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Some Kind of Mastermind

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Sharon bit into the fruit, relishing the refreshing coolness of the watermelon on this dry, hot day. She propped her denim-clad hip against a picnic table as she indulged in this beloved summer treat, droplets of juice rolling down her fingers. As a child, she had been especially anal about licking her fingers clean between each bite, but she could not be bothered as her teeth tore into the fruit. It was hot and she was hungry.

The annual LAPD Staff Appreciation Picnic was in full swing, and the park was teeming with people. Sharon scanned the crowd, immediately locating the Major Crimes team holding court by the table of assorted chips, pretzels, and crackers. She waved hello at them and issued several banal greetings to former FID coworkers before dropping the rind of the watermelon into the garbage and licking the sticky juice from her fingers.

As her lips closed around the pad of her thumb, Sharon had the distinct feeling that she was being watched. She looked around, glancing at unfamiliar faces before her eyes recognized the woman standing on the outskirts of the field, her face nearly hidden beneath the wide brim of a hat. Sharon immediately took a deep breath and schooled her features into remaining unchanged, exhibiting some modicum of control over the way she responded whenever she got a look at Brenda Leigh Johnson.

The blonde headed in her direction, and Sharon’s heart began beating more quickly. How long had it been since she had seen the other woman? Days? Weeks? She hadn’t really expected to see the former deputy chief, though on some masochistic level she had hoped that Brenda would accompany her husband to the picnic. She was sure that Brenda had never attended one of these events; Sharon had been to them all, every hot, humid year, and never had she seen the other woman. Not that she had been looking for her, of course.

As the blonde drew closer, Sharon could not help but notice the glare in her narrowed brown eyes. The obvious displeasure radiated off the smaller woman in waves, and Sharon nearly laughed as her trepidation mingled with arousal whenever Brenda looked at her that way. This, at least, was familiar -- it was the very foundation of their relationship.

Sharon gave a sweet, friendly smile, slipping her hands into the pockets of her jeans. “Brenda Leigh,” she said. “This is a surprise.”

Brenda huffed, cocking her hands on her hips. The inexorable hardness in her features spoke volumes as her eyes darted around them, wary of eavesdroppers. “You haven’t been returnin’ my calls.”

“It’s been a busy few weeks.”

Brenda’s pursed her lips. “Could we talk somewhere more...private?”

“We’re in a public park. I’m not sure that privacy is really an option right now,” Sharon replied, knowing that Brenda’s husband was around somewhere nearby. Sharon hadn’t spotted him yet, and that made her nervous. She felt as though she were in a fishbowl, at the mercy of whatever whim Brenda had followed in tracking her down at the company picnic.

Some mastermind Brenda was.

“Please?” Brenda asked, softly this time, tilting her head like an imploring puppy. “I need to talk to you.”

“Then let’s talk, Brenda. This is as private as we’re going to get, I’m afraid.”

Brenda pursed her lips, scanning the crowds scattered throughout the field, and huffed an impatient sigh. “Fine.”

Sharon blinked, waiting, before gesturing with her hands for Brenda to say what she needed to say. “Well?” She wasn’t sure if she wanted to kiss Brenda on the mouth or walk away in frustration at the way the other woman twisted her wide, pink lips in contemplation. “Brenda, what is it?”

“Will you go out with me?” Brenda blurted quietly. She kept her eyes fixed over Sharon’s shoulder, no doubt making sure that her husband was not within earshot.

Sharon opened her mouth and then promptly closed it. “I’m sorry -- what?” She tucked an errant strand of dark hair behind her ear and adjusted her glasses.

“Like, on a date. You an’ me.”

Sharon felt her head swim as the same time her stomach clenched in impending anticipation. “Brenda, you’re married.”

“We separated.”

“I see.” Sharon cleared her throat, suddenly more aware of the looming presence of Brenda’s husband. “I thought you didn’t like me.”

Brenda shrugged. “I thought I didn’t like you either, but then Fritzi and I split up and I couldn’t get you off my mind.” The blonde took a deep breath and hoisted her oversized purse further up on her shoulder. “Oh, just tell me this is a terrible idea so I can get out of here with some of my dignity still intact.”

Sharon nodded. “You’re right -- it may very well be a bad idea.”

“Right. That’s what I--”

“But I accept your invitation.”

“--thought. What?”

“I’ll go on a date with you.”

“You will?” Brenda narrowed her eyes skeptically. “Why?”

Sharon rolled her eyes. “Because I like you for some reason.”

“Oh. Well. All right then. I’ll call you, but you gotta answer.”

“I promise I will answer when you call.”

Brenda scanned the crowd once more, and then nodded. She looked relieved. She smiled. “I’ll see you soon then.”

Sharon smiled back. “Yes, you will.”

Brenda turned then, leaving Sharon more than a little flummoxed and inordinately pleased. As she made her way back toward the table of fruit, casseroles, and burgers in search of another piece of watermelon, she could feel her phone buzz in her pocket.

Brenda was calling. Sharon looked through the crowd, certain that she’d find the other woman sitting in her car, or hiding behind a tree. “Hello?”

“How ‘bout tonight?”

Sharon smirked. “My my, aren’t we impatient?”

“You could say that.”

“All right. Tonight.”

“Great. I’ll pick you up at seven.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

Sharon ended the call, sliding it into her back pocket. She grinned.

Brenda was some kind of mastermind, after all.

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