|Primary Characters:||Guido, Donna|
|Description:||Donna’s trying to get over Justin. Guido’s got bigger problems. When they try to drown their sorrows, they find a perfect cure.|
Donna stretched her back and let out a long sigh. It had been a long night. She picked up her jacket and turned to go. It felt as if she hadn’t had any sleep for weeks. Going back to the apartment she shared with Madeleine didn’t feel appealing, but that was the only sanctuary she had.
She was heading for the exit, when she heard a voice call out her name. That voice was about the last one she wanted to hear. Justin Carmody had caused her more pain than anyone ever had and she really didn’t want to deal with him tonight. Or any other night. All she wanted was to be left alone to lick her wounds in peace. But naturally, he still wanted to persuade her that he hadn’t done anything wrong.
“What is it?”
“Can we talk?”
“Is this work related?”
“No. Donna, please.”
“I don’t think there’s anything more to say.”
“No, Justin. You do as you please. But I can tell you one thing: Back home no one would have treated a girl the way you treated me.”
“I don’t want to hear it.”
And she squared her shoulders and brushed past him. It was time he learned to leave her alone. If he didn’t want her, he could bloody well stay away.
Her partner Eddie had seen the exchange, and though he too was tired he decided that enough was enough. A girl who was as inexperienced as Donna really deserved better than being treated the way Carmody was treating her.
Guido Martin came to the same conclusion and he too, got up and walked towards the exit. Carmody really had it coming to him.
Guido and Eddie exchanged glances. They had spoken at the same time. Could it be that they both had the same thing on their minds?
Guido nodded good-humouredly at Eddie, as if to say, go ahead, mate.
By now, Eddie had lost a little of his momentum, but he was damned if he’d let Carmody get away with his behaviour.
The doctor drew himself up and faced Donna’s partner. His face didn’t give anything away.
“Do you have a moment?”
“Sure. Why not?”
Eddie looked awkwardly over his shoulder, but decided that even if he and Guido weren’t the best of friends, he knew they both had Donna’s best interests at heart. So he shrugged and went ahead with what he had on his mind.
“Leave Donna alone.”
“I don’t see that it’s any of your business.”
“Really? She’s my partner and I consider her a good mate. That makes it my business.”
“I see. How touching. Is she aware of your protective attitude?”
“Just stay away from her. You’ve hurt her enough.”
Carmody’s frown deepened. He didn’t like discussing his private affairs with people like Eddie Mercia. Men like that, with their fancy suits and pretty faces got on his nerves. And to make matters worse, that ridiculous clown, Guy Martin, had to interfere as well.
“Yeah. Back off, Carmody. You’ve done enough damage as it is. Donna’s a really nice girl and she deserves better than to have someone like you taking advantage of her.”
“You, too, Martin? And what if I don’t?”
Guido elbowed his way closer to Eddie and faced Carmody with a lop-sided scowl on his face.
“You just wait and see.”
“Let me make this clear to you, Carmody: If I see you bothering Donna again, I’ll make sure you work the night shift at the morgue.”
Faced with the two police officers’ joint opposition, Carmody decided to back off. Since when did those two back each other up? With one last glare, he returned to his own domain.
Eddie and Guido watched each other in silence. Then Eddie relaxed and smiled.
“Want to come and have a beer?”
Guido nodded thoughtfully.
Lately, it had felt as if they were burying their differences and maybe, this could be the beginning of something new. Donna was a great girl, but it was good to have male friends as well.
The following day, Guido came in late, only to discover that his partner, Cameron Smart, was nowhere to be seen. He was surprised. If anyone got in late, he was the one, not Cameron. For a moment, he felt concerned. But he reassured himself that if anything was wrong, someone would have heard something. And he liked to think that if she needed his help, she’d call.
He could see Eddie bent over his desk, while Donna was on the phone. There didn’t seem to be anything really urgent going on, so he ambled over to say hello.
Eddie looked up to find Guido standing over him and smiled. Last night had been alright.
“Hi. Have you seen Cameron today?”
“No. Maybe Sharon sent her out on another job?”
“I guess not. Why don’t you ask Sharon?”
“And get her angry with Cameron in case she’s just sleeping in? Nah. I’ll be alright. We don’t have any really urgent case right now. You’d think the city was asleep.”
“Don’t get too comfortable. It’s probably just the calm before the storm.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
When Cameron did walk in, nearly half an hour later, she had a contented smile on her face that made Guido suspect she was in love. Of course, Cameron fell in love all the time. But maybe this time it would be someone special.
“Look who’s here. Glad you decided to join us.”
“Oh, hello, Guido. Sorry I’m late. Did we get assigned a new case?”
“No. It’s alright. No worries. I’m just trying to type out the report from that bar brawl the other night.”
“Who is he?”
But her smile made him suspect she knew very well what he was getting at.
“Come on. You’re not fooling me.”
“Don’t be silly, Guido. I was just talking to your father about something.”
Guido’s face clouded over. This was exactly what he’d been afraid of. Cameron was falling for his dad. Could things get any worse than that?
Cameron didn’t even seem to notice his reaction. She was still smiling as if she was enjoying some secret.
The phone rang and Guido picked up. Another case. He was grateful for the distraction. If Cameron and his father decided to make things official, would he even be able to continue working with his partner?
Fortunately, the new case was a very uncomplicated one. He could draw on his experience and it wasn’t necessary to work closely with Cameron. But he knew this was no solution in the long run.
Chief Inspector Sharon Kostas made a point of keeping a close eye on the officers under her command and for personal reasons she was never more thorough than when it came to Guido Martin. It wasn’t difficult to figure out that there was some tension between him and his partner and knowing Cameron and Guido, Sharon thought she knew what the cause was. If those two couldn’t work together, it was no use keeping them partnered up. She had to think of some new way of dealing with the situation.
To her relief, a solution presented itself right away. Guido’s father, Bill Martin, the man responsible if only indirectly, for the trouble between Guido and Cameron, asked for Cameron’s help. Though Sharon was only too aware of the risk of making things worse, she gratefully seized on that excuse to separate Guido and Cameron for the time being.
On the morning when she’d given her permission for the temporary transfer, Sharon waited for Guido to show up. If she wasn’t mistaken, he had trouble sleeping. He looked tired.
“Guido. In my office. Now.”
He looked up and smiled inquiringly. That smile reminded Sharon of someone else, but she wasn’t going to dwell on that. It was quite enough that one of her officers was under Bill Martin’s sway. No need to recall just how attractive she’d once found him. And she certainly wasn’t going to fall into that trap a second time, this time with the son.
“What’s going on?”
“Guido – I’ve approved a temporary transfer for Cameron.”
Secretly, he was relieved not to have to work with his partner for a while, but he couldn’t help wondering what had brought this on so suddenly. He hadn’t heard a word about it last night.
That sounded ominous. So there was some bad news. He should have known.
“Guido – your father asked if he could borrow Cameron for a while. Under the circumstances, I thought it would be best.”
“Oh, yeah? And what circumstances are those?”
“Come on. You know me better than that. If you think anything goes on here, without my knowing it -”
“Alright. So who will I work with now?”
“We’ll see. Sometimes, Mercia and Parry might need some extra help. I might want your help.”
Guido smiled at this. He liked his commanding officer. No question about it. They all did. But wasn’t this a little too much like being asked to stay behind after school to talk to the teacher? She wanted to keep an eye on him. He frowned as an unwelcome thought popped into his brain. What if Sharon still didn’t trust him? His feelings for Sophia had compromised him. Though he’d been under the impression that he’d proven himself, this could mean he was still on probation.
“Don’t you trust me? If you don’t think I can do the job -”
“Guido. I know you can do the job. We’re understaffed as it is. It’s going to be a while until we can get Cameron back or someone else transferred here. In the meantime, we’ll just have to make the best of things.”
“Right. Is that all?”
“Yes. But – if you need to talk about anything, you know my door is always open.”
“Alright. Can I go now, miss?”
His smile robbed the joke of any offense.
“Yes, Guy. Just do your homework and stay out of trouble.”
For the next week, he alternately worked alongside Sharon or Eddie and Donna. They were kept busy, but not with any exceptionally difficult cases. On Friday night, Eddie asked Guido if he would like to go out and have a beer again. Guido saw no reason to turn down the offer, so they headed for their favorite bar. It was one that many police officers frequented, so they wouldn’t be alone.
Eddie bought the first round, while Guido stretched out on his chair, feeling some of the tension leave him. He could see Eddie run into a friend and start to chat with him for a few moments. The sounds of conversation drifting through the room made up a constant background noise. Suddenly one name caught Guido’s attention. Bill Martin. His father. What had the old man done now?
“You’ve seen her before. Blonde. Hot. Dresses like a whore. I think it’s the son’s partner. That’s the one.”
“Who told you that?”
“Everyone’s talking about it. Paul Morelli saw them together.”
“And you’re sure they’re an item?”
“Are you joking? Paul saw the way he was looking at her. And she was giggling like a school girl.”
“That old man’s always been a hit with the ladies. I remember a couple of years back -”
Guido’s good mood left him and he felt like just getting up and leaving Eddie without a word. But this wasn’t Eddie’s fault. And what would he do if he went home? Stare at the walls? He’d only end up drinking somewhere else.
While he was brooding over what he’d just heard, Eddie had returned, bringing their beers.
“Sorry about the delay.”
“What? Oh. No worries. Could we sit over there instead?”
Guido pointed towards a recently vacated table across the room. It was in a corner behind a potted plant. Eddie looked surprised, but shrugged indifferently. Why not? They could have their beers anywhere.
“Alright, mate. You decide.”
They made their way across the crowded room and were just in time to get the other table.
“So what’s the problem?”
“I just heard something about the old man.”
Normally, Guido didn’t feel like confiding his personal affairs to anyone. Tonight, he just needed a sympathetic listener and he sensed that Eddie might be one.
“Oh? What’s he done now?”
“I think – Have you heard anything about him and Cameron?”
“No, not really. What sort of thing?”
“That they’re – Never mind.”
Eddie looked concerned. He had seen the way things were going between Cameron and Bill Martin and he could imagine how it made Guido feel. But he hadn’t known people were talking about it. That had to mean that the situation had advanced a bit more than he’d guessed.
“I’m sorry. It must be tough.”
“Never mind. Cheers, mate.”
“Cheers. Did you and Cameron ever -”
“What? Me and Cameron? No. Never.”
“But he’s my father. And she’s my partner. I don’t understand how she can do this to me.”
Eddie couldn’t either, but he didn’t know what to say, so he contented himself with providing a sympathetic ear. He had lost his own parents so early, it was hard to imagine how he would have reacted to this sort of thing.
They didn’t discuss the potential relationship between Cameron and Bill Martin anymore that night. Just drinking together could sometimes be the best antidote for trouble.
By next week, the entire city appared to know that Cameron had spent the weekend with Bill Martin. Guido’s face wore a constant frown and Sharon tried to make him take a few days off, despite their staff problem. As she had suspected all along, he refused to even consider it.
Donna watched Guido’s anguish and felt she wanted to do something to cheer him up. She’d seen how Eddie had taken to asking Guido out for a beer once in a while. There was no reason why they couldn’t go out together all three of them.
“Eddie? Are you busy tonight? I thought we could take Guido out for a couple of beers.”
“That’s really nice of you. I’m sure Guido would appreciate it. But you’ll have to manage without me. I’m meeting Irena tonight.”
The shy, but pleased smile on Eddie’s face told Donna the rest. She smiled back.
“Oh. Well, in that case, I’m sure we’ll be fine on our own. Say hello to Irena for me.”
“Alright. See you tomorrow.”
After she’d picked up her jacket, she strolled over to Guido’s desk. His hands were pressed to his forehead as if he had a headache. Perhaps he wouldn’t feel up to going out.
Despite all that was weighing on his mind, Guido couldn’t help smiling when he saw Eddie’s partner standing over him. Donna really was a decent girl.
“How are you doing? Do you have a headache?”
“No. I’m fine.”
The pained look on his face belied that statement, but Donna let that go for the time being.
“I’m sorry to hear about your father.”
“I don’t know what to say. Want to go out and get plastered?”
“See. You did know exactly the right thing to say. What are we waiting for? I’ll buy the first round.”
“No, I asked you first. That means I get to buy the first round.”
“Whatever you say.”
Towards midnight, Donna had a growing conviction that it was getting a little late. And now she vaguely recalled that this was a work night. If they didn’t leave now, she didn’t know if they’d be able to get in on time the next morning. Sharon was ok, but Donna doubted she’d accept two of her officers coming in after lunch instead of in the morning.
“Look at the time. We should probably -”
Guido laughed delightedly at nothing at all. At least Donna thought so.
“Your place or mine?”
She tried to find a good answer to the question. Her place was so far away. In the outback. Did Guido really want to go there? No. He had to mean Madeleine’s place. But how could she crawl in this late and wake up her room mate? Bad idea. She didn’t want to get into a fight with Madeleine again.
“This way, sweetheart.”
“I know the way to your place, Guido.”
“Smart and beautiful. I like that. Here.”
He held out his hand and Donna saw no reason not to take it. The room was shaking a bit, so maybe there was an earthquake going on, though they hadn’t noticed it until they were trying to get up.
After some failed efforts, they finally managed to get to their feet, and by holding on to each other, they made progress towards the door. Guido’s car seemed to have driven off on its own, or he’d forgotten where he’d parked it so after some minutes of fruitless search, they found themselves sitting together in the back seat of a taxi. It seemed to take some effort, directing the taxi driver to the correct address, but eventually, Guido and Donna were standing in the street in front of Guido’s house, still leaning on each other.
“I want you to know that I think you’re really fan – fan – great. You’re great.”
“Guido, I consider you a really good mate.”
For a while, they were so touched by this insight, they nearly began to cry, but instead, they found themselves laughing again. Eventually, they also found their way up the stairs. Guido had a hard time locating his key, but that problem too, was solved, after a little search in which Donna helped out. She found the key, not in Guido’s jeans pockets, where she had made a great deal of effort looking for it, but in his jacket pocket where he’d first begun to look for it.
The door swung open and they stumbled inside. Their jackets fell to the floor right where they stood, but with that accomplished they felt they needed to get to the couch, which stood in the middle of the room. It proved possible to get there, and they fell down on to it, all tangled up in each other.
“This isn’t right.”
“Sleeping on the couch. At home, I always sleep in my bed.”
“Do you have a bed here?”
“You know, I think I might. I seem to recall getting out of one this morning. Shh. It’s late. We should sleep. Come on.”
For some reason, it never occurred to Guido or Donna that one of them might have stayed on the couch. Instead, they fell down on top of the bed. For a moment, they were too exhausted to move any further.
Then Guido began to wiggle out of his shirt. His tie kept getting in the way, so Donna helped him out of it. She couldn’t resist touching his jeans again. Very nice jeans. She had to ask him where he’d bought them. When his hands began to move towards her jeans, she found nothing odd about that. To their surprise, the jeans proved easy to get out of, relatively so anyway. Now it struck Donna as somewhat unusual to be sleeping with a shirt on. If Guido took his off, so should she. It would be impolite not to.
Once the shirt was discarded onto the floor, the rest followed soon after. It was hot in this room.
“Don’t you have air cond – air -”
Guido didn’t seem to hear her. Instead, he was staring very intently on her upper body.
“Did I ever tell you that you’re beautiful?”
“Me? No. I’m not. Guido?”
“Thanks. So are you.”
His hands began to fondle her chest and she snuggled closer. This was nice. A lot nicer than sleeping alone at Madeleine’s place. She didn’t like Madeleine, it suddenly dawned on her. Why was she staying at her place? She would like it much better here at Guido’s place instead. Yes, she should tell Guido that. In a moment. This felt so nice.
He moved closer and their lips met. She put her arms around him and pulled him closer still. After that, they didn’t feel much like talking anymore. It wasn’t long before they abandoned thinking as well.
The sun got in Donna’s eyes and she tried to move away. Her head hurt and she felt really sick. When something prevented her from moving any further, she opened her eyes. She couldn’t believe what she saw. The surroundings were unfamiliar, but the man in whose arms she was resting so comfortably was more than familiar. If only her head didn’t hurt so much.Thinking was close to impossible. But one thing was becoming more clear by the second. She shouldn’t be here. What had they done?
From what she could tell, they weren’t wearing anything. This had to be a dream. How on earth had she ended up in bed with Guido? She renewed her efforts to get free, and managed to slide out of Guido’s arms. Where were her clothes? Her host didn’t wake up. He just a made a couple of sleepy noises and rolled over on his side.
A frantic search produced her clothes, and Donna hurriedly put them on and fled. She had to get away from here.
Rather than facing Madeleine this morning, she sneaked into the locker room at work and fifteen minutes later, she emerged looking a lot more like herself again. Inside, however, she still felt terrible. She had to find a couple of aspirins or she wouldn’t get through the day.
Fortunately, she’d woken up early. By the time Eddie walked in, looking rested and content, she had had several cups of hot, strong coffee. The headache wasn’t gone but it had receded a little. Now all she had to do was find a way of facing Guido again.
Eddie smiled at her and sat down at his desk.
“How did it go last night?”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you and Guido go out?”
“Oh. Yes, we did. It was fine.”
Eddie was wondering what to make of Donna’s evasive tone. He frowned slightly but decided that Donna would tell him whatever it was when she felt like it. It was no use pushing.
When Guido walked in twenty minutes later, looking as if he hadn’t slept a wink, Eddie’s frown deepened. Donna looked away. She appeared bothered by something. Had they got into an argument? He knew Guido could be difficult when he got into one of his moods. If he had reacted that way to Donna’s kind offer, it wasn’t a very nice thing to do, to say the least. Perhaps he ought to have a word with Guido about it.
But to his amazement, Donna now got up and strode purposefully across the room to Guido’s desk. She sat down in Cameron’s empty seat and moved closer to Guido. Her voice was so low that Eddie couldn’t hear a word.
“Guido, I -”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what got into me. Please forgive me. I never meant to – take advantage of you.”
“From what little I remember, I don’t think that’s quite what happened. I did my part.”
She felt her cheeks heat up and she couldn’t help looking furtively over her shoulder towards Eddie’s desk. He was looking at her with some concern on his handsome face. How was she going to explain this to her partner and best friend?
“I’m sorry anyway.”
“It’s alright. We’re good mates. Why shouldn’t mates be able to -”
Guido looked at her and blinked. That sounded like something he might have said, if he hadn’t been determined to treat Donna fairly. On the other hand, maybe it was fair? Friends who cared about each other, might need sex. Friends who were lonely. Maybe it was ok for friends to sleep together once in a while? As long as Donna wasn’t hurt, he didn’t mind. On the contrary. What little he could remember had been absolutely marvellous.
“Alright. If you’re sure. I never meant to hurt you.”
“Don’t be silly. I’m not hurt. It was fine. In fact, it was the best -”
But she closed her mouth and looked away. Apparently, she hadn’t intended to say that. The best, eh? Guido couldn’t help smiling, even though he suspected Donna didn’t have much experience with men. That was even more reason to teach that bastard Carmody a lesson if he ever tried anything with Donna again.
“So we’re alright about this?”
“Yes. Of course. You’re fantastic. The best mate a man could have.”
“If you say so. I’m sure Eddie would be glad to hear that.”
“Eddie’s fine. But in this case – Donna, don’t be ashamed. I don’t regret it, as long as you don’t.”
“No. I don’t regret it either. I have to go. Eddie’s waiting.”
On her return, Eddie regarded her thoughtfully, but didn’t ask any questions.
That was a relief. If anyone found out about this, she didn’t know what to – The phone rang and interrupted Donna’s confused thoughts. A dead prostitute down by the docks. Another work day had begun.
After that odd incident, Eddie kept his eyes on Guido and Donna. Something was definitely going on between them. He’d never seen Guido stare at anyone that dreamily, except maybe Sophia, and he certainly hadn’t been doing that at work, where Eddie could see them. What Donna felt was less clear, but Eddie could tell that she was feeling confused and had a lot on her mind. He was wondering if it was time for him to step in and offer his advice, for what it was worth. But Donna didn’t seem to be in a talkative mood.
One night, after work, Eddie and Guido were changing clothes in the locker room. Donna walked in, and instead of apologizing and leaving again, she was caught staring at Guido’s muscular back. Neither of the men had heard her walk in, and it wasn’t until Eddie put on his jacket and turn to leave that he spotted her. She blushed furiously and was about to turn on her heel and run away.
“Hold on. It’s ok. I’m through. I think Guido’s done too. Go ahead.”
“Oh. Ok. Good night, Eddie.”
“Good night, Donna.”
He couldn’t get the look in her eyes out of his mind. She hadn’t been staring at him that way, that was clear. Her feelings for him weren’t like that, he’d known that for a long time. But Guido? How had that happened? Who would have thought anything like that was possible? But he was already late for a meeting with Irena, so he put Donna and Guido out of his mind for the time being.
“I was heading out for a drink. Want to come?”
Her first impulse was to refuse. What had happened that night had been a mistake. They couldn’t – But she felt lonely. Madeleine wasn’t good company for her, even when she had time, and Eddie was too busy with Irena. Who else was there? Guido was a really nice man and besides –
“Alright. Just one beer. I should be getting back early.”
“Fine. Me too, really.”
This time, she took great care not to get drunk, even if the one drink turned into three or four. Guido seemed unusually subdued. All his crazy jokes seemed to have dried out.
“Would you like to share a taxi?”
In the back seat of the taxi, the ended up sitting far too close. Their fingers touched and neither one of them wanted to pull away. At Madeleine’s address, the driver stopped, but Donna didn’t get out.
“What’s it going to be, miss?”
“This is where you said you wanted to get off.”
“Make up your mind, will you? I haven’t got all night.”
“That’s it. I’m off. Your address, sir?”
Guido repeated his address, but he knew that the driver had heard him the first time. He was feeling expectant and excited. Donna hadn’t said a word.
They sat down on his couch just like the other night, and Donna fidgeted about nervously. Guido didn’t try to move any closer. She had to make up her own mind. He’d never push her. Despite that, there was a part of him that had a really hard time forgetting how it had felt to hold her in his arms. Her hair, her strong arms, the endearingly solemn look on her face when they’d kissed –
“I can’t stay for long.”
“Alright. Would you like another beer?”
“No, thanks. I mean, yes. No.”
“Yes or no? Maybe you’d like something to eat instead? We haven’t had dinner.”
“Dinner. Yes. That would be nice.”
“I’m not much of a cook.”
“I could fix us something.”
She sounded more relaxed as if making plans for dinner had provided a distraction. Neither one of them gave any thought to the fact that it was close to 11. It turned out Donna’s cooking didn’t extend any further than fried eggs on toast. But Guido thought it tasted just fine. Better than any pizza or Chinese he’d ever had.
Guido wasn’t as drunk as the last time. He was determined not to do anything they’d regret the following morning. If Donna wanted to stay, he’d sleep on the couch. He wanted her to stay, even if they didn’t end up in the same bed. It was getting hard to remember how much he’d loved Sophia not so long ago. Her image in his mind was being replaced by a much more down-to-earth and certainly more honest and straightforward girl.
Donna got up gracelessly and pushed back her chair. Guido got up too, sensing that he’d be walking her to the door. But once their eyes met, Donna couldn’t move. He found he couldn’t either. The next move was hers. If he touched her, he knew he’d be lost again.
When Donna moved again, it wasn’t in the direction of the front door. Suddenly, she was in his arms again. Guido closed his eyes and waited. Her hair smelt wonderfully clean and – But it wasn’t her hair that made his eyes open again, it was the lips that touched his.
The following morning, they woke up together. To Guido’s relief, Donna smiled shyly at him. She made no attempt to run and they ended up having breakfast before getting back to work.
This time, Eddie couldn’t miss the fact that they arrived at the exact same time. He couldn’t be wrong about this. They must have spent the night together, and probably not at Madeleine’s place either. So that was it? No quarrel. Eddie wasn’t sure how he felt about this new development.
When it came to his new partner Eddie felt decidedly protective . If Guido ended up hurting her just like Carmody – It was definitely time to have a chat with Guido. But first, he’d need to sound Donna out. If she was alright about this, then maybe what was going on was a good idea. If not –
“Good morning, Eddie.”
“Did you sleep well?”
“Yes. Fine. What about you?”
“Yes, I’m alright. Good.”
“Good. Shall we get started?”
It couldn’t be her imagination. Eddie was getting suspicious. This was exactly what she’d feared all along. How could she explain what was happening between her and Guido when she still hadn’t figured out exactly what it was?
“Want a cup of coffee?”
“Thanks. That would be great.”
Eddie used the opportunity to go over and see if Guido was in a more talkative mood.
“Did you have a nice evening out with Donna?”
Guido shot Eddie a shrewd glance. So that was it. Eddie had suspected something was going on between them and now he wanted to know his intentions.
“Yes, it was alright. How did you know we were going out? We didn’t even decide until you’d gone.”
“Just a lucky guess.”
“Really? Anything else you’d like to know?”
“Guido, are you and Donna -”
“Good mates? Yeah. You knew that already. What are you really asking about?”
“I think you know.”
“I see. Right. Maybe you should ask Donna.”
“I’m asking you.”
“If something was going on, what’s it to you?”
“I’m Donna’s partner. After what happened with Carmody -”
“I’m not Carmody.”
Eddie looked searchingly at Guido. No. Guido wasn’t anything like Carmody. He had his own set of quirks and oddities, but he was a good bloke at heart.
“I know you’re not. But you do know Donna’s very -”
Eddie didn’t know how to say this without betraying anything about Donna that Guido might not know about.
“I’d never hurt her. You should know that.”
“You’re right. Alright. I guess I’ll have to trust you.”
“I hope so.”
“Sorry, mate. But you know how it is with partners. They’re like your own family.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. Except in my case, if I’m out of luck my partner might become my family.”
“I’m really sorry about that, Guido.”
“Yeah, well, that makes two of us. That coffee is probably ruined by now.”
“Oh. Sorry. I’ll make us a new -”
“Never mind. I have to go. Sharon’s waving impatiently at me. See you later, mate.”
As usual, nothing escaped Sharon’s watchful eyes. Something was going on between Guido and Donna. That might not be anything she needed to worry about, but worry she did anyway. Right now, Guido was emotionally vulnerable.
At first glance, Donna seemed more stable, but Sharon had a feeling Detective Senior Constable Donna Parry was far less experienced when it came to men, than for instance her colleague Cameron Smart.
The minor drama playing itself out between Justin Carmody and Donna hadn’t escaped Sharon’s notice. She wasn’t Donna’s mother but she’d keep an eye on Carmody anyway. As a woman if not as a commanding officer, she resented Carmody’s behaviour.
Donna was quite observant too and now it had dawned on her that she was most likely the topic of conversation between Eddie and Guido this morning.
How typical of men. They had to discuss her as if she wasn’t even in the room. What was she to them anyway? Some pawn they could trade back and forth between them? If her partner gave his permission, Guido might be allowed to play with her for a while.
Her temper was up and nothing was going to stop her from giving Eddie a piece of her mind. When Guido got back –
“What were you talking about?”
“You and Guido, of course. Were you talking about me?”
“We were talking about Guido’s father and this absurd thing with Cameron.”
“So you weren’t talking about me at all?”
“Your name came up, yes.”
“How dare you, Eddie Mercia? Am I your possession? Do I need your permission to sleep with someone”
“Donna, please. I just wanted to make sure he didn’t hurt you like that idiot Carmody.”
“I can take care of myself, thank you very much. I’m not a child.”
“I know that, Donna. Forgive me. I shouldn’t have interfered.”
“No, you shouldn’t have. Excuse me.”
Donna stalked off in the direction of the ladies’ toilets. She was gone such a long time, Eddie was beginning to fear she was crying. Or that she and Guido had been drinking late into the night before – But eventually, she returned, looking slightly less furious. They got back to work, and by early afternoon it was almost as if the argument hadn’t taken place.
It wasn’t until then, that Sharon and Guido got back. Guido looked longingly in the direction of Donna, hoping they could go out to lunch together. He was missing her already. Instead, Donna walked up to him, her eyes black with rage. He’d never seen her this angry. What had he done wrong?
“Can we go somewhere and talk, Guido?”
“Alright. Donna, what’s wrong?
“I heard you and Eddie were discussing me.”
“Did he give you his gracious permission? His blessing?”
“Donna, he just wanted to make sure you were alright. I told him to ask you -”
“You seem to think that I’m such an innocent little girl from the outback I can’t take care of myself here in the big smoke.”
“That’s not -”
“You should know by now that I can take care of myself. And if there’s anything I hate more than anything else it’s this understanding you have.”
“You men. It’s always about you, isn’t it? And we poor little women are just playthings for you. Don’t touch my girl. Alright. She’s yours. Is that it?”
“No, Donna, that’s not it. I’m sorry if you feel offended by Eddie’s concern, but we didn’t mean to insult you. Honestly. Donna, please.”
“You know what? Maybe all this was a mistake. I should never have -”
And to Guido’s alarm, Donna’s eyes were now filling up with tears. It was a little hard to tell, because she turned on her heel and stalked out of the room so fast, but he definitely sensed that she was upset.
How had he stumbled into that trap? He’d been so happy about what had happened between them, and now it looked as if Donna had regretted the whole thing. He really didn’t understand women. For a while, he’d thought he was getting there, but now he felt more lost than ever.
He hadn’t even noticed how Sharon had approached silently.
“How about some lunch?”
“You mean you and me?”
With an effort, he pulled his mind away from the situation with Donna. There was nothing he could do about it anyway, at least not right now.
“If you don’t mind.”
He knew what she was trying to do, of course, and it was really nice of her. But right now, he didn’t really feel like having lunch with anyone, not even Sharon. On the other hand, she was his commanding officer. Oh, what the heck? It would be great to get out of this stuffy place for a while.
“Alright. My treat.”
“Alright. This will be a first.”
“Us having lunch together just the two of us? I know. Should be interesting.”
“I meant letting a lady pay for me.”
“I see. I hope it won’t be too painful.”
“Nah. Like you said, interesting’s the word. I’ll try anything once.”
“Now that sounds really interesting. You’ll have to tell me all about it over lunch.”
Guido couldn’t help laughing. He’d never known Sharon to be quite so – cool. This might be fun, despite everything. So he left with his boss, feeling slightly less gloomy.
He was right. They did have fun and when they got back to work, Guido was definitely feeling a little better. Perhaps when Donna had time to think things through, she might simmer down a bit. If she didn’t, he knew he’d miss her terribly. There was something about her that he just couldn’t get out of his mind.
Sharon insisted that they continue following up leads outside the office. Guido knew this was most likely so he wouldn’t run into Donna again, but he had no objections for the time being. Seeing Donna again when she was still in a bad mood, wouldn’t do any good.
After a few hours of interviews and tedious leg work, Sharon ordered Guido to go home and get some rest.
“You can type out the report in the morning. See you then.”
“Yep, boss. Will do.”
She smiled at his playful salute, and watched him go off in search of his car. The smile faded a little. If only she could catch Donna before she left for home, she might be able to straighten out this little drama before it reached such proportions she didn’t have any officers left.
It turned out she was just in time. Mercia was nowhere in sight, so obviously he’d had time to get going. But Parry was still pushing her paperwork around her desk. She didn’t seem at all her usual self.
Sharon took a deep breath and walked over. At times it felt more as if she was the mother of her team, or perhaps the matron of some school. There was always some social problems to deal with. But a team was only as good as its team work. It paid to keep things running smoothly.
“Hello, Donna. Still here?”
“Oh. Yes. I just thought I’d take the time to finish some reports.”
“Let me see those. Hm. Just as I thought. Those will keep until tomorrow. Let’s go and have a beer.”
“No reason. I just thought you and I could go and have a beer or something and talk. If you don’t have any plans for tonight”
“No, but -”
Donna shook her head as if she was a little confused.
“Excellent. See you downstairs in five minutes?”
They went to one of Sharon’s favorite places. She’d been going there since she was Donna’s age, off and on, depending on her mood. After a case that had ended badly, she preferred another place, but whenever she wanted to relax she chose this place. It seemed Donna hadn’t been there yet, so it was about time. Sharon felt sure Donna would like it there.
They got their beers, then went looking for a table. Though it was a popular place, it was never as crowded as most of the other bars where cops liked to unwind in the evenings.
Sharon gave Donna a searching look over, before she continued. Yes, just as she’d imagined. Donna seemed to be feeling a little down.
“What’s the problem?”
“Yes, with you and Guido.”
Donna blushed. Was there anything that her boss missed?
“He and Eddie were talking about me. I suppose Guido had to get his permission first.”
Sharon laughed. Donna stared, but after a moment, she began to relax. This wasn’t her boss, after all. Not at the moment. Sharon was another woman, and though she had a higher rank, she was also a police officer. If anyone could relate to her situation, it was Sharon Kostas.
“How typical. I’ve seen that happen so many times. But you know, they mean well. Guido’s an idiot but he’s alright.”
“I know. It just felt so humiliating being discussed like that as if I had no say in anything.”
“I understand. Believe me, I’ve been there. If anything, it was worse when I was your age.”
“Oh. I suppose it must have been. Never thought about it.”
“If you and Guido get along, do you really think this is enough to send him packing?”
Donna hesitated. She didn’t like being told what to do, even by Sharon, but there was no denying that her boss had a point. Guido was great. And she hadn’t been seeing anyone, unless she counted Justin, since she came to the city. By comparison, Guido was Prince Charming, just as Justin had turned out to be a real frog. That wasn’t reason enough to continue what had begun just as a drunken misunderstanding.
But she liked Guido. He was a really good man. Just like Eddie, he could be trusted one hundred percent. If she’d ever tried to imagine a man she might go out with and have a relationship with, it would be someone just like Guido. So why look any further? He wasn’t even her partner, even if they did belong to the same team.
“You’re right. I suppose I was being too hard on him. On both of them. When Eddie -”
Sharon looked at Donna attentively. What had Eddie done that she was unaware of?
“He made a mistake about something. I didn’t hesitate to tell him what I thought about it.
There was no way she was going to tell Sharon about the night Eddie had spent with Madeleine, despite being committed to Irena. Irena was a good person, and she definitely didn’t deserve being cheated on. And Donna thought she knew Eddie well enough to know that once he’d started thinking again, properly, he’d regret what he’d done.
“You see. That’s what partners are for. You watch out for each other.”
Sharon realized she wasn’t going to learn whatever it was that Eddie had done, but at least Donna was reconsidering. Guido deserved a break. So did Donna. It couldn’t happen to any nicer people, in Sharon’s opinion. Well, Eddie and Irena too.
They continued talking for some time more and even ordered another beer, but Sharon could tell that she’d given Donna food for thought and she saw no reason to keep her husband and family waiting any longer. It was late enough as it was. She didn’t want her marriage to be the next cop’s marriage to fail. Not if she could help it.
Sharon’s input had certainly set Donna’s mind racing. She suddenly realized that she didn’t want to let Guido get away. Not when she’d finally found a good guy she could trust. She was only sorry she hadn’t ended up with him in the first place, instead of with Justin. But there was no point in beating herself up over past mistakes. Done was done. She’d found Guido now, that would have to be enough.
As soon as she’d seen Sharon take off, she hailed a taxi and gave the driver Guido’s address. If only she hadn’t pushed him away for good with her temper. Tomorrow, she’d apologize to Eddie as well. He was a good guy too and if he kept an eye out for her best interests, that was just because he cared about her.
Outside Guido’s place she stopped and hesitated. Was it such a good idea to just barge in like this after having told him off so severely? But she realized that if she didn’t talk to him right away, she couldn’t be sure she’d ever do it. And she knew now, that she didn’t want to lose him. So she squared her shoulders and rang the doorbell and waited anxiously. It was perfectly possible that Guido wouldn’t even be in. He might be out drinking or he might simply not want to see her again. It was a risk she had to take.
But it wasn’t long before she heard footsteps and the lock clicked and the door swung open.
She looked at him hopefully, wondering if she’d be welcome. His face expressed surprise, then a wide grin spread slowly across his friendly features.
“Donna. Come on in. I’m really sorry about this morning. I didn’t mean to -”
“I know. I’m the one who should apologize. You didn’t deserve that lecture. I know you and Eddie care about me.”
“Yes, we do. I just didn’t realize how much I cared about you, until the other night. Donna, I want you to know that it wasn’t just – you know.”
“Of course. The last time, you didn’t -”
“Ah, yes, that time. I just didn’t feel that you knew what you were doing. This time it was different. I didn’t know either.”
Donna opened her mouth to ask what the blazes he meant by that ambiguous remark, when Guido interrupted her.
“Fortunately, I thought about it all day, while I was trying to get some work done and I realized that it was a great idea. Why haven’t we thought of this before?”
He moved closer and pulled her into his arms. Donna relaxed. Yes, he was right. This was beginning to seem like a really great idea. It kept getting better, especially now that Guido had stopped talking and was putting his lips to better use.
Just as they sank down on his bed, Donna remembered that she hadn’t asked Guido about moving in with him. Madeleine’s place was beginning to feel less and less appealing by the second. If Guido didn’t fancy a room mate, the least he could do was help her hunt for her own place. Yes, she’d talk to him about that in the morning. Tonight, they had other things on their minds.