You may want to read Diamond in the Desert before reading this short story.
By Karen Gilleland ©
“Jake, I’m here in Washington. Are you free for dinner?” Hope Diamond had flown in from Los Angeles. She was taking a chance. Jake Sanders was an assistant to the director of the FBI, and his calendar was crammed.
“Hey, Babe, what a nice surprise.”
“It was a last-minute decision. If it doesn’t work for you, I’ll head to New York and do some shopping.”
“No, stay where you are. I’ll pick you up for dinner at eight.”
Hope hung up, and her shoulders tightened. She and Jake had been in a long-distance relationship. Without warning, her world had tilted. She’d fallen in love with a man she had known for only one week. Visiting Jake was her way of saying good-by and making sure it was the right decision.
Her cell phone rang. She had sidestepped telling Matt Dennison her plans. She pushed the answer button.
“Hey, Diamond. I was starting to worry. Guess you’ve been tied up with clients.”
“Hi Matt, how are you? Any news on your transfer to Los Angeles?”
“Okay, lady, what’s going on?” She grimaced. His mindreading ability was uncanny.
“I’m in Washington.”
A long pause.
“Diamond, you’re full of surprises. Minds me of the time I got kicked by a mule.”
“Matt, I had to come. Breaking up with Jake over the phone didn’t feel right. I want to see him and know that I’m making the right choice.”
The silence lasted a full minute.
“Call me if you make the right choice.” The phone clicked.
She blinked back the tears. Matt had a right to be angry. She’d made it clear that she would break up with Jake, but her intuition told her she’d regret not doing it in person.
The warm water in the shower loosened the tension in her shoulders. Both men worked for the FBI. Jake Sanders had the boilerplate good looks of an FBI agent you see on TV. He had an air of mystery and a manner that flowed like warm honey. Matt’s down-home appearance softened his brusque manner and his deep-skinned integrity.
She felt a prick of guilt as she donned the red, cape-effect dress she’d brought especially for Jake, but she was on a mission to unlock the truth in her heart. The mirror told her she was ready. Her turned-up lips gave the impression of a permanent smile. She picked up her purse, closed the door on Matt’s memory and headed to the lobby.
Catching sight of Jake when she stepped off the elevator, she sighed. He looked very distinguished in his long trench coat. He strode over and embraced her. “You look beautiful, Babe. That dress is dynamite.” His touch was warm, comfortable. “I’ve missed you.”
“Seems as if we’re always saying that to each other.”
He took her to a restaurant she’d enjoyed on other visits. He knew the staff, and the waiter brought wine without asking. They sat in a curved, red leather booth, and Jake slid over close. She breathed in the Icelandic Mist cologne she’d given him for Christmas and closed her eyes against his compelling sensuality.
During dinner, they chatted casually. After they finished eating, Jake picked up his wine glass and tipped it to her. “Congratulations on a great job in the desert.”
“Thanks.” Diamond Security had been protecting four wealthy women and their entourages at Secret Sands in the Navajo Nation. When one of the guests was murdered, Matt Dennison came onto the scene. Their personalities clashed, but, eventually, the two lightning bolts sparked flames.
Tapping his fingers together around the glass, Jake said, “Dennison has asked for a transfer to Los Angeles. Anything to do with you?” His eyebrows went up.
“Yes, Matt is the reason I came to see you.”
Jake shuddered. “I’m in love with you, Hope. I don’t want to lose you.”
She’d just taken a sip of wine, and she choked. “You never told me that before. You always said we were like two ships passing in the night.”
Jake made a helpless gesture. “I’m saying it now. I love you. Will you marry me?” He put his arm around her and kissed her. He was stirring up old feelings. Love wasn’t something you could simply turn off. The fire went away, but embers lingered. She felt warmed by his kiss, but she didn’t feel the passion she felt when Matt kissed her.
Jake smiled at her, toasted her with his glass. He must be certain he’d made a conquest. He had a lot of power in Washington. Not many women would turn down his proposal. She lowered her eyes.
“You haven’t answered my question.” His smile vanished. “Will you marry me?”
“I’m sorry, Jake. I’m not in love with you anymore.”
His eyes narrowed. Hope knew his angry mood from a time when she had to postpone a visit. He’d stopped answering her calls.
“What happened? You were only at that resort for a week, and you were solving a murder. I mean, Dennison, of all people. He’s such a, ah–”
“‘Bull in a china shop’ is how you described him, and you were right.”
“Look at you. You are so elegant, sophisticated. How could you fall in love with that arrogant, cavalier cowboy?”
“Cavalier cowboy, indeed. You know him better than I realized. He can be brash, but he can also be funny. I like his laugh.”
“His laugh? What has laughing got to do with love? You can’t be serious.”
It wasn’t just his laugh. It was the feeling in his eyes when he looked at her. The warmth she felt in his arms. The depth of his character. Matt had saved their lives, and her client offered to arrange a transfer back to Washington, something he’d wanted for a year. His words flashed through her mind. “If I can’t get back to the Big Top on my own, it’s best I stay here.” She wouldn’t explain to Jake why she’d fallen in love with Matt. It was a precious gift, and it was hers and Matt’s alone.
“I’m sorry, Jake. I care for you very much, but I’m in love with Matt.” At the words, her shoulders relaxed, the tension set loose, like tumbleweed in a desert windstorm.
Jake drew a breath, folded his hands. He wasn’t going to give in easily. “Stay here with me for a week and think about it.”
“That’s not possible.” She’d be betraying Matt, and she would never do that.
“That cowboy has some undercurrent of charm that I don’t understand. I’ve seen women in Washington coming on to him.”
A smile came to her lips, and Jake was quick to wipe it away. “What if Dennison can’t transfer to L.A.?” FBI steel lurked behind his words.
Jake could easily block Matt’s transfer. Hope gave him a hard stare. “I would ask my business partner to handle the L.A. office, and I would open a second office wherever Matt was.”
“I see.” Jake slid his gold Yale ring back and forth on his finger, in much the same way that Matt did. “Lots of opportunity for protection services here. Did you ever think of opening an office in Washington?”
She shook her head, but she didn’t say the words. Even that tells me I’m in love with Matt.
Jake swallowed and looked at his Rolex. “I’ll call a cab to take you back to the hotel.” When they walked outside, the cab was waiting. Jake held her close for a few moments. “Good-bye, Babe. It hasn’t been my best night.”
She felt his pain, but all she could say was, “I’m sorry.”
At the hotel, she pulled out her phone and dialed a number.
“Diamond! I didn’t expect to hear from you tonight.”
“You asked me to call if I made the right choice.”
“Yes, I did.” That FBI steel was in his voice, too.
“I’ve broken things off with Jake Sanders.” Matt’s intake of breath and long sigh came over the phone, but he didn’t say anything. She waited.
“Diamond, you must be crazy.”
“Dennison, you’ve known me for a week. You know I’m crazy.”
He laughed. The sound calmed down her emotions. “Play something for me.”
First strumming, then his voice came over the phone. “Here’s a little Garth Brooks. ‘To Make You Feel My Love.’” He sang the tender words in his rich baritone.
Her eyes stayed closed. “You’re the goods, Dennison. I’m feeling your love.” She hung up before any other words could disturb her joy. She carried his voice, his music, his feelings to bed with her.