Word Count: 3,784
She took a bite of her ice cream, watching the kids play nearby while Mom and Dads took a break much the same they were. Only thing, it was just the two of them. They'd chosen this place because he'd mentioned coffee before leaving for the day. When she saw ice cream, she'd chosen that instead. She was pretty sure she'd made the right choice. Starbuck's was everywhere, real ice cream wasn't.
"Thank you for this," she said sincerely.
"You're welcome. I realize you had to be getting pretty bored. So I came up with the idea as soon as my work schedule cleared."
"Think of coming to the zoo often?"
He chuckled, taking a sip of his coffee. They'd been sitting long enough that it probably wasn't burning hot anymore, but he apparently liked to savor it. Probably because he didn't have anything but basic Folgers at home.
"No, I can't remember the last time I was here. This woman I work with, though, she's got kids and she mentioned bringing them here not too long ago. I don't know anyone who doesn't like zoos. Well, besides animal rights activists, but I took my chances that you weren't one of them."
"No. It was fun. I haven't been to one since I was a kid. Probably that kid's age," she said, pointing to one of the older kids nearby. "I'm just sorry the day is over."
"We can always come back. I'm sure there are things we didn't see as closely as you'd like."
"That'd be nice, but you don't have to be my tour guide either. I can come on my own."
"Where's the fun in that?"
He had a point there.
She'd originally hoped that she wouldn't be here too long. She'd waited for Matt Parkman to whisk in and bring her back home. She'd started college classes now, though, and with that realized she was going to be for a while.
"You finished?" he asked before taking her empty container. He dumped their things in a trashcan before offering her his hand. She took it, knowing he was just being nice. She hadn't lived with him more than a few weeks, but she'd observed enough to know that Detective Lee Scanlon was a nice guy. That was probably why Matt had chosen him.
"It's too bad they close."
She let go of his hand once she'd stood, glancing at one of the little boys who had caught her attention. He was probably four years old and just a bundle of energy. She remembered Lyle at that age and couldn't help but miss her brother immensely just then. Her mother had taken them to a zoo more than once when they were little.
"It probably would be pretty cool here after dark," he agreed, looking around the area.
"What are you thinking?" she asked when it was clear something was on his mind.
"Nothing. Just wondering what it would take to be able to do that."
"Lots of money I imagine. And knowing someone really important."
"Me, too, and unfortunately, I'm an honest cop so I don't have the money. And don't know anyone important at least as far as a zoo is concerned," he said, settling a hand at the small of her back as they made their way toward the exit. He'd done that a lot today and she wasn't sure why, until it dawned on her that he was just keeping her in close proximity. She had been sent here for protection and as a cop, he took that job pretty seriously.
She didn't know Matt Parkman that well, but obviously her father trusted him enough to ensure she was safe. She knew her father wouldn't trust her care with just anyone.
"How do you know Officer Parkman again?"
He gave a soft laugh. "Are you suggesting Matt's not an honest cop?"
"You asked the question after I mentioned I'm an honest cop."
"No, not at all. He is as far as I know. I mean, he is," she said, hoping she hadn't said something wrong.
"Relax. I know you didn't mean anything by it. We met at a seminar. His precinct and mine have a lot of similar issues being this close to the border. We've worked together over the years when cases crossed jurisdiction lines and we needed cooperation. It helps to know someone on the other side."
"I still can't believe you just took me in like that. When he first told me about you I just assumed you'd gone to police academy together or something."
"No, nothing like that, but Matt's not just a good guy but a good cop. He asked me for a favor. It's not like I'm doing anything pressing that I couldn't lend a hand. Illegals go between Arizona and California a lot."
"Well, I really do appreciate your taking me in like you did. My family does, too."
"Talk to me after you’ve been here for a full summer."
"Well, I'm from Texas, remember? I'm used to heat."
"I suppose that's true. And you're welcome. I know Matt wouldn't have asked if it wasn't important."
"How could I say no then?"
"I guess I don't know."
"So, what now?"
"Oh, I don't care. We can go back home."
"No way. I promised you a full day."
She'd been surprised when he'd done that. It was really going above and beyond his role. Before leaving for the zoo that morning, he'd told her he'd gone so far as to sign himself out for the day unless it was an absolute emergency. His phone hadn't gone off more than a handful of times, and two of the calls he didn't answer.
"Well, I've had ice cream. How about pizza?"
"I know of a real good pizza joint not too far from here."
"Then let's do that."
"All right," he said.
He wasn't really thinking about the fact it was Saturday night when he selected Nick's for dinner. It was a hangout for off-duty cops and served the best food in town as far as he was concerned. It wasn't much to look at. The floors had long ago lost their shine. Some of the chairs were wobbly. The tables had stains on them from beer, pizza, and who knew what else. He didn't even want to know what the kitchen area looked like.
All that mattered was the food was good and hot every time he came here.
The place was packed, which he would have expected if he'd thought about the time of night. Cops with the night off as well as those just getting off shift were here since the day before was payday. Men and women with money to burn and nowhere else to spend it chose to come here.
He hadn't told anyone she was living with him. He hadn't really done anything with her in the month she'd been here. She had sort of settled into a routine and he hadn't wanted to interfere with that. He wasn't sure how to explain her presence to anyone either.
She'd pretty much stayed at his condo until this past week when she'd started classes. She was very unobtrusive. There were times if it weren't for the extra set of towels in the bathroom or the extra spoon or glass next to the sink he'd forget someone was living with him. He hadn't lived with a woman since … well, it'd been a long time and he'd almost forgotten what it was like. She wasn't like Elena, though, not even close.
He wasn't sure why Matt Parkman had chosen him, but Lee knew the fellow police officer wouldn't ask him for this kind of help if it wasn't absolutely necessary. He didn't know much about her. Didn't know if she was here because she was in danger, had seen something she wasn't supposed to, or was running away from something or someone. Matt hadn't offered much information and she hadn't really either. He did know, though from the clothes and things she had that she was used to nice things.
Nicer than this place, he realized. And he rethought his decision to bring her here. A hangout for cops who could be a bit crass. To put it nicely.
"Listen, we can find somewhere else," he offered when he looked at this place from an outsider's eyes. "There are nicer places to get pizza."
"Oh come on," she said. "You picked the place."
"Yeah, I just," he said, shoving his hands in his pockets. He wasn't ashamed of his life or anything, but that didn't mean she wanted to eat at a dive.
She placed her hand on his forearm. He glanced at it, noticing she'd changed the shade of her nail polish to something a little more earthy than the fire engine red she'd worn yesterday.
"Don't want your friends to see you out with me?"
"What? No, that's not it at all. Why would you think that?"
"I don't know what you've told them about me."
"Nothing. I mean, there isn't anything to tell. If I just announced a woman started living with me, that would seem odd and out of place. So, I've said nothing."
"Okay then." She shrugged. "So what's the big deal?"
"This probably isn't your type of place."
She scrunched her nose a little, sliding her hand through his arm. "I don't have a type of place, Detective. I mentioned pizza and you brought me here. I assume that means it's because you like their pizza. So, let's eat pizza."
"What's with the detective bit?"
She shrugged. "I don't know, I just like saying it sometimes."
He found them a table for two sort of away from the crowd. At least the people they were sitting near had eating rather than drinking their paycheck away in one night on their minds.
"Anything you don't like?"
"The usual stuff like anchovies."
"All right," he said when the waitress approached their table.
He put in an order without looking at a menu. The waitress came back after a bit with a pitcher of root beer.
"You didn't have to just get pop for my benefit."
"I don't drink much."
"Oh," she said.
"Is that a problem?"
"No, it just makes sense now why there's no beer or anything at your place."
"Were you looking for it?"
She laughed a little.
"No, but my dad always had something. I haven't really spent much time in guys' houses so that's the only thing I have to go by."
"Alcohol wasn't the substance I was addicted to."
"Ah, I see."
"I do have the occasional drink, and usually keep beer on hand. I just haven't picked any up since I drank the last one."
"You rethinking Matt's trust in me?"
"Drug users are not a very trustworthy lot."
"But you're not using anymore."
"Yeah, and NA meetings. Still go to those, though not as often as I probably should."
She shrugged. "Besides. What are you going to do? Steal my makeup?"
He smirked. "Good point."
"If Matt trusts you then all I can do is trust you, too," she said.
She set her hand over his just as their pizza arrived, quickly moving it. They both knew the waitress had seen it, though he wasn't sure why it mattered.
"Besides, nobody's perfect," she said, though he suspected that wasn't what she'd been about to say.
The pizza looked and smelled great. It wasn't a pizza made for anyone on a diet or worried about things like cholesterol. Everything on it was real and there was tons to enjoy. Nick's didn't skimp on ingredients. If you ordered a sausage pizza you could expect to get a piece in every bite, complete with lots of oil. (Don't call it grease or Nick will come after you.)
"This is really good," Claire said midway through the first piece.
"I'm glad you like it."
"So, most everyone here is a cop?"
He glanced around the place, nodding at the people he knew. He knew come Monday he'd be asked questions by more than one here tonight.
"Yeah. A few are wives, husbands, family, friends or dates, but it's all cops or their friends."
"It's too bad other people don't get to eat this pizza."
"It's one of the perks. We need a place to unwind, sometimes you don't want to go right home. Me? It's not a problem so much since I live alone."
"I guess not."
She took another slice of pizza, glancing around the room much the way he had a few minutes ago. Only, she knew no one but him. He kind of wondered what she saw. It was quite a mixed bag here tonight. There were detectives to beat cops to desk jockeys and even a few undercovers who were probably in between assignments or were safely away from wherever their current assignment took them.
"Do any of them know?"
"No," he said simply.
"I wouldn't know what to tell them, and like I said. It sort of defeats the purpose of protecting you if I announce to everyone someone's suddenly living with me."
Lee looked in the direction, cursing his luck. Rudy wasn't a bad guy, he just thought he was everybody's friend. Lee didn't really have friends. It was just the way he operated. Friendships brought with them involvement and Lee tended to shy away from that sort of commitment.
"Hey Rudy," Lee said, offering the other cop his hand.
"I didn't know you were going to be here tonight."
"I didn't either. We decided on pizza, though, so here we are."
"We, huh," he said, turning an assessing gaze to Claire. "Good choice."
Lee wasn't sure if Rudy was talking about coming to Nick's or Claire.
"I'll be right back," Claire said, standing from the table.
"Where are you going?" Lee asked.
She smiled at the tone he used, as if he thought she was going to go for a walk outside or something. Though he'd stood from the table as if prepared to leave with her if that's what she'd intended on doing.
"Just to the ladies room."
"All right," he said, taking his seat again.
Lee watched as Claire walked to the bathroom, aware of the fact more than one guy in the place did the same thing. They stopped watching as soon as they realized Lee was aware of it, probably thinking she was Lee's date. Let them think what they wanted. He doubted Matt had sent her to him to have her take up with most of the guys here. And it would go a long way to explaining things if anyone found out she was living with him.
He vaguely listened to Rudy prattle on about whatever. He was one of those cops that had no life outside of the job. He didn't have hobbies, unless you counted playing on his squad's softball team. Scanlon didn't, though. Hobbies took you away from the job and the people you worked with. Not that Lee had many either, but he didn’t show up at places like Nick's and talk about cases on his off-time either.
"I'll be right back, Rudy."
He had no idea how long he'd listened to Rudy talk, but he realized it had been long enough that Claire should have been back to their table. Not that he was overly worried something had happened to her in a restaurant and bar full of cops. But one never knew exactly.
He spotted her easily enough. She was by the jukebox, which could have explained what had taken her so long on its own. It contained a pretty eclectic group of songs in attempt to appeal to everyone. That wasn't what was keeping her, though. One of the officers, fresh out of the academy by the looks of him, was talking to her.
Coming onto her was more like it. He wasn't quite into full-court press mode, but pretty damned close. Invading her personal space, inching even closer as he could so as not to be obvious.
Lee watched for a minute, curious as to her response. There'd been a time or two he'd thought she was flirting with him. It went beyond the casual touches she gave him. Some people were just touchers, he realized that. He tried not to put much thought on it, she was too young for him and he was doing a friend a favor.
She was watching the kid - which was an ironic thing to call him, because he was probably older than she was and he didn't consider her a kid - intently, nodding politely, but she didn't seem overly interested in extending their conversation past whatever it is that had started them talking.
She was smiling, though, making eye contact, and registering his face. And then she laughed to something the cop had said.
"Someone coming onto your date, Scanlon?"
Lee didn't need to look beside him to know it was Ken Hartman talking. They'd known one another for years now. Ken was a good cop, an observant one which went a long way toward making him the good cop he was.
"I guess so," he said.
"You just going to stand here and let that young buck do that?"
"Let him feel like he's making headway."
"You waiting to see if she takes him up on it?"
"Nah," Lee said, though he wondered what he'd do if she found someone she was interested in. He had no idea how long she was going to be here. It stood to reason she might be here long enough to put down roots. Get a place of her own.
"What's her name?" The question drew him from his thoughts.
"Claire," he said simply.
As if she'd heard him say her name, she looked right at him, finding him easily one would have thought he'd been the only one there instead a crowd of people. And then she directed that smile at him. It was a nice smile. He'd noticed that before, but then everything about her was nice to look at.
"I guess you were right not to be worried."
"How's that?" Lee asked Ken.
"Never mind, you need me to tell you what I just saw you're blind to it anyway. He might just snatch her from you if you're not careful."
Lee grimaced. "Thanks for the tip," he said, pushing away from the bar and walking toward Claire and her new friend.
"You want some more songs? I have some money," the young cop offer.
"Thanks, but I have money. I don't know how long I'm going to be here anyway."
Lee winced, realizing what that statement could be taken as by the young cop.
"Did you get lost?" he asked. He didn't get too close to them. He was well aware of the fact that Ken and a few others were watching.
"No, I'm sorry. I was trying to decide between a couple of songs."
"And you've never heard of just flipping a coin?"
She gave him an odd look.
"Well, I'd already put my money in so I couldn't do that."
"I see. Did you decide?"
Lee eyed the new cop, sizing him up he supposed some would say. Judging by the few people that were watching instead of minding their own business, he wasn't the only one who noticed what he was doing. He spotted a couple of amused looks, but most were just curious to see if something would happen worth talking about on Monday.
Assured by her body language and the fact she was more focused on the jukebox than the other cop, he moved a little closer to her.
"She's with me," he finally said.
"Yeah, sure, Detective, I was just helping her pick out a song."
"I bet you were. Go find another girl to use that line with, preferably not one here with someone."
"She didn't say…"
"Is she a cop?"
"Then she's here with someone, stands to reason."
"Could have been another girl."
"Could have been, but it isn't."
"Lee," Claire said, setting her hand against his forearm. "It's okay, really. He was just helping me find a song."
"Yeah, yeah, I just bet he was," he said as the cop sauntered away seemingly more confident than Lee would have been if the situation was reversed. "I'll help you find a song," he said.
"Okay then," she said, tugging him toward the jukebox. She used her free hand to slide some hair behind her ear as she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He took the opportunity to place an arm around her waist.
"Nothing," she said softly. If he didn't know better, he'd say she was blushing. "What do you want to hear?"
"I don't care really."
"Well, see, now you're no more help than my standing here looking was."
He glanced at some of the selections, pointing at one randomly. "This one."
"Okay," she said, punching in the number.
They did that a couple of more times until she'd used up her money.
"Sorry if I worried you," she said finally.
"You didn't. He just needs to know you don't do that."
She turned a little, looking right at him then. "What does it matter exactly?"
"Why do you care if I talk to him? He's a cop so he's not a bad guy."
"And it's not like I was going to go home with him."
"I have a feeling he had a different objective in mind than you then."
She smiled a little. "Oh, I'm not saying he wasn't going to try."
"You mean he hadn't already?"
"He was setting the groundwork, sure."
"And no interest?"
"That's not what I'm here for."
"Doesn't mean you're not interested."
"I'm not. Besides," she said, reaching up to fiddle with one of the buttons on his shirt.
"Yeah," he said.
She stood on her tiptoes and placed her lips right on his. "I'm here with you. I wouldn't do that."
"Well, it's not like…"
"I wouldn't do that," she said again.
"Now can we go finish our pizza?"
"It's probably cold by now," he said.
"Well then," she said, sliding her arm through his. "I guess you'll just have to take me home. I'm tired after such a full day."
"I just bet you are."
He suspected he'd be the fodder for water cooler gossip on Monday even without having started a fight.
Word Count: 2,318
He'd been surprised that he'd been able to pull off taking Saturday off without being called in to work. Not that he was complaining. His not being called to a scene meant no one had died.
Sunday had been equally uneventful. He'd been surprised when Claire not only didn't seem to mind him wanting to spend the day watching football, but she even joined him for a little while.
So far the quiet weekend had continued on into Monday. His morning so far consisted of putting the finishing touches on some case files. When the phone at his desk rang, he was sort of happy at the prospect of being called out somewhere.
"Someone here to see you, Detective."
"Yeah? Who is it?"
"Says her name's Claire and that she's bringing you the lunch you forgot at home?"
Lee closed his eyes, picturing the look on Adam's face quite clearly. No doubt he was picturing all sorts of unsavory things. And he would pass those things on to any cop who would listen for the rest of his shift.
"Thing is, she's far too pretty to be hanging out with a lug like you. So, I figured I'd call to be sure she had the right place before I sent her back."
"Ah," he said, glancing in his desk drawer. Sure enough, it was devoid of his usual packed lunch. "Thanks, yeah, I'll be right up."
"You don't want me to frisk her?"
"No," he said quickly, which was met with Adam's jovial laughter and then the sound of a dead phone line.
He stood from his desk and walked toward the front. He wasn't really worried about Adam frisking her, but he didn't want her given a hard time either. Or being exposed to Adam's lewd comments. He hadn't even realized he'd forgotten his lunch.
She'd distracted him that morning.
Any living, breathing man would have been seeing her clad in only a towel. Even if it was only a glimpse. He'd been running late and she was early getting ready for class. She'd been going from the bathroom to her bedroom. Just a few seconds. A flash of a good deal of leg. Her bare back as the towel rode low on her there for some reason.
It was enough, though, apparently.
"Hey," he said when he saw her.
"Hi, sorry. I didn't know if you'd be able to leave or anything if you forgot it."
"No, that's great. Thanks. I appreciate it. I hope Adam didn't give you a hard time. Word of advice, just ignore most anything he says."
"Most anything? How do I know what to ignore and not ignore?"
"If it's bad and about me, ignore it," he quipped.
"I see. I'll remember that."
"Are you going to be late for class because of me?"
"No, my first one isn't for an hour yet. I was going to the union and hang out with this girl I met who's in a couple of my classes."
"Oh, right, good, you're making friends."
He took the lunch in question, taking a moment to look at her. She always dressed and looked nice, but today there was something different about her that he wasn't sure he liked. She was dressed in a skirt and top, nothing fancy but the skirt drew attention to her legs - which were very nice. And the top drew attention to parts of her he had no business even thinking about.
So, whom was she dressing like that for? Was it really a guy she was meeting? Not that she'd have to lie to him. He hadn't placed any kind of rules on her aside from no drugs - or anything else illegal - in his house. Being a cop, he didn't think that was an unusual request.
"Yeah, a couple."
"Okay, well, I'm going to go," she said.
"All right, enjoy class."
"Yeah, right," she said with a roll of her eyes.
"Hey, at least you're finally able to take classes you want to take."
"That is true."
She turned to leave and he noticed that her stockings - he wasn't sure how he knew they were stockings but they were - had the seams up the back. Her shoes had no back and there were little black bows at the back of each ankle.
He coughed a little and she turned, looking a little concerned.
"I'm fine. Go. And you look nice, by the way."
"Thank you," she said, and if he didn't know better he thought she blushed. She walked the few steps toward him and kissed him on the cheek. "Very much."
"You're welcome. And thanks again for bringing my lunch. I appreciate it."
And just like that she was out the door, walking into the Phoenix sun. He stood there watching for a minute, holding his lunch. He probably looked like an idiot, but he couldn't stop from watching her for anything.
Stockings. She had to wear stockings.
Adam was there faster than he could blink. He gave a low whistle, evidently watching Claire walk just as Lee was.
"That the girl you were with Saturday night?"
"How do you know about that?"
Adam patted Lee on the shoulder and gave a laugh.
"Everyone knows about that, Lee. So, is it?"
"Yeah, I was with her Saturday night."
He gave a low whistle.
"I see. She's definitely worth starting a fight over."
"I didn't start any fights," Lee said.
"I heard it came pretty close."
"It did not. Not even close, just some guy still wet behind his ears not thinking clearly."
"You set him straight, though, right?"
"Yes, I did. With words."
"So, home, huh?"
"She said you left your lunch at home."
"Yeah, I do have one of those. Don't you, Adam?"
"Har har. What's she doing at your home when you're not there?"
"Maybe she's the cleaning lady."
"Let me know what company she works for so I can get me one of those, too."
Lee walked away. He hadn't really envisioned her path crossing with his work life very often. Saturday had been his doing and he was off-duty. Today, though. Her bringing him his lunch, a lunch he'd forgotten at home would suggest intimacy. Not that he minded, but it'd be a lot nicer if he was actually on the receiving end of the intimacy that would be part of the rumor mill within an hour's time.
He put his sandwich in the community fridge, the rest he brought to his desk. Man, he wasn't going to hear the end of it because once Adam got done telling the story there no saying how distorted it will have become. He moved his mouse, bringing the screen back up he'd been on when Adam had called.
"Good morning, Detective Scanlon."
"Morning," he said in response, glancing at the officer in question. She was nice looking, always had a smile and a kind word. At least for him. He glanced at her legs, covered in uniform blue.
"Nowhere near seamed stockings," he muttered before setting back to work.
His day evolved from there. Some might say it got better, he wasn't so sure. He'd opened his lunch at his desk midway through his shift to find she'd written a note on a napkin. It didn't say anything flowery or poetic, merely told him she hoped he had a nice day.
Not a bad thing in and of itself.
Harmless, well-meaning. Nice even. He'd never had anyone to put notes in his lunch before.
The bad thing was that he found himself smiling after reading it. Couple that with some very inappropriate thoughts he'd had a time or two during the day about those legs of hers. Thoughts he chastised himself for immediately.
She was too young for him.
He was supposed to be watching out for her.
His friend trusted him to keep her safe.
Not just a friend, a fellow cop trusted him to keep her safe.
Well, it had made for a very long day.
There was a Diamondbacks game on tonight, which he was looking forward to watching. Relaxing a bit. He was somewhat surprised the focus of a good many of his thoughts during the day wasn't home. She was done with classes pretty early in the afternoon. Glancing near his feet, he saw the evidence she had been home in the form of her backpack.
Her bedroom door was open, which meant she'd come back and gone he imagined. It was probably for the best. He was sort of afraid some of his thoughts would be obvious. Of course, he imagined someone who looked like she did was probably used to that type of thing.
He poured himself a glass of milk and headed to the couch after drinking it and rinsing out the glass. The game didn't start for a while yet, but catching some news would be all right. He wasn't involved in anything right now for the job, but that didn't mean there wasn't stuff going on in his city.
He must have dozed off. He'd missed the news and currently there was a game show on he'd never be caught dead watching.
Couple that with Claire talking to him about…
"Did you want me to make it then?"
"What?" he asked, realizing he must have been more deeply asleep than he'd thought.
She padded into the room and he thought for a minute that he was still asleep and dreaming.
"You weren't awake, were you?"
"Uh, no, sorry."
"Well, I didn't think so at first, but you responded to me when I said hi and stuff, so I just thought maybe you were zoning out or something."
"I was doing an exemplary job of showing you why Matt Parkman entrusted you to my care."
She rolled her eyes, which shouldn't have been at all attractive. Perhaps it was the fact she was standing in his living room in nothing but a bathing suit. A two-piece bathing suit. He'd seen suits that covered far less than hers did so it wasn't risqué or anything. Not that he would have minded. He closed his eyes, shaking that thought from his head. When he opened his eyes again, he couldn't help but notice that she had a nice hue to her skin that suggested she'd been laying out rather than swimming.
"I wasn't even home. So, my question was that I pulled some chicken from the freezer this morning to thaw. Did you want me to make dinner?"
"Oh, no, I can get it," he said, switching the channel, hoping he hadn't missed too much of the D-backs game.
She glanced at the TV, catching sight of the game.
"I can do it. I'll just change real quickly."
It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her not to bother changing, but he stopped himself. He needed a cold shower and maybe to rethink staying home tonight. He was certain it was the fact she was here, in his condo, sharing his space that was getting to him. He wasn't used to cohabitating with anyone, and she was attractive, so it was bound to happen.
"Nah, actually, I think I'm going to go out for a while," he said.
He had a woman friend he saw from time to time that he was pretty sure would be up to a spur of the moment call from him. They were nothing steady or committed, but she was usually up to visits from him like the one he had in mind at the moment. Surely, that would get these thoughts out of his mind.
"Okay," she said, frowning a little.
She looked so … disappointed, if he didn't know better. And that thinking was going to lead him into trouble.
"So, you get the place to yourself tonight, no baseball."
"I don't mind baseball."
"I know, but knock yourself out. Watch whatever you want," he said, getting up and going toward his room to change.
He heard her door shut not too long after his. He changed from work clothes into something more casual. He flipped open his phone, glancing at his bedroom door as he scrolled through his contacts and found the number he was looking for.
"Hi, it's Lee."
'I was beginning to think you'd fallen off the planet.'
"Not quite, just been tied up with some things. You know how it goes."
"You up for some dinner tonight?"
"Or I could bring something."
'Which would you prefer?'
"Chinese?" he asked, answering her question.
'Sure, why not? You know what I like.'
'Okay then. I'll see you in a while.'
He hung up, slipping into his shoes before checking himself in his mirror to ensure he looked all right. He thought he did. He wasn't sure what Mandy thought of him some of the time. Things didn't get that deep between them. It wasn't solely physical, he did take her out and things but they just didn't talk much about their relationship or their feelings for one another.
Claire's door was still closed when he came out of his room. She wasn't anywhere to be found and judging by the sound of music coming from her room he assumed she was holed up in there. He took out his wallet pulled out a $20 and set it on the counter.
"In case you want to order something in," he wrote on a piece of paper, leaving it next to the money. She was starting a part-time job next week at the mall. She hadn't asked him for much in the way of spending money in the time she'd been here and other than more groceries than he usually bought she wasn't costing him much so he didn't mind shelling out some tonight.
Word Count: 1,698
The Chinese food had been eaten a while ago. There were some leftovers along with the plates and everything they'd dirtied. Mandy probably hadn't anticipated Lee turning on the Diamondbacks game and paying more attention to it than her. When she'd mentioned her bedroom his reply of 'in a minute' hadn't been received too well.
He couldn't blame her.
That had never been bad between them. He didn't think of it as them using one another. There'd been a couple of times he'd gone to her not for sexual release but as a diversion from his need for things he would just assume jump off a cliff than start using again.
He'd joined her in bed after the game. He was attentive to her as he always was. He knew what they had and he tried to ensure she didn't end it because of his own selfishness. His body, however, wasn't responsive as it usually was after the foreplay they both enjoyed. He wasn't completely lacking in response, but not enough for him to find his own release. Not for lack of trying on either of their parts. That really wasn't why he'd come here tonight anyway. Well, maybe it was in a roundabout way.
"What's on your mind?" she asked finally when it was clear what had happened was all that was going to.
He glanced at the clock, realized he'd been in her bedroom for going on three hours. He had never had this problem before, not even when he'd been using. There were times he hadn't cared to have sex because he'd desired satisfying other fixes more. When he'd wanted to, though, his body had been more than willing and cooperative. She understood because she was an addict, too.
It was how they'd met, neither had waited the recommended year to make changes in their life. Not that what they had could have ever been called a relationship. Maybe back then it could have turned into one, but Lee firmly believed they'd both just wanted to prove there was something normal in their life. Untainted by the drugs.
"Nothing," he said, sitting up. Planting his feet on the floor, he eyed her. She was pretty, similarities existed between her and Elena. He'd be a fool to deny that. He'd never been one to have a type or so he'd thought.
"I should go," he said, grabbing his underwear and pants, sliding them on before finding his shirt.
"You sure? You can stay if you want to, Lee."
"I know, Mandy," he said, leaning down to kiss her before sliding his shirt on over his head. "I don't think I'm going to do much sleeping tonight."
She smiled, a saucy, seductive one he'd seen many times on her. Usually it did wonders toward getting his attention firmly on her and what she could do with that mouth. And, boy, could she do wonderful things with that mouth.
"Well, if sleeping isn't on your mind," she said, patting the spot next to her.
He smiled, taking hold of her hand and squeezing it. It was a tempting offer, but he realized Claire would probably worry if he didn't come home. Or think he was a major asshole for just leaving as he had and not coming home. It wasn't her fault he found her attractive. She lived there, so surely she had the right to wear her bathing suit to and from the pool. And the towel thing the other morning, well, he didn't expect her to dress and undress in the bathroom.
"I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you next time."
"Oh, I know you will," she said with a wink.
He found his shoes, sliding them on.
"Lock the door behind me," he said.
She'd already started following him to the door. Naked. He felt his body stir, thought about changing his mind and getting back into bed. He just wasn't sure he wanted to deal with the humiliation if it happened - or rather didn't happen - a second time.
He paused on the other side, listening for the deadbolt and chain to slide into place. Confident she was tucked safely away in her apartment, he left.
He didn't drive home right away. He stopped at an all-night diner for a cup of coffee and to collect his thoughts. They were rather jumbled so hard to untangle. He left about an hour later no clearer in his thinking than when he'd gotten there. Other than realizing he was going to be dead on his feet at work tomorrow.
He got home only to find Claire asleep on the couch. The TV was still on, a music video channel from what he could tell. He stopped at the small coat closet and grabbed a blanket he kept there for just such occasions.
He draped it over her and stepped away, turning the TV off.
"Mm, hi," she murmured.
"Hi," he whispered.
"You just got home?"
"Yeah," he said.
Had she been worried about him? Tried to stay awake and wait for him? He hadn't thought of that. Of course, he hadn't been thinking with his brain when he left. He wasn't used to having anyone at home waiting for him either.
"Did I do something wrong?"
"What?" he asked, surprised by the question.
"I don't know. You just left so suddenly. I wasn't sure… I know it has to be weird having me here. I mean, if I'm cramping your style or you want the place to yourself for a while just tell me."
"And you'd go where?"
She didn't say anything at first.
"Well, I have a couple of friends at school I've made. And I don't know, there's places to go."
"I'll keep that in mind," he said, though he knew he'd never tell her to leave.
"So, you didn't want me here?"
"I didn't say that, Claire."
"No, but you just said you'd keep it in mind."
"Yeah, for if I ever need the information."
"Oh," she said, sitting up on the couch. The blanket fell to the floor as she shifted.
"I'm sorry if you thought I was mad."
"I just wasn't sure. I almost called my Matt."
She'd really been about to do that? All because he'd left? If she knew the reason he'd left she probably would call Matt and have him put her under someone else's care.
"No, if it ever gets to be a problem I promise I'll tell you and we'll call Matt."
"Do you work in the morning?" she asked, standing and picking the blanket up from the floor. She folded it.
"Yeah," he said simply.
"All right," she said, setting the blanket on the couch and walking toward him. His reaction to seeing her up close in her pajamas told him that whatever his problem at Mandy's was had been a short-lived one. Christ, she wasn't wearing anything that should get him going. Shorts and a tank top. He'd seen her wearing things like this before.
He reached for her shoulder, sliding a finger just under the strap of the tank top. He skimmed her shoulder with his thumb. He heard her breath hitch at the touch and his body reacted as it was supposed to. Definitely nothing wrong with any part of him.
Would she let him kiss her? She eyed him and he wondered what she saw. And then it dawned on him what she probably saw. Him straight out of someone else's bed. Hell, he probably smelled like Mandy. He'd certainly touched, tasted, and kissed enough of her to have that be the case.
He drew his hand away from her instantly at that thought. Crap, what the hell was he doing?
"I'll see you in the morning."
"O-okay," she said.
She didn't come out of her bedroom while he was getting ready for work the next morning. He knew she had class and was tempted to knock to see if she had overslept. Except, if she was avoiding him, very possibly mad at him (rightfully so) she wouldn't respond well to that. So, he'd let her be, though it'd been tempting to leave his lunch to see if she'd bring it to him again.
"Long night, Scanlon?" Adam asked.
"Yeah, didn't sleep well."
"I can't say as I blame you."
Lee rolled his eyes, let the guy think what he wanted. There was no use saying anything one way or the other. If he denied it, he'd just think he was lying.
He checked his cell phone's voicemail seeing the icon that showed he had a message. Mandy's assurance that they were all right and hoping he had a good day left him feeling a little empty. Usually, her messages after a night together left him anticipating the next time.
His day passed by for the most part uneventful. This was good from a detective standpoint, bad for his mindset. It left him time to think. By about two o'clock, he would have given anything for a trial to have to prepare for. Something. Anything. He wanted to go home. Finally, at three o'clock, he checked out for the day. It wasn't as if he wasn't contactable on his phone.
He found himself disappointed to find his condo empty. Unlike most days when she'd come home from school and just gone on to do something else her backpack was not by the door. Her door was open, no sign she'd been home or where she might be.
He went to his room, taking a quick shower. He already had that morning, but coming home and remembering what he'd contemplated doing last night made him feel as if he needed another one.
He ate dinner, reheating some of the chicken and rice Claire had evidently made the night before while he'd been out. He noticed it then, his note from last night and with it the twenty he'd left. Only it was crumpled up as if she'd balled it up and tossed it onto the counter that way. Like she'd been mad. It hadn't been there that morning, so she'd done it since he left for the day.
Word Count: 3,109
He was woken up, called out to a crime scene close to midnight. A glance at Claire's room on his way out told him she still wasn't home. Ordinarily, he probably would have been worried, but the scene he'd been called out to involved a child so he had other things on his mind when he'd left his house.
He hated these things. It had initially been reported as a child abduction. Lee remembered hearing some details about the case before the weekend. Him getting the call meant the case had gone from abduction to murder.
The little boy was as cute as they came, Lee remembered. He was six years old, but looked a little younger in his picture. Perhaps it had been an old photo, Lee didn't know. He wondered if the mother had been told. That was one part of his job Lee despised and as a homicide detective, delivering bad news fell to him more often than not in this type of situation.
The crime scene was brutal, they always were in cases like this. This one especially so as he'd been stabbed repeatedly. The boy's body just wasn't big enough to make sense of all the wounds the weapon had made.
It was daybreak when an exhausted and disheartened Detective Scanlon made his way home. Other detectives remained on the scene, collecting clues, interviewing people and so forth. Lee and those who had been called out of bed were on their way home. He wasn't sure he'd get any sleep, but he needed a shower, something to eat and to at least try and get a couple of hours in before he returned to the scene. He always had dreams about the bad cases, especially when a kid was involved.
The worst part about it was that there were no suspects. No one had seen anything the night of the abduction. So they were going to have to do some good detective work to find justice for Mahkah, which Lee remembered hearing or reading somewhere meant earth. He doubted his mother had in mind him being returned to the earth so young in life.
He showered first, taking a little extra time than he normally did just to let the water pulsate along his torso and back. He was tense. The last couple of days had been odd ones for him personally and that didn't sit well with him. He had grown accustomed to his life being what it was. Boring, perhaps, about the job most of the time. It was his life, though. He didn't have to worry about upsetting people because he didn't really have anyone in his life to upset.
He toweled off, sliding into a pair of sweats before heading toward the kitchen. He poured himself a bowl of cereal. He wasn't particularly hungry, just wanted something in his stomach when he tried to sleep. It was hard enough to sleep during the day as it was, but if his body was screaming for breakfast it would be impossible.
For the first time since she'd moved in with him, Lee had actually forgotten she was here. Or that when he'd left she hadn't been. He turned to look at her, not at all unpleased at the fact she was most definitely checking him out. He hadn't gone shirtless while she'd been living here, it just didn't seem appropriate.
"Hey," he said.
"You could say that. It was a bad one. A kid."
"Yeah," he said with a nod. There'd only been one boy missing who had gotten so much attention the past week or so. Little Mahkah's face would be etched in peoples minds for a while after they were informed he was gone.
"He was so cute," she said.
He shrugged. He'd thought so, too, but couldn't think of him like that anymore. "Yeah, he was. Kindergarten age I think. I'm just home for a few hours to get some shut eye, I'll be out of your way probably most of the day and into the night."
"Oh," she said.
"I'm sorry," she said softly. She didn't sound completely sincere. Well, that wasn't the right word. She just said it as if she knew it was expected of her.
"I'll let you get some sleep."
"No class today?"
"No, not today, but I'm going out for a while."
"Okay, I'll see you later then."
She left and he wondered if he had imagined the entire conversation. While they hadn't fallen into an immediately comfortable routine, he liked to think they got along. They'd had a good time at the zoo and at Nick's after. Was she mad at him for some reason? For being with Mandy? For thinking of coming onto her? For not finishing the deal?
He was a lot of things, but that was just something he couldn't have done. While his body certainly had been willing and able, and it got that way every time since he pictured her dressed in her pajamas. He just couldn't get into a woman's bed after just having been in another's.
He rinsed out his bowl, walked to his bedroom and shut the door before sliding out of his pants. It was far too hot to sleep in anything but his boxers.
Claire wasn't mad anymore. Oh, she supposed a part of her was a little, but not really. She'd been more confused and shocked than anything. And a little hurt.
She'd gone out the night before, spending the night at her friend, Gloria's apartment. She'd come home to shower and change before heading to the mall to buy a few things for her new job next week. She was surprised he wasn't home when she got home, wondered if he was with her.
Whoever she was.
She wasn't the most experienced person in the world, but she recognized signs. And he'd had them all over him the other night. And yet, he'd touched her as if he'd wanted her.
The exciting part she had no business feeling, but she couldn't help it. And then seeing him this morning with no shirt on. Holy crap, she'd never been that up close and personal with someone practically naked. Except for Lyle, but that was so entirely different.
She was surprised he was still here when she got home. And a little disappointed as it interfered with her plans of a nap. She had gotten the impression he was only here for a few hours. She'd left the house at nine that morning and it was going on three now. She was tired, having stayed up all night with Gloria watching movies and talking. She'd forgotten what it was like to be a normal girl, talk about girl things. She'd forgotten what it was like to have and be a friend. She hadn't really had any true friends since Texas.
Unfortunately, she couldn't get cool. It was a scorcher out today and despite coming home and changing into her shorts and a top, she was still hot. She wanted the circulating fan that was in his room. She'd used it before, he never minded but she wasn't going to go in there and take it from him.
Then again, she mused as she stood at the threshold to his bedroom. Was he even supposed to be here sleeping?
She couldn't help but take advantage of his sleeping, giving her the ability to look at him without him knowing. Her flirtations with him had failed drastically. Not that she was really trying, but he was nice looking. She'd caught him looking at her a time or two, but she wasn't sure if it was because it was her or just the simple fact that she was a woman nearby.
And then there was HER. Whoever she was. He'd never mentioned having a girlfriend. And until the other night had not - as far as she knew - seen anyone while she'd been living with him. So, what did that mean? Had he gone somewhere and picked someone up? Or was he involved, just with someone he didn't bring home?
She sighed softly, her thoughts disrupting her ability to appreciate the view. He'd tossed aside the lightweight blanket on the bed so nothing but the top sheet covered him. It didn't leave much to the imagination. Sight of the sweatpants he'd been wearing while eating that morning on the floor next to the bed informed her he was almost naked under that sheet.
She remembered what it had felt like to have him touch her. Her skin where his thumb and finger had stroked had for a moment felt electric. She'd almost wondered if he was special with the ability to make her feel something like that.
She'd been speechless when he just left her standing there with no explanation. The fact he didn't smell like alcohol ruled out drunkenness being the problem.
It was the very real desire for a nap that won out over common sense. She stepped into his room and walked the rest of the way to the bed. She left the sheet as his, tempting though it was to move it and really get a look at him. Matt Parkman hadn't mentioned the person he was putting her with was an attractive guy.
She fixed the blanket he'd tossed to the side, enjoying the cooling effects the fan was already having on her. And then she slid into bed, drawing the blanket around her. She just hoped he wouldn't be mad when he woke up and found her there.
His phone ringing woke him, barely. He sleepily glanced at his bedside clock as he fumbled for his phone. It was going on five o'clock. He'd slept way longer than he should have.
"Scanlon," he said, his voice hoarse from lack of use.
"Yeah, on my way, sorry got tied up with some things at home."
He hung up, knowing full well what his captain would think he'd been tied up with. Rumor of his being involved with Claire had spread like wildfire. While his captain didn't make a point of listening to such things, Lee knew it would be on his captain's mind. Lee didn't make a habit of showing up to crime scenes late. It was better than saying he'd overslept, he supposed.
He set the phone down on his nightstand, allowing himself a minute to wake up some more. The fan had done its thing too well evidently. Keeping his room cool and blocking out any noise that might come into his room from the street or the rest of the house.
He glanced next to him, for some reason not at all surprised to see Claire staring back at him. Apparently, he hadn't been dreaming her getting into bed with him after all. That was good to know. Parts of him were certainly happy to have her here.
"You have the fan," she said by way of explanation.
He nodded in understanding. He was on an energy saver plan that allowed his electric company to reduce his electricity use to a bare minimum when necessary during peak times. It saved him money, which for a cop was always good. He was rarely home during the day, which was typically when the reduction took place, for it to make it real bad in here. It was the reason he'd invested in the circulating fan, though.
"Let me guess," she said, shifting onto her side to look at him. "You're late."
"Yeah," he said. "I should have been there like two hours ago."
"I debated about waking you, but you looked like you were actually resting soundly."
"Yeah, I didn't think I would. I never do when it's a kid."
"I can understand that."
"Can you?" he asked.
She nodded a little, a look in her eyes that told him she was being sincere. "I've seen… things."
"Yeah, I get that you have."
He reached for his watch on the nightstand and slid it over his wrist. He regarded her for a minute. She looked kind of nice in his bed. His room, hell his whole house, was pretty obviously inhabited by a man. And a single one at that. His sheets were a dark gray, charcoal gray he thought was the name for it. She was fair, from her blonde hair to her milky skin, so she made for a nice contrast against the dark tone.
He cleared his throat a little, looking away.
"I need to get up and get dressed."
"You maybe should either look away or close your eyes or something."
Logic told him he should have told her to leave the room entirely and bring the fan out to her when he left, but he didn't include that option.
She smiled a little as if knowing exactly what he'd just been thinking but obeyed, turning onto her stomach. She reached under the pillow with her arms and for a moment he contemplated not getting out of bed at all. Parts of him below the waist definitely found that appealing.
Not today. He had to get to work. There was a little boy's murder to solve. That did the trick in deflating his libido somewhat.
He dressed quickly, sitting on the edge of the bed nearest to her. He touched her shoulder.
"Oh, you mean I can look now?"
"Listen, I need to apologize to you."
"The other night. Things have been uncomfortable between us since then."
"Yeah," she said simply, eyes watching him intently.
He should have gotten upset she agreed so quickly, but he knew.
"I shouldn't have let that happen. Matt trusted me to help you out not to put my hands on you."
Her eyes turned from understanding to hard in a matter of seconds. "You think that's why I was mad?"
"Well, not completely, but that has to be part of it."
"No?" he asked, confused.
She sat up then, gathering her knees to her chest.
"You had been with someone else."
"Yes," he said simply, no sense denying it. "Not very well," he admitted.
She frowned, resting her cheek on one of her knees as she looked at him. "Huh?"
He chuckled lightly, grazing her other cheek with a fingertip. Her eyes fluttered closed and there was a part of him that knew it was him rather than her that was way out of their league here.
"You sure you want to hear this."
She nodded as an answer.
"I left that night because," he shrugged. "You'd come in from the pool and I was thinking things I have no business thinking."
"Because you're a lot younger than I am."
"I'm also being trusted to take care of you. Not contemplate seducing you."
Her eyes widened a little, but she said nothing.
"So, yes, I went to see someone, hoping I guess it'd get those thoughts out of my mind."
"Oh," she said, sounding none too happy about that.
He chuckled again, sliding his hand in between her knee and cheek so he could bring her face up to look at him.
"It didn't work."
"Looked that way to me."
"Looks can be deceiving. I'm not saying nothing happened, but she wasn't the answer. I couldn't," he cleared his throat. "Anyway," he said, not ready to make such an admission to her. "Then I came home and saw you and what I couldn't do earlier I wanted to do then."
"I got that."
"But I couldn't do that. Not to you, not to her."
"Who is she?"
"No, really. We met when I left treatment and started going to my NA meetings. She was new, too. It's nothing serious or steady, just someone we call when we need someone who gets what we are."
"And she's okay with that?"
He shrugged. "I guess so." He chuckled lightly. "She wouldn't be, but I would be?"
"Well, you're a guy."
"Guys," she shrugged. "I don't know. I don't know many guys who would be bummed out about being someone's booty call."
"That's not how it is. Not entirely. I won't deny that night it was."
"So, that's why you stopped?"
"Yes, some guys probably wouldn't have a problem with it, but I'm not one of them. I really have to go, Claire. I just wanted to apologize for all of that, for the tension here the past couple of days because of what I'd done. I didn't like waking up last night seeing you weren't here. It won't happen again."
She brushed her cheek against the palm of his hand, reached up and then kissed him. She'd blindsided him, catching him totally not expecting such a move on her part. She didn't stop at a peck either. Her lips slanted over his nicely, probably too nicely. He slid an arm around her waist, drawing her closer. Deeper into the kiss.
His phone rang, breaking into his thoughts of seeing how far she'd be willing to take the kiss. He groaned softly as he took it out of his pocket.
"I'm on my way," he said, not bothering to find out who it was. Doing nothing to try and disguise the fact she'd made him short of breath from a kiss.
He was met by his captain shouting profanities at him. He hung up, there was no use arguing with him when he was like this. Lee knew he should have been there hours ago, so his captain had every reason to chew him a new one.
"Sorry," she said, though she didn't sound entirely sincere.
"It's all right. I'm glad we got that out of the way so it didn't fester into something bad."
"See you when you get home."
"You going back to bed?"
"Yes, I didn't sleep last night more than an hour or two."
"Well, enjoy the fan."
"I will," she said, sliding back into bed. He stood, drawing the blanket around her again. "Be careful," she said as he was leaving the room.
It crossed his mind to ask her who she'd spent the night with. He realized, though, that it wasn't any of his business. She didn’t strike him as the type to sleep with one guy and come home and sleep with another guy. Looks could be deceiving, he of all people knew that. He'd fallen victim to the biggest form of deceit, almost ending up committed in marriage. He didn't think he was wrong about her, though.
Word Count: 1,979
He came home, trying to be quiet. It wasn't necessary as it turned out, she was up watching TV. And looked like she might have just been waiting up for him. He liked that thought. He hadn't had anyone waiting up for him after a night like tonight in a very long time.
"Hi," she said.
"Hey," he said, tossing his keys on the counter. He slid his tie out from around his neck not at all sorry to see it go.
He took a spot next on the floor in front of the couch. She was watching something he recognized but couldn't name it, no big surprise there. She seemed to get he wasn't in the mood to talk, he liked that about her. And just the fact he had someone to come home to so he wasn't alone with his thoughts and the taint of the day was nice.
She slid over on the couch, her legs framing his body on either side. He wasn't much surprised or put out when she brought her hands to either shoulder. And when she started to rub his shoulders, he thought for a moment he'd died and gone to heaven.
They were quiet for a while. What she was doing was relaxing him to the point he probably could fall asleep right there on the floor if he shut his eyes and set about doing it.
She reached around, working a few of his buttons. Enough that she was able to slide it down so his shoulders and upper back were bare. Her hands were a little cool to the touch, but it felt nice after being out in the heat all evening.
"Don't you have class in the morning?" he asked, mindful of the time.
"I was waiting for you."
He wasn't sure what to say to that. He wasn't even sure why she'd waited up for him. Her kiss before he left entered his mind, especially as her hands at his shoulders took on a less massage-type touch. She was touching him now as if curious, learning the lay of the land in a manner of speaking.
He closed his eyes, relaxing under her touch. She seemed a little uncertain, as if she didn't know exactly what she was doing. She was doing just fine as far as he was concerned, though.
She skimmed his shoulders with the backs of her nails, sliding her fingers over his shoulders, along his collarbone, and down. The tips of them brushed along his pecs and he breathed in a little, not sure if she meant to do that or if it was an accident.
And then she kissed the back of his neck. It was a light kiss. So brief if he hadn't felt her hair brush along his skin he might have thought he imagined it.
She kissed his shoulder, lingering this time. He groaned softly when he felt her teeth and tongue graze the spot she'd just kissed. She moved her mouth an inch along his shoulder, maybe less, and did it again. And again. Her hands slid lower along his chest, fingertips coming awfully, achingly close to finding his nipples.
She moved to his neck then, as attentive to that as she had been his shoulder. And then his ear, which was when he came undone. Up to that point he had retained some semblance of control, but her tongue circling his ear and doing enticing things with his neck there was arousing as hell.
He turned then, just enough to wrap his arms around her and somewhat awkwardly bring her from where she'd been hovering just above him on the couch to his lap. He had no qualms about whether she noticed the effect she had on him. He had to imagine that was her intent.
His mouth found hers at the same time his hands settled against her hips. His eyes shot open coupled with a soft groan into the kiss when he realized she wasn't wearing anything under the shirt she had on. A hand slid to the small of her back and lower, which accompanied another groan. This one was of the slight disappointment variety. She was wearing panties.
"Something wrong?" she murmured before nipping his lower lip.
"No, nothing at all."
She shifted in his lap a bit, pressing herself into his erection even more.
"Good," she whispered.
She unbuttoned the rest of his shirt, skimming her fingers along his chest and stomach before finding the waist of his pants. And lower. He knew he should stop her. His argument about their age difference reared its ugly head again.
Until she opened his pants and found what she'd been looking for. Her fondling him caused all thoughts of arguing with her to leave his mind.
He lifted her shirt up and off, leaving her far more naked and exposed than he was. She didn't seem to mind, though. She let him look his fill before leaning into kiss him again.
He broke it this time, wanting to taste other parts of her. His hands and mouth got busy, touching and kissing every part of her he could reach. She shifted again and it wasn't until he felt her hand leading him very much where he wanted to go that he realized she'd managed to shed the panties.
Slowly, almost horrifically so, she worked his length into her. It seemed like every inch she took, she pulled off of him that much and more. Her breasts were well tended to, her nipples responsive to his touch, whether it be mouth or hands.
He shifted them once more so he could be on top of her. After a brief detour to shed his pants and underwear he slid onto her. He met her eyes, watching carefully for any sign she wanted him to stop. When he saw nothing but want and desire there he thrust into her quickly, deeply, needing the completion of being inside of her. Her soft cry wasn't the only thing that told him she hadn't done this before.
He stilled inside of her, kissing her breasts, collarbone, a shoulder, and her neck before finding her mouth.
"Tell me when I can move again," he murmured, hoping one day she'd appreciate how much he held back just then. It was tempting given his emotional state from the last couple of days to take what she was offering without thought for her. He couldn't do that. He wasn't that distraught to act like an ass.
She touched him from his hips to his stomach to his chest to his face. Slowly, her fingers traced over every inch of him she could reach. Then she found his back, slowly reaching lower for his ass. Her mouth found his as she pushed, giving him wordless confirmation that she was ready for more.
He tried to be careful, but it seemed she wasn't as intent on ensuring he was. Every time he slowed his pace or stopped for a second or two, she'd use her hips to push into him.
She'd even whispered an almost begging-like "please" when he drew out of her almost completely. He'd chuckled at that, as if he could stop now.
Finished, he moved beside her on the floor, gathering her to him. She did him one better and nestled herself on top of him. She was an agile thing he was learning as he slid his arms around her, keeping her flush against him.
He wasn't sure what all he'd said to her in the heat of the moment. He wasn't a huge talker, but he knew he'd uttered a few things that while complimentary in his mind might not have seemed so to her. He had the sense to be a little wary about looking at her.
"I was expecting you to fight me a little more."
"What?" he asked, surprised at that.
"I don't know. I didn't think all of this would happen tonight."
"Oh," he said, not sure what to say to that. "Are you…"
"I'm fine. I just was expecting you to argue with me or push me away or something."
"I think if you hadn't started kissing my ear as you did I may have."
She gave a soft giggle, kissing his collarbone before looking into his eyes. "That's all it took?"
"What can I say? I'm not that complicated."
"So…" she said and he could guess what was on her mind.
"I wasn't planning on this happening, obviously. So, we'll just have to figure it out as we go." He shifted so they were side-by-side on the carpet. "But you seemed to have thought about this."
"Yes," she said, having the courtesy to look a little embarrassed. Not that he minded she had seducing him on her mind.
"Are you on birth control?"
"Sort of," she said, sounding evasive.
"Sort of? I'm not sure there's a sort of answer to that."
"It's hard to explain. I'm safe, though. Safer than safe."
"Yeah, well, you may be, but did it ever occur to you I may not be?"
"I, well, I wasn't planning on it happening tonight! I was just trying to," she shrugged. "You know, tempt you a little. I figured you'd go to bed or something without doing anything. But again, I'm safe."
"So, you do understand if you do this," he said, gesturing to them laying there naked. "You need to think about that, right? Protect yourself against more than just getting pregnant."
"Are you trying to tell me something?"
"No," he said with a light laugh. "I'm fine. All clear, but I just needed to say that in the event…"
"I what? Decide to sleep with someone else tomorrow?"
"No, I mean, I guess I couldn't stop you from doing that if that's what you wanted."
"You think I'd want to do that?"
"No!" He shook his head, sliding a fingertip along her arm. "You're distorting what I'm saying. It's been a long time since I've been with someone who was a virgin. In treatment. In NA. Well, I've seen people think with parts other than their brain and that gets them into trouble. Potentially deadly trouble."
"Yeah, yeah, I get the point. Ensure any guy wears a hat." She rolled onto her back, her arms around his neck drawing him with her. "But you've already said you don't need to."
"Right," he said.
"That's good, because unless you happened to have one in your pocket I'd be about to make you break your rule."
His eyes widened a little, not at what she'd just said but more what she was suggesting. "You want to again?"
She gave a soft giggle, reaching up to kiss him as she reached between his legs with a hand. "Does this answer your question?"
"Only one thing," he said.
He stood, not too surprised she moved with him. And her legs around his waist, knowing he was just a mere inches away from being inside of her again as he carried her to his room were tempting him something crazy.
He laid her on the bed, reminded again of how he'd admired how she looked on his sheets earlier. She still did, only better now because she was naked on them.
"Better?" she asked.
"Much," he said, sliding next to her on the bed. He drew her on top of him. "I didn't understand earlier why you wanted to drive."
"Well, it wasn't like I announced you're my first."
"Yeah, well," he said, hands making a fist in her hair as he drew her to him for a kiss. "This time, you drive, no interruptions from me."
"What if I ask you to?"
"We might be able to come up with some sort of agreement then."
They didn't talk for a good while after that.
Word Count: 4,337
The next few weeks passed in a crazy blur. Between his case and Claire's classes ramping up as she got further into the semester they rarely saw one another. She was always in his bed when he got home each night, though.
He knew there were times he'd seemed emotionally distant to her. And probably uninterested in what she wanted to share with him. He tried to explain that he just had to keep focused on the case, which had taken some dark twists and turns before they'd finally collared Mahkah's killer. He'd told her more than once that her presence in his bed possibly meant more to him than the actual act of sex. Neither had the time for it after that night anyway, so it was a good thing he felt that way. He doubted she'd ever understand, but it was true. His job was done, now it was up to the DA and his people to ensure the charges Lee and his team had worked very hard to bring the suspect up on stuck.
The day after they'd had sex he'd put in for these next few days off. If the case hadn't been solved by then he wouldn't have gotten them, but since it was they were his. He was off-duty free and clear. Some other detective would get woken up in the middle of the night on Thanksgiving for the first time since he could remember.
"You're not going to tell me where we're going?" she asked.
"No," he said. "Just pack warm."
"I did!" She leaned against his doorframe, watching as he put his shaving kit together.
"All right, then that's all you need."
"Why are we doing this again?"
He shrugged. "You've been studying hard, I've been working hard. You've got a few days off, my case is done. Why not take a break for a few days? Beats it being just the two of us here Thursday."
"I told you my friend invited us."
"Yeah, not into the meeting your friend's parents."
"And that would be why?"
"Because they'd probably want to call the cops, thinking I'm some dirty old man not realizing, of course, I am the cops."
"You're not a hundred years older than me. And it's not like Gloria told her parents you were my boyfriend or anything."
"No, but they'll think it. We're living together. I'm not a relative. It stands to reason…"
"People do just have roommates."
"Yeah, well, you haven't been just my roommate for a couple of months and it'd show unless they're denser than rocks."
"Who cares what they think? Anyway, you're a cop, you're supposed to be good at hiding things."
"It's not so much me I'm worried about. I've been told by more than one person that the way you look at me is a dead giveaway."
"What does that mean?"
"I don't know. I didn't ask for specifics. I imagine it means you look at me as if you like me."
"And you don't?"
"I think, perhaps, I'm a little more practiced."
"So, what, everyone thinks it's one-sided? I'm just a moron with a crush on you unrequited or what?"
He stepped away from the sink to look at her.
"I'm not sure why this is turning into an argument. I'm trying to surprise you. Is that such a bad thing? This idea came to me and it worked out we can work it in. Trust me, you're going to like it better than sitting at Gloria's house, eating turkey in a strange place."
He threw his packed shaving kit into his suitcase, closed it, and walked to her.
"Maybe you just don't want to be alone with me with nothing to do for days."
"No," she said, her eyes daring him to challenge the response.
"You sure? I know I'm not the most exciting guy you could probably be hanging around. If you regret what happened that night we don't have to go there again."
"I don't regret it." She lifted her chin defiantly. "And I'm positive."
"All right then. If you're set then let's go. Unless you're going to argue with me some more."
"No," she said with a sigh.
He was admittedly surprised she'd had a coat warm enough. He found out on the drive there that she'd gotten it when she'd spent some time in New York during the winter. She knew she wouldn't need it in Phoenix, but not knowing where she was going to end up next she took it with her.
She fell asleep about two hours into the drive. He expected she would, which helped make the surprise all the better. Especially when they woke up in the morning and she saw where they were. It was after dark, but not real late, by the time they pulled up in front of the lodge entrance.
He put the car in Park and let it idle. He could go and check in, bring them to their room. They hadn't eaten before they left, though, and he imagined she'd be hungry. He was, too, for that matter. He unfastened his seatbelt and leaned toward her, finding the part of her neck exposed to him with his lips. While they hadn't gotten to the actual act of sex since that night they'd gotten to know one another pretty well. He knew, for instance, when he kissed a particular spot on her throat that she mewled just like a cat. He'd decided over the course of the two months she'd been sleeping in his bed that exploration was a wonderful thing.
She stirred as he kissed the spot in question, reaching for him, apparently forgetting where they were.
"Wake up, sleepy head," he murmured against her ear. "We're here."
"You'll find out in the morning."
She opened her eyes, rolled them at him. He was close enough he could see that.
"We'll check in and then we can have dinner before we go to our cabin."
"And no fair asking anyone where we are."
"This is so unfair."
"I know, surprises are just a fate worse than death."
She made a small sound that sounded something like hmmph, but he wasn't entirely sure.
She was true to her word, even though she hadn't actually given it outright, and did not ask anyone. She was sitting on the bed when he brought their bags in.
"This has to cost a lot."
He shrugged. She was right, but he wasn't complaining about the expense. "So?"
"I don't expect expensive things."
"I didn't say you did. I don't take vacations. I have very little to spend my money on. No family, I don't drink or go out very often. So, I had some socked away and decided this would be a nice way to spend some of it."
"Do you even know how to start a fire?"
He chuckled. "I suppose you don't know very many boys who not only were in Cub Scouts but completed the full circuit."
"No. My brother was in Cub Scouts and I think Boy Scouts for a year or two, but you're right he dropped out."
"Well, I did, and this fireplace is nothing compared to starting a campfire with nothing but flint and steel."
"I suppose," she said, watching as he piled some wood into the fireplace. He checked the damper, put in some kindling. Then the wood, leaving enough space so that it would burn properly.
"You really do know what you're doing."
"Want to learn?"
"Sure," she said, moving to sit next to him. As he hadn't started anything yet, he took everything out and started over again. He walked her through how to tell if the chimney was drafting upwards and continued from there.
"You've really never done this?"
She laughed, leaning against him once they'd set the last piece of wood on the pile.
"No. There wasn't much need for fires in Texas or Southern California."
"I suppose not. What about New York?"
"I wasn't really there long enough and I don't think the people I stayed with had fireplaces."
"Huh," he said.
"When's the last time you did this?"
"Oh, I don't know. A few years ago. Skiing in the Rockies."
"Hmm, and who did you have with you to teach then?"
"What you think I teach just anybody how to build a fire?"
She smirked a little as he stood, backing away once he was convinced the fire was off to a good start.
"So, will we need to run the heat?"
"I guess that depends on how cold we get."
She stood then and ran her hand along his chest. "I think we can come up with ways to keep warm."
"I think I like the way you think."
She gave a soft laugh and reached up to kiss him. "Me, too."
She woke slowly, very aware that he was touching her in ways that made being woken up well worth it.
"Time to get up," he whispered.
"Not yet," she mumbled, though she doubted he understood her.
His hands grew bolder, more demanding.
"Oh my God, we just fell asleep like an hour ago." She'd thought for sure they were finally going to make love again last night. That had to be why he brought her here. Private and remote, away from their worlds where they were constantly on the go. He hadn't completed the deal despite her being very vocal about her willingness. She was beginning to get a complex that she'd done something wrong that night.
He gave a low chuckle. "It was six hours ago and it's time to get up or you're going to miss it."
She draped an arm over her eyes, peaking at him out of one she left just a little uncovered. "I didn't realize there was an expiration date on that type of thing," she said with what she hoped was a wicked smile.
"Very funny. Come on. Really, you're going to kick yourself for missing this if you do."
"Mm, fun first?"
"Hmm, that might actually mean something coming from you."
"Absolutely it does."
"Do I have to shower and everything?"
"No, just put your clothes on from yesterday with your coat and stuff."
"I'm not sure I can find them."
"I've already taken care of that for you," he said, gesturing to the foot of the bed.
She sat up, not bothering to cover herself. "It's not even light out!"
"You're horrible! I'm a college student. I don't get up before dawn."
"I will totally make it up to you."
She worried her lower lip, smelled the fact he'd made coffee already and sighed. "All right," she said, scooting to the end of the bed to put her clothes on again.
Both bundled up as warm as they could get, he led her outside.
"Stay with me, Claire, until you can see where you're going."
"Okay," she said cautiously.
"I'm serious. Don't stray from the path I'm taking."
"I said okay."
"I just don't want you getting hurt. Or worse."
She gave a little swallow at that. What could be worse? Where in the hell were they that he was worried about injuries and death occurring to either of them?
They hadn't walked far when he gestured for her to sit. She did and he poured a cup of coffee from the thermos he'd brought.
"Yeah," she said, though she would have given anything to be in their cabin in front of the fireplace just then.
They talked softly until the sun started making its appearance. Claire was instantly transfixed by the sight around her. She'd seen sunrises before, but nothing in her life had ever compared to this.
"Worth my getting you out of bed?"
"I'll never doubt you again," she whispered, handing him the cup before she stood.
"Careful," he said.
"Yeah, I get what you mean now."
"You've been here before?"
"No, never. Talked about it, of course. Doing the family vacation thing, but first Lyle was too young and then things just got too hectic. So we never made it."
"Well, now you have," he said and she sensed that he was watching her more than he was the sunrise.
"Better than sitting at Gloria's parents house?"
"Yes," she said with a soft laugh. It was a perfect morning, too. There were a few clouds in the sky, but they were the soft, cotton ball looking ones so their view of the sun and the rim of the Grand Canyon near them was almost totally unobstructed.
He took her hand and they started walking further along the trail. She understood now why he told her to stay with him. A few steps the wrong way and she could have ended up going over the edge. That would not have been good, especially the part where she'd have to explain not just to him but everyone else how she survived it.
"Scared of heights?" he asked, so she must have made a face or something.
"No, just thinking," she said. "Thank you for this."
"You've been here before?"
"I come here once in a while. I don't usually stay in a cabin like we are. Sometimes I'll just bring a sleeping bag and a tent I have. It's a nice place to get away to when you need to think or just want total peace and quiet. I mean, there are other people here. We're staying at a hotel, but it's not like going to Disneyland or anything."
"That'd be fun."
"What would? Disneyland?"
"No, camping with you."
"I'll keep that in mind for another trip."
"Good," she said, reaching up to kiss him.
She gave a loud cry as a sudden, stabbing pain shot through her leg. Another quickly followed to her side. And another to her arm.
"Get down," Lee said, but not before he was struck, too.
She followed him, ducking and limping to cover. So much for staying on the trail. She imagined unusual circumstances called for breaking that rule.
It wasn't until she sat next to him on the ground that she realized they'd been shot with arrows. Three had hit her, two hit him. One was in his thigh, the other in his shoulder. The one in his thigh looked to be in there deep. That he managed to walk this far surprised her. She reached to remove the one from her side first. She wouldn't be able to help him unless she got rid of them.
"No, don't. You could bleed out if it hit an artery or something."
She laughed a little at that. If she didn’t pull them out the wounds would start to heal around the arrows. And while they'd come out, it'd hurt like hell all over again just to get them out. Besides, she couldn't take Lee's out. He didn't heal as she did and while she wasn't aware of all the dangers that went with this type of injury she knew that just pulling the arrow out could cause damage.
"I have to."
"Claire. I don't know who's out there or what else they have. I can't protect you and worry about you bleeding to death out here in the cold."
"That's why I have to. You're not going to be doing anything with that leg," she said.
"And you are?" he asked, pulling his cell phone out of his pocket. He wasn't sure he'd get reception out here, but they hadn't gone too far into the trail so he hoped he would.
"Yes," she said. She bit her lip, stifling the cry of pain as she pulled each arrow out of her. She dropped them one by one on the ground. One, judging by the length of the blood trail on it, had been in deeper than she realized.
"You have a gun I assume?" she asked, realizing he'd be full of questions. Of course, he would have over the last month or so if they'd been having sex. She knew she'd have to explain to him why her body was the same as it was their first time. And then he'd doubt it had been her first time. That bothered her, which was one reason she hadn't gone out of her way to initiate intercourse again. He'd seemed fine with the foreplay they did.
"Yes," he said. He carried it everywhere, she knew that
"Get it out," she said. "And give me the phone."
She shed her coat, draping it over him.
"What are you doing?"
"I've got to go get you help. We can't be that far from a cabin."
"You're hurt, too. More seriously than I am."
"No, I'm fine." She said, taking a minute to draw her shirt up just enough so he could see her side was fine. She ran her fingertip over the spot where the arrow had been. She, of course, felt nothing. Her skin was closed and healed, hiding all evidence that she'd just had an arrow deep into her flesh. "See."
He stared at her in disbelief. At least it wasn't horror, she supposed that was a good thing.
"I could try and pull you, but I'm not that strong."
"There are more cabins around here. Why don't we see if I can walk leaning against you."
"The arrow, Lee. If it brushes against anything, even I know that could cause more damage. The one in your leg is pretty deep."
"Break it off."
"Break it off. I'd do it, but I don't have a very good position to do that."
"All right," she said, taking off her gloves. "You're sure," she said, crouching by his legs.
"Yes, though, I think I may have to break my promise from earlier."
She frowned, concentrating on getting a good hold on the arrow. "Promise?"
"The fun I promised you in exchange for getting up so early."
She smiled a little at that, meeting his eyes. He was so clearly in pain, trying to act brave. He wouldn't take anything for pain even if it was available to him.
"We get out of this and I'll do my best to keep your mind off the pain you're in."
"Oh yeah?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, hoping the conversation's path would distract him from her breaking off the arrow.
"What did you have in mind?"
"Hmm," she said, smiling again before focusing her attention on his leg. "Lots of oral sex."
"That could still hurt my leg," he quipped, doing his best not to make a sound as she broke the arrow off. It wasn't as short as she probably could have gotten it, but at least the chance of it catching on something out here were less than before.
"Not the way I have it envisioned," she said.
"I can't think of any way that wouldn't put pressure on my leg."
She smiled then. "You assume I meant you'd be the one receiving it."
"Hey. That's not nice."
"I'm teasing. We get out of this, we can even rent a nurse's uniform for me to wear if you want me to."
"I don't think you'd need anything but the cap."
"Nurses don't just wear caps."
"I'd make it worth your while."
"I just bet you would. For you, I'd consider it. Now, should I put anything around it?"
"No, as long as the arrow's still in there it should be okay. What about you? You going to explain that to me?"
"Later. I promise. Let's get you inside somewhere and get help."
She helped him up, slowly. She wished, not for the first time, that her ability came with some enhanced strength. She almost fell over when he put most of his weight on her at one point, trying to stand without flexing the leg. It seemed like hours, but it was probably more like ten to fifteen minutes went by and finally he was as upright as he was going to be.
"Any idea where they came from?"
"Down the trail it seemed to me. If you hadn't stopped to kiss me I think we'd have fared a lot worse, hitting us in the front."
"Well, yay for the desire to kiss you."
"So, tell me," he said.
She was quiet for a minute. Could have made him ask what he wanted her to tell him about. She knew, though, and there was no sense making him talk more than he had to right now.
"There's nothing much to tell."
"Claire," he said.
"No, I mean. I don't know what Matt told you about me. It's pretty simple really. I regenerate. Heal," she said, starting to shrug and rethinking that when she realized she wouldn't be able to with him pressing into her as he was. She was doing the walking, he was more like dead weight, limping as best as he can but he was definitely using her to propel him where they were going.
At least he'd given her the gun. In his condition she wasn't sure he'd be a better shot despite his extensive training.
"What does that mean?"
"I don't know beyond what it is. I can't get hurt. Well, I mean, I can as you saw, but I heal."
"Can you die?"
"Yes, but it's difficult. Someone would have to cut off my head."
"Well, let's hope no one thinks to do that anytime soon."
"And if I had to I could use my blood to heal you. I would do it anyway except I really don't know how it works and with as deep as that one arrow is I wouldn't want to take the chance I was wrong."
"Wait. You could heal me?"
"Yes," she said cautiously.
"You've done that before?"
"I haven't, no. But a friend of mine has seen someone like me do it."
"There are others?"
"Yes. Not all like me. Officer Parkman has an ability."
"Yes, but I won't tell you more than that. It's up to him to tell you if he wants to."
"So, I could die here today …"
"You won't. I'd do what I could to at least make sure that didn't happen. Besides, there's a cabin over there."
"Let's just hope it's not the perp."
She hadn't thought of that, but what choice did she have. There was no way she could get him back up the trail to their cabin. She just wasn’t that strong.
She helped him sit on the front step the cabin offered. It was a little smaller than theirs and she realized again how much money this trip had probably cost him. She knocked on the door, hoping someone would answer.
'Who is it?'
"Uh, hi, we're guests in one of the cabins and ran into some trouble on the trail. I was wondering if you could call the lobby, ask them to send help for my friend."
The door opened a smidge, enough for an older woman to peak out at Claire. Claire stepped aside so the woman would see Lee barely hanging onto consciousness on her step.
"He got shot with some arrows," Claire said.
"I don't know," Claire said, though it seemed to her that it was on purpose.
"You can't come in."
"That's fine. I'll sit out here with him. We just need help called, his cell phone isn't getting reception."
"No, it wouldn't this far in."
She left the door open long enough for Claire to hear that she did, in fact, call for help.
"Thank you," Claire said sincerely.
"You're welcome," she said, returning to the door with a wool blanket. Claire recognized it as one similar to the one in their cabin.
"Thanks," she said again, taking the blanket and draping it over Lee, tucking him in as best as she could.
"She called for help."
"Good," he said, leaning against her. He looked so pale. She wished she could ask the woman if she had aspirin or something, but she didn't think Lee would take it.
"So, tell me how you found out."
She laughed. "I don't remember really. I didn't always have it. The ability I mean. I just one day realized," she shrugged. "Then, maybe I did always have it. I didn't get sick very often. No colds or flu."
She filled him in on the last few years of her life, leaving out anything that could identify anyone else. She'd already said too much admitting Matt Parkman had an ability. She could tell from his breathing that he wasn't totally with her so she had no idea how much he'd remember later.
The woman from the cabin brought them each a cup of coffee. Lee's went untouched, but Claire drank some of hers.
Eventually, help came. They loaded Lee onto a stretcher. Claire followed them back up the trail. Everyone seemed to be exercising caution in the event whoever had shot Lee was still out there. She saw uniformed officers scouting the area, so assumed they were investigating anyway. That was good to know.
She didn't know what the rules were here about hunting, but she didn't think it would be allowed so close to the trails that tourists walked on every day. So, she had to believe someone had done it deliberately.
She was quiet on the way to the hospital, letting the paramedics do their job. They rushed him into an operating room as soon as the ambulance pulled up to the emergency room bay. Claire was alone then. She had his cell phone, but wasn't sure who to call. He had the weekend off, there wasn't anything anyone could do from Phoenix anyway. It wasn't really her place to make a call like that anyway. She certainly didn't have anyone to call. So, she took a seat in the waiting room, finding the most current magazine available that interested her.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com