Penelope missed her phones and tablet already. Her fingers itched to get online, but she’d wanted to unplug, and Dave had volunteered to ensure that. It felt nice, in a way, itchy fingers and all. It meant she didn’t have anything pressing on her, nothing that would demand her attention. If Hotch had to call them in, Dave had his phone, so she’d know they needed her. That was about the only truly important thing she had to hear about.
“I’ll make you dinner,” Dave said. “After the first glass of scotch.”
“Are you going to smoke?” she asked dubiously.
“Fine cigars are one of life’s true pleasures.”
“Okay. Normally I don’t like smoking, but you smell really good when you’ve had a cigar, so I guess I can live with it.”
Dave smiled and touched her arm as the elevator dinged and the doors slid open. “Cigars and scotch are meant to be paired, Penelope. If you like the smell, that’s a bonus.” They stepped off together, walking toward the doors.
“Even if they’re meant to be paired, I’m not trying one,” she said firmly. “You’re getting me to drink scotch, that’s enough for tonight.”
“That’s all you’re open to?” He sounded amused.
“As far as new things go.” She smiled. “I may be open to other things, we’ll see. It depends on dinner.”
“Bribing you with food. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve done that for.”
“I hope you’re not trying to make me jealous because it won’t work. I’m taking my car,” she added as they left the building.
“I thought you would. You know the way if we get separated.”
“I do,” she agreed, and they parted to walk toward their respective cars.
She easily kept up with Dave as they drove to his mansion—he still refused to call it a house, and it deserved the title anyway—and parked in his circular drive just behind his car. He waited at the front door for her and let her in first, even though he had to turn off the alarm.
“What’s for dinner?” she asked as she slipped off her shoes.
“Pasta primavera, garlic bread, and white wine.” He brushed a strand of hair out of her face before bending to take off his own shoes. “But first, I’m introducing you to eighteen-year-old single malt scotch.”
“Only a little. I don’t want to waste something that costs that much.”
He gave her an amused look. “I think I can afford it, Penelope.”
She glanced around the front hall. “Okay, true. But I still don’t want to waste it.”
“Fair enough. A finger of scotch.” He led her out of the front hall and into his cozy den instead of the living room. “Sit wherever you want.”
Since the plush couch meant room for him too, she sank down on one side, curling into the back. She watched him pour the rich amber scotch and caught its scent, faint from this far but still sharp and distinct. “It feels weird to not have any electronics,” she said. “I’ve had something nearby since I was ten and my dad bought our first computer.”
“Here you are.” He joined her on the couch, handing her the glass with less scotch. “I think it’s good for you to unplug for once. You can relax. If it’s important, Aaron will call me.”
“I know,” Penelope said. “But it still feels just weird. No Internet, no texting…”
“For one night,” he said with a slight smile. “That’s all.” He slipped an arm around her, and she leaned into his side. “Try your scotch.”
She sniffed it cautiously. It did smell sharp with the alcohol, but also smoky and rich. Better smelling than the scotch she’d had before.
“It’s not wine, Penelope. Smelling it before you drink isn’t necessary.”
“I’m judging if I’ll like it.”
“Sip it slowly. Let it linger on your tongue.”
She paused. “You are talking about the scotch, right?”
Dave laughed, a warm sound. “If I’m talking about anything else, I’ll make it clearer.”
She smiled at him and sipped her scotch. Her eyes widened. Cost did make a difference to flavor, evidently. It tasted strong, almost fruity, with some burn from the alcohol but not enough to overwhelm the nearly-apple-y taste of it. She let it trickle down her throat, and it did burn, but that taste lingered in her mouth. “That is good,” she said when she’d swallowed the last of it.
“It should be. It’s Glenfiddich.”
“I hope you know I’m looking that up when I have access to the Internet again.”
“That would be why I told you.” He pressed a kiss to her temple. “I’m trying to impress you.”
“You don’t need to try, I mean, we’re in your mansion. That’s impressive enough. Plus you’re a bestseller and the guy who helped establish the BAU, that’s also pretty impressive.” She paused. “Rambling?”
“A little.” He sipped from his own glass, which had probably twice as much scotch as hers.
It looked like a good idea. She turned her attention back to her glass instead of going on about his impressiveness. The whole team would tell her he didn’t need the ego boost, but it felt, to her, like complimenting someone she cared about.
But the rambling, that wasn’t always good. Except she got anxious over some cases, even with the cheeriness of her cave, and this had been one of them, the corruption of gaming, the hunt of real people. She couldn’t shake how she imagined the poor girl felt about what she’d had to do to survive.
“What are you thinking?” Dave asked, yanking her from what could turn into a terrible spiral.
“The case. Those poor kids. What must be wrong with those boys.” She shuddered. “It’s horrible.”
“It is,” he agreed. “Matt will go away for a very long time, though, and if he ever gets out, we’ll watch him. People will be safe from him if it happens.”
“But we can’t see everything. He still might…”
He sighed and stroked her arm. “We can’t make the world a perfect place. We do our best and hope it all sticks. We have a good conviction rate, and with him, we have plenty of witnesses, plus what you did. He’ll be put away.”
“Good.” Penelope studied her near-empty glass. The scotch glowed warm amber in the half-light of the den. “Can I sleep here tonight?”
“There’s plenty of room in my bed.”
She finished off the last of her drink and pulled away to set her glass on a coaster. “Good. Sometimes, what happens gets to me. I didn’t see the kids, but what I know about the actual game and how they made it so wrong is enough. What they forced Addyson to do, what she’ll have to live with…”
“I know.” Rossi finished his own scotch and set his glass on his thigh, hand loosely around it. “Care to join me while I make dinner?”
She smiled a little. “Yes please. You get so intense, it’s fun. And you give me wine.”
“Come on, let’s do that.” He slipped his arm out from behind her back and stood.
In the kitchen, Dave poured two glasses of Moscato d’Asti as Penelope sat on a stool at the island, elbows on the granite and chin propped on her hands. “I asked Kevin out tonight.”
“I take it he was busy, since you’re here instead.” Dave turned away from the refrigerator, zucchini and a bell pepper in his hands.
“He said he had reservations with someone,” she confirmed. “I was hoping, but…” She shrugged. “As long as he’s happy.”
“Are you?” He rinsed the vegetables, found a cutting board and knife, and turned toward the island.
“I’m always happy.” She reconsidered that. “Except when anyone is hurt or leaving. Not so happy then. When we thought Emily was dead… that was not good.”
He started to slice the zucchini into perfect circles. “I remember.” He should; she’d come to his mansion plenty of times to have someone besides Derek hold her and let her cry.
“I’m happy for him. And I have this thing with you, which also makes me happy. You give me wine and feed me, and the sex is as good as the food.”
He smiled at that. “Not better?”
She grinned. “Have you tasted your cooking? As good. Can’t be better.”
“We’ll see tonight if I can make it better.”
“Ooh, a challenge. I highly approve. I’m a willing test subject.”
Dave had a habit of narrating as he cooked when she was his audience, probably when he had any audience, but she couldn’t be positive about that outside the time the whole team came. That didn’t count, anyway, since it was a cooking lesson slash team-building exercise. She didn’t mind at all; it meant she learned things, and she got to listen to his voice. She’d been able to greatly expand her repertoire of vegetarian Italian dishes, once he got over his aggravation at not being able to include pancetta or whatever else when she joined him for a meal.
Twenty minutes later, he plated two servings of pasta primavera, each with a thick slice of garlic bread beside it and a fork resting on the edge of the plate, and asked, “Dining room or den?”
“Dining room.” Eating on a couch could sometimes be awkward, what with bumping elbows and the occasional spill because she wasn’t leaning far enough forward. “Then back to the den.”
“Do I sense a desire for more scotch?”
“I want you to smell like cigar smoke when we go upstairs. It’s comforting. I don’t know why.” She stood and picked up her plate and wineglass.
“Did you have a relative who smoked cigars?” Dave followed her into the dining room and set his plate down opposite her, pulling out his chair. “There’s more in the kitchen if you’re still hungry.”
“This should be enough.” She settled in her chair. “And no, I didn’t. My step-grandfather smoked a pipe, and my mom smoked Virginia Slims, but that’s all.” She shrugged. “No Electra complex, I just like how it smells on you.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. You will have more scotch, won’t you?” His eyes danced, probably because he’d been right.
“A little.” She smiled. “It is good, and you’ll be drinking anyway, so I might as well join.”
“Eat, and we’ll go on to that.”
“Will you hold me when we go to bed?” Penelope asked, quiet, almost shy. She hadn’t asked anyone that since Kevin, and that felt so long ago even if it wasn’t really.
“Until you fall asleep,” Dave promised. He poked his fork into his pasta and gave her a pointed look.
She could take a hint, so she smiled and followed suit.
Since he’d cooked, she put away the leftovers, which she’d probably take for the next day’s lunch, and fitted the dishes into the dishwasher before turning it on. Those mundane tasks on, she followed the sound of Tony Bennett to the den.
Dave had put on an actual record, not an MP3 or even a CD, and that made it sound less polished, less slick. More real, she had to admit, despite her technophilia. He had a lit cigar that he puffed slowly, a glass of scotch held loosely in his hand, hers on the table in front of him. He sat in the middle of the couch, and she took that as an invitation to join him. Once she’d lifted her tumbler, she sat on the couch, tucking her feet under her and snuggling into his side. Her head rested on his shoulder, and she set her free hand on his chest, over his heart, just to feel its strong, steady beat.
They stayed like that until the record ended, the slightly-rough music filling the air and the heavy smell of tobacco smoke in a cloud around them. Penelope had long since finished her drink, but she still held her glass instead of moving to set it on the table. Dave stroked her back in long, slow, soothing movements, his touch just firm enough, and she felt herself loosening to the warm comfort of good friendship and deep care. She had something like it with Morgan, though that was stronger; this, though, had the added element of attraction, and that made her feel good in a different way. Sexy, desired.
Once the record ended, Dave sighed softly and pulled away so he could stand and walk over to the turntable. She pouted when he glanced back, and he chuckled.
“Do you want to go upstairs?”
“Ooh, yes, I very much do.” Penelope shifted to set her glass on a coaster and stood. “You’re not bringing your cigar, are you?”
“I don’t think so.” He stubbed it out in an ashtray and left it leaning against the edge. “It doesn’t seem like it would fit the mood.”
She laughed. “It wouldn’t fit anything. You’d light the sheets on fire, and then we’d be trapped in a burning bed. It would be like that Eminem and Rihanna song.”
He shook his head. “We can’t have that. Coming?”
“I hope so!”
She got to the stairs first and hurried up them, grinning to herself. It might be a casual thing that they had, a little more than friends with benefits, but for Penelope at least, it felt right. Secure. The main things she wanted right now, security and friendship and just enough chemistry to make it all work. And it came with excellent food, which made it even better.