These characters are very much not mine, but they're doing a wonderful job of getting me out of my writer's block funk, so I love them for it.

"How many is that?" Nathan asks from three inches to Audrey's left.

He sounds three miles away, thanks to the blood rushing in her ears. She shakes her head, slowly, attempts to focus on the mess in front of them on the carpet. She can't remember when they started drinking, only that they did. A lot.

She counts off using her fingers, thinks she's counted correctly. "Seven," she says. His eyebrows scrunch together in what can only be described as an adorable expression. "Eight?" she asks. "Nine?"

"Nine sounds right."

She picks up the mostly empty bottle of bourbon and swirls the amber liquid around, creates a cyclone effect within the glass. It was full when they started – she checks her watch – three hours ago.

"I think this might have been a bad idea," she says.

He swings his head to the side to look at her, which closes the meager distance they had between them. She can feel his breath on her cheek, can feel the heat radiating off him, and the alcohol haze makes something in her chest feel tight and heavy.

"Parker?" he asks and his voice is a whisper, his lips fluttering against the patch of skin between her jaw and neck.

A very bad idea, indeed.

Duke hands her the bottle with a half smirk. "A gift," he says.

She frowns. "You know I can't accept that."

He shrugs. "Think of it as a belated birthday present," he says. The bottle hits the bar with a dull thud. "Whatever it takes for you to walk out of here with it."

She reads the label. Kentucky bourbon has been, and always will be, her weakness. "You don't often make it a habit of sharing your wares," she says.

Another noncommittal shrug. "A little birdie told me you'd had a bad day. I figured a fifth of this would at least numb the pain for a little while."

Audrey narrows her eyes. "Dave or Vince?" she asks.

"Does Vince strike you as a 'little' birdie?" he asks, grinning. He nudges the bottle towards her. "Take it. Go find Nathan. Drink away your bad day."

It seems like an incredibly good idea.

At the time.

His lips haven't left her skin. They haven't moved – he hasn't moved – but they're still there.

"Nathan," she says, ashamed of how his name sounds like a moan when she says it. It's been two years and three months since the last time she was this close to a man who wasn't a suspect and there's a tight coil of anticipation growing in her stomach.

His mouth opens, soft against her jaw, and she holds her breath.


It's an affirmative, a question, and a statement all wrapped up into one word.

It's also her undoing.

She takes a deep breath, squares her shoulders, and raises her hand to knock on the door before her. Her knuckle hits the wood with three sharp raps and she waits.

Nathan opens the door just as she raises her hand to knock once again. "Parker," he says, the corners of his mouth lifted up in an infuriating smirk. "Long time no see." He leans a shoulder against the doorframe, watches her with inquisitive eyes.

She holds up the bottle. "A gift from our favorite local criminal." He stands up straight, takes the bottle from her. "He thought we might appreciate a little mind-numbing."

"Vince or Dave?" he asks, standing aside so she can step into the bungalow.

"Dave." She takes her coat off and hangs it on a peg behind the door. A peg which has been consistently empty since Nathan started inviting her over for dinner on occasion. She hides a smile in her scarf. "Word spreads fast in this town."

"Especially if Dave Teague knows anything about it." He disappears into the kitchen with the bottle and reappears with two glasses. "How's your arm?"

As if reminded by his question, the ten stitches in her forearm twinge. She bites her lip, shrugs. "It's a little sore, but nothing terrible."

They sit on the oversized couch, Nathan's leg stretched out in front of him and Audrey's pulled up under her. The bourbon is warm, amber perfection after a long, hard day.

The first glass cuts the chill in their bones.

By the third, Audrey's arm feels perfectly fine.

By the seventh, she's decided the only thing keeping her from crawling into Nathan's lap is a decided lack of coordination.

She turns her head slowly, not just because she's intoxicated and her brain feels muddy but also because she's afraid fast movements will scare him off. The motion moves his lips from her skin and when she's finally facing him, he's so close she can feel the scruff along his jaw.

"This is a bad idea," she whispers. She hopes that if she says it enough, they'll both start to believe it.

He leans forward, kisses her cheek, just below her eye. "Don't care." His lips brush against her temple, sweep down her nose, and pause at the corner of her mouth. "Do you?" he asks.

She doesn't answer him, just turns her head a fraction of an inch to the left. He tastes better than she'd ever imagined.

Then again, she'd kind of always suspected he would.