A/N: So, I hope everyone's having a good week so far :) Here it is, the long awaited chapter 25 and Kelly's trip to Connecticut and I hope it works up to everyone's expectations. Please drop me a line and let me know what you think. There are a few more chapters left of Image in the Flames but not many. I hope you guys like it- Alisabeth :)
Cayson paced the perimeter of the ballroom, sipping idly on her glass of wine as she watched the familiar members of her trade mill about. The Author's Ball was something that was held every year, only for the elite of the literary world, and it still astounded her that she was rubbing elbows with the likes of Nicholas Sparks and Stephen King. Exhaling slowly through her nose as she passed by the silent auction, she glanced down at the raffle tickets that she held eyeing her neatly printed pseudonym and the many baskets on the long tables. So prim and proper, the ball was anything but how she wanted to be spending a Friday night. Dropping a ticket into the canister advertising a set of tickets to a Maroon 5 concert at any location, she couldn't help but wish she was back in Chicago, lounging in her pajamas with Kelly on the couch rather than wearing the four inch wedges and the forest green, strapless tea length gown that she had on.
Stepping carefully towards the table she'd been placed at in the far corner she took her seat, the only person there. Glancing about, she worked at the toggle keeping her clutch securely closed, riffling through the minimal belongings inside until she extracted her cell phone from the interior pocket. Thumb depressing the power button, it flew over the screen as it lit up, entering the password and checking for any missed calls or any messages. None. She frowned, painted lips turning down ever so slightly at the corners. Hesitating to dim the screen and tuck the phone back away she stopped, pulling up her saved voicemails, holding the phone to her ear as she listened to the automated voice introducing the call. Then came the message.
"Hey Cayson it's me, I've got good…"Kelly's voice was a little deeper, a little more husky than usual before it was cut off by the sound of the house alarm, becoming clearer when the sound stopped. "I've got news and I just…I really miss talking to you. Call me back."
Nearly a week old, she'd listened to it over a dozen times, just so she could hear his voice once more. Preparing to play the rest of his messages as she contemplated getting the next flight to Chicago, she froze when someone cleared their throat behind her. Wishful-thinking aside she raised an eyebrow as she turned, arm slung over the back of her chair.
"Can I help…" she trailed off as she found Kelly standing behind her, hands buried in the pockets of his leather jacket and his shoulders hunched, eyes pinned on her. "you? Kelly?"
Shifting foot to foot awkwardly, he smiled gently. "Hi."
Baffled, she adjusted herself to face him fully. "What are you doing here?"
Scratching the back of his neck he glanced about, noticing that though there were people milling around few were paying attention. Slipping onto the seat beside her, his legs cradling hers, Kelly stared at her for a moment, not saying a word. Bowing his head and reaching for her hands but pulling back he arched his shoulders, rolling his neck.
"I needed to see you, needed to try and get you to come home. To me, to us," he said softly, running his thumb in circles along her palm.
Her own shoulders tensing, a shiver rocketing up her spine, Cayson took a large sip of her wine, swallowing it thickly. "That was a little blunt," she choked out, fingering the stem of the glass.
"Sometimes being blunt is the best way to get results," he shrugged. Taking the wine from her and setting it on the table just out of her reach he ignored her protest. "It's been two months Cayson; two incredibly difficult months. Can we please stop dancing around this?"
She snorted indelicately. "Are you done lying to me?"
He scowled. "I deserve that I suppose. I should have told you sooner."
"No shit, Sherlock."
"Cayson, please just hear me out."
She crossed her arms over her chest and pursed her lips, silently giving Kelly credit as the motion forced her breasts to become apparent and yet he still didn't look away from her face. Eyes skimming down to the watch on his left wrist, she ignored the form fighting white tee shirt he wore. "You have two minutes."
He sighed, contemplating what he was going to say. "I was scared of telling you, of telling anyone really, and that was no excuse. Watching you walk away that day at the station near killed me and, and I don't think I can ever handle having to do that again. Call Shay, ask Mills, do it anyway you want, but I've been miserable without you and knowing that it was all my fault that you were gone only made it worse, you can verify that. I couldn't sleep, so I'd start sneaking in to sleep on the couch in your apartment just because it smelled like you. When I noticed dust or food going bad I'd clean it. Hell, Shay that it was hilarious that I'd make it a point to use your body wash, that minty one, just so something would smell like you," he admitted. "I was going to let you come around on your own ya know, give you one more week."
She swallowed. "What changed?"
"Shay bought a copy of 'Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,' and read the dedication. Listening to every word typed on that page made me realize that with you here and me in Chicago we were wasting precious time."
He exhaled, leaning closer towards her, elbows on his knees. "Yeah, oh. I can't do it anymore Cayson, it's driving me crazy, absolutely ape-shit." He hesitated, knowing he'd passed his two-minute limit but he kept going. "I need for you to know just how I feel before it's too late."
Her attention riveted on Kelly, she was thankful for the first time that no one had approached their table. "Go on."
He let out a breathy chuckle, the same one he often had when she said something silly after sex. "Alrighty, uh, Cayson, in the nine months we've known each other I've gotten used to a lot of things. I've started wearing an elastic around my wrist because you always seem to either break or loose yours, picking up recipe cards because wants you to have one for all your favorite foods, your constant station hopping, and my favorite, waking up with you beside me. It's different for me to find such things important, especially after my string of…less than savory relationships, but for once it doesn't bother me. If it makes you smile, I don't care what it is I'll do it. A lot of things I'd thought I'd hate I don't mind either. There's the likeliness of you always having your camera on you, and that's fine, it's amazing how you always want to document those moments, or how I prefer to let you take a shower first even if you use all the hot water, because in the end, it means the bathroom smells like you. Knowing that you're waiting for me at the end of shift makes it that much bearable and the teasing I get from the guys? Nonexistent when I think of the time you told them all to shut up unless they wanted you to stop baking.
I know that it's a strong word but there are all these things I absolutely love about you and now that I have a chance to tell you I'm not going to waste it. I love how when I come home from a shift, it's to the good type of fire and warmth because you're so passionate about everything you do and when I'm on shift, how you stop by because not only do you care about me, but you've embraced the stationhouse, my family, as your own. Not only is it amusing, but also it's absolutely adorable when you pout because one of your favorite TV couples doesn't end up together even if you knew it wasn't so to begin with. Your optimism astounds me. And when you accidentally make a dirty joke or innuendo and blush crimson? It's beyond appealing. I love how even the littlest things you do have such a large effect on me and for once I don't mind not being in control of the relationship.
I guess what I'm trying to say Cays, is that you're the Rachel to my Noah, the Ben to my Jerry, the Andy to my Sam, the Hermione to my Draco, the Ziva to my Tony, and I cant spend any more time without you. Will you please, please come back to Chicago with me? I said please, twice."
Slack jawed and not knowing what to say, Cayson's mouth opened and closed like a fish. Crossing her legs at the ankles and tucking them around the leg of the chair she stared into Kelly's hypnotic blue eyes. Usually incredibly articulate, Cayson was drawing a blank. Seeing his features drop, she reacted quickly in the only way she knew. Her right hand darting out, it curled around his neck and buried itself in his dark hair, with her being careful not to get her bracelet caught. Pulling his head close and angling her own she bunched her other hand in the lapels of his jacket, the leather cool against her heated skin. Eyes fluttering closed she leaned in close, pressing her mouth hard against his. Her tongue dabbing at his bottom lip she smiled into the kiss when his own came out to dance, engaging in a rhythm as old as time itself. Easing apart when oxygen became a necessity she bit her swollen bottom lip, using her thumb to wipe away a smudge of lipstick near his mouth.
She laughed, kissing him again. "Yes. Yes, I'll come home."
His face lighting up Kelly stood and pulled her to her feet, his left arm looping around her waist as he began to tug at the neat ballerina bun her hair had been tamed into. Weakly protesting she fought a shriek as his lips descended on her neck, peppering butterfly kisses at her pulse point.
"You said yes," he said breathily, eyes twinkling.
She nodded, the mass of released waves bouncing with the motion. "I did."
Burying his head in the crook of her neck, his lips continued to press against her smooth flesh. Nibbling gently as he held her close he eased back, staring down at her. "I forgot to tell you something."
Her stomach jumped. "Does that include how you got in here?"
He laughed. "Your mom and dad gave me your 'plus one' ticket. No," he ducked his head once more, kissing the corner of her mouth. "I forgot to tell you something incredibly important."
"Mhmm. I love you," he whispered, fiddling with the skirt of her dress.
She relaxed exponentially, feeling as if she was melting. "Really?" Confirmed with another kiss, she giggled. "I love you too."
And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more
~A Thousand Years; Christina Perry