Not This Time

Part One

For what seemed like the millionth time in several months, Lee Stetson stared into Amanda King's eyes and immediately felt his heart beat more quickly. As if drawn by some invisible force that he had no control over, he dipped his head and leaned toward her. He was close enough to feel her warm, rapid breath against his cheek and for a moment he allowed himself to believe that it was finally going to happen, that after months of unbearable tension and interrupted near miss kisses between them, he would finally get to kiss Amanda. Just as their lips were about to touch, there was a sudden bang from the corridor and they jumped apart. Frustrated, and fed up with waiting, Lee made a split second decision and strode purposefully to the door.

He clicked the lock into place and stared back at Amanda, shaking his head slightly. "No. Not this time," he said softly, his eyes still locked on hers as he stepped toward her.

He heard her breathe in sharply, as she looked back at him with a mixture of anticipation and nervousness. Not wanting to wait any longer, Lee closed the distance between them in two long strides. He looked down at her hands, taking them in his before shifting his gaze up to meet hers. They stared at each other for a beat, both completely silent as they soaked in the moment. The electricity in the air was palpable and Lee knew he'd made the right decision. No more waiting. No more near misses. This was it. This was their time.

Amanda moved first, smoothing her hands up and over the lapels and shoulders of his jacket. It was a motion she'd performed many times before, but this time it was different, more intimate, more possessive. Unable to stop himself, Lee smiled and Amanda's responding grin was instantaneous and bright. God he loved that smile, he thought as he leaned in with purpose. Amanda met him part way and finally their lips were touching.

The first brush of her lips against his was light, tender and brief. Thankfully, before he could even begin to protest the brevity of the kiss, they were kissing again. It was more intense this time, more deliberate. Lee wrapped his arms around Amanda, the way he'd been dying to for months, and pulled her close as he deepened the kiss. She responded instantly, emitting a slight sigh and parting her lips. Lee ran his tongue over her bottom lip and gently prodded her mouth open wide enough for him to explore.

They stumbled backward so that Amanda was pressed against the edge of the desk while Lee kissed her until not breathing was no longer an option. They broke contact only slightly, their foreheads still touching as they caught their breath. Lee felt like his body was on fire. It was as though everything he'd been feeling in the past few months had burst to the surface at once and now it was threatening to consume him. Amanda interrupted his thoughts with another deep kiss and Lee quickly found himself kissing her back, again, and again, and again until they were both flushed and panting.

They stood in the center of the Q-Bureau, still entwined in each other's arms while they each fought for composure. She grinned at him and Lee couldn't resist giving her a quick peck on the nose.

"Hi," he said sheepishly, returning her grin.

"Hello."

"Hi." The absurdity of their words suddenly struck Lee as funny and he leaned his head back, laughing heartily. He felt Amanda's chest move against his as she joined him.

Once their mirth had waned, Lee planted a kiss on Amanda's forehead and muttered, "Smooth, Stetson, smooth."

Amanda let out a sort of strangled giggle. "I admit, of all the things I expected you to say after all that, 'hi' was not on the list."

Lee winced. "Not my finest moment, I admit. My only defense is that my brain is a little frazzled right now."

"It was charming," Amanda insisted.

"Amanda…"

She laughed. "Okay, perhaps charming is too strong of a word. Maybe awkward would be better? Or —"

He swallowed her oncoming barrage of words with another deep kiss.

"Oh," she whispered, when they pulled apart a few minutes later. "Lee…" she trailed off, her eyes filled with emotions she didn't seem to be able to express in words.

"I know." He gently brushed hair from her eyes. "I was beginning to think this would never happen."

"Tell me about it," Amanda agreed wryly, "In fact, I'm still not convinced this isn't another dream."

Lee's eyes glinted. "IAnother/i dream?"

Blushing, Amanda looked down at her feet. "Well, ummm, yeah, there may have been one, or two."

"Only one or two?" Lee raised his eyebrows.

She bit her lip shyly and raised her gaze back to his. "Or several hundred…"

He laughed. "Now that's more like it." He gave her another quick kiss. "I'm pretty sure this is real, Amanda." He kissed her again. "You definitely don't feel like a dream."

After a third kiss, Amanda rested her head against his shoulder. "You feel rather real yourself," she claimed before falling silent.

Lee held her to him, stroking lazy lines up and down her back. Several minutes passed and finally Amanda pulled back until she could look up into his eyes. "So what now?" She asked softly.

Before Lee could answer the phone rang, causing them both to startle. Amanda extracted herself from his grasp and leaned across the desk, answering the phone on the fourth ring.

"Oh, hello sir." Her voice was remarkably even, but Lee could see that her hands were shaking. She seemed to sense him watching her and she turned away, but not before he caught the flush of her cheeks. Delighted by the effect he seemed to have on her, Lee smiled as he listened to her side of the conversation.

"… Thank you, sir, I'll tell him right away." She turned back toward him. "You have a nice weekend too, goodbye."

"Billy?" Lee asked as she returned the phone to the receiver.

"Yeah, he just wanted to let us know that he doesn't need the full report on Tony Martinet until Monday, so we're free to leave early if we like."

"Oh, really?"

"Yeah." She looked down, tracing her finger over a blemish on the wood.

Why was she acting so shy all of the sudden? Lee wondered. Was she regretting what had just happened between them? Concerned, Lee walked over to her and cupped her chin lightly, tilting her head toward his until he could see her eyes. "Amanda? Is everything okay?"

She smiled softly and nodded. "Everything is fine." She placed a hand on his chest. "Better than fine actually."

Lee frowned. "You don't seem fine."

She stood on her toes and brushed her lips tenderly over his. "I'm okay, Lee, really. Just a little embarassed…"

"Because of this?" Lee gestured between them.

Amanda shook her head. "Oh, no. It's not that Lee, it's just… well, it's silly."

"Try me."

Amanda studied him uncertainly for a moment, then nodded. "I was disappointed when Billy said we could have the afternoon off because it means I won't be spending the afternoon with you and I'm not ready for that."

Stunned, Lee starred at her open mouthed and then burst out laughing. "Amanda, who says an afternoon off means we can't be together? It just means we don't have to spend that time working."

Amanda blinked. "Oh, you mean…"

"Yes, I mean…" Lee kissed her quickly, trying hard not to laugh again. "Amanda King, you and I are going on a proper date this afternoon… that is, if you don't mind?"

She threw her arms around his neck and surprised him with a deep and passionate kiss. "Of course I don't mind Lee," she said when they broke apart. "I was beginning to think you'd never ask."

He slid his hand into hers and squeezed it. "Okay. Give me about twenty minutes to wrap things up here and then we'll head out."

"Where are we going?"

"You'll see." He winked at her, then picked up a file from his desk and pretended to study it. He had the perfect place in mind. He'd just need to make a few quick phone calls first.

#

Amanda watched Lee as he shifted his car into gear and pulled away from the Agency. He looked as happy as she felt and the thought made her smile. She settled back into her seat and wondered where he was taking her. Before they'd left the office she'd tried several times to pry their destination from him but, much to her frustration, he'd remained tight-lipped about it. She stared out the window, trying to determine their direction but Lee was weaving up and down streets the way he would if they were being tailed.

Alarmed, Amanda turned to look out the back, but there was no one behind them.

"Problem?" Lee asked.

"No. I was just wondering what the reason was for your diversionary tactics. I thought perhaps we were being followed."

Lee shook his head and smiled. "Nope, I'm just trying to keep you on your toes, Amanda. I don't want you to figure out where we're going just yet."

Amanda hit him playfully on the shoulder. "You're mean!"

They were stopped at a light and Lee caught her hand with his and brought it to his lips, his eyes meeting hers. "Not mean, Amanda, romantic."

"Oh," Amanda whispered, suddenly breathless from the heated look he was giving her. The silence of the car was deafening and all too soon the light turned green again and he released her hand, his focus on the road once again.

While Lee drove, Amanda let her mind wander back to what had happened in the Q-Bureau less than an hour before. A part of her was still having a hard time believing that their kisses had actually happened. She had dreamed of that moment more times than she could count yet the reality of it was far more wonderful that she'd ever imagined. Lee's kisses had been gentle yet filled with such heat it had left her winded. Never in her life had she felt so desired from a simple kiss. The way he'd been looking at her today sent shivers up and down her spine. It wasn't just today either, she'd sensed a change in the way he looked at her, especially when they were alone, for a while now. And, if truth be told, the way she looked at him had changed too.

She couldn't pinpoint exactly when things had shifted between them. It had happened gradually over the past year, somewhere between their near death adventures at work and the increasing time they'd been spending together outside of the office. She'd always liked Lee, even in the beginning when he was completely pig headed most of the time and clearly hadn't wanted her around. But even then she'd known there was more to him - something that kept him from getting too close to people. Over time she'd managed to penetrate the walls he'd built up and the more she saw of the real Lee, the more she wanted to know. There was a small part of her that wanted to mother him, to take care of him, because he'd clearly never had that before. But more than that, she just wanted to be with him. Every moment they spent apart had become increasingly more difficult and she was happiest when she was in his presence. She'd been avoiding her feelings for months and she realized now that she couldn't escape them. Despite her best judgment and her desire to remain professional, she cared about him, had in fact cared about him as more than just a partner for a very long time. In fact, if she were to be completely honest with herself, and, given the events in the office earlier, she probably should, she was falling for Lee Stetson.

"Amanda?" Lee's voice jolted her out of her reverie and she looked up to see that they had stopped in a small parking lot alongside a forest.

"Where are we?"

"Rock Creek Park."

Amanda peered out the window. She recognized it immediately as being the south end of the park. "I thought you didn't like nature."

Lee laughed as he extracted himself from the car and walked around to open her door for her. "I don't, really, but I know how much you love it, so I thought we could maybe take a walk, talk a little…" He trailed off, shuffling his feet adorably as he offered his hand to help her out of the car.

As her fingers slid into his hand, the electricity returned and Amanda shuddered. Things had definitely shifted between them today. Lee seemed to sense it too and his eyes locked on hers. They were dark and deep and filled with unspoken meaning that made her want to melt. Free from the confines of the car, Amanda stood on her toes and kissed his cheek tenderly.

"What was that for?" Lee asked, bemused, his fingers touching the spot where her lips had been.

"For thinking of me in your choice. For stepping outside of your comfort zone to bring me to this beautiful place." She gestured to the park beside them. There was a trail cut through an arbour of blossom laden trees creating a sort of tunnel effect that enchanted her. She couldn't think of a more perfect setting for their first date. "It's perfect." Her voice was softer now and she stood directly in front of him as she again rose onto the balls of her feet, this time to kiss him gently on the lips.

He responded immediately, wrapping his arms around her and holding her close as he deepened the kiss. Somewhere in the back of her mind she registered the sound of a car door slamming and felt the cool metal of his car against her back. Amanda parted her lips invitingly and Lee answered with the tantalizing brush of his tongue along her gumline. He began to explore her with his tongue and she shivered involuntarily as his tongue slid over her inner cheeks, explored her teeth and entwined with her own. She responded in kind, exploring his mouth with aplomb, making note of what made him moan, or shudder.

They heard voices and they quickly jumped apart as a family emerged from the bushes and headed to their car. Amanda laughed nervously. "I guess that's become a bit of a habit," she joked, thinking of the countless times in the past few months that they'd nearly kissed only to be interrupted and forced to jump apart the way they had just then.

Lee smiled, the far away look on his face indicating that he was thinking the same thing. "Oh, it has. But at least that time we actually made it to the kissing first."

The both laughed and Amanda felt some of the tension ease from her shoulders. "I could get used to that," she whispered when they'd settled.

Grinning, Lee kissed her nose, and slipped his right hand firmly into hers, entwining their fingers. "Me too Amanda, me too." Then, with a gentle tug, he guided her toward the path. "Come, lets go for that walk."

#

Lee sighed contentedly as they walked through the park hand in hand. He was glad he'd decided to bring her here. She was clearly in her element, and he was finding it hard to resist kissing her again as she prattled on adorably about plant species and blooming cycles. He let his gaze pass over her, and he let himself savour the moment, taking in every detail - the brightness of her eyes, the pink flush of her cheeks, the way she smiled as she educated him on the difference between coniferous trees and evergreens, the way the wind blew her hair across her cheek.

She released his hand for a moment so she could pick a wild flower and Lee missed the contact immediately. It had only been a few hours since he'd finally given in to his feelings for Amanda and already he was becoming enormously attached. It scared him and for a brief second a tiny part of him contemplated running but then Amanda slipped her had back into his and it felt more right than anything else in the world and he knew, without a doubt that his bachelor days were over for good. He had changed, largely because of Amanda, and he was no longer the man who needed four little black books to keep track of everything. In fact, he hadn't been that man for quite some time now.

When they reached the Boulder Bridge Amanda stopped. She squeezed his hand and looked up at him questioningly. "Lee? Is everything all right?"

Looking down at her uncertain expression, Lee felt any remaining doubts flee. She was the most beautiful creature in the world to him as she stood there silently, her bottom lip pulled between her teeth, her hair glistening from the reflection of the sun on the stream behind her.

"Lee?"

Realizing he hadn't answered her yet, Lee placed both of his hands on her cheeks. "Everything is fine, Amanda," he whispered, dipping his head until his lips met hers. This time he kissed her tenderly, infusing his movements with the emotions he couldn't yet express in words. She sighed against him, her arms wrapping around him and holding him close. Lee lost himself in the kiss, his awareness of everything else fading as he gave himself over to his passion. His hands were on her back now, dancing lightly up and down her spine as he gently trailed kisses up along her jawline.

"You're beautiful," he breathed into her ear, planting a kiss on the tip of her earlobe. Her answering shudder made him smile against her check as he kissed his way back down, lingering against her lips for just a moment too long before stringing another trail of kisses up to her other ear. This time he whispered her name and nipped at her ear before returning to her mouth and kissing her deep and hard. She moaned against him causing him to hold her tighter, kiss her more deeply. They remained that way for what seemed like hours, finally surfacing when the heat of the sun became unbearable.

After hugging her firmly, Lee reluctantly stepped away, leaning on the edge of the stone bridge and looking out at the stream and forest surrounding it. This really was a lovely little park, he realized.

He sensed Amanda behind him and was not surprised when he felt a gentle touch on his shoulder. She glided her hand down his arm until her palm met his and their fingers were entwined once again. She brought their joined hands to her lips, kissing his knuckles softly before resting their hands along the edge of the bridge as she matched his stance.

"Breathtaking, isn't it?" she asked quietly after they'd stood in companionable silence for a long time.

Lee met her gaze. "The view or our kisses?"

Amanda blushed, turning away to look back out at the stream. "Both," she murmured, and Lee was charmed by the small smile that pursed her lips.

"Well, I know that emmy/em view is definitely breathtaking," he teased, looking her up and down suggestively.

"Lee!" Amanda squealed, looking suddenly uncomfortable.

Concerned, Lee reached for her other hand and turned her to face him.

"Amanda? What's wrong?"

She turned her head, and her refusal to meet his gaze was worrying

"Amanda? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she whispered, "It's just…"

Lee released one of her hands so he could cup her chin and gently turn her to face him. "It's okay, Amanda, you can tell me."

Her cheeks were rosy as she slowly looked up at him. "It's just that I'm not used to being the center of attention. Joe was usually so busy with his own stuff, he never really looked at me - at least, not the way you do - " She blushed. "- And now with the boys and mother and work, it just seems like I'm always so busy looking after everyone that I don't even have time to stop and breathe some days. And right now I feel… Why are you looking at me that way?"

"Because sometimes, Amanda, you are the most adorable creature on the planet." Lee pulled her into his arms again and hugged her tightly. "It's time you emwere/em the centre of attention. You're beautiful Amanda, inside and out and I'm the luckiest guy in the world right now because I get to spend time with you." He kissed her. "Get used to the attention, because I intend to shower you with it."

"Oh Lee, you don't have to —"

He placed a finger over her lips to silence her. "Yes, I do. You said it yourself, you're always so busy looking after everyone else. Well, I think it's time someone looked after you sometimes, for a change."

"But—"

"No Amanda, this isn't negotiable."

She opened her mouth as if to protest again but quickly closed it, studying him carefully. "So, what you're saying is that emyou/em want to take care of me?"

It was Lee's turn to blush. "It sounds a bit strange when you put it that way, but essentially yes. - if you'll let me."

Amanda bit her lip thoughtfully. "So, does this mean we're dating?"

Lee laughed. "Well, this is a date isn't it?"

Amanda rolled her eyes. "Well, yes, this is, but I'm talking about the bigger picture. You know, after today."

Lee gaped at her. "Did you think this was a one time thing?"

"I wasn't sure." Amanda said hesitantly. "You tend to date women for a little while and then they're just… gone."

Lee shook his head. "Amanda, listen to me. Those women are in my past, I'm not like that anymore. You're special and you mean so much more to me than that."

"I do?" Her voice was barely a whisper.

"Of course you do." He kissed her deeply, trying to show her just how much he cared for her. "Amanda, I admit I've been fighting this for a while now, but I don't want to fight it anymore. I care about you, I want to be with you, and yes, I want to date you."

She was about to speak again, but he cut her off quickly. "And just so there's no confusion, by that, I mean I want a relationship with you. I'm not going anywhere, Amanda."

Amanda stared at him for a long time before responding. Lee watched her carefully as she seemed to weigh his words over in her mind, and he held his breath, hoping he hadn't blown it by coming on too strong. Finally, Amanda stepped back into his embrace and tipped her face up to his, her fingers running over his jawline. "I want that too, Lee. So badly." Her lips were hovering right over his when she spoke her next words. "I'm just worried you'll break my heart."

"And I'm worried you'll break mine," Lee admitted, "But I think it's worth the risk, don't you?" At Amanda's nod, Lee closed the distance between them and this time when he kissed her he didn't hold back.

TBC