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They collapsed, side by side, onto her mattress, their breath coming in short pants, their skin glistening under a sheen of sweat. She turned to look at him and he reached for her, pulling her into his arms, dropping kisses on her temple and her eyebrow. 

She allowed herself to be held for a few moments, enjoying the warmth of his embrace. Then she pulled back and raised her gaze to his.

“You said you wouldn’t do this again.”

He sighed. “Miranda, I –“

“I know.” She put her hand flat on his chest, above his heart, and curled into his side. “But you need to start being honest. With yourself first, then with her.”

She felt his arm tighten around her. “I know.”

She lifted her head so she could see her clock. “We need to get moving. Ines will be wondering what’s happened to us. We were only supposed to be picking up a witness statement. She’s already getting suspicious.”

Max clasped his hands behind his head and watched as she sat up and started for the shower. “I didn’t expect this to happen again today,” he said. “Genuinely.”

She paused and looked at him. “I know you didn’t plan it, exactly. But don’t act like it’s a surprise, either. It’s happened every day for a week, now. Sometimes more than every day, if we’re counting. Why is that, do you think?”

Max wiped a hand down his face. “I can’t. It’ll crush her.”

“She’s a big girl. Do it nicely. This is worse.”

“I still care about her, you know.”

She sighed. “I do know. But don’t pretend you don’t want me. I didn’t have to drag you here.” She thought back, picturing Max driving back them to the station after getting the witness statement, her finger trailing lightly from his knee to his thigh. He’d stopped at lights and she’d leaned close to him, whispering into his ear, “Diversion?” and he’d immediately turned the car around and driven to her flat, fast, silent all the way. She definitely hadn’t dragged him here.

“We could stop,” he said.

She looked at him. “Could we? I don’t think so. Nor do you. Call her.” She disappeared down the stairs to the bathroom, leaving him in her bed, again.

--

Call your girlfriend
It's time you had the talk
Give your reasons
Say it's not her fault
But you just met somebody new

--

They made it back to the station without any more complicated conversations. Ines looked at her watch as they walked in. “Took longer than expected,” said Max.

“Long story,” added Miranda. Ines raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Miranda stared at the wall.

The good thing about being back in the station was that they were forced to act normal, and by acting it, they became it, or close to. By the end of the afternoon they’d wrapped up the paperwork on the case with the witness statement and were prioritising their actions on their other open cases. By about 4.30, Max slumped down in his chair and sent Miranda a puppy-dog look. “It’s Friday. Can we call it a day now?” Miranda looked at the pile of paperwork still on her desk. “Pleeeease?”

“Oh, fine.” Max grinned and swept his open files into a drawer. He was shrugging into his jacket as he paused and looked at her.

“So, um. I’ll see you on Monday?”

Miranda stared at him coolly for a moment. “Monday. Yes.”

Max took a breath and opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He picked up his bag and walked across to the door, turning back towards her as he reached it. “Have a good weekend.”

“You too.” Miranda watched as Max walked through the door, her eyes closing slowly as he moved out of site. She allowed herself a moment then gave herself a shake and started working her way through the last of the files on her desk.

--

She was drifting off to sleep when she heard the banging. She’d had a normal Saturday, doing her laundry, going for a run, catching up with friends in England and Wales, cooking a meal that was far too elaborate for one. It was good to be busy though. She welcomed the distraction.

It took a moment to work out where the banging was coming from. Then she gave a small smile and pushed off the covers, making her way to the front door. She opened it and Max pushed his way in without speaking. “Did you forget something?” She closed the door behind him and watched as he paced to and fro in her small sitting room.

She climbed the few stairs and stood facing him. He finally stopped pacing and turned towards her. “We need to talk.”

She walked closer to him. “I don’t think you came here to talk.”

“Miranda –“

She put a finger to his lips. His eyes pleaded with her, but she ignored him and moved closer. “I think you came here for this.” She curled her hand around the back of his neck and pulled him down to her, and as their lips met his resistance crumbled. She could feel the heat rise in him, his hands on her body, his kisses growing urgent on her lips and her neck. She took a step back and turned, walking up the stairs, confident he’d follow.

--

She fell onto his chest, pulling breath into her lungs, feeling aftershocks trembling through her body. His arms wrapped around her, his own breathing coming in deep gasps as he pressed kisses onto her crown. As she came back to earth she rolled off him and settled into his side, her head against his shoulder, her arm lying across his chest, fingers tracing circles against his skin.

“I thought you’d be busy tonight,” she said.

He stared up at the ceiling. “Carmen is seeing her sister,” he said. “I had planned to spend the evening sorting a few things out. But…”

“But you thought you’d get your leg over here instead.”

“Miranda.”

“Don’t ‘Miranda’ me, Max.” She lifted her head so she could look him in the eye. “Look at it from my point of view. I don’t know what’s going on here. I just know that you seem quite happy to string me along while keeping Carmen happy at home.”

“It’s not like that.”

Carmen sighed and settled back into the crook of Max’s shoulder. “I suppose not. But it would be good to know what it is like. You know, when you’ve worked it out.”

She felt Max’s arms tightened around her for a moment. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt you. But I don’t want to hurt her either.”

“There are only two options, Max. Either you tell her, or we stop whatever this is and go back to what we were before. And you tried that and it didn’t work.”

“I can’t tell her. I just…”

“Ssh.” She planted a kiss on his chest. “Let’s not argue. Is she expecting you back tonight?”

“No, she’s staying over with her sister.”

Miranda swallowed. “Stay here?”

Max turned to her. “I’ll have to leave early.”

“S’okay. It would still be nice to wake up with you.”

“That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

“Don’t get used to it,” she mumbled, curving into him, her eyelids closing and sleep beginning to overtake her.

--

Tell her not to get upset
Second-guessing everything you said and done
And then when she gets upset
Tell her how you never meant to hurt no one
Then you tell her that the only way her heart will mend
Is when she learns to love again
And it won't make sense right now but you're still her friend
And then you let her down easy

--

She woke early, Max’s body warm against hers, his arm around her waist, and she turned towards him and pressed a kiss into the curve of his neck. His arm tightened around her and his eyes flickered open. “Morning, princess.”

She smiled and crawled onto all fours above him. “Still early,” she said, lowering her head to brush her lips against his. “Enough time for you to say good morning to me properly.”

He growled and pulled her down to him, then flipped them over. “Good morning,” he said, nuzzling into her neck. “Properly.”

She smiled and curled her hand into his hair. “You can do better than that.”

“What about this?” His lips trailed down her body, a blaze of fire across her skin, driving all conscious thought from her mind and leaving her weak.

--

She was bustling around in the kitchen when he came out of the shower, a towel wrapped around his hips. “Coffee? Toast?”

He looked at her regretfully. “I need to make a move.”

She paused. “Of course. She’ll be wondering where you are.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know you are. Me too.” He nodded and headed upstairs to get dressed. She leaned against a cabinet and rubbed a finger between her eyebrows.

He was down again in a moment, his damp hair curling around his head and his shirt open low at the collar. Her stomach clenched. The urge to touch him was strong and alarming and it took all her strength to keep her arms at her sides. “See you tomorrow,” she said instead.

Max gave a small nod. He took a pace towards her but she straightened against the cabinet and he stopped. “Tomorrow.”

He was at her front door when she said, “Talk to her.” He paused, his hand on the door, then kept walking through, closing it gently behind him.

--

Call your girlfriend
It's time you had the talk
Give your reasons
Say it's not her fault
But you just met somebody new

--

When Miranda arrived at the station on Monday morning, Ines called her into her office. “I’ve sent Max over to Cala Millor to help the team looking into the tourist thefts.”

“Oh. But that’s on the other side of the island.”

“Indeed. You can stay here and work with Andros on the market licences.”

“What? You can’t do that.”

“I can and I have.” Ines looked at Miranda. “It might be a good idea for you and Max to work separately for a while.”

“Our cases –“

“Reassigned.”

“But –“

“No buts, Miranda. Andros is expecting you.”

Ines flapped her hand, dismissing her. Miranda turned and walked out, rubbing a hand across her eyebrow.

--

From: Max Winter

   how are the market licences?

From: Miranda Blake

   Ines hates me

From: Max Winter

   maybe she thinks shes doing u a favor

From: Miranda Blake

   She said we should work separately for a while. I think she knows.

From: Max Winter

   im glad she knows. i dont

Miranda sighed. That made two of them.

From: Miranda Blake

   Bye Max

From:  Miranda Blake

   X

From: Max Winter

   […typing…]

From: Max Winter

   […typing…]

From: Max Winter

   […typing…]

From: Max Winter

   x

--

Tuesday and Wednesday passed the same way as Monday. Miranda pushed her way through, trying not to think about what Max would be doing in Cala Millor in the daytime or with Carmen at night. Jealousy was a destructive emotion, she knew that, but she couldn’t seem to stop the twist of pain in her stomach every time she allowed herself to dwell on her partner.

She knew what she wanted from Max and it was frustrating that she couldn’t just make it happen. For someone whose life was usually so controlled, the fact that she was suddenly reliant on someone else for her happiness was unnerving.

By Thursday lunchtime she was heartily sick of looking into market trader licences. She picked up her bag and was about to head out to find something to eat when Max walked into the squad room, a stack of files in his hand. Her heart picked up speed at the sight of him. “Didn’t expect to see you today,” she said.

He dropped the files on his desk without taking his eyes off her. “Come with me.”

“What? Where?”

“Always with the questions. Just come.” He turned and led her out of the squad room, turning along a corridor she’d never been down before. The tension in his frame was clear. She had to trot to keep up with him as he led them up a flight of stairs and then down another long corridor.

“Has something happened? Max?”

She almost ran into him as he came to a halt outside a closed door. He tried the handle but it was locked. “Where are we? What are you doing?” He ignored her as fished a key from his pocket and unlocked the door. “Where did you get –? Oh, never mind.”

He opened the door and waved her through, into what looked like some sort of medical room. There was a narrow bed with a few chairs along one wall, and a desk and some filing cabinets against the other. Miranda turned to see Max locking the door behind them.

“What’s –“

Max advanced towards her and took her face in his hands, sinking his lips onto hers, sliding his arms down her body and pulling her close. She melted against him, feeling heat flowing through her stomach, her response to him heightened by how much she’d missed him.

He walked her backwards until she hit the bed then hitched her up so she was perched on the edge. She wrapped her legs around his waist and moaned as she felt him press against her. She was burning for him, her body in flames beneath his touch.

He reached for her trousers, flipping the button and pulling down the zip. She clung onto his shoulders as he lifted her and pulled her trousers and knickers away. She reached for his belt and in seconds he’d sunk into her, groaning and wrapping his arms around her, holding her tight. “Miranda,” he breathed. “Finally.”

He held her to him for a moment, deep inside her, his head buried in her shoulder, his breathing ragged. She dug her fingers into his shoulders, her ankles joined at his back, her lips against his neck where she could feel his pulse beating fast under her kiss. He muttered in German against her skin and began to slowly thrust into her. She held tight, gasping as he built up the pace, her desire for him growing with each move of his hips. She pressed her face into his chest as she reached the peak, crying into his shirt, and as she felt him tip over the edge she tightened and crashed alongside him.

They were both panting as though they’d escaped a burning building. He lifted his head and wiped his hand across his temple, pushing away beads of sweat. He took a step back and picked up her underwear and trousers, handing them to her, then took a seat on the bed next to her while she pulled them on.

She dragged her hands through her hair, lifting it from her damp neck, trying to get it into order. She glanced to the side. “Missed me then?”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “Sorry, who are you?”

“Very funny.”

He sighed and dragged a hand down his face. “I couldn’t get away. I wanted to. You could probably tell how much I wanted to.”

She gave a small shrug. “You wouldn’t have to ‘get away’ if you were being honest with her.”

“I know. It’s difficult.”

She tilted her head and rested it on his shoulder. “I’m trying very hard not to put any pressure on you, Max. But this can’t go on. I think you know that.”

“You know how much I want you.”

“All I know is how much you seem to want her.” She sighed. “We need to get back.”

He walked over to the door and unlocked it. Peering around cautiously, he said, “All clear. You go and I’ll follow in a few minutes.”

“OK.” She walked over to the door and put a finger to his jaw as she reached him. He caught her hand in his and put it to his lips.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

She stood on tiptoe to press a kiss against his cheek. “Tell her,” she said softly, as she left.

--

Don't you tell her how I give you something
That you never even knew you missed
Don't you even try and explain
How it's so different when we kiss
You just tell her that the only way her heart will mend
Is when she learns to love again
And it won't make sense right now but you're still her friend
And then you let her down easy

--

Miranda was back at her desk when she sensed Max strolling back into the squad room. He was heading towards her when Ines called out from her office. “Detective Winter! I did not give you permission to abandon the team in Cala Millor. Kindly return to them immediately.”

Max pointed to the files he’d bought with him earlier. “Had to deliver these.”

Ines sent him a narrow look. “Well, you have now delivered them. Vamos.”

Max looked regretfully at Miranda and shrugged. She gave him a small smile in return, conscious that Ines was watching them closely. Max waved a general goodbye and she kept her eyes on her desk until he’d gone. She looked up as Ines said, “Detective Blake. I expect your report on the market trader licences on my desk by tomorrow afternoon. Don’t be late.”

“Yes, Ines.” Miranda’s shoulders slumped as she picked up another file and began to work through it.

--

Miranda was settling into bed on Thursday evening when her phone buzzed on the nightstand. She peered at it.

From: Max Winter

   i cant sleep

She smiled as she composed a reply.

From: Miranda Blake

   Think happy thoughts

From: Max Winter

   i dont think that will help

From: Miranda Blake

   Then put down your phone and close your eyes

From: Max Winter

   but then i cant talk to you

From: Miranda Blake

   You’re not talking now, you’re texting. If you want to talk, you could call?

There was a pause before she felt the buzz of his reply.

From: Max Winter

   shes a light sleeper

Miranda closed her eyes as her stomach dropped.

From: Miranda Blake

   She’s with you now? And you’re texting me?

From: Max Winter

   i needed to hear from u

From: Miranda Blake

   But I don’t need to hear from you when you’re literally in bed with Carmen

From: Miranda Blake

   Can’t you see how wrong this is?

From: Max Winter

   yes i can. i just don’t know what to do about it

From: Miranda Blake

   I think you do

She sighed, and thumbed another message.

From: Miranda Blake

   Night, Max. Careful not to talk in your sleep

From:  Max Winter

   Dream of me, Miranda

He ended his message with a red heart emoji. She switched off her phone and pulled up the covers, knowing that sleep would be a long time coming.

--

Miranda closed the last file and pressed print. Half a dozen pages rolled out of the printer and she gathered them up and walked into Ines’s office. “The market trader licences. Friday afternoon, just like you asked for.”

Ines picked up the pages from where Miranda had dropped them on her desk. She slid them into a drawer without looking at them. “Thank you Detective Blake. That will be all.”

Miranda stood, infuriated, in front of her. “You’re not even going to look at it?”

“In due course.”

“I’ve been working on it for a week.”

“I am aware of that.”

“Right, well… If that’s now all complete, may I have my partner back?”

Ines folded her arms and sat back in her chair. She looked at Miranda with a cool gaze. “Do you think that would be a good idea?”

“Of course. You know we work well together.”

“When you first came here, you said you work better alone.”

Miranda looked briefly at the ceiling. “That was before,” she muttered.

“Before what, precisely, Miranda?” Miranda could only stare back. “Listen, I don’t know what’s going on between you and Detective Blake.” Miranda opened her mouth but Ines put up her hand. “I don’t want to know. But I do know that Carmen Lorenzo is still listed as his next of kin.”

“Of course she is,” said Miranda, her chin held high. “She’s his girlfriend.”

“Mmhm.” Ines leaned forward and placed her hands on the desk. “You are a good detective, and I don’t care what my detectives do on their own time. But I do care when it starts to affect how they are at work. So whatever it is that’s causing this…” She flapped a hand to and fro. “This tension between you and Max, fix it. Otherwise I will have to think again about having you on my team.”

“How am I supposed to fix it when you won’t let us work together?”

Ines’s gaze narrowed. “I’m sure you’ll find a way.” She turned towards her computer screen and rested her hands on the keyboard. Looking up, she said, “Are you still here?” Miranda turned on her heel and left, picking up her bag from her desk before heading for home. She had a lot of thinking to do.

--

She was sitting on her balcony when she saw him pulling up in the street below. Her breath caught and she cursed herself for her the way her pulse picked up at the sight of him. He got out of the car and looked up at her. “Catch,” she said, and threw down a key. By the time he’d let himself in and walked up to the balcony she’d pulled herself together and was able to greet him with a small smile.

Max lifted up the brown paper bag he was carrying. “I brought dinner.” He put the bag on the table and she started to take out the cartons. “I’ll fetch some plates.”

“There’s beer in the fridge.”

He disappeared back down the stairs and she finished taking out the cartons and removing the lids. Thai. She smiled as he returned with plates and silverware, a bottle of beer hanging precariously in each jacket pocket. He dished out the food as she opened the beers. She handed a bottle to him and he tilted it in her direction. She clinked hers against it. “Cheers.”

“Prost.”

Miranda picked up a fork and took a mouthful. “This is unexpected. Thank you.”

Max smiled. “We’ve done everything the wrong way round. I should have bought you dinner before any of the other stuff happened.”

Miranda gave a wry smile. “It’s not the only thing that’s the wrong way round.” Max looked sheepish and she softened, as she always did. “Look, lets just enjoy dinner. It looks delicious.”

“Only the best for you, princess.” He forked massaman into his mouth, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he grinned at her. “I missed you, this week. At work I mean. Pablo and Juan are fine, but they can’t see things the way you do.”

“Thank you. Sometimes you do have to use your brain. Can’t always be flying by the seat of your pants, following your gut and hoping for the best.” She toyed with a strand of hair. “I missed you too. Seems I might not always work best alone.”

Max’s grin was wide. “I knew I’d persuade you. Everything’s better with two.”

She raised her eyebrows and laughed. “I can think of at least one thing that’s better with two.”

“Miranda Blake.” He shook his head as if scandalised and she smiled as she took another mouthful of pad thai.

For the next few minutes, Miranda updated him on what had been happening in the squad room while he’d been off in Cala Millor. Conversation flowed easily, reminding her of how they used to be before things got complicated. As she finished her meal and sat back in her chair, he looked at her, a small smile playing on his face.

“So,” he said.

She took a breath. “Ines knows.”

He shrugged. “Does it matter?”

“It does if she thinks it’s affecting our work. She’ll split us up permanently. Might even send us home.”

“She wouldn’t do that.”

Miranda shrugged. “Wanna bet?” She ran a finger around the rim of her beer bottle. “But it would be good to sort things out anyway, don’t you think? One way or another.”

“What do you mean?”

She gathered her thoughts. “I don’t want to set some sort of ultimatum. Me or her, that sort of thing. But I can’t carry on like this.”

“Miranda –“

“No, listen. It’s not about you choosing, like you’re in a sweet shop with your pocket money. It’s about me saying this isn’t working for me.” Max’s eyes looked worried as they met hers. “I want us to be able to carry on working together. It’s really important to me that we can get our partnership back.”

“Are you saying you want us to finish? You and me?”

“It would be easier, wouldn’t it?” She kept her voice calm but her heart was pounding and a lump was tightening in her throat. “No complications.”

“Don’t I get a say in this?”

She looked at him. “You’ve had plenty of chances to have your say. It’s my turn now.”

“But –“

“It’s OK, Max. I understand. I’ll be fine on my own. You don’t need to worry about me.”

“No, Miranda, this is madness.” He reached out to take her hand and she drew in a breath, needing to keep her resolve. She gently pulled her hand away.

“It’s a relief, in a way. Don’t you think?”

“A relief? Are you crazy?” He leaned forward and took her hand again, and this time she didn’t pull back. “It’s all I can do not to carry you through to that bedroom right now. I have never, ever wanted anyone like I want you.”

“But –“

“There’s no way we can go back to our old partnership. No way I’ll be able to work alongside you and not want to touch you, to have you.” He lifted her hand to his lips and pressed a kiss hard against it, his eyes ablaze. “I thought – hoped – you felt the same.”

Her heart tightened. “But Carmen –“

“She knows something’s wrong. We haven’t made love since you and I started this… this thing, whatever it is.” He sighed. “I’ve been trying not to hurt her but I know I’m going to. Because I’m lying to her. About what I’m doing and how I’m feeling. And it needs to stop.”

“It does. You should be honest with her, she deserves that. And kind. She’s young and exciting and beautiful. There’ll be others for her.”

“She may not see it that way.”

“Not immediately. Perhaps with time.” She finished the last sip of lager and looked at him carefully. “But you should only do it because you want to, not because you think I’ve made you.”

He nodded. “And once I’m free?”

“One day at a time.”

“Works for me.” He picked up his mobile and dialled a number. Miranda gathered up the plates and cutlery to take them down to the kitchen, feeling a little shaky, an unfamiliar sense of happiness beginning to curl inside her. She was closing the balcony doors when she heard him speaking into the phone. “It’s me. Can I come round? We need to talk.” She pulled the door closed with a gentle click. One day at a time.

--

Call your girlfriend
It's time you had the talk
Give your reasons
Say it's not her fault
But you just met somebody new
And now it's gonna be me and you

--

 

Robyn - Call Your Girlfriend