Rules of Engagement
Pen name: bookjunkie1975
Summary: Emmett thinks that what he and Leah have is enough. Until it's not.
AN: Thanks to the women who help me find the words: javamomma0921, jstshirin, Word Ninja and swimom7.
Emmett stares at the dark haired woman sitting at the corner table. Her shoulders are hunched inward and her head is tilted down as she listens to the couple sitting across from her. It's early on a Thursday night and the bar isn't too busy yet, but Emmett isn't nearly close enough to hear any of the words being exchanged. Still, his brow furrows in concern as he watches the normally self-assured woman turning in on herself.
Emmett knows this woman. He knows how she holds herself tightly, almost arrogantly, when approached by a stranger. He knows how her voice flashes with cold disdain when she deals with incompetence. He knows that she likes three ice cubes in her Greyhound, no more, no less, and that the vodka better be cold or there'll be hell to pay. Emmett knows how her dark eyes can pin a person in place and sear right down to the marrow, taking a man's measure in an instant. And he knows how her body moves over his, the feel of her nails digging into his skin and the sound of her breath hitching when his tongue finds the smooth patch of skin just behind her ear. Emmett knows how her eyes widen just before she comes; how her teeth dig into her lip and her body tightens, freezing in place, as if she's experiencing one pure moment in time before her whole body bows and she throws her head back and squeezes her eyes shut and just feels.
After six months of serving her drinks and another four months of fucking her, Emmett is quite sure that he knows Leah Clearwater but watching her now, hands clenched and lips pressed together, Emmett realizes he's seeing a side of Leah he never knew existed. He doesn't like it. Eyes narrowed, he takes in the couple sitting across from her. The man has one arm slung casually across the woman's shoulders and as Emmett watches, his hand moves to rest lightly on the soft curve of the woman's stomach. Leah flinches and that's enough for Emmett.
"Watch the bar," he barks out as he heads determinedly towards the trio. He's a little apprehensive as he approaches the table. Leah has rules, after all, and he's not sure where exactly this unexpected and near overwhelming need to protect falls in regards to their relationship. When they first started fucking - because what they do together could never be regarded as anything more than that - Leah had very clearly outlined her expectations. She has three rules. There are no dates. There are no pet names or terms of endearment. And there is no one else. Should either of them decide they want more they are free to leave, no harm, no foul. Emmett suspects that what he's about to do may very well put him on the wrong side of Leah's rules but he can't seem to help himself.
The chair scrapes noisily against the floor as Emmett pulls it back from the table and sits.
"Clearwater," he nods to Leah before crossing his arms in front of his chest and leaning back in the chair.
Emmett watches with satisfaction as Leah's posture shifts. Her shoulders draw back and her chin tilts up as she exhales. Her eyes glint dangerously and Emmett relaxes. This is the woman he knows. He grins easily at the couple across from him. The man sends Emmett a hard glare but the woman just looks at him curiously.
A heavy silence encompasses the table. Leah makes no move to introduce her companions and they seem unwilling to resume their conversation in front of him. The man's glare is becoming openly hostile and Emmett figures he'd better take pity on them.
"Emmett McCarty," he says as he stretches his hand lazily across the table, grinning wider when his hand is squeezed with just a bit too much pressure.
"It's nice to meet you Emmett," the woman says softly as she takes her turn, pressing her own hand lightly into his. "I'm Leah's cousin, Emily, and this is my husband Sam."
"And you're a friend of Leah's?" she peers intently at Emmett, and oh, Emmett knows that look.
"I'm Leah's…" Emmett's mind works to find the proper description…friend, boyfriend, lover…none seem to work.
"You're Leah's?" And that fits.
Emmett leans back and nods.
"That's about right." Emmett sees the corner of Leah's mouth twitch and he wonders which way this is going to turn but then he feels the backs of her fingers brush lightly against his thigh and he knows he's safe.
Emily is still staring at him. It's easy to see that the two women are related. They share the same sharp, black eyes and high cheek bones; Emily's features are just a little more pointed, her face slightly more angular. She's not pretty, exactly. But then she seems to finish her silent assessment of Emmett and she smiles. That smile lights up her whole face and she's extraordinary. Emmett finds himself wondering what he would need to do to get Leah to smile like that, whole and open and unguarded. Something in his chest constricts at the thought and Emmett suddenly has a new goal in life.
"That's good." Emily is saying. "That's very good." She pushes away from the table and stands. Sam moves quickly to her side but she steps out and away to stand in front of Leah.
Leah rises, her gaze drifting slowly to Emily's rounded belly. Her mouth twists into a hard line but her eyes are soft.
"We should be going." Emily says. "Please think about what I said, LeeLee." She reaches out a hand and squeezes Leah's arm. The two women stand locked in place while Sam shifts uncomfortably and Emmett watches. Then Sam is pulling Emily away and heading towards the door.
Emmett stands next to Leah, his hand rubbing slow circles along the hollow of her back. Emmett doesn't know the how, what, when or why of this situation but he can guess. He's familiar with the sharp edge of guilt and betrayal that these two women wear. He hopes Leah will want to share this with him, but he won't push. A man has to pick his battles and he has something more important to fight for tonight. It's time for a re-negotiation of Leah's rules. And Emmett does not intend to back down.
Leah watches the couple walk away and Emmett decides to press his luck. He slides his hand along her back and down to rest at her hip, pulling her in to his side. Leah sighs and leans into him, relaxing her body against his. One arm wraps around his waist and the other drops to her side where she laces her fingers with his.
Emmett wonders if he looks as stunned as he feels. He knows this woman too, but he's not used to seeing her without the flush of afterglow brightening her skin. He takes advantage of the moment and wraps his other arm around her. Leah turns into him, pressing her cheek to his chest. She inhales deeply, closes her eyes and says his name. Just his name. Emmett. And Emmett wonders if maybe they've been bending her rules all along, because doesn't his name, breathed out through her lips, twist every part of him up so tightly he can barely breathe? No "sweetie" or "dear" or "love" has ever done that to him.
Leah sighs and steps away, pulling herself up tall and straight and proud. She has her armor back on and her mask in place, but her hand is still linked with his and her thumb is rubbing gently back and forth across his skin.
"I have to go back in to work," she says. "One of the senior partners put me on a new case and I have a lot to catch up on. I'll be there late."
"Want me to pick you up?"
"No. I don't know how late I'll be and you have to close the bar. I'll just see you later."
"I can get someone else to close up. Leah if you need me…"
They are standing face to face now and Emmett doesn't miss the way Leah's breath hitches and her eyes widen. Leah is a master at subtext and Emmett has no doubt that she understands. She tilts her head and raises a hand to cup his cheek tenderly.
"You know, I'm starting to think that I do." The words are spoken so quietly that Emmett has to strain to hear over the steadily escalating noise of the bar, and at first he's not even sure he hears her correctly. As his brain struggles to process her words, Leah pulls her hand away and turns to leave. "I'll see you later," she tosses back over her shoulder before slipping into the crowd.
"I'll bring breakfast," Emmett calls after her.
Leah stops and turns to face Emmett. She stares at him thoughtfully for a moment as bodies move back and forth between them.
"It's a date," she shouts. And then she smiles. It's not wide and open and easy like her cousin's. But it's there and it's a start and in that moment it's the most beautiful thing Emmett has ever seen. His own smile feels wide enough to split his face. Emmett can't stop the electric surge that jolts through his body with a wild force. He watches Leah as she threads through the crowd to the door. It seems that negotiations are open and Emmett is going to enjoy re-writing the rules — all but the last one. Because, for Emmett, there is no one else. Just Leah. And Emmett thinks that just might be enough.