Working with my beta reader, anon4utu, has become one of the best aspects of writing fanfiction. The sense of satisfaction I feel when he guides my writing so that I'm able to say what I want to say makes the effort even more worthwhile. Thank you, Anon.

Strawberry Sweet

Chuck and Sarah entered her hotel, still flush from the excitement of Ellie and Devon's rehearsal dinner. Everything had gone as planned, and Sarah had never felt so relaxed and happy. A night of dancing and drinking and laughing with the man who had come to mean so much to her. She frowned slightly, wishing that the night had lasted just a little longer.

They entered the elevator, and Chuck pushed the button for the top floor. Sarah cocked her head. "My room is on the seventh floor, Chuck."

He gave her a sly look. "Not tonight."

"Oh?" she said, her smile returning.

He grinned at her, and they stepped out of the elevator when it reached the top floor. Chuck took her hand and led her down the hall, stopping in front of the door to the honeymoon suite. He swiped his keycard and turned to her, grabbing her close. She gasped with surprise as he lifted her and carried her into the room. He stopped just inside the room, holding her as she looked around.

Clusters of scented candles rested on every tabletop and nightstand. The room was lit entirely by candlelight, and the scent of jasmine permeated the air. She looked up at him in the soft light, searching for those familiar brown eyes. "Chuck, it's so beautiful." She paused a moment. "But we aren't married. There's no need to carry me across the threshold."

He smiled again, and carried her to the bed. Rose petals had been scattered over the comforter. He laid her down gently. The soft gurgling of water caught her attention, and she turned to see a small water fountain in the corner, illuminated with a pink glow.

Chuck stepped over to a table and opened a chilled bottle of champagne. The cork came out with a loud pop, and some of the bubbly drink foamed up and leaked onto the plush carpet. Chuck looked at her guiltily and shrugged his shoulders before pouring the drink into two flutes. She laughed, and then suddenly remembered that she was lying on a bed. She moved and sat up, leaning against the pillows. "Chuck?"

He walked over and handed her one of the flutes. He set a small metal dish of strawberries down on the nightstand, and he joined her on the bed. "Yeah?" he replied.

"What do you think is going to happen here?"

"To Ellie and Devon," he said, clinking his glass against hers. He took a sip and watched her over the top of his glass. After she also took a drink, he offered her a strawberry, holding its stem as she took a bite.

She licked her lips. "Mmmm. . . sweet." She looked at him again, and narrowed her eyes. "Are you going to answer my question?"

Chuck gave her an exaggerated sigh. "Does it matter?"

"No," she said. She sipped her champagne.

What was he doing? A million thoughts raced through her mind. He was no longer the Intersect; she was no longer his handler. They were in the clear. And, there was the motel room in Barstow. Passion. Lust. But was that all she wanted? Could it be that she wanted love? Was that it? Love wasn't something she had ever allowed herself to feel. She wasn't even sure how she felt about him. They were good friends. And she found him attractive. Very attractive. Especially in those black jeans he sometimes wore. She shivered and brought her attention back to the real world; she found herself looking into his eyes. Damn! Those brown eyes, full of depth and feeling, were trouble. She looked away quickly.

"Another strawberry?"

"No, I'm good," she said, her voice coming out in a higher pitch. Damn again!

"Okay," he said with a soft laugh. He set his glass down and moved closer to her, so that their shoulders touched.

God, he smelled so good. She shivered again and cursed herself, knowing that he must have felt it. She finished off her drink in one long swallow and then set the glass on the nightstand.

Chuck smiled and placed his hand over hers, gripping it lightly, playing with her fingers almost absently. He sighed and leaned back. "This was a terrific night, Sarah."

That's it? He's going to stop now? She took a deep breath. Relax, she told herself. This is all you wanted. Wasn't it? She stared at the water fountain.

Suddenly, she felt his lips brush across her cheek. She felt a warmth rise up and her heart beat faster. She glanced at him briefly. He had just placed a strawberry into his mouth. He raised his eyebrows and turned his body toward her, leaning in close. He waited.

I know what I want, she realized. She nodded slightly and smiled.

He kissed her then, pressing his lips tightly to hers, and opening his mouth slightly. Strawberry juice trickled from his mouth to hers, and it ran down their chins. She reached up and held the back of his head, sliding her fingers through his brown curls. She pulled back a little and licked the sweet juice from his chin before returning his kiss. Chuck's eyes widened, and then he deepened the kiss, wrapping his arm around her. Together, they slipped farther down onto the bed and Chuck hovered just over her body, breathless.

She looked up at him and felt. . . longing. And love? Yes, she decided. Maybe it was love hammering in her chest. She met his eyes and smiled as she reached up and pulled him down to her. He kissed her again, and he stroked her hair softly. "Is this what you want?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered. "I want you." Those three little words carried so much weight. She wanted him more than she had ever wanted anything—or anyone—before.

He smiled at her, and then he trailed his fingers along her collarbone, moving down, just above the neckline of her dress. His fingertips were like hot embers; the heat penetrated her skin and flowed into her heart. She gasped softly, and he paused for a moment, watching her. She took his hand and moved it down again, and he leaned close to kiss her. He slid his hand along her side, to the bottom hem of her dress, and he lifted it, pulling it up and meeting her gaze as he did so. Her blue eyes were bright with excitement; she smiled at him and then she closed her eyes, arching her back slightly.

Yes, she thought, as the warmth from his hands flooded her body. I want you.

The End