SPECIAL NOTE: SEPTEMBER signups are now open through AUGUST, 31, 2012 for the "THE MIX n MATCH CHALLENGE!" Details can be found at the forum.
Also, a new chapter to "Touched by an Angel" has been posted at The Writers Coffee Shop (TWCS) for those following that story. Links to that site can be found on my profile page.
Prompts included: Erin Strauss/Derek Morgan – peacock, trumpet, cupcakes, and gin
When she'd accepted his offer to be her sobriety coach, she'd never imagined just how much of a pain in the ass he would actually be, Erin Strauss thought grumpily as she watched him strut across her living room, proud as a peacock.
The irritating man had beaten her again…at her game. In her home.
No one could play gin rummy that well. He had to be cheating. Eyeing the deck in front of her, she tapped her fingers against the coffee table impatiently as she waited him to return.
"You're too quiet," Derek Morgan admonished from the corner of the room where he stood perusing her collection of music. "Might as well say what's on your mind," he suggested easily. "I'm not gonna leave," he warned, plucking a compact disc from the rack in front of him and considering it for a moment before replacing it on the shelf in front of him.
"It's been three hours, Agent Morgan. The urge has long passed," Erin complained from the couch. "You can go home now."
"It's ten o'clock at night, Erin. We've been through this. We are both off the clock…no longer on the Bureau's time. I'm Derek, now. Remember?" he drawled, making the same argument he'd been making for twelve months and smirking as he picked up another CD. "And if you recall, I gave you a choice earlier when you showed up in my office sayin' you wanted a drink. Me or an AA meeting. You chose me."
"I did. Although, right now, I think the meeting might have been the better choice. I could have left it when I felt better," Erin replied, muttering her agreement as she plucked her cupcake off the table in front of her and nibbled at it. At least he had brought food with him when he'd shown up at her door at 6 pm. He'd even chosen her favorite dessert…red velvet cupcakes. Stealing a look at the tall, muscled man that had taken an interest in her over a year ago, she silently admitted that he was one of the most thoughtful individuals she'd ever met.
That knowledge had been a surprise.
Until a year ago, she'd actually known very little about the man standing in her living room like he owned it. Oh, she was aware of his credentials….known he was a highly skilled profiler that wielded his charm as effectively as his Glock. But, on a personal level, however, she'd possessed zero knowledge regarding him. She'd gleaned from office gossip that he shared a unique relationship with Penelope Garcia, and she knew that he was extremely protective of his team.
Beyond that, though…nada.
He'd been a complete mystery.
And then he'd had the guts to bust her and call her on the carpet regarding her alcoholism.
She probably should have hated him for it. After all, he'd almost destroyed a career that she'd spent what felt like a lifetime building.
Except, that wasn't what had happened.
Instead of despising him, she'd found herself respecting the man that had stood up to her. And oh, how that had pissed her off.
He'd been the only person that had taken the time to visit her during her time at the private facility she'd entered after the Bureau had given her the choice of retirement or rehab. He'd also been the person waiting to drive her home when she'd been released.
She hadn't asked him for either favor. He'd done it of his own free will.
And as days turned into weeks, he'd popped into her office more than once to check on her until finally, on the one month anniversary of her sobriety, he'd bravely offered to be her sober coach.
It wasn't the same as a sponsor. A sponsor was an alcoholic, too.
No, Derek Morgan was something altogether different. He was one of a singular kind and enjoyed letting her know it.
Part cheerleader and greater part bully, he was the man she turned to when the days were long and the nights were hard…when the desire to drink hovered just below the surface, taunting her. She'd call, and he'd come. That was the deal they'd made with each other. It was a stability that she'd come to count upon and a friendship like none she'd ever had before.
Today had been one of those bad days for her.
Too much bureaucracy and too few resources had taken a toll on her and she'd almost slipped. She'd stood on the edge, her sobriety in jeopardy. One wrong step and she would have fallen.
Thankfully, he'd been in the office.
"Hey, did you hear me?" Morgan asked, turning to look at her, his head cocked to the side.
"No. What?" Erin asked, blinking quickly as she tried to focus on what he was saying.
"Are you okay with Louis Armstrong?" he asked, holding up the glass case for her to see. "I feel like relaxing with a little horn music tonight."
Smiling slight, Erin nodded. "Greatest trumpet player of all time. Put it on," she suggested, reaching for the deck of cards and shuffling it restlessly as he popped the music into the stereo.
They played a few more hands of cards as the music played in the background, soothing each of them.
"Gin," Derek announced again as he slapped his last card to the table victoriously.
Rolling her eyes at his gleaming smile, Erin shook her head. "I hate playing with you," she grumbled under her breath.
They both knew she was lying, and he let her get away with it. Glancing at the clock, Derek found it was just past midnight now. Stacking the cards, he looked at the woman sitting across from him. "You feeling better?" he asked, keeping his voice low as he watched her face for signs of deception.
There was no point in trying to spin a web of lies. He was trained to see right through them. "I do now," she replied truthfully, her voice quiet. "It was rough for a few hours, but yes, I'm feeling much better now. I hope I didn't ruin any plans you had for tonight. If I did, I apologize."
"You didn't," he stated simply. "But it wouldn't have mattered if you had," he added with a shrug.
Erin frowned and raised an eyebrow. "Pardon?"
Lifting his eyes to meet hers, Morgan smiled. "When I made you my offer a year ago, I promised that I'd have your back, Erin. I didn't just mean when it was convenient for me. I meant any time you needed me to have it. It's that simple."
"Why, Derek? What made you decide to be my saving grace?" Erin asked after a long, silent moment. She'd always wondered about his motivations, but had always been afraid to ask. She supposed it was partly because if those reasons were selfish, that meant the friendship they shared was a fabrication of her mind. But after a year of theorizing and speculating, she couldn't resist the urge she felt to know.
"You wouldn't know how to lie, Derek. It's not in you to bullshit," Erin replied with a faint smile. "That much I've learned."
"True," he said with a grin. "I guess I stepped up because you needed somebody, and I'm a somebody that likes to feel needed. It's a pretty even trade."
"I always thought you hated me."
"Nah," he denied with a crooked grin. "You can't really hate somebody you don't know, Erin, and you were pretty good at not showing anybody who you were. I might have disliked you and your methods at times, but I always admired your balls. You were never afraid to speak your mind…even if it meant making enemies. You never allowed yourself to be intimidated. You could have taken the coward's way out with the booze…taken that early retirement they offered and chosen the bottle. It was real clear that's what the powers that be wanted…to bully you out of the position you'd worked your ass off for. But, you didn't let them do it. That took guts. And I like guts and I despise a bully," he said bluntly.
Staring him in the eye, she saw the blatant honesty shining in his clear eyes. No hidden motives, no veiled agendas…just a man that wanted to make a difference.
If only to a woman that had done nothing to earn his respect.
"Thank you, Derek," Erin replied huskily. "I'll appreciate that more than you'll ever know."
Rising, Derek shrugged on his jacket. "Just keep your end of the deal, Erin, and I'll keep mine."
Watching him leave, Erin smiled as the door closed, finally understanding.
True friendship was unconditional…and her saving grace had taught her the lesson.
Chit Chat on Author's Corner forum news: I'll try to keep it brief.
SEPTEMBER signups are open through AUGUST, 31, 2012 for the "THE MIX n MATCH CHALLENGE!" Details can be found at the forum.
There is a new discussion thread available called, "WHY ARE OUR READERS NOT REVIEWING? We asked, and our readers answered!" Please check it out and leave a comment.
We also have another discussion thread entitled "The Ups and Downs of Writing an Uncommon Pairing". Please let us know what you think!
A continued thank you to everyone that has taken the time to read, review, favorite and alert our stories here on this site. We truly enjoy hearing from each one of you. Also, please check out our "M" stories at The Writers Coffee Shop (TWCS) and a Brand New site run by fellow CM authors, Kavi Leighanna, Sienna27 and The Truth Between called Fractured-reality. Com. If anyone needs a link or direction to the new site, please feel free to contact us through either a private message or while leaving a review and we'll make sure to get back to you. Each former "M" story is getting an overhaul as we publish it AND there are new stories being added all the time there as well.