J - Jittery
The moment she walked into the ballroom, everyone else around him ceased to exist. Her soft, crystalline eyes found his and they smiled at each other. His heart was suddenly hammering so hard in his chest that he could hardly catch his breath. She was dressed in a long, ankle-sweeping, filmy pink dress, with her white-blonde hair pulled back in a sophisticated chignon. She looked like more than just a million bucks.
As he moved towards her, as if in slow motion, he heard someone let out a hoot of surprise from his periphery. "I can't believe Hernandez snagged a total babe like that! Will wonders never cease?"
Gwen met him halfway across the ballroom and he couldn't resist blurting out, "You're a vision."
She looked surprised by his words somehow; decidedly humbled too. A little blush tinged her pretty cheeks. "You clean up pretty nicely yourself," she said, gesturing to his starched, pressed gray uniform.
"Oh, this old thing?" He joked. He brushed the long sleeve with all of its buttons and badges attached to it.
"You do look handsome, Rafe," Gwen said. She looked around the room then. "I didn't realize quite how many officers there would be here tonight." She looked immediately less at ease, a little jittery even.
He wanted to soothe her worries so he quickly said, "Don't worry. They're just here to have a good time like the two of us."
"I just hope none of them remember seeing my mugshot in the newspapers," she murmured. "I don't want to ruin your big night by causing some kind of scene."
He gingerly reached out to touch her arm which felt smooth and soft under his fingertips. "Hey, as far as I'm concerned, you can only improve this night."
Gwen smiled, looking a tad more relaxed now. "Thanks for saying that because there is nowhere I'd rather be tonight than here to see you accept your award."
"Nowhere? Not even The Pub slinging chowder and chili?"
She chuckled. "Not even there." She peered over his shoulder. "Don't look now but a couple is approaching us at five o'clock."
Rafe turned to look. Hope and Roman were walking over to them. "Oh, they're not a couple," he said quietly. "Just a brother-and-sister-in-law duo who happen to work together."
"Oh, that makes sense. They're not really exuding a romantic vibe."
Rafe wondered if he and Gwen exuded that vibe but quickly chased the thought away.
Roman clapped him on the shoulder. "Looking sharp tonight, Rafe," he said.
Rafe laughed. "I tried."
Hope smiled at Gwen and offered her her hand. "Hello, I'm Hope Brady. You must be Gwen."
Gwen froze for a moment. "Wait. How did you know who I am?" She asked in a slightly shaky voice.
"Oh Rafe's mentioned you," Hope said quickly.
Gwen sighed softly, as in relief. "Has he now?"
"Truthfully, he won't stop talking about you," Roman piped up and Rafe could have slugged him and might have if he wasn't his superior officer. Instead he settled for giving him the side eye.
"Just telling the truth," Roman said, holding up his hands in defense. "But Gwen, it's finally nice to put a name with a face."
"It's nice to meet you too," she said. "And you as well, Hope."
Hope nodded. "Anyway, we were just making the rounds. Have a great night, you two." She forcefully tugged Roman away.
Rafe sighed. "Don't mind Roman. I think he visited the open bar tonight way too many times."
"So then you don't talk about me a lot to your colleagues?"
Rafe swallowed hard. "I plead the fifth."
Gwen just chuckled softly.
Rafe looked around at all of the couples on the dance floor. "Do you want to -" He gestured to the waltzing pairs. "I have two left feet and will probably step on your toes but if you'd like to dance…."
"I think I'd like that," Gwen said.
"Good, me too." Rafe held out his hand to her and she gingerly slipped her fingers into his. His palms heated up instantly at her touch.
They moved into the center of the throng of dancers. Gwen reached up to place her hands on his broad shoulders and he slid his hands down to cup her tiny waist. Soon they began to move in time and he didn't step on her toes quite as many times as he had anticipated. In fact, they were sort of graceful together, like they were meant to dance with one another and no one else.
They may have danced for five minutes or twenty. He wasn't sure. The time seemed to fade away with Gwen in his arms. They only broke apart when Abe announced that it was award time.
Rafe gave the short speech he had prepared before receiving his pin and plaque. His words were followed by a crescendo of applause and hoots and hollers. Gwen was at the center of it all, lightly clapping her hands together and smiling.
Rafe wanted to hurry to her but Hope caught up to him as he was heading off stage. She drew him back aways so that they could talk without interrupting the rest of the ceremony.
"Congratulations on your commendation," Hope said. "Bo actually… He received that award…twice, in fact." Her eyes looked a little dewy at the mention of her long-MIA husband.
"Bo's a great cop. I feel honored to share this one award with him but will have to work twice as hard now to catch up to his legacy."
Hope shook her head. "You're a fine officer. Bo is … Well, he's a wonderful upholder of the law too. He really believes in what he does - protecting people, finding truth and justice…"
Rafe nodded. "Yes, he does."
"But somehow, it became all he was about and has been all he's been about for the longest time. It's actually consumed him. He's right now so deep undercover that he won't or can't come home until his mission is complete… He's been gone for nearly two years ... What I'm trying to say and badly mangling is that… There's more to life than this job. Important as it is, it's not the only thing out there for you of meaning. Don't let it completely consume you until you ignore what's right in front of you. Or should I say who is right in front of you."
"You mean Gwen."
"She only wants to be friends. She was burned badly before and -"
"But, Rafe, she looks at you the way Bo used to look at me. It's love, whether she or you realizes it yet. Don't let it get away. This is a second chance for both of you."
"I don't want to be pushy with her."
"Don't be, but don't shy away from the way you feel either. Just be the gentle and protective person I know you always are, and she'll come to trust in her feelings for you."
"Hope, what brought this all up?" Rafe asked gently.
"Thinking of Bo tonight, I suppose. He should have been here. I feel like we've lost so much time together as a couple and as a family with the kids, and I don't want you to ever be in the same position. As corny as it sounds, don't make love wait."
Rafe smiled and offered her a generous hug. "Thank you for saying all of this."
"Did it help at all?"
"Yes, definitely." He smiled at her. "I believe Bo will be back someday, maybe someday soon."
"I hope so," she answered. She squeezed his shoulder and then let him pass by.
Rafe walked off the stage to find Gwen waiting for him. She was smiling. "Your speech was great," she said.
"Mesmerizing, huh?" Rafe joked. "Two thumbs up, right?"
Gwen chuckled. "Way, way up."
Rafe laughed and then sobered somewhat as he stared into Gwen's beautiful eyes. "Would you like to take a walk with me?"
"In this chilly weather?" She asked.
"Well, we could do a few laps around the lobby… I'd just really like to talk to you."
Gwen nibbled her bottom lip in that new, noticeable way of hers. "Alright. Yes," she agreed.
Rafe offered her his arm and she slowly sidled up next to him. They walked out of the ballroom, together.
TO BE CONTINUED.
I hope that didn't suck lol
Next up is K for Kiss! Oooh la la!