Juliette leaned an elbow against Nick's desk, red hair streaming through her fingers. Her eyelids had just drifted shut over blue eyes when a hand closing gently over her shoulder startled her awake. She drew in a sharp breath, hair fluttering against her cheek as her head shot up.
"I'm sorry to wake you." Captain Renard gave her a disarmingly crooked smile, his sympathy genuine but restrained. "Nick just phoned; he and Hank are following up a lead. He'll be much too late for dinner, I'm afraid."
She ran her hands over her face, nearly obscuring the soft sigh that escaped her lips. "That's all right. Thank you, Captain." Juliette clasped her hands together, tipping her head back to see his face, the small smile that lifted the corners of her mouth not quite reaching her eyes. "I'll just go; Nick and I can catch up some other time."
He inclined his head and watched, hand braced on the shadow of his gun beneath his jacket, as she gathered her purse and her scarf and stood from Hank's chair, turning to go. But his instincts, they had other ideas. He glanced down to find his hand wrapped around her wrist and glanced up to find her watching him with raised, questioning eyebrows. "I was just about to order dinner myself. Would you like to join me?"
Renard watched the hesitation flicker over her face before a tentative smile replaced it. "I suppose I only have microwaved leftovers to go home to," she laughed softly, if only to cover the lonely echo. (Though he recognized it for what it was anyway.)
"After you, then." He gestured toward his office, the small desk lamp glowing warmly through the window, gaze following Juliette as she wove her way between the desks and chairs and general chaos of the nightly-abandoned precinct.
The clock had ticked off nearly two hours when half-past ten found Juliette giggling into her third glass of red wine, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. "It sounds like your family makes mine look positively normal." (Admittedly, the stories he had regaled her with were rather edited versions but she didn't seem to notice one way or the other.)
"My family makes most families look normal," Renard admitted, a rueful smile tugging at his lips as he lifted the nearly empty bottle of wine. "Finish it off?"
"I shouldn't." Juliette blushed pink as he poured the last few sips into her glass anyway, eyes tracing his features over the rim. The smile slid slowly off her face and she found herself biting her lip instead, voice dropping an octave. "I've spent weeks trying to remember Nick, listening to everyone from the refrigerator repairman to his best friend tell me that we're perfect. But in all that time he's still sleeping on the couch and I suddenly have the indomitable desire to kiss you."
Renard's eyes dropped involuntarily to her lips at the suggestion and it was only many years of practiced restraint that kept him from capturing them with his own.
"I am so sorry." She jerked away, mortification evident on delicate features, his hand hovering over hers as she grabbed her purse. By the time he had recovered enough to think straight, she was halfway out of his office.
Grabbing her scarf from the back of her abruptly vacated chair, he took the room in three easy strides, his hand pushing the door shut again even as she had barely opened it. Juliette lifted her head slowly, eyes wide, lips parted in a soft gasp. Truly, he was a bit horrified at his own inability to control his impulses around her. "Don't forget this," he murmured, voice low and rough, fingers curling around hers as she reached to take the scarf.
Juliette flushed, hand frozen in his, the purple silk cascading between them. "Why do I feel like this?" she whispered. Missing her memories of Nick had left her with unfamiliar insecurities; after all, she felt like a single woman and yet there was a man who considered her the love of his life sleeping on her couch. She felt as though she could just reach up and kiss the ever-tempting Sean Renard and yet-
He took the choice away from her, hand curling around the back of her neck, thumb brushing the line of her jaw, his kiss hard and insistent and irresistible. Juliette pressed a hand instinctively against his chest, nails digging into the soft, expensive fabric of his shirt. He pressed her back against the door, the cool glass running a shiver over her shoulders and she gasped softly against his mouth, fingers gripping his side, his tongue brushing tauntingly over hers-
only to pull away just as she felt ready to melt in his arms. "I'm sorry, Juliette. I can't." If she'd have been clear-headed, she would have heard the strain and desire in his voice but as it was, she could barely think past her own wine-addled inhibitions.
"Of course not," she murmured, purple silk knotted fiercely around her hands. "Me neither."
Renard braced his hands on the back of her chair, leaning heavily on it if only to create an obstacle to the possibility of changing his mind and having her right there on his desk, her creamy skin under his hands, red hair splayed across a jumble of paperwork- much of which consisted of Nick's case files. He cleared his throat, squeezing his eyes shut for just a moment over the beginnings of a pounding headache.
Biting her lip, Juliette nodded in complete understanding of his turmoil and let herself out. She glanced back as she reached the elevator though, to see him leaning against his office window, watching her leave. Her hand came up, fingers brushing against her lips of their own accord, and she felt a small, secretive smile she was certain matched the one he sported grace her features.
Nick loved her, of that she was certain. She could see it in his eyes.
But Sean… Sean had the dangerous look of a man who wanted her. And she had yet to make her decision between past love and future possibilities.