Title: "When You're Around"
Author: Allison Lindsay
Disclaimer (applicable to this and all subsequent chapters): Monk belongs to a bunch of people, none of whom is me.

CHAPTER ONE

Adrian Monk sat in his burnt orange armchair reading. Or, rather, he resembled a person reading. He had been staring at page forty-seven of his mystery novel for the past half-hour, his brain unable to absorb any of the words printed on the parchment. Instead, Monk was fixated on Sharona, who was out for the evening.

This was the fourth date this month, and it was a different guy each time. Sharona went through men like water. It drove Adrian berserk. Didn't she ever get sick of all those losers?

Sighing, Monk closed his book and set it down on the coffee table. He then retrieved one of his many dusters and went to work ridding his bookshelves of non-existent dust particles.

Every few minutes, the detective would glance over at the clock and grumble, "Shouldn't it be over by now? How slowly can two people eat?"

He pictured Sharona on her date. The man had probably brought her to some fancy restaurant, thinking he could win her over with expensive food. He'd tell her how great she looked, and she'd swoon, so flattered by his compliment. And for the entire duration of the date, Sharona would give the lucky loser her undivided attention, as though he was the most fascinating person she had ever met.

Adrian scoffed. Fascinating. Yeah, sure. Since when did lying, cheating scumbags become so fascinating?

After awhile, Monk returned to his chair and picked up his book again, opening to the page where he had left off. He read a few lines, but he simply could not concentrate. His thoughts kept coming back to Sharona.

Somehow, over the past year, Adrian had steadily manifested feelings for his assistant. Romantic feelings that seemed to grow stronger each time another man came into her life. Initially, he had dismissed his emotions, convincing himself that it was wrong to view Sharona as anything more than a friend.

But Monk soon realized the futility of resisting his feelings. He had no control over the way he felt about Sharona. He couldn'teradicate or reverse his emotions, let alone his growing . . . desire for her, no matter how much effort he made.

Adrian simply had to accept the fact that he had fallen in love with another woman.

And eventually, after much hemming and hawing, he did accept it.

For the last few months, the detective had been painstakingly contemplating whether or not he should tell Sharona how he felt.

It's not the right time.
She'll laugh in my face.
She'll never be able to look me in the eye again.
There's no way in the world that she feels the same way.
How could someone normal like her ever love someone crazy like me?
And what about Trudy? What will she think? Will she be angry? Hurt? Devastated?

All of these thoughts had been constantly whirling around in Monk's brain, making him dizzy.
Two months ago, however, Adrian resolved his issues regarding Trudy's perception of his feelings for his assistant. He knew that if he were going to come clean to Sharona, then he had to come clean to Trudy first. Monk still could not believe that the words I'm in love with Sharona had escaped from his throat. Saying it aloud seemed to . . . make it official.

What the detective found even more incredulous, though, was the fact that he was truly in love with someone other than his late wife. After Trudy died, Adrian was absolutely certain that he would never feel for another person what he felt for her. But for once in a blue moon, he had turned out to be wrong.

Remembering that day at her gravesite, Monk knew that Trudy wasn't angry or hurt or devastated. Instead, she was happy for him. Happy that he had found someone to partially fill the enormous gap in his heart.

Adrian realized that he was smiling. Thinking of the two loves of his life had put his mind at ease, at least for the moment.

He sighed heavily. "I'll tell Sharona tonight," the detective declared.