Around the World Book Three
Trouble in the Hamptons
. . . . .
Alexis was released almost forty-eight hours after being admitted to the hospital and both father and daughter - and Kate, though she was less obvious about it - were ecstatic about her return to the nest. They'd settled back into the house with a much smoother routine than the previous three weeks.
Kate sighed in contentment as she cuddled against Rick late one night as they sat out on the back patio. She felt like everything was starting to come together again. They were moving Alexis into Princeton soon – a fact that Rick was still unaware of – and she was slated for her mandatory post-shooting evaluations on Monday. Despite how nice the impromptu and mandatory vacation had been, she knew they were both antsy for her to return to work.
They both looked up as Alexis stepped outside. Kate smiled, recognizing the slightly anxious look on the teenager's face. She knew that beyond the fact that Alexis hadn't told Rick about Princeton, the father-daughter pair also hadn't talked about the bigger issues. From the nervous expression on the redhead's face, Kate knew what Alexis wanted to talk about didn't require her presence. In fact, she would bet that as far as she and Alexis had come over the last couple of days, the teenager didn't want her to hear this particular discussion. She threw a smile at Alexis and kissed Rick's cheek as she stood.
"I'm going to head in," she told him when he caught her hand.
"What?" he asked, brow knitting in confusion. "Why?"
Kate just smiled as she headed inside and Alexis took her place. Rick looked down at her, well aware when something was bothering his little girl. "What's on your mind, Pumpkin."
"I'm sorry, Dad," she said quietly, tilting her head to look up at him. "I screwed up."
Though he could be dense, he wasn't completely stupid. He knew what Alexis was referring to. He pressed a kiss to her hair. "It's okay."
"It's not, really," Alexis replied. "Kate's special to me too and I treated both of you like crap. I didn't have the right to yell at you guys."
"Sweetheart, you're still a kid," Rick told his daughter, the same thing Kate had told him repeatedly after the incident. "You act so strong and so mature all the time that we forget that. Kate and I are as much to blame as you are."
The redhead tucked herself against her father, curling up as best she could with the cast between them. "Can we... set ground rules, or something?"
"Of course, Sweetie," her father answered immediately, though Alexis could hear the confusion in his voice. "Rules forever or rules for the next week?"
"Um... that's something else I need to talk to you about?"
"Okay..." Now he was nervous.
"I, um... I never accepted Stanford."
Alexis winced, both in pain and in general. "I never accepted Stanford?"
Rick looked down at his daughter sternly. "You asked for your tuition money and you said you paid it, so where did that money go?"
"Princeton," Alexis replied in a small voice.
Rick's brow furrowed. "Princeton? Your safety school?"
Alexis blew out a heavy breath. "Stanford's a fantastic school, Dad and I know that, I just..."
"Sweetheart, we talked about this," Rick said quietly. "You need to go to your dream school."
The redhead looked down. "I don't want to be half way across the country," she said.
"Is this about everything with Kate?" he asked, slipping his fingers under his daughter's chin so he could meet her eyes. "You've wanted to go to Stanford ever since you decided against going to Oxford."
She was still chewing her lip. "I made the decision long before things with Kate."
He narrowed his eyes at his progeny. "She knew."
"I told her," Alexis agreed. "But I made her swear not to say anything to you."
"You two are ganging up on me!" Rick exclaimed, throwing his hands into the air dramatically. "What next? Are you two plotting on how to empty my bank account?"
"I don't think we'd really have to plot so much as ask," Alexis responded wryly, but with a cheeky grin. Her father couldn't say 'no' to her on a good day, let alone if it was both her and Kate. The women hadn't used the tactic often, but it had been ridiculously effective when used.
He glared, but it was enough of an acknowledgement that Alexis was right. He sobered again though, looking her straight in the eye. "Are you sure Princeton is what you want?"
"Yes," Alexis said, nodding and with conviction in her voice. "I like the campus, I like the atmosphere and I like that it's not across the country."
"Then Princeton it is." He kissed her head and pulled her closer so her head rested on his chest. Alexis cuddled in as tight as she could, wrapping both of her arms around her father's waist. "I'm going to miss you, you know."
Alexis looked up as best she could from her position. Tears welled in her eyes and Rick reached up to brush them away. "I'm going to miss you too. A lot."
They sat there, looking out over the ocean and at the stars. He hadn't realized he'd dozed off until he felt a soft pair of lips against his forehead and cheek. Kate stood over him, though leaning down so she was close, an affectionate smile on her face.
"There you are," she whispered. "I was afraid I was going to have to go get cold water."
"Everything okay?" he asked sleepily, shifting slightly and remembering Alexis. "Is she asleep?"
"You both were. The boys are going to love the picture."
"Blackmail photos, Kate? I thought you were above that," he teased. Things felt normal now, back to the playful banter, back to the honesty and openness they'd taken months to cultivate. He no longer felt like she was pulling away.
"No way," she contradicted as her hand came up to brush hair out of Alexis' face. "But you guys need to get inside. Sleeping out here is going to be cold and painful."
Alexis woke just as they were trying to determine the best way to get her inside. After a quick goodnight, Rick and Alexis headed for her room while Kate headed upstairs. She ran a hot bath and climbed in with a happy sigh. It was nice to have her family back. It was nice to have harmony. It was going to be different when they moved Alexis to Princeton in a couple of days, but this equilibrium they'd managed to find warmed Kate's insides.
She looked up to see Rick poking his head through the door and grinned. "If you don't mind smelling a bit girly. I went with the fruits tonight."
He started stripping down. "Girly or not, you in a bathtub is something I'm not stupid enough to turn down."
She waited until they were both comfortable in the tub, Rick behind her, his hands stroking over her wet skin. She traced absent patterns on his thighs with her fingernails as her head lolled back against his shoulder.
"Did you and Alexis have a good talk?"
"It's one we should have had sooner," he replied. "But we did. She wants to go to Princeton."
"She's going to Princeton," Kate corrected with a chuckle.
"I can't believe you knew and didn't tell me!"
"She told me not too," she replied indignantly.
Instead of replying with some sort of argumentative comeback, he said, "I'm glad she trusts you."
"I am too," she answered. "And you know that if it was something important I would have told you. But Princeton was something she had to tell you on her own time. Wasn't my place."
They sat in silence for a few moments, just enjoying the bath and being together. Eventually, Kate broke the silence.
"So I was thinking," she started quietly.
Rick kissed the top of her head. "You do that well. What stroke of genius did you come up with this time?"
"That it's going to be weird to go back to my own apartment next week." She focused the tile wall opposite her.
Kate shrugged. "I'm kind of used to having you around. Sharing a bed, sharing the paper, making enough coffee for both of us… I kind of like it." There was a pause, then, "A lot."
Rick pulled a hand out of the water, cupping her chin and turning her head so he could look her in the eye. "What are you thinking?"
"That it's starting to seem rather useless to have two places."
She saw the surprise flit over his face and couldn't help the smile that quirked the corner of her mouth. Rick had been the one to take the first steps in all of the major milestones in their relationship, but this was one step she'd taken. They hadn't even really talked about it and he hadn't been dropping hints, but to Kate, it felt right. She wasn't going anywhere, she had no plans to end things with Rick and the thought of 'one and done' had been floating through her head since he'd told her he wanted to marry her.
"We've been living together for three months," she said softly. "We've worked out a lot of growing pains of sharing the same space. It seems right, Rick."
"It does," he agreed quietly, amazement in his gaze. "You really want to move in with me?"
She nodded. "For one thing, I think it would help Alexis feel better. She knows I'm not going anywhere but I think she would feel better if she knew I was going to be constantly around, in the precinct and at home."
"Home, I like the sound of that."
"Plus, there's no rational reason for me to be paying rent on an apartment when I'm rarely there." Because even before her shooting she'd been spending fewer nights in her own place and more in the loft.
Kate could virtually feel the excitement coursing over his skin as his touches grew firmer against her stomach, trailing lower over her hips and the insides of her thighs. "What do you think?"
"I think if you're saying we should move in together that I couldn't agree more," he replied.
She knew her smile was wide and bright as she kissed him. "I'm saying we should move in together."
She squeaked when he slid his hands under her arms and almost fell over as he tried to turn her around. She laughed as water splashed over the edge of the tub until she was straddling his legs, his hands spanning her lower back. He pulled her into him, kissing her with flurry and passion and excitement and though she continued to laugh, she arched against him as he put pressure on her spine. Her breasts pressed against his chest and it didn't take a genius to see how he was planning on celebrating this decision. He paused though, stroking her face with gentle fingertips.
"I'm so damned lucky."
She grinned. "Yeah," she said as she leaned down to ravage his mouth. She pulled away and cupped his cheeks in her hands. "But I am too."
So, technically this is the end, but with their decision to move in and my allusions to moving Alexis into her dorms, I'm toying with an extra chapter kind of addressing both move-ins. Now that I've written them, it seems kind of wrong to just leave this go as it is, even though I LOVE this as the last chapter.
Thus, I leave the decisions in your capable hands dear readers! Want to see the move in? Or just leave it here and go work on something else?
Though, just to make sure you guys have all the facts, this isn't the end of the series. For those of you who read NY you know there's a sequel that will be in the works over there. There's one here too. They're going to Europe. But that's all I'm going to say. Well, that and the fact that it won't be up any time in the near future. School's back up and running and it takes most of my life, plus I have to think of my one-chapter-a-day Christmas fic and get that kind of started so I'm not freaking swamped come December 1st. But I really am having a good time tracing the little steps in their relationship thus far and I have no intentions of ending the series here. Well, and I'm too excited about the idea for the next one to leave it just sitting in my notebook!
Just in case though, I do owe you guys all the praise in the world. Writers aren't writers without people who read and you guys have been pretty awesome about reviewing too. I appreciate it, I really do, and I wish I was so much better about taking the time to reply. I know I promised I would last time, and I haven't. Which makes me suck, in some ways. But to those of you who have reviewed, ESPECIALLY those that reviewed every chapter, I'm in your debt. Really. The fact that you guys take the time to leave a note, whether it's all sunshine and ponies or pointing out some of the flaws, I treasure them. So thank you. Very very much.