FIRST, I LOVE YOU
By Genevieve Dewey
Copyright 2012 by Genevieve Dewey, All Rights Reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction; any resemblance to living persons is entirely coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Kiki wrapped her favorite fuzzy robe around herself and curled up in the dark on the divan in her little living room. She turned the TV on and absent-mindedly flipped through the channels. She could hear James entering the room behind her. She kept her eyes on the screen and fought the lump in her throat. She had proven her point, or his point, whatever, and now she wanted to know what he was up to. What he wanted from her (besides the obvious which was now out of the way) and what he wanted from her brother and father.
“Your gun and badge are on the little table by the door if you need to leave. There’s some tiramisu in the fridge if you’re hungry. I made it myself,” she said, doing what she hoped was her best impression of untroubled.
She glanced over her shoulder at him. He looked flat-footed and uncertain, the TV casting shadows across his confused face.
Good, she thought, serves him right. She was so utterly sick of people thinking they knew her, knew what kind of person she was because she was always in the spotlight. Because of who her father was, who her mother was, who her grandfather was, who everybody was, but never really seeing her.
He walked over to the small stand by the door and picked up the gun and badge, but he didn’t put them on. He ran his fingers along the intricately braided woodwork around the edges of the stand with his free hand and said, “This is a nice piece. Is it oak?”
“Tiger maple. My father made it,” she said coolly.
“Your – Downey made this?” James asked, sounding surprised.
“Woodworking is his hobby. He has to do something with all his free time now that he’s retired,” she replied with a knowing smirk, enjoying his discomfort.
He watched her with a wary gaze and slowly came towards the divan. He set his things down next to her purse on the butterfly chair, then sat on the other end of the divan. She looked back at the TV.
“I just want you to know I don’t usually put out on the first date,” he said after a while.
When her head whipped around, he flashed that devastating smile and dimples. She kept staring at him in shock.
“That was a joke, Katherine,” he said softly, his grin slipping a little in a crooked and endearing way. She could see the lights from the city reflecting in his blue eyes. She wondered in an odd, strangely disconnected way how someone with such handsomely dark features had such light eyes.
“I realize that, Agent Hoffman,” she finally said, struggling desperately to keep up her ‘I do this all the time because I’m so erudite’ Ice Queen façade.
“James. Call me James. Don’t you think we should be on a first name basis? I mean, you know,” he said with a nod towards the bedroom.
His grin slipped completely off his face as she continued to stare blankly at him.
“Listen,” he said hesitantly, and scooted closer to her. “Listen, I—”
“If you apologize for what just happened in that room I will beat you senseless with this remote and no one will ever find your body. You know I can make that happen,” she said, gritting her teeth.
He looked taken aback, then let out a long laugh. She tried not to smile, but her stupid lips were betraying her. He looked so damn charming with his dark, wavy hair all rumpled and his dress shirt buttoned up wrong.
“Ok, a) you’re half my size, b) I’m a well-trained Federal Agent, c) that remote would break before you could do any real damage,” he said, moving his hand to her thigh.
She put her hand over his and stopped its exploration. “Ok, a) my smaller size makes me quicker, b) you’re old, so I’d have the advantage of endurance, and c) I could always use your gun… James,” she countered with a smirk.
“I am not that old! I’m only eight years older than you, brat!” he protested, laughing softly now.
He leaned forward, clearly intending on resuming some of their earlier activities, but she pushed him back. His eyes flickered with something, was it uncertainty again? Regret? She couldn’t tell. He raised a hand and gently, slowly, caressed her jaw and neck.
“Did I hurt you?” James whispered, his voice definitely filled with worry.
“No,” Kiki whispered back, feeling tingly where his fingers had been. She looked down and cleared her throat. “Why don’t you tell me what you meant earlier about us being useful to each other.”
She looked back up at him when he didn’t answer. His face had that closed look again, the same one her brother got sometimes where it seemed like he was thinking nothing and seven things all at the same time. She sighed.
“You asked me earlier why I invited my brother’s mother to my birthday party since she’s not family to me,” Kiki began. “I did it because my whole life my father has been in love with her. I knew it, my mother knew it, everyone knew it. Even after she testified for the government, he still loved her and protected her from my grandfather. But I think the only thing he wants more than her is Tommy’s love. I think he feels like she stole Tommy’s affection from him, if you know what I mean?”
James said nothing, but persisted watching her closely. She shook her head in frustration, looked back at the TV, and continued speaking.
“I love Tommy. He’s always been nice to me, and I think he maybe even loves me too. But ever since I was six years old my father has twisted himself inside and out trying to get Tommy’s attention. Nothing Joey and I do ever seems as paramount as his campaign to win the heart and mind of his lover’s child. He didn’t retire for us, he retired for him. It’s hard not to feel… resentful, at times. I figured if Mary came it would force the issue between them, between all of us. Maybe get a little closure so everyone can move on.”
She paused and looked into his eyes, certain she would see that derisive look again he had held earlier, but he was frowning and simply looked pensive. She sighed again, exasperated by his non-responsiveness.
“Obviously you and my brother and Agent Sommers are working together for a reason, and since you and Ginny went to such lengths to get into my party, you need my brother for a specific purpose that I believe involves my father. And you think that I can help you with this goal. Am I right?” Kiki asked.
James was still frowning, but looking at her like he’d just seen her, just now. Like, really saw her. Finally, she thought. He opened his mouth, paused, then frowned some more. He scooted forward again and she raised her eyebrow in warning. His boyish grin finally returned.
“First, I’m sorry for my earlier comments. I was out of line. And second, you’re right, I had… hoped… that we could form a mutually beneficial arrangement,” James said gently.
She cringed at his use of that phrase thinking of the time her father had used it with her mother. Look where that had gotten her mother, gotten both her parents.
“I think we can still be helpful to each other,” he continued. “You want Tommy and your father to form a relationship, and I want Tommy to convince your father to help us on our case. If we work together then—” he stopped as she put up her hand.
She attempted to formulate a thought as her brain seemed to make that scratching record sound.
“Are you insane!?” she asked, utterly flummoxed at his logic. “There is no way in hell my father would ever agree to turn State’s evidence.”
She started to get up, but he restrained her.
“That’s not what I am saying,” he said calmly. She relaxed a little under his intense gaze.
“All we need is to close in on the people who are running a particularly nasty human trafficking ring. This is selling little boys and girls we’re talking about, Kiki. We don’t believe your father is a part of that ring, but we do believe that he may know who is. All we need is to know who the real players are, versus what they want us to think. Downey is supposedly retired, but I think you and I both know that he can’t ever fully retire without leaving the area. He’s got to at least still have casual knowledge of and interaction with the current pecking order,” James said earnestly.
She shook her head, still thinking he was asking the impossible. He lifted his finger to her mouth, distracting them both for a second by tracing her swollen lips.
“If you can help me convince Tommy to increase his interaction with your father, maybe your father’s desire to please Tommy will overcome some of his hesitancy to betray his so-called friends. We can keep his comments confidential. Make sure no one knows he’s been helping us and no one suspects his son is feeding it to us. And remember, nothing he will tell us is really betraying anyone; It’s information we could probably get on our own, just in a more expedient fashion from him,” he finished.
She studied his face, now alight with an almost child-like eagerness.
“And what do I get out of this?” she asked. “I mean, besides Tommy and Daddy mending fences. And stopping some sicko perverts. What part does, did, this play into it?” she asked, indicating them both with her finger.
His face got that pensive look again, and she wished she knew what it was that was darkening his eyes and making him seem so cautious and uncertain now when he had seemed so sure of himself earlier. His eyes dropped to her mouth then met her eyes again. He leaned forward, and this time he didn’t allow her hand to be a barrier, instead he kissed her tenderly, gently, leisurely. She sighed with the sweetness of it.
He pulled away only slightly. “This doesn’t factor into it. It never did. Tell me to leave and I will go. I promise. We can agree to work together or not, but this… this is separate,” he said against her lips.
She had meant to make him suffer, to work for it. But he was looking at her with what could best be described as puppy dog eyes, and suddenly she forgot his obvious lack of respect for her, and all she could think about was how incredibly mind-blowing that sex was with him. In all the years she had been having sex, no one had made her feel so wanted, so desperately needed. It was a heady emotion for a girl who had spent her life largely overlooked except for what her father could give.
She let him part her robe and begin an unhurried, teasing exploration of her body. This time, when he made love to her it was languid and easy and gentle and she did plenty of her own exploring. She tried to fight the fear in her heart that she was playing a game she had no chance of winning with a much more experienced adversary.
In the morning, she woke up alone and stifled the sense of disappointment it brought. They’d just met hadn’t they? It was just a hookup, that’s all. She went to the fridge and took out her tiramisu and a fork from the clean dishwasher. Her automatic coffeemaker had already brewed coffee. She opened her newspaper, enjoying the pleasant comfort of the ritual. She always made a big deal to her friends back east about missing the City, but the truth was she loved living in Chicago. Loved its history, its complexity, even its politics. Here she could just be like everybody else – mostly – and make her own path in the world of fashion and art.
She was looking at the glossy clothing ads when her front door opened. She paused with the fork halfway to her mouth, shocked to see James walk through her door with a bag of groceries in his arms. It was like her mind just jammed. Maybe she hadn’t woken up and she was dreaming.
He set the groceries on the counter and smiled that slow, cat-that-ate-the-canary smile. She felt a flash of pure hatred that he could look so gorgeous and relaxed and put-together this early in the morning like they hadn’t both only had three hours of sleep, tops. His skin looked darker in the morning light against the white shirt he wore tucked into his jeans than it had last night in his dress clothes.
“Where’d you get the change of clothes?” she asked, saying the first thing that came to mind.
“I always carry a change of clothes in my car. That, and an emergency preparedness kit, an extra gun, and… other supplies,” he answered with a wink. “You’re not really going to eat dessert for breakfast, are you? I took the liberty of getting some essentials since your fridge was mostly empty,” he continued saying, taking eggs and milk out of the bag.
“I mostly get take out during the week and cook on the weekends. Daddy came over yesterday for lunch but I sent the manicotti I made home with him. There’s really not much point to cooking when it’s just for yourself,” she said, standing up and trying to straighten out her hair. If she’d known he was coming back, she would have done something about her bed-head. He largely ignored her and continued rattling around trying to find pans and utensils.
“Why don’t you go freshen up for the day while I start this. Take your time, it’ll be a while,” he said as he measured yeast into a large glass mixer.
She was torn between annoyance at being dismissed, in her own kitchen no less, and the desire to make herself more presentable so she wouldn’t feel at a disadvantage. When she came back into the kitchen from getting showered and dressed (and she did take her sweet time, thank you very much), he was placing what looked like half-cooked, thin pancakes on a plate next to some butter.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“Beghrir. Moroccan pancakes. Try it. Put some honey on them. Want some eggs?” he asked, appraising her with an openly appreciative glance.
She knew she looked good in her plum colored scoop-necked baby doll top and skinny jeans with Gucci boots. She’d picked a come-hither outfit out especially to try and regain some measure of control. It was failing miserably. She still felt like Alice down the rabbit hole.
He sat next to her and started eating his pancake with his hand. She gaped at him. He chuckled and wiped some honey and butter off his mouth.
“My mother is Moroccan. She was adopted by my grandpa and grandma Dobson when she was eleven. He and his wife were over there doing Missionary work. Her whole family was wiped out in a disagreement. You don’t get much of that in these modern times, but every once in a while some ancient old family feud crops up. My grandparents would go back every year so she could keep in touch with her roots and because they love the place so much,” he said.
“That’s – that’s amazing, James,” she said, still feeling off-kilter.
“So, what do you normally do on a Sunday?” he asked, clearly changing the subject.
“Well, I usually take a jog along Lakeshore, do some shopping – or fiscal redistribution as I like to call it – and sometimes I go to the museum,” she answered, then took a bite of pancake.
Holy cow, this is delicious, she thought.
“Which one?” he asked, eyes watching her tongue lick her lips.
She shrugged. “I rotate. I wind up at the Museum of Contemporary Art most often. Sometimes I like to go to Navy Pier and watch the kids at the Children’s Museum. There’s something so amazing about their joyful innocence when they discover something new. And the parents always look so bedraggled, but there’s a happy sort of fatigue to it, for the most part…” she trailed off.
He was looking at her again like he had last night, like inside his head was that OnStar voice saying: ‘Recalculating’.
“But today I’m spending it with Joey before he goes back to Virginia,” she finished.
And if he was angling for an invite, he could shove it where the sun don’t shine.
The thought must have been visible on her face because his eyes twinkled with mischief and humor. The corner of his mouth lifted and he nodded. They ate in silence for a bit. It was so quiet she jumped at the sound of her phone ringing, and got up to answer it.
“Good morning, princess,” her father’s gravelly voice purred.
“Hi, Daddy,” she said. She could see James stiffen out of the corner of her eye. She knew he was listening intently.
“You left so early last night; did you get a good night’s sleep? Joe and I are on our way to pick you up, but 290 East has an accident, so it might be a bit,” he continued without waiting for her answer.
“Ok, see you soon,” Kiki said.
“Love you, baby girl,” he replied.
“Love you too, Daddy,” she answered.
James had gotten up and was cleaning his dish off. “Well, I should get going then,” he said, drying his hands.
She nodded, then walked with him to the door. “Thank you for making me breakfast,” she said, looking up at him.
He cupped her face gently with his hands, stared at her intently like he was deciding on something, then bent down and kissed her quickly.
“Remember. It’s separate,” he said, then left.
She thought he had meant it to comfort her, but it sounded more like a warning for some reason.
–Copyright 2012, Genevieve Dewey.
Read on… Chapter Ten, “Mary”
Want a little more James & Kiki? Read a missing love scene in Special Delivery.
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