“Knock, knock,” Alex said, peeking in the door to the register of deeds office at the county building. For the split second between when Alex saw Krystina and she looked up from her work, his breath caught. Her blonde hair, which usually hung in waves around her shoulders was pulled up into a twist, bringing a sophistication to her otherwise youthful personality. She glanced up and her blue eyes widened.
“Oh! Alex! I was so worried about you!” Krystina came hurrying around her desk and wrapped herself in Alex’s arms. “Are you okay? Oh, you have friends with you.” She stepped back and composed herself, smoothing down her professional blouse that had gone askew when she’d thrown her arms around Alex.
“I’m fine,” Alex said, lifting her hand gently and squeezing it lightly. “I’m sorry I made you worry. Krystina, these are my friends Joshua and Amber Roland. They’re looking to buy some land here in the Hudson Valley.” Alex turned to the Roland’s with a smile.
“It’s nice to meet you.” Krystina held out her hand. “If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.”
Joshua cocked his head to the side. “Do you… have property available for sale?”
“No.” Krystina chuckled. “I just have a treasure trove of information here in my office. People are always coming to search through my files to get old land records and tax information and to use our GIS.”
“What is a GIS?” Amber played the part of a uniformed civilian well. “Is that like how cell phone towers communicate with each other?”
“That would be GPS,” Krystina explained. “Global positioning systems held determine an exact point on the earth’s surface. But when you display all those points on a map and combine them with lots of information about each point, that’s how you get a geographic information system.”
“That sounds really complicated,” Amber said. “You know how to do all that?”
“Have you ever used Google Maps?” Krystina asked. “It’s kind of the same thing but a lot more information. I can show you if you’ve got time…” Krystina looked to Alex for direction, raising her eyebrows.
“I have all the time in the world,” Alex said, winking at Krystina, hoping to get back on her good side. If he could keep her guard down he’d either prove her innocence or catch her in a lie.
“Here, we can log into this computer,” Krystina said, leading Amber over to one of the workstations.
Alex was momentarily distracted by the way her tastefully low heels accentuated the curve of her calf muscles under a casual, flowing skirt that touched just below the knee. Seeing her like this, he really hoped they were able to prove her innocence. He’d always focused on her playful personality and intelligence, and… well, her flirty eyes, if he was being honest with himself. He hadn’t really taken the time to admire her other features.
“These computers are free to be used by the community.” She wiggled the mouse to wake up the idle computer and pulled out the wooden chair, inviting Amber to have a seat. “See if you click right here this brings up the base map and you can overlay the parcel information, and when you click on each parcel, all this data pops up.”
“Oh wow,” Amber said, leaning closer to the computer screen. “That’s a lot of information. Almost too much information. The government knows a lot about us, don’t they?” Amber glanced up at Krystina and bit her lower lip.
“Yes, they do… err, well, we do,” Krystina backpaddled. “I work for the government too. I help collect the information. Whenever a property sells, or splits, or sells development rights to a third party, it all comes through my office.”
“Is that how you met Alex?” Amber asked, glancing back to where Alex and Joshua still hovered just inside the door. “Because he’s a real estate agent?”
“Nah, everything he does is available online. I didn’t meet him until a few days ago when he was looking for some development rights information.” Krystina lowered her eyes and her cheeks turned an adorable shade of pink. “Although I’ve had a crush on him for, like, a long time.”
“Oh really?” Amber crossed her arms and smirked. “Do tell. Give us all the details. How oblivious was he to your crush?”
“He wasn’t oblivious,” Krystina said. “He’d just never met me before. I saw him at a campaign rally when he was running for city council and thought he was sooooo cute—if an adult woman is allowed to say that about a guy.”
“We’ll just keep it between us girls.” Amber motioned her finger back and forth between her and Krystina as if the guys weren’t even in the room. They all chuckled.
“Well, between us girls”—Krystina leaned closer and stage whispered— “We’ve only gone on one date, but I hope he asks me out again.”
“I’ll put in a good word for you if I talk to him later,” Amber said playfully.
“Anyway,” Alex said, coughing lightly into his fist. “Didn’t we have some houses we were going to look at?”
They all chuckled along, relishing in his embarrassment.
“It was really nice to meet you, Krystina,” Amber said, standing and holding out her hand, which Krystina clasped warmly.
“Likewise, Amber.” Krystina reached out to Joshua with a smile. “And Joshua.”
“I’ll call you later, okay?” Alex whispered, leaning closer and catching a heady whiff of whatever haunting fragrance she was diffusing through the soft, creamy skin of her graceful neck. Okay, he’d better get out of here before he shut the door, locking the Roland’s out into the hallway, and spent the remainder of the afternoon kissing Krystina until neither of them could see straight.
“Okay,” Krystina said with a soft giggle.
They locked eyes for a brief moment before he backed out of the room and lifted his hand to wave goodbye like a teenage boy gazing at his crush. He was in trouble.
As they strode down the hall, Alex mumbled under his breath, “Please tell me she’s innocent.”
“In my professional opinion as an FBI agent,” Amber said. “I think she’s innocent.”
“Agreed,” Joshua said.
“Thank goodness.” Alex felt like he could breathe again. “Let’s go find someone who’s not.”