AN: I'm back! I missed everyone; I was having severe author withdrawal while I was gone! This story is a long one, I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 1

"I hate him."

JJ shook her head and put a hand on top of Penelope's. "No, you don't. You don't hate anyone. Severely dislike, yes, but hate, no."

"No, JJ. I hate Kevin Lynch. I really do." She was serious.

"Because he left you for Elba Martin?" JJ gave her an incredulous look. "The woman has a hairy mole on her chin."

Penelope narrowed her eyes. "That doesn't make me feel better. Not one iota."

"Why? He's with a scag."

"There must be something very appealing about that scag, considering he dumped me." She folded her arms dramatically and lowered her head to her forearms.

JJ winced. "He recently developed terrible taste in women?"

"I'm the laughingstock of the tech sector!" She wailed. "Suddenly, Elba is considered a hottie, because she broke up a long-term relationship, and I can't even keep Kevin Lynch."

"I don't understand the thinking of that department, Garcie."

"Me neither," she said, her voice still muffled from being buried in her arms. "God, I'm depressed."

"I'm calling Morgan-"

"No!" Pen cried, looking up at JJ with horror. She didn't want Derek there, especially because he'd know. He'd take one look at her and know she was holding back. He knew her way too well. JJ was her best girlfriend, but Derek was her best friend, period. He could discern anything she was trying to hide.

"Penelope," JJ said reasonably. "It's your birthday tomorrow; I do not want you to have a miserable birthday, and this is going to make you miserable. Morgan'll know what to do."

"Kevin, that scum," Penelope spat, thinking and narrowing her eyes and pouting even worse than before. "He did this before my birthday just to get out of buying a present! I know it."

Standing up from the table at the restaurant, JJ said, "I'll be right back."

Less than twenty minutes later, her knight in shining armor... rather, black jeans, black leather jacket, and maroon Henley shirt... came storming into the restaurant. He was scanning the dining room with a furious look on his gorgeous face. Spotting her and making eye contact, he came over quickly, pulling a chair up between herself and JJ.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he growled angrily. "I'd have been there for you. Why didn't you call?"

Penelope felt the tears hit the back of her eyes. She didn't cry when Kevin told her about Elba, she didn't cry when she was laughed and gossiped about by Nadia Bornstein and Kylie Manter, two of the chattiest tech girls, but she felt like bawling now. With Derek yelling at her, and she didn't do a damn thing wrong, she felt horrible.

The next thing she knew, she was crying, big fat tears rolling down her cheeks.

"Oh, Baby Girl!" Derek gasped, his face falling. "Shit. I'm so sorry."

She looked across the table at JJ, who had an uncomfortable, but sympathetic, look on her face. That made it worse. She started to cry even harder, even sobbing with a hiccup.

Great. This was just great. It was the eve of her thirty-fourth birthday and she was crying like an idiot at her favorite Italian restaurant with her two closest friends.

Derek signaled for the waiter, who came over promptly. "I'm taking her over to the Club Room. I need two shots of straight Jack, and two glasses of Jack and Coke, tall, straight." He stood, dragging Penelope to her feet. "JJ, you got the dinner check?"

"Certainly," she said, looking relieved not to have to deal with the situation. JJ didn't understand the nuances of Penelope's relationship with Derek, but she knew if anyone would make her feel better, it was him.

Whisking his still crying best friend across the restaurant, Derek began to murmur sweet nothings to her. "Shh... Baby... Come on, now."

The restaurant was in an old train depot. There was a main room, set for dining and dancing, and several other side rooms. Penelope and Derek's favorite was the Club Room. Set in 1930's style d├ęcor, deep leather booths and overstuffed armchairs that looked like they came directly from a gangster club, dark wallpaper and paneling, mood lighting, a huge fireplace, it was romantic and chic.

He found a darkened corner with the biggest armchair and sat down, pulling Penelope into his lap. "Come on, baby. Tell Uncle Derek all about it."

"Derek, that's ridiculous." She protested a little, but he tightened his arms around her, holding her still.

"Nonsense. You're my Baby Girl, regardless of how old you're gonna be in a few hours," he teased.

That caused a resurgence of tears.

Derek saw the waiter and took the drinks, and said, "One more shot."

"No. I don't want-"

"Drink," he said, putting the shot up to her lips. She drank the fiery bourbon down, and coughed, and the tears immediately stopped. She had to concentrate on breathing; she couldn't cry.

Derek threw his shot back, too, then handed her the mixed drink. "Here. Drink."

She gave him a wary look, then took a sip. It was much smoother, now that the other drink was gone. After all the crying, she felt really tired. Derek had one arm out, waiting for her to lean back into his embrace. Tired of fighting, she moved back and sighed sadly.

"Now, tell me what that motherfucker did."

Penelope stiffened a little. The menace in Derek's voice was unmistakable. She almost felt sorry for Kevin. Almost.

She took another sip of her drink, then hiccuped slightly. "He dumped me."

"Lynch? Dumped you?"

"Yep," she said dejectedly. "For Elba Martin."

"With the mole?"

Penelope wanted to crawl under a rock. She took another big sip of her drink, and plucked the maraschino cherries off the top, then popped them into her mouth. "Yeah. Elba with the mole."

"Whoa, wait a second, Baby," he said, looking confused. "Why would he dump you for Elba?"

She looked anywhere but at Derek and answered, "I don't know."

"Bullshit. What happened?"

She stiffened again, and tried to stand. "I don't want to talk about it."

He wrapped his arms around her again. "Hell, no. You're going to talk. Because it sure isn't because Elba's prettier."

"A catfish is prettier than Elba," she remarked nastily. She knew it was mean, but she didn't care.

"She has a mustache like a catfish," Derek replied with a cheesy grin.

It made her smile. "She does, doesn't she?"

He grinned back, and continued, "And it ain't because she's smarter than you are. She's no tech goddess."

"Damn straight," she said, still smiling as she took another sip.

"And we all know she's not as sexy as you are."

Penelope's smile fell.

Derek arched a brow. "Penelope? What is going on?"

"Elba is sexier," she whispered in a meek voice, tears showing in her eyes.

He looked at her and chuckled. "Hell, no! Why on earth would you think that?"

She muttered something under her breath, and the tears started to fall yet again.

The waiter came with the next two shots, and Derek handed her one. She shook her head, but he insisted. She threw that one back, coughing and sputtering, and took a big gulp of her drink, which was full again.

How did it get full? she wondered, then noticed Derek wasn't drinking his. Her head was starting to spin just a little bit. She tried to sit up, to see if he had other drinks nearby, but she couldn't.

"Baby, tell me," he murmured. "Why do you think Elba is sexier than you?"

"Not just Elba," she muttered, then sighed sadly. "Everyone."


She looked at him, then looked around the room to make sure no one else was listening. "Want to know a secret, Hot Stuff?"

"Yes, angel girl," he said. "Tell me."

"I can't get off with another person."

Derek was glad she was about a sheet to the wind, she wouldn't notice his surprised look. "You can't climax?"

"No, no, silly," she slurred with a grin. "I can come just fine with my fingers, or with Barney-"

Derek didn't ask. He wasn't sure he wanted to know!

"But when a man touches me, it's a no go."

He was shocked. "You're joking."


"Your boyfriends, they didn't know?" His voice was hoarse, barely above a whisper.

"I faked it." She pouted. "Kevin figured it out, and was mad at me. Said there is something wrong with me."

Derek had the extreme wish to pound the shit out of Kevin Lynch. He dated her for nearly three years, and he didn't make her come, and blamed it on her? He thought about all the other boyfriends she had that didn't bring her to orgasm. Penelope was one of the hottest women he'd ever known. She radiated sex. How could they not make her climax?

"Listen," he said, holding her tighter against his chest. She was sniffling again, and he wanted that to end, immediately. "That is the fault of the men you dated, not you. There is nothing wrong with you, sweetheart. Nothing."

"Yes, there is."

"No, there isn't," he stressed. "If I don't satisfy a woman I am with, it is on me, not her."

"No man has satisfied me, Derek," she whispered quietly, tears rolling down her cheeks. "If it was one or two, then I would understand. But I've dated five guys in my life, and none have made me come."

"That's a ridiculous thought," he said, holding her on his lap. "Trust me."

She sighed, and leaned back into his arms. "I don't want to talk about it any more, honey."

"Alright, P," he reluctantly agreed. He obviously had more to say on the subject. Instead, he held her on his lap, and they chatted for a long time about nothing. Then he grinned. "Do you know what I was doing before I got here?"


"Shopping for your birthday present," he said, kissing the tip of her nose. "I got you the most fantastic, most perfect thing."

"Ooh!" She squealed, bouncing on his lap. "What did you get me?"

"Whoa, settle," he said, wrapping his arms around her. "All I am saying is this. When I ask, Who's your Daddy?, you know the answer."

She pouted. "Please?"

The waiter stopped by. "Last call, sir."

He reached into his back pocket, and handed him his card to settle up the tab. "Just telling you that much. You can wait one day, Little Miss Impatient."

Standing too quickly, she swayed on her feet. Derek stood and caught her against his chest. "Careful, sugar."

"Too much Jack, too little Penelope," she said with a grin.

He smiled at her. "Mmm hmm. Come on. I'll take you home."