THE BLIND DATE

Liz quickly ran into the bridal shop breathlessly. Temple was sitting there patiently waiting for her maid of honor to arrive. "Sorry, Temp. A parent called me just as I was leaving to complain to me that 'Little Johnny" doesn't deserve the detention that I gave him yesterday."

Temple laughed good naturedly. "That's OK. I just got her a few minuets ago myself. Are we ready for our last fitting?"

"I'm ready. Are you?" Liz set her purse down on the chair next to Temple.

"Of course. You know how long it took Town to finally propose to me. Do you think I'm going to let him get away?" Temple left Liz to sit and wait while she went to put on her wedding dress.

As Temple got dressed, Liz sat down to wait. Her mind drifted to when Temple told Liz she was seeing Lt. Marcel P. "Downtown" Brown of the San Diego Police Department. All Liz could do was sigh and shake her head. Town, as his friends called him, was perfect for Temple personality. He had impeccable tastes when it came to clothing, plays, restaurants-every thing that Temple needed. He was also a great guy all around: friendly, outgoing, knew how to treat a lady, the kind of guy that everyone would love to have as a friend.

The only thing Liz didn't like was the fact that he was in law enforcement. Ever since she lost her brother in the line of duty, she swore off ever getting involved with any one in any type of law enforcement. She had lived in fear of what would happen to Steven and when she received that phone call late one night, she knew her worst nightmare had come true.

A simple routine traffic stop robbed her brother of his life. It also robbed her of her family. One by one, her family started to fall apart. Her mother died of a heart attack a month later. Liz, to this day, knew it was really a broken heart she died of. Her father killed himself a year to the day her mother died. He had slipped into a deep depression after Steven died. Then her identical twin sister, Jessica, skipped town not to be heard or seen from again. That was three years ago.

"OK, Liz. This is Temple's day. She and Town will be great together. If she's ready for the life ahead of her as an officer's wife, it's her decision. Love and faith will conquer all." If only she could find a love like that one day.

Temple came strolling out of the dressing room in the flowing white gown. She looked radiant. The fit was perfect for her. "How do I look?"

Liz smiled. "Absolutely perfect. Town will wonder why it took him so long to ask you to marry him. He will have to fight all of his groom's men off of you."

"Oh, that reminds me," Temple turned to look at Liz. "One of Town's best men is meeting us for dinner after this." Liz groaned. "Come on, Elizabeth. He's the type you'll love."

As the seamstress took the final measurements on Temple's dress, Liz knew she was stuck. Now that Temple found happiness, she wanted Liz to find it too. Hopefully, with one of her friend's or Town's, so they could pal around together. She gave in. "You got me. Does he know you're trying to fix him up?"

Temple gave Liz her 'special' wink. "I'm not setting him up, Town is. His name is Rick. He loves country music, loves to have fun, great sense of humor."

"Sense of humor, huh? Isn't that the kiss of death on a blind date?"

"Only if you let it be. Town thought you'd like his brother more but I think you and Rick will hit it off just fine. His looks are what you go for. His brother, AJ, is personality you look for."

"Rick and AJ? Are these the 'Hardy Boys' you keep complaining about?"

"Yes. I know I complain about them and all but they really are great guys. They've gotten Town out of many jams. Their mom, Cecilia, is a sweet heart. Just give Rick a try. If you don't like him, fine."

"Yeah, and that'll make for a comfortable wedding," she mumbled out of Temple's earshot.

A few hours later, Town and Rick joined them at the local Mexican restaurant for dinner. Rick was exactly what she thought he would be. He showed up wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a plaid button down shirt with a beige cowboy hat. He was also sporting a brown mustache.

Town decided to break the strained silence. "Rick, this is Liz, Temple's maid of honor. Liz, this is Rick, one of my best men."

Rick offered her his hand. "Nice to meet you, Liz."

"Nice to meet you, too, Rick. I've heard a lot about you."

Rick laughed nervously. It was a laugh that Liz would come to know as his 'up to no good' laugh. "I'm sure it's not good at all if it came from Temple."

Temple gave him a look. "Richard Simon, if I didn't like you, I wouldn't be trying to introduce you to one of my best friends."

"Oh, so this is your idea. I shouldda known. Town knows better than to try and set up one of the Simon Brothers."

Liz could tell Temple and Rick didn't really get along and that a fight was ready in ensue so she changed the subject. "Boy, I'm starved. What do you say if Rick and I got us a table?"

Rick sighed a breath of relief. "Good idea, Liz. I think Temple and Town might have a few things to talk about."

The two of them left Town and Temple to 'talk' and sat down at a table for four. They soon figured out it would be a table for two. Whether Town and Temple had come up with the plan or not, both of them were called away on a breaking situation.

Rick sighed. "Breaking situation my ass. They've had this whole thing cooked up from the beginning." Liz nodded taking a sip from her margarita. "Ever since him and Temple got engaged-"

"I know, Rick. Temple's the same way. 'Oh, Liz, I just want you to be as happy as I am. It feels sooooo good to be happy.' More like misery loves company."

"You know, I like you. So, you've heard so much about me, what have you heard?"

"A lot of things." Liz smiled coolly. "That you and your brother love to do 'guy' things with Town which drives Temple up the wall. That you and your brother get Town in and out of trouble quite a bit. Actually, don't tell Temple that I'm telling you this, but, she does think highly of both you and your brother. If she didn't, I wouldn't be here, like she told you."

Liz took another sip of her margarita. "So, are you really a private detective or was she just calling you guys the 'Hardy Boys' to be a pain in the butt?"

"No, she wasn't calling us that to be a pain. We are PIs and we run Simon and Simon Investigations out in the Gaslamp District. It's just me and my brother, AJ, and my mom in the family, no sisters. Right now, I'm living with my brother till I can get another slip in the canal for my boat."

"You own a boat? That's neat. I've always loved to go to the canal. I sometimes wish that I was able to live on one of those houseboats. If I couldn't get a houseboat, I would like to be able to get a house on the canal."

"AJ lives over on the canal. My dog, Marlow, loves to run out in the morning and scare all the geese and ducks away."

"What kind of dog? I love animals and want a dog but the condo I live in only lets us have cats. Dogs are too noisy and big, I guess."

"Marlow is a big reddish brown mutt. I think he's part St. Bernard but I don't know which part. Do you have a cat?"

Liz shook her head. "I'm allergic so I can't. I'm stuck with fish that keep dying on me."

They both laughed. "Good, I hate cat people. There's something about them that I don't trust."

"Is that something you learned as a PI or just something you've come to think?"

"Something I've come to think. So what do you do for a living?"

"I'm a third grade school teacher. It's not as exciting as a PI, police officer or even a news reporter, but it's satisfying."

"That's great to find a job you love. AJ and I love being PIs. It covers so many bases-the mystery, helping people, just everything all rolled into one. Our mom hates it, though. She so wanted AJ to become a lawyer, but I persuaded him to become a PI, move back her to San Diego and start our own business together."

"I would never be able to work with my sister. Even though we are identical twins, we are so opposite of each other, it's pathetic."

"You haven't' met AJ. It's amazing that we came from the same parents at times."

They were interrupted by the waitress to take their order. Rick ordered the burrito platter while Liz ordered the steak taco platter. They then turned their attention back to the conversation they were having.

"So, Liz. What else can you tell me about your self and your family?"

"There's not much to tell. Basically, you're looking at my family. Other then my sister who took off a few years ago, I'm it."

"Really? No parents?"

Liz shrugged. "My parents are dead. My mom died of a heart attack, my father committed suicide. My bother was a police officer and died in the line of duty. What about yours? I really don't want to swell on my losses right now."

"I understand. Well, I told you a little about AJ. He's my little brother by five years. He's also my best friend. My mom, Cecilia, is a wonderful woman. She's strong and independent which came in handy when she had to raise the two of us on her own after my father was killed in a car accident when I was fifteen years old.

"Everyone laughs when they meet my mom. She's just this tiny little woman but don't mess with her. She will and has taken me or AJ by the ear when we've done something she doesn't approve of. As a matter of fact, she just did that to Town a few weeks ago for not letting her knot at AJ was in the hospital for a little thing like a bullet wound."

"You call a bullet wound a little thing?"

"It just grazed his shoulder. It's not like it was life threatening."

Liz couldn't believe how nonchalantly Rick talked about being shot in the shoulder. She wondered if his brother was the same way. "Your choice of a career must drive you mother insane with worry."

"I guess but she never lets on unless it's a serious injury. In fact, it is a well know fact with her group of friends that we are PIs. No matter what she says, she's proud of us. She even has a scrapbook of us and our brushes with the law-good and bad."

"Great. No wonder Temple calls you two the 'Hardy Boys'. So what do you like to do for run, Rick? I love to go to the movies and concerts. I love romantic comedy and my favorite music is country like Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, and Merle Haggard. Stuff like that. I like to take picnics in the park and listen to the music being played during the summer months."

"I like the movies also. My favorites are westerns. They don't make many now a days so I to go towards the action flicks. I also like country music. Today's country just doesn't have the soul like a good Hank Williams Sr. tune. I like to go fishing and I hope to get the 'Hole in the Water' out again sometime soon. There's nothing like being out on the ocean and fishing."

"Yuck." She wrinkled up her nose and tossed her blond hair over her shoulder. "I don't mind the fishing part so much as the worms and smell of the fish once you catch them."

"I guess it's an acquired taste then."

"I guess it is."

During dinner, they were quiet and just enjoyed the food and the mariachi band playing on the stage behind them. Rick gazed at her profile. Her long blond hair hung loosely over her shoulders and moved slowly every time she moved her head. She was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. He loved how her blue eyes danced and sparkled in the low light of the restaurant. He couldn't even imagine another woman looking as beautiful as she was.

Liz realized Rick was watching her. A soft blush crept up her cheeks. Rick knew she didn't realize just how pretty she was and what a great catch she would be to some lucky man.

It was then that he realized it would never be him. She was way too good for him. He really did like her but knew he could never be what she wanted or needed. She needed some one else. Someone like his brother.

Rick was deep in thought when she broke in. "Rick, are you all right?"

"Of course I am. I was just thinking."

"A penny for your thoughts."

Rick sighed. "You wouldn't even dare to imagine what I was thinking."

Her blue eyes sparkled. His heart dropped into the pit of his stomach like he was on a roller coaster ride. "You were thinking how much you love me and how you want to spend the rest of your life with me."

It was Rick's turn to blush. What is this woman doing to you? Rick Simon never blushes. "You got me, Liz. I am willing to run off right now to Las Vegas and get married by Elvis. Then I will take you home to meet my family."

"Can't I meet your family first?"

"No. Every girl I've fallen madly in love with sets her eyes on my little brother and that's it. End of story.

"I am taking you straight to the Chapel of Love tonight before you change your mind."

The two of them broke out in laughter. Maybe Temple was right. Maybe Rick Simon would be the one for her. They did have a lot in common even if he wasn't the type Liz usually went after.

"I can see who got the personality in the family."

Rick took his bottle of Corona and raised it to his lips. "Yep, that's me, Mr. Personality." He took a long swig of courage. "So tell me about this identical twin of yours."

"Like I said, I haven't seen Jessica in a few years. Growing up, she was the wild and crazy sister. She was completely boy crazy in her teenage years. After my brother died, she fell back into her wild patterns. This time she got messed up in drugs and junk like that. Next thing I know, she skips town without a good-bye, just a note-Bye, Liz. You don't need me to screw up your life anymore than it already is. Jess."

"That's rough. Have you ever thought about trying to find her?"

Liz shrugged. "Not really. I miss her and all but I figure if she wanted to be found she'd make it easy. She knows where I live and work and we have mutual friends that she hasn't contacted in the time she's been gone. If and when she's ready, she can look me up."

"If AJ ever took off like that I'd go insane looking for him. Then again, I'm the one that would run off, never AJ. AJ might look for me off and on but he knows if I want to be found, I'd leave clues. I can understand where you're coming from. If you ever want to try you can give us a call. AJ has a knack of finding missing persons quickly. Me-I'm more of the mystery guy."

"I'll keep you in mind if I ever decide to look for Jess. I'm just so tired of cleaning up after her and messes."

Is this how AJ feels after I go on one of my benders? Is he tired of cleaning up after me? I've never taken AJ or mom's feelings into consideration before. This girl is really making me think about myself. This isn't good.

"OK, Liz, we need to stop talking like this. I feel as if I'm Jessica to your AJ." He laughed good naturedly. "I actually took off for a few months before joining the Corps after high school. I left a teenage AJ home alone taking over the role of the man of the house without considering his feelings or my mom's.

"Were your parents still alive when she took off?"

"No. My brother was killed first. Do you want the story?"

Rick shrugged. "If you want to tell it, you can. If not, I understand. There's some things that I tend to keep to myself."

"I usually don't go out on a first date and tell the tragic story of my family. That's all." Liz looked into Rick's soft blue eyes. She saw tenderness in those eyes that she hadn't seen since her father's. She felt herself melting. "OK, here goes. I have to warn you, I may tear up as I tell this."

"I understand, Liz. Go ahead."

Rick took her hand in his. "My family started in Denver, Colorado. When I was about seven, we moved here to San Diego. As we grew up, my brother never forgot how much he loved Denver and moved back there after high school. He became a police officer.

"About four years into the job, he was on a routine patrol. He pulled over a car for some minor traffic volition like speeding or something to that affect. Anyway, as Stephen came up to the car, the driver pulled a gun out and shot Stephen in the chest. He had no chance-point blank in the heart." Rick sucked in his breath. "I was the one that got the call one night. I was the one who had to tell my family that Stephan was shot."

"Why didn't they call your parents as next of kin," Rick asked confused. "I know if anything should happen to me, my Mom would be called first not AJ."

"Simple. Stephen knew that if something should ever happen to him in the line of duty, he knew that I was the one who was the strongest to deal with it. He told his chief to call me.

"My mom was a mess. She never wanted Stephen to become a police officer in the first place. After Stephen died, she was never the same. A month later, she died of a heart attack. I tend to think it was of a broken heart. Stephen was always her favorite, where as Jessica and I were always daddy's girls.

"After both Stephen and my mom's death, my father and Jessica became distant and changed. My father ended up committing suicide a year to the day that my mom died. Jessica found him laying on the bed in his bedroom with a bottle of sleeping pills next to him on the nightstand.

"Right after my dad's funeral, Jessica took off for parts unknown. Last thing that I heard was that she had turned to drugs and was a stripper somewhere in Las Vegas."

Rick smiled softly. "Are you sure you don't want to run off to Vegas tonight? Maybe Jessica will be at the Chapel of Love with Elvis." Liz smiled at his little joke. "You are a strong woman, Elizabeth. You should be proud of yourself. Most people would've given up by now. How do you do it?"

"Faith and God. If I didn't have that, I would've gone off the deep end. I keep thinking God doesn't give you anymore than you can handle.'"

"I lost my faith in God a long time ago, Liz. Pretty much everyone in my family has. After my dad died, we stopped going to church and it didn't seem to matter anymore."

"To each his own, Rick. If you find that you don't need it, that's cool. Funny thing is that, I was never brought up in church or anything like that. I had to find out on my own. Thanks to Temple."

"Speaking of Temple. How did you meet her? I mean, you're a teacher and she's a news reporter."

Liz pulled her hand away from Rick. Finally, an easy question. "Temple and I were roommates in collage at UCSD. We met our freshman year and have been good friends ever since. How did you and Town meet?"

"Town?" He leaned back in his chair and looked up to the ceiling. "He arrested us and then turned around and asked us for help. We've been friends ever since." He laughed. "As a matter of fact, it's our entire fault that Town and Temple got together."

"How so?"

"Don't tell Temple this. She'll kill us." Liz nodded. "Town had the biggest crush on Temple for the longest time. They kept running into each other at police investigations and news conferences. One day, AJ had finally had enough of this' I wish I could ask her out. She'd never like a cop; I'm out of her league.'

"AJ sent a bouquet of flowers to the television station with a card from Town. When Temple called to thank him for the flowers, we were in his office. He didn't know what she was talking about so I told him to put Temple on hold. AJ told him what he did and Town played it off wonderfully, as you can tell."

Liz laughed hysterically, "I can't believe you two! Temple would die if she knew Town never sent those flowers."

"And she will never know, right?"

"Never, ever, ever."

The night ended around nine o'clock. Rick walked Liz to her car in the parking lot. "I had a lot of fun tonight, Rick."

"So did I. We should do this again sometime. Maybe next time with Town and Temple."

Liz smiled and shook her head. "I like it this way. We don't need Town and Temple."

"No, I guess not."

They stood there nervously. Rick noticed a stray blond hair on her cheek. He softly brushed it off her face and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "Have a nice night. Drive safely, OK?"

"I will, Rick, I will. Talk to you soon?"

"You bet."

He made sure Liz got into her car safely and went to his Power Wagon.

Rick walked into the house around ten o'clock. There he found AJ and Town watching a Padres game on the television in the den. He set his keys on the counter and joined them. Town handed him a beer. "Gee, Town, that breaking situation sure cleared itself up pretty quickly, didn't it? What was it? A hostage situation? No, wait, the San Diego Strangler claimed another victim."

AJ laughed. "Yea, you, big brother. So, how did your blind date go?"

Rick threw a pillow at AJ. AJ ducked out of the way, just to have the pillow hit the wall behind him. "Well, all, be told, Liz is a great girl. I'd like to see her again sometime." Town smiled at AJ. "What's going on?"

"Oh, AJ, where's that fifty bucks you owe me?"

"I take double or nothing on the next date. He won't get to date number three with her if she's anything like you say she is."

Rick stood up. "Will you guys cut it out? Liz is a great girl. Don't be picking on her."

"No, Rick, I would never pick on a girl that was suckered to go on a blind date you. The poor, poor, poor sweet girl. I'm picking on you, Richard Simon."

"Ha, ha, ha, ha, very funny, kid. Very funny."

A little while later, after the game, Town got serious with Rick. "So, Rick, did you really like Liz?"

"I did. I would really like to see her again. She sounded like she'd also be interested."

AJ noticed the wistful look in his eyes. "Oh, no, Town, we've got trouble. I think Rick Simon is in love. I haven't seen that look in his eyes since he was dating Betty Sue Johnson his junior year." AJ took a swig of beer. "This must be some woman to turn Rick Simon into mush."

"If you only knew, kid. If you only knew." Rick got up and left to take a shower upstairs, leaving AJ and Town alone to talk about him.

"Is Liz that pretty or special?"

Town nodded. "Liz is pretty special, AJ. I wanted to fix her up with you but Temple thought Rick would be a better match for her look wise. You are actually the personality she usually goes for."

"So are you trying to say that Temple felt sorry for Rick and Liz to try and hook them up together?"

"No. Temple just feels that Liz is lonely and now that we are getting married, she's worried that Liz won't find anyone. Temple is on a mission."

AJ laughed. "Tell Temple thank you for not making me part of that mission."

"Well, it looks like it might have worked with Rick," Town observed.

"Rick will never settle down. I promise you that, Town. No matter who the woman is, he will never, ever settle down."

"We'll see my friend, we'll see."

The next morning, Rick was up at the crack of dawn. AJ was shocked to see him at the dinning room table, drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper. Marlow was sitting at his feet.

AJ knew there was something terribly wrong with this picture. Rick was fully dressed and here AJ was still in his bathrobe with uncombed hair. "Good morning, AJ. What do you have planned for today?"

"Huh? It's only seven am." AJ pulled out a chair at the table. "Any of that coffee left?"

"Ye, I just made a whole pot. There are some eggs that I made; they're in the oven keeping warm for you." He took a sip of his coffee. "Mom wants me to fix her sink today, maybe I'll stop by there before I head over to the office."

AJ pushed a few strands of his messy blond hair out of his eyes to see it if really was Rick sitting at the table next to him. "It's seven am on a Saturday morning, you're up and dressed, looking pretty presentable, I might add. You've cooked breakfast and actually saved me some ,you're talking about finally going over to Mom's to fix her sink that's she's been bugging you to do for weeks, and you want to go to the office. What is wrong with you?"

"Nothing little brother. Nothing at all. I just couldn't sleep so I decided to get up and actually join the living for once."

AJ took the newspaper away from him. "OK, buddy, you are going to tell me what happened last night. You are not the Rick Simon that I know and am forced to love and care about."

"Nothing much to say. Temple and Town ambushed Liz and I. We went to a restaurant and they left us alone. I'm sure Town told you the whole story.

"Liz and I talked a while and that was it. Now will you give me my paper back, I wasn't done with the funnies yet."

AJ snickered. "That's the Rick that I know-looking at the funnies and calling my paper his. So, was she pretty?"

"Oh, AJ, if you could've seen her. She looked just like an angel. She had the prettiest blue eyes that sparkled whenever she laughed. Her long blond hair moved with ease every time she turned her head. I think I have found the one."

AJ was taken back by what he had just heard. He hadn't heard him talk about the one since he was in high school with Betty Sue Johnson. He didn't know what to say. "Well, I can't wait to meet her. She sounds great from what you and Town are saying about her. Congratulations. Should I make reservations for your bachelor party at the Beer and Steer next weekend?"

Rick blushed. "Funny, AJ."

"I wasn't trying to be funny, Rick. I'm happy for you. I thought I would never hear you say that you found the one."

Rick put down his cup of coffee and looked at AJ seriously. "There's just one catch, AJ. I don't know how it's going to work out."

"What do you mean?" AJ put his hand up. "Hold on a minute. I think I need to get some coffee for this."

AJ went to the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee. Instead of taking the eggs out of the oven, he pulled one of Rick's sweet rolls out of the container and placed it on a plate.

Rick watched AJ pull up the same chair and looked at his plate. "AJ? You never eat sweet rolls for breakfast unless I bring them to the office. What gives?"

"Something tells me I'm in for a bumpy ride so I think I'm grabbing as much caffeine and sugar I can take. Don't mind me if I'm flying this afternoon." He took a bite of the sweet roll and a sip of the coffee. "OK, continue your story."

Rick leaned back in his chair and sighed. "AJ, you know me better than anyone else on this earth. You even know me better than our own mother."

AJ nodded. "That's why this whole thing is so fascinating. You are not my brother right now, but some stranger that I don't know."

"I really do like this girl, AJ. She's sweet, kind, beautiful, funny, and there's just something about her that I can't put my finger on. I couldn't even kiss her last night. That's how much I respected her. I kissed her on the cheek and walked her to her car."

"Oh, my, our little Rickie is growing up," AJ leaned back and placed his left hand on his chest. "I'm about to have the big one, better call Mom."

Rick got up from the table. "Fine. Of all the people I thought I could talk to about this, I thought it would be you. I'll just try and figure this problem out on my own. Thanks for your help."

"Rick sit back down. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I'm just getting you back for all those times when we were kids and you ripped on me for liking Anita so much. Talk to me. You know you can trust me to give you whatever advice you need."

Rick sat back down. He sat there for a few minutes to make sure AJ wasn't going to make fun of him again. Once he figured out AJ was ready for the talk, he started again. "Like I said, there's something about Liz that's special and I can't put my finger on it. I just want to protect this innocence that she radiates." Rick took another sip of his coffee and set the cup down. He began to run his finger tip on the rim of the cup. "I think I'm in love."

"Like I said, Rick, that's great. I'm glad to hear it and I'm sure Mom will be so eternally grateful to Liz for it. Where does the problem come in?"

"She deserves much better than me. " Rick looked at AJ, waiting for a smart-ass comment to come from his smart-ass brother. When none cam, he continued. "She's a teacher, owns her own condo, and had goals for herself. What do I have to offer her? I flop on your couch, my boat is a wreck. Let's not even get into our job."

"What's wrong with our job? We own our own agency; we work for ourselves, no one else. It's a pretty steady gig. I make enough to own my own home and sports car. You can easily, if you wanted to support a family on it."

Rick pushed his cup away. "It's not the job; it's how we get the job done. I don't want her to feel like she's going to lose another person in her life to a violent job."

AJ nodded. Their job did often put them in harm's way. That was the most exciting part for them but the part that their Mother hated. She hated when they had to carry a gun. "I take it she lost some one to a dangerous job."

"Yea, her brother was a cop and was killed in the line of duty."

"Ouch, I can see where you are coming from now."

"AJ, she deserves someone so much better than me. I don't know if I could giver her the home she dreams of, the security she craves, or the love she deserves."

AJ thought about what Rick had just shared. This really was something he wasn't expecting. Rick Simon was actually thinking about someone other than himself for a change. This girl must really be something for Rick to be acting this way. "Are you going to go out with her again or did you end it already?"

"I want to take her out again. Maybe. I told her that I'd call her and she seemed to be interested, I don't know what to do, AJ. Should I just end it now or try one more date?"

"What does your heart tell you?"

Rick gave his high pitched laugh. "My heart tells me to go with the whole relationship and see where it goes. Ten to one it wouldn't work anyway, you know me. I also seem to screw up something good. Buy my head tells me to stop it now and not to lead her on in any way."

"Rick, as your brother and best friend, I suggest one more date and see where it leads. You may just find that Liz doesn't care that you have a dangerous job and not every girl is out for the money. She might actually like you for you, don't ask me why, but she might.

"If during the date, you really get the feelings that you are having now, that's when I'd bring up what you're telling me now-you feel like you can't giver what you think she needs and deserves. Let her decided if she's willing to 'settle' as you think of it."

AJ still couldn't get over this change between them. Usually it was AJ asking Rick for advice on this subject. Rick was thinking the same thing. "Gee, AJ, when did you become so smart on the subject of women?"

"I had a good teacher, Rick. A teacher that seems to have lost his head for a moment or two." They shared a mutual smile. "Good luck, bro. I think you're going to need it."

With that comment, Rick got up from the table and left AJ alone to deal with the usual Saturday work that AJ did around the house.

Three days later, Rick sat in front of the phone in the office. Every time he touched it to call Liz, he pulled his hand away from it. It was as if the phone was electrified and he was getting a shock every time he touched it. AJ noticed his hesitance when it came to the phone. "Will you just call her, Sacredy Cat? I'm tired of watching this pathetic show you're putting on."

"What if she doesn't want to hear from me again?"

AJ sighed. "I will leave the room. Please, I beg of you, Richard, call her already. I can't take it anymore."

AJ left Rick alone to make the phone call. When Rick was sure that AJ was gone, he picked up the phone. He hoped he would get her answering machine, but no such luck. "Hello?"

All of a sudden, Rick's mouth went dry. As he tried to speak nothing come out. "Hello?" She said again. "Hello? Anyone there?"

"Liz," Rick croaked.

"Rick? Is that you?"

"Yea, it's me. Hi."

"Hi. Are you OK? You sound sick."

Rick cleared his throat. "I'm fine. Sorry, I'm just a little nervous, that's all."

"Oh. So what's going on?"

"I was wondering if you'd like to go out Thursday night. There's a classical ban playing a concert at Balboa Park. I was thinking about packing a picnic dinner and sticking around for the concert afterwards."

"That sounds nice, Rick. I'd love to. Why don't you call me Thursday and let me know what time?"

"OK. Sounds good. I'll call you then.' Bye."

"'Bye, Rick."

About fifteen minutes later. AJ returned to the office. He threw a sandwich on Rick's desk. "So?"

"We're going out Thursday night."

"And?"

"And I'm taking her to Balboa Park for the Concert Under the Stars and bringing a picnic dinner."

AJ shook his head. "She must really be something for you to sit thru a classic music concert. One piece of advice, though. Do not pack burritos and a bottle of Don Diablo. Pack a sub or some fried chicken with a nice bottle of wine."

"What would you pack?"

"Anything but frozen burritos and a Don Diablo," he laughed grabbing a Coke from the fridge. "Do you want anything to drink?"

"That would be nice, AJ. Thanks. Oh and AJ, thanks for the advice."

AJ placed a 7-Up on Rick's desk. "Don't mention it. Do you tow have anything in common?"

"We both like country music and going to the movies."

"Are you completely brain dead? Why didn't you suggest country music at the Beer and Steer?"

"Yeah, that's a great place to take her when I've slept with most of the waitresses there. What an impression that'll leave her with."

"I forgot you seem to know them all intimately. If you two do start going together, she's going to find out about your past anyway."

"Let's just change the subject, OK?"

"OK. We need to get back to work anyway."

Thursday night, Rick picked Liz up at her condo in the Power Wagon. Rick was dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a sweater that he had borrowed from AJ's closet without his knowledge. He had decided to forgo the usual cowboy hat but kept the boots.

Liz was also dressed in a pair of blue jeans and wore a pink and gray sweater that complimented her blond hair which she pulled up into a pony tail. Once Rick laid eyes on Liz, he lost all control of his thoughts and fought to keep himself in check. She's not like the others, Rick. Keep remembering that.

Rick walked into her condo when invited. "Are you ready," he asked. Let's get this date over with and see where it takes us.

"Ready when you are."

Rick took her hand in his and helped her into the Power Wagon. They drove in silence to Balboa Park, a ten minute ride.

Once at the park, Rick took the picnic basket out of the truck and they walked down to the stage area before the crowd came for the concert. Rick spread the blanket on the ground and Liz sat down next to the basket.

Rick let Liz take the food out of the basket. She took out a plate of fried chicken and set it on the blanket. Rick took out the paper plates and napkins form the compartment on the side of the basket.

"This is neat. Where did you ever get a basket like this?" She looked on the top of the inside of the lid and found two plastic wine glasses and real silverware. "I've seen them but never really found out where to get one."

Rick blushed. "It's not mine. It's AJ's and I couldn't tell you where he got it other than from my mom. Go figure. One hopeless romantic buying another hopeless romantic something like this."

"It's great that he let you use this tonight."

"Well, he wanted to show you that I had some type of class." He handed her the wine glasses and poured the red wine into them. She held the glasses as he took out the coleslaw that he brought and the plate of brownies.

Liz was impressed. From what she had heard, Rick didn't have one ounce of romance in him. Boy is he trying to prove Temple wrong. She was also touched that Rick would go out of his way for her. "Thank you, Rick. This was very sweet of you."

"It's no big deal, Liz. Besides, I wanted to. It's time for me to try new things."

Liz took a piece of chicken and put it on her plate. Rick dished some of the coleslaw onto her plate. He then took some food for himself.

They began the usual small talk about what had happened since they had last seen each other. Rick recounted what was going on with his and AJ's latest case. Liz told Rick about the 'kid of the year' that she'll never forget as long as she lives. That made Rick smile. He was always the 'kid of the year' for as long as he could remember.

"You are looking at one of those kids, Liz. Rumor has it that if you go up to one of my high school teachers and whisper my name, she'll start having convulsions."

"You weren't that bad, were you?"

Rick shrugged. "I always questioned authority and marched to my own drummer, I guess. I didn't fit the mold that most teachers expected of me. I was always the one smoking in the boys' room and peeking in the girls' locker room."

"Why, Rick, I would never have thought that about you." Liz smiled at Rick mischievously. "You seem so innocent."

"Now I know you're joking, Elizabeth." Rick sighed. "My mom was always threatening me that she hopes that I have a kid just as bad as me or at least ten times worse than me."

"My mom was always wishing that on Jessie. When I asked her why she never wished that one me, she told me that I was the' perfect' child-a little goofy but also a pleasure to have."

Rick gruffed. "Sounds like what my mom said to me when I asked her why she never wished it on AJ. If you two got together you'd have angels."

"I doubt it. There still would be some Jessie and Rick in our genes." She put her plate down. "That was good, Rick. Thanks for dinner."

"Don't mention it. And you're right there would be some rowdy genes in your kids," he smiled at the thought of AJ having little ones that took after him in looks and personality. It'll serve that little basturd right for being so perfect.

Rick and Liz cleaned up the mess that they had made and put everything away. As it grew dark and a little chilly, Rick had his beige jacket to put over her. He then leaned against a tree and let Liz lean against him to keep warm.

They listened to the band play the dreaded classical music that he hated. Rick loved the fact that he had Liz so close to him. With each moment, he felt as if he was falling more and more in love with her.

OK, Rick. You tried it out like AJ suggested. You need to end this tonight before it goes any farther. Before it hurts too much.

After the concert, Rick and Liz drove home quietly. Rick knew it would hurt to bring it up, but he knew he had to. "Liz, I think we need to talk."

Liz looked at him. His heart skipped a beat looking at her blue eyes so he turned his attention back to the road, "Shoot."

"I don't know how to say this, Liz. I really, really like you and that's why I need to do this. I can't see you anymore."

"Why? If you like me, it doesn't matter."

"No, Liz. It hurts me to tell you this. I can't give you what you need and deserve." Liz turned her head away so he wouldn't see the tears welling up in her eyes. "You deserve so much better than me. You want to have a house on the canal; I could never give you that. My job is too dangerous for you and me. You've been thru too much heart breaking loss. Besides, you might be put in danger at one point and I can't do that to you."

"Rick, I don't need that house on the canal. I have a condo and we could live there together. It's big enough for the both of us. It was just a dream. I'm very low maintenance, you'll see. Please, Rick, don't do this. I like you, too, and we can work it out."

Rick pulled the truck over. "Liz, will you look at me?" He put the car in park and pulled her to him. "Hon, I can't even take care of myself at times. You can do so much better than me. I can't bring you down. You deserve better than I can give."

Liz tilted her head to his. Despite Rick's better judgment, he brushed her tears away and softly kissed her lips. "I love you, Liz. That's why I'm doing this. This is not my character normally. I normally don't fall in love like this and I really usually don't care about the feelings of the woman I'm with. Please, I beg of you. Accept this as I'm saying it."

"I do, Rick." Liz pulled away from his embrace. "I'd still like to be friends with you if possible. I have a feeling that even if we are not together like we'd both want to be, we will be seeing a lot of each other."

"Yeah, aren't we walking down the isle together?"

They both laughed thinking about. "I think it's a three-some, isn't it? I think it's you, me, and the ever famous AJ."

"Ah, AJ. Yea. Good old Town can't decide who his best man would be so he picked both of us."

"Well. I already know who his best man is."

Rick blushed. "OK, enough of this mushy shit. I need to get you home and get out of this annoying sweater before I rip it off."

At Liz's condo, Rick walked her to the "Well, good night, Rick. I had a great time tonight and I'll see you at the church next Friday night."

"I will see you then, Sweetie. Good night."

He gave Liz a quick, brotherly kiss on her cheek and left once he heard her click the door lock.

The next day at work, AJ saw the difference in Rick. Rick, for a change, was busy in paper work. He figured when Rick wanted to or needed to, he'd talk about the date and how it went. From the looks of it, he decided to break it off.

As they were about to call it a day, Rick finally brought up the night before. "I decided to end it, AJ."

"I figured that by the way you were actually working today. How did she take it?"

"About as bad as I did about doing it. Why does it suck so much to do something you know is the right thing?"

AJ stopped putting his stuff away and thought about it for a minute. "I don't know, Rick. It does suck sometimes, doesn't it?"

"Hopefully, I will find some one that I can be myself with and finally settle down."

"I hope that for the both of us, Rick. I really do. Maybe some day we will. Until then, it's still Rick and AJ, the single Simon brothers, a duo to be reckoned with."

Rick went out the door first and AJ closed and locked the door for the night. As AJ locked the door and they parted for the night. AJ thought about what had just transpired with Rick. Well, Rick, big brother, I have a feeling that you and I will eventually find the one and that you will eventually be with Liz again. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but you will.