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Let's Give Them Something to Talk About, part two
by Riley Cannon
Title: Let's Give Them Something to Talk About, Part
Series: Domestic Incidents
Author: Riley Cannon
Subject: B/K, major AU; PG-13 to NC-17
Disclaimers: Fontana, Levinson, HBO, and others own
them; I'm only borrowing them for non-profit sap and
Summary: Obviously this is a sequel to LGTStTA, Part
One. The action picks up a little while after the
conclusion of Part One.
Note: Some characters have been imported from
Homicide: Life on the Streets, mostly because I don't
want to commit any so-far-off-stage Ozzies to any
particular role in case I get a better idea about them
later. For that matter, some who did appear briefly
in Part One may be getting something better to do this
time out. And a few more original characters will be
turning up as needed.
LET'S GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT, Part Two -
Stephanie Carter finger-combed her brown hair as she
slipped her feet into her favorite fuzzy slippers, the
ones that made her think of those exotic big cats,
snow leopards. She looked down at her fuzzy feet,
thinking about how faux fur was politically correct
and all, and no matter what she would never wear
real snow leopard slippers. It was just that
Stephanie kind of regretted she couldn't wear her mink
coat out in public without feeling guilty. It was
definitely one of her favorite things leftover from
her bastard ex-husband.
As she tied the belt of her pink terrycloth robe in a
neat bow and headed downstairs, she considered that
list. The divorce itself had to be number one, then
the alimony, and then the house -- after that? She
turned on the coffee maker, weighing the jewelry
against the condo in Aspen, pretty sure she could lose
the latter in a heartbeat and never miss it. Diamonds
might not be a girl's best friend -- Stephanie
thought she might reserve that spot for certain items
in her nightstand drawer -- but having lots of shiny,
expensive things could never be a bad thing.
That settled, Stephanie opened the front door and went
out to get the morning paper, coming to a dead stop as
she looked across the street and saw him standing
there, bold as brass. Barefoot, bare chested, nothing
but a skimpy pair of gray sweats riding low on his
narrow hips -- looking totally and completely edible
at 6:30 in the morning. She felt an embarrassed flush
at knowing she probably wasn't the only one who
thought so. And like she needed a blatant reminder
that there was no justice in this world.
Picking up the paper, she ignored his friendly wave
and million-watt smile and flounced back into the
house, not quite slamming the door behind her.
Well, she knew why Genevieve had left, anyway.
Although -- Stephanie tugged the curtain aside to
watch him go back inside, having to admit that an ass
like that held the potential of changing your point of
view on a lot of things -- if it had been her, she
might not have said no to a threesome.
Back in the kitchen she spread the paper out on the
table, fixed her first cup of coffee, and started
looking through the personals.
...three weeks ago...
Warm and comfortable, Chris was floating in that
wonderful in-between state of being awake enough to
register that sunlight was streaming through the
window, and that there was a some kind of songbird in
the backyard that really needed to knock it off with
the chirpy racket at this hour of the morning. Even
that wasn't sufficient to urge him to full
wakefulness, however, and he just snuggled a little
closer to Toby, spooning himself along his back and
curling an arm over him. Head resting against Toby's
shoulder, Chris heaved a soft little sigh of pure
contentment, and let himself doze some more. It was
Sunday; he had the whole day free and was in
absolutely no rush to get to anything. Life was good.
When he did actually open his eyes some while later,
he had shifted away from Toby and wound up sprawled
along his side of the bed with his face half-buried in
the pillow and a bare arm and leg sticking out of the
covers. Nor were he and Toby any longer the only ones
in the room. His brain needed a few extra seconds to
fully process what he was seeing: three bright little
faces framed with haloes of golden hair hovered beside
the bed, gazing at him with matching sets of serious
blue eyes. Chris blinked, the image coming into focus
now ... Fuck. "Toby," he managed to raise his head
from the pillow and nudge his lover with an elbow "we
got company." As Toby stirred to life beside him,
Chris pulled all extremities back under the covers,
wishing the kids would go find something else to stare
at. He was also getting an idea of how come Toby
insisted they both wear some clothes to bed, no matter
His sense of mild dismay only increased as Toby sat up
and looked over at the kids, face lit with a sleepy
smile. And because Chris thought a really good idea
would be the kids going downstairs to watch cartoons
or something, he derived no reassurance from what Toby
actually did. Which was to pat the mattress and say,
"Come on, guys." At which point there was much
jostling and bumping as three tiny Beechers clambered
aboard and clustered around their father.
This meant a couple were also clustered around Chris,
and he just smooshed his face back into the pillow,
only able to think, What the fuck? Not to mention,
what kind of cop didn't notice three intruders
sneaking up on him? Very small intruders, true
enough, but suppose he was ever out investigating some
midget-related crime? He'd feel pretty stupid,
wouldn't he, if he got taken by surprise by marauding
midgets just because it never crossed his mind to be
on the lookout for that.
And mostly he wondered if this kind of thing was
likely to happen a lot. He sighed into the pillow,
contemplating that prospect. It hadn't been an issue
with any other guys he'd gone out with, and had only
come up a couple of times with girls he'd dated.
Since there hadn't been any major sparks flying in
those instances, the kid issue had never come up.
That was another way this thing with Toby was a whole
different situation. There was no pretending this
wasn't a crucial point to factor into this whole
moving in together business. There were a lot of
guys, maybe some women, too, who might look at it as
being a pretty good reason for him to grab his hat and
Oh hell, who was he was trying to kid? He'd take life
with Toby on any terms, miniature Beechers included.
After one week of them officially being a couple
that much was as obvious as the nose on his face.
Besides, it wasn't like kids were that big a mystery
to him. With seven nieces and nephews he figured he
had some idea of how kids worked. This would be
different though, there was no getting around that.
Where he could just hand Adrienne or Joey Angelo back
to their parents when he got tired of them, dealing
with Gary and Holly and Harry was going to be a
full-time thing. Could he do that? Being an uncle
was a breeze, sure, he had that absolutely nailed.
What he'd be taking on here would be something a lot
closer to being a dad, though. And Chris knew he'd be
fibbing big time if he claimed that didn't scare him.
Yeah -- and maybe more than just a little.
Christ, it was no wonder O'Reily kept having kittens
about his impending fatherhood. And Chris guessed he
was no longer in any position to rib his partner about
Listening to the murmur of conversation going on
around him, he latched onto one comment: Toby telling
the kids to go downstairs. This was good. He rolled
over in time to see Gary helping Harry down off the
bed, then all three of them scampering out the door.
"What was that about?"
"It's Sunday morning." Toby said it as if that was
supposed to cover everything.
Chris cocked an eyebrow at him to show that it didn't.
"And," Toby was out of bed, rummaging in a dresser
drawer, "every Sunday morning -- well, barring last
week," he turned and tossed Chris a pair of navy
sweats and a t-shirt, "they bring up the paper and we
read it together before heading downstairs to fix
breakfast." As he spoke, Toby was pulling on a pair
of cotton, blue-and-green-plaid pajama bottoms. "It's
kind of a routine now. They'll be back in five
minutes," Toby added, his voice muffled as he put on a
And kids were really into routine. Chris knew that
much. Feeling a pang of nostalgia for last weekend,
when he'd had Toby all to himself, he slid out of bed
and started dressing. "They don't gotta go to Sunday
school or something?"
"How come? Don't you Episcopalians do that?"
"We do that. I just want to wait and see what they're
curious about before getting them into anything
official." Toby sat back down on the bed, giving him
a thoughtful look. "That okay with you?"
Chris shot him a startled look back. "Yeah," he said,
a little cautious. He wasn't actually being asked for
input on how to bring up the kids, was he? "That's
probably a good idea," he said, smoothing a hand back
over his hair. "Let them find something that feels
comfortable." Christ knew he might have had an easier
time if the faith he was raised in hadn't made him
feel bad about who he wanted to sleep with. "Just
don't tell Mom or Aunt Ro you're shopping around for
religion -- they'll want them growing up Catholic."
"Would that be a bad thing?" Toby was looking at him
like he really wanted to know.
"Not bad, maybe." Chris sat back down, facing him
cross-legged. "It's got a lot of potential for kind
of fucking a person up, though." Although the
Catholics didn't exactly have the market cornered on
that by any means. Rev. Vern and Faith of Our Fathers
Ministries was proof was of that.
"Are you speaking from personal experience?" Toby
reached over to run his fingers along the crucifixion
"Yeah, a little. It could've been a lot worse,
though." He knew he'd lucked out with having parents
who were a lot more devoted to their kids than to any
pope in Rome. "I think God's something you sorta have
to find on your own, at least if you really care about
its being something real and not just what you do on
Toby looked like that made him happy for some reason.
"That's what I think. I guess some of it comes from
not being sure where the best answers are for me, so I
don't want to force anything on the kids." He scooted
a little closer, hooking his hands around Chris' neck.
"And you just never know where you might find what
you're looking for."
Chris had a feeling Toby might be talking about
something besides God here. "You got that right,
babe," he said, moving in for a quick kiss, then a
slightly longer one, pulling back as the patter of
little feet approached the door. One of the issues
they were still ironing out was this intimacy deal,
how much to let the kids see, how to tell them what
was going on. He wasn't sure, but something told him
the kids finding them together in bed might have been
a little further down the schedule. Maybe they were
too young to attach much significance to that, though?
Whatever they might think, it wasn't deterring them
from piling back on the bed, Harry getting an assist
from his sister this time as Gary handed the rolled up
newspaper to his father. And no matter what stage he
and Toby might be at in their relationship, Chris
figured this was one of those family only moments, and
seized the opportunity to excuse himself and head for
At least he had some cause to believe they would make
some new family rituals in time. So it didn't bother
him too much to have to be left out of this one. That
struck him as a pretty encouraging frame of mind for
him to be in, all things considered.
Toby smiled, watching his lover flee into the
bathroom. As escapes went, it was all very cool and
smooth, of course, but he wasn't fooled. He just
hoped that rapid retreat wasn't because Chris had any
kind of loopy idea he didn't have any business being
part of this. His smile faded just a bit as he
thought about that. He might not be a certified
expert in all things Chris Keller, but he had noted
that if there was some squidge of pessimism to be
derived from any given situation, his lover would be
the one to find it.
And sure enough -- Chris came back out, saying, "Guess
I'll go get breakfast started, then," and started for
Fortunately he had to pass right by Toby on the way,
making it easy for Toby to just snag his hand and keep
him there. It beat having to leap off the bed and
tackle him anyway. "No, the routine goes: we all read
the paper, then we all go downstairs and I fix
pancakes. Failure of any party residing under this
roof to fully comply with these established rules can
result in severe penalties."
"Yeah?" Chris gave him an interested look. "What --
you gonna spank me?" he said, blue eyes trying to look
innocent as an angel.
Biting back a smile, Toby said, "Keep it up and you'll
"Keep what up?"
His lover's smile stretched a little more, dimples
digging deep. A more serious look in his eyes,
though, he said, "Yeah, but, you and the kids--"
"Won't take no for an answer."
"Yeah," Chris narrowed his eyes at him, "I've kinda
Toby smiled, glad his lover had picked up on that
much, at least. He looked at the kids. "It's okay if
Chris joins us?"
They nodded their heads with even more enthusiasm than
expected, instantly scootching around to make room for
"I think you're popular," Toby whispered in his ear as
Chris sat down. And he loved the little embarrassed,
borderline shy, look that flashed over the handsome
face. He loved even more that as much as Chris might
feel a little out of his element here, with the kids
settled around him and vying for his attention, he was
making a real effort to get the hang of things.
The kids were making it a little easier than expected.
If they weren't quite sure why Chris was hanging
around here so much, let alone what he was doing in
their daddy's bed, they seemed comfortable with him.
The motorcycle was definitely part of the allure;
being a cop didn't hurt, either -- Holly especially
had looked over his badge and I.D. with a lot of
fascination. Gary was a little more interested in the
specifics of what Chris did day to day -- were there a
lot of car chases and stuff like on television, for
instance. Harry mostly just wanted to take everything
apart and play with it. Toby had to marvel at Chris'
patience in answering all their questions very
seriously, and not minding when his badge and I.D.
came back covered with sticky fingerprints. Showing
them how to take and lift fingerprints had been a
major hit. They were still going around examining
every shiny surface, and more than once he'd spotted
one of them carefully wiping down the cookie jar,
kitchen counter and cabinets when they had been
getting into something they shouldn't.
At the moment they were content to group around Chris
and point out which comics they wanted him to read out
loud next. Smiling as he listened to him reading
'Peanuts,' Toby sorted through the other sections,
checking the sports page, arts and leisure, before
picking out the op/ed section and skimming through it
-- huffing a little as he paused to scan one piece.
"What is it?"
"Just an editorial by Reverend Vern."
"Who's Reverend Vern?" Holly asked.
Toby shared a long look with Chris, not sure how to
explain about bigoted, dangerous fatheads cloaking
themselves in religious dogma. Deciding to attempt
some slight civility, he said, "He's a very foolish
man." Albeit one Toby had only recently begun paying
real attention to since recent developments in his
life had made the Reverend's words start hitting a
whole lot closer to home.
Chris playfully nudged him with a bare foot. "He only
has power if you let his words get to you, Tobe --
forget about it."
Toby squinted a dubious look at him. "That's very
enlightened of you."
"I have my moments," his lover replied with a
diffident shrug, a smile sparking his eyes.
"Believe me, Keller, you have a lot more than
moments." And all of a sudden Toby kind of wished
they didn't have the kids around right at this moment.
Hmm, this was going to be a little tricky at times,
Since the timing was off, however, he said, "So
everyone ready for pancakes?" when what he really
wanted to do right now would have involved using a
bottle of maple syrup in a manner not at all
recommended. Well, it wasn't like he couldn't have a
sweet little snack later tonight, when the kids were
all tucked up in bed.
"What are looking at me like that for?" Chris said,
squirming a little.
Toby just smiled and winked, leaning over to whisper
in his ear, "Tell you later." He was pretty sure
Chris' smile meant he'd be looking forward to that.
"You're really making pancakes?" Chris watched as
Toby got a box of Hungry Jack flour off a shelf and
setting it on the counter, adding a mixing bowl and
whisk. Just because he was seeing it didn't mean he
had to believe it, though.
Giving him a prim little look, Toby said, "Yep."
Chris leaned against the counter, arms folded over his
chest, feeling he needed to pin this down precisely.
"You're making pancakes?"
Toby sniffed, looking a little huffy now. "We have
established that, yes."
"Uh-huh. So ... If I leave the kitchen you're not
gonna dig a package of frozen pancakes out of the
freezer, nuke 'em in the microwave, and pass them off
as homemade?" Chris wanted to be absolutely clear on
this. He also wanted to enjoy how cute Toby looked
the huffier he got.
"Have you seen a package of frozen pancakes in the
"Well... It's hard to tell with all the ice cream you
got jammed in there."
"I seem to recall someone really enjoying that ice
Well, Chris couldn't dispute that. All the same...
"It's not what you'd call nutrious, though."
"Oh, that's rich coming from a guy who doesn't want
his mommy finding out he eats Pop-Tarts," Toby
Reining in something close to a huff, Chris frowned.
"That's a low blow, Beecher."
"It's what you get for mocking my pancakes. Besides,
I thought you liked low blows," he added, looking at
Chris in a way that made him think pancakes weren't
the only things Toby wanted to slather with butter and
Fuck. "Umm..." He licked dry lips, tried again.
"You think your folks'd mind watching the kids for a
"I expect something could be arranged," Toby said,
measuring flour into the bowl.
Chris stepped a little closer, trailing his fingers
along the back of Toby's neck, smiling as he felt him
shiver a little. "There anything I can do to help?"
"Sure?" Chris ran his hand lightly down Toby's back,
feeling the bumps of his spine through the blue polo
he'd put on.
"I need to whisk the batter," Toby said, voice gone
kind of breathy.
"Am I keeping you from your whisking?" Chris
whispered, nuzzling his ear.
He grinned and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek.
"Well we can't have that." He stepped back. "Call me
if you need anything."
Toby watched him exit the kitchen, sighed and shook
his head, not quite able to wipe the goofy smile off
his face. God, now he couldn't even make pancakes
without its being loaded with sexual innunedo.
Somehow he couldn't seem to mind that.
...to be continued...
LET'S GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT, Part Two -
Toby watched Chris exit the kitchen, sighed and shook
his head, not quite able to wipe the goofy smile off
his face. God, now he wouldn't even be able to make
pancakes without its being loaded with sexual
innuendo. He guessed that's what he got for taking up
with someone who practically asked, You want sex with
that? with every move he made.
Somehow he couldn't seem to mind that. Well, not so
long as that behavior was for him alone. He was
trying not to have insecurities about that, telling
himself that was just Chris' way; flirting, turning on
the charm, was practically an autonomic reflex for
Smile turning a little wry, Toby checked to see how
the griddle was heating up -- and no one would blame
him for automatically thinking of Chris in relation to
things were hot, right? That aspect of Chris Keller
was right up there with some immutable law of nature,
and he might as well try bitching to Isaac Newton
about the laws of physics if he was going to fret
himself goofy about Keller using his God-given assets.
He whisked the batter more briskly, figuring if Chris
could work on his insecurities, then he could do
something about this possessiveness. In both cases it
came down to trust and confidence. Most things did.
Done whisking, he carefully poured the batter out,
tidying up each circle so they would look closer to
the picture on the box. And like Chris was going to
care if they came out looking a little irregular? He
shook his head at himself and opened the refrigerator,
reaching for the carton of orange juice and frowning
as he sloshed it around. Hmm ... They were about out
of milk, too, and eggs, veggies -- pretty much
everything, he realized as he made a more thorough
inventory, looking in the pantry, too. Well, he
hadn't been shopping in over a week and his agenda at
that time had been stocking up for a certain weekend
of love; household necessities had not been high on
that particular list.
He flipped the pancakes, calculating how much time
would be required for a shopping trip to get fully
restocked. Factor in having three kids along and it
quickly added up to not having a lot of time left for
grabbing an afternoon's delight for themselves. Toby
puffed out his cheeks, thinking they could drop the
kids off at his folks, do the shopping, and then rush
back here. The main thing wrong with that scenario
was that making love with Chris wasn't something he
ever wanted to rush.
Actually, he pondered this some more, this could be a
good little dress rehearsal of what this new life was
going to be like. Even though Chris had been around
quite a lot this past week, sleeping over four out of
seven nights, there was still a tentative quality
hovering over everything. So maybe this was as a good
a time as any to start trying things out as a family.
He just wouldn't make too big a deal about it. The
trick, Toby had quickly learned, was not to nag and
pester the big goof about things like this. Let Chris
set the pace, don't make a fuss, and he'd settle right
in and make himself at home. Turn it into some kind
of production, though, and you spooked him off for a
while. All of which made Toby think that if Aunt
Felicia was right about this reincarnation stuff,
Chris must have been a stray cat in a prior life.
Toby smiled at that image in his head, of himself
keeping very still and quiet, Chris gradually sidling
up to him -- lured over, perhaps, by a fresh from the
oven pizza? -- and took the pancakes off the griddle.
He placed them in a chafing dish to keep warm, and
then opened the fridge to look over the contents once
more. He figured they might as well use the few eggs
remaining, and that little bit of ham, and was just
breaking eggs into a skillet when someone knocked at
He frowned over there, seeing Stephanie Carter from
across the street waving and aiming a big smile at
him. Now what? Some other expression of gratitude
for helping her find a good divorce lawyer? "Come on
in," he called over to her, "it's open."
Looking over her shoulder at the cheval mirror,
Stephanie checked out her ass one more time, feeling
pretty confident it was shown to advantage by her
jeans. She turned around, patting her flat tummy and
hiking her pink tee up a little more. If you were
going to get your belly button pierced there wasn't
any sense in being shy about showing it off, right?
Her mouth quirked with a wry smile, easily imagining
her sonofabitch ex going all self-righteous about her
being some latter-day Jezebel, parading around in such
a skimpy outfit. He'd liked it well enough when he
was getting a show from some prostitute in a cheap
hotel, though. So screw him.
She touched up her lipstick, good and red, and
looked herself up and down once more, thinking a
really good investment had been that membership down
at the health club. Divorce was a wonderful thing,
she thought as she headed out. Right there in court
she'd lost a hundred-and-ninety pounds of husband.
At the curb, she looked across the street, checking to
make sure the Harley was still parked in the driveway.
It was, so Tobias' tall, dark and sexy friend must
still around. So -- maybe it wasn't exactly the
neighborly thing to barge in and ask for an
introduction. Stephanie couldn't imagine too many
people would hold it against her, not if they'd got a
good long look at him. How he was connected to Tobias
had her beat. An old pal from Harvard, maybe? He
didn't exactly have Ivy League written all over him --
more like: Fuck me, I'm hot -- but that didn't
necessarily mean anything these days. But if you came
right down to it, he didn't exactly look like anyone
who would be hanging out with Tobias Beecher, not
unless there were some really unexpected depths to
Tobias. That wouldn't actually surprise her. No one
was that buttoned down just for the fun of it.
First she was going to have to get by Mrs. Willoughby
next door, though, if she was going to get at least
her curiosity satisfied. Sure enough, the old
busybody was out there, planting some bulbs near the
lilacs, and keeping an eye out for any unlucky soul
who passed by. She always made Stephanie think of
that poem, The Ancient Mariner, stopping people to
unload some cockamamie story.
"Don't you look pretty, though," Mrs. Willoughby said,
taking off her gardening gloves and straw hat,
brushing at her wispy, faded strawberry blonde hair.
Stephanie's best guess was that Mrs. Willoughby was
pushing eighty, but Christ only knew for sure. They
made the usual small talk, progressing from what a
beautiful day it was, you could just feel spring in
the air, to how Mrs. Willoughby thought she might go
down to the mall later and check out that department
store that had just opened up. Finally the topic came
around to what was really on the old bat's mind,
"You're not visiting Tobias, are you, dear?"
"I might drop in for a minute," Stephanie said. There
was hardly any point in denying her destination since
Mrs. Willoughby would be keeping an eagle eye on her
all the while. "What about it?" she returned, kind of
sharp, but figuring she was entitled. If five years
of marriage to an asshole didn't relieve a person of
having to be diplomatic all the time, then she didn't
know what would. Besides, she knew where this was
"Well," Mrs. Willoughby put her hat back on, then her
gloves, "I'd think a sensible young woman would know
better, that's all. We have no idea what's become of
Genevieve, after all. Ii>I'd be very careful of
getting mixed up with that young man, that's what I
Yep, that was it: Tobias must have murdered Genevieve
and buried her in the backyard. Among all the
things wrong with that was that, according to Mrs.
Willoughby, that was the story behind every absent
spouse in the neighborhood -- they were all dead and
buried in their backyards.
"Genevieve ran away with a lover." Even though she
knew it wouldn't do any good, Stephanie thought she
owed it to Tobias to at least point that out.
Mrs. Willoughby sniffed at that, sticking her trowel
in the dirt, loosening it up. "Did anyone see her run
off with this lover? No, you mark my words, something
shady happened. You see it on television all the
"Maybe you shouldn't watch so much television,"
She managed to make her escape when Mrs. Willoughby
spotted Jonah, the tomcat from down the street and the
worst horndog on four feet, making a beeline for her
Miss Priss. With the old biddy off to rescue her cat,
Stephanie wasted no time in crossing the street so she
could check out the other potential neighborhood
If Toby had been slightly perplexed at Stephanie
popping over out of the blue, everything began making
sense as their conversation progressed. Just the way
she briskly moved things along told him she wasn't
that concerned with how he was making out as a
suddenly single father. And once that idle chitchat
was out of the way, she got right to the point.
"So," she leaned back against the center island, arms
folded under her breasts, "you got yourself a Harley?"
He guessed it wouldn't be too subtle to tell her,
'Well, no, but I got myself a boyfriend who rides
one.' On the other hand, did subtlety even rank that
high as a priority? Not to mention he was just a
little miffed she automatically assumed the Harley
wasn't his. He could ride a motorcycle if he wanted
to. In fact he was looking forward to Chris giving
him a ride so he could see what it was like.
Still -- he turned the slices of ham in another
skillet -- he opted to just say, "No, that belongs to
a friend of mine." First try diplomacy, then whap 'em
over the head if that failed.
Her ingenuous reply, "Oh -- yeah, I thought I'd seen
someone around," didn't fool him for a moment. She'd
probably had her binoculars trained on Chris every
time he stepped outside. Not that Toby could
necessarily blame her, given Chris was worth some
Before he could think of a delicate way to tell her to
fuck off, the source of all this interest popped back
in, saying, "Hey, Tobe? I think Harry needs changing.
Oh -- hello." Chris hovered in the doorway,
surprised to see they had company but sending her a
Stepping into the awkward moment -- even if it was
only awkward for one person in the room, Toby said,
"This is Mrs. Carter from across the street." He
didn't miss the annoyed look she flashed him at being
introduced that way.
She sent Chris a bright smile, however, taking a few
steps forward and extending her hand. "It's
Stephanie, actually; the missus is history."
"Chris Keller." He smiled back and shook her hand,
but didn't linger over it.
Okay, maybe it was time to try out that resolve not to
act like a possessive, jealous dork every time someone
ogled Chris. It wasn't Chris' fault he had that
effect; it probably wasn't even Stephanie's fault she
couldn't resist. "You think you can finish up here?"
he said, pointing his spatula at the stove.
"Yeah, I think I can handle eggs and ham." Chris took
the utensil from him, turning the eggs.
"Uh-huh. So when are you going to get a handle on
Chris flashed him a little smirk. "How 'bout when I
have a kid of my own."
Smart-ass. "All right, I'll be right back." Five,
ten minutes -- what could happen? Not to mention:
either he trusted Chris, or he didn't. Was it a
really bad sign that he wanted to tell Chris to go
put on a shirt, though?
Damn, this stuff was complicated.
Stephanie had to admit Tobias was going around with a
different kind of aura today. She'd never denied he
was cute, but she also hadn't automatically thought
Tobias - sexy. He had a brand new sizzle to him now,
though, that made him a lot more intriguing. He was
looking pretty tasty in his jeans and blue polo, too
-- just not quite as scrumptious as his friend.
"So, Chris," she resumed her former pose, leaning
against the counter, striking a little pose with one
leg crossed over the other, a hand at one hip, the
other resting against her thigh, "what business are
you in?" She wasn't even going to make a guess at
that. He wasn't all buttoned down, she could tell
that much, but beyond that...? He could be anything
from a wiseguy with the mob to a Chippendales dancer.
"I'm a cop," he told her, taking the eggs off the
burner and poured them into one of the chafing dishes.
Okay, that wouldn't have been her first guess, and she
kind of hated to give up the Chippendales dancer one.
Maybe that explained the connection to Tobias, though.
"So what kind of cop? I mean," she let herself look
him over again, silently applauding that he didn't
mind dressing to show off his body -- and that he had
something worthy of display, "I'm guessing you're not
a meter maid."
He flashed that gorgeous smile again -- white teeth
and dimples, crystal blue eyes sparkling -- and said,
"Nah, I look lousy in a skirt."
She could believe that. Tight jeans and that ass
were made for each other, however. And why had she
ever thought sleeveless t-shirts weren't sexy? Maybe
because it was a long time since she'd seen one
clinging to a torso like that. Used to be tattoos
didn't do a lot for her, either -- now her fingers
were itching to trace the lines of that striking
crucifixion image on his arm. "Well I'd say you
worked vice, but that's almost too easy."
"Oh -- I know what that is, that's one of those double
entendres, right?" he returned, still smiling.
Damn -- sexy and sassy, and a pretty smart cookie,
too, if she was reading him right. Jesus, did they
really make them like this? "So, is it a mystery?
Maybe you're into undercover work?"
"Yeah," he drawled playing along, "but not the kind
they pay you for. Nah, I'm in homicide."
"Yeah?" she said, thinking any kind of police
detective could be worth knowing, the way things were
shaping up. "That ever overlap with robbery and
"It can." He was taking the ham off the burner now.
"Kinda depends on who got whacked and how come."
Yes, she bet he could be very handy to have around if
things played out the way Jim was thinking they would.
Come to that, someone getting whacked over all that
might not be such a wild stretch of the imagination,
either. And Stephanie guessed all that was one of
those classic, 'If I'd only known,' set ups. Just
went to show, say 'I do' to the wrong guy and you
could wind up in a whole load of shit. Sometimes she
figured there wasn't a whole lot of difference in
being married to the mob and being married to Faith of
Chris was giving her a curious look now, like she'd
been quiet a little too long and he wondered what was
up. "There something on your mind, Steph?"
Oh, now, that wasn't fair. Ordinarily she hated being
called that, but he said it so nice she'd bet he could
call you ma'am and make it a compliment. Tempting
as it was to trot out her dilemma and get a
professional opinion on it, though, maybe she ought to
wait until she had some actual facts and not just her
big brother's suspicions. "Just weighing some pros
and cons," she said.
"'Bout what?" He leaned against the opposite counter,
watching her, real intent and serious.
"Well I've been thinking about getting a new bike, but
could use some advice. How's your Harley handle?" If
that wasn't exactly what she wanted to talk about, it
was as good a jumping off point as any.
Toby knew he was insane to hear any kind of innuendo
in, "How's your Harley handle?" but that didn't keep
him from striding back into the kitchen, trying not to
shoot them both a suspicious look. "What about a
Harley?" he said, moving up beside Chris.
"Steph was just saying she's in the market for one."
Chris gave him a funny little look, like he was kind
of suspicious himself.
Steph? He'd introduced them five minutes ago, and it
was already Steph? He instructed himself to take some
deep breaths, reminding himself that was just Chris'
way; being easy and familiar with people was just what
he did. Even so, he sidled a little closer until
there was contact. "Is that why you were sizing up
Now Stephanie was giving him a funny look, but not
quite connecting the dots. "Uh-huh. I thought Chris
might give me some advice." She looked at Chris
again. "I was thinking of checking out that new shop
that's opened up, down at the mall. Maybe you could
come along and give me some ideas."
Oh yes, Toby just bet she needed Chris to give her
some ideas. Maybe it was time to drop the tactful
approach and go straight to the whapping over the head
portion. He'd just cross his fingers that it didn't
get him whapped right back.
Slipping his arm around Chris' waist, he said, "Gee, I
don't know. What do you think, Cupcake?" He turned
his head to meet a pair of bemused blue eyes. "Will
we have time to help Stephanie and do all our
shopping, too? I know you had your heart set on
looking at some new drapes, and we really do need some
new linen for the bed. What do you think?" Belatedly
it occurred to him it probably wasn't a good idea to
piss off a homicide detective. They probably knew all
sorts of ingenious ways to kill you.
Well ... damn. Stephanie paused in the driveway,
looking back at them through the kitchen window,
realizing she should have known it was too good to be
true. No way was a guy like that single and
And the worst thing wasn't even that she felt like an
idiot -- a really disappointed idiot. No, as she
watched them move towards each other and kiss, the
worst fucking thing was that she couldn't seem to
help thinking they were kind of hot. What the fuck
was that about?
"Cupcake?" Chris gave him his best stare, challenging
him to have a fucking good explanation.
Trying to look cute -- and not doing a bad job of it
-- Toby said, "Uhm ... You don't like Cupcake? How
"How about you tell me what that was about?"
Toby shot him a wary look now. "First you have to
promise not to kill me."
"I gotta give it to you in writing?"
Toby huffed. "Okay, I'm an idiot--"
"Well we're agreed on that much."
"Look," Toby moved in close again, looking all sweet
and sexy, his arms going around Chris' neck, "I'm a
nut, okay, I admit it. I can promise you a lot, but
don't ask me to like it when someone's looking at you
like they want to take you for a ride."
He was nuts all right, but it was kind of hard to mind
him getting all goofy. Chris put his arms around
Toby, pulling him in closer. "Just 'cause they want a
test drive don't mean they're gonna get one."
"I know that, I do."
Chris gave him a really serious look. "You're sure?"
Toby's, "Yes," wasn't one hundred percent convincing,
but it would do for now, and Chris dipped his head to
drop a quick kiss on his lover's lips.
"Just don't ever call me Cupcake again," he said as he
let him go.
"Deal," Toby agreed, drawing him back for a longer
All the people in the world and he had to fall in love
with a nutbar, Chris thought, threading his fingers
through Toby's hair, knowing he really wouldn't have
it any other way.
"Don't you gotta make a list of all your lists now?"
Chris said, leaning over Toby's shoulder as he sat at
his desk, organizing their shopping expedition.
"Well we can't all go through life on a whimsy," Toby
replied, kind of snippy.
"Whimsy, huh?" Chris lowered himself to straddle
Toby's lap, sliding his hands around to cup the nape
of his neck. "That the same kinda thing as
Toby licked his lips. "It's the same ballpark, yeah."
"Hmmm... So I guess this is being too whimsical, huh?"
Chris whispered the words against his ear, nuzzling a
moment before flicking his tongue against it.
"It's really...bad...omigawd...timing... Chris."
Chris kissed his lips, lingering. "So I guess you
don't want to find out how my Harley handles, huh?"
to be continued
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