"You know, this used to be a fishing village. Or at least it was until the late 1800's, maybe early 1900's."
"I bet you know everything there is to know about this place."
"You want to quiz me?"
I looked over at Bobby and found him watching me with a playful expression on his face.
I love how much more often I've seen that look lately.
And I love even more that he can look like that today, as we took the ten-cent tour through Canarsie.
He really took me by surprise when he said that this was where he wanted to bring me.
Honestly, after the way he'd kissed me in the car, I was fully expecting him to take me back to his place.
And I was perfectly fine with that.
More than fine, actually, because I'd hardly been able to think straight since he kissed me last night.
In fact, I almost pushed the issue.
Last night, I mean.
I'm pretty sure that if I'd asked him to come inside, he would have.
But things were moving along nicely, and I didn't want to ruin it.
It would happen when it happened.
But I really hoped it would happen soon because the man was pushing my self-control to the limits with his scorching looks and toe-melting kisses.
Not to mention the fact that he'd slid his hand under my dress when we were in the car.
He didn't mean to, I could tell.
He faltered for just a second when his hand touched my skin.
I thought he might pull it away, but it felt so perfectly sinful that I couldn't resist moving slightly closer to him, encouraging him to keep it where it was.
He did, and then he'd proceeded to kiss me senseless.
So is it my fault that when he innocently asked if I wanted to quiz him all I could think about was replacing that four-letter Q-word with a four-letter F-word and then emphatically saying yes?
But instead, I regrouped and brought my focus back to our current mission.
Because this was important, too.
Very important, actually.
He wanted to share this piece of himself with me and, raging hormones aside, I can still appreciate the significance of the moment.
I wondered if it was Dr. Gyson's idea for him to bring me here.
Although I guess it doesn't really matter because Bobby's not the type to succumb to pressure.
Even if she's the one who suggested it, we wouldn't be here unless it was his choice.
"That house right there," he said as he pointed to a tiny clapboard box house on a corner lot. "That's where we lived when I was born. And then a few years after that, we moved down the street."
He parked the car and we got out so that we could walk through the neighborhood.
He met me at the front of the SUV and looked at me, slightly reproachful.
"What?" I asked.
"I was coming," he said with a smile as he shook his head at me.
"I can open the door myself."
"I know you can. And I'd never dream of doing it for you when we're working, but we're not working today."
"No, we're not," I agreed as I took hold of his hand.
"You want me to get back in so you can open my door?"
"No," he said on a laugh. "But next time."
We walked down the sidewalk, and I looked at the surrounding area, trying to picture Bobby growing up here.
"That's the one," he said, pointing out another house. "That's where we lived until I graduated high school."
It was even smaller than the first house and I wondered what had prompted the move from one block to the other, but I didn't ask.
This was his story to tell, and I'd let it come at his pace.
"It looks smaller than I remember," he remarked as he stopped for a moment to look at his former home.
"Things from our childhood usually do."
"We moved here when I was three. Not long before…you know, when my mom went upstate. With Brady."
"I would imagine that she was pretty lonely, raising two boys mostly on her own," I commented. He'd mentioned to me before how his dad was in and out quite a bit. "And even though we know Brady for what he truly was, he was also an expert at presenting a completely different image to the public in general, and to women in particular."
"Uh huh," he answered, nodding thoughtfully as he continued to stare at the little house. "I don't blame her, you know. I mean, she had an affair. So'd my dad. So do a lot of married people."
"That's true," I agreed.
"And maybe she didn't show the best judgment when she left me and Frank alone, but…times were different back then, you know? I mean, it was nothing for me to wake up in the morning and be alone in the house."
"At what age?"
"As far back as I can remember," he said with a shrug, and then he turned away from his house and we started walking again. "I guess I grew up a lot different than you, huh?"
"You've met my family," I reminded him drolly. "Trust me. We're all a little dysfunctional, just in different ways."
He was quiet as we continued walking, heading towards the Canarsie Pier.
"Lewis and I used to come out here," he told me once we were standing all the way at the end of the pier, looking out onto Jamaica Bay. "He'd sneak a pack of smokes from his mom's purse and we'd hang out here and light up."
"You haven't talked much about him lately. Is he doing okay?"
"Yeah," he said, with a half-smile on his face. "He started dating this girl about a year or so ago, and so I haven't seen much of him. But when I talk to him, it sounds like he's happy."
"He picked a woman over a friend," I said teasingly as I looked up at him. "I don't know, Bobby."
He met my gaze and then let go of my hand, choosing instead to put his arm around my shoulders, pulling me close to him as he said, "I'd pick you every time. Over anybody else."
And just like that the mood shifted again, from somber nostalgia to just plain hot.
I couldn't help but wonder if this was what it would be like when we went back to work tomorrow, too.
I mean, we'd worked together after our first date, but there hadn't been any kissing on that date.
Except for the innocent peck on the cheek I'd given him at the end of the night.
But last night's kiss…or rather kisses…those had sparked a completely different dynamic.
Those were going to be my Achilles heel because I found myself unable to stop thinking about getting him to kiss me again.
And then he had to go and say sweet things like that…who knew Bobby would be such a romantic?
Okay, I did.
But he's much better at it than I expected.
And I'm much more susceptible to it than I expected.
So as I stood there, looking up at him and cataloguing the feel of his fingers gently stroking back and forth along the bare skin of my upper arm, I experienced a somewhat new sensation.
And by new, I mean I've only been feeling it to this extent since last Sunday.
It was like a torrent of butterflies were flying through me, creating a feeling that was equal parts elation, nausea, apprehension, passion, and impatience.
Oh, and insecurity.
Maybe that's why the nausea was there.
Because I had a pretty good feeling where this day was going to end, and not that I would ever admit it to anyone out loud, ever, and hopefully I wasn't letting it show on the outside, but I'm a little light in the confidence department when it comes to sex.
So far I've been playing it cool, like I'm perfectly comfortable with my own sexuality, but it's all a facade and my ability to fake it is crumbling in direct proportion to Bobby's seductiveness.
Or at least, that's how it feels.
And I'm not sure why I'm so insecure about sex.
I mean, I can talk about it until the cows come home. My years in Vice gave me a wealth of knowledge, so much so that I could probably write a book.
But practical application is where I get tripped up.
Because I can count on one hand the number of men with whom I've practically applied my knowledge.
And none of those men seemed particularly impressed.
So as anxious as I was to take things to the next level with Bobby, I was also a little afraid of being a disappointment to him.
Although he does seem to like the way I kiss.
And even though, when it comes to sex, I let my mind play games with my otherwise intact confidence, I learned last night that once he starts kissing me, I forget all about my fears.
In fact, I forget just about everything except for my intense need to get him naked, so I was simultaneously curious and scared to find out if all of my anxiety was legitimate.
I mean, what if we moved forward and it wasn't any good for him, and it put a damper on this wonderfully sweet new thing we had going?
Or what if we're just as good together in the bedroom as we are everywhere else, the confident side of my mind posed.
I wished that confident side would speak up more often because I hate feeling insecure.
At the end of our date last night, I told Bobby goodnight and then I sat there, debating with myself over whether or not I should kiss him, and that was when he got out of the car.
I thought he planned to come inside and considering I'd told him on our previous date that if I invited him inside, he'd never make it home, I was instantly turned on and terrified at the same time.
He came around to my side of the car and opened the door, holding his hand out to help me out of the car.
"Don't worry," he said in a deep, gravelly voice. "I'm not going to walk you up."
"You're not?" I asked him tentatively, and damn me for being so uncertain because I wanted him to come up…wanted him to be so smitten with me that he couldn't control himself, and yet at the same time…like I said, I was nervous.
So while I'm damning people, I may as well damn Joe, too, because I'm going to blame him for the start of my spiraling lack of self-esteem in the bedroom.
"You don't want to rush things. Right?" he reminded me.
"Right," I replied.
And it was true.
There was no need to be in a hurry.
It had taken us more than a decade to get here, so what would it hurt us if it took a week or a month to make it into the bedroom?
Technically nothing, but I wasn't sure if I could hold out that long.
Aside from the fact that I was positive I was going to burst into flames if I got any hotter, I was also unsure how long my sanity would hold out if I kept replaying lack-of-experience doomsday scenarios in my mind.
"I don't either," he mumbled and then he was suddenly right there, towering over me as my back pressed into the door of his mustang, and he was so close that I could smell his cologne, and then he reached out to touch me, settling his hand along the side of my neck.
"So instead of walking you up, I thought I'd just do this here," he said, his voice so low it was nearly a whisper and yet his words echoed in my head, probably because the tone and intent were similar to what he'd used on me in my dreams.
Only last night, it was real, and then he'd brought his lips to mine and every self-doubt I'd entertained since the start of my less-than-illustrious sexual history was suddenly gone.
Because he seemed to be really enjoying himself, and I was…just lost.
And then he'd moved even closer to me and suddenly I could feel him, right up against me, and that boosted my confidence even more because I'd caused that…he wanted me and it was definitely sexual, not just convenient like I worried a little that maybe it might be…I mean dating his partner wouldn't be an easy thing, but falling into a relationship with the one woman in his life who already knew him better than anyone else…yeah.
I wondered about that a little from time to time.
But not last night.
Or at least not after he started kissing me.
We made out up against his car for the longest time, and it would've been so easy to just slip upstairs and finish the date the way we both seemed to want to do, but we didn't.
Instead, after a car passed by and brought with it a dose of reality, he finally pulled back just a little.
"I can't believe I've worked next to you for more than a decade and yet I didn't know you could kiss like that," he'd said, and he was slightly breathless and he looked so sexy…I've never wanted anyone so much.
I spent a sleepless night last night, tossing and turning and thinking about Bobby.
I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to be with him.
Thus my continued worry that maybe I wasn't good enough.
But I couldn't let my fears get the best of me.
And now wasn't the time for that anyway.
Right now, he was taking me on a walk down memory lane, and he was in a good mood, and I wasn't about to do anything to mess that up.
"Yeah, you say that, but…" I teased him, in reference to his assertion that he'd pick me over anyone.
"Every time," he said again as he hugged me closer to him.
I took a moment to enjoy the pleasant buzzing feeling that rolled through me, and then said, "So tell me what else you and Lewis used to do out here."
"Oh, I don't know about that," he replied with a slow smile.
"Come on," I said, egging him on. "I told you about my tawdry love triangle."
"And I was right about that, by the way," he said. I raised my eyebrow at him and he added, "You, kissing Nick Farrell. He was definitely a lucky boy."
"I'd say there's a good chance you'll get luckier than he ever did," I joked.
"Just a chance?" he asked, in that devastatingly husky voice of his.
"Well, I did say it was a good chance."
"Huh," he said with a thoughtful nod. Then he leaned down and used his nose to push my hair away from my ear, and then he put his lips so close that I could feel them brush against my ear as he said the words, "I guess I'll have to see what I can do to tip the scales in my favor."
Good Lord, what have I done?
I challenged him to be even more sexy, even more irresistible than he already is?
I must be a masochist.
"So," I began, the shakiness of my voice giving away my weakness at the moment. "You were getting ready to tell me more about you and Lewis."
And really, I wanted to know more about everything, but I figured Lewis was a safe topic for us to start with. Bobby was being incredibly open and strong just to come out here and share this with me, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible.
He turned around and stood with his back against the pier railing and then he took hold of both my hands as I stood in front of him. He looked down at our joined hands for a moment, and I wondered if even this was hard for him, but then he looked back up at me with a spark in his eye.
"What will you do if I tell you a story?" he asked challengingly.
"Tell me and you'll find out," I fired back.
He flashed a smile and nodded his agreement.
"You drive a hard bargain, Alex. I had to know you wouldn't be easy."
"You thought I might be?" I asked, laughing a little at his insinuation.
"No," he said, shaking his head. "I knew you'd be just like you are."
"And…that's a good thing?" I asked cautiously. "Or a bad thing?"
"You want to know what I told Gyson about you?" he asked.
His shift of topic wasn't completely unexpected because Bobby tends to come from left field from time to time, but his choice of topic had me once again on pins and needles.
What had he told Gyson about me?
I couldn't imagine.
And what had she said?
That worried me, too.
I've seen her.
And she looks a lot like most of Bobby's former girlfriends, or at least the ones I've heard about.
Not that I thought he'd try to start something up with his shrink, but still…he respects her, I know that much. He wouldn't have wanted to stick it out with her if he didn't.
Would she have told him he could do better than me? Would she have suggested that he was settling by trying to start something with his partner?
"Um…okay," I finally answered, because even though it scared me to hear the words, I've never been one to walk away from my fears.
"I told her that you're a great cop. And that you work hard and put up with all of my crap. I told her how much I admire and respect you," he said as he held my gaze. "Because you know I do, right? I know I've never really told you that, but…I do. Working with you has been the highlight of my life."
Working with me.
This was what I was afraid of.
Being with me was just an easy extension of an already-established relationship.
"Although I think what we're working on now will be even better, you know?" he continued, apparently oblivious to my musings. "I guess what I'm getting at is that I think we can be really good for each other. I think this past week has proven that we can do both…we can work together, and we can have a personal relationship, and we're equally compatible with each."
"Compatible," I repeated, not sure if I liked the word.
"Combustible," he amended, tugging on my hands and pulling me closer to him. "You constantly challenge me, and I like that. So you, being the way you are, is a very good thing."
He kissed me then, like he did in the car outside of Gyson's office.
And he was right about the two of us being flammable because within seconds, I forgot about where we were and all of my insecurities and just everything except for the feel of his lips on mine.
We let it go on for longer than we should've since we were out on a partially crowded pier on a Sunday afternoon, and then I finally pulled away.
"Okay," he said, pushing off from the railing and leading us off the pier. "So…you want a Lewis story. You do know I wasn't always on the right side of the law, right?"
"Bobby Goren committed crimes?" I asked teasingly, finding my footing again.
He thinks we're combustible.
That's a good thing, right?
"I'm shocked and appalled," I added, nudging him with my shoulder.
"Nothing major. But one year at Christmas, I think I was about thirteen, and I had a girlfriend…Shelly Liston. Anyway, I saved for a month to buy her a present."
"You were sweet even as a teenager," I commented.
He flashed me a smile and said, "Hey, I wanted to impress her. I mean, she was the prettiest girl in the eighth grade. Although she wasn't nearly as pretty as you."
"You don't have to suck up," I said on a laugh. "Keep going."
"Okay, so I finally saved enough to buy her a pair of earrings. Decent ones, too, not dime store crap."
"And were you properly rewarded for the present?"
"Well, yeah," he said on a self-conscious chuckle. "But that's not the story."
"I think I need to hear both stories, then."
"Maybe," he conceded. "Anyway, Christmas Eve, I went to my closet to get the earrings because I was going to meet her out on the pier, and they were gone."
"Yeah, so I went to Frank and asked him if he'd seen them, and he said no, but I could tell he was lying."
"He took them?"
"Uh huh. He finally admitted that he'd given them to some floozy he was trying to bang."
"Wait, that's not the story, either," he said. "I told Lewis what happened, and so he came over and we hopped the L-train into Manhattan and we went to Macy's."
"But you'd already spent all of your money."
He looked at me sheepishly and nodded.
"You shoplifted?" I asked in surprise.
"One pair of earrings. It's the only thing I've ever stolen. And I sort of gave them back."
"Sort of? You didn't give them to her?"
"Oh yeah. And she kissed me," he said with a grin. "It was pretty good, too. Not Alex good, but for my thirteen-year-old experience, it was almost worth the potential of going to juvie."
He laughed, clearly submerged in his memory, and I couldn't help but smile.
I would've gone crazy for a guy like him back in high school.
I always did have a thing for the dangerous type.
"Explain how you sort of gave them back," I prompted. "She didn't break up with you after that, did she?"
"No. Well, I mean, she did, but it was a month or so later, and she kept the earrings. But I started saving my money again, and when I had enough to pay for the ones that I'd stolen, I went back to Macy's and bought another pair just like them. And then I left them in the store."
By this point, we were back at the car, and he opened the door for me and then stood there watching me, like he was waiting to see if I was going to look down on him for stealing.
Stealing and then giving back.
Who other than Bobby would ever do that?
I stepped up in front of him and ran my hand over his cheek. His beard was getting heavy and it felt soft beneath my hand.
I wasn't sure exactly what to say because everything that popped into my head sounded cheesy or cliché and actually what I really wanted to do was tell him how much I admire him for overcoming what for most would've been a crushing childhood.
How much it means to me that he was so willing to share this part of himself.
How much I love him.
Instead, I kissed him.
A slow, soft, lingering kiss.
And when I pulled away, his eyes were still closed and he had a smile on his face.
"You didn't just tip the scales. I think they fell clean over," I told him.
He opened his eyes immediately and looked at me with interest.
"Although you know, you were going to get lucky anyway," I added teasingly, ignoring the wave of anxiety that swept through me.
I'm confident in every other aspect of my life, damn it.
I'm going to be confident with this, too.
Because I'm not blind.
I can see the way he's looking at me.
He definitely wants this just as much as I do.
"I was, huh?" he said, and now it was his turn to step into me, walking me backwards until I was up against the rear door of the SUV. "I thought you said it was just a chance.
"I lied," I replied coyly as once again that tingling sensation flooded through me, arousal replacing nerves.
Bobby moved even closer to me, and I found myself nearly holding my breath.
He was so unbelievably intoxicating, and between our date last night, and then my dreams, and then today…it felt like we'd been engaging in sixteen hours of foreplay.
I should've known it would be like this.
The mental engagement is just as important as the physical.
His continued to use his body to hold me captive against the car, although there's definitely nowhere else I'd rather be at the moment.
And then I thought about what he'd said earlier.
He'd talked about me to Gyson.
He'd apparently gushed about me to Gyson.
But he still hadn't mentioned her response.
"You never told me what Gyson said after you told her about me."
"Oh. She um…she asked me if…"
"Wait, never mind. That's between you and her," I said.
I couldn't pressure him to divulge his conversation.
And no matter what she'd said, he was still here.
"No, it's okay. She listened to me sing your praises and then she asked me if I…um…if I love you."
He watched me carefully as I processed his words.
"Do you want to know what I told her?"
"If you want to tell me."
"Well, she's a department shrink, so…" he said, and then he leaned in, putting his lips back to within a centimeter of my ear again and he whispered, "I lied."