She’d beaten Reid again, left the genius sitting there with a boggled look on his face. Morgan just laughed and Rossi patted the kid on the shoulder. If you were going to lose, at least you could lose to a brilliant, beautiful woman. Sometimes it was about more than cards and math; Emily knew the power of the bluff.
“One more game.” Reid said. “I'm feeling a real need to get my street cred back.”
“You’ve got street cred?” Rossi asked.
“I do, in some circles.”
“Take the spanking like a man, Reid.” Morgan said. “They’re fun when done right…Emily always does them right.”
“You're so bad.” Emily laughed. “I’d go again Spencer but I need to make a phone call.”
“I can wait.” He said.
“Give him one more chance, Prentiss.” Rossi said. “I don’t think he's going to let this go.”
“Alright, but I do need to make this phone call.” Emily stood from the seat. “I’ll be back in a little while.”
She walked toward the back of the jet. Hotch was making himself a cup of tea; she smiled when she walked into the kitchen area.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“I'm fine, just making a phone call.”
“I’ll give you some privacy.”
“Thanks but I'm fine.” She pressed a button and leaned against the wall. She didn’t need to hide anymore. It wasn’t exactly Hotch’s business but she wasn’t going to crouch in the bathroom to make the call either.
“Hello.” His voice answered.
“Hi there.” Emily smiled when she heard him.
“Hey, where are you right now?”
“The good news is that I'm on a plane home.”
“What's the bad news?” Stephen asked.
“There is no bad news. Well, I don’t have a dress yet.”
“Of course you do. Tell me where to buy it and it’ll be waiting for you at home.”
“I like to shop for myself.”
“I've told you that about myself a few times but you don’t seem to hear me.”
“I'm a woman,” Emily replied. “I don’t have to hear you. I’ll have a dress by tomorrow evening.”
“And I’ll have a car there to pick you up at 7:30.”
“Are you still at work?”
“Yes, we’re making last minute arrangements for the dinner and I’m going over some scheduling. I'm traveling to Dubai and Vienna in the next month. I also had lunch with your father today.”
“Does he know we’re going to the dinner together?” Emily asked.
She hadn't told her family that she was seeing Stephen again. While she hated to call it a secret that’s what it would look like to some people. Emily just liked to keep things to herself until she had them completely figured out. This was not completely figured out yet.
It was something, it was something good, but the more people involved the murkier it would get. Her father wasn’t just anyone of course but she was concerned about how he would feel about this. He knew of Stephen pursuing her in the past and stayed neutral on the subject. This was a little more than that.
“I told him that I asked and you accepted. He said you would be beautiful on my arm. He also said that if you had to come to boring dinners just for him to see you these days he was not about to object.”
“I've been so busy.” Emily said.
“Too busy for your dad and Nat?” Stephen asked.
“I know; I must be the worse child on the planet.”
“I didn’t say that. You’re a good daughter…you do the best with what you were given. I'm glad I could have a little something to do with a family reunion. I'm sure your mother will be there tomorrow night as well.”
They would be attending the Foreign Diplomat’s Dinner tomorrow evening. It was for U.S. Ambassadors to foreign countries. Twice a year they got together and talked shop. It could be interesting but also quite boring. At least there would be delicious cuisine from all over the world, decent music, and all the alcohol a party girl could want.
Emily had been to a few in her time with either her mother or her father. She’d had an amazing array of one night stands over the years that traced right back to the Grand Duchess ballroom of the King George Hotel. That was a long time ago though. Tomorrow she would be on one man’s arm and for him only.
“What's the matter?” Stephen asked.
“I haven’t talked to her or seen her since I've been back.”
“I thought you two were getting better.”
“When are we ever getting better, Stephen?” Emily sighed.
She had no intention of backing out; she wanted to be with Stephen. So she was just going to have to smile through what would be seriously awkward reunion with her mother. Hell, it wouldn’t be the first time. At least she’d have a few buffers there and that wasn’t always the case. Emily sensed a return to therapy after this. Stephen was lucky she was crazy about him.
“I'm not going to comment.” He said.
“I'm a parent and a child, Emily. I never want you to think I'm siding with anyone over you because nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in all Prentiss family matters you can just call me Switzerland.”
“Well Switzerland, I have to go now. We’re allowed limited cell phone use in the air but I'm pushing the boundaries.”
“Don’t you always?” Stephen asked.
“Yeah,” she smiled. “I do.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow evening. Send me a text or something when you’ve safely landed.”
“I love you.”
It was getting harder not to reply. Emily couldn’t say something like that until she was ready. She knew that Stephen knew that but he had to know that saying it would make her want to say it as well. She couldn’t tell him how to feel and couldn’t push herself. That sucked.
“Tu es à moi.” She replied.
“Oui. Au revoir.”
Emily hung up the phone before grabbing a Diet Coke from the mini-fridge. She also grabbed a bag of pretzels. She couldn’t wait to land and get some real food. Rejoining her team, Emily saw the boys were right where she left them. JJ was asleep even though it was early and Hotch seemed to be into something on his iPad. She smirked thinking it was either Angry Birds or mah jongg. Sliding back into the seat beside Morgan, Emily smiled.
“Alright Spencer, are you ready?” she asked.
“I'm ready.” He nodded.
“He wasn’t counting cards, was he?” she asked Morgan.
“I kept a watchful eye on him for you.”
“OK.” Emily grabbed the deck of cards, shuffling like a Vegas card shark. “Here we go; fifth game for full redemption. Keep your eyes on the cards boys; I'm fast when I wanna be.”
“You look so beautiful.” Natalie said as Emily and Stephen walked over to the table. She and Gregory stood as their daughter walked into their arms. Natalie kissed her cheek. “I saw you working the room.”
“I think the room was working me actually. Everyone wanted to know who made the dress.”
“I was about to ask the same thing.” Gregory replied laughing.
“Well if you must know Daddy, it’s Halston Heritage; the Spring 2010 line.”
“It’s gorgeous; you do look beautiful.”
“Thanks.” She smiled as she and Stephen sat down.
Emily didn’t have time to go shopping since she just got back into town last night. Luckily there was a cocktail dress in the back of her closet that hadn't been to a party yet. That was about to change. The maroon Halston Heritage three quarter length, off the shoulder dress seemed to be a big hit. She paired it with a pair of black Prada peep toe pumps. Emily’s hair was pulled up and there were diamonds on her ears and wrist.
Stephen beamed as she walked on his arm. That wasn’t just because she was beautiful, though she felt that way tonight. It was because she could laugh at bawdy Greek jokes that the U.S. Ambassador to Greece told. She remembered an old dance club in Bonn while chatting with the U.S. Ambassador to Germany. Emily was humble, cordial, and brilliant while talking to the Secretary of State about the need for more young female education in the Middle East, a subject close to her heart.
She could dance the cha-cha with a former President and handle very strong sake with the U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Emily Prentiss was every man’s dream but there was a strong possibility that she was Stephen’s reality. And that, along with the dress as the cherry on top, meant it would be a while before he stopped beaming.
“I haven’t seen Mother yet.” Emily looked around the crowded room. The truth was she didn’t want Elizabeth to surprise her.
“I know she's going to be here.” Natalie said. “All current Ambassadors received invitations and RSVP’d.”
“Did you put this all together?” she asked her stepmother.
“Not even I could do this alone. Stephen was my right hand man and of course Madame Secretary was helpful in coordinating dates and times. We’re glad you were back in time to attend.”
“I won't bore you guys with my job but there was a little concern I might not make it back in time. Missouri was a tough one. But we got it done. I'm glad I could be here for him.”
Emily put her hand over Stephen’s on the table. Her father observed the couple. He knew his daughter. He knew his daughter well. He knew her body language, mannerisms, and tones of voice. She was happy.
Emily didn’t have to walk around with a big smile on her face to be happy. It was more of a glow, a sense about her and everything around her. Gregory felt it down to his toes. He would have to take Stephen aside and properly threaten him later. Both men would probably laugh about it. He’d known Stephen for nearly 30 years and knew that he had feelings for his daughter.
Gregory did his best to stay out of it. After his divorce, he knew that Stephen needed to feel something again and he surely understood that. It hadn't been so long after his return to America and his failure with Elizabeth that he met Natalie. So Gregory had no intention of throwing stones. With all his daughter had been through in the past year, she needed this.
She needed someplace to just be Emily. Stephen cared about her. He didn’t care about the FBI, the rich family, the hot dress, the diamonds, or the diplomatic background. He cared about the woman. And that’s what she needed, to be someplace she could just be that woman. His little girl was a woman now…Gregory didn’t think he’d ever get over that.
“I think your mother just came in.” Stephen leaned to whisper in Emily’s ear.
Sure enough, Elizabeth walked in arm and arm with the widowed Senior Senator from Connecticut that she’d been insisting for years that she was not involved with. She was not the only Prentiss woman with secrets. Emily stood from her chair just as her eyes connected with her mother’s. She could feel Elizabeth’s essence from all the way across the room.
“Would you like me to go with you?” Stephen asked.
“No,” she shook her head as her hand fell comfortably on his shoulder. “Some things a woman has to do alone. But would you be so gracious as to get me something nice and strong to drink? I’ll need it when I get back.”
“Of course.” He stood too and they went their separate ways.
Emily took many deep breaths as she walked across that large, crowded room. She was stopped a few times for hugs or for someone to tell her how beautiful she looked. She knew this world and these people. It was in her blood no matter how much she didn’t like it. The older she got the more accepting she became of who she was. It was better to use the power she had for good and to make changes. Not all power corrupted; Emily Prentiss could be an exception to the rule.
“Good evening, Mother.” she smiled. “Senator.”
“Emily.” The Senator leaned and kissed her cheek. “I have to say it’s good to have you back in the world.”
“Thank you, I appreciate it.”
“Do you mind getting me a drink, darling.” Elizabeth said smiling.
“Of course. I’ll let you two talk.”
He kissed Emily’s cheek again and walked into the thick of the party. Elizabeth looked at her daughter, unsure what to say.
“I wanted to tell you.”
“Your father told me. I would've liked it to come from you as well but he said you were recovering and that was going to take time. I had no idea where you were.”
“That was for the best…it was to keep you safe.”
“The Ian Doyles of the world don’t scare me.” Elizabeth replied.
“Sometimes a healthy dose of fear keeps you here to live another day.”
“You’ve been back nearly a year.”
“I know. You’ve been busy and I've been busy and…”
“And the dance continues. You're the last person I expected to see here tonight.”
“I was invited.” Emily replied.
“I saw you chatting with Stephen Thorne.”
“He was the one who invited me.”
“Are you seeing him now?” Elizabeth asked.
“I am.” She nodded. “You look good, Mother.”
“So do you, sweetheart. Is that Halston Heritage?”
“Yes ma'am. I definitely learned from the best when it comes to dressing up.”
“I’ll be in town for the next couple of weeks handling some work before I return to Nicosia. We should get together…we should talk.”
“I’ll call you.” Emily said.
“No,” Elizabeth shook her head. “I’ll call you. In fact, let’s meet on Tuesday evening. I can make a phone call and set up reservations at Equinox.”
“If I'm in town I’ll be there.”
“Emily, I really think you should be there.”
She looked at her mother, not sure at all how to respond. Was she supposed to not fly out for work so as not to miss dinner plans? This was coming from the woman who missed so much in her daughter’s life growing up because of work. A part of Emily wanted to laugh and another part just wanted to burst into tears. Then Stephen was there with his arm around her. Damn, how did he know? How did he know when to swoop in and play the part?
“I got you cognac.” He said with a smile.
“This is perfect.” She replied.
“Ambassador Prentiss, you look amazing.” Stephen leaned to kiss her cheek. “The Cyprus sun seems to agree with you.”
“I'm making the sunscreen industry a hell of a lot of money.” Elizabeth replied. “You’ve always looked dapper in a tuxedo Stephen.”
“They teach it to us in Diplomat school.”
“So is that what you're teaching these newbies out here?” the Ambassador asked.
“I'm teaching them that and much more. I'm hoping that the era of diplomacy is again upon us. We’re the leader of the free world…its time to start acting like it.”
“You'll get no argument out of me on that one. You’ll have to excuse me; I need to work the room.”
“Of course, Madame Ambassador. You will save me a dance?”
“Mmm, I'm sure there's another Prentiss that would be happy in your arms tonight.” she looked at her daughter. Then she wrapped her arms around her. Elizabeth exhaled when Emily’s arms went around her back. “I love you, Emily.”
“I love you too, Mother.” her voice cracked.
She did love her mother, she always had. That didn’t mean that they were ever on the same page. Emily tried and tried to figure out how to make things work between she and Elizabeth. After a while she just gave up. That probably made her a failure…she was prepared to accept that.
Just because they were mother and daughter didn’t mean they would be best friends. The movies had it all wrong. She was envious of close mothers and daughters. And on top of that she felt all the guilt associated with being close to her stepmother. Elizabeth also didn’t mind playing on that guilt.
They both had some inroads to make. She was alive again, Emily had a second chance. Maybe her mother felt the same way. Could they start with dinner at Equinox? Who knew? But Emily decided then and there that she was going to try. She wasn’t going to overdo it, too much had happened and she wasn’t sure that she could. Seeing her mother just once a month for dinner and conversation had to be better than rarely seeing her at all.
Elizabeth kissed her cheek, squeezed her hand, and walked away. Emily looked after her and thought for just a moment that she glimpsed the true Elizabeth. Then the mask was back on and so was the game. Fashion tips weren’t the only thing Emily Prentiss learned from her mother. She took a deep breath in through her nose and out through her mouth before sipping her cognac.
“You came at just the right time.” she looked at Stephen. “How do you do that?”
“It’s a sixth sense.” He replied. “I've always known when you needed me.”
“Do you know what I need right now?”
“I'm thinking a nice dinner, a little dancing, and then dessert.”
“Yes.” Emily smiled. “But we’ll have dessert somewhere else.”
Stephen nodded, smiling as she slipped her hand in his. They walked back to the table together and ordered their meal. There were still a few hours before he could have her all to himself. He was appreciative that after five days out in the field looking for some maniac that she still wanted to doll up and be there for him.
These kinds of events could be draining and Emily had been drained enough. Still, she smiled, conversed, looked amazing, and wanted to be with him. He was a very happy man because of it. It was his intent to make her a very happy woman.