“Ok, Scarlett. I have one question for you—what exactly is your relationship with Mr. Reynolds?” His question caught me off-guard.
“What? Matt? He’s one of my best friends. I told you that.” I evaded the question behind the question because I wanted Martinez to ask outright if there was something he wanted to know. “Are you asking me professionally or personally?”
“Both,” Martinez said, his voice serious.
“Um, well, he’s one of my best friends,” I repeated uncomfortably. I didn’t know where he was going with this line of questioning, but it couldn’t be anywhere I wanted to go.
“Please don’t take offense, but would you lie for him?” Martinez was giving me his full attention, which made me feel even more uncomfortable.
“Lie for him?” I tried to figure out if that was personal or professional. I decided it didn’t matter because I didn’t lie. At least, not about important things. “No, I wouldn’t.”
“Are you attracted to him?” The minute the question left Martinez’s mouth, he looked as if he’d like to snatch them back again.
“Now, I know that’s personal because I can’t see how it would have any bearing on the case.” I infused my voice with as much indignation as I could muster, but I knew he had a right to ask. Shit, I would be all over him if the situation was reversed, but I didn’t like the fact that he hadn’t waited until our date to ask me. This was an investigation for God’s sake.
“You’re right. It’s personal, and it’s been eating at me for the last few days.” Martinez looked me in the eyes, his gaze not wavering. I had to give him props for being forthright about it; I just wasn’t sure I was ready to answer. To equivocate, however, would be doing him a disservice since he had a right to know. As I had vowed that I wouldn’t keep anything from him in terms of the investigation, I now vowed that I would be honest with him about my personal life as well.
“Martinez, Carlos, it’s complicated.” I checked his face to see how he’d received that bit of non-response, but he was keeping his face in decided neutral. “Matt and I have been such good friends for ten years. We’ve both been attracted to each other at different times during our relationship, but not at the same time.” I hesitated. Did I tell him the rest? I had to if I wanted our relationship to be founded on honesty. “Until now.” A muscle twitched in his cheek which meant I’d gotten to him. “You’re the one I want to get to know better, however. That’s all I can tell you right now.” I was about to mention that I’d thought about moving out, but it wouldn’t be fair to tell Martinez before I discussed it with Matt and until this case was over, I didn’t want to talk about anything so serious with Matt.
“I guess that will have to do for now.” Martinez reached over and touched my cheek. I felt a jolt run through me at the sensation of his fingers against my skin. I wanted to pull him to me and forget that I was sitting in my old bedroom talking about a kidnapping. I controlled myself, however, or I would have if Martinez hadn’t gotten up from his chair and sat next to me on the bed. As long as he was out of reach, I was fine. Once I could put my hands on him, though, it was all over.
We leaned into each other and kissed as if we’d never kissed before. I put my hand on the back of his head so I could pull him closer. Vague thoughts about this not being the right time or place flitted through my head, but I ignored them as I pressed my body against his. I knew that we couldn’t do too much here in my parents’ house, but I desperately wanted to know more about the enigma that was Martinez. He slipped his hand under my shirt, brushing over my right breast. Even though it was covered by my bra, I still shivered at his touch.
“We can’t do this here,” I breathed into his ear as we took a break from kissing. I noticed that my body wasn’t listening to my mouth, however, as I was pressing closer to him. He pulled me into his lap so I was straddling him. I could feel how excited he was, which made me want him more. I leaned down to kiss him as he continued fondling my breast. With a supreme amount of effort on my part, I pulled away. “Martinez, you know I want you, but not here.” Martinez didn’t say anything as I slid off his lap, but the look he gave me made me want to forget my hesitations and take him on my childhood bed.
“Stop that,” I hissed, trying to straighten my clothes. Martinez continued to look at me, lust in his eyes. I turned away so I wouldn’t have to look at him, but I could feel him staring at my ass. “Don’t you have to go back to the office?” I tried to keep my voice even, but it came out strangled instead. What was wrong with me that I kept acting like a schoolgirl with a crush on her teacher?
“Yeah, I should be going.” Martinez’s voice was lazy, and I felt him reach out and touch my waist. “You’re a beautiful woman, querida. I can’t wait to get to know you better.” I turned and faced him, cupping his face in my hands. I could have stared into his eyes forever, but I knew I had to let him go. I helped him off the bed and led him downstairs, careful to let go of his hand before we reached the living room. The gang minus Mom looked up at us as we entered. They were still playing Monopoly, but it looked as if my father had inherited my mother’s properties so the game was closer. There was something in Matt’s eyes that made me realize he knew what had happened between Martinez and me up in my bedroom. It saddened me, but Matt’s smile made me feel better.
“Auntie, why is your face red?” Banana asked, looking up from the game in interest. I blushed some more, careful not to look at Martinez.
“Um, I, uh,” I stuttered, not knowing what to say. As I told Martinez, I didn’t lie, but I wasn’t quick enough to come up with something innocuous.
“There you are!” Bless my mother for coming in and saving me from having to answer. She had a shopping bag in her hands from which enticing aromas were emanating. By the smell of it, she had made dumplings and sticky rice with Chinese sausage. I would bet money that she’d made sticky noodles as well, as those were three of her best dishes. “Here, Detective Martinez. You need some fattening up.” She transferred the bag to Carlos while beaming up at him.
“Thank you, Mrs. Hsu,” Martinez said, accepting the bag with grace. He opened it up and peeked inside. “It looks and smells wonderful.”
“You be sure to eat all of it. When you have time, you come here for dinner, and I’ll really feed you then.” My mother patted Martinez’s arm. I was surprised by how friendly she was being, but I didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
“That’d be great,” Martinez said, smiling his sexy smile. I could see my mother melt under it which gave me an inkling as to why she was so nice to him all of a sudden. I couldn’t blame her, really, as Martinez was a looker. “I have to go. Thank you again for letting me borrow Scarlett. Also for the food. It is greatly appreciated.”
“I’ll walk you to the door!” Banana said, scrambling to her feet. “Matt can play for me until I get back.” Ah, the last female conquered. Banana slipped her hand into Martinez’s—the one without the bag—as he said good-bye to everyone. I trailed behind them, amused at how easily Banana had usurped my place.
“I’m going to New York to see my daddy. He’s really sick,” Banana announced as she dragged her feet. I could see that she wanted to make the trip to the front door last as long as possible. “My mommy is there. She and my daddy had to break up because he was gay.” I gulped at Banana’s disclosure, but Martinez didn’t blink an eye. “I miss him.”
“I bet you do,” Martinez said, his voice unusually gentle.
“What about your parents? Where are they?” Banana looked up at Martinez, her face full of adoration. I was struck again by how needy she was around men. I made a mental note to talk to Julia about dating someone soon.
“They’re in heaven,” Martinez said, looking down at Banana. “They’re up there watching over me. Making sure I’m doing ok.” I liked the way he was able to tell the truth without being blunt about it.
“I’m Buddhist. I don’t believe in heaven,” Banana announced. She thought a second before adding, “But maybe they found nirvana.”
“Maybe,” Martinez said agreeably. By now, we’d reached the front door, and Banana couldn’t stall any longer. “I have to go now, Banana. I’ll see you soon.” He squeezed Banana’s hand, and she motioned for him to lean down. He did, and she kissed him on the cheek before scampering back to the living room. Martinez had the oddest look on his face as he straightened up, but it was gone in a flash.
“You’re a great guy, you know that?” I asked softly, twining my arms around his back. I stood on my tiptoes to kiss him, then held on because it felt so damn good. I let go and stepped back, allowing my eyes to roam over his body. “See you tomorrow,” I stated, not allowing it to be a question, even if it was in my mind. I stared at him, holding his gaze. I still wasn’t used to the idea that any time I saw him could be the last. I knew theoretically that the same was true about anyone, but it was easier to see with a cop.
“Eight o’clock.” Martinez pulled out his notebook and scribbled something on a sheet of paper. He ripped the page out of his notebook and handed it to me. It was his address with directions on it. He lived in the city, of course, in the Stevens’ neighborhood. Not the best area by far, but certainly not the worst. “Call me if you need me to escort you to my apartment.” He wasn’t being sexist; he was being pragmatic. “I can’t wait to see you.” He kissed me on the cheek before leaving. I liked the fact that he didn’t say good-bye.
“So, what did wonder detective have to say?” Matt asked me when I returned to the living room. His voice was sharp but not snide, so I didn’t call him out.
“I’ll tell you later,” I said, looking at Banana who was absorbed in the game again. Matt hesitated but finally nodded. We stuck to innocuous things the rest of the afternoon.