When the Devil Wants In(7)

By: Cate Ashwood

Now that he was here, though, his mind was almost as restless as his body. Maybe it was crazy that he’d picked up and moved clear across the country without a whole lot of forethought. An impetuous decision based on an emotional response and here he was.

He stood from the couch, clicked the TV off, and headed for the kitchen. The tap water was lukewarm no matter how long he ran it, but he filled a glass and brought it to his lips, realizing only then how parched he was. Matt drank in thirsty gulps. As he set his glass in the sink, his phone rang. Only two people had his new number, and his mom had called earlier. He grinned as Santiago’s name flashed across his screen.

“It’s hot as Satan’s balls down there, isn’t it?” His ex-partner’s voice came over the line, a welcome distraction from his inner monologue.

“You called me to talk about the weather?” Breaking the news to his partner had been almost harder than telling his mom. He’d tried to explain it to Santiago and come up short, but Santiago had always had his back and this was no different, whether he understood it or not. That didn’t mean he wasn’t going to give Matt shit about it.

Santiago chuckled. “Nope. Called to wish you luck tomorrow, ’cause you’re gonna need it. Whoever they assign you as a partner is gonna be a complete fucking disappointment after working with me.”

It was Matt’s turn to laugh. “Maybe, but I figure whoever it is likely won’t give me as much shit as you did, so I’m gonna call it a win.”

“That’s probably true.” Santiago’s voice lost its teasing tone. “You know the captain would welcome you back, no questions asked, if things don’t work out for you there. Living in Georgia is going to be a fucking culture shock. Can they even call it a police force if it’s just four guys sitting around with their dicks in their hands waiting for someone to blow through the only stop sign in town?”

Brothers in blue had never been as fitting as it was in relation to him and Santiago. They really were like brothers, and Santiago was the only reason Matt had hesitated that last second before sending off his application. But he needed this change. “You’re just pissed you’re stuck with Saunders as your new partner.”

“You might be on to something. Saunders is a fuckup, and you had better believe I’m documenting every single thing he screws up. I’m not getting my ass nailed because he’s a moron.”

“Thought you’d want your ass nailed no matter how the situation presents itself.”

“I might not be all that picky, but Saunders? Pass.”

Matt laughed. “Give the guy a shot. He’s new, and he doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the wall, but if anyone can mold him into a good cop, it’s you.”

“That’s the fucking truth,” Santiago said, ever the picture of modesty. “Gimme a call later in the week and you can fill me in on all the ways the department down there is inferior to the SFPD.”

“I will. Enjoy your overnighters with Saunders in the meantime.”

“I hate you.”

Matt said goodbye and hung up. He missed Santiago already. He hadn’t expected to feel homesick quite this quickly, but things were so different here, and he felt so far removed from everything he’d ever know. It was a weird sort of juxtaposition, the sense of belonging and feeling so out of place all at once. But he liked it here. It’d only been a few days, but Matt was ultimately happy with his decision. It had been borne of a place of desperation, a snap decision in reaction to a shitty situation, but one he was satisfied with. He could see himself putting down roots in Magnolia Ridge.

The air was so still, but outside his door was a chorus of sound he’d never experienced before. Nature was fucking loud. Matt couldn’t put a name to the noises that seemed to reverberate through his tiny clapboard house. Of all the things in his new home, Matt thought that might be the most difficult to get used to. In San Francisco, the traffic was constant. Ever since Matt had arrived in Magnolia Ridge, he’d found it difficult to sleep. Even that first night, bone-weary from the road, he’d lain awake for hours, listening to the sounds of Georgia.

Days later, he still wasn’t used to it. It almost felt like someone was watching him, and a mild feeling of unease settled over him every once in a while. He was getting squirrely with so much time to kill, becoming more and more restless. With nothing to do but wait for his first day of work to arrive, there was a gnawing in his belly that wouldn’t settle. He walked back into the bedroom and grabbed some clothes from his closet. Going commando beneath his pale blue shorts, he pulled the tight white T-shirt on over his head and slipped his feet into his flip-flops. His keys made a scraping noise as he slid them across the top of the oak dresser and palmed them on his way out the door.