WEE SMALL HOURS

In the wee small hours of the morning

While the whole wide world is fast asleep

You lie awake and think about the girl

And never ever think of counting sheep

When your lonely heart has learned its lesson

You'd be hers if only she would call

In the wee small hours of the morning

That's the time you miss her most of all

Frank Sinatra song

Chapter One

Horatio glanced again at the glowing red numbers on his alarm clock: three twenty a.m., barely fifteen minutes later than when he'd previously looked at the time. Resignedly, Horatio sat up in bed and rubbed his temples. Obviously he was not going to get any sleep for awhile so he may as well get up. Flicking on the light on the nightstand next to his bed, his eyes fell upon his cell phone and he picked it up, looking for messages. Looking for messages? he thought wryly. More accurately, hoping for a message... a certain message. Although why he thought she would leave him a text message was beyond logical thought since he was the one who walked away. Ran away, if he was truthful with himself.

With a sigh, Horatio arose from the bed and grabbed the bottled water sitting on the nightstand. He walked through the living room and out onto his back deck, hoping the gentle roar of the ocean waves hitting the beach a short distance from his house would soothe him. Uncapping the bottle, he took a deep drink of the water and looked up at the stars winking in the inky darkness above. Gazing at the stars, listening to the waves slapping the wet sand in the deep early morning hours, he felt as if he was the loneliest man in the world.

Horatio sighed again, this time with irritation. Well, he thought, if you are lonely, who is to blame for that, Horatio Caine? Who skittered away like a frightened rabbit when a chance for happiness suddenly appeared right in front of you? But that thought was then almost immediately replaced with the old familiar feelings of sadness and guilt about his late wife's death, and the fear that a new relationship might lead to more of the same. Horatio could never quite work these thoughts out logically in his mind. When he tried to do so, the intensity of his feelings clouded his ability to move past the barriers of culpability and despair, and left him feeling worse than before. How many times had his good friend, Alexx, sought to convince him to talk to someone about his unresolved feelings for Marisol? Although he tried to hide his unhappiness and fill his daytime hours with work, she saw the price he paid for this lack of resolution in his life, and he realized she worried about him. But he just couldn't do it. He didn't want to speak to anyone about Marisol, and he certainly didn't want anyone digging around in his mind, dredging up feelings and memories best forgotten. No, he didn't want to speak to a therapist.

Horatio glanced again at the cell phone he had carried outside with him: still no message. Not that he expected one. The ball was in his court, and he knew that.

Taking another drink from his bottled water, Horatio allowed his troubled thoughts to drift back to several months ago and his meeting with Lauren Chambers. He had been forced to attend a dinner held in conjunction with the Mayor's office, the Miami Youth Athletics Council and the MDPD to benefit troubled youth in the area. While Horatio was sympathetic toward the aims of the Council, he hated political events - nor did he particularly like the Mayor, who he felt was an opportunistic and charming charlatan. But Horatio's chief had made it clear that his very visible lieutenant was to make an appearance at the dinner, tacitly making it obvious by his presence that the MDPD supported both the Council and the Mayor in developing an athletics program to provide a more wholesome outlet for the unrestrained energy of the young boys and girls in parts of Miami. So very reluctantly and with much inward cursing, Horatio had donned suit and tie, showed up at the dinner for the least required amount of time, listened to the self-serving remarks of the Mayor, and was getting ready to make his escape when his eyes chanced upon the direct gaze of another pair of eyes - those of the lovely Lauren.

And lovely she was that night, recalled Horatio, with her long and wavy pale blond hair and her lithe figure dressed in a shimmering sky blue dress. But it was her eyes that particularly drew Horatio's attention - beautiful light gray eyes with just a bit of black edging the irises, and crinkled near the outer corners with some inner amusement that was both compassionate and engaging. Those eyes and what seemed to be hiding in their depths are what drew Horatio in and held him captive. She had been standing with the Mayor as Horatio had approached him to say goodnight and put an end to his tortured evening. Who is she? he had wondered. He recalled the Mayor's wife and knew that she was not THAT lady - and hopefully, she was not one of the Mayor's reputed OTHER ladies.

"Well... Lt. Caine, I am very pleased you were able to attend the benefit this evening. I can only guess what threats Chief Delgado had to make to get you here," said the Mayor silkily, only half kidding and with some condescension.

Horatio allowed the tone of the remark to pass without comment, and instead let his attention rest on the lovely woman next to the Mayor. "Lauren, this is Lt. Caine - one of Miami's finest. Lieutenant, this is Lauren Chambers. Ms. Chambers is starting work with my office this week - she is replacing Joe Armstrong."

The rest of the Mayor's words went past Horatio as he realized the young woman was the Mayor's new press secretary. The Mayor drifted away to speak with others, and Horatio found himself alone with Lauren. She gazed at him with friendly interest.

"Lieutenant, it is a pleasure to meet you - I suspect our jobs will occasionally put us in contact."

Horatio liked her smile and the warmth behind it immediately. "Ms. Chambers, I'll look forward to it. Um... would you like something to drink? A glass of wine, perhaps?"

She leaned in to him, conspiratorially, and whispered, "Ah, but Lieutenant, I thought you were in the process of making good your getaway as quickly as possible?"

"Was I as obvious as that?" he asked.

She flashed her knock-out smile at Horatio and replied, "Lieutenant, the only thing missing was your grabbing a megaphone and yelling, 'Clear the aisle, clear the aisle! Bored Law Enforcement Officer coming through! Make way!"

Horatio grinned at the mental picture this conveyed - and so it began.