"Bet you can't guess my favorite flavor of ice cream," she'd said when they were loosely holding hands on their first date, smiling up at him, ponytail leaving shadows on her neck just where he wanted to settle his mouth for the rest of his life.
"Sure I can," he'd said, running all of the data he'd accumulated on her through his mind. He stopped walking when it hit him: he'd never surveilled her at an ice cream parlor, had even made a mental note wondering if she were lactose intolerant (sad) or on a diet (unnecessary).
Their joined hands stretched for a moment before she stopped too and came back to him, her smile turning into a grin. In that moment, just before they kissed, he wondered how much she knew.
"Bet you can't keep still for the next three minutes," she said, winding up an egg timer and setting it on her nightstand. He liked that she had an egg timer. He liked that there were books divided by bookmarks piled up next to her bed, that her bed was made imperfectly enough that he could see plain white sheets underneath the forest green blankets and pillows. He liked that he was in here with her, door closed, and that she was looking at him with a sparkle in her eye.
"Sure I can," he said, wondering what she was up to.
Her mouth was on his quicker than he could blink, and she was warm and sweet-smelling pressed up against him. She bit his lower lip and sashayed just out of reach, leaving him a little breathless, sitting on the edge of her green-and-white bed. She reached both her hands behind her, the movement focusing his gaze on her chest, and he could just make out the snick of a zipper as she drew it slowly down. Stepping out of her dress, she turned to toss it behind her and Peter gaped at her, from her pinup hair to her stiletto heels. Her smile grew predatory, and when she unhooked the catch on her bra but clasped it to her chest, letting the straps fall seductively down her arms, he snapped, grabbing her close and pulling her onto the bed with him.
"You . . . lose," she gasped as his mouth closed in on a nipple and one hand caught her by the small of her back, the other diving beneath her fishnets and panties.
He bit her, gently, as the timer dinged. "I don't lose, Elizabeth," he promised her, watching the light in her eyes.
"Bet you can't finish what you started this morning before Dana and John get here," El breathed into his ear, her teeth working on his earlobe.
"How is this fun for you, taunting me?" he asked, already pushing aside paperwork to reach back and wrap an arm around her waist.
"Just a little friendly competition," she said, letting a delicate hand brush the front of his slacks just so. "But if you're not up for it -"
And that was El all over, nothing in her voice, just graceful actions showing off that sharp mind, and he couldn't resist. He pulled her forward and set her down on the dining table, looming over her while he tugged at the knot on her robe. She was naked underneath, still damp from her shower, and he breathed her in, watching her eyes flutter shut as he parted her thighs with firm hands. He didn't know how much time they had, but he wanted to be in her already. Pants and boxers tangling around his knees, he pushed in and she laughed triumphantly, hands reaching up to grab his collar and keep him close.
"Well played," she murmured into his cheek, then kissed him like she was drowning.
"Bet you can't guess what Neal's up to," she said as he drove a nail into the wall to hang a framed canvas.
He was tired from a day of chores, too restless to take another crack at the case files, and he spoke without thinking. "What, he's confiding in you now? Confessing to crimes he wants to commit?"
"Confess- that's not hanging straight. No, he's not confessing to any crimes."
He leaned back to see what she saw, but he was still too close, the royal blues, creams, and chocolate browns of the painting all dancing in front of his eyes. "Then what? An indiscretion? Unless Caffrey's been fraternizing with Cruz . . . or Jones . . . then I don't need to know." He closed his eyes. It was so easy to picture Caffrey with either of them, with any of the witnesses they'd shielded or the suspects they'd chased, Neal with his bright eyes half-shut, his mouth pink and open, his hair disheveled by frantic hands. Uncovered skin glowing, his breath coming fast, an aura of triumph somehow. "I don't want to know."
He opened his eyes to find El in front of him, looking up at him without any pretense. Her hands came up and framed his face. "Peter," she said. "Bet you do."
Another pair of arms circled his waist from behind, and he could smell Neal's aftershave, feel the strength in the hands on him. He closed his eyes again, laid the faintest touch on Neal's hands, and dropped his forehead to El's. "Yeah," he said, "I do."