When i found you, p.3
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       When I Found You, p.3

           Kate James
 
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  She was walking through the passenger concourse when her phone rang. Seeing Max’s name and number on the caller ID, she answered without slowing her pace. “What’s up?”

  She could tell right away that there was a problem, from the tone of his voice.

  “We had another security breach early this morning. A passenger wandered out of the secure international departure lounge into the domestic area.”

  “How did that happen?” Ariana asked, switching her phone to her other ear.

  “The door had been left propped open.”

  “What? That can’t be right.”

  “Sadly it is.”

  “But that’s a secure door. Only about twenty of us can open it.” Ariana moved to the edge of the corridor and stopped. “Do we know who left the door open?”

  “We checked the video footage. It was Dave Langdon. For whatever reason, he hung around the airport last night. He wasn’t on duty, but he didn’t go home after our incident yesterday. He must’ve slept in the office and gone out to the airfield early this morning. On his way back, he passed through from the international to the domestic area and left the door open. We have him on camera.”

  “What was he doing on the airfield?”

  “You’d have to ask him. My guess would be he went out to have a smoke. Can you believe it? All for the sake of saving himself a couple hundred yards of walking?”

  Ariana did a slow turn to face the wall. “You’ve got to be joking. Even if he was stupid enough to do that, why didn’t the door alarm go off?” She knew it was programmed to do so.

  “We’re trying to determine that.”

  “Get me the video file. I want to see it as soon as possible. Check his restricted area identity card record for the entire evening, too, would you?”

  “Sure. Why?”

  “If he accessed any other secure areas while off duty, I want to know about it.”

  “Okay.”

  “And the passenger? What happened to him?”

  “It seemed to be an honest mistake. We took him through security again and to his proper departure lounge. He’s probably boarding his flight now.”

  “Was there anyone else impacted?” Ariana was hoping not, given the earliness of the hour. If other passengers were involved, in addition to inconveniencing them, it could have caused flight delays.

  “Fortunately not.”

  “All right. Let’s discuss it once I’ve had a chance to watch the video. And I want to see Dave, if he’s here.” This could be the last strike for Dave Langdon, if in fact he had left that door open. “Wait, are you in your office now?”

  “I am.”

  “And you’ve got the video file cued up?”

  “Yeah.”

  “I’m closer to your office than mine.” Max was in the terminal, near the screening areas, for rapid response if needed. Her space was in the administration section. “I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

  Ariana holstered her phone. Since the day she’d started, she’d been trying to tighten security at the airport. If she’d learned one thing from her time working for a private security company before she’d joined San Diego International, policies and protocols had to be tight, effective and strictly adhered to. Not that her predecessor had been lax, but times had changed, and she’d been steadily making improvements to the extent her budget allowed. The TSA covert testing outcome had been a wake-up call. Yet every time she felt she took a step forward, there seemed to be something else that dragged her back. She bought two coffees on her way to Max’s office. Handing one to him as she entered, she placed the other on the corner of his desk. “Show me.”

  Max held his chair out for her and started the video clip. Dave’s face wasn’t visible, but his movements, general body type and the clothing he wore—the same he’d had on that day—left little doubt that it was him. And if that wasn’t damning enough, Max confirmed that Dave had used his access card to open the door.

  When the video segment ended, Ariana rose. Leaning against Max’s desk, she took a sip of her coffee. “Dave’s not stupid. He’d realize we’d know it was him. Does he want to get fired?”

  Max shrugged. “I can’t answer that. I’ve never been able to figure the guy out.”

  “Is he in the building?”

  “Last time I checked before you got here, yeah.”

  “Get him to my office in fifteen minutes. I need to talk to Human Resources first.”

  * * *

  IT WAS A crazy morning for Ariana. As much as she disliked Dave Langdon’s attitude, she hated firing people more. Human Resources had supported her decision and the deed was done. Dave had tried to deny that it was him. He’d claimed that he’d stayed at the airport overnight because he and his wife had had an argument that morning, and she’d kicked him out. He claimed that he’d slept in the office and hadn’t been walking around. That it must’ve been someone else who’d lifted his card and accessed the secure area.

  He made the point that he’d changed, as she could see for herself, so the clothes he’d worn yesterday had been stuffed into his locker. He suggested someone could have taken them. When he’d realized that she wasn’t buying it, that she was really going to terminate him, he’d become belligerent and threatening. So much so that she reminded him she could have him escorted off airport property immediately. In the end, she persuaded him that wouldn’t be in his best interest, and allowed him to save face. She let him pack up his belongings, and Max walked him out.

  The rest of the day hadn’t gone much better for Ariana. It seemed to be one niggling problem after another. It was well past six when she finally left.

  Ariana let herself into her apartment, tossed her bag and keys on the hall table, and pulled the restraining band from her ponytail. She dragged her fingers through the length of her hair, slipped out of her shoes and placed them neatly inside the hall closet.

  By the time she’d finished, her cat had sauntered over. She bent down and stroked her tortoiseshell-and-white coat. “Hey, Sabrina. How was your day? Better than mine, huh?” she murmured.

  Taking her briefcase and placing it on the dining room table, she walked into the kitchen, pulled a Coke Zero out of the fridge and took a drink straight from the can. A second long drink went a considerable way to soothing her parched throat.

  Soda can in hand, she walked back to the dining room and set up her laptop.

  Her apartment had two bedrooms. The smaller one was configured as an office, but she seldom used it. If she had to work, which she did most nights, she preferred to do it with a view of the ocean, visible through the dining room window.

  As her computer booted up, she made herself a large spinach salad for dinner and hunkered down with her laptop to catch up on her emails and various other mundane matters that she hadn’t gotten to during the day. If she had time, she wanted to review her risk map, to decide which area she would next target for improvement.

  With a long-suffering meow, Sabrina threaded between her ankles a few times. Ariana couldn’t resist picking her up and taking comfort from cuddling her for a few minutes. When she placed Sabrina back on the ground, the cat leaped onto a chair, curled up and in minutes was snoring contentedly.

  Ariana kept working for as long as she felt she was being productive, crawling into bed near midnight.

  It seemed she’d just rested her head on the pillow when her alarm went off at five thirty. With bleary eyes and a sluggish body, she got ready for work and wished for a quieter day.

  Thankfully, it turned out to be uneventful. Ariana did some follow-up on the incident involving the two drunken women and initiated the hiring process to find Dave’s replacement. On the plus side, she had the opportunity to tour a group of schoolchildren through the airport’s emergency operations center. By late afternoon, she had her second wind and was
feeling energized rather than drained. She was engrossed in a proposal Max had presented to her for upgrading their security cameras in the parking garages. An enhanced video management system was her current focus.

  The knock on her door frame caused her to jump, and she pressed a hand to her racing heart. Spinning her chair around, she felt her heart rate accelerate further.

  Logan stood in the doorway, dressed in indigo jeans and a pale blue polo shirt. She glanced down quickly to see if Boomer was with him. Not seeing the dog, she shifted her gaze back to Logan. He had one arm causally braced against the jamb, the stance emphasizing the muscles in his arm and torso. His dark hair glistened under the harsh fluorescent lights of the corridor. He had a smile on his lips and in his eyes. And those intense blue eyes mesmerized her.

  “I’m sorry to startle you,” he said, drawing her out of her reverie.

  Realizing her hand was still on her chest, she lowered it. “Oh, it’s not your fault. I was reviewing a report and must’ve been absorbed in it.” She felt her lips curve in response to his smile.

  “I was here debriefing with the officers on site,” Logan said. “We were discussing new operating procedures in view of what happened the day before yesterday. I wanted to fill you in and see if there were any new developments on your end.”

  She shook her head. “No. We’ve closed the file on that incident. Have the two women been charged?”

  “Oh, yeah!” He gave her that appealing smile. “So do you have a few minutes or do you need to get back to your report?”

  She glanced at her watch.

  “We can do it some other time,” he suggested. “If you’re busy right now.”

  Ariana realized she didn’t want him to go, and it wasn’t just professional curiosity as to what the SDPD’s new procedures were. “No, that’s okay. I’m ready to call it a day. Come in.”

  Logan dropped his arm and took a step forward, but paused, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “Since you’re calling it a day, why don’t we get out of here? I’ll buy you a coffee or, better yet, a drink. We could probably both use one.”

  Ariana was about to agree. Then his conversation with his girlfriend, Becca, came to mind. She opened her mouth to decline.

  “We can discuss the procedures,” he said quickly before she could respond, and cast his gaze around her small, sparsely furnished office. “But in a more comfortable environment. If you don’t already have plans, I’ll throw in dinner to sweeten the pot.”

  There was that smile again. Ariana laughed. “No need for dinner, but okay to getting out of here.” It was going to be a business discussion, that’s all. She routinely had coffee or lunch with men in the course of her duties—her profession was male-dominated. Why would it be any different with Logan? Whether he had a girlfriend or not was irrelevant. The butterflies in her stomach aside, it was going to be nothing more than business. “Let’s go have a coffee,” she said.

  CHAPTER THREE

  BY THE TIME they reached Ariana’s car, Logan had somehow convinced her to have a drink with him instead. He suggested Buster’s Beach House Bar.

  Ariana had never been there, but Logan must have frequented the place, if the number of people who said hello or had a quick word with him were any indication.

  He motioned for her to precede him to the back of the room, and she slid into a corner booth. A waitress appeared almost before he sat down.

  “Hey, Carly,” Logan greeted her.

  “Good to see you, Jagger. The usual?” she asked and gave him a flirtatious smile. It made Ariana wonder about the relationship Logan and the waitress had. She felt guilty about her curiosity as soon as Carly turned an equally warm and welcoming smile on her. “And for you?”

  Ariana found herself smiling back. “What’s his usual?”

  “Corona, with a slice of lime, straight from the bottle.”

  “I’ll have the same but with a glass. Thanks.”

  “Sure thing,” Carly said, placing two cardboard coasters on the scarred wooden table.

  “I was wrong,” Logan said after Carly left.

  “Wrong about what?”

  “I would’ve bet a month’s salary that you’d be a wine drinker. A white—smooth and well-chilled.”

  Ariana laughed. “You’re not wrong. I’ve been known to have a glass of chardonnay or sauvignon blanc now and again. Working in the field that I do, beer has become an acquired taste. Hanging around so many men, I’ve learned to enjoy a frosty glass of Corona as much as a glass of wine. So, tell me, how’d you get the nickname Jagger?”

  Logan cleared his throat and his eyes darted around the room. He seemed uncomfortable with her question and appeared relieved when the waitress returned.

  “Appreciate it, Carly,” he said, when she placed the bottles and glass, along with a small bowl of nuts, in front of them.

  “I like adaptability in a person,” he said with a chuckle when they were alone again, gesturing to her beer.

  Obviously he wanted to change the subject.

  He raised his bottle and clinked it to Ariana’s glass, then took a long, slow sip. “What made you choose security as a career?” he asked.

  “I thought you wanted to discuss your new procedures.”

  “I do. It doesn’t mean we can’t get to know each other a little first. With Brody gone, we’re likely to be working together again.” He flashed her a smile.

  Ariana placed her glass back on the coaster, reached for a candied nut, popped it in her mouth. Okay, they could play it his way. She was curious about him, too. “It matters to me to make a difference. Keeping people safe is important.”

  “And why the airport?”

  She tilted her head. “I’ve been fascinated by airplanes since I was a kid. My father was an engineer. He went to school in England, where his father was from. I learned about mechanics and laws of physics from an early age, but to this day I remain in awe of the fact that we can get a nearly four-hundred-thousand-pound, one-hundred-and-fifty-or sixty-foot wingspan piece of machinery, loaded with people and cargo, into the air, and it stays there over great distances.” She laughed. “Silly, I know, but flying fascinates me.”

  “I never thought of it that way.” He watched her for a few moments. “If you don’t mind me saying, you don’t look British.”

  “My grandfather was English. My grandmother, Brazilian.”

  His long, contemplative gaze caused all sorts of odd sensations inside her.

  “That explains it,” he said, and surprised her by touching the back of her hand. “And it explains the color of your hair. But where does the eye color come from? Your father?”

  She chuckled. “My mother’s side. She’s blonde and blue-eyed, as mostly everyone is on her side of the family. American for generations, but her ancestry is Swedish.”

  “That’s an interesting combination. Do your parents live in California?”

  “No. They moved back to England a couple of years ago. Enough about me,” she interjected before he could ask her more questions. She didn’t want him digging any deeper, even though she found it effortless to talk to him. “What about you? Why did you become a cop?”

  “I wanted to make a difference,” he said with an easy smile, echoing her own words. “I wanted to contribute in a positive way to people’s lives. And it runs in my family. Both my father and grandfather were lifers on the job. My father was the chief of police for Burbank.”

  She thought his eyes were clouded with sorrow for a moment.

  “My parents, my mother in particular, might have wanted for a different career for me,” he continued. “Maybe a doctor or a lawyer, but that wasn’t happening. I wanted to be a cop as far back as I can remember.”

  His comment made her think of her own childhood dream of becoming a police officer, but she pushed i
t aside. “If you’re from Burbank, what brought you to San Diego?”

  He raised a shoulder, let it drop again. “My dad was a hero. A figure larger than life. As much as I loved and admired him, I didn’t want to live in his shadow. I also wanted to know that I’d be making it on my own. Not because of who he was, what he’d accomplished or how highly people regarded him. I wanted it to be on my own merits. I wanted to build my own career.”

  Ariana watched him carefully, searching for any sign of bitterness or envy, but all she saw was pride and admiration. To her, that said a lot about Logan, and it was all good. She saw a decency and a depth she hadn’t expected.

  “Speaking of making a difference,” Ariana said with a smile. “What will happen to the women on Flight 396?”

  Logan grunted. “Yeah, we made a big difference there! They’ve been charged, as I said. Public mischief. It’ll probably be reduced to a misdemeanor. Even before they sobered up, they were both bawling. It only got worse when their parents showed up.” The laughter was gone. “They won’t soon forget it. Nor should they.” He reached out, brushed his hand over hers again. “But it gave me a chance to meet you.”

  His proximity and especially his touch triggered those sensations again. She absorbed the warmth that had come into his cool blue eyes. “There is that,” she said softly, and meant it, but she leaned back, subtly sliding her hand out from under his.

  Logan reached for his bottle and took another drink. “So, will there be civil consequences for the women? They inconvenienced nearly two hundred other passengers, and the cost to the airline, the airport, not to mention the military for the fighter jet escort...” He rolled his eyes at that. “The expense has got to be substantial.”

  Ariana didn’t know what to make of the feelings he was stirring up inside her and tried to remind herself of all the reasons why she wasn’t interested in him. With effort, she concentrated on the question he’d posed. “Yes, there are significant costs associated with the incident, but I don’t think there’ll be any legal action. The airline might do some posturing, mostly as a deterrent to other would-be troublemakers. They’ll have to cover costs associated with rebooking passengers who might’ve missed connecting flights to some of the outer islands and, if need be, overnight accommodations as well as the expense of bringing the plane back. Pursuing a claim against the women would cost them more money than they could hope to recover.” She shrugged. “The military escort? I have no idea how much that would’ve cost. We got confirmation that they used the incident as a training exercise, as we suspected. For the airport...” She smiled again. “It’s all in a day’s work for us. What about the police department?”

 
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