For all the fans of The Chemical Attraction Series who want more of Matt and Eva’s romance, here’s a snippet for the Holiday Season. And, of course, this short story wouldn’t be complete without Joe Roberts. Enjoy.
The Beginning of Matt and Eva’s Romance by Christina Thompson
Driving Eva’s piece of shit car (aka: her rusting Toyota Corolla), Joe Roberts gripped the steering wheel and concentrated on the snow-covered backroad. His beloved ’88 Lincoln Continental was still buried under two feet of snow at a Saginaw cabin.
Joe couldn’t tell if the car shimmied from the uneven grate of the county snowplow on the dirt road or from Eva’s actual car. Growling, he slowed his pace even more.
He glanced at Eva O’Sullivan next to him. He loved her like a sister ─ a pain-in-the-ass sister. This petite Irish spitfire with long auburn spiral curls had big opinions and you knew them whether you wanted to or not.
Today, in her brown leather coat and thick Kelly green scarf, she quietly fidgeted with the matching green mittens on her lap. The Velcro from her wrist brace from her sprain last month stuck to a mitten. She absently ripped them apart shredding the yarn.
“Why are you so uptight?” Joe asked. “Here’s your chance to be with Matt without the kid.”
“I’m not uptight,” she replied with a scowl. She tugged on his black suitcoat. “What exactly did Peter text you?”
She deflected and he let it go, for now. “He said to pack a go-bag for the weekend and meet him at the car pool parking area near US-131 in Martin.”
“What about the suit?” she asked.
“He told me to wear a black suit. I’m tall, dark, and extra handsome in it, but I had to buy this. And these new dress shoes pinch my feet,” he replied, sliding toward the stop sign. He blew out a breath as the car stopped just beyond the sign.
Un-rattled, Eva continued. “Yeah, you’re a green-eyed hunk,” she replied with a smirk. “Why didn’t he say why?”
He turned left onto another snow-covered road toward Allenton, Eva’s rugged new boyfriend Matt Connor, and his eight-year-old son, David.
Joe, Eva, and Taylor had met Matt last month during Eva’s stint in the hospital after her body collided with a car. Joe still hadn’t gotten that image of her limp body flying through the air out of his head. She had since recovered from a dislocated hip, broken ankle, a sprained wrist, and a concussion. He had worried so much about Eva and Taylor during that mess Stuart Morgan created.
“I don’t know why he said to wear it. When do I turn?” he demanded, suddenly irritated.
“On Pine,” she said. “Maybe Peter finally likes you.”
Joe snorted. “He likes me. I know you care about David. Make sure you’re serious about Matt though. You know what it was like to get attached to your mom’s boyfriends. I remember how disappointed you were when they disappeared after the breakups.”
She winced. Her rarely seen vulnerability flashed across her mask of pristine makeup. She quickly hid her emotions.
“Maybe Peter’s driving you to Quantico. You start training next week,” she replied.
“Why wouldn’t he say that then?” Joe asked. “And seriously? Driving a long distance in a suit? Come on.”
Last month, Joe had helped FBI Division Director Peter Bingaman catch Stuart’s stalker and protect Taylor. The director recommended him for the FBI Academy and offered him a job afterward. Grateful for the opportunity, Joe owed him. Without Peter’s letter, he wouldn’t have gotten into the academy. Joe’s father, a crooked cop/jailbird, almost doused his life’s dream.
“Joey, focus! You missed the street,” Eva said.
Joe backtracked and finally found Matt’s house, a plain well-kept country blue ranch with a two-car attached garage and a chain link fence in back half buried in the snow. In the neatly shoveled driveway, Matt’s old Bronco had been cleared of snow. Joe stopped beside it then blew out another breath.
“Crap,” Eva said, searching her brown leather purse. “He gave me a key and I forgot it.”
“Damn it, Eva. I’m not going back,” he replied. “Maybe he has one hidden somewhere.”
She laughed. “Here,” she said, holding it out for him. “You’re the one who needs to lighten up.”
He ripped it from her hand. She continued to laugh as he walked around the car to help her out. With a walking boot cast on her right foot, she handed him her purse and mittens then struggled to stand on her own. Stubborn as always, he thought. With a sigh, he grabbed her crutches and suitcase in the backseat filling his arms.
Taking the crutches, she started hopping toward the front door. Matt had shoveled the walkway bare, too. Rock salt covered every cement surface. Matt was definitely a responsible guy. Joe chuckled as he followed her.
Eva held out her hand for the key. “Just drop my purse and suitcase inside then you can leave,” she said, unlocking the door.
“No way. What kind of brother would I be if I didn’t look around and make sure he’s not some psycho?” he asked.
Inside, Eva turned and glared at him. “He’s a cop and a wonderful father who owns his own home.”
“You need to lighten up. I was kidding except for the snooping part,” he said.
In the living room, Joe set her suitcase, purse, and mangled mittens beside the worn yet comfortable looking sofa. Under one end table, he spotted a wicker basket with yarn and a partially crocheted blanket.
“How domestic do you want to be with this guy? Crocheting? Really?” Joe said with a chuckle.
“Aren’t you going to be late?” Eva replied.
“Nope. I’ve got time,” he said, walking toward the kitchen on the right.
The plain white kitchen had enough room for a square wooden table and four chairs. David’s school paintings on the refrigerator added the only color to the room. With a coffeemaker and a toaster on the otherwise bare countertop, Joe opened a cupboard to annoy Eva.
“Joe, stop,” she said, leaning on the back of one of the chairs.
“Do you want to get tied down with a kid?” he asked.
Joe opened the fridge full of Tupperware containers. He pulled out the closest one with macaroni salad and quickly found a spoon in the drawer. After taking a huge bite, he moaned and held out a spoonful for Eva.
“This is so good,” he mumbled with his mouthful.
“I think his mom made it. His parents live across the street,” she said.
She hopped to the lid on the counter then held it out for him to cover the bowl. Instead, he walked around the table making her hop after him.
“Sounds like Everybody Loves Raymond,” he said, before taking another bite.
“Have you talked to Taylor today?” she asked.
“No,” he replied, taking the lid she thrust in his face. “She’s not my problem anymore.” He shoved the bowl with its lid back into the refrigerator.
“Not your problem? She’s your family,” Eva said.
“You know what I mean. She’s with Stuart now,” he said, leaving the kitchen.
Heading down the hallway, he glanced in David’s dinosaur-themed bedroom then looked in the guest room next to David’s. Six boxes of toys and books set on the bed beside two police uniforms lying across an ironing board.
“Do you want to talk about her?” she asked at his heels to keep him from snooping too thoroughly.
“This place is void of a female touch. Are you gonna decorate right away or wait until you’re living here?” he countered.
“Peter’s going to make you wear a suit everyday with the FBI,” she said.
“Not if I can help it,” he replied.
Before Joe could add another retort, he and Eva heard a bang then rattling from the basement. Joe whispered for Eva to go into the bathroom and lock the door. Rolling her eyes, she shook her head as Joe opened the basement door. The rattling vibrated the steps as Joe carefully descended. Eva hopped down behind him.
Beside neatly packed boxes on metal shelves around the perimeter of the small clean basement, an old furnace shook. At closer inspection, Joe found a large wrench setting on the water heater and a slight dent in the furnace beside it. He banged the wrench into the dent and the rattling stopped. The heat popped on.
Joe grinned. “Owning a home is easy. I’m a pro already,” he said.
Eva snorted and hopped back up the stairs huffing as she went. When his cell rang, Joe checked the caller ID. He let Taylor’s call go to his voicemail. Eva watched him.
“You need to work through your feelings for her,” Eva said.
“And, on that note, I’m out of here,” he replied. She was right, but he wouldn’t openly admit it.
Using her crutch, Eva poked him in the back stopping him. “I love you, Joey.”
He gave her a brief hug. “Stay out of trouble although nothing ever happens in these farming towns.”
In the Allenton Police Station, Officer Matt Connor hung up his phone at his desk in the bull pen reception area. In the desk across from him, his redheaded partner, Bobby Callahan, finished the last of his paperwork before the start of the weekend. The two other desks next to theirs remained empty until the next shift started.
Gone today, Mrs. Ford, the semi-retired receptionist, had a desk closer to Chief Grady Callahan’s tiny private office. They all hoped she’d make the move to full retirement soon. As sweet as she was, she couldn’t make a decent cup of coffee, always at the ends of the spectrum of watered down or extremely strong. They had offered to take over the responsibility but she considered coffee making a part of her job description.
The hallway to the left of her desk led to an observation room, an interrogation room, a single jail cell, and a locker room, all small rooms. The station designed in the 50’s needed some updates … okay … an entire overhaul.
After six weeks of rehab from a gunshot wound in the thigh and then another week of desk duty, Matt felt ready to get back into the mix. Partnered with Officer Zack Roach, Bobby had hated every second of it.
Matt and Bobby would start Monday, the same day David would go back to school after his winter break. Matt liked the normalcy. Since meeting Eva last month, he realized how much he enjoyed change, too.
In a metal chair beside him, eight-year-old David, with brown wavy locks, dumped out a bag of M&Ms onto Matt’s desk and separated them into two equal piles. As Matt closed a folder on a burglary, Chief Callahan stepped out of his office with two more folders. The burly chief slapped them on his son’s desk then walked away without a word. Their ballbuster boss enjoyed delegating his workload especially at quitting time.
A taller bulkier version of his redheaded dad, Bobby frowned. “He must love my dedication to the job more than yours.”
“Or it’s payback for your earlier argument in his office,” Matt suggested.
“You heard that?” Bobby asked.
David nodded. “The whole neighborhood heard it. Being chief would be cool.”
“Then maybe you should be chief,” Bobby said. It was a touchy subject with the Callahan clan.
David nodded and grinned. Bobby had gotten used to the idea of working extra hard for his dad. Close to retirement, his father wanted Bobby as his replacement to carry on the Callahan name in outstanding law enforcement. Bobby didn’t want the job and its responsibilities. Their horns locked on a daily basis.
Zack Roach coveted the job as chief and didn’t care who he stepped on to get it. Matt would quit and move far away if Zack became chief. He had yet to hear a nice word come out of the jackass’s mouth. Luckily for Matt, Officer Roach had today off to attend a birthing class with his pregnant wife, Nichole.
“Give me one. I still have some time. Besides, I’m your ride,” Matt said. With a nod of thanks, Bobby handed him a folder.
David popped an M&M into his mouth giving him two equal piles. “I don’t want to go to Jimmy’s for a sleepover this weekend,” David said, pushing a pile toward Matt. He kicked his backpack away from his chair.
Matt ate a red one. “We already talked about this. I’d like to spend some time alone with Eva.”
“To kiss?” David asked. Bobby looked up from his file and waited for the answer, too.
“Yes,” Matt replied, pointing Bobby back to his paperwork.
“You’ve kissed her in front of me before. I won’t look this time,” David said, before putting four M&Ms into his mouth. Bobby coughed back a laugh.
“David,” Matt said with a firm tone.
David slid the rest of his pile into his hand then opened his mouth wide. He catapulted his handful inside. Three missed and slid across the floor. Matt raised an eyebrow. Sending the metal chair grating across the linoleum, David quickly chased them down.
“So more than kissing,” David stated, dropping the dirty M&Ms in the trash.
Bobby looked as if he concentrated on his work, but his ears seemed to stick out wider than usual.
“Yes,” Matt replied with a sigh. He’d always been honest with David. Although lately, ending the conversation with Because I said so wasn’t cutting it like it used to.
“Kissing her in bed?” David asked, plopping back onto the chair.
Matt set his pen down and ignored Bobby’s snort. “Have you been watching Grandma’s soaps again?”
David grinned with melted chocolate covering his front teeth.
An hour later, Matt drove one of the two city cruisers. With David in the backseat, he dropped Bobby off at his apartment then headed for Jimmy Ready’s house a mile outside town. It felt great to actually drive again and not rely on others to chauffeur him around. His leg ached but thinking about Eva kept any major pain away.
Turning into the long unplowed driveway to the Ready’s farmhouse, Matt gunned it. Nothing was going to stop his romantic weekend with Eva.
As Matt walked with David to the door, he lectured one last time. “No feigning sick and no causing trouble. Eva and I will pick you up Sunday morning.”
“Fine, but I get to hog her all day Sunday,” David said, knocking on the door.
Deal,” he replied.
In a red cardigan sweater and skinny jeans, Kathy Ready opened the door. David quickly slipped through the crack. Kathy’s long red manicured nails rested on the door and showed no signs of working on a farm. She usually glammed up in the farm’s winter off season.
“Don’t worry about David. We have a few fun distractions for the boys this weekend. Enjoy your peace and quiet,” she said with a wink.
“Thank you. He has his cell just in case,” he said, before turning from the door.
Did everyone in town know about his romantic weekend? He’d ring Bobby’s neck. The gossip that passed his partner’s lips equaled Matt’s mother, Gail Connor’s.
After sliding out of the drive, he headed home. Having someone waiting for him gave him a thrill he hadn’t felt before. As he turned onto Pine Street, he saw his mother enter his house. Crap! He hadn’t told her about his weekend plans. David must have beaten him to it.
He hit the garage door opener and parked in the empty space. The other spot housed his push lawnmower and the snow blower. As he entered the house through the mudroom next to the kitchen, he heard his mom yelling.
“What in God’s name!”
“Damn, damn, damn,” he muttered, tossing his uniform coat over the wooden chair next to his square kitchen table.
Seeing his mother in the hallway, he quickly set his gun and belt on top of the refrigerator. Wondering where Eva was, he met his mother next to his bedroom doorway. With a tight curly poodle perm and newly colored chestnut brown hair, Gail frowned at him.
“Matthew,” she demanded, “Who’s that naked woman in your bed? She wears too much makeup.”
He leaned past his mother and saw Eva burying her face in his Navy blue comforter in the middle of his bed. Only her long red spiral curls showed. Damn, he liked seeing her in his bed.
“Can you be more specific?” he asked. He grinned when Eva stiffened and glared at him.
“Matthew, David could have seen this harlot,” Gail said.
Matt’s amusement became annoyance as he clenched his jaw. “Don’t ever call her that again. Eva’s studying to be a doctor. I invited her here and I know David told you that. I just dropped him off at Jimmy’s for the weekend, which you are also aware. I warned you about dropping by unannounced. Give me your key.” She would not undermine this relationship.
She opened her mouth but thought better of it. Dropping the key in his hand, she stormed out the front door. Dismissing his mother’s antics, he turned back to Eva.
“Hello,” he said, leaning on the door jam.
“You have a parade of women coming through here that you need more information?” Eva demanded. She reached over to retrieve her clothes on the nearby chair.
“It’s sarcasm. I never wanted to take the time to date until you,” he replied. “You definitely made a lasting first impression with my mother.”
She groaned and continued to put on her black leggings and pink bra under the covers. “God, I just wanted to surprise you,” she said.
“Oh boy, did you. Why are you getting dressed?” he asked with a chuckle.
“Seriously?” she said, slipping her bulky forest green sweater over her head. She struggled to put her ankle cast back on.
“Did she kill the mood?” he asked.
Eva left off her wrist brace and threw back his comforter. Matt joined her as she stood beside the bed. She groaned against his uniform shirt. He lifted her chin. Her makeup was tastefully done in shades of brown against her heart-shaped face. He liked her classy look.
“How about dinner?” he asked, kissing her forehead.
She smiled. “Allenton has a night life?”
“Until 8 o’clock,” he replied, hugging her. Would she get bored with this kind of life? He hadn’t much to offer her. “I was hoping to show off my sexy girlfriend.” He touched her soft cheek with his thumb.
“After meeting your mother, are you sure you want me to meet your town?” she asked.
“Oh yeah, I can’t wait,” he replied, before kissing her lips.
…to be continued…