/***NOMINATE, NOMINATE, NOMINATE YOUR FAVORITE STORIES AND AUTHORS IN THE SECOND ANNUAL PROFILER'S CHOICE CM AWARDS HOSTED BY CHIT CHAT ON AUTHOR'S CORNER FORUM! DON'T KNOW HOW? SEE AUTHOR'S NOTE AT THE END OF THIS CHAPTER!***/


Tangled in the Tightrope of Desire

The sexual tension was thick enough to repair a hole in the ozone level. It always had been.

That didn't mean she had to like it. In fact, on most days, she did a fairly good job at convincing herself that she could ignore it.

Of course, most days he wasn't sitting across from her, smirking that infuriatingly smug smile of his while looking like the cat that ate the canary. Damn it, but she hated that grin.

He knew it, too. He'd known her too long not to know how to irritate her.

"Stop smiling, David," she ordered imperiously, glaring at him across the desk. You can't pluck his eyeballs from his eye sockets, Erin. It would be unprofessional, she reminded herself. And messy.

"And why shouldn't I smile, Erin?" David Rossi asked good naturedly, casually crossing one leg over the other as he eyed the angry, pinched face staring back at him. "I won."

"And it's all about who wins, isn't it?" Erin replied, keeping her voice soft and even as she straightened in her black leather chair and clasped her hands on the desk blotter in front of her. Do not get angry, Erin. He'll see it as a weakness. Then, he'll exploit it for all its worth.

"With you?" Dave chuckled, wriggling his brows. "Hell, yes," he snorted, his dark eyes twinkling as he smiled.

"Don't you ever bore with this juvenile game we play, David?" Erin huffed, tilting her head as she glared at the man in front of her.

"You wouldn't be saying that if you'd been the winner of this victory rather than the loser," Dave replied arrogantly. "But to answer your question, no, not in the slightest. Sparring with you keeps my sharp edges nice and honed."

"Glad I can be of assistance," Erin snapped, silently cursing her hasty retort as his eyes narrowed on her.

"Ah, now, Erin, don't be a sore loser," he chided in a sing song voice, enjoying the flush creeping across her still beautiful face. Age hadn't diminished her loveliness over the years. If anything, the faint lines around her eyes had enhanced her prettiness, adding a new depth to her looks. She'd never believe that, he knew, but it didn't stop him from privately thinking it.

"A sore loser?" Erin echoed incredulously, her well honed fa├žade cracking ever so slightly. "You publicly humiliate me and you think I'm being a sore loser?" she bit out, her fingers tightening around the edge of her desk.

"I was asked an honest question and I gave an honest answer." Dave shrugged easily, propping his chin on his hand as he stared at her. "What can I say? I'm an honest guy."

"What you are is a prize bastard," Erin spat before she could think the better of her hasty accusation.

A slow smile spread across Dave's lips. "Now, babe, you know that isn't true. You've met both my parents before. You know I'm entirely legitimate."

"Son of a bitch," Erin groaned, slamming her hands against the polished wood of her desk.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk," Dave clucked, wagging a finger at her in mock condemnation. "And now you're insulting my mother, Erin. For shame! Really, babe, can't you think of an insult you can hurl solely at me?"

"One," Erin said with a cool smile, her composure once again falling into place. "Asshole."

"There ya go!" Dave winked, feeling wholly alive for the first time in weeks. "I knew you could do it." Damn, nothing like a good sparring match with Erin to get the blood pumping. Wrangling the upper hand away from her was more satisfying than any apprehension he'd ever participated in.

"Oh, David," Erin said as she shook her head, "I'm going to do a lot more than that," she said, rising from behind her desk to stand. "You're going to issue a retraction to the comments you made this morning to the Times reporter," she told him, slowly moving around her desk to face him.

"Sure I am," Dave grunted, rolling his eyes as he stared up at her, towering over him in regal outrage. "And they'll be serving ice water in hell later this afternoon."

"David..." Erin warned, grinding her teeth as her eyes flashed.

"Hey," he interrupted as he shrugged, "I told you not to fire the media liaison," he smirked, slowly rising in front of her, matching her height easily with a few inches to spare. "But you just had to trim the fat on our budget, didn't you?"

"So you're going to continue punishing me for a decision that was out of my hands," Erin snorted. "Typical David Rossi," she murmured. "Has it even occurred to you that Agent Jareau is enjoying a new job with a nice pay raise and better hours?"

"Yeah," Dave replied as he nodded, "And I'm enjoying my time with the press." He winked. "Win, win, win, right, Erin?"

"All you had to do was give one final briefing to cap the close of your most recent case, Agent Rossi," Erin groaned, recalling the live interview seen around the country. "Instead, you chose to use it as an opportunity to point out our Unit's deficiencies. Seriously, that diatribe telling the public that we would have found the unsub a lot quicker if the team hadn't been decimated by budget cuts? Are you insane?"

"Now, which part of that wasn't true, Erin?" Dave asked petulantly. "You're just jealous because I can get away with it," he mocked. "The brass ignores anything you have to say, but me, on the other hand..."

"Agent Rossi," Strauss interrupted tightly, "Do us both a courtesy and do not finish that thought," she commanded haughtily.

"Awww," Dave hummed sympathetically, "Is the truth that painful, Chief Strauss?" he said with a superior smile.

"The truth?" Erin repeated with a grim smile of her own. Raising an eyebrow she asked arrogantly, "Have you ever wondered why those powers that be never put you in an authoritative position, David?"

"I can't say that I've ever cared, Erin," Dave replied.

"But I want to tell you, David," Erin countered sweetly. "While your methods are effective, they're often questionable. And dangerous. You're a wolf without a pack mentality. Most of the time, you're more interested in being right than doing what's best for the whole. And you're unpredictable on a good day. People that matter think you're a hazardous combination of qualities."

"And yet, they don't mind calling on me when the chips are down, do they?" Dave taunted, unfazed by her comments. "Unlike you. You're just the pretty face that everyone can point to and smile. You don't actually do anything, Erin, except spout whatever bullshit PR line the brass wants you to say. You're a mouthpiece, Sweetheart. No real power whatsoever. You're just the BAU's bullhorn. I'm their gun. Which do you think they really want when the going gets rough? You," he asked, raking her up and down with hungry eyes, "or me?" he whispered, leaning forward to whisper in her ear. "Who do you really think they'll side with?"

"Fuck you, David," Erin breathed heavily, blanching as she shivered, his hot breath washing over her neck. She hated when he was right.

"We tried that, too, babe. Or don't you remember?" Dave said with a leer down at her. "Memory going in your advanced years, Erin? I'd be happy to refresh your memory."

Taking a step back, Erin jerked her chin toward the door. "Out," she hissed, despising her own body's reaction to his deep voice as liquid warmth pooled in her core.

"No?" he asked innocently, advancing half a step toward her. "Not willing to sleep with me when you can't get anything out of it, huh?"

Lifting her head defiantly, Erin smiled. "I fucked you twenty years ago because I wanted to. I got my promotion because I'd earned it."

"Yeah," Dave sneered knowingly, shaking his head. "It just happened flat on your back, didn't it?"

"Jealous?" Erin raised a brow.

"Grateful. You married that poor bastard," Dave retorted as he grinned easily. "I got all the fun and none of the bullshit." Narrowing his gaze, he added, "Just. Like. Now." Dropping his hands in his pockets, Dave dropped his head to brush a kiss against Erin's smooth cheek. "You have fun cleaning up my mess this afternoon, Erin," he laughed before walking out her office door.

Shaking her head as the door closed behind him, Erin wondered which left her feeling more invigorated...fighting him or fucking him.

And with a sigh, she realized her opportunity for either had passed.

Until the next time.

Finis


Author's Note: Hello, Friends. A couple of announcements for all of you. First, you still have approximately FOUR 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.

Second, you all have a little less more than three weeks left to nominate stories for the second Annual Profiler's Choice CM Awards. The nomination ballot, rules and category summaries can be found at "Chit Chat on Author's Corner" forum. To reach that post please either take a trip to the forum OR links are provided on the profile pages of ilovetvalot, Profiler's Choice CM Awards AND tonnie2001969. Nomination ballots should be PM'd to the Profiler's Choice CM Awards ONLY. That link is also provided on the forum or the profile pages listed above. PLEASE REMEMBER, WITHOUT NOMINATED STORIES, THERE CAN BE NO AWARDS! SO, PLEASE, COME OUT AND SUPPORT YOUR FAVORITE FANFIC AUTHORS AND NOMINATE THOSE STORIES.

ALSO, we would love for our fellow author's to assist us in advertising these awards! Please feel free to copy and paste anything in this author's note or contact us for a pre-written blurb if you like.

And, please, everyone, feel free to join us over on Facebook! Simply search for "Ilovetvalot Fanfiction" and friend me. We have scores of authors connected together and we'd love to see you there!

As ever, we appreciate every single one of you that takes the time to read and/or review our stories. Your valuable feedback is deeply appreciated and we love hearing from you!

And, if we haven't stated it before, we do not own Criminal Minds, but darn, we wish we did!

*** SPECIAL NOTE: For whatever reason, disabled the Profiler's Choice Awards PM system. That means all attempts to submit ballots failed from September 11 - 16. Could you all please help spread the word that anyone who tried to submit a ballot during this period listed above should RESEND their submissions. I am very sorry for any inconvenience this has caused. We really need help reaching all the different ships out there though. So, PLEASE, those willing to help, let me know if you can include this as part of your author's notes to readers.***