Chapter 1: A Cunning Plan
They were being childish and stupid and several more adjectives that he couldn’t come up with at the moment. If he had to watch Audrey keep coming in on Friday nights and sit at his bar and drink dirty martinis and not say why she was hanging out there instead of spending time with the one person he knew she considered her friend he was going to shoot someone.
Or get shot by Nathan who continued to glare at him every time he even barely flirted with Audrey to the point that he’d pretty much backed off the whole thing, especially after the disaster on the boat a few weeks back.
It had been nearly two months since Audrey’s little disappearing act on Carpenter’s Knot and Nathan’s meltdown at her ‘death’ and ‘rescue’. And it was obvious to anyone with eyes that the two of them had yet to speak of the event, let alone the following one that really put things further into perspective for Duke.
When he’d waited on Audrey and Vanessa to get back from their ‘talk’ Nathan had said something to him that he was certain the man hadn’t intended to let slip; he’d asked about if it seemed like fate to be able to feel one person. At the time he’d assumed he meant Jess, since he knew the two had been… close. But when Nathan hadn’t exactly admitted to it, Duke started to question who else he could have been talking about and started to piece together whom else he could have meant. He then recalled the way Nathan had been holding on to Audrey when they’d pulled her from the trunk at the Carpenter Hotel and it was like a light bulb had gone off above his head.
It all made sense. If he only felt Audrey it was a no-brainer he could have identified the chameleon in the hotel. And touching her, kissing her hand while he’d waited for her to come around was for his benefit as much as it was for Audrey’s.
He couldn’t believe it had taken him this long to figure it out. And it made him question why Audrey hadn’t. But on that front he figured it might have been the fact that he was absolutely certain she was suppressing her own feelings for her partner that she didn’t feel she could act on.
Besides, if she wasn’t hung up on Nathan he was certain he could have gotten her into bed by now….
No, they were a pair that was for sure.
But that wasn’t his problem right now... What was his problem was that someone had dared to take what was his.
When Duke had gone to get some ‘personal items’ from his family’s lock box at Haven’s First Savings and Loan and come out empty handed he was understandably upset. He’d pressed the bank manager for why his box was empty the man had no answer. So when another customer came in while he was still there and found their box empty as well, Duke knew something was wrong and that a call to the police - Audrey and Nathan specifically was in order.
Listening distractedly to the bank manager and the other upset patron, Duke pulled out his cell phone and dialed Audrey’s number.
“Parker,” she replied when she answered her phone.
“Officer Parker… Audrey,” said Duke with a slight smile and he heard the little sigh of her voice as she got ready to read him the riot act for calling for no good reason.
“What is it Duke? Some of us work for a living.”
“I’m wounded Office Parker. I do own a legitimate business and pay taxes here you realize.”
“Okay, fine… what do you want?”
“I have box at the bank and it’s been broken in to…There’s another person here with the same problem. I thought that Haven’s finest should come check it out?”
Audrey looked over at where Nathan was sitting behind his desk absorbed in paperwork. It was already late in the day on a Friday and the way he seemed… preoccupied made her consider having the Chief send someone else so Nathan could go home and get away from work for a while… For a second she almost let herself think of Nathan going home, relaxing… going to bed for the night and wondering what he slept in before she violently ripped herself from those dangerous thoughts as she heard her name being called by Duke across the phone line.
“Fine, we’ll be right there,” she replied.
As she hung up Nathan popped his head up from the file he was looking at and considered her seriously, his lip almost tugging up into the half smirk she had grown so fond of.
“What did Duke want?”
“He says his safety deposit box at the bank was broken into and other person’s as well. We probably should go over and check it out.”
“Okay, let’s go.”
With that Audrey nodded and Nathan got up and got his jacket before they headed out. The bank wasn’t far and they were there in ten minutes. The bank manager met them at the door, Duke right behind him.
“Mr. Davis,” stated Nathan as he entered, Audrey at his side.
“Officer Wuornos,” began the bank manager, his face flushed and radiating worry, “Mr. Crocker came in and I helped him get to his box but he said it wasn’t empty the last time he was here. And now Mr. Harrison had the same problem.”
“No one else has access to the boxes?” questioned Audrey, curious about bank protocol in Haven.
“No. You have to have 2 keys… I don’t understand…” continued the bank manager, visibly flustered and embarrassed.
“Duke, what happened?” asked Audrey, turning to the con man and their occasional ally.
“I don’t know. All I do know is that someone helped themselves to my things,” Duke said with a slight growl, gaining him a glare from Nathan and a look of skepticism from Audrey.
“Mr. Harrison?” asked Nathan, turning to the other man with the missing items.
“I had all my mother’s jewelry in the box, and now it’s empty.”
“Can we see the vault Mr. Davis?” Nathan finally asked the bank manager.
He turned and led them to the back of the building and to the vault. The door was open; revealing the interior of what were probably one hundred different kinds of security boxes, from small candy box sized boxes to large storage box sized ones. They covered one wall while the other two were simply plain steel. In the center of the vault were a table and a single chair and in one corner a potted plant for ‘ambiance’. Nathan and Audrey walked into the space, surveying the room and the two empty slots where Duke and Mr. Harrison’s safety deposit boxes had once been.
“Maybe someone walked in, invisible to the camera?” Audrey suggested as she surveyed the whole room, not seeing much there to work with if you were a thief.
“They’d still need the keys,” Nathan countered, pointing to one box where the two key holes appeared.
She shrugged, not really having an answer. Lock picking came to mind and she was just about to suggest it when they were interrupted.
“Excuse me officers, I need to attend to Mr. Harrison and Mr. Crocker,” Mr. Davis said as he left the two detectives in the vault to continue to look for evidence of a crime.
Duke noted the bank manager exit the vault and start speaking to Mr. Harrison again, who was still agitated about the missing contents of his box. Of course so was Duke, but he was focused on watching Audrey and Nathan walk around the vault, poking at the drawers and looking at key holes but visibly not touching or showing any signs of the emotional connection that he knew was there.
He thought again about the stubbornness of these two people who were so visibly meant for each other that he was tempted to just lock them in a room until they dealt with their feelings. God knew maybe getting laid would get the stick out of Nathan’s ass and Audrey to feel more secure in being in Haven...
Suddenly he turned his head and noted the door to the vault. The system at the bank was a standard security set up; the vault door would close and lock if the bank was robbed…
A cunning plan formed in his head and took hold and he couldn’t suppress the smirk that graced his features.
Carefully moving to the teller windows he found one at the end that was empty, the last teller having started their count of their drawer for the night since it was after five PM and the bank was now closed. He turned and saw Nathan and Audrey still deep in conversation at the back of the vault and Mr. Davis and Mr. Harrison heatedly discussing the theft in the bank’s lobby.
He reached over the slight partition and gave a light push to the teller emergency button under the counter, triggering the silent alarm. Then he quickly moved away, watching as the door to the vault began to swing closed. No one would know what he’d done since the cameras were already off for the night and no one had seen him by the teller’s row.
It probably took less than a minute but with Nathan and Audrey so absorbed in the case they didn’t see it coming until the moment the door slammed shut behind them, the lock engaging immediately; they both turned to stare at the closed vault door, stunned and confused.
“Hey!” called out Audrey as the realization that they’d been closed in seeped in and she and Nathan hurried over to pound on the door to get someone’s attention.
“What in the world?” questioned the bank manager as he turned and realized that the vault door was shut and he could hear the officers still inside.
“Oops… my bad?” said Duke beneath his breath to no one as he watched Mr. Davis looked at the vault door in dismay.
“Mr. Davis, what’s going on?” asked Nathan from the other side of the door.
“Officers, it looks like something triggered the safety protocol on the vault. I can’t open it from the outside… it’s on a timer.”
“There has to be something you can do,” cried Audrey, her hands pressed flat against the cool metal.
“We can call in a bank technician from New Hampshire… but I don’t know how soon he can get here. It will open automatically when we open again.”
“Great… just great,” complained Nathan before he ran a hand through his hair.
“Until we can get the vault open, you’ll be able to breathe – the vault has an air filtration system. Just… relax and we’ll have you out as soon as we can,” offered Mr. Davis apologetically. “We’ll make sure the Chief knows you’re safe and get started on finding out how soon we can get the technician here.”
“You know, you should take advantage of the alone time… get to know each other better, share some secrets…” Duke called through the door with a knowing grin, even though they couldn’t see him.
“What are you talking about?” asked Audrey, confused.
“Well, maybe you should start with what happened at Carpenter’s Knot,” suggested Duke wryly.
“Duke,” Nathan nearly growled, not liking at all the direction Duke was going.
“Mr. Crocker is right officers… you should probably settle in… it may be a while. We’ll be back with news as soon as we have it.”
With that the manager escorted Duke and Mr. Harrison out of the bank, telling them he’d do what he could to address the thefts, called Haven PD to report the false alarm and that the two officers were locked in the vault and then called the bank’s parent company to see about a technician from New Hampshire to unlock the vault. When he called the service line for the vault technology department all he got was a voice mail and had to leave an urgent message. Hopefully someone would call back by morning.
At least, he pondered absently as he escorted Mr. Crocker and Mr. Harrison and his employee out of the building and locked the bank up, the officers had one another for company in there.
Chapter 2: A Simple Touch
Nathan and Audrey stood there inside the vault, totally perplexed. By their watches it was obvious that the bank was closed for the night, which meant that the vault wouldn’t open until…
“What time do they open on Saturday?” Audrey asked suddenly as she turned towards Nathan, watching his profile – his eyes were closed and his head tilted down. Her breath caught a bit as she watched him before he spoke.
“They don’t,” he replied with a heavy sigh before he swung his head around and opened his eyes to regard her seriously.
“So unless they get the vault guy here…”
“We’re here till Monday morning.”
Audrey sighed and rubbed a temple with her hand. Just when she thought she was getting used to the way of things something happened to remind her she wasn’t in Boston or Miami anymore. Still, there was nothing she could do about it now. What she could do was focus on the case. They obviously had lots of time to figure it out… they could wait out the vault guy by figuring out who broke into the place.
She turned around and let her back rest against the metal door of the vault as she considered what to do while they waited. Her eyes lit on the opposite wall and saw the safety deposit boxes and she realized that no matter what else was going on they still had a job to do. And with them alone in the vault, they’d be uninterrupted as they investigated the break in.
“Look, how about we use the time and concentrate on the case while we wait for someone to get us out of here,” she suggested, looking back to him.
Shoving herself off the door with her hands, Audrey moved away from the vault door and walked back towards the rows and rows of boxes inset in the far wall. To take something from a locked box was a special trick, but in Haven there could be any number of possibilities. She just had to go through all of them, logical and illogical for anywhere but Haven until they found their suspect.
“Could someone have done a Shadowcat… phased through the vault?” she said aloud, her hand poking at one of the two empty slots.
She turned around and saw that Nathan was now facing her, but still stood against the vault door as he looked at her as if she was slightly crazy and she frowned at him.
“What? We’ve seen people start fires with their minds and control the weather. How improbably does it sound that someone could reach through the security boxes and just…”
“Remove the valuables?” Nathan questioned, trying to see where she was going with the idea.
He gave her a half grin and finally moved away from the vault door to move to the center of the room where he pulled out the folding chair butted up against the table and sat down, leaning an elbow on the table as he watched in fascination and mild amusement as she continued her train of thought.
“I mean, we’ve seen all kinds of powers… why not one that the troubled person could use to steal?”
“We still have to prove it Parker,” he pointed out helpfully, trying to stifle a grin at her.
She shook her head slightly in agitation and leaned against the wall of safe deposit boxes and regarded Nathan as she ran a hand across her face before looking back at him with a challenge in her eyes. “What do you think we’re dealing with then?”
He shrugged, still trying to work it out in his head. Audrey was usually good at coming up with all the different ‘weird’ theories without much help from him.
Still, there were other possibilities to consider.
“Maybe the bank manager emptied the boxes?” Audrey suggested out of the blue, almost as if she could read his mind, which scared him more than he wanted to admit.
“No, he’s an honest man.”
“Okay then… well…”
They looked around the empty vault and tried to come up with more ideas. Audrey began to pace back and forth across the small space in front of Nathan and he watched her intently.
“Inside job? One of the tellers?”
“They have cameras,” Nathan reminded her, shooting down another proposed solution.
“Again, invisible person?” she suggested again, circling back to her original theory.
“They’d still need the key from the box owner.”
She stopped in her tracks and sighed again, unable to believe that solving what should be an impossible crime was so… impossible. In Haven the impossible was probable so there had to be a reasonable… for Haven anyway, solution to this.
While she mentally cursed and tried to come up with something to make sense of all of this the room went quiet again. Audrey was normally content with the quiet when they were working on a case, but that was usually when they were outside, or in Nathan’s truck or in the station or anywhere that there was some other kind of noise. The silence in the vault made the stress of not being able to solve the stupid case even more frustrating, and Nathan wasn’t helping by just sitting there and staring at her.
In the silence she started to pace again, she tried to force her brain to empty, hoping that starting fresh on the situation would help come up with something. Instead as she kept moving and tried to not think of anything she couldn’t help but focus on the sound of Nathan breathing in the enclosed room. And as she thought of Nathan she dimly recalled Duke’s comment before he’d left the bank. He seemed to think Nathan needed to tell her something about what happened at the hotel at Carpenter’s Knot that she didn’t know about…
Curiosity spurring her, and needing a break in the non-moving investigation, she decided to broach the subject.
“So, what was Duke on about before he left?” she asked absently as she stopped her pacing and turned to regard him before moving to the center of the room where she perched on the table and looked at him questioningly.
His non answer made Audrey ponder the whole thing silently for quite a while. There were times that she’d let that kind of answer go, more often than not knowing that it wasn’t a big deal. However there were times that something stuck with her that she just couldn’t leave alone. Her prying into Nathan’s love life had been one such instance, and she thought he’d learned that just answering her honestly was the better part of valor in that instance, rather than continuing to try and sidetrack or stonewall her.
Yet it seemed that for whatever reason he was trying the latter on her now. Why, she wasn’t certain, but for now she’d let him slide… she could ask him again later. Now though as the silence continued to stretch between them she started to feel… uncomfortable and she finally moved from her seat on the table and resumed her search for something helpful to the case.
“Did you see anything to indicate the boxes were tampered with?” she asked distractedly as she started another round of walking around the metal walls.
Nathan had gotten up from his chair and returned to the vault door and was looking at it intently. Audrey watched what looked like tension in his shoulders as he crossed his arms over his chest, closing in on himself. It frustrated her… she really could use his input rather than one word type answers. It was almost as if he was uncomfortable in the space…
“You aren’t claustrophobic, are you?” she suddenly asked, wondering if that was the secret Duke was mentioning.
“No. Just… would rather be out of here,” he replied stoically, his eyes continuing to stare at the door as he pointedly didn’t look her way when he replied.
If the intensity of his stare could have burned a hole in the vault door, she was certain that there would have been a hole big enough for them to have walked through after mere minutes of his glare at the confining metal door she mused with aggravation, and then turned back to focus on the case again, staring at the intact boxes around the missing ones.
“So, can we get a warrant to get the other boxes around Duke’s and Mr. Harrison’s opened? See if they’re missing their items too?”
“After we get out of here.”
She nodded, feeling like they were at a road block… again. They couldn’t open the vault door or the boxes and there was nothing in the vault that could tell them what happened.
With a sigh she went and sat on the floor of the vault in a corner and pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. Sure, they could keep talking about the case but she was running out of ideas. And Nathan didn’t seem talkative where he was by the vault door, staring a ‘virtual’ hole into it.
While she sat there, she kept returning back to Duke’s words before he’d left and Nathan’s non answer when she’d asked about it. With nothing else to do and the silence starting to feel… oppressive, she started turning over in her mind what little she remembered of the birthday surprise trip to Carpenter’s Knot. Duke had gotten her there and then everyone surprised her. There was some conversation before she’d gone to her room and encountered Vaughan Carpenter and then she was unconscious. The next thing she remembered was waking up to see Nathan holding her hands and crying.
She mind skidded to a halt with that memory. Why had he been crying? What had happened…
“Nathan, seriously, what happened at Carpenter’s Knot?” she asked with a little worry evident in her voice.
“You know… I shot the chameleon and Dr. Carr died…” he stated, his voice sounding… disquieted as he replied to her question without turning around.
That answer didn’t make sense… and the fact he wouldn’t even look at her when he was talking to her made her more concerned than before.
“But I wasn’t there the whole time. What happened that I missed?”
Nathan continued to stare directly at the wall in front of him. He couldn’t look at her while he danced around this. If she looked in his eyes, watched his face as all the emotions flooded back with the memories that her questions, that damn Duke had dredged up with just mentioning Carpenter’s Knot had caused, he was sure that *all* his secrets would be out, not just the one that would be easiest to admit.
“Nathan…” she pressed, her voice a mixture of confusion and concern.
He took in a deep breath and ran a hand over his hair. He didn’t want to lie to her… and he knew that if he didn’t say something to alleviate the worry he could hear in her voice that he might end up caving and tell her more than just answering part of her question… enough that would close the matter and letting him keep his other secrets for now. All he had to do was just carefully answer what little he needed to until she was satisfied. That would be easy, wouldn’t it, he thought to himself.
He took a deep breath and then let his arms fall to his sides as he closed his eyes and tried to word things in a way that would explain what had happened… without telling her everything.
“I thought you were dead…” he started and then paused, leaving Audrey sitting there looking at his back with a perplexed expression on her face.
“But I wasn’t…” she reminded him, prompting him with her voice to continue.
He was quiet once again, his hand running along the metal vault door, feeling nothing. How the hell was he supposed to live without feeling when he knew he could feel something… someone he thought. Why couldn’t he just tell her…
“You haven’t told me anything I didn’t already know Nathan,” she remarked as the silence dragged on once more as she forced herself up off the floor to sit on the end of the table in the middle of the room to stare directly at his back.
He could tell she’d moved and could almost feel her eyes boring into his back. His head and heart and gut were all warring with one another as he fought the impulse of his heart to just turn and tell her everything… but his head took charge, forcing him to just tell her the bits and pieces that she… that he needed her to know.
“When it told me that you were still alive I was… relieved. You remember waking up in the trunk… I… we were all so relieved you were okay.”
“And I appreciate that, but I get the impression that something went on that Duke knows about that made him push me to ask you about this that you aren’t saying, and its not like we have much else to do in here,” she remarked as she waved a hand at their accommodations even though he couldn’t see her do it.
They let the silence fill the room once again, the air almost feeling emotionally charged as he inched all that closer to the edge of the cliff. He was still so damn scared to tell her… but she wasn’t backing down… she had heard the ache and apprehension in his voice each time he said a little more about what happened. She was his partner… she needed to know.
“Look, whatever this is, whatever happened, I’m still your friend and your partner. I’m not going anywhere,” she said as she got off the table and then walked to his side, placing her hand on top of his where he had it pressed against the vault door.
The suddenness of her touch on his flesh made Nathan flinch and she whipped her head up to look at him, her eyes wide and questioning.
He was quiet for a long while and she let him simply stare at her hand on his, the little of his face she could see seemed filled with… wonder? She was desperate to know what the hell was going on but he deserved the chance to tell her what was going on at his own pace… or at least until the bank manager could get someone to let them out of the vault.
“You asked me how I knew the chameleon wasn’t you…” he suddenly said, his voice subdued.
“Yes… you said that you just… knew,” she replied, the question obvious in her tone.
“That wasn’t the truth.”
She stared at his face in profile; his eyes were now closed and his forehead nearly pressed against the cool steel. She could tell by his body language that this was important… what he needed to tell her and he was trying to find a way to get it out, so she gently prompted him.
“How did you know then?”
“I knew it wasn’t you because I couldn’t feel it.”
Audrey looked at him puzzled before he turned towards her, his eyes filled with emotions that rocked her to her core. He pulled his hand from the vault door and twisted it to catch hers in his grasp and as raised it he squeezed her fingers tightly.
“And I can feel you.”
His words didn’t quite register for her, and she stood and looked intently at his face, watching him fight the small smile that was trying to appear, how his eyes were staring at her so meaningfully. Then there was the way his hand held hers, his fingers clutching her hand as if it was a lifeline… and then it all started to come together in her head and her mouth fell open slightly as she finally comprehended what he was saying… what this meant.
“You…” she started, still stunned at the revelation he was imparting before she trailed off, unsure how to proceed.
“I can feel you,” he stated again, a half smile now filling his face as he finally told her the truth and reveled in the ability to freely touch her like this and show how her touch affected him.
“But… just me?”
He nodded. This was the easy secret to tell because he’d always known that one day, just like how he’d flinched at the startlingly wonderful touch of her hand tonight he would accidentally do something in the office or out on a case that would have prompted her to figure it out.
“I don’t know.”
Her eyes continued to stare at him, unable to believe what he was telling her. The man before her who couldn’t feel anything, no pain, no cold, no heat, nothing… could feel her. Something in her chest seemed to… swell at the idea.
“When did you know?” she finally asked as she realized they’d stopped talking and Nathan still held her hand tightly, his eyes focused on her face, waiting for her reaction… or more questions.
“After Jess,” he replied simply.
Audrey nodded, a small smile on her face as she sifted through her memories and recalled the moments when she could have touched him and her eyes widened as she remembered the kiss on his cheek after Jess had left him. He’d had a strange look on his face as he’d gotten into the Bronco afterward… now it made sense.
And as she recalled that kiss, she remembered her own feelings; she’d only meant the kiss to be a gesture of friendship but she’d ended up walking away from it feeling… wishful.
With the realization that he could feel her touch she started to recall the last several weeks, her mind more closely looking at their interactions, their day to day encounters and recognizing now how his actions and responses had been different.
“You’ve been trying to touch me more?” she questioned, stunned and a bit glad as she thought back over their last few cases. “The handshake at the pool…”
He gave her a guilty grin and nodded.
She stood there and just held his hand, amazed. Then she realized that for Duke to have suggested she ask about all this he had to have known. How did he know before she did?
“So… how did Duke find out about… this,” Audrey asked, running her thumb across the back of Nathan’s hand, causing him to shiver minutely.
“I slipped up,” he replied with a hint of… self depreciation?
She looked at him, her eyes asking him to continue. He sighed and contemplated moving away so he could delay the discussion some more, but that would mean he’d have to move his hand from under hers and he found he didn’t have the willpower to lose that contact now that she knew he could feel her.
“When we saw Vanessa… I think he knew I was referring to you…”
He trailed off, his mind recalling the words he’d said to Duke, not even thinking that the man would try to figure out whom he was referring to. He should have known better… kept his mouth shut and ignored all the discussion around fate…
“What did you say?”
“I asked him something about fate…” he offered simply, even though in his mind he could recall the exact words he’d used; at the time he’d been so absorbed and elated at the idea that he could feel someone after so long of feeling nothing he hadn’t realized the import of what he’d said.
“That you could feel me,” she offered and he nodded, confirming her words.
Audrey stood there and looked at him, trying to play out the conversation in her head that could have prompted Duke of all people to figure out Nathan’s secret. It obviously was something to do with fate and feeling her and he’d said he could only fell her and...
A sudden light bulb went off in her head and she stared at him, dazed by the thought even as she questioned internally if she was just reading into things. But maybe...
Her hand closed over his a little more, her fingers curling around his even tighter. He watched and felt her hand squeeze around his, the look of fascination in his eyes visible to her before he’d even turned them on her. And she felt her heart do a little flip in her chest as he pinned that astonished gaze on her.
“If you had asked me…” she started softly and then swallowed forcefully as she soldiered forward, “I would have told you that it was.”
Chapter 3: A Stunning Answer
Nathan closed his eyes for a moment and just focused on what Audrey had just said and how his hand felt in hers. Then he started to really think about her answer... had she’d just admitted that it meant something that he could feel her?
As he considered what she could have really meant by that admission he started to recall all of what Duke had suggested when he’d pushed her to ask about Carpenter’s Knot. Nathan had only been thinking how the pain in his ass con man seemed to be trying to out his feelings for Audrey, which he feared would make things more complicated between them.
But with her actions, her words… the emotion that seemed to be behind it when she’d asked about him feeling her, how she seemed to have agreed that it was fate that he could only feel her made him start to wonder if there had been another reason for Duke suggesting ‘they’ talk…
What did Duke know about Audrey that he didn’t?
“So, let’s get back to the case,” she suggested quickly, jolting Nathan from his thoughts as she released his hand from her grasp with a brief squeeze when she suddenly realized that she might have said too much.
Audrey turned around and hurriedly walked towards the opposite side of the room her eyes staring at the rows of boxes once again, pointedly trying not to think of Nathan or the close quarters they were in and the fact that with them stuck in the vault that he had plenty of time to analyze her words and start figuring out what she’d actually meant by them.
Nathan stared after her feeling suddenly bereft at her abrupt change in subject and her hasty… retreat across the vault floor to the opposite side of the small room. He watched her stand ramrod straight as she stared at the wall before her and he found himself worried that she’d moved away from him so hurriedly because she was afraid or upset, unhappy or… nervous, and it hurt him to see her like that.
“Nothing. Maybe the items are really there but we just can’t see them or feel them?” she replied, her voice sounding strained and rushed, even to her own ears even as she fought to redirect the subject back to the bank heist.
The way she sounded and was trying to avoid his question was just like he’d been doing earlier when he’d been trying to dodge her questions. He wasn’t sure what had happened. One minute she seemed fine about him telling her about him being able to feel him, then the next she was holding his hand, telling him it meant something that he could feel her. Then she was putting space between them? It didn’t make sense to him… what was going on? What didn’t she want to tell him?
“Parker, something’s wrong… I can tell. What aren’t you saying?” Nathan pushed, his head still trying to process what he thought she’d meant by her answer moments earlier and what her unwillingness to talk to him now meant.
She stood there with her back to him and pointedly didn’t reply as her own emotions roiled within her. If she was honest with herself she knew exactly what he was asking her to say but she didn’t know how to have this conversation with him… or if she was ready to.
But he’d ended up being honest with her… shouldn’t she just get it out there and let them deal with it? She couldn’t imagine that he’d hate her, or hold it against her; she was his friend and partner first. That was more important, wasn’t it, than anything else she might feel… and that he couldn’t return. She just needed to find a place to start to explain…
She sighed and pressed the flats of both her hands against the safety deposit boxes, one on top of the other before she leaned her forehead against them. Nathan watched her studiously, the worry coiling in his stomach becoming more pronounced as each long minute she stayed silent ticked by. He desperately needed her to tell him what was wrong, why she was distancing herself from him like this.
“Parker…” Nathan started quietly before she eased from her position against the wall and turned her head to look at him, the conflicting emotions in her eyes making him freeze in place even as his breath caught in his chest. “Audrey… “
She took a deep breath and held his eyes as best she could. She could do this. He was her friend… she just needed to make him understand… give him some context as to how she’d gotten here, how she’d let her fear keep her from saying what she wanted.
Maybe confessing to one half of the secret that had been bothering her for a long while would lead her to tell him the rest of it…
“That night… on the dark man case… I called you…” Audrey said haltingly and slow, turning away again quickly, unable to look at him while she admitted this to him. “I know I could have found a way to get the Teagues out of the police station by myself… shot the lights like you did. But instead I called you for backup… even though I knew you were… with Jess.”
“Okay…” he started to say, confused at what that incident had to do with the way she was acting now.
“I… wanted you to come…” she stammered, not being able to articulate all the things that had made up her…need to have Nathan come and help her deal with something she should have been able to handle on her own.
She remembered standing in the station, hiding in shadow while a little voice in her head told her that this was her excuse, that she could call him… knowing full well that she could be interrupting something.
He stared at her, taken aback at the idea that she’d used the situation to… drag him away from Jess and help her? It didn’t make any sense. She was the last person that needed someone to come rescue her… but that was what she’d done, wasn’t it? She’d called him, wanting him to drop what he was doing and come to her? Make a choice…
“You’d wanted me to choose you over Jess?” Nathan questioned, a bewildered tone to his voice as he continued to try and wrap his mind around the idea that she’d… needed him.
Had she wanted to know that her partner still valued her over the woman he was seeing romantically? Somehow it didn’t fit… this self assured, stubborn, brilliant investigator Audrey Parker had wanted him to show up like a white knight and to come to her aid?
“Okay, when you put it that way…” she argued quickly, turning to look at him with a glare as she crossed her arms over her chest defensively.
But he could tell immediately that it was a half hearted attempt at defending herself and her actions. Nathan could see in her eyes that she was embarrassed, angry and scared all at the same time. Audrey looked at him with those emotions blazing in her eyes while she tried to draw herself up, even though he could tell that she knew he was… right.
She’d needed the reassurance that if she needed him that he’d come. That what he was starting to develop with Jess wouldn’t overshadow his friendship, his partnership with him.
That she still came first…
Audrey watched Nathan’s face, almost wishing she could hear the thoughts in his head. She knew that he’d look at it as her wanting to make him chose between them… that was certainly part of it. But there was still so much more to it than that. And she was still so very fearful of breaking this thing between them by admitting that she’d wanted more than what they had.
He watched her suddenly start to turn away again and he just felt something in him… tear at the idea of her pulling away from him once again. He strode across the space and caught her upper arm in his grasp, slightly disappointed she was wearing a shirt with long sleeves and he couldn’t feel her skin under his hand. Tugging lightly he maneuvered her back to where she’d previously stood and she reluctantly looked up at him, her face a mask of… apprehension?
“Audrey…” he started and could almost feel the tension in the room and could see it in the way she held herself. “Please, tell me what’s going on?”
She stared at him, her mouth starting to open several times before she finally got the courage to answer him.
“I was all supportive of her because I thought she’d be good for you… she was throwing herself at you… and I joked and laughed about it because I thought that…” she rambled, her eyes finally darting down and away, making Nathan ache at the sight.
When she trailed off he desperately wanted to reach up and touch her face and raise her eyes back to him, knowing he’d feel the soft skin he’d find there but he didn’t know if he had the right to do so. So he settled for trying to prompt her to finish explaining what was wrong with his words rather than actions.
“You thought what…” he questioned, his eyes staring down at her, hoping she’d feel the weight of his stare.
“That you didn’t see… that I was…” she tried brokenly and then stepped back, stretching his arm between them even as he refused to let her go. “I don’t even know why in God’s name I would think you would see…”
She quickly stopped herself from saying anything more and Nathan stood there, his mind trying to fit all the things she’d said together, to see the whole picture that he couldn’t see. What was it that she thought he hadn’t seen that had to do with her and how had that caused her to push him at Jess? What did she want him to see her do or feel…
Could she have meant she had wanted him to see her… like he’d seen Jess? That since he hadn’t, she’d let him be with Jess because he’d responded to the other woman’s more aggressive overtures? That she’d joked about the relationship because it was all she could do? Had she been… jealous of Jess?
Thinking back to her admission that she’d called him, wanting backup even though she knew he was with Jess lent some credibility to the idea. And now, as she stood before him, her breathing becoming ragged as she nervously looked at him, it made a lot of sense.
But why hadn’t she said something? Why had she shoved him at Jess if she’d wanted… him?
Then the snippets of conversations they’d had about her childhood, the foster homes and the loneliness, about her having no friends, no *life* played back for him like a movie reel. She was good with crime scenes but not with people, Nathan being the exception it seemed, except for his coffee. And having finally found a friend, it made sense that since he hadn’t made any moves in her direction she hadn’t been willing to risk losing his friendship by pushing for anything more. Even if that meant she had to watch him date Jess and seem happy while he did, no matter what she might have wanted.
It made so much sense to him now, and he understood that reaction; he’d been deathly afraid of telling her he could feel her for much the same reasons. And now, realizing that she could feel that way, he realized he needed to tell her about what else had happened on Carpenter’s Knot.
“I kissed you,” Nathan blurted out suddenly and Audrey pulled her head back a few inches to regard him with a stunned and confused look on her face.
“What?” she said, her startled her eyes going wide as she stared at him.
Nathan breathed in and held his breath for a moment, trying to collect himself as he prepared to explain something that he knew could permanently change things between them… even if he already felt as if they were past the point where they could go back to the way things were.
And the memory of her hand clutched in his and the way just that simple touch made him feel… he couldn’t not imagine being able to have more than just that. So he had to tell her…
“At Carpenter’s Knot…
Audrey looked at him, her eyes boring into his, trying to understand what he was saying. Memories of being with him at the hotel, both before and after she’d been… body snatched filled her mind, and no where in any of that time could she recall him kissing her.
“No, you didn‘t… I’d remember…”
She continued to stare at him, her eyes indicating ever so unsubtly that he needed to continue. Nathan clenched the hand that hung to his side into a fist to keep it from shaking as he pressed on with the truth he’d yet to tell her.
“When I realized that the other Audrey had untied me and I hadn’t felt it… I decided I needed to test the theory…” he said and then paused, letting her process what he was telling her; he wanted to make sure she understood exactly what he was saying.
Audrey stood there, his hand holding her in his grasp as she turned his words over in her head. He was saying he tested his theory that the chameleon was wearing her form by kissing her... it… she couldn’t put the pieces in her head correctly… how... why… it was making her so confused, she needed him to explain this to her.
“So you kissed her, it, me…” she stumbled, trying to make sense of what he was telling her.
“After taking its hand in mine and trying to feel it that way, yes.”
She tried to recreate the scene in her head as Nathan was explaining it. He’d said that he could feel her but not the chameleon, so he’d held it’s… her hand to test his theory and found out it wasn’t her.
But then if he already knew it wasn’t her, why would he kiss her, it… it didn’t make any sense.
“So what made you kiss… me then? If you already knew it wasn’t me…” she asked, her voice hushed as a single unbelievable thought suddenly filled her mind.
It couldn’t be that, she told herself, even as she gazed at Nathan’s face, trying to read his expression, trying to see if what she thought would be even vaguely true, and if it was…
Nathan was silent for long minutes. He knew that deep down the real reason he’d kissed the facsimile of Audrey, even though he was already nearly 100% sure that it wasn’t her wasn’t because he had needed one last confirmation that he was right. At that moment all he’d been able to think about was the thought that the real Audrey was dead and he’d just wanted to have that one moment to fantasize that the kiss was real; that he was kissing her and not a thing that was wearing her form…
He gazed at Audrey, her eyes so blue and pleading, asking him without words to tell her the truth, explain why he’d done that…
And he couldn’t deny her an answer any longer.
“Because,” he finally admitted, surprising not only Audrey but himself, “I badly wanted to kiss you.”
Chapter 4: A Single Kiss
“You…” Audrey stammered out, the word just trailing off as she started to get the full import of what Nathan was saying.
There was a long pause as Nathan watched her, his mind trying to assess her reaction even as his heart and gut told him that he was doing the right thing in telling her that he’d wanted that kiss to have been with her.
Damn the consequences he thought suddenly, he wanted to tell her the truth… all of it.
“I wanted to before I could feel you. It got worse once I knew... that if I kissed you that I could feel it…” he finally said, the honesty in his voice obvious.
“I used that moment to see what it was like because I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to kiss the real you…”
Audrey stared at him. He’d thought she was dead when he’d kissed it… saw it as a memory; a single chance to imagine what it would have been like. And as her mind swirled that thought through her brain her heart decided to jump into the discussion without her brain’s input.
She needed to know if his desire to kiss her, have that one memory was a one time thing – a ‘what could have been’ or if he still really wanted that… wanted to kiss her. And she didn’t know if she had the courage to just ask him to do it, especially if that moment had passed.
But perhaps there was a way to see if he still felt like that… to see if he really did want… her.
“How did you kiss her?” she asked softly, her voice almost tentative.
Nathan stood there, his hand still holding her upper arm in his grasp as she questioned how he’d kissed the chameleon. It certainly wasn’t what he’d expected. In fact he’d been pretty much surprised at every single reaction she’d had to his revelations all night. Now she wanted to know about how he’d kissed that thing?
“I don’t understand…”
“What kind of kiss was it?” she pushed, moving a step closer to him and closing the distance between them, “A friendly peck on the lips? A quick brush of the lips? What kind of kiss was it that you wanted to give me that you gave her?”
“I…” Nathan started, trailing off as her words made him recall the way he’d kissed her… it; how he’d wished in his heart that he’d been able to feel the skin and lips under his hands and mouth… that it had really been Audrey.
He looked at her, his eyes swirling with emotion as the memory of that moment, of his true desire that he’d been trying to fabricate filled him again. He’d wanted something so different than what he’d experienced… and now…
“Come on Nathan… you have to know,” she said shakily and then with a deep breath she jumped off the proverbial cliff. “If you can’t tell me, then show me.”
Nathan took in a sudden harsh breath. If words could have caused a stroke he knew he’d be dead on the floor. She was asking…
And then his control was gone and suddenly he wasn’t thinking he was just acting; both his hands flew to cup her cheeks as he surged forward and kissed her, full on the lips, hard and demanding and feeling like every hot, soft, pliant thing he could remember and a hundred times better than that.
And underneath all the overload of sensation he was having at the feel of her lips against his he suddenly, shockingly realized that she was kissing him back with just as much fervor.
Startled Nathan broke the kiss but left his hands on her face, staring at her wide eyed with a thousand questions showing there.
“You…” he began stunned before trailing off as he watched her face, her mouth still open slightly, lips wet and her eyes wide, the pupils huge in the sea blue he was so familiar with.
Audrey just stared at him, still lost in the way he’d kissed her. She’d wondered what it would feel like; to kiss him, have him kiss her… since, well just before Jess had walked into his life. But he hadn’t seemed to see her as anything than a partner and friend, so when Jess had thrown herself at him and with the way Nathan had been so… flustered by her, Audrey had just… pushed him at her.
She’d never in her wildest dreams thought that he might have actually felt something for her… but after that kiss, she knew she’d been wrong about that. The problem now was she didn’t know what to do now that they’d very obviously demonstrated that they both were thinking of the other as something more than just a friend.
They stood and stared at one another in silence, long minutes ticking by as they both fought to find some equilibrium. Neither of them was breathing quite normally and both of them were drowning in the reality of their kiss.
“You just kissed me back,” Nathan finally said in wonder as she continued to just stand there and stare at him.
“Yes,” she said simply, more complex words escaping her as she stared at the man still holding her face in his hands.
The look he gave her told her what he wanted more than his words did. That was the way they usually worked; silences and looks and movements spoke volumes, even though they’d been partners, friends for what seemed half a year…
And now he was asking her to tell him what she meant, what she wanted without saying anything beyond her name.
“Yes, I kissed you back.”
“Wanted you to kiss me… yeah… I did…” she breathed lowly, her eyes drifting away at the end.
Nathan stood there still mentally trying to comprehend her words. His hands had barely moved, although one had slid to press against the soft column of her throat where he felt the rapid beating of her pulse under his palm. He wondered if his could be heard in the silence of the vault thundering in his chest.
Audrey had wanted him to kiss her. Had eagerly kissed him back when he’d finally broken down and shown her how he’d kissed her doppelganger weeks earlier. But her response wasn’t anything like the startled outrage that he’d experienced before. Instead he was wondering exactly what Audrey wanted…
“What does this mean…” he finally asked her when she didn’t say anything more.
“Do you really need me to spell it out for you?” she asked with a sudden yet tentative smile.
“I think it might be required.”
Audrey sighed a little and gave him a look that seemed… lost. He felt her begin to pull back and his fingers moved to her shoulders, grasping them to try and keep her in place even as she stretched the space between them. As she tried to pull out of his grasp he felt a spike of fear in his chest that if he let her go that she might not voice whatever it was within her that had prompted her to kiss him back.
She stopped at his voice, her eyes closing as the weight of everything seemed to fall on her. She couldn’t explain how much she’d wanted him to kiss her; how it made her feel. But she was so scared that when the vault door finally opened and they went back outside that somehow the spell would be broken and this… thing between them would crumble.
And she so badly wanted to find a way to do this… to be with him… to… love him like she wanted to, like he deserved. But she was scared.
“I don’t know how to do this Nathan,” she said with a broken voice.
“Say the words… be… this…” she indicated, her hand waving between them.
“What? Partners, friends?”
She looked at him with a glare, knowing that he knew very well what she meant. Still he stood silent, his fingers holding her in place. He needed to understand what she was thinking, what was holding her back when it had been obvious when she’d kissed him that she wasn’t holding back where that kiss had been concerned.
“Significant others… lovers… in love,” she forced out with a tremulous breath.
Nathan watched her struggle. He wanted this and he could tell that she did as well, that she wanted him by her words and actions, but every single experience in her life where she’d felt abandoned and unloved made her afraid.
But the thing he needed her to focus on, that he needed to hold on to was the fact that she did want this… just as much as he did.
“So… this isn’t just me,” he said softly, his hands now sliding back up to her face as he moved into her space, backing them into the wall of deposit boxes. “You want this too…”
She swallowed hard and then nodded, unable to get the words out even as her hands unconsciously moved to press against his chest. She did, desperately want this, want him. She just didn’t know how they could do this…
Then Nathan was pressing forward, his hands pulling her face to his once more and kissing her; except this kiss was slow, soft, and reverent. And for as much as she’d felt passion before, Audrey felt cherished and… loved with his kiss.
Pulling away from Audrey’s lips was ten times as hard as it had been before. The last time they’d kissed it had been about passion and longing; this time he’d done everything he could to put into the kiss all the love and devotion he felt for her, hoping that where words had failed them actions could maybe pave the way.
And Audrey had gotten the message. This wasn’t going to be a one time thing… a fling or something to just fill their time and their nights. They both wanted this… and that meant everything that being in love meant: making it work day by day and turning their friendship and partnership into a… relationship.
Which if she was honest, she’d never felt comfortable enough with any man to have ever had one. But if there was any man on the planet that she could trust enough to be with like that, it would have to be the man before her, who was now holding her hands in his and looking as if his world depended on her next words.
“I’ve never been good at relationships… “
He nodded slowly in acknowledgement. No surprise there, he thought. Of course it wasn’t like he’d been in a lot himself.
“And I can’t tell you how easy this will be but… I do want this; want to be with you… I just…”
His hands moved back to her face, cradling it in his palms as he let himself just feel; inside and out.
“I understand… I do, but… can we try?” he asked her simply and quietly, his heart there on his sleeve with his words.
Audrey took a deep, shuttering breath before she nodded. She knew that she’d already taken so many chances with Nathan that one more, no matter how huge of a step it was,
“So what now?” she asked as she looked at him, her eyes a startling blue that made his heart beat faster.
“We’ll, until we get outta here… maybe we can explore this some more? I for one have been touch deprived for a while, remember?” he suggested as he gave her his little half smile turned smirk as he swiped his thumb along her lower lip
Audrey’s breath caught a little before she had to fight a laugh at his comment and then she gave him a silly grin before she put her hands around his head to pull him down to her in a kiss that merged the two before it. Heat and tenderness in one, and Nathan fell into it happily.
Chapter 5: A Final Choice
Oops - my bad; I forgot to post this final chapter here.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Nathan let Audrey hold his head in her warm hands, still amazed by the feel of her touching him even as he let her guide their kiss. When she shifted her lips against his, her mouth opening against his he felt her tongue swipe out to meet his and he almost startled at the feel as well as the taste of her.
He hungrily kissed her back, feeling the love and desire he had for this woman in his arms increase and moved his hands to wrap around her back and waist, missing the contact with her skin but needing to pull her closer to him.
Audrey felt how she was now intimately pressed against Nathan’s hard body and curled her fingers in his hair at the feel. A sudden thought of being this close to him, but without their clothes popped into her mind and she was more than a little aroused at it.
With that thought in mind she realized that whatever things they had to figure out, whatever stupid relationship do’s and don’ts there were, as long as they both wanted this they could figure it out. And more than anything she wanted this… wanted him. Now and for as long as she could have him.
“We’ve been so stupid,” she murmured as she finally broke the kiss.
“Been known to be that before.”
She gave him a glare and then dragged her hand down to cup his cheek, making him turn into it and close his eyes as the heat and softness her flesh
“Still, it would have probably been a smarter thing if we’d actually, oh, I don’t know, been honest with ourselves and each other on how we felt a while ago?”
“You mean it shouldn’t have taken getting locked in this wonderful vault to make us see reason?” he commented with that dry wit she loved.
She nodded with a huge grin and dragged her thumb across his lower lip, making him shiver under her touch. Each and every time she touched him in a new way just made him want her more; made him realize that he’d been right weeks ago when he’d considered that his ability to feel her had been fate. It made perfect sense that the woman he had fallen in love with was the only one he could feel.
Nathan grinned against her thumb and kissed it before he leaned into her again, looking to kiss her once more when he noticed her move within his grasp like she was trying to shift into a different position making him pull back from her.
“You okay?” he asked suddenly concerned.
“Just got some metal hinges cutting into my back. And unlike you, I can feel them.”
He drew her away from the metal wall of safety deposit boxes feeling a bit embarrassed. He hadn’t meant to get so carried away that he’d injure her by shoving her into the wall. Audrey quickly stretched her back, feeling stiff and a little sore but not wanting to stop. She moved to take his hands in hers and curled them up in her grasp.
“No problem. But maybe we can change the venue a bit?” she noted with a small grin as she looked past him briefly before catching his eyes. “There is a chair over there you know…”
Nathan’s face looked stunned for a moment, his brain not exactly following her logic. Then he thought of what sitting down could entail for continuing their romantic overtures and he smiled.
He moved backward, his knees finally hitting the metal chair and he fell into it somewhat gracelessly, his hands still holding Audrey’s. With the most tentative of tugs he urged her to join him and she didn’t even hesitate. Straddling his lap Audrey leaned in again, this time laying her hands along Nathan’s neck and open collar, moving her touch somewhere else on his skin and gifting him with new sensations at her touch.
Nathan wrapped his hands around her neck and in her hair. He hadn’t realized that he could feel the texture of her fine blond hair but he felt the silken strands slide through his grasp and he sighed at the feel of it.
Then Audrey was kissing him again, their mouths meeting warm and moist, trading feverish kisses as they sought to get closer to one another, to explore all they could in the simple confines of a kiss.
Nathan let his hands slide to her waist and his need for more contact spurred him to let his fingers subtly pull on the fabric of her shirt. Her eyes snapped open at the feeling of the material easing from her waistband, lust and alarm warring in her chest at the realization that Nathan was trying to pull her shirt loose.
“This okay?” he asked when she suddenly broke their kiss and looked at him intently.
“Are you trying to get me naked?” she asked with an arched eyebrow even as her voice spoke of both longing and concern.
He was stunned for a second and then realized it was a valid question.
“If I was?” he queried back.
“I’m not saying I’m against it in general principle,” she replied quickly with a small grin, making the sudden worry in Nathan’s chest ease, “but with our luck the bank manager will come back with the tech guy just as soon as things get naked and interesting. And I would really like to not have to hide my face in town for the next year or so for being caught with the Chief’s son in the buff.”
“Well, there is that… gossip in Haven is a sport to rival softball and fishing.”
“We’ve had this discussion and I repeat, fishing is not a sport,” she replied, causing Nathan to chuckle and then she moved one hand from his head to his cheek. “Anyway, weren’t you supposed to be taking off my shirt?”
Brought up short again, Nathan leaned forward to kiss her hard and briefly before he pulled back and let his fingers move once more. Pulling her shirt loose of her pants Nathan slid his hands up her back and along her warm, smooth skin and she shivered pleasurably under his touch, making him gasp not only at the feel of her but the way she responded to him as well.
“I’d forgotten what this feels like,” he said, the awe obvious in his tone.
Audrey nodded wordlessly and as his hands slid over more of her bare flesh coming closer to her bra and her breasts she wondered for a moment if she could forget all about being embarrassed and just let him throw her across the table and make love to her right there. Because if his hands on her skin felt this good, she didn’t know if she’d be able to handle him touching more… intimate parts of her body so reverently.
The moment she felt his fingers along the line of her bra, his palms pressed flat on her skin she knew they were at the line.
“You need to stop there,” she said with a tremor in her voice that made Nathan’s chest tighten pleasurably. “If you don’t I won’t be able to be held accountable for my actions.”
“And those would be…”
“To throw you on the table here and have my way with you, to hell with my reputation and yours.”
He paused for a moment as he considered her words. Certainly he didn’t want to embarrass her, or hear from the Chief daily about his reckless behavior, but damn it if he didn’t want her so badly it made him ache inside.
“I could be persuaded not to care…” he said quickly, his voice dropping and Audrey saw the very serious look in his eyes and she took a deep breath as she realized that he was wanting this just as much as she was.
Abruptly he stood up with her and her feet hit the floor; he had his hands on her face, kissing her deeply before he let them drift to the buttons on her blouse, intent on feeling all of her… the little touches and kisses they’d been sharing having only incited his desire for her. Audrey began to respond in kind, her hands going to his shoulders to slide her hands under the first of his two shirts to slide it off him before they both heard something…
The door of the vault suddenly cracked open, prompting Nathan and Audrey to jump apart. On the other side a tall man with long wild blond hair stood dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He looked like a wrestler or body builder with the way he took up space in the doorway. He looked at them as if evaluating the situation.
“The Chief sent me over to get you out,” he said simply, causing both Nathan and Audrey to stare. “I’ll close up after you leave.”
“Uh… thanks!” replied Audrey, still stunned by the sudden turn of events.
After what seemed like a long minute they started to move and then hurriedly slid past the linebacker of a man who was holding the vault door open wide enough for them to get out. They passed the lobby and went out the front door which was now unlocked.
Once they were outside of the bank, Audrey and Nathan stood there, staring back at the way the man locked back up as if he’d never been there and drove off in an unmarked truck. Turning back, Nathan stared at Audrey, the light wind that was blowing through the streets picking up her hair and tossing it across her face, making her reach up and try to smooth the strands back.
An image of her hair tangled in his fingers as he kissed her… as he made love to her on his bed invaded his mind unbidden.
They’d been very close to taking things too far in the vault, and now that they were out, things were both different and the same as they were before they’d been locked in. And more than anything else, Nathan knew he could never go back to the way they’d been before.
“I guess you were right.”
“That we’d get interrupted if we…” he commented, letting his words trail away as he knew she knew exactly what he was talking about.
Audrey gave him a brief grin and then wrapped her arms around herself. The man’s timing was impeccable. If he’d shown up ten minutes later she was sure he would have gotten a show. But now…
“What about the case…” she asked suddenly, switching gears as she tried to figure out how they needed to act; how they were going to do this…
“We can deal with it tomorrow… maybe case some jewelry stores looking for another target of our guy, gal, whatever… I doubt it was a one time thing.”
Audrey let the silence after her one word reply settle over them as they walked across the street to where Nathan had parked the Bronco. They were normal… talking about work like nothing had changed, yet she knew it had, just like she could see from the look in his eyes and the way his hand had reached to catch hers in his as they stood before his truck that things were not going to be the same as they were before… but… that was okay with her.
If anything… she wanted this more now than she had just a little while ago inside that vault. Because she knew that him reaching out to her meant more than just him wanting to get her attention; it was his way of feeling her, connecting with her and showing her that he was there, and that he wanted to be with her.
As they stood beside the driver’s door of the truck they looked at one another again, eyes saying what their voices couldn’t. Everything they’d said and done in the last few hours had laid the next level of their relationship on top of the friendship and partnership they already had.
They just needed to take that next step, and now that they were back in the real world they could try being a couple, being in love.
“So… I can take you back to the B&B…” he began, the offer tapering off as his eyes bored into hers.
She could see the request, the want in his eyes and felt her heart clench in her chest. She didn’t want to leave his side… what she wanted was to pick up where they’d been so rudely interrupted. She wanted him and he wanted her… why couldn’t they just…
“I really don’t want you to have to make an extra trip… it’s so late and all…” she started as she glided away from him, moving to the other side of the truck, a mischievous smile starting to bloom on her face.
“You…” he stammered, his head trying to wrap around what he thought she was saying.
“Your place good?”
He stopped short, his hand shy of the door handle of the Bronco as he moved to look at her over the hood of the truck, his eyes wide and stunned. He watched her as she smiled at him and the look in her eyes… holy God, she was serious, he realized.
And then he wasn’t even caring about what anyone would say or what they hadn’t said yet or how they were going to deal with their relationship in the morning… all he knew was that this incredible woman that made him feel everything again wanted to come home with him. And he wanted it too… but he needed to check one last time…
“What about the gossiping?” he asked, his voice dropping an octave, becoming more husky as thought of getting her in his house and in his bed flooded his mind.
“Nathan, you realize half the force already thinks we’re having sex, right?” she commented with a laugh.
“I’d heard some rumors to that effect,” he replied with a half smile as he leaned on the hood on crossed arms as he looked at her. “So, you’re okay with people making that assumption?”
“Well I would rather there aren’t ever any eye witness accounts of us naked in your truck, but considering people are already thinking it… I think we should at least get to have the sex people think we’re having already, don’t you?”
Nathan stifled a laugh. It made sense. And damned if he didn’t agree. He pushed away from the hood and started for the door, his hand wrapping around the handle, planning on getting them back to his place to continue any more of the conversation when he noticed Audrey hadn’t moved to get in yet.
On her side, Audrey pressed her hands on the hood of the Bronco and looked down at the sky blue paint. She knew she could get in the truck, drive to Nathan’s house, make love to him within an inch of both of their lives but she didn’t want to do that until she told him everything; told him the one last secret that she hadn’t been able to say when they’d been in the vault… the one she was most afraid of… up until now.
“Besides, I love you…” she said softly, her voice carrying across the truck in the quiet of the Haven night air.
Nathan froze in place, not believing what he’d heard as his heart found its way to his throat and his eyes whipped back to her position by the front of the truck. He watched mesmerized as she raised her head and nearly gasped as he saw the truth there in her eyes…
The last of the secrets, he thought briefly before he smiled at her, knowing that he needed to tell her the last of his…
“I love you too, you know that, right?” he asked, watching her smile grow at his words and he knew now that whatever happened next it was real and forever.
“Yeah… I do… now, home?” she queried, her voice sounding watery as she finally moved to get into the truck on the passenger side.
Hurriedly Nathan moved to climb into the driver’s seat, glancing over at where Audrey sat, her eyes watching him meaningfully and he gave her a knowing smirk before he started the engine and put the Bronco in gear.
He hadn’t even pulled away from the curb before he was wondering how long it would take for him to convince her to move out of the B&B and into his place…
Okay everyone, I think I’m gonna end things here. Thanks for reading, reviewing and coming along with me for this ride. I am planning on more N/A writing by continuing my “Helping Hand” story, so hopefully that will keep you all entertained. If you liked this, please let me know. And again, thanks for reading, Ms. J.