“Idiots. Any first-year medical student could have discerned there was nothing normal about these blood cells.” Beatrice straightened from the microscope, shaking her head.
“Talking to yourself, Doc?”
She spun around and banged her hip on the edge of the lab table. “Ouch!”
An empty beaker teetered and toppled over the edge. Before she could react, Mathias darted across the room and caught it inches from the floor.
Good grief, he’s fast.
He straightened and set it with some others toward the back of the table. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. Are you okay?”
“I was just … you don’t have to … I’m fine.” She turned and started lining up the Erlenmeyer flasks by size, smallest to largest.
She was an intelligent, well-respected forensic pathologist who could stand in front of a banquet room full of colleagues, many of whom were much older than she, and speak with no problem. Yet, even after spending almost every day together for the past few months, she still tripped over her tongue and turned into a bungling idiot when she was in the vicinity of this particular man. You’d think she’d be over that by now. There was no scientific basis for it, which frustrated her immensely.
“Everything okay?” He stepped closer.
“Why do you ask?” She forced herself to look at him. Not that it was any great hardship.
“You mentioned something about idiots?” He picked up an unused flask at the far end of the table and handed it to her.
Her shoulders relaxed and she set the glass container with the other ones. Science was her comfort zone, she could talk about it all day, every day. Beatrice had the fanciful thought that he had figured that out about her and that’s why he asked what he did. See? Fanciful.
“I was referring to the incompetent ignoramuses who screwed up the DNA test during the recent serial killer investigation. Since it’s been my experience that labs don’t just make one mistake, they make multiple mistakes, I decided to do a random assessment of a handful of their past cases. In between working on the evidence from our current investigations, of course.” She flipped the file shut, added it to the stack, and flattened her hand on top. “My very preliminary review of their files has shown that the mistakes made in our case were merely the tip of the iceberg relevant to the number of deficiencies within that laboratory. If they haven’t already been, they need to be shut down immediately.” Beatrice had zero tolerance for careless lab work.
Mathias leaned a hip against the edge of the table. “If that happens, all their previous findings and any cases they’ve been involved with could come under scrutiny. Quite possibly overturning past convictions.”
“As they should. Innocent people could be sitting in prison due to their malfeasance.” She turned to scowl at him. “You cannot possibly find that acceptable, can you?”
“Relax, Beatrice. If that happens, they should be held accountable.” The corners of his lips rose in a full smile that made his eyes twinkle.
“Why are you smiling? This is very serious.” She shoved her hands in her lab coat pockets.
“You’re gorgeous when you’re angry.”
“What? I’m … That’s … well, that’s ridiculous.” Her cheeks heated.
“And you get this little crease, right here.” He reached up and pointed between her brows.
“Was there a reason you came in here?” Beatrice winced, realizing how harsh that sounded the second it left her mouth. She really needed to work on her human-to-human communication skills.
“Have you eaten lunch yet?” He crossed his arms, not the least bit put off by her tone.
“No, not yet.” She turned, pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose, grabbed another case file from the incompetent lab and flipped it open.
He glanced at the clock on the far wall and straightened. “It’s quarter after two.”
“Uh huh.” Her eyes scanned down the page and she found another major mistake. “Morons.” She grumbled, shook her head and dragged a bright pink highlighter across the page.
“Come on, Doc.” All in one swift movement, his left hand shut the file, his right snatched the pen from her grip, snapped the cap on, and held it high above her head.
“What are you—” Beatrice reached for the pen and they came chest to chest. Her breath halted and she gulped. Her eyes slowly journeyed from his large hand, down the length of his long, powerful arm, across his well-developed shoulder, upward to a powerful jaw, until her gaze connected with his cobalt blue eyes. At which point, her brain summarily short-circuited.
His chin dipped downward. “I have been tasked with making sure you have everything you need. And what you need right now is food.” His voice was low and a bit gravelly as he tucked the pen in his back pocket.
She glanced quickly toward where he’d stuffed it in his pocket and chewed her lip.
One of his dark brows lifted in challenge. “I dare you, Doc.”
Lascivious thoughts teased her, but she quickly dashed them away and reminded herself she was a professional. Besides, she would probably vaporize instantly if her fingers actually ever came into contact with his extremely well-developed gluteus maximus.
Due to his role as her babysitter, they had spent a great deal of time together. She’d discovered he was intelligent and deep-thinking and had an introspective air of calm and quietude that always seemed to hover around him. Unlike Killian, who excelled at being outrageous, but in a harmless, cheeky sort of way. There were also fleeting moments when she noted a haunted look in his eyes.
Did a small, hugely unfamiliar part of her wish he spent time with her because he wanted to and not because he was instructed to? Absolutely. Would she ever admit those perplexing feelings to another living soul? Not in a million years. Besides, she was here to do a job, not get involved with a co-worker. An embarrassing lesson she’d learned the hard way.