Sarah's Private Dick

Sarah's Private Dick Sarah's Private Dick

Status: Finished

Genre: Erotica

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Erotica

Summary

After Sarah's husband passes away she decides to hire a private investigator to look into his business partner who wants to buy her out of the restaurant. What she hadn't expected was Derrick, an incredibly sexy black PI who's just as attracted to her as she is to him. At first they both fight the attraction, which Sarah feels immensely guilty for, but when he begins to uncover secrets about her late husband and the unsavoriness of his business partner, they find themselves coming closer and closer together.

Summary

After Sarah's husband passes away she decides to hire a private investigator to look into his business partner who wants to buy her out of the restaurant. What she hadn't expected was Derrick, an incredibly sexy black PI who's just as attracted to her as she is to him. At first they both fight the attraction, which Sarah feels immensely guilty for, but when he begins to uncover secrets about her late husband and the unsavoriness of his business partner, they find themselves coming closer and closer together.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Sarah's Private Dick

Author Chapter Note

After Sarah's husband passes away she decides to hire a private investigator to look into his business partner who wants to buy her out of the restaurant. What she hadn't expected was Derrick, an incredibly sexy black PI who's just as attracted to her as she is to him. At first they both fight the attraction, which Sarah feels immensely guilty for, but when he begins to uncover secrets about her late husband and the unsavoriness of his business partner, they find themselves coming closer and closer together.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: July 29, 2013

Reads: 6119

Comments: 3

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: July 29, 2013

A A A

A A A

This is an erotic story and is intended to be read by adults only.

 

Author’s Note: This story has a much slower build-up than some of my other stories, so don’t expect immediate sexual gratification, but hopefully by the time it gets there it will be worth it ;)

 

Sarah Brown stood at the graveside of her husband of the past fourteen years, wondering why she wasn't crying harder as the pastor wrapped up the words he was saying over the hole where Martin would soon be buried. They'd been together since early college. He'd been the fifth boy she'd ever kissed, the third to get to second base with her, and the first that she'd ever made love with. And she would miss him, she knew, but she'd also always known that she was marrying her friend. Not her one great love. Because Sarah had never felt anything like great love, if such a thing even existed.

So she wept over her husband's grave, feeling almost as guilty as she did grief, because she felt like she should be much more miserable at the loss of a spouse. No one standing at the graveside, none of her husband's employees or his business partner Vincent saw anything out of place, however. Vincent even put his arm around her, soothing her with soft meaningless words and rubbing her shoulder with his hand. But Sarah didn't lean into him. She wasn't going to put up a fuss, because right now she couldn't bring herself to care, but she'd never liked Vincent. Not since he tried to put the moves on her, at the Christmas party two years ago. Just because Martin's interest in her sexually had been long gone, she'd resented Vincent using his insider knowledge to try and take advantage of her.

At thirty eight years old and already a widow, Sarah considered her romantic life pretty much over. Not that she'd had much of a romantic life before this. She had loved Martin, she truly had, and cared deeply for him as a person. They'd enjoyed a life of common interests in movies and museums, art and Redskins football. But there hadn't been a lot of spark between them, and the older they'd gotten the more their sex life had suffered. It didn't help that Martin had been well... quick on the draw, was the nice way of saying it.

Now Sarah sobbed even harder, wondering why she was thinking all these negative things about their life together, now that he was dead. It just seemed unfair that her life was over already, and suddenly the knowledge of her loss slammed into her even harder, and she let Vincent draw her into his shoulder, not caring who she sobbed against. She lay her auburn head against him and cried her heart out for the loss of her best friend, the man who had known her hopes and dreams and who was supposed to keep her company as they grew old together. They'd never had children, Martin had a low sperm count and had refused to adopt or try any kind of "unnatural" interference. He'd left her all alone.

And she would miss him. Terribly. What a waste. If only he'd listened to her when she'd tried to get him to stop smoking and eating so badly. Owning a restaurant didn't mean that you should eat every single fried item on the menu on a constant basis. Dead at forty five. Was it awful that her words of warning kept echoing in her head? She was so angry at him for not taking better care of himself, for not letting her take better care of him and fervently wished that he was actually there for her to yell at.

****

By the time everyone returned to Sarah's house she was seriously wondering why she'd invited everyone over anyway because now all she wanted to do was curl up and have some space and time to herself. She felt completely drained.

"Here, let me take care of that," Angela said, one of the waitresses from Martin's restaurant, Polenta. Sarah gratefully relinquished the plate of assorted fruits and cheeses to the younger woman, a sweet-faced twenty two year old who seemed to have taken charge of the food service today. That was more than fine with Sarah. Angela handed the plate off to another server and gave a few more orders to the staff that was there and then turned back to Sarah, compassion brimming in her warm brown eyes. "Go sit down Sarah, you have enough to deal with today. Food's our thing, we'll handle it."

Normally Sarah would have protested, hosting the party was her job after all, but today she just felt gratitude for the competence and loyalty of Martin's staff. Well, everyone except Vincent, whom she saw was sitting in a corner when she walked into the living room, nursing some kind of drink. Probably straight alcohol with maybe a little ice knowing him. She grimaced, wishing that she hadn't fallen apart all over his shoulder. It hadn't taken him longer than a walk to her car for him to try and kiss her - 'for comfort' he'd said. Asshole was lucky she hadn't kneed him in the balls.

Unfortunately his eyes lit up as soon as he saw her. She had to admit that he wasn't exactly unattractive physically, with his silvering blonde hair and light blue eyes, and his body was mostly fit with just a bit of a potbelly, but she'd always thought there was something slimy about him. But he and Martin had been best buddies for years so she'd tolerated his presence. Now she wouldn't have to anymore, at least outside of the restaurant.

"Sarah, come sit down with us."

She turned, recognizing her best friend Patricia's voice. Gratefully she turned and headed over to the couch where Patricia was sitting in a circle with her husband Lloyd and a few more of the restaurant's staff. One of the best things about Martin's restaurant being owned by him and Vincent, although Martin had the controlling share, and being a small family restaurant rather than a chain, was that the staff truly was like family. Even though Sarah had never had anything to do with running the business, she knew all of them and they knew her. Most of her friends were from there, the main exception being Patricia, whom she'd known since college. But they'd all celebrated at enough holiday parties together, and Patricia came with her to Polenta's often enough that she was also welcomed as part of the family.

Only Vincent ever stayed on the outside, and that was because he insisted on maintaining a distance between management and staff. That was something he and Martin had had different views on, thank goodness. Sarah was a naturally friendly person and it would have hurt her to not be able to make friends with people that she'd known for years.

Settling herself between Patricia and Polenta's long-time bartender, Q, Sarah kicked off her shoes and let herself slump back into the couch before sitting back up straight again.

"What's wrong honey," Q asked, his southern drawl thick as he set his hand down on her dress, keeping her in place.

"I meant to get a drink before sitting down and forgot," Sarah said, readying herself to get back up again.

"No, you stay here, I'll get it." And Q was up and moving before she could even say anything. So she let him. It wasn't like Q didn't know her preferences. The 33 year old black man had been working for Martin for the past twelve years. Even though he'd gotten the job originally just to get him through college, he still played bartender two nights a week just to keep making extra money, and because - as he said, that's where all his friends and family were.

Well that was true for everyone sitting in this circle. Patricia had met Lloyd when he'd become the kitchen manager for Polenta five years ago. The avowed bachelor had spent weeks harassing the cooks for special dishes that he could personally bring out to the pretty brunette and the owner's wife. Fortunately Cara, the head chef, thought that Lloyd was perfect for her good friend Patricia and had catered to him. Normally she was a little spit fire of an Italian and wouldn't have put up with anyone interfering with the flow of her kitchen... but for a man wooing Patricia with such fervor? The roly poly little black haired woman had eagerly helped. And plotted with Sarah throughout the entire courtship.

With Lloyed, Patricia, Sarah and Q on the couch, they were facing Cara, her boyfriend Christian and two of the long-time servers, Gloria and Andrew. Gloria was a true redhead, not like Sarah's own dark auburn hair, with short curls that were always tucked back into a pony-tail. She was 25 and spent most of her time mothering the rest of the staff, whether they were older or younger than her. That was just how she'd been, ever since she started working as a hostess at the age of 15. Dressed in black skirt and blouse, she was looking Sarah over as if trying to decide whether or not Sarah should be tucked into bed to sleep or allowed to stay up with the grown-ups.

"You're handling everything beautifully," Andrew said, catching Sarah's attention. "Take a load off for now and let us serve you. It is what we do after all." He winked at her flamboyantly. But then again, Andrew did everything flamboyantly. He'd been working for Polenta for about two years and by now everyone was used to his flirtatious antics and outrageous statements. Slender with creamy cocoa skin and dark brown hair, he was one of two gay men working at the restaurant, the other was the pantry chef named Brian. Unlike Andrew, Brian didn't do the flamboyant effeminate thing, but it suited Andrew down to his wingtip shoes. You never had to wonder if it was an act, it was just wonderfully, effortlessly him.

"Have you had anything to eat?" asked Gloria. Even though she was thirteen years younger than Sarah and technically now her employee that never stopped the mothering. Sarah actually managed to crack a smile, touched by both of them.

"Thanks, I'm fine, I'm not sure I could manage anything to eat right now. Thank you," she said, directing her second statement of thanks to Q as he returned handing her a glass with diluted looking diet coke in it. Even before she took a sip she could smell the raspberry vodka that he'd mixed with the diet coke. Her favorite drink, although a little heavier on the vodka than he usually made it for her. On the other hand it's not like she was going to be driving anywhere and she could certainly use it.

Somehow the evening ended up almost being like a party, everyone eventually joining the circle that Sarah was sitting in - even Vincent lingered on the outskirts - and telling stories about Martin. They laughed, cried a little more, and talked well past the point when Sarah had originally planned to have people over. And, of course, as people started leaving and Sarah stood to try and clean up, Gloria hustled her protesting from the room and sent her to bed like a child, stating that she and Angela had things well in hand. Which was true.

"Are you sure you want to be alone tonight Sarah?"

Patricia had asked the same question earlier, before she and Lloyd had gone home to feed and walk their dog, but coming from Vincent the question just sounded smarmy. Sarah stiffened her spine and controlled her disgust. Maybe he hadn't realized the way his tone of voice sounded. Or maybe he'd just been hitting the scotch too hard. Yes she wanted to be alone, and even if she hadn't, she wouldn't want Vincent to be the one staying over. Planting her social smile firmly on her face she turned to face him square on.

"Yes, quite alone, thank you Vincent. I know Martin would have appreciated you looking after me." The name of his dead best friend made Vincent wince a little. The expression in his eyes changed from predatory to a little lost and she almost felt sorry for him. That pity and because she knew Martin would have wanted her to look after his friend prompted her next question. "Are you alright to drive? Do you need a taxi?"

Immediately she wished she hadn't asked as the predatory look returned to his face. "I'm not sure I should drive... or that you should be alone."

The innuendo in his voice made her sick and she sharpened her tone. "You've had too much to drink Vincent, but you can't stay here. I need some peace and quiet."

"Come on Vincent." The new voice to the conversation made both of them turn, and Sarah almost wept with relief when she saw Cara. God bless her. No nonsense, fifty years old and a force of nature. Most chefs were like that, the good ones anyway. Her boyfriend Christian stood with her, a distinguished looking older gentleman who was always very quiet but polite, and anyone sitting next to him for any length of time knew what a fantastic sense of humor he had, but he only made jokes under his breath. "We'll take you home."

Even Vincent didn't argue with Cara. Resuming his normal oily charm, he smiled and made a little bow at Sarah. "Good night then, sleep well."

"Good night," she said succinctly. And then turned a more natural smile to Cara. "Good night Cara."

"Take care," said the chef. Her eyes were sympathetic. "We'll see you at the restaurant tomorrow for the meeting?"

Ah yes. One thing after another. The restaurant still went on and according to Martin's will she was the sole beneficiary of his controlling interest in it. Which meant that she had to go. Well, at least they'd given her until after the funeral to get herself together. Sarah nodded, suddenly feeling incredibly weary, before heading up the stairs.

******

Vincent cornered her the next day before the meeting, almost as soon as she walked through the back entrance into the kitchen. He wanted to buy Martin's share of course, and at first Sarah just felt relief... but could she really just hand the entire business over to him? Even though Martin had been friends with Vincent for years, he'd always been careful to maintain controlling interest and she'd never asked why. Never though she would need to know. Now it felt like a grotesque oversight on her part. But how would she know that Martin would have a heart attack so young, or that he'd leave it to her? Why had he left it to her? Because this was where all her friends were of course, the family that he'd never been able to give her.

Standing in the middle of the kitchen with its stainless steel equipment, she sighed. Normally this area was bustling with activity and smelled of garlic, oregano and tomato sauce, but at 9am there was no one and no delicious aromas in the air yet. The prep cooks were down in the prep kitchen, rolling out pasta and dough for the lunch shift, slicing vegetables and putting together mirepoix for stock. Although Vincent had assured her that she'd always be welcome here, she couldn't just hand over the entire company to him without knowing more about him... and she truly didn't want to get to know him better.

Maybe she could hire a private investigator. People still did that, right? There had to be someone making a living off of that. She'd always loved Dick Tracey growing up. Maybe she could get her own private dick. Sarah giggled and then sobered. Should she be making sexual jokes so close to her husband's death? Not that they'd had much of a sex life for the past few years. If she had to give their sex life a movie title it would have been Gone With the Wind. But sex had never been a big thing for her anyway. At this point in her life, Sarah knew that she was just one of those unfortunate women destined to go through life without an orgasm. Playing with herself was just icky. And now there was no way she was getting back out in the dating world.

Ugh. Definitely too soon to think about that. Although Sarah was aware that she was worried more about what people would think than anything else. She and Martin had been best friends, sure, but they'd never had a lot of sexual chemistry. Most of their marriage it didn't feel like she had a husband, at least not the way most people talked about having a husband. It felt like having a roommate that she had a lot in common with and occasionally held hands with or kissed. Sometimes she wished there was more... her romances always made her wistful, wanting more... but that just made her feel silly and out of touch. They were books after all, real life didn't work like that. She should just be happy that she'd had a husband who cared about her, supported her, and was faithful to her. So they didn't have kids. Or a lot of chemistry. At least she'd spent the best of her years with a man who, in everything but romance and sex, made her content.

That sounded so bland. Sarah made a face at herself. Okay, she'd be lying if she didn't admit that she'd thought about leaving him. More than once. Thinking that there must be something better out there. But she'd given up on those fantasies three years ago when she'd turned thirty-five. Who knows. Maybe thirty eight wasn't that old. But she felt old. Old and bitter and cranky.

Sighing, Sarah went into the manager's meeting.

*****

"Vincent offered to buy Martin's share," she said to Patricia later over lunch. Not at Polenta. She'd wanted to talk to her friend about the morning and she couldn't do that if they were surrounded by the staff, who would all be shamelessly eavesdropping.

"Seriously?" Patricia asked. "Lloyd said that he never seems like he cares that much about the place."

"Well that's weird," said Sarah, struggling to get a piece of chicken and lettuce on the same fork. Damn salads anyway. Other women made it seem so effortless to pick up lettuce, chicken, tomato, bacon and a whole plethora of tasty things at once and she couldn't even manage two. "He seemed really intent on it this morning. I was thinking maybe I should have someone check him out though. I never know why Martin had the controlling share rather than splitting fifty-fifty with Vincent."

"Maybe he thinks he could sell the whole kit and kaboodle?"

Sarah watched with envy as Patricia took a bite of her cheeseburger. She should have just ordered one of those. Comfort food. But she'd wanted to have something light for lunch, something healthy. All of her meals lately had consisted of macaroni and cheese and casseroles that people had brought over so that she wouldn't have to cook. None of them were particularly healthy and she was worried that she was already packing on a few pounds.

"I hope not," she said, pursing her lips. That would seem like something Vincent would do. Buy the entire operation and then sell it off for a profit. She was sure that he could get one for it, Martin had told her about several offers, but they were all from larger companies. One of the things that Sarah had always loved about Polenta's was that it was a family operation, which kept it warm and friendly and personal for the staff. "I wouldn't sell if that's what he wanted."

"But it's not like he has to tell you," Patricia pointed out. "He just has to buy it and then do what he wants with the money."

"Well I won't sell until I'm sure. I'll have to do an internet search and see if there are still any private investigators out there."

"Doesn't Q have a family member that's a private investigator? I'm sure Lloyd mentioned that at some point. They were making jokes about private dicks." She winked at Sarah across the table, and Sarah laughed.

"I made the same joke in my head earlier today. Seems kind of wrong, hiring a private dick right after my husband's died," Sarah joked. And then immediately felt bad. She shouldn't make jokes about Martin's passing like that.

Patricia reached across the table and patted her hand soothingly. "It's okay honey, a little black humor helps us get past the rough spots in life. You aren't being disrespectful. And to tell the truth, maybe you could use a little private dicking."

"Patricia!" Sarah was shocked at her friend's blunt comment, although she shouldn't have been that surprised. She and Patricia had always shared all their secrets, and Patricia had made no bones about the fact that she thought that Sarah should date more guys than Martin before settling down with him. But she'd always respected Sarah's choice and hadn't said a word about it since Martin had asked her to marry him and she'd said yes. Patricia just shrugged unapolagetically.

"I know you cared about him, loved him even, but honey... there were no signs that either of you were ever in love with each other. And I know you'll miss him, but you seem more like you're grieving your best friend than the love of your life." Sarah blinked and looked away, feeling tears of shame spark in her eyes, knowing that her friend was right. She wanted to protest and say that she'd been in love, but was that really true? She wasn't even sure what that would feel like. "You two had a great friendship. And it made for a decent marriage. But I know you, you're ready to just go back in your shell, working on making jewelry, and letting life slip you by. You'll feel guilty for not feeling more grief and that'll keep you all bottled up, but no one's going to judge you for not grieving more. We could all see Martin's health getting worse, and it's awful that he passed so young, but no one was really shocked by it either."

Harsh but true. That was Patricia. No beating around the bush from this friend. And at the same time, it was like a balm for Sarah to hear it, to have someone reassure her that she wasn't a heartless bitch because she didn't feel like the world was ending just because her husband had died. It felt like... there was a loss. A hole inside of her. But her world was still going.

"I'm not going to let you sell the restaurant and just disappear into your house," Patricia said. "I'll come drag you out kicking and screaming if I have to. You know I will."

Sarah laughed, she could see her friend doing just that. "I won't," she said, making the promise to both Patricia and herself. "I don't want to be completely shut off from everyone. I actually had fun at the meeting this morning, finding out more about how the restaurant runs."

It had been a pleasant surprise actually. Martin had talked so often about the restaurant with her that she was on the same page as everyone else for the most part, knowing what the problems were and even what some of the solutions he'd wanted to suggest were. Mostly because he usually talked those problems out with her, seriously taking her advice on a lot of the suggestions she made. Even though Sarah had been a housewife, spending most of her time cooking, cleaning, or indulging her passion for making jewelry which she sold on Etsy, she'd realized this morning how invested she felt in the restaurant and making sure that everything was running smoothly. Everyone had been so welcoming to her, which was wonderful. Vincent had seemed rather surprised at her knowledge; he'd started the meeting treating her very patronizingly until he'd realized how informed she was. That had been a good moment, being able to knock him back because she knew exactly the issues they'd been having with their seafood supplier showing up late recently, and the other suppliers that Martin had been looking into.

"Good," said Patricia, pleased by Sarah's statement. "Lloyd texted me, said that you did as good a job as Martin with running the meeting."

She flushed with pleasure at the compliment. "That's nice of him."

"No, it's true. Lloyd doesn't beat around the bush, it's why I married him."

Well that was also very true.

Sarah laughed and relaxed for the first time in ages. It was so easy being around Patricia. She was the most loyal, unjudgmental and caring friend Sarah had ever had.

*****

When his phone rang and Derrick saw the caller ID he picked up immediately.

"Quintin."

"Don't start that," his cousin drawled, with his best Southern flare. "You're the only person besides my parents who call me that."

"Q," Derrick said agreeably. "What's up?"

"Are you still doing that investigating thing?"

"Sort of. I'm trying to get out of it," he said. The private investigating "thing" as Q liked to call it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Mostly spying on trophy wives or their lecherous husbands, occasionally getting to do something satisfying like hunting down an abuser who had kidnapped his (and once her) kid from the spouse. Of course, not all of those cases were satisfying, satisfaction depended on it being a successful hunt. Derrick was tired of spying on people and tired of all the cruelty that he saw in his line of work. He'd been searching for awhile to find something different, but so far hadn't succeeded in finding anything that interested him. He'd tried a year of college, but unlike Q he wasn't one for the educational environment. The basic classes bored him to tears and he considered it a waste of time and money.

Now he kind of wished he'd taken more of them, just because then maybe he'd have an idea of what the hell he wanted to do with his life. He had no idea what his talents were, other than being able to charm information out of people. Maybe he should go into sales. Yeah... that didn't sound boring at all.

"Could you take on a case? As a favor for a family member?"

Derrick groaned. The last time he'd taken on a case for a family member he'd ended up with a broken arm, a broken nose and a niece who had previously had no idea that her boyfriend was a crack dealer, but was now more terrified of him than of her ex. He rubbed the ridge on his nose where the break had been. If he crossed his eyes he could just barely see it. At least the crack dealer had come out of that one looking a hell of a lot worse. But he still wished he'd been able to take the asshole out somewhere other than right in front of his nineteen year old niece Caroline. Watching her Uncle beat her boyfriend into submission had given the poor girl nightmares for weeks. And despite the fact that his sister had asked him to intervene and knew that he'd had to beat up the guy in self defense - okay and maybe a little anger about a 32 year old being with a nineteen year old and messing up her life - they hadn't talked much since the incident other than at holidays.

"No drug dealers or anything, I promise."

The overly cheerful sincerity in Q's voice grated on his nerves.

"What's the case? And I'm not saying yes until I hear it."

"The restaurant I've been at -"

"I thought you quit that."

"No, I still work a couple times a week, just to get some extra spending money. And they're good people. Anyway, Martin, our owner, died two weeks ago and left his share of the restaurant to the widow. The other owner wants to buy her portion, but she's feeling weird about selling it to him. Wants a background check, see if there's any dirt, or maybe if his intentions aren't honorable. She doesn't want to sell it to him and have it turn around and make it into a corporate place. I'd mentioned I knew a guy before, and she asked me about it. I was wondering if I could have her call you."

Grieving widow. Trying to make the best of her loss while also taking care of the people she cared about. Making sure that her husband's work wasn't for nothing and that his employees were looked after. One of whom was his cousin. Damn. Q knew him too well.

"What's the buyer like?"

Q hesitated. Ah ha. Here was the catch.

"Vincent. He's... okay. Didn't have much to do with running the restaurant, more like a silent backer except that he's always around. Martin was definitely the one in charge though, always. Drinks a lot. No one really knew much about him, just that he and Martin were best friends. He doesn't get close to anyone else, not even the management. Really into clear lines and boundaries."

Well that didn't sound so bad. Didn't sound like a great guy, but at least he wasn't dealing drugs or beating women. Derrick could deal with that.

"Yeah, alright. Have her call me."

"Thanks man. So how've you been?"

As the conversation devolved into small talk and ribbing, Derrick was able to relax and enjoy just chatting with Q. They'd always gotten along well, although they hadn't had much time together growing up since Q was from Alabama and Derrick was Washington DC born and raised. Even after Q had moved up here they hadn't spent a lot of time together. They were just both always busy. And Derrick's job didn't exactly allow for regular hours. He was glad to be able to do Q a favor.

Just, hopefully, unlike the last time he did a favor for a family member, he wouldn't end up regretting it.

*******

Sarah wandered through her house, alone, feeling both sad and unexpectedly freed. She couldn't help it, even though it made her feel guilty. When Martin was alive he'd expected her to keep the house exactly to his standards, snapping at her for dust - anywhere - or a smudge on a window or dinner five minutes late on the table. Those days he'd been home for dinner anyway. The restaurant life was so busy that she was used to being home alone, but she'd been anxious about him coming home to join her. Hoping that maybe he'd bring her flowers or some chocolates or wine. He never did. Worrying that he'd find something wrong with the house. He was supportive of her making jewelry, a creative activity that took a lot of her focus and helped her to relax, but he hadn't considered that a real job that took time or helped with the finances.

Now he'd been gone for two and a half weeks, and the house felt a little empty, and yet she didn't feel lonely. Part of her wished that she had some children to fill that emptiness, but she wouldn't wish losing a father on any children of hers, not at such a young age. Even if she and Martin had had children when they'd first gotten married, the kids would still be in high school now. For a moment she flushed, thinking about how wonderful that would be, to have children... and then the image faded. She was too old. Even if she wanted to find someone - which she didn't - she was too old. Maybe eventually she'd look into fostering or something.

Heading into the television room, Sarah kicked off her slippers. Her feet were starting to get too warm, and she'd always liked the thick cream carpet in this room anyway, feeling it squish pleasantly between her feet. Snuggling up in her favorite chair she turned on the television. She'd spent a lot of nights like this, in her pajama pants and tank top, hugging a pillow, and watching TV. Martin was always busy at work, and she appreciated how hard she worked. The best thing about it, in retrospect, was that she was used to being at home alone all evening. Going to sleep alone. Waking up alone was still strange, but after the first few days she'd gotten used to it.

Flipping through the channels, Sarah came across a re-run of Murder She Wrote, which reminded her that she needed to call the Private Investigator that Q had recommended. It just seemed so weird to be hiring a person to nose around in someone else's business... but she really shouldn't put it off any longer. Vincent had taken her out to dinner over the weekend to discuss business. Although she'd tried to hint to him that it was too soon after Martin's death to make any decisions, he'd made the very good point that life does go on, whether we want it to or not. He'd dropped a few other hints as well, that she had thought best to ignore completely.

Well if he annoyed her that much then she needed to just go ahead and get him investigated. That way she hopefully wouldn't have to have anything to do with him other than when she went in to visit her friends at Polenta, and then only in passing. Hitting the mute button on the TV, Sarah pulled her cell phone out of her pajama pocket and pulled up the number that Q had given her. Derrick Blake. She gnawed on her lower lip a moment, indecisively. This was not the first time that she'd pulled up the number.

Was it nerves over invading someone's privacy? Or was she starting to want to keep her portion of Polenta? Then Sarah shook her head. Even if she did want to keep her portion, she knew nothing about running a restaurant, not really. Just the things that she and Martin had talked about over breakfasts and on his days off. It was enough for her to get by for now, when her opinion was needed, but it was best for the restaurant and the staff if the person in charge knew what they were doing, and Sarah had never actually worked in a restaurant. They deserved better than someone with no practical experience. And Q wouldn't send her to someone untrustworthy. She felt much better about calling his contact, someone who was recommended, rather than looking through search engine pages.

It was only 8:07 pm. Q had told her she could call Derrick anytime before 10pm. Okay. She'd do it now.

Steeling herself, Sarah punched the call button and put the phone to her ear. He'd obviously never changed his ringtone from the default setting that his phone company used. Boring elevator music. If she were a private investigator she'd have the theme music from Dick Tracey. Or James Bond. Although he was technically a spy, but still, something more exciting -

"Hello, this is Derrick Blake."

Holy cripes... the richest, deepest, most velvety voice she'd ever heard was coming out of her cell phone. The kind of voice that made a person's insides rumble and tighten, the way it would to a steady bass beat. It was like hearing a sexy version of James Earl Jones. Liquid, smooth... and Sarah realized, waiting for an answer.

"Um, hello. Sorry, I've never... um, this is Sarah Brown. I'm a friend of Q's, he told me that I could call you." Thank god they were on the phone. Sarah banged her head into the cushy armrest of her chair, wishing it was a brick wall. She had an urgent desire to hang up and never call again, but then she'd have to face Q and explain that she'd felt too idiotic to continue. That didn't really seem like a good enough reason.

The deep chuckle that reverberated through the phone sent some kind of electrical current zinging through her. Geezus, what was with this guy? Who had a voice that actually sounded like that?

"Yeah, he mentioned you, but I thought you would've called a few days ago."

Sarah blushed. "Oh. I'm sorry."

Another laugh. She was okay with making him laugh, even though it was at her. Hell, hearing his laugh set off all sorts of tingles throughout her body and made her feel things she hadn't felt in... years. In fact, feeling those tingles was probably the closest she'd gotten to sex in years. Suddenly reminded of Martin and the fact that she was supposed to be a grieving widow, Sarah clamped down on her body's responses. How embarrassing. Not to mention demoralizing. What the hell was wrong with her?

"I meant to call sooner," she said, trying to get control back over the situation. Man she missed the ways when phones had cords. She used to twine the curling cord around her fingers when she got nervous. Now all she could do was smooth out the same spot on her fuzzy pajama pants over and over again. "I've been a bit of a mess lately."

"Ah, yes," he replied, his voice suddenly turning more grave and serious. "I'm very sorry for your loss, Mrs. Brown." He sounded like he meant it too, there was a lot of compassion in his expressive voice and Sarah felt tears pricking at her eyes. "Q told me a little bit about your situation, you'd like me to look into a buyer for the restaurant?"

"Yes, he's actually owner of the minority share of Polenta," she said. And then, with his encouragement, found herself pouring out all of her worries about Vincent and wondering why Martin had the majority share, her concerns that Vincent's intentions with the restaurant weren't what Martin would have wanted (or what she wanted, for that matter), and her lack of experience with the restaurant business and her determination to do the best for the staff there. Throughout the entire recital he was supportive, listened attentively, and asked concise questions that never demeaned her intelligence. It wasn't at all like talking to Vincent. More like talking to Martin, except that all of the focus was on her. Most of the time her conversations with Martin had been focused entirely on the restaurant, but Derrick wanted to know her impressions, her insecurities with Vincent, even just the niggling that her instincts were giving her. And he made several small jokes, releasing some of her tension.

By the end of the conversation she was feeling very comfortable talking to him, which he assured her she should as that was why he was so good at his job, and even more comfortable handing over her uncertainties about Vincent to him. There was a thoroughness to the questions that he'd asked her, he was obviously very competent and not the type to leave a single stone unturned. Mostly she felt relief, finally feeling that she was making the right decision.

"Can you come by my office sometime this week and drop off the papers? Or I could come pick them up some time that's convenient for you?"

Sarah thought it over. She had the keys to everything in Matt's work and home office. Fortunately all of the past years' accounting books and his notes were in the home office, at the end of every fiscal year he moved all of that paperwork home so that it wouldn't clutter up the office at the restaurant. Only the current year's numbers were at Polenta.

"I have all of Matt's notes and books from previous years here at home," she said. "If you wouldn't mind coming by and getting it. I'd bring it by but I'm not entirely sure what you'll need and there's a lot of papers. I'll be home Wednesday evening, if that works for you." Today was Monday but she and Patricia were going to Polenta for dinner tomorrow, and she'd rather not cancel if she didn't have to.

"Wednesday is fine," he said. "I'll start doing the preliminary background check on Vincent in the meantime, based off the information you've given me."

"Thank you so much."

"My pleasure. Have a good night Mrs. Brown."

"You too, Mr. Blake," Sarah said, and hung up the phone. Glancing at the timer she saw that she'd been on the phone for over two hours. Oops. She'd kept him past his 10pm limit. Although he didn't seem to mind. Leaning back in her chair she felt... strange. Talking to him had been almost as fun as talking to Patricia, and letting all of her worries out made her feel strangely empty inside. And his voice... good grief. Sarah shivered a little. He should do voice overs for commercials. She'd buy what he was selling.

Immediately Sarah felt guilty again, but she brushed it away. A girl couldn't help how her body reacted. There had been other times throughout her marriage when she'd been attracted to some aspect of another man, but she'd always kept her vows, even though Martin hadn't exactly made her feel sexy or sexual. That just wasn't what their marriage had been about. For a moment Sarah wondered what Derrick would look like, and then she giggled. He'd probably look like a troll. No one could have that fantastic of a voice and be good looking. Not unless he was a movie star, which he obviously wasn't.

Definitely time for bed. Even though Martin was gone she always slept on her side. Sarah didn't need that much space... just her small corner of the world. Snuggling under the covers she soon drifted away to her dreams.


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