“Your phone rang. Again.”
Chris, still half-asleep, grunted something quizzically, rubbing his sore eyes, as he looked astonished (and a bit envious) at his girlfriend; Georgina “Georgie” Newman was already perfectly dressed with perfect clothes, and looked like she had slept for at least eight hours straight- which he knew was an impossible task with a newborn baby awake at all kind of hours. And yet, she did look fine- which was the complete opposite of what he felt and looked like. He guessed that the right choice of words would have been train wreck.
“Good Morning to you, my love. Yes, I slept quite well, thank you very much for asking. It’s good to know that you care.” He grunted, managing to finally fill his red cup with hot coffee; he gulped down mouthfuls of the boiling liquid, his taste buds barely acknowledging the intrusion, his synapsis finally firing yet again like the fourth of July.
Rolling her eyes, Georgie grunted something in his direction- something he didn’t catch, either because he couldn’t yet or because he didn’t want to- he was royally pissed, she had no business being so… pristine at such an unholy hour of the morning.
What did register, though, was his phone ringing. Again. “And that is what I was talking about. You better answer her or put her in your blacklist before she wakes my daughter up.” She told him as she passed him his mobile; Chris took it, eyeing Georgie suspiciously, and he immediately rejected the call, without giving it a second thought.
“How do you know it’s a she?” He asked, sipping, this time more carefully, the hot beverage; he loved the damn stuff- and mostly, he loved drinking the hot stuff in his favorite place- her kitchen -from his favorite mug, one that, in the last few months, had finally found a place among Georgie’s more feminine stuff. Technically, he hadn’t moved in yet, but his ring was already on her finger and, with his apartment on the market, he spent more and more time at her place every day. Even the baby she still insisted to call her daughter, even if she still was a Newman in the eyes of the law, he liked to introduce her to people as his- their- daughter, and his mother always beamed with pride and joy every time she saw Cait, calling her “Grandma’s joy”.
Georgie chuckled, shaking her head as, after a fraction of second, the phone resumed ringing; Chris sent her a death glare, like to accuse her of something.
“I didn’t answered your phone!” She defended herself valiantly, a bit indignant that he could even just think that she would betray his privacy- especially his work and the sensitive pieces of information he too often had to handle- like that. “I swear, I didn’t!”
Chris, leaning against the kitchen of the place he had found for her when he could barely acknowledge that he actually liked Georgina Newman, simply glared at the brunette- City Girl, as she had been nicknamed by Percy- and didn’t bother adding a single word. Frankly, he didn’t care whether she answered his phone or not- he’d gone and picked her mobile up himself enough times, after all- but what unnerved him was the fact that:
a) She didn’t want to admit she had gone and answered his phone;
b) She didn’t even pretend to be jealous that another woman (according to her and her detective skills) was calling him non-stop:
c) Cait was having colic after colic every night and Georgie was as fresh as a rose while he was a good six years younger than her and he felt like a truck had hit him. Repeatedly.
“Well, I could start with the fact that you didn’t save her number in your contacts, and I know the number of everyone you work with- because I just happen to work with them too.” She stated, grinning, biting a piece of buttered bread between chuckles. “And they would know to call me if you didn’t pick up. Also, you just hanged up- and I don’t think you’d had the guts to hang up on Percy or King.”
Chris shook his head, but he had to admit that, deep down, he was amused; after what had to feel like a lifetime, Georgie wasn’t in the field any longer, having preferred a more “safe” job after Cait’s birth, but she still was a detective underneath that nerdy, geeky brain of hers- and he was quite sure she still felt like one, too. She had loved her job too much- had been too good at it- to just forget her old life completely. So, even if he was her victim, it was kind of nice seeing her playing detective once in a while.
Or maybe, the reason he was so amused was because he was her victim to begin with.
“She is a former hook up, am I right?” She demanded- making it sound like it was an affirmation- while beaming with pride; Chris huffed, once again rejecting another phone call, as soon as he heard the first ring of the damn infernal device. “Judging from the number of calls and the, I think 15 texts, I’m assuming she doesn’t take no for an answer.”
Chris grunted something, then, crossing his arms, he stated more clearly, “How come you are not jealous? When you were dating Keith I would have killed him!” Actually, he had considered murdering his once best friend the moment the cop had laid eyes on Georgie, but she didn’t need to know that; she probably already guessed it- as she was now aware of how deep Chris’ feelings for her had run, and how long he had loved her, cared for her- but he didn’t wanted for her to feel any kind of remorse for not having reciprocated him when she wasn’t ready. Even as it was, their love was still a fragile thing, to threat with enormous care.
“Are you or your clone or your identical twin I know nothing about dating her? Because you are either always here or on the job- which means you can’t be dating someone other than me. The day’s just not long enough.”
Chris sighed, turning his phone off. It was starting to get on his nerves. Like, for real. Both the ringing, the texting and Georgie using her detective skills on him; New Orleans was filled with awful people, as proved from the enormous mass of work they kept getting, why couldn’t she play detective with people who actually deserved the use of her… superpower? “I really, really hate it when you play detective with me, Miss Newman.”
Georgie chuckled as she stood, and, standing on tiptoes right before the much taller Chris, she gave him a peck on the lips- a quick kiss that tasted like fresh bread, butter and cherries, like her favorite lip-balm.
Chris rolled his eyes as his hands gripped her at the waist; his thumbs teased the strip of skin between shirt and jeans, making her shiver and heating her at the same time; she cleared her voice, blushing, biting her lips as she desperately tried to resist him. Even if she knew that resisting Christopher LaSalle was an impossible task: Chris had won her over in every department over the years; he had been a trusted coworker, a good – excellent, even –friend, a confident, and now he had filled the last box still left unchecked in the years they had known each other.
“Not so smug any longer, eh, Newman?” Chris chuckled, rubbing her neck affectionately and playfully with his nose, like they were two children- or two lovebirds just finding each other for the first time.
Georgie shot him a death glare, but then, she shook her head and sighed, smacking him playfully in the chest and putting the young man back in his place.
“Seriously, though, Chris, you don’t answer that girl’s calls, she’s not going away- she’ll come looking for you, and you better hope she’s not a bunny boiler, because, trust me, if that’s the case, it never ends well.”
Chris barely resisted laughing as he remembered the woman in question, a questionable hook up from the time after Savannah’s death, when he was at loss and he hadn’t found a reason to move on yet- a reason that had showed up one morning in his life in the shape of one Christina Georgina Newman.
“She’s not a bunny boiler.” He creased his eyebrows, looking tentatively and guiltily at his sweet half. “I think.” He finally admitted, not so smug any longer.
“Then, be a man and stop blowing her off. You call her, you answer her calls, and you do whatever you have to do to take all of us out of our collective misery.” She was looking at him, and explaining this like it was the easiest task in the universe.
Or better yet: like she had been there herself way too many times for his own taste.
“Anyway, how do you know so much about this?” He asked her quizzically, trying to hide his smirk.
“Yeah, hate to break it to you LaSalle, but I’ve started dating long before meeting you- probably even long before you even started to consider dating girls.” She chuckled, shaking her head, her eyes filled with mirth as her memories went in places she thought it would have never had again- and for once, it didn’t feel wrong, it didn’t break her heart or filled her with doubts about the future remembering all the broken relationships she had gone through in her life. “I’ve been on both sides of that phone, I’ve ducked my share of calls and….”
“And I guess you boiled your good share of bunnies, too?” He asked, chuckling.
Georgie chuckled as well, shaking her head. “Nah. But I did showed up at a guy’s doorstep once…”
Chris looked at her a bit disappointed, pouting like a kid. “You went after a guy? Seriously? I thought you liked playing hard to get!”
“I don’t play hard to get. And it only happened that one time. And it’s not like I’m proud of myself- even if, in my defense, I really, really liked him.” She clicked her lips, her mind suddenly far away. “ Noah was a bit of a bunny boiler when we first met, though. Guy couldn’t take no for an answer even if his life depended on it.”
“And you married him?” He asked, the disbelief clear in his voice; he really wanted to hear her out, know more about that part- that time- of her life; the pain of burying her husband too soon had been one of the reasons- the fears- behind her refusal to acknowledge what was going on between the two of them, and getting a word out about her past wasn’t as easy as it could seem from the outside.
She shrugged. “Friend of mine used to say, there’s no taste for accordions.” Georgie smiled, her arms crossed, her smile as bright as the sun. “So, what’s the deal with my rival anyway?”
Chris shook his head, as yet again he tried to get Georgie’s mind away from that other woman and back to more important business- for example, making out on their couch, or even better, a pit-stop in their bedroom- but her pout took his mind out of the gutter; she was really curious, and wanted to know more about whoever was menacing to awake their little girl.
“Trust me sweetheart, she’s no rival, and it all happened long before you came back here anyway- since the moment I saw you in the garden, I knew that you would have been the one for me.” Chris’ eyes were filled with love and devotion- a feeling that Georgie should have seen right from that very first moment, when their gazes met. And, deep down, she wondered if she hadn’t actually seen it- and had been scared.
Running away, pretending, had always been easier than facing her own emotions- even dealing with killers, rapists was easier than loving- and especially, than being loved.
“She came here to New Orleans for the Music Festival a few years ago” He underlined the term years, like it was extremely important that she understood that it had all happened long before she had stumbled back in his grey and plate existence. “Long before you came back. We, you know, hang out for a couple of weeks…”
Georgie snorted in a very un-lady like manner, trying very hard to avoid laughing at how Chris was blushing- Chris LaSalle, notorious playboy and tombeur de femmes! “Hung out? Is it how the kids call it nowadays? Maybe I should update my dictionary…”
Chris sighed, shaking his head a bit exasperated, but still affectionate. “Anyway, she goes back home, never heard from her ever again until now. End of the story.”
“Then, next time she calls, answer her, solve the mystery and get the poor woman out of her misery by showing her the perfect pictures of you picture perfect family. And if she is a bunny boiler, we’ll do what we gotta do. But please. Make the phone stop ringing, all right?”
“I’ll follow the advice of the expert, ma’am.” He mocked her, giving her a quick peck on the lips; with his moist lips on her owns, insistent and hard, demanding access, she sighed, pouting as she knew all too well that they would have been late if they wouldn’t stop- also, the nanny was on her way, and being caught red-handed wasn’t on the list of prerogatives of neither of them.
“That, Special Agent LaSalle, it’s not the expert talking- it’s called common sense.” She said, pouting, her idle fingers plying with his short, military-like hair.
“Oh, really’” Chris chuckled, shamelessly, purring with pleasure. “I really, really like your common sense, then….”
And as he nibbled at her neck, their bodies pressed hard against each other with just thin layers of clothing separating them, common sense was the last thing on their minds…
“Christopher LaSalle!” He and Gregorio had barely left his car, and were taking the few steps towards the building housing the NCIS offices, when Chris heard a feminine voice calling his name; he stopped dead in his tracks, grunting and calling himself all kinds of names as Gregorio, at his side, tsk-tsked him and shook her head, way too amused for her own good, as the person calling him left the car at the side of the road and joined them on the sidewalk.
“I told you so…” She sing-sang and she waved him goodbye with a hand as she walked inside the building, making fun of the man and his fate.
Part of Chris was relatively happy for her behavior- it was a good thing that Gregorio wasn’t so…. strict any longer, learning to go with the New Orleans swing, but frankly, she was starting to get a little… too close for comfort?
Also, he wasn’t sure he really liked how much the FBI agent on loan and his girlfriend- a former FBI agent herself- liked each other’s company and agreed with each other, teaming up against, usually, him; their last agreement had come, in particular, regarding the very chirping woman right before him, the blonde bombshell known as the one and only Melody James – the woman who had been “harassing” him non-stop in the last few days, harassing as well his work partner and his life partner in the process.
“You know, I’ve called you all sorts of names, but rude was never one of them…” She sing-sang in her sweet voice, her southern accent as marked as his own. Beautiful and young, a blonde statue worth of a Playboy magazine, she was everything he would have needed in his old life- and he remembered perfectly well why he had gone after her. “You’ve been ignoring me and I don’t like it.”
“Melody…” He chuckled, clearing his voice. “It’s… good to see you?” He said, hands in the pockets of his pants, the sentence sounding much more like a question rather than an affirmation. She looked at him with daggers in her eyes, pouting a little, her arms crossed as Chris stared at his feet, a bit ashamed of his childish behavior; he knew he had done wrong- he should have told her right from the start that he wasn’t interested- nor available- any longer, and put her out of her misery. “I know I’ve been rude. And… I’ve been busy with work and… life, but, that’s no excuse.”
“Yeah, that’s definitely more like it…” Melody shook her head, pouting and yet amused, and practically launched herself at him, engulfing Chris in her arms; she was trying to kiss his neck when the young man finally managed to free himself from her grasp, although her arms stood firmly around his neck, her thumbs teasing the rough, bare skin.
“Whoa. Hold on, Mel, it’s been a long time….” He gasped, his eyes as wide as saucers, a little scared; he had told Newman and Gregorio that he didn’t think Melody was a “bunny boiler”, but he was starting to think that maybe he had been too quick to judge and that maybe she wasn’t completely there.
“ Not too long to forget how much fun we had, I’m sure?” She asked- demanded- pouting. Had he really liked that much this woman? He was starting to understand why he had fallen so much for Georgie- as much as hard to get as she had been, she at least knew the meaning of the words “no” and “personal space”.
“Yeah, uh…” He struggled to say, trying to defend himself from her attack and talk at the same time- not an easy task, which he would have never guessed when he had first met the woman. “I know we had a good time. But times have changed, situations have changed, and, uhm, people too, you see…”
Melody parted with him, and put her hands on her hips, leaning against the side of her car; suddenly a little more serious, she closed her eyes and took a big breath, shaking her head as to clear her mind- like having been so close to Christopher had been able to play some games with her, mind and body and soul.
“You know, Christopher, it’s kind of funny, because that’s the reason I wanted to get in touch, and drove all the way from Charleston to see you. I got…” She laughed, shaking her head full of perfectly styled blonde curls. “I got to show you something.” She opened the back door of the bright red SUV, where a baby boy he believed he was quite sure he had already seen somewhere- Chris guessed around the age of two- was sleeping peacefully in his car seat, embracing a teddy bear with a bright blue ribbon around its neck. “His name is Tucker.”
Chris shook his head in almost disbelief, but smiled nevertheless; the baby was extremely cute, and he had always been a sucker for children- even before Cait came into his life. “Wow. You are a mom now!” He asked, barely resisting the urge to tickle the kid- but, if his look at Melody’s eyes, and his personal experience, were teaching him anything, was that the woman was more than happy that her son was deep asleep.
“And you are a dad, Christopher.”
Chris chuckled, smiling brightly, all teeth, and blushed of a gentle shade of pink; his mind went back to that morning and all the days since the baby’s birth, feeding Cait and play with her, and enjoy the small moments spent with his Georgie, cooking together or enjoying a lazy evening while catching up with some TV shows or reading a book.
He wanted to tell Melody everything, about his baby girl and his new life and maybe even compare notes and ask for advice- wasn’t what new parents were supposed to do, after all? But then… then he looked, really looked at the sleeping baby, and he finally remembered where he had seen the baby already; he stopped to think about what he wanted to say, and his mind was suddenly filled with all kinds of questions- questions that, deep down, he had already an answer to.
Melody wasn’t talking about Caitlin. She wasn’t referring to his daughter, but rather… his son.
“He is yours.” She admitted, blushing a little, her voice and her eyes low. He gulped down a mouthful of saliva, realizing that she wasn’t lying; for he had never met the baby before- but Tucker looked exactly like he did when he was his age.
With just a few words, Christopher felt like his whole word was falling down, coming apart at the seams.
Until that morning, Chris had thought to have everything.
And now, he knew he was on the verge of losing it all.