CHAPTER TEN: Visitation
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(a wee bit o' M again)
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Sunday was the day Juliet's family got wind of her travails. Her phone rang every fifteen minutes, and by the time she'd heard from her mother, several brothers, a couple of aunts and at least ten friends from the Miami PD and her college buds—all of whom got the same "thank you for calling, I'm working it out, and I'll call you soon, I swear"—she was worn out.
The conversation with her mother was the worst, because she had to beg her not to fly out to see her. She finally silenced her with a promise that she'd come home for a visit in the near future, and would call in a few days with more information.
"Just my luck, Frank will show up," she groused.
Her head was in Carlton's lap, and her feet were up on the arm of the glider out on his patio in the afternoon sunshine.
"Yeah, that's exactly what you need. Have you seen him since…" Hmm. Careful wording here, boy.
"The big father-daughter reconciliation?" Her tone was dry. "No."
"I still can't believe Spencer put you through that." He'd maintained a low simmer of anger about the whole thing. Juliet hadn't had the presence of mind to say much about it to him while it was going on, but he had eyes, and after it was over—and leaving out her feelings about Spencer's actions—she told him most of what happened.
"Me either, but c'est la Shawn." She half smiled. "C'est la Frank, too. Big talker, probably with sincerely good intentions, but ultimately scared and completely unable to follow through."
This was another reason Juliet's basic nature would have bound her to 'take care' of Carlton if his blindness were real: she would never let herself abdicate her responsibilities (even self-imposed), not after being disappointed so often by her father abdicating his.
"His loss," he said with authority.
"No argument here. I am a kick-ass daughter, after all."
Carlton laughed and agreed, and loved her, and wanted to say so. Repeatedly.
Eyes closed, she asked, "As for the rest of the family, how many lies before I go straight to hell?"
"You haven't hit the daily limit yet. I was counting."
Juliet opened her eyes again, grinning and inspiring him to lean down and kiss her upturned sweet mouth.
"Mmm," she sighed. "Thank you."
Carlton stroked her soft hair. "Any time."
"How about now?"
He obliged, earning another sigh, and he was happy with that.
"Thank you again. Apropos of nothing, you have something on your mind."
Startled, he stopped stroking her hair. Juliet sat up and scooched next to him, her arm around his shoulder, her hand caressing the back of his neck.
"You know I can read your innermost thoughts," she added with a straight face.
He wasn't surprised. "You probably can. You're more psychic than Spencer by a mile."
In which case, you already know I love you.
She smiled, but her next words were quiet. "Don't make me guess what it is, please."
Carlton turned his head to kiss her fingertips briefly, and never considered trying to put her off further. "It was something from the confrontation yesterday. When The Exes were here."
One eyebrow arched. "Oh? What—you no longer think I'm hot?"
He retorted, "I've developed first-degree burns over the last twenty-four hours, so yeah, I still think you're hot."
Juliet laughed and stole a kiss—well, okay, he gave it up willingly—and a series of images flashed through his head and hormones regarding how much time they'd spent in bed since The Exes left. Exquisite was his lovely and voracious Juliet, as hungry for him as he was for her. That they'd gone almost two hours mostly dressed this afternoon was remarkable.
"Then what is it?" She nibbled on his earlobe, fingers tantalizing the skin of his throat.
Somewhat strangled, he pointed out that such behavior would keep him from answering coherently.
Clearly she was torn, especially after he slid his hand under her (his) (their) tee.
But then she got up from the glider and stood before him, arms crossed. "Okay, let's hear it."
He was reluctant to bring reality back to the foreground, and not just because he was already completely aroused.
"Carlton, come on. There is absolutely no room for secrets between us."
Sighing, he crossed his own arms and began. "It was during Victoria's riff on how you weren't likely to stick around. That you'd get tired and move on."
Juliet's frown deepened. "Well, she was wrong. And you're not—"
"I know. The situation isn't even real. But I can't help wonder..." He felt chilled now, despite the sun warming his skin. "When this case started you were still blaming yourself for the Dozier crap, and since then it's just been the two of us holed up together. I can't help... think that when this is all over, and we go back to our routines, you might feel different and—"
"No," she interrupted flatly. "No. Because in the first place, it's 'just been the two of us' for a lot longer than the past week. The problem is I've been looking the other way and wasting precious time."
Carlton's heart was constricting. "Juliet. You know what I'm like."
She smiled. "Yes, Carlton. I know what you're like. You're crabby and short-fused and spend too much time at the gun range. You need serious help figuring out your squirrel problem, you never let me drive unless I threaten to shoot you, and yeah, there've been times when your annoyance with Shawn made you refuse to look in a direction he suggested even when it was the right idea."
This wasn't sounding too good, he thought uncomfortably.
Then she bent, put her hands on his shoulders, and went on softly, "You're also the guy who taught me to be a good cop, the guy who stands up for me even when I don't deserve it, and the guy who overrode direct orders—and incidentally sacrificed a gun—to save me from Yin. You take great pains to hide your inner nice guy, but I've seen the size of your heart and I think you're absolutely wonderful." She leaned in to kiss his forehead gently. "And all of that was true before last week."
Carlton cupped her face and kissed her smiling mouth, pulling her back down into his lap and wrapping his arms around her.
"Plus you have gorgeous eyes," Juliet mumbled against his neck, "and are the sexiest man I've ever known."
He squeezed her, his heart too full for words.
"So does that answer your question?" she prompted.
Carlton tilted her head back and smiled. "What do you think?"
"I think I'm very eloquent. What do you think?"
She was indeed eloquent, but he knew how to express himself in other ways. One arm around her back, he slid his other hand down the soft fabric of her tee and then under it, but when her lovely dark blue eyes went wide with anticipation, he changed tack and slipped his fingers under the waistband of her jeans instead.
"Ohhh..." She squirmed a bit.
He took that squirm as a green light, unzipping the jeans to allow more room for his curious fingers, covering her mouth with his in the same move.
Juliet met his advances—her tongue to his, her body arching to welcome his hand.
So warm, so silky... he murmured to her amid kisses, amid stroking, and whether it was his fingers or his kisses or both combined, it wasn't long before her sighs turned to anxious moans and her head fell back as her pleasure overtook her other senses.
Carlton kissed her throat and breathed in her scent, the wanting already up to a low roar.
She quivered her way over the edge, gasping and shuddering, and while he was basking in what he considered fully justified male pride, she sat up more fully to kiss him, already working her hand between them to return all favors—and in the condo, wafting out the open patio door, a trilling could be heard.
Not her cell... that was on the patio table. Not his; it was off.
"Berman," she said suddenly. "The secure line. Crap."
No question but she had to answer. Scrambling unsteadily off of him with a stern, "Hold that thought," she hurried inside.
But he followed, because as soon as she was off the phone, he intended to drag her to bed proper.
Leaning against the back of the sofa and watching her flushed and disheveled and so very damned desirable self, Carlton marveled at the turn his life had taken the past few days.
It was the stuff of dreams—of other people's dreams, anyway.
His dream stopped the trilling with a brisk, "O'Hara."
In an instant, her expression changed, and his senses prickled.
"Okay. I'll let you know." She disconnected and looked at him in shock. "He says Hugo's on his way up. They saw him entering the building."
Carlton grabbed for his dark glasses as Juliet put the phone away.
"Go in the bedroom," she said, zipping up her jeans and fluffing her hair.
"O'Hara, I am not leaving you alone with him."
"Carlton, please. Until I know what he wants, you need to stand clear."
Frustrated, he started to argue, but she was right. "You know I have a weapon in there. Just in case."
"He's not going to shoot me. Not now. Just… just go, please!"
Not now? Not ever, dammit.
The knock came in the next instant, and with a scowl, Carlton went into the bedroom and closed the door.
But not completely—and he could hear just fine.
Juliet pulled the front door open. "What are you doing here?"
"Visiting," the man said smoothly, and brushed past her.
She started to block him—Carlton nearly broke from his post to rush out there—but let it go; better he should come in than loiter outside.
Hugo Nardi fit the description she'd given him a few days ago: watchful, sharp, going for suave. He walked by a fuming Juliet and surveyed the condo as if he owned it.
(Carlton made a note to check on who did own Prospect Gardens. Just his luck it was a mob holding.)
"I ask you again," she said quietly, "what are you doing here?" She circled back to stand between him and the rest of the condo: instinct to protect the condo's main inhabitant, and he was proud even though it should have been him out there.
Hugo smiled coldly. "Just checking on you, Juliet. You asked enough questions the last time we talked that I thought I should make sure our deal's still in place."
"It's in place." She was terse. "You had no reason to doubt."
"Hmmm. And where's the patient? I was so hoping to meet him."
Yeah, Carlton didn't like him any better than Juliet did.
"He's resting. You don't need to meet him, and why the hell would you want to sabotage—" She stopped, and Carlton could tell by the stiffening of her shoulders that she was trying to remain calm. Or acting the part very well, which was the point.
"Resting," he repeated, eyeing her critically. "This would be a euphemism for 'in the bedroom wondering what's taking so long.'"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Hugo smirked. "You have the distinct appearance of a woman who either just got well-screwed or was about to get well-screwed, so I can only imagine his appearance right now."
"What the hell is wrong with you?" she hissed. "Get out."
And even though it was true—her color high, her hair disheveled—Carlton had had enough. Glasses on—and first making sure he was zipped up and tidy—he stepped out of the bedroom slowly. "Juliet? Who's here?"
Look in their direction, but do not make eye contact.
He focused on Hugo's right shoulder, but he could see Juliet's legitimate surprise and unease, and Hugo was certainly intrigued.
She said, "Carlton," and came to meet him, taking his elbow but not letting him go any closer.
Hugo looked Carlton over (to which Carlton could not let himself react with the sneer he felt bubbling up inside). "It's an honor to meet you, Detective Lassiter. I've read a lot about you over the years."
Okay, maybe a little sneer. Old habit. "It's Mister Lassiter now. Who are you?"
"A new friend of Miss O'Hara's. I just stopped by to say hello and offer my best wishes." He came closer but Carlton wisely ignored the cue to shake hands.
Hugo, despite his cockiness, was nonplussed; obviously belatedly remembering oh yeah, he's blind, he dropped his hand. This was good, because Carlton didn't want touch the rat bastard anyway.
"His name is Hugo," Juliet said pointedly, and Carlton could feel her tension just from the grip she maintained on his elbow.
"Yes," he agreed absently, surveying the room again. "It is. Nice place." He ran his fingers along the edge of the dining room table, his back to them now, and Juliet stole a quick look at Carlton, eyebrows up.
"What can we do for you, Hugo?" Carlton asked, not bothering to sound overly polite.
"Me? Oh, nothing." He turned smoothly, and perhaps because Carlton was looking at his chest instead of his face, he spotted Hugo's subtle hand movement. "Just came to say hello, as I said."
Game on, buddy.
"Then thank you for coming by," Juliet said brightly. "Let me see you out."
He had the nerve to chuckle, but didn't otherwise stop her from urging him to the door, smiling down at her benignly before stepping into the hall. "Be well, both of you, and Mr. Lassiter, the city certainly appreciates your years of service."
Carlton nodded, Juliet nodded, Hugo waved, and she couldn't lock the door fast enough after he was gone.
She leaned against it, mouth agape.
Carlton said, "How do you know him?"
He pointed to the edge of the table. "Is he from the hospital?"
Her eyes widened as she understood his gesture. "Yeah... he talked to me once or twice in the cafeteria." She bent to scan the table's underside, and nodded at him when she rose.
"How did he know where I lived?" He was trying to sound curious but not overly suspicious.
"He..." She faltered. "Well, I assumed he was a hospital employee. He must have looked you up in their database."
"Pretty odd visit. Did he flirt with you when you were there?" That was a reasonable question for an insecure newly blind man, wasn't it?
"I... well, I don't think so. I was pretty focused on you, so if he was flirting, I definitely didn't notice. Creepy guy, though, huh," she said, a gleam in her eye which told him she hoped Hugo was listening that very second.
"Uh, yeah. Seemed like it to me."
"Well, he's gone now." With another glance at the table and its newly planted bug, she said, "So… if I recall correctly, didn't I tell you to stay where you were? So I could pick up where I left off?"
He grinned. "I'm blind, not helpless. I got tired of waiting."
"Oh, I'll make you helpless," Juliet promised in a most wicked tone. "You'll be begging for mercy soon enough."
"Maybe it'll be you doing the begging," he suggested.
"Just get going, boy." She retrieved the secure phone quickly and silently and herded him into the bedroom. Pausing in the doorway to exclaim and laugh—as if he'd goosed her—she closed it firmly and followed him into the far corner.
"You saw it," he whispered. "He planted it when he turned back around."
"Not bad for a blind guy. What kind of range you think it has?"
"Probably just the main room but we'll need to be careful now."
"Honeymoon's over," she said grimly. "I thought he was just trying to rub it in that he's in charge, and I couldn't figure out why he'd risk you finding out and stopping me. But I guess the real reason was to plant the bug." Turning on the phone, she keyed in Berman's number.
"His insurance policy, maybe to find out what you were telling me. He's not stupid. We're both dedicated cops with good records and he'd be an idiot to think we'd both go to the dark side so fast."
She nodded, and Berman answered, so she whispered her report to him and listened to his answers. "Okay," she said. "Tomorrow."
Disconnecting, she put the phone on the windowsill and drew Carlton to stand closer to her, arms around his neck—an oddly informal setting for a very work-related conversation.
"He said the bug's just one more piece of evidence against DiMera's people. He wants us to take photos but otherwise play along. I'm supposed to check in with him tomorrow to get the final details on the 'hit.'"
Carlton nodded, and while he was thinking about exactly how careful their main room conversations would need to be, Juliet smiled and reached up to kiss him.
"Mmmm," he murmured, returning the kiss. "Work makes you feel romantic?"
"No, you standing this close to me makes me feel romantic." She pulled him even closer, until he gave in and pressed her to the wall.
She smelled so good and was so warm and soft and why was she wearing so many clothes?
"Besides," she said with a nip to his earlobe, "I really do want to pick up where we left off, you know."
"Well, you understand I couldn't exactly stay on the patio with my zipper down." He nuzzled her throat.
"Me either," she agreed with a laugh. "But we're behind closed doors now, aaaand..."
Aaaand... her nimble fingers were at his zipper again. Carlton didn't stop her, since he was preoccupied with getting her jeans off as well. In short order, their shirts were on the floor, and they fell back on the rumpled bed already entwined.
Juliet was as warm and soft but ever so much more decadent and silky with fewer clothes on, yes she was.
"You sure..." she gasped as he touched her in a rather sensitive area, "... that thing can't hear through... oh God... the door?"
"Oh, he will hear you screaming," Carlton growled, "if I do it right."
Her laughter turned to a moan when his mouth found her breast, and he honestly lost all track of where he was once she set her attention on returning every caress with a wicked one of her own.
Naked with Juliet was a very good place to be, he thought between spasms of pleasure, listening devices be damned.
And as their deliciously intimate activities progressed, he was pretty sure Hugo would indeed be able to hear Juliet just fine through the closed door... because hell yeah, he was abso-freaking-lutely doing it right.
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