|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:40:46 PM|
Rating: NC17 (depends on the part)
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything remotely involved with Roswell or UPN so please don’t sue.
Summary: Detective Liz Parker thought that she had some unusual undercover assignments before, but trying to crack a baby-smuggling ring will be the toughest yet. Especially since she has to play a unwed, pregnant women. Even worse is that she has to pretend to be in love with Max Evans a macho, arrogant cop. That is until she has to spend time with him in close quarters.
Note: This based on a book I read like 6 years ago.
It was after ten at night, yet the heat still lingered in the air. Max Evans tried in vain to remember the last time it had rained.
Another August in the South. Why he didn’t move up north when his parent’s had four years ago to escape the heat he didn’t know.
His day hadn’t gone all that good, first his car has a total meltdown, then he’d been yelled at, had coffee spilled on him and had a drunk throw up on his shoes. Some day’s Max wondered why he bothered getting out of bed.
He was almost home so he has to sigh in quiet relief. His apartment building stood before him like a safe haven from the mean streets.
“Hey, sugar. You looking for a friend tonight.”
Max turned to see a women standing against a brick wall by his building, barely visible under the streetlamp. Though he could make out long flowing brown hair that feel around her behr shoulders, a white see through tank top that moulds itself to full breasts, a skintight red Lycra skirt that was so short he wondered why she bothered wearing the thing, and legs that seemed to go for miles before ending in heals that were so high he wondered how she could walk in the things.
“Fuck” he said quietly to himself, did he really have to put up with such shit right in front of his apartment?
“What’s the matter honey? Cat got your tongue?” Without hearing his reply, she murmured provocatively, “You’re looking kinda lonely, how about you and me have a little party?”
Max felt the weight of his badge and weapon lying heavily beneath his sweat-damp clothing. This wasn’t the first time he wished he could ignore them. “Go away. This is a decent neighbourhood,” be muttered crossly.
She only came closer. A small hand tipped with long blue nails reached out to stroke Max’s behr arm. “Well aren’t we a strong one,” she cooed. “We could have ourselves some real fun. Wanna ask me up to your place?”
“I’d rather spend an hour locked in a room with a nest of cobra’s,” Max said and he meant it.
Brown doe eyes looked at Max with laughter in them. “Why sugar I’m crushed.”
Max had had enough, he was tired, hot, hungry and pissed off. All he wanted to do was go to his apartment have a sandwich, beer and crash in front of the T.V for a couple of hours before going to bed – alone. He had just turned thirty, way too young to feel this old. This only made him even more pissed.
“Cut it out Parker, just tell why you’re here” he growled.
Liz sighed deeply dropping his arm at the same time. When she spoke her voice was still husky but brisk. “Lieutenant Valenti sent a message. He wants up both in his office at Eight o’clock tomorrow morning.”
“I’m on assignment tomorrow. He knows that.”
Liz shook her head, making her hair dance around her shoulders. “Not anymore, something big has come up. Looks like we’re going to be partners again, Evans.”
Liz shot him a look, “I’m not exactly stoked about the idea either, not after our last assignment.”
“What do you mean by that! Who’s the one-“
“Keep it down, will you?” Liz looked around making sure no-one heard that little outburst. “See this is exactly what I mean you have no self control. If you hadn’t lost it on that bust-“
“If I hadn’t LOST IT you’d be dead right now,” Max reminded Liz bluntly.
“I could have handled things if you hadn’t of burst in like that and blew my cover,” Liz threw back.
“Fuck, Parker, if I’d waited any longer you would have been carried out of there in a body bag. I never expected undying gratitude, but –“
“Whatever. So who took care of the guy who was about to blow your brains out, hmm?” Liz shot back.
“If only you’d-“
Liz lifted both hands, and took a step away from him. “Leave it I’m as tired as you Evans and I still got a couple of hours till I finish. If you got a problem, take it up with Valenti.”
“I just might do that”.
“Fine.” Liz turned away walking to her car stashed around the corner.
Liz looked over her shoulder. “Yeah.”
“You look like a slut.”
Her eyes flashed, but her mouth just turned into a feline like smile. Her voice becoming liquid seduction again. “I’m paid to look like a slut Evans. But I think I pull it off don’t you?”
Liz reached out suddenly and grabbed Max’s right buttock and gave it a squeeze.
Max jerked away feeling his face start to heat up, even as a curse hissed through his teeth. She’d caught him off guard again God damit. “Keep your hands to yourself Parker.”
Liz laughed having won that round. “It might be a bit tough, but I’m sure I can manage” she replied with a smirk. “Sweets dreams.”
Max watched Liz walk away finding it too hard not to admire the way her ass swayed in that tiny, tiny skirt. It was one great body, he thought, feeling his jeans just get a little bit tighter. Just a bummer that it belonged to one Liz Parker.
[ edited 9 time(s), last at 29-Jul-2002 1:27:27 AM ]
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:42:05 PM|
Max’s mood hadn’t improved much by 8.05 the next morning. He’d cut himself shaving, his car was in the shop so he had to bum a ride to work, and it was already ninety degrees outside.
Lieutenant Valenti was talking on the phone when Max stormed into his office. A women sat in one of the chairs on the other side of Valenti’s desk. She was reading a report but looked up when Max came into the office. She’s had long glossy brown hair, deep brown doe like eye’s and a deceptively soft mouth. She wore no makeup, which make her a lot younger then she really was. Her clothing consisted of a pale pink blouse beneath a grey jacket that matched a knee length skirt. She wore sensible black shoes with a two inch heal on her feet. She could have been a teacher or even a librarian.
Ten hours earlier shed been a hooker.
Max nodded to her. “Parker,” he mumbled.
“Good morning Max,” her voice annoyingly friendly. “Sleep well?” she said with a smirk on her lips.
He knew he looked like shit, how the hell did she look so fresh after working till after midnight he wondered? He ignored her question.
Valenti finished his call greeting Max.
“Jim what’s going on here? You know how close I am to closing the Sutherland case, another couple of days and we’ll nail the asshole.”
“We’ve got enough on Sutherland to pull you off the case,” Valenti assured Max. “The other guys can wrap it up from here.”
Max really hated to leave a case before it was finished but he knew that Jim wouldn’t pull him without a good enough reason. “What you got?”
“A possible baby-selling scam down in the west end. Nothing sold but enough to start an investigation. You and Parker will be on loan to the west precinct. We think it will take a couple of weeks to establish your cover - another couple to finish it off. If all goes well that is.”
Max groaned “I have to work a whole month with Parker maybe longer you gotta be kidding me!”
“Hey it’s not exactly my idea of heaven either you know,” snapped Liz.
“You just better hold up your end this time,” Max warned her.
“You can kiss my end,” Liz shot back, her eyes challenging. “Off all the-“
Valenti laughed. “This is exactly why I want the two of you to work together on this one. You’re the perfect team.”
Max and Liz both turned to Valenti with shock evident in their faces.
“You’re going to be a couple in crisis,” he explained. “Two lovers being torn apart by unfortunate circumstances. The stress will start to show in noisy fights, tears loud enough for the whole neighbourhood to hear.”
Jim beamed at his own cleverness. “Like I said, the perfect team for this one.”
Max and Liz only glared at each other as Valenti began to explain more about the assignment.
Max and Liz were given the weekend to sort out everything they needed to clear up for the lengthy assignment. Max was told to pack his oldest closes in cardboard boxes. Nothing expensive or fancy which wasn’t a problem as he was often undercover, so he had twice as many ragged clothes as suits.
Max smiled to himself as he wondered what kind of costume Liz had to wear, she wasn’t a happy girl.
Two plainclothes cops broke into smiles as they saw Max walk into the office on Monday morning. Kyle Valenti, Jim’s son and Alex Whitman. They had been best friends since high school joining the force together, they were also partners. Kyle and Alex found great pleasure in other co-workers trials and tribulations. They were well known for their warped sense of humour.
Max eyed their overly cheerful faces with great caution. “Okay so what’s got you two so happy about this morning? Have I been fired and haven’t been told about it yet? Or is someone slapping me with a lawsuit, or am I being charged with brutality? Spill.”
Alex’s eyes widened in innocence. “Hey nothing like that. We just wanted to wish you luck on your new assignment. Looks like this one is going to be real interesting.”
Max thought they were giving him shit about working with Liz again. Everybody knew that Max and Liz had been have problems with each other ever since Liz had transferred into the department that Max had worked for seven years a year ago.
Max sighed. “Okay, okay have your fun. Yeah I’m working with Parker again, so what! We’re other professionals and can put our past behind us to get the job done.”
Kyle nodded his head, the expression on his face much to serious to be believable. “I’m sure your right Evans you and Parker make a great team.”
Kyle ignored him and asked, “Have you seen Liz today Max?”
“No I’m supposed to meet her in Jim’s office.”
Alex seemed to be overcome in a fit of what might have been giggles in maybe someone who wasn’t a tough police detective.
Kyle’s dark eyes were twinkling when he said, “She’s looked unusually lovely today.”
Max knew something was going on. Okay Parker wasn’t that bad looking in fact she was god damn hot to be honest, especially if you didn’t know her. Everybody had seen her dressed as a bag lady, hooker, a drugged out teenager and a prim and proper career women. She must really look out of it to make these two react they way they were.
Suddenly he remembered their assignment, a slow grin started to form on his lips. “Where is she?” Kyle and Alex were only too pleased to help.
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:43:27 PM|
“Are you sure this thing is on properly?” Liz asked while tugging on the front of her cheap cotton top. “It looks really odd.”
Sergeant Tess Harding, the precinct’s property supervisor, nodded her head enthusiastically. “You look perfect in it, even more realistic than I’d expected when I first saw the thing.”
“It weighs so much and it pinches,” Liz muttered.
Her best friend Officer Isabel Elliot laughed. “Man, I can’t get over how funny you look.”
Liz glared at her while fidgeting again. “Thanks a lot.”
Isabel shrugged tossing her long blonde hair over her shoulder. “Just you wait until Max sees you.” Liz groaned and covered her face with her hands.
“Where is Max by the way?” Asked Jim from behind his desk. “I haven’t seen him yet this morning.”
“Max is always late,” Isabel reminded.
“And always grumpy,” Liz added.
“If you don’t need anything else I really need to get the inventories done this morning.” Tess asked.
Jim waved her out. “No that’s fine but if you see Evan’s on the way out, can you please tell him that he’s needed in my office.”
“Yes, sir.” Tess rushed out, she was always in a hurry that one.
Valenti looked at Isabel. “Is there a reason why you’re here or are you just bumming on the job?”
“You know I’m only hanging round to be close to you, Lieutenant,” Isabel replied while batting her eye’s and giving Jim a melting smile.
“Haven’t you got work to do?” Valenti asked.
Isabel just smiled and shook her head. “There is no way in hell that I’m leaving this office until Max has a look at Liz.”
“Would you just leave already. Go catch a criminal or something and stop harassing your fellow offices,” Liz grumbled. As much as she loved Isabel there were times when she really got on her nerves and right now happened to be one of those moments.
There was a quick knock on the door that opened before anyone has a chance to respond. Max walked through, yawning and scratching his unshaven chin. His brown hair was sticking out at all angles and his shirt and jeans so wrinkled they looked as if he’d just crawled straight out of bed while sleeping in them. “Sorry I’m late I-“
He stopped, his jaw dropping.
It started slowly. Max’s amber eyes crinkled at the corners, and his usually frowning mouth started to tilt upwards on one side then the other. His laughter started deep in this chest then erupted.
Valenti sighed. Isabel just sat back and enjoyed the show.
Liz watched this display with disgust. Damn it!! She knew he would react this way. Why couldn’t her costume for this assignment have been a backless leather mini dress or something in that regard. I mean anything but this.
“Laugh it up Evans,” she snapped. “You don’t exactly look like model material yourself.”
Max wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Oh man, you should see yourself.”
“I have seen myself. I look like a whale.”
He made a great production of circling Liz his eyes fixed on the large bulge filling out the front of the cheap and ruffled maternity top. He laughed again. “How old are you Parker?”
“You look like a sixteen year old who got knocked up in the back of a pickup truck.”
Valenti interrupted his tone impatient. “Knock it off you two. We have things that we need to go over before you leave. Elliot, go do some work.”
Isabel shot up giving his a salute. “Yes sir.” Walking past Liz she touched her shoulder. “Keep your guard up.”
Liz responded to the traditional farewell with the same answer she always gave. “Watch your back.”
As soon as the door was closed Valenti wasted no time in going over their cover one final time making sure that Max and Liz had their roles straight and their procedures agreed upon.
The story was that they were a down on their luck unmarried couple moving into the very low-rent district after having been thrown out of their last apartment for failure to pay the rent. Max was too act very unhappy about the arrival of a baby that he would have to support, making it clear to anyone that he came in contact with that the baby was a mistake. His unhappiness was to make he have a bad temper, making sure their arguments were heard be anyone in hearing distance.
Liz was positive that Max could play the part of a jerk. She wasn’t however so sure that she could pull her part off. Liz was supposed to adore the creep, making it clear to all that she would do anything for him.
“This is going to be the toughest assignment I’ve ever had,” Liz complained while trying to get comfortable in the chair she was sitting in. How did pregnant women sit comfortably with all this bulk and weight in their laps?
“Don’t think you can take it aye Parker?” Max asked with a mockingly lifted eyebrow.
“I didn’t say I couldn’t take it,” she retorted. “I only said it would be tough.”
“If I didn’t think that you could handle this assignment neither of you would have been given it,” Valenti said. “Liz you will have to befriend a lady called Maria DeLuca. She is the person our source named as being the next target for the baby broker. We need you to get close to her.”
Liz nodded. She always hated how she had to lie when she was undercover, but she was very committed to her job. If her lying would save a innocent baby from being sold as a piece of meat then she would lie with the best of them.
Finally satisfied that Max and Liz has their instructions down Valenti dismissed them.
Liz started to get up but fell right back in the chair still not used to having such a weight in her middle. Grinning Max stuck out a hand and pulled her up onto her feet. “I can tell right now this assignment is going to be loads of fun.”
Liz had to hold back a reply as she was sure it would break the last of Valenti’s patience which she really didn’t want to do.
Max wasn’t sure that the piece of junk called a car they’d been issued would get them to the run-down building in which an apartment had been discreetly scouted out for them. On the ripped back seat sat boxes and bags which was supposed to represent everything they owned.
As they pulled up to the apartment building Liz was looking at it with much apprehension. Max wondered for a moment if she was finding the accommodations distasteful. He couldn’t blame her. The building was a slum. Still he’d stayed in worse places during the course of his job, and he knew Liz had too. “What’s the problem?”
She looked at him then. “What are we going to do if hey don’t rent us the apartment? Valenti never even mentioned the possibility.”
Max shrugged. “He didn’t think it was a possibility. The landlady’s not picky about who she rents to, as long as there’s a months rent in advance. We’re supposed to look desperate remember? In need of a place immediately.”
Liz took a deep breath then nodded. “Ok I’m ready now.”
Max thought it was very amusing that Liz couldn’t get out of the car without assistance. Liz however did not.
The buildings manager turned out to be a women of about fifty, thirty pound overweight with artificial blonde hair. They told her their names were Max and Liz Powers and that as of yesterday they were homeless. Max told her that he had enough money to pay a month in advance but that he didn’t want to sign a lease.
The landlady who only gave a last name of McCauley, bought their story quickly especially when Max pulled out a wad of crumpled notes from his pocket for the first month’s rent. That seemed to suit her just fine instead of a lease or rent agreement. Liz noted that there wasn’t exactly a cue of people lining up to get an apartment as Ms McCauley admitted that there was three empty apartments all on the same floor. The fourth floor she added as she looked at Liz’s stomach.
Liz swallowed a sigh assuring her that the fourth floor was fine.
There was no objection when they mentioned that they wished to move in immediately. She only shrugged, throwing Max a key. “Third apartment on the left don’t mess it up.”
“We won’t be here long,” Max said. “As soon as I get myself back on my feet we’ll be out of here.”
“That’s what they all say honey,” Ms McCauley said in a bored tone.
Jumping into her role, Liz spoke up defensively “My Max will get us out of here. Things may be tough at the moment but as soon as he finds a new job we are going to get a better place.”
Max threw her a glare. “Shut up Liz. This women doesn’t care about our problems.”
Ms McCauley didn’t correct him. Liz was silent but she gave Max a sidelong glance. She would play her role all right but it didn’t mean that she had to like it.
Liz complained under her breath the whole was up the stair to their new apartment, when they stopped she was breathless, sweating and more then ready to get rid of the bulky harness that added at least twenty pounds to her small frame.
The apartment was every bit as disgusting as Liz imaged it to be. The kitchen was so dirty that she couldn’t imaging eating anything that come from it. A slightly bigger living room that had a couch two broken down arm chairs and a coffee table that looked like it would collapse if you put anything on it. The bedroom was barely big enough to hold a lumpy double-bed, broken chest of draws and a TV tray serving as a night stand. The bathroom was a just as bad as the kitchen.
Max made sure that the toilet flushed and that the shower worked, muttering about the water not being nearly as hot as he suited. There was no closet.
They stood in the bedroom looking around in horror. Liz eyed the small bed, wondering the odds of Max sleeping on the ragged couch in the other room. She looked at him from under her lashes.
Max glanced her way at the same time their gazes locking and held for a moment. Then Max sighed deeply, ran a hand through his short brown hair and managed a forced smile. “Honey I’m home.”
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:43:55 PM|
Liz’s first priority after bring in their stuff was to clean up the apartment. She told Max that there was no way she was going to live in this dump, even temporarily without getting rid of some of the crap.
Max just shrugged and told her to knock herself out. He then stretched as comfortably as he could on the piece of junk called a couch and opened the newspaper he had bought with him.
The whole fourth floor heard their new neighbours first argument within half an hour of moving in. It wasn’t staged.
Max finally got off his butt and helped with the cleaning much to Liz’s satisfaction. It didn’t even bother her when her grumbled the whole time.
“Bathroom’s clean,” Max announced a couple of hours later as he walked into he kitchen where Liz had just finished leaning the formerly grease-caked stove. “Is there anything else you’d like me to do? Scrub the walls with a toothbrush, maybe? Repaint? Lay new carpet?”
She ignored his heavy sarcasm. “No, I think that’s everything for now.”
Liz straightened and pressed a hand to he sore back. She had removed her harness when she’d started cleaning, but with a morning of wearing it and also two hours of heavy work had left her tired and sore. “I don’t know about you but I’m quite hungry.”
“Well I’m not cooking,” Max said daring her to challenge him. “Not after cleaning that disgusting toilet.”
“So we’ll eat sandwiches. I bought bread and meat,” she replied.
Max nodded. “Okay that’ll do.”
“We should split the cooking and cleaning from now on. Fair enough?”
Max sighed loudly. “We’re working a sting, Parker not setting up house.”
“We have to eat and sleep her at least a couple of weeks. There is no reason that we should live like pigs just cause we’re working.”
Max crossed his arms and looked at her mockingly. “I had no idea you were so domestic. So how come some lucky man hasn’t snapped you up and trapped you in the kitchen with a litter of little kids running around your feet, hmmm?”
Liz glared at him shouting back. “That’s because I haven’t found a man worth putting up with on a permanent basis. And no one’s trapping me in a kitchen!”
“More likely you-“
A knock at the door made them both still.
Max looked down at Liz’s slender figure beneath her huge maternity top. “Go hide in the bedroom,” he ordered, and grabbed a beer from the fridge. “I’ll get the door.”
His brown hair was messed his T-shirt grubby and his jeans were ripped at the knees. He hadn’t shaven in a couple of days. With a beer in his hand he looked exactly right for the role he was playing. Liz sprinted into the bedroom trying to strap on the harness as quickly as possible in case she was needed to make an appearance. She hated being caught unprepared like this. From now on maybe she had better wear this thing all the time.
Max waited until Liz had disappeared into the bedroom before answering the door. Letting his brows form into a frown, he ripped open the door. “What is it?” he growled.
The women at the door had dirt blonde hair that fell around her shoulders, heavily made-up hazel eyes a faint two inch long scare on her right cheek, and the heavy scent of cheap perfume. She was in the latter stages of pregnancy, only emphasised more by a too tight pink top and black stretch pants.
She tossed her hair over one shoulder. “You the guy who own that heap of black crap parked in my spot?” she demanded, her Bronx accent sounding strange to his Southern ears.
Max lifted a eyebrow. “I didn’t know the parking spaces were assigned.”
“Everyone knows that the parking space closest to the trash bin is mine,” she shot back. “You park there again and you just might find a few flat tires the next day.”
“Lady I don’t take too kindly to threats.”
“And you oughta know I ain’t no lady,” the women retorted, not intimidated at all by his tough-guy drawl. “And I got friends around here. Big friends, if you know what I mean.”
“Max?” Liz’s tentative interruption made Max glance around. She was standing in the doorway with the harness back on underneath her maternity top. She looked young, vulnerable and deceptively fragile-and very pregnant.
Liz Parker was damned good at her job even Max wouldn’t imply otherwise, no matter how much she irritated him.
“What’s going on?” Liz asked, looking warily from Max to the women at the door. “What’s wrong?”
Max rolled his eyes. “It’s another crazy pregnant women,” he muttered in answer to her question. “Looks like I’m surrounded by them.”
Liz flushed-Max wondered how the hell she could do that on command-and appeared hurt by his comment, which he knew she wasn’t. She looked at the women again “I’m sorry,” she said. “He didn’t really mean that. He’s just tired from moving in. Is there something I can help you with?”
She fell into her part so easily-making excuses for him, looking at him with anxious, adoring eyes. Max couldn’t help but be impressed especially since he knows how she really feels about him.
“I was just telling this chump here that I don’t want him parking his so called car in my parking space again. Maybe you can help him remember,” the other women said in a cocky tone. “That is, unless you want my friends to have a little, uh, word with him.”
Liz’s brown eye’s widened in shock. “You have friends who would hurt him over this?”
“I got friends who would make him disappear like that.” The women snapped her fingers. “That is if I asked them to of course.”
Liz moved her feet nervously. “We won’t park in your spot again, will we honey? We didn’t know.”
Max ignored her. He carried his beer to the couch, sat down on the couch picked up the newspaper turning to the sports section. He didn’t look up from it again.
Liz stepped closer to the door. “I’m really sorry about this we don’t want any trouble from our new neighbours. Max-“ she lowered her voice and looked quickly toward the sofa. “Max’s just tired,” she mumbled again.
A look of what could have been pity crossed the women’s face. “What’s your name kid?” she asked.
Liz didn’t correct the women that she was a lot older then she looked. “It’s Liz,” she said. “Liz Powers. And that’s my–my husband. Max.”
“Husband, huh?” The other women obviously didn’t believe her-which is exactly what Liz wanted.
“I’m Maria. I live across the hall. If you wanna know anything else bout the way things work here you just come ask me. I guess you could come over for coffee or something sometime if you want,” she added, making it sound like she was doing Liz a big favour.
Liz suspected that most of Maria’s attitude was crap. She’d seen others like her hiding her fear behind anger and aggression. “I’d like that,” Liz said quickly looking over her shoulder at the couch. “If it’s okay with Max that is,” she added in a whisper.
Maria rolled her eyes in disgust “Of course,” she said sarcastically. She tuned around and walked away with a swagger in her hips that might had been sexy if her wasn’t pregnant.
“Thank you for stopping by,” Liz said then closed the door.
“What are you thanking that bitch for?” Max roared.
Aware that people may be listening Liz yelled back, “You could have said something! Do we have to start out making enemies of all our new neighbours?”
“We ain’t gonna be here long enough to make friend, and I don’t want you making friends with the likes of her,” he retorted.
“She seemed nice,” Liz protested, still standing close to the door.
“Nice? Her? She was a dragon lady. And did you check out her makeup she looked like a hooker. Probably is.”
“You don’t know that!”
“Just stay away from her, you hear me?”
Liz heard a door closing across the hallway. She wondered how much Maria heard. Enough she hoped to make Maria a little bit more sympathetic towards her.
The first contact come a lot sooner then either of them expected. Liz only hoped that the rest of the assignment worked out as well.
“So what do you think of her?” Max asked later on as they sat down to eat their sandwiches. “Think your going to be able to get tight with her?”
Liz was busy tying to figure out how to get close to the table with several pounds of stuffing in her lap. She finally gave up turning sideways in her chair, and reached for a sandwich. “I think so, she looked a bit lonely to me in need of a friend, maybe. That invitation was her sometime was a legitimate one, I think.” She replied.
Max smiled “Don’t forget that she had friends, big ones at that.”
Liz giggled “did you believe her?”
“Not for a second, did you?”
“No, but she has guts I’ll give her that much. You looked pretty tough when you were staring her down at the door and she didn’t flinch once.”
“I looked touch huh?” Max seemed pretty stocked with that description.
Liz made a face. “Yeah Mr. Macho. You looked tough. Probably fooled her real good.”
He lifted both eyebrows, looking a bit offended. “Who was fooling I am tough!”
“Well would you look at that, so am I.”
He grinned. She smiled back both blinking startled by the rare moment of shred humour.
Their visual contact was broken when a raised voice and the sound of shattered glass disturbed them. The noise seemed to be coming from right above them. Both automatically looked above them as though they could see what was going on above them.
“Another domestic dispute,” Max commented.
“Do you think we sounded like that?”
“I hope so, I mean that’s what we’re supposed to sound like.” Max replied.
Liz sighed. “Just once I would love to be assigned to something glamorous living it up in some ritzy apartment among the beautiful people.”
She allowed herself to drift for a moment into a pleasant fantasy.
Max interrupted her daydream “you’d never pull it off.”
Liz straightened defensively. “I would too.”
“Admit it parker you’re blue collar to the bone. I bet your dad construction worker or maybe a mechanic,” he teased with a grin. “I’m right aren’t I?”
She looked down at her plate toying with the rest of her sandwich. “I don’t know, probably,” she muttered.
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
She glared at him. “I don’t know who my father was alright! I don’t even remember my mother. She dumped me when I was a baby. But I could carry off a high class assignment if I ever got one. You just wait and see.”
“All right I believe you,” Max said his smile leaving his face. “You’re good at your job you probably could pull it off.”
They both finished their meal in silence Max didn’t speak again until after they had cleared everything away. “Liz?”
“What I said about your father I’m – uh – well – um I’m really sorry. I didn’t know –“ he cleared his throat awkward with the apology.
Liz frowned concentrating on her cleaning. She hadn’t told him or anybody else for that matter about her past, she didn’t want anyone to have sympathy for her situation. She didn’t know why she told Max she rarely talked about her childhood. It had just slipped out. “Just forget it, it’s no big deal.”
She tossed the rag in the sink wiping her hand on her jeans and spoke a bit too quickly. “So you think we should have another ‘fight’ tonight?”
Max shook his head. “Na we don’t want to overdo it on our first day here.” A glimmer of mischief appeared in his eyes. “How about we treat the neighbours to a round of rowdy lovemaking instead?”
Liz hated herself for blushing. “I don’t think so.”
“Well it would certainly ass to our cover,” Max argued his smile starting to reappear on his face. “What do you thin Parker? Can you fake a noisy orgasm?”
She gave him a look. “With you, I’d have to - but not tonight. I have a headache.”
“You know some men might take that as a challenge.”
Liz deliberately turned her back on him. “Would you give me a break already. I think you flexed you ego enough for one day. I’m tired. I’m going to bed.”
“Just get ready to share it. There is no way in hell that I am going to sleep on that couch and it’s killer springs.”
Liz sighed. “You could always take the floor you know.”
“You take the floor if you’re so concerned about your virtue.”
“I’m not worried about my virtue. I’m worried about my rest. You most probably snore like buzz saw.”
Max was caught off guard enough to laugh. “I don’t snore Parker. I stayed awake all night once so make sure.”
Liz made a face in response to the old joke, relieved that the issued had been resolved in relatively good grace. So she and Max would be sharing the same bed. Big deal. She’d slept in worse conditions before. All part of the job.
But she’d never slept with Max Evans and for some reason that seemed quite a different prospect all together.
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:44:40 PM|
Liz wore her usual oversized T-shirt for bed. It wasn’t sexy which was exactly what she’d had in mind when she packed it. Max wore a pair of old running shorts and nothing else. Liz almost swallowed her tongue when she first saw him. Damn. How could she have known he would look so good without his clothes? Lean, strong, tanned, sleek.
Great body, she thought, eyeing him. Too bad it belonged to Max Evans.
Max glanced up when Liz entered the room. He looked at what she was wearing and curled his lips. “Something tells me that didn’t come from a Victoria’s Secret catalogue.”
“I’m here to catch bad guys Evans not fuel your twisted fantasies.”
Max’s grin got bigger. “Who said you’re in my fantasies Parker?”
She tossed her hair. “Some things just go without saying.”
Max laughed holding up his hands. “Okay how bout we call a truce for the night I’m too fired to try and outmatch you.”
“You will never have enough rest to do that,” she retorted. “But I’ll call a truce if you will.”
Max turned of the lights having the room illuminated only by the outside lights coming in through the window. “Right side or left?”
Liz blinked, then picked one at random. “Right.”
“Fine.” He climbed onto the left side of the bed and settled into the flattened pillow. Looking over his shoulder to where Liz till stood “you coming to bed?”
She cleared his throat. “Oh yeah sure.”
It took more nerve then she thought to make herself walk the three feet to bed and get in beside Max.
Come on Parker it’s only Evans. What’s with you tonight. She shook her head in disgust at her own uncharacteristic behaviour.
“You got that harness thing handy in case something comes up in the middle of the night and you have to use it?” Max asked already sounding tired.
“Yeah it’s on the floor over here. I can get into it quickly if I need to, though I don’t expect anything to come up in the middle of the night.”
“Me neither but you never know. It’s always best to be prepared. In fact,” he added, a small smile on his face, “maybe you should sleep in it.”
“No way,” Liz said with feeling. “I’d never be able to sleep in the thing.”
“Pregnant women do it all the time.”
“Yeah well I ain’t pregnant, which I have to say I’m extremely pleased about.”
“Think you ever will be?” He sounded only mildly curious.
“I don’t see that happening in the near future.” For one thing you need two to make a baby, and there hadn’t been anyone in her life for quite awhile. Not since she and Sean had split two years ago because he had finally realised he hated her job and couldn’t continue being with an undercover cop. He’d hated the hours, hated the danger and the dark moods her job sometimes left her in. Had they stayed together for much longer he probably would have ended up hating her.
“What bout you?” she asked to distract herself from the painful memories. “You planning a family anytime soon?”
“Hardly. I haven’t dated anyone since Pam moved out last year,” he grumbled into the pillow. “Everyone I meet these days seem to be either a bimbo or a shrew. Guess all the good ones are taken.”
“Oh yeah? Which one would you class me as?”
“I wasn’t talking bout you I was talking bout the few women I have dated lately. But if I were to put you into one of the categories….” He left the sentence hanging.
Liz knew exactly which category he’d put her into. She snorted and turned her back to Max.
Max laughed softly, pleased that he’d finally gotten the last word, settling more comfortably onto his side of the bed.
Less then ten minutes later he was snoring. Just before Liz feel asleep Liz made a mental note to give him a hard time in the morning.
Liz woke up once during the night only to find herself plastered against Max’s warm behr back. He was fast asleep, thank God, fitted into the curve of her body like he had been made to snuggle with her.
Liz jerked away from him, scooted to the edge of the bed and went back to slept waking up every few hours to make sure that she didn’t end up moving towards him again.
She didn’t even want to thing about the crap she would get from him if he had woken up to find her flush up against him.
Max was already up when Liz woke the next day. She yawned, stretched and swung her behr legs and feet over the edge of the bed. The room was warm since the air-conditioner didn’t work - no surprise there. She sat there for a few minutes trying to wake herself up properly.
Finally deciding she was awake enough to be coherent, she stood, ran a hand through her hair and headed for the bathroom.
Ten minuets later she walked into the kitchen smelling fresh coffee. Max was sitting at the table reading a tattered paperback book. He was still wearing the shorts but was now wearing a white T-shirt. Liz made a determined effort not to look at his long, sturdy behr legs or the exposed piece of chest his V-necked T-shirt showed as she passed him on the way to the coffee. “Morning,” she murmured.
“Where’s your harness?” he asked eyeing her slim waist with a frown.
She made a face at him. “Wait until I have my coffee before you start picking on me will you?”
“I just think that you should get into the habit of wearing it. You never know-“
“Look Evans I know how to go undercover okay?” she snapped slamming a cabinet door. Something ran away from her on the countertop, and she shuddered. “God I hate this place.”
“You haven’t even been here for twenty four hours yet. You’re really going to hate it by the time the assignment’s over.”
“Thank you so much from trying to brighten my morning,” she muttered, splashing coffee into her mug.
Max took a deep breath and held up a hand. “Okay that’s enough. This assignments bad enough without us snapping at each other.”
“I agree but you started it,” she couldn’t resist saying as she carried her mug to the table.
He started to speak but then bit back his words. “Okay maybe I did,” he conceded. “Sorry.”
Her eyebrows lifted. “Is that an apology I hear?”
“Don’t push it Parker,” Max warned.
Liz smiled into her mug. “Good coffee,” she said a moment later – her own gesture of peacemaking.
He looked satisfied by her effort. “You hungry?”
“What you got?”
“Jelly filled doughnuts or cereal.” They’d brought in a very limited supply of groceries yesterday.
Liz shrugged. “Guess I’ll have doughnuts. Have you eaten?”
“No, I’ll have the doughnuts too.”
They both sat without moving for a minute both waiting for the other one to go to the cupboard. Liz gave up first. After all, she thought, Max did make the coffee. But he sure as hell shouldn’t get used to being waited on.
“So what’s the schedule for today?” she asked as she sat into the only other available chair.
“I’m supposed to start job hunting. I’ll ask around, talk to some of the local guys, establish a cover. You might want to the corner grocery store, meet some of the neighbours.”
Liz nodded. “Maybe I’ll ask Maria to recommend a store.” It would give Liz another excuse to try and get closer to her.
“Good idea.” Max ate a doughnut in three bites then reached for another one. “Don’t forget we aren’t supposed to have much money. Can’t afford any expensive foods.”
Liz rolled her eyes. “I hate to tell you this Evan’s but I can’t afford any expensive foods. God knows when I last bought the really good caviar.”
He sighed at her sarcasm. “You know what I mean.”
“I know what you mean,” she agreed coolly. “You’re telling me how to establish my cover again – like I don’t already know. It isn’t necessary.”
“Don’t start this again.”
“I’m not the one who keeps starting it.”
Max scowled and shoved himself away from the table. “I’m taking a shower.”
Liz sat brooding into her coffee after Max left the room. It hadn’t been much of a pleasant morning so far but she had to admit to herself that she had been no more agreeable then Max. Maybe it was because of their assignment and surroundings. Or maybe she was still embarrassed about sharing a bed with Max. But he really had bugged her by throwing out instructions as though she was a rather slow rookie desperately in need of his guidance.
Still they really should limit their fights as much as possible to the ones they staged for the neighbours. Whether they liked it or not they were partners – and partners had to stick together or the results could be disastrous. Even fatal.
Max apparently reached the same conclusion during his shower. His attitude has improved noticeably when he reappeared, his hair wet, the T-shirt he wore clinged to damp spots on his back and his legs were now hidden by frayed and faded jeans. “You want me to help you make a shopping list before I go out?” he asked.
Liz shook her head offering a tentative smile. “I’ll just but what’s on sale.”
He returned her smile. “That’ll work.” He pulled a hundred dollar bill from out of his wallet and tossed it on the table. “That should get enough for us to get by on for a few days. It’s all we can risk spending at once, I think.”
Liz nodded. “I need more cleaning products as well I pretty much used them all yesterday.”
Max started to say something then stopped. “I was gonna tell you to be careful on those streets alone – but I don’t suppose you need to remind you.”
Her smile widened a bit. “No. But thanks anyway.”
“Yeah.” He pushed his fingertips into the back pockets of his jeans looking a bit uncomfortable. “I’ll more then likely be back later on this afternoon.”
Liz wondered why she was suddenly reluctant for him to go. But she decided it was probably only because she would be bored out of her mind all day long. She’d just have to find something to do to keep her occupied.
Liz followed him into the living room, staying back out of view from the hallway when Max reached for the doorknob. “Bye.” She said.
“That’s all the money I got!” he roared in answer, standing very close to the thin door. “You’ll just have to make it enough.”
Liz didn’t blink at the change in pace. “But we’re out of everything,” she whined. “We don’t even have milk. The baby needs milk,” she added, patting her flat stomach.
Max tore open the door, though he held it at an angle that hid her from view. “Look, get off by back okay? I said that’s all I got. And I don’t wanna hear anything else about that damned kid today! You hear me?”
“The hell with it, I’m going to try to find a way to make some money. You do whatever the hell you want.”
The door slammed behind him as he left.
Liz smiled to herself, hoping the performance hadn’t gone unappreciated. It was pretty god actually.
Her and Max might actually pull this thing off.
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:46:31 PM|
Liz had great difficulty getting herself into the harness that morning. Probably because she so reluctant to put it back on, she decided, remembering how quickly she’d done it yesterday when she’d needed to.
This was definitely the most awkward costume she’d ever had to wear. The harness was heavy and uncomfortable. It’s weight made her back and shoulders ache – even her legs hurt after wearing if for while. She had to wear a thin sleeveless T-shirt under it to absorb perspiration and prevent chafing; if only this could have been a winter assignment, she thought with a sigh, fanning her face with her hand as she looked into the spotty mirror.
Even if she were pregnant-God forbid-she would never have chosen the selection of maternity clothing she’d been given by the department. Most of them looked used, the clothes were cheap, flowered and decorated with so my frills and bows that Liz wanted to puke every time she put one on. She hated frills! What made maternity-clothing designers think pregnant women with low incomes wanted to dress like the babies they were carrying?
Tugging irritably at the pink and white flowered top she wore over pink polyester stretch pants, she turned away from the mirror n disgust and looked for her shoes; then spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to put them on with the bulky harness coming between her and her feet. How did pregnant women do these things? And why the hell would anyone choose to get into this position in the first place? And more then once, usually? She shook her head in bewilderment and twisted into an impossible position to tie her sneaker.
Tucking her handbag under her arm, she stood for a moment at the front door and took a deep breath, willing herself into the role she would be playing for the next few hours.
The hallway outside the apartment was dimly lighted and poorly maintained. The once cream paint was dungy and cracked, graffiti scattered in several places. The light fixtures were rusted; several didn’t even work. The flooring was black and dirty white linoleum about the same age as the floor in her bedroom.
There was a window at each end of the long hallway. The glass looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in years. The whole place reeked of cooking odours, among which onion and boiled cabbage seemed prominent at the moment.
Liz thought sympathetically of the people who had to live here without having comfort in knowing that their occupancy would only be temporary. She’d been in worse accommodations before; seen some places so filthy and disgusting that it was hard to believe that human beings could live that way. It was always children that got to her the most. Someone had to look out for them when their parents failed to do the job-Liz had long ago appointed herself that task.
Liz patted her false tummy thinking of Maria DeLuca’s baby. If Liz could help it, that helpless baby would not be placed in the hands of people who cared more about money than human life.
She tapped lightly on Maria’s door to her apartment.
“Who is it?” Maria’s voice demanded from within.
“It’s Liz Powers,” Liz relied tying to sound intimidated. “You’re new neighbour.”
The door opened.
Maria DeLuca was not a women to wear frills, even in pregnancy. Her bulging body was shoved into a tight green top and tighter black slacks, her swollen feet were put painfully into high-heeled black shoes. From appearance alone, Liz would have judged her to be in her late thirties, but some instinct made her take ten years off that figure. Maria was probably only three or four years older then Liz.
“Whaddaya need?” Maria asked, cocking one hip at an angle that looked absolutely painful, considering her condition.
Liz twisted her fingers in front of her and tried to look shy. “I uh have to buy some groceries this morning,” she explained. “I thought maybe you could tell me where you get yours? The place with the lowest prices,” she added.
Maria shrugged. “There’s one a couple of blocks away called Cochran’s that’s probably the cheapest.”
Liz nodded. “Okay. Thank you.”
“They take food stamps.”
“Oh, we don’t have any food stamps.”
Maria looked surprised. “No? How come? You old man’s out of work, itsn’t he?”
Liz looked anxious. “Yes, but he’s very proud. He won’t take assistance.”
Maria looked down at Liz’s stomach. “Not even for the kid?”
With a heavy sigh, Liz shook her head. “He’s - um well he hasn’t exactly gotten used to the idea of a baby yet,” she said. “He isn’t really very happy about it. He says if it wasn’t for the baby, we wouldn’t be in the shape we are now. I’m sure he’ll change his mind once the baby gets here,” she added hastily, hopefully. “Max’s really a good man. He just worries a lot.”
“Typical of a man ain’t it,” Maria muttered in disgust. “Gets you knocked up, then blames you for it. If it was up to me, the whole lot of ‘em could just up and die.”
Liz giggles nervously. “I’m sure you don’t really mean that.”
“Don’t bet on it kid. You want a cup of coffee? Got some water boiling for instant.”
Liz allowed her face to brighten. “That would be nice,’ she said, faking delight that someone-anyone-was being nice to her, as though it were an unusual experience.
“Come on in then.” Maria deliberately keep any expression from her face, but Liz sensed she was a bit lonely herself.
Maria’s apartment was laid out exactly the same as the one Liz and Max shared. A small living room, tiny kitchen, one bedroom and a bath. Like theirs, her was furnished with cheap mismatched pieces. There were no pictures on the walls, no knickknacks on display. Apart from a slight clutter of discarded shoes and papers and a couple of empty soda cans, the apartment could almost have looked unoccupied.
Leading the way to the kitchen Maria glanced around as though aware of the impression. “I haven’t done any decorating,” she said by way of explanation. “I don’t plan to stay here long. Just till after the baby’s born.”
“When is you baby due?”
“About five more weeks.” She pressed a hand to the small of her back as she reached for coffee mugs. “None too soon, as far as I’m concerned. I ain’t never been this sore and achy in my life. But I guess you know that.”
“Uh-yeah. It’s not exactly a comfortable condition is it?” Liz manoeuvred herself carefully into one of the chairs at the table that was identical to the one in her apartment.
Maria made a face at the understatement. “No,” she said wryly. “Not exactly.”
She slid a steaming mug in front of Liz, then took the other seat with her own. “Oh,” she said as an after thought. “You want sugar or something? I’m out of milk, but I may have some powdered creamer.”
Liz shook her head. “This is fine,” she replied, after sipping the too-strong instant coffee. She had long since grown accustomed to lousy coffee.
“So when’s your kid due?”
“Not long after yours,” Liz answered vaguely.
“You doing that Lamaze stuff? Not me, I told em I want all the drugs they can legally give me.”
Liz laughed and shook her head. “No way, I’ll take full advantage of whatever benefits modern medicine can provide.” And she would, too, if the time every came when she had to make that decision, she told herself with a hidden smile.
“Think ol’ Max will go into the delivery room with you?”
Remembering her tole, Liz nodded fervently. “Oh, I’m sure he will. He says he won’t now, but I think he’ll change his mind when the time comes.”
Maria sighed deeply and shook her head. Liz noted with amazement that Maria’s long hair didn’t even sway with the movement. Must be industrial strength hairspray, she decided wondering if it would hold up in a windstorm. She almost missed Maria’s words: “You really think that guy’s going to come around just like that?”
Liz twisted the coffee mug in her hands. “He’ll come around,” she insisted. “Max will be a good father.”
Maria shook her head again, and this time there was pity on her face. “Whatever you say kid.”
“Um-what about your baby’s father, Maria? Is he helping now?”
Maria shrugged. “Hell, I don’t even know who the father is.” She eyed Liz through her long, heavily blackened lashed. “Does that shock ya?”
“No of course not,” Liz said hastily, making sure she looked shocked.
Maria laughed without humour. “Yeah right. Man, where did you come from? A potato farm?”
“Soybeans,” Liz answered wide-eyed. “My father was a soybean farmer. How did you know?”
Maria laughed again, with real amusement this time. Her broad smile erased a good five years from her face. “You really are a piece of work. Hey, you want me to go with you to the store? I can show you around, if you like. And I could buy a few things, myself.”
“That would be great,” Liz said in delight. “Thank you.”
Maria gave her a stick-with-me-kid-I’ll-take-care-of-ya look. “You bet.”
It was just after six when Max returned to the apartment. He wiped dust and sweat off his face with the back of his hand, leaving a trail of mud across his cheek. His T-shirt clung wetly to his well defined chest and his jeans were streaked with dirt. The grubby entranceway of the apartment building provided little welcome as he wearily entered, but he found himself looking forward to seeing Liz. Just to find out if she’d learned anything during the day, he assured himself hastily.
He shoved his key into the door of the apartment on the left and let himself in, immediately looking around for his partner. He found her in the kitchen, mixing something in a pan on the stove.
“I hope your hungry,” she said, turning to greet him. “I was starving, so I thought we’d eat early. I-oh,” she said, seeing him clearly for the first time. “You’re filthy. What have you been up to?”
Max couldn’t help grinning at Liz’ appearance-the pink and white flowered top and pink pants, the huge bulge of the harness she was still wearing, her hair pulled back into a ponytail, her face flushed and damp from the heat of the stove. “I’ve been working.”
“Construction crew. A guy walled off the job at lunchtime and the foreman fired me on the spot. I was kinda hoping it would take a few days to find something,” he added wearily. “Its too hot for that kind of work.”
“Poor baby,” she said mockingly. “So, did you talk to any of the guys?”
He shook his head. “Exchanged names with a few but that was all I had time for today. They kept me busy. I’ll start talking to some of them tomorrow. I have to report by eight.”
She looked at his sweat-drenched clothing trying not to look at the way his T-shirt clung to his chest. “You’d better keep plenty of water at hand while you’re working. You’ll dehydrate quickly in this heat.”
“The foreman’s real insistent on everyone drinking lots of water. He provides it, ice cold. I’ll need to pack lunch tomorrow thought. I never got a chance to eat today.”
“Then you must be hungry. Go take a quick shower and I’ll get this on the table.”
“Sounds good. Thanks Parker,” he said sincerely.
The smile she gave him was surprisingly friendly. “Sure.”
Hot water was in short supply in the building, but Max didn’t miss it when he stepped beneath the cool shower. He turned his face gratefully into the spray.
It had been pretty nice coming home to dinner ad a smile, he decided, as he reached for the soap. He studied the pink bar for a moment, sniffed it and made a face at the floral scent, then shrugged and began to work up a lather.
It had been almost a year since he’s shared living quarters with a women. He and Pam had lived together for four whole months after dating for almost a year-a record relationship for him. She had assured him that she would be perfectly happy just to be with him when he wasn’t working, that she could accept his long hours and frequently absent nights. Eight weeks later, she started complaining.
When she started hinting that she had marriage in mind-and a change of carrier planned for him-he’d realised that he couldn’t offer her what she needed from him. When she’d reached the same conclusion she moved out. Last he heard she was contently engaged to an accountant.
The breakup had left him rather bitter. Not that he’d been deeply in love with Pam; he knew from the start that his feelings for her hadn’t been that strong, though he’d been fond of her. It was just that he’d grown up watching the close, loving relationship between his parents and he’d always envisioned something similar for himself. He didn’t want to come home to an empty apartment every evening for the rest of his life-but when it had come down to it, he’d found himself unable to commit to the one women who’d made it clear that she wanted marriage and children with him.
Max was beginning to believe that there was something lacking in him. Maybe he hadn’t gotten a complete set of happiness genes, or whatever the hell it was that made others content in their life. Max wasn’t content. Not in his job, his surroundings, his future-his life. And he didn’t know what in hell to do about it.
He shook his dripping head in disgust as he stepped out of the shower. Liz was waiting in the kitchen with a fresh-cooked meal and the details of her first day on assignment. He had too much to do to waste time moping over his disappointments. He could do that another day.
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:47:25 PM|
Liz was just setting a dish in the centre of the table when Max rejoined her in the kitchen. She slid her hands out of the tattered oven mitts she’d worn and glanced over her shoulder at him. “You like lasagne?”
“I love lasagne,” he assured her.
“Good. I know it’s kind of hot for such a heavy dish, but I got this sudden craving when I was in the store and saw the lasagne noddles. I hope it’s good-I had to buy the cheapest ingredients, of course. There’s a tossed salad and whole-kernel corn to go with it.”
“Sound’s great. What can I do to help?”
“Everything’s ready. Have a seat. Oh, do you want anything to drink?”
Max grabbed a soda. He was already reaching for the lasagne when he took his seat. “I didn’t know you could cook, Parker.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me, Evan’s,” she countered, taking her own seat and reaching for the salad.
He realised that her statement was true. He knew almost nothing about her personal life. If she was involved with anyone, he hadn’t heard anything about it. He hadn’t even known she didn’t have a family until she let it slip yesterday. She’d be abandoned, she’d said. Had she grown up in foster homes? An orphanage?
It didn’t seem quite the time to ask such a personal question. Instead Max settled for teasing. “So, you had a craving for lasagne, huh? Aren’t you taking this pregnancy thing a little too seriously?”
Liz wrinkled her nose at him. “Cute Max.”
Max laughed. A moment later he sighed. “Man, this is good. Parker I take back a third of the ugly things I’ve said about you.”
“Only a third?”
“I’m feeling generous.” He dumped bottled Italian dressing on his salad and stabbed into it with his folk. “So, did you get a chance to talk to our friendly neighbourhood hooker today?”
“Maria? Yeah. She made instant coffee for me and even went with me to the store. I think she’s taken my under her wing. She told the grocer to be nice to me or she’d have her big friends pay him a little visit.”
Max grinned. “How’d you manage that?”
“By convincing her that I was a sweet but slightly sim-witted helpless women living with a self-centred jerk of a guy who treats her like shit.”
“You,” she happily confirmed.
He sighed. “And she bought your helpless-little-victim routine? She may be soft-hearted, but she’s not exactly perceptive.”
“Hey, I’m good at what I do, Evans. And Maria’s sort of nice,” she added, stirring her folk through the thick sauce on her plate.
“Nice?” Max repeated, remember the loud-voiced women who’d yelled at him the day before. “Yeah, right.”
“She it,” Liz insisted. “She’s just had a tough time of it. Her mother threw her out when she was just fourteen because the mother’s latest boyfriend was developing a thing for Maria, instead. Like a lot of homeless teenagers, she turned to the street to support herself,”
“And probably a drug habit,” Max added cynically.
“For a time,” Liz said quietly. “She claims she kicked the problem a couple of years ago. She’s been tying to save enough money to move somewhere else and start over, but getting pregnant threw her off schedule.”
“So how come she didn’t have an abortion?”
“For religious reasons. She considers it a sin.”
Max chocked on a bite of lettuce and reached for his soda. “You’re kidding.”
Liz shrugged. “You should know as well as I do not to stereotype people. Some of the most hard-luck cases I’ve met have often turned out to be the more complex than I’d expected. Even William Thacker was a devoted Catholic remember?”
Max scowled at the mention of one of the most ruthless killers he’d ever brought to justice. “So he claimed.”
“Kyle and Alex said he had a shrine to the Madonna set up in his house. Candles, statue, rosary, the whole bit. His maid said he spent an average of an hour a day here.”
Max shook his head. “This is one hell of a crazy job we’re in Liz.”
“Yeah. But don’t you love it?” she asked with a grin.
Max took another sip of his soda to avoid answering. “Sounds like Maria told you a lot about herself today,” he said when he set the can down.
“She’s a real talker.”
“She say anything about her plans for her baby?”
Liz shook her head. “the baby was one thing she wouldn’t talk about, except to say that she didn’t know who the father was. Every time I tried to lead her into a discussion of the babies future, she changed the subject.”
“Sounds like a good indication that she is thinking about selling it.”
“Maybe.” Liz frowned and played with her food some more. “But I don’t know Max. There’s something…”
“What?” he prodded.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I guess I’ve got a lot to learn about her yet.”
“Yeah well don’t push it. You don’t want to get her suspicious.” Almost as soon as the word’s left his mouth he realised that he’d unconsciously given him advice on doing her job again. He waited for her to yell at him about it, but she let it pass, surprisingly enough. Since he didn’t expect all this goodwill to last, he decided to keep his mouth shut and enjoy it while he could.
Max declared it only fair that he clean up the kitchen since Liz had done the cooking. Liz didn’t argue.
Leaving the kitchen spotless behind him-at least, as much as possible under the circumstances-he rejoined her half and hour later. He found her in the living room, lazed on the couch watching the portable TV he had bought along with them. The picture was pretty fuzzy, since they weren’t connected to cable, but the sound was good.
“I brought you a soda,” Max said handing her a canned drink. “If you don’t want it, I’ll take it back.”
Liz popped it open. “I want it, thanks.”
“Sure. Shove over, I can’t see the TV from the chair.
She made a face, but made room for him on the couch, her movements unusually awkward because of the harness. “I’ve been tempted all afternoon to take this thing off, but I guess I’d better get used to wearing it.”
“Yeah. It has to be uncomfortable,” he said, realising for the first time how bulky and hot the thing must be. “How are you holding up?”
“My back and legs are killing me,” she admitted, then smiled faintly. “Maria tells me it’s all part of the condition. You wouldn’t even want to ear the other distasteful things she complained about.”
He laughed. “No, I’m sure I wouldn’t. Anything good on the tube tonight?”
She named a couple of popular shows. “That’s about it without cable.”
He nodded without enthusiasm. “Yeah, okay. Think we ought to have another noisy row tonight?”
She groaned. “I’m too tired to fight tonight. We just had one this morning. Couldn’t we wait until you get home form work tomorrow to start another? You can yell at me for not having food on the table when you get home or something.”
:Yeah that’ll work,” He grinned. “Never thought I’d hear you turn down a chance to call me a few choice names.”
She shot him a look. “I’ll save them up for tomorrow.”
As tired they both were-Max from his hours of manual labour & Liz from a day of wearing the harness after a restless night-they were both quiet that evening. It had been a rather pleasant few hors, actually, Liz realised as the ten 0’clock news began. Who would have thought she and Max could have gotten along without a real quarrel for an entire evening?
“I don’t know bout you,” Max said after watching the weathercaster predict another day of blistering temperatures and wilting humidity, “but I’m ready to turn in. Tomorrow’s gonna be a killer.”
Liz nodded. “Yeah I’m tired too.”
Max stood and turned off the TV. Liz started to rise, then gave an exclamation of disgust when she lost her balance and fell heavily onto the couch.
Max laughed, but stuck out his hand to hoist her up. “Sorry, you gotta admit it’s kind of funny.”
“I don’t have to admit anything of the sort,” she grumbled. “You try wearing this thing for a day and see how graceful you are.”
“I hate to tell you this Parker, but I doubt that our cover would hold up long if I was the one pregnant.”
“Funny Evans really funny.” She pressed her hand to the small of her aching back and groaned.
Liz changed in the bathroom, wearing the same oversized T-shirt she’d worn the night before. She found Max in running shorts again, already sitting on the side of the bed yawning.
It wasn’t as difficult to crawl in beside him-maybe because she’d been preparing herself mentally for it all day.
Max turned off the light. “Hot in here,” he commented, shoving the sheet off his chest.
“Mmm. I wish the air-conditioner worked.”
Max mumbled in agreement.
Liz stretched out on her side, wincing at the sudden discomfort from a sore spot where the harness had rubbed against her hip. She closed her eyes, hoping a good’s night sleep would help her find the willpower to strap herself back into the thing in the morning.
“Roll over on your stomach. I’ll rub your back for you.”
Max’s word brought her eyes open in a hurry. “Uh-“
“Really,” he insisted. “You’ve got to be sore from hauling all that extra weight around. Maybe I can work out a few of the knots.”
Liz thought Max might be carrying this good-buddy bit just a tad bit too far. She wasn’t sure she wanted to get friendly with Max Evans, for reasons she couldn’t explain at the moment, has she tried. “Thanks, but I know you’re tired, too. Get some rest.”
But he was already sitting up beside her on the bed, pushing her shoulder with one hand. “Roll over Parker. You can thank me later.”
She swallowed a groan and allowed him to shove her onto her stomach. A moment later, the groan escaped when his hands went straight to the small of her back, as though he’d somehow known just where to focus his ministrations. “You’re pretty good at this,” she had to concede after several long moments in which the only sounds she’d made had been sighs of pleasure.
“So I’ve been told,” he said smugly.
She frowned as she wondered exactly how many times he’d heard the words-and how many women had said them. Not that it was any of her business, of course, she reminded herself hastily.
His hands settled on her shoulders. She winced at his firm kneading of the knotted muscles he discovered there, but a moment later she felt herself turn to oatmeal beneath his palms. He really was good at this she thought. Wonder if he’s this good at……?
She stiffened. Whoa Parker. Let’s not get carried away here.
“Relax,” Max murmured, pushing his thumbs into the hollows of her shoulders. “You’re getting all tense again.”
You don’t know the half of it, Evan’s she thought. She cleared her throat and shrugged him off. “That’s enough. I feel a lot better now. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” He slid back down into the bed and settled into his pillow with a lot of squirming and shifting. Finally he was still, and Liz let out a faint sigh. This was much better, she thought firmly. Max on his side of the bed, her on hers.
Much safer all around.
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:48:25 PM|
Usually an early riser, Liz didn’t wake the next morning until Max touched her shoulder. She blinked, then squinted up at him, trying to adjust to the light in the room that had been pitch-dark when she’d closed her eyes. Max was already dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, and he carried a black metal lunch box, looking for all the world like a typical construction worker heading off to the job.
“Sorry to wake you,” he said. “But I thought you might want me to let you know I’m leaving.”
“Yeah, thanks. I can’t believe I slept so late.”
“It’s only seven-thirty. Go back to sleep, if you like. I just wanted to let you know just in case you hear a strange noise in the other room,” he added with a smile.
“Oh thanks so much. I’ll sleep just fine now,” she grumbled, though they both knew she was teasing. Liz had long since stopped losing sleep over strange noises in the night. She’d never sleep at all if she lay awake worrying about that sort of thing.
He ruffled her hair, which was already tousled from the pillow. “See you this afternoon. Don’t forget we have a fight scheduled.”
“Mmm. I’m looking forward to it,” she said while yawning.
Max chuckled and took a step backward, then cursed beneath his breath when he nearly fell over Liz’s harness, which was lying close at hand on the floor.
“Hey watch it!” Liz said, sitting up and swinging her legs over the side of the bed. “You’ll hurt poor Junior.”
He grinned, scooped the harness off the floor and tossed it into her lap. “What kind of mother are you anyway? Leaving your poor unborn child lying on the floor where just anyone could step on it.”
Liz returned the grin, and waved him towards the door. “Get out of here already would ya? You’ll be late for work.”
His eyes lighted up. “Yeah. Then maybe they’d fire me.”
“Forget it Evan’s. You’ve got to snoop around with the guys there, remember? Baby-selling rumours right?”
He gave a deep sigh. “Oh yeah. Right. Have a nice day, Parker. I want this apartment spotless when I get home, and my dinner waiting on the table.”
Her response to him was delivered in a sweet, friendly voice. It was also anatomically impossible, he assured her as he left for his undercover job.
Liz realised she was still smiling as she padded into the bathroom after Max left. She looked at her reflection in the spotty mirror with some surprise, noting that she look rumpled but oddly pleased with herself, for some reason. Strange. She had almost enjoyed with Max Evans the past couple of days.
The heat must be getting to her.
Max was trying to get enthusiastic about the ham sandwich and apple he’d brought for lunch when he was approached for the first time by anyone wearing what might have been a reasonably friendly expression. He’d soon found out that high temperatures and closely-supervised, physically demanding work didn’t make for a pleasant work environment. His co-workers were too hot and too busy to spend much time sharing pleasantries. So he was a bit surprised when a young guy in his early twenties approached him ay lunchtime with a cold canned soda.
“The boss provides drinks for lunch, he explained. “I’m not sure if anyone told you.”
“Thanks,” Max said, gratefully taking the soda and resisting the temptation to rub the icy aluminium can against his burning face. “I can sure use this.”
“Yeah, can’t we all.” The other man sat on the ground not far from Max and opened his own lunch box, looking inside without much enthusiasm. “Wallace tries to convince us he keeps the drinks iced down out of concern for our well being, but everyone knows he’s just tying to keep us from bringing beer in our own coolers. He’s a real fanatic about beer on the job.”
“Safer that way,” Max agreed.
The younger man shrugged. “A beer or two don’t make much difference, especially in this heat. But I need the job, so I try not to screw up.”
“I know what you mean. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t need the money,” Max said grimly.
“Ain’t it the truth.” The younger man swept off his hard hat, revealing sweat-soaked blond hair. “I’m Doug Patterson.”
Doug nodded and stuffed half a sandwich into his mouth. The he grimaced. “Nothing worse than warm bologna and mayonnaise,” he grumbled around a mouthful of bread and meat. “I keep telling the wife to stick to mustard, but she forgets. Or so she claims. Sometimes I think she’s doing it on purpose. Every time she’s pissed off at me about something-bologna and mayonnaise.”
“Max chuckled “Women.”
“You got a wife, Max?”
“Sort of.” Max took a bit of his ham sandwich and decided warm mustard wasn’t much more appealing than the mayonnaise, though it was probably safer.
Max shrugged. “Got a women. We’ve been living together for awhile. She sure as hell acts like a wife.”
Doug grinned. “It must be genetics or something. Let ‘em move in and the next thing you know, you’ve got a ring in your nose.”
“Ain’t no ring in this nose,” Max muttered
“Sure Powers. I hear ya.” Still grinning, Doug finished his sandwich and unwrapped a second one.
“Got any kids, Patterson?” Max asked after a moment,
“No. The wife has been hinting about having one, but I think we should have a little more money stashed away first. She’s going to nursing school. Soon as she finishes, she’s going to find a job in a hospital and I’m going to start night classes.”
“Yeah? What in?”
“Electronics. You know the business school that’s always advertising on TV? They keep talking about how much money you can make repairing computers. I’m thinking of giving it a go. At least it’s inside work.”
Max nodded. “Sounds good. Computers are definitely they way to go.”
“You got kids?”
“One on the way.”
Max scowled and shook his head. Drops of sweat flew with the movement. “Condolences would be more appropriate. You stick to your guns. Go to school, get a decent job before you have to support a kid. If not you’ll end up like me, living in a dump with a whining, dissatisfied women, trying to scrape up enough money for medical bills and baby things.”
“Don’t want a kid, huh?” Doug asked sympathetically.
“I’d rather have a life,” Max muttered. “I used to have one. Don’t know what the hell happened to it.”
“Women,” Doug shook his head repeating Max’s earlier statement.
“At least you’re hanging around,” Doug offered, as though tying to find something encouraging to say. “That’s more then some guys would do in your shoes I know heaps of guys that split the minute their misses got knocked up.”
Max sighed “It’s tempting,” he admitted. “Liz-my women-well, she’s okay. I’d kind of hate to leave her. But this kid-“ He stopped and shook his head again, then wiped off the trail of perspiration that trickled down his right cheek. “I just don’t know if I’m going to be able to stick it out.”
If Doug knew anything about baby sellers operating in the area, it certainly wasn’t apparent in his expression. “Hand in there Powers,” he said. “You’ll make it somehow.”
No Max thought. Dough Patterson wasn’t the type who’s lead him to his quarry. Patterson was still young and optimistic, who still believed everything out work out with time. If his wife suddenly announced that she was pregnant-and she probably would before long-Patterson would simply sigh, mentally saying good bye to his plans at a career and work twice as hard to do what he considered his duty as a man. Poor sap. But Max almost envied Dough his dreams. At least Doug still had them.
Hey, Powers! Patterson! You guys planning on getting back to work anytime soon? Or are you waiting for a freakin’ invitation?”
Max and Doug exchanged wry glances in response to the bellowed order and closed their lunch boxes. So much for pleasantries.
Liz was standing in the hallway early that evening, chatting to Maria when she spotted Max out of the corner of her eye. She turned to greet him with deliberately breathless enthusiasm. “Max! Hi, sweetheart. You’re home earlier than I expected.”
He looked without smiling from her to Maria. “What are you doing out here?” he asked, directing the question to Liz.
“I went to get your newspaper,” Liz replied showing the paper tucked under her arm. “I ran into Maria on the way back in. She was just telling me about-“
“You got my dinner ready?” Max interrupted, ignoring Maria.
Her bright smile slowly faded. “Well no, not yet. But it wont take me long to fix something,” she assured him hastily, nervously. “I just didn’t think you’d be home until-“
“Get inside.” Max’s word were cold and harsh, his eyes blazing.
Liz privately decided she was glad she knew he was only acting for Maria’s benefit. Max was just a bit too good at this. A meeker women than she might have been genuinely intimidated by the look he gave her.
Maria moved protectively closer. “Hey, lighten up,” she said to Max. “I’m the one who’s kept her out here talking.”
Max pointedly continued to ignore Maria. “Inside, Liz,” he repeated, jerking his chin toward the apartment door.
Liz swallowed audibly and looked at Maria. “Don’t worry, he’ll calm down,” she whispered. “He’s just hot and tired and-“
“Liz! Get in the God damned apartment!” Max roared.
She jerked like a scared cat and ran toward the door. “I’m coming Max. I thought I’d make fried chicken for dinner. You like fried chicken,” she said, the words running together in her apparent eagerness to please him. “And mashed potatoes and gravy. And for dessert we could have-“
The door slammed shut behind them, leaving her and Max alone in their living room, Maria on the outside. Liz knew Maria would be listening, so she wasn’t surprised when Max continued yelling at her as though they still had an audience. She threw herself into her own role, loudly defending herself, bursting into noisy wails of distress. She jumped involuntarily when Max slammed his fist into a wall and ordered her into the kitchen.
She glared at him over her shoulder as she hurried into the other room. He didn’t have to look like he was enjoying this so much, she thought with a touch of resentment.
She heard the shower running as she set the table and reached into the fridge for the cold paster and chicken salad she had prepared earlier that day. She’d known Max would have been hungry and hot and tired, and would probably want something light but filling. With nothing else to do around the place during the day, it hadn’t bothered her to make dinner for him. In fact, she’d spent quite a bit of time on it, telling herself it was the least she could do to uphold her end of the assignment.
She put a basket of rolls and margarine on the table beside the main dish, along with a bowl of tiny green peas she’d cooked earlier, then reheated in the microwave. By the time Max joined her, his hair was wet and he had changed into a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, she was pouring tea over ice in two large plastic cups. “Dinner’s ready,” she said, nodding toward the table. “Have a seat and dig in.”
He looked surprised, then pleased. “Hey, this looks good.”
“I didn’t think you’d want another heavy meal tonight, as hot as it’s been today.”
Max was already filling his plate. “I’m impressed, Parker,” he said after taking an appreciative bite of salad. “It’s amazing what you’ve been able to prepare with a hundred dollars worth of groceries.”
Liz shrugged, tying to hide her pleasure at the compliment. “I’m used to coking on a budget. Until I got my promotion last year, I was working on a patrol cop’s salary. Before that, I worked two minimum waged jobs while I put myself through the academy.”
He grimaced. “No one every promised us we’d get rich being honest cops.”
“No. But I’m getting by okay now.”
“Yeah. Me too, I guess. Of course, it’s easier for us-being single.” He clarified. “the married guys with families to support complain that they’re barely getting by.”
Liz shrugged again. “It’s just a matter of how you budget.”
He nodded and made a major dent in his dinner before speaking again. “Learn anything new today?”
“Nothing of any importance. You?”
Max shook his head. “Nothing. I sure hope Valenti is acting on a reliable tip. I’d hate to think I was going through this for nothing.”
“Does ‘all this’ include living with me?” Liz asked politely.
He grinned across the table. “The dinners got me in such a good mood that living with you seems like a job perk at the moment.”
Liz blinked, the shook her head at him. “Don’t get used to it Evans. The novelty will wear off fast.”
“Nothing says I can’t enjoy it while it lasts.”
“True. But you’re cooking all weekend. My generosity only stretches so far.”
“So does your shirt,” Max murmured, eyeing the faded blue knit top that was pulled tightly across her bulging middle. “I can’t get over how realistic that thing looks, even in a tight shirt.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” Liz agreed, glancing down at her stomach. “Maria told me today I look about ready to ‘pop’.”
“She’s pretty big herself. When’s her kid due?”
“Four or five weeks. She said she saw the doctor this morning and he told her she looks like she’ll be on time if not early.”
“Did she seem excited?”
Liz shook her head, remembering the oddly stark look in Maria’s eyes when she’s talked about her baby. “No she looked……… sad.”
“She’s selling it,” Max sounded convinced.
Liz didn’t know why she was having such a hard time reaching the same conclusion. Maybe it was because she rather liked Maria, despite her distaste for the life-style Maria had chosen.
Max pushed his well-cleaned plate away and leaned back in his chair with an exhale of satisfaction. “That was great, Liz. Thanks.”
“Did you get a chance to meet any of the other neighbours today?”
Liz shook her head. “It’s been real quite. Of course, with the other two apartments being empty on this floor, I don’t see anyone unless I go downstairs. I thought I might run into someone when I went to get the paper, but I only saw a couple of little kids playing on the second-floor landing. I saw Ms. McCauley and said hello, but she only grunted and kept walking.”
“Real ray of sunshine, isn’t she?”
Liz giggled. “Yeah. Right.”
“What did Maria tell you about the other tenants? Anything interesting?”
Liz shrugged. “No not really rust mostly old people on fixed incomes too scared to leave their apartments. Or single mothers on government, struggling to raise too many children without the help of the fathers. Maria’s very bitter about men right now. It’s obvious that she thinks you’re going to dump me to raise the baby alone.”
Max nodded. “That’s what we want her to think, isn’t it?”
“Yes” Liz finished her meal, then reached for her tea. “Max-you wouldn’t do something like that would you? Walk out on your kid, I mean.”
He frowned. “Hell no, I wouldn’t walk out on my kid, if I had one. Even if I couldn’t live with the mother for some reason, I’d make sure my kid was taken care of. Financially, physically, emotionally. I’ve got no use for those guys who make babies, then disappear.
Pleased with his reply, Liz nodded. “I thought you’d say something like that.”
“What about you?” he challenged, turning the questioning to her. “Can you imagine any circumstance where you’d sell your own child for cash?”
“No,” Liz said without even stopping to think about it. “I might not ever get around to having kids, but you can bet if I ever do, nothing would make me sell my child.”
Max searched her face for a moment then glanced down at her stomach and smiled. “Junior must be really relieved to hear that,” he said lightening the mood with his teasing.
Liz went along willingly with the change of mood. She patted her bulging tummy. “I’m getting, rather fond of junior, actually. He’s very well behaved. A lot less trouble than most people’s kids.”
“That’s what all the proud mammas say,” Max assured her gravely. “Of course, you realise the kid is half mine.”
“Let’s just hope he gets my personality instead of yours,” she murmured, one hand still resting on the padded harness.
“And my looks,” Max retorted, striking a male-model pose.
Liz rolled her eyes. “And your modesty, I suppose?”
She shook her head. “Just as well you and I won’t be having kids together, Evans. Poor little brats would probably get the worst of both of us. Of course, you have a lot more flaws to contribute than I do, but-“
“Hey! I resent that.”
“Facts is facts, Evans,” she said sweetly.
“Someday,” he said firmly, “someone’s going to have the last work with you. And I fully intend for it to be me.”
“Not in this lifetime Evans.”
He shook his head and shoved himself away from the table. “I’ll help you clean the kitchen. Then I might just barely be up to a couple of hours of TV before I crash for the night.”
“Real exciting plans,” she muttered tongue in cheek, reaching for her plate. “I was hoping you’d take me dancing tonight.”
He groaned. “If you knew how many tons of building materials I hauled today you wouldn’t even joke about that.”
“You never take me out anymore,” she wailed throwing herself suddenly back into character just to find out what he’d say in return. “I think you’re ashamed of me because I’m so fat and ugly.”
Max tossed a wadded-up paper towel at her, but went along with the charade. “Shut up and get out of my way, would you?” he hollered. “How’s a guy supposed to relax from a hard day’s work with a women always yapping in his face? Yap, yap, yap-you never give it a rest.”
“You don’t Lo-o-o-ve me!” Liz complained, her hands busy washing dishes and staking them in the drainer beside the sink.
“Oh, for Christ sake!” Max cried in utter disgust. He pulled a canned soda out of the fridge and winked at her over his shoulder. “I’m gonna watch TV. You sit in here a sulk all night if you want. I don’t care.”
“Want some cookies to go with that?” Liz whispered. “Jerk!” she added more loudly.
“Sounds good,” he murmured back, then yelled. “Just shut the hell up, all right?”
He stormed towards the living room, popping the top on his soda can as he went. Liz threw an aluminium pan after him-noisy, but unbreakable. It landed with a clatter on the floor, missing Max by a couple of inches. He gave her a startled look, then shot her a grin before he disappeared.
Smiling, Liz finished wiping the countertop, then retrieved a handful of Oreo cookies from the cupboard before joining Max for another quiet evening of fuzzy TV.
Fighting with Max was actually turning out to be rather fun, she’d discovered to her surprise. Lieutenant Valenti had been right about their being well suited to their roles.
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:49:17 PM|
Max was still engrossed in a news program when Liz decided to she “Junior” that evening. She stepped into the bedroom and closed door, then tugged the maternity short over her head and tossed it onto the floor, already reaching for the Velcro fastenings that held the harness on. She sighed in relief when the heavy weight fell away. Setting the thing on the floor, she quickly shed her maternity slacks, leaving herself clad only in a white knit tank top and panties. She stretched, shifted her shoulders, then bent double and touched her toes, feeling deliciously slender and unfettered.
The sound of a male throat being cleared behind her brought her upright in a hurry.
Max was standing in the doorway, an appreciative gleam in his brown eyes as he eyed her long, behr legs. Aware of the butt-up position she’d been in when he’d entered without her hearing, she blushed and reached hastily for her nightshirt she’d laid out earlier. “I thought you were still watching TV,” she said, holding the garment in front of her.
“I’m ready to turn in. Sorry, I thought you’d be dressed. You usually change in the bathroom.”
“Yes, well-er-I was just stretching.”
“So I saw.”
His smirk made her itch to smack him. She lifted her chin and headed for the bathroom, well aware that his attention was still focused firmly on her butt. She closed the bathroom door behind her with a sharp click, then splashing her burning cheeks with cool water. She was already dreading having to cross the bedroom floor and crawl into bed with Max Evans-especially after the way he’s just looked at her!
Max lay on his back in the bed, arms crossed behind is head, wondering when Liz was going to come out of the bathroom. Has she been so embarrassed at being caught in an awkward position that she’d locked herself in for the night? He wouldn’t have believed she could be so prudish.
He still remembered exactly how she’s looked when he’d entered the room. Her tanned arms stretched in front of her, her back a graceful curve, her long, behr legs braced to support her. Not to mention that firm round bottom. He’d always known Liz Parker had a great figure. He just hadn’t expected to find it displayed quite so appealingly this evening. And now he was going to have to spend another night in bed with her.
He hoped she’d never guess how difficult it had been for him to sleep the past couple of nights. Especially last night, that back rub he gave her was just plain torture. Hearing her moan like that was turning him on more then even he expected. How aware he’d been of her lying so close to him, her breasts rising and falling with her even breathing, her hair tousled against the pillow. If she ever found out that he sometimes lay on his side, just watching her and marvelling at how young and unguarded she looked in her sleep, she’d probably go for his throat.
He had no idea why he was reacting so strongly to her, maybe it was just her body that was turning him on, but he knew deep down inside it was more then that.
The bathroom door finally opened and Liz stepped out, clad now in another voluminous, unrevealing nightshirt, her eyes carefully avoiding his. She switched off the overhead light as she passed it sending the room into darkness.
He was rather amused by how careful she was not to touch him as she slid into the bed. She was only an inch or so away from rolling completely off her side of the bed and landing on the floor right next to ‘junior’.
“I don’t bite,” he couldn’t help telling her, unable to keep the smile out of his voice.
She muttered something incoherent and shifted a quarter of an inch closer.
Directly above them, someone walked heavily across the floor, almost shaking the plastered ceiling about Max’s head. A noisy thud followed, as though that same heavy walker has dropped all his weight onto a bed. A moment later, the bed started to creak, accompanied by a rhythmic thumping sound that might have been a headboard knocking against the wall above them.
Max had just realised what he was hearing when a women began to moan. Loudly. A man groaned, then groaned again with more enthusiasm. The X-rated sounds drifted through the tin walls, clearly audible to the unwilling eavesdroppers lying very still in their own bed below.
Liz murmured a protest and buried her head in her pillow. Max grinned, then chuckled when the women above them began to squeal, her words clearly heard for the first time. “Yes, yes! Oh, God, yes!”
“Sounds like she’s having fun,” Max commented dryly, and shifted to a slightly more comfortable position on the lumpy mattress.
Liz growled. “Go to bed, Evans.”
“Who could sleep with that going on right above our heads?”
The bed above then pounded even more vigorously against the wall. The women’s cried accelerated.
Max grinned. “Let’s just hope they don’t drop through the ceiling. I don’t want to get quite that actively involved in their personal life.”
“Harder! Faster!” the women shrieked.
Liz pulled her pillow over her head. “I’m going to sleep,” she grumbled, her voice muffled. “Only a pervert would enjoy listening to this.”
The women above them screamed and her lusty lover bellowed. The ensuing silence was startlingly abrupt.
Some ten minutes passed, and Liz cautiously emerged from beneath the pillow. She sighed in relief. “Thank goodness that’s over,” she mumbled, turning her back to Max and squirming a bit to settle back into her usual sleeping position.
Max tried to ignore her movements. He was uncomfortable enough without thinking about Liz’s temptingly curved bottom wriggling around so close beside him.
He was amused by her reaction to their involuntary voyeurism. He hadn’t realised until this assignment that Liz Parker was such a conservative type at heart. He never would have guessed by watching her at work in her skimpy hooker clothes and sexy, touch-me-if-you-dare attitude.
“Hey Parker?” he said after a moment, giving in to an irresistible temptation.
“You’ve got one hell of a great body.”
She went very still, then shrugged against the pillows. “Yours isn’t so bad either. It’s what’s inside it that I find so annoying.”
He chuckled. “Still determined to have that last word, aren’t you?”
“Go to sleep Evans. You’ve got a long, hard, hot day tomorrow.” She sounded suspiciously cheerful about the reminder.
“What?” he retorted. “No good night kiss? Or maybe we could try to teach the upstairs neighbours a thing or two about noisy lovemaking.”
He waited expectantly for an obscene response. What he got was a very chilly reply. “I think not,” she said and turned her back more firmly to him. “Good night, Max.”
He smiled up at the now silent ceiling, deciding that her awkward attitude must indicate that she, too, was a bit bothered by their sleeping arrangements. At least she wasn’t completely indifferent to him as a man. Now that would have been tough on his already battered ego!
Liz woke when Max did, on Thursday morning. On impulse she had his breakfast read and lunch packed by the time she’d showered and dressed. He didn’t question his luck-nor did either of them mention the night before. He returned home dead tired that evening to find dinner on the table again. He thanked her, but was to exhausted to say much of anything else, except to complain that he still hadn’t gotten even a hint of a rumour about baby brokers working the neighbourhood.
Liz had to admit that her own investigation wasn’t proceeding any more quickly. She’d managed to talk to another neighbour, a homely women who lived on the fifth floor with her boyfriend-more likely her pimp, Liz added matter-of-factly, but no interesting new tidbits had surfaced during that conversation. Like everyone else they’d met so far, the women hated the building and the neighbourhood, and had plans to move out as soon as her finances allowed.
Liz noted the ugly scars of old needle marks on the women’s skinny arms, and a fading bruise beneath her heavy makeup. She told Max that she doubted their neighbour would live long enough to move up in the world. He looked glum when he’d agreed. He’d turned in soon after dinner though Liz stayed up awhile to watch TV.
Max was sleeping heavily when she joined him in the bed. He didn’t even stir. Liz thought in sympathy that the construction job must really be a killer for someone used to such physical labour, particularly in the heat they’d been experiencing. She hoped for Max’s sake-and her own, of course-that the assignment didn’t last much longer. Not that they’d made any progress so far.
Liz had breakfast ready again by the time Max was dressed on Friday morning. She was just packing his lunch box when he joined her in the kitchen.
“How come you’re being so domestic on this assignment?” he asked quizzically, as though he could no longer resist. “You’re duties don’t include cooking for me.”
Liz avoided his eyes by scrubbing the pan in the sink. “I like to cook,” she said simply. “I don’t get to do it much. Besides, there’s been so little for me to do around here the past few days that it’s at least something to keep me busy.”
“I never would have dreamed you liked to cook.”
“I’ve warned you before about trying to stereotype me, Evans.”
“There are a couple of washing machines and dryers in the basement. Thought I’d do some laundry today. For one thing, it might give me a chance to talk to some of the other tenants.”
“Wait until I get home this evening and I’ll help you,” Max suggested.
Liz looked at him with a lifted eyebrow. It wasn’t like Max to fall out of character on an assignment. What was he thinking? “Max Powers wouldn’t do laundry.” She told him. “That’s ‘women’s work’.”
He graced. “Good point. I guess I forgot for a minute.” He nodded toward the harness she’d begun to wear with her clothing each morning as a means of keeping her own cover firmly established. “There’s just something about a pregnant women that brings out my chivalrous instincts, I suppose.”
She made a face. “Gee, and I didn’t even know you had any chivalrous instincts.”
“Max Powers doesn’t,” he advised her. “Max Evans is a real prince of a guy.”
“Save it for someone who hasn’t worked with you before,” she advised him. “I haven’t forgotten the last job.”
“Well wasn’t I trying to save your butt then? Wouldn’t you call that chivalrous?”
“I call it stupid. I’m perfectly capable of watching my own butt.”
He grinned and let his gaze stroll admiringly from her face to her backside. “Trust me Parker. The view’s a lot better from this side. Especially in that position you were in when I walked into the bedroom two night ago.”
She gasped and threw a pot holder at him.
He dodged it with a grin and snatched up his lunch box. “Gotta go. I’ll be late. Walk me to the door?”
“And why should I?” she demanded.
“Because Liz Powers would,” he reminded her logically.
She couldn’t argue with that, especially since she’d just lecture him about staying in character. She sighed waddled reluctantly behind him through the living room.
Max opened the door, glanced out, then turned and tugged Liz against him-or as close as possible with “Junior” between them. Surprised she stiffened, but he covered her mouth with his before she could ask what the hell he was doing.
He kissed her very thoroughly. Very slowly. And after that first startled moment, she found herself so completely lost in the kiss that she couldn’t remember why, at first, she’d tried to resist.
There’d been a few times during the past year when Liz had wondered what it would be like to be kissed by Max-just idle curiosity, of course, she’d assured herself on the few occasions when the question had crossed her mind. She’d always rather suspected that his kisses would be interesting. But if anyone had suggested that it would only take one kiss for him to turn her into oatmeal, she would have laughed in disbelief.
She wasn’t laughing now.
Max was running his tongue along her lower lip asking for entrance, Liz was only too happy to open up to him. Having his tongue in her mouth was amazing he tasted so good.
Max was thinking the same thing. Who would have thought-one taste of Liz and he was addicted. He wondered how the rest of her tasted.
By now Liz had thrown her arms around Max’s neck trying to get closer, but the stupid harness was in the way, if only she hadn’t put the thing on this morning.
Max’s hands were all over the place, running through her hair (which he had to admit was as soft as it looked) down her back then ending up cupping her butt. Man he had a thing for her ass.
Liz let out an involuntary moan when she felt Max’s hands on her bottom. She loved how his hands felt on her body.
All too suddenly Max pulled away. Liz’s was breathing rapidly. She stared at him in shock, trying to regain her usual equilibrium. It was marginally gratifying to note that Max’s breathing wasn’t quite steady, either, and that his eyes were glazed-just as hers probably were.
All in all, she decided, it was much safer fighting with him then kissing him.
“See you this evening.” He told her gruffly. “And you have my dinner ready this time, you hear?”
“Uh-yeah, sure,” she murmured, then forced herself to remember the assignment. “I will honey,” she said a bit more clearly. “I’m sorry about last night. It won’t happen again.”
“See that it don’t,” he ordered arrogantly, the closed the door in her face.
It was some time later before Liz got around to wondering who’d been in the hallway when Max had first opened the door. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to curse or thank the person for precipitating that kiss. And wow what a kiss it was.
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:50:20 PM|
A tattered laundry basket filled with clothing and supplied tucked under one arm, Liz peered over the bulge beneath her maternity top, trying to watch her feet as she navigated the three flights of stairs down to the basement laundry room. Just guiding herself around was very tricky these days. She was feeling extremely clumsy at the moment. Thank goodness she didn’t really have the safety of an infant t worry about on these bloody stairs! At least if she fell now, she would be the only one injured.
Unless, of course, she landed on top of someone. The thought of Max Evans sprawled on his smug rear end was quite a satisfying image.
She tried to put Max out of her mind as she pushed through the cracked peeling door to the laundry room-at least, she tried to forget Max, the enigmatic undercover cop. It was Max Powers, crappy boyfriend and reluctant expectant father, whom she had to concern herself with now.
Ms. McCauley, the surly landlady, was the only one in the room when Liz entered. The heavy blonde was pushing a mop across the dirty floor without visible enthusiasm-or results. “Don’t go messing this room up,’ she warned when she saw Liz. “Got an inspection later this afternoon.”
“I won’t mess anything up,” Liz promised in her meek, eager-to-please tone. “I just have to wash a few clothes. We’re out of clean things.”
McCauley nodded, as though granting permission. Liz set the heavy basket on a battered table with a smothered sigh of relief.
“I hear your man got a job working on that new building goin’ up on Twenty-first Street.”
Surprised by the landlady’s first attempt at social conversation, Liz glanced up from the machine in which she was stuffing Max’s filthy jeans, “Yes. He did.”
“I also hear you and him don’t always get along so good.”
Liz widened her eyes. “Has someone complained?” she asked anxiously. “We didn’t mean to disturb anyone. We’ve had a few fights, but they don’t mean anything. It’s just that Max gets so tired on his job, he can’t help being a little grouchy sometimes.”
“Don’t apologise for the guy,” Ms. McCauley said in disgust. “He’s the one who should be apologising-yelling at you in your condition. He thinks it’s easy being pregnant?”
“It ain’t. I should know, I had five kids. All gone now. I’m lucky if I get a card at Christmas,” the women added bitterly.
Liz didn’t know what to say, so she kept quiet, hoping the women would say something of relevance to the investigation. She dropped quarters into the washing machine and held her breath until she heard water gushing into it. From the appearance of the aging machine, she wouldn’t have been surprised had it failed to start.
“You been seeing a doctor? You healthy?”
The blunt questions recalled Liz’s attention from the laundry again. She looked over her shoulder. “Yes, I’ve been seeing the doctor at the free clinic. She said I’m fine, and so is the baby. Thank you for asking,” she added, though she wasn’t at all sure the questions had been motivated by simple concern for her welfare.
McCauley grunted, then pushed her mop toward the door. “Maybe you and me will be talking again,” she said rather obscurely. “I might be able to help you out a bit if you get in any financial trouble.”
Liz kept her expression blandly anxious. “Thank you, but I’m sure we’ll be fine. Especially now that Max’s working again. He’ll take care of me and the baby. Once we get a little money saved, he’ll feel better about everything.”
The condescendingly pitying look the landlady gave her reminded her of the way Maria had responded to Liz’s naïve optimism. These were women who had long since stopped believing in fairy tales and happy endings; women for whom distrust and pessimism had become second nature. Either one of them would probably be willing to bet much-needed money that Liz would be raising her baby without the assistance of the father.
Well acquainted herself with men who fathered babies without hanging around to help see them raised-like the man who’d sired her, for that matter-Liz wasn’t surprised by their lack of confidence in Max. What did surprise her was her own certainty that he wouldn’t be the kind who “screwed and split,” as Maria had put it. Max had meant every word when he’d said he would personally make sure any child he fathered was provided for.
Funny. She believed him. And like Maria and the embittered Ms. McCauley, Liz had all too many reasons not to trust any man’s words.
In response to the deep bellow, Max looked over his shoulder as he was walking away form work that afternoon. A group of four men stood together behind him, one of them Doug Patterson. The one who’d called him, a short, beer-bellied heavy-equipment operator who’d introduced himself as Pete walker, was mopping as his florid face with a grimy handkerchief. “We’re going for a cold beer over at Kelley’s,” he said, when he saw that he had Max’s attention. “You with us?”
Max hesitated. “I don’t know. My-um-women’s probably got dinner ready.” They had worked almost half and hour late as it was.
Walker snorted. “C’mon, man. It’s Friday. Every guy deserves a little break after a tough week. You can call from the bar if you have to report in.”
Max stuck out his chin. “I don’t have to report in,” he insisted. “I’m just kind of hungry.”
Walker shrugged, “They serve sandwiches at the bar. But you do what you want. We’re thirsty.”
“C’mon, Max,” Doug urged. “Have a couple of drinks with us. Your women will understand. Mine does. She doesn’t like it, but she doesn’t gripe about it anymore-much.”
“I don’t have to answer to my women,’ Max insisted again, allowing himself to sound increasingly defensive.
“Then, come on.”
Thinking this might be his best shot at finding out if these guys knew anything about baby brokers in the neighbourhood, Max gave Liz a mental apology and moved toward the waiting group.
Liz shifted into a somewhat less uncomfortable position on the couch, turned a page of the newspaper she’d been trying to read, then glanced at her watch. Only ten minutes had passed since the last time she’d checked. It was almost eight o’clock. And the dinner she’d been ready to serve by six was still in the kitchen, cold and increasingly unappetizing.
She reminded herself for perhaps the tenth time that Max was working. He’d probably found a lead and was chasing it down. She envied him. Anything would beat sitting in this grimy apartment, with twenty bulky pounds of stuffing in her lap and nothing to do but read the newspaper through for the second time or try to watch the fuzzy picture on the TV.
If only she had a book to read. She’d brought a couple of paperbacks, but she’s finish the last one earlier that morning. She’d found plenty of time to read during the past couple of days. Her own part in the investigation was turning out to be increasingly boring and non-productive.
She’d hoped to talk more to Maria today, or maybe to some of the other tenants. But she hadn’t caught even a glimpse of Maria, and the other tenants were still making themselves scarce. Other than that strange conversation with McCauley in the laundry room earlier, Liz had exchanged less than a dozen words with anyone all day. No one had done any laundry while she was washing-didn’t anyone in this building wear clean clothing?-and the two people she’d passed in the hallway had responded to her cheery greeting with wary looks of suspicion.
What ever happened to old Southern friendliness? She asked herself, thoroughly pissed off. Used to be that everyone greeted everyone. Smiles, waves, nods-even to strangers.
But things had changed, she thought sadly, even in the South. Especially in the poverty-stricken neighbourhoods of large Southern cities, decimated by crime and drugs and government neglect. No wonder the other hapless tenants of this gloomy residence had learned to distrust everyone who approached them with a snake-oil salesman’s smile.
She ran a hand through her brown hair, noting absently that it needed to be trimmed and styled. She hadn’t been styling it much during the past week-simply washing it and letting it dry straight and limp, rather than curling it into the sleek curve she favoured when she wasn’t undercover. And she’d switched from her usual tastefully understated makeup to brighter colours normally associated with less expensive brands-rosy blusher, blue eye shadow, bright pink lipstick. Not to mention the cheap, frilly, tent-size garments she’d been forced to wear.
Her appearance usually didn’t bother her when she as working on an assignment. There’d been times when she’d been so filthy and bedraggled she hardly recognised herself in the mirror. So why was she fretting about it this time?
She looked at her watch again and cursed under her breath at the realisation that only five minutes had crawled by since the last time. Where the hell was Max?
He really should have told her he would be late, she though bitterly.
“C’mon Max, have another beer. It’s still early.”
Sprawled in a too-small bar chair, Max tried to focus on his watch. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’d probably better get on home.”
“That women really does lead you around by the dick, don’t she Powers?” Pete Walker asked mockingly, his small eyes glassy from the number of drinks he’d tossed down in the past couple of hours.
Max trust out his chin. “Hell, no. I wasn’t going home because of what she might say.”
“So how come you’re leaving?” Walker prodded. “Ain’t you having a good time?”
“Maybe you had better go on home, Max,” young Doug Patterson interceded. He looked at Walker as he explained, “Max’s misses is pregnant. It’s probably not good for her to get mad at him.”
Max snorted. “Then she’s already in trouble. She stays mad at me,” he said with feeling.
“Pregnant women,” a thin, balding man by the name of A.J. Sanders groaned. “They’re crazy, I tell you. Both times my wife was pregnant I thought I was going to have to lock her up somewhere. Cried all the time, whined about every little thing, ate like Godzilla.” He shook his head in bewilderment. “Never seen anything like it.”
“Tell me about it,’ Max muttered, carefully hiding his amusement.
“When’s the kid due, Max?” Doug asked. Unlike the others, Doug seemed to get more cheerful and optimistic with each beer.
Max shrugged and scowled. “Another month or so, I think. She said, but I forgot.”
“You forgot?” Doug echoed, looking startled.
“Not real happy about it, huh?” Walker inquired.
Max shook his head. “It wasn’t my idea.”
“Wouldn’t have been mine either,” Walker agreed. “Ain’t no women tying me down to a household of whining brats to support. My brother’s working three jobs now to keep his daughter in beauty-pageant dresses. Beauty pageants,” he replied n disgust. “The kid’s ten years old, looks like she’s been splattered with freckle paint and is twenty pounds overweight, thanks to her pampering mama. Put her in one of those ruffled satin pageant dresses and she looks like an overstuffed sofa pillow with Shirley Temple curls.”
“She ever win any of the pageants?” Doug asked.
“Hell no. My sister-in-law keeps saying it’s all politics. Claims little Ashley can’t win because they ain’t rich. She just can’t accept tat the kid’s ugly.”
Max chocked on a swig of beer. He’d have to relate that story to Liz, he thought with a hidden smile. She’d get a kick out of it.
Then he brought himself sharply back into character. “I ain’t working three jobs,” he grumbled. “This one’s bad enough.”
Dou nodded, his cheerful mood affected by the other’s pessimism. “I just hope I can make my wife wait to have kids until I finish computer-repair school. I really want to work at an inside job. I want air-conditioning,’ he added wistfully, wiping his brow as though still affected by the vicious heat of hi workday.
A.J. looked thoughtful. “Oh, it ain’t so bad,” he offered. “I didn’t like it when my wife was pregnant, but we got us a couple of good kids. Two boys,” he added for Max’ benefit. “Nine and seven. The oldest one’s already one hell of a baseball player. Little one likes soccer. They play on city leagues.”
Doug perked up visible. “Yeah, Max,” he said. “You’ll like that, won’t you? Throwing a ball around with your kid?”
Max sighed heavily. “Doctor says it’s probably a girl,” he complained. “Just what I need. Another griping women in the house.”
The other three men nodded in sympathy. Max tried very hard not to picture Liz’s reaction to the painfully chauvinistic turn the conversation had just taken.
This next part was going to be tricky. He needed to try to elicit information without arousing suspicions-or alienating his sources. He sighed heavily and stared into his beer, trying to project the image of utter dejection. “I just wish this hadn’t happened,” he said. “I can’t afford this right now. I really didn’t want it.”
There was an awkward pause as his three co-workers digested his misery,
Doug was the first to speak. “Have you considered giving it up for adoption?”
Max shrugged. “Liz didn’t want to talk about it. Anyway, I hear all the red tape and everything gets pretty complicated. I don’t want to mess with no damned bureaucrats.”
“There’s private adoption,” A.J. suggested. “That’s easier, I hear. All you need is an attorney.”
“I hate lawyers worse than I hate bureaucrats,” Max pronounced scornfully.
“If it was me, I’d just take off,” Walker boasted. “Hell, your women’s the one who got herself knocked up. Probably did it on purpose. Let her deal with it. If you’re gone, she can get on government assistance, probably rake in more than you’re getting busting your butt on a construction crew. Get yourself free, man.”
A.J. frowned, and Doug looked taken aback by Walker’s callous suggestion. Max only nodded. “Don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind,” he said.
“Have another beer,” Walker urged, seeming pleased by Max’s concurrence with his attitude. “Nothing for you hurry home to, is there?”
“Not a thing,” Max agreed. He waved an arm to motion for the bored, sour-faced waitress who’d been unenthusiastically serving them during the past couple of hours. “Hey, Sandra. Bring us another round!”
He’d struck out, he decided, as Sandra frowned even more heavily and nodded in answer to his bellow. These guys either knew nothing about the baby-selling ring allegedly working in their neighbourhood or they weren’t the type to send anyone to them. A.J. and Doug were both hardworking stiffs who tried to live right-at least most of the time. Walker was a jerk, but still rather naïve in some ways; viewed his surroundings through blinders he’d deliberately donned to block out anything he didn’t want to see.
Apparently Walker was right about one thing, though; Max was busting his butt on a construction crew for no good reason.
Looked like it was about time to begin part two of the investigation-which started with getting fired. But that would have to wait until Monday. Tonight he could sit back, relax, and allow Max Powers to have another couple of beers with his co-workers. And then he’d better be heading back to the apartment to check in with Liz.
He was sure she’d understand that he’d spent the evening working on the investigation, even if the results had come up negative this time.
After one of the longest, most boring and uncomfortable evenings she’d ever spent, Liz finally heard a noise outside her apartment. Since she was wearing the harness-she hadn’t wanted to risk going without it until Max returned-she snatched open the door before he had a chance to insert the key. “Well it’s about time! Where the…..Oh Maria, it’s you. I thought you were Max.”
Maria looked up from the floor of the hallway, where she was crouched over a clutter of what looked like items from the oversize purse she always carried. “Spilled my damned purse looking for my keys,” she explained, then cocked her head and asked, “Max ain’t home yet?”
“No,” Liz said. “And I’m getting worried,” she added, the words only halfway for Maria’s benefit. Actually Liz was getting a bit concerned about Max. Had he pursued a lead that had landed him in trouble? Had he stumbled onto something dangerous while playing the Lone Ranger without her?
“Probably out at a bar somewhere,” Maria said. “That’s where most of the guys around here end up o Friday night. Get their paychecks and can’t wait to spend them.”
“Oh Max wouldn’t do that,” Liz said, wringing her hands affectingly in front of her. “He know’s how badly we need his paycheck just for food and baby supplies.”
“Yeah right.” Maria stretched awkwardly for the items scattered around her, trying to stuff them back into the back-and-purple vinyl handbag.
“Here, let me help you.” Liz bent quickly to help, then gasped and out a hand to steady herself on the grimy floor when she nearly fell right on her face from the weight of the harness.
Maria’s hand shot out to catch Liz’s shoulder. “You okay?”
“Yes I’m fine.” Still kneeling, Liz shook her head. “Can’t believe I did that.”
“You shouldn’t bend so fast,” Maria scolded. “You know your balance if off.”
“I keep forgetting,” Liz explained, reaching for a tube of lipstick.
Maria looked surprise. “How the hell could you forget? It ain’t like you haven’t been in this shape for awhile.”
Mentally slapping herself for the slip, Liz made a face. “It must be Freudian,” she said lightly.
Maria smiled. “Yeah, I know what you mean. There’s times I wish I could just pretend I wasn’t in this shape and I’d suddenly have my own body back.”
Liz handed Maria the items she’d gathered, then struggled awkwardly to her feet. She patted her solid “tummy”. “I guess I shouldn’t complain so much,” she said. “Max says I’m always griping about something.”
“Max’s a-“ Maria bit back whatever she’d started to say, though it obviously wasn’t easy for her. She took a deep breath and rose to her own feet with Liz’s assistance. “Look, if you need anything tonight, come on down to my place okay?” she said, instead. “I mean, in case Max stays out all night and you get scared. Or in case he comes home drunk and mean. Whatever, you can come to me okay?”
The hooker with heart of gold, Liz thought flippantly, then regretted the thought when she saw the sincerity in Maria’s over-emphasised eyes. How long had it been since Maria had offered a hand of friendship to anyone? And how long since that offer had been accepted with a smile rather than a slap of rejection?
Liz smiled. “Thank you Maria,” she said gently. “But I’m sure I’ll be fine. Max yells a lot, but he would never hurt me. He probably just had to work late.”
Maria looked torn between pity and impatience with Liz’s naïve remark. “Okay. Just remember what I said.”
“I will. Thank you.”
Maria nodded and moved on, one hand pressed to the small of her back, her swollen feet wobbled in the too-high heels. Liz watched for a moment, then went back inside, shaking her head at Maria’s stubborn insistence on wearing shoes that had to be causing her agony in her condition. She felt rather guilty for sulking all evening over wearing the harness. At least she didn’t have swollen greats and ankles and cramps and haemorrhoids and all that other terrible stuff Maria had described.
Liz spent the next half hour pacing, and remembering how Max had looked with a gun pressed to his ear the last time she’d worked with him and things had gone horribly wrong. It had been a drug bust, the result of a week’s work on their parts. Liz had never quite understood how everything had gone wrong at the last moment, but Max had narrowly avoided being shot-and she’d come much too close for comfort, herself. She’d saved his butt that time-and, okay he’d saved hers, too-but he was on his own now. What had he gotten himself into?
And why on earth was she so terribly worried about it? He was just her partner, and a temporary one at that. She was acting as though he really was her lover and the father of her “child”!
Finally his key sounded in the lock. Nerves stretched to the limit, Liz whirled to face him. He entered with a slightly unsteady walk, rather glazed eyes, a dopey grin and the heavy aroma of cheap beer. “Hi, honey,” he said, the words a bit slurred. “I’m home.”
Liz’s temper exploded.
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:51:22 PM|
“Where the fuck have you been? Do you have any idea what time it is?”
Max blinked in surprise at the anger in Liz’s voice. He closed the door behind him. “I-uh-had a couple of drinks with some of the guys from work.”
Fists doubled on her hips, she glared at him. “You were having drinks? That’s it? Drinks?”
“I had a sandwich, too,’ he offered, as though that would make it better.
“A sandwich?” Liz knew her voice was raising, but was having trouble controlling it. “I made fettuccine Alfredo. Do you know what fettuccine Alfredo tastes like after it’s been sitting on the table for four hours? Wallpaper paste, that’s what!”
“Look, I’m sorry, but I-“
“You couldn’t call to let me know you were going to be late?”
“Liz, we don’t have a phone.”
“Don’t make excuses!” she yelled, stamping one foot. “I’ve been going nuts sitting here in this ugly apartment with nothing to do but try to remember what my feet look like, and no one to talk to but a couple of cockroaches. I waited to eat with you, but then the food got cold and disgusting and now I’m starving. For all I knew, you could have been lying dead somewhere. Did you care that I might be worried? Did you even try to let me know where you were? No!”
“You think it’s fun sitting around this place? You think it’s easy carrying twenty pounds of extra weight in front of me? You think it’s a breeze to try to cook around this thing? Then you try it! See how you like it.”
“You probably weren’t even working,” she added, on a roll now. “You probably didn’t even ask even one question about-mmph.”
Max’s hand was planted firmly over her mouth. He loomed over her, gazing narrowly down at her, his goofy grin replaced by a frown,
“I was working,’ he said, his voice much quieter than hers had been. “And I did ask questions. Enough, at least, to know that there aren’t any easy answers to be found on the construction crew. Now, would you watch what you’re saying, for crying out loud? I know you’re trying to make this sound good, but don’t get carried away and forget to be discreet, okay?”
Liz hadn’t thought she could get any madder. She was wrong. She shoved his hand away from her face. “Don’t ever cover my mouth with your hand again! And stop telling me how to do my-mmph!”
Max didn’t silence her with his hand this time. He used his mouth.
The heat of anger transformed itself rapidly, almost magically into passion. Without even stopping to think about it, Liz threw herself into the kiss with the same enthusiasm she’d put into her tantrum.
Max was a bit surprised at first by her cooperation, but then he took full advantage of the opportunity, parting her lips with his tongue to deepen the kiss, his arms closing around her. Both of them murmured their frustration at the bulky padding that separated them when they would have pressed closed together.
Max’s hands slid down Liz’s back, settling on her hips to hold her closely against him as possible. She lopped her arms around his neck, strained over the padding between them and lost herself in his kiss. She had to admit that she’d been wanting to kiss him again ever since he’d kissed her that morning, eve if he’d only been performing then for any onlookers benefit.
There were no onlookers now.
Max’s thick, brown hair was soft against her fingers when she buried them at the back of his head. His mouth hard, hot, skilful. As far as kisses went, this one would have earned him an A-plus, she thought dreamily, sliding her tongue tantalisingly against his. He tasted of beer, and she never would have dreamed the combination would be so pleasing. Or was it just the taste of Max that intrigued her so?
Her mind was spinning by the time he finally, reluctantly ended the kiss. He lifted his head slowly, his eyes locked with hers. She searched his face, wondering what he was thinking, what he was feeling as he stared back down at her. She thought she saw there the same stunned realisation that was overwhelming her.
The exchange between them, explosive as it had been, hadn’t been a total a surprise to Liz. The attraction had been building for a long time-weeks, months, maybe-though she’d fought hard against it. She had refused to acknowledge it even to herself-until now, when she could no longer deny it.
Max seemed to suddenly become aware that he was still holding her, his hands still clasped on her hips. He dropped his arms abruptly. “I, uh, I’d better take a shower,” He murmured, his voice rather hoarse.
Liz could only nod, not trusting her voice at all.
He hesitated another moment, still looking at her, and then he took a sharp breath turned, and all but bolted for the shower.
Liz covered her flaming cheeks with her hands and moaned.
And she’d though their last assignment together had gotten complicated!
Liz threw out the fettuccine, still too stunned to feel ore than a flicker of renewed irritation that she was having to do so. She made herself a turkey sandwich, then realised that her hunger had faded along with her temper. She chocked down half of it, then stuffed the remained into a plastic sandwich bag, and shoved it in the fridge for later.
She was tired. Mentally and physically exhausted. Sitting alone for long, boring hours was almost more wearing for her than steady physical activity.
Her nightshirt in her hand, she was waiting at the door of the bathroom when Max emerged after his shower, wearing only the gym shorts he favoured for sleeping. She brushed past him with an incoherent murmur, her gaze trained firmly away from his behr chest and legs. She spent a long time brushing her teeth, removing her makeup and putting on her nightshirt. As always, she gave a sigh of relief when she removed the heavy harness. Taking that thing off was better-and faster-than a strict diet for making her feel slim and fit.
Max was sitting on his side of the bed, when she finally left the bathroom. He looked tired, she noted. There were deep lines around his dark eyes and unsmiling mouth, and a weary slump in his behr shoulders. His very sexy behr shoulders, she though before she could stop herself. She turned her eyes away and moved around to her side of the bed.
They crawled under the sheets without speaking. Max reached out to turn off the bedside lamp, and the room was thrown into darkness. Someone walked noisily above them, a baby cried somewhere beneath them. Someone was playing a stereo too loudly, heavy on the bass. The sounds of traffic, shouts, and an occasional siren drifted in from outside.
There was total silence inside the bedroom.
Liz could almost hear the minutes ticking by. Slowly. Painfully slowly. She lay on her back, staring wide-eyes at the ceiling. Sleep seemed very far away. She was just about to give up and go watch TV when Max spoke, his voice sounding startlingly loud.
She moistened her lips. “Yeah?”
“Sorry about dinner. The guys asked me to have a few beers with them and it seemed like a good chance to pump then for information.”
She covered her face with her hands and groaned deeply.
Max sounded startled when he spoke again. “Liz? What’s wrong? Are you still mad?”
“I’m mad at myself,” he muttered, her voice muffled by her hands. “I can’t believe I yelled at you like that. Of course, you were just doing your job-you did exactly what Max Powers would have done. I don’t know why I got furious. I guess I got carried away with my role.”
Max exhaled deeply-what might have been a sigh of relief that she wasn’t still angry with him. “It’s okay,” he said. “I understand. Sometimes it’s easy to forget who you are for awhile. Besides, you were probably bored out of your mind. I know I would have been if I’d had to sit alone in this dump all day and all evening.”
“Yeah, I was,” she admitted. “This assignment doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Sometimes I wonder if we’re just wasting out time.”
“It’s only been five days,’ Max reminded her. “Valenti expected us to take a couple of weeks to firmly establish our cover. And you have made a lot of headway with Maria. She’s already talking to you. If she’s involved in this, you’ll know soon.”
He was trying to be encouraging, but Liz didn’t feel much better. “I still feel stupid,” she said. “Not for yelling at you-I needed to do that for the cover. But I was really mad at you for missing dinner.”
Max chuckled and rolled up to one elbow, propping his head on his hand as he looked down at her. “You really did get carried away with your role, didn’t you?”
She nodded against the pillow. “I spent the day cleaning the refrigerator,” she confessed. “I even pulled it out and mopped behind it. At one point, I stopped and asked myself if I ought to be doing heavy cleaning in my condition!”
Max laughed softly.
But Liz wasn’t through. “You know what I found myself doing this afternoon to entertain myself? Choosing names for the baby! I tell you, Evans, we’re got to get on with this case before I start decorating the place with cutesy country stuff.”
Max was still laughing. “Naming the kid huh? So what did you choose?”
She sighed and mentally cursed herself or being so candid with him. Now she’d probably never hear the end of it. “Never mind.”
“How about Bob? I’ve always liked Bob.”
“Bob?” she repeated. “For a baby?”
“Sure. It’s simple, easy to spell, a nice strong, manly name. Like Max,” he added.
“I can see why simple, easy to spell, and monosyllabic would appeal to you.”
He growled in response to the less-than-subtle insult. “Watch it, Parker.” And then he reached out almost absently and brushed a strand of hair from her check as he continued the teasing. “I suppose you’d rather name a kid after a city? Atlanta, maybe? Detroit?”
“Hey just cause my middle name’s Dallas doesn’t mean I actually like it.”
“So where’d you get that name anyway?”
“That’s where my mother dumped me,” she answered with a shrug against the pillows. “One of the social workers that was involved in my case named me after her dead daughter Elizabeth and Dallas well I guess she had a weird sense of humour.”
Max stopped laughing. “You were never adopted?”
“No. I grew up in foster homes. Most of them were okay. Some sucked. But that’s life, I guess.”
She shook her head dislodging his hand, which had rested against her cheek. “No pity, Evans. I really hate pity.”
“Stop being so prickly, Parker. It isn’t pity. It’s just commiseration. That’s allowed between friends, isn’t it?”
“Friends?” she repeated thoughtfully, trying to focus on his face through the dim, watery light coming in through the window curtains. “Since when are we friends?”
“I don’t know,” he murmured, moving his fingers back to her cheek. “But it seems to have happened somehow. You have any objections?”
“Not to being friends,’ she answered cautiously.
His head was very close to hers now-so close she could feel his warm breath caressing her right cheek as softly as his fingers stroked her left. “What if we became more than friends?” he asked, very quietly. “Would you have any objections to that?”
“I-“ she had to stop to clear her throat. “I think that would be a mistake.”
He toyed with her left earlobe, tracing it with one fingertip, “Do you?”
“Yes,’ she whispered, then said it again, more firmly. “Yes. Definitely.”
“I’m lousy with relationships. Every time I’ve tried it, something went wrong. Really wrong,” she emphasised, to make sure he got her point. “You and I have several strikes against us already. Let’s not completely get carried away with this assignment and take a chance on turning it into a bigger disaster than the last one.”
“What are the strikes against us?” he asked, sounding genuinely curious.
She couldn’t believe he didn’t already know. Maybe he just wanted confirmation of what he already suspected. “We’re copes, for one thing. Copes have a history of bad relationships. You should know that,” she added, remembering that he’d been living with someone when she’d met him. One of their co-workers had mentioned it right after Liz and Max had been introduced on her first day in his precinct. She’d immediately stifled any initial attraction she might have felt for the dark-haired, amber-eyed detective; she had very strict rules about “trespassing.”
By the time she’d learned that Max and his former roommate had gone separate ways, she had pushed that earlier attraction firmly aside. Permanently she’d thought. Obviously she’d been mistaken.
“Granted, cops have some problems with relationships,” Max conceded. “Usually because the other person doesn’t understand what it’s like being a cop. What else?”
“We don’t get along. You’re always grouchy, and I like to laugh. You always try to tell me what to do-I don’t like taking orders form anyone, especially my partner.”
“I’m aware that I tend to be bossy. “I’ve been working on that with you, or haven’t you noticed? As for my personality, I don’t think I’m any grouchier than you are. You just see it more than with yourself.”
“And who was it attacking whom earlier this evening?’ he asked politely.
She flushed. “That doesn’t count. I’ve already said I wasn’t myself then.”
“Guess I just bring out the worst in you.”
“Exactly,” she said, felling as though another point had just been made to support her argument.
“Okay, so I’m a grouchy, bossy cop. Anything else about me you don’t like? You think I’m ugly? Stupid, maybe?”
She frowned. “Of course, I don’t think you’re ugly. And you aren’t stupid. You’re one hell of a good cop-when you aren’t busy trying to do my job for me. But-“
“I don’t think you’re ugly either,” Max interrupted, nuzzling her check with his nose. “In fact,’ he added, his lips brushing the corner of her mouth, “I think you’re gorgeous. I always have. It just took me awhile to realise that I like the rest of you almost as much as that great bod of yours.”
Max was calling her gorgeous? If she weren’t so damned flattered, she probably be suspicious of his motives. He’d never given her flowery compliments before, never touched her the way he was touching her now, sending little surges of electricity rippling through her. It was almost enough to make her wonder what he was really after.
And then she remembered what else he’s claimed. “You don’t even like me, Evans,” she stated automatically. “You think I’m a pain in the butt.”
“Well, yes,” he agreed. “But I like you, anyway. Funny huh?”
Her words were smothered by his kiss.
It was a long time before he lifted his head-at least, as far as he could lift it with Liz clinging like a tightly knotted tie around his neck. “Oh, yeah, Parker,” he murmured gathering her closer. “I like you.”
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:52:32 PM|
He kissed her again running his tongue along her lips, he loved the feel of her lips they were so full and soft and they tasted a bit like strawberries he thought, just addictive. Liz opened her mouth to him seeking his tongue with hers. Both moaning at the contact.
Before long it was hard to tell who was kissing whom, whose arms were more hungry, whose movements were more urgent. Liz was starting to get light headed, needing oxygen but not wanting to break contact for Max’s frenzied kisses. He was like a drug she couldn’t get enough of.
Max suddenly moved his mouth to her neck sucking and licking down to her collarbone. His hands moving up her behr thighs ending at her hips. God he thought she feels so good, her skin is so soft to touch. Why hadn’t I done this sooner?
Liz’s head was thrown back giving Max better access to her neck, which he took advantage of. His hands were slowly creeping up the inside of her shirt stopping just below her aching breasts, which were begging to be touched.
“Max?” Liz asked in a breathless moan.
“Yeah?” he mumbled against her neck.
“Take my shirt off.”
“God yes,” she practically screamed.
Max smiled slowly inching her top of starting at the skin slowly coming into view. Liz untangled her arms from Max’s body allowing him to remove her top fully.
Max gave a sharp sigh as her breasts came into view. God she was beautiful, her breasts were just perfect, her nipples standing out proud waiting to be touched. Max gave Liz another smile then moved his mouth to her nipples. Taking one of the rosy pecks into his mouth he gave it a slight tug causing Liz to moan in both pain and pleasure. He then flicked his tongue over it to ease a bit of the pain.
Lifting his head, which was rather hard to do as Liz had rapped her hands into his hair tying to keep his head to her left nipple, he moved over to her twin breast giving it the same treatment. His right hand was massaging her other breast causing Liz’s moans to get louder.
Slowly he began to wonder downwards kissing every part of Liz’s body he could see until he reached her panties, which caused as a barrier to the goal he was aiming for. Lifting his head to look at Liz he waited for her approval to go any further.
Liz was in a daze, his kisses were like fire, she was so hot and bothered and the ache between her legs was getting worse by the second. She could fell Max’s cock pressed against her thigh, which didn’t help the ache she was felling at all. Noticing the Max had stopped his movements she lifted her head to look at him. The desire she saw in his eyes was almost enough to make her cum there and then. Realising what he stopped Liz slowly nodded her head that she wanted him to continue. God she would be an idiot if she didn’t.
Max watched as Liz slowly lifted her head to look at him. Her eyes were glazed over in passion, which made him even harder if that was possible. As she slowly nodded her head, his heart jumped a beat. He was about to unwrap his present which he had been wanting to do for God know’s how long weeks-months he’d lost count. He was as excited as a little boy on Christmas morning.
Gripping either side of her panties he slowly pulled them down, gazing at this beautiful women in front of him. Throwing the panties over his head he pulled her thighs apart getting the first look at Liz, his Liz he thought with delight.
Max slowing inserted one finger into her tight passage. God she is so wet and it’s all for me. Inserting another finger inside her he slowly moved them in and out causing Liz to let out a sharp gasp. His fingers felt to good. Moving his thumb over her clit in a swift flight Liz jumped sending a warm glow through her body.
Unable to hold back anymore Max removed his fingers only to replace with his this mouth. Finally getting a taste of the real Liz. Max let out a deep moan as he tasted her God he was in heaven. Hearing Max moan sent shivers up and down Liz’s body, she loved that sound.
Liz’s hands had some how travelled into Max’s hair again. There was no way she was going to let him leave his current position until she had finished what he started.
Max didn’t mind at all, he was feasting on her like he handed eaten in days. By now Liz’s moans were getting close to screams, knowing that she was close he pulled her clit into his mouth and sucked on it flicking his tongue over and over. Until Liz let out an earth shattering scream that was bound to wake up the whole building.
Lifting his head Max watched Liz in the throws of ecstasy. He had never seen anything more beautiful in his life. Pulling himself up he lay down beside her with a smile on his face.
Liz had never had an orgasm that violent in her life. God he was good, she thought again for like the tenth time tonight. Turning to face him she gave him a small smile. Suddenly very shy. “Hi,” she said in a whisper.
“Hi,” he replied just as quiet.
“Wow, that was just wow.” Liz couldn’t think of anything else to say it seemed all her vocabulary had just gone out the window.
“I know,” he replied just as stunned.
Feeling rather under dressed Liz decided she had to render the situation. Pushing Max onto his back she threw her leg over his hips straddling him. “It seems to me Max that you are way over dressed, let me help you with that,” giving his a sexy smile.
“Why Miss Parker I would be honoured,” giving her a sexy smile of his own.
Liz leaned forward kissing Max but pushed him away before he could deepen it. Moving her mouth to his neck she began to suck just above his collarbone, causing Max to grab her butt pulling her closer. Smacking his hands away she gave him a stern look.
“Ah ah ah, no touching now put those hands up where I can see them.”
Max lifted his hands above his head and gripped the headboard so that he wasn’t tempted to touch her. Sure that he wasn’t going to move Liz continued what she was doing. Kissing down his neck to his oh so hot body, she tugged one of his nipples into her mouth then flicked over it exactly as he had done to her not so long ago.
“God,” Max breathed when he felt Liz tug on his nipple. That felt so damned good.
Liz smiled against his chest when she heard Max groan, releasing his nipple she continued kissing down his chest. Max’s muscles contorted as Liz’s kisses moved lower. He didn’t know how much more of this he could take before he exploded. It was just plain torture. His hands had turned white with the strain not to touch Liz.
Stopping at the waste band of Max’s shorts Liz slipped on finger inside just grazing the tip of his erection. This of course caused Max to almost jump right off the bed. Grinning Liz pulled his shorts off coming face to face with his aroused member. God he was huge, she wondered how the hell he was going to fit.
Grabbing his cock with both hands, she began to rub him up and down, also using her tongue to lick him from root to tip. Max let out a loud moan trusting his hips up trying to make Liz place her mouth where it was needed the most.
Laughing Liz continued teasing Max with her tongue. Finally felling sorry for the poor guy she lifted her head to look at him. “Max, open you’re eyes I want you to watch me.”
Max opened his eyes at the sound of her voice lifting his head off the pillow, struggling to focus his eyes.
Making sure Max’s eyes were on her Liz lowered her mouth to taste Max. Carefully sliding her lips over his turgid flesh, Liz slowed moved him farther and farther down her throat. To his amazement and hers she managed to take him completely into her mouth. Moving up and down gently sucking as she went. She used one hand to massage his sac as she went.
God Max thought what is she doing to me, he could not removed his eyes away from her head as it bobbed up and down on his member. Felling that he couldn’t last much longer, Max released his hands and grabbed her head away from him. “Liz you need to stop I want to be inside you.”
“Oh God yes,” she said breathlessly.
Crawling the length of him, Liz stopped just above his throbbing erection. Grabbing his cock and rubbing it along her dripping folds, Liz slowing started to descend onto him. Max placed his hands on her hips helping to guide her.
Both moaned in unison, as he finally completed her. Resting their foreheads against one another, they waited for Liz to get comfortable before they continued. Liz slowly began to rock on his hard length. She stared out at a slow languid pace, but before long she was slamming her hips up and down on his as he trust up into her.
Needing to be in charge Max flipped Liz over, staying inside her. Finally being able to move with freedom, Max began bounding into Liz loving the feel of her surrounding him. Grabbing one of Liz’s legs he placed it high on his body trying to get the best angle, thrusting deeper and deeper with every stroke.
Liz was in heaven she loved the feel of Max inside her, branding her as his own.
Feeling himself close to release, Max reached between their bodies and stroked her clit roughly. Liz was whimpering, her vaginal muscles fluttering around his cock almost instantly was her orgasm began to start. Suddenly they clamped down causing Max to moan loudly. Giving her clit on more tweak, Liz screamed, her fingernails tearing into his shoulders as she exploded. This caused Max to shot his semen deep inside her core roaring her name as he did. He carried on pumping into her until he collapsed with exhaustion.
Rolling off her Max pulled Liz on top of him making sure she was comfortable. Liz stirred against Max’s shoulder. He lay sprawled beneath her, his breathing not quite steady, his heart still racing beneath her cheek. Intimately tangled with her, his body glistened with a fine sheen of perspiration, and his hair was damp around his neck when she touched it with her fingertips.
It was nice to know that he’d found as much satisfaction as she had with their lovemaking, she thought contentedly.
Her eyelids were growing heavy. The sounds outside the bedroom began to fade as she drifted toward unconsciousness. But there was one thing she wanted to say before she fell asleep. “Evans?”
“Hmm?” his own voice was slurred, sleepy.
“I like you too.”
He hugged her roughly against him, and this time there was a smile in his voice when he said, ‘Go to sleep Parker.”
She smiled against his throat and decided that just this once, she’d do as he suggested without argument.
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:53:57 PM|
Max was watching Liz sleep again. He lay on his side, facing her, his gaze focused unblinkingly on her sweetly relaxed face. He knew she wouldn’t like it that he was staring at her at such a vulnerable, unguarded moment, but he couldn’t seem to look away.
He had absolutely no idea how to handle this new development between them. Making love with her had been-Well, it had been incredible. Spectacular. Staggering. As a matter of fact, he would like very much to do it again. Soon. Repeatedly. But was that all there was between them? Sexual chemistry? And is so, how come it hadn’t hit him before? Why had he only fully realised it after he’d become aware of all the things he admired about her?
Maybe there was more to it then sex. And wasn’t that a scary thought?
She stirred against the pillow, her fine brown hair tangling softly around her face. He wanted to reach out and smooth it back, but was afraid he’d wake her if he did. She needed her rest.
He didn’t blame her for being bored and restless during the part week. As skilled as she was in the kitchen, Liz wasn’t the type to content herself for long with repetitive domestic routines. She thrived on action, pressure, even a hint of danger. Liz loved her job in a way that Max could only envy. If he’d every really felt that way about his career, the enthusiasm had burned out years ago. He hadn’t felt particularly enthusiastic about anything for a long time-until last night. Making love to Liz Parker had made him feel more intensely alive, more passionately aware, than he’d felt in years.
Now he found himself already dreading the inevitable return to the dull, grey, smothering monotony of life without her. Because something told him that the end of this assignment would also mark the end of whatever tentative relationship had been formed between him and his impulsive, utterly dedicated partner.
She stirred again, yawned, then blinked sleepily a couple of time. Her gaze met his and suddenly focused. Max could almost watch the awareness returning to her in stages as she realised that he was lying beside her, watching her, and that she wasn’t wearing anything. And then her eyes widened, and he knew she’d remembered exactly what had happened between them last night.
How would she react? Would she withdraw in panic? Turn her confusion into anger at him? Brush it off as “just one of those things”?
He hadn’t expected her to smile.
“Good morning.” She murmured.
“Good morning.” He noticed how soft and inviting her unpainted mouth looked first thing in the morning.
“Did you sleep well?” she asked politely.
“Mmm. Very.” She stretched lazily and the sheet slid down to expose the upper curves of her small, perfect breasts. Max felt his heart do a slow somersault in his chest.
And then she smiled again. “I haven’t slept that well in a very long time,” she assured him.
He couldn’t resist reaching out to touch her. He restricted himself to brushing back that lock of hair that had been tempting him all morning. “Neither have I.”
“Are you hungry? I was thinking of making waffles for breakfast.”
Waffles were very far down on his list of priorities just then. He looked again at her smile, threw caution to the wind and reached for her.
“Maybe we could talk about breakfast later,” he whisper, his mouth hovering a breath above hers.
Liz wound her arms around his neck. “Sound good to me,” she agreed with flattering eagerness.
That weekend, for the fist time, Max found himself almost wanting to believe the fantasy he was living.
He and Liz spent most of Saturday in the bedroom. They made love-repeatedly. They talked, they raided the kitchen for snacks, which they fed each other in bed. They laughed. He noticed at one point that Liz was looking at him strangely, though she’d been giggling only moments ago. “What is it?” he asked, trailing a lazy hand down her firm, behr thigh.
“You’re laughing,” she said, sounding bemused.
“Yeah well, you’re pretty funny Parker.”
“You don’t laugh very often. Except for the fist time you saw me in the harness, I don’t think I’d every really heard you laugh before.”
His smile changed to a quick frown. “Sure you have.”
She shook her head. “I’ve heard you chuckle. I’ve seen you smile-very rarely. But I’m not sure you’re ever really laughed out loud around me before last week.”
She was making his self-conscious. He shrugged.
“You’re a very serious guy, aren’t you, Evans? Aren’t you happy?” she asked lightly. He sensed that she was only half teasing.
His head propped on one hand, he touched her face with the fingertips of his other hand. “I’m happy right now,’ he said quietly. And realised, to his surprise, that he meant it.
She smiled and nestled her cheek into his palm. “That’s nice,” she murmured, her lips moving against his caressing thumb.
“Mmm. Nice,” he agreed, his voice growing husky. His body stirring. Again. “Very nice,” he whispered, and replaced his thumb with his mouth.
She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him down to her.
Max groaned, covering her body with his, his erect cock pressed against her stomach and throbbing with the beat of his heart. His lips burned her flesh everywhere they touched her. Liz’s hands dug into his back, then slid down to his buttocks, clenching there and forcing him harder against her. She heard him groan when her hands came in contact with his ass, and his cock jerked against her growing even larger. His tongue was deep in her mouth, she sucked on it, locking her eyes to his smouldering gaze even as her body locked to his.
Max pulled back, causing a whimper of frustration from her as she reached to pull him down again. Her gasps stilled as she watched him position himself between her thighs, taking his erection in his fingers, and slide himself up and down using his won arousal to lubricate her. He slid slowly into her a little, closing his eyes, his mouth open in mute pleasure, the muscles in his arms and legs bunched in anticipation of the act of coupling. Pulling out again, moving his cock between her legs, then lunged forward powerfully. The thrust carried him entirely within her, causing Liz to gasp at the completeness of his penetration. Holding himself still for moment, feeling her inner muscles moving to accommodate his size. When he knew she was ready, he began to pump in and out, hard.
Liz’s nipples were hard against his chest. Max bent down and took one into his mouth, sucking her breast, teasing the nipple with his tongue, then biting it, just hard enough to send a bolt of sweet pain through Liz. He did the same with the other.
He knew it would happen fast. From Liz’s cries and the movement of her body, the tightening of her inner muscles around his swollen cock, Max knew she would not last much longer. His thrust were deep and powerful, faster as his lust increased. His breath was rapid and harsh, every exhale a sob. He felt Liz’s hands gripping his upper arms for leverage as she moved in time with his rhythmic stabbing, her face flushed, her eyes glazed over with desire. “Max….” she panted, then words failed her as her orgasm ripped through her, sending her body into spasms. Her mouth opened, but no sound came out.
Max watched her climax, feeling her inner muscles squeezing his cock again and again in diminishing waves as her orgasm gradually wound down. The pleasure was almost unbearable. He lifted her body up against him holding her buttocks, and drove into her faster, wanting to bury himself so deeply inside her that their bodies would be fused together like this forever. Liz was sprawled on the lumpy mattress, her hair a mass around her shoulders, eyes fixed on Max, watching him as he made her his own.
His strokes didn’t slow down or decrease in intensity-if anything, he seemed to feeding on the passion from Liz. Gasping, his hair stuck around his face, his body slick with sweat, max rode Liz almost violently, dancing with her in the most primal, most erotic of dances. He didn’t think he could be more hard, but with every stroke he could feel his cock grow to the point that it was almost painful for him to continue.
He felt Liz tightening around him again, and she gasped out, “Oh God, Max….” as another climax ripped through her body. She had no strength to pull herself up into Max’s arms.
Her release triggered off Max’s climax, and he gasped out as the first spasm hit him like a tidal wave. Pitching himself forward bracing himself on his hands, he rode out his orgasm, his body convulsing again and again. His eyes were closed against the intensity of his passion.
It took a long time for Max’s body to finally calm down. He slowly regained his normal breathing, feeling Liz’s fingers sliding through his damp hair, caressing his shoulders, moving down his back to his ass, stroking him and laughing when her touch caused his cock to jump inside her.
“Well is it hot in here or is it just me?” Liz asked jokingly.
“Believe me it’s not just you,” Max said finally rolling off her. Causing them both to moan at the loss of contact.
“How about I go get something for us to eat? I’m starving.” Liz asked.
“Sure, sounds good,” Max replied noticing how hungry he was as well.
“Be back in a second,” Liz said leaning over giving Max a quick kiss on the mouth before. Climbing out of bed. Giving Max a great view of her rear end as she walked to the kitchen.
Back in the bedroom, Max and Liz were leaning up against the bed post talking. They talked about movies, sports, and mutual friends. Then Liz wanted to know what kind of music Max listened to.
“Alternative rock, usually. Why?”
“Just curious,” she murmured around a bit of homemade brownie, part of the batch she’d made while struggling to entertain herself Friday afternoon. “I’d have a hard time sleeping with someone who regularly listened to Britney Spears,” she added after swallowing.
Max smiled and brushed chocolate crumbs off his behr stomach. “A music snob, Parker?”
“Yep,’ she admitted unabashedly. “And, by the way, if you don’t like Creed, then I’m afraid it’s over between us. I have to set standards, you know.”
“Then I guess it’s a good thing I like Creed, isn’t it?”
She made a great show of sighing in relief and wiping her brow. “Made it past the first hurdle. So how do you feel about science fiction?”
He really liked science fiction, he assured her-but he had to confess to a slight preference for tightly written mystery novels. She graciously allowed him that eccentricity.
“What else do you like to do, Liz? Besides read scifi.”
She shrugged. “I work,” she said simply.
“Pretty much. Who has time for anything else?”
She didn’t sound as though she were really complaining. Max knew it was because Liz truly loved her work. Again, he felt that uncomfortable ripple of envy that he didn’t-couldn’t-feel the same way about their mutual career. It was a job to him. A way to pay the bills. That was all it had ever been. He sense that, for Liz, it had always been much more.
They worked together to prepare dinner Saturday evening. Liz broiled two inexpensive steaks, promising that her special marinade would make the taste like the finest cuts of beef. Max made a salad and prepared a dressing from a recipe he solemnly swore had been passed down for eleven generations in his family, to be revealed to outsiders only at the risk of great personal injury.
“Eleven generations, hmm?” Liz asked sceptically, trying to see around him to watch what her was adding to the bowl.
“Eleven,” he repeated, blocking her view with his broad shoulders.
“And only your relatives know the recipe?”
“It had never been divulged to anyone outside the Evans family.”
“What about people who marry into the Evans family?”
“They are given the secret on their wedding night.”
“And if they decide to divorce the Evans they married in order to receive the secret?”
“Then they have to be killed,” Max assured her gravely. “There are very few divorces in my family.”
“You’ll tell Junior, won’t you?” she asked, patting her flat stomach beneath the oversize white T-shirt that was all she worse at the moment. The shirt belonged to Max. He liked the way it looked on her much better than on him, he thought rather dreamily.
“You will tell Junior the secret recipe, won’t you?” she prodded, smiling at their silliness. “After all, he is your child.”
“I’ll tell him,” Max promised. “The usual method-a secret ceremony for all the adult males in the family, to be held at midnight on his twenty-first birthday.”
“Only adult males? Why, you sexist pig. What if Junior’s a girl, hmm?”
Max shook his head. “Bob isn’t a girl,” he announced flatly.
“We are not naming this child Bob,” Liz informed him.
He sighed noisily. “I don’t understand this dislike you have toward the name Bob. It’s really a great name, Parker.”
“I know. Short, simple, easy to spell.”
“Yeah. Frontward and backward. What more could you ask?”
He shook his head again. “People with creative and imaginative names usually end up getting teased. No one makes fun of good, solid names like Bob.”
“Or Max, I suppose.”
She snorted. “You’re got no imagination at all, Evans.”
“Oh I don’t know,” he murmured, glancing at her over his shoulder. “I’m imagining a couple of interesting things I’d like to do with you.”
She widened her eyes. “Something we haven’t already tried?”
“Honey, we haven’t even gotten good and started.”
‘Oh, my.” She fanned herself rapidly with one hand. “I’m getting all flustered. Um-just how hungry are you, anyway?”
He laughed and turned back to his salad. “You can just wait until after dinner, Parker. A man needs his strength for the activities I have in mind.”
“Why don’t I whip you up a liver mile shake to go with that? Some oysters, maybe?”
Max realised that he was laughing again.
Damn, it felt good.
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:55:25 PM|
They played cards after dinner. It turned out that they shared a mutual passion for gin rummy-and a mutual competitiveness that turned the simple game into a grimly serious contest. Neither of them liked to lose. They diplomatically decided to end play at a point when the scores were tied.
Max watched the evening news before turning in, admitting that he wanted to check the scores of that day’s professional baseball games. He had a bet riding on one of them, he confessed.
“A bet?” Liz repeated, her head coming up from it’s comfortable position on his thigh. She’d stretched out beside him on the couch, her feet dangling over the opposite end, and she was totally uninterested in sports news.
“Chill out, Parker. I’m not talking about bookies, here. The bet’s with Kyle. And the loser had to buy the winner a steak dinner. So don’t start reading me my rights, okay?”
“I wasn’t accusing you of illegal gambling,” she retorted, resting her head on his leg again. “You’re too much of a straight arrow for anything like that. And much too unimaginative,” she added.
“Unimaginative?” he echoes, feigning offence. “Who me?”
“Hey, you’re the one who wants to name the kid Bob. If the adjective fits, wear it.”
“Okay, ‘fess up, Parker. You once knew someone named Bob did you? What did he do, break your heart?”
“I have nothing personal against the name Bob,” she argued. “It’s just-well, dull.”
“Dull?” He tapped one finger firmly against the wooden arm of the couch. “Like Max, perhaps?”
“The name or the person?” she inquired sweetly.
“You’re treading on dangerous ground here, Parker. Max is a fine old name in my family. It’s been passed down-“
“For eleven generations, I know,” Liz cut in with a roll of her eyes.
“Three,” he corrected. “Starting with my grandfather.”
“Then I’m surprised you don’t want to name your kid Max the fourth.”
“I do have more imagination than that.”
She giggled. “Oh yeah. Right. Bob.”
“Okay, so what would you name the kid?”
“My favourite name is Evan.”
Max choked. “Evan Evans? Give me a break, Liz, the kid would be the laughingstock of his kindergarten class.”
To his surprise, she actually blushed, her cheeks turning an intriguingly rosy colour. “I hadn’t thought of using your last name,” she muttered. “This is a hypothetical kid remember?”
“Right. A hypothetical kid who would be called Evan Powers. I hate to break this to you, but that isn’t any better.”
“This is ridiculous,” Liz said, sitting up abruptly. “There is not kid! And besides, it might be a girl,’ she added, obviously without stopping to think.
Max laughed. “I suppose if it’s a girl, you’d want to name it Emily?”
“I’m going to brush my teeth,” she announced, sweeping toward the bedroom door with exaggerated dignity. “Watch your scores, Evans. You’re probably going to be buying Kyle a steak dinner before long.”
He was still grinning when she left the room.
Parker was cute when she was embarrassed. She would seriously hurt him, of course, if he dared say so aloud.
He found himself suddenly picturing a tiny little girl with Liz’s doe little brown eyes and intriguing dimples. His grin vanished.
Now where on earth had that image come from? And why the hell had it left him with this achy, hollow feeling somewhere deep inside his chest?
Max had put his momentary thought firmly behind him by the time he and Liz crawled back into bed. He turned to take her into his arms, and she came to him eagerly.
Above them, a bed began to creak.
“Oh yes. Yes, yes, oh, God yes!” came the familiar shriek.
Liz dissolved into giggles against Max’s chest.
His deep laughter echoed from the dark corners of the grubby little room.
Max slipped downstairs for a newspaper early Sunday morning. The little women she’d spotted once before was moving down the first floor hallway behind her walker, wearing the same faded housedress and probably the same baggy knee-high stockings. He gave her a bright smile. “Good morning.”
She darted him a suspicious look and redoubled her pace, the walker thump-thumping loudly on the linoleum floor.
Max chuckled and tucked the newspaper under his arm. Max Powers certainly wasn’t making any new friends in this building. But Max Evans had surprisingly few complaints at the moment. He felt better than he’d felt in longer than he could remember. He’d just spent one of the most spectacular nights in his experience. Liz was upstairs even now making waffles for their breakfast. They had the entire day ahead of them-just the two if them.
He could almost believe it was all true. That he and Liz were a couple, making a home together, no matter how modest their surroundings. That the report they’d established extended beyond the bedroom, beyond the physical hunger they hadn’t begun to sate. That it wouldn’t all come to a messy, awkward, embarrassing end.
Hell, he could almost believe in little “Bob.”
He shook his head, some of his good mood fading. This was getting dangerous. And he wasn’t talking about their assignment.
Liz looked up with a smile when he joined her in the kitchen. The heavenly scent of crisply browned waffles filled the air, making her mouth water. But it was the warm smile she gave him that whetted his most urgent hunger.
Oh, yes, he thought grimly. This was most definitely getting dangerous.
It was the first time any assignment had ever put his heart at risk.
“Dear Ellis,” the letter in the newspaper began. “I’m in love with a man who can’t seem to open up to me. I want to make a lifelong commitment to him, but every time I try to talk about his feelings for me or our relationship, he changes the subject. Is there any hope for us? Signed, Frustrated.”
Liz peeked over the top of the newspaper page at Max, who sat at the other end of the couch, perusing the sports section. As though he’d sensed her looking at him, he glanced up. He smiled-that crooked, lazy smile that made her stomach do slow somersaults. She returned the smile with a weak attempt pf her own, and slid her gaze quickly back to the features-section page she’d been reading. Max looked down at his baseball scores again.
“Dear Frustrated,” Liz read silently. “A man who won’t open up often has something to hide. A lasting relationship is built on total communication. Talk to him. If he still won’t discuss your future, you may have to accept that he doesn’t shard your feelings or your goals. I urge you to find out now, before you invest any more in this one-sided relationship.”
Total communication. Liz sneaked another look over the paper, studying Max’s attractive profile. She couldn’t say she and Max shared total communication. Not verbally, anyway. They communicated beautifully in bed-but shouldn’t there be more to it than that?
There was so much about him she didn’t know. He’d told her about his childhood, growing up the beloved only son of a police-officer father and a homemaker mother. He’d told her he’d joined the police force nine years ago, and had vaguely mentioned that he’d first graduated from a state university. He’d brushed off her questions about his college major. He didn’t seem to enjoy talking about his career achievements.
There was a darkness in him, a deep, secret pain that she sometimes saw in his amber eyes or sensed in his deep, gruff voice. She’d once thought it had something to do with his broken relationship with the women he’d lived with when she’d first met him. Now she wasn’t so sure. When he mentioned Pam, which he’d done only a couple of times since she’d known him, there’d been no real heartache or deep fond of the women, but he hadn’t been devastated when the affair had ended. Liz suspected that the breakup had been as much his decision as Pam’s.
Had there been another women, before Pam? Had someone else hurt him so badly that he was still stinging, still wary about getting involved with anyone else?
She didn’t like to think about Max mourning an old love even when he was holding her in his arms.
Not that she was ready for a lifelong commitment, either, Liz assured herself hastily, closing the newspaper section. Her record with relationships was abysmal, and most of the men she’d known had been heartaches waiting to happen. Or vicious animals just waiting for an opportunity to attack. Or heartless slezoids who viewed women as nothing more than vulnerable bodies to be used for their own sick, selfish pleasures.
She suppressed a shudder as several old, ugly memories surfaces from the deep recesses of her mind. She pushed them firmly back into their dark corners, where she preferred them to remain.
Max Evans had his secrets. Liz Parker had hers. This so-called relationship was nothing more than a pleasant diversion to occupy them during an otherwise slow-moving investigation. When the assignment was over, their affair would end, as well. She could only hope it would end amicably, without an ugly scene that would make it more difficult for them to continue to work together.
“Aren’t you supposed to get in touch with Valenti this afternoon?” she asked suddenly, wanting to hear their supervisor’s name spoken aloud, needing the reminder that this was all part of the job.
Max had just turned to a new page of the sports section. In response to her abrupt question, he went very still for a moment. And then closed the newspaper. “Yeah,” he said. “I’d almost forgotten. Uh thanks for reminding me.”
He didn’t sound particularly grateful.
“Maybe I’ll try to talk to Maria again while you’re gone. I still think she’s our best chance at breaking this case. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind getting out of this rathole soon.”
Max was looking at her with an odd, shuttered expression far different from the relaxed smile he’d been wearing all morning. Liz almost regretted bringing up the assignment. For a few wonderful hours, Max had seemed….well, almost happy. Now he looked more like the man she’d known during the past year-distant, cool, emotionless.
She missed his smile.
He set the paper aside. “I think I’ll take a shower and change before I go out.”
“Sure,” she muttered, and turned back to her paper. As though she wasn’t aware that something had just changed between them. Something very important.
Max left the apartment at just after four afternoon. “I’m not sure when I’ll be back,’ he warned. “I’ll talk to Valenti, then hang out around the neighbourhood for awhile. See if I can pick anything up,”
“No reason for you to rush back,” she said casually. “Maybe Valenti has a new lead for us.”
“Yeah, maybe.” He hesitated at the door, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
Liz stood beside him, her bulky harness back in place beneath a blue, peasant-style maternity top with a large ruffled collar that kept tickling her chin. She smoothed the collar down for the dozenth time. It gave her something to do with her hands, other than reaching out to cling to Max. “Watch your back, Evans,” she said offhandedly.
He lifted an eyebrow. “Isn’t that what you always say to your buddy Elliott?”
“Yeah,” she admitted, “Seemed appropriate.”
He nodded. “Okay. Keep your guard up, Parker.” He brushed his lips across her cheek, then let himself out.
Her fingertips pressed to the spot he’d kissed, Liz stared thoughtfully at the closed door. Keep your guard up. Isabel’s habitual response to Liz’s routine warning.
Apparently, Max had been watching Liz more closely than she’d realised during the past months. Did that mean he’d been interested in her before this assignment had begun? Or did it mean he was the observant type? Maybe it didn’t mean anything at all. Maybe she was just wasting her time looking for a faint, tentative reason to hope this wasn’t just a convenient, temporary affair.
She closed her eyes and took a long, deep breath. Someone was going to get hurt on this assignment, she thought glumly. It would probably be her. And potential physical danger was the least of her worries.
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:57:01 PM|
Max had been gone for well over an hour when Liz crossed the hallway and tapped quietly on Maria’s door. “It’s Liz,” she said, identifying herself in answer to a muffled question from the other side of the door.
Maria opened the door a moment later. She quickly searched Liz’s face. “Anything wrong?”
“No. I just wondered if you’d like to come over and have a cup of coffee with me. I owe you one.”
Maria glanced across the hallway toward Liz’s apartment. “Your man home?”
“He’s gone out for awhile. I don’t know when he’ll be back.” Liz tried to look wistful and lonely.
Maria took a step back. “Why don’t you come on in here? I don’t want to be at your place if he gets home early. He don’t much like me.”
Liz looked hesitant. “I….uh…”
“You’re afraid he’ll catch you with me?”
“No, of course not,” Liz insisted a bit too quickly. “He doesn’t mind if I have friends.”
Maria obviously didn’t believe her. She stood in the doorway, waiting for Liz to make her decision. Liz took a deep breath, glanced both ways down the empty hallway, then pretended to come to a quick decision. “All right. If it’s no trouble, I’d love to have a cup of coffee with you.”
“Come on in, then. We’re letting the cool air out with this door open. What little cool air there is,” Maria added disgruntledly. “The air-conditioning in this building sucks.”
Liz commiserated more delicately, waddling into the minimally-furnished apartment behind her pregnant neighbour. She tried to imitate Maria’s off balance posture-not that it was all that difficult to feign, with twenty pounds of padding weighing her down.
Max shifted the telephone to his other ear and sipped form the coffee cup he held in his free hand. His sneakered feet were crossed in front of him on his kitchen table, and he slumped comfortably in the big wooden chair. It was nice to be back in his own apartment, in a place where no eight-legged intruders ran across the floor or counters, where the sounds from outside were nicely muted, where the air was scented with a pine-based air freshener rather than cabbages, onions and human excretions.
Problem was, he missed Liz. His apartment, where she’d never been, seemed empty now without her.
Real stupid, Evans.
He pushed his personal problems aside and completed his report to his lieutenant. “I really don’t think anyone on the construction crew knows anything about baby brokers in the neighbourhood,” he concluded. “I’ve all but asked outright and haven’t even gotten a hint from them.”
“So Maria DeLuca is still our best lead,” Valenti said through the phone.
“Yeah, Parker still isn’t convinced DeLuca is mixed up with them, but I think she is. If anyone can find out for sure, though, it’s Liz,” Max added. “She’s already gotten tight with the women a lot faster than I expected her to.”
“Even you have to admit that Parker is damned good at her job.”
Parker was damned good at a lot of things, Max could have replied. Instead, he confined himself to a simple, “Yeah she is.”
“So how are the two of you getting along?”
Max nearly chocked on another drink of coffee. He swallowed, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and casually replied. “Let’s just say we’ve got the neighbours convinced that there’s a lot of tension in the Powers household.”
Valenti chuckled. “I’ll bet you do. What? Wait a minute,” he said to Max when a women’s voice spoke in the background. The sound from the other end became muffled, as though Valenti had covered his received with his hand.
Max lifted a curious eyebrow as he waited for his boss to get back to him. As instructed, he’d called Valenti at his home number. So Valenti had a female visitor this afternoon. Interesting. As far as Max knew, the lieutenant hadn’t dated anyone since his wife had died two years ago.
He lowered his mug and brought the phone back to his mouth, “Yeah?”
“Elliot says to tell Liz hello. And she wants to know if the two of you have been picking out baby names.”
Max grinned, though his curiosity had just gone up another notch. What was Isabel Elliot doing at Jim’s house this afternoon? Very interesting. “Yeah, as a matter of fact we have. Ask her what she thinks of Bob.”
Valenti murmured a question and Isabel replied inaudible. There was a smile in the lieutenant’s voice when he spoke again to Max. “She’d doesn’t think much of it,” he said. “She thinks you can come up with something more original. Like Levi. Or Zan.”
Max sighed. “What ever happened to appreciation for the fine old names?”
“Right. Or Max.”
“Or Jim. Now that’s a fine old name.”
Max chuckled. “Bob Jim Evans. Has a nice ring to it. I’ll suggest it to Liz.”
“Er-don’t you mean Bob Jim Powers?”
Max cleared his throat. “Yeah. Right. That’s what I meant to say. Just joking around, all part of the cover story.” He was babbling. And, damn it, he thought he might even be blushing. Hell.
“You could be working too hard out in that hot sun, Evans. I think it’s time you came in out of the heat, don’t you?”
Max knew what he was being told. His part of the assignment was drawings to an end-or at least, the active role he’d taken thus far. Now it was time for step two. Time for Liz to take over. It was a good plan, and he knew she could handle it. But he wasn’t that enthusiastic when he said, “Yeah, I guess it is. I’ll check in with you soon as I wrap it up.”
“Okay. See you then. Give Parker my best.”
“Sure.” Max hung up the phone, took one last sip of his coffee, then sighed and pushed himself to his feet.
He had a job to do.
Liz giggled at something Maria said, looking across the tiny table with the rather awed admiration she knew Maria found flattering. “You’re so funny,” she said.
“People say I got a good sense of humour,” she admitted, fluffing her hair.
“You do. You’re baby will have a great time with you,” Liz dared, watching for a reaction.
She got more of a reaction then she expect. Maria’s smile suddenly disappeared from her face, her eyes went dull losing the life and sparkle. “You want more coffee?” she asked changing the subject.
“I’d better head on home,” Liz said knowing that Maria wouldn’t say anything more about the baby. “Max will be home soon, if I’m not there he’ll be angry-um I mean worried,” she corrected herself making it sound like she was trying to cover up her mistake.
Maria shook her head. “Why do you put up with the prick?”
“I love him,” she said quickly, then mentally winced at the sincerity in her voice. So what she was a good actress. So good she almost convinced herself. There was no need to get carried away, she warned herself sternly.
“Love,” Maria snorted. “That work makes me sick. Nothing turns a women into jello faster than thinking she’s in love.”
“Have you never been in love before?” Liz asked.
Maria gave a sharp breath out her nose raising a hand to the scare on her cheek. She dropped it almost immediately.
Before Maria could answer Liz’s question, they were both startled by a loud pounding on the door.
“Liz!” Max’s voice roared form the hallway. “Are you in there?”
“It’s Max,” Liz whispered unnecessarily letting fear creep into her voice.
“That’s it,” Maria said slapping her hand down on the table. “There is no way that I’ll let him come banning on my door like that. I have friend’s that will make him wish he was never born. Nobody, and I mean nobody uses fists on my door!” Already heading for the living room, Maria’s voice was getting louder by the second and her body was shaking with outrage.
“Maria no!” Liz said pleadingly chasing after Maria. “I’ll take care of him. He’ll only get more angry if you start threatening him.”
“You think I’m scared of him? As if. I have friends that will make him look like an underdeveloped kindergartener.”
Liz had to admire her, knowing that there were no big friends, but she almost found herself believing that Maria was more then capable of taking care of an enrage male. “I don’t want Max hurt,” she said. “Please let me handle this.”
Maria stepped aside reluctantly letting Liz open the door, right in the middle of another series of blows. Max nearly feel through the doorway. Liz would have found it quite funny if he had landed on his face, but he managed to steady himself with one hand on the doorframe. “What the fuck are you doing here?” he yelled.
“Having coffee,” Liz assured him in the meek voice she had adopted for this role. “I was just coming home.”
“Get your ass home now,” Max said, grabbing her arm dragging her into the hallway. He made it realistic enough that Liz knew she would have marks on her arm where he’d taken hold of her. Not that she blamed him. He was just doing his job.
“Get your hands off her,” Maria yelled lurching forward.
Max stopped her poking a finger into her shoulder. “You, stay the hell away from my women, you hear me? I don’t want her handing out with the likes of you.” He said, his voice laced with distaste.
“But, Max we were only talking about our babies, I mean their both due around the same time, and-“
“I don’t wanna hear about her bastard kid, or your for that matter,” Max added cuttingly.
Liz allowed her eyes to fill with huge, pitiful tears. It was a talent she was rather proud of actually. She could cry at a drop of the hat when she wanted to. It was only when she really needed to that Liz was usually unable to shed a tear.
“Hey, that was uncalled for. Ain’t no need to hurt her like that,” Maria said sounding a bit appalled.
“Keep your nose out of our business, I’m warning you,” Max added, giving Liz another not so gentle shove in the direction of their apartment.
“I have friend’s you know,” Maria called after them. “Big friends,’ she added loudly, just as Max slammed their door closed behind himself and Liz.
Liz stood in the middle of the living room, her head cocked as she listened. A moment later Maria’s door slammed with enough force to shake their own. “Damn. That was interesting.”
“You don’t think I overdid it, do you?” Max asked, frowning.
“Na you sis just fine. You play the jerk very well. Must be a natural talent.”
He didn’t smile at the joke. Instead he reached out, took her hand and examined her arm. “Did I hurt you? I wanted it to look real but I didn’t want to hurt you.”
Liz shook her head. “You didn’t hurt me, Max.” she assured him.
Frowning at the faint red marks on her inner arm. He traced them with one finger, then bent his head down touching them quickly with his mouth before stepping back. “If I ever see you with that slut again, I’ll beat the living shit out of you.” He shouted.
Her arm still tingling from the all-too-brief contact with his lips. Liz promptly faked noisy tears and yelled back at him.
The “fight” progressed to more shorts, foot stamping, plate throwing and door slamming before ending it a good two hours after it started.
“Don’t want anyone calling the cops,” Max whispered with a faint smile.
Liz made a face knowing exactly how most of their neighbours felt about the police.
Dropping onto the couch Liz hitched the harness higher in her lap, and propped her feet on the coffee table. “So what did Valenti say?” she asked, keeping her voice low.
Turning on the TV for background noise, Max plopped down beside her. “He said it was time to come out of the sun.”
Liz felt her heart sink, though she’d been expecting this. “You’re moving out?”
“No one is going to approach you about the baby if I’m still around. I figured I’ll manage to get myself fired from the job tomorrow, then you and I can have another row and I’ll move out. You know what to do from there.”
“Yes. I’m to grieve myself half sick over you, and blame the baby for coming between us and ruining our beautiful relationship.”
Max nodded. “Yip. If Maria knows anything she’ll tell you.”
Liz though of the look Maria gave at the mention of her child. “I think you’re right Max. I think she’s already made the arrangements to get rid of the baby. I don’t know if she’s going to adopt it or sell it, but I don’t think she has any intention of raising it.”
Liz suspected Maria was already mourning the loss of that child, though she hid her pain behind the tough façade she had probably developed years ago.
“She’s selling it,” Max said certainly. “Women like Maria don’t give anything away for free.”
Liz sighed, wishing she could disagree; knowing he was right.
“By the way, Elliot said to tell you hi.”
“When did you talk to Isabel?” she asked surprised.
“I didn’t, she was with Jim when I called. She sent the message through him.”
“Isabel was at Lieutenant Valenti’s house?”
“Hmm.” How interesting, Liz silently thought with a faint smile.
“I’m getting hungry. Any spaghetti left from lunch?”
“Yip, or I could make something else if you want?”
“Na leftovers are fine with me. I’ll start warming it up.”
Liz looked thoughtfully after him when he left the room. Max was acting strange this evening. She wondered why he had put up an invisible wall between them, when they had been so close only hours ago.
Was he preparing himself to leave? Or was he subtly signalling that the affair was coming to an end, along with his part of the assignment?
Bitting her lip Liz concentrated on the action movie on the fuzzy TV. It helped her take her mind off the drama unfolding in the tiny, shabby apartment.
|posted on 11-Mar-2002 11:59:41 PM|
Max’s emotional distance continued throughout the evening. Liz climbed into bed beside him in a state of uncertainty. Should she turn to him, as she had the past two nights? Should she ask him if anything was wrong? Or should she leave the fist move up to him?
For once, the apartment above them was silent. Ms. Oh-my-God-yes! must be out for the night, Liz thought as she settled into her pillow. Thank God. She wasn’t in the mood to be an unwilling audience to someone else’s sexual escapades tonight.
Max cleared his throat, causing Liz to jump.
“Sorry,” he said. “Did I startle you?”
“A bit. Um, did Valenti have anything else more to say this afternoon?” She couldn’t think what else to say at the moment.
“No not really.”
“Oh, so how are you going to get yourself fired tomorrow?” Not that she really cared; she just felt a strong need to make conversation. Anything rather than lie in silence beside him, wondering why he was being so careful not to touch her tonight.
“Dunno. Probably pick a fight with one of the guys or something.” He didn’t seem that interested either.
“Better make it a small guy,” Liz offered, hoping to make him smile.
“You saying I can’t handle a big one, Parker?” he asked, falling in with her teasing cooperatively enough. But the humour was forced, very different from the laughter they’d shared the day before.
“I don’t think I’ll touch that line. You make it too easy.”
“Someday, Parker….” he growled softly.
She was glad it was too dark for him to see her pathetic attempt at a smile.
She wiggled again on the pillow. Her behr leg brushed Max’s. She jerked away as though she’d been burned.
“What’s the matter?” he asked. “Can’t get comfortable?”
“Would a back rub help to relax?”
“Relax? With his hands on her? “No!” she said, too quickly.
“Okay, take it easy. It was only a suggestion.”
“Sorry. Thanks for the offer.”
“Yeah.” He lay quietly for another few minutes-long enough that she began to wonder if he’d already fallen asleep. She didn’t expect to get a wink of sleep herself; she was too busy wondering what the hell was going on between them.
And then Max broke the silence again. “Liz?” His voice was quiet.
“You seem very far away tonight.”
“So do you,” she whispered.
His arm touched her shoulder. A moment later she was in his arms, her mouth crushed beneath his.
Deepening the kiss Max moved one hand into Liz’s hair while the other one drifted down her back grabbing her ass pulling her closer to him. He could feel her all around him, her smell was driving him insane.
Liz let out a moan at the feel of his hands on her ass, which brought a smile to Max’s lips. He loved the sounds she made when they were making love. It was good to know that she was enjoying this as much as he was.
Needing to feel Liz’s skin against his own Max disentangled his hands from her body making sure not to lose contact with her mouth. Grabbing the end of her shirt Max slowly slid it up her body touching her torso as he went. Liz lifted her arms making it easier for Max to remove it. Lifting his mouth from hers for only a second Max threw her shirt over his shoulder, it landed somewhere on the floor behind them.
Placing his mouth back on hers they both let out a moan when their chests come into contact with one another. Liz’s nipples instantly hardened at the change in texture, Max had to taste them. Kissing his way down the side of her face then neck he made his way to the two rosy peaks. Flicking his tongue out he gave a quick swipe before latching onto her right breast.
Taking the nipple between his teeth Max gave it a little bite, causing Liz to shudder both in pleasure and pain. He continued like this for a few more minutes before letting her breast go. Liz tried to grab his head to guide it back, but she quickly dropped them again when he latched onto her other breast. Giving her left breast the same treatment Max finally removed his mouth kissing his way down her body towards the nest of dark curls that they both wanted him to go.
Pealing her panties from her body Max got a good look at Liz. He was almost drooling with want of tasting her. Spreading her legs even wider, Max placed his hands behind her legs, then leaning down he pulled her up to his face, entering her with his tongue. Liz groaned deeply. Max explored her for several minutes just enjoying the taste of her, much to Liz’s delight.
Removing his mouth he rubbed his nose to the tender skin between her thighs. He then left her to suck at that skin, running one hand up her back. With the other, Max ran first one and the finally several fingers deep inside her before he slid his mouth back to her breast, leaving his thumb to continue his neglected work. Max suckled while stoking her. By now Liz’s head was thrashing against her pillow in pleasure. Max moved his mouth to her other breast, letting his other hand tease the nipple he had abandoned, his right hand stroking her harder.
“Max!” Liz screamed, as she lost herself in ecstasy, shuddering.
That was enough for Max to snap. He pulled back from her ripping off his shorts throwing them behind him, sucked off his fingers, which had stroked her, took her by the hips and entered her, not allowing her to come down. Liz was struggling to breath, she was so overcome by sensation that her mind was a haze. She began moaning as Max moving within her. Her body was so overstimulated that he brought her back to orgasm without much effort at all. Liz lay there, half-screaming, as he leaned down to suckle one of her breasts. Her nails tore at his back as she groaned panting.
When she had come down somewhat, Max leaned back to look at her. Opening her eyes she said breathlessly “God you feel so good.”
Max smiled at her and stroked more deeply, causing her breath to stop for a second and close her eyes. “So do you,” he informed her.
Liz looked back at him. “Kiss me, Max…… Please.”
He leaned over her and kissed her deeply, a hand on her face.
Liz ran one hand into his hair, placing her other arm around his shoulders, her hips thrusted upwards needing him to continue.
Max bit the side of her neck lightly, stroking her more deeply. Rapping her legs around his hips Liz ran her hands down to his butt to pull him further in. Max stroked harder, watching her face. She moaned in delight.
Picking up speed Max knew that he wouldn’t last for much longer. Moving a hand in between their bodies, Max found the little nub he was looking for. Grabbing Liz’s clit between his thumb and finger he tugged and pulled until her felt Liz explode into another earth shattering orgasm. This brought on his own release. He keep stroking in and out of her spilling his seed deep inside her hot core.
Later Liz lay limply against Max’s chest, her body sated, her eyelids heavy. Even as she drifted into a restless sleep, she reflected that though they wouldn’t be any closer physically, Max still seemed very far away.
Max was gone when Liz woke the next morning. Not surprising, since she hadn’t slept at all well. It had been sometime around dawn the last time she’d managed to sleep.
Max had seemed to rest just fine, damn him. He was probably looking forward to getting out of here. Going back to his own clean, comfortable apartment. Going back to work with their friends. Leaving her here alone in this dump, alone in this bid, lumpy bed. Damn him.
And then Liz, who could never cry when it mattered, found that there were real tears rolling steadily down her cheeks. And it suddenly mattered very much.
Max was back by three that afternoon.
“What are you doing home so early?” Liz asked clearly when he let himself into the apartment. Just in case anyone was listening.
“I got fired, damn it. And it’s all your fault!” Max yelled.
“My fault? How could it possibly be my fault?”
“You kept me up whining at me half the night and I couldn’t concentrate on the job today. You’re ruining my life!”
Liz broke into noisy tears again-completely phoney tears this time. She was satisfied that Max would never know she’d shed any real ones over him. “Why don’t you just leabe me, then?” she wailed loudly.
“Sounds like a hell of a good idea to me!”
“Fine! Then leave.”
“Fine! I think I will.”
There were more shouts, more noisy sobs, plenty of door banging as Max shoved his things into a duffel bag. Liz followed him to the front door, begging him not to go.
“Just shut up! I’m leaving. That’s all there is to it!”
He hesitated with one hand on the doorknob. Without smiling, Max Evans looked directly at Liz Parker, the roles dropping for a moment. And then he reached out to snag a hand around the back of her neck and pull her to him. The kiss was long, hard, thorough. “Be careful,” he whispered when he released her.
“I’ll be in touch,” she murmured back.
“Do that,” he said, then jerked the door open. “Get the hell out of my way!”
“Max, please…please…..don’t go.”
“I’m already gone. You know what to do if you want me back,” he said with a quick glance at Maria’s closed door.
He was just disappearing into the stairwell when Maria’s door opened. Liz broke into sobs.
“What the-“ Maria stepped out into the hallway, staring at Liz, who huddled miserably against the filthy wall. “Hey are you okay? Did that bastard hit you?”
“He-left me,” Liz replied in a rush of heartbroken words. “He’s gone, and he said he-he’s not c-coming back.”
“Look, kid, I’m sorry, but maybe it’s for the best, you know?” Maria offered awkwardly. “I mean, he really didn’t treat you too good. You got your kid to think about.”
Liz sobbed harder. “I want Max, she wailed. “I only want Max. If it wasn’t for this baby, I wouldn’t have lost him. It’s all my fault.”
“Your fault? Honey, you’re crazy. The kid’s half his.”
“But he didn’t want it. If I-if I’d only been more c-careful.” Liz cried, hiccuping. She wiped her wet face with the back of her hand. “Now he’s broke and out of work and discouraged and I’ve lost him. I’m all alone. Oh why did this have to happen to me? Why why why?”
Careful, Parker, she warned herself. Don’t overdo it.
Maria seemed to be falling for the charade without question. She patted Liz’s shoulder, roughly, self-consciously, obviously uncertain about how to offer comfort. “You’ll be okay,” she said. “Women like us, we’re survivors kid. We don’t need anyone to take care of us. We take care of ourselves, you know? And besides, you ain’t all alone. You got friends, you know? Like me.”
“I-I have to be alone for a little while,” Liz whimpered, groping for her doorknob. “I have to think about what I can do to get him back. I’ll talk to you later, okay Maria?”
“Yeah, sure. You just say the word and I’ll have my friends track that guy for you, okay? Maybe they can convince him to do his duty by you, you know what I mean?”
Liz shook her head, hiding her face behind her hair, as if she was too overcome by emotion to speak. Then she stumbled into her apartment and closed the door behind her, aware that her noisy sobs filtered through the thin barrier.
She ran heavily into the bedroom, as though to throw herself on the bed and dissolve into tears. Only when the bedroom door had slammed behind her did she allow herself to relax. She went into the bathroom to repair the damage her tears had done to her face. She patted her face with a worn hand-towel, ran a brush through her tangled hair, then walked back into the bedroom. The very empty bedroom. The very quiet bedroom.
She sighed, her face focused on the lumpy bed.
She really was going to miss Max.
|posted on 12-Mar-2002 12:01:40 AM|
“Girl, you look like hell. You are going to have to start taking better care of yourself.”
Liz sighed in response to Maria’s critical words. She knew exactly how see looked. Like hell, just as Maria had said. And it wasn’t all pretence, damn it.
It was Thursday, three days after Max’s dramatic departure. Liz couldn’t believe how much she’d missed him. The apartment had seemed smaller, dirtier, grimmer, uglier since he’d left. Only be concentrating intently on her job had see been able to keep herself from climbing the walls.
It hadn’t been hard for Liz to pretend that she’d lost her appetite, and any concern about her appearance. In fact, it had been all too easy.
Maria had become her constant companion. Liz had sensed Maria’s loneliness from the beginning, but now she knew that Maria had craved companionship. Those “big friends” she’d bragged about had been conspicuously absent during the two weeks Liz had known her.
“Come on, eat somethin’,” Maria urged, motioning toward the fast-food feast she’d brought with her to Liz’s apartment a few minutes earlier. “You need to keep up your health.”
Even had it not been for the role she was playing, Liz wouldn’t have had the heart to point out that the selection Maria had provided was not exactly healthy for a supposedly pregnant women. Basically, the menu consisted of deep-fried fats and cholesterol, with a side order of empty calories. But the concern in Maria’s eyes were genuine, and the gesture had been well intentioned. Liz made an effort to eat a few bites, silently grateful that she didn’t really have a delicate stomach to contend with.
“That’s better,” Maria said, watching Liz swallow a soggy French fry. “You’re eating for two, you know.”
And consuming enough fat for six, Liz thought, but managed a weak smile. “This is really good, Maria, but I’m just not hungry. It was sweet of you to think of me.”
Maria blushed faintly beneath the layer of paint she habitually wore. “Hey, don’t start getting all mushy about it,” she bluffed, reaching for her own half-eaten double back cheeseburger. “I was hungry and I wasn’t in the mood to eat alone tonight. Thought you might want to join me.”
“Whatever the reason, it was still nice of you,” Liz replied, sincerely this time. “But I won’t embarrass you.”
Maria shrugged and took an enormous bite of her burger. Her mouth still full, she asked, “You heard from Max?”
Liz allowed her lower lip to tremble. Just a little. “No,” she murmured, and sighed. “Not a word.”
And she hadn’t either. Not that she’d expected to, of course.
She wondered if her missed her. She wondered if he was having trouble sleeping alone. But most of all, she wondered if her was sleeping alone.
Liz blinked and looked across the table, finding Maria looking at her strangely. “Yes?”
“Where you been girl? I’ve said your name three times.”
Liz blushed. “Sorry. I was uh, thinking.”
“About him, right?”
She could answer with complete honesty. “Yes. About Max.”
Maria made a sound a disgust and shook her head. “Man, you really got it bad. Way he treated you, you’d think you’d be glad to get rid of him.”
Trembling lower lip again. A heavy sweep of eyelashes as accompaniment this time. “No,” Liz said on a long, miserable exhale. “I miss him, Maria. I want him back.” Damn it.
“Even if it means giving up your kid?” Maria asked bluntly.
Liz raised a hand on the harness and her breath caught in what might have been a sob. “I think so,” she whispered. “I can’t raise it alone. And I don’t want to try without Max.”
“You could give it up for adoption,” Maria suggested, avoiding Liz’s gaze as she seemed to concentrate on scooping up a tablespoon of Ketchup with half a limp fry.
“I know. I wish I thought that would help.”
“It would get the kid out of your way.”
“But it wouldn’t help us financially. That’s what Max is so upset about. He doesn’t like to be broke. He’s real proud when it comes to money. But I was sick a lot at first and the doctor bills just cleaned us out. Giving the baby up for adoption would mean that I wouldn’t have to pay hospital or delivery fees, but it wouldn’t replace everything I’ve already cost poor Max.”
“Poor Max,’ Maria repeated, her voice dripping with scorn. “Sometimes you just make me sick.”
“I’m sorry,” Liz muttered and huddled into herself, looking miserable.
“Oh, hell, now you’re doing it with me!”
“Letting me treat you like a victim. You ain’t no doormat, Liz. Get up off the floor and quit inviting folks to wipe their feet on you.”
Liz lifted her chin, carefully hiding her amusement at Maria’s advice. “Well, what should I do?” she asked, allowing herself to show some harshness. “You seem to have all the answers-how are you going to support your baby all alone? You don’t even have a job.”
Maria nodded, seemingly more comfortable with Liz’s aggression than her former meekness. “I got plans,” she said simply.
Maria shrugged. “That’s my business.”
Patience Parker. “Great,” she muttered. “You sit there telling me everything I shouldn’t do, but you won’t give me any advice about what I should do. You won’t even tell me what you’re going to do.”
Maria looked torn for a moment. And then she set the last of her sandwich on the paper plate in front of her and leaned forward, as though concerned that someone else might hear them. “I’m not raising this kid,” she admitted. “I’m giving it up.”
“Adoption?” Liz asked, trying to look sad. “Are you sure you want to do that?”
“Look, you’re right about one thing. It’s damned hard to raise a kid alone, and I want this one to have a better life than I could give it by myself. But I’m not going to end up broke and alone after I have it, like you’ll be if you ain’t careful.”
“Well,” Liz dared, “you won’t have a lot of medical bills, probably, but you will still be broke. You still won’t have a job.”
“I can get a job anytime I want,” Maria returned sharply. “As a matter of fact, I had a high paying job before I got in this shape, thanks to the latex industries shoddy workmanship. I could go back to it anytime I want. But it ain’t going to be necessary. I’m getting paid for this kid. Well paid. And I’m taking that money and starting over somewhere nice. Somewhere cool,” she added, plucking discontentedly at her sticky maternity T-shirt. “Michigan, maybe. I had an aunt who lived in Michigan. She said it was real pretty there.”
“It’s real cold there,” Liz added. “Snow up to your chin in the wintertime.”
“Beats the hell out of frying eggs on your chin down here in the summertime,” Maria retorted with a grin.
Liz picked at her food, making a mall mountain of mangled fries. “So, uh… what’s this about you getting money for the kid? You make it sound like you’re well, you know. Selling it or something.”
Maria shrugged. “Or something,”
Liz widened her eyes. “You can do that? Legally?”
“Hell no, it ain’t legal,” Maria muttered with a scowl and another quick look around them. “Not exactly. But a girl’s gotta look out for herself. Nobody else gives a shit, I’ll tell you that for sure.”
“But what about the baby? What will happen to it?”
Maria glanced down at her stomach, then quickly away. “It’ll go to a good home,” she said quietly. “They promised me that. Wealthy people, who don’t want to waste time with all those stupid bureaucratic rules lawyers make up so they can get rich handling private adoptions. There’s a waiting list a decade long for available white babies, and there’s plenty of people with enough money and enough determination to get around that list. The kid will get a good home. So why shouldn’t I get something out of it too? I’m doing someone a service. I’m the one who’s had to carry the kid all this time. I’m the one who’s all swollen and aching and bloated. It ain’t fair that I have to suffer and some shark lawyer makes the dough, is it?”
“I hadn’t really thought of it that way,” Liz said uncertainly.
“Well think about it. You go back to your Max with no baby and a fistful of money and you could probably get him back in a second-though God only knows why you’d want t hat asshole. As for me, I’m taking care of myself. Just like always.”
Liz put her hands on the harness, as though she were holding her baby protectively. “I don’t know if I could do something like that.”
Maria shrugged. “Ain’t no one making you. It’s just a suggestion.”
“I really think you should give this some more thought Maria. It sounds awfully risky to me. What if you get caught? You could go to jail.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Maria grumbled, then sighed. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m no murderer or anything.”
“I never though you were,” Liz assured her loyally.
“Man, it’s a wonder you’ve survived as long as you have. You’re about as street-smart as a kitten.”
Liz lifted her chin again, letting it thrust out proudly. “I can take care of myself.”
“I can,” she insisted.
“Like you’ve been taking care of yourself the past week?” Maria asked sharply. “Going without food? Moping around over Max the asshole? Bawling your eyes out?”
Liz lowered her chin. “I’ll get him back,” she muttered.
“Mmm. Well, if you want to know any more about what I said, you just let me know. But don’t you go talking to anyone else about it, you hear? If I find out you’ve been running your mouth about my business, you’re going to be in a truckload of trouble, you got that?”
Liz cowered. “You wouldn’t turn your big friends on me, would you?”
“I just might,” Maria countered, searching Liz’s face as though testing her sincerity. Apparently deciding that Liz was no more than she seemed, she relaxed. “But I like you, kid, or I wouldn’t have said nothing. You won’t talk to anybody, will you?”
“Who would I tell?” Liz asked with a tell no one.”
Maria seemed to accept that. “Just don’t tell no one.”
Liz ate another lard-dripping fry to avoid answering. She had to go see Max.
|posted on 12-Mar-2002 12:03:28 AM|
Liz couldn’t believe her hand was shaking when she raised it to knock on the door in front of her. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been this nervous. She wiped her palm on one leg of her polyester slacks and lifted her hand again. This time she made herself tap firmly on the wooden door.
During the minute or so that followed, she wondered just how Max would greet her. Professionally – Partner to partner? This was, after all, a working visit. Would her kiss her? Or would he go back o the same strictly-business manner they’d used before this assignment had begun? Was their affair over, as far as Max was concerned? Or had he even considered the possibility that it could last for a while? Maybe a long while, if they worked hard enough at it. Liz was willing; she just wished she knew how Max felt about it.
He opened the door, and his closed off expression didn’t give her a clue how he felt about seeing her after almost a week. He stepped back to allow her to enter. “Hi. Come on in.”
“Thanks.” She moved past him, trying not to waddle-which wasn’t easy, since she was wearing the harness. She looked curiously around the living room of Max’s apartment, which she’d never visited before. It was nice. Neat, clean, decorated in comfortably over-stuffed furnishings in burgundy and green. It wouldn’t have been featured in any decorating magazine, but Liz imagined it was a pleasant place to come home to after a hard day’s work.
Max closed the door and turned to face her. He seemed to grope for something to say, and then he glanced down at her middle and apparently decided to keep it light. “How’s Bob?”
She managed a smile. “We’re getting by.”
“Yeah.” She wiped her palms down her pant legs again. “Uh, how have you been?”
He shrugged. “Okay. Been typing up paperwork on the Sutherland case. You know how I hate paperwork.”
“Don’t we all.” This was ridiculous. She felt as though she were on a blind date-and it wasn’t going very well. She cleared her throat. “I have a ot to tell you. Maria and I have been talking, and-“
He stopped her by raising a hand. “Hold on a minute.”
She lifted her eyebrow. “What?”
“You want a soda or something? We could at least sit down before you start giving your report.”
She twisted her fingers beneath the bulk of the harness. She didn’t really want anything, but maybe it would help them relax if they sat down over cold drinks. “Yeah, a soda sounds good. Thanks.”
Max nodded and took a couple of steps toward a doorway she assumed led to the kitchen. And then he stopped and turned back to face her. “Liz?”
She swallowed. “Yes?”
“I’ve missed you.”
Her knees weakened. “I’ve missed you, too,” she whispered, wishing she could read that stern face of his.
“I’ve missed you a lot,” he said, his frown deepening.
Thoroughly confused, Liz began to smile, anyway. “I’ve missed you, too. A lot,’ she added, taking a step toward him.
He didn’t give her a chance to meet him halfway. He was already there, his arms around her, his mouth moving wildly against hers. The harness was a solid intrusion between them, but Max ignored it. His hands swept her back, settled on her hips and held her as closely as possible under the circumstances. Her mouth opening eagerly beneath his, Liz strained to get closer.
Max reached beneath the hem of her top and fumbled with the straps of the harness. A moment later, he tossed the bulky appliance out of the way and pulled Liz firmly against him. Her now slender body settled snugly, intimately, between his thighs. He was already aroused, she noticed dreamily.
So was she.
She needed to touch him. It had been so long………
His face was hard and warm beneath her palm, his firm jaw, and cheeks lean, both stubbled. His thick, brown hair was long enough to completely hide her fingers when she buried them in its depths. It hadn’t been trimmed since she’d last seen him.
Beneath his white knit shirt, his broad chest expanded against her with his ragged breathing. She could almost feel his heart racing against hers. His solid thighs cradled her between them, locked her against the erection that strained his jeans, emphasised his need for her. His arms were tight around her; strong, hungry.
He felt as utterly perfect as she had remembered.
“I want…I need…” His voice was hoarse, his words awkward with his impatience. He was already groping for the hem of her top.
Liz murmured soothingly against his mouth. “I know what you want. I need it, too,” she whispered, lifting her arms to help him rid her of her top. And then she tugged at his shirt.
They caught their breaths simultaneously when her uncovered breasts brushed his behr chest. Murmuring his pleasure, Max supped her breasts in his hands and lowered his head to kiss her soft upper curves. And then her hardened nipples. She arched backward to give him better access.
She didn’t actually remember lowering herself to the floor-or being lowered. One moment she was on her feet in Max’s arms, the next she was lying beneath him, the remainder of her clothing tangled on the floor around them.
Her short fingernails dug into his shoulders as he moved over her, kissing, stroking, nipping, rapidly bringing her to a point of mindless need. She shoved at his jeans, but waited only until he’d opened them and pushed them out of the way before arching demandingly upward. Max groaned, and buried himself deeply inside her.
Both paused at the sensation of being joined together again. It just felt so right. Feeling Liz wriggle beneath him, Max started to move inside her. Slowly getting faster and faster. He needed her too much to go slow. Thrusting into her at a blistering pace Max knew it would be over way too soon. Needing Liz to cum with him he reached between their bodies finding her clit.
Rubbing the little nub between his thumb and forefinger he felt her clamp down on his erection causing him let go moaning her name.
Max’s face was hidden against her throat, his lips moving very close to her ear. “Liz?”
She snuggled closer, one hand slowly drifting over his warm, behr back. “Mmm?”
He kissed her earlobe. “How do you like my apartment?”
She giggled. “I like the living room. The carpet is especially nice. Soft, comfortable.”
He moved his head to kiss a smile against her slightly tender lips. “If you think the carpet is comfortable, you should try m bed.”
‘I’ll have to do that sometime.”
“Yeah. Soon.” He kissed her again.
“Very soon,” Liz whispered, her hand sliding to the back of his neck, as she raised her lips to his again.
He groaned and lifted his head. “You have to get back to the apartment soon. And you haven’t even told me what you’ve learned this week.”
Lis lifted an eyebrow and glanced downward. She was completely nude, and tangled intimately with Max, who had finally kicked off his jeans so that he, too, was unselfconsciously naked. “You haven’t exactly given me a chance to report,” she told him.
He grinned. “No. I suppose I haven’t. Any complaints?”
“Not a one,” she assured him.
“Good.” He kissed her one more time, then reluctantly drew away. “The bathroom’s through that door, if you’d like to, um, freshen up.”
She smiled. “Thanks. I believe I will.”
“Want me yo pour you that soda now? Make some coffee, maybe?”
“Soda’s fine. I’ll be right back.”
The bathroom was done in the same greens and burgundy as the living room. Idly studying the tasteful Paisley wallpaper, Liz wondered if Max had decorated it himself. She opened a drawer in search of a comb and swallowed hard when she discovered a tube of lipstick, a pink plastic disposable razor, and a half-empty tube of jasmine-scented bath gel. Pam, she thought, quickly closing the drawer.
Had Max made love to her on that soft living-room carpet?
Liz scowled into the mirror and combed her hair with her fingers.
Wearing only his jeans, Max was in the kitchen pouring soda over ice when she rejoined him. A plate of cookies lay nearby-bakery cookies, she noted, wondering if he’d bought them with her visit in mind.
He looked up with a smile. “I thought you might like a snack.”
“You know I always like a snack-especially when it’s cookies,” she replied, reaching for one.
“Yes, I remembered.” Leaving the sodas on the table, he walked up behind her and circled her waist with his arms. The maternity top was baggy around her without the harness to fill it in. max didn’t seem to notice as he held her close and pressed a kiss on the back of her ear. “As cute as you look wearing Bob, it’s much easier to hold you this way,” he murmured.
“Don’t call me cute, Evans,” she retorted, finding reassurance in the teasing. “And we are not naming the kid Bob. Got that?”
“Not if it’s a girl,’ he agreed. “I was thinking of Bobbie for a girl.”
She groaned and rolled her eyes.
Chuckling, he released her, and motioned her to have a seat at the table. “We’d better get work out of the way, I suppose. Jim’s going to be wanting a report from me.”
Liz took a seat, drew her soda and the plate of cookies in front of her, and told him everything Maria had said in their revealing conversation the day before.
“I told you she was selling it,’ max said when Liz finished.
She sighed. “Yes, I know you did. So you get a gold star on your report card. That still doesn’t lead us to her contact.”
“I think McCauley is involved.”
“So do I,” Liz affirmed, remembering the land-lady’s nosy questions about the state of her health. “But I doubt very much that she’d the brains behind the operation.”
“I wouldn’t say McCauley was the brains behind any operation.”
Liz smiled at his dry remark, but let it pass. “I told Maria I’d consider her advice. I’m going to ask to meet her contacts, as though I’m trying to reassure myself about them, but I don’t want to push for too much at once.”
“You’ll let me know when you set up the meeting.’ He said, and it wasn’t a question. “I don’t want you meeting them without some sort of backup. Never know when something like this will turn ugly.”
They had already agreed upon several ways for Liz to contact Max when needed. Remembering them, Liz nodded. “I’ll keep in touch.”
Max suddenly smiled. “So Maria thinks you’re crazy to want me back, hmm?”
“Yeah. Totally nuts.”
His gaze held hers across the table, and though he was still smiling, his voice suddenly grew more serious. “She’s probably right.”
Liz shrugged, without looking away from him. “Maybe. But there it is.”
“It’s a long way from being over, isn’t it, Parker?” he asked lightly, and she knew he wasn’t talking about the assignment now.
She smiled in response to the touch of fear in his expression. She knew the feeling all too well. “No, it isn’t over. Not by a long shot.”
He ran a hand through his hair. “I didn’t expect this,” he admitted.
“Neither did I.”
“I didn’t even want it,” he confessed, after clearing his throat.
“Neither did I.”
“So what are we going to do about it?”
“Finish the assignment first,” she said firmly.
He paused for a moment, looking thoughtful, then nodded. “Yeah. You’re right, of course.”
She spread her hands, as though acknowledging something everyone would know. “Of course.”
He made a face and tossed a paper napkin at her.
She laughed and fended it off.
They talked business another fifteen minutes or so, and then Liz glanced at her watch. “I’d better get back. Maria might start wondering where I am.”
“Yeah. Damn, I hate to think about you going back to that pit.”
“I’m not exactly looking forward to it, myself,” she assured him, grimacing at the contrast between his clean, cosy kitchen and the dump where she would eat her dinner later. “Mind if I see the rest of your apartment first?” she asked impulsively. “I’m curious.”
He shrugged. “Sure. C’mon, I’ll give you the tour.”
Liz quickly discovered that Max was quite neat in his home. Remembering how he’d complained about cleaning the apartment, she quizzed him about it. “I didn’t see any need for wasting time on that slum,” he explained. “It’s only a temporary place to stay, and no amount of cleaning is going to improve it much. Why wear yourself out on a useless effort?”
“I told you,” she replied. “If I’m going to have to live there, even temporarily, I want it to be as clean as I can make it. I don’t like living in filth.”
“So we have something in common. We like our homes to be neat.”
“We have quite a bit in common, actually,” she said seriously, crossing the living room at his side. “We like alternative rock music, and action movies, good food and good books. We’re both damned good at our job.”
“Is this the same women who recently listed all the reasons we were too different to get involved? You mentioned something about me being a grouch and you an optimist….”
“And I pointed out that you considered me a pain in the butt,” Liz added with a grin. “You agreed, as I remember.”
“Yeah,” he said, looping an arm around her shoulders. “I still think you’re a pain in the butt. But I still like you anyway.”
Like? Liz wasn’t entirely satisfied with the word, but decided it would do for a start. She looked around Max’s bedroom, furnished in English style, with glossy mahogany furniture, hunting prints on the walls, a green and burgundy plaid comforter with green pillow shams. It was masculine, yet still warm and inviting. Had Pam decorated it for him?
Liz swallowed a sigh and chided herself impatiently for dwelling on Max’s former girlfriend. She hadn’t come to him a virgin, had fancied herself in love a couple of times before him, but he didn’t seem to be obsessing about her past, the way she was his.
She thought the real problem might be that there was still some part of Max she didn’t know; some dark, hidden pain she needed to understand before their relationship progressed much further. She wasn’t convinced that it had anything to do with Pam, but she hadn’t ruled it out, either. She only knew that the need to understand him was growing stronger, more urgent with each passing moment.
It was no longer possible for her to deny that she loved him. And that knowledge terrified her. If there was any hope that this affair wouldn’t end in heartbreak, she needed to know everything there was to learn about the enigmatic Max Evans.
|posted on 12-Mar-2002 12:05:42 AM|
Max led her out of the bedroom after they reluctantly agreed that there wasn’t enough time for her to test his bed-with him, of course. Liz motioned to a closed door across the short hallway. “What’s in there?”
“A second bedroom. I use it for storage.”
She was already headed that way.
“There’s nothing in there but hunk,” Max protested, though he didn’t try to stop her.
“One can learn a lot about someone by looking at their junk,” Liz informed him, opening the door. “What secrets are you hiding in here, hmm?”
Max smiled and shook his head. “No secrete. Just junk,” he repeated.
Liz paused before turning on the light. “If you mind, say so. I won’t be offended,” she assured him.
He reached around her and turned on the light. “Knock yourself out,” he invited her, standing aside.
She chuckled and walked in.
The room was full. No furniture other than a couple of big, stuffed-full bookcases and a desk that overflowed, with more books, tax forms, and bills. Max wasn’t nearly as neat in his paperwork as he was in his living habits. She assumed it was because he despised paperwork.
Large boxes were staked in one corner of the small room. “My Mum cleaned out her house when she and Dad moved up north a few years back,” Max explained. “She made me take all my old school and college mementos. Sports trophies and ribbons, photographs, yearbooks, textbooks. I think even my old Boy Scout uniform is in there, somewhere.”
“Should’ve known you were a Boy Scout, Evans.”
He only smiled.
Three framed photographs rested on top of one of the bookcases full of battered paperbacks. Liz studied them. One was of Max in uniform, probably his graduation photo from the academy. Liz had a similar photo of herself. The difference was, she looked happy in hers. Max had worn little expression at all.
A second photograph showed a little boy about six standing between two adults-a slender, blond women and a dark-haired man in a police officer’s uniform. Max and his parents, Liz realised, smiling at the face of a much younger and more innocent Max. He’d been laughing in the photo. He looked happy. When had he started to change into the more serious often-troubled man she had somehow managed to fall in love with?
The final photograph, obviously taken several years later, was also of Max’s parents. His mother had aged well, was still slender and blond, though her face was more lined in this picture. His father had greyed was added a few pounds. He was sitting in a wheelchair, his wife standing just behind him with one hand resting on his shoulder. Max hadn’t mentioned that his father was disabled, Liz mused, wondering how it had happened and whether now was the right time to ask questions.
Still curious, she turned to study the titles in the huge pile of textbooks stacked in one corner next to the bookshelf. They must have been from his college days, she decided, noting that most of them were science courses. And then realised that the largest number of them had to do with medicine. “What was your major in college?” she asked, glancing over her shoulder at him.
He looked rather uncomfortable when he answered. “Premed.”
Her eyes widened in surprise. She’d assumed he’d majored in criminal justice or political science-something having a relation to police work. She certainly hadn’t expected this. “You were studying to be a doctor?”
“Yeah.” Just one offhanded syllable-yet the deep, old longing in his voice made her heart break.
She turned to face him, realising that she had just stumbled onto the secret she’d been digging for. “How far did you get with your studies?”
“I’d just been accepted to medical school when I quit to join the police force.”
He had been accepted to medical school. He’d been so very close. “What made you change your mind?”
“I didn’t exactly change my mind,” he answered, avoiding her eye by half-heartedly straightening some of the papers on his desk. “I had it changed for me. My Dad was shot in the line of duty. He walked into a liquor store and was hit by three slugs from a guy who’d just cleaned out the register. He almost dies.”
Liz winced. The worst nightmare of every cop and his family. “I’m sorry. It must have been very hard for you and your mother.”
“It was hell,” he said simply. “Dad was in the hospital for months, and in therapy for several years. The insurance ran out long before the treatments sis. His disability payments paid for their necessities, but their savings were gone. We even had to sell their home. I went to work to help out as much as I could.”
“You became a cop.”
“I had connections.” He said with a shrug. “I knew it wouldn’t take me long to move into a decent-paying position.”
“You couldn’t afford medical school?” she asked sympathetically.
“Not if I was going to help my parents. Even before Dad was shot it would have been tight. Medical training costs a fortune. My parents had planned to help as much as they could, but….well.”
He shrugged, knowing there was nothing left to say.
Max had dreamed of becoming a doctor. He had never wanted to be a police officer. Liz was tunned. “I had no idea,” she murmured.
“How could you? It’s not something I talk about. Plans change. Life goes on. It happens to everyone.”
She hated his cool, flippant tone. It didn’t disguise the old pain, the still-bitter disappointment. It bothered her that he even tried to hide those feelings from her. “Didn’t your parents try to talk you out of quitting school?” she asked.
“They didn’t ask me to do it,” he answered carefully. “Mum was sort of upset about it, but Dad had always wanted me to follow in his footsteps.”
“ I would have thought they’d have been very proud if you’d become a doctor.”
“I’m sure they would have. But they were very proud when I graduated from the police academy.”
“Did you talk to this with Pam?” she heard herself asking, and then mentally kicked herself for not trying harder to resist the impulse. She couldn’t help wondering, though if Pam had approved the decision Max had made-or resented it.
Max’s eyes narrowed, as though he wondered why she’d asked. “It never came up.”
He had lived with the women-but he’d never shared his old dreams with her? Liz shook her head. “You really have been alone, haven’t you?” she said.
He shrugged and half turned away. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Why didn’t you go back to school? After your parents were taken care of. Why aren’t you going now, if that’s what you want so badly?”
He exhaled through his nose, sounding impatient. “By the time my parents were on their feet financially, I was in my late twenties and already established in my job. I’ve been a cop for nine years, Liz-since I was twenty-one. I couldn’t just quit my job and go back to school. I certainly can’t do so now.”
“Why not?” she insisted.
“Money, for one thing. It still costs a fortune. I still don’t have a fortune.”
“There are loans, scholarships, part-time jobs.”
“Yeah, right. And by the time I finally worked my way through medical training, I would be forty. Or older. With a mountain of debts to repay.”
He looked at her in disbelief. “Forty, Liz. Don’t you think that’s a little old to begin a career?”
“No. It happens all the time. You’re going to be forty, anyways, unless some sleazoid puts a slug in you sometime,” she said, deliberately blunt. “You might as well be doing something you enjoy. Even if you start at forty, you’d still have a good twenty years of practice ahead of you-heck, even if for some reason you were only able to practice for a year or two, it would still be worth it if that’s what you really want to do. Life is short, Evans. I believe in making every day count.”
“Nice little fairy tale, Parker. Real life doesn’t work that way.”
“No?” Annoyed now, she moved in front of him, standing so close that he had no choice but to look at her. How dare he speak so condescendingly to her? She knew all too well how life worked-and maybe it was time Max realised that.
“Look at me, Max. I’m doing exactly what I always wanted to do, from the time I was old enough to watch ‘Miami Vice’ on TV. Everyone told me it would never happen. I was an abandoned kid who grew up in orphanages and generally lousy foster homes. I was sexually molested by a foster-care worker when I wad ten, busted for shoplifting with a group of rebel friends when I was twelve, and had experimented with several illegal substances and alcoholic beverages by the time I was sixteen.”
Chin held high, she continued without giving him a chance to verbally react to any of her revelations, though she watched the expressions flashing across his face. “I was angry and stubborn and defiant and fiercely independent. More than one social worker predicted that I’d end up dead or working the streets like Maria. But when the time came for me to get out on my own, to decide what I wanted to be, I knew they were wrong. No one was going to tell me I couldn’t be whatever I wanted-and I wanted to be a cop. It took a lot of work, more than a few confrontations with those who would have held me back, but I made it, Max. And I love it.”
He’d gone rather pale during her impassioned speech, especially when she’d admitted that she’d been abused as a child. His hand wasn’t quite steady when it touched her cheek. “I know you love your work, Liz. I’ve always envied you for that.”
“So what are you going to do, sit around being jealous of me for the rest of your career? Spend another thirty-five years in a job you’ve never liked?” she challenged, holding his eyes with her own. “Or are you going to do something about getting what you want?”
“Liz, this is ridiculous. I can’t go back to medical school at this point in my life. I haven’t even considered it.”
“That’s a lie,” she said evenly.
He flushed. “Okay, I’ve thought about it. But I’ve never seriously considered it.”
“Then you’re a coward.”
He scowled. “Now wait a minute-“
Still peeved at the way he’d brushed her off-or tried to-she was torn between reaching out to take him in her arms, and taking him by the shoulders and shaking him. Hard.
“I want you to be happy, Max. Don’t you see that? You’re probably the finest man I’ve ever known. You gave up your dreams to help your parents, you’ve performed a job you never wanted with competence and distinction, you care about the people around you, the people you work with and the ones you’ve sworn to protect. You deserve to be happy.”
He reached out suddenly and pulled her close. “Don’t make me out to be some sort of hero. Liz. It isn’t true.”
“To me it is,” she whispered, clinging to him. She could have told him then that she loved him. She didn’t, because she knew he wasn’t ready. He had too much to think about already. And she didn’t want his decisions for his future influenced by any demands he might imagine her feelings made upon him.
She realised that she was even willing to give him up if it meant that the deep-seated unhappiness in him, which she now understood, could be replaced with contentment. So this was love. It seemed she’d never really known the emotion before, after all. Compared to this, the others had been little more than infatuation.
It hurt, she realised. But she could no more stop loving Max than she could stop breathing.
“Think about what I said,” she murmured, pressing a kiss to his hard cheek. “It’s not too late, Max. It’s never too late to go after what you want.”
“You’re all I want right now,” he said gruffly and crushed her mouth beneath his.
Liz kissed him back with all her heart, but she knew it wasn’t enough. As much as she cared for him, it would take more than her love to truly make him happy. How could he ever be content when he was trapped in a career he had never wanted, that he’d found so little joy in? And if Max wasn’t full happy, could they every really be happy together?
“I have to go,” she said with a sigh, drawing away from him.
“I know.” His jaw flexed, a sign of his unwillingness to see her leave. “Be careful.”
“I’m always careful, Evans.” Except where you’re concerned.
He walked her to the door. He stopped her just as she reached for the doorknob. “Uh, Parker?”
She glanced over her shoulder. “Yeah?”
“Aren’t you forgetting something?”
She frowned. Her purse was in her hand, so she knew he wasn’t referring to that. “Am I?”
He grinned. It always amazed her how his rare, full smiles could transform his dark face.
Max knelt and retrieved something large and bulky from the floor next to the couch. “Does the name Bob ring a bell?” he asked, dangling the heavy harness from one hand.
Liz groaned and slapped a hand to her forehead. “Oh, my God, I forgot it.” She was genuinely embarrassed. In her entire career, she’d made that kind of monumental mistake while working undercover.
Max was obviously amused by her embarrassment. “I think Maria might have noticed.”
“Yeah,” Lis said grimly, reaching for the harness. “I’m sure she would have.”
“Need help getting back into that thing?”
“You start fumbling around under my clothes and it’ll be midnight before I leave,” Liz retorted, turning her back to him as she raised her shirt.
“There is that.”
She felt him watching with interest as she strapped herself into the rig, then smoothed the maternity shirt back into place. “Now,” she said in relief, turning back to him. “How do I look?”
“Beautiful,” he assured her, no longer smiling.
She blushed. “That was nice,” she said, caught off guard. “Thanks.”
“It just happens to be true.” He kissed her, but touched her only with his mouth. Liz suspected he was resisting temptation. She knew how he felt. It was taking all her willpower to keep her hands off him.
“Take care of yourself,” he murmured as he steeped back.
She had the door open and was halfway out when she looked back at him. “You’ll think about what I said?”
“I’ll think about it.”
She couldn’t read his expression. She didn’t waste any more time trying. She left then, while she still could.
|posted on 15-Mar-2002 10:15:55 PM|
She cried all the way back to the apartment. The people on the bus around her looked uncomfortable in the presence of a sobbing pregnant women, but only one elderly women asked if there was anything she could do to help. “No,” Liz whispered miserably. “But thank you.”
The women awkwardly patted Liz’s shoulder. “It’ll work out, honey,” she offered. “Whatever it is, you’ll find a way to work it out. Just you wait and see.”
“Th-thank you,” Liz murmured brokenly, giving the sweet lade a feeble attempt at a smile and feeling a bit guilty about deceiving her this way.
The tears had a purpose, of course. Lis needed to return to her apartment with a red nose and tear-streaked cheeks in order to reinforce her cover. Again, she was rather pleased with her acting skills. Had she not chosen a career in law enforcement, she probably could have made a living on the big screen, she decided.
Which only made it easier for her to cry as she though of how Max had abandoned his own career dreams. She hoped his parents were properly grateful for the sacrifice he had made for them. She suspected they didn’t fully realise what Max had given up.
Liz understood all too well. She knew what it was like to have a dream. Knew what it felt like to be on the verge of letting it go. Knew how it was to be the only one who believed in that dream.
No wonder Max had become such a loner. He hadn’t believed there was anyone who truly understood. She could identify with that, too.
She loved him. She wanted him to have everything he’d ever wanted-even if it meant pushing him away, freeing him to go after his dreams.
Her tears weren’t all fake by the time she stepped heavily off the bus and made her way toward the joyless apartment building.
Max stared at the batter cope of Gray’s Anatomy he held in his left hand. Medical school, he thought scornfully. At his age? Liz must have temporarily lost her mind to even suggest such a thing?
He couldn’t do it, of course. Couldn’t walk away from a successful, nine-year career to go back to school now. Even if he could get accepted again-and that was a very big if-it would be too hard. He wasn’t sure he even remembered how to study. Medicine was nothing more to him now than a boyhood dream, the way some kids once dreamed of being astronauts or superheros.
Or cops, he thought, remembering Liz’s words.
Damn, but she’d had a tough life. How could she still be so much of an optimist? How could she possibly believe that life could all come out just the way it should if someone was just willing to work hard enough at it?
She was wrong, of course. Just because it had worked for her, just because she had managed to overcome enormous odds, didn’t mean everyone could. Nor that everyone ever wanted to try.
It was too late for him.
And even if he should lose his mind and go back to school, Max thought, shoving the thick book back onto its shelf, was Liz aware of how hard that would be on any sort of personal life they might have? He’d be spending long, hard hours studying, working part-time, probably, and then more gruelling hours and seemingly endless nights working as an intern and a resident. The real truth was that he wanted it so badly his mouth watered just thinking about it-but would Liz be able to live with those demands on his time? Assuming she was even considering hanging around that long, of course.
He’d had to make a choice once. Follow his dream, or give it up to help his parents out of a desperate situation. The choice had been painful, but not really difficult. He couldn’t have lived with himself had he taken the selfish path then; would have taken no pleasure from any success he might have found.
If allowed himself to be swayed by Liz’s bold advice-to risk going after that old dream again-would there come a time when he’d have to choose between his dream and Liz?
He wasn’t sure he could survive having his hopes shattered again. But he was equally sure he didn’t want to live the rest of his life without Liz Parker in it.
He’d once wondered if he was capable of falling deeply, permanently in love with any women. Now he knew that he was. He’d fallen in love with Liz Parker, of all people.
He groaned and rammed his fist against the wall. Why did life always have to be so damned complicated?
Maria reacted to Liz’s tear-ravaged face exactly as Liz had hoped she would. “What happened?” she gasped, clutching Liz’s arm with one hand. “What’s wrong?”
“I-I saw Max,” Liz confessed brokenly. “He-he said he isn’t going to change his mind about the baby. He doesn’t want it. He’ll never want it. And he doesn’t want me if the baby comes with me.”
Maria relaxed a bit, though her brows drew together in a scowl. “What did you do, go crawling to him? Beg him to take you back?”
Liz nodded disconsolately. “Yes. It didn’t work,” she sniffed. “He gave me some money for food and then told me he hadn’t changed his mind.”
“I could have told you that,” Maria muttered. And then she sighed. “Well? What are you going to do?”
Liz touched the harness. “It’s probably better this way,” she whispered. “What kind of life could I give it?”
She slowly turned to Maria. “You’re sure these people you told me about find good homes for the babies?”
“Rich homes,” Maria said. “People with money and power. The kid wouldn’t lack for anything.”
Except scruples, Liz could have retorted. Being raised by wealthy people who didn’t hesitate to break the law for their own convenience was hardly an ideal upbringing. She’d seen the kind of people who’d been raised with money and power and no respect for the law or the rights of others. People like that gave no thought to the “little people” left strewn behind them like unidentifiable roadkill.
No child of Liz’s would ever be raised in that atmosphere-and she was going to do her best to make sure that Maria’s baby wasn’t either. “I’d like to meet them,” she said.
Maria hesitated. “Meet who?” she asked carefully.
“The people you’ve been talking to. The ones who are going to pay you for your baby. The ones who are going to make sure your baby goes to a good home.”
For the first time since Liz had known her, Maria looked uncertain. “You’re sure you want to do this? These people are very serious about this, Liz. Once you give them your word, they aren’t going to let you back out.”
Liz took a deep shaky breath. “How much will they pay me? After all the hospital expenses, of course.”
“Enough to make Max’s eyes light up again,” Maria retorted. “But you can’t decide something like this on impulse kid. You gotta think about it.”
“Did you think about it?”
“I didn’t have a whole lot of other options,” Maria said bitterly. “The money these people are paying me will let me start a whole new life somewhere. I need that.”
“I need to start my life over too,” Liz insisted. “With Max.”
Maria sighed. “I still think you’re crazy. For one thing, I think you got feelings for the kid. I don’t think it’s going to be easy for you to let go.”
He hand still on the padding, Liz tried not to be amused at the unintentional irony. Maria couldn’t begin to guess how anxious Liz was to finish this assignment and permanently rid herself of the hot, heavy harness-so anxious that she’d almost blown everything by forgetting to put it back on before leaving Max’s place!
“I can handle it,” she said. “I want to do this, Maria. Please help me.”
Coming to an abrupt decision, Maria nodded her light head. “Okay. Fine. I’ll talk to them.”
“I’ll come with you.”
“No.” Maria spoke sharply, flatly. “I’ll talk to them. They don’t welcome strangers around much. If they’re interested in talking to you, they’ll tell me. If not-you’re on your own, you got that? One word from you to anyone about this, and you’ll be lucky if you live long enough to go into labour.”
Liz gasped. “They’re that dangerous?”
“People are always dangerous when enough money is involved,” Maria answered matter-of-factly. She search Liz’s face. “You still want to talk to them?”
Liz gulped audibly, but nodded. “Yes. I still want to talk to them.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Fifteen minutes later, Liz was alone. She ran a hand through her hair and gave a weary sigh.
All in all, it had been one hell of a day.
The meeting took place on Sunday afternoon. Liz was surprised that the leader of the baby-selling ring working the neighbourhood turned out to be a friend of Ms. McCauley. It seemed that McCauley passed along the occasional tip on a baby-source prospect in exchange for cash. It had been McCauley who’d brought Maria into the scheme.
The women introduced herself only as Mia, an attorney. She was rail thin, with limp, dark hair and hard, lifeless eyes. Liz had no doubt that the women was cunningly intelligent. That became obvious during their brief meeting, when Mia skirted skilfully around any concrete promises and offered only veiled innuendos that were far from providing enough evidence for successful prosecution. With what little she’d said so far, a clever lawyer could make a case that Mia was only offering her services to set up a legal, private adoption.
Liz knew better.
“I didn’t like her,” she told Maria later when they were alone in Maria’s living room.
Maria shrugged, and pressed a hand to her back as though it ached. “Who said you gotta like her? Her money’s good.”
“Are you sure we want our babies to go to someone like her? What if she’s lying about making sure they’ll go to good homes? What if she’s selling them to people who’ll abuse them or something?”
Liz saw the anxiety that flashed in Maria’s eyes, though it was quickly masked. “She ain’t going to do that,’ she insisted. “Mia says the people wouldn’t want babies so bad if they weren’t willing to take care of them.”
“But what if she’s lying?” Liz insisted.
“Look.” Maria spoke sharply, irritably. “She’s not, okay? You’re the one who nagged at me to set this up. Now you better not start changing your mind.”
“Why not? I didn’t agree to anything,” Liz protested, crossing her arms over her middle.
“You saw her. You could identify her to the cops.”
“Why would I go to the cops? I could get into trouble.”
“Yeah, you just remember that.”
“Besides, she never really said anything about buying the baby. She hinted, but she never committed. She wouldn’t even commit to a firm fee.”
“She’s not crazy, Liz. She ain’t going to give you more than you need to know at this point.”
“How are you going to get your baby to them? Will they pick it up at the hospital?”
“Don’t be stupid. I’ll bring the kid home. It’s gotta look like I’m going to keep it or Child Welfare starts getting involved.”
“So you give them the baby later, after you’re released from the hospital?”
“Yeah. We’ll arrange an exchange point and everything will be taken care of. I’ll take my money and disappear. Start over somewhere else with a new name, a new life.”
“How do you know you can trust them? How do you know they aren’t conning you?” Liz persisted. And then she gasped as if at a sudden flash of thought. “What if Mia’s a cop?”
“A cop?” Maria dropped her hand from her back and gave a snort of laughter. “Yeah, right.”
“No, really Maria. What if she’s trying to set you up? You could hand her the baby and she could arrest you. You could go to jail for a long time. I could too, now. I’m scared.”
Maria lifted both hands. “Calm down, you’re getting hysterical. Mia ain’t a cop, okay? Trust me, I know a cop when I see one.”
Liz looked sceptical. “How?”
“Let’s just say I have experience. Mia’s a snake, but she’s no cop.”
“I still say you should think about this some more,” Liz argued.
There was no mistaking the haunted look that crossed Maria’s face then. “Maybe you can still change your mind,” she said, her voice low. “You haven’t really committed yourself. You could disappear now and they wouldn’t come looking for you. Probably. But I’ve made ‘em a promise. I’ve already taken money. Already spent it. I change my mind, they’re going to want revenge.”
Liz lifted a hand to her throat. “But-“
“Look, I knew someone, okay? Someone who promised her kid, then changed her mind after she had it. She turned up in the river a few days later. No one knew for sure what happened to the kid. You think that was a coincidence? I ain’t that dumb!”
“Oh, Maria. What have you done?” Liz asked sadly.
Maria lifted her chin. “I’m taking care of myself,” she said. “Just like always. And you better be prepared to do the same. I don’t see that man of yours around to take care of you.”
The faint remnants of fear behind Maria’s bravado made Liz’s throat tighten. She still didn’t approve of Maria’s choices, was still prepared to arrest her if she eventually refused to cooperate with the sting, but she felt rather sorry for her, anyway. Misguided as she’d been, Mari had obviously felt that she’d had no other choices.
Like Max, Liz thought with a silent sigh.
She hoped it wasn’t too late for either Maria or Max to turn their lives around. She had grown fond of one, fallen in love with the other. And now she found herself caught right in the middle of their personal dilemmas.
It was a damned unnerving position to be in, she thought ruefully.
|posted on 20-Mar-2002 1:34:10 AM|
It took Liz another week to break through Maria’s brittle defences and finally discover her true feelings about selling her baby.
It happened almost by accident. They returned home from walking to the grocery store together and found a small package sitting outside Maria’s door. Maria bent with difficulty to pick it up. “Wonder what this is?”
Liz shifted the small bag of groceries she’d just purchased to her other arm. “Come on in for coffee. You can open it at my place, if you want.”
Maria nodded, suspiciously examining the brown-paper-wrapped box.
Liz put away the few supplied she’d purchased and put water on to boil for instant coffee. “You going to open that or stare a hole through it?” she asked Maria, who was still studying the package.
Maria shrugged. “Guess I’ll open it.” She ripped the paper and tossed it to one side, revealing a small, inch thick white gift box. She lifted the lid.
Her breath caught audibly. Liz stepped closer to see what had caused Maria’s look of stunned disbelief.
Te baby outfit was incredibly soft looking. It was made of white cotton-a one piece garment suitable for a new born girl or boy- and was a accompanied by little white booties. “It’s adorable,” Liz said. “Who’s it from?”
With hands that weren’t quite steady, Maria plucked a small square care from the box. “It’s from McCauley,’ she said, her voice carefully uninflected. “It says she wanted me to have something for the kid to wear home from the hospital.”
“How weird,” Liz said, frowning. “I wouldn’t have thought she’d do something like this.” It seemed unbelievably cruel, under the circumstances.
Maria shrugged, her eyes locked on the tiny outfit still in the box. “I guess she knew I wouldn’t think to buy anything. They want the baby to look good to anyone who’s interested enough to notice.”
“Oh.” Liz reached toward the box. “Mind if I look at it?”
“No, go ahead,” Maria said, though Liz noted she’d stiffened a bit.
Liz held the little garment up in front of her. “It’s so soft,” she murmured. “So tiny.”
Maria looked away, but not before Liz had seen the flash of pain that crossed her face. “You’d better put it back in the box,” Maria muttered. “Don’t want to get it dirty.”
Liz carefully folded the garment and tucked it back into the box. And then she rested a gentle hand on Maria’s stiff shoulder. “Maria? You don’t really want to give your baby up, do you?” she asked quietly.
“Don’t be stupid.”
“I’m not being stupid. I’m being a friend. And I can see that you’re hurting.”
Maria shook her head fiercely, her face still averted. “You’re nuts. I never wanted this kid. Certainly didn’t plan it. I should have gotten rid of it as soon as I found out about it, but I went temporarily crazy, I guess, and then it was too late. But that don’t mean I’m not smart enough to get something out of it.”
“You really think you can be happy living on money you received from selling your own child?”
Maria gasped at the question. She stood so fast her chair clattered against the floor. “What the hell-? I thought you said you were my friend!”
“I am,” Liz insisted. “I like you. Quite a bit, actually. And I think you’re making a horrible mistake.”
Maria reached out for the gift box. “I’m getting out of here,” she mumbled. “If you feel like this, there’s nothing more for us to say.”
“Maria,” Liz said quickly, hoping she hadn’t just ruined everything. “I won’t say any more about it. If you can look at me and tell me without hesitation that it won’t tear you apart to hand your baby over to McCauley and Mia.”
Maria looked sullen. “I don’t have to tell you nothing.”
“No. But why shouldn’t you tell me-if it’s true? Unless you’re afraid to admit the real truth?”
Maria jerked her head. “I ain’t afraid of nothing.”
Liz didn’t respond, just looked at her.
Maria sighed. “You can be a real pain in the butt, Powers.”
Liz’s lips twitched just a bit. “That’s what Max tells me.”
Maria’s scowl deepened even further at the comparison to the man she detested. “Okay,” she said flatly. “Maybe it won’t be so easy giving Mia the baby. I wish the whole thing could be arranged a little different-you know, where I’d never have to see the kid. But this is the way it works. And it ain’t like I got any other choices, remember?”
“You could keep the baby.”
Maria snorted. “Yeah, right. Me, raising a kid? I wouldn’t know what to feed it, what to do if it got sick-hell, I couldn’t even help it with homework.”
“There are people who can help you with all if that.”
“I can’t be nobody’s mother, Liz,” Maria repeated miserably. “You don’t understand.”
“You think not?”
Maria shook her head. “It’s what I am, you see. What I’ve been. I mean, I’m planning to change everything once I start over in Michigan. Get real job, maybe. But I can’t start over with a baby to worry about.”
“Of course you can, if you want.”
“How? By going back on the streets? Just the kind of Mum the kid needs, right?”
“You don’t have to go back on the streets.”
Maria shrugged. “You don’t understand,” she repeated. “Hell, you probably never even met a hooker before.”
“What does that have to do with it? I don’t have to approve of your past to be your friend now.”
Defensive again, Maria crossed her arms over her swollen stomach. “I never asked for your approval. Or nobody’s else’s.”
“I know that. It’s your life. Your choices. And now you have another choice. You can sell your baby to these people who care more about money than human life-or you can keep it. Raise it. Do something worthwhile with the rest of your life.”
For a quick, revealing moment, Maria looked terrified.
“Even if you decide you don’t want that responsibility, you can still do the right thing by your child,” Liz persisted. “You can give it to a legitimate adoption agency, people who will carefully screen the potential parents. Who’ll make sure that your baby goes to the people who are most qualified to raise it-not to the ones with the most cash available to buy a child.”
“You really are naïve, aren’t you?” Maria whispered. “You believe an ex-hooker can be a good mother-and that so-called legitimate adoption guarantees a happy, safe home for a kid. And you really think Mia’s going to stand back and let me change my mind about doing business with her. I guess you’re going to tell me there’s no way I’d end up floating in the river.”
“I’m not quite as naïve as you think,” Liz argued, though the words stung a bit, especially since Max had thrown them at her recently. She wasn’t naïve-life had seen to that. But was there anything wrong with learning to hope for the best? With being determined to succeed, no matter how hard it might be?
She knew life didn’t always work out for the best. In her job, she’d seen the worst it had to offer-and occasionally caught glimpses of the best. She’d seen the rare acts of heroism amongst the carnage, had met those few who’d triumphed over seemingly insurmountable odds to make a real difference in the often-ugly world around them. She’d made the conscious decision at the age of eighteen that she wanted to be one of the good guys; one of the ones who tried to make a difference, even if her efforts were thwarted more often than they succeeded. She still had to try.
“I just want you to be happy,” she said, busily making plans.
Maria shrugged and looked away. “I’ll settle for having enough money to get by for awhile,” she muttered. “Look, I don’t want to talk about this anymore, you hear? Not now, not ever. I’m starting to worry about trying to help you. You ain’t careful, you’re going to get both of us tossed in the river.”
“I’ll be careful,” Liz promised.
“Then just keep your mouth shut from now on, okay? You do whatever you want about your kid, and let me take care of mine. If you don’t want to del with Mia, then you’d better disappear. Find another place to stay. It ain’t safe for you here.”
“Thank you for caring.”
Pushed to the edge, Maria rubbed a weary hand at the small of her back and shook her head. “You’re too much, Powers.” She snatched up the box. “See you around.”
“Will you still go with me to the clinic in the morning? You promised you would.”
Maria grimaced. “I don’t know……”
“Please, Maria. I’m afraid of doctors. Max always went with me before. He didn’t like it, either, but he went.”
“Oh, hell. All right, I’ll go. Damn it, Powers, sometimes I wish you’d never shown up around here.”
“I know.” And you haven’t heard anything, yet, she could have added, thinking of her plan for the next day.
Maria left without saying anything else. Liz knew she’d done all she could to convince Maria of the harmful path she’d set out on.
Now it was up to Maria to decide whether she wanted to willingly cooperate with Liz’s next request.
|posted on 31-Mar-2002 8:37:39 AM|
|Lucky I'm pleased that your enjoying this story. Thanks for the feedback.|
The free clinic was a madhouse, as always. Pregnant women crowded into an undersize waiting area, several of them accompanied by small children who ripped through the room, whooping and squealing. Computers hummed, names were shouted, babies screamed from the indignities of examinations or the pain of immunisations. Liz wondered how the women working behind the reception desk managed to look so calm and unruffled. “I’m Liz Powers,” she said, making sure Maria was close by. “I believe I’m expected.”
The women didn’t even blink. “Down the hallway, third door on the left,” she said.
Liz turned to Maria, who looked a bit surprised by the exchange. “You’ll come with me, won’t you?”
“Into the exam room? C’mon, Liz, give me a break.”
“Please? I really don’t want to go in there alone. You’re used to this by now.”
Maria grimaced and rubbed her stomach. “Yeah, but-“
“Would you rather stay out here? With all this?” Liz asked , nearly stumbling when a small child barrelled into her from behind, leaving sticky handprints on Liz’s maternity jeans.
Maria took one look around and turned back to Liz. “Okay, I’ll come with you. If the doctor don’t mind.”
“He won’t mind,” Liz assured her, and led the way down the hallway. When she reached the third door on the left, she paused, took a deep breath, said a quick, mental prayer and reached for the doorknob. “Okay, here goes.”
Liz motioned Maria to precede her into the room. She followed, closing the door firmly behind her. The room was already occupied; the man stood with his back to the door, apparently absorbed in studying some complex-looking medical equipment arranged on a wall behind the paper-covered exam table. He looked around when they entered.
Maria stiffened, stopping in her tracks.
Liz swallowed, and mentally crossed her fingers. “Hi, Max.”
He walked around the end of the table, then leaned comfortably against it. “Hi,” he said, his watchful eyes never leaving Maria’s frown. “Hello, Maria.”
“What the hell are you doing here?” Maria demanded, and turned to Liz. “If you knew he was going to be here, what did you want me for?”
“Max and I want to talk to you, Maria,” Liz said quietly. “It’s about your baby. We want to help you. We can help you, if you’ll let us.”
Maria’s eyes narrowed-and then suddenly widened. “Oh, hell,” she muttered, stumbling back a step. “Oh, shit.”
Max moved quickly, blocking Maria’s path to the door.
Liz reached out, afraid Maria would fall over the stool so close behind her. “Be careful,” she warned.
Maria had backed almost against the wall. “You’re a cop,” she said, her whispered voice dripping with accusation. “You’re a goddamned cop.”
“I’m afraid so. We both are.”
“Oh, hell,” Maria said again, her eyes faming with betrayed fury. “So much for friendship.”
Liz winced. “I’d like to think we have become friends, Maria. But I don’t blame you for being angry.”
“Am I under arrest?”
“You aren’t under arrest,’ Liz assured her. “You haven’t really done anything wrong-not yet. We’re here to offer you immunity and assistance. In exchange for your cooperation, of course.”
Maria’s reply was pithy and succinct.
Liz sighed. “I figured you’d react that way. At first.”
Maria stood like a sullen statue during the next fifteen minutes while Liz outlined what they wanted her to do in exchange for the immunity they’d promised. Max wisely stayed out of it, his back against the door, his arms crossed over his chest, certainly aware, as Liz was, that Maria was more likely to be persuaded by Liz.
“And if I say no?” Maria demanded.
Liz looked sympathetic. “Then we spread a few rumours that you’ve been talking with the police. Even if they have no proof, Mia and her friends can’t take the risk that it’s true. They’ll either disappear-or you will.”
“And if I choose to do that, anyway?” Maria challenged. “If I walk out of here and get on a bus to somewhere?”
“You could do that, of course,” Liz admitted. “We can’t legally stop you. But you’ll only end up alone in a strange town, with a baby due at any time and no one to care about you.”
“No one cares about me now,” Maria said bitterly. “You only want me to help you bust Mia and McCauley.”
It stung, but Liz didn’t try to argue. When it came right down to it, Maria was right, in some ways. If Liz were forced to choose between her fondness for Maria and her job, she would choose her job. It would sadden her to have to arrest Maria-but she would do it, should it become necessary for any reason. “We can help you,” was all she could say. “You and your baby.”
Maria touched her stomach. Fleetingly. And then she glanced down at Liz’s middle. “So where did they find a pregnant cop, anyway?” she grumbled.
Liz smiled. “They didn’t,” she replied, and lifted the hem of her blouse.
Maria took one look at the harness and swore. Fluently. At length. Liz waited patiently.
When Maria had vented until she’d run out of breath, Liz stepped forward. She didn’t touch Maria, knew her touch wouldn’t be welcome just now, but she tried to express her concern with her eyes, her voice. “You don’t want to sell your baby to these people, Maria. We know about people like them-about the ones they do business with. Don’t you realise the buyers are usually people who have been turned down by legitimate agencies-for good reason? Do you really want to put your defenceless baby in their hands?”
“I thought I was doing the right thing,” Maria muttered, her eyes overly bright. “The only thing I knew to do.”
“I know. You didn’t realise you had any other choice. But you do. You can keep your baby, take advantage of the programs that would help you raise it-or you can make sure it goes to a good home. One that you choose, if you like. You don’t have to sell it like a piece of merchandise.” The way you’re so often sold yourself, Liz could have added, but didn’t. The unspoken words hung in the air, anyway.
Maria took a deep breath. ‘They’ll kill me.”
“No,” Max said, speaking for the first time since greeting Maria. “They won’t hurt you. Not if you’re willing to cooperate.”
“I’ve heard of other people who cooperated with the cops and ended up dead.”
Max inclined his head. “It’s happened,” he admitted. “But it won’t this time. For one thing, we’re dealing with a small-potatoes organization here. We’ve traced Mia, and she’s a storefront attorney who’s been investigated more than once for shady business practices. She’d probably working with her boyfriend, who’s got a record for running scams. McCauley is probably the only person they’ve brought in to help them with this. We don’t have enough evidence to prosecute any of them, but with your help we can bust them. They don’t have enough clout to be any danger to you after that. We’ll keep you safe.”
“I’d step in front of a bullet myself to keep you and your baby out of danger,” Liz said evenly.
Maria took a deep breath. “Big words,” she accused, sounding disbelieving. But Liz could see that she wasn’t entirely unaffected by the rash promise.
“That won’t be necessary,” Max said sharply, shooting a frown at Liz.
She smiled at him. “No. I’m sure it won’t.” But she’d meant it, anyway, and they both knew it.
Max might as well know now that she would always perform her job with everything she had. She wouldn’t take unnecessary risks; she didn’t want to die, even heroically. But the danger would always be there. The last man she’d dated hadn’t been able to handle it. She didn’t know Max’s personal experience with the job would make it easier for him to accept the risks-or harder.
Maria was looking from Liz to Max, watching the silent exchange between them. “You two are really a couple, aren’t you?” she asked curiously.
Liz cleared her throat and felt her cheeks warm. Max seemed suddenly fascinated by the array of wrapped tongue depressors and cotton swabs scattered across the countertop beside him. “We, uh, we’re partners,” Liz said then quickly changed the subject. “Are you going to help us?”
“Why should I?” Maria demanded, holding Liz’s gaze.
“For your baby,” Liz replied, risking everything on her instincts about Maria’s true nature.
Maria inhaled deeply. “Damn.”
Liz only waited.
Maria finally sighed. “All right, I’ll do it,” she muttered. “I’ll probably end up dead, but I’ll do it. It ain’t like you two have given me any other choice,” she added resentfully.
“You will end up dead if you aren’t very careful,” Max warned. “You’ve got to play this straight, Maria. You’ve got to watch what you say and how you say it. McCauley and her friends can’t even get a hint that anything has changed.”
Maria cocked one hip and tossed back her hair. “I know how to run a scam.”
“I’m sure you do,” Max murmured, making no effort to hide his amusement.
The look Maria gave him should have singed his hair. Liz shot him a repressive frown.
Max held up both hands in surrender. “All right, it’s up to you two now. Good Luck.”
“Something tells me we’re going to meed it,” Maria mumbled.
Liz silently agreed.
“Am I free to leave now?” Maria asked, her voice still laced with defiant sarcasm, her only pretence at control now that her choices seemed to have been made for her.
“We’ll leave together, the way we came in.” Liz answered.
Max touched her arm. “Maria, would you wait in the reception area for just a few minutes? I need to talk to Liz, but I’ll make it quick.”
Maria gave a long-suffering sigh, rolled her eyes, then glanced at her watch. “Ten minutes,” she said. “Then I’m out of here, with you or without you,” she told Liz flatly.
Liz nodded agreement. She waited until Maria had closed the door behind her before turning to Max in question.
He tilted her chin up with town fingers and studied her face. “You look tired.”
She shrugged, self-conscious beneath his scrutiny. “I’ve slept better,” she admitted. “I wasn’t sure how this would go down with her.” She didn’t see any need to add that her concerns about her tenuous relationship with him had caused her more restless hours than the assignment had.
“Is she going to help us?”
“She said she would.”
Max nodded. “Yeah. But will she do it?”
“Yes,” Liz said, suddenly certain. “She’ll do it. I think she’s glad to have an excuse to change her mind. She can blame it on us, if she wants, but deep down, it’s what she’s been looking for as her time drew closer.”
“Still trying to turn her into a latent Girl Scout?” Max said, his voice laced with amusement.
His indulgence annoyed her. Liz pulled her chin out of his loose grasp and shook her head. “I know exactly what she is. But I like her, anyway. Her kid could end up with someone a hell of a lot worse.” From personal experience, she could have recited plenty of examples. She didn’t bother.
“Okay, so maybe you were right about her. Maybe she’ll make it.”
“I know. Not very many, but a few.”
Liz wiped her palms nervously against the legs of her jeans. “I’d better get out there. Maria will be getting restless.”
“Hold on a minute, okay? There’s something I wanted to tell you.”
She watched as he ran a finger around the open collar of his white shirt, wondering why he suddenly looked rather nervous. Her stomach tightened beneath her harness. “What is it?” she asked, her voice sounding strained in her ears.
Max was watching her as closely as she studied him, making her all the more certain that what he had to say was important to them on a personal level. “Valenti called me in this morning. Said he has some good news for me.”
When he paused, Liz motioned impatiently. “What good news?” she prodded.
“I’ve been offered a promotion. Head of the homicide division in the Fifth Precinct. Valenti said it was a hell of an achievement at my age. Said I should be proud.”
Liz’s throat tightened to match her stomach. “He’s right,” she managed. “You should be very proud. What did you say to him?”
“Told him I’d think about it.”
She knotted her hands in the hem of her loose shirt. “And have you been thinking about it?”
He ran a hand through his hair and nodded. “Yeah. Sure. Of course, I’ve only had a few hours….”
Liz heartily regretted Max’s timing in bringing this up now, with Maria waiting impatiently for her. This was definitely something they needed to discuss in depth….but there just wasn’t time. Or maybe, she thought with a sudden, sinking feeling, Max didn’t intend to discuss it with her. It was his decision to make, not hers. They certainly didn’t have any real commitment.
“When are you planning to give an answer?” she asked.
He shrugged again. “I don’t know. I told Valenti I want to get this case out of the way before I make any decisions.”
Again, no mention of discussing it with her first. So why had he told her about it now if he didn’t want her opinion? But then, she’d never been the type to wait her opinion? But then, she’d never been the type to wait for an invitation before expressing her opinion-especially now when it mattered this much. “It’s not what you want, Max,” she couldn’t resist telling him.
He avoided her eyes. “Maybe it is,” he disagreed. “It would be a change of pace, a desk job, a significant pay raise.”
“It’s not what you want.”
He shot her an impatient look in response to her repetition. “You can’t know that. Even I don’t know what I want these days.”
“I do.” She gestured around the examining room in which they stood, indicating the exam table, the shelves of medical supplied, the complicated equipment that had so intrigued Max when she and Maria had entered, “This is what you want. It’s what you’ve always wanted.”
The flash of old, painful hunger appeared and vanished quickly from his eyes that Liz almost missed it. There was no expression at all on his face when he answered. “We’ve already talked about that. It’s too late now. I’d be an idiot to chuck a good career, a guaranteed future, to go chasing after some dream I had when I was just a green kid.”
“You’d be an idiot to give up your dreams just because you’re scared to go after them,” Liz retorted with her usual tact and delicacy.
Max scowled, and Liz wished she’d expressed herself a bit differently. But, damn it, it made her so mad when anyone just give up on their dreams without a fight. Had she done so, she’d be right out there on those streets beside all those Maria’s who hadn’t believed they had any other choices.
“I don’t remember asking for your advice,” Max said coolly.
Even though she knew he was worried, knew he was dealing with his own insecurities, his own pain, his words still hurt her. She managed a curt nod. “You’re right, of course. This is none of my business.”
“Damn it.” He reached out to her, his expression a mixture of regret and annoyance. “Liz…”
She evaded his touch be stepping back toward the door. “I’ve got to go. Maria won’t wait long, and she and I really should go back together.”
“Look, Liz I…”
Her hand was already on the doorknob. “e have a job to do, Max,” she reminded him unnecessarily. “I have to get back to it.”
His hand fell to his side. “I know.”
She opened the door.
Max caught her shoulder before she could step out into the hallway. “Take care of yourself,” He murmured. “Don’t do anything stupid, you hear?”
“Telling me how to do my job again, Evans?” she asked, her bruised ego still smarting.
He forced a smile. “Telling you that I care what happens to you,” he corrected.
There didn’t seem to be anything she could say to that. Her eyes burning, Liz nodded, hitched the harness more comfortably against her stomach, and walked away from him.
|posted on 8-Apr-2002 2:40:03 AM|
Two nights later, Liz was brought out of a sound sleep by a heavy pounding on her apartment door. Disoriented, she groped for the light, swore when she knocked the clock of the floor, then swung her legs over the edge of the bed. The pounding grew louder.
“Liz! Liz, hurry up!”
The voice was Maria’s. Liz snatched up the harness and stuffed it under her nightshirt, fastening only enough straps to keep it temporarily in place as she bolted for the door. Maria had been generally avoiding her for the past two days, still hurt and angry that Liz had lied to her. There was only one reason Liz could image that Maria was seeking her out now.
She jerked open the door. Maria stood in the hallway, gasping, her face pale without its usual coating of cosmetics, her hair limp around her shoulders. She was wearing an oversize satin nightgown. The front of it was soaked with a dark liquid.
“Your water broke?” Liz asked, glancing down.
Maria nodded, one hand pressed against her stomach. “I’m in labour. God, it hurts.”
Liz drew the women inside the apartment. “How far apart are the pains?”
“I don’t know. Not-“ Maria winced and nearly doubled over with the force of a contraction. “Not very far,” she said when she could speak again.
“I’ll get some clothes on. Have you called anyone? A cab? An ambulance?” She knew Maria didn’t have a telephone wither, but she had to ask. Maybe she’d sed a pay phone down in the lobby.
Maria shook her head. “I got rattled,” she admitted. “I couldn’t think what to do. This wasn’t supposed to happen for another week or two.”
“I know. Hold on just a second, I’ll be right back.” Liz sprinted for the bedroom. She threw on the blouse and jeans she’d worn earlier, slid her feet into a pair of sneakers and ran her fingers through her hair, wishing she had a phone.
Less than five minutes had passed when she rejoined Maria. Liz was appalled to find Maria writhing in the grip of another contraction. “Oh, shit,” she murmured. “They are close aren’t they?”
Maria only nodded, her lips tightly compressed.
Liz had been trained in first aid, knew the rudiments of delivering a baby if she had to. She very much hoped she wouldn’t have to. Her movements swift and efficient, voice brusque and bracing, she helped Maria remove her drenched nightgown an replace it with an oversize nightshirt of Liz’s. The garment usually hung on Liz; it barely stretched over Maria’s swollen stomach. The Liz wrapped her in a blanket from her bed and hustled her toward the door. “Okay, let’s go,’ she said. “We’ll try to get a cab downstairs.”
She would have liked to call Max to come after them but regardless of the circumstances, she had to keep their cover in mind. To anyone watching, Liz was no more than Maria’s pregnant friend, offering support and assistance in Maria’s time of need.
They made it to the hospital with little time to spare. A harried nurse announced that Maria was already fully dilated and the baby had dropped into position. “You the coach?” the nurse asked Liz, glancing downward at Liz’s bulging middle. “If so, you’re going to have to wash up and try to get into a scrub suit.”
“Oh, I’m not-“
“Yes!” Maria gasped, reaching out to clutch Liz’s arm. She looked younger and more vulnerable without her armour of makeup and hairspray. And she looked scared. “She’d my coach,” she told the nurse. She looked at Liz from the wheelchair in which someone had stashed her. “Go in with me. You owe me this,” she added quietly.
Liz nodded. “All right. I’ll wash up.”
Maria’s daughter arrived less than an hour later-a fast, startlingly smooth delivery. The baby was wrinkled, gooey and loud in her protests at her abrupt change in surroundings. Looking at the tiny, disgruntled face surrounded by a mop of wet, dark curls, Liz thought she’d never seen anything more beautiful in her life.
A nurse with a smile in her eyes carefully deposited the minute bundle into Maria’s arms. Sweaty, exhausted and still dazed, Maria looked down at her daughter, and then up at Liz. Her eyes were filled with tears, for the first time since Liz had known her. “She really is pretty, isn’t she?” Maria asked, her voice hoarse.
Liz had to swallow hard before she could answer. “She’s beautiful, Maria. She looks very much like you.”
“Yeah. She sort of does, doesn’t she?” Maria looked back down again, and laughed softly when the baby threw out a tiny hand and clipped her mother neatly across the chin.
It was nearly three in the morning when Liz dialled Max’s number from an isolated telephone in a conveniently deserted waiting room. His voice was gruff when he answered after three rings. She could picture him so clearly-his eyes heavy with sleep, his hair tousled, his chest behr above the gym shorts he favoured for sleeping. She closed her eyes and savoured the image, which had kept her company for the past two lonely days-and nights. “It’s me,” she said.
He sounded instantly more alert. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I just wanted to let you know that Maria had her baby. A girl. I was with her when it was born.”
“You delivered it?” he asked, sounding startled.
She smiled and shook her head, as though he could see her. “No. We made it to the hospital. I was her coach. She had it so quickly that there wasn’t time to give her any painkillers. She had to deliver naturally. She did great. Hardly even groaned, though I could tell it hurt like hell.”
“Maria’s tough,” Max reminded her.
Liz thought of the softness on Maria’s face when she’d looked down at her child. “In some ways,” she agreed.
“A girl huh?”
“Yes, and she’s perfect. All her fingers and toes. A headful of hair. She’s beautiful.”
“McCauley will like that.”
Liz almost shuddered at the unpleasant reminder. “Yeah.”
“You think Maria’s going to keep the kid? Once we have the brokers in custody, I mean.”
“I think so. I think se fell in love the minute they put the baby in her arms. I think it’s the first time she’s loved anyone in a very long time.”
“Might be better for her to give it up. Legally,’ he added. “What kind of mother will she make, being a hooker?”
“A former hooker,” Liz reminded him a bit defensively. “She wouldn’t be the first to successfully turn her life around.”
“She’s be one of a very few,’ he countered.
Liz shrugged. “There’s always a chance.”
Max sighed heavily through the phone line. “Always the optimist.”
“And you’re always a pessimist. So maybe the truth lies somewhere in between.”
“Yeah, maybe.” He paused a moment, then commented. “You sound dead on your feet, tired?”
“Very,” she admitted, rubbing wearily at the back of her neck. “But I wanted to let you know what had happened before I head back to the apartment.”
“I’m glad you did.”
There was a brief silence before Max spoke again. “I don’t like you being out alone at this hour. Want me to pick you up and give you a ride back to the apartment?”
Liz shook her head, then remembered to verbalise the gesture. “No. Too risky.”
“I’m used to being on the streets at all hours, Max. I’m a cop, remember?” she said pointedly.
“Yeah,” he said flatly. “I remember.”
She didn’t reply. She couldn’t think of anything to say.
“Be careful,” Max said after a moment.
“I will,” she promised.
He detained her just as she was about to disconnect the call. “Uh, Liz?”
“This is something else I couldn’t plan-if I went back to school, I mean,” he said, stumbling a bit.
She frowned. “What are you talking about?”
He cleared his throat. “Babies. Family. It would be several years before I’d be in any position to-well, you know.”
Her cheeks warmed. “I-uh-didn’t know you were planning to start a family anytime soon,” she said, trying to sound offhand about it.
“I wasn’t,’ he assured her hastily. “I just-It was just something that crossed my mind,” he added, sounding uncharacteristically awkward.
“Oh. Well, lots of people these days are waiting to have families,” she said, twisting the telephone cord around her finger. “Getting their careers established first. I’ve always figured I’ve got another fifteen years or so left for that sort of thing, myself. Not that we were talking about me, of course,’ she added hastily, thoroughly relieved that he couldn’t see her flaming cheeks.
Max didn’t seem to notice her embarrassment as he doggedly continued. “What I mean is, it’s ridiculous to even think about putting my life on hold to go back to school at this point.”
Liz was beginning to wonder which of them he was working hardest to convince-her, or himself. “It’s ridiculous to throw your life away doing something you don’t want to be doing,” she argued.
He muttered something unintelligible. After another pause, he said, “This is a really stupid time to discuss this. The middle of the night, over the phone-I don’t know what made me bring it up again.”
Liz suspected that the subject hadn’t been off his mind since he’d been offered the promotion. It was eating at him. He felt torn between taking the bold risk and pursuing his dream, or staying on the more secure path of the career he’d already carved out.
She wasn’t without sympathy for him over his predicament, but she had seen the look in his eyes when he’d talked about his former plans. Max would never be truly fulfilled, completely happy, as long as he stayed in a career he’d never wanted. His dissatisfaction was more than the usual burnout, more than a promotion and an increase in salary could remedy. His was a soul-deep disappointment that would always be there, would always haunt him with “what might have been.”
How long would it be before his discontentment and her impatience drove them apart?
“You’re right,” she finally said, one hand pressed to her aching back. “This is a lousy time to discuss this. You’re going to have to make your own decisions, Max. You know what my opinion is.”
“It’s not that I don’t value your opinion, Liz.”
She lifted her hand to her temple, which had started to ache with her back and legs. She was tired and discouraged, painfully aware of a nagging little I-told-you-so voice inside her head-a voice that had warned her all along against becoming involved with Max Evans. Hadn’t she always known that they were just too different? That they were ill-matched as partners, much less as lovers. “I’ve got to go, Max. I’m really tired,” she murmured.
“Yeah. Get some rest. We’ll talk again soon.”
Liz hung up the phone with a heavy heart. She wasn’t looking forward to that next talk. What if she found herself unable to accept what he would say? Chances were that he would tell her he’d accepted the promotion.
She didn’t know whether he hoped to continue their relationship, and she no longer knew how she felt about it, herself. She loved Max, and she respected the accomplishments he’d made in a career that he felt had been trust upon him. But she’d worked so hard to pursue her own dreams, had refused to let anything stand in her way. Could she continue to respect Max if she always secretly believed he’d been afraid to do the same for himself?
McCauley was just leaving Maria’s hospital room when Liz returned that evening. Standing just outside Maria’s door, the hard-faced landlady glanced down at Liz’s stomach. “When’s yours due?”
“Another couple of weeks,’ Liz replied. “How is Maria?”
McCauley shrugged. “Seems okay.”
“They baby’s beautiful, isn’t she?”
McCauley sot Liz a sharp look. “I guess.”
“I’m sure Mia’s pleased.”
Scowling, McCauley looked quickly around. “Shut up,” she muttered. “Not here.”
Liz looked suitably chastened. “Sorry. But tell Mia hello for me. I hope she can pay me a visit when my own baby gets here.” She stressed the word pay.
McCauley, hardly rocket-science material, got the hint. Her squinty eyes lighted up with an avaricious gleam and she smiled down at Liz’s stomach. “I’ll tell her you said so.”
The women’s smile made Liz want to go take a shower. She let herself into Maria’s room with only a quick tap to announce her arrival.
She found Maria lying alone in the semiprivate room, the other bed vacant. Maria was staring at the wall, her expression blank. A small bouquet of mixed flowers rested on the nightstand.
“Who brought the flowers?” Liz asked, though Maria’s expression had already given it away.
“McCauley,” Maria confirmed. “She told me the baby’s beautiful. She seemed very pleased about it.”
“I’m sure she is,” Liz said grimly. A beautiful baby girl could bring big dollars from the right sources.
“She said she’ll be seeing me again real soon. Right after the baby and me are released tomorrow. Told me to make sure I dress the baby in the outfit she gave me.”
Liz expressed her opinion of McCauley in a few choice words.
Maria managed a weak smile in response. “Yeah,” she agreed fervently. “But….”
“But what, Maria?”
“I’m scared.” The words were little more than a whisper.
Liz couldn’t help wondering when Maria had last admitted such a vulnerability to anymore. “Are you afraid that you’ll be hurt, or are you worried about your baby?”
“Both,” Maria admitted. “But mostly I’m worried about the baby. She’s so little…..so helpless.”
“But she’s not alone,” Liz reminded her. “She’s got you to protect her. And me, and Max, and our fellow officers. Our first priority is that baby’s safety, Maria.”
“Your first priority is the bust,” Maria muttered, looking away.
‘No,” Liz said firmly. “It’s not.”
When Maria didn’t immediately respond, Liz spoke again. “You really think I could deliberately endanger that beautiful little girl, especially after I helped bring her into this world?”
Maria risked a glance back at her. “Well…..”
“Just this once, let yourself trust someone,” Liz said. “I’m telling you the truth.”
“It makes a nice change,” Maria retorted, shooting a look at the harness Liz wore.
Liz didn’t take offence. She figured Maria deserved the occasional shot.
In a very low voice, Maria gave Liz all the details that McCauley had just given her. The “exchange” was to take place immediately after Maria and the baby left the hospital the next morning. The buyers wanted the baby as young as possible, Maria added bitterly.
Maria had been given the address of an abandoned warehouse in the city’s old industrial district. She was to go there straight from the hospital, where she’d be met by Mia and McCauley. McCauley would bring along a couple of suitcases of Maria’s things from the apartment. Mia would furnish the promised cash and a bus ticket to Michigan. McCauley would drive her to the bus station.
They wanted Maria to voluntarily disappear immediately after the exchange was completed.
“I asked if you could come with me,’ she added, twisting the bedsheet with nervous fingers. “I said it would help convince you to deal with them if they could see how easy the whole thing was for me. McCauley said no. They don’t want any spectators, she said.”
“Any witnesses, she meant.”
Liz patted Maria’s restless hand. “Don’t worry. She won’t see me immediately, but I’ll be there. So will Max. And a few others to give us a hand.”
“I don’t like taking a baby into that situation,” Maria fretted.
“It’s the safest place for her,” Liz reasoned. “She’ll have cops all around to watch out for her. But try to run with her, and Mia and her boyfriend will track you down. Who’ll protect your baby then?”
Maria sighed. “Even you can’t believe that taking the baby into that warehouse is the safest place for her.”
Liz had to concede the point. “Okay, so it would be better if you were taking her home. But, under the circumstances, she’ll be better guarded there than anywhere else.”
This time it was Maria who conceded. “All right. But if anything happens to my baby…..”
It wasn’t necessary for her to complete the threat. Liz nodded to acknowledge that she’d gotten the message. “We’ll take care of her, Maria. By the way, have you thought of a name for her? It seems odd to keep calling her ‘the baby’.”
Maria’s eyes lighted up. “I read this book once-when I was a kid, you know? It was about these four sisters and the oldest one wanted to be a writer.”
“Little women?” Liz guessed.
“Yeah, that was it. Did you read it too?”
Liz nodded gravely. “It’s a wonderful book. Do you want to name your baby Jo?”
Maria shook her head. “Amy,” she said. “Tat was my favourite sister. I always said if I ever had me a little girl, I’d name her Amy.”
Liz couldn’t stifle her smile. Of course, Maria’s favourite character had been the vain, unabashedly materialistic sister. “I think Amy’s a beautiful name,” she said.
“Yeah. Me too.” Maria looked up expectantly when a uniformed nurse wheeled in a clear plastic crib. “Looks like it’s bottle time.”
The nurse grinned. “Sure is. And your daughter’s been letting us hear about it.”
“That’s my kid,” Maria said proudly, even as little Amy wound up for another piercing shriek.
Liz didn’t linger much longer. She had a great deal to do, and little time in which to do it if Maria and Amy were to be safe.
|posted on 20-Apr-2002 12:15:04 AM|
Liz was utterly delighted to be the first officer to step out of the deep shadows of the warehouse the next day. She held her badge in one hand, a weapon in the other. And she was smiling with the cold satisfaction of knowing her assignment was nearing a successful completion.
Four adults stood in one corner of the massive room-Maria, holding little Amy and looking very nervous, Ms. McCauley, Mia, and Mia’s beefy boyfriend, Adam. Mia had just handed Maria a small vinyl case and was reaching for Amy. That was all Liz had been waiting for.
“Take the baby and step back out of the way, Maria,” Liz ordered. “The rest of you stay where you are. You’re under arrest.”
Mia, Adam and McCauley whirled in response to Liz’s voice. Adam took an instinctive, threatening step toward her.
Max came out from behind a pile of clutter behind them. “Freeze.” He, too held a weapon, and it was trained unerringly at Adam’s chest.
Two uniformed officers appeared from outside. One of them escorted Maria and little Amy safely out of the warehouse. The other moved to assist Liz and Max.
Adam cursed, threatening Max with charges of false arrest and entrapment. McCauley was wringing her hands and loudly bewailing her innocence. “I ain’t done nothing wrong,” she insisted. “You can’t prove nothing.”
“Quiet,” Mia hissed to them both, looking harried.
Liz knew Mia was well aware that McCauley would tell everything she knew at the first hint of a plea bargain. Mia was the only one of the three smart enough to know just how bad the situation really was.
Liz decided it would be a pleasure to take care of this one herself. She took a step closer to Mia. “You have the right to remain silent,” she began.
Mia gave her a withering look, taking in every detail of Liz’s slender body. Liz had been delighted to leave the harness off for this confrontation. “I know my rights.”
“And you know that I’m going to read them to you anyway,” Liz replied. This bust was going strictly by the book. No clever attorney would get these three off on technicalities.
McCauley gave an outraged squeal when the uniformed officer placed a hand on her shoulder to escort her out. “Get your hands off me!” she shrieked. “I ain’t done nothing wrong, I tell you. You can’t arrest me.”
Adam jerked when Max turned toward him. “I’ll walk out on my own,” he snarled, then promptly stumbled over a broken wooden crate behind him. He fell heavily, all two hundred and fifty pounds of him slamming into Liz’s left leg. She staggered, trying to right herself.
McCauley screamed and made a dash for the exit. The uniformed officer moved to intercede. Max bent warily toward Adam, cuffs in hand.
While the other two officers were occupied, Mia proved that she was every bit as sharp and quick as Liz had suspected. Without the slightest hesitation, she snatched up a solid piece of the broken crate and brought it down on Liz’s right arm before Liz had even regained her balance from Adam’s accidental tackle. Liz cried out at the sharp crack of the blow. The gun fell from her suddenly nerveless fingers.
Dazed from pain, she found herself held tightly against Mia’s wiry body almost before she realised it, her own gun pressed to her temple. Damn, Liz thought, sickly suspecting that her arm was broken. Something like this always happens when I work with Max.
“Don’t move,” Mia said when Max edged instinctively toward Liz. Mia pressed the gun more tightly against Liz’s temple.
“Mia, you can’t get away with this. Why are you making this harder on yourself?” Liz gasped, her stomach churning at the pain still radiating from her right forearm.
“Just shut up, okay? I have to think.”
Max’s hands were spread in a non-threatening stance, his gun held loosely in his right hand. “Let her go,” he said quietly, his eyes never leaving Mia’s face. Watching him, Liz saw the rigidity of his face, the slight twitch of a muscle in his cheek. Had it not been for those faint signs, she would have thought him perfectly calm. She knew he was anything but.
“Don’t be stupid, Mia,” McCauley snapped, from her position behind the uniformed officer who’d returned from escorting Maria out just in time to get caught up in the tense situation. ‘You’re only going to make it worse for all of us.”
“She’s right, Mia,” Adam said glumly, still sitting on the floor where he’d fallen, the other uniformed officer’s gun trained steadily on him. “Give it up.”
“Shut up!” Mia retorted. “Both of you. I’m not going to jail. I can’t go to jail.”
“You have no choice,” Max said.
Liz felt Mia tense and knew the woman was close to panic. Panic and handguns were a truly lousy combination, she thought glumly, waiting impatiently for the first opportunity to take action. If only her arm didn’t hurt so damned much.
Mia took a step backward, pulling Liz with her. “We’re going to walk out of here,’ she said. “Just the two of us. The rest of you stay right where you are and she won’t get hurt.”
There was dead silence in the warehouse as Mia took another step backward and then another. Liz heard the woman’s breathing just behind her ear, sharp and uneven. The panic was growing. Liz could only hope the fear would make Mia grow careless. Both she and Max were poised to take advantage of the first opening.
Mia stepped on something small and round, momentarily lost her footing. She recovered quickly, but Liz was already in motion. She spun and kicked out. Mia dodged the kick and levelled the weapon. Max leapt forward.
A shot reverberated through the huge building, echoing through McCauley’s screams and the shouts of the officers. Max hit Liz with all his strength, sending her flying. She landed on her injured right arm. An explosion of pain shot through her, nearly driving her straight into unconsciousness. She curled into a ball, gagging and cradling her arm against her stomach.
She no longer had any doubt that the arm was broken.
Concentrating on staying conscious and fighting down nausea, she was hardly aware of the pandemonium around her. She heard excited voices, angry shouts. The wail of sirens grew steadily louder-someone had called for backup. She spared a moment to think of Maria and little Amy. She knew they were safe. She hoped Maria wasn’t frightened.
Damn, but her arm hurt. Just wait until she had a chance to talk to Max about his totally unnecessary flying tackle.
She opened her eyes after a few moments to find one of the uniforms kneeling beside her. “You okay?” he asked urgently, his hand on her shoulder. “Were you hit?”
“My arm is broken,” she managed, knowing she must look like death warmed up. “Is everything under control?”
“Yeah. We’ve cuffed all three of them and called for an ambulance.”
Liz drew in a deep breath, trying to settle her stomach. It didn’t help that the warehouse smelled so bad. “I really don’t need an ambulance,” she said, momentarily closing her eyes against a fresh wave of pain. “It’s just a broken arm.”
“It wouldn’t hurt you to ride in an ambulance. And besides, we need it for Max.”
Liz’s eyes flew open. “Max?”
Where the hell was Max? She’d assumed he was helping subdue Mia and the others. But-an ambulance? “What’s wrong with Max?”
“He’s been hit. Took one in the shoulder.”
“Oh, my God.” Liz was already struggling to her feet. She swayed as blood rushed from her head with her movement.
“Hey, careful! Take it easy. He’s going to be okay.”
She ignored the officer who was frantically steading her. She could see Max now, laying on the floor on his back, another uniformed officer leaning over him while two others escorted their sullen prisoners out of the warehouse. She made it to his side and knelt quickly beside him, fighting the dizziness her rapid movements cost her. “Max. Max?”
Max’s face was colourless and there was blood on his shirt. A lot of blood. The officer beside him held something tight against the wound.
Max opened his eyes in response to Liz’s voice. “Hey, Parker,” he said, his voice pathetically weak. “You, okay?”
“I’m fine. Damn it, Evans, you just had to do it again, didn’t you? I had everything under control. I didn’t need you to charge in and rescue me!” Her fear for him made her voice sharp. Her eyes burned; she blinked rapidly to clear them.
He managed a weak smile. “I know. The lone ranger on steroids.”
“Exactly. I can handle my job, Evans. I don’t need you taking care of me.”
“Yeah, I know, but I can’t seem to stop. I guess it’s a good thing we won’t be working together again, huh?”
“What does that mean?” she asked, brushing aside the officer who was trying to steady her as she swayed on her knees.
“I really hate this job,” he muttered, his eyes closing again. “Always have. Looks like it’s time to try something different.”
She swallowed and touched his too-pale check, uncertain whether he was talking about the promotion or medical school. Right now, she didn’t really give a shit. “Yeah,” she said huskily. “You’d better do it while you’re still basically in one piece.”
“The ambulance is here,” someone said from close behind Liz. “C’mon, Parker, let someone take a look at that arm for you. We’ve got to clear the way for the paramedics to get to Evans.”
Liz nodded. “The paramedics are here, Max,’ she said, in case he hadn’t heard. “I’ll be close by, okay?”
“Yeah.” He opened his eyes just as a man and a woman in matching blue jumpsuits rushed to his side.
“What is it, Max?”
“I love you.”
Aware of the speculative looks that had suddenly turned her way from several different directions, Liz kept her gaze firmly on Max’s face. “I love you, too.”
He smiled faintly and closed his eyes. “We’re naming the first kid Bob,” he murmured. And lapsed into unconsciousness.
Liz promptly burst into tears.
|posted on 4-Jun-2002 1:41:36 AM|
Liz walked into the hospital a couple of days later. She was there to visit Max. Liz hadn’t seen Max since the night of the bust. She had kept her distance from him, too scared to let him know just how worried she was. Scared for him, for her, and most of all scared of their relationship.
After their declaration of love Liz wasn’t sure how to act around him. She did love him, that she was sure of. But she wasn’t sure that Max truly loved her back. What if he only said that because of the intense situation they were in? What if he really didn’t care for her at all?
Okay Liz, she thought to herself, you’ve gotta calm down. Taking a few deep breaths Liz slowly walked towards Max’s room, still unsure of what to say to him when she got there.
Stopping outside his room, Liz took another deep breath, lifted her hand and knocked on the door. “Come in,” she heard Max call out. Placing her hand on the door knob Liz slowly turned it and entered the room.
Max was lying on the bed, with his shoulder bandaged up. She had never seen him look so worn out before. She guessed he still wasn’t recovered fully from the surgery. “Hey,” she said quietly.
“Hey,” he replied sounding very tired.
“How’re you feeling?” she asked.
“Like shit,” he stated laughing.
Liz gave a small smile back. At least he can still laugh about things, she thought. “I’ve missed your laugh,” Liz said softly.
Surprised at the admission, Max had to pause for a minute before answering her. “I’ve missed laughing,” he admitted.
“Everyone from the precinct sends their well wishes to you. Kyle and Alex said that they’d visit you later on in the day.” Liz said changing the subject away from them.
“Oh great,” Max said sarcastically. “Just what I need, those two giving me crap.”
“I know what you mean,” Liz said laughing quietly. “Those two always have something to say.”
“Tell me about it,” Max said.
“Oh and looks like Isabel and Jim have finally admitted their feelings for each other,” Liz had to add.
“Yeah I know. Jim came in yesterday to visit. He let it slip. Good on him, I know how lonely he’s been recently.” Max said with a smile.
“Um, that’s good,” Liz replied not knowing what to say next. “So um, when are you able to go home?”
“A couple of days, my doctor said I still needed a few days rest to recuperate properly before I could head on home,” Max replied with a sigh.
“Well that’s good news isn’t it?” Liz had to ask.
“Yeah, but I guess I’m just sick of being here. I just want to go home already,” he answered back.
“I can understand that.”
“So have you heard from Maria at all? How’s little Amy doing?”
Hearing Max’s question brought a smile to Liz’s lips. “Yeah I have. Maria and Amy are doing just fine. Both have been relocated to a safe house somewhere up north. I don’t even know where they are, which in the long run, is for their protection.”
“Good. I’m pleased that everything worked out for them.”
“So um, have you thought anymore about the job offer you got from Jim?” Liz asked, hoping that he was finally willing to open up to her about the whole situation.
“Parker, you know I don’t want to talk about this,” Max sighed in frustration.
“I do know that Max, but you need to think about it. Jim’s offer won’t be there forever.” Liz tried again.
“Maybe, maybe not. But at the moment this is not something that I want to talk about.” Max said starting to get angry.
“Fine then don’t talk about it, but I’m not going to let you give up what I know you really want to do. Come on Max, are you trying to tell me that these few days you have spent in this hospital, seeing doctors working, saving life’s, generally doing all they can to help people has not made you realise that this is what you want to do?” Liz argued back.
Hearing no reply from Max, Liz took that as a silent agreement with what she said. “Max I only want to see you happy. I know that if you do take that job offer from Jim, you will never be truly happy. I don’t want to see you like that, because it would kill me.” Liz said almost in a whisper with tears in her eyes.
Max’s head shot up at the quiet confession from Liz. He had never truly thought about how this would affect Liz. Pam never showed any interest in his own happiness, having Liz show this sort of affection was a real shock to his system. Did she really care that much about him? “Liz, I uh, I don’t know what to tell you. I didn’t want to put you through this, but in the end it is my decision and at this point I have no idea. Of course I want to be happy, and I do know deep down that staying on the force won’t make me. Happy that is. But going back to school is a big decision for me, and I don’t want to think about it right now.” Max told Liz trying to explain where he was coming from.
Liz just nodded her agreement, not trusting her voice to speak.
“So how are you feeling?” Max asked. He has been worried about her for the few days he had been in the hospital. Liz hadn’t come to visit him and Max was starting to think that she was avoiding him.
“Um…. Good I guess.” Liz replied. “Just trying to get used to having a cast on my arm. Haven’t had one since I was a kid.” She added with a smile.
Max smiled back, remembering when he was about 7 years old falling out of a tree breaking his arm in the process. “I know what you mean,” he replied.
Silence broke out between the two, both trying to think of what to say next. Max was wondering if he should ask why she hadn’t visited him earlier. Liz on the other hand was praying Max wouldn’t ask her why she hadn’t visited him earlier.
“Liz……” “Max…….” they both said at the same time. Liz looked at Max. “You can go first,” she said tentatively.
“I was just going to ask why you hadn’t visited me sooner. I was starting to wonder if you were avoiding me.” Max said.
Oh God, oh God what am I going to say to him? Should I tell him what has really been going through my mind? Yeah I could do that, I’ll just tell him exactly what has been going on. But what if he thinks I’m being stupid? Oh God Oh God, what the hell am I going to say?
“Liz?” Max asked, seeing that Liz was struggling internally with something.
“Huh?” Liz replied coming out of her daze.
“Are you okay?” Max asked sounding concerned.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry I kinda just zoned out there for a minute.”
Okay, Liz thought here goes nothing.
|posted on 29-Jul-2002 1:24:59 AM|
“Um...to be honest with you Max, yeah I have been avoiding you. I mean, I've been helping Maria and Amy get relocated and I've had to get resettled back at work. Then I've been worrying about you, so I've had a lot on my mind. Well, I haven't exactly been worrying about you per se. I've been worrying about the concept of you and me. I’m just worried that we both said that we loved each other in the heat of the moment. I mean you had just been shot and all of these emotions were flying around, and, and-”
“Liz,” Max interrupted.
“Yeah?” She replied not looking at him.
“I meant every word that I said. I do love you, and believe me that is something that I don’t say very easily.” He quietly said. “Liz, please look at me.”
Slowly raising her eyes, Liz looked at Max. And what she saw in his eyes made her heart skip a beat. She had never seen this look from him before. It was a look of pure love.
“You see with Pam I never had to think about much really. I knew that our relationship was one of convenience. Well, it was for me anyway. Pam wanted a commitment that I wasn’t willing to give her, so she left me. I think she liked the concept of us being together, and the reality of the situation drove her away.” Max started to explain. “And with you, I want the commitment that I couldn’t give Pam. I know this thing between us is very confusing and complicated at the moment, but believe me when I say that I DO love you. Let me tell you something, when I get out of this hospital we are going to sit down together and sort this out, because there is no way in hell that I am going to lose you right when I found you. I had my back turned and my eyes closed to love, but you helped me open them."
By now Liz was stunned into silence. Her mouth was hanging open, and she found herself staring at Max. Out of all the time that they spent together, not once did she have any idea just how much he cared for her. She was so concerned with the thought that she had fallen in love with someone who would never return her feelings, that she never thought of the possibility that he could love her back.
“Liz, are you still with me?” Max asked concerned when Liz didn't say a word for a good five minutes. Not to mention she had the same expression on her face throughout that time as well.
Snapping out for her stupor, Liz looked at Max with a little smile on her face. “Of course I am Max, I just didn’t expect for you to admit all that to me. It kind of spun me for six,” she said, trying to explain. “I don’t want to lose you either, Max. I think we both finally opened our eyes to love, and I don't want to loose that. In the short time that I have really spent time with you, you have become one of the most important people in my life, Max, and believe me that is something I don’t do very easily.”
“You and me both,” Max added with a smile of his own starting to appear on his face.
“I’m sorry that I have been so insecure about our relationship, it’s just that we haven’t really sat down and talked about what has been going on with us. I guess I just didn’t know where I stood with you.”
“Don’t be sorry about that Liz. I agree with you for the fact that we really should have talked about this awhile ago, but as we both know our work can really get in the way of our personal lives. This assignment has been a major part of our lives for the past few weeks, that there was never really an opportunity to talk. I’m just pleased that you didn’t run away from me. From us.” Max said.
"I wouldn't have been able to run away from you even if I wanted to. I guess you can say I fell in too deep." Liz glanced down at her watch and realized that she had been in the hospital for over an hour. "Max, I hate to do this, but I really have to go. I was supposed to be at the office half-an-hour ago to pick up a file, and I know that Valenti is going to kill me."
"Liz, you don't have to apologize. Will you come see me when I get out of the hospital?" Max questioned.
"Of course I will. Just give me a call when you get home." Liz replied as she gave Max a kiss goodbye. With that, she picked up her things and left.
A couple of days later Liz was at home curled up on her couch reading a book when her phone rang. Placing her book aside Liz got up to answer the phone. “Hello,” she answered her voice sounding tired.
“Liz, hey it’s Max. I didn’t wake you did I?”
“No, I was just reading a book relaxing. After the day I’ve had I really needed to do just that.”
“Tough day at the office huh?”
“God you have no idea. Anyway enough about my day, how are you doing?”
“Yeah, I’m doing okay just a little worn out. I was just calling to see if you wanted to come over so we could finish our conversation from the hospital.”
“Sure just give me about an hour, I need to have a shower and get ready. Hey did you want me to bring some take out over?”
“Mmm food sounds good right about now. What about Chinese?
“Yum I could go for that. Okay so I’ll see you in about an hours time then?”
“Okay, see you then. Bye Liz.”
“Bye.” Liz said hanging up the phone. Oh boy this is going to be one interesting night Liz thought to herself.
About an hour and a half later Liz was standing outside Max’s front door, showered, changed with her arms full of Chinese take out. She was trying to knock on the door, which was rather difficult to do. Finally rearranging everything she raised her hand to the door when it suddenly open. This caused Liz to stumble forward, luckily Max caught her before she feel flat on her face. Looking up at the man that saved her from major embarrassment Liz gave a little smile. “Hey”.
“Hey yourself,” Max replied. “Need some help there?”
“God yes please, I can’t seem to do anything with this broken arm of mine,” Liz answered laughing.
Grabbing the Chinese out of Liz’s hands Max motioned for Liz to enter the house. “I’ll just get some plates from the kitchen so we can eat this. Which smells delicious by the way. Go take a seat in the lounge I won’t be a second.”
“Okay,” Liz answered. Walking into the lounge, Liz forgot what a nice house Max actually had. It still had a female touch to it, and once again she wondered if that was Pam’s doing.
Still in her own world Liz didn’t hear Max enter the lounge, which meant that he had a few minutes just to watch her, which he loved doing. When they were on assignment he would sometimes stay up for hours just watching her sleep. She looked so peaceful and content. Hopefully soon he thought I can have her by my side all the time. This thought of course brought a smile to his face.
Liz just happened to turn towards Max right at that moment. ‘I wonder what Max is smiling about’ she thought ‘he looks really happy’.
“So you ready to eat Max?” Liz asked snapping Max out of his thoughts.
“Um, yeah sorry let’s dig in.”
After Max and Liz had both eaten and cleared everything away, Liz sat him back on the couch. She had a whole conversation planned out, and now was as good of a time as any to say what she wanted to say.
"Max, we talked once about you changing professions, and I think we should go over that again."
"So what new assignment does Valenti have you on?" Max said, trying desperately to change the subject.
"No, now is not the time to pull that 'let me change the subject' game."
"Just drop it okay? I mean, what do you want? Do you want to get out of this relationship with me? Because that is exactly what will happen if I change jobs this late in my life. I won't have any free time to spend with you anymore, and sooner or later we will drift apart. Well you know what? I refuse to let that happen."
"So that's what this is about? You're afraid that you and I will drift apart? Max, I am in love with you to the point of no return, but I can't sit here and watch you throw your life away. I know you don't belong here anymore. I know that you belong in a better job. In a job that you love, and I know you must know that deep down. You're just afraid to admit it. You're afraid to start over, but you know what? You don't need to be afraid anymore because I will be here with you. I will help you along every step of the way, but you need to make the first move. I will stick by your side no matter what path you decide to take, but I prefer to see you doing what you love. If what you said is true, and you love me, then know that I won't leave you during this time. Know that I will help you along the way and I will love you unconditionally no matter what happens. I just want to see you truly happy for once."
Tears slowly slid down his face, and Liz pulled him into a fierce hug. She wanted him to know that she meant everything she had said to him just now. Max finally regained control of his emotions and he pulled back so he could look Liz in the face.
"You have no idea what that means to me. Thank you. Liz, I love you more than I ever thought possible. And yes, I'm afraid everyday that you'll come to your senses and realize that you deserve more than me. More than what I have to offer. You're my world...my reason for living...and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Liz, will you marry me?"
Liz was in complete shock. She couldn't believe her ears. Did Max Evans really ask her to marry him? She looked into his eyes and realized that everything she was just thinking was true.
"Yes, I'll marry you Max." Liz replied with tears in her eyes.
Max moved in and gave Liz a passionate heart-stopping kiss. That was his only intention, but it seemed that his new-found fiancé had plans of her own. She grabbed his hand and led him into the bedroom.