO men at the same time.
The interview finished, she excused herself from the interview room, and began walking with purpose toward her office, eager to comb through the tape immediately. She was startled, however, when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She almost didn't recognize the voice that'd only an hour earlier jovially asked her to call him should she ever find herself with "car troubles" again. This voice had a much harder edge to it, and her eyes widened, though her expression was annoyed as she turned around to face him. Well. At least he was referring to her as her title rather than "Miss Ackerman." That much assured her that he was at least taking her seriously now. Unless he was being sarcastic.
Audaciously, he pulled her into a random office, leveling a hard look at the woman inside. It was a vacant office, and she'd merely been going through a filing cabinet, and scurried away, noting the tense look in Alec's eyes and the set of his jaw. Charley was used to attorneys being pissed off at her, but she wasn't used to an immediate confrontation. Usually, there was contempt, but not quite so direct. She crossed her arms hard over her chest, clutching her file underneath her elbow hard enough so that no papers would spill out, but not hard enough to crease it. The nerve of this man was shocking, and the way he spoke to her elevated her from annoyed to instantly furious. "'Messing with your clients?'" she repeated, incredulous, an angry crease forming between her eyebrows. She felt her face growing hot, and was grateful that this particular office was very poorly lit. She gritted her teeth, nearly biting the inside of her cheek. She waved her file in the general direction of the interview room they'd left moments before. "That's called doing my JOB," she spat. "I didn't do anything 'dastardly,'" she said, making an exaggerated face with the last word. "I didn't do anything dishonest, or even REMOTELY sketchy." Her fingernails bit into her fist as she clenched her free hand. "That's YOUR job."
Detective Ackerman was new. She had to be, considering she’d had the audacity to fuck with his clients, and she’d had the audacity to force him to lose his composure, and force him to drag her into an office and swear at her. Alec had gotten used to a certain lifestyle, and he’d gotten used to a certain way of living, and he couldn’t rightly continue to have his clients question their devotion to him as their lawyer all because of some new detective who thought she was hot shit. And so, he’d confronted her.
And just as he’d expected, she’d gotten angry. No, Alec hadn’t expected her to be anything but livid at his audacity, and seeing her brows crease and her hand tighten justified his feelings. If she was angry, he could be, too, and it wouldn’t be out of place. She gave him the excuse that she was simply doing her job, and that she wasn’t doing anything sketchy. In fact, she went as far as to accuse that the sketchy business was his job, and he let out an unexpected, amused laugh at her judgment. She was completely correct, of course, it was just rare for him to ever hear it said to his face.
He regained his composure after the laugh, readjusting the button on his sleeve. He couldn’t be seen undone, and Alec’s undone was not the disheveled, uncaring man he usually was, but rather the angry and emotional one he’d been moments ago. He ran a hand through his hair. “That’s the point,” he stressed. “I don’t know how new you are to Jackson,” he continued, “but there’s a certain way things work, and the first rule here is you don’t mess with my clients.”
He glanced over her for a moment, assessing what she’d possibly want. She was clean, concise. Curt. Every detective had a price – he knew their salaries, and it wasn’t remotely what he made. Surely, she could be swayed. “Detective Ackerman,” he began, knowing how much people in positions of power adored being addressed with the respect and authority they felt they deserved. “Apologies for my rudeness. I’m not used to… inconsistencies,” he explained, attempting to smile but only managing a smirk. “How about some dinner?”
Really, as aloof and arrogant as the man had been this morning, she hadn't expected him to take this so personally. He hadn't seemed the type to even care about what happened to his clients at all, and here he was, accusing her of "messing with" his clients, getting heated with her in some empty office. She reminded him that it was her job to expose the truth, and his to twist it in his favor. Now, Charley didn't hate all attorneys. One of her fathers
one, for Christ's sake. The profession itself didn't mean you were arrogant entitlement personified, but law degrees definitely tended to attract a certain type. Abel fit the bill almost painfully.
What she hadn't expected, however, was for him to
, color creeping back into her cheeks when, at first, she thought he was laughing at her. Charley had worked at hardening herself to this sort of thing over the years, but she still had her moments of fragility. She stood there, arms crossed and lips pursed, waiting for the next smart-mouthed comment. But his features relaxed, and he appeared almost imperceptibly humbled, for a moment. He adjusted his sleeve, then ran a slender hand through his hair. She watched for a moment, briefly mesmerized by the way in which the feathery strands fell back into place. His hair looked soft, and fine—the kind of hair that begged to be touched.
Charley would not, however, be touching his hair.
To her surprise, he
with her, which might have been refreshing if he hadn't gone on to spout off the
lay of the land
, letting her know the "rules" around here. Her jaw fell open. Jackson was the smallest town she'd ever lived in, but she didn't think that was how things really
in places like this. Either she'd been mistaken, or Alec Abel had a delusional perception of the world around him. She knew which conclusion she was leaning toward when he went on, apologizing for his rudeness, explaining that he wasn't used to "inconsistencies"—what did he even
by that? At what he asked her next, however, she let out a sharp, ironic laugh. Oh, he was even
than she thought, and that was saying something. "Are you fucking serious?" she asked, her tone even. The question was rhetorical, because she wasn't even entertaining the possibility of his ridiculous request. This was probably what he did to women all the time—getting them alone, berating them, running his hands through that perfect hair, then apologizing and hoping the walking, talking vagina he deigned to give five minutes to had low enough self-esteem to say yes to him.
"So, you're trying to
my compliance, is that it?" she asked, her voice heading into only slightly hysterical territory. Feeling suddenly brazen, drunk on the utter madness that was this conversation, she narrowed her eyes, locking her gaze with his. She only wished she were much taller or he were much shorter so she could look at him on eye level. This would've been much more effective that way. "You can't afford me," she said coolly. She didn't mean Alec Abel didn't have enough money, or that she was some gold digger. She meant that her moral fortitude was too high to even consider letting anything he ever said or did affect her actions. "Now if you'll excuse me," she said, opening the door, "I've gotta get back to work."
He was a bit taken aback by her curtness. “I’m serious,” he answered, but he wasn’t smirking. More so, he was perplexed as to why she thought he wasn’t serious. Why would he be lying, or why wouldn’t he be serious? For such a seemingly good detective, she had yet to surmise how this all worked, and how Jackson worked in regards to the Abels. You simply didn’t mess with them, and when they offered to take you to dinner, you simply said yes. No wasn’t an answer, and it certainly hadn’t been one Alec had been expecting. It had nothing to do with her sex, either. If she’d been a male detective, he would have offered a round of drinks on him or some steaks, and he treated her equally.
Alec had no plans on sleeping with her. If he did, she’d know. Truly, Alec hadn’t had sex since his divorce, and he had no plans on embarrassing himself from an absence of practice, nor did he have any interest in bedding the detective. She was pretty and crisp, mean and serious, and he rather liked it. She seemed like a sharp shot of liquor, but he was a recovering addict. He felt the brief temptation, but ultimately passed for his own good. But while he had no plans on sleeping with her, he did have plans to ask her out on dinner, but she didn’t seem to think likewise, informing him with narrowed eyes that she couldn’t afford him. Well, he was a bit confused. Surely, he could, but before he could ask for clarification, she was storming away, going back to work. He sighed heavily, running his hand through his hair tiredly, knowing he’d have to stay up all night to fix the shit Ramirez had done, and knowing that he was likely going to exhaust part of his stash to deal with today’s failure.
Today was Ramirez’s trial. Alec wore his grey suit, and Ramirez had slicked back his hair, much to Alec’s chagrin, knowing it made him look more like a crook than he already was. For the past week or so, Alec had stayed up much later than he tended to do, working harder than he’d ever remembered he’d had to. He’d seen Lucy briefly on Sunday, dropping his work for a moment to go see a movie with her, holding her hand as she asked for popcorn. He hadn’t been wearing his suit then. He didn’t like for Lucy to see him in a suit – he didn’t like to associate what he did with her. He did it for her. He protected criminals, robbers and rapists and murderers, for her, and to make sure that, at the very least, he wasn’t some deadbeat dad, but a dad who could provide.
He sat on the bench waiting, hands resting underneath his mouth. He was exhausted. It had taken Alec a few days to realize that it wasn’t the mere inconvenience that the detective had caused which had bothered him, but the fact that he had to actively spend time defending people he despised. When he simply put as little effort as possible into defending these people and ensuring their freedom, it wasn’t as evident. It wasn’t so evident what he was doing, and who he was defending, when he barely had to meet with them.
He sighed and stood up, spotting Charley out of the corner of his eyes. Realizing how he probably appeared – haggard and defeated and worried – he immediately turned on a smirk in her direction. Alongside Ramirez, he headed into the courtroom.
The trial ending was not a win or a loss. Ramirez was convicted of a DUI and an accomplice to arms dealing, but the prosecutors – despite the excellent testimony of a Detective Ackerman – had failed to provide sufficient evidence to link him to various other crimes Alec knew he’d committed. Ramirez had expected to get off fully, but after he’d fucked up, Alec knew there was only an option for damage control. As he headed out of the courtroom, intent on heading home, he spotted Charley again. This time, he didn’t fake a smirk. “Detective Ackerman,” he called, catching up to her. He grazed her arm with his hand. “Can I talk to you for a second?” he asked. “It’s about the case. Nothing personal.” He needed to speak to her for selfish reasons. How he’d acted hadn’t sat well with him.
He urged her towards an emptier part of the courthouse. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “I’m sorry for how I acted,” he apologized. “Honestly, this time.” He sighed again, thinking of how to explain himself. “I’ve just… I know the people I represent aren’t ideal, but I need this. Need this job, and to do it well.” He struggled to find words. As good of a lawyer as he was, when it came to things that weren’t bullshit, he had issues. “I’ve just got someone I’ve got to take care of. Someone important.”
It'd been easy enough to forget about Abel over the next week or so—Ramirez was far from the only suspect she had to think about. She'd immersed herself in her work, and balanced things out with her usual forms of self care. She tried to combat the loneliness that always seemed to creep in by listening to audiobooks while she cleaned, or listening to Sade while she took long baths. There was no unpacking left to be done—that'd all been taken care of the first weekend she'd moved in. She was renting a cute little two bedroom house, chagrined at the fact that she was actually paying rent now, rather than making an actual investment. She just wasn't sure how long she wanted to stay here—Charley was a city girl at heart. There was something comforting in being able to become anonymous. Right up until the point where she felt completely alone in the world, but, hey. That was how she felt now, even in a small town.
in a small town.
She wasn't able to lose herself as much in Jackson. There just wasn't as much to
. In Louisville she'd had friends, a library card, a favorite wine bar, and a tennis coach. She'd had a guy who loved her, but he hadn't been the right
of attention she'd needed. He was too eager to please her. It seemed ridiculous to even find that as a flaw.
She'd talked on the phone to her dads, who were thrilled that she'd moved closer to them, and planned to visit them soon. She'd contemplated adopting a cat to keep her company, but worried that would make her too much of a cliché. The sad, single, cat lady. The last thing she wanted to be was a cliché, even though she sort of already was one.
The next week in court, she was set to testify on the stand for the prosecution in Ramirez's case. The memory from a few days ago flooded her with contempt, but she tried not to let her lack of respect for Abel taint her mood or her ability for testimony. She caught the small smirk he'd shot at her when she went to take her seat and her oath, and pretended not to see him. Once it was all over, she was annoyed that he wasn't convicted for the evidence she'd proven to be substantiated, but she'd done her job, and now she was done with this case. At least he'd been convicted of
. She walked hurriedly out of the courtroom, heading toward her car, checking the emails on her phone when she heard someone call her by name. She turned, and to her surprise, it was Abel, looking much less smug than the last time she'd been this close to him. He touched her arm, asking if he could talk to her for a few moments, assuring her it was nothing personal this time. He was acting so differently from the last time she'd seen him, she had to wonder if her words had made an impression on him—if her steadfastness had actually paid off. She hid the triumph she felt behind her lips, giving him a stoic expression. “Okay,” she said. “I've got a few minutes.”
He led her back inside, toward an empty, unused room. The courthouse had been renovated two years prior, she'd learned, and there were still many corridors that remained vacant. To her surprise, Abel humbly apologized for the way he'd acted toward her the week before, his voice quiet so as not to echo in the empty space. She adjusted her purse on her shoulder, letting him continue. Needing to hear what he said next. She folded her arms across her ribcage. She was poised to strike, having emotionally distanced herself from the last time they'd spoken, but to her surprise, his apology actually seemed genuine. Again, he ran those long, slender fingers through his hair, and Charley focused on his eyebrows instead. She let him finish, chewing the inside of her cheek without realizing it, and looked down at the floor before looking back up at him. She didn't know who this important person was to him—could be a parent, a sibling, a child... a
. And while she didn't condone his behavior, she understood self-preservation.
She sighed, glancing away for a moment, trying to think of the proper words. “I don't like being taken advantage of,” she started, her voice quiet, unable to meet his gaze out of cowardice as she got these thoughts out. “You discounted me.” After a moment, she was finally able to look up at him. She forced herself. “I appreciate your apology, but I need you to understand something.” Her words were soft, yet firm. “I don't work that way. I can't be bought. But we don't have to be enemies.”
Unlike some of the other members of his family – or really, the majority of his family members – Alec didn’t have much of an aversion to apologizing. He made mistakes constantly, and how he’d treated Charley had been inexcusable, regardless of his lineage. He was an Abel, yes, but he shouldn’t have been so careless and reckless in his attempts to buy her out – he’d acted so stupidly, assuming she’d be like the rest. She was, after all, an inconsistency in the police force, and he was foolish in assuming she wouldn’t be an inconsistency in her attitude, too. At the end of the day, however, Alec simply couldn’t bear the idea of someone hating him. He wasn’t a person you could hate, he felt. He liked to believe he was an easy going, carefree sort of person, and wondering if he was some druggy asshole chafed him. He couldn’t stand it. He needed to fix things.
And so he’d caught up to Detective Ackerman, asking her for a few moments of her time. She contemplated it, but Alec managed to convince her, and he led her inside into an empty room. He explained himself and his attitude, hinting towards his daughter, but refusing to explicitly out her. Lucy stayed out of his work, no matter what. She and what he did for a living, and what he did to promise her a secure future and education, had no relation. He wouldn’t allow it. And so, vaguely, he’d mentioned he had someone important to care for, and that seemed to break her resolve a bit. She sighed, which was better than the narrowed eyes and scowl she’d worn towards him the last time they were alone.
She smelled nice. This was completely unrelated, but when Alec leaned down slightly to hear her, considering the height difference, he smelled her scent. Feminine and sophisticated, as expected, but he nearly detected a sexy undernote to it. She smelled how he figured she dressed – clean and appropriate on the outside, but sexy underneath, like a black, lace bra with matching panties. Not that he was thinking about this in the midst of their conversation, of course. That would be incredibly indecent, and Alec was anything but.
Alec looked at her intently as she explained how she didn’t like to be taken advantage of, and how he discounted her. That hadn’t been his purpose – he hadn’t targeted her specifically. He kept his mouth shut, however, and let her finish. She finally glanced up at him, telling him that she appreciated his apology, but that she couldn’t be bought. How she finished, though, caused the corners of his lips to quirk up in the smallest smirk. “I understand. You’ve got integrity. I respect that.” He did, truly. She was a better person than he was, and he couldn’t discredit her work for its honesty. He stuffed his hands into his pockets, his smirk a little wider. “So, Detective,” he continued, unable to call her by her first name. Charley was simply too informal for their interaction, he felt, and so Detective it was. “Should I pick you up at seven tonight for dinner?"
He'd rubbed her entirely the wrong way the week before. She'd been so utterly
with him that she'd said something so uncharacteristically Harlequin Romance Novel that she'd felt both vindicated and oddly guilty afterward. Typically, she questioned whether or not she went too far with her retorts, but this one, she'd mostly been able to justify. Charley's responses to outside stimuli tended to be polarizing. Much like her thoughts.
What she hadn't expected was for him to apologize, however. For him to be a constant thorn in her side, sure. She'd prepared herself for that. Men, especially men like
, were far too proud to pull a woman aside and apologize so earnestly after such a display. Naturally, she was taken aback. But still, she wasn't going to allow him to think that everything he'd said to her was okay. She wasn't about to begin her career in Jackson as a doormat, but as she began to understand the small town mentality, she realized she also couldn't afford to make any immediate enemies, either. As much as she wanted to. She could sort of understand how Abel had come to feel so entitled. He was handsome, and well-spoken, and confident. She had similar thoughts of herself, but she was a woman, and was already at a marked disadvantage simply because of the extra skin she lacked between her legs.
Maybe she wasn't the most articulate in what she'd said to him, but to his credit, he didn't interrupt her, and he even complimented her integrity. Just when she thought he was about to turn and let her go, however, he asked her to dinner again. She made an odd face—her brows pointing toward the bridge of her nose, her nostrils flared, and her lips quirking up, pulling back from her teeth. Not quite a smile, but not really a sneer, either. She crossed her arms and started walking, but looked back to make sure he was walking alongside her this time. "What's the 'dinner' thing about?" she asked, again avoiding an answer to his ridiculous question. "Is that your way of breaking the ice? Because the apology was enough."
Detective Ackerman was much unlike the women he was used to, and that was primarily because Alec had not been exposed to many outspoken women. His sister, of course, was an obvious example, but he’d found that the women – hell, the people – in Jackson had a tendency to be condescending – to never mean what they say, and to always have a hidden meaning behind their thinly veiled words. His ex-wife had, much to Alec’s annoyance, been one of those women. She’d snidely comment on his devotion to work and his devotion to his pills after his accident, but she’d never explicitly comment on it. It had annoyed Alec, and he hadn’t changed. He wouldn’t change, and he knew it. He had long accepted that he was incapable of change.
Despite his reluctance to change, Alec had never been the type of person to resist apologizing, and it seemed, mercifully, that Detective Ackerman was one to forgive. The dinner bit was a cheeky joke, however. He’d admit that much. She looked back at him, seemingly an unspoken invitation for him to walk alongside her. He did what she wanted, eager to continue this conversation. He looked at the floor, hands in his pockets, as she avoided his question, asking exactly what his deal was with the whole ‘dinner’ thing. At what she next, however, he glanced up and let out a small, unexpected laugh. “And what’s your aversion to dinner?” he questioned, brows raising.
He opened the door for her. “I fail to see why you’re so opposed to some free wine and food, Detective,” he explained. At this point, Alec was unsure of whether he was joking about the dinner or not, but he was fairly certain Charley would reject anything she saw as an advance. He shrugged lazily. “You’re seemingly a person of logic. Surely you can see the appeal in food and wine at the expense of a despicable defense attorney such as myself.”
Charley was pretty perceptive, so it unnerved her that she couldn't tell if he was flirting with her or not. It'd be ill-advised for him to do so, of course, but he was being pretty persistent with this dinner invitation, whether he meant it or not. It sort of annoyed her, truthfully. She felt comfortable with the concrete, not the abstract. The way the words left his mouth didn't seem salacious. His tone was nearly
, even. Either he was just messing with her, or he was used to women just saying yes without his having to work for it.
She didn't care for either of those scenarios, but she had, to her chagrin, always been a sucker for positive male attention. It was easy to dismiss it brazenly when the guy was being an outright jerk, like Abel had been the week before, but not so much when he was actually being
to her. She wasn't used to apologies from men, especially ones she barely knew. It surprised her, because she felt it said a lot for his character. This would have all been much easier for her if he'd just stayed an asshole.
"I don't have an
to dinner," she said, smirking but not looking at him, knowing how dumb her response made her sound, and sorta hating herself for it. He opened the door for her, and she stepped through it into the parking lot. He went on, and she rolled her eyes internally. She laughed a little, however, at what he said about the appeal of taking advantage of someone as detestable as himself. "Can't argue with that logic," she allowed. They reached her
, and she turned to face him. "You seem really eager to part with your money," she teased. "Maybe you should make a donation to 'Save the Children' instead," she said, smirking with narrowed eyes. She opened her car door. "See you later, Abel," she said before slipping inside.
He shrugged, accepting her response for the time being. Unfortunately for her, Alec Abel was a persistent man, and her rejections would do little to deter his semi-joking advances. It was her reaction to his advances, however, that fueled his diligence – how she said biting comments but had a little smirk to it, her eyes narrowed but her posture indicating anything but hatred. He found it amusing – she was amusing, and Alec, too, liked to think himself as a pragmatic man. If it brought him enjoyment, he’d continue to pursue it.
They reached her car, and she turned to face him. Alec, suddenly, found himself wishing she’d parked further, the opportunity for some banter and teasing commentary wasted. He didn’t let himself show it, but he laughed a bit when she joked he should make a donation to ‘Save the Children.” “My very existence is a gift to the world itself,” he replied smugly, watching as she slipped into her car and wished him goodbye, referring to him as Abel. He liked it.
The Ramirez trial was over. Life returned to normal – returned to its string of consistencies. This morning, Alec had woken up relatively early, feeling the need for a run. He didn’t run often, but he liked to keep fit, in some vain attempt to counteract the damage he was doing to his body in other abuses. Afterwards, he’d gotten back to his apartment and showered, trimming his scruff to its optimal polished scruff appearance. He’d gotten
, and headed out, intent on some coffee. Stopping at the Starbucks closest to the station and the Prosecutor’s Office, he waited in line, hands in his pockets.
He checked his phone meanwhile, his background a picture of his little girl. He smiled, but remembering how this betrayed his motto of keeping his personal life and work separate, he guiltily shoved it into his pocket. As pragmatic as he liked to think he was, there were some sentimental aspects of his life he couldn’t part with, and this was, obviously, one of them. As he shoved his phone into his pocket and glanced around, however, he spotted someone that caused the corners of his lips to twitch upwards into a smirk. Well, if it wasn’t Detective Ackerman.
Making eye contact for a brief second, he turned back around when he heard the barista’s voice, asking what he wanted. He ordered his usual grande coffee, but as he paid, he stumbled across a delightful idea. He ran his hand through his hair and smirked, leaning forward towards the barista. “And there’s a lady three people down. Her name’s Charley,” he added, her name feeling foreign on his tongue. He much preferred the formality of Detective. “I’d like to pay for her drink.”
And then it was done. Smugly, he waited for his drink, hands in his pockets, watching for the Detective’s reaction once she realized who’d paid for her drink.
She'd thought about Alec and what he'd said—that he had someone
to take care of. He'd been vague, but she'd ruled out that he was talking about a wife. He didn't wear a ring, but that was barely of any consequence. Plenty of married people didn't wear rings, especially lately. He'd said it himself, though—this was a small town, and there were unspoken
, and he wouldn't be offering to take her out in public if he was married. He seemed to think his name meant something, so he had to have been moderately well-known in the area, and wasn't stupid enough to openly cheat on his wife. He wasn't married.
She wondered if he had an ill or disabled sibling that he took care of, but he didn't seem quite so benevolent. Generous with his money, maybe, but likely not with his time. He was old enough to have children, obviously, but he didn't seem old enough that he'd have parents in a nursing home. It was possible, of course, but she just couldn't be certain. Clearly, there was someone important enough in his life that he realized he needed to do well at his job, and it'd caused him to overreact when he felt this new detective was threatening his livelihood.
Charley didn't like being made a fool of at work, either, but while she could sort of commiserate with him on this, it didn't excuse his arrogance. He may have felt briefly emasculated, but his ego was still very much intact.
So she wouldn't think about him. Clearly, he thought about himself enough as it was.
This morning, she was running early for work, so she decided to stop in for Starbucks for a latte rather than making her own coffee at home. Her eyes were mostly glued to her phone, but when she looked up for a brief moment, she made involuntary eye contact with none other than Attorney Alec Abel, who was a couple spots ahead of her in line. He smirked at her, but she simply stared blankly for that brief moment when his gaze held hers, but mercifully, the barista asked for his order, and he turned around. If this morning was going to go as the other times she'd seen him, she doubted she'd be able to escape without another dinner invitation. She hoped he was in a hurry and that he'd leave before she got her order.
He grabbed his coffee, but stood off to the side as the woman in front of her ordered. Wonderful. He was hanging around to talk. It wasn't that Abel was a terrible conversationalist—he wasn't—she just wasn't in the mood to reject his advances. “Grande skinny caffè latte,” she said to the barista after the woman in front of her moved aside. “Name?” he asked. “Charley,” she replied, pulling her wallet from her purse. The barista's expression brightened. “Oh. This one's taken care of,” he said, and Charley's brows furrowed. Out of the corner of her eye, she registered the fact that Abel was still hovering near the pickup counter, his expression smug. “Wonderful,” she said, quietly sarcastic. She slid her wallet back into her purse, and walked over toward the end of the counter, certainly not lucky enough to avoid him now. She should've just made coffee at home. She watched him sip his coffee smugly, giving him a long-suffering look. “Are you just going to start stealthily paying for all my food now since I won't go to dinner with you?” she teased, reaching for the hot latte the barista set in front of her. It said “Charlie” on it, predictably. She blew on it through the small hole in the lid. “Start slipping granola bars in my purse when I'm not looking? Take out a line of credit for me at Kroger to make sure I get fed?”
Buying her coffee was a smug advance. He’d accept that. He’d willingly accept it, considering Alec really didn’t see much of a point in lying to himself. He found the Detective amusing, and her snarky manner and mean comments towards him entertained him. Call him a masochist if you must, but he enjoyed being mistreated by a women in a position of power. With his upbringing, strong women were something of a rarity, and so Detective Ackerman was something of enigma. And knowing how people like her worked – especially women such as herself – he knew that a characteristically gentlemanly action likely wouldn’t be something she’d enjoy.
He laughed, smirking before taking a sip of his coffee. “Was that a
? From you?” he teased, but quickly went back to her question. “And you’d object to all of that, Detective?” he asked, brows raised, happier that he could get rid of the Charley which had been on his lips moments earlier. Detective was far more fitting to her demeanor and appearance, rather than Charley. He found it interesting, of course, that she had a stereotypical masculine name in a masculine profession – really, it was nearly unfair. She was already at a disadvantage for being a woman in the business she was in, and to add insult to injury, she had a decidedly masculine name. He preferred Detective because he felt it showed more respect to her, both as a woman and as a worker.
“Besides,” he continued, shrugging a bit, “I’ve yet to see you not working. It’s unhealthy. I worry,” he teased, walking alongside her, wherever she was heading. He allowed himself the smallest of grins. “I’m starting to think you enjoy all this attention,” he teased. Maybe he was flirting, but Alec didn’t really flirt. It was simply the way he spoke, he reasoned. He shrugged and sighed. “If you really disliked it, you would’ve already gone out with me so I’d leave you alone. I’m a man after all. Simple beings. Give them what they want and they leave you alone,” he reasoned, accepting his status as relatively simple. He felt no need to protect his masculinity, unlike many of his colleagues. “So do you prefer Italian or American?”
Charley didn't act this way toward all men, especially not the
of man Alec was. But he just made it so easy to poke fun at him. He took himself too seriously in some ways, but underneath it all, he seemed like an utter
. She wasn't sure why, but it almost made it
fun to reject him because he kept shrugging it off like it was no big deal, that he was going to keep trying anyway. Annoying, yes, but amusing. He didn't intimidate her, and it made it easier for her to tease him for this.
He seemed surprised that she possessed an ounce of humor, and she nearly took offense. She wasn't
staid and professional. She had to be when she was working, or else she wouldn't be taken seriously, but she was quick-witted, and she felt he should've recognized that. He quickly moved on, however, asking if she'd object to him paying for her food in secret. "
I would," she objected, but her words weren't venomous. She knew, again, that he was joking. Still, she couldn't let him think that his patronage, no matter how ridiculously imagined, was something she desired. They walked together out of the way of the counter so as not to be in the way of the other customers. "I appreciate your concern," she said, taking a sip of her latte. "But I'm doing just fine, thanks," she added, her expression warm. He was fun to talk to, but possibly out of his god damned mind.
He teased that he thought she was starting to enjoy this attention from him, and to her irritation, she realized he was sort of...
. She really didn't know anyone in Jackson except her co-workers, and they weren't exactly the types of people she wanted to spend time with after work. Not that Abel
, but he was the closest thing she had to an actual
here, which was immeasurably pathetic. This was only the third time they'd spoken, and the first time had been a wholly unpleasant experience. She let out a sharp laugh. "So that's how you think it works?" she asked, grinning and shaking her head. "If I went out with you you'd
leave me alone?" she asked. She wasn't considering this. She just needed him to explain this flawed logic. They stepped outside into the sunlight, the temperature mercifully beginning to dip a little in an early nod to autumn. Again, he asked her to dinner in that presumptuous way of his, and again, she laughed. She looked straight ahead as they walked, a contemplative look on her face. "Italian," she finally decided. She turned to face him, a slight smirk on her lips as she attempted to appear to have misunderstood the question. "Oh, you
asking about what kind of man I prefer, right?"
He shrugged, still smirking. “Only one way to find out, right?” he teased, taking a sip of his coffee. He had no doubt she’d continue to say no to his advances, but it was amusing to keep trying. He completely expected his attempts to fail, of course, and he didn’t mind in the slightest. He asked her what type of food she preferred as they walked, and to his surprise, she answered. Italian. His brows rose sharply, glancing at her in shock. She had a smirk, and Alec was, for once, unsure if she was smirking because she’d surprised him or for some other, external reason. Seconds later, she proved it was the latter. He laughed sharply. Oh, she was mean, alright, and Alec adored it. He sucked in his breath. “Ouch,” he said, but he was grinning now. “That was cold, Detective.” It had been, but his grin offered no ounce of hurt. Alec was utterly overjoyed and amused.
Slipping his free hand out of his pocket, he ran his hand through his hair. It was fluffier than it usually was, considering he’d showered an hour ago, and it was still slightly cool to the touch. “So you don’t even find me conventionally attractive?” he asked, but he was merely curious. Alec thought he masterfully pulled off the unkempt yet polished appearance, but perhaps that was still too unruly for his detective friend. He had light, feathery hair, freckles and grey eyes. The Abels were the conventionally white and attractive American poster family. His daughter didn’t look much like an Abel, however, considering Lucy’s mother was a Latina, much to his parent’s chagrin. They’d been happy when they’d divorced. Alec hadn’t really been feeling anything at that moment.
Still, given his status as MIA in everything sexual, her comment did have him questioning her for selfish reasons. Alec had never felt that he was unattractive, but it’d been a while. As much as he tried to avoid the overt masculinity so prominent in Jackson, he was a male with a fragile male ego, and Detective Ackerman was a woman who seemed to have plenty experience with men. He didn’t mean that negatively – he simply couldn’t picture her as an amateur in any field, and so he surmised she’d likely had plenty of relationships. “What is your type, then?” he asked, eager to find out.
His response to her incredulity was a cop-out, and she pressed her lips together. He had no real reason to think that going to dinner with her once would sate him, aside from his own selfish agenda. He was throwing things against the wall to see what stuck, and she had to wonder what had happened to him in the past to take this approach at dating—if that's what he was even trying to
. Had his other methods just not worked, for whatever reason, and now he was taking this laissez faire attitude, not even bothering to try and remain mysterious?
She silently applauded herself, however, at her little barb, and she nearly felt guilty when she saw his brows go up in surprise. She didn't feel guilty enough, however, not to deliver the final blow. See? She
funny. He sucked in a sharp breath, appearing briefly wounded, but he smirked, apparently appreciating the joke despite its
. She shrugged a shoulder, sipping her latte. "You said I wasn't funny," she said in casual explanation, even thought that wasn't explicitly what he'd said. She could take liberties, too. He pulled his hand from his pocket and ran his fingers through his hair again, an apparent habit of his, and she hoped he wasn't doing this on purpose because he'd seen her watch him do this before. She watched openly now, allowing herself the small decadent pleasure in imagining the softness of those feathery strands. She glanced away, however, at his brazen and unexpected question. She wasn't accustomed to men asking her things like this—maybe he wasn't flirting with her after all and was merely practicing his dating techniques on her. She felt slightly insulted at the thought.
"I mean," she started, slowly placing one pump in front of the other as they languidly made their way down the sidewalk toward the parking lot, "you're not bad-looking." That was an understatement. Honestly, she did find him attractive. He had a nice body, excellent hair, and interesting eyes. His lips looked soft, and were surrounded by blonde stubble that caught the sunlight nicely. Despite his question, she
he knew he looked good. Furthering this odd line of questioning, he asked if she had a "type." This did give her pause. Her boyfriends in high school seemed unremarkable in retrospect, all possessing that generic teenage boy bravado. She'd dated a couple of guys in college—one a brooding writer type, and another was an outgoing basketball player. She hadn't dated anyone seriously while she was working toward her Master's Degree—she'd been too busy working full-time and trying to make sure she got good grades. She'd gotten hot and heavy for a while with an older professor at U of L, but ended things as soon as she'd realized he wasn't the only younger woman he'd been seeing. And then there'd been Shane. But he didn't really count, since she hadn't really been into him so much as he'd been awfully convenient and and excellent boost to her self-esteem. "I don't really have a type," she answered truthfully, scrunching up her nose. "Is that a cliché answer?" she asked, almost rhetorically. She started ticking off traits. "Male. Has to be pretty intelligent. Treats me well..." she took another sip of her latte. "I prefer to date guys who don't live with their parents," she said with a small laugh. "I don't think that's really a
so much as just, like, the bare minimum list of requirements." She glanced over at him. "What about you?" she asked after a moment, surprised to find herself suddenly curious.
Alec had, of course, been curious as to what her type was. What man wouldn’t be? As she described what kind of man she enjoyed – and it seemed she enjoyed exclusively men, from her listing - he smirked. “Sounds like you’re just describing me,” he teased, his eyes alight with amusement. Of course, she explained that her list wasn’t much of a list at all, but rather basic requirements. He’d take what he could get. She glanced over at her, and the light and her proximity allowed him to realize her eyes were green. He glanced away and upwards, pursing his lips in thought as he walked slowly. In his teenage years, Alec had mainly dated girls who’d approached him first – girls his parents liked, and girls who were convenient to date because of their status and connection to his family. He’d lost his virginity at seventeen to his second girlfriend, and she, too, had been a carbon-copy of his first girlfriend, with brown hair and smallish breasts. He hadn’t hated her smallish breasts, but given that she’d been the first girl he’d had sex with, her small breasts stood out in his memory.
There were plenty of similar girls in Auburn – girls with tall, brown boots and vests and straight, undyed hair. Copies of one another, and Alec, too, was simply a copy of the males there, with his khaki pants and boat shoes and short hair. In law school however, he’d met Micaela, his ex-wife. She was studying medicine and he’d been studying law, and they’d fallen in love and gotten married and had a baby girl.
Things happened, and they got a divorce, and Alec hadn’t dated since.
He hadn’t dated because he missed his ex-wife, or because he wasn’t over her. He simply hadn’t thought to, and there been nothing to provoke him to pursue another woman. He’d gotten used to the solitude, and he’d found comfort in it. After a while, you got used to being alone, and Alec had reached that point long ago. The pills helped, too, but he didn’t think about that. He looked back down at Detective Ackerman. “Red-heads with green eyes,” he teased, smirking in her direction. He wasn’t lying. He found her attractive. “Females in positions of power.” Feeling a bit brazen, he took it a bit further. “Has anyone told you how pleasant you smell? It’s extraordinary, really,” he teased, but again, he was being honest. She smelled heavenly, and he felt she should know. “So should I pick you up around seven, then?”
edited January 2015
Charley rolled her eyes when he pointed out that it sounded like she was merely describing
, and she had to make sure he knew that this wasn't a bulleted list of qualities her dream man possessed, but rather just a few things that were non-negotiable. He had an ego, for sure, but it was refreshing that he didn't get defensive or angry at her when she teased him. It almost made her feel slight remorse. She was pushing it a little far, and maybe she might even be hurting his feelings.
She kind of doubted that, however.
Charley should've known that asking him that question would be a mistake, but she'd been briefly hopeful he might give her an honest answer. Well, scratch that. "I prefer to think I have
hair," she returned, although she was slightly impressed that he'd noticed she had green eyes. Sure, he was walking right beside her, but you sort of had to be paying attention to notice the verdant tint to her irises. Most people assumed they were blue. Her lips did turn up involuntarily though, at his addendum.
she in a position of power? She couldn't be sure. But Alec—sorry, no...
was nearly admitting that he didn't mind being a beta male. Charley, again, didn't have a type—she wasn't sure if she preferred to be more dominant or submissive.
, she thought to herself. Yeah—that was what she preferred.
Once more, they reached her car, and she turned to him when he addressed her again. She felt her fair cheeks turn pink against her will. "Um," she said, at a temporary loss. Truthfully, Charley did put a lot of effort into her appearance, personal hygiene included, and indulged in lavish soaps, lotions, and shampoos. As much as she spent on bath products at Neiman Marcus, she damned well
smell nice. Still, it'd been an unexpected, and damned ballsy, comment. "Thank you," she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. She couldn't meet his eyes until, for the
time in less than fifteen minutes, he asked her to dinner. Well, Abel didn't really
these things. He assumed them. She'd been flustered just a moment ago, and was secretly grateful he was back to being cheeky, because it gave her the will to give him that long-suffering look again. She held up her cup, and clicked the unlock button on her keyfob. "Thanks for the latte," she said, opening her car door.
Alec’d had a long day. He’d spent part of the day in the office, pouring over his newest case – Burnett. He was a family friend that Alec had never truly enjoyed, but as his father had informed him over the phone, it was essential to remain loyal to those who’d helped establish us, even if they might have embezzled a large sum of money from their own company. Alec didn’t care for any case involving embezzling, and he cared less for Burnett, but it was at his father’s request.
The money helped, of course.
But embezzling cases, annoyingly, involved a hearty amount of work. Unlike cases involving violence and crafting an alibi and a moral goodness, embezzling involved loopholes and scrounging for a shroud of doubt, as creating any sense of goodness in corporate suits such a Burnett was virtually impossible to the (likely) layman jury. While Alec had his fair share of junior associates to do a majority of the grunt work for him, clients like Burnett involved a meticulous attention to detail and utmost secrecy that he couldn’t entrust to his grunts. And so he’d been coming through records and invoices for hours, annoyed and bored.
After nearly fourteen hours in the office, he’d decided to head home, his hair a feathery mess from the times he’d swept his hand through it in frustration. Entering his apartment, he shed his blazer and undid one of the buttons of his shirt, rolling up his sleeves, as casual as Alec got on a work night. He grabbed some whiskey and ice, pouring some into a glass and going to his couch, sitting down, elbows resting on his knees. His keys dug into his leg, and so he set his glass down on the coffee table and reached into his pocket, pulling out his phone, his keys, and his cardholder. He flipped it open idly as he took a drink, but when he noticed whose card was on top, he smirked.
Detective Charley Ackerman.
He read over her number. He had no reason to call her. No legitimate reason, anyway, but he thought back to his work, combing through any possible things that he could ask her about. A report. Right. He was missing a report. He could ask her about that. He set his drink down and grabbed his phone, unlocking it and typing in her number. His finger hesitated over the call button for a moment, but he finally clicked it, bringing the phone to his ear. It took a few rings, but she picked up. He grinned. “Detective,” he greeted, “it’s Alec Abel.” He leaned forward in his seat. “So. There’s some shit bothering me about the Burnett case. The embezzling one,” he clarified, knowing she’d know. She was organized and meticulous. He was tired, so there was a hint too much of Jackson in his voice for his liking. “Y’mind finding the tax report for me?”
Her third week of work in the books, Charley had gone home to change from her skirt suit into a pair of jeans, flats, and a lightweight long-sleeved shirt. She needed bread, coffee, Excedrin, and wine. Three of which were absolute essentials. She headed to Kroger and picked up a shopping basket, not needing a cart, and impulsively purchased a bouquet of purple hydrangeas that'd looked surprisingly fresh. Typically, she got her fresh flowers from the Farmer's Market (and thank god there
one in Jackson, even if it was sort of disappointing), but she felt a night of pampering coming on, and she knew it'd be nice to have some fresh flowers on the table in the morning.
Once she was home, she put away her groceries, and trimmed the hydrangeas, arranging them in a mercury glass vase at her kitchen table. Satisfied, she opened the bottle of Cabernet, pouring herself a healthy-sized glass. She was going to use one of her new bath bombs tonight, she'd decided. In her bathroom, she set her glass of wine and phone on a small vanity stool she used for just this sort of thing when she took baths, keeping the essentials close by. She ran the hot water, and began peeling off her clothes, placing them in the hamper inside the linen closet. She took the lavender-scented bath bomb from her drawer and slipped it into the bath as the tub continued to fill, making sure to set out her fluffiest robe for afterward.
She pulled her hair up into a messy chignon, some baby hairs escaping at the back of her neck. She nearly moaned at the near-scalding heat of the bathwater as she slipped into the tub. The large bathtub had been one of the main reasons she'd chosen this particular rental property. It wasn't a garden style tub, but it was large—big enough to fit two, if you were feeling particularly ambitious. With her dry hand, she grabbed her phone and found one of her favorite relaxing Spotify playlists, pressed play, and set down her phone to reach for her wine. After a few minutes, The Mountain Goats were interrupted by her ringtone, and she furrowed her brows at the number she didn't recognize, wondering who on earth was calling her from a Jackson area code on a Friday night. Curious, she swiped to answer. "Hello?" she said. That voice—the one she now realized she recognized before he'd even introduced himself, filled her ear. Why was he calling her? Was he really that desperate to ask her to dinner, using the phone as a buffer so at least this time she wouldn't reject him to his face?
"Oh, hi..." she said, her voice trailing off as she waited for him to get to the meat of whatever he was calling to discuss, and felt relieved when she realized it was work-related. He wanted her to pull up a file from one of his clients she'd talked to—one of those white collar criminals who, in her opinion, were much more of a threat to society than those who used brute force to get what they wanted. Usually, Charley would be able to answer his questions from memory, but a tax record wasn't something she could pull from her mental recesses. Even if she knew the material fairly well, she wouldn't have been satisfied giving him estimated numbers. And, even though she didn't despise Abel as she had the first time they'd met, she wasn't giving up her bath just to look some shit up for him. "Well, I'm not really near my Macbook right now," she admitted. "Can you tell me which years you want, and let me email them to you later?"
Alec really hadn’t planned on calling Ackerman tonight. Really, he didn’t necessarily need to, either, to access the tax records. He could have easily found another way to access the numbers he wanted, but, as we already know, Alec was delightfully amused by her constant rebuffs to his advances. Their past two encounters hadn’t been nearly as terrible as their first, and he was growing rather fond of their little game – his asking her out to dinner, and her attacking his ego, all while she smelled heavenly and he ran his hand through his feathery hair. He’d noted how her cheeks had grown adorably pink at his compliment, her fair skin unforgiving at any pink tint. For once, she’d nearly appeared vulnerable, and Alec had allowed himself a brief moment of triumph in knowing he’d affected her positively.
And so this phone call, while gratuitous, was entirely necessary for Alec. He had an excuse, of course, to sate his practicality, but he knew he possessed selfish reasons, too. He greeted her, and she didn’t hang up immediately, which he assumed was a good sign. He continued, asking her about the tax report.
He furrowed her brows. What did she mean, she wasn’t near her Macbook? This was Detective Ackerman. Alec hadn’t known her for very long, but he felt as if she was one to never stop working, and here she was, asking if she could email him something later, something so desperately work related? “You’re not working?” he asked, confused. At another thought, he smirked. “You
working?” That bit, of course, was the most surprising. Alec didn’t think of himself as too much of a workaholic – more so a person with very little else to do but work – and yet he hadn’t thought that he’d still be working when Detective Ackerman wasn’t. He leaned back, taking a sip of his drink. “So then what
you doing, Detective?”
Charley felt compelled to work hard, to work long hours, but she balanced that with her personal rituals. She enjoyed music, cleaning, and baths. It was essential to her mental health to surround herself with pleasing environments. Detective work could be so gritty, and while she loved it, she had to appeal to her softer senses in order to retain her sanity. She didn't allow herself to feel guilty for these indulgences, either. In fact, she usually became annoyed when she was interrupted. But the
person she'd expected to hear from on a Friday evening was Alec Abel. He cared about his work, he'd made sure she'd known that, but still, she hadn't expected him to be burning the midnight oil on a Friday. Even
wasn't doing that.
She laughed a little at his tone of disbelief, amused yet proud of herself at his apparent skepticism that she ever stopped working. He didn't know her as well as he thought he did. "Sometimes," she said quietly, unable to hide the smile from her voice. Idly, she wiped her hand across the suds on the top of the warm bathwater, a loud, unexpected splashing sound resonating in its wake. Well. There was no hiding that she was doing something involving water, then, and as if on cue, he asked what she
been doing. She couldn't decide if she loved or hated it that he called her Detective rather than her name. She couldn't decide if it was condescending or respectful. Also, she'd had
sips of wine, and hadn't thought to eat anything first. She thought a moment, unable to come up with a valid excuse, and surprisingly, unsure if she even
to. "I'm..." she started, glancing across the bathroom at the big candle she'd lit on the vanity, light flickering to create shadows on the wall, "taking a bath."
Alec was unsure of what he expected Ackerman to be doing if she wasn’t working. She didn’t seem like the type to have hobbies outside of work, but here she was, not working. She seemed hesitant to reveal what she was doing to him, but finally, she did. Oh, did she. His brows rose. Well. This certainly had not been what he’d expected for Detective Ackerman to be doing, nor had he expected her to be so forward with her… nudity. She would be naked, after all, if she was taking a bath – maybe the bubbles would be concealing her fair skin and her breasts, but he had no doubt her collarbone would be showing, her hair tied loosely. He smirked. So maybe this was the source of her lovely smell – perhaps his friend indulged in expensive lotions and baths and skin care items. He found it amusing and humanizing, and yet, it made sense. She worked in a profession dominated by men and blood and grit, and yet, she managed to maintain her feminine scent.
His skin felt hot and he felt, briefly, a bit pathetic. He hadn’t seen a woman naked in a long time, and he shouldn’t be envisioning her in her bath, but he was. He was envisioning her fair skin and reddish hair (auburn, if she insisted), and he felt it was a complete violation of her privacy to even be thinking so indecently about her, but he was. He felt pathetic and desperate, but the satisfaction and guilty pleasure wrought by imaging her in a bath won out. He took a sip of his whiskey, his throat a bit dry. “You are?” he asked quietly, trying to maintain his voice even and nonchalant. “Is that why you smell so nicely?” he asked playfully. Again reminded of her overt nudity, as if she was naked right in front of him despite being on the phone, he decided to ask something else. He smirked. “Do you usually answer unknown numbers when you’re naked?” he teased, “Or is it just for me?”
Perhaps it was her overt loneliness that'd caused her to say what she did, or maybe it was the wine and lack of creativity in fabricating any sort of lie, but she'd told him what she was doing. And, at first, it hadn't occurred to her that he might take this information as literally as he did. She'd thought that maybe he'd let her get back to what she was doing, abruptly ending the call, but her slight wine buzz had betrayed her. Of
he'd be imagining her naked. He was a heterosexual male. And, moreover, he was
. His modus operandi included reminding her of his utter maleness and her utter femininity. She squinted her eyes, regretting her truthfulness, as she heard the upturn in his voice, knowing the reason he'd called her had just been completely forgotten for more interesting information. More interesting to
She didn't answer at first, and she didn't have to, because he was talkative, and already he was asking if this was the reason she smelled nice. Even in the hot water, she felt her cheeks flame again, and was at least grateful he couldn't see her now. For
bathe regularly," she joked in response, knowing that it wasn't enough to steer his mind away from where it was so obviously veering toward. Possibly, she was making things worse. But how was she supposed to respond to that? Was she supposed to tell him
smelled nice, as well? Cold day in hell.
Cooold day in hell
. (Even though he, in fact,
smell pretty great.) She reached for her wine glass again, her phone pressing into her ear as she did so, and his voice was even closer as he asked if she always answered the phone in the nude, or if this was something she reserved just for him. She pulled the glass from her lips, scoffing. "I'm not naked. I'm wearing a wetsuit," she insisted, unable to stop the small laugh from leaving her lips. She sighed, unsure of whether or not she wanted to continue this playful, flirtatious conversation, or if she wanted to shut him down. "Obviously, you're in work mode," she said, making her decision before she could let her more frivolous desires manifest themselves. "I'll let you get back to your case," she said, but didn't hang up.
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