Disclaimer: I do not own nor did I create these characters. I am not profiting monetarily or otherwise from writing about them. They belong to Shoot the Moon and Warner Brothers Productions.
Timeline: Third season, after Dead Men Leave No Trails but before All the World's A Stage.
Summary: Lee & Amanda enjoy a meal together, but neither of them are as absorbed by their food as they are by one another.
Rating: PG-13, for the thoughts of two vivid imaginations.
Author's Notes: Thanks, as always, to my beta reader(s). It's been a while since I wrote this one and have lost track of who exactly helped me out with editing, etc.
Amanda King. There is no other woman I'd rather be with right now. I can't imagine ever being with any other woman, and I'm not even with Amanda. Let me rephrase that: I'm not with Amanda yet; a glitch I plan to remedy in the very near future.
She glances up and meets my gaze. I smile at her, wondering if my face reveals my line of thought or the depth of my feelings for her. Though I'm a trained and experienced operative, I find myself letting my guard down around this amazing, beautiful woman. I'm almost ready to tell her how I feel, but every time I start to bring the subject up, I hesitate, unable to find the right words, or more usually, the nerve.
I think she must know how I feel, though; I don't know how she could miss it. Somehow, I know that she's waiting for me to make the first move. It's something in the way she looks at me; it's difficult to explain. But the days when I used to lecture her about us not being together or her not being my type are long gone.
"Are you okay, Lee?" she asks, her voice reflecting the concern and curiosity evident in her expressive face.
I nod slowly, wanting to reassure her, but not trusting my voice. "I'm . . ." I finally begin, and then pause when I hear my voice crack. Clearing my throat and taking a sip of water, I continue. "I'm fine. Thanks for asking."
She tilts her head and narrows her brown eyes, studying me. I feel utterly vulnerable and exposed to her frank gaze. It's a novel sensation, but for some reason, it doesn't scare me. In fact, it feels kind of nice that she knows me as well as she does. "Okay," she says slowly, as if trying to decide whether or not to believe my feeble assertion. "You just seem . . . a little bit distracted tonight."
"Yeah," I agree, running a hand through my hair. "Yeah, I guess I am. You know, a little . . ." I trail off as I see that she's watching me even more attentively. Her eyes are spellbinding, and I find myself entranced for a moment. "Uh. . . distracted," I finish lamely. Not at all smooth, but I certainly don't want to tell her why I'm so distracted as I watch her red sweater shift slightly to reveal one creamy shoulder, the view tantalizing me.
"Oh," she replies with a slight smile. "I see." Rather than asking what's distracting me, she acts as though I've given her a comprehensive answer. Maybe, in a way, I have. Amanda King seems to have the ability to see a lot more than I ever intend for her to see.
To collect my jumbled thoughts, I cast a glance around the crowded restaurant and see the waiter approaching our table with two salads. As he grinds fresh pepper onto Amanda's plate, we quietly gaze at each other. I openly study her features, something that has almost become an obsession. She is so absolutely, delicately gorgeous, simply and classically lovely.
"Umm, ma'am? Excuse me, but is this going to be enough?" the waiter inquires, apparently for the second or third time. It seems we're both distracted this evening. He gestures uncertainly at her salad plate. "Would you like me to continue. . . with the pepper?"
We both look down at her plate, which is now covered in a hearty dose of black flakes. I look up to her face. Her eyes are wide with embarrassment as she takes her knife and begins scraping off some of the pepper. I try to stifle my laughter, but I simply can't. Her face is so wonderfully expressive - one of the things I find irresistible about her.
"Oh, my gosh!" she exclaims, bringing a hand up to her mouth. "How stupid of me; I guess I was. . . I mean. . . I wasn't paying attention. Sorry about that."
The waiter smiles at her, completely charmed. If it weren't for the gold band on the third finger of his left hand, I might be inclined to deck him. "Please - let me bring you another salad," he offers earnestly.
"No, no, no," she tells him, holding a hand over her plate. "It was my fault. I wasn't watching. You told me to say, 'when,' and… No. Thank you. It'll be just fine."
Still smiling in a knowing fashion, he shrugs and twists the mill over my plate. I keep my eyes on the pepper mill for the moment, instead of my date, just in case. 'My date' . . . yeah, I like the sound of that. I like it a lot. I like the sound of 'my woman' even better, despite its caveman implications.
The waiter leaves, and Amanda glances at me with a self-conscious air. "Well," she declares, looking down at her plate. "I don't see what was so funny about that." Despite her words, I can see a hint of a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.
Trying to be serious, I wipe the grin off my face. "Listen, Amanda," I begin. "I really like pepper. Let's trade salads."
"No, Lee, it's okay," she demurs, her brow creasing.
I start to switch the plates, but she's already shaking her head. "Really," I repeat, "I'd be more than happy to switch."
She pushes my plate back, holding her own firmly in place. "Lee, really. It's okay. I like pepper . . . I like pepper a lot." She laughs and gestures at her plate. "I like a lot of pepper a lot."
Grinning at her characteristic ramble, I shrug. "Suit yourself."
As I pick up my fork, I lay my free hand across the table, hoping that she'll place hers in mine. All she does, though, is stare at it as if transfixed, her eyes glazing over. I take the opportunity to watch her some more, and I find myself fantasizing about kissing her right here in front of everyone.
My partner, Lee Stetson, is, without argument, the most handsome man I've ever laid eyes on. Sure, I confess, I thought he was good-looking when I first met him. But now . . . now that I really know him . . . Well, let's just say that now that I've seen the whole package, or at least most of it, I want it. I want him.
Just now, when he was laughing at me, I pretended to be slightly annoyed, telling him I didn't see what was so funny about my ending up with a little salad under my pepper. It was all to disguise how flustered I was watching him. When he smiles, those dimples just about do me in. And those lips . . . I wonder if they're as soft as they look. The few times he's kissed me in the line of duty, they've been wonderfully soft despite their firmness.
Lee casually places his hand on the table and I find myself staring at it, wishing I were bold enough to place mine there, to feel his fingers curl around mine and stroke the back of my hand. We hold hands all the time. Why, suddenly, am I nervous about doing so?
His hands are magnificent - tanned and strong. His fingers are long and graceful. With those hands he has both battled KGB agents and gently carried me out of danger. As I often do, I find myself imagining those hands running over my skin and tangling in my hair, gentle in their insistence as they pull me closer to his firm body. I could write a book about his hands; I even have a title. I'd call it, "A Thousand and One Fantasies about the Hands of a Scarecrow."
We make meaningless conversation as we eat our salads, Lee breaking into an amused chuckle when I sneeze three times in a row. I'm so ridiculously edgy, feeling like I have to keep the conversation at a steady flow.
"The boys are gonna watch 'King Kong' after they do their homework tonight," I tell him inanely. Why did I just tell him that? Why would he care about that? Still, I ramble on. "They've never seen the original version before, just the one with Jessica Lange. They were so excited . . ." I trail off, wondering why I can't just keep quiet.
"It's a classic," he says, nodding. But it's clear by the look in his eyes that his mind is not on old movies or monsters.
Nodding, I continue with my absurd discourse. "I never end up liking remakes that much, you know? They're almost never as good as the original."
He smiles at me, his hazel eyes deepening to a warm olive tone. "I feel the same way," he agrees. "The original is always better than any substitute."
The intensity in his voice is startling. Is he trying to convey something more than what he's saying? I have the uncanny feeling that he's referring to . . . No, he probably doesn't even realize how similar Leslie was to me, at least in the looks department. Still, I'm unable to think of a coherent reply.
Shifting nervously, I cross my legs under the table, accidentally brushing against his in the process. The effect of the contact is electrifying. He looks at me sharply, his eyes wide, and he swallows hard. It's a relief to know that he's as affected by the brief contact as I am. For a crazy moment, I'm tempted to slide my foot into his pant leg, just to see his reaction.
He looks away and directs his gaze to a spot over my shoulder. I turn to see what he's staring at, hoping it's not a leggy redhead or chesty blonde. Seeing nothing but other diners and a few plants, I look back at him and he clears his throat, offering me another enigmatic smile. Was he about to say something?
After a moment, I take another bite of my 'pepper salad'. Glancing at him again, I feel my heart leap into my throat. His eyes are half-closed, and the effect is absolutely mesmerizing. I've often pictured Lee's 'bedroom eyes' and what I'm seeing now is pretty darn close to what I've imagined, if not better.
Unable to stop myself, I sneeze again.
I can't seem to stop watching her; I hope she doesn't think I'm being rude. A second ago I opened my mouth, intent on saying something to break the tension in the air between us, but I blanked out when she ran her tongue across her lips. I feel my eyelids lower as I again drift into dangerous territory in my imagination.
I don't know what to make of the new awkwardness between us. Normally we're very comfortable together and can talk for hours. Finally I find something to say to keep the stream of conversation going, but I'm interrupted when she lets out another cute little sneeze, and I chuckle again.
"I don't know why I let him go for so long with the pepper," she says, shaking her head in self-deprecation.
In an attempt to tease her, I ask, "What were you thinking about?"
Her cheeks redden slightly and she averts her eyes. "I, uh . . . I don't remember. I just wasn't paying attention, you know. Um . . . To the waiter."
I think - I hope - that the reason for her inattentiveness was because she was watching me, like I was watching her. Was she imagining what it would be like to be alone together, with all of our barriers broken down? Had her thoughts led her down paths mine had taken me? The mere idea sends a pleasant shiver along my spine, causing me to break into an unintentional grin.
"What?" she asks, leaning forward.
"I think we're both more than a little distracted tonight," I tell her softly, hoping my eyes communicate my unspoken meaning.
Her coffee-brown eyes widen and she inhales deeply, nodding slightly in acknowledgement. I can tell that, without a doubt, she knows exactly what I mean.
A moment ago, her foot grazed my leg and my body came alive at the seemingly simple contact. I was grateful that I was sitting at a table. Why is it that when I'm around her lately, all of my senses are heightened? Every little look, every little touch, electrifies me. Am I distracted by Amanda King? Hell, yes.
"I think you're right, Lee," she answers quietly, though I detect a slight change in her voice. She lifts one sculpted eyebrow, and it seems that she's challenging me to voice the silent insinuation.
It seems that our feelings for one another are growing by leaps and bounds tonight. Without even vocally acknowledging the change, it's as if, at any moment, those emotions will ignite like a smoldering ember.
I'm staring at her, unable to look away, completely under her spell. What's that song? 'Love Potion Number Nine.' That's what it's like. She's entrancing, completely distracting. Another old song comes to mind. Bewitched, bothered and bewildered. Amanda does all of those things to me.
She's staring back at me, not saying a word. I find myself enjoying having her watch me as I consume her with my eyes; the tantalizing view of her neck and shoulder as the fabric of her sweater moves against her body is enough to have me reaching for my ice water again. I can just imagine my hands lifting it from her slender, supple body.
Her eyelids are lowering in an effort to hide her thoughts from me, but it's too late. She's thinking about the same thing I am. She expels an obviously shaky breath.
"Lee . . ." she says, her voice low and throaty. I've never heard her sound quite so . . . sexy, so innocently alluring. The sound of her voice is enough to cause my fantasy to heat up, and I decide it's time to focus on the task at hand: eating.
"Huh?" I ask as I casually spear some lettuce and tomato on my plate. I chew slowly, focusing my attention on the salad.
"Nothing," she whispers.
With the last forkful poised in the air, I make the mistake of looking up. Amanda has pushed her plate to the side and is resting her arms on the table, watching me carefully. I stare at her hands and imagine all the things they haven't done to me yet.
Suddenly, she moves one hand up to her mouth and with a slow sensuality runs her thumb and forefinger over the crease of her wine-colored lips. I still haven't put the fork into my mouth, and I can't seem to move. Her eyes haven't broken contact with mine; is she trying to entice me? If so, she's doing a damned good job of it.
I push my plate to the side; there's just too much pepper. Lee's last forkful stops halfway to his mouth as he stares at my hands. Curious, I slowly bring one up to my mouth, wiping the corners of my lips slowly. He watches every movement, his eyes widening. His fork hasn't moved an inch. I feel, oddly, like a cat, toying with its prey. It's a powerful sensation, and I wouldn't be a woman if I didn't enjoy it.
Every nuance, every whisper tonight seems to be filled with tension and innuendo. I've never experienced anything so tantalizing and, at the same time, so frustrating, in my life.
He, too, pushes his plate to the side to await the main course. We resume our small talk, both of us sounding strangely uninterested in the conversation and, therefore, not giving much thought to what we say. We soon resort to talking about work, always a neutral and undemanding topic. Today's case is still fresh in both of our minds.
"I was really impressed with your work today, Amanda," he tells me, his voice warm and sincere. "You did a great job."
Shrugging, I try not to let his compliment affect me too much, diffident out of long-standing habit. "Oh, well, anyone would have done the same thing. It wasn't anything special."
"No," he replies firmly. "You really do think on your feet. You . . . You're one of a kind, Amanda," he finishes softly.
Reaching across the table, he touches my hand to emphasize his point. As he assures me that I've got great instincts, all I can focus on is the sensation of his warm skin upon mine, the gentle pressure of his long fingers wrapping around my hand.
He starts stroking my palm; I don't think he even realizes that he's doing it. Does he have any idea what it's doing to me? I start imagining that hand gently moving up my arm to my shoulder, on to my neck and into my hair, the other one sliding under my sweater. Suddenly the table is no longer between us and we're no longer in a crowded restaurant.
In my mind, I can feel his lips hungrily claim mine as he pulls my willing body up against his own. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I return his kiss eagerly and with passionate abandon, and then . . .
. . . Then the waiter announces that our meals have arrived.
I can't believe I just had such a vivid fantasy. I mean, I fantasize about Amanda quite often - all right, I admit it - all the damn time. But not when she's sitting right across from me in a busy restaurant.
I look up at her and see that her face looks as flushed as I imagine mine must be. I wonder if she was engaging in the same sort of fantasy as me. Is it possible? Is that why it seemed so incredibly real, so poignant? No. No two people have that kind of connection . . . do they?
The waiter gone, I look at Amanda again, and sure enough, she's still blushing. Maybe it's not because of her imagination, though. Maybe it's something I . . . Wait a minute . . . Did I say something; do something to let her know where my thoughts were just now? Oh, no - did I moan? Or sigh?
"Is everything okay?" I ask her, hoping she won't tell me I just made a fool of myself, but she acts like she didn't even hear me, and mutters something that I can't make out at all.
I really must have done something to compromise myself. Choosing to ignore whatever might have just happened, I cut off a large bite of prime rib and plunge it into the steaming au jus.
Amanda is merely playing with her food. I think she's taken one bite of chicken and eaten a few of her vegetables, but mainly she's pushing the food around on her plate. She isn't herself tonight; she normally has a good appetite despite her trim and willowy figure. . . Stetson, do not start thinking about her body again, I firmly tell myself.
Despite my own good advice, however, I find myself wondering about her, my curiosity trying to satiate itself within the realms of my imagination. I've seen many women in my time, but the very thought of Amanda unclothed stirs up a nervous excitement in me. Her conservative attire only serves to enhance her loveliness.
"How do you like it, Lee?" she asks.
What did she just say? Did she really just ask me how I 'like it'? Given my current train of thought, it takes me a moment to compose myself.
"Umm." I clear my throat, stalling. "Wh- What did you just ask me?" I give myself strict orders to put her clothes back on and concentrate on what she's saying. If she only knew where my mind was when she asked me that question, and where it went from there!
"I asked you how you like it." She pauses and then adds slowly with emphasis, "The prime rib." Her features express her obvious amusement at my discomfiture.
"Oh!" Thank goodness . . . "It's good. Really good. Do you want some?"
Was it my imagination or did Lee really groan? I'm pretty sure that's what I heard, because my imagination went into immediate overdrive. It was subtle, though, not very loud, so I can't be positive. He questioned me about it but I muttered something unintelligible. How do you tell someone they just groaned out loud? And that it was that kind of a groan?
Forcing myself to speak, I ask Lee how he likes his dinner. He looks up at me sharply in apparent alarm and asks me to repeat myself. He's every bit as distracted as I am. I ask him again how he's enjoying his meal, and this time he answers me, sounding almost relieved. What did he think I was asking about?
"Oh!" he replies, and then adds, "It's good. Really good. Do you want some?"
Oh . . . What did he just ask me? Do I want some? I definitely want some. I want some of whatever he's offering! Oh, wait . . . he means the prime rib. C'mon, Amanda, get it together!
"Do you want a bite of this, Amanda?" he asks again, holding a forkful of beef across the table.
I take a deep breath, determined to bring my overactive imagination back under control. "Oh, no thanks; I've got plenty right here. Thanks for asking, though."
"Sure," he says.
I really wish we'd chosen to split something. There's just no way I can finish all of this roasted chicken. In fact, my appetite, at least for food, is practically nonexistent right now. I force myself to take a few bites, mainly eating the steamed vegetables.
We finish our meals, each struggling to keep the waning conversation alive. It's obvious that neither one of us is interested in talking. Finally, the waiter approaches and clears the table, taking away our dishes and promising to return with my wrapped chicken.
"Would you like to sit here for a while and finish the wine?" he asks me, a hopeful expression on his face. How sweet that he doesn't want the evening to end any more than I do.
He refills my wineglass and then his own. He watches me expectantly so I take a sip - okay, a gulp - of the Bordeaux. Setting the glass down, I run my tongue over my lips. He's staring again, and I desperately want to end this torturous game we're playing. Either that or take it to the next level. He looks as though he wants to lean across the table and kiss me. I wish he would.
As Lee takes a sip from his wineglass, I watch closely, and find myself wishing I were the recipient of those amazing lips. I swallow hard and am acutely aware of the ache I feel inside. I've never been so aware of a man before, not even Joe.
We've danced around the issue of our relationship for what seems like forever. Every time he takes my hand in his, I never want him to let go.
We keep up a semblance of a conversation while we . . . Well, while I finish my meal and Amanda continues to push the food around on her plate. Finally, the waiter comes to take the plates away and wrap Amanda's 'leftover' chicken. Next time, I think, maybe we'll split something.
I don't want the evening to end yet, so I suggest that we sit a while and finish the bottle of wine. She agrees, and I refill our glasses. I want to see her take a drink, so I stare at her until she does. Instead of a sip, however, she practically gulps half of the contents in one swallow. Now I know she's really nervous. She licks her lips, which is my undoing, and I almost lean over to taste them; almost, but not quite. This is going to kill me yet.
As seriously as I want it, I just can't seem to bring myself to initiate a more intimate relationship with her. What if we try and fail, and lose what we have now? Our friendship is strong, but is it strong enough to endure something more? I'm almost certain that it is, but I guess that's my primary fear - losing the close friendship we share. At the same time, we can't stay in this limbo, torturing ourselves and one another with a fantasy.
To cover my unease, I take a sip of my own wine, afraid that I'll spill it down the front of my shirt, I'm so jumpy. No other woman has ever had me this on edge. As I swallow, I look up to find her eyes focused on my lips.
The tension between us is growing. It's as though we both know that we're on a threshold, and we're just waiting for the moment we'll walk through to the other side. Despite the strong and increasing physical attraction and desire I feel for her, there's something far deeper.
It occurs to me that we've been playing a kind of game with each other, flirting and hinting, for a long time. Maybe it's time to end the games and turn the flirtation into action. I don't know how much longer I'll be satisfied with just holding her hand. If tonight is any indication, not much longer at all if I want to keep my sanity.
The rest of the evening flies and we pull up in front of her house. Soon I'll have to leave her and go home, alone. I hate this; I don't want to leave her and go home to my empty apartment.
I get out of the car and hurry around to the passenger side, opening the door for her. She steps out, straightens, and looks up at me. We're standing there, so close. All I'd have to do is lean down and . . .
"We, uh . . ." she begins, a nervous tremor in her voice. "We should really go around to the back of the house. You know . . . the neighbors."
Derailed from my goal, I blink and step back. "Yeah." I take her hand firmly in mine and we walk slowly toward her house. Stopping at her back door, I attempt a smile.
"So," I say in an effort to stall, trying to work up the courage to kiss her.
"So," she repeats and nods.
Not knowing how to be suave with Amanda, I simply say, "That was nice, huh?"
She nods again, seeming as reluctant as I am to bring the evening to a close. "Yes . . . It was very nice, Lee," she replies, her voice appealingly breathless.
I stare at her lips, and I know she sees me. Still, I can't bring myself to kiss her. Why is this so difficult? Because this is Amanda, I tell myself sagely. My partner, my best friend, my confidante, my . . . hope.
She's looking at me expectantly. For a moment, I think that she's going to kiss me. Oh, please, yes. Let that happen, I beg silently. Put me out of my misery once and for all! But, to my immense disappointment, she doesn't make a move.
"I'll uh, see you tomorrow, Amanda," I tell her. I bring her hand up to my lips, kissing her fingers. I'd meant to give it just a brief kiss, but I let my lips linger for a long moment as I look deeply into her eyes.
She's trembling, but she replies in an adorably raspy voice, "Yeah."
I can't resist any longer. Her mouth is so close, so inviting, that I instinctively move toward her. A small sigh escapes her lips, and I feel my heart speed up in answer. Leaning down, I see her tilt her face up, her eyes closed, indicating her acceptance of my intentions.
Suddenly, when I'm a mere inch away from those tantalizing lips and can feel her breath on my face, the kitchen light comes on like a spotlight. Her mother must have heard something because she's downstairs, chatting about bubble bath and thwarting my plan to share a steamy, overdue kiss with her daughter.
With an effort, I quickly release Amanda's hand and take a step away from her, giving her a rueful look. Then I turn and leave her backyard, already anxious to see her again.
I can't believe this! He was going to kiss me; we were this close, and then Mother waltzed into the kitchen calling out to see if I was home yet, anxious to report on her new bubble bath. Darn it, I should have let him kiss me at the car.
Passionate Peach. I missed out on being kissed by Lee Stetson because of Passionate Peach bubble bath. Mother has such impeccable timing.
In a way, though, it's a good thing we were interrupted. The emotions running between us tonight were just too intense. Besides, we do have a lot to talk about. Steeling myself, I open the back door and step into the kitchen, attempting a smile. "Hello, Mother." I can hear the disappointment and slight annoyance in my own voice.
Though she was just talking to me, she seems surprised to see me here. "I thought I heard you," she tells me, "but then I looked into the den and you weren't there, and then you weren't in here, either. How was your evening, darling?"
"Oh, you know," I reply casually, opening the refrigerator and placing my left-over chicken on a shelf. "Just another boring work dinner."
"Boring work dinner, huh?" she responds dryly.
I nod emphatically, and say with not a little impatience, "Yes, Mother. Working. Business. At dinner."
"All right," she says with a sigh. "But you look pretty flushed and flustered, darling. That must have been some documentary you were discussing."
I know she doesn't believe me, and I can't blame her, really. It's just hard, sometimes, answering to my mother when I'm a grown woman with kids of my own.
She says goodnight and heads up the stairs. I stand there in the dark for a few minutes, hoping that Lee will knock on my back door to finish what we started. But after a while, I realize that tonight, at least, he's not coming back, and I turn off the kitchen light before heading upstairs.
I can't wait to relive the evening's events as I lay in bed, eventually drifting off to sleep with thoughts of Lee Stetson teasing my subconscious. It's a good thing that, in my dreams, at least, there is no such thing as a missed kiss!