Author's Note: This is my favorite chapter thus far, especially because of what it builds up to. I'm pretty sure one of the main reasons I started writing KTC is because of all the culinary research I would have to do. The Cooking Channel is my friend, and that much will be evident in this chapter; if you get hungry, I will readily take the blame! :) Anyway, thank you so much for reading; as always, it is very much appreciated!

Disclaimer in Chapter One!


When Emily woke, it was to a strange noise coming from her VHS player and to a shooting pain in her neck. Briefly, she thought, That's what you get for sleeping on the couch, before she realized…

…she had slept on her couch.

Why?

She was blinking the sleep from her eyes when she remembered. Houston. Flowers. Rain. Tom Hanks and World War II.

A gorgeous man changing into dry clothes in the middle of her main room.

Kiss after glorious kiss after glorious kiss from said man.

Aaron.

Her head snapping up sharply, she stole a glance beside her, knowing just what - who - she would see.

There, somehow handsome even in sleep, was Hotch.

Emily's expression softened as she continued to gaze at him; all rumpled and restful. She knew she should have felt even the slightest bit appalled that he had stayed the night without her knowledge…but she didn't. Not one bit. She was contemplating why she felt that way when one single hoarse word reached her ears.

"Shit."

Pushing herself up into a suitable seating position, Emily smirked a little. "Good morning to you, too."

Hotch ran a hand through his already disheveled hair. "I can't believe I fell asleep," he groaned. "I told myself I would close my eyes for only a minute…and I didn't want to wake you up. It was still raining, and you looked so peaceful; I didn't want to disturb that." He shook his head. "God, I'm sorry."

"Sorry?" she echoed, moving over to the sofa he was occupying. She smiled, arching a curious eyebrow. "Sorry for what?"

He nodded over to the digital time flashing above her VHS player. "You're already late to work," he pointed out.

"So are you," Emily replied simply. "It's no biggie; I can always blackmail Sean into letting me off easy on this one anyway," she said as an aside, causing Hotch to erupt in laughter. "So, don't worry too much about it. Besides," she took her bottom lip in between her teeth adorably, "I really enjoyed last night."

Hotch's lips curved into a smile similar to hers; small and oh so sweet. "So did I," he said quietly, gazing into her eyes. "Thank you."

"Thank you." Emily breathed a tiny laugh in protest as he moved in for a kiss, however. "Mm-mm," she declined. "I don't think you'd appreciate my morning breath," she said, her eyes crinkling at the corners.

But Hotch simply chuckled. "You know, I bet I can deal with it just this once," he countered.

And just like that, their lips met in an age-old embrace.

~.~.~

"Oh, don't give me that look."

Sean smirked at Emily, then waggled his eyebrows suggestively. "Look? What look? Em, I have no idea what you're talking about."

She rolled her eyes playfully. "Of course you don't. As if you're not about to get out that monstrous phone of yours and call your brother," she said astutely.

"Now why would I do that?" Sean was outright grinning now. "I think you need to get to work."

Emily snorted. "Yes, sir."

The moment she turned away and was out of earshot, Sean dialed Hotch's number. He answered on the second ring.

"Did you -"

"No, Sean. I didn't 'get some'," Hotch interrupted, biting back his laughter.

Sean huffed impatiently. "You had no idea what my question was going to be."

There was a pause. "But that was it, wasn't it?"

"…yes." This time, it was Sean's turn to roll his eyes. "You're no fun, Aaron. In more ways than one."

"Stop it, I'm blushing," Hotch deadpanned.

'Hey, buddy, you're lucky I'm a nice person; if it weren't for the fact that Emily's birthday is in less than a week, I would have had to reprimand her for being more than an hour late to work. And it would have been all your fault."

Hotch had stopped listening to the end of his brother's teasing retort, however; only one thought was now on his mind. "Emily's birthday is in less than a week?" he echoed, his mind racing. What do I get her? What would she like? What do I do? Where do I take her?

"Why, yes, it is. I'm ashamed, Aaron; you didn't know when your girlfriend's birthday is? What kind of boyfriend are you?"

"Hey, in my defense, neither one of us has ever brought it up in conversation, so why would I know?"

"You've been out on what, four, five dates?" Sean asked. "What else do you talk about?"

Hotch shook his head. "We've been out on two dates, Sean. Only two."

Sean blinked, momentarily stunned. "Really?" he asked. "Only two? I could've sworn you two have…I mean, you act like you've…known each other for years. Never mind," he finished lamely.

"I know what you mean," Hotch said, stepping out of the elevator and into the bullpen. "I feel that same way every day I see her."

Sean opened his mouth to say something more, but was quickly interrupted by Emily. "Hey, gossip girl. Shouldn't you be getting back to work? I think you need to," she mocked, her eyes sparkling with mirth.

Hotch threw his head back in uproarious laughter when he heard Emily's voice over the line. "Listen to the lady, Sean," Hotch advised.

Sean scoffed. "You two are awful. I hate you both."

"Love you, too, gossip girl."

~.~.~

"So…a little birdie tells me that it's your birthday tomorrow."

Leaning against her kitchen counter, Emily smiled into the phone. "That little birdie is correct," she said softly, absentmindedly playing with a strand of her hair.

"I got you a gift."

She groaned softly. "I was afraid you were going to say that."

Hotch cracked a small smile of his own. "Afraid?" he questioned.

"You're just such a sweet guy; I don't need all the attention you shower me in," she said, her smile obvious in her tone of voice. "Your company is more than enough."

Hotch clucked. "Not for me, it's not," he countered cutely. "I want to give you a gift on your birthday, and Valentine's day, and Christmas. I want to take you out to dinner so you can have a good time. I want -"

"Oh, please don't tell me you made reservations for dinner," Emily said suddenly, her eyes widening slightly.

"I…was planning to," he said slowly, only slightly confused. "Why do you ask? Any particular place you want to go to?"

Emily shook her head, despite the fact that he could not see her; she was alone in her brownstone. "No, I…I actually was thinking of asking you if you just wanted to stay in for the night, instead of going out," she said in return, a certain unidentifiably breathless quality to her voice that had Hotch infinitely more intrigued. "I could cook you dinner," she offered, her expression bright. "You'd finally get to taste a sample of my cooking." Hotch was silent. "What do you say, Aaron?"

He bit his bottom lip in serious contemplation. "You have…no idea how appealing your offer sounds," he said, anxious to see her once more. "But, I do very much want to take you to dinner," he said. "So, you can see my dilemma."

Emily pouted playfully. "Why are you so insistent?" she teased.

Hotch chuckled to himself. "Because I want to be able to take you out to a nice restaurant and show the world just how lucky I am to be in the company of a gorgeous woman like you," he answered smoothly, without any hesitation at all.

She blushed profusely. "Oh my God, Aaron, seriously. Stop it! I've blushed more in the couple weeks that I've known you than in my entire life," she laughed.

"I'm only telling the truth," he replied. "So? What'll it be, Emily?"

"Hmmm…" Emily licked her lips idly. "How about…how about you take me out to dinner tomorrow night, and you come over for dinner tonight? My treat," she grinned.

"And when you say 'my treat', you mean -"

"I'll be the one wearing the chef hat," she winked, wishing he was already there with her.

Sinking into a chair in the main room of his apartment, Hotch smiled and let his eyes fall shut. "Now that's an offer I can't turn down."

"I'll see you around…oh, I don't know. Seven?"

"You will," he promised. "And Emily?"

"Yes?"

"I can't wait."

~.~.~

"Something smells amazing."

You do, Emily wanted to say, as she pulled him in for a welcome kiss. And he did; like mild citrus and spices. "That would be the chili-rubbed steak," she said against his lips, smiling at his quiet little moan. "I wasn't sure to make that or a grilled flank with shallot and red wine sauce, but I figured that a spinach and grapefruit salad - with ginger lime vinaigrette, mind you - would better go with the chili-rubbed steak. And based on your reaction, I assume I made the right choice?"

Hotch nodded, his shoulders shaking with contained laughter. "I haven't even had a bite of dinner yet, but I can already taste the food. You're amazing," he grinned.

"Mm-mm, you're the amazing one."

"Ah, you see, but it's your birthday tomorrow, not mine. And you cooked for me when you had no reason to. That just makes you all the more special and all the more amazing." He leaned in for yet another kiss. "That being said, I'm starving."

Emily laughed. "I'm glad. Let's eat, shall we?"

"Please." He allowed her to take his hand in hers and lead him to her small, cozy dining room. "Would you like to open your present now, or later?"

Breaking away for a second to bring out the food, she tossed him a pretty glance over her shoulder. "After dinner, maybe. Though you should definitely give me a hint as to what it is," Emily teased.

Hotch's gaze followed her as she placed a bowl of fresh green salad before him. "A hint, huh? Well...it's red. And it's smooth," he replied vaguely, smiling at her confused expression.

"Smooth? Interesting. But kudos for knowing that my favorite color is red," she said gleefully, moving back to the kitchen to get the steak.

"We'll call it an educated guess," he said humbly, setting the table so as not to seem unhelpful. Together, they placed the steak on two plates, distributed the salad, then poured each other a glass of white wine.

Emily smiled, then nodded to the food. "Bon appétit." Hotch said nothing, only cut a sizable portion of steak with his fork and knife and brought it to his mouth. A split second later, Emily's smile morphed into a full-on grin at his pleased moan. "You like it?"

He nodded as he chewed, millions of flavors exploding on his tongue. "That's amazing," he praised, meeting her gaze from across the table. "The chili really brings out every other flavor in the meat; but it's not too spicy or overpowering. It's just perfect." Hotch licked his lips then took another bite of the succulent meat, savoring the taste.

She laughed quietly. "Mission accomplished, then." Bringing her glass to her lips, she took a tiny sip of wine and then dug into her dinner, her heart swelling with pride with every bite.

"And this salad..." Hotch had a contemplative look on his face as he tried to determine the taste of the dressing. "What did you say the vinaigrette was again?"

"Ginger-lime," she answered, taking a forkful of salad herself. "I was thinking of a chili-lime vinaigrette as a possible substitute, but I didn't want to have too much chili in the dinner; I wasn't sure if you would like it or not."

"Well, I'll tell you this," Hotch said, his dark eyes warm. "No matter what courses you make, what spices you include, or what flavors you experiment with, you're one incredible cook."

Fighting back her blush, Emily downcast her gaze and inspected the tasteful arrangement of food on her plate. "That's high praise; thank you."

"No, no. Thank you."

~.~.~

"That was easily the best dinner I have ever had."

Emily grinned, then rose to take his emptied dishes from in front of him. She balanced the plates, glasses, and silverware with ease. "I'm glad to hear it," she replied smoothly, making her way over to her shining silver sink. She didn't realize he was coming up behind her until he pressed a kiss to the back of her neck. She gasped a little, then chuckled and eventually leaned back against his chest. "Yes?"

"So, Chef Prentiss..." he craned his neck so he could kiss her jaw, "are you ready to open your gift now?"

"Mmmm, that's a good question," she said, reaching out to turn on the water and run it over the dishes. Emily turned around in his embrace, their lips dangerously close. "I did say after dinner...but maybe I was including dessert in there, too." She shot him an effortlessly flirtatious glance. "What do you think? Do you want dessert first?"

Hotch's eyes darkened slightly; Emily noticed. "Depends on what's for dessert." Did she mean...

She glanced behind them, where her refrigerator was situated. "Well, I was planning on it being a surprise," she teased, "but if you really want to know..." Emily tried to move out of his embrace, but Hotch only pulled her closer to him. "If you really want to know, you're going to have to let me go, Aaron," she said, smiling mischievously.

"I don't think I can do that," he admitted. And then, he covered her mouth with his in a searing kiss.

Forgetting all about the dishes she had been planning to watch, Emily managed to turn the sink off. In a split second, her arms were circled snugly around his neck, and the kiss quickly escalated into something more. Lips fused together, chests heaving, eyes shut in blissful pleasure, the two of them broke apart for oxygen for only a split second...and then, they were back at it again. Slowly, Hotch trailed his tongue along Emily's bottom lip, silently pleading for entrance which she gladly - and eagerly - granted him. Soon, they were engaging in a frenzied dance for dominance; and Hotch wasn't about to give up.

Without much thought, and without any protest from Emily, Hotch's hands found themselves creeping under Emily's silky black blouse. He didn't wander up too far; only enough so that he could caress her porcelain smooth skin. And God, she felt wonderful, all soft and pliant and warm beneath his touch. She keened a little into his mouth when he nipped at her bottom lip; and before he knew it, he had her pressed up against the cold refrigerator surface.

Finally, Emily pulled away, stars dancing before her eyes. His hands were still beneath her shirt; one of her legs was wrapped tightly around his hip; her hands were tangled in his hair. And only one thought was running through her mind.

She wanted him.

Emily shot Hotch a dangerously beautiful smile that had him lusting her even harder than before. She brought her lips to his ear, then breathed out an ecstatic sigh. "Want to take this somewhere else, Hotchner?"

His lust-darkened eyes met hers. Without a second's hesitation, he lifted her so that both her legs were now anchored around his waist, and so that she was now completely in his arms. "Like where?" he teased.

"Oh, I don't know..." She dropped a quick kiss to his parted lips. "My bedroom, maybe?" she countered saucily.

Slowly, Hotch's lips curved into a rakishly salacious smile. "I was hoping you'd say that."

And without another word spoken between them, he whisked Emily from the kitchen and strode purposefully down the hall. He didn't have to ask her where her bedroom was; he didn't even think he could have asked if he had needed to. Because now, with her in his arms, he couldn't formulate a single coherent sentence. Only one thought was running through his mind as well.

He wanted her.

Badly.


Author's Note: Well? What do you think? I'd sure love to know! If you have the time, please leave me a review; no account needed! Please stay tuned for the next chapter. I promise it'll live up to your expectations. ;)