The next morning, Neville and Florence closed the doors to the jeep with a thud.
"So as far as anyone is aware," Neville began, walking around the front of the jeep to join her. "You picked me up this morning like normal."
Florence nodded. "I just hope no one saw us driving to mine for me to get changed."
"I'm sure they didn't. I'll be fine," he reassured her.
"Okay," she smiled. She and Neville walked up the steps to the station, feeling each other's presence beside them as they did so. Neville so wanted to snake his arm around her shoulders, but now he had to have his game face on. Now, they had to pretend. This was the little white lie he'd been telling her about.
They stepped inside the station, Neville almost bouncing, exchanging buoyant pleasantries with Marlon and JP as he passed.
He and Florence shared a knowing look between them as he walked straight to the kettle and flicked it on. Florence sat down at her desk, turning on her computer. Neville was buzzing with the excitement of it all. The secrecy, the deception, the thrill. He and Florence had a dirty little secret and it was very dirty indeed.
He didn't like lying to his friends, not if he truly asked himself, but he couldn't stop almost vibrating at the memory of what he and Florence had got up to at the Shack.
"What did you get up to last night?" asked Marlon knowingly, as he looked up, twiddling his pen between his fingers. "I saw the jeep outside yours early this morning, Chief," he said.
Neville began to sweat. He could feel Florence's eyes on him, and he composed himself, trying to not let any panic show in his voice.
"Yeah, I took it home last night," he said, airily.
Marlon took his reply. "That's weird because I could have sworn, I saw it in your driveway on my way home last night, Sarge?" he questioned.
Neville looked at Florence, who was wide-eyed, on the spot. Fuck, he thought. Florence had frozen and began to stammer.
"Oh yeah, I remember," said Neville, not knowing where the next part of his sentence was going. "I went to get it from Florence last night because… I needed to use it."
"Did you go anywhere nice, Sir?" JP asked.
"I went… on… a date," Neville said, finally.
"On a date?!" Marlon exclaimed.
"You what?" gasped JP.
"On a date?" Florence asked, a little too dramatically.
"Who with?" asked Marlon.
"With… Catherine's… niece," Neville fumbled. "She set us up on a blind date."
"I didn't know Catherine had a niece," mused JP.
"Did you get laid, Sir?" asked Marlon.
"Marlon!" Florence scolded.
"What?" he laughed.
"It was a nice date, thank you, Marlon," Neville replied. "But no."
"Are you going to see her again?" asked JP.
"I think…" Neville trailed off, trying to pick his words carefully. "I'll be using the jeep a lot more now. So don't be surprised if you see it in my driveway and not Florence's."
"Good for you, Sir," smiled JP and resumed his work.
"Sure thing, Chief," Marlon chuckled, shaking his head. Marlon went back to clicking at his computer and Neville and Florence shared a panicked look between them.
"Oh my God," he mouthed to her.
Florence's eyes grew wide. "That was close," she mouthed back.
The kettle boiled and Neville poured himself a tea. "What were you doing up so early anyway, Marlon?"
"Going for a run, Sir," Marlon replied. "Running all over the island, you know. Early morning surveillance and exercise. Seeing all the things. Watching all the people," he said, tapping his nose.
Neville shook his head and smiled. He never thought he'd be the one to have to worry about Marlon's beady eye but then again, there was a first time for everything.
Neville had made a show of offering Florence a lift home, so when Neville drove the jeep back to his again after work, it wouldn't look suspicious. Florence had stashed away an overnight bag underneath the passenger seat with everything she would need for tomorrow morning.
"That was so embarrassing," said Neville, as they pulled into the driveway of the Shack. "I cannot believe I had to lie. I don't even know if Catherine has a niece. If they ask her, I'm screwed."
Florence laughed. "Let's hope they won't ask."
"But what if they do? This elaborate lie, this elaborate plan, will all come crashing down and then we really are up shit creek without a paddle," sighed Neville, as they both got out of the jeep and closed the doors.
"Up where with a what?" asked Florence, with a crease in her brow.
"Another English saying," Neville shook his head as they walked towards the Shack. "I suppose I could tell Catherine what's going on? Get her in on the joke?"
Florence stopped walking. "And tell her about us?" she asked. "We can't do that. Not yet."
Neville stopped too and turned to her. "I mean it would solve a problem," he shrugged.
"What if she tells someone?!" cried Florence.
"She won't tell anyone," replied Neville. "That woman probably keeps the whole island's secrets!"
Florence was quiet for a moment and then continued walking to the steps of the veranda. "I don't think it's a good idea," she said.
Neville followed. "She kind of knows how I feel about you anyway," he said, digging in his pocket for his keys.
"What do you mean?" Florence asked, turning on the wooden steps.
Neville took out his keys and began unlocking the back doors. "Well," he began. "When I was realising how I feel about you, I got a bit of a pep talk from Catherine. She figured out how I was feeling and told me to go and tell you."
Florence sighed with a knowing smile. "Which is why you turned up at my door the night of my date," she nodded.
"Yeah," said Neville, awkwardly. He pulled open the back doors, letting the sea breeze into the Shack. "I felt like an arsehole for telling you twenty minutes before you had a date, so I bottled it. But I told Catherine I would tell you at some point."
"So… when will you tell me?" Florence asked, coyly slinking her way towards Neville.
"Tell you what?"
"How you feel about me?"
Neville laughed. "Oh Florence, surely you know by now."
"We can have a do-over," Florence smiled. "You stand outside, and I'll pretend I'm about to go on a date," she said, pushing Neville out of the way.
Neville laughed. "Florence, is this really necessary?"
"Yes, it is. We're rewriting history."
Florence slammed the back doors in his face. Neville stood before them, closed, with Florence on the other side ready to open them. "I'm waiting," she called through the wood.
Neville laughed again, his face twisting into a coy smile, and rapped hard on the wood of the door. A second later, Florence opened it. "Neville," she said, feigning surprise. "What are you doing here? I'm just about to go out on my date."
"Florence," Neville smiled, feeling silly but pursuing. "There's something I need to tell you."
"What is it?" she asked.
Neville closed his eyes for a second, composing himself and thinking back to the moment he was actually standing outside Florence's villa. He tried to remember what he had been planning to say, the paragraph he had rehearsed in his head, but then he realised that he'd never settled on anything because it always sounded too corny, or too forced. He had to speak from the heart, and that's what he resolved to do now.
"I need to tell you that I can't let you go out on this date tonight," he began. "Because he's not the guy for you. I am. The truth is Florence, I've had feelings for you for a while now and I had to tell you just once, just so you know, because if I were going out on this date with you, Florence, I would feel like the luckiest man in the whole world." Florence smiled. "And what would you have said?" Neville asked.
"Truthfully," Florence sighed. "I would have told you that I would call you in the morning and still gone on the date. Not because I didn't return your feelings, but because I wouldn't have known what to do. My date was coming. You were on my doorstep. I would have felt flustered… put on the spot…"
"That's fair," agreed Neville. "When I arrived, I felt it wasn't the right time."
"You were right."
Florence stepped out onto the veranda and pulled Neville into a tight hug. He loved the feeling of her body against his, but this time felt different. They were hugging each other not as lovers of the night, but perhaps more importantly, friends. As they stepped back, they sweetly pressed their lips together, resting their heads on each other's foreheads.
"I want you to know Florence, that I care about you very much and I'm always going to be here for you, you know that right?" whispered Neville.
"Oh," Florence replied. "I thought a but was coming."
"No buts," Neville confirmed, kissing her nose. "No hidden clauses, no small print, no agenda."
Neville's heart swelled with love for her, thinking about how happy he was, being here with her. The feeling of being able to tell her how he truly felt was a weight off his shoulders. It was a privilege. Then, without warning, Neville heard footsteps on the veranda.
"DI Parker and DS Cassell," said a booming voice they both knew too well. "Would you care to explain yourselves?"
Neville and Florence turned their heads and saw the stiff stature of The Commissioner standing before them.