Shh. I'll Be Your Lover - Annie J. Rose Page 0,3

me a deluge of messages. Some were from colleagues who wanted to reassure me that everything would be okay. The mother had gotten in contact with a really good firm in Charlotte. She had even apologized for some of the things she had said in the heat of the moment.

Others were from Simone. Usually, we all communicated in a group chat, but this one was a separate text just for me. I had texted her just after hearing the verdict and going back to the office to close out the file and fax everything over to the new attorneys.

She knew how devastated I was and said she and David were heading to the diner to meet them there.

Part of me wanted to see if she would just pick up my food and drop it off at home. I wanted to wallow. I wanted to take off this damn bra. But I knew I needed to just go meet them. If it was too much and I was too surly, she would tell me to go home, and I would. Simone didn’t hold back when she thought I was being too intense. I loved that about her.

The drive helped cool me down a little at first. I was able to cut on the radio and zone out a bit. But by the time I got to the diner and saw the window cling showing the new menu item that had replaced the one thing I always ordered for dinner when I came as a kid, it set me off again. I knew it wasn’t the new owner’s fault. No one else ordered that particular item. It wasn’t like most diners were in the habit of serving roasted brussels sprouts with chickpeas. It was weird.

But Simone’s parents always made it for me as a kid, and though I had switched almost exclusively to their pancakes as I got older, it always warmed my heart that they kept my “roasty toasty” as I called it on the menu. Now that it was gone, it was just one more kick in the teeth.

I opened the door and saw David and Simone in their usual booth. I wanted to just drop by and say hi and then get my order to go. If I could smooth it over with a headache claim or something, I could get back in the car and make it home while the pancakes were still warm. Unfortunately for me, as soon as I was within arm’s reach, Simone pulled me into the booth to sit next to her.

“I am so sorry, Kathy,” she said, hugging me tight from the side. “I know that case meant a lot to you.”

“Thanks babe.” I patted her hand while she squeezed me so hard I thought she was going to crack a rib. “I’ll be okay.”

“Was it the evidence you couldn’t present?” David asked. He had always been interested in my work, somewhat inexplicably for a former pro football player. I expected him to only want to think in yards and pigskin, but he was a bright guy and asked questions about my cases all the time.

“Yeah,” I said. “We have a real crack team here in Rockingham. I swear, I just wish Chris would quit being a handyman and take over the police force.”

“I tried convincing him of that when Avery had that stalker,” David said. “No dice. He’s happy installing cabinets and working on roofs.”

“It’s his Zen,” Simone said, finally letting me go. “He said so. I think Avery has been teaching them both some yoga meditation stuff.”

“Good for them,” I muttered. I knew I should be taking Avery up on her offer of relaxation and yoga courses, but Avery was tall and gorgeous and a former dancer, and I was barely tall enough to reach the bottom shelf in my own kitchen.

“Hey, Kathy,” Harriet said as a greeting. She was one of the waitresses who had stayed when the new owner came. She was as much a fixture of the restaurant after twenty years of being a waitress as the flattop grill. “You want the usual, hon?”

“You know me,” I said.

“You seem more worn-out than usual,” Simone remarked. “This case must have just completely drained you. Is there anything I can do for you to help you relax? Maybe a shopping day or something?”

“That might be nice,” I said, sighing. I knew I should be more grateful for my friends trying to improve my mood, but it was hard. All of