thank you for all your good wishes. I'm trying to get my life back together right now, and looking forward to writing and posting on a more regular basis. As well as this chapter, I was inspired by the latest episode (Neighbourhood Watch) and will be posting a story inspired by that later on today.

Hope you enjoy this latest installment!


"How about that? Does that feel good?"

Kensi moans softly, as my fingers ease over her thigh, made silken and slippery by a generous application of body oil. "Don't stop," she begs and stretches languorously.

"I wasn't planning to." She's lying face-down on the bed, hair pinned up on top of her head, with just a few tendrils escaping to curl idly at the nape of her neck, so I blow them aside and dot a series of kisses down her spine, before returning to the job at hand. Or rather at my fingertips. Mind you, it's hard to keep concentrating, distracted as I am by the delicious curve of her ass, as round and ripe as a peach. Or maybe a nectarine? Either way, I'm tempted to sink my teeth into it, but I force my attention back to the small but painful matter of Kensi's thigh muscles.

"Right there." The breath hisses out from behind her teeth, and I can feel the long length of her thigh muscles tense up as I probe the tender spot.

"Try to relax." I explore the area carefully, massaging the muscle as Kensi tries not to wince.

"I'm trying to." She hitches in a breath and tries to let the tension ease of out her body, but not that successfully, because the next time I touch her hamstring, she almost leaps off the bed. "Deeks!"

"Sorry." I keep my fingers pressed into the recalcitrant spot, and use the other hand to push her back down onto the bed and continue with the deep tissue massage, trying to ease out the strain I can feel in her hamstring.

"You don't sound sorry," Kensi grumbles and tries to stop herself flinching as I apply a little more pressure.

"Do you want me to sort this out, or do you want to go back to LA still limping and have Hetty send you off to the ER?"

"You've got a point."

"And it could be worse. Last week I saw this book on her desk: Acupuncture for Dummies."

"You are kidding me, aren't you?" There's an edge of real fear in her voice, and actually, I can't blame her. Hetty is terrifying at the best of time, but believe me, you have never known real fear until you've seen Hetty advancing towards you with a needle clutched in her hot little hand and a look of anticipation in her beady little eyes.

"Relax. Of course I'm kidding." The book was actually called Advanced Acupuncture Techniques, if you really must know. Hetty is a master of just about everything, after all. Still, there is no way she is ever getting near me with a needle again. Once was more than enough. I still have nightmares about her injecting me, in the manner of a darts player after consuming an entire pitcher of beer. Next time I'll just take my chances with smallpox, if it's all the same, thank you very much.

"He really was a prick though, wasn't he?" Come on, like you could resist the temptation to work that little gem into the conversation? And if you could, then you're either a complete fool or a better man than I am.

"Jack? I guess he was. But at the time… he just kind of seemed safe."

Wow. Talk about damning with faint praise. I'm almost certain none of my ex-girlfriends would ever describe me as 'safe' in their wildest imaginings. Which is a good thing – isn't it?

"And that was what you wanted?"

"I thought I did." She rolls over and stares up at me, eyes hugely dilated, so they look as dark and mysterious as onyx. "Only I was wrong. Jack wasn't safe at all: he was just boring. And as long as I did exactly what he wanted, everything was fine."

"For him, you mean?"

"Definitely. It was like I wasn't myself anymore. Jack had pulled me into his shadow and sucked all the light out of me."

She's shining now, no doubt about it. Kensi is just glowing, and somehow I don't think it's just the aftermath of the long, hot bath we shared, or the massage I'm giving her. There's something else there, something deeper inside. The thought that Kensi, ,my beautiful, incomparable Kensi, who just bubbles over with effervescent vivacity and vitality was so nearly subsumed by the relentlessly mundane Jack is almost beyond comprehension to me. Trying to think about it all rationally, that is perhaps the biggest surprise of all: that Jack is just so damned ordinary and Kensi is so special, so unique. Thank God that she was freed by this plodding, pedestrian man so that she could reach her full potential and sparkle in the sunshine, as she was meant to. Okay, I know I'm getting all poetic again, next thing you know I'll be watching those awful Twilight films, finding I'm enjoying them and thinking about true love and all that, if I'm not careful. It's a god thing Kensi can't actually read my mind, because that would probably have her running for the hills – or back to Pendleton in search of the nearest muscle-bound hulk with the IQ of an elk.

"You had a lucky escape," I comment idly, thinking just how lucky it was for both of us that Jack was a complete jerk.

"Tell me about it."

It occurs to me that things could have been so different – if Kensi was still with Jack, then where would I be? More to the point, who would I be? I've changed a lot in the time we've been together, finally acknowledging that all the things I was running away from for so many years were actually the things I'd always wanted – like a real relationship, a home and even a family. In other words, all the things that I knew nothing about. The journey we've taken together has been the best ride of my life. Only it could so very easily have been different. The thought of my life without Kensi in it scares me witless, because she is so inextricably linked with who I am. In large part that's because she's allowed me to become the man I am today: happy and fulfilled.

Kensi raises herself up onto her elbows and stares at me. "You're a thousand miles away. Come back to me?"

"I'm right here. I was just thinking – how easily things could have been different. If you and Jack were still together, then there wouldn't be any us."

"Stop it right there." Just be make sure, Kensi puts her index finger across my lips. "You and me – we were meant to be. That's all there is to it. So don't think you can try to run out on me, like he did. I've got the ring, remember? And I'm going to marry you and we're going to live happily ever after." She looks so fierce, it's almost comical.

"I wouldn't dare," I assure her, biting the tip of her finger very gently and holding it in my mouth for just a second. That's the truth. "I reckon if you were really mad enough you'd be able to catch me, no matter how fast I ran and then you'd tackle me and bring me crashing down."

"You'd better believe it." Kensi sits up and slides into my arms, pressing herself against me so that I can feel the warmth of her body and her heart pounding away. "Marty? You know I love you – and only you? That Jack means nothing? Less than nothing, actually."

It's what I need to hear, and she is what I need to feel, filling my world with her nearness and the fabulous realisation that somehow she completes me in ways I had never imagined. Her hands are running slowly down my back now, as Kensi starts to whisper about just how much she loves me and all the ways she is going to show me how much she loves me so that we just slide into one another and make slow love, never closing our eyes as the world is imbibed with wonder once again, my mind feels like it's expanding to encompass infinity and all the time our eyes never close, as we look deep into one another so that our very essence is revealed, exposed and healed once again in blessed trinity. I've got everything I ever wanted, right here and now, surrounding me, enveloping me and tomorrow has never looked quite so inviting or exciting, all because I know that Kensi's going to be there, dancing ahead and pulling me onwards. She's all I ever wanted and the best thing of all is that she's mine.


"I'm starving," Kensi announces, some little while later.

"Seriously?" Because all I want to do is lie here, lounging naked against the pillows and make love to her over and over again. "Why not try the mini bar?" That way she can just bring me some chips, maybe a can of soda to wash things down with and I don't even have to get out of bed. Result or what?

"It's going to take more than a packet of peanuts and a Three Musketeers bar." She bounces onto her knees and looks at me imploringly. "Come on Deeks – there's a little Italian place down the street. It looked cute. And you love pasta."

That's true enough. I also love the way her breast jiggle up and down when she does that. But now I come to think about it, we managed to miss lunch altogether. Plus, the way I see it, Hetty owes us a decent meal after what we went through on that hideous assault course.

"We wouldn't want to waste our expense account, would we?"

There are very few perks that go along with being a federal agent, after all. Apart from that kind of heady rush of running into places with a drawn weapon, which somehow never grows old. It's the ultimate fantasy I suppose – power and phallic symbolism all wrapped up in a huge adrenalin rush that is almost the ultimate high. Almost – but not quite, if you get my drift.

"What are we waiting for?" Kensi leaps off the bed and then winces as her leg protests. "Damn it." She limps over to the dresser and dry-swallows a couple of anti-inflammatories. "I thought you said the muscle wasn't torn."

"It's not torn. Just pulled a bit. And I told you to take it easy, remember?"

"You didn't exactly give me much of an option, did you?" she says in a voice that is full of implied meaning.

"And you could have said 'no', couldn't you?" I respond.

"Where would be the fun in that? And look at it this way – if the Agency card bounces, maybe you could borrow a violin and serenade the customers?"

"I reckon we'd be better off with you washing the dishes out back rather than me scraping away at the violin." I was hoping she would have forgotten about my inadvertent confession all those months ago. Fat chance. She never forgets anything, as I know to my cost.

Kensi tilts her head to one side. "Aren't you ever going to play the violin for me?"

"Probably not." It's been years since I played properly, although you never forget – not really. It's just that without practice, your brain wants to do things that your hands are no longer capable of. You look at the printed music and can hear exactly how it should sound in your head, only your fingers are too clumsy to make the leap from theory into practice. Like any skill, you either use it or you lose it. Which is why I believe in making love as often as possible. I'm very serious about my art, after all.

"Pity. It could have been romantic."

Then again, it could have been a discordant mess that made her ears bleed. I'd rather leave Kensi with some pleasant illusions, if it's all the same. But she actually does look kind of wistful. I guess I've still got some way to go in the 'romantic fiancé of the year' stakes. In fact, I'm hardly out of the starting gate, if I'm honest with myself.

"Maybe one day. At some point. In the future."

I don't want to commit myself to something I can't manage to produce after all. Like I said, I'm a good deal of a perfectionist. Ray used to say I was anal about my violin practice, but that was because he had the artistic integrity of a sausage, so who cares what he thinks? I wonder how life is working out for Ray? I've never heard from him again after he left LA for his new life, but I reckon his kid must be about one by now. No, make that nearer two. Times passes and you suddenly look back and realise it's been too long since you got in touch with old friends, that life is passing you by without you even noticing. I really should get in touch with Ray, because he'd get such a huge kick of finding out that 'Wikipedia' and I finally got our acts together. It would be nice if I could tell him we were also expecting a baby, but then you can't have everything. Ray always said we were meant for each other and I guess he was right.

Now, according to this article I read a long time ago, in order to work out if you really are compatible, you're actually supposed to sit down and then write yourself a list, stating all the qualities you're looking for in a partner. Come on – can you actually see me doing that? No, I thought not. I mean, how mad would that be?

Sign #3 Your Partner Is the Right One – They Has the Qualities You're Looking For
Ideally, you should know ahead of time what qualities are important to you in a mate. Trying to figure it out after the fact can lead to serious problems. If you have a good idea of the qualities you are looking for—the ones that are the most important—it will help you determine if he is the right one. It helps to write a list. Select at least 10 qualities you are looking for. Put that list in the order of importance. Take a serious look at the list and cross off any qualities that aren't so important. Some qualities are probably negotiable. If that is the case, they can likely be removed from the list. The idea is to get down to at least the top 5 non-negotiable qualities that you are looking for.

I don't need to write anything down, because we've talked about our hopes and our dreams, our wishes and our fears. We've even talked about how we're going to cope if those dreams turn to ashes. But if you really must know what I look for in a woman, then here goes:

Honesty.

Trust.

Compassion/love.

Fortitude/Endurance

Laughter.

So there you are. The guide to the convoluted heart of Martin Deeks in a nutshell. Bet you're surprised at how deep I can be? Well, you should know by now that my superficiality is just that – superficial. Most of the time, anyway. You've got to allow me the occasional burst of mindless moronity, just so I know I'm still alive and having fun. Because that's all that really matters in the end, isn't it? I take my pleasures very seriously indeed. What on earth is the point of all this if you can't have some fun? Life is far too long just to go through the motions and endure your existence. I found out a long time ago that Kensi makes loving fun and that life just seems a whole lot better when she's around. And in the process, I discovered that I don't really want to think about a life without her in it, so I guess that settles the whole question, once and for all.

Anyway, the point of all this is just to say that I could sit and analyse our relationship for hours, but when it comes right down to it, Kensi is pretty much everything I've been looking for, all wrapped up in one incredible, gorgeous and utterly sexy package. And for some reason I've never quite worked out, she seems to feel the same way about me. How come I got so lucky?

Well, I keep asking myself that question for some time. We get to the restaurant, and it's so cute it would make your teeth hurt. We're talking about dark wood furniture, red and white tablecloths and guttering candles stuck in venerable wine bottles. If I didn't know better, I'd say it looks like a set that came straight off a Hollywood back lot. But this is the real thing and the food is so good my stomach feels like I've died and gone straight to heaven. The place is small and intimate, and we sit there, talking quietly about everything and nothing and eating this sublime food, accompanied by a Chianti Ruffino that would make angels weep tears of pleasure.

"I have the best ideas, don't I?" Kensi says smugly, as she scrapes up the last vestige of tiramisu from my plate, having already demolished her zabaglione in record quick time. She really should enter one of those speed eating contests one day. Nobody (apart from me) would bet on her, on account of the fact she's so skinny, so I'd be sure to rake in a fortune.

"This is pretty near perfect."

"Not quite perfect?"

"The true test will be when the espresso arrives, of course."

"You and your coffee. I hope they've got these little cookies, wrapped up in the tissue paper."

"Amaretti? But Signorina, of course." The waiter overhears our talk and bustles off, returning with two double espressos and a small hoard of cookies, wrapped in fine paper printed in pastel colours, along with a couple of liqueur glasses filled to the brim with an amber liquid. "Amaretto – like the cookies," he explains.

It's sweet and rich, with a heady taste of almonds and it's almost as good as the coffee, which is satisfyingly rich and dark, with a mellow gold crema floating on the surface. I even manage to snag myself one of the cookies before Kensi munches her way through the hoard. I don't know where she puts it all, I really don't.

"There would be worse place to live than Pendleton," I admit. I'm actually growing to quite like the place. It would be almost okay, if it weren't for the super abundance of Marines and associated heartiness that imbibes the place. And Jack, of course. Talking of whom…

"Did he tag you or something?"

Kensi looks confused. Then again, she has put back a fair amount of alcohol on an almost empty stomach. "What are you talking about?"

"Jack. I was just wondering if he had you micro-chipped so he could keep an eye on you. But it looks like he's just your average stalker." I nod my head towards the door, and Kensi turns around to see Mr Average himself standing there, with a girl at his side.

"It's a restaurant," she says reasonably. "It's probably just a co-incidence."

I don't feel like being reasonable. I want to grab Jack by the collar of his neatly pressed polo shirt and sling him out of the door and then give him a kick in the pants just for good measure. Still, I settle for stating the blindingly obvious. "His friend's awful young."

In fact, in pretty sure she's still in her teens. The good thing is that we've already finished eating, because just looking a Jack and that kid makes me feel uneasy. She looks so young and kind of scared at the same time and the combination is giving me this creepy feeling. Clearly, Jack does not have a subtle bone in his body, far less does he realise when he should leave well enough alone, because he actually comes over to our table, with this false grin on his face, like we're all old friends. As if.

"Fancy running into you again."

"Just fancy." Ice drops off Kensi's tongue as she speaks.

"Darla – this is Kensi. You remember me telling you about her?"

Darla is bright red by this stage, and obviously wishes they'd just gone for a burger. She's only marginally too old for a Happy Meal. "Kind of," she mumbles reluctantly, carefully not looking at us.

Kensi leaps into the breach. "Hi Darla. This is Marty Deeks, who I remember telling Jack all about just a couple of hours ago. Even if he has forgotten. Still suffering from that short-term memory problem, Jack?" She's good, no doubt about that.

"Darla, this is Marty Deeks – Kensi's partner." Jack manages to sound both long-suffering and put-upon at the same time.

"Fiance, actually," I say, ultra-politely and Kensi waggles her left hand meaningfully.

"You never said you were engaged." Jack looks affronted. "And you weren't wearing a ring earlier on." He glares at Kensi, like we're making all this up for his benefit. The guy really has an inflated sense of his own importance.

"One: you never asked. And two – I'd just come off an assault course, so of course I wasn't wearing any jewelry. I wasn't wearing any earrings either, come to that."

They're almost squaring up to each other like a couple of prize-fighters and in an effort to try to diffuse the rather volatile situation, Darla wades in to the fray.

"So, exactly how did you know my Dad, Kensi?"

She could have saved herself the effort of speaking and just lobbed a grenade onto the table, because in less than ten words Darla has just about managed to start World War Three right here in Pendleton. Oh well, at least the Marine Corps will be equipped to handle the casualties.