Sorry for the delay in updating--I got attacked by another story and it wouldn't let go.
Here's the last chapter--hope it works!
Kensi was quiet for so long, Sam thought he'd lost--she was going to leave him. What was he supposed to do now? Getting over her was going to be the hardest thing he ever did . . .
Then she nodded. "One chance, Sam."
He drew in a shaky breath and sent a look of gratitude toward the ceiling. "Thank you." He stepped close and took her chin in his hand. "I won't let you down. I won't."
He brushed her hair from her face. "I like you, Kensi," he said, daring to use what had become their own personal catchphrase. It was completely inadequate for the strength of his feeling--and had been for some time--but he didn't want to press, not now. He touched her lips to his.
She surged up on tiptoe to deepen the contact, then pulled back to finally meet his eyes. "I like you, too, Sam."
A different voice broke the mood. "What is this, fifth grade?" Renko leaned against the doorframe, wearing jeans, a clean shirt, and a wise-ass smirk. "You know, I can see it now --you two . . . fit." He shook his head. "Man, I go undercover for a couple of months and everything changes." He frowned. "Callen's not dating Eric or anything, right?"
Sam chuckled. "Not that I've heard."
"Go fold socks or something for while, would you?" asked Sam.
"Sheesh. Get a different room."
"Ahem?" said Kensi. "Get a different landlady."
Mike rolled his eyes and disappeared.
Sam hugged Kensi close. "Thank you."
"I'm sorry, Sam."
"For what? For taking care of yourself? Never apologize for that." He kissed the top of her head. "Hey, you want to come with me tonight? Let me show you a little gratitude?"
She hesitated, then shook her head. "Not tonight, Sam. I'm just not in the mood for . . ."
"Yeah. We could try that Chinese place Nate mentioned last week. I thought I'd run home to shower and pick you up at eight." He smiled at her bewildered expression. "I'm asking you on a date, Kensi."
"A real date?"
"Don't you think it's about time?"
She opened her mouth, closed it. "I--I guess. But don't enough people know about us already without deliberately rocking the boat?"
"It's a calculated risk," he said, smiling that special smile of his. "But you're worth it. We're worth it. What do you say?"
"I'm game if you are," she said, finally giving him the smile he'd been hoping he'd see again.
"Have her back by midnight, mister, or there'll be trouble," hollered Renko from the kitchen.
The food at Tao Gardens was as good as Nate had said, but Kensi knew it was the company that made everything taste better. And it wasn't just that Sam cleaned up very well--or that he'd worn an outfit which would have won Hetty's approval and made Kensi aware of exactly how broad his shoulders were.
He'd eased the insecurities that had been nagging at her for some time. They weren't gone--she knew better than that--but they weren't pressing on her mind any more.
She squeezed his hand. "Thank you," she said.
"For what?" He squeezed back.
"For taking me on a real, live, actual, can't take it back date."
"Anytime," he said, giving her his special smile. "How are we doing for time?" He checked his phone and signaled their waiter.
She raised an eyebrow. "Why? You think Renko is going to meet us on the front porch with a shotgun?"
"No--I thought we might go to Praia." He gave the waiter his credit card. "They have a local salsa band playing tonight that's supposed to be pretty good."
"Are you serious?"
"What--you think I can't dance?"
"No." Considering the way he moved, she thought he'd be sin set to music. "Praia is my favorite club."
"I know." He signed the credit slip.
"I haven't been there for a long time." Since she'd stopped wanting to be with anyone but him.
He stood up and held out a hand. "Then let's go."
The music was excellent, the drinks were good, and Kensi had been right about Sam's abilities on the dance floor. "Where'd you learn to move like that?" she asked him as he led her, breathless, back to their table during the band's second break.
"Here and there."
She picked up her drink. "Callen could learn a few things from you."
"Let him get his own skills." He grinned.
She grinned back. "This was a good idea," she said, taking his hand.
"Of course, it was one of mine--ow, watch the nails."
She examined his fingers. "You big baby, I didn't even leave a mark."
"You could at least kiss it and make it better." He wagged his eyebrows over his beer glass.
She waited until he took a drink, then lifted his hand and touched her lips to the sensitive skin between his thumb and forefinger, watching him swallow hard, loving the way his eyes grew hot and hooded. "Better?" she asked.
He leaned close. "You trying to start something, Ms. Blye?"
"On the first date? Me?" She tasted him one more time and slipped out of her chair, setting his hand down. "I'm going to the little agent's room," she said. "Be right back."
"Evil woman," she heard him say as she walked away.
The band was starting up again as she returned, and she found herself dancing through the crowd. She emerged next to a table filled with young men who were obviously feeling no pain.
One of them whistled. "Looking fine," hollered another. "Come over here, baby." He patted his lap.
Kensi ignored them.. The patter got up and followed her back to Sam. "Hey, Momma," he said, weaving a little. "How 'bout a dance?"
"No thanks," she said, sitting down.
"Why not?" he said.?"
"I'm with someone," she said, pointing at Sam, who, she noticed, had shifted his seat so he could see the drunk's friends.
"He doesn't mind," said the drunk.
Sam's expression told Kensi that he did mind.
"No." She didn't bother to smile.
"Think you're too good for me?"
The band began the next set, a slower song. "It's getting late, Sam. One last dance?"
Sam nodded and got up. The drunk blinked up at the taller man. "Be that way, then," he said.
"I will," said Kensi. She led Sam to the dance floor and put her arms around him. "You were quiet back there."
"The last time I went caveman, I nearly lost you," he said, pulling her closer. "This time, I thought I'd get out of your way and back you up."
"Good call," she said.
"Don't get me wrong--I'll do some serious damage if you tell me to."
"I'll let you know." She rested her head on his shoulder for the rest of the song. "One more?" she asked.
"Come on, Cinderella. Work tomorrow."
She grumbled, but let him guide her out of the club and down the sidewalk. Just before they reached his car, the drunk and his three friends moved to block them.
"You owe me a dance, baby."
"I said no. I meant no," she said.
"Why you wanna be like that? You think I'm scared of your big man there?" He glared as Sam chuckled. "What's so funny?"
"I'm not the one you should be worried about."
"Oh, I'm not worried," said the drunk, with a malevolent smirk. "My bros here are going to keep you busy while I show your girlfriend a good time. Then, after they get their turns, you can have her back, if you still want her." He pulled a switchblade out of his pocket and flicked it open. "Come on, baby."
Kensi fell into a defensive stance. "Sam," she said, without looking at him.
"You can do some damage now."
Kensi's front door swung open. "Do you two have any idea what time--what the hell happened to you?"
"Knife fight," said Kensi.
"Fistfight," said Sam.
Renko blinked. "The other guys look worse?"
Sam and Kensi glanced at each other. "Police thought so," said Sam.
"Well, that's good." He waited. "You coming in or what?"
"Not right now," said Kensi.
"What do you mean not--"
"Good-night, Mike," said Sam.
"What? Oh, for--" Renko rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath about courtship rituals of the certifiably insane and slammed the door.
Kensi picked at the torn strap on her dress. "Well, Mr. Hanna, you sure know how to show a girl a good time."
"Wait until the next date," he said. "I hear there's a great Japanese fusion place off La Cienega, right near a suspected terrorist cell."
She grinned, moving close. "Sounds like fun," she said, looking up at him. "I like you, Sam."
He stared down at her with an intent expression. "Renko's right," he said.
"Fifth grade." He lowered his head and kissed her so thoroughly that she had to cling to him to keep from falling. "I love you, Kensi," he said, as she looked up at him with dazed eyes. "I don't know if it's what you want to hear, but I had to say it at least once. I won't--"
She slid her hand to the nape of his neck and pulled his mouth back to hers. "I love you, too," she whispered, when she could. "And it scares me to death."
"You'll get used to it," he said.
"I hope not," she said, caressing the side of his face.
The porch light began flicking on and off.
Sam growled. "Say the word, and they'll never find his body,"
Kensi laughed, leaning against him. "I'll let you know."
Let me know what you think, please.