“Nightcap?” asked Gemma.
Callen gazed at her. She was by far the most fascinating woman he’d met in a very long time.
“That’s all I’m offering, lest there be any confusion.” She smiled coyly.
Callen laughed. “Did I say anything?”
Gemma cocked her head. “No, but you were wondering.”
There was a moment of silence. “A nightcap sounds great, if you think you can trust me in your house.”
“Charlie’s good at sniffing out danger.”
At the front door, they heard Charlie whining and scratching. “First things first,” said Gemma as she unlocked the door. Charlie rushed past them into the yard.
“Whoa, big guy,” she laughed. “No need to mow us down.”
Five minutes later, Charlie had done his business and Callen herded him back into the house. The door closed with a soft snick.
Across the driveway, Migs sat in her dark living room peeking through a gap in the drapes.
She jerked in surprise when she heard Hetty behind her. “Good heavens, Hetty! Enough with the ninja stuff.”
Hetty frowned. “Don’t you have something better to do than spy on your neighbor, who is a perfectly nice young woman?”
“In fact, I do not. You already beat me at chess and backgammon and there’s nothing good on TV tonight.” She continued staring across the driveway.
“Anyway, I think of Gemma as the daughter I never had and I want her to find a good relationship.”
“And you think that will be with my agent?”
“I hope so. I like your Mr. Callen.”
“Mr. Callen is a good man,” agreed Hetty. “But he needs a strong woman. One who will challenge him.”
“Don’t worry. Gemma is more than capable of doing that. I’ve been observing her closely since she moved in two years ago.”
“I hope you’re right. Callen has had enough disappointments in his life.” In spite of herself, Hetty peered over Migs’ head toward Gemma’s house.
Ever the prankster, Migs said, “Why don’t you text him and ask how it’s going?”
Hetty gave a dismissive snort. “I need to check my e-mail.” She turned and headed back to the kitchen where the tea kettle was whistling.
Migs picked up her tablet to read some ballistics reports. I can read and still keep an eye on things.
Forty minutes later, Migs yawned and laid the tablet aside. It was just past midnight. She peeked through the drapes in time to see Callen walking to his car. He paused and waved to Gemma. Then his head slowly swiveled in her direction.
Migs chuckled and nodded in satisfaction. A good beginning.
Deeks called as Kensi was driving home. “How’d it go?” she asked.
“Okay, I guess. I had to review the case files. Reading that reminded me why I hate Max Gentry so much.”
“I’m sorry. Wanna come over for a beer?”
Deeks sighed. “Pass. I need my wits about me tomorrow. I’ll be on the witness stand.”
Kensi understood, but was disappointed. “Sure. But if you want to talk about it, well, you know where I am.”
There wasn’t anything more to say so they disconnected. Kensi was almost to the strip mall where her grocery store was located, not that she visited it very often.
May as well take a stab at that lasagna recipe.
She roamed the aisles until she found the required ingredients. She knew where to find necessities like beer, frozen pizza, ice cream, and chocolate, but other sections were less familiar.
Probably should replenish Deeks’ candy stash.
She swung down that aisle and loaded her cart. At the checkout, the teenage clerk snickered as she rang up Kensi’s items.
“Are you pregnant?” she asked as she snapped her chewing gum.
Kensi was taken aback. “What?”
“My older sister is pregnant and her sweet tooth is off the charts. Her husband had to go to Costco at 3 a.m. yesterday to buy her a case of Milky Ways. A whole case! My mom about had a cow when she heard that.”
Kensi shuddered. “Oh no, I’m definitely not pregnant. But I do have a huge sweet tooth. Ginormous. My part, uh, boyfriend jokes about it all the time.” She looked around quickly. She didn’t see anyone she recognized so she felt safe uttering the “B” word.
As she left the store, she hurriedly tore open a box of Twinkies and pulled one out. All that talk had made her ravenous.
Will I be like that girl’s sister, or worse, if I ever get pregnant?
Naturally, she assumed Deeks would be the father. He would ply her with chocolate and goodies to keep her happy while gently admonishing her about not gaining too much weight.
But he’d still love me even if I blew up like a balloon.
She crammed the last of the Twinkie into her mouth and shook her head. What is the matter with me? Lasagna. I really need to focus on that and not on possibly making a baby with my work partner.
All day long, Eric thought his upcoming date with Nell. Sometimes he would catch her eye as they worked side by side and smile.
“Something on your mind, Eric?”
“Nope. Nothing. My mind is a blank slate.”
Her eyebrows lifted. “A blank slate? I would have expected it to be full of esoteric facts and Jeopardy trivia.”
He looked too pleased with himself. “Not today. Sometimes your brain needs to drain.”
“Like when we power down the system?”
Eric considered that. “More or less.”
They left the Mission at 6 p.m. and headed to the Convention Center. The place was jammed with corporate buyers, suburban families, and the usual geeks, nerds, and gamers.
“Think there are any other federal agents here tonight?” whispered Eric.
“Probably,” said Nell. “But would we be able to spot them?”
“Yes, we would. Two at ten o’clock. Don’t look!”
“What?” Nell started to turn her head.
“Don’t look! It’s Vanessa and Richie.”
“Yes way,” hissed Eric. “I don’t think they saw us. Let’s go check out the cameras. Didn’t you say you wanted a new one for your vacation?” He grabbed Nell by the shoulders and steered her in the opposite direction. She giggled.
“I do. I dropped mine and now it’s messed up.”
They spent the rest of their time at the electronics show tracking and dodging Vanessa and Richie. It became a game, like they were Kensi and Deeks in the field, except they had no back-up.
Nell found a camera she liked and Eric bought some computer gadgets for his home office. They had sushi for dinner and took a bunch of goofy selfies while they tried new types of sushi.
“Eew! That one was awful,” said Eric. His face scrunched up in disgust before he spit it into his napkin.
Nell had the same reaction. “You’re right. Scratch that one. Yuck!”
As they walked back to Eric’s car, it suddenly began to rain. Hard. They were soaked by the time they finally reached the car and slid in.
“I didn’t know it was supposed to rain tonight,” said Eric.
“You wouldn’t because your brain was a blank slate today,” Nell reminded him.
They looked at each other and began laughing uncontrollably.
“Selfie!” yelled Nell and held up the camera.
“Absolutely,” agreed Eric. He leaned in close. Their hair was plastered to their heads and his glasses were spotted with raindrops. They continued to laugh and make crazy faces.
Suddenly, Eric leaned down and kissed Nell. The spontaneous act surprised them both.
“Happy anniversary, Nell.”
Nell’s eyes were wide. “Wow. Happy anniversary to you, too.”
A slight awkwardness settled between them. “I, uh, I’m not sure what came over me,” stammered Eric. “You’re not mad, are you?”
“Mad? Of course not. I liked it.” With that, Nell cupped the back of Eric’s head and pulled him down for a repeat performance.
Happy anniversary, indeed.