...“Oh, I see you’ve met Sarah. Have a seat.” Chief Inspector Damon Thatcher stood and pointed to one of two chairs before his large stone desk.
Rolf moved to the far wall and leaned against it, anxious to watch the coming fireworks. Even though Stefan was doing an excellent job of looking disinterested, Rolf had felt something basic and powerful pass between Stefan and the beautiful patroller.
“Thank you, sir. Gustav said you wanted to see me before dinner?” She sat and arranged the folds of her uniform skirt.
“Aye, I did. Stefan? Is that you lurking in the doorway?” Looking over the tops of his half-glasses at Stefan, Thatcher grinned.
“I’m not lurking. Rolf and I were speaking when Patroller Tallow asked where she could find you.” He stepped into the office. Leaning against the frame of the door, he crossed his arms over his broad chest.
Rolf was grateful Stefan didn’t go into any explanations of what their conversation had been about in front of the new patroller. No sense to start with bad impressions; those would come soon enough.
Thatcher nodded. “Inspectors, Sarah Tallow will be our new trainer.”
Stefan pushed himself off the frame of the door, arms rigid at his side. “You’re not serious, Damon?”
Rolf swiveled his head to look at Stefan.
“What is that supposed to mean, sir?” Sarah’s brows furrowed.
Rolf looked back at her. Her body tensed as if slapped and then her eyes narrowed.
This will be interesting. Rolf settled himself against the wall and watched Stefan’s next move.
Stefan held up his hand and checked off a finger. “First, you are too old to have just graduated the academy.”
Rolf groaned inwardly. Mistake, Stefan. Never comment about a woman’s age.
“Well, if you mean I never attended the academy, then you’re right,” she answered in defense of herself. “However, my age has little to do with my level of experience.”
Adding another finger, Stefan said, “And if the addler gossip is correct, and it usually is, you’re barely trained in majik.”
Or point out her shortcomings. Rolf bit his lip to keep silent.
“It’s true my majik may not be up to your level, Inspector, however, my training in off-world fighting tactics is second to none and that’s what I’m here to teach.” She returned Stefan’s glare with one of equal measure.
“Sarah,” Thatcher said, “Inspector Bane was our last trainer, when he could find the time.”
“Oh, I see.” She nodded knowingly. “That explains it.”
Rolf resisted the temptation to grin and continued watching straight-faced. He wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Stefan had dealt with clever criminals, but how would he handle a clever woman?
“What is that supposed to mean, Patroller?” Stefan’s chin lowered.
Rolf thought he looked quite mulish. Humble, Stefan, go for humble.
“Just that you feel threatened, Inspector. It’s a perfectly normal reaction for a man.” She folded her arms as she sat back in the chair.
“Threatened? Me? By a woman?” He sputtered as his eyebrows shot up.
Rolf threw a sharp look at Thatcher, who signaled him to keep quiet by rubbing the side of his nose with his finger. Rolf watched what he hoped would be Stefan’s self-destruction before this beautiful, spirited woman and he wouldn’t have to lift a finger. At the rate Stefan was going, he’d annihilate himself.
“Of course, you’re threatened. I’m sure you haven’t encountered too many women who challenge you. All I ask is your respect for what I have to offer. I’m bringing a new style of fighting to this station and will be working closely with the patrollers. Something, I understand, you weren’t very fond of doing.” She leveled her gaze at him.
“She’s got you there, Stefan.” Rolf couldn’t resist the comment, impressed with how she wouldn’t back down from or defer to Stefan. He only wished he’d laid a wager on how this would turn out.
Throwing a quick glare to Rolf meant to silence him, Stefan turned to face the chief. “Damon, you’re taking quite a chance with her, you realize.”
“Am I? Seems I remember taking a chance on a couple of other young officers, too, and they didn’t turn out half bad.” Thatcher looked pointedly at Stefan and then shifted his gaze to Rolf.
“Well said, Chief!” Rolf barked a laugh.
“Fair enough, Damon.” Stefan held up his hands in surrender of the point. “And I suppose you also expect her to patrol?”
“Indeed, I do. You’ll have to get her into shape and fast. We need every man and woman we have with this new outbreak of dark majik.” Thatcher leaned forward.
“Me? I have more important duties than babysitting a wet-behind-the-ears patroller.” Stefan’s eyes flicked to Sarah.
She opened her mouth to begin what Rolf was sure to be a scathing reply...