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[M territory ahead, as we bring this saga to a close. Note to Lawson227: your simple little story suggestion of a sports-competition between Lassiter and Shawn didn't go at all how I thought it would. Hope you don't mind toooo awfully much!]

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Lassiter felt, as the night wore on, that he was worshipping Juliet's body. It seemed apt; she was certainly a goddess on earth so far as he was concerned.

The skin of her flat stomach was silky smooth, and he spent a long time kissing and nuzzling her there, up to the underside of her breasts and down just past her navel. He kept the palms of his hands on her erect nipples, kneading, and with each of her undulations against him he let his lips travel more south on her abdomen… down finally to where she most wanted him, and where he most wanted to be.

Touching and tasting this woman after years of wanting her was simply heaven. Each little sigh, each anxious jerk of her body under him, was celestially marvelous.

To know the secret of her intimate heat and be the one to make her cry out in pleasure—his name, no less—that was everything.

"Please, Carlton," she begged. "I need you."

She'd already had him twice tonight but he had years of longing to make up for, and he was in no hurry now, because now she was his.

Still, he could not refuse her, and drew himself back up on top of her, her legs parting under him to allow—to demand—entrance. Juliet's thighs clamped around his, and her arms were like steel holding him closer and closer as they moved together. So deep, and not deep enough: he couldn't help but feel he must ravish her totally, and the magnetic pull of her body around him was intense and exquisite.

He worked one hand between them to be very sure she had the utmost pleasure, and her eyes closed as she reached orgasm. The feeling of her spasms around him returned the utmost pleasure to him and sent them into oblivion together.

Collapsed against her soon after, he almost didn't have the strength to roll off, but then she didn't seem to want him to.

Keeping her ankles locked around his calves and her arms around his neck, Juliet kissed his jaw and throat and ear and licked his lips until he was drawn inexorably back into the miasma of desire.

"I can't get enough of you," she whispered.

Lassiter kissed her deeply, as if it were the first time, feeling her still clenching around him and wondering how in the hell she was arousing him again, before he'd even recovered, let alone withdrawn fully.

But downtime was inevitable, and he simply went on kissing her, more slowly, more sensually, and when she needed still more he gave it to her with his mouth and fingers, not minding at all that she was insatiable, because psychologically he knew he was too when it came to her.

Finally, trembling with aftershocks, they simply lay together in his bed, hands linked, letting the breeze from the window cool them off.

He wanted to tell her he loved her. In so many words.

But somehow he thought she knew.

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Juliet wanted to tell Carlton she loved him. In so many words.

But he wouldn't believe it, not yet. It was one thing to admit attraction and act on it, but he wasn't built to trust: he knew she wanted him but he would not believe so soon that she loved him.

She was in his kitchen at dawn, sipping coffee and wearing the t-shirt he'd had on last night. He was still in bed, deeply asleep, and as much as she wanted to wake him in an entirely lascivious manner, she'd let him rest… besides, more stamina for later, right?

She shivered involuntarily, all parts of her body remembering all parts of his. His lean strength, his so-very-talented hands and mouth and dear God that tongue: the sheer heat of Carlton Lassiter moving on her body.

Dressed and in Detective Lassiter mode he gave off a vibe that he'd be cool to the touch. Fast-moving, easily annoyed, remote.

But in bed, Lordy, the man was fire. Pure fire. Juliet let out a trembling sigh, because she wanted him again. On her, inside her, all around her.


Padding back to the bedroom, mug in hand, she leaned in the doorway and watched him. The sheet was off, and she admired his long legs and furred chest and the rather nice part of him in between, a part she'd gotten to know very well during the night.

A part she'd like to know even better.

Restless with fresh desire, Juliet decided there was no better way to wake a man than with what she suddenly had in mind. Setting the mug on the dresser, she crossed to the bed and carefully climbed up beside him, lightly stroking his thighs and stomach and gradually, as he remained asleep—long lashes dark against his cheek—she moved her hand closer to his more sensitive anatomy, which immediately responded to her touch.

"Juliet," he mumbled. "It is Juliet, right?"

She laughed and kept stroking. "So many women, so little time."

"Only one woman, and all the time in the world," he corrected, opened his ever-magnificent blue eyes, and urged her to straddle him. "You have a shirt on."

"Sorry," she said as she shucked it off. "Better?"

"Yes." He pulled her to him and nuzzled her breasts, and she was half-lost already. "Now I have breakfast."

Juliet couldn't help but laugh, and the light in his eyes was part amusement, part lust. "You can have it all."

"Mmm, smorgasbord," he growled, yanking her closer, and just like that her arousal turned into insistent do-me-now-dammit greed.

He flipped her onto her back and had at her and that was exactly what she wanted: total, immediate, deep, relentless connection.

She heard herself almost shrieking his name, but the pleasure went on and on and decimated the bedcovers. She was half off the mattress and clinging to him for dear life by the time it was over, and their ragged breathing had probably blown a few rainforest butterflies right over into the desert.

Carlton tugged her back onto the mattress fully, falling beside her in a wreck of his own. "Tough enough," he mumbled. "Damn straight I am."

Juliet laughed until tears came to her eyes.

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Monday morning, Lassiter met up with Juliet at the coffee bar. "Good morning, Detective O'Hara."

"Good morning, Detective Lassiter." She smiled and adjusted her collar.

He followed her gaze and sighed. "Sorry about that."

"I'm not." She turned so no one else could see and caressed the hickey where her throat met her shoulder, then pulled the collar up tight again with a pleasing blush. "I don't mind you marking all the places you've been."

Lassiter swallowed. "Dammit, Juliet, we've had eight minutes of sleep in two days and washed the sheets three times. All sets. We ran out of coffee yesterday afternoon and didn't see daylight until an hour ago. But you still…"

He stopped, because Juliet was smiling at him in a very knowing way.

"But I still want you," she whispered. "And that's not going to change any time soon."

Heat rose in all sorts of places on his body, and he knocked back a slug of coffee not caring that it was really a bit too hot for that.

She laughed delightedly. "Does this mean you feel the same way?"

"Is Mercurochrome Snerfl a dumbass name?"

Before she could answer, McNab came down the hallway carrying something in a large frame, beaming. "Here's the Tough Enough plaque, everyone. We had the most wins this year!"

Chief Vick stepped out of her office to gather with the others as McNab set the plaque on the dry-erase board for all to see.

"Very nice work, people," she said admiringly. "Look at all those fine officers of mine."

The winners' names were in alphabetical order, but Lassiter looked for O'Hara's first, feeling pride that his partner, friend and lover had done so well for herself and the department. She, he noted, was eyeing his name, with a possessive expression on her lovely face.

"Even the consultants," Vick went on, and he spotted Spencer's name on the right. Well, he'd had the second-place for the chin-up bar round, so sure. Why not? He could afford to be magnanimous at this point.

There was oohing and ahhing and tale-telling and general puffed-up-ness before Vick encouraged them all to get back to work while McNab found a proper place to hang the plaque.

Lassiter and Juliet remained at the board, sipping their respective coffees.

"I don't think I'm going to compete next time," she commented.

"Really? Why?"

"Well, for one thing, how on earth could I top everything from this year?"

"There are still more first place prizes to win, O'Hara, and you're just entering your prime. I should stay out, though. Getting too old for this." Never mind that his current aches and pains had nothing to do with Tough Enough.

She scoffed. "What the hell ever, studmuffin. I had way too much fun watching you this year and fully expect you to be just as hot two years from now."

Laughing mid-swallow earned him a few spots of coffee on his tie. He went back to his desk to clean up, and after she followed, he said, "Uh, I expect you to be hot then too. Why deprive me of the same scenery?"

Juliet gave him an innocent look which he didn't believe for one second. "But I'll have let myself go by then."

"Is that so?" He sat in his chair, grinning at her; this ought to be good.

Still innocent, she explained, "Isn't that what all women do after they find true love?"

Hmmmm… come back, heartbeat. Come back.

"Oh no, wait," Juliet went on, coming around to sit in the chair by his desk and leaning forward so only he could hear. "That's only if she marries him."

Lassiter stared at her, trying to make sense of these words, trying to make them fit into his still inherently pessimistic view of his chances with any woman, let alone this one, even after a weekend of carnal bliss.

Dropping the smile, she spoke even more quietly. "A lot's happened in the last week. We both went into Tough Enough with expectations which were totally laughed at by Fate, and the way things turned out is completely foreign to what we thought we knew but at the same time, they're completely and perfectly as they should be."

They were, but he couldn't speak to agree.

"I wanted to tell you this all weekend long but I couldn't because I didn't think you'd believe me, but you know what? You don't have to believe me, because it's true whether you do or not. I'm just going to say it and hope that soon you'll know it's true, and accept it, and marry me. Okay? I love you, Carlton. I think I always have, in the back of my heart, and it took this Tough Enough crap to make me see how things really are. I love you."

She sat back in the chair and gazed at him with… with love… actual love, in the depths of her dark-blue eyes.

"Oh my God," he whispered.

Juliet smiled gently.

He leaned forward, clasping her hand where it lay in her lap, and he didn't give a rat's ass who saw. "Did Spencer try to get you back on Friday?"


"And you said no?"

"Of course."

"He'll try again."

"So? I'll keep telling him no until the day you let me tell him 'no and by the way I'm taken.'"

Another jolt to the heart. "O'Hara… don't you doubt for one second that I… that I'm… dammit, I love you too. But I can't—you can't… I can't lose you if he comes around trying to wear you down. You have to be su—"

Juliet leaned in and kissed him. There. At his desk. In the station. With people around.


"I'm sure enough to do that here, Carlton."

He was slack-jawed with wonder.

"Excuse me, detectives," Chief Vick said pleasantly, having materialized in her Chiefly way just behind Juliet's chair. "Could you tell me what's going on? Or more accurately, why it's going on in my station?"

Lassiter said blankly, "She loves me."

Juliet said, "I do. And I had to convince him, Chief. You know what a stubborn ass he can be." She smiled as if it all made sense.

Vick stared at them both. "I see." Pause. "No, actually, I don't see." Another pause, another stare. "On the other hand, you know what? I do see. But I don't want to see it here. See?"

"Understood," Juliet said sheepishly.

Lassiter was still out of it.

Vick waved her hand in front of his face. "When he comes out of his trance, O'Hara, tell him that while you two do seem to be oddly well-suited for each other, and I'm surprisingly happy for you, I trust you will never again suck face in the middle of the bullpen, nor make it a problem for me that my top two detectives have crossed a professional line into dangerous employment territory. Is that clear?"

"Yes, Chief." Juliet nudged Lassiter's knee, and he made some sound of assent, enough to satisfy Vick.

"Now if you don't mind, could you possibly get back to work? Zack Markham's being delivered today and I would really like it if the paperwork didn't get filled out with little hearts dotting the Is and Cupid's arrows crossing the Ts. Okay?" She didn't wait for agreement, but strode off shaking her head and muttering.

He found his voice, still staring at his lovely partner. "Yes."

"Yes what?"

"Yes, I'll marry you and no, I don't even care if you go to pot."

Her smile was slow and wicked. "Because?"

"Because I love you, Juliet O'Hara, and I want you to be mine in every way there is." His heart was racing but it was joy now, with no fear anywhere on the horizon.

Juliet beamed. "Okay, then." She got up, and for a second he thought maybe she was as unsteady as he felt. "Uh, maybe tonight we should actually sleep."

He stood up too, lightheaded for other reasons, but stopped short of touching her because he could feel Vick's glare all the way from her office. "Well, we can try."

"Hey, I'm tough enough if you are," she said lightly.

Lassiter grinned. "You're the toughest girl I know. Also the sexiest."

Juliet sighed. "Meet me in Observation in five for a quick make-out session?"

"Three," he countered.

"Deal." She headed away, but turned back to add with a satisfied smile, "Partner."

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