DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything associated with the show… I just like playing with the characters in it from time to time. Dance Monkeys! Dance!


SPOILERS: Sort of Season 8, but I am currently ignoring the existence of those 2 crackhead episodes.


SUMMARY: After an out-of-town case has drained all of her energy, Catherine finally peeks out from the curtain and sees what's been there all along.

A/N: Remember that Meme, where I owed someone a little Yo!Bling Smut? Yeah, I finally got around to writing/finishing it. Took forever, I blame the crackhead episodes for robbing my desire to finish it. Also, there was another fic that sort of took over my brain. Not to mention the holiday madness, a pregnant sister-in-law, visitors, numerous runs to the airport, and being the cool aunt are very time consuming. :p

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This is largely my own twisted machination, but I was able to get a little help from SmutBeta, and some fantastic "Hack & Slash" beta work from the wonderful GuerillaBeta. Any leftover mishaps belong to me, but the input from these remarkable ladies is, as always, priceless to me. (Wrote this one for the last Yo!Bling, and it still applies, ten-fold)

REVIEWS: Reviews are the way I know if people are enjoying the work or not. So, if you leave one, THANKS! And if not, I hope you found at least a little something to brighten your day, and thanks for taking the time to read.

If there was one case she hated more than any other, it was an out of town case. They were always in some remote, backwater, Barney Fife Hicksville, and she just could not stand the half-assed law enforcement personnel in those places. It had taken them two days to finally get through the whole big mess. The only thing that saved her sanity on thise case was the fact that she was out with the boys. With her own personal version of the Three Stooges along for the ride, at the very least, she was well entertained.

Nick and Greg were the first ones to head back to town, so they left her and Warrick to finish the paperwork and tie up the last of the loose ends on the case. Thankfully, Warrick had talked the guys into hauling all of the evidence back to Vegas, which meant the two of them could just go straight home. Catherine never slept well in these Podunk towns, and after a couple days of tripping over the local sheriff, cleaning up after bungling deputies and laughing until her sides hurt over the faces and comments being made by her co-workers, she was just plain exhausted.

The only thought on her mind as she and Warrick finished putting their bags into the Tahoe was that she desperately wanted to sleep in her own bed for the next twenty-four hours.

Without even asking, Warrick slipped into the driver's seat, affected a sly smile and held out his hand for the keys. The cockeyed smile that appeared on her face when she reached into her purse to find the keys came unbidden. As she walked around to the passenger side, Catherine realized just how much she had missed seeing his playful smile, and the familiar level of easy comfort that once existed between them.

They had nearly three hundred miles before getting back to the city, and Catherine hoped to reclaim some of their friendship before they reached the halfway point. However, by the time Warrick pulled away from the gas station at the other end of the town she was already fast asleep.

Her dreams were filled with warm thoughts, bright smiles, freckled cheeks marked with adorable dimples and framed by long blonde hair, and glimpses of a future she had only ever dreamt about. Catherine often imagined the future for her daughter, be it as a scholar, a dancer in the New York Ballet, a scientist, a mother, or a lawyer, but no matter what, it was always a brighter future than she had ever envisioned for herself. Having lived much of her adult life in service to the idea that her daughter would never have such low expectations for her own life, Catherine was fairly certain the girl truly believed she could accomplish whatever she set her mind to. Knowing that in her heart as she drifted through her wonderful dream world, Catherine curled up in the warmth it gave her.

Tucked in amongst those dreams of the future was this ever present image of a sly smile waiting in the shadows. Those dreams had been hidden away for a long time, but for some reason they seemed to be coming back into the light again lately. They had been the cause of a great deal of sadness for a long while, but they once were a source of wistful happiness in her life. She banished those dreams two years ago, after learning that they would never be possible. Or, so she thought at the time.

As that final thought drifted up into her conscious mind, Catherine stirred in the passenger seat. Her first impression was that she was waking up, but when a cover of warm, soft darkness fell over her, she drifted back down under the haze of slumber, and snuggled into the toasty blanket of comfort.

When her mind slowly began to float back up into consciousness, Catherine felt more relaxed and rested than she had in weeks. Certain that sleep still had some hold on her body she enjoyed the softness it seemed to create around her. She knew the dreams were still flitting through her mind, because she simply could not fathom that the front seat of a department issue Tahoe could be that comfortable.

Convinced that she was going to have to stretch for an hour to get all the kinks out of her exhaustion induced coma on the car ride back to town, Catherine finally allowed herself to begin rising up out of her semi-conscious state. The first thing that got her attention was that she was covered in a blanket, and she was pretty damn sure there was nothing that soft in any CSI vehicle she had ever been in. The next thing to filter into her mind was that they were not moving.

Once that thought pierced its way into her brain, she sat straight up in a flash, only to find she was no longer inside the Tahoe at all, but on a large fluffy suede sofa in someone's living room. Catherine immediately went into fight or flight mode and all of her survivor instincts hit high alert.

Scanning the room for any indication of where she might be, she looked for pictures, certificates, or anything that would give her a clue. Unfortunately, the only thing of distinction in the entire room was an old, beat to hell, upright piano. As she tried to reach back into her mind to see if that struck a familiar chord, her eyes caught a hint of movement from the pile of material sitting in the huge chair across from her and she froze.

A muffled cough was heard from under what she could see was another blanket, as the person beneath it stirred in their sleep. The deep tone of the sound, and the length of the form gave her some clue as to the identity of the person beneath the covers, but she had to be sure. Looking down to make sure she was all together, Catherine saw that she was still in her work clothes and her CSI vest. The only things missing from her wardrobe were her shoes, and when she glanced down at the floor, she found them sitting neatly beside the sofa.

Ever so slowly she rose from the couch and carefully tip-toed over to the chair. Just as she was about to reach out for the edge of the blanket to reveal the person breathing beneath it, a familiar face emerged from the covers and smiled. "Morning…" His green eyed gaze sparkled as Warrick came back to consciousness. "Feeling better?"

She tried to speak, but between the sight of his relaxed and comfortable smile, and the smoky sound of his smooth voice, even first thing after waking up, Catherine was having trouble doing more than gaping and sputtering. "Right… You need coffee before speech is possible. Comin' right up." He quickly jumped to his feet and headed for the kitchen. "I put it on to brew before I crashed. You still like French Roast, right?"

Catherine was still staring at the chair when he called out from the kitchen again, "Cath…French Roast is okay, isn't it?"

It suddenly dawned on her that he required a response and she awkwardly stumbled over the only thing that would come out of her mouth. "Yeah…good."

Warrick seemed to be completely unaware of her dilemma, as he continued to bang around the kitchen. Slowly, she managed to get her feet to move, one in front of the other, until she was standing on the opposite side of the kitchen island. As she tried to get her bearings, Catherine took a peek at her watch and nearly fell over at the first sign of what must have happened. "Shit!"

Warrick looked over his shoulder at the sound of her exclamation and asked, "What?"

Shaking her head, Catherine answered, "Well, considering how much light there is out there, I can't imagine that it's after one in the morning…" She looked up at him with the shock showing plainly on her face. "What the hell happened?"

"Oh, well… You fell asleep on the way back." Warrick simply shrugged off her concern and went back to his tasks.

"No shit!" He laughed at her snide comment and waited for more. "But we left Warm Springs at nine, and…" Her voice rose with the realization of the sheer volume of hours since that moment, "I haven't been asleep for SIXTEEN HOURS, HAVE I?!"

"No, we left the sheriff's office at nine. So it's probably closer to fifteen, since we didn't leave the town until a little after ten." Warrick was being far too calm for her tastes and it had begun to get on her nerves.

"Don't get technical. Why the hell didn't you…" her next tirade was interrupted when he handed her a mug of steaming coffee, with just the right amount of milk in it. Bringing her volume back under control, she spoke with strained patience, "Why didn't you wake me up when we got back?"

Warrick chuckled as he blew over the top of his mug and then stated, "Believe me…I tried. But you were dead to the world."

"And you brought me here because…"

"Nobody was home, and I don't have the code to your security system." He nodded his head at her cup in a gesture meant to get her drinking the coffee. "What else was I gonna do? Have David haul you out on a gurney or something?"

Catherine could not help herself, she laughed at the idea of their timid, ultra-shy coroner lifting her onto a gurney. "Okay, good point." She took the first tentative sip from her mug and enjoyed the feel of the smooth, rich liquid filling her mouth and vanishing down her throat. A delighted purr found its way out of her, and she heard Warrick's chuckle again.

"I take it that means you approve of the coffee?"

Nodding her head, she smiled and said, "Oh yeah… Almost as good as that stuff Greg is always hording."

"Yeah, I don't hold with spending forty bucks a pound on any coffee, so this is the best you're gonna get here." Warrick's smile was bright and welcoming, despite his protestation.

"It's perfect just like this." She smiled back at him and continued to drink her coffee.

After a few minutes of quiet enjoyment, Warrick set his mug down and turned toward the fridge. "So, fifteen hours is a long time without food…what are you in the mood for?"

Seeing him bent down in front of the fridge, the first words to pop into her mind were completely inappropriate under almost any circumstances. She quickly took a big drink of the coffee and attempted to fight back the comments begging to be said. "I should probably get home before Lindsey thinks I've disappeared off the face of the earth, and she starts the next week long kegger."

"Don't worry about that. I left Lily a message and told her we got hung up on the case. When she called back she said that she'd just keep Linds over at her place tonight, and not to worry about it." Warrick kept his back to her as he stood in front of the fridge contemplating the contents, and he missed her panic stricken face.

"You what?!"

Warrick spun at the shrieking tone of her voice. "What's the matter?"

"You called my mother?! What did she say?" The sheer terror on her face was enough to make Warrick question what he had done.

He searched his mind for something in the exchange with Lily that would have caused Catherine any concern. "She said that you're working too hard, and she thanked me for letting you get some sleep…and said to have you call her when you got done and back to the house. No big deal, Cath."

"Easy for you to say! You don't have to deal with my mother." Catherine seemed to turn in on herself with her exclamation, as she whipped around and wrapped her arms around her middle.

Confused by her worry, Warrick abandoned the fridge, walked around the island to stand in front of her and said, "Catherine, she's just worried about you. So's Lindsey, for that matter."

Catherine looked up into his eyes and he was shocked by the fear he saw there. "What do you mean, Lindsey's worried? How would you know that?"

Regret fell heavy on him, as Warrick realized that he had betrayed the confidence placed in him. "I-… Oh man." He struggled to figure out a way out of his dilemma, but he knew the only thing that would work was the truth. "Because we have lunch every weekend, and she told me so."

"You what?" There was a timid quality to her voice he rarely found.

"We've been having lunch every weekend since I found her at the Pike crying into a cobb salad…not long after Sam died." He reached out to take her hands. "The kid just needed someone to talk to, Cath, and she didn't know how to ask." When she turned her gaze to the floor, he took a deep breath and laid a hand alongside her neck as he said, "She's okay, Cath… She had a tough time with it at first, and she just didn't want to worry you or Lily about it." He shook his head as he tried to put words to the strange but comfortable relationship he had developed with Catherine's daughter. "Most of the time we don't talk about anything more than the latest gossip around town, and other times…she'll talk about Sam, or how much she worries about you and Lily, or about the little stuff bugging her in school. She needed an outlet, somebody not in the family, but who understood her life."

"Thank you." Catherine leaned up and placed a soft kiss on his cheek. She sighed as she came back down to her feet, "I guess I wasn't paying enough atten-"

"No, Cath…" Warrick stopped her from trying to take the blame this time. "She didn't want you to know, and she asked me not say anything. More than anything, Lindsey didn't want you to worry. She's really grown up a lot, Catherine. She's got a strong will, and she wanted to handle this on her own terms." He smiled with that last thought. "Kinda reminds me of her mother."

"Nah…" Catherine finally found something to smile about again. "She's much smarter than that." Once again, she met his gaze. "She knew to trust you."

Though he started to shrug his shoulders at the implication of her words, she saw the faint blush in his cheeks. "We've been buddies for a long time, is all."

Catherine shook her head and the words fell from her lips with a longing she never realized was still there. "That's because she's got better taste in men than her Mom."

Without thinking, Warrick's thumb began to stroke the edge of her jaw when he said, "Maybe she can be smart enough for the both of us."

As though all existence seemed to slow to a crawl, they both moved almost imperceptibly to close the scant distance between them. By the time their breaths began to integrate in the fraction of an inch between their lips, Catherine felt her entire being tense under the anticipation of his kiss.

For years she had envisioned this moment, her dreams tormented her with the illusion of his lips on hers, and now that it had finally arrived, she feared it was all just a figment of her imagination. Unable to deal with the reality crashing down on her, Catherine closed her eyes in the hopes of keeping the fantasy going just a little while longer.

Moving his other hand to her face, Warrick touched the flushed skin of her cheek to verify that she was really there. It was too easy to lose the moment to a dream, a dream he had experienced many times before. As he watched her eyelids flutter and close, he knew she was feeling the same apprehension. Instead of meeting her lips with his, he ducked his head to the side and brought his lips to the space beside her ear to breathily whisper, "The dreams are never this real."

When he felt her breath catch, he knew that his suspicions were true. Coming back to gaze upon her face, he found her eyes had opened, and he smiled. Never losing her eyes, he made that last leap of faith and touched his lips to hers. Softly, tenderly, he kissed the woman who had inhabited his dreams, both waking and sleeping, for longer than he wanted to truly calculate.

Holding his lips to hers, the most gentle of kisses she could have ever imagined was exchanged between them. It was sweet and tender, and it shattered all of her preconceived notions about their first kiss. Catherine had always believed that if they were ever to kiss it would be steaming hot and ferocious, not the loving embrace of his lips on hers that she was feeling in that moment. It felt almost as though Warrick was offering her his solemn prayer with the reverent caress of his mouth moving over hers.

He held her face between his hands with a gentle touch, and she felt safe within their grasp; safe and loved. These were two things that were a rare commodity in her life, and to feel them in the hands of another as he poured such heartfelt emotion into his eyes and his kisses was a completely unknown experience for Catherine. When his lips moved up to her forehead, she released a sigh so deep that her entire being seemed to relax with the expiration.

With another heavy sigh, she fell into his embrace and rested her head in his chest as his arms wrapped comfortably around her. Catherine felt his own body relax into hers when his arms held her to him, and it warmed more than her skin to be so close to him.

The comfort of his embrace soon imbued her with a courage she had not felt in a very long time. She moved her hands up over his chest and snaked them around his neck before lifting her head up to meet his gaze. With the slightest of guidance, she brought him back down to her with her arms and this time it was Catherine's turn to make her feelings known with a kiss.

The moment their lips met, she found it difficult to not get lost in the sensations his mouth created in her body. It was still a gentle exchange, but the intensity of their emotions began to reach the surface. They were deeper and more prolonged, and with each one she felt so much more of the powerful passion that existed between them.

When her lungs began to scream out to her she was forced to finally release his mouth and gasp for that precious air. Warrick seemed to have been feeling the same urgency because their gasping breaths mingled in the faint space between them. However, their arms began to work of their own volition, and he pulled her up against him, lifting her feet from the floor in the process.

Between the lack of oxygen in her brain, the fiery lust raging in her blood, and the wanton gaze of desire boring into her soul from two shining green eyes, it took Catherine a few moments to realize she was dangling in the air. But once the realization hit, she took the initiative to resolve the problem by bringing her legs up along his sides to wrap tightly around his middle.

At the same time Catherine was securing her grip around his waist, Warrick was beginning to move his worshipping kisses to her neck. When his searing lips began leaving a blistering trail down the length of her neck, he abandoned himself to the act of demonstrating his adoration of her body, and the rest of the world ceased to exist. His entire universe became focused into a single point of light, which could only be given the name Catherine.

If he was capable of rational thought, instead of the instinctually primal surges coursing through his cerebral cortex, he would have stopped himself from the beginning. But with Catherine so near, and her heart laid open in vulnerability, he was unable to resist the temptation offered by her lips and the bare skin of her neck. He wanted to caress every spare inch with his mouth, and hold her firmly in his arms until all the worry and fear left her body. More than anything, in that moment, Warrick only wanted her.

Leaning in to nudge his way further into her shirt and expose more of Catherine's finely freckled, porcelain skin to lay kisses down along her collar bone, Warrick discovered they had run out of space. Deciding that his breakfast bar was not the ideal place for what was transpiring he lifted her more securely into his grasp and turned them away from the kitchen. He was rewarded for his initiative when Catherine held onto his head and captured his mouth with hers, pouring all of her desire into the passionate embrace.

Unfortunately, that was the extent of his plan. Once out of the kitchen, Warrick was lost in the sensation of Catherine's tongue tracing the outer shell of his ear. He fought to maintain enough control that his grip around her bottom would not fail, and had no idea where he was or where he was going. The first indication of this fact came when his knees ran right into the back of the sofa and his balance vanished as they began to tumble over the furniture.

Scrambling to keep his weight from bearing down with its full force onto Catherine, he practically launched himself onto floor, leaving her prostrate on the couch. He sat up on his hands to make sure she was okay, but she looked like she was about to explode.

Realizing what a strange picture they must have made, they both collapsed into a fit of laughter at their comical predicament. Catherine was the first to speak, "Not even close!"

Warrick shook his head in embarrassment and said, "Yeah, definitely not one of my finer moments."

Catherine rolled over onto her side and propped her head up with her bent arm. She smiled at his answer and shook her head a little. "No, that's not what I meant." The confusion on his face as he sat up the rest of the way was almost funny, but she knew that he deserved a straight answer.

Instead of making a joke, she looked down into the cushion and tried to regain control of her speech. "You…this…the kissing… They were never that good or…this real in the dreams."

Understanding seemed to dawn as she finally looked back up from the sofa. He moved over to sit upright beside the sofa in front of her and reached out to brush the hair away from her face. Leaning in, Warrick pressed his forehead to hers and softly spoke. "Glad to know there's at least one woman I haven't disappointed lately."

Catherine pulled away from him to look into his eyes. She could see the pain and the uncertainty hiding there and it weighed heavy on her heart. Taking her free hand, she stroked the side of his face and gazed deeply into his striking green eyes. "Warrick, I-…" The words stuck in her throat as he moved into her touch and closed his eyes at the sound of her pleading voice.

He chewed back his first response, but then he sighed and said, "Don't… I know I've messed up, but I'm trying to fix it."

Suddenly filled with a bravery she was not entirely sure belonged to her anymore, Catherine leaned forward and gently kissed his nearly trembling mouth. Releasing only to leave a whisper between their lips, she asked, "Can you do that from way down there?"

A light went on in his eyes as the corner of his mouth turned up. Her words had given him the courage to break the spell of his regret, and that courage showed in the impish expression on his face as he tenderly took her hand and placed it in the center of his chest. "There's a lot of things I can do from way down here." His words were still lingering in her ears when he gently tugged and brought her down from the couch and into his arms.

Before she could do more than yelp, his mouth found hers again, but this time there was the added power of his suddenly confident passion creating a fire in her soul. Their movements became soothingly fluid, and within moments she was lying on her back, Warrick leaning over her as he lay on his side and continued to kiss away any doubt with his soft warm lips.

Conscious thought seemed to evaporate in the heat his mouth was eliciting from her body, and Catherine seemed only to be concerned with increasing her contact with his searing hot skin. Her hands roamed over his back, eventually finding their way beneath his shirt to explore the solid lines of his frame. She desperately wanted to learn every dip, every valley, every line and her hands were the only thing she had at the moment.

When the air began to fill her lungs again in ragged gasps she realized that Warrick had moved beyond her mouth to lay burning kisses along her neck. Catherine seized upon the opportunity to lift herself up with her grip around his shoulder blades to sneak in a quick taste of his neck, just below his ear, with her tongue. However, her exploration was short-lived when Warrick rolled carefully over her to switch sides on her neck and she was once again a willing victim to the assault of his mouth on her body.

Effectively pinning her to the floor, Warrick felt a wash of excitement flow through his body. It was no easy feat to reduce a strong and fiercely independent woman like Catherine into a pliant and passive instrument of pleasure. But there she was beneath him, relishing in the experience and silently urging him on with only the touch of her hands and the stuttering breaths he felt escaping her lungs. That knowledge quickly became too much of a temptation, and he had to bring his head up to gaze upon the effects of his adoration.

Catherine felt him pull away, and she was filled with fear and a deep-seated hunger to return to his encompassing warmth. Her eyes shot open, and she was struck with the intense desire she found in his gaze. It took a great effort to speak, but her desperation made the words practically leap from her lips, "What's wrong?"

His shy soft smile fell over her like a warm blanket as he whispered, "Nothing… I just-…" Warrick gently brushed the hair from her face and held her cheek with his wide palm.

She brought her hand up to rest over his as she closed her eyes and struggled to call on the very last ounce of pride she had left. With a faint trace of her remaining strength, Catherine offered him one last chance. "If you're having second thou-"

His heart panicked the instant he realized his failure with words had given Catherine a reason to doubt his commitment to what he fervently hoped was happening between them. Without wasting another moment, Warrick abandoned the words, and instead he silenced her with his mouth on hers. His kiss was infused with every bit of his passion for her.

When he felt her rigid posture relax and her arms fall away from him, he knew that he had made the right choice. Emboldened with that knowledge, he sought to deepen the kiss again by pushing forward until their tongues took up the dance his soul was desperate to complete.

Before long, white spots began to form over his eyes, and though he never wanted to let go of her again, he had to pay respects to the pleading demands of his lungs. As he tucked his face into the side of her neck and gasped from the need for air, Warrick could feel Catherine's fingers digging into his shoulders and neck while she too struggled for breath and to maintain their physical connection.

As she shifted beneath him, Warrick was suddenly reminded where they were and it brought a low chuckle from his throat. While the heat of the moment often allows for some things to be forgotten, the last thing he wanted was for their first memories to be about rug burn and the hard floor. He pushed up to rest back on his haunches. When Catherine sat up on her elbows, he held out his hand and asked, "Follow me?"

The words were innocent enough, but the emotion saturating each syllable made it hard for Catherine to respond. She swallowed back her fear and simply nodded as she took his hand.

He stood and pulled her into his arms. Ducking in, he placed another soft kiss upon her lips before finally taking a step back, keeping his grip on her hand. Walking backwards, he coyly led her toward the bedroom.

Nervously biting her lower lip, Catherine strove to keep her courage up. The only thing at her disposal were her words, and when they reached the threshold of his bedroom she asked, "You sure you know what you're doing?"

Warrick stopped, brought her hand to his chest, stroked her hair and smiled. "I sure hope so…otherwise this was a lot of waiting for nothing." As the last word left his lips, he brought them down to the skin below her ear. " And. It. Sure. Doesn't. Feel. Like. Nothing. To. Me." His lips caressed a different spot with each word.

With each touch sending her further over the edge, Catherine finally abandoned herself to the moment, and fell headlong into the waves of desire she had been fighting for so long.

Upon entering the bedroom, Warrick immediately removed his shirt before once again pulling Catherine into his embrace. She was entranced by the amount of burning hot skin she had at her fingertips and failed to recognize that they were still moving as her hands and lips explored his bare torso. Not until her actions were impeded by his thick arms did she understand what was happening. Finally opening her eyes to look down, she found Warrick's hands skillfully pulling each delicate button through the holes in her shirt, and the all too familiar butterflies rose in her middle.

As though he sensed her apprehension, Warrick looked up and caught her eyes with his gaze. A grin pulled at the side of his mouth and he brushed the hair from her shoulder before whispering, "Let me show you what I see."

Slowly, he turned her around, quietly humming into her ear, until she realized that she was standing before a full-length mirror. Warrick slipped open the last two buttons on her blouse and pulled the sides back to expose her front. Running his long fingers up her sides, she could see and feel each dip and rise as he skirted over every curve until he reached her shoulders.

Pulling the shirt from her shoulders and down her arms, he moved at an agonizing pace. Once the garment had dropped to the floor, his talented fingers danced up the length of her arms as his warm breath teased at her neck. With his hands gently massaging her shoulders, he practically sang the words into her ear, "Beautiful… Absolutely beautiful."

Catherine felt the intensity of his words and the power of his gaze as she watched his hands wander over her exposed flesh. Her chest heaved with each breath as his fingers skimmed over her shoulder blades, and then tickled down her spine. When the catch on her bra was released she was overcome with anxiety, but it was quickly dispelled by his smooth resonating voice in her ear. "Perfectly beautiful."

Flipping the straps off of her shoulders and watching as each new inch of skin was exposed, Warrick bent down to pepper tender kisses over her smooth skin as his fingers skittered over her sides to follow the line of her ribs to the front. They swept along the bottom edges of her breasts, teasing the flesh and raising tiny bumps with each delicate brush of his fingertips.

Gently, he turned her around to face him so that he could once again tenderly kiss her, punctuating each word with the touch of his lips to hers. "More. Beautiful. Every. Single. Day."

No longer tethered to the world, Catherine felt like she was floating as he moved them closer to the bed. His quiet whispers of adoration gave her the only connection to reality, and she never wanted any of it to end. Her body pulsed with the rhythm of his touch, of his words, of her desire. As he tenderly laid her back onto the soft bed, she felt as though they were resting upon a cloud, because she had become weightless under his loving care and attention.

Her hands instinctively found the sides of Warrick's head as he began to trail feather-light kisses down her bared chest. When his lips made first contact with her breast she pulled him in closer, forcing him to draw more of the flesh into the fiery embrace of his mouth. The sensation of his mouth closed over her breast made her arch into him as she gripped his hair for some semblance of balance. When he pulled his head up to look upon her face, he could see the blazing passion in her flushed cheeks and chest, and it brought a dangerous smile to his face.

Sensing his pause, Catherine looked down to find him staring up at her with that devilish grin. Before she had time to react to the expression, she watched the light sparkle in his eyes and his tongue snaked out to flick at her nipple, sending a cascade of pleasure through her core. She was unable to stop the moan that erupted from her throat, or the desperate clench of her fingers in his hair.

Warrick slid his lips and tongue lovingly over every centimeter of her breasts, their pale peach skin glowing in the dim light of the room. Soon, his need to discover all of her, her flavor, her scent, forced him to begin exploring other areas of her beautiful body. Raining soft kisses over the curve of each breast, he stopped only to gaze up at her once again, reveling in the effect of his touch on the one woman long exiled to exist only in his dreams. The power of that image set off a new spark of desire deep within his center and he felt it spreading like wildfire throughout his entire body.

Each touch of his fingers over her body was accompanied by the warm moist press of his mouth. Warrick wanted it all, to taste every morsel of skin available to him. When he reached the waistband on her pants he was overcome with a frightening thought.

There is a point in any situation where, once a line is crossed, there is simply no going back. Up to this point, he knew they could have easily chalked it up to getting carried away in the heat of the moment, but that was about to change. He just had to know, he had to be absolutely certain that she wanted this as much as he did.

As though she could sense his trepidation, Catherine reached out to him, causing him to look up. When their eyes met, all of his questions were answered. She stroked the side of his face and gave him the words he would take with him to grave. "Never doubt that I want you. I just never…" The words caught in her throat and she struggled to make sure he understood what had kept them apart.

Warrick finally put the pieces together. The confident, brassy, self-assured, intelligent and capable woman he never dreamed he could impress, let alone have, was not as confident and self-assured as he imagined. Life had not been kind to Catherine over the years, but he always assumed that she had conquered all of those demons. Yet, here she was, vulnerable, exposed, opened and frightened. He realized in that very moment, as he leaned into her trembling touch, that Catherine was entrusting him with her heart, and that it was quite possibly the most precious gift he had ever been given.

Taking her hand, he turned it to bring the palm face up and then pressed his soft lips into the center. He wanted to tell her that she had nothing to worry about. He wanted to tell her with words too few and too weak that he loved her body, mind and soul. Instead, with one hand he held onto hers, placing sweet kisses into her palm to symbolize the words which failed to rise in his throat. His other hand slid slowly and sensually over her abdomen and worked to open the waistband of her slacks.

As the last button slid free, he let go of her hand and returned his lips to her belly, evenly distributing their caresses over her warm and inviting skin. When he reached the pants with his lips, he dipped his head down and nuzzled into the opening, pushing aside the fabric. Catherine moaned as his hot breath was blown over the silky fabric beneath.

His hands found her sides, and as he continued to tease the sensitive skin below her belly button, Warrick tugged the slacks down over her hips. His reward for such an action came as Catherine writhed and wriggled under his ministrations, both from pleasure and from the need for release of the confines of her clothing.

As he uncovered her legs, he finally lifted up his gaze to see his handiwork. Seeing the flush to her skin, and feeling the slickness forming over both their bodies, he knew that there was no turning back for either of them anymore. They wanted this. They needed this. They needed each other. And more than he could have ever dreamed, he needed her.

Tugging away the last of her garment, Warrick quickly returned to the warmth of her waiting body. He ran his hand up the entire length of her supple legs, relishing in the feel of the luxurious flesh he found along the way. Finally having the freedom to touch her in such an intimate display of adoration made his heart swell.

With his hand resting on the ridge of her hip, he leaned in to place a gentle kiss on the nest of curls barely visible through her sheer panties. When his lips touched the silken material, he drew in a sharp breath. His deep intake of air reminded him of the power contained in his sense of smell, as he was filled with the hypnotizing scent of Catherine's arousal.

Dragging down one side of her panties, he tenderly smoothed his lips over the delicate flesh in the crease between her torso and the top of her thigh. He drew in a slow and controlled breath, preparing himself for the next leap. Moving to the other side, he repeated the same steps, making Catherine squirm with anticipation of his next caress.

With finesse he never realized he possessed, the undergarment was quickly removed and he was struck again by the beauty of the woman before him. Her flesh was practically blazing with the heat of her passion, her lids half closed from the intensity of the sensations he was causing in her body, and her breathing shortened and haggard with the fires of desire raging through her. He would have known this without even looking at her, because his own body was reacting much the same way, but it did not stop him from needing to bear witness to it as well.

Again bringing his hand up along the inside of her legs, cherishing the feel of each curve he found, Warrick did not stop until his fingers found their way to her cleft. When his fingers first breeched the warm moist center, he was rewarded with the hiss of air that was sucked in between Catherine's lips at the sensation.

However, he was unable to resist the temptation her body presented and he forged ahead by lifting her left leg to bend at the knee and dipping down to explore the scent filling his nostrils more closely. As his tongue darted out to join the fingers of his hand, all sense of time vanished in the blinding power of his rapacious need to know her more than any other man could have ever prayed for in this lifetime.

Catherine felt the electric explosion throughout her entire body in the exact moment that she felt his wet and hungry mouth close over her sex. She had never known what it was like to be so completely and totally adored and desired in the way that Warrick was making her feel in that moment. She knew without a doubt that this was never just about sex. Sex was something she knew very well, and this was so much more than she had ever experienced before. She felt truly and passionately loved. Loved by a man she had always assumed could never be more than a friend.

As her body writhed under the sensual assault of Warrick's tongue, she sensed the building tension in her body. She knew it would not be long before she would become caught up in the intense orgasm that was threatening to claim her entire being. With great effort and even greater reluctance, she reached down to push on his shoulders in an attempt to divert his attention from her core. Finally, she clutched her hands in his hair and pulled him away from her.

At first, he seemed to have trouble understanding what she was saying, but then she realized it was because the words were simply not there. Instead, she desperately pulled him up along her body, until he was hovered over her with a worried look on his face. Once she found enough breath to make her vocal chords work, she tugged his head down to gasp into his ear, "Now."

She felt the smile forming on his face while she held tight to the side of his head. As he moved away from her body, he paused to kiss along her jaw until he reached her raw, swollen lips and pressed into her for another deep, promise filled kiss.

The pop from the release of their lips echoed in her ears as he moved off of her body. It took a few moments before she was able to lift her head from the bed to find where he had gone, but when she did it was not an unwelcome site. Warrick had already removed his jeans and was quickly slipping out of his underwear as he held a wrapped condom between the teeth of his slyly smiling mouth. Her eyes closed as she dropped her head back into the mattress with a sigh. Safety had completely escaped her mind, and this simple act was only further proof of his abiding devotion to her well-being.

When she felt the mattress dip under his weight she looked up just in time to find his mouth descending upon hers once again. Capturing her tongue with his, she felt like the very air in her lungs was being pulled out by the passion of his kiss. Each of his kisses managed to steal more than the breath from her chest, they were also so incredibly distracting that she failed to notice that he was positioning her for the final movement in the symphony being created by their sexual and emotional union.

Not until he brought himself to bear against the last breech did she recognize what was happening. And though she was caught off-guard by the adeptness in which he had reached the point of their inevitable union, she was more than ready to complete this final act. She lustfully brought her leg up to rest the knee on his hip as she entwined it along his thigh and pulled him into her center.

With the intrusion of his shaft she felt every muscle stretch and strain to withstand the mass, as well as draw it in further. When she finally felt their bodies meet, a gasp of complete fulfillment escaped her lungs and she clung to his shoulders as though she was holding her entire world.

Slowly, and with a gentleness she had never experienced, he began to move within her. Each gentle thrust continued to build the unbelievable tension growing in the very core of her being. Catherine begged, pleaded and prayed for him to put an end to the torturous anticipation, but Warrick only kept his convoluted rhythm plodding along. Down and out, up and in, over and over, until she was sure the entire universe was about to explode behind her eyes, the pressure continued to build on top of itself.

When her walls began to contract uncontrollably, her breathing stuttered and there were tiny white lights dancing beneath her fluttering eyelids, Warrick finally picked up his pace. And before she knew what was going on, it happened; the universe did explode. If she died right then and there, she knew it would be okay, because she had finally experienced perfection.

Through the fog of absolute satisfaction, Catherine slowly returned to consciousness, and just in case she had forgotten how she arrived at this state of satiated bliss, the smoldering warmth of the body gently wrapped around her was the perfect reminder.

She felt the effects of their union in the sore muscles of her thighs and buttocks, the flush in her cheeks, and the continued heat pouring out of her body. She also felt it in the fullness of her heart, and the all encompassing sense of safety and contentment she found in his tender embrace. The sigh that she breathed into his neck was born from years of wasted time, but it was also a direct product of his honest and heartfelt expression of love.

The words had finally returned, and Catherine knew that she had to share them before it was too late. "Thank you."

His face scrunched up into a question mark and he asked, "What's that for?"

Her first response was to lay her lips over his carotid artery until she could kiss in time with his pulse. Warrick growled a little, lost in the sensation her lips created in his body. It felt good for her to give back a little of the pleasure he had given her, but more than that Catherine wanted to tell him how much all of this had meant to her.

"For everything." She kissed the hollow of his throat and then settled onto his shoulder. "I don't know how else to say it. Just…thank you."

Warrick brought his hand up to stroke her hair as he leaned his face into the side of her head. "Yeah, I've been trying to figure that one out, too." He released a deep sigh and rolled onto his back. She was still resting on his shoulder and his arm continued to trace imaginary patterns on her back, but Catherine felt his absence.

Her breath hitched as she realized that he was working something out in his mind. She worried that he be having second thoughts again. Her life had taught her over and over again not to pin her hopes on anyone, but it never seemed to stop her from reaching out for that hope. Without even knowing it, her body began to tremble. Warrick came back to his side and pulled her back into his arms.

With her body tucked into his chest, her head lying on his shoulder, and her hair splayed out behind her, Warrick reached in to push back her bangs. Laying a gentle kiss upon her forehead, he drew her even tighter into his chest. As he sighed, he was finally able to whisper exactly what he felt for the first time.

"First, second, last…doesn't matter." She stiffened a little at his first words, but he needed her to know the truth. He kissed the top of her head and then reached in to take her quivering hand. Bringing her hand up to rest between them, directly over his heart, Warrick waited for her to look up at him.

When their eyes finally met he confessed that truth, "You've been a part of every thought I've had for a very long time. And they all end with exactly the same thing, 'God, I love this woman.'"

Catherine's eyes filled with unshed tears and her lip trembled slightly. "Yeah?"

Warrick smiled at the smallness of her voice. "Oh yeah… And I'm not going anywhere now that I've finally gotten to see behind the curtain. You're stuck with me."

She pressed her hand into his chest to feel the beat of his heart. A smile began to lift the corners of her mouth and she asked, "Can I get that in writing?"

His laughter reverberated in his chest and she could feel the vibrations through her whole body. And it was through his laughter that she finally felt secure. Life, love and laughter, those were the things she had always wished for her daughter, because she secretly wanted them for herself. There, in the arms of a wonderful man, his laughter ringing in her ears, she finally had them all.