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Dennis finds a new older lover.
We ambled about the store, engaging in small talk-which I enjoyed. He regaled me with the details from his day; he gave a few speeding tickets, chased some truant minors out of the mall, and followed some case leads. Holden seemed genuinely interested in my day, as he always had. He asked questions about my students and how classes were fairing; all the while, I was eyeing the ingredients he threw into the cart in my attempt to guess what he planned to prepare. When we arrived to his house, I still hadn't come up with a recipe that could involve what he had purchased.
"Come on! You have to give me some sort of hint," I whined as I leaned over the counter to look into the pots and pans bubbling on the stove.
"I sure don't. I'm the chef here. Just sit back and relax."
It wasn't a hard command to follow. Everything in Holden's house screamed comfort-the poufy, gray couch; the matching recliner...even the color scheme relaxed me. The pale blue, gray, and cream brought me back to the time I went out east to the ocean-with David. The ocean was beautiful; my company was not. My time apart from David aided me in seeing the truth in that statement, among other things.
Being separated from David was like taking a step back from a masterpiece at an art gallery to look at the entire picture. When looking at certain details, it's easy to miss the overall message-David and I were not compatible. We were not made for each other, and our marriage would have been miserable.
I fought for David during the last two years of our relationship when things went south, but I should have heeded the warning signs. I should have listened to Lara. I should have believed more in myself.
"What's going on in that head of yours?" Holden asked, setting a plate in front of me.
"You lie like a child that's already been caught with their hand caught in the cookie jar."
I laughed. "An interesting analogy."
"An interesting evasive tactic."
"I don't see it as fair that you know so much about me, but I know very little about you."
He smirked. "All right, fine. We'll play your game. What do you want to know?"
"A last name would be nice, for starters."
"Holden Dillingham, Bloomington PD. How official. How did you get into the force?"
"I always wanted to be a cop. I like helping the good citizens of Bloomington, Illinois. Fighting crime is my thing. Protect and serve."
"Do you joke all the time? It's like you have a permanent smirk on your face."
"I do joke a lot. It runs in the family, actually. I can be serious when the time calls for it, but I doubt we have to break out the frowns right now. Unless you're going to disappear into your thoughts again."
"Were you thinking about him?"
I sighed. "Was it that obvious?"
"The frown you wore was the same as every other time you talked about the Ring Giver. I'm glad you took that ring off if he made you that unhappy."
"It was more than just a removal of jewelry." I picked up my fork and took a bite of the food Holden prepared. It made my mouth water. "God! Who knew meatballs could be this good? What all did you put in this?"
"It's a secret," he grinned.
"One that you'll take to the grave?"
"Only people in my family know it, so yes. It'll be tucked into the breast pocket of my death suit."
"I could tug it out, you know."
"You'd fondle a dead guy just to nab a recipe? Have you no shame?" he made a face of mock horror.
"It wouldn't be fondling. I would be quick. In and out."
"I somehow doubt that," he said, a familiar glint in his eyes. It was the same look he gave when we discussed his handcuffs; and it still made my blood boil and my stomach clench.
We finished dinner and continued to poke at each other. Holden took our plates to the sink, rinsed them, and turned to face me. "Dessert?"
"Are you going to whip something else up, Chef Boyardee?"
He laughed. "Do you have a nickname for everything I do? Magnum, Sherlock, and now this?" He brought a cheesecake out of the refrigerator and set it on the table.
"You made th