Envy - Chapter 3

Summary: Liz wears Red's fedora.

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True to Aram's estimate, they were finished tearing down the surveillance equipment within ten minutes and had placed the metal cases containing the cameras in the vans. When Liz began to climb into the passenger seat, she caught sight of Red's Mercedes parked across the street. Dembe was standing by the driver's door looking in her direction.

Before she had time to wonder why Red was still there, Ressler turned to her. "Reddington has volunteered to take you home. Go ahead, it will save you a good half hour on your commute."

Liz felt a moment of alarm, remembering how she pulled Red into that long exhilarating passionate kiss only minutes earlier, but that emotion was replaced with guilt when she noticed how tired Ressler appeared. Liz said, "That's not necessary. If you and the others have to go back, I should too."

"Reddington was insistent, said he needed to speak with you about the next blacklister."

She sighed and dropped her head back against the headrest.

"Go ahead, Scott. Your car is at home, there's no reason to ride back. It'll save Aram five minutes swinging by your place. You know how eager he is for his date with what's-her-name."

Liz pulled the door handle and climbed out. "Okay, fine. See you."

"Oh, hey, ask Reddington why he and Meera were so friendly. I would ask but I'm afraid I would end up getting hurt."

Liz looked at him blankly then heard Ressler's chuckle before she closed the door.

As she neared Red's vehicle, Dembe opened the door for her and she inhaled deeply before climbing into the empty seat next to Red. "So, Ressler tells me you have info on the next blacklister?"

She fastened her seat belt then looked at Red, his face was calm but he tapped his fedora in a quick staccato rhythm against his thigh. Liz had noticed that tell before and was relieved knowing their earlier encounter had affected him too. When he continued to stare at her, she tilted her head forward before asking, "Red?"

He clucked his tongue before beginning his story. "Howard Martin is an old acquaintance, a man I came to know at the Naval Academy."

Liz listened to Red while he weaved his intricate tale, but found her attention continually diverted by the tapping of his hat. Her eyes dropped to the fawn Borsalino, in hope Red would cease the movement, but when his hand kept moving, she leaned over and took the fedora from him. As their hands brushed, he stopped talking and tilted his chin up. She then trailed her index finger across the trim-ribbon before placing the hat on her head.

When she looked in Red's direction, he was watching her intently with slightly parted lips. His gaze intensified and she felt forced to drop her eyes. She studied the rise and fall of his chest, the change in his breathing noticeable. "You were driving me crazy with that persistent tapping. What's up with you?"

He studied her for a long moment before his lips curled up at the sides. "The fedora suits you, Lizzie."

She pushed up the brim and slightly shook her head before grinning. "Well, no one can wear a hat like..." She let her words trail off, not quite sure she wanted him to know how handsome she found him in all those fedoras. Liz continued to feel his eyes on her and dropped her gaze further to study his hand resting along his thigh. He was motionless except for the back and forth slide of his index finger along his pant leg.

When she looked back up at him, he reached out his hand to tilt the hat up before brushing his fingers along her jaw then cupping her face. Her eyes fell to his mouth as she leaned into his touch. When she saw the tip of his tongue dart out and lick his bottom lip, she felt the heavy beat of her heart and closed her eyes. His hand was warm and she could almost feel his lips on hers again. After their kiss earlier, she knew things between them had changed forever.

Liz sighed as she felt the energy building, almost crackling between them. She reopened her eyes, finding his still focused on her - tender and warm. When he looked at her like this, she was certain of his feelings and it made her brave. Liz took hold of his hand, moving it from her face, before gripping it tightly in the small space between them.

She wished they were alone, despite the fact she was sure Dembe would never breathe a word. "Okay, so, I guess there's no sense in my pretending that you don't affect me any longer."

His eyes went to Dembe before returning to her own. "Lizzie, now is not the time for such a discussion."

Liz was surprised at his words and the change of expression on his face - his neutral mask returning. A moment later she felt exposed and pulled her hand away before removing the hat and placing it on the empty patch of leather between them. She was embarrased by her pronouncment and scolded herself for saying the words.

They traveled in silence over the next ten minutes until they reached her apartment building. She noticed Red's side glances in her direction, and was surprised he managed to keep his mouth shut but was thankful for the reprieve.

When Dembe began to parallel park in front of her building, Liz turned to Red. "Thanks for the ride. I should be available to discuss Martin after the 9:00 a.m. staff meeting. Just let me know when and where."

The moment the car pulled to a stop, Liz climbed out and made her way up the steps and through the lobby. She knew Red was on her heels when she caught sight of his shadow as she bypassed the elevator and turned to head for the stairs.

As she pushed the heavy fire door open, he took hold of her bicep. "Lizzie, there's no need to run."

Liz continued walking then turned abruptly once she stepped onto the bottom stair. Red bumped into her before recovering, their faces inches apart.

She huffed. "Really? Because that's what people usually want to do when they've been rebuffed."

His eyebrows arched and his grip on her arm tightened. "You think I was spurning you?"

Liz leaned back and folded her arms. "What, so now you are? Thanks for being kind enough not to say, 'So sorry, Lizzie, not really interested,' in front of the bodyguard who very rarely even makes eye contact with me let alone speaks to me."

She sighed and moved her eyes to look up at the glowing red exit sign over his shoulder. "Just go. I don't need you to placate or console me. I get it. We work together - you're my mentor, my protector. Nothing more than that."

When she met his eyes, her frustration grew. It was nice not to have to look up at him for once, but they were too close now. She could smell the muskiness of his aftershave and his breath was warm on her face. His long gold eyelashes stood out in contrast to his light bronze skin and she felt more drawn to him than ever before. "Stop looking at me like that. Why do you look at me in that way?"

Red took a half a step forward and she heard the tips of his shoes scrape against the carpeted stair. She found herself wondering if he would have someone polish the scuffs or if he would pitch the footwear altogether. As he took hold of her other arm, Liz felt her heartbeat quicken. She sucked in a breath as he leaned in placing his lips at the side of her face, just in front of her ear.

When he whispered her name, his voice was deep and she felt the tone vibrate against her cheek. Liz reached for him, one arm sliding under his suit jacket, the other wrapping around his upper back. She splayed her fingers over his shoulder blade, wishing she could touch his skin, before she trailed her hand up to curve her fingers around the back of his neck. She felt his hands settle at her hips then squeeze before he moved one to the small of her back.

Liz felt his long exhale across her skin as his nose brushed over her hair. His lips moved to her ear, "But sweetheart, I am interested in you. Only you. It's only been you for a very long time."

She closed her eyes and wet her lips, pulling him in until the full length of their bodies touched.

He whispered, "Mmm, Lizzie," and she felt him growing hard, pressing into her abdomen. His physical response made her believe the sincerity of his words.

As he began to nuzzle her neck, he spoke, "You should walk away from this. Find someone when this is over. Have a family - make a new start. But, so help me God… I want you to want me."

Liz moved the tips of her fingers past the short hair on the back of his head and lightly scraped her nails along his scalp. She felt sheer joy at his declaration. She leaned back and placed a kiss at the corner of his mouth. When his eyes met hers, she murmured, "I do want you. You've had to know that for awhile."

He moved his hands and placed them on the sides of her face before speaking in a near whisper. "I've manipulated you. I've made you want this."

She furrowed her brow. "I'm not innocent. You know that." She watched the muscle below his left eye jump before continuing, "I know what you are. I know what I am. We're the same, you and me. You made choices but fate ultimately brought us together - not you, not my father, not anyone else."

Liz watched the slight upturn of his lips, before seeing the mist in his eyes. She hugged him to her as tightly as possible. "We both deserve happiness, Red. You most of all. I know you'll make me happy... and angry... and sad..." She moved her lips to his ear, "But for the first time in my life I'll have something that's not a lie."

When she felt his fingers push through her hair, she closed her eyes. He kissed her neck softly at first then with an adoration that made her weak in the knees. She clung to him until a stairway door far above them slammed. Liz pulled back then took hold of his hands and stepped up onto the next stair. "Join me?"

His nod was nearly imperceptible. His eyes full of desire. After a moment he grinned. "You'll need to call in tomorrow. Better yet, I'll contact Cooper and let him know you're unavailable - working with me on locating Martin."

Liz dropped her chin. "Why?"

Red glanced at his watch. "Because six hours won't be enough time."

Liz took a deep breath, fully understanding the implication of his words. "How about we start out slow?"

The teeth-baring smile that spread across his face made her swallow. "That's exactly why we need more than six hours, Lizzie."

She tilted her head at him, arousal swimming through her veins as well a bit of trepidation. "You have two hours. I'm not calling in, and I need to sleep for at least three which will leave me one hour to get dressed."

As Red took a step forward, Liz took another step back. His voice returning to that low tone that gave her goose bumps. "We'll see about that. I'm certain I'll convince you otherwise."

Liz turned, dropping his hands, and spoke to him over her shoulder as she began the climb to the third floor. "I doubt that."

"Oh sweetheart, never doubt Raymond Reddington. Especially when it comes to you."

The End.