Sydney and her sister, MacKenzie (Mac), are enjoying smoothies in Sydney's kitchen.
Mac dipped the straw into the smoothie and licked it. Then she peered at me. “Hey, have you given any more thought to the online personal ad?”
“Not really. I told Bernie and he thinks I should do it.”
“You don’t have anything to lose.”
“Except time.” I picked up my glass and drank from it directly. “It might be fun.”
“So, you’re on board?” Mac smiled the way Tom smiles at Jerry the mouse, just when he’s about to eat him on a sandwich. Something was up.
“Sure. Why the hell not? I’ll do it.” Sometimes I liked to throw caution to the wind.
“I’m glad you said that.” That ‘eat you’ smile widened. “I’ve had an ad up for a few days. You’ve got a lot of responses!” She looked around. “Where’s your laptop?”
“I can’t believe you did that without my permission! I’ll get the laptop because I’m curious, but rest assured, your ass kicking will come afterward.” I stomped into the living room and brought the laptop back. I signed onto Windows, slid the laptop across the table toward her, and twiddled my thumbs. Really.
Humming, Mac logged onto my profile on the dating website. “See?” She pushed the laptop in my direction.
“Mac?! What the hell?” I scanned the photos of me she’d uploaded, my gut clenching. “What the hell?” I glared at her.
“What’s wrong?” She jumped out of her chair and leaned over my shoulder.
I pointed to the one with me laughing after I’d climbed out of her pool at her pool party last summer. My hair dripping wet, I was in the process of pulling it away from my face and above my head to secure it in a strip of red hair ribbon. I was wearing a red and white polka dot bikini. “I can’t believe you used that picture without telling me!”
“What’s wrong with the picture?” She eyed it, lips pursed. “It’s not like I got a rear view of you in a thong.”
“What the...I look like I’m posing for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition!”
“Calm down. You’re not spilling out of it or anything.”
“Yeah. But, still….” I narrowed my eyes and glared again. “I don’t want strange guys ogling me without my knowledge.”
Mac rolled her eyes. “Anyhoo, you might as well take a look at your responses while you’re there. You’ve got a lot of flirties and emails.” She clicked on an email.
“What the hell’s a flirtie?” I glanced at the email, mildly curious. I admit it.
“It’s when a guy likes your picture or profile and flirts with you. You can flirt back or send an email to let him know you’re interested…or not.” She scrolled through the profile of the guy that sent the email she’d clicked on.
“Okay, the guy is kind of cute.“ I started to read his profile. “Wait a minute!”
“What now?” Mac sighed.
I jabbed my finger at the screen pointing to the guy’s age preference. “He’s looking for someone 18 to 35.”
“So? You fall into that range.” She shrugged. “Practically, in the middle of it, in fact.”
“What the hell does a 35-year-old man want with an 18-year-old girl?”
“What do you think he wants?”
“Exactly.“ I deleted the email.
“Syd, you can’t blame a guy for trying. He did say up to age 35. It’s not like his range is 18 to 21.”
“He’s old enough to be an 18-year-old girl's father! Pervert.” I scrolled through more emails.
“Sheesh.” Mac went back to her chair and plopped down, causing the chair to scrape across the floor.
I turned away from the laptop and looked at her. “Problem?”
“This is why you don’t date much.” She crossed her arms in front of her chest.
“What is why I don’t date much?”
“You always think the worst of people.”
“Mac, the worst is usually the most honest part of them. I see it on the job all the time.”
“Maybe that’s the problem. The job.” She made air quotes around ‘the job.’
“My job is who I am. What’s wrong with that?”
“It doesn’t have to be all that you are. There’s too much stress in your job and you need an outlet.”
I slurped my smoothie, licked the straw. “Okay. I’ll give you that. But I know how to channel my stress and divert it. Channel and divert.”
“Yeah, like you channeled it into Monty Bradford’s nose after he was acquitted for raping Allison.”
“I wasn’t on the job yet, so it doesn’t count.” I flashed a wide grin at her and turned back to the laptop. “And if that’s the only example you can come up with, I think I’m doing pretty damn good.”
“Give me time and I’ll think of more.”
“Now I have to deal with him again though.”
“What?” She scooted her chair closer, leaned her arms on the table. “Why?”
“He’s the brother-in-law of Ann Baker.”
“Wait. Ann Baker's sister married that creep?” She pulled her glass toward her, then peered at me. “Do you think he killed her?”
“I don’t know if he had anything to do with it, but if he did…” I pushed my chair back, took my glass to the sink. “…I’ll do my damndest to make sure his ass doesn’t walk this time.”
Thanks for reading the excerpt for The Protector. To read more, please purchase the book on Amazon.