The text tells Jia Crawford what she already knows but it still makes her smile. It feels good to have someone willing to wait for her. Balancing her phone in one hand and handlebars in another, she tries to reply. Almost there. Sorry. Texting and biking isn’t the safest thing but the girl she’s meeting’s worth the risk.
Skidding to a stop outside the bar, she locks her bike to a tree and rushes inside. Her phone works as a makeshift mirror to make sure she looks alright. Taking a moment to fix her hair, everything else looks good. Entering, she scans the place for her date. Cassie Klein beams at her from a booth in the back corner. She makes note that the woman’s long blonde hair is shorter than the last time they saw each other and she’s wearing what is probably a new dress. It’s bright purple and very short. Jia likes it.
Walking up to the table, she leans down to give the woman a peck on the lips. “You look beautiful, I love your haircut.”
“It’s not that different. Just a trim.” Cassie smiles as she dismisses the compliment, brushing a few strands behind her ear.
“It looks great.” A waitress stops by the table with a notepad. Before the woman can even speak Jia says, “Scotch and soda. Easy on the soda.” Sliding into the booth, her leg brushes against Cassie’s and she feels electricity shoot through her. She’s going to miss this woman.
Their drink order’s followed by dinner. They discuss their days while eating. Cassie responded to a domestic violence call and had a woman spit on her when she tried to remove her from a store downtown where she was throwing a tantrum. Jia spent the day at her family winery dealing with drunks who wanted her to get drunk with them. She limited herself to drinking with the customers who insisted though which means she isn’t already wasted. There’s still time to fix that tonight.
Around the time Jia’s burger and Cassie’s chicken fingers arrive Jia takes the other woman’s hand. “So I don’t want to pry but were you able to look into those people I asked about? My brother’s starting to get worried.”
Nodding but looking down at her food Cassie says, “I actually did. You’re lucky you have an awesome girlfriend who’s willing to bend the rules for you.”
“C’mon, it’s not like you’re selling secrets to a criminal. I’m a registered vigilante. A lot of areas the cops are working with vigilantes.”
“Not here. If the sergeant found out I gave you this he’d at least suspend me. They’re pissed enough that I’m dating you. Just be glad you’re cute. Otherwise it might not be worth the fuss.”
Jia leans in closer until she can feel Cassie’s breath on her face. “I am, it comes in handy. You’re cuter though. Seriously, what’d you find.”
Reaching into her purse, Cassie pulls out a sheet of paper. “Nothing on Rocco, he’s wanted for questioning in a ton of cases over in San Francisco but there’s no sign of him recently. He’s got a couple minor warrants out but nothing major. After the bar he seems to have ditched Napa but I can’t tell you much beyond that. Jillian’s gone too but she apparently was questioned in a bar fight in San Francisco last week. They let her go. If your brother wants to find her, that’s the place.” A bar’s not somewhere Jillian should be hanging out but Jia tries not to let the news get her down or ruin their night.
They finish dinner and order a few more drinks. After Jia asks for the check Cassie puts a hand on her leg. “So, I know we’ve been taking it slow, but how would you feel about coming back to my place?” Her eyebrows raise and she looks so hopeful. It hurts Jia’s heart to crush that hope.
“I’d love to, but you know, I have my bike with me. Thinking about the words that just came out of my mouth hurts by the way. God I need a new car.”
“Don’t worry about that. We can fit it in my trunk, and god I just realized how dirty that sounded.”
Jia leans in and places a small kiss on Cassie’s lips. “That’s really sweet but riding home from your place in the morning would take a long time.”
“I can drop you off before work.” Cassie’s hopeful look’s faded but she’s not giving up. Her smile’s nearly gone but she’s fighting to keep it in place. “If you don’t want to, you don’t have to or anything. I figured maybe we’d have fun though.”
Guilt stabs Jia in the chest. This girl’s amazing and deserves so much better. “Listen, you’re great Cassie and what you want to do sounds really great but I feel like I’d be doing it under false pretenses. I was going to call and tell you so I didn’t ruin a nice night but Shin can’t go to San Francisco. He’s afraid the gang will kill him.”
“Okay, weird transition from what I was suggesting. What does your brother have to do with spending the night?”
Jia puts her hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh. “Nothing directly. Not what I’d want to think about while we were, well, together. Jillian’s having his kid though. That’s going to be my niece or nephew. If he can’t go find her, I need to do it. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone either. Hopefully only a few days but it could take longer. Maybe a few weeks. Hopefully not more than that, my dad will kill me if I’m not back by the time the busy season starts. I don’t know if we should do that for the first time right before I leave though. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to go back to your place.” She squeezes Cassie’s hand. “I’d really love to. I feel like that wouldn’t be fair to you.”
Taking a moment to process all Jia’s told her, Cassie squeezes her hand back. “It’s nice of you to be considerate but I’m an adult, you don’t have to walk on egg shells around me. Why don’t I come with you?”
Closing her eyes, Jia tries to think of reasons to say no. “That’s a bad idea. You have a job and besides, I don’t know what I’ll have to do to find her. I may have to go some places a cop really can’t go.”
Cassie stiffens. “Point taken. My offer’s still on the table though. It sucks you’re leaving but I get it, you have to help family. I think there’s something here though. So unless you don’t want me to be, I’ll still be here when you get back. I do expect you to call me while you’re gone though. Not text, call. If that sounds good, you’re still invited back to my place.”
The waitress approaches their table with the check, leaving it between the two women. Jia grabs for it and slips her credit card into the check holder without even looking to make sure the check’s correct. “Please run this fast.” Once the waitress takes it and walks away she turns to Cassie with a giant grin. “Let’s get out of here.”