Chapter Five

"Dave," Emily said calmly, holding tightly to the emotional control that she knew would be her salvation, "I know you're emotional right now, so I'm just going to..."

"-shut your mouth and listen," Dave replied evenly, cutting her off completely without any apologies. "You're right," Dave began softly, "I am emotional. This case brought up a lot of feelings I've chosen to ignore over the years. I loved Emma, Emily."

Great, exactly what she wanted to hear after making love to a man in his kitchen - undying professions of his love for another woman, Emily thought bitterly, the acid eating away at her heart. Well hell, this is why she'd come, wasn't it? So he could purge the feelings he'd had locked inside her. She only wished she'd comprehended how incredibly painful this would be. Noticing he'd become silent, she cleared her throat and said, evenly and controlled, "I realize that, Dave."

"But you assume my heart's in the grave with her," Dave returned, tightening his hand against her hip as he felt her stiffen. "But, what you don't understand is that more than Emma, what I mourn is the fact that it was just another in a long line of wonderful opportunities I turned my back on. And what I hate even more than that is the fact that I recognize you doing the same damn thing."

"Pardon?" Emily retorted sharply, straightening in his arms, her hackles rising as she wondered how he dared to condemn her.

"You close yourself off the same damn way I have for years. You try to protect yourself from potential pain and miss what's right in front of your nose," Dave continued steadily, his eyes drawn to her flashing gaze, recognizing the signs of rebellion and escape flying through her pupils..

"I'm sorry. But the last thing I came here for was to be profiled, Rossi," Emily ground out, jerking from his lap in a sudden movement, her feet hitting the ground with sudden purpose.

"And now that I've said something you don't want to deal with," Dave sighed, shaking his head as he leaned forward in the recliner, the heavy furniture tilting with the movement, "You're going to revert to type and run," Dave said, measuring her with an assessing eyes. "Heads up, Prentiss," he added, eyes gleaming, "This time, I'll be right behind you," he warned easily.

"God," Emily said, disgustedly shaking her head as she crossed her arms tightly over her chest, "Your arrogance knows no bounds, does it?"

"That wasn't arrogance talking, Cara. That was simply a statement of fact," Dave replied, settling back in the recliner as he stared into her flashing eyes. "I've invested way too much time in and with you to let you walk away now."

"Huh?" Emily grunted, taking a step back, his honesty as dangerous as any armed felon she had ever faced in the past.

Tilting his head, Dave smirked at her attempted retreat, "You're a smart girl, Emily. You'll figure it out. Take a moment. Process."

Eyes widening at the condescension in his tone, Emily narrowed her eyes. "Wait. Are you saying....these past weren't trying to build a friendship with me? That you had THIS," she growled, sweeping her hand between them, her hand open wide, "as an ulterior motive?"

"Of course I wanted to deepen our friendship," Dave muttered, running a hand down his face, sighing as he pushed forward. "Hell, Emily, if I'd have wanted just a fuck from you, I could have had that the night I found you here, vulnerable and alone. I wanted more. I've always wanted more. I was trying to give you time to want it, too."

"Who says that I didn't?" Emily replied without giving her mind time to monitor her mouth's words, the thought flowing out like water.

Leaning forward in his chair, Dave reached out to capture one of her chilled hands, tugging her toward him as he rose from his seat. "You have. Every time I moved a step to bolted. Until tonight."

"You needed me," Emily said simply, averting eyes filled with unshed tears. She would not cry. She wouldn't! She couldn't let that emotional honesty rear its ugly head. Not tonight.

"I've always needed you, Emily," Dave denied, negating her excuse in a simple statement. "So, I ask again, why tonight?" he repeated insistently, resting his elbows on his knees.

"Because I couldn't stay away," Emily spat suddenly, the urge to bear her heart greater than the desire to hide. "There! Are you happy now that you have my little confession? I knew you were in pain and I couldn't stay away."

"It isn't an admission of guilt, Emily," Dave stood quickly, pulling her reluctant body against his as he whispered against her temple. "It isn't a sin to care about love someone."

Resting her cheek against his bare chest, his steady heartbeat thumping against her ear, Emily's fingers fisted in the edges of his parted shirt. "You don't know what you're asking me for, Dave," Emily whispered as she felt his sure hands sweeping up and down her back.

"A chance, Emily," Dave said softly against her hair, slipping roaming fingers underneath the edge of her cotton blouse. "I'm asking you to give us a chance to create something wonderful between us. You're already halfway there. You trusted me with your body. You can do the same with your heart, can't you?"

"It's not as easy as simply trusting you, Dave. I've always trusted you. I just don't know if..."

"I know, Emily. I know we can do this together," Dave murmured, smoothing gentle fingers down her fragile spine. "We've been doing it for months. You just didn't realize it."

Eyes falling closed as his hands soothed her, she leaned more heavily against him, his strong body propping her up. She'd be nine kinds of a coward not to take the chance he was offering her, visions of a future with this man tempting her. And after all, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Lifting her head to meet his eyes, she swallowed as the words crept out of her throat. "You're the only man I could ever imagine trying this with."

"Is that a yes?" Dave asked, needing to hear the affirmation, unwilling to allow his heart to soar until he heard her clearly voice the words.

"That's a yes," Emily breathed an instant before his lips slid against hers, claiming her once again. And in her heart, she knew she'd made the right choice.

Her future ….no, both of their futures….would no longer be sacrificed to the missed chances of the past.