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A Moment on the Edge

Chapter Three

"Let's start with the flowers," Dave suggested.

"You mean ex-wife number three's flowers, don't you?" JJ queried acidly, her eyes glacial as they met Dave's.

"No," Dave denied calmly, shaking his head, "Those tulips were very definitely yours. And I guess I should have been clearer in wording the card. I know when the anniversary of our relationship is by heart, Jennifer," Dave stated solemnly. "It's October third, and as you said, it's still a few weeks away. Those flowers were to commemorate our first meeting in Aaron's office...the day I knew my life had finally changed for the better...the day I formally met you. It was my first day back at the BAU...September 23rd. Incidentally and unfortunately, it does coincide with my former anniversary with one of the three furies. But that is ALL it was...mere coincidence."

Shocked, JJ stared back at the forthright man in front of her. She knew him well enough to know that he didn't fabricate phony stories. It was her that had forgotten that anniversary. "Oh," she said faintly, her throat tightening even as she spoke that simple word.

"Oh," Dave echoed, arching an inky brow heavenward before continuing. "Now, onto my second sin...the reporter."

Rolling her eyes, JJ shook her head quickly, her earlier forgiveness quickly waning. "Look, it wouldn't have been so bad, Dave, but this was the second time in as many weeks that you've met with her on the book. And it's not just that," JJ noted, gaining steam, "it's the fact that each time she arrived in your office, you all but scooted me out the door! And in hindsight, I'd say I had as much input on that novel as you did. I researched...I proofread...hell, I'd venture that I'd have been better informed to answer some of her questions as YOU," she insisted vehemently.

"You're absolutely right," Dave agreed for the second time without missing a beat.

"And another thing..." JJ huffed, stopping abruptly as he stymied her with another capitulation. Shaking her head, her blond locks falling haphazardly around her face, JJ grimaced, "If I'm right, then why..."

"JJ," Dave murmured, pressing one finger against her parted lips as he moved even closer, his hip now touching hers, "you've got to let me talk, too." Watching her unhappy nod, Dave tucked a strand of her wayward hair behind her ear. "You're correct, babe. I did meet with that reporter twice in fairly quick succession. And I was probably more...cordial than I would have normally been, but she was sort of doing me a favor."

Narrowing her eyes suspiciously, JJ's voice remained low as she asked, "What kind of favor, Rossi?"

"Well, that ties into our official anniversary. I was trying to surprise you," Dave confessed.

"I'm not following, Dave," JJ replied gravely, trying to ignore how good it felt when he stroked the back of his fingers over her cheek. "And I'd really like to get on the same page as you soon."

"How 'bout the same book jacket as me?" Dave suggested instead, picking up the hardcover book he'd discarded beside him when he'd sat down.

"Huh?" JJ grunted, truly lost now.

"The reason I rushed you out of those meetings with the reporter from the Washington Times is that I was trying to surprise you with the article. It's supposed to come out on our anniversary and the primary focus is how after all these years the notoriously hard to work with David Rossi has a co-author," he informed her, pressing the book into her hands. "You," he said needlessly as he watched her gaze drop to the glossy book jacket in her hands. "That's the galley copy sent to me for my approval."

"You listed me as a co-author?" JJ whispered blankly, unable to believe what she saw held in her shaking hands.

He shrugged his wide shoulders as he flipped open the cover to the first page. "Dedicated it to you, too."

"To my partner in crime and passion. Thank you for giving me a future I never dared imagine," JJ read aloud, her eyes misting again as she bit her lower lip.

"Trust me, I never did that for any of the previous wives. Only you," Dave said softly. "I hijacked your press conference because I knew you were on the verge of busting me for the long meeting with the reporter. I thought if I could divert that anger with another lesser crime...," he said, his voice trailing off. Exhaling a heavy breath as he watched her finger trail wondrously across her name on the cover of the book, he shook his head, "Let's just say, I did something really dumb in an effort to give you a surprise. The way I did it probably wasn't one of my better ideas, but I had good intentions, sweetheart. But no surprise is worth watching you walk out on me, so here it is...all up front and on the level."

"I...you...," JJ faltered, her voice weak as she forced her eyes to his. "I feel like an idiot," she whispered, blinking back tears.

"You are anything BUT that, Jen," Dave whispered, leaning forward to tentatively brush his lips against hers as he wrapped an arm around her thin shoulders, pulling them both further back into the loft.

Pressing her mouth to his warm lips, JJ leaned her forehead against his and squeezed her eyes closed. "I thought I didn't matter. I thought how I felt didn't matter."

Cupping her face with his hands, Dave met her gaze squarely, no subterfuge between them now. "That was never the case. Looking back at it, I was being a secretive bastard. You had every reason to be suspicious, but believe me, Jennifer, there is nobody that matters more to me than you. Nobody," he insisted, willing her to believe him...to believe in them.

Swallowing, JJ nodded. "I'm sorry. All my life I've struggled to show people that I was just as good...just as worthy as the next person. It's baggage I carry around from my childhood, I guess. After my sister died, I tried so damned hard to be perfect," she confided haltingly, stretching her legs against his. "And the last few weeks, I just..."

"...felt like you were being taken for granted," Dave surmised, pressing his lips to her forehead. "I'm sorry for that, Bella. But when you feel like this, you've got to tell me. I'll move heaven and earth to make you happy, but I've got to know that you're unhappy first. You can't just threaten to walk away from us before I even get a chance to fix things."

"I know," JJ nodded against his neck. "I guess you're not the only one here with a jealous streak," she revealed ruefully, her fingers clutching his gift to her against her chest.

Smiling against her temple as he leaned back against a nearby hay bale, Dave whispered, "I'll tell you a secret, Bella. That streak of yours is a hell of a turn on, but you have nothing to worry about. Not from an ex-wife. Not from a reporter. Not from anyone. Everything I want is right here in front of me. Besides," he stated as he grinned down at her, "according to my editor, if I screw this up with you, he's dropping me and picking you up."

Laughing, JJ leaned into the solid strength his embrace provided. "No danger in that."

"That's what I told him. From now on, we're a package deal," Dave replied contentedly, easing her onto her back as he loomed above her, capturing her lips in a persuasive kiss. "Hopefully by the next book, the authors can share more than a cover. I'm thinking that we save our readers a lot of confusion and share a last name, too."

"One of the things I love about you," JJ giggled as his head dipped to nibble her neck, the solid loft beneath her cushioned by crunching hay, "You're always thinking of others."

"What can I say, babe," Dave murmured as he grinned, "I'm a giver."

And there in the hay loft as the sun began to set on the horizon, JJ returned his gift tenfold. She finally learned to give her heart freely. A moment on the edge had given way to a lifetime of security in his arms.


Author's Note: Hello, Friends. A couple of announcements for all of you. First, you still have approximately THREE days to sign up for "The Masquerade Challenge" for October's on "Chit Chat on Author's Corner" forum. We also have a "Freaky Friday" mini-challenge in progress for those interested. Details for both can be found at the forum. We'd love to have all of you sign up. I think we'll have a lot of fun this Halloween Season.

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