"Amanda, I am not going to argue with you about this. Surveillance is over, Francine goes in tonight. Amanda!" Sometimes he wondered how she could possibly stalk so fast on her heels. But stalking away from him she was indeed, as she hiked her purse over her shoulder. He jogged a few steps to catch up with her, "Amanda..." Lee couldn't keep the exasperation out of his voice.

Later he would remember the absurd tinkling of the bell attached to the door hinge. Halfway through the glass door, Amanda stopped so suddenly he slammed right into her her back, hands coming up to steady her shoulders.

Inside the coffee shop silent terror filled the artificially chilled air. An automatic weapon was pointed directly at Amanda. She startled backwards, pressing against Lee. His heart dropped in horror. Any move on his part to reach for his sidearm could not possibly be fast enough, Amanda was directly in the line of fire. He could feel her light, quick breathing and her heart pounding against his chest. He tightened his hold on her arms.

There were two ski-masked robbers, each with AR-15s. Two other customers stood frozen, eyes fixed on the gunman in front of them, waving his at the server and cashier behind the counter.

Time stretched impossibly, wrapping around itself only to ricochet forward. The gunman in front of Amanda turned to his partner. Lee's fingers tightened on her imperceptibly, released, tightened again. She inhaled, tried to exhale slowly, tried to focus. Felt Lee, solid, secure against her back.

She never could say how long it was before the gun wavered, swung slightly away from her. A squeeze of Lee's fingers and she knew it was time. She dropped, ducked sideways and rolled. In one motion he drew his sidearm and shot both gunmen. As the one closest dropped, his finger convulsively tightened on the trigger and a spray of bullets rained.

It was over in a heartbeat. "Amanda?" Lee's voice wasn't right. Amanda scrambled to her feet, even as he was slumping back against the wall. His gun still held in his left hand, his right hand was pressed to his temple. To her horror, Amanda saw blood begin to drip from beneath his hand.

She was on her knees next to him instantly. Sirens were approaching. "Lee?" She couldn't keep her voice steady. She loosened his tie and pulled the handkerchief out of his jacket pocket. Gently she pulled at his hand.

"'S juss a crease..." His words slurred. She pressed the cloth to the wound. He grasped at her wrist, remarkably strong. "Don' worry, 'll be 'kay." His eyes closed, but his grip remained steady.

Abruptly the small coffee shop filled with law enforcement, and seconds later, paramedics. Amanda did not remember giving ID or passwords, but before the gurney was even in the ambulance, Billy was beside her. Though not entirely conscious, Lee had not released his hold on her hand.

She rode with him in the ambulance. The paramedics were remarkably unconcerned, telling her it was indeed a very lucky graze from a bullet. When he was moved into the Emergency Department trauma room, the staff began to insist she leave. Lee spoke up, "She stays." And she did.

A tetanus shot and another of antibiotics, the small burn-like wound dressed, and it was pronounced Lee would be released after a CT scan just for safety's sake.

Lee's eyes closed. Amanda lightly ran her fingers across his furrowed brow. "Hurt?"

"Not bad." His right hand still held on to her. She settled on the doctor's stool next to the bed. Her blouse showed a rusty stain where his hand had wrapped around her wrist.

His hand...

She couldn't help but bring it up to her face. She laid her cheek against the back of it, closing her eyes.

His hands drove her crazy, reassured her, made her burn with need, and protected her. His touch had romanced her even before he admitted it. His palm on her back, his grip escorting her elbow, those long fingers working their way under her skin and into her heart. She needed his touch as much as she needed oxygen.

"Hey." His voice was tired, but clear. "It's OK." She looked up to find his eyes on her, intense and warm. Her own had the pressure of tears threatening. "We're OK."

"Yeah." She whispered, grasping his hand in both of hers and brushing her lips over the back of it.