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"Well, we lost him," Cruz said disgustedly. "And he knows we're looking for him. Probably guessed we're cops. Are you okay?" he asked, seeing Madeline was still having some difficulty breathing. He brushed at her camel colored slacks, which were marked from her fall.
She pulled away and glared at him. "Would you mind telling me," she demanded, her words interspersed between deep breaths, "just what the hell...you thought you were doing?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, what was the point...of your big macho act a minute ago?"
He stared hard at her, noticing the flare of color across her cheeks. She hadn't quite recovered from being hit with a two hundred pound tackle, but from what he could discern, her flush was due more to anger than breathlessness.
"I'm sorry. I heard the car backfire, and it was so close..." He shrugged. "I reacted without thinking. I thought it was a gunshot."
She glared at him. "So did I, at first, but that doesn't answer my question. What the hell were you doing on top of me?"
He opened his mouth to answer and then found that he couldn't. His jaws snapped shut. Finally he muttered, "I don't suppose you'd believe I tripped?"
"No." Her voice dripped with disdain. "I would not believe that you tripped. Admit it, Martinez, you were trying to protect me."
He knew there was no way he could weasel out of this one, so he raised his gaze, met hers. "Yeah, maybe. So what?"
She looked as thought she was going to explode. "So what? I'm a trained police officer, a detective with ten years' experience on the force. I'm not in need of protection, not from you or from anybody else."
"Look I apologize, all right? I didn't plan it, it just happened. Blame it on instincts."
His words didn't appear to mollify her. If anything, she became more incensed. "Instincts? Well, I'm here to tell you, buddy, your instincts are lousy. If you have a problem working with a woman, that's tough. I'm not going to let you make it my problem, you got that?"
His eyes narrowed. "I do not," he said with precise enunication, "Have a problem working with a woman. Your being a woman has nothing to do with this."
"Oh no?" Disbelief colored her voice. "Tell me something. When you were partners with McLain, how many times to you dive on top of him when you thought you heard a gunshot?"
Silence reigned for a minute. "Look," she continued a little calmer, "you can't do your job if you're worried about me. And neither of us can do our jobs if you don't trust my ability out here on the street. If that's going to be a problem for you, you'd better let me know now."
She could feel most of her ire fade away. It was hard to maintain a resounding fury when the other person refused to argue. She became aware of how close they were standing to each other, and she took an unconscious step backward. "Well, good. As long as you're sure."
"I am. "
"Because the next time we're in danger, you have to think of me as your partner first. I don't want your instincts turning me into a woman."
"Forgive me for believing it could be possible," he muttered, half turning away.
He turned back to her and said with exaggerated care, "I said that would be impossible, because I won't let it happen again. Now why don't we get back to work and see if we can't track down Valdez?
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