Dave waited patiently all night, sipping scotch and making small talk. She worked the room like a politician on the trail. She knew when to smile, chat, laugh, and touch people appropriately. Her husband was by her side looking like the perfect companion. His eyes said something else.
The only time they looked alive is when a young woman walked by. Dave couldn’t understand; the woman on that fool’s arm was beautiful. Toward the end of the night, the husband wasn’t even bothering to hide it anymore. If he was going to be forced into the role of Mr. Erin Strauss tonight then the least he could be was entertained.
When he’d finally had enough and wanted to do more than watch, Eli Strauss excused himself to the men’s room. Dave watched as a young special Agent, he thought her name might be McMahon, let a respectable amount of time go by before following. There were a million dark corners in this hotel to get illicit in. Dave wondered which one Eli found to fuck some woman whose name he neither knew nor cared about.
“You need a refill.” He said, coming to stand next to her at the bar. Eli wasn’t the only one tired of looking.
“You have no idea.”
“I have a little idea.” He let his hand brush her back and felt Erin quiver. Some of her back was out tonight. The black dress was perfect; the red wrap adding the perfect splash of color. She looked fantastic but miserable as the bartender walked over with her martini. “I can get a room tonight.”
“We aren’t doing that anymore, David.” Erin didn’t look at him when she said it.
When she looked at him, all bets were off. She knew it and he knew it too. He’d been back in the FBI for a year and the same thing happened that always happened when they were within 50 feet of each other. The animosity always resurfaced and then the passion overtook them. She didn’t want to be weak; with Dave she felt weak.
“Do you ever say that to him?”
“I don’t know what you're talking about.” Erin sipped her martini.
“You know exactly what I'm talking about.” His hand found her back again.
“Stop touching me.” she said through clenched teeth.
“I've known you for a long time. I know when you don’t mean what you say.”
“I fucking mean it.”
Erin said it as firmly as she could. A part of her meant it more than she ever meant anything. She was tired. How long was she expected to keep dancing before she collapsed from exhaustion? She was juggling work, motherhood, a crumbling marriage, and a hopeless affair. The white flag of surrender was in her hand but Erin didn’t have the energy to wave it.
“You think I only want a piece of you?” Dave asked, leaning to whisper in her ear. “I take what you give and anytime I try for more you attack.”
“What the hell do you want from me, David? You want to marry me or something?”
“You push and push but I'm not going to let me push you away.”
“You don't want me.” Erin said it slow to make sure he understood. “You just want to win…you always want to win. You're that guy. You want to be declared victor and then do your victory lap.”
“People can change. You of all people should know that.”
“I’ll give you that but you don’t change. I don’t and we don’t either. Excuse me, I have to get back.”
“Get back to what?”
Erin had started walking away but his voice stopped her. She wanted to ignore him; he was just trying to get a rise out of her. The hate sex was even better than the desperate kind. Dave was like a high school boy. He was simultaneously exhilarating and infuriating. This had to stop and she was going to be the adult to stop it.
“Work, David.” She turned back to look at him. “I have to work, I have to live; I cannot do this. I don’t live on Fantasy Island and you need to come home. Please.”
“I'm not the one asking you to do that. I'm reality.”
She just walked away. As she went back into the thick of the crowd, Erin saw her husband come back into the ballroom. He was trying to fix his disheveled clothing. Over the years he seemed to have gotten worse with his encounters instead of better. She wondered what mid-priced perfume he was drenched in this time.
It made her stomach turn just thinking about it. If he came near her Erin was sure she would scream. Looking back at Dave sipping his scotch and chewing the scenery she could feel herself get dizzy. She wanted to stop herself from falling but didn’t have any control. The glass slipped from her hand, shattering on the floor. Someone called out her name in surprise and perhaps fear before everything went black.
“Hey, hey.” His voice was soft as she started to come around. “Just open your eyes for me. Let me see those pretty blue eyes.”
“David…” she whispered.
“C'mon, open your eyes Erin. Just do that one thing for me and I’ll stop bugging you.”
“If only.” Her eyes opened slowly and tried to look at him.
“There you are.” Dave smiled. “How are you feeling?”
“I don't know. I don't know…what happened?”
“Kirk?” When she heard the voice, Erin tried to turn her head. She realized that was a very bad idea. It was a very, very bad idea.
“I'm here kiddo.” The Deputy Director of the FBI stepped into her field of vision though it didn’t matter because Erin’s eyes were closed again.
“Please don’t call me that.”
“She’s going to be fine. She’s giving me back sass.”
“Please don’t tell me that I fainted in front of everyone.” Erin opened her eyes again. Everything was still blurry. Why couldn’t she see straight? What if she’d had a stroke or something?
“I think people were more concerned than anything.” Dave replied.
“Dammit.” She murmured. “I need to sit up and…”
“That’s not a good idea.” Dave put his hands on her shoulders.
“So I'm just expected to lie here.”
“I told you she's a horrible patient.”
“Kirk, don’t you talk about me like I'm not here. What the hell is here anyway? Ouch.” Erin put both hands on her head.
“You're in the lobby.” Kirk replied.
“The lobby? Oh no; no, no, no.” Erin sat up on the couch, fighting the vertigo and nausea. Dave sat down beside her and she didn’t fight it. She leaned on him because sitting up was a little too much at the moment.
“I’ll take her home.” He said. Then he looked at Erin. “You’ve done enough tonight.”
“I'm not listening to you. Dave is going to take you home and I want you to get some rest. You’ll take tomorrow off. A three day weekend might be just what you need.”
“Stop it.” he held up his hands. Then he sat on the other side of her and took her face in his hands. Kirk had known Erin for over 25 years. He was probably the only person allowed to do this. “Watching you faint frightened me. You’ve taken on too much and don’t know when to say stop. No one is going to think you're weak for taking a breather.”
“Don’t lecture me in front of him.” there were tears in Erin’s voice but she damn sure wasn’t going to cry. She would rather walk into traffic than cry in front of Dave. In front of Kirk it was almost bearable.
“OK.” Kirk nodded, kissing her forehead. He stood up from the couch. “Dave will take you home, I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon to check in, and I’ll see you on Monday morning.”
Erin nodded, accepting it. She felt like hell and really did need the rest. Where the hell had Eli gone? She saw him coming back into the ballroom right before she fainted. At least she thought she had. Everything was hazy and confusing.
“I'm only leaning on you because I have no choice.” Erin mumbled and leaned her head on his shoulder again.
“What happened back there, David?”
“You fainted.” Dave replied. “You turned back to look at me and your eyes just rolled back in your head. I don’t think I've ever moved so fast in my life. I told you woman, you keep my blood pumping.”
“I just want to get out of here.”
“We’ll go. Relax for a moment; you need to relax.”
Erin nodded. She sat on the couch, breathing in and out and leaning on him. The nausea was waning but she still felt dizzy and had a headache. As much as she didn’t want to think about it, it was time to see a doctor.
This wasn’t the first time she’d blacked out. Now it was happening in front of people. It happened in front of Kirk. Erin wasn’t going to be able to hide it anymore. Soon there would be nothing left to hide.
“Are you ready?” Dave asked gently.
“I don't know.”
“We should probably go. I’ll hold you up if I have to.”
“That'll be just great.” Erin rolled her eyes.
Dave got up from the couch and then helped Erin up. They walked to the exit of the King George Hotel with his arm around her waist and her leaning on him. It was slow going but that was for the best. When they got outside it was pouring; Dave was glad to be in the Suburban tonight. He handed the keys to the valet along with a $50 bill, asking him to put pep in his step.
“The fresh air helps a little bit.” Erin whispered.
“Good.” Dave ran his hand over her hair. “Just lean on me…I got you.”
“You don’t have to do this.”
“Who would do it?”
“I'm sure Kirk would've taken me home.”
“You're stuck with me baby. I'm sorry about that.”
Erin just shrugged. Soon the car was there and Dave helped her in before rushing around to the driver’s side. Erin put on her seatbelt, reclining her seat. It felt good to be sitting again. Not caring about the rain, she cracked the window for air. Dave headed out into the busy Thursday night traffic. The rain wasn’t going to help with getting them where they wanted to go.
“You're going in the wrong direction.” Erin said.
“I've been driving for a long time around here. I can handle it.”
“Chevy Chase is in the other direction, David.”
“We’re not going to Chevy Chase.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Chevy Chase is where I live and I don’t have time for games.”
“I want you to lie back, relax, and stop getting so excited. Let me take care of things, Erin…please.”
That wasn’t Erin’s nature and he knew it. But Dave was tired of playing games. Playing could be fun of course, and she made an excellent sparring partner, but this was turning into something else. He knew that something wasn’t right and Erin was keeping secrets. She needed a safe place to let go. Dave didn’t think Erin trusted him enough to let him be that for her. She didn’t trust anyone enough.
“He left, didn’t he?”
Her voice broke the silence. Dave was listening to the heavy rainfall on the roof of the car. The windshield wipers were almost like a song and he found his breathing nearly matched their rhythm. He thought Erin was asleep until she spoke.
“Eli left with that redhead, didn’t he?” she slowly turned her head to look at him. “I think her name is Carrie McMahon…she's half his age.”
“I'm not entirely sure.”
“Don’t lie to me David.”
“I don’t do that. I honestly don’t know where the son of a bitch went. I was taking care of you.”
“Where are you taking me?” Erin asked.
“Home.” He replied.
“Lie back and relax.”
“Stop it now.” he was gentle but firm. “Everything is going to be fine. Do you trust me?”
“No.” she shook her head slowly.
“Well we’re just going to have to do something about that. I'm driving and you're riding.”
There was nothing else to talk about after that so they were quiet. Dave was driving to his house in Fairfax. Erin was going to make taking care of her difficult. Luckily difficult happened to be one of David Rossi’s specialties.