Word Count: 3,924
Claire went to work Monday morning a little confused. She hadn't seen or heard from Bill since he left her place Saturday morning. She contemplated calling in sick, but Peter said that would make her look as if she was avoiding him. Well, she wasn't the one doing the avoiding. She just wasn't sure she wanted to see him if he was going to be a jerk.
Despite her confusion, she and Peter had a fun weekend together. Once Bill hadn't called or shown up Saturday night Peter seemed to know that she just needed to get her mind off of him. He asked no questions beyond asking if Bill was coming over when she was making dinner and it was evident there was only enough for two. After dinner, she drove him around town, which didn't take very long. They were careful not to do anything in public, which was Peter's idea.
As it turned out, a couple of things were missing. She thought that ruled Sylar out as he'd never stalked his victims with flowers and taken their underwear before. So, that had to mean it was someone, anyone, else. She almost felt better when she at least had a face to go with the person doing this.
"Morning," she said, setting a cup of coffee on his desk. This wasn't the first time she'd brought in coffee, so hopefully he wouldn't take it the wrong way. The last thing she needed was him to think she was pushy or took what happened Friday night to mean that they were hot and heavy. That was the only reason she could think of for his not calling, that he thought he needed to pull away.
"Mornin'," he said simply, barely a glance at her. Not even a move to reach for the cup of coffee.
Well, okay then. She left his office, noticing when she got to her desk that there was nothing there. All of the paperwork she'd left on Friday was gone.
"Um, Bill, did you take stuff off my desk?"
"What? Oh yeah, told ya I had work to do here on Saturday."
"Right," she said. She just hadn't thought he'd meant her work. He'd left her with nothing to do and gauging by his mood - or whatever was going on with him - it was going to make for a long morning.
She played a couple of games of Solitaire and Minesweeper. She got a few texts from Peter, which she responded to. The plan was for him to stay at her house, hoping to catch the person coming into her house again. Since Peter could be invisible, he'd be able to see without being seen. She really needed to tell Bill that he shouldn't mention Peter being in town to anyone, but since the tension could be cut with a knife in the office at the moment she decided to wait.
"Hey, Claire," Paul said.
"You brought coffee!"
"I did," she said, glad someone seemed to appreciate it. Paul was brother's with one of the officers who'd died a couple of months ago. He didn't talk much about Trevor, which she expected was normal. "You'll want to heat it up, but since you take it black it should still taste fine."
"You're a doll."
"Yeah, ain't she though?"
She glanced at Bill standing in the doorway. He leaned against the doorframe as he usually did when he came out to talk to her, arms crossed in front of him. Only for the first time that she could remember he didn't look happy about her being out here. The look on his face told her he wasn't thinking she was very doll-like at the moment.
"I think so," Paul said with a shrug. He didn't seem to understand Bill's mood anymore than she did. He grabbed the keys to the car as Brenda walked in.
"Sorry I'm late," the other officer, and Paul's partner, said.
"I just got here myself," Paul said. "And I'm betting that last cup is for you."
She scrunched her nose. "I don't drink coffee, Paul."
"I know," Claire said, smiling at the partners. "That's why I got you tea." She held up the tea bag as further proof she spoke the truth.
"Bless you, I didn't get to have any before I came in."
They grabbed their respective cups and left.
"Well, you made their day it seems."
"It's no big. I wanted some coffee myself this morning."
"Thanks by the way," he said.
"You're welcome," she said, offering him a smile. "Listen, if I," she said as her cell went off.
"You can get that if you need to."
"No, I don't need to. I'm at work."
"And what you were about to say was work related?"
"Well, no," she said, looking away. She glanced out the window, took a deep breath, and then looked at him again. "Did I do something wrong?"
"I don't know, did you?"
"Please don't talk cryptically. I'm asking a sincere question. I thought we had a nice time together Friday night."
"I thought we did, too."
"Well, you didn't come back to my place Saturday as you said you would."
"I figured your friend could take care of anything that needed attention. He seems capable enough and clearly wants to look after you."
"You didn't call…"
"Ran into ol' Billy Ray at the post office and he told me the job went off real slick."
"So, that would have been the only reason you called?"
"You made your opinion pretty clear."
"My opinion of what?"
"Which of us you're choosing."
"Choosing? For what?"
He had the decency to look away then and if she wasn't mistaken she saw a hint of a blush on his face.
"You think that Peter and I…?"
"Hey, it ain't my concern. Just wished you'd told me there was someone you had your eye on so I didn't make an idiot of myself."
She stood then and walked to him.
"So, you think I'd sleep with you, come pretty close to having sex with you if I liked another guy?"
"Well, he's out of town, and I don't know what you do on dates. You said yourself you've gone on a few."
She laughed then. "I guess you don't know me very well or you're being defensive right now and can't see what you normally would. I wouldn't do that."
"Well, I don't know what the situation is between you two, but you looked pretty cozy to me. And I may as well not have been there for all you noticed me."
"I was panicked. Peter understands things, we've been through stuff together that I can't describe or explain to you. I saw him and I realized it'd be okay."
"You're talking to somebody who had his town infested with alien possessed zombies. We came through all right."
"I get that, I do, and I suspect when I get to the point I can tell you you'll believe me because of that experience."
"When?" He sounded hopeful just then.
"I don't know. It's for your safety as much as mine that you don't know." She took his hand in hers, laced her fingers through his.
"I don't want you worrying for my safety, Claire."
"And just for the record and so we're clear, Peter's my uncle."
"You heard me."
"Mm hmm," she said, trying not to let her smile appear too smug.
"All right, but that doesn't explain the touching…"
"Touching? We like one another, we went through some things together as I said and some of them were before I knew he was my uncle. So, you kind of have that bond. Like you and Kylie, the reason she doesn't want to live with anyone else. You saved her. She can trust you. You're her hero. That's how I felt about Peter before I even knew we were related."
"That'll all make sense to me one day I imagine."
"Hopefully, the important parts already do." She brought their hands to her face, brushing the back of his against her cheek before she kissed it. "I'm sorry if I acted stupid, but I was so surprised to see him I wasn't thinking. I feel like I'm cut off from everyone so the fact someone came to visit me made my day."
"Why is that?"
"No one comes to see you," he said, sliding his hand away from hers. She thought he was going to pull away, but he slid his hand to her face on his own.
"Because they can't," she said simply.
"Your safety again."
"You runnin' from the mob or something?"
"Something," she said softly. He drew her into his office, kicking the door closed a bit with a foot.
"You going to bring trouble to my town?"
"I hope not."
"You'll tell me if hell's about to break loose again? I'd like to be forewarned the next time it happens if I can."
"I will," she said.
"That's all I can ask I guess."
She smiled, biting her lower lip as he leaned toward her. He was going to kiss her and much as seeing Peter had done so on Saturday she knew this would make her day. Not that a kiss from a guy was a day-making event, just that he believed her. Trusted her.
He captured her lips softly, almost as if he wasn't really sure he should kiss her. Maybe he didn't totally believe her. Soft was good. She gave a soft groan, remembering how his mouth felt kissing things other than her mouth. He'd been soft and gentle then, too.
"Sounds like we might both be thinking of the same thing," he murmured against her ear after breaking the kiss.
"Maybe," she said with a smile, though he wasn't looking at her to see it.
"How long's your uncle here?"
"I'm not sure. He's going to stay a while I think, at least until whatever's going on gets settled. Which reminds me, don’t tell anyone he's here."
"All right, I can do that. He going to hang out at your house assuming whoever the perp is won't know someone's home?"
"Yes," she said. That wasn't the whole of it, of course.
"And is he going to shoot me for having untoward thoughts about his niece?" He skimmed her lower lip with his thumb as he asked the question.
She laughed. "I don't think he is." She opened her mouth a little, nipping at the pad of his thumb. His eyes darkened a little.
"Besides who's going to tell him?"
"You ever hear that song about daydreaming about night things in the middle of the afternoon?"
"Mm, can't say I have."
"I'll play it for you sometime," he said, drawing his thumb along her jaw toward her ear. He moved closer, pressing her back up against the wall.
"Well, it ain't afternoon yet, but my mind's wandering a bit yeah."
"Don't be. It's kind of nice, though I admit I was a bit sore seeing you walk off arm and arm with him Saturday."
"I can imagine. I didn't stop to think how it'd look or that I hadn't explained who he was. I don't really think of him as my uncle. I'm adopted and he's my biological uncle. I didn't know him until a few years ago."
"I see," he said, sliding his thumb along her throat to her collarbone.
"I think so," he said.
"I don't hear the phone or the radio."
"I, you're the sheriff."
"So you keep reminding me!"
She smiled a little at that. "Have you ever, um, well here?"
He chuckled, kissing her jaw and following the same path to her ear as his thumb had moments ago. "You offering?"
"That's better than a flat out no I guess."
She laughed, which turned into a moan when his lips and tongue found her ear. She found the waist of his jeans and twined her fingertips through the belt loops for support.
"Not that I'd do that anyway."
"Not today." He chuckled, finding the pulse point on her neck and circling it with her tongue. "I don't have any protection on me."
"But you have some?"
"Uh, yeah, went out and bought some Friday."
"You did not!" She could just imagine him walking into Lyon's Drug Store asking for condoms. It wouldn't take much detective work for anyone who saw them together to figure out who he intended to use them with.
"Oh," she said, more relieved at that than upset that he'd gone out and bought condoms for their first date.
His mouth slid lower, tongue grazing along her collarbone and she thought her knees might just give out on her when he slid a hand over a breast, cupping it through her shirt lightly.
"Christ," he whispered against her ear. She could hear his disappointment in that simple and brief utterance. Pretty much echoing how she felt.
"Who is it?" she whispered, not recognizing the voice.
"Oh God," she said, frowning. She'd met the mayor before, but not often enough to know anything about him.
"It's all right. You look fine. I, on the other hand," he said with a soft chuckle. "Need a cold shower."
"Go sit at your desk," she whispered before stepping out from his arms. She grabbed some of the papers from his desk and walked out into the main office.
"Good morning, Mayor. The sheriff's on hold at the moment, but he should be with you in a minute."
"Thank you," he said.
"Would you like some coffee?"
"No, thank you," he said after a glance at the empty coffee pot.
"I stopped and picked up coffee for everyone on the way in so hadn't gotten around to making any yet, but it's no trouble to put a pot on."
"That'd be nice, Clara," he said, taking a seat in one of the chairs. She grimaced, realizing it'd be rude to correct the mayor and probably not a great way to make an impression on the man. Interim or not.
She set the papers she carried out from Bill's office onto her desk, slipping them into a spare manila folder hoping the mayor would buy the charade. It would, hopefully, explain the reason they were not talking when he came in.
"Busy morning?" he asked as she busied herself with the coffee.
"Not so far. This and that. There's always something on Monday's after the weekend."
He chuckled. "It wouldn't be Wheelsy otherwise."
"I've heard that."
"Where are you from?"
"Texas originally, but I've lived in California and New York, too."
"And you ended up here?"
She shrugged, brushing some hair out of her face as she glanced at him over her shoulder. "I like smaller towns."
"We treating you all right so far?"
"I think so."
"Good to know."
She knew he probably didn't really care, looking for a vote when it came time for the town of Wheelsy to decide if Steve Paxton would lose the interim from his title and become full-fledged mayor.
She heard Bill curse, more than likely he'd deliberately made it loud enough for them to hear. And then he slammed the phone down. Bill walked to his doorway.
"Mornin', Steve, what can I do for you today?"
"Well, there's going to be some visitors this week and I wanted to speak to you about security and beefing up patrols."
"Well, the security we can handle, but I'm a little short handed to beef up patrols. Unless you want to grant the overtime."
The mayor followed Bill into his office. She'd bring the mayor his cup of coffee and Bill would ask her to shut the door. Until then, they'd make some small talk. And then she'd be bored again, left to think about just how exciting him kissing her was.
Bill hardly paid attention to anything the rest of the day. The meeting with Steve had been uneventful. He gave Claire credit for thinking quickly on her feet. She'd bought him time by saying he was on the phone. He had no idea how he'd missed the look in Claire's eyes, though. Of course, the mayor didn't know Claire as Bill did, even if that knowledge came from working with her more than personally until recently.
His meeting with the mayor was only the beginning of his day, and each thing seemed to keep him from talking with Claire more than they had that morning. Not that he had talking on his mind, so it was probably a good thing that he'd had things to do. More talks at elementary and middle schools. He had to admit he enjoyed that part of his job. He liked talking to the kids.
He got back to the office later than he'd intended, surprised to see Claire's shiny vehicle still in the lot. He glanced at his watch to be sure his car's clock was right. She should have gone home half an hour ago. Kylie was there, too, of course. She could go to the house by herself, but she chose not to. He couldn't blame her exactly.
He was so relieved when she'd wanted to stay at Tina's over the weekend. She'd shut herself off from her friends. She talked on the phone, but that was the extent of her involvement. Bill didn't have to be a psychologist to know that wasn't healthy.
"Ladies," he said as he opened the door.
"Hi," they said in unison.
"Don't you have something to be home for?" he asked, mindful of her request not to mention Peter. He wasn't sure he bought the uncle bit, but she didn't have any reason to lie. She'd given him no indication she was dishonest by nature so he had to trust her, which was admittedly difficult to do. Though it was years ago, it didn't seem that long ago that Starla had chosen Grant over him because he could give her the things she needed and wanted.
He glanced out the door at her convertible, mused over the fact that her house was supposedly paid off, recollected the expensive shoes she'd worn Friday night for their date. All those things pointed to the fact that she'd too want things he couldn't give her. Of course, he was putting the cart before the horse big time thinking like that. And even doing that, he couldn't really picture her staying put in Wheelsy for long. He could be wrong he supposed.
"It can wait," she said simply.
Well, damned if that didn't hit him straight in the heart. She'd waited for him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had someone waiting for him, coming back to the office or home. Besides Kylie. And it just wasn't the same.
"Why don't you go start my car, Kylie?" He tossed her the keys, which she caught.
"Sure," she said, smiling as if he'd just given her the keys to a Porsche or something. "Should I call the police if you don't come out in five minutes?"
"I think we'll be okay."
She left, pushing the door behind her to ensure it latched.
"So, I suppose inviting you to dinner is kind of out."
"Yes," she said softly.
"On the other hand, if your plan is to work you need to leave the house once in a while."
"Right," she said.
"So, how about after dinner you come by for a movie and popcorn."
"No Home Improvement reruns?"
"I'll even let you stop at the market to pick up the movie."
"You are feeling generous tonight."
"Do I know how to win a woman over or what?"
She laughed and he noticed a slight blush on her cheeks.
"All right, I'll be over after dinner. I'm sorry if you think you have to lie to Kylie. If you think she needs to know…"
"Nah, she'll be fine. By the way, I sort of forgot to ask, did you find anything missing?"
"Yes," she said simply.
"You sure you don't want to file a report?"
"Positive. It's probably someone…"
"Don't say harmless. The flowers here are harmless. A rose on your doorstep may be harmless. Breaking and entering, giving your dog something potentially lethal, and stealing personal items is not harmless. Those are crimes."
"It really bothers you."
"Damn right. Doesn't it bother you?"
"Well, yeah, but I'm used to it by now. It just surprises me you really seem to care."
"Of course I care. And before you go and ask, I'd be concerned even if the date had never happened. I don't believe in stalking women. You're attractive and you live alone, I'd be worried regardless."
She stood then, he watched as she did. She was attractive, but it was more than that.
"No one should be used to that type of thing. And it makes it difficult for me, too."
"Well, I've got some anonymous guy, presumably a guy anyway, upstaging me with the flowers."
She smiled a little, walking up to him. She set a hand at his chest, flicking one of the buttons at the front of his shirt with her thumb.
"You could still get me flowers if you wanted."
"Well, yeah, but then you'll wonder if I got the idea on my own."
"You don't strike me as the flowers type, but if you were to give me flowers I'd think it was your idea. I think you're capable of getting an idea like that on your own. And they'd be from you, so that would be nice."
"You think so?"
She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him. "I know so," she whispered. "I'll see you later then?"
"I look forward to it."
He followed her out. She'd already gotten everything ready for going home, so all he had to do was flip the switch for the lights and ensure that the door was locked. He knew it was, but he double-checked. He told Kylie to wait until Claire'd gotten into her convertible and drove off the lot before leaving.
"You like her," Kylie said.
"Seems to me we had this same conversation a while ago about Mrs. Grant," he said dryly.
"That was different."
"You think so?"
"Yeah, because Claire might actually like you back."
"Might, huh? You know how to build up a man's ego."
"So, do you?"
"Yeah, I do, I'm just not sure I can trust her entirely."
"She's hiding things, secrets."
"How do you know that?"
"For one, she's told me."
"At least she's honest about it."
"And when I ran her background check before hiring her it just seemed wrong to me."
"How so?" Kylie asked.
He shrugged. "I don't know. It was too complete and neat. No lulls, no bare spots. It was almost as if someone scripted it out."
"Maybe it's part of the secret?"
He'd thought of that. He asked her as a joke if she was running from the mafia, but she was clearly running from something. He could think of no other reason that a woman with her potential would end up in a town such as Wheelsy. He liked the town, but it wasn't exactly up and coming as far as industrialization went.
"I hope so, Kylie."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com