Amanda leaned her head against the wall of the sauna and sighed contentedly. Whoever had coined the phrase, ‘good things come to those who wait’, had known what they were talking about. For the first time in a month her life seemed to be calming down. All the minute details for the wedding were finally starting to fall into place; something she didn’t think was ever going to happen, and their caseload at work was almost completely non-existent. Ever since Lee had proposed at the Inaugural Ball almost four months ago, she he had begun to think that their original idea of eloping had been the right way to go all along. For some reason she couldn’t remember having so much anxiety and problems planning her wedding to Joe. Then again, when she was marrying Joe, she didn’t have two teenage boys with schedules rivaling that of the Queen of England, or a job that kept her extremely busy with assignments that lasted for days. With the wedding now only two weeks away, she was glad that the chaos was finally dissipating and that things were actually falling into place.
She glanced over at Francine, who seemed just as relaxed as she was feeling. However, she didn’t think that finally finding both a wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses was the reason for her friend’s unusual calm demeanor. Francine had been in an extremely good mood for a few weeks now and Amanda was determined to find out exactly what was going on with her friend, and today’s day at the spa was the perfect place to do it.
Amanda chuckled to herself as she realized that the good things phrase didn’t just mean wedding plans, but could also describe her friendship with the blonde on the bench just to her left. It had taken almost six years for her to develop a real friendship with Francine. She had known, as she had known with Lee, that with a little understanding, an insane amount of patience, and of course a very thick skin, that a true friend was lurking just under the surface of the blonde’s snide exterior. And she had been right, because now she considered Francine one of her closest friends; a friend who happened to be the only one who knew that she and Lee were already secretly married and that the wedding they were planning for May 13th was really their second wedding. They had chosen that day in May because it was a Saturday, and because it was around the time they had shared their very first, heart-stopping, breathtaking, start-of-their-relationship kiss, and also, because it was the same date they had gotten married in February. Although a large part of her couldn’t wait to become Lee’s wife publicly, a small part of her was dreading the upcoming nuptials. She was more than anxious for Lee to move in and become a full-time official member of the family, but at the same time, she was going to miss the secrecy of their private rendezvous, even if they were few and far between.
She glanced over at her friend again and smiled. It was hard to believe that they had been making monthly trips to the spa together for four months now. Ever since the Agency had treated her and Francine to a day at the spa, she and Francine had decided to come back to the spa once a month, on their own dime. It helped to relieve stress, and it was the perfect place to bond. The one thing they had both agreed to however, was that they wouldn’t go back to the spa they had gone to that first time. Even though it was probably the best spa in town, it brought up too many painful memories for her of the Peacock Dance she had had to do with Steven Richmond. No matter how many times Lee or even Francine tried to reassure her that what she had done had stopped an assassination attempt, the memory of cheating on her husband was still very fresh in her mind. Needing something to take her mind off of unpleasant thoughts, she turned her full attention to her friend.
“Okay, Francine, I’ve been dying to ask you this, and since there’s only one door, and I’m sitting closest to it, there’s no way I’m letting you out of this room, no matter how wilted we get, until you give me a straight answer.” Amanda fixed her friend with a very determined stare. “Something’s up with you lately. You seem extremely happy and I’m dying to know why.”
Francine turned and looked over at the brunette. “Oh, Amanda I’ve been dying to tell you, too, I just didn’t want to say something too soon, in case I ended up jinxing it.” Grinning like the Cheshire Cat, she scooted to the end of her bench, as Amanda moved to the end of hers. “I met someone.”
Amanda was so excited for Francine that she had to restrain herself from jumping off the bench and embracing the blonde. Knowing that no matter how close they had become, Francine wasn’t the hugging type, so she settled on a huge grin instead. “Oh, Francine, that’s wonderful. How long have you two been together, I’m guessing it has to be a few weeks, because I’ve noticed a change in you for a while now? Oh and what’s his name, what does he do for a living and most importantly how did you meet?” She then glanced at her friend curiously, “and does he know what you really do for a living?”
Francine shook her head and chuckled. “If they had a contest for the best rambler, you’d win, hands down. And I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course.”
“Oh I know.” Amanda waved the comment away as she tilted her head to the side and shrugged. “And I am sorry, but you know how I get when I’m excited or nervous.”
“Yes, I do.” Francine nodded. “No one can get a word in edgewise.”
Amanda rolled her eyes. “Yes, I know…now, enough about me and my way with words, I want to hear all about this guy…so enough stalling.”
“I wasn’t stalling, honest. I already told you I’ve been bursting to tell you.” Francine ignored the slightly frustrated look the brunette was giving her. “His name is Adam and he’s handsome. Oh my God is he drop-dead gorgeous. He’s got pitch black hair, has the most amazing blue eyes, and dimples that turn my knees to jelly. He’s attentive, doesn’t mind my crazy hours, showers me with gifts and we have an absolutely wonderful time together.” Her expression became wistful as she thought about the man who had somehow captured her heart. “Oh, Amanda, I’ve never felt this connected to any man before, not even Jonathan.”
Amanda smiled warmly at her friend. “He sounds perfect, Francine. I’m so happy for you, and I dare say it’s about time you found someone. Now, tell me how you met.”
“We met in the gym at my apartment building. I usually like to head down there after an extremely trying day at work, because it helps me unwind…and also keeps me in shape.” Francine glanced over at the clock. “Oh, we better head over to the mud room, or we’re going to lose our spot.”
Amanda nodded. “Yeah, and we will wilt if we stay in here any longer.” She rose and began heading for the door. “So you met in the gym?”
Francine followed Amanda, and stepped through the door her friend was holding open for her. “Yes, about three weeks ago. He had just moved into an apartment one floor below mine. We struck up a conversation, nothing earth shattering, we just talked. It was nice to find someone I could connect with, who didn’t seem to want to automatically jump into bed with me. We ended up running into each other three more times in the gym before he finally asked me out. We’ve been dating ever since.”
Amanda walked alongside Francine as they turned the corner towards the mudroom. “It’s ironic how things work out isn’t it? You can spend your whole life trying to find something, or someone, and then fate just drops them into your lap.”
Francine chuckled. “Isn’t that the truth. I mean just look at you and Lee.” She entered the mudroom ahead of her friend and started walking towards the bathtub that had been reserved for them. “A divorced mom, with two boys and a live-in mother was not the type of woman I ever saw him ending up with, not in a million years. Just look at me.” She lowered herself into the cool, dark liquid.
Amanda sank down into the mud and, as she made herself comfortable, gave the blonde a quizzical look. “What do you mean? Is Adam a divorcee with children?”
Francine laughed. “Goodness no, but he works with kids. He was just hired as the assistant baseball coach over at Arlington High School.”
“You mean Coach Clyde is your new man?” Amanda asked her eyes widening in astonishment.
“Yes, isn’t that perfect?” Francine nodded. “I know you and Lee go to Phillip’s games, so when I go, I’ll have someone to sit with.” She smiled sheepishly. “It’s another reason I’ve wanted to tell you. The first game of the season is Saturday, and I figured I had to come clean before then, otherwise you’d never believe why I was there. You might say something about work, and then I’d have a lot of explaining to do.”
“Adam doesn’t know what you really do, does he?” Amanda glanced at her with a knowing expression.
Francine shook her head. “He thinks I’m a producer for I.F.F. the usual spiel we tell everyone. When I met him, I wasn’t ready to be totally honest with him. After Jonathan, I realized I have to gain people’s trust completely before I tell them the truth. Besides, I may be head over heels in love with Adam, but I don’t think I’m ready to walk down the aisle with him yet. I figure I have a little time before I have to come clean. But when I am ready to tell him, you’ll be the first to know,” she glanced at the brunette with a half pleading, half mocking expression, “because I’ll be coming to you for advice.”
“Why me?” Amanda glanced at Francine.
“Because you and Lee just did the whole coming clean bit with your family, so you’ve got experience in that field.” Francine leaned her head against the pillow at the edge of the tub and closed her eyes.
“I don’t really know if I’m an expert in that field though, Francine.” Amanda mirrored her friend’s posture, and rested her head. “Coming clean to my family wasn’t exactly a success. I mean, sure my mother thought our jobs were extremely exciting. She’d always believed the stories in her spy novels were true. Especially after the incident with Professor Zernov.”
“Yeah, I remember that affair. The State Department had to do a lot of cleaning house after that whole mess.” Francine shook her head slightly. “Better them then us.”
“Well, anyway, my mother took the news well. I think she’s even a little envious of me, to be honest. But,” Amanda let out a small sigh, “Phillip and Jamie weren’t as understanding. They still have these worried expressions on their faces some mornings when they head off to school and Lee and I head into the office. Usually when we’ve had a late stakeout the night before or one of us comes home with extra scrapes and bruises we didn’t have that morning. I think they’re afraid that one of us, especially me, won’t come home one day. A lot of that fear stems from the accident in California, even though we’ve assured them more times than I can count that that really wasn’t work related. Lee’s looking into courses the boys might be able to take, you know Agency ones for family members.”
Francine nodded. “Yeah, there are quite a few of them actually. If Lee has any trouble getting them signed up, let me know, I happen to know quite a few pieces of dirt on the course administrator. You wouldn’t believe the skeletons he has in his closet.” She opened her eyes and turned her head slightly in her friend’s direction. “Amanda, has Lee met Adam, yet?”
“No, I only just met him when I picked up Phillip from practice the other day.” Amanda watched her friend curiously. “Are you anxious or afraid for Lee to meet him?”
Francine shrugged her shoulders. “A little of both I guess. This is going to sound strange, after all I do have a sordid past with your husband, which didn’t last very long, and we’re stronger as friends than anything else…”
“Francine,” Amanda sat up a little straighter to look her friend in the eye, “I don’t feel threatened or jealous of your past with Lee, you know.”
“Oh I know.” Francine shook her head slightly. “What I’m trying to say is that somewhere along the line, I think Lee assigned himself as my personal protector, almost like a brother.” She let out a small sigh, “And I guess I’m a little anxious for Lee to meet Adam…and even more afraid of what my ‘brother’ will do or say to embarrass me or even chase Adam off.”
Amanda raised her hand out of the mud and placed it on her friend’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep Lee under control.” She let out a small chuckle. “Then again, I don’t think its Lee you should really be worried about. I think, in all fairness, as your friend I should warn you, Francine. I think it’d be wise for you to stake your claim at the game on Saturday,” the blonde shot a worried and quizzical glance in her direction, “there are a lot of single moms who show up at the games, and I can tell you with complete honesty that each and every one of them is going to be doing their best to get Coach Clyde’s attention.” She looked at her friend with a slightly embarrassed expression. “I met him just the other day, and even I had to remind myself that I was a married woman, otherwise I might have found myself flirting shamelessly with him.”
Francine chuckled and waved her hand above the mud. “Oh, I’m not worried. I happen to know that Adam has eyes only for me. Sure, he’s suave, debonair, charming, and have I mentioned drop dead gorgeous.” She grinned and laughed along with Amanda. “But he reminds me a lot of the man Lee’s become. You know how Lee used to always have women flocking around him and then when he started dating you, he suddenly didn’t care about other women’s attentions, so much that he pretty much ignored them?” When the brunette nodded, Francine smiled. “Well Adam’s the same way. When we go out, even to the store, women just flock to him and totally ignore me. Adam’s polite, and always tells them he’s not interested and that he’s attached. So, I’m not in the least bit worried about a few single mothers.”
“Oh wow, you really do have it bad, don't you?” Amanda smiled warm-heartedly at her friend. “I don't think I've ever seen you this serious over a guy.” Her smile turned into a teasing grin. “If I didn't know better, I'd expect to be getting a wedding invitation from you in the very near future.”
Francine shrugged her shoulders and gave the brunette a tiny smile. “You know what, Amanda, I'm beginning to think that might not be such a bad thing.”
Amanda’s eyebrows raised slightly. “Wow, this is a day for the record books. Francine Desmond, talking about marriage with a guy she's known for less than a month.”
“Okay maybe marriage is a bit premature, but I wouldn't mind having a long term relationship with Adam, and if it eventually turns into marriage...well,” Francine leaned her head back and closed her eyes again, “let's just say I wouldn't say no.”
“Well, no matter what, I’m happy for you Francine. I can’t wait to tell Lee.” Amanda leaned her head back against the headrest once more.
“You can tell Lee, but you have to promise me one thing?” Francine turned her head back towards her friend and opened one eye.
Amanda nodded hesitantly. “I suppose, what’s the one thing?”
Francine opened her other eye and stared pointedly at Amanda. “Don’t tell Lee who he is. I want him to fall out of his seat at the game on Saturday.”
“I think that’s one secret I don’t mind keeping. Of course it’s going to be almost impossible not to give him any details.” Amanda turned her head and stared at the blonde. “He’s going to drive both of us crazy over the next two days.”
Francine closed her eyes and turned her head forward. “Yeah, but it’s going to be worth it.”
Amanda laughed. “I think you’re rubbing off on me, because I have to agree with you. It is fun to torture Lee…every now and then.”
“Let’s just hope he doesn’t retaliate too badly.” Francine laughed along with her friend. “Suddenly, I can’t wait for Saturday to get here.” She let out a contented sigh and relaxed in the mud bath while thoughts of Adam ran through her mind.
Amanda put her hand on the doorknob and turned; it was locked, which meant Lee was either hiding from their co-workers, or he was downstairs somewhere. Since she had only asked Mrs. Marsten if Lee was in and not if he was up in the Q-Bureau, she really didn’t have a clue which was the right answer. Pulling out her key chain, she found the right key and put it into the lock. Hearing the tumbler click, she removed her key. Turning the knob again, she anxiously stepped into the office. A quick glance around the room told her that Lee was definitely not up in their office; in fact, it looked like he hadn’t been here all day. The stack of files in her in box that he was supposed to be working on was as high as it had been when she had left three hours ago. Rolling her eyes, she closed the door behind her and moved over to her desk. As she put her purse in its usual spot, she scanned her desk for any sign of a note from her husband. Not seeing one, she sighed and took half of the files off the pile and headed towards the vault.
“I was beginning to have second thoughts about stringing Lee along,” Amanda mumbled to herself as she stepped over to the first filing cabinet. “However, seeing as how he seems to have shirked his responsibilities…again, especially after he promised me he’d take care of this so that I didn’t have to, well I don’t feel so bad anymore.” She laid the stack on top of the cabinet and then, taking the top file, she turned towards the correct drawer. “I don’t care what his excuse is, he deserves a little punishment.”
“Oh, and just what kind of punishment did you have in mind?” Lee asked as he wrapped his arms around his wife.
Amanda jumped, only not as high as she would have had her husband not managed to find a way to ground her. She turned around and glared at him. “I HATE when you do that.”
“Yes, I know you do… but it’s so much fun.” Lee grinned and waggled his eyebrows as he leaned down and captured her lips with his. He pulled her tightly to him and moved his hands down to her butt cheeks, giving them a little squeeze as he deepened the kiss.
Amanda found herself getting wrapped up in the moment, until a little voice inside her head reminded her that despite the fact that everyone at work knew they were engaged, they were at work, not to mention the fact that she was extremely annoyed with him. She moved her hands between them and, placing them on his chest, pushed herself away from him, effectively breaking the kiss. “Nice try, Stetson.”
Lee shrugged and smiled playfully at his wife. “Can’t blame a guy for trying. So,” he moved his hands back to her waist, “why am I in trouble this time?”
Amanda gave him her best ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ look. When he shrugged again and gave her that innocent ‘I really have no clue’ look, she sighed. She glanced at the stack of files on the cabinet next to her, then back at her husband. “Do you want to tell me what you’ve been doing for the last three hours, since it’s obvious you weren’t doing any of the filing you’d promised to do?”
Lee removed his hands from his wife’s body and raised them in the air, palms forward. “I have a perfectly good answer to that. Billy called me down to his office right after you left and gave me some information on a case that he wants us to work on. Then, since it was almost lunchtime, he and I decided to go grab a bite to eat, since my usual lunch partner wasn’t available. Somehow, after lunch we ended up over at the tuxedo shop down the street. Billy convinced me to buy a new one, rather than wearing one of my ‘work function tuxes’.”
Amanda looked at her husband with a mixture of shock, disbelief and a tiny bit of humor. “So basically you went to lunch and then shopping just to avoid doing the filing.”
“Honest,” Lee put his hands back around Amanda’s waist and pulled her closer to him, “I wasn’t trying to get out of doing the filing. It was all Billy’s idea. I swear.” He raised his left hand and put his three fingers together, making the scout pledge of honor.
Amanda rolled her eyes and swatted him playfully. “You were never a scout.” She wiggled her way out of his embrace and, brushing past him, she headed out of the vault. “Just to make sure you’re being honest, though… I’m calling Mr. Melrose.”
Lee followed his wife into the other room and put a hand over his heart. “I’m hurt, Amanda. You don’t trust your husband. I mean if you can’t trust me with something like this, what does that say about the type of marriage we have?” He gave her his best little boy pout.
Amanda turned and shaking her head, sighed. “Why me?” She moved over to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. “I love you and I do trust you, with matters of the heart and where our family is concerned, but when it comes to you trying to find ways to get out of having to do the paperwork or filing, face it Lee,” she placed a quick kiss on his lips, “you’re the king.” She then removed her arms and turned back towards her desk. “Now, I’m going to call Mr. Melrose and confirm your story. If you’re telling the truth, then I’ll reward you by telling you the very interesting gossip I found out today…and it concerns Francine.”
Lee’s eyes grew wider. “I promise you, I’m telling the truth. But go ahead and call Billy so that I can get my reward.” He grinned devilishly. “In fact, I think that not only do you have to tell me what you found out, but that once you find out I’m telling the truth, you have to come back to my place after work and make it up to me for not believing me.”
Amanda picked up the phone and started dialing the number for their boss. Doing her best to ignore the warm feelings coursing through her, she stepped to the side. “We’ll see about that. Besides, you still have a lot of making up to me to do for not doing any of the filing, regardless of the reason why it didn’t get done.” She stopped any other comment when her boss came on the line. “Sir, it’s Amanda … No, Lee hasn’t filled me in on our case yet. Actually I’m calling to find out whose idea it was to go shopping this afternoon, especially with the work that’s piling up in the Q-Bureau. Really, okay … thank you. Yes, I promise if I have any questions about the case, I’ll come see you. Bye, sir.” She put the receiver back on its base and shook her head. “Okay, so you were telling the truth.”
Lee clapped his hands together and smiled conspiratorially at his wife. “Now, I think that not only do you owe me an apology, but I get to choose what my reward back at the apartment is going to be.” He took two long strides over towards Amanda. “In fact I think I already know what I want it to be. If I’m not mistaken there’s a brand new sexy number you’d bought for a romantic evening that you never got to try on.” He rubbed his hands together excitedly as he moved to stand behind his wife. “I can just picture you in it and me slowly,” he whispered seductively in her ear, “taking it off of you, inch by inch.”
Amanda backed up and found herself up against her desk. She raised her hand in front of her. “Hold it right there, buster. You still owe me for the filing. I think I should be the one who receives some sort of reward, since I’m the one who’s going to end up doing all the work.”
“How about we both do the filing so that we can get out of here sooner? Besides, I think what I have in mind,” Lee lowered his voice into a husky whisper as he leaned closer to his wife’s lips, “will benefit both of us.” He then pulled back and stepped away. “But first, I think you need to tell me what you found out about Francine.”
Amanda cleared her throat and tried to get her breathing under control. She hoped the effect her husband had on her would remain as strong it was today until the day she died. Granted, it could be extremely distracting, especially when she wanted to be at least slightly annoyed with him, but she was thankful every day that his heart belonged to her. Shaking her head slightly, she tried to focus back on the fact that they were at work and there were Agency related issues to discuss. “You still have to tell me about the case, Mr. Melrose has for us.”
“I will,” Lee moved over and leaned back against his own desk, “but first, Francine.”
Amanda nodded and gave in only because she’d been dying to tell him since she’d found out. “Francine’s got a boyfriend.”
Lee let out a sigh of disappointment. “Is that all?” He uncrossed his arms and walked around to the other side of his desk. “She’s got a new man every week.” He sat down in his chair and propped his feet up on the desk.
Amanda moved over and, pushing his feet over a little, sat down on the corner of the desk. “She doesn’t have boyfriends, like you had girlfriends, or flavors of the week as they were called. She goes out on a lot of dates, but never gets serious about any of them… this one’s different. She’s really serious about him. I mean really serious.” She looked at her husband earnestly. “Think about it, haven’t you noticed how much nicer Francine’s been, lately. She’s even been nice to Ephram, which is a rarity in itself.”
Lee nodded his head slightly. “Now that you mention it, she has been a little nicer to everyone, including me. Usually she has a retort to everything I say, but she’s been letting me get the last barb in.” He removed his feet from the desk and leaned forward, placing his hands on his wife’s legs. “Just how serious is serious?”
Amanda rolled her eyes and shook her head. “You’re not going to get all Mr. Overprotective are you? Francine’s a big girl and can take care of herself.”
Lee crossed his arms and glared at his wife. “I do not get overprotective.”
“Oh, yes you do. You do it with me, and you do it with Francine.” Amanda took one of Lee’s hands in hers. “And although it’s sweet, it’s also annoying and most of the time completely unnecessary.”
Lee rose from his seat and wrapped his arms around his wife. “Can I help it that I worry about the women I care about. I worry about you because I don’t want to lose you.” He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. “I worry about Francine, because she has a habit of making bad choices when it comes to men.”
“Francine’s more cautious with men, than you think she is. Why do you think she goes out on a lot of first dates and rarely goes out with someone a second time?” Amanda fixed her husband with a knowing look.
“I guess you’re right.” Lee shrugged slightly. “So, Francine’s got a serious man in her life. What’s his name? What does he do for a living?”
“His name is Adam.” Amanda put a finger on his lips. “And no I’m not telling you his last name. The minute I do you’re going to run a background check on this guy. And as for what he does, well, you’re going to have to wait until Saturday to find out that little piece of information.” She wriggled out of his embrace and jumped off of the desk. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to work, so that we can get back to your apartment, and I can collect my payment for doing all of this filing by myself.” She turned and headed back towards the vault.
“Hey, I said I’d help you.” Lee followed his wife into the small room. “And you’re not getting out of this one that easily. What do you mean, I’ll find out on Saturday.”
Amanda picked up a file from the stack she’d placed on the cabinet earlier, and began to put it away. “Just that. You’ll get to meet Adam on Saturday, but you have to promise to be on your best behavior and you have to promise not to go into agent mode the second you meet him, or I’m going to leave you behind.”
“So we’re going to dinner with Francine and Adam?” Lee asked, moving a little closer to his wife.
“Well that depends on your behavior when you meet him, but there’s a good chance we’ll go to dinner with them.” Amanda turned back to her pile and took another folder off the stack.
Lee pulled the file from his wife’s hand, and clasped her hand in his. “Why are you being so cryptic? What’s wrong with this guy?” His voice held a hint of fatherly concern.
“There’s nothing wrong with him. You’ll get all your answers on Saturday.” Amanda tried to remove her hand from her husband’s. “Lee, I really want to get this work done.”
“How do you know there’s nothing wrong with him, you haven’t met him, have you?” Lee stepped between his wife and the filing cabinet. When she averted her eyes, he knew that his wife had already met Francine’s mystery man, and for some reason that bothered him, just a little. “Amanda, when did you meet him?”
Amanda smiled. “Okay, fine, I have met him…but that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.” She tried to reach around her husband and get the folder he took from her, but he blocked her.
Lee moved his free hand along his wife’s side, until it had found her rib cage. “Oh, I beg to differ.” He smiled playfully. “I have ways of making you talk.” He then found her ticklish spot and began his assault.
“Lee…stop…” Amanda began laughing as she pushed at his hands, trying to get away.
As Lee continued his attack, he positioned himself so that he was in front of the doorway, effectively blocking her escape. “Tell me how you met Francine’s new man, and I’ll consider stopping.”
Amanda continued to remove her husband’s hands from her waist as she started walking backwards. Of course she wasn’t looking forward to be backed into a corner, but backwards was her only option at the moment. “I’m not telling you anything.” She said between giggles. “Lee… please…stop…” She decided the best way to get him to stop was to attack back. Making a motion as if to push his hand away again, she instead changed direction and found her husband’s own ticklish spot. When he jumped, she laughed even harder. “Two can play at this game.” She slipped her foot around his leg and, in a move she had learned in her defense class, tightened her grip and then pushed her husband away. The result was what she had hoped for, and Lee toppled backwards, landing on his backside.
Amanda quickly lowered herself on top of him and pinned his arms down. “Now, enough of this.” She leaned down and kissed him passionately. “We have work to do.” She commented after she broke the kiss. She gave him her best mother stare. “Promise to behave and accept the fact that you have to wait two more days to learn anything more about Adam.”
“A-man-da…” Lee pouted as he tried to get his hands out from under his wife’s grip. Although he was enjoying having his wife on top of him, he couldn’t help but wonder when it was that she had gotten so strong. “Please…”
Amanda shook her head. “No, now promise me.”
“I think you’d better promise her, because it looks like she’s got the upper hand in this situation.”
Amanda and Lee both looked up to see Francine standing in the doorway of the vault.
“Besides, Lee, I’m the one who made her promise not to tell you.” Francine winked at Amanda, “and a girl never goes back on a promise to a friend, especially one who knows one too many secrets about the other.”
“You’re timing is impeccable as always, Francine.” Amanda smiled as she let go of her husband’s hands and, using one of the file drawer handles as leverage, rose to a standing position. She then bent down and offered a helping hand to her husband.
Lee accepted his wife’s outstretched hand, and briefly thought about pulling her back down to the floor, but realized that probably wouldn’t be such a good idea, especially with an audience, even if that audience was Francine. So, instead, he allowed his wife to help him to his feet. Once he was standing again, he headed out the vault, following the blonde who was now placing a stack of files on his desk. “I don’t get what the big deal with this guy is. Why doesn’t anyone want to give me more details? Why is he such a big secret?” He snapped his fingers together as he stared at his friend. “I’ve got it, he’s a widower and has three kids or something, right?” He turned towards his wife who had let out a small chuckle as she stepped out of the vault.
“Interesting, Amanda asked a similar question.” Francine shook her head. “But no, he’s not a divorcee or a widower nor does he have any kids.”
“So then what’s the big deal?” Lee crossed his arms in front of his chest as he raised his eyebrows questioningly at the blonde.
Francine sighed. “Look, the truth is, I know how you can get and I just don’t want you making any judgments about the guy before you meet him. I know you, Lee.” She looked at him with a serious expression on her face. “If we give you more than just his name, come Saturday, you’ll have run a complete background check on him so you can discover how much he makes, where he went to school and what he ate for breakfast when he was three…and you’ll find some minute detail about him that will have you thinking there’s something criminal about him, and you’ll screw this up for me.”
“Oh come on, I’m not that bad.” Lee looked up at the ceiling and took a deep breath. “Why do you both think I’m such a distrusting guy?” He lowered his gaze and fixed it on his wife.
“We don’t think you’re distrusting, sweetheart,” Amanda moved over to her husband and placed a hand tenderly on his arm.
“Speak for yourself.” Francine huffed.
“You’re not helping, Francine.” Amanda glanced over at her friend. “Lee, you’re a spy so you’re suspicious by nature. Face it, when you thought the mailman in my neighborhood was stealing our mail, you did a background check on him. Turned out he was innocent and that Mrs. Gilstrap who lives at 4277 Maplewood was accidentally getting some of our mail.”
“Okay so I’m overly cautious.” Lee moved over to the black couch and sat down with a grunt. “So sue me. I’m just looking out for my family. And you can’t get on my case about the mailman thing,” he glared at his wife, “that happened right around the time of the Dolanz case, and you were being stalked. So I thought maybe the mailman had ties to Dolanz, and was passing on your mail to the bad guy.” He then turned towards Francine. “Wait a minute, do you mean to tell me that you haven’t run a background check on this guy?”
Francine rolled her eyes and laughed. “Oh please, like you ran a check on every girl you went out with.”
Lee shook his head. “Well no, I only ran a check on the ones I was somewhat serious about.”
Francine sighed and grinned. “So basically, no one.” Seeing his mouth start to open, she put a hand up to stop his protest. “And Amanda doesn’t count, because she had to have one done when she started working with the Agency, and you two weren’t an item back then. Besides, Adam is not a common criminal or a spy.”
“How can you be sure if you haven’t run a check on him?” Lee rose to his feet and started walking back over towards Francine. “How did you two meet?”
“Lee, he lives in her apartment building. He moved in there a few months ago. There now you know as much as you need to know, and you can stop grilling Francine.” Amanda jumped to her friend’s defense. Granted, Francine hadn’t told her when Adam had moved into her apartment building, but it had to have been around the time he had been hired at the high school, and since Phillip had been talking about the wonderful Coach Clyde for two months, it stood to reason that he’d been living there at least that long.
“Let it go, Lee. You’ll meet him on Saturday.” Francine started walking towards the door. “Those are the files that Billy had research pull on Veranos. He said you’d need them if you want to make any kind of headway on the case.”
“That’s right, you still haven’t filled me in on the case that Mr. Melrose assigned to us.” Amanda walked over to Lee’s desk and picked up the top file. “Care to fill me in now?” She waved the folder in the air.
“I’m not going to get anymore out of either you about this Adam guy, am I?” Lee glanced from the blonde, who now had one hand on the doorknob, back to his wife who was adamantly shaking her head. “Fine, I give up,” he turned back towards his wife and mouthed ‘for now’.
“Good luck with the Veranos case. I understand it’s a real puzzler.” Francine opened the door and headed out into the hallway. “You might want to lock this door behind me, just in case you two decide to roll around on the floor some more.” She winked and let out a chuckle as she shut the door.
Lee took two quick steps and locked the door, just to be on the safe side. Although it would be fun to try and pick up where they had left off before, he would rather get some work taken care of now, and have fun later when the chances of interruptions were slim to none. He turned back around and found his wife sitting in the chair behind his desk, reading through the file she had picked up. “Billy said we didn’t have to start on that case till tomorrow. So if you want, I can help you file, and we can get out of here sooner.”
Amanda shook her head. “I don’t think so. I think I’d be safer locking myself in the vault…alone with the files to avoid any interruptions, no matter how enjoyable they might be, and you can start calling around to your contacts to find out information on this Carlos Veranos.” She closed the folder and leaned back in the chair. “But first, why don’t you give me the background on this case, so that I’ll have something to ponder while I’m busy filing.”
“Are you sure I can’t help you file, so we can get out of here quicker?” Lee walked around his desk and put a hand on either side of his wife. Leaning down, he was just about to place his lips on hers, when he felt her hands on his chest, pushing him away. “Spoil sport.”
“Work now, play later.” Amanda crossed her arms in front of her and fixed him with her best motherly glare.
Lee let out a frustrated sigh as he leaned against the corner of his desk. “Fine, but my idea was a lot more enjoyable. Okay,” he pointed towards the stack of files Francine had just deposited on his desk, “Billy received a call from Jerry Williams, the head of the Agency’s El Salvador bureau. He’d been hearing rumors of arms being smuggled out of the U.S. and started digging around. After months of dead-ends, he finally managed to chase down the source of the rumor. Turns out the rumor isn’t a rumor, it’s true. RPGs, M-16s and other small arms are indeed being brought into Central America illegally. The only name he managed to get out of his source was the name Southern Star Import/Export.”
Amanda tilted her head and looked at her husband. “I’ve heard that name before.” She pulled the chair closer to the desk and began sifting through the files. Finding one marked Southern Star I/E, she picked it up and opening it, did a quick scan of the contents. “I knew the name sounded familiar. I had to do a research project for one of my Agency classes last year on all companies in the D.C. area that claimed to be Import/Export businesses.” She saw her husband raise his eyebrows in speculation. “Ever since Peter Bracken opened his own import/export business, the government’s trying to crack down on ex-spies trying to sell secrets and recruiting burn-outs.”
“You’re kidding right?” Lee stared at her in disbelief. The Bracken case still gave him nightmares. It wasn’t the fact that he’d had to pretend to be burned out; it was how he’d behaved towards Amanda that kept haunting him. Back then, he’d considered her his best friend, and maybe even had stronger feelings for her that he hadn’t been ready to admit to himself, but he’d never in a million years dream of hurting her. Then not only had he slapped her, but he’d had to pretend to shoot her. The image of her falling backwards and knowing that he couldn’t go check on her had nearly destroyed him. He was a pretty good shot, and had prayed that he’d missed her, but what if he hadn’t. He had come very close to blowing the whole thing, just because he’d had the overwhelming urge to make sure she was all right. Thankfully, he hadn’t blown his cover, Bracken was in jail and everything had turned out okay, including the fact that Amanda had forgiven him almost instantly. Still, he never wanted to hurt or betray her trust in him like that again.
Amanda saw the haunted look in her husband’s eyes and knew exactly what was going on in his head. No matter how many times she tried to get him to let the incident stay in the past, he still felt the need to apologize every now and then. “Hey,” she placed the folder on the desk and stood up. Moving in front of him, she wrapped her arms around his waist. “That’s all in the past. I thought we decided to both share the blame for what happened. I was being motherly and meddlesome as usual and you got carried away with pretending to be burned out.” She placed a gentle kiss on his lips. “Okay?”
Lee wrapped his arms around his wife and pulled her closer to him. “I love you. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully let it go, but I’m okay, for now.” Clearing his throat, he loosened the embrace slightly. “So, what’s the deal with this Southern Star?”
Amanda knew her husband had pushed his dark thoughts aside for the moment and was now in full agent mode. “Well, when I did my background check and investigation, the place seemed legitimate.” She stepped out of the embrace and reached over to pick up the file again. “Looks like they have a new owner, though, someone named Carlos Veranos.”
Lee stood behind his wife and read the folder over her shoulder. “That’s the name Williams got out of his source.”
“Guess the Agency needs to start doing more routine checks on these places.” Amanda placed the folder back on the desk. “Veranos sounds Cuban, not that that really means anything, but if the guns are being smuggled into Central America…”
Lee nodded. “It’s a pretty likely coincidence.”
Amanda stepped around her husband and started walking around the desk. “Okay, so why don’t you start calling some of your family, see what they might know about stolen Army weapons and Carlos Veranos. And while you’re doing that, I’ll get the filing done. Then, unless you get something that we need to check out today, we can head home to the apartment.”
“I figured we’d try and squeeze in a quick visit to Southern Star, before going to the apartment.” Lee sat down in his chair, enjoying the view of his wife’s backside as she made her way towards the vault.
“It’s going to be close to dinnertime by the time we get done here, chances are they’ll have started closing down for the night.” Amanda turned around and looked at her husband. “No one’s going to be in a very talkative mood if all they’re thinking about is getting home. I figured we could make Southern Star our first stop in the morning.”
Lee smiled. “I love the way your mind works, Mrs. Stetson.”
“Good to know you don’t just love me for my body.” Amanda grinned as she turned back towards the vault. She entered and had one hand on the door, ready to pull it closed in order to cut down on temptation, but stopped. She turned and glanced back at her husband. “Oh, you might want to start with T.P.”
“Why’s that?” Lee had his hand on the phone and looked at his wife curiously.
“He helped me immensely with my research project.” Amanda stepped into the vault fully and pulling the door, left it open just a crack. “Or, if you don’t feel up to talking to T.P., although I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t,” she called out from inside the vault, “there’s always Auggie.” She poked her head back out, “after all, he always seems to be right in the middle of all the big arms deals.” She grinned jokingly at her husband and then slipped back into the vault, closing the door tightly behind her.
“Ha ha, very funny.” Lee shook his head at the sight of the closed door. He had hoped that his wife had only been kidding about locking herself into the little room, but apparently she hadn’t been. It was probably a good thing that she wasn’t in his direct line of sight. He was feeling particularly unmotivated today and wanted nothing more than to have some fun with his wife. Amanda was right, howver, T.P. was the best person to start with, and even if his wife was right about Auggie, his infamous snitch was not someone he wanted to deal with today, especially since a conversation with Auggie usually turned into a fiasco, and he had more pleasurable things in mind for a night’s entertainment. Sighing, he picked up the receiver and dialed T.P.’s number. Maybe with any luck his old friend would have information on both Southern Star and Carlos Veranos, and he wouldn’t have to make too many phone calls. Somehow, he didn’t think his luck was going to be that good.