[Note from Frolic: Looking to get into the holiday spirit? We’ve got the perfect romantic suspense novella for you! Come back every day this week for a new chapter!]
Violet froze. Rose had said Bernie might stop by. She hadn’t thought Rose meant tonight. And what about Mystery Guy. Was he robbing the bank too? Or…
“Well,” said Bernie surveying the scene and finally turning to Mystery Guy, “Roman, I see you’ve met Violet.”
Roman? That was a nice name. Unusual. But that meant that Bernie knew Roman. That meant Roman was most likely…
Violet felt stupid. Of course that’s what he was.
Well, cops were OK. She could deal with cops.
“Hi Bernie,” she said, waving. She realized she was still holding the gun in that hand and put it down behind her back. Myster—Roman looked like he was trying not to laugh at her.
“Violet, didn’t we have a nice long chat about not shooting people?”
“How many people has she shot?” asked Roman and Violet wanted to sink into the floor. Of course, Bernie would bring that up.
“Just me, as far as I’m aware,” said Bernie.
“That shouldn’t count,” said Violet, feeling desperate. “It was a ricochet. Also, I was fifteen.” This was so unfair. She finally got Mystery Guy’s name and it was being provided by Uncle Bernie who was a known cock-blocker. She was never going to live down the time he had caught her making out in her boyfriend’s car when she was seventeen.
“It still hurts when it rains,” he said, rubbing his leg. “Melissa Lee, isn’t it?” Melissa nodded. “Have you been letting Violet get you in trouble?”
“It was Leo! He tried to rob the bank!” Melissa pointed an accusing finger at Leo on the floor. “He was going to leave us stuck in the stupid vault all weekend!”
“It was Violet’s idea!” howled Leo.
“Violet!” said Bernie, looking at her over his glasses.
“I was playing Smarter Than a Criminal and I forgot he was laying on the couch like the shiftless piece of crap that he is! It’s not my fault that Leo is decidedly, you know, not Smarter Than a Criminal. No one actually robs a bank! Who does that?”
“I’m really not involved in this,” said Tandi. “This was his idea. I shouldn’t have to be here.” She stood up and smoothed out her skirt.
“Wench, sit your ass down,” said Melissa. “Or I will put you back in a headlock.”
Tandi took one look at Melissa and sat back down.
“Shouldn’t someone be cuffing them?” Bernie asked, looking around the room.
“I already used mine,” said Roman. Bernie nodded and pointed a finger at one of the other cops who sprang forward to cuff Leo. Another one cuffed Tandi who started crying. Leo cursed and yelled and complained about police brutality and then finally went quiet. Bernie frowned at the process and then looked around the room again.
“Roman, how on earth did she get you roped into this nonsense?”
“Violet left me a note at the Starbucks,” Roman said.
“Violet, please tell me you didn’t write gone bank robbing on a sign and post it at the Starbucks,” said the Captain.
“No!” said Violet. “Because I didn’t think of it. That would have been way funnier. But Bernie, I don’t think I’m getting the sympathy I deserve! We were kidnapped by Melissa’s idiot ex-boyfriend and we foiled a crime. This is not my fault!”
“This is all your fault!” yelled Leo.
“Can someone take him out of here?” asked Bernie.
“Paramedics are on their way down,” said one of the other cops.
“Roman, I take it you’re responsible for the one in cuffs out in the hallway?” asked the Captain.
“You got him?” Violet turned to him, her eyes going wide. She felt impressed. That guy had been scary big and admittedly they had been arguing with Leo and Tandi, but she hadn’t even heard a scuffle. Roman shrugged like it wasn’t a big deal. “I was so annoyed he got away!” she added.
“He didn’t get very far,” said Roman and Bernie looked amused. The paramedics arrived and began to hoist Leo face first onto a gurney.
“Melissa,” yelled Leo as they picked him up. “Help me!”
Violet inhaled in preparation for telling Leo exactly how much help he deserved, but Melissa squeezed her hand and Violet shut her mouth. Melissa walked over to the gurney and bent down to look him in the eye. “Go to hell, Leo,” she said and then patted him on the butt.
“Gah!” Leo kept yelling as they wheeled him out and Violet snickered.
Melissa shot her a sour look. “If you say the words I told you so, I will not give you your Christmas present.”
“Never crossed my mind,” said Violet.
“Meanwhile,” said Melissa, wiping her hands on her apron, and eyeing Roman and Bernie, “not to pry, but just how far did Mason get? Because he has the key to the vault in his pocket, and we need it to get Vi out.”
“Yes,” said Violet. “I would like to actually get out of here.”
“I’m sure you would,” said Bernie. “But I think you’re going to have stay there for a few minutes and think about what you’ve done.”
Violet gaped at him. This was turning out to be monumentally embarrassing. “Bernie! I’m thirty-one! And this is not my fault!”
“And yet, I remember when you were a tiny wee thing running around in pig-tails,” said Bernie nostalgically. “Also, I’m pretty sure we already moved him upstairs, so it’s going to take a minute to get the key.”
“Oh,” said Violet with a shrug and Bernie’s eyes crinkled in silent laughter.
“Be right back,” said Bernie. “Roman, make sure she doesn’t set the building on fire.”
“I don’t set buildings on fire,” said Violet reassuringly as Bernie left. The last thing she needed was Roman thinking that she was some sort of crazed pyromaniac bank robbing cop shooter.
“Anymore,” said Melissa.
“Melissa!” Violet glared at her friend.
“So, um, you know the Captain?” asked Roman.
“He was my Dad’s partner back in the day,” she said.
“So you’re a cop?” asked Melissa, looking him over. “That’s good. I was worried about the gun.”
“Detective Roman Knox,” he said, offering a hand to shake.
Melissa shook his hand. “Melissa Lee. The sharp shooter is Violet Harper. I can’t believe you shot him in the ass, Vi!”
“Well, I didn’t want to shoot him dead,” said Violet.
“Right, just give him a limp,” said Roman, and Violet blushed harder. This evening was really not going according to plan.
“She shot him in the ass,” said Roman, as the ambulance pulled away.
“Yes, she did,” agreed the Captain.
“And it was definitely on purpose. Like, she targeted and bullseyed his ass.”
“Bill had Rose and Violet on the qualifying course when they were fifteen. I don’t know if she’s gone to the range since their father passed, but I’m pretty sure that at five feet, she could bullseye whatever the hell she wanted. Bill was always a bit sad that they went to art. He thought Violet particularly would have been a good cop. But now that I’m the boss, I have to say that she shows a complete disregard for the rules she finds stupid. Which is entertaining when I’m Uncle Bernie, but…”
“Wouldn’t be quite so entertaining as her boss?” asked Roman with a grin.
“Not quite,” agreed the Captain. The Captain cleared his throat and gave Roman the once over. “Um, she’s also single,” he said.
“That is good information to be aware of,” said Roman.
“But is it information that you’re interested in having?” asked the Captain.
Roman looked at the Captain. He hadn’t felt this much under the spotlight from a parent since he’d picked his date up for senior prom. “Yes, sir,” said Roman.
“Good,” said Bernie. “We’ll work on that. Ten-to-one she tries to take herself home. She never thinks she needs help.”
“Bernie, I’m fine. I’m just going to walk home.” It had been several hours of sitting around and then answering questions. But mostly it was every single one of her father’s friends showing up to say something absolutely mortifying in front of Roman.
“No, I think Roman needs to walk you home.”
Violet couldn’t help feeling that the last thing Roman probably wanted was to walk her crazy ass home. “I’m just around the corner,” she said.
“Great,” agreed Bernie. “So it won’t take him that long.”
She looked at Roman, who was talking to Melissa as he put her in the front seat of a squad car that would take her home.
“I don’t know Bernie. He probably doesn’t…”
“Nonsense,” said Bernie. He waved at Roman as the squad car pulled away. “Roman! You’re walking Vi home.”
“Yes, Sir,” said Roman, ambling over.
“You don’t have to,” she said.
“Yes, he does.”
“Yes, I do.”
She stared into the twinkling eyes of her father’s oldest friend. He was doing this on purpose. He had totally spotted her crush and he was doing it on purpose. “I’m telling Claudia on you.”
“Feel free,” he said, with a grin. “She’ll be on my side.” Violet sighed. “I’ll see you at the retirement party next week?”
“Yes,” she said, nodding. “Rose said she was coming too.”
“Oh, good,” said Bernie, patting her shoulder. “See you then.”
“Which way?” asked Roman as Bernie walked away.
“Um, this way.” She pointed down the block toward the museum bridge. They hadn’t gone more than a few feet when he took off his coat and held it out to her.
“I feel like I should politely decline that or something,” she said, pulling the jacket on.
“But you’re freezing and you left your jacket in the Starbucks and now it’s evidence?”
He chuckled. “They should release it back to you tomorrow.”
“They had better. I’m going to need my computer too. I’m kind of having a little panic attack about leaving it.”
The Christmas music from the ice rink was getting louder as they walked. Everyone was doing the Jingle Bell Rock. She stole a side-long glance at him. “I’m not crazy,” she said. “I know everyone on scene tonight did their best to make me sound crazy, but I’m not.”
“I don’t think you’re crazy.”
She wasn’t sure she fully believed that he believed. “The kids look like they’re having a good time,” she said, stopping to stare at the small ice rink. On the hill above the plaza, a large Christmas tree twinkled next to a statue of a Native American woman with her hands outstretched.
“My ex-wife burned my house down,” he said, leaning on the railing of the ice rink.
“I don’t burn down buildings! Melissa was making a joke because we accidentally set someone’s shed on fire one time with fireworks, but we put it out. Also, for the record we were fifteen, so I think that, as a juvenile, my record ought to be sealed.”
He laughed. “I was about to say that between losing all my stuff and moving to a new state where I don’t know anyone, I’ve been kind of down on Christmas. But thanks for the clarification.”
“I’m depressed because my Dad died around Christmas, so my sister keeps trying to convince me to buy a cat.”
“I have a dog,” he said. “Her name’s Cleo.”
“I like dogs.”
The ice rink switched to a hipster rendition of Blue Christmas and the skaters began to slow down and pair up.
Roman took a step closer to her. “What I was trying to say though, is that it’s been really nice to go to the coffee shop and be with people who are friends, even if they weren’t my friends.”
“Oh,” said Violet, staring up at him. That was possibly the nicest thing that anyone had ever said about her and Melissa. He reached out and began to zip up his jacket around her, tugging her closer to him. Her heart was jack-hammering in her chest.
“Um, I wouldn’t mind being friends,” she said.
“I’m not really interested in just friends,” he said.
“Oh,” said Violet. “I’m OK with that too.” A smile flashed across his face and he leaned down and kissed her.
Violet’s mind went blank as her lips met his and the next thing she remembered she had her arms wrapped around his neck. Her entire body tingled from her lips on down. There was a gust of wind and a sprinkle of snowflakes drifted down onto her upturned her face.
She wanted to say wow, but managed to hold it in.
He looked like he was about to speak, but instead he just shook his head and kissed her again. This time she was aware of the warmth of his body, the softness of his lips and the way she felt delicate in his arms.
There was another gust of wind and she shivered as a snowflake went down her neck.
“Hey,” he said as he turned up the collar on her coat. “I don’t suppose you’d want to go grab some Chinese food at this place down the block? I think it’s called the Bamboo Garden.”
Violet stared at Roman Knox with his hazel eyes and his dark hair and a smile that always seemed to creep onto his face. “Yes,” said Violet, “I could go for some Chinese.”
He held out his hand and she took it with a smile.
“Let it snow,” he said, holding out his other hand to catch a few of the fluffy flakes.
“Merry Christmas,” she replied.
About the Author:
Bethany Maines is a native of Tacoma WA, who is actually very much like her fictional heroines: she travels to exotic lands and has the ability to kick some serious butt with her fourth degree black belt in karate. And while her travels may not necessarily include fighting super agents of evil so much as eating spicy foods and hiking to the tops of mountains (okay, really big hills), her black belt skills are mainly employed in teaching karate to a classroom full of kids (although there was that one time in Paris), and her day job is something she actually enjoys (graphic design is fun!), she’s pretty much a secret agent in her own right. Find her here: https://bethanymaines.com/