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Just the Way You Are
He should never have been there in the first place. In hindsight, he could recognize the colossal error he'd made in not calling first, but he'd honestly had the noblest of intentions. Or, rather, as honorable an intention as a confirmed player such as himself could have had, he reasoned silently to himself.
To thine own self be true…right?
Dropping his bald head back against the padded chaise lounge on the deck of the rented cottage, Derek Morgan sighed heavily as he looked out over the waving ocean. Why the hell did life have to be so endlessly complicated? And how the hell had he let his heart become wrapped up in a woman that was supposed to only be his best friend?
How and why indeed. Those were the burning questions of the day.
He'd only meant to surprise her. After all, it wasn't often his best friend indulged Bambi, also known as Penelope Garcia's inner beach bunny. Yeah, his best friend had actually gone to the trouble of naming her dual personality. That was just one more quirky quality he loved about her.
But, how the hell was he to know that he'd find Bambi sunbathing nude? She'd never done it before to his knowledge. And damn, he'd have noticed that, he thought with a slow grin as images of Penelope's creamy white body danced erotically through his mind. Damn, but that woman had the most perfect body he'd ever seen, rounded and lush in all the right places.
Inhaling deeply as a balmy breeze skittered across the deck, Derek grinned as he turned slightly in his chair. "C'mon, Mama," he beseeched her through the open patio door, "I said it was an accident. You can't hide in there forever!"
Still flushed with embarrassment that couldn't be quantified on any level, Penelope reappeared at the doorway, wrapped in a thick towel. "I'm not hiding," she denied irritably, wrinkling her sunburnt nose as she glared down at the man that was responsible for her current fit of hyperventilation. "I'm trying to find a weapon to beat you to death with."
Craning his neck around the chaise to grin at Penelope, Derek lowered his sunglasses with one finger. "Aw, Baby Girl, you know you love me too much to off me," he chided, a slight cajoling tone in his deep voice. "Maybe maim me, but not kill me completely."
"What are you doing here anyway, Handsome? I told you, I just wanted it to be me this weekend. I thought I was pretty clear on the wanting to be alone part of the equation," she admonished him, hitching her towel higher over her breasts as she took a tentative step onto the warm deck.
"I know," he replied softly. "But, I was worried about you, Sweetness. The only times you've ever let your alter ego come out and play is after a long, hard week. In fact, the last time you allowed Bambi out of the box was when we thought we'd lost Prentiss. So, I guess I gotta ask, what gives, Precious? And don't try to hand me that BS about just needing to get away from it all. You don't ever come up here without a really good reason."
"First, if I own the property, I might as well use it," Pen grumbled, dropping her sunglasses from the top of her head to perch on the edge of her nose. "I don't need an excuse to do that."
"That's true, but you usually have one anyway," Derek countered with a small frown. It wasn't like Baby Girl to be so evasive with her answers, especially when he was the one asking the questions. "And I'd like to know what it is." Narrowing his gaze on her as she sat down beside him at the bottom of the lounge, he asked, "Is this about Lynch, Baby Girl?" Watching her cheeks flush, Morgan knew he'd hit pay dirt and felt himself automatically getting angry in response.
There was no love lost between himself and Kevin Lynch. He'd been supportive while Penelope had dated the guy, but personally, he'd never thought the other man was worthy of Garcia's affections. Penelope was special. She deserved someone that would treasure her as much as he did, someone that would nurture that beautiful spirit of hers. And Lynch, sadly, did not fit the bill. Personally, he done a private tap dance when the two had called it quits a few months ago.
"Maybe indirectly," Pen mumbled, staring at the ocean as gentle waves lapped against the sand. "It's complicated, my chocolate Lancelot.
"Then it's a good thing I'm not going anywhere," Morgan replied, snagging Penelope's wrist and hauling her up his body and into his arms. "Start talking or I can start tickling," he warned, wriggling his fingers against her towel clad stomach and pulling a giggle from her lips.
Squirming against his hard body, Penelope gripped her towel. "Stop, D!" she ordered, nearly choking on her own laughter. "I forgot to bring my bathing suit with me. I'm in the buff under here!"
Derek grinned, wriggling his eyebrows as he pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head. "Ah! Hence the nude sunbathing."
"Stuff it," Pen growled, elbowing him lightly in the ribs. "I wasn't exactly thinking clearly when I packed up to come up here. I was more concerned with getting the hell out of Dodge."
"And that was one of the things that had me worried. Baby Girl, you moved so fast you left a trail of dust in your wake."
"How did you know where I was going?" she asked innocently, settling beside him on the comfortable lounge. "Did you tag my GPS again, Agent Sneaky?"
"Not this time," he answered with a grin, not even bothering to deny that he had been guilty of that sin in the past. "After I got your very vague voice mail, all I did was just profile you. I knew with the weather getting warmer, you wouldn't be able to deny your inner Bambi much longer. And I knew that June began your timeshare up here at the cottage."
"Hmmmm," Penelope hummed, leaning her head against his heavily muscled arm. "He's dating again," she confided after a few minutes of silence, the words seeming to roll off her tongue without much prompting from her overworked brain.
"Who?" Derek grunted, looking down at her beautiful face. "Kevin?"
"Yeah." Pen nodded against Derek's neck. "She's gorgeous. Tiny little waist…perfect skin and teeth. She's the entire package."
"I seriously doubt that," Morgan returned dryly, sweeping his fingers against her bare arm. "I don't care what her measurements are; nobody could be better than you, Mama."
"Your loyalty and devotion is much appreciated, Stud," Pen replied with a wan little smile. "I don't know why seeing them together affected me so badly. I mean, I wouldn't take Kevin back on toast. Seeing the new girlfriend today, though…she was everything that I'm not, Derek," she whispered uncertainly.
Pulling her closer, Derek leaned them both back in the comfortable chaise lounge as he questioned, "So she's ugly as homemade sin, huh?"
Swatting at his arm as she tried to pull up, only to be unceremoniously hauled back against him, Penelope snapped, "Derek, did you not pay attention?"
"And she must be the dumbest woman on the planet, too," he added, ignoring her snorts as he toed off his deck shoes.
Throwing her hands up in the air, Penelope declared to the sky at large, "You're not even listening to me."
"Angel, I heard every word. You said she's everything you're not. And since you're the most beautiful woman I've ever met with a brain that rivals Reid's, then I assumed that the chick in question was the dumbest dog in the litter, Baby Girl."
Penelope's heart fluttered in her chest as she listened to her personal hero's deep words. They enveloped her like a warm velvet robe, soothing her ragged nerves and caressing that part of her that only Derek ever managed to touch. "I love the way you lie, Lovebug," she said with a gentle smile.
"I wouldn't waste the energy it would take to lie to you about Lynch. He didn't deserve you, Sweetness, and whatever pale imitation of you he has draped on his arm these days isn't worth your tears," he replied softly, using his thumb to capture a shiny tear. "Neither of them is."
Leaning against his solid chest, Penelope relaxed as he stroked the line of her back through her towel. "Do you think either of us is ever going to find real happiness, Derek? "
Settling his hand over the base of her neck, Derek tilted her face up to his, sweeping off her hot pink sunglasses with one motion. "I'm pretty damn happy exactly where I am. Here. With you."
"You know what I mean," she replied, staring up into those dark coffee colored eyes of his, the shade so rich and deep, that she could get lost in his gaze forever.
"I do know what you mean, Penelope," Morgan said softly. Turning over on his side, they lay belly to belly. Touching a soft tendril of her red hair, he twined it around one long finger, marveling silently at the silky texture. "Do you want to know what I think?"
Penelope recognized the serious tone in the deep timbre of his voice. Laced with some indefinable component, it drew her in and made her breathless. "What?" she whispered, afraid that the sound of her own voice would ruin the moment between them.
"I think that you make me happier without even trying than any woman before you. It's always been that way for me. I love that you're an actual woman with real curves, not a stick with breasts. In my eyes, you're perfect, Penelope, just the way you are."
"Just the way I am?" Penelope echoed, unable to believe that this magnificent specimen of masculinity thought that she could be anyone's definition of an ideal female.
"Exactly as you are, Sweetness," he replied, staring into her eyes. "Never doubt that."
And as Penelope gazed deeply into his eyes, she could have sworn she saw his soul, whole and unblemished. "Just when I thought that I couldn't love you any more than I already do, you surprise me by pulling me in a little deeper."
Wrapping his arms around her, Derek surrounded her with his embrace. "Just know that I'm never gonna turn you loose either, mama," he vowed huskily as the sun began to set over the water, bathing them both in golden light.
It was a promise that he kept until his dying day.
Thanks to everyone sticking by me through my recovery. You guys ROCK!