***Disclaimer*** Scarecrow and Mrs. King is copyrighted to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Production Company. Some dialogue and situations may have been borrowed from various episodes. The story is copyrighted to the author. This story is for entertainment purposes only and cannot be redistributed without the permission of the author.
Title: An Open Heart
Date: July-September 2000
Synopsis: Ever wonder about Amanda's heart pendant? Also contains an alternate ending for the episode "Dead Men Leave No Trails".
Author's Note: I was truly overwhelmed by the positive response I received from my first story, "More Than Friends". Thank you so much, everyone! I know some people may not agree with my thoughts on this story, but this is how I'd like to see it. Also, originally, this story was supposed to end with Part 1, but seemed to expand into a larger story.
An Open Heart
Lee Stetson was doing one of his least favorite things, shopping for clothes. But, when they kept being ruined while catching the bad guys, he supposed that he had no choice but to replace them. Well at least he received a generous clothing allowance from the agency, and that made it a little less painful.
Suddenly, as he passed a jewelry store, something in the window caught his eye. It was a diamond and platinum pendant in the shape of an open heart, hanging from a matching platinum chain. For some reason, it reminded him of Amanda. But then again, a lot of things reminded him of Amanda lately. It didn't take much to get his thoughts pointed in that direction. The shining platinum reminded him of her face when she smiled. The sparkling diamonds called to mind how her eyes sparkled when that happened – it was as though her whole face lit up. The fact that it was a heart made him admit how close she was to his heart, while the open shape called to mind how open and honest she was, not just with him, but with everyone. At that moment, he decided that the rest of his shopping could wait. In that instant, he decided that he had to go in and buy it. He didn't know when he'd be able to give it to her, but he'd find the right time somehow.
Later that evening, back at his apartment, he was looking at his purchase, and thinking about their last case together. He had been pretending to be a burnt out agent in order to infiltrate an organization that had been luring burn outs from the agency, getting what information they could from them, and then killing them. It had to be stopped and both he and Billy had thought he was just the person to do it. Everyone at the Agency had fallen for his act, everyone that is but Amanda. She simply could not believe that Lee had hit the skids. She was doing her best to cover for him. Making suggestions to him that she thought would help, like taking some vacation time off to regroup. It was really touching, how concerned she was for him. He almost told her the truth, but knew that this information could put her in danger. She was very probably the worst liar he had ever met. If suddenly, she showed no concern for his state of deterioration, it would look suspicious.
When she followed him to Nedlinger's to encourage him to come back to work, he had been playing the part of a man who had had too much to drink, and as he patted her face to emphasize his words, the last pat had come out as a slap. It was certainly not what he had intended, but her look, which showed him her feelings of hurt and betrayal had pierced his heart. He then told her to stay away from him, that he was trouble. As she left, telling him that she was all right, he wanted to really get drunk. How could he do that to her! How could he allow her to think that he cared so little for her or their friendship. She may have said she was all right, but the dead expression in her eyes had told him otherwise.
After Harris had come after her, the truth had finally come out, and he didn't have to tell her that it was all a cover, she had guessed it on her own. Instantly, the trust and caring he thought he had lost forever had returned to her eyes, but he still couldn't forgive himself. Even though he had apologized, really apologized, and she had accepted, he still wanted to do something to make it up to her.
Later, during the same case, when he had to pretend to shoot her, he had never been so scared in his life. He knew he was a crack shot, but what if this one time he missed? What if Harris and his boss had checked on her and discovered she was alive? It had all turned out fine, and Amanda had enlisted the aid of a trucker to help catch Harris and Brackin, which in fact wound up saving his life. She received a commendation from the President, and when she held up her sweater to him, poking her finger through the bullet hole, he couldn't help but reach out to her hand and kiss her finger. He knew she wouldn't be able to bring her commendation home, since her family had no idea what she did for a living. Maybe he could use this as an excuse to give her the pendant, to give her something that she could wear around them as a reminder of the case, and his gratitude. Besides, he realized, her birthday was next week, and that would give him an extra reason to give her something without it looking suspicious.
The more he thought about it, the more he liked this idea. He got out paper and pen, and started writing a note he could give her along with the necklace, to explain the gift. After several drafts, this was what he finally came up with:
Happy Birthday! Please accept this as a "heartfelt" token of my thanks. I know you couldn't bring your presidential commendation home, so I wanted you to have something as a reminder of our last case.
Only a heart as open as your would have "stuck by me" while everyone else thought I was a burn out – especially when I tried so hard to convince you. I respect and admire your bravery in the face of almost being shot, and your presence of mind that saved my life – yet again.
He read over his efforts, and decided that this might just work. He wanted to give her the pendant, but he didn't want her to think anything of it, other than friendship, or perhaps that he was still feeling guilty about the close call they had had. He was still studiously trying to hide his feelings from her, still dating other women, and still convinced that if he made his true feelings known to her, he would somehow ruin everything.
Amanda's birthday arrived a week later. She took the day off, and spent it shopping and having lunch with her mother. Later, they had a quiet evening around the house, complete with home cooked dinner, birthday cake, and the boys actually volunteering to do all the clean up. She smiled as she thought how lucky she was. Not everyone had such a caring and loving family. It had been a perfect day, she thought, as she stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. Well, almost perfect. She missed Lee. She knew that she would probably see him tomorrow at work, but it would have been nice to see him today.
Just them, she heard a whisper coming from the gazebo. "Psst…. Amanda," called a familiar voice. She smiled as she realized that she'd get her wish; that she would get to see Lee too, making her day perfect. She quickly walked over to the gazebo, smiling as she saw him lurking in the shadows.
"Hi there!" she said.
"Hi. I didn't see you at work today. Are either of the boys sick?" He knew that this was one of the few reasons she would miss work.
"No," she explained. "I just wanted to take a day off, spend some time with Mother. Thanks for asking though." For some reason, she didn't want to admit to him that it was her birthday. She knew he started to get uncomfortable when she got too personal. "What brings you by?"
"Well, I just happen to know that it's a certain someone's birthday today." She looked surprised that he knew about it. "I didn't want to let the day go by without wishing you a Happy Birthday."
"Thank you Lee. That was very considerate of you." She was surprised that he even knew it was her birthday, much less making a point of coming to wish her a happy one.
"Well, I was sort of in the neighborhood," 'What a lie,' he thought to himself. 'I've been hanging around half an hour, hoping she'd come outside.' "and was wondering if you'd like to go for a drive?" He wasn't sure this was such a good idea, but he had his gift ready, and he didn't want to be interrupted by anyone inside, which would force him to sneak away, maybe before she even opened it.
"Sure," she said. This day was just getting better and better. "Let me just go inside to grab a sweater, tell the boys goodnight, and make some excuse to Mother."
"OK," he said. "I'll just be waiting by the car down the street in case she peeks out while you're leaving."
Lee waited outside impatiently, as she did all of the things she had mentioned. He was very nervous, and was anxiously hoping that she wouldn't take his gift the wrong way. 'What wrong way,' an inner voice told him. 'Either she'll believe that bogus note you wrote, and take it as a sign of your friendship and gratitude, or she'll see through it all and understand how you really feel.' This latter possibility did in fact terrify him.
Soon he saw her quickly come down the front walkway and turn toward his car. He opened the door for her, and helped her in. As he did, he caught the scent of her perfume, and he was scared once again that he would somehow let his feelings for her show. As he circled around, he chided himself for being so nervous. 'Everything will be fine.' he told himself.
As they pulled away from the curb, he asked her what kind of story she had told her mother.
"Oh, I just told her that it was a beautiful evening, and that I wanted to go for a long walk. She even admitted to me that she liked to look at birthdays as sort of a "New Year", a good time to take stock and make resolutions. I decided not let her think I didn't need some time to be alone and think things out. She won't be expecting me anytime soon."
"Good," Lee said. There was a beautiful walkway in the park where he wanted to bring her for some privacy, where neither one of them would feel threatened. He had briefly thought about bringing her back to his apartment, but thought she might take it the wrong way.
Amanda was excited that she was actually out with Lee. No, it wasn't like it was a real date or anything, but he had wanted to see her, and wanted to spend some time with her, not on a stake out, not at work, just the two of them alone together. She had caught herself more than once lately daydreaming about him, and she truly hoped that she wasn't giving away her feelings to him, where he would get scared and run away from her.
Soon they arrived at the park. "Let's walk," he said. "Or are you too cold?"
"No, it's a beautiful night."
Walking along the pathway, they came upon a bench that looked as if it was just waiting for them. As they settled down upon it, Lee cleared his throat, and Amanda thought he somehow looked nervous.
"Here Amanda," he finally got up the nerve to look her in the eyes. "This is for you. Happy Birthday." He handed her a small box and a card that he had been keeping inside his jacket pocket.
Amanda looked up at him surprised. "For me?" she said. "Lee, you didn't have to get me anything."
"I know, I just wanted to. Open the card first, OK?"
"Of course I'll open the card first," she said. As she opened the envelope, she saw a very nice, but generic sort of birthday card. Then as she opened it, she spotted the note that Lee had written. He admired her? He was giving her a gift as a sort of thank you. She certainly didn't need that. He had expressed his gratitude over the case earlier. That was all the thanks she ever needed. "Lee, that's very sweet, but you don't need to thank me again," she said as she started opening the box.
She looked up at him again, and couldn't imagine what was making him so nervous. Then as she opened the box, she knew. It was an exquisite platinum and diamond pendant, shaped like a heart and hanging on a matching platinum chain. She was stunned. What she saw before her, and the written explanation she had received for it, really didn't go together. From his note, she was expecting a token, a memento. This gorgeous piece of jewelry she held before her was a symbol of love, something that would be given only by a person with very deep feelings, usually by someone in a very committed relationship. She knew that she had strong feelings for him, perhaps even love, but she just knew that she couldn't mean that much to him. Who did she think she was kidding. Maybe she loved him? She had been in love with him for a long time, but refused to admit it, most of the time, even to herself. She knew she wouldn't be ready to admit to those feelings unless she was sure that he was interested in her too. Of course, when his Uncle had recently been in town, it had been she that he had asked to go to dinner, not one of those flighty looking girls he usually dated. Apparently, he thought she would make a good impression with the Colonel.
She didn't know how long she sat there in stunned silence looking at his gift. So many thoughts were going through her mind. What if he did have feelings for her, but was afraid to admit them. That couldn't be it. If he felt this way, he surely would have asked her out by now. And yet, the necklace spoke for itself. Maybe, just maybe, that was it. Maybe he wanted her to have this, because he cared, but didn't want to have to verbally admit it to her. Maybe he thought the note would be enough to redirect her thoughts about why he was giving it to her. Still, she wasn't completely comfortable accepting something so beautiful, so valuable, if it was only meant as a token. No, not just a token. Anything that came from him would have more meaning to her than that.
Finally, she looked up at his face, into his eyes. He had been holding his breath, waiting for some reaction from her. As she stared into his eyes, she saw fright and confusion in his expression, quickly covered up as he lowered his gaze and cleared his throat.
He was frightened. He suddenly realized what a risk he was taking by giving her such a gift. Would she even accept it? Amanda was not the type of woman who would take whatever she could get from someone, not the type who would take advantage of someone's feelings. He felt a lump in his throat as he struggled to find something, anything, to say. Maybe this had all been a horrible mistake.
But in the next moment it was Amanda who broke the silence.
"Lee, this is beautiful. I love it." She reached over and gave him a very platonic kiss on the cheek. "But," she continued "I can't possibly accept something so expensive. It wouldn't be right." She felt saddened as she made this statement. She didn't feel right about accepting such a beautiful and costly gift, but the fact that Lee had given it to her made her want to hold onto it for the rest of her life.
Lee gazed at her and realized that she wasn't expecting anything from him, beyond their friendship and close working partnership. She didn't want to do anything to endanger that either. Suddenly, he made up his mind, and thought of another way to make her keep it.
"No," Lee said firmly, clasping her hands. "I want you to have this. You know all those times you've saved my life? Well consider this a bonus. If you'd gotten a bonus check from the agency, I know you Amanda King, I know you would have either bought something practical, or something for the boys. Well, every now and then you deserve something just for you, and this is it. Please don't refuse it."
Amanda thought his eyes were saying, 'Please don't refuse me.' Her heart was touched by his words, and the feelings she thought were behind them. "Well," she said, "when you put it that way, I'd have to be an ingrate to turn it down. Thank you Lee. I'll treasure it always."
"Here, let me put it on you." As he undid the chain, she turned her back to him and let him slip it around her neck. While fastening the clasp, his fingers brushed the nape of her neck, and she reveled in that touch. He fastened it, then told her, "OK, let's have a look."
He couldn't help but smile as she turned around and he saw the pendant glittering at the base of her neck. "There, it looks perfect on you." He was thrilled that things had turned out so well, and that she was here with him, having accepted his gift.
Amanda smiled broadly at him, knowing that what she thought was a perfect day before had paled significantly compared to how she was feeling right now. She wanted to stay there in his gaze forever, but an unseasonably cool breeze made her suddenly shiver, and he hustled her off to the car to take her home.
Lee helped her out of the car down the street from her house and walked her to her back door, guiding her with his hand on the small of her back. Even that slightest of touches thrilled both of them. When they got to the door, she turned toward him, and surprised him with a hug. "Thank you again Lee. You helped make this a perfect day." He was startled, but before he could say or do anything, she had ended the hug, opened the door, and closed it behind her with a slight wave through the windowpane. He left feeling slightly disappointed. When he felt her slim body against his as she hugged him, he knew that in his heart, he wanted more than just friendship with her, knew that he longed to reach down and kiss her, just as he had at their fake wedding in San Angelo. Maybe he could risk it. Maybe, for the chance to be with Amanda, he could leave all his old ghosts behind him and start over. He knew that a relationship with her would be like no other he had ever had before.
Amanda tried to sneak up the stairs to her bedroom, but her mother, who was in the living room reading, heard her steps.
"Amanda darling, is that you?"
"Would you like me to fix you a nice cup of tea? You've been gone for quite awhile."
"No, Mother. It was a lovely day. I'd just like to go upstairs and get ready for bed now."
She knew that she wasn't ready to speak to anyone just yet, and she didn't dare let her mother see the heart shaped pendant she now wore. There would be too many questions that she simply couldn't answer. 'I don't even know the answers to those questions myself,' she thought. As she reached the safety of her bedroom, she gazed at her reflection in the mirror. The pendant shone in the light, and she reached up and touched it. 'Lee's heart' she thought to herself. She readied herself for bed, happier than she had been in ages and fell asleep to pleasant dreams of the man she loved, the man who also held her heart in his hands, whether he knew it or not.
Amanda awakened early the next morning full of energy and in a fantastic mood, without even realizing why. Then the events of the previous night came back to her and she marveled again at the beautiful necklace Lee had given her. She thought of the note he had given her to explain it, and her thoughts that he must really care for her more than he let on. But she was still puzzled about why he didn't want her to know how much he cared. Why would he try to hide his feelings, yet give her a gift that was so revealing? Maybe he just wasn't ready to have a real relationship yet. She knew that he dated many women, but none of these relationships ever seemed to last long. Well, whatever his reasons, she was determined that she would be patient, and let him set the pace. If she suddenly came in today hinting that they should spend more time together away from work, he would probably run away from her at record speed.
Then there was the matter of her new necklace. How could she openly wear it? Her mother would know that she had never seen it before, and would want to know where it had come from. At work, Francine was always quick to notice any new jewelry or outfits that anyone wore. She would surely want to know where it had come from, and Amanda knew she couldn't tell her the truth. Amanda could pretend to believe Lee's note about it being a gift of gratitude and appreciation, but Francine would never buy it. On the other hand, if she did lie about where the pendant had come from, she would be terribly transparent; she never had been good at lying. Besides, it might hurt Lee's feelings for her to deny that he had given her this lovely piece of jewelry. It seemed that she was in a no-win situation.
There was one solution she could think of. As much as she wanted to wear it, perhaps she should just put it away in its box for a while. Then in a few months she could start wearing it, and when asked, could say that it was something a friend had given her some time ago. It wouldn't be a lie, and "some time ago" was vague enough that the listener could think it had been given to her years ago. But would Lee be disappointed when he saw she wasn't wearing it? She sighed. There was no easy answer to this problem, but this was the best solution she could come up with right now. Reluctantly, she unclasped the chain and tucked the necklace into its box. She touched it lovingly one last time, then closed it and hid it in her top dresser drawer. 'Time to get on with the day,' she thought to herself.
At his apartment, Lee's thoughts were also in turmoil this morning. Amanda had appeared to accept the written explanation of his gift, but did she really? The quick kiss on the cheek, and later the hug at her door could be interpreted either as friendship or as the potential for something greater. As he left her doorstep last night, he had been almost ready to admit his true feelings to her. His senses were overwhelmed by her nearness, and how good it felt to hold her close to him. On the drive home, his previous fears and anxieties had come back full force. He just couldn't risk ruining their working relationship, or their close friendship, which had come to mean so much to him. He was even nervous about seeing her this morning. Well, he would just have to see how she acted this morning, would have to see if she treated him any differently or seemed to have any expectations after last night. Then he would have to figure out how to deal with it. He was not looking forward to the day.
Lee and Francine were in their Section Chief, Billy Melrose's office, discussing a case that another agent had recently wrapped up. When Lee had arrived at work he had seen Amanda sitting at a desk transcribing what were probably surveillance tapes. Billy had immediately called him to his office, and he had been wrapped up with one thing or another ever since.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. It was Amanda, who walked in bearing a report for Billy.
"I'm sorry sir, am I interrupting anything?" she asked.
"No, no," Billy replied. "Come right in Amanda."
"Good morning Lee, Francine," she smiled and greeted them as she walked across the room.
They nodded their greeting back to her, Lee being sure to act sufficiently nonchalant.
"Sir, I've finished those transcripts you asked for. If anything's not clear, just let me know."
"I'm sure they'll be fine Amanda," Billy said with a smile. She always took her work so seriously. She did a great job at transcribing surveillance tapes, often hearing nuances other people just seemed to miss.
"If it's all right with you sir, I'd like to take my lunch a bit early today. I have some errands that I need to run."
Francine rolled her eyes. Sometimes she couldn't believe the trivial things this woman seemed to pay so much attention to, and how she felt the need to share all the little details with everyone. "Oh, do you have a hot date tonight Amanda? Need to pick up that last minute dry cleaning or pick out some new earrings to go with your outfit?"
For some reason her inquiries seemed to pique Lee's interest, and he sat up a little straighter and looked suspiciously at Amanda.
Amanda blushed before she answered. "Oh no Francine, nothing like that. The boys are starting little league next week and I need to stop by the park to pick up their new uniforms. They're both so excited that it's baseball season again, and I know they'll be thrilled to get them. If I don't make it to the park today, it'll have to wait till the weekend, when it's really a zoo over there. "
Francine just shook her head. The woman could say more in one breath than anyone else she knew.
Amanda continued. "Lee, I can finish up that report for you as soon as I get back. Is that all right?"
She was trying her best to act casual around him. She had seen him enter the bullpen earlier, but had been too busy to speak to him till just now. She wanted to make it apparent that she wasn't acting any differently today from any other day.
Lee felt immediately at ease. "Sure Amanda, that's fine. Take your time at lunch, there's no rush on the report. Anytime this afternoon is fine."
"OK, I'll be back in a bit. Can I get anything for any of you while I'm out?"
Billy answered for them all. "No Amanda, we'll be breaking for lunch in a little while anyway. Thank you for the offer though." He looked at Amanda as she was leaving, and at Lee who was watching her as she made her way through the bullpen. Lee looked puzzled, as if he had been expecting something more from her. 'Those two would make a fine couple one day,' he thought to himself. 'They're already great together as partners. They just have to both stop being so stubborn, and admit that they mean something to each other.' Well, they'd just have to figure it out on their own. He wasn't about to start playing Cupid.
"All right," he said at last. "Where were we."
Amanda let out a long breath as she entered the elevator. 'That went well,' she thought. She had acted the same way she would have on any other day - professional, courteous, but friendly. It would have been easy, but her heart had done a little flip-flop when Lee had looked up at her. Well, now that the first contact was over, it would be easier after this. She smiled as she turned in her badge and said goodbye to Mrs. Marsten for the remainder of the morning.
Lee went to lunch himself a short time later, and found that his jumbled thoughts were taking him to their meeting this morning. Amanda was acting just like her usual self, right down to her explanation of the errands she had to run. He found himself feeling confused as she was leaving. This was how he wanted her to act, wasn't it? If she had reacted any differently to him this morning, he would have been worried, and would have been planning a way to get himself out of the situation right now. And yet, she wasn't wearing her new necklace, and this made him feel a sense of disappointment. Maybe she thought it was too dressy to wear to work every day. When she had walked into Billy's office, he had felt his heart skip a beat, and he felt let down when she had left. Maybe she had taken him at his word and had accepted the necklace as a measure of gratitude. He certainly worked hard enough to convince her of that. 'Admit it,' he thought to himself, 'part of you wanted her to think more of it. Part of you wanted her to give you that look of hers, the one that makes you feel like anything is possible. Maybe this is for the best anyway. What does a guy like me have to offer someone like her anyway.'
Several Weeks Later
Amanda King was getting ready for an embassy party – an embassy party she would be attending with Lee Stetson. Their reason for going was a drop that was scheduled to take place later in the evening. She had taken care with her appearance that night, wearing a slinky new royal blue gown with spaghetti straps. She had worn her hair up, and made sure that her makeup had been perfect. Around her neck she wore the heart shaped pendant Lee had given her weeks before.
She went downstairs to tell her mother goodbye and leave. The boys had already left to sleep at a friend's house for the night, but when her Mother had seen her, she noticed her appearance and new dress immediately.
"Amanda, you look beautiful this evening, dear. Where did you say you were going?"
"It's a fund raising party for IFF, Mother. There are going to be all kinds of influential people there, and they asked everyone to put in their best appearance this evening." Amanda was reaching for a wrap in the closet, hoping to make a fast getaway before her mother noticed anything else. It didn't work.
"Amanda, where in the world did you get that gorgeous necklace!" her mother exclaimed. "I know I've never seen it before."
'Busted', Amanda thought to herself.
She knew when she put the necklace on this evening she might have to make an explanation to her mother. But this was the first "black tie" type of occasion she had had the opportunity of attending with Lee since he had given it to her, and she wanted to wear it publicly, in front of him, with all her heart.
"This?" Amanda asked as her hand reached up to the pendant. "You've never seen this before?" she asked guiltily.
"Amanda, I know I would remember seeing such a beautiful piece of jewelry." Her mother knew she was answering her question with a question, something she always did when she didn't want to lie about something, or wanted to evade a subject.
"Well Mother, I've had it for some time. I guess you just didn't see it the last time I wore it." It was the truth, but left out all the important details that she didn't want to discuss.
"And when would that be Missy, since I've never seen it in all this time you've supposedly had it?"
"Mother, I don't know. I guess I haven't worn it in quite a while because of the memories it brings back. Please don't ask any more questions. I really don't want to be late." This was all true enough. She didn't want to be late. She had never worn it in front of anyone since Lee had given it to her weeks before, and the memories it brought back of him giving it to her always made her smile, her heart glowing. She certainly couldn't let just anyone see that. They would wonder what was going on in her head. Lastly, she really didn't want to answer any more questions.
Dottie thought about everything she had just said. Maybe Joe had given it to her in the year before the divorce. They had tried to make one last go of it at that time. Maybe it reminded Amanda of her failed marriage. She seemed to be getting along well enough with Joe whenever he did make it back into town, but all the signals she had seen made it clear that she didn't want to get romantically involved with him again. She decided to drop the subject.
"Alright dear. You have a good time tonight. I think I'll just catch up on my reading and make an early night of it."
"Good night Mother." Amanda leaned over and kissed her mother on the cheek. As she closed the door behind her, she breathed a sigh of relief. That had been difficult, but it could have been far worse.
She drove over to the reflecting pool at the capitol mall, where she was meeting Lee. He was picking her up there, so they could arrive at the party together. She felt nervous, but had a strange sense of anticipation as she arrived. She checked her makeup in the mirror one final time, took a deep breath, and walked over to meet him. She remembered the last time they had met there for a party. It was early in their partnership, and she had hoped that he would notice her appearance that time too. But his mind had been on his work, and he had barely given her a second glance. She remembered wondering at the time why he had even bothered to call her if he felt that way. Surely tonight would go better than that. So much had changed between them in the last few months.
His back was turned to her as she approached him, and she called out so she wouldn't startle him. "Hi! I hope I'm not late. Traffic was a little worse than I thought it would be."
As he turned around, he was getting ready to tell her that her timing was fine. But before he could even complete his turn, he got a good look at her. He was stunned by her beauty. He did a double take, his eyes taking in every detail from head to toe. The blue dress she was wearing was beautiful, flowing yet clingy in all the right places. Her hair was up, and between that and the thin straps of her dress, her neck and shoulders were almost completely exposed. The contrast between the fabric and her skin made her shoulders look especially creamy and touchable. There, hanging around her graceful neck was the pendant he had given her. It sparkled in the moonlight, and his eyes were transfixed, his own heart feeling a pull toward her, as he saw the heart he had given her hanging there. It was obvious where he was staring, and a smile lit his face as he saw it.
"Lee, is everything OK?" she asked. She knew he was staring at the necklace he had given her.
"Sure, everything's fine." He answered her slowly. He could hardly tear his eyes away from her. "You look beautiful tonight. Thank you for wearing the necklace. I've been wanting to see it on you."
"Oh …well, I've just been waiting for the right opportunity. It seemed to go really well with this dress."
"Yes it does," he replied. His mind returned to the business at hand. "Let's get going. I want to be at the party for a while before the designated contact time."
With that, he helped her into the car, and they drove away.
As they drove to the party, he glanced over at her occasionally, and wondered how he had ever been impassive to her looks. It wasn't just a physical beauty, although that was there too, but a beauty that shone through from within. Maybe they'd have time for a dance or two before the drop. This was a very low risk assignment, and he had asked her more because he wanted to be with her than because he thought he would need her as part of his cover. He would have to watch himself tonight. It was getting harder and harder to conceal his true feelings from her.
After they had been at the party for several hours, he guided her out to the balcony on the South side of the embassy. At eleven 'o' clock, he was scheduled to receive a drop there. They stood side by side in companionable silence, his arm gently placed on the small of her back. Lee's contact came rushing through the door. He slipped a note into the potted plant right in front of them and whispered, "It's not safe. I think I've been followed." With that, he practically ran off.
Lee reached into the planter and removed the note, surreptitiously slipping it into the inner pocket of his jacket. He covered his actions by reaching over and taking Amanda into a loose embrace. He whispered into her ear, "If anyone else comes through that door, follow my lead. Remember, they'll be watching us closely, and will have to think it's for real for us to get out of this." Silently he was cursing himself. If he had been there alone, he would simply have run off in the opposite direction from the courier and taken his chances. He couldn't run off with Amanda there because such action would place her in danger. If he had had the courage to ask her out like a normal person, he wouldn't have had to use a drop as an excuse to see her outside of their usual working hours.
She nodded her head slightly against his shoulder. "I understand," she replied quietly.
What seemed like only moments later, they heard the door to the balcony opening again. He leaned down and kissed her. Her lips were just as he remembered, soft, full and sweet. The main difference between this kiss and the last time he kissed her undercover was that this time as he gently moved his lips over hers, he felt her lips part beneath his, beckoning him to deepen their kiss. Well, he had told her they needed to look realistic. This was all the encouragement he needed. Gently, his tongue glided over hers, fully exploring the shape and feel of her mouth. She responded in kind, and soon they were so caught up in each other that they barely heard one of the men yelling out, "Find Petrovitch. I will stay and make sure nothing was left here." Two men ran past them, splitting up and going down the stairs that went in opposite directions in search of the courier. Amanda knew she was taking advantage of their situation, but for once she didn't care. She had wanted to kiss Lee, really kiss him for so long, and sometimes it felt as though the opportunity would never arise. His kiss was incredible, gentle yet possessive all at the same time.
Lee couldn't believe his good fortune. He had wondered for a long time what it would be like to kiss her again. This was the perfect opportunity. They were undercover, and their lives depended on the foreign agent believing they were really here as a couple, not as potential drop candidates. He felt Amanda's hands running with slow deliberation up and down his back, leaving goosebumps in their wake. Almost of its own volition, his hand glided slowly up and down her bare arm, finally reaching up to her soft shoulder. He leisurely fingered the dress strap on her shoulder, and his hand eventually continued its journey up to the side of her neck, his thumb gently caressing her face. He had been wanting to touch her velvety skin all night, since he had first seen her in that dress, and now that he had the chance, he couldn't help himself. As they ended the kiss, their eyes met and held each other in a timeless moment. The electricity between them was almost tangible.
Dorovsky, the agent who was watching them, could practically see sparks flying between them. He didn't think that they had even seen him there, or the other men who had run off. For that matter, he didn't think they would notice if the building behind them blew up. They seemed to have eyes only for each other. He was sure that no information had been dropped with them. However, he would wait until they left, and check the balcony to make sure nothing had been dropped for someone to pick up later. With that, he carefully hid himself behind a column.
Amanda and Lee reached for each other again, and after another long, sensuous kiss, parted. He once again thought how beautiful she looked as he gazed at her on the moonlit balcony. Her face was flushed from their kisses, her eyes staring up at him with a look of complete trust and devotion, the heart pendant around her neck winking up at him as if to say her heart was his for the taking. 'No,' he though to himself. "That last part is just my imagination playing tricks on me.'
Lee hadn't spotted Dorovsky behind the pillar, but Amanda could see part of his coat, and realized that they still had to be cautious.
"Let's get out of here," Lee said.
"Your place or mine?" Amanda questioned.
Lee was startled by her question. Was Amanda King actually propositioning him? As he looked at her sharply, she gestured with her head and eyebrows toward a nearby column. He reached over and picked her up, spinning her around and kissing her soundly so he could have a good look at their surroundings without looking suspicious. Then he saw what she had been motioning toward. He was so distracted by her and their recent actions that he hadn't even noticed the man behind the column.
"Ah…, how about my place. I don't think I want any interruptions tonight," he finally replied to her question in a husky voice.
They walked back toward the door, snuggling in each other's embrace.
As they entered the room, he leaned over, and under the pretext of whispering sweet nothings in her ear, had told her, "We'd better keep this up until we reach the car. We don't know where they might have other watchers."
She merely smiled and nodded in consent.
As Dorosvsky saw them walking away arm in arm, he caught himself thinking, 'Lucky American dog. The man was with a very beautiful woman, and he was sure they would be sharing more than a kiss before the night was over. Sighing, he proceeded to search the balcony on which he found himself.
Lee and Amanda walked slowly to his car, neither of them really wanting the moment to end. If either of them had been able to see into the mind of the other, our couple would have been saved months of angst. Each was lost in their own thoughts, how much they had each enjoyed touching and kissing the other, how they wished it could continue, and how they would have to go back to pretending that it was just a cover, wondering how the other truly felt.
As Lee started to help Amanda into his car, he realized that they were visible from many windows of the embassy. He placed his arms around her, and kissed her again, gently this time before lowering her into her seat. As he circled around the car, Amanda closed her eyes and let out a deep breath. Her heartbeat had just been returning to normal when he had kissed her again, and she didn't know if she could take much more of this without telling him how deep her feelings for him really ran. He entered the car and told her as he started to drive off, "I don't think anyone was watching, but you can't be too careful. I really don't want to be followed." Amanda simply nodded.
They drove in near silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Amanda was very much aware of his nearness in the confines of the car. She felt wired, as though the slightest touch from him would set her off again. She was afraid that she might just throw herself at him given the slightest encouragement. Her whole being ached to feel his hands on her body once again, his lips pressed tightly against hers. It had been a long time since she had been kissed like that, even if it was only a cover kiss. She remembered the feel of his muscular back under her questing fingers, and longed to reach for his arm, which was only inches away from her.
Lee was lost in his thoughts as well. He didn't really think anyone had been watching them as they entered the car, but she was so beautiful, so enchanting standing there, that he couldn't help himself as he kissed her again. What he really wanted now, more than anything else, was to be able to take her back to his apartment, where they could continue what they had started. But he knew that Amanda had only suggested that on the balcony as part of their cover. The burning desire he felt for her was partially quenched by the anger he felt with himself for placing her in danger. Moreover, he felt unprofessional because he hadn't even noticed the foreign agent standing on the balcony - he was so caught up in the emotions he was feeling as he kissed and caressed her, so caught up in the response he was feeling as she touched him. If she hadn't noticed the agent behind the column, he could have ruined everything.
As he thought all of these things, he clenched the steering wheel, trying to get a grip on his emotions as well. Amanda was so quiet sitting over there in her seat. Had he offended her? Had his caresses gone too far, even under the excuse of playing their cover? He had to talk to her before reaching her car. He couldn't let things stand like this.
"Amanda, I know I'm cutting your evening short, and I have to bring this note in to crypto before I can go home. Would you like to stop off for a cup of coffee? There's a restaurant right up ahead."
"Sure, I'd like that. We're not being followed, are we?" she asked, concerned about their situation even now.
"No. I've been keeping a close eye out. No one has followed us."
With that, they pulled into the parking lot of L'Ornate, an elegant restaurant where they had stopped once before. Lee reached for her hand as they entered the restaurant and took their seats at a quiet table near the back of the room. They placed their order and waited for it to arrive. Both of them found it hard to breach the silence that had characterized their ride in the car. Lee ran his hand through his hair, struggling to find the right words to say. Finally, after their coffee arrived, Lee took her hands in his and gazed at her, his concern evident in his eyes.
"Amanda, I'm so sorry that I put you in danger this evening. Billy didn't tell me that you needed to come, I asked you on my own. If anything had happened to you, I would never be able to forgive myself."
"Lee, it's alright. You know as well as I do that it's part of the job. I'm just glad we made it out without any problems." Her emotions were finally calming down, and she felt like she could talk to him now, and even hold his hand without letting her feelings run out of control.
"That's just it. There shouldn't have been any problems. And besides, I didn't even notice the man behind the column. I could have ruined everything with one chance remark. I should have seen him. If you hadn't …"
"You know that's not true." She interrupted him. "I only saw him because I was facing that way. How could you expect to see him when you had your back to that part of the balcony. Or have you suddenly grown a pair of eyes in the back of your head that I don't know anything about?" she asked him facetiously.
"No," he laughed easily. "Not the last time I looked." He felt relieved. She no longer looked uncomfortable with him, and if she was at ease enough to make jokes, he knew he hadn't offended her. He released her hands and they drank their coffee, the air of awkwardness between them having dissipated. They soon left the restaurant, and he completed the drive to where they had left her car. He walked her to her car and admonished her as she started to get in, "You be careful driving home."
"I will," she said easily. "You be careful too."
He waited until she drove off and quickly entered his car and drove down to the agency. He was glad things were OK between them. He thought again of how he would really like things to stand between them. How he wished he could really ask her out and really take her in his arms like he had tonight, without any need for disguise or subterfuge. But this brought up another issue. Could he really be effective as an agent if his head was in the clouds with Amanda. Sure he dated, but most of the women he saw were out of his mind as soon as they were out of sight. Amanda was in his thoughts almost constantly now. How much worse would it be if he were actually involved with her. Could this distraction prove dangerous to him, or worse yet, put her in danger as it had tonight?
Amanda reached home without any incident. She made her way upstairs to her room. Everything was quiet. Her mother had already gone to bed, so she didn't have to worry about any more questions from her tonight. She smiled as she brought her fingertips to her lips. Who could have guessed that her evening would turn out as it had? She could still feel Lee's kisses on her lips and she realized that as much as she had been distracted by him before, she would be doubly so now. She had dreamed of what it would be like to be in his arms and have him kiss her, but the reality was so much better. She quickly got ready for bed, leaving her pendant around her neck and turned out the light.
Several Months Later
Amanda woke up even before her alarm clock went off. Lee had stopped by yesterday, and she knew she wanted to make an early start of it at work today. She fingered the heart shaped pendant around her neck. It had been months since Lee had given it to her, and she put it on almost every night before going to sleep, promptly removing it when she awakened in the morning. Maybe today she could finally wear it openly and not look too suspicious.
The first time she had worn it again in front of Lee had been at an Embassy party they had attended together. That evening was still so vivid in her mind. As part of their cover, they had to pretend to be a couple, and they had been kissing and holding one another on the Embassy balcony in an attempt to escape detection. It had worked, but now Lee was in her thoughts more than ever. Shortly after that incident, he had been sent overseas on a mission that had lasted for almost two months. She had missed him desperately, and wondered if he had thought of her at all. During that time, she had taken to wearing her pendant occasionally around the house. It made her feel closer to him. Her mother didn't ask any more questions about the necklace, figuring that Amanda would tell her more when she was good and ready.
Yes, maybe today she would finally wear it to work. After all, maybe Francine wouldn't even notice and ask her any nosy questions that were none of her business. When she arrived at the Agency, she went to Mr. Melrose's office first, knowing that he had an assignment for her. She hoped she would be able to finish it quickly so she could help Lee with his expense records. They hadn't seen too much of each other since his return, and she was looking forward to the opportunity of working with him again. As it turned out, Billy was waiting for her. He wanted her to do some light surveillance on an Alan Chamberlain, an art restorer who had just reentered the country. Billy, along with Lee and Francine explained the assignment to her. As luck would have it, Lee was the one who would be getting her started, helping her to locate Chamberlain in the first place. As he left her, she followed Chamberlain at a discreet distance, trying to avoid being observed, taking pictures whenever he encountered any other person.
She felt that her luck turned to bad luck however when she came into contact with the man she was supposed to be tailing. They wound up going out for coffee, and he asked her out for dinner later that evening. As she made her way back to the agency, she found herself thinking that Lee would be irritated with her. One of the first rules of surveillance was not to be observed by the person you were watching. It had all been an accident of course, Alan saving her from a skateboarder who was about to mow her down. Surprisingly, Lee had been pleased instead, figuring this was a perfect way to get more information on Chamberlain.
Amanda could see that Lee was returning to the Senator who was auditing his expense records. She walked over to a nearby desk to retrieve a form on which to type her surveillance report from this morning. Just as she was looking for a place to sit down and get to work, Francine came over to start a conversation with her.
"How did it go this morning with our art restorer, Amanda?" Francine asked curiously.
"Oh, just fine Francine. I was getting ready to write it up."
Just then, Francine noticed the pendant hanging around Amanda's neck, and couldn't resist the opportunity to comment on it.
"Amanda! Well, well, well, whom have you been seeing lately, and how long has this been going on? I can't believe you have a new man in your life and didn't bother to even say anything around here."
"Francine, what are you talking about?" Amanda was truly puzzled, and had no idea where this was all coming from.
"That necklace. I've never seen it on you before, and whatever you have going on must be pretty serious for him to give you jewelry like that. So give me all the scoop! Who is he, how old, what does he look like? You know, give me all the juicy details."
Amanda was horrified. Not only was Francine asking a lot of embarrassing questions, but just as they had started, she had seen Lee walk up to the coffee maker nearby. He would be able to hear the whole conversation. She was going to have to be very careful about what she said. There was no way she could tell Francine that it had come from Lee, yet she couldn't say that it had come from someone else either.
"This?" she asked as she put her hand up to the pendant. "Francine, there's nobody new in my life right now. I've had this for a while, I just haven't worn it lately (not here at least, she thought to herself). Besides, it was just from a friend." 'There,' she thought, 'that should take care of all her questions. At least I hope so.'
"Amanda, you may know more about cooking, cleaning, and baking than I do, but if you think someone who was 'just a friend' would give you jewelry like that, you have a lot to learn about men. You should snap this guy up if he's still around. He obviously had some pretty serious feelings about you, and maybe he's still available."
"Francine, I do not need any advice about this, thank you." Amanda was starting to get angry now. She had gone to a lot of trouble to let Lee know that she hadn't expected anything from him. It had really taken a toll on her emotionally to pretend they were just friends when she thought he was beginning to feel something more. The last thing she needed was Francine ruining everything with a couple of her smart remarks. She could see Lee out of the corner of her eye as he poured his coffee, and had seen him go pale when Francine had been talking about the giver of the necklace having strong feelings for her. Maybe she had been wrong about wearing the necklace to work after all.
"Amanda, I was just trying to be helpful. You know, one woman to another." Francine couldn't understand why she was reacting so strongly. She was trying to be friendly for a change, and didn't need Amanda getting angry with her over it. They had worked together on some minor things this past summer while Lee had been away. While she certainly didn't look upon Amanda King as her best friend, she had warmed to her considerably, and didn't see any harm in trying to be friendly with the woman.
"Yes Francine, thank you." Amanda tried to calm down, closing her eyes as she said this. "Maybe you don't know this particular man as well as you think you do. He was pretty clear about his intent when he gave it to me."
"Amanda, what a man says, and what his actions say can be two different things, you know."
Amanda thought this conversation was going from bad to worse.
"Francine, I guess you just had to be there. Now if you don't mind, I really do need to get this report written up."
"Sure, I'll see you later," Francine said breezily, as she walked away from the desk, unaware of the damage she had done.
Amanda had seen Lee adding too much sugar and too much creamer to his coffee while this whole exchange was taking place. He obviously wanted to stick around to hear the whole conversation. She decided the best course of action in this case would be to pretend she didn't see him standing there. She retrieved her form, and walked over to the nearest desk to fill out her report.
Lee was in a state of shock. Had he been that obvious? Francine seemed to think so. Was he simply fooling himself in thinking that Amanda couldn't just see right through him? 'Maybe,' he thought, 'I should just steer clear of her the rest of the day until I can figure out what she's thinking.' With that, he took a sip of his coffee and almost gagged on it. Too light and too much sugar. He realized that he hadn't even been paying attention while fixing his coffee, he had been so engrossed in the ladies' conversation. Sighing, he threw the coffee out and started over with a fresh cup. 'Back to the dragon lady,' he thought.
Soon Amanda finished up her report. Lee had avoided her gaze several times as she looked up from her work. 'This is great,' she thought, exasperated. 'Francine barges in here and makes a few choice remarks, and now Lee won't even look me in the face.' She filed her report in Billy's in-box, the left to go home. If she was going to meet Alan for dinner tonight, she couldn't be hanging around here too late, or she'd never be ready on time. She'd just have to try to manage some damage control with Lee later. If only she could figure out what to say to him to make things better.
Lee was working late with the Senator up in the Q Bureau, his mind not really on their work. This woman certainly was a stickler for details, and he was being forced to explain every little expense item from every case that he had worked on years before. His mind was really on Amanda. He had felt her gaze several times that afternoon, but had studiously avoided meeting her eyes. What could he say to her? After the things Francine had said this afternoon, would she be looking for an explanation of his feelings for her? Surely she knew he had overheard their conversation. Maybe he could just avoid her for a few days.
Once again, the Senator was calling his attention back to another trivial expense item. Fortunately, someone came into the office bearing the surveillance photos Amanda had taken earlier. It was just the interruption he needed to sideline his work with the Senator, at least for a little while. As he gazed at the proofs, his breath caught in his throat. There, toward the end of the roll, was a picture of Alan Chamberlain with two priests in the background. Upon closer examination, he could see that one of the men wasn't really a priest, but Franco Necci, a dangerous international terrorist, in disguise. If these were the kinds of people Chamberlain was seeing, Amanda could be in terrible danger, and he had sent her out to have dinner with him! Quickly making his excuses to the Senator, Lee hurriedly stormed out of the office. He had to check on Amanda! He had to make sure nothing horrible had happened to her.
As he raced downstairs, he looked at the time. It was late enough that she should be home by now. At least he hoped she was. All his previous thoughts of avoiding Amanda left as his concern for her safety overrode his fears of facing his feelings for her. Driving over to her house, he had time to think about the past few months. After attending that Embassy party with her months earlier, he hadn't been sure what he should do. He knew now that he loved her, and was even beginning to admit it to himself, but he was afraid that becoming involved with her might compromise her safety. He also knew that he was afraid of trying to have a lasting relationship with any woman, but that she was his partner and best friend, and that he trusted her unconditionally. He just didn't know how much longer he could keep his feelings to himself, or what their revelation would do to their working relationship.
When Billy had suggested the overseas assignment, he had jumped at the chance. He could have more time to think everything out without giving her the cold shoulder, or doing the wrong thing without thinking things through. Unfortunately, when he returned, he was no closer to a solution than when he had left. He had missed her terribly, and had even picked up the phone more than once as he thought of calling her. Invariably, he had put the phone down each time. He didn't think 'I just wanted to hear your voice,' would be an adequate explanation for an overseas phone call. Once he had even called his own line at the office, hoping she would answer his phone to take a message. He had figured he could say he had been trying to call Billy, but his call had been misdirected. When the operator had picked up, he had asked for Billy so he could go ahead and give him a progress report. While speaking to him, he couldn't help but ask how Amanda was doing. He could practically hear Billy smiling over the telephone line as he told him that she was helping Francine out with a few things.
Now his thoughts returned to the present. He was approaching her familiar house on Maplewood Drive. 'OK, the porch light is out, so she must be home,' he thought. He felt a sense of relief flood through him, just knowing that she had made it home safely. But it wasn't enough. He had to see her, had to speak to her to reassure himself further.
He parked his car several houses down and made his way over to her side yard. All of the house lights appeared to be out, so he thought she must be up in her bedroom sleeping. Almost without further thought, he began scaling the trellis which he knew ran alongside her bedroom window. As he reached his destination, he began tapping on her window. It took several knocks before she answered, and from the sound of it, he had awakened her from a sound sleep.
Amanda heard a tapping at the window, and initially answered the phone, thinking this was what was interrupting her dreams. Finally, she realized that Lee was tapping on her bedroom window, and she crossed the room to let him in. She was wearing a long white cotton nightgown with half sleeves, and she was too disoriented to go get her robe from the bathroom. She opened the window, and was startled awake almost instantly. She couldn't believe that Lee had climbed up the trellis to see her. What could be so important? She closed the door, turned on the light, and settled back under the covers as he started to question her about her evening. When he asked if anything unusual had happened, her fingers made their way to her lips, where Alan had kissed her just hours earlier. It had been a nice kiss, and she had enjoyed it, but her thoughts had been on Lee the whole time.
Lee was questioning her about her activities that evening. He noticed how cute she was, all sleepy eyed, almost like a child. She had no makeup, and her hair looked sort of rumpled. 'Of course she looks tired,' he thought to himself. 'After all, I just woke her up from a sound sleep.' She was rubbing her face and hair in an effort to wake up. When he told her that he wanted her off the case, that it was too dangerous for her to continue, she seemed to wake up considerably, forcefully arguing with him about how she was the only connection to Chamberlain. She emphasized how she might be able to get information unavailable to anyone else and how this was a textbook case. Then she assured him that if she encountered any danger, she would walk away and let him handle it from there.
Finally he relented, seeing how serious she was and knowing that she was right about being the only one with access to Chamberlain. They agreed and shook hands on the deal they had made. But what started out as a simple handshake turned into so much more. As their hands met, there was an almost electric current that passed between them. He suddenly realized that he was there in the middle of the night in her bedroom, sitting on her very comfortable bed, with Amanda only inches away from him. He knew that the thin material of her nightgown was all that stood between him and that beautiful body of hers. He saw the necklace he had give her as it sparkled around her neck, and knew that was where his real heart lay also, with her. He couldn't help but caress the palm of her hand as he pulled his own hand slowly away from hers, hesitant to end that brief contact that left him feeling so much.
Amanda obviously felt something too, for as their hands parted, she wrapped her arms around her shoulders, almost as if protecting herself from the emotions she was feeling. He cleared his throat nervously as they told each other to be careful once again. As he started to get up to leave, he felt her hand on his shoulder pushing him back down onto the bed, and he felt himself panicking. If she touched him, he didn't know how he would be able to get out of the room without taking her into his arms, holding her slender body close to his. But, she was merely warning him not to get up until she had turned out the light. They quickly crossed the room, and he exited through the bedroom window. He couldn't believe he had climbed this trellis just to see her. He climbed back down carefully and made his way back to his waiting car.
'So much for ignoring her for a few days,' he thought to himself. 'I couldn't stay away from her for even one day.' His subconscious argued back, 'That was different. You had to make sure she wasn't hurt. It was just business.' ' Right,' he told himself. 'Just like those thoughts you were having about her up in her bedroom.'
But she hadn't asked him any question, and didn't even bring up the conversation he had heard her having with Francine. Maybe she would just let it go and pretend that everything was the same as always. He hoped so. He cared about her too much to ignore her, but still didn't want to give his feelings away. He didn't know what he would do if she confronted him.
Amanda lay back in her bed after watching Lee's car drive off down the street. She certainly hadn't expected for him to be visiting her tonight. 'Wow!' she thought to herself. 'One touch from him, and I practically melted right on the spot.' That simple handshake had ignited the feelings in her that she had been trying unsuccessfully to ignore for months. 'Maybe it was just because he was here in my bedroom, and my brain was still asleep.' She knew she had hugged her arms to herself as a defense so she wouldn't reach out to draw him closer. 'Well, at least he's still talking to me. Maybe he figured I was ignoring anything Francine said earlier like I usually do.'
With that she readjusted her covers and tried to fall back to sleep.
Six Months Later
Amanda King stepped out of the shower and quickly dried herself off. 'Lee's coming over for dinner tonight!' she thought excitedly. Her mother and the boys were out of town at the state science fair and wouldn't be home until tomorrow night. After she and Lee had wrapped up their case, she had suggested that they meet back at her house for dinner, something they rarely did. It seemed that someone was always home. She wouldn't trade her mother or the boys for anything, but sometimes, a little privacy would be nice to have.
Over the past few months, they seemed to be getting closer and closer to one another. They had been seeing each other socially outside of work for some time now. On the job, they seemed to find themselves in tight spots where they would wind up in each other's arms. More and more, Lee would reach for her hand or put his arm around her simply as a matter of course. It seemed that now the question was not whether or not Lee would show any romantic interest in her, but when. Maybe tonight, with a little privacy, and no work-related distractions, they would be able to follow where their hearts were trying to lead them. She knew that she was more than ready to take that step.
She carefully put her heart pendant back on as she chose her clothes. 'OK,' she thought, 'I said casual, so I can't exactly dress up now.' Finally she settled on a button down shirt and jeans. She put on her make up and perfume, then quickly went downstairs to start getting things ready in the kitchen.
Her actions were interrupted by a familiar tap on the kitchen window. She looked up to see Lee's smiling face, and quickly grabbed a dishtowel to dry her hands as she walked over to open the kitchen door.
"Come on in," she said, smiling back at him. "You know, no one's home, you could have used the front door."
"I know, but I guess old habits just die hard. Here, I brought a bottle of Merlot to go with our dinner tonight."
"Thank you! I was just getting the salad ready. Why don't you grab a couple of glasses from the china cabinet, and I'll put the steaks on."
"OK." He quickly proceeded to find the glasses and a bottle opener for the wine. He had been thinking about this evening since they had parted company earlier. In the past few months they had gone places together, but never as a "date". It was always dinner or a show, but they had never crossed that line. He was beginning to wonder why. All the old excuses were starting to wear thin. No, he didn't want to endanger their friendship, but he couldn't see anything happening where Amanda would shut him out as a friend or as his partner. Amanda meant more to him than any woman he had ever known. As for compromising her safety, well they would just have to be careful. It wasn't as though he didn't feel distracted by her now. Just the smell of her perfume as she opened the door tonight was enough to send his senses reeling. He knew with certainty that he wanted to be with her, knew that no one else would do. He hadn't even tried dating other women in months, and most of his casual girlfriends had stopped calling, having gotten the message that he just wasn't interested. Maybe tonight would finally be the right time. Maybe tonight, with no interruptions, he could tell her how he really felt.
Just as he was pouring the wine, the phone rang, and Amanda walked over to answer it. 'Oh no,' Lee thought, 'please don't be anything that will ruin this evening.' He practically cringed as he heard the one-sided conversation going on just across the kitchen from him.
"Mother, is everything alright?"
"Yes, I can hear you just fine. You were going to come home early? This evening?"
He could see Amanda's face blanch at her last question, and felt the blood draining from his own face as well. Just when it seemed they had the house to themselves, something had to go wrong. 'Typical,' he thought. 'When are we ever going to catch a break?'
"Oh, Joe met you up there? Well fishing sounds fine with me, as long as you and the boys are up to it. Let me talk to Joe for a minute."
Amanda smiled over at Lee apologetically.
'She can't be thinking of leaving now to go fishing with the boys and her ex-husband, can she?' Lee thought to himself. All his plans for this evening seemed to be going down the drain.
"Yes, hello Sweetheart."
Lee unconsciously clenched his jaw as he heard Amanda calling Joe sweetheart.
"Mother explained everything. Are you sure you're finished with your work up there? You don't mind taking them fishing this weekend?"
"Well, if you're sure, then that's fine with me."
"No, I can't make it. I have a report for work I need to finish up this weekend, but you go ahead and have a good time." She rolled her eyes upward as she said this, knowing she was telling a bit of a fib.
"Tell Jamie that I'm proud of him."
"OK. See you tomorrow evening. Thanks Joe."
As she hung up the phone she looked over at Lee, knowing she would have to explain the parts of the conversation he had been unable to hear.
"That was Mother," she started. He nodded his head, having figured this part out already.
"Jamie finished up at the science fair today since he didn't make it to the finals, and they were planning to catch an early train home. But, Joe had some case work up there, and he finished up early. So he met up with them down at the convention center and asked Mother and the boys if they'd like to go fishing the rest of the weekend, sort of as a consolation prize. Well of course Mother liked the idea, but wanted to check with me first." She paused, to make sure Lee was following the convoluted story. She knew she was rambling. He nodded at her, having followed the story thus far.
"Well then I wanted to check with Joe just to make sure the boys weren't buffaloing him into anything. They do have a way of getting what they want from their Dad."
Lee interrupted her at this point, looking down as he asked, "You didn't want to meet them up there?" He was practically cringing when he asked this, but still wasn't sure where Amanda stood with her ex-husband. Since Joe King had waltzed back into town several months earlier, he had been trying to figure out their relationship. They seemed friendly enough with each other, friendlier than any divorced couple he had ever seen, but she never mentioned anything involving him that didn't have to do with the boys.
"No," she answered. "The boys deserve some time with him, and Mother will be there to help with the cooking, so I know they won't starve to death. But Lee," she reached over and placed her hand on his arm, "Joe is part of my past - a very important part. I wouldn't have the boys without him. But the relationship between us, in areas not concerning the boys, is in the past, not the present, and not the future."
He lifted his head to meet her eyes, and saw all the explanation he needed there. His heart swelled as he realized that he hadn't waited too long to express his feelings to Amanda, as he realized that she seemed to be waiting for him too.
Their dinner proceeded without any further interruption, and soon they were finishing up the dishes and bringing their cake and coffee into the den. They talked of inconsequential things and suddenly found themselves staring at each other.
They both put their cake down on the coffee table and moved inexorably closer to one another.
"Amanda," he murmured, beginning to wrap his arms around her slender frame. She reached out to him too, sliding her hands up his arms as they surrounded her. Suddenly she bolted into a more upright position.
"What! What's wrong!" Lee exclaimed, worried that once again something would stop them from following through with their feelings for one another.
"I don't know," she said in all seriousness. "Isn't this the part where someone walks in, or shoots at us, or the phone rings, or ……."
"Amanda," he admonished, interrupting her, "that's not funny. I'm not so sure about this sense of humor of yours." He said laughing. "There's a lot I don't know about you, but I'm sure going to enjoy finding out." He glanced down at her, his heart showing in his eyes. "No, no interruptions. Not this time." As he moved to embrace her again, she smiled, sure this time that nothing would deter them. His lips met hers softly, almost tentatively at first, and backed away to look at her. She was gently shaking her head and smiling, almost unable to believe that this was really happening. This wasn't a stake out and they weren't undercover. They weren't even on a case that put them in close quarters together, as so many of their cases had in the preceding months. This was Lee reaching out to her as she had dreamed of for so long. As they reached for each other again, all their pent-up emotions from the past year asserted themselves. Their lips met in a long awaited kiss, and they opened to each other, eager to explore with tongues and lips what their feelings had been prompting them to do for so many months.
Lee couldn't believe the incredible sweetness of her kisses and how they were affecting him. His hand reached up to caress the soft skin of her face and neck. With delicate strokes, his fingertips caressed her along the chain she wore around her neck. When he reached the pendant at the bottom of the chain, he gently moved it aside to touch the flesh beneath, his mouth never losing contact with hers. At this, he felt as well as heard the soft whimper in her throat. 'Ah' he thought to himself. 'She's sensitive right ….. there.' He heard her soft cry again as he continued to stroke and caress the spot that had lain beneath her pendant. Smiling almost to himself, he gently kissed his way down her neck, following the path his fingers had just traced. As he reached the bottom of the chain, his tongue snaked out to lick and tease the flesh beneath. He could feel her whole body quiver at this and could hear her sharp gasp as he continued.
She couldn't believe how his every touch made her feel. 'Oh my gosh!' she thought to herself. 'What is he doing to me? When he touches me like that, I don't want him to ever stop.' Soon even these thoughts ceased, as she surrendered herself to the feelings coursing through her body.
He lifted his head to look at her as his fingers slowly caressed the exposed flesh the neckline of her blouse offered.
"Oh, Amanda!" he quietly called out in a husky voice.
"Yes," She replied, her voice hardly more than an aspirated whisper.
She was a vision sitting there before him, and the scent of her perfume surrounded her and enticed him further. As he had kissed his way down her neck, she had tilted her head back to offer him greater access. Her eyes were closed and her lips slightly parted, quivering every so often as he continued his ministrations. He could see the rise and fall of her breasts as her breath became more and more shallow. He couldn't believe how erotic it was to watch her becoming so aroused by his touch. She was like no woman he had been with before. His deep feelings for her amplified every touch, every kiss, so that simply holding her had more meaning to him than any casual encounter he had had before.
Sensing his gaze upon her, Amanda's eyes suddenly fluttered open. She looked over at him and reached for him gently, sliding her hand around his neck, a small smile on her face as she drew him closer to her. Her eyes were dark with desire, and Lee could see his own feelings mirrored in them.
"Amanda, I love you." He managed to say. "I've loved you for so long."
"I love you too, Lee. I've wanted for such a long time to tell you that."
As their lips met again, it was as though an electric charge had built up between them. Their kisses became almost frantic, their hands eager to explore arms, hair, faces. It was as though that first touch had ignited a dry brush fire, expanding as the flames grew and grew.
Amanda kissed his lips, his face, his neck as she worked her way over to his ear. As she reached her destination, she smiled ever so slightly as she gently blew into it. Her tongue reached out and stroked the outer opening, then her lips dropped down and pulled his earlobe into her waiting mouth. She sucked on it and gently worked it with her tongue as she heard him groan under her expert care.
Lee couldn't believe the feelings she elicited with her every touch. He had been with many women before, had even allowed himself to be seduced on occasion, but he had always, always been the one in control of the situation. Now he felt completely out of control. Falling under the spell of this woman before him, he knew he was completely at her mercy. She could do whatever she wanted to him, and he would have no way of resisting. He didn't want to resist. It was as though he belonged to her, all of him, ready to do whatever she asked of him. If only she would ask. He was all hers.
"Amanda, what….what are you doing to me," he barely managed to croak out, his voice failing him. The blood rushing through his ears was almost deafening, and he wrapped his arms even more tightly around her, struggling to pull her even closer to satisfy his body's hunger for her.
"Well, I don't know," she murmured close to his ear in a sultry tone of voice that he had never heard her use before. Her tone of voice as well her lips gently moving against his ear as she spoke were driving him wild. "but I think it's pretty much the same as what you're doing to me."
She stopped speaking and simply held him close as the meaning of her words finally penetrated his brain. He realized through his emotion-fogged state that she wasn't seducing him. This was a joint venture, and they were both affecting each other in exactly the same way. All the same, he knew he didn't want to rush things, didn't want to seem as if he was simply using her, as he had so many women in the past. She was different. He loved her, and he would prove that love to her by taking his time and courting her as she deserved. Finally, he thought he would be able to speak again.
"OK." He said exhaling loudly. "How about if we just hold each other for awhile?"
"I'd like that." She replied softly.
Shifting in his arms, she sat alongside him, leaning against his chest with his arms wrapped around her.
By the time their breathing and heart rates had slowed down enough to talk, she pulled away from him slightly, gently stroking his cheek and looking him in the eyes as she spoke.
"That was pretty intense, Scarecrow. Now I know what all that talk about you at the water cooler was about."
Lee was concerned by her statement, afraid that she was mistaking his recent passion as merely a physical attraction to her. He took her hands in his own as he tried to explain.
"Amanda, you are nothing like them. I love you. You mean so much more to me than anyone I've ever been with before, even Dorothy. I feel closer to you than I've ever felt to anyone. No one has ever affected me the way you just did, and I think it's because of how deeply I feel about you."
"Shh," she told him. "I didn't mean it like that. And the feeling is very mutual. You're pretty special to me too. I just wasn't expecting that reaction from either one of us."
He felt more at ease now, knowing that she understood him, and wasn't worried about his actions. He eyed the heart shape hanging at the base of her neck and gingerly picked it up in his hand.
"You've always known, haven't you. Even when I was too afraid to admit to myself, much less to you how I felt about you."
"Well, not always. I knew there was more to this heart than you were admitting, but if you weren't ready to talk about it, I wasn't going to push the issue. I was afraid for so long that if I did, you'd run away from me."
"You were probably right." He admitted.
"Of course, there was that time when you were dating Leslie, when I thought I must have been completely off base in thinking you had any feelings at all for me. I mean, here you were, not wanting to ask me out, dating someone who looked similar to me, was a normal person, and had a fascinating career to boot. I thought 'OK Amanda, he wants someone sort of like you, but more exciting, without the kids, the live in mother, or the mortgage. Who could blame him.'
"Oh, dating Leslie was a disaster!"
"How so," she questioned? "You two seemed to get along pretty well when I saw you together."
"What you didn't see was what happened after you left the evening you met her." Lee replied. "She was in the other room when I called out to her, but I called her 'Amanda' by mistake. You see, I was thinking so much of you, even when I was with her that it sort of came out by accident. Amanda, there were so many reasons I was afraid to ask you out on a real date. I was afraid that it would affect our working relationship and our friendship. What would I do if I lost my best friend? I was also afraid after that little Embassy party that dating you would distract me so much that I wouldn't be able to work effectively as an agent. So, I was trying to settle for someone else. But she just wasn't you, and you were what I really wanted."
"Lee, you called her by my name! That's horrible. What did she say?"
"Well that part turned out all right. She thought I was just making conversation about you since the two of you had just met. But that was my wake up call. I realized that the shrinks would have a field day with it. I was wishing it were you in my apartment having dinner with me. I couldn't make her into you. She just wasn't everything I was looking for because she wasn't you."
"Oh Lee, that's so sweet. But what about now?" Amanda asked. "Why aren't you afraid to be with me now. Not that I'm complaining, mind you." She chuckled as she said this, knowing that neither one of them would want to go back now to the way things were before.
"Oh, but I am afraid. I don't want to do anything wrong. You are my best friend, and I need to have you there in that capacity too. I just couldn't go on any longer with things as they were. I…I think about you all the time, wonder what it would be like to hold you and kiss you. Now that I know, there's no way I could go back to pretending that I don't care. Because I do, so very much." He looked into her eyes as he was saying this, and they both saw the truth of it, and the depth of their feelings for one another.
"Lee, you're my best friend too. You're not ever going to lose me." She squeezed his hand as she told him this, wanting to convey more to him than she could with her words alone.
" Look," she said, rising abruptly from the sofa. "Why don't I go warm up this coffee in the kitchen, and we can have our cake in there. Where neither of us will be tempted to let our coffee get cold again." She added, giving him a smile and a sly look out of the corner of her eye.
"Alright," Lee laughed. "I promise to behave as long as you do….for now."
They went back to the kitchen for their dessert, but neither could keep their eyes off of the other. Even as they were eating, each reached out often to touch the other's hand or arm, their eyes meeting in a new understanding they had both hoped for, for so long.
"Well," Lee asked, as they finished up the dessert dishes, "I guess I should be leaving. What are your plans for tomorrow?"
"The boys won't be back until tomorrow evening. I seem to have a free day on my hands Mr. Stetson. Did you have anything in mind?"
"Anything with you, Amanda. Anytime, anyplace, you name it."
"How about a nice picnic in the park?" she asked. "I seem to remember a lovely pathway with a clearing that would be perfect for it."
"Sounds like a date to me," he answered smiling. "I'll pick you up around 11:00?"
"Sure, I'll pack us a lunch."
At this he took her in his arms again. She practically melted against him as their bodies met, and their lips soon followed. He backed away from her, gently stroking her face, staring into her trusting eyes, which held a promise for tomorrow.
She walked him to the door, and waited until he had pulled away before locking up for the night. As she walked up the stairs, she reflected on their evening, knowing that it was just a beginning to what would be a very wonderful story. Her hand wandered up to her heart pendant, the pendant he had given her so long ago. Little had she know that night, that someday she would truly have his heart, or that he would accept hers so gratefully. She smiled as she walked to her bedroom window, and looking out toward the horizon, she softly whispered, "Goodnight, my love. Until tomorrow."