A/N I guess I've just got seriously addicted to writing JAC fanfiction and just couldn't end up with only one story about those two. So here it is!

Big part of credit should go to Jessica (csinyfan28), as it was her story, He Wants To Get Married, that inspired me to write this one. Thank you very much for this piece of writing - it is really beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

English still isn't my mother tongue, so again, sorry for all mistakes and language imperfections (although it should be much better on that filed, thanks to my lovely beta-reader - Christine (NYPD8433) - you're a huge help!) that will be bothering you while reading. Anyway, let me just say that if any of you feels like giving me some language advice, about anything, please don't hesitate. I don't find it offensive, quite opposite, I really appreciate that someone takes time to help me improve my English.

Disclaimer: CSI New York and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement is intended, just pure fun.

. . .

''I just popped up to say 'bye'.'' Jo said, opening the door only slightly and not entering his office. ''I don't want to disturb you.'' She added, seeing Mac was busy.

''You never disturb me, Jo.'' He said smiling. She hesitated and entered his office slowly. '''So... what's up?'' He asked.

''Nothing much. We closed the case with Lindsay. Suspect pleaded guilty. Easy one.'' She said. He looked closer at her.

''And that's what bothering you?''

''No. Why do you think something is?''

''I don't know.'' He said. ''You've been unusually quiet today.''

''I guess I'm just tired.''

''That's not good. I was going to ask you for something.'' He said, making a puppy dog eyes. She smirked. She had no idea what he wanted from her, but she already knew that she would say 'yes' as she was simply unable to resist him when he was putting on this expression.

''Yeah?'' She asked smiling even wider.

''Yeah. I need your help, because I want to buy a ring. For Christine.'' Mac said and smiled back. She did her best trying not to change her expression, but immediately her jaw started to ache because of the forced, artificial smile. Her heart starting to beat like crazy. She needed to ask this question. There was no chance that the answer would be different from what she thought it would be, yet she needed to ask nevertheless. She didn't really want to hear his response, but she had to know, had to be sure.

''Are you going to propose?'' Jo asked, her voice washed out from emotion, as otherwise she would end up crying out in frustration.

''Yes.'' Mac nodded. ''But I really don't feel like picking something myself. I would really appreciated your feminine taste to help me decide.''

Jo wasn't really listening to him, as her blood was roaring in her ears too loudly. She found it hard to breath, suddenly feeling that the room was stuffy. She needed to get out.

She reached to her purse, pretending she got some message.

''Uhm... you know... sure, I'll help you, but not today.'' She said quickly. ''I have to be somewhere.''

''Sure, it doesn't have to be today. There is no rush.'' He smiled again.

''I really need to go.'' Jo said, getting up. ''See you on Monday.''

Mac didn't even have a chance to answer back as she actually ran out from his office. He wondered if something had happened, but then he came to the conclusion that she probably forgot about some meeting or something else she had to do, writing a reminder on one of her colorful post-in notes and sticking it in some random place. He couldn't help but smile at the thought.

. . .

As the elevator's door closed she leaned against the cold wall, bringing hands to her face. So there it is. She thought. He is going to propose to Christine. She groaned. How had it even happened? One day she was creating his account on some social networking site and the next he was dating this Christine who had reached him through the site. Now that was just a cruel joke of fate. It was actually she who had started this whole thing with Christine! And now he was going to marry her! She felt like banging her head against a wall in frustration.

So many times she wanted to make a move on him. It wasn't like there hadn't been any opportunities. Oh, no. There was plenty. Many times she had came to being so very close to ask him out or say something truly suggestive, that he just couldn't get it wrong, but every single time she had chickened out. There was something very strange about this man. From the very beginning she was both intimidated by him and attracted to him. And sometimes she couldn't decide which feeling was stronger.

She wasn't really the shy type. She could easily joked about everything, sometimes even making him embarrassed. She was very aware of her charm and she knew how to use it. And she even was able to notice that it was actually working for him. If he wasn't her best friend she would have made a move on him a long time ago. But at this point it seemed it could be an all or nothing bet. If she succeeded she would have everything – a friend, a lover and a partner. But if not, she would end up with nothing, losing his friendship as she knew it would be highly awkward for them to be as they used to be. Not to mention that it would also implied the necessity of quitting her job, as being rejected by her boss and still working with him, would be just... too pathetic.

The elevator pinged and she got out, heading for the parking lot, to her car. But despite all this, she thought she still had a time, still had this door open. True, he started to date Christine, but it really didn't seem very serious at the beginning. They were just spending time together and it wasn't really often, as Mac was spending most of his time at work... with her, after all. But it seemed she didn't judge this relationship right. It had to be serious as he was going to propose.

''Fuck!'' Jo cried out when she was in her car.

And going out with him... in order to buy an engagement ring... for the other woman? Now that was just too much!

. . .

Jo groaned in frustration getting out of bed. She glanced at the clock. It was 9 am! And Saturday, for God's sake! She opened the door, wanting to punch the face of the one who was behind it, no matter who it was. But as she noticed it was Tyler she abandoned the idea. After all he was her firstborn.

''Hi, mom!'' He greeted her, kissing her on the cheek. He got in and before she even had a chance to answer she felt another set of lips being pressed to her cheek.

''What the...'' She started, but some low, familiar voice stopped her.

''Hello, Jo.''

She looked up, seeing Russ.

''Hi.'' She murmured. Tyler disappeared in the kitchen, but Russ stayed in the hallway, looking at her.

''I've almost forgotten how cute you look dragged out from bed.'' He said and she blushed involuntarily. She tugged on her tiny top, trying to cover herself, but there was no use. His eyes roamed slowly all over her. He checked her long, slim legs, slight curves of her hips and then her breasts. Finally his gaze went back to her face and he smiled seeing her skin having pink flush.

''What are you doing here?'' She asked, crossing her arms over her chest, trying to hide herself from his scrutiny.

''I was seeing Tyler and we came up with an idea of celebrating the end of his first year at college. I want to ask you and Ellie to dinner to celebrate this occasion.'' He smiled.

''And you have to do that at 9 o'clock on Saturday?'' She asked, irritated to the bone, as she knew very well it was bullshit. He could call, he could come over anytime, but he just wanted to surprise her and make her angry.

''I've always thought you look most beautiful in the morning.'' He offered her one of his charming smiles and reached out, stroking her bare arm with his index finger. She pushed his hand away.

''But it seems you've forgotten that I'm also very bitchy in the morning.'' She warned.

''Still it's worth to see you.'' He answer and she rolled her eyes, going to the kitchen.

''I can make you something, honey.'' She said to Tyler who was drinking milk from the bottle.

''No, thanks.'' He said.

''I wouldn't say 'no' to your pancakes.'' Russ said just behind her.

''I wasn't talking to you.'' She growled.

''I know, I figured out from the 'honey' part.''

''So, Mom? What are you saying? Where should we be having our dinner?'' Tyler asked. ''I was thinking about this small Greek restaurant near dad's place. It's quite cheap and the food is really good.''

''Whatever...'' Jo sighed. But then she looked at her son, seeing a hint of disappointment in his eyes. After all this dinner was for him and she could tell that her lack of interest in the choice of the restaurant meant to Tyler that she didn't care about him. ''I think it will be great for a lovely evening.'' She said, smiling at him.

''That's great.'' Tyler smiled back. ''So I'll be going, I have to be in the library at 10. See you on Friday, mom.'' He said, kissing her cheek.

''I guess you're in a hurry too, Russ.'' Jo said firmly, looking directly into his eyes.

''Not really...'' He chuckled. ''But I know that if I stay you will kick me out sooner or later.''

''Rather sooner.'' She said seriously.

''OK, bye then.'' He said, leaning over and for a moment she got an impression he was aiming for her lips. She turned her head quickly, making his lips landed on the corner of her mouth. He pulled away and smiled. ''Can't wait till Friday.'' He whispered and then turned around and followed Tyler.

. . .

''So... Are we going?'' Mac said, entering Jo's office. She wanted to say that unfortunately something had came up unexpectedly, but she already had excused herself like that twice and this time she really shouldn't do that. Not to mention that she had promised to help him.

''Sure...'' She said, throwing her phone into a bag and standing up. Mac held her jacket for her and she sighed. Christine was one lucky woman. Mac would be really spoiling her with gestures like that. They made it to the street in complete silence, as Jo really didn't feel like talking and she was always the one to start their usual chitchat.

''I think we should start with this big jewelery store round the corner.'' She said, hoping that she would manage to convince Mac to some random ring quickly. And then she would be able to go home alone and sink into her misery.

''OK.'' He agreed.

They entered the store and headed to the glass counter with rings. There seemed to be like hundreds of them and Jo cursed silently, thinking about spending hours in this place, as Mac seemed really determined to find 'the right one'.

''Holy crap...'' Mac groaned and Jo couldn't help but smirk.

''OK. Let's make it easier.'' Jo started. ''It should be gold, right?''

''I guess...''

''Diamond one?''

''That's classy, right?'' He looked at her doubtfully.

''With one big diamond? The classy one? Or something modern?''

''I think Christine would like the classy one.''

''OK, that's a good start.'' Jo sighed.

''How can I help you?'' The seller asked.

''We would like to see some engagement rings.'' Jo said.

''Oh.'' He gasped, looking at Mac, than at Jo, than again at Mac. ''I thought that choosing a ring with a future fiancée is considered bringing bad luck...'' He started, but stopped immediately. Mac sent him an amused look and Jo looked daggers at him.

''Could you show us this one...'' Jo pointed out. ''This one. This one... And maybe this one. Oh, and this one too.'' He started to pull out rings that Jo was pointing out. After a while there was like twenty of them lying on the counter.

''So... has any caught your attention?'' Jo asked. Mac was turning his eyes from one to the other.

''Gosh, I really don't know.'' He groaned.

''OK, let's try another approach.'' She said, slightly irritated. She was really fed up with this situation and wished it would be over as soon as possible. ''Try to guess which one would Christine choose for herself. Which one would she like the most.''

Mac looked at the rings again, scratching his head.

''I have no idea. They look all the same to me.''

''Yeah, but they wouldn't to her.'' Jo groaned. ''Come on, focus!''

''It's not that easy, really...''

''You can't even take a guess?'' Jo asked.

''But what if my guess will be wrong?''

Then I will take it and marry you, as I really don't care about the ring, only about you. Jo wanted to say, but she bit her tongue.

''OK, let's make a try. Guess which one I like the most among those inside this counter.'' She challenged.

Mac leaned over the glass surface, studying the rings placed inside. They really looked all the same to him! But suddenly one caught his attention. It was made of platinum, very simple and modern, with two small diamonds and a bigger amethyst in the middle. He could totally picture it on Jo's finger.

''I would choose this one, I guess.'' He said, pointing it out with his finger and Jo suddenly rose her head, looking at him, surprised. It was exactly the one that had caught her attention, as it was delicate and different from the others. She cleared her throat and said:

''Yeah, it could do. I like it.'' She said calmly.

Mac smiled. It wasn't that hard. He knew Jo didn't like golden jewelery and that her favorite color was violet. And the ring was beautiful in its simplicity. Just like...

''Now, try the same with Christine.'' Jo asked, breaking into his thoughts.

''Errr...'' He leaned again over the rings that were lying on the counter. ''That one, maybe?'' He said, choosing one with a big diamond. It look like an egg, with a rich, gold ornament around it. Jo stopped herself from wrinkling her nose as she didn't like it at all. Not to mention it was probably the most expensive one among those that were lying on the counter.

''You sure?'' She asked.

''No...'' He sighed.

''I guess it's kinda hard to chose something for someone you don't really...'' Jo started but stopped, thinking that it wasn't the best idea to point out that Mac didn't really know Christine as he wasn't really able to tell what she would like to get. She turned her gaze away, blushing slightly. ''Sorry, I didn't mean to...''

''It's OK.'' Mac cut her off. He thought there was a point in what she was going to say. He didn't really know Christine. They had known each other for a long time, but he didn't know her. Maybe if they were spending more time together it would be different. Or maybe not, as several times he had caught himself on not listening to her, finding what she was saying not quite that fascinating. ''I think she will like this one.'' He said more firmly, although he still wasn't sure. But he didn't want Jo to think that he was going to propose to a woman he barely knew.

''So, are you buying it?'' Jo asked, feeling a little sparkle of hope that maybe he had changed his mind as well as his plans and he wasn't going to propose anymore.

''Yes.'' Mac said and the sparkle went down.

. . .

Jo leaned against the wall and covered her face with her hands. Her head was pounding and she felt sick. But it was nothing in comparison to the feeling of being helpless. In a couple of last hours she looked through those three rooms over and over again. There was nothing they could use to localize the place where Grace was being held by her kidnapper. Her parents had come to the precinct in the evening, reporting that she hadn't return from school. Surveillance camera placed on the parking outside the school had registered that she hadn't gotten to the school bus on her way back, instead she had gotten into some car. The car belonged to 34 years old Jeremy Steel, who had spent 7 years in jail for child molestation and had been released only 3 months back. They had been combing his apartment for 9 hours now, trying to find anything that could lead them to the place where he had taken Grace. Lindsay and Danny stayed at the lab and they had already processed all evidence twice that she and Mac had collected, but there were no leads.

She groaned, loud enough for Mac to hear her from the other room.

''Jo... I think we should leave the place. We've already checked everything multiple times.'' Mac said, coming closer to her.

''And still we've got nothing.'' She complained. ''There has to be something! We have to dig deeper!''

He smiled hearing her, but it was a sad smile. He knew she was stubborn and the last one to give up, but he also knew there was almost no chance that they could have missed something important. But he nodded and started to check the room inch after inch again. After almost half an hour Jo reached for the newspaper that was placed on the table near the window. She had already checked it; it was from yesterday, slightly crumpled as it had been read. It was also folded in half and when she unfolded it, she noticed that it was opened on page 12. She turned a few pages, wanted to see what was on the first page. 'Cruise ship in Maine orders 2,000 lobsters', she read. Now, that's real news. She thought. She was just about to put the newspaper down, when something caught her attention. The small amount of paper in the corner of the first page was torn away. It could be bought like that, but it could be used for something else. Her eyes widened at the thought. Like for writing something on it and then tearing it out. She looked at the third page, moving closer to the window. When light fall on it at the certain angle she was able to see the impressions of the pen that was used to write something on the first page.

''Mac, look.'' She called him. He moved closer, studying the newspaper she was holding.

''Is that... an address?'' He asked.

. . .

Mac looked down at his phone. They should get some news from Flack any second now, as the unit was send to the place 40 minutes ago. The address Jo found on the newspaper was the place where the old magazines were, so they would make a perfect hiding.

He looked across the main hall of the precinct. Jo was sitting with Grace's parents, trying to calm their down. Although he could tell, she was nervous herself. This case was just too emotional for her, as Grace was almost Ellie's age and she was going to the school in the same neighborhood. When it came to cases involving children he always found himself feeling relieved he didn't have kids, as he couldn't imagine going through something like that, he couldn't imagine greater loss than losing a child. His phone rang and tore him out of his thoughts.

''Taylor.'' He answered it mechanically.

''Mac... we got here too late. She's dead.'' Flack said.

Mac didn't answer, only hung up. He raised his head and met Jo's questioning look. He shook his head slightly and he knew that she understood as she closed her eyes. She took a deep look and turned to parents, sharing the horrible news with them. It was barely seconds when he was able to hear mother screaming. Her husband tried to hold her, calm her down, but he was unable, as he was crying himself. She stood up and face Jo.

''That's not true! Tell me she's fine!'' She yelled. Mac rose from his seat and moved to them, as he got the feeling she was frantic in her sorrow and she could somehow harm Jo. ''You told me, you'd do everything to find her!''

''I'm sorry, I'm really sorry...'' Jo repeated over and over again.

''You promised!'' She cried out brokenly. ''You lied to me...'' She said and started to sob uncontrollably. Her husband pulled her into his arms, holding her up, as without that she would sink to the floor.

Mac looked at Jo. Her hands were trembling and she was looking like she was just about to start crying as well.

''Jo...'' He started, but she raised her right hand, quieting him. Then she turned away and made her way out, heading for the interrogation rooms.

Mac gave her a minute and then he went after her. He found her sitting on a bench in the corridor, her right hand covering her eyes.

''Jo, are you OK?'' He asked gently.

''No, I'm pretty far from being OK!'' She snapped. ''I should have checked this newspaper earlier! Then they could get there in time...''

''Jo, it's not your fault.'' He said.

''Isn't it? Try to explain it to them!'' She pointed out in the direction of the hall. He saw tears rolling down her cheeks. ''For God's sake, she was just a kid!'' She cried in frustration. ''If that was...'' She chocked at her words, not being able to say out loud something like that could happen to her daughter. ''I would never forgive...'' She buried her face in her hands. He didn't say anything, only sat next to her and put his arm around her, pulling her closer. He knew it was very hard day for her and all those emotions gathered during it just found an outlet. After a short while she calmed down and stopped crying.

''I'm just so angry at myself...'' She whispered.

''Jo, I was there with you. I could have checked it as well. But I didn't.'' He said. ''And if not for you, her parents still wouldn't know what happened to their daughter.''

''I know.'' She murmured.

''Come on, let me drive you home.'' He offered, standing up and pulling her up as well.

''Thanks, but it's not necessary.'' She said.

They went outside the precinct and she headed for her car, but he stopped her.

''You sure you can drive?'' He asked, but she didn't have a chance to answer as she heard someone's calling Mac's name. Then she saw Christine rushing towards them.

''Mac! What the hell happened? You forgot that I've asked you to come to my restaurant at 5 pm?'' She asked rebukingly.

''I didn't forget. We've got really tough case...'' He tired to explain, but she cut him off.

''And you didn't even manage to call me?'' She asked again in the same tone, but he didn't answer this time. Jo silently agreed with him. There was no point, as Christine obviously knew better and what was more important. ''Come on, I have to go back to the restaurant.'' She hurried him, pulling the sleeve of his coat.

''Jo, you'll be OK?'' He asked, turning around to face her, while Christine was already dragging him down the street.

''Sure, no worries.'' She answered and he smiled at her, then turned around and placed his arm over Christine's shoulder. Jo looked at them as they walked away. She sighed, thinking it would be so nice to have someone with whom she could spend the rest of the day, who would keep her mind away from the misery of what had happened. Jo wasn't surprised that Mac wanted to spend the rest of this awful day in Christine's company. She was interested in anything but his work and it was certain that they wouldn't be talking about it. She was young, she was pretty, she could cook very well... She just seemed to be perfect to make Mac's life more simple and enjoyable.

. . .

As Jo returned home, the first thing she did was head for Ellie's room. She was sitting at her desk, doing homework, so Jo crouched next to her chair and hugged her tightly.

''Yyy... Mom! What are you doing?'' Ellie moaned, barely able to breath.

''I'm so happy that I have you.'' Jo whispered. ''My beloved sweetie.''

''Mom? You OK?'' Ellie asked, slightly concerned.

''Yes.'' Jo said, smiling at her and standing up. ''You have to get used to this. I'm getting old and more and more sentimental.'' She joked.

''Oh, gosh.'' Ellie groaned, rolling her eyes.

''I'm going to lie down.'' Jo said, leaving Ellie's room.

''But you remember we are going to have a dinner at 8?'' Ellie yelled from her room.

''Oh, crap...'' Jo sighed. She fell on her bed and thought she didn't really feel like going out for this dinner. She would love to put on her cozy pajamas and spend evening in her bed with a box of chocolate and mint ice cream, watching some silly TV shows. But she knew Tyler would be really disappointed if she wasn't there.

''Mom!'' Ellie yelled from the living room. ''Are you getting ready?''

''Yeah, I am.'' Jo groaned, pulling herself up reluctantly. She moved to her closet and pulled out first dress that she reached. She didn't really care what she wore or how she looked. She already wanted this evening to be over. She started to get dressed, then moved to bathroom to apply her make up.

''Mom! Hurry up! The cab is already here!'' Ellie yelled again.

''I'm coming, I'm coming!'' Jo yelled back. She was fumbling with her hair, trying to make it look as straight as possible, but somehow it didn't want to cooperate. She sighed seeing her expression in the mirror. ''What's even the point in that...'' She groaned, putting down a hairbrush and leaving her bedroom.

''Wow! You look nice!'' Ellie exclaimed seeing her.

''Do I?'' Jo asked, without any coquetry, really unsure of herself.

''Sure! I love this dress.''

Jo looked down at herself. The dress she was wearing was black and lacy, not to short, just above the knee, but giving Jo a chance to present her long legs, which were looking really stunning as she was wearing black high heels.

''Are you ready?'' Jo asked Ellie, who looked at her mother, frowning her eyebrows.

''Yeah! You can't see it?'' She asked rhetorically. Jo glanced at her daughter. She was wearing nice navy dress with red belt and red flats. She was also wearind red earrings and delicate red beads. Jo smiled.

''You look great, hon. I really like the contrast.''

''Thanks.'' Ellie said nonchalantly, her features softened. Jo moved closer to her and brushed a curl from her forehead, then suddenly she hugged her very tightly.

''Mom...'''Ellie whimpered, finding it hard to breath. ''Are we going?'' She asked again, when Jo finally let go off her.

''Yes, yes, we are.'' Jo said and they left their apartment.

When they arrived at the restaurant it was already 9 pm. Ellie was the first one to spot Tyler and Russ and she made her way to the table quickly. When Russ spotted her and Jo he stood up.

''Hi, sis!'' Tyler greeted Ellie, hugging her tightly.

''Hey! You'll strangle me!'' She squeaked while laughing.

''Hello, Ellie'' Russ said, glancing at her and Jo was able to notice how she stopped laughing immediately and tensed slightly.

''Hello.'' She answered back, glowering at him, but Russ was already looking somewhere else – his eyes where glued to Jo.

''Good evening, beautiful.'' He said as she reached the table.

''Hi, Russ.'' She answered back, saying hello to Tyler in between. She looked at the table they picked up. It was in the corner, with a little sofa at two sides and two chairs. She saw that Ellie was just about to take her place on the sofa, but Russ pulled a chair for her and showed her the place by his hand, helping her to move the chair closer to the table as she sat. Before Jo had a chance to react Tyler sat on the other chair, leaving the sofa for his parents.

Jo sat almost at the end of it, as Russ sat in the middle. She didn't look at him, although she could feel his eyes on her all the time. Tyler was telling some funny stories from college, that made Ellie laugh every now and then, and Jo tried to focus on listening to them as well, but somehow she found it not that easy. She reached for her glass, taking a sip of wine and she smiled lightly. That taste was familiar; it was her favorite semi-dry, red, Californian wine. She knew it wasn't a coincidence, Russ knew her just too well. She turned to him and smiled lightly.

''You still remember stuff like that?'' She asked softly.

''I remember everything that concerns you, Jo.'' He whispered in a low voice, looking deeply in her eyes. ''If I knew you would be getting even more beautiful with every year I would never have agreed on our separation.'' He added.

''Divorce.'' She corrected him, slightly annoyed that he had a habit of calling it separation, like he wanted to pretend in front of himself that it wasn't definite end of their marriage.

''I was the greatest fool ever, letting such a treasure like you slip right through my hands.'' He added, leaning even closer towards her. She was very much aware that she shouldn't be paying attention to his words. He had been always been a charmer, he talked extremely smoothly, but at the end it occurred that they were only words. But tonight his obvious admiration for her was somehow comforting. She felt his hand on her knee, caressing her gently under the table and it made her feel good and wanted for a moment. But when his hand moved higher, sneaking below the hem of her dress, she crossed her legs, stopping him efficiently. She sent him a look, which was supposed to put him in his place, but she knew it wouldn't work as she saw his cocky smile and his eyes, darkened with desire and sparkling with amusement. He seemed to enjoy her resistance and at the same time his expression was sending a massage that he was sure, she would eventually give up.

Jo was struggling with herself the whole evening. She was balancing on this thin line between letting Russ do what he wanted and trying to refrain herself from starting something she would regret tomorrow. But his attention, his admiration and being constantly seduced by him was making it harder and harder. Actually it was exactly the thing she was afraid of – that she would find it too hard to resist his charm when she would be too close to him, so she had done everything to avoid him. But tonight he was just right there and all she had to do was say 'yes'. And it seemed strangely tempting.

When the dinner was over and Russ had paid, she stood up and instantly felt that drinking four glasses of wine was rather a poor idea. She stumbled slightly, which of course didn't escape Russ's notice. He caught her arm, steadying her.

''I'm fine.'' She told him, lightly embarrassed. ''It's those shoes.''

He looked down, spotting her 4 inches black pumps.

''I've heard somewhere that high heels were invented by a woman who got really fed up with being kissed on the forehead.'' He joked. ''Is that an issue here?'' He asked, placing his both hands on her waist.

''I don't know, Russ. Is it?'' She asked back. He smirked and leaned closer to her, his lips on the same level as her forehead, so he pressed a kiss there.

''Nope, you're still too short.'' He teased and she shook off his hands.

''It's not me, who's too short, it's you who's too tall.'' She bit back, heading towards the exit.

''Mom, I don't think it is possible to catch a cab here.'' Ellie complained. ''I've been trying for 5 minutes now.''

''I will drive you home.'' Russ offered. ''My car is just around the corner.''

''OK then.'' Jo agreed.

Russ dropped Tyler off in front of his dorm and then headed for Jo's place. When they arrived he pulled over and turn off the engine.

''Thanks a lot.'' Ellie said and got off the car quickly.

''Yeah, thanks a lot.'' Jo repeated after her and tried to got out as well, but Russ stopped her.

''How about I accompany you to your apartment, just to make sure your both get home safe and you offer me a cup of coffee for being a hero?'' He said, looking into her eyes.

''I don't think it's a good idea.'' Jo answered. ''And we are big girls. Well, at least I am.''

''I enjoy taking care of big girls even more.'' He teased and before Jo had a chance to come up with some witty retort he got off the car and quickly moved to the passenger's door, opening them for Jo. He gave her his hand, helping her to get out. Then he went with her and Ellie towards the main entrance of the building.

. . .

A spoon dropped to the floor with a loud twang and Jo cursed quietly, reaching for it. Her hands were shaking and she knew very well why. She could feel Russ's eyes on her body. He was standing behind her, watching her every move. They were alone, as the moment they had reached Jo's apartment Ellie had announced she's going to the bathroom and then to sleep.

''Do you still wear those sexy hold-ups?'' Russ asked and Jo turned abruptly to face him, not sure if she had heard him right. ''I guess you remember what they were doing to me.'' He said, smirking and Jo couldn't help but think about those times when he had asked her to leave them on when they were making love. She felt a flush creeping up her neck, to her face and she was sure, she had a heavy blush on her cheeks.

''Ah! You do remember.'' Russ smiled, approaching her. She made one step backwards, swallowing hard. ''The whole night I've been wondering if you are wearing them beneath this dress. And I think you are.'' He smirked again. ''Black ones. With lace tops that hug your thighs so nicely. Black lace on your creamy thighs.'' He closed his eyes and groaned. ''And black, lace panties. Slightly sheer.''

''Russ...'' Jo wanted to stop him, but her voice was too weak.

''And a matching black, lace bra. Low-cut, showing off your cleavage.'' He added, opening his eyes. ''I can picture you like that without any difficulties. Anytime I want.'' Russ said, moving closer to her. Again, she moved back, but only a little, as her back made a contact with a wall.

''Jo...'' Russ whispered, looking into her eyes. His voice so low, so deep, it sent a shiver down her spine. He placed his hands on the wall beside her, trapping her with his own body and leaning slowly towards her. ''I know you want this.''

She knew she should react somehow, push him away or even slap him. But she was like enchanted, not able to move or to speak, not able to do anything. She felt so empty inside, not wanted, not loved. Russ's admiration and his hunger for her was flattering. She didn't want to feel so lonely, she craved for some touch, for some caress. She wanted someone to hold her, to lull her to sleep, to ensure that everything would be alright.

She knew very well it wasn't Russ, who she desired. But she couldn't be with the one she really wanted and it was making her feel really bad. She was aware that giving herself to Russ wouldn't make it any better. He couldn't replace Mac. But Russ's big frame, broad shoulders, hard chest... everything about him seemed so well known and somehow comforting. So she didn't do anything when one of his hands sneaked beneath her dress, between her knees, caressing her inner thigh, moving higher and higher. She could feel his fingers skimming over her bare skin above the lace and she closed her eyes, giving into the sensation.

''Mmm. I was right.'' Russ whispered close to her ear, then he kissed her neck. She titled her head, granting him more access and she sighed feeling his tongue on her sensitive flesh. ''God, I've almost forgotten how good you taste.'' He groaned.

His other hand moved to her back and he slowly unzipped her dress, his fingers caressing her spine all the way down. Then he pushed her dress off her shoulders and let it fall to the floor. She felt his hands moving away and she knew he pulled back in order to watch her. She didn't open her eyes, but she knew he smiled as he saw he was right about everything he had said. This cocky smile of his, that she used to love and then started to hate. Everything about him was making her feel confused. She remembered exactly why she had fallen for him. She was aware how charming he could be and she felt vulnerable as he knew very well what to say and what to do in order to make her knees go week. And tonight she just had no strength to resist him. Usually she kept repeating to herself it wasn't working on her anymore, but the truth was he always had been. There was always this spark, as he was the man she used to love so much.

But at the same time it didn't feel right. His voice, his touch, all this seemed so strangely distant, like it wasn't her being pinned by him against the wall. She was hardly responding, but he seemed to not mind, consumed by his own desire. She barely registered when he unclasped her bra and removed her panties. His hands started to roam frantically over her breast and ribcage, not caring if he pinched or bruise her sensitive skin. And she didn't care either. She barely felt anything.

''Can you feel what you're doing to me?'' Russ groaned, pressing his body into hers even more. ''I got the hard on only from watching you and imagine things I could do to you.'' He wanted to kiss her, but she hid her face in a crook of his neck.

She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to think it wasn't Russ who was doing that to her. She thought about man she really loved, this gentle, caring man who chose another woman, not her. She wanted to force her mind to think that she was with Mac.

But she found it not possible as Russ moved into her with one forceful thrust. She bit down on her lower lip, stopping herself from crying out, as she wasn't prepared for that and it hurt really badly. His movements were rough and needy. He almost lifted her off ground with the force of his thrusts and she had no choice but to wrapped her legs around his waist, which allowed him to bury himself even deeper, causing her more pain. His hands were holding her hips tightly, his fingers sorely digging into her flesh, her back slamming over and over again against the wall. And all she could feel was pain and sorrow. One single tear escaped from beneath her squeezed eyelid, but she knew he wouldn't be able to register it. He was too busy with finding his own release. She knew it would be over soon, as it had never been long for him to come. And she wasn't mistaken. Her name was on his lips as after so many years, again, she let him mark her as his.

She slid her legs down and moved away from him, wanting to break the contact between them as soon as possible. But as she did so, she felt herself being lifted from the floor, as Russ swept her easily into his arms and carried to bed. He laid her down and she turned away from him. Yet he pressed his chest to her back, placing his heavy arm over her waist. He buried his face in a nape of her neck.

''Mmmm, babe... That was incredible. As always with you.'' He whispered. Soon she could feel his breathing slowed down and she knew he fall asleep. It was when she let her tears go freely down her face. She felt truly unhappy. She failed in every role she tried to fulfill; she was never as good as she wanted to be. For Grace's parents she was the one who hadn't tried hard enough. For Mac she was only his friend. For Ellie she was only her foster mother. And for Russ she was only a body, he used for his own pleasure.

. . .