Disclaimer: This story is based on characters copyrighted by Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. This story is meant for enjoyment purposes only and cannot be redistributed without permission from the author. I retain the rights to the plot, not the characters. No infringement is intended.
Date Written: November 2000-January 2001
Author's Notes: The idea for this story was suggested by Dee, a fan who wrote to me wanting a story about Lee and Amanda going shopping. I admit she had to talk me into trying it, as it didn't do much for me at first. But it turned out to be lots of fun writing it for her and I hope she will enjoy it. I want to thank Katrina for providing the authentic London details for this story. And many thanks to Andrea for always encouraging me and boosting my self-confidence, as well as for the wonderful suggestions on wording and descriptions she gives me. I've come to rely on her like Lee relies on Amanda!
Synopsis: Lee and Amanda are sent on an overseas assignment to work with Scotland Yard. When they arrive in London, they discover the airline has mis-routed Amanda's luggage. She is left with only her carry-on. A simple little shopping trip is necessary. But can anything be simple where these two are concerned? Setting third season some time after "A Lovely Little Affair." Contains spoilers for "Mongoose" and "Affair."
Adventures in Shopping
Lee and Amanda had just finished checking into adjacent rooms at the Strathmore, a lovely hotel in the heart of London. Amanda sat cross-legged on the bed in Lee's room waiting impatiently for Lee to finish his check-in call to Billy. She took no notice of the beautifully-decorated room with its deep teal carpet, elegant floral wallpaper, and giant four-poster bed adorned with a damask comforter. Now that Lee had hung up the phone and she had his full attention, she gracefully rose from the bed and walked over to him. Amanda was very upset that her luggage had been lost . . . again. This had happened the last time they had come to London on assignment. She was becoming very wary of flying into Heathrow. Next time she would take a bigger carry-on!
Lee was doing his best to soothe her. He placed his hands on her shoulders, rubbing them up and down slowly. "Look, Amanda, I'm really sorry. I wish there was something I could do. But it isn't the end of the world, you know. There actually is a silver lining to this. Now you'll get to go shopping. Women like to do that, don't they? I mean, you'll get all new things. And the Agency will pay for them as a business expense." He grinned triumphantly. "I just okayed it with Billy. What do you think, huh?" He waved the Agency credit card in front of her, hoping to calm her down.
Amanda pouted, her annoyance getting the better of her. "I really don't want all new things. I brought favorite things with me for this trip and I wanted to wear them. Will you call the airline one more time? Please, Lee?" she implored.
He let out a long sigh. "Amanda, I've called them twice already. They have our number here if anything turns up. But I wouldn't hold my breath. They weren't even able to locate it in the computer system. How 'bout we get a nice lunch downstairs and then you can have fun shopping for new clothes."
Her practical side began to assert itself. "Oh all right," she said without enthusiasm. "I guess I don't have much choice unless I want to wear this same outfit for the next week." She pulled at her blouse as if she couldn't wait to get out of it. "So let's get going. We can get lunch later, okay?" She grabbed his arm as if to lead him from the room.
Lee pulled his arm from her grasp. "Amanda, YOU are going shopping, not me. I hate to shop. It's bad enough when I have to shop for my own clothes. We'll have lunch together and then you can go shopping all by yourself. Wouldn't you like that? Then you can pick out anything you want. I'll meet you later."
"Lee," she began sweetly, looking up at him with wide eyes as she gently ran her hand down his lapel, determined to get her way, and knowing sugar worked better than vinegar most of the time. "I really don't want to go all by myself. I wouldn't know where to go and you're more familiar with London than I am and besides you have the Agency credit card and I wouldn't be able to use it if you weren't with me and I don't have enough money to pay for things on my own and then get reimbursed."
As she paused for much-needed air, Lee shook his head resignedly, knowing he was not going to win this one. Besides she was so cute when she was trying to cajole him into doing something, he found it hard to resist her. But he still hated to shop!
So after lunch in the Strathmore's elegant dining room, they headed off to Harrod's department store. It was a beautiful day so they decided to walk since it wasn't far from the hotel. Lee took Amanda by the arm and walked closely by her side. Her usual enthusiasm for a new adventure had returned over lunch, and she talked a-mile-a-minute while he listened with one ear. Lee had been to Harrods before, as he had traveled so frequently. But Amanda had never been to Harrods, so she was looking forward to shopping at arguably the most famous department store in the world. Lee chose Harrods because it was close by and he figured they could get everything that she needed in one trip. Shopping was one of his least favorite pastimes.
He thought back to their last trip to London when Amanda was needed to identify Conrad Barnhill, an old school chum, who was presumably the Mongoose. Little did either of them know that Conrad had been harboring feelings of unrequited love for Amanda since their high school days. And Amanda had seemed very fond of him also, although Lee was at a loss to see why. But Conrad had disappeared from their lives once the case was concluded. At least it wasn't likely they would be running into any more old boyfriends on this trip
Lee consulted the store directory to locate the personal shopping service. They needed so much that he felt it would be best to use the service to save them time. That office was on second floor. They entered the escalator, standing on the same stair, Lee's arm around Amanda's waist. He felt that he needed to hold on to her for safety's sake as she was so busy gawking at the sights and sounds all around them in the bustling store that she wasn't really paying attention to where they were going. As they glided to second floor level, he guided her off the escalator and towards the shopping service office.
Before entering the open door, Lee leaned close to whisper to her. "Amanda, why don't we use the "Mr. and Mrs." cover, okay? It would save explanations about the Agency credit card and why I'm with you and all. Agreed?"
"Whatever you say," she smiled at him. She was delighted he had agreed to accompany her and was happy to follow his lead. This place was so big it overwhelmed her.
The couple entered the mahogany-paneled, red-carpeted office and were introduced to Mrs. Coates, and Lee introduced themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Stetson. Mrs. Coates was a small, very attractive woman in her mid-fifties with dark brown eyes, perfectly coiffed dark hair and wearing a beautiful sapphire blue linen suit. Lee explained that his wife's luggage had been lost by the airline, and since they would be in London for a week, she would need to buy quite a few things. Mrs. Coates said she would be happy to assist them. She herself would accompany them to the ladies department, and then she would contact the various department managers for any other departments they wished to visit. Although she had a refined air about her, she was warm and friendly and Amanda liked her right away.
The three spent about an hour in the various ladies departments, choosing casual items, pants, sweaters, skirts, a blazer. Amanda was grateful for the assistance of Mrs. Coates, as she knew what to expect regarding the weather for the next few days, and she could throw together outfits faster than Amanda could locate them on the racks. She helped Amanda coordinate items so she could mix-and-match them, the best choice when everything had to be purchased new. She also was adept at just looking at Amanda's figure, and selecting the perfect size each time Amanda was sent into the fitting room. Within the hour, Amanda had most of the items she thought she would need. That certainly had been painless! Amanda thanked Mrs. Coates gratefully for her assistance. Lee also thought that this kind of shopping wasn't so bad after all.
"Do you think that will take care of the daily clothing items? What about evening wear? Will you be needing that as well?" Mrs. Coates inquired of Amanda.
"Oh, probably not," Amanda hesitated, looking at Lee.
But Lee contradicted her, "Well, you never know. It might be best to at least look while we're here, don't you think, darling?"
"Yes, sweetheart, I'm sure you're right," Amanda fell back into her "Mrs. Stetson" role.
So the three of them headed to the evening wear department. Amanda and Mrs. Coates took to the displays together, while Lee went off a little to their right. He browsed casually, intending to leave the actual selections to the ladies, when a flash of dark emerald green caught his eye. He held up the gown and was instantly taken with it. Elegant and very feminine. He knew Amanda would look fabulous in it and wanted her to try it on.
He walked toward the ladies with the gown in hand. "Darling, what do you think about this little number?"
Amanda turned toward him to lay her eyes on an incredibly beautiful gown. It was an emerald green crepe with a long flowing skirt. The wide v-neck bodice was covered in glittery emerald sparkles, and the skirt had a wispy layer of chiffon overlaying the crepe. At the shoulder, three spaghetti straps on each side criss-crossed to form the back of the bodice. A matching chiffon shawl to protect against a cool night accompanied the gown. Mrs. Coates smiled at the couple and said to Amanda, "My dear, you're fortunate to have a husband with such good taste. You will look devastating in that gown. Now off you go to slip it on." And she shooed Amanda into the fitting room with the dress and a wave of her hand.
Lee could hardly wait for Amanda to emerge from the dressing room. When she did, her appearance took his breath away. The gown fit to perfection, accenting every curve of her body. Lee couldn't help the low "wolf whistle" that emerged from his throat. Amanda blushed and laughed softly, but Lee could see that she was uncomfortable.
"Is something the matter, darling? Don't you like it?"
"Oh, I love it. It's such a beautiful gown. But..." she hesitated. "But...you know I'm not sure if I'll be needing it this trip, and...well, it's so...I feel funny spending this much money on one dress."
Lee walked toward a three-way mirror and motioned her to join him. Amanda moved close to him so that Mrs. Coates couldn't hear. "Lee, I can't allow the Agency to pay for this dress. The other clothes are one thing because my luggage was lost and I have to wear something while we're here on assignment, but I probably don't even need a gown and it wouldn't be right to have the Agency pay for it."
Lee could see that she was distressed. He decided to drop the subject as he didn't want to have a "married couple" argument in front of Mrs. Coates.
"You're probably right, sweetheart, as usual." He kissed her gently on the forehead. "And you do have several other gowns at home already."
Amanda flashed him a grateful smile for not arguing the point with her, and headed off back to the dressing room.
While she was there, he quietly arranged with Mrs. Coates to pay for the gown separately from their other purchases so that he could pay for it himself instead of charging it to the Agency. He knew Amanda well enough to know that she would never hear of it, so he didn't even suggest it to her. But she must have that gown, and he wanted to be with her when she wore it. Mrs. Coates reminded him that Amanda would need shoes and an evening bag to go with the gown. Lee thanked her for thinking of that, and said he would take care of it. He would manage to get away from Amanda for a few minutes later so he could select these items. In the meantime, the gown would be delivered to the hotel while they were shopping.
Next stop was the shoe department. As they walked in that direction, Mrs. Coates smiled indulgently at Lee and Amanda and commented, "You two make such a charming couple. Have you been married long?"
As Amanda looked at Lee and started to speak, Lee grinned mischievously and spoke up first, "It seems like such a short time. I feel like a newlywed." To which Amanda rolled her eyes at him.
Having arrived in the shoe department, Mrs. Coates introduced them to Monsieur Devereaux, the department manager. A tall, handsome, distinguished-looking gentleman about mid-forties in age, he spoke English fluently but with a French accent. Lee took an immediate dislike to the man on the basis of that alone.
"Enchante, Madame. Bonjour, Monsieur." Monsieur Devereaux stated he would be honored to be of assistance to them, and shook hands with Lee and kissed the back of Amanda's hand. Lee bristled. Amanda thought the dashing figure reminded her of someone. As he bent to kiss her hand while looking directly into her eyes, she caught her breath and mentally exclaimed, "Oh my gosh-he looks just like Rhett Butler!" He smiled roguishly at her with eyes twinkling, obviously aware of his effect on women in general and Amanda in particular.
After Mrs. Coates explained the situation to Monsieur Devereaux, she left, thanking them graciously for using her services, and giving them her card, saying if there was anything else they needed, to please give her a call. She could see that Lee was getting loaded down with packages, and asked if she should have them delivered to their hotel. He declined, saying this was their last stop before heading back so they could manage.
Monsieur Devereaux asked to see the items they had purchased so far so he could determine what style and color of shoes would be needed. When he saw a slate blue sweater they had purchased, he nodded his approval and said appreciatively, "Madame will look tres delicieuse in this shade of blue. Oui, a very good choice. A wonderful complement for Madame's hair and skin." He smiled into Amanda's eyes. She smiled back and was obviously enjoying the attention. The man failed to notice the annoyed look bestowed upon him by Lee since his full attention was directed to Amanda.
"First, Madame, I must check your shoe size as some of the brands we carry have a different size range than in America. Please be seated here while I measure your foot." He then took Amanda's arm and helped her into a deeply padded chair. She nodded and smiled at him and then made herself comfortable while he retrieved a measurement guide.
As Amanda took in the expansive department, she lowered her voice and said almost in awe to Lee, "Isn't this the most incredible store you have ever been in, Lee? You were right, it is fun to shop here."
Lee was finding the situation disconcerting to say the least, and merely grunted in reply. He did not like that Frenchman in the slightest.
"Madame, allow me to remove your shoe for you." Monsieur Devereaux had returned and gently removed Amanda's left shoe, and assisted her to stand so her foot could be properly measured. It was necessary for him to touch Amanda's foot and ankle during this procedure. Lee glared at the man.
Monsieur Devereaux took Amanda's hand to guide her back into her seat. "Now for Madame's right foot," while he repeated the procedure with her other foot. He removed her right shoe, and touched her foot and ankle while helping her onto the measuring guide. Lee's eyes missed nothing. "A little more forward, s'il vous plait, Madame," as his hand went up a few more inches on the back of her leg.
Lee spoke up, fighting a losing battle with his jealousy at the man's blatant caresses to Amanda's lower extremities. "Is it really necessary for you to measure each foot? Surely her feet are the same size as she has never had trouble buying shoes before, right dear?" He turned to her for confirmation.
Amanda was looking down into the eyes of the Frenchman as he stared up into hers from his kneeling position on the floor, both hands on her right ankle. The man's gaze held Amanda's as he responded to Lee's questions while looking only at Amanda. "S'il vous plait, Monsieur. It is necessary to measure both feet to insure a perfect fit. Monsieur would like Madame to wear comfortable shoes, n'est pas?"
Amanda nodded at Monsieur Devereaux and smiled her agreement. Neither one looked at Lee, who was by now seething with jealousy. This guy was pawing Amanda and she didn't even seem to mind! She was smiling at him! Lee felt like decking the guy.
The manager rose and bowed slightly. "I will return in just a few minutes," and he left to gather shoes for Amanda's approval.
In Lee's mind, this shopping excursion was rapidly deteriorating. As soon as the clerk was out of earshot, Lee fumed at Amanda, "Those damn Frenchmen! Do you believe the nerve of that guy? Amanda, his hands were all over you. Let's leave and go somewhere else."
Amanda turned to look incredulously at Lee. "Lee, what are you talking about? He is being a perfect gentleman. He's just more attentive than most salesclerks, probably because he's the department manager. It has nothing to do with him being French, although I do love his wonderful accent. I'm not leaving until I've bought some shoes."
"But he was touching your feet and your leg! And I didn't like the way he was looking at you," he protested. He knew this sounded petulant, but he didn't care. He couldn't believe Amanda didn't realize the man's intentions.
Amanda spoke patiently as if she were talking to one of her boys. "Lee, I am here to buy shoes. Of course he has to touch me. He was measuring my feet! Look, feel free to leave if it bothers you. I can meet you in a little while in another department if you'd like." She averted her head from him with a little smile and rolled her eyes.
Lee sat back in the chair and sulked. No way was he going to leave his Amanda here alone with that vulture! Maybe they could select a couple of pairs of shoes and get out of here quickly.
Maybe not. Monsieur Devereaux returned with both arms loaded with shoe boxes and a big smile for Amanda. Amanda beamed. Lee groaned inwardly. This could take the rest of the day!
One hour later, Lee and Amanda left the department with several pairs of shoes. Lee had done his best to restrain himself, but it took all his self-control. Amanda had not seemed to even notice the man's forward behavior. She was her usual gracious self, and thanked Monsieur Devereaux for his assistance when they left.
Monsieur Devereaux replied, "It was a pleasure, Madame," and kissed her hand again as she left. Lee gave the two smallest packages to Amanda so he could have a free hand to take her arm and get her out of this area as quickly as possible.
Lee was happy to finally be finished with shopping, and especially to get out of the shoe department. He was anxious to get back to the hotel and to see Amanda's face when she found the lovely gown awaiting her there.
"Well that should about wrap things up, okay Amanda? I'll get a taxi so we don't have to walk with all this stuff," Lee stated.
Amanda hesitated, and then blushed as she started to speak, not knowing quite how to word her thoughts. "Lee, I really need to visit the um, the..., well....the foundation department to get a few things as well." Whew, it was hard to get that out!
"The what department? Foundation department? What's that?" he asked, puzzled. He hadn't a clue what she was talking about.
She moved closer to him so she could speak very quietly, her eyes avoiding his. "Lingerie."
Realization dawned on him. "Oh. Oh, okay, well that's fine, all right," Lee spoke in a rush to cover his own embarrassment. Thinking about Amanda and ladies undergarments in the same thought was a bit unnerving for him. Pleasant, but unnerving. He could see the lingerie department off to the left of where they were standing. Hmmm, that might be an interesting place to browse after all. He began to walk in that direction. Amanda placed a firm hand on his arm to stop him.
"Lee, I don't think we should go into that department together, do you?" She could feel another ramble coming on, her usual nervous release mechanism. "I mean, I know we're pretending to be married and all but we aren't really of course and we're not even involved or anything and it might just be a little embarrassing for you to shop in that department with me." There, she said it. Of course, what she really meant was that it would be embarrassing for her, but she figured it might be embarrassing for him too. Somehow she couldn't imagine shopping for lingerie with the man she had secretly loved for what seemed like forever when she knew he didn't return her feelings.
Lee noticed a becoming blush creeping up her cheeks. He was growing amused at her embarrassment, his own starting to dissipate as he realized what she was really trying to say. This could be interesting. He loved to tease her. It might make up for his horrendous experience in the shoe department.
"Okay, Amanda, I understand. What do you suggest, as I'm the one with the credit card, remember?" He successfully lobbed that one back into her court.
Amanda pondered this predicament. She sighed. "Well, how about I shop alone and you go into another department. Then come back in about 30 minutes so we can pay for the purchases.
Would that work for you?"
"You need 30 minutes to pick out a few things?"
"Yes, maybe....well probably, you know I might need to try on some things."
Lee's mind momentarily imagined Amanda going into the dressing room with her lingerie and.....He shook his head to clear his mind. She was waiting for his response.
"Sounds fine." She proceeded to load him up with the packages she was carrying as well as the ones he already had in his arms, giving him a sweet smile. Lee was beginning to feel like the husband he was pretending to be as he shifted the packages in his arms. He consulted his watch, and off he went with a grin on his face. He was curious to see what her purchases would be and knew he would find out soon since he had to pay for them with the Agency credit card. This would also give him time to buy the purse and shoes. Something he hadn't thought of before also occurred to him, so he headed off with a specific purpose in mind.
Amanda picked out the items she thought she would need. She still hoped her luggage would be located, but had to plan that it might not. She selected a white silk nightgown and dressing gown set, stockings, a slip, and several sets of underwear. Looking at her watch, she knew Lee would be back momentarily. She didn't want him to see her purchases. That was the whole point of getting him out of the way. How could she get the salesclerk to wrap them before he showed up? So as to not have to tell a longer story than was necessary, Amanda told the woman that her husband would be arriving soon to pay for the purchases, and would she mind wrapping them before he arrived. The woman smiled knowingly and asked, "You wish to surprise your husband with these lovely items?" Amanda blushed, but nodded affirmatively.
Lee sauntered in a few minutes later with the grin still on his face. He laid all the packages down on the counter and went up to Amanda who was at the register with the clerk, putting his arm around her waist and giving her a squeeze. "Hello, darling, are you all finished? Let's see what you bought, shall we?" he said as he produced the credit card and gave it to the clerk. Amanda's blush renewed itself and she gave him an annoyed look. He was carrying this a little too far and she knew he was doing it for her benefit, not the clerk's. He could be most exasperating!
However, when Lee noticed that Amanda's purchases were already wrapped, his dimpled grin disappeared as he realized she had outsmarted him. He had been imagining her purchases during the wait, and now was disappointed that he wouldn't get to see them. Although he chastised himself for having these unsettling thoughts about his lovely partner, so maybe it served him right.
As the clerk began to ring the charge transaction, she exclaimed, "Oh, excuse me, ma'am. I almost over-charged you. This bra and panty set is on sale, I believe."
To Amanda's mortification and Lee's delight, she removed a raspberry-colored satin and lace confection from the bag, checked the price ticket, and re-rung the items. She then noticed Amanda's expression and misinterpreted it. She said quietly to her, although Lee could hear as well since he was standing so close, "Oh, I'm very sorry, ma'am. I forgot this was to be a surprise for your husband." She was sincere and genuinely apologetic.
A surprise for her husband! So that's what Amanda told the clerk to get the items wrapped before he got there. Lee flashed his devastating smile at both ladies, although its effect was totally lost on Amanda, and said to the clerk, "Don't worry about it. All the other items will still be a surprise. Won't they, dear?" He turned to Amanda with a devilish grin.
Amanda's annoyance was turning to anger and she replied icily, "Yes, they certainly will," knowing full well he would understand her meaning. Amanda couldn't decide if she was more embarrassed about him seeing her lingerie or angry with him for his behavior, and wanted nothing more than to get out of this store. Although she would be leaving with Lee in tow, and he was the source of her flustered emotional state.
The purchase concluded, Amanda took the package, and thanked the clerk graciously, as it really wasn't her fault. She threw an "I'll get you back for this" look at Lee, and walked quickly out of the department, leaving Lee to gather up all the packages and follow behind her with a self-satisfied grin. God, the woman was gorgeous! He had noted the flash in her eyes and the heightened color in her cheeks and the way her dark curls danced with her sudden movements.
She walked quickly and made it to the down escalator and out the front door before Lee caught up with her, balancing his load of purchases as he did so.
"Amanda. Amanda, wait," he pleaded.
She stopped a few feet from the store's front entrance, grateful for the fresh air and the sudden change of environment. The brisk walk had gotten some of the anger out of her system. She might as well wait for him. She had no idea where she was going in this foreign city, so she was stuck with him. But who better to be stuck with for a few days than this handsome partner of hers? Her mood toward him was softening already, but she didn't want him to see that. She could never stay mad at him for long. Her heart melted whenever he looked at her. And when he touched her....
"Amanda, I'm sorry." He tried on a repentant look for her benefit.
"No, you're not. You were having too much fun play-acting in there." She tried to sound stern, but a glimmer of a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth and Lee was quick to pick up on it.
He laughed. "Okay, you're right, I was having fun. You're so cute when you get mad. Oh, and you should know that one positive thing has come out of all this. I decided I like shopping in the foundation department after all. So anytime in the future you need help, just call on me," he offered helpfully. Her withering look made him laugh even harder.
After he composed himself, he suggested, "Come on, let's get this stuff back to the hotel before I collapse under the weight of it. And we really need to check in with Billy about when we are meeting our informant. What do you say?"
"Whatever you say. You are the senior agent after all," she said demurely. She took a couple of packages from him and they hailed a taxi to take them back to the Strathmore.
They stopped in Lee's room first so he could check in with Billy. Billy informed him that they were to meet their informant at midnight at a nightclub not far from the hotel. Tomorrow morning they needed to check in at Scotland Yard with Chief Inspector Fox. She would fill them in on the details of the case they would be collaborating on.
When Lee told Amanda of the plan, she said, "Oh no, Lee, I really don't have anything suitable to wear to a nightclub. And after all that shopping we did!"
Knowing what would be awaiting her when she got to her room, Lee brushed off the comment with "Well, I certainly am not stepping foot in another store today. The blue sweater will have to do. Besides, it suits your complexion so wonderfully, Madame," he mocked, imitating the insufferable Monsieur Devereaux.
She laughed, recalling his dislike of the clerk. "Okay, you're right. I've had enough shopping to last me quite a while myself."
"I'll walk you to your room."
"That would be nice. I've got a bit of jet lag. I think I'd like a little nap since we'll be up late tonight."
"Good idea," Lee said as he waited for Amanda to unlock her door, since his arms were full of her purchases.
They headed into the room to deposit the packages onto Amanda's bed. But a long satin dress bag was already lying across the bed. A card was atop the bag. Amanda picked it up. "What's this?" she wondered aloud. She opened the note card, and tears sprang unbidden to her eyes as she read it silently. " 'She walks in beauty like the night....' Lord Byron must have been thinking of you when he wrote that line. Will you please do me the honor of dining with me tonight? The gown was made for you, and it would be my pleasure to escort you for the evening. Lee."
Amanda didn't trust herself to look at Lee while she slowly withdrew the shimmering emerald gown from its satin enclosure. Then she slowly turned to Lee and spoke in an awed whisper, her eyes still glistening. "Lee, this gown is so beautiful. Thank you. I would love to have dinner with you tonight." She smiled shyly up at him.
Words seemed inadequate to express her feelings, and she could not stop herself from stepping in front of him and wrapping her arms around his waist, turning her head to rest against his chest. Lee responded by folding her into his embrace and holding her tightly against him. He buried his face in her soft hair and luxuriated in the feel of having her in his arms. He felt a warm glow emanate from his heart outward throughout his entire body, melting her slender form into his. Amanda felt like she had been longing for the comfort and safety and excitement of his embrace for her entire life. They stood lost in the embrace for several moments, neither wanting to break the spell.
A knock on the door broke it for them. It was the concierge, with two additional packages for Amanda. To her delight, one was an evening bag and the other shoes to complete her ensemble. She laughed unsteadily, still unsure of her voice from the emotions coursing through her body. "However did you manage all this, Lee?" she indicated the gifts with a sweep of her arm.
He smiled mysteriously, "I have my ways, remember?" He then explained that Mrs. Coates had been most accommodating in arranging delivery of the gown to the hotel. He had selected the bag and shoes while she was shopping for lingerie. "The shoes had better fit. After all the touching your Monsieur Devereaux did to your feet, he assured me that the shoes would be a perfect fit." Amanda laughed up at him. It must have taken all his self-control to venture back into the shoe department to buy these matching pumps, knowing how Monsieur Devereaux had annoyed him so much.
Lee left her then. The jet lag was catching up with him too, and both felt they needed a little rest. He told her to call him when she woke up so he would know she was all right. They would plan to leave for dinner at seven.
Amanda undressed for her nap. As she slipped between the cool sheets, she felt warmed by the memory of Lee's embrace. She fell asleep almost immediately thinking of the wonderful evening ahead.
Lee also laid down for a rest. However, he had some trouble falling asleep. Thoughts of Amanda filled his mind. He kept imagining her wearing the emerald dress....and how it had felt to hold her against him. He was looking forward to spending the entire evening alone with her. Maybe they could go dancing after dinner. There would be plenty of time before they had to meet the informant at midnight. If they went dancing, he would get to hold her close to him again. He fell asleep with thoughts of Amanda dancing in his head.
Lee awoke about two hours later feeling refreshed. He was surprised he had slept that long. He looked at his watch worriedly. Amanda had not called him as he'd asked her to. He hoped she was all right. Maybe he should call her to make sure. Even if he woke her up, she would probably have slept long enough by now. It sure was handier when they played a married couple so they could share the same room. When she was with him he knew she was safe. He didn't much care for this adjoining room stuff.
He dialed her number and received no response. So he wandered around his room for a few minutes, and then tried again. Still no answer. He didn't think she would have left to go anywhere without telling him, and it would soon be time for her to get ready for tonight. But she was a big girl and could take care of herself. He shouldn't worry.
But after a few more minutes of not worrying, he had had enough and decided to call one more time. Still no response. So he walked over to her room and knocked on the door. His stomach was getting all twisted up inside not knowing if she was all right. He knocked loudly several more times, calling out her name, and then was planning to use his key to enter. But just then she opened the door hurriedly, having heard him call her name.
"Lee, what is it?" she asked breathlessly, wondering if something was wrong.
"Amanda, you were supposed to call--" he stopped abruptly as he took in her appearance. She had obviously just finished a shower. There were droplets of water clinging to her neck, and he could detect the clean scent of the soap and shampoo she had used. She stood there in a white silk dressing gown, drying her wet hair with a towel, and wore no make-up. She looked divine. He couldn't take his eyes off her.
"I'm sorry...I thought....I was...," Lee stammered. Now he was embarrassed. She hadn't answered the phone because she was in the shower. She would think he was an idiot.
"Oh, Lee, I'm sorry I didn't call you. I know you asked me to. But I thought that you might still be sleeping and I knew how tiring all that shopping was for both of us. I was planning to call you after my shower. I didn't know you would worry. Forgive me?" she smiled up at him, touched that he cared enough to come over to see if she was safe.
He had regained his composure during her speech. But how was he going to explain why he was worried about her? And why was he so worried about her? "Well it's just that it's a strange city and all, and I didn't know if you'd gone out, and...ah..." Then a sudden thought popped into his head. "Amanda, I'm responsible for you since I'm Agency and you're civilian and all." That sounded logical to him.
"Lee, I appreciate that you were worried about me. I promise to call next time you ask me. Thank you." And with that she stepped up on her tiptoes and kissed him softly on the cheek. He was such a sweet, caring man. She was so lucky to be here with him.
"I'm just glad you're all right. Amanda..." He was trying to think of something else to say. When she kissed him, he was very aware that her hands had momentarily touched his chest. Suddenly their date for tonight seemed so far away, and he didn't want to leave just yet. He hadn't taken his eyes off her and he wasn't ready to now. She was so beautiful and she smelled so good.
"Yes, Lee?" Those beautiful hazel eyes were staring into hers.
He looked down awkwardly. He was at a loss for words. He watched as his hand, completely of its own accord, gently touched the sleeve of her dressing gown and felt the warmth of her arm through it. He so much wanted to hold her again. But she was wearing only her dressing gown so that was not a very good idea. He sighed. He'd better make a hasty retreat before his hand made its way up to her soft cheek. He could feel it headed in that direction.
"Well, since you're obviously just fine, I'll let you finish up here," he stated abruptly. "See you at seven." And he turned and exited the room without looking at her again.
Lee made it back to his room, leaned against the closed door, and took a deep breath. Wow, that had been close. He felt like he had been under a spell from which it was hard to break away. Another minute more and... What was wrong with him? This wasn't one of the sexy women he liked to date. This was his Amanda, his partner, his best friend. He thought back to their shopping excursion earlier in the day. It must have been those thoughts about her in the lingerie department that were the cause of all this. He went to take a shower.
When Lee left her room, Amanda leaned against the door and closed her eyes. She hoped she hadn't been too bold answering the door in her dressing gown. When she had heard him banging on it, she was worried that something was wrong. But she saw how he had looked at her. The memory sent shivers up her spine. And then his gentle hand had touched her arm. His eyes looked like they wanted to say something, but then he left so quickly. She smiled to herself. She would have him all to herself tonight. She went to finish dressing, eagerly anticipating their dinner date.
Promptly at seven o'clock, Amanda opened the door to Lee. She knew she looked beautiful in the emerald gown. But she was not expecting his sharp intake of breath or the way his eyes seemed to devour her, lingeringly taking in every detail of her appearance.
Amanda's hair was swept up with loose ringlets falling to her shoulders. Her hair style and gown accented her graceful neck and shoulders. Lee's eyes missed nothing. Not the heart pendant nestled into the hollow of her throat. Not her beautiful arms lightly caressed by the chiffon shawl. Not the gentle curve of her breast as it was partially concealed by the shimmering emerald fabric. Lee had escorted her to many receptions and special events, and she always looked lovely. But tonight...tonight he was sure she must be the most beautiful woman in the entire world. And she was spending it with him! Beautiful, gracious, warm, sincere. What had he ever done to deserve being with her tonight? "Amanda, you look absolutely gorgeous. I will be the envy of every man in London tonight." He smiled gently at her.
Amanda blushed becomingly. "Oh, thank you, Lee, this dress makes me feel so special. It was a wonderful surprise." She reverted to playfulness to help her overcome her sudden shyness at his openly admiring gaze. "And by the way, you don't look half-bad yourself." He gave her one of his dimpled smiles that set her heart to pounding. Lee Stetson in a black tux. She sighed. Could any other man possibly look more handsome? She doubted it. She closed the short distance between them and linked her arm through his. "I guess I'll have to stick close to you so that some other woman doesn't snag you from me."
"You don't have to worry about that, Amanda," Lee whispered huskily. "I won't leave your side tonight." He almost added "or ever," but caught himself in time.
A short while later their taxi pulled up in front of Brown's Restaurant, an elegant establishment near Covent Garden. Since Lee had made a reservation, they were seated immediately. Dinner was superb, the English fare of Steak, Mushroom, and Guinness Pie absolutely delectable. The waiter was just attentive enough, but not hovering, so that they were left mostly to themselves. They didn't say much, each seemingly lost in their thoughts about the other, with several shy smiles serving to communicate the wonder each was feeling at being together like this. Amanda could see that Lee was a little nervous tonight, and she herself felt an eager anticipation, but of what she wasn't sure. Lee couldn't take his eyes off his charming dinner companion, seemingly in awe that he had her all to himself for the evening.
When dinner was finished, the waiter brought them the dessert specialty of the house, sticky toffee pudding. Amanda loved it and finished every last bit. "Oh Lee, don't you just love all the marvelous food we get to enjoy when we travel? This meal has been just incredible."
Lee smiled indulgently at her. Leave it to Amanda to marvel at all the little things he had long ago begun to take for granted. Seeing things through her eyes opened up the world to him all over again. Just being with her was an adventure.
Lee asked Amanda if she would like to dance. There was an intimate dance floor in the lounge, with soft music playing which would be perfect for slow dancing. Amanda loved to dance, and being held in Lee's arms would be a wonderful finish to a perfect evening. She felt a little tingle at the mere thought of his arms around her.
They found a secluded table and ordered wine. Then Lee extended his hand to his beautiful partner and guided her onto the dance floor. The thought of having her in his arms had been preoccupying him all during dinner. The actual feel of her body next to his surpassed even his fantasy. Every nerve ending was attuned to her presence.
They were nearing the close of the second dance. He held her close and reveled in the feel of her hair against his cheek and his hand touching her warm skin. Her perfume was weaving a spell over him that he didn't want to break free of. Being with her was intoxicating. All he could think about was-
Abruptly another hand touched Amanda's back, and a deep cultured voice broke into his thoughts-"Amanda, my dear, how wonderful to see you again! And Mr. Stetson, likewise."
The two broke apart to find themselves staring into the smiling face of Alan Chamberlain. A man Lee had hoped to never lay eyes on again.
"Alan!" Amanda exclaimed, surprised, but delighted to see him again. "I can't believe it's you!"
Nor could Lee. He frowned. Now what was Alan Chamberlain doing in the middle of London-didn't he belong in Rome or somewhere?
The three moved to the edge of the dance floor with Lee's arm loosely encircling Amanda's waist, and Alan kissed Amanda's hand. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything? You two work together, right?"
"No, I mean yes," began Amanda, somewhat flustered at the sudden turn her evening had taken. Trying to compose herself, she tried again with a little laugh, "No, you're not interrupting anything. And yes, we do work together. We're in London on assignment. What brings you here, Alan?"
Lee felt like his head was spinning. He could not believe this was happening. Dinner had been marvelous, he was holding Amanda in his arms--the evening was going so perfectly, and in walks Alan Chamberlain of all people to throw cold water on things. Alan Chamberlain, who had kissed his Amanda. Lee could feel his temper start to rise and his stomach form a knot. But he would have to keep his cool out of respect for Amanda. It wouldn't be easy.
"I'm also here on business. As a matter of fact, I'm flying back to Rome tonight. This is one of my favorite spots when I'm in London, so I decided to stop in before leaving."
He's leaving tonight-Lee breathed a small sigh of relief. He hoped the plane would be airborne soon. Maybe they could still salvage some of the evening.
"I wonder, may I have a dance before I have to go? Just for old times' sake? I must say, Amanda, you look incredibly lovely in that gown." His eyes wandered appreciatively over her.
Amanda could feel Lee's arm tighten around her waist. She wouldn't mind dancing with Alan. He was such a gentleman and she did like him. And if she wasn't here with Lee, she would dance with him. But Lee was the man who held her heart. Lee was the man who appeared in her dreams at night and in her thoughts throughout the day. Tonight was very special to her. She was honored to wear the beautiful gown that Lee had selected for her. She could feel electricity between them as they held each other when they danced. She wondered if Lee felt it too. She wanted to resume the intimacy she was experiencing when they were dancing. She knew if she danced with Alan, the mood would be broken for both her and for Lee.
"Thank you, Alan, but I think not tonight," she said quietly. "We only arrived today and I'm very tired after the long flight. Why don't you join us for a glass of wine before you leave, and we can all catch up on what you've been doing since we last saw each other."
Amanda could feel Lee's sigh of relief, but he didn't loosen his hold on her waist until he had helped her to her chair.
Alan looked disappointed, but nodded his agreement, and the three sat together at the table. Alan told them about his business dealings and what his sister was up to since they had secured her release from the kidnappers. She seemed to suffer no long-term ill effects. Both Lee and Amanda were genuinely pleased to hear that. Amanda filled Alan in a little on the boys' activities.
Soon Alan took his leave. They wished him a good flight home. Amanda doubted she would ever see him again. She liked him as a friend, so that was sad, but she knew that as long as she felt this way about Lee, nothing more than friendship could come from a relationship with Alan. Even if nothing more than friendship ever came from her relationship with Lee.
Lee exhaled slowly as Alan left their table. He was beginning to think he would never have Amanda to himself for more than two minutes at a time. At least it seemed that way sometimes. Men always appeared out of nowhere vying for her attention. This was to have been an evening for just the two of them to share. And now it was ending.
"Well, Amanda, if you're tired, we can go back to the hotel. We have had an eventful day. The long flight and then all that shopping. I can go later to meet the informant on my own."
"I'm not tired. You promised we'd spend the evening dancing, so I'm going to hold you to it," she answered him flirtatiously.
"But you told Alan-"
"I know what I told Alan. I didn't want to dance with Alan. I want to dance with you, Lee." She laid her hand gently on his arm and her eyes held his.
She wanted to dance with him, not Alan, only him. Lee's heart began to beat faster as he looked at the vision of loveliness before him. This exquisite creature, this warm, gracious, intelligent, charming woman wanted to dance with him. She had made up an excuse not to dance with Alan because she wanted to dance with him. Did that mean that she wanted to be held in his arms as much as he wanted to hold her? Did that mean that she might want him to-?
"Lee?" He was looking at her with a dreamy look on his face and she wasn't sure he had heard her.
"Hmmm? Oh." He berated himself inwardly. What happened to the smooth polished manner he usually had for the ladies? He sounded like an idiot. It was just so distracting to have Amanda this close to him. It was difficult to think clearly, much less speak coherently. This had never been a problem before. What was wrong with him?
He took her arm and guided her onto the dance floor once again. He wrapped his arms around her slender figure and breathed in her scent. Her skin felt like velvet against his hands. He closed his eyes and they moved slowly to the music. The warm glow he had felt this afternoon when he held her came back to him once again. He was holding her so close, and she had wrapped her arms around his neck, her soft cheek resting on his as he bent his head to hers. Why did she have this effect on him? He felt like a nervous teenager out on his first date with the girl of his dreams. But this wasn't the girl of his dreams. This was Amanda, his partner, his best friend, his most loyal supporter. Amanda, the woman he could talk to about personal things he never shared with anyone else. Amanda, the woman he could trust with his life. Amanda, the woman he would protect no matter what the cost. Amanda, the person he felt closest to above all others. Amanda, the woman he had to have at his side. Yes, this was Amanda, the girl of his dreams.
The realization hit him full force. It at once made him giddy with delight and panicked to the core. He had let his guard down without even realizing it, and Amanda had marched in and stolen his heart. When had this happened? Did she feel the same way about him? He separated from her slightly to look down into her sparkling brown eyes. Her face looked different somehow. As if an inner emotion had come to the surface. He caught a glimpse of her love for him shining through her features. He had caught these glimpses before, but so briefly, he was sure he had imagined them. But he could see more clearly now. He could see right into her heart. He wanted to possess every part of her, her body, her mind, her soul itself. These feelings were so powerful they frightened him. He had never felt this way before. He didn't want to frighten his gentle Amanda. But he did want to kiss her. He needed to kiss her. He needed to feel her mouth against his, soft and yielding. He gently brushed his lips over hers as they danced. She looked up at him expectantly. He could see the fire in her eyes mirroring that in his own. Without a word, he led her to the outside patio. It was deserted as everyone was inside dining or dancing. They could hear sounds of music, voices, and laughter drifting out to them, but it felt like they were in their own little world.
He very slowly brought both of his hands up to her face, tracing her features with his fingertips as if memorizing them for the future. He softly touched the loose curls framing her perfect face. Then his hands encircled her head and slowly brought her face to his so their mouths could meet and they could experience each other.
Amanda's hands rested on Lee's back, pulling him as close as possible to her. The feelings he was arousing in her were like none she had ever felt before. She knew this was not a dream, as she could never have dreamed sensations this intense. His lips had moved from her mouth and were tracing a path to her ear, down her neck, and to her exposed shoulder, searing her skin in their journey. Since she had stopped breathing and her heart had stopped beating with the first touch of his lips on hers, she wasn't sure why she was still conscious. Her knees would have buckled beneath her if Lee had not been holding her so tightly.
Lee's lips returned to hers for one more demanding kiss. He then brought one hand up behind her head and one against her back to gently pull her against his chest, letting his fingers entwine themselves in her curls.
After several minutes lost in each other, Lee loosened his hold on her so he could look down into her eyes. His eyes glinted mischievously as he smiled gently at her.
"You know, Amanda, when I first met you, I thought you were this innocent little housewife from the suburbs. But I see now that you should have come with a warning label. 'Beware of this housewife. She casts spells that will make you fall for her.'" He laughed softly.
She replied with mock indignation, "Well at least you had a little time to get away before my spells started working. You didn't come with any warnings either, and I knew the first minute we met that I was falling for you. I think that's why I didn't bring the package with me to that party. If I gave you the package, you would have no reason to see me again. And then I wouldn't be able to sprinkle my magic potion over you."
Lee pretended to be shocked. "Amanda, I had no idea you were so devious."
"Well now you know. So you'd better watch out, Buster."
"I think it's too late for me." He bent to kiss her throat. "The spell seems to be irreversible." Another kiss behind her ear. "And I wouldn't have it any other way." He bent to capture her lips again for a lingering kiss. They looked into each other's eyes, hardly daring to believe the emotions they could detect there. Each had the feeling that despite all the adventures they had already shared together, the biggest adventure of all was just beginning.