She's angry at him and he sighs as he follows her into the bedroom of his Manhattan loft. They've just returned from a book party, formal attire, and she's been giving him the cold shoulder since he went to collect her coat. She'd snapped at him in the car about flirting with everything in a skirt and it's turned from a rational discussion into an all-out fight he doesn't want to have. He's hung up their coats now and he tosses his tux jacket onto the bed as she kicks her fantastically high heels, that he's sure made her legs look miles long beneath the long skirt of her dress, into the closet. He steps up behind her, his hands resting on her shoulders in an attempt to calm her.

"I flirt to sell books, Kate," he says as his palms smooth up and down her bare arms. The royal blue silk garment is strapless, leaving her athletic arms bare to him.

She snorts as she moves away from his touch, heading towards his dresser. "And how many have graced your bed since," she shoots back.

She's pulling her earrings out with angry, shaking fingers but she hasn't stormed out and he's pretty sure she won't. She likes it at the loft and though he is a cocky SOB on a regular basis, he's not arrogant enough to think it's solely about him. He knows it has everything to do with the atmosphere of the place, the feeling of belonging and family. It's a safe place for her where there's no demands and no expectations. She doesn't have to be strong, she doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to. Here, she has no need to put on one of the masks she wears on a day-to-day basis. He likes that idea. A lot.

He sighs as he moves towards her again, gently batting away the fingers struggling with the catch of the necklace she wears. He keeps one hand on her shoulder as he places the necklace on the dresser to keep her from moving away.

"Before you?" he asks, bringing them back to her question of how many fangirls he's slept with. "Not as many as you may think. Have I had one-night stands, yes, but just because the press gets a picture of me with a starlet on my arm doesn't mean I've slept with her."

There's a part of her that feels terrible about asking about this because she's not sure she wants all the answers she's looking for and she doesn't want him to feel like she doesn't trust him. She does trust him, probably too much, but she's spent the evening watching him flirt with other women. She trusts him, but she's feeling insecure. Still, she lets him deal with the zipper of her dress and hopes her voice doesn't sound vulnerable and small when she asks, "And after me?"

"After we met," he begins, placing careful emphasis on the timeline, "nothing much changed. I'm not going to lie and say I turned into a monk the moment I met you. You turned me down so fast and so many times I went looking for companionship elsewhere to try and get you out of my head."

She's inordinately pleased with the honesty and she hangs up her dress and picks up the tux jacket he tossed onto the bed when he'd followed her tantrum into the bedroom. She hangs it up too as he strips down and she heads to the bathroom to remove her makeup. He hangs the rest of the formal suit up in the meantime and she's not really surprised when he joins her, leaning against the door frame to the bathroom wearing only his boxers.

"There was no one else when we started sleeping together."

The brief pause in removing her makeup is the only indication of her surprise. Really, she knows him well enough that it shouldn't have surprised her, that she should have known despite the lack of relationships their 'whatever' would be exclusive. He's not the cheating type, as faithful as a puppy and she should have known that would extend to sexual relationships. Either way, pleasure shoots through her system at the revelation and it's obvious in the way her body heats with a flattered blush.

"I didn't stop looking," he admits, stepping into the room as she pats her face dry, "but I most certainly stopped wanting them."

His hands fall to her hips as she sets the towel aside and she leans back into his chest. He's just admitted something huge and she licks her lips before saying, "There was no one for me either."

His fingers move in feather touches over her sides, swirling around and over her stomach in absent patterns. "I don't want anyone else, Kate," he says, pressing more fully against her back so she can feel him hardening against her ass. "Want to know why?"

She doesn't take compliments well, and usually avoids them, but she's just insecure enough to nod her agreement. Her eyes slide closed as his fingers continue to trace softly over the skin between the edge of the simple royal blue satin strapless bra and the lacy waistband of the matching panties. One of his hands comes up to slide against the elegant arch of her nose and she chuckles slightly as he taps the tip playfully.

"I know for a fact you didn't notice my nose first, Rick," she teases and his hand floats down to her waist again.

"You remember what I noticed first?" There's a pleased surprise in his voice that makes her smile.

"My eyes," she replies softly and his smile widens.

"Well, your attitude actually," he corrects. "Bossy, take-charge hardass cop that didn't fawn all over my feet."

She laughs a little. "You like that I don't treat you like the king of the world."

"All I care about," he replies, pressing a kiss against her jaw, "is that I'm the king of your world."

"Mmm, maybe not the king," she says, rolling her eyes but playing along, raising one hand to tangle in his hair while the other weaves between his fingers of one hand on her stomach. "Definitely the prince though."

He chuckles as he nuzzles her ear, earning a pleased sigh. "I guess I'll have to accept that." His free hand traces the bottom edge of her bra as he says, "Do you know why I noticed your eyes first?"

She just waits for his reply, watching his fingers guide hers over her stomach.

"They are… intoxicating." His breath slides down her neck and she shivers. "You have an excellent poker face, and one I've lost more than my fair share of money to, but if I'm really stuck and I need to know what's going on in that fantastic head of yours, your eyes always tell me. I always lose myself in them."

His mouth trails down her neck. "Do you know why I love the skin of your neck?"

The question is a sudden change in topic, but she rolls with it, her breath speeding up as her fingers clench in his hair. She shakes her head slightly.

"You have this spot," he continues, glancing in the mirror to meet those gorgeous eyes. "This spot right…"

Her body tenses and she whimpers as he gently digs his teeth into the skin just in front of her pulse point. She'll have to remember in the morning to check for a bruise, but it feels so good. He chuckles at the reaction.

"It's your favourite."

"What makes you so sure?" she breathes, even as she grips him tighter from the weakening of her knees.

"Beyond your reaction?" he chuckles. "Experience. I've spent a long time getting to know your body, Kate."

There was no doubt in her mind about that and it had been a long pleasurable time. He had a single-minded determination to learn about her, to understand her, and she was pretty sure that every once in a while, he competed with himself to see if he could bring her orgasm faster, or more often, or see how many ways he can find that would prolong her pleasure. Usually, she didn't much care because it was so worth it.

His fingers moved now, the hand still holding hers sliding up her body until it covered a satin-clad breast. "You have soft skin too, some of the softest skin I've ever felt," he murmurs into her ear, kissing her shoulder as he kneads her breast with both his fingers and hers. "But the best is when I wake up and you haven't been gone long. Your smell is still in the sheets, in the pillow. Cherries and you and if I'm really lucky, I can smell you on my skin too."

She moans quietly, her head falling back and eyes sliding closed. His other hand, the one free of hers, slides into the cup of her bra, withdrawing the sensitive globe from its satin cover. His fingers slide over the already hardening nipple with a light touch as her back bends, trying to get more pressure, more of his touch, more. She whimpers in disappointment when he slides both hands from her body, her hands resting back on the counter in front of her. Her bra loosens and she realizes his motives as the cups fall away. He tosses the fabric out the bathroom door and doesn't hide his admiration of her bare breasts.

He's watching her carefully now, one of his hands coming up to slide against her bottom lip. She opens her mouth and sucks his finger inside and he gasps. It doesn't take a genius to realize what he's thinking about as his eyes darken and he slides another finger between her lips. He slides them out of her mouth and his hand floats down over her skin, coming to a stop at her nipples. His fingers are damp with her own saliva and though it isn't the same as his mouth on her, the warm wetness allows her to imagine it.

"You know what I thought tonight when I saw you in that gown?"

"I have an idea," she answers, lifting one of her hands to guide the movements of his other hand on her breast.

"That I was damn lucky," he replies, his voice a low rumble in her ear. She believes him, because she can remember the look on his face when she'd come down the stairs. She and Alexis had taken over the guest bedroom to get ready and as clichéd as it was to make her grand entrance, it had been worth it to see his stunned reaction to the royal blue silk.

"You pulled out all the stops tonight, Kate. That dress showed off your collarbones and your shoulders and you know how much I love licking my way along that skin. I had the hardest time keeping my hands and lips off you every time I was close to you. And it hugged all of these gorgeous curves." His hands leave her breasts to palm her sides, running slowly from breasts to hips. "They haunt my dreams, Kate. You're slim without being anorexic, trim and athletic and flexible."

His emphasis on the last word reminds her of some of the more adventurous nights together and she moans at the images it evokes. The tips of his fingers slip under the edge of her panties, tugging them until they pool at her feet. She tries to turn then, but he grips her hips and presses her into the counter enough that she can't move.

"Nuh uh," he says, licking at her earlobe as he picks up one of her hands again. "Watch."

Her eyes lock on their entwined hands, his palm warm against the back of hers. His feet nudge her legs apart and he slips their hands between her thighs, using her fingers to brush against her clit. She's wet and he briefly inserts the tips of their pointer fingers into her opening to drag out some of that wetness across the bundle of nerves at the tip.

"You always feel so good," he breathes into her ear, and she knows he's just as aroused as she is by the black of his eyes. They're dark, heated and she feels the lust spike through her system. There's no doubt that he wants her, it's all there in his gaze, just like it is in the lines and hardness of his body. Her eyes are fixed on the hand between her thighs and the feeling of her own wetness. Watching brings a new kind of pleasure as he uses her fingers as well as hers. He slides their pointer fingers in her and she moans, low and long. After a few strokes he guides another finger in, sliding hers with it. She's fingering herself while he is and she's having a hard time breathing with all the sensation.

"Do you feel that?" he whispers. "Do you feel how your clit hardens? How your body responds to my touch and yours? Do you know how that makes me feel, Kate, to know that you're hot and wet for me?"

She whimpers, tossing her head back against his shoulder. He nibbles down her neck for a moment as their fingers continue to move inside her. He lifts his head and takes her in, smiling at the wanton look on her face, the way her eyes clench shut. He loves her like this, lost in pleasure.

"Can you feel it coming?" he asks her. "Can you feel how your walls start to flutter? How you start to clench against our fingers? That's what it feels like to be inside you. It's like nothing else in the world, Kate."

She's moving against his fingers and hers, faster and it's her thumb that slips beneath the movements of their hands to flick at her clit until she cries out, her body tensing and arching forward. He watches her in the mirror, the flush on her chest, the thrust of her breasts and her mouth open from her cry. She releases slowly, slumping back against him as she pants heavily. Slowly, her eyes flutter open and he waits until they meet his before bringing their still entwined fingers to his mouth. He cleans off her hand, sucking his fingers and hers into his mouth, licking her taste off of their skin. He's hard against her ass and he knows now it's his turn.

He replaces her hand on the counter while his come to her hips, one sliding down one of her thighs to her knee. He lifts her leg, opening her up to him, and rests it on the counter. She shifts slightly, leaning forward over the sink and letting her head fall forward, her eyes slipping closed. He doesn't like this and gently cups her chin, bringing her face back up so he can see it in the mirror.

"Open your eyes, Sweetheart," he commands and smiles at her in the mirror when she does it. "Keep them open. Watch."

Oh God, she thinks, because she knows exactly where this is going and she's not sure she can actually watch. Hell, all too often she simply can't keep her eyes open with the sensations pouring through her body from his touch and the feeling of him inside her. He takes himself in hand, lining himself up and then all they can both focus on is that first sweet slick slide into her body. He moans at the feeling.

"So good, Kate. God. Hot and wet around me."

She's so turned on by watching them in the mirror, her eyes locking with his as he starts to move. The slide is deep and delicious and he's hitting all of her nerve endings until she's barely able to function, let alone think. This is what she loves best, the fact that he can reduce her world to nothing but him. It makes almost everything else worth it.

"Rick," she moans, allowing all of the heat, lust and arousal she's feeling to show on her face. He leans down, running his tongue along the left side of her spine and she feels the knot in her stomach coil tighter as her back arches. That changes the angle and she cries out with the feeling, her eyes floating closed briefly before flying open again. Rick's back to watching her eyes, her face.

"Fuck me," she whispers.

His eyes dilate and his hands tighten their grip on her hips. His thrusts come faster, stronger and she's jolted forward each time. He leans forward, wrapping an arm around her torso and pulling her up and back so he can see her body in the mirror in front of them. This is where her flexibility comes in handy and her eyes fall immediately to the place where they're joined. She knows he's watching her watch him slide in and out of her slick heat and from the hand that curls around the front of her body to touch her, it's turning him on. She reaches up to grasp his hair as the spring coils tighter inside her. A few more thrusts and one rough swipe of his finger on her clit and she's screaming his name as she falls over the edge. He's right behind her, groaning in her ear and it takes them a minute to come back to themselves.

When they've had a shower to clean up and they're curled in bed, he slides his hand down her back and kisses the top of her head. "Do you believe I don't want anyone else?"

She tilts her head so she can look at him. There's absolutely no hesitation or question in her voice when she answers, "Yes."

He nods once. "Do you know why I want you?"

She senses there's something else he wants to say, something he's alluding to but not telling her and her eyes narrow in suspicion. "I know why you want my body."

The brief smile that flits across his face tell her that she's said exactly what he'd hoped. "But do you know why I want you? Specifically."

She waits patiently, feeling a lump grow in her throat.

"You're gorgeous, yes, and that's a perk, but it's not about who you are on the outside." His fingers come up to stroke her cheek softly, brushing damp tendrils of hair behind her ear. "You're compassionate, sympathetic. You blow me away every day with how you relate to victims and how easily you put suspects in their place. Your mind amazes me, the way it can synthesize facts, find connections, make intuitive leaps… You intrigue me and you treat me like a human being when everyone else treats me like I'm a gift from some higher being. You ground me, Kate, you make sure I don't get out of control and I'd probably go as far as to say there are times where you've been the reason I've come back to my daughter alive and in one piece."

She blinks back tears because this is deep talk and there's a fear eating at the edge of her stomach. But his hand is still stroking her back and his thumb is still brushing her cheek as his fingers tangle in her dark tresses. "Rick-"

"You don't have to say anything, okay? I don't want to pressure you and that wasn't my intention." This is one of those moments where he's proving just how well he knows her and he smiles at her gently. "You were insecure tonight and all I want you to know is that I may look, I may flirt, but what matters to me at the end of the day is that I'm coming home to you. You and Alexis. Because this, right here, is where I want to be."

She knows the tears have flooded her eyes by the way he blurs in front of her and he slides his hand into her hair to tip her head forward. Her forehead rests above his heart as she sucks in a shaky breath. Emotion is crashing around her, but there's one thing there clear as day and when she gets control of herself again she looks back up at him.

"I love you."

Surprise floats over his face first, then awe and absolute joy and she has to move quickly to meet his mouth without twisting either of them into a pretzel. He knows she doesn't say anything like that without meaning it and he's touched, awed, amazed and shocked that she's the one to say it first. He'd been hoping to allude to it, to show her what he felt and tell her he loved her without using the actual words but this… this is so much better.

"God, I love you," he breathes when he pulls back from his enthusiastic kiss. "I love you so much."

He rolls her over and this time it's slow and he murmurs his love into her ear while he's inside her. She makes sure she meets his eyes in the few seconds before her orgasm hits, repeating the words with eyes that are heated, but serious. He pulls her against him afterwards and she feels safe and content there. He loves her for everything she is, for her scars, for her bossy habits, for her control-freak personality… everything and she feels that filling her. It's a good feeling and one she knows she's not walking away from. And for the first time in a long, long time, she's pretty sure the man beneath her isn't walking away either.

This is my favourite. Of all of them, I'm pretty sure.

I think I'm going to leave this here. So, I'd like to thank you all for the ride, the ups and the downs and most of all the reviews!