Summary: Amanda confronts Lee a few years after he transferred to New York
Disclaimer: The characters of Scarecrow & Mrs. King are property of Shoot the Moon and Warner Brothers. The story is a figment of my imagination and is used solely for entertainment purposes. The words in Lee's letter and vows were taken from the song "Best of Intentions" written and sung by Travis Tritt. The song actually inspired the flow of the story
Notes: Kind of a What If/AU story. Thanks to Lori and Tammi who were the best slave drivers and made me keep writing when I wanted to take a break. I'd never have finished this without you guys….. I used the air date time frames for Ship of Spies and NightCrawler.
Timeline: Set in 1989 – All events up to the end of the Nightcrawler case/episode happened then after that the cannon was kidnapped and I couldn't afford the ransom. Also, I added a dimension to their relationship during Stemwinder. (you'll have to read to figure out what it is)
Feedback: Absolutely! Either on list or by private email.
Saturday morning found Amanda King sitting on her living room couch counting the number of days left until she became Mrs. Brian Hill. Twisting the ring on her third finger, she thought about her fiancé. ‘I’m very lucky to have found a man as wonderful as Brian. He’s wonderful with the boys and Mother adores him,’ she thought, realizing that she didn’t enter the equation of why she was marrying him. ‘You have to do what’s right for the boys. They need a male influence in their lives now, and Brian can provide that,’ she scolded herself. ‘You can’t wait forever to fall head over heels in love again.’ It had only been three years since Lee left and she never had thought she'd be engaged again.
“Amanda dear, are you ready to go over the menu?” Dotty asked, coming into the living room. Seeing her daughter looking off into space, she took a moment to think. ‘For someone who’ll be getting married in a few weeks, she doesn’t look too happy. As a matter of fact, she’s been acting quite strange for a while now.’
Coming out of her trance, Amanda caught her mother looking at her with a strange statement on her face. “I’m sorry, Mother. What did you say?”
“Sweetheart, is there something you want to talk about? I’ve noticed that you’ve not been yourself these last couple of weeks and I’m worried. You haven’t acted this way since you were working for IFF. You’re not working for them again, are you?”
At the mention of her former employer, Amanda thought back to what might have been. “Of course not. I haven’t worked for IFF for three years. It’s just all these wedding plans are making me crazy. I didn’t realize that there is still so much to do in these last couple weeks,” Amanda explained, hoping her mother would believe her words.
Giving her daughter one last concerned look, she switched topics. “Ok dear, whatever you say. I came in here to ask if you were ready to go over the menu for the reception. However, if you’re not up to it, we can do it later.”
“That’s ok, Mother. Let me just clean up in here and I’ll meet you in the kitchen in a few minutes.” Amanda watched as her mother nodded, then headed into the kitchen.
Taking a deep breath, Amanda began piling the magazines on the table. ‘I can’t believe she thought I was working at IFF again.’ Now that the words were in her mind, she couldn’t concentrate. Tossing the rest of the clutter on the table, she sank back into the couch and closed her eyes. A split second later, an image of Lee Stetson entered her mind. She replayed the scene at the train station on that fateful October morning. ‘What ever possessed me to take that package? Mother always told me never to talk to strangers; I should’ve listened.’ She didn’t want to admit to herself that she was somehow drawn to the man that grabbed her arm while she was heading back to her car. ‘I should’ve just kept walking and then I wouldn’t have gotten mixed up in a world where I didn’t belong.’
Ever since Brian had proposed, she has been having more and more thoughts of Lee. It's been years since she's seen him, but she can still picture his handsome face as if she saw him yesterday. Frustrated, she called to her mother in the kitchen, “Mother, I’m really tired, so I’m going upstairs to take a nap. We’ll work on the menu later.” She quickly ran up the stairs to avoid any more questions.
Entering the safe haven of her bedroom, Amanda falls back onto her bed. “Why does he still affect me like this?” she asked to herself. Looking to the far corner of her room, her eyes focus on the big panda bear. ‘I must have a morbid sense of humor to have kept that thing.’ Getting up to lock the door, she pulls a box out from underneath her bed. Grabbing the box of Kleenex from her nightstand, she prepares herself to go down memory lane.
Taking a deep breath, she lifts the lid off of the box. Her whole secret life with Lee is in this box. Glancing at the items, she notices a red hat, a stuffed duck she named Lester, the invitation to the Quickie-Chickie Snack Shack addressed to Ms. Greenwich, a bottle of fish food for Siamese Fighting fish, the autographed Sandy Newcomb football, her ticket stub from the Verdi festival, the roses she pressed when Lee gave them to her after finishing the Oz case, and all of her airplane ticket stubs from the trips to Munich, Austria, West Germany, and England. At the bottom of the box lay a small blue box with a white ribbon and a crumpled letter that had thousands of her tears dried on it. Pushing the letter aside, she lifted the small square box and pulled out a diamond solitaire on a thin gold band. Comparing it to the smaller diamond that she now wore, an intense feeling of regret and lost love filled Amanda.
“Why am I doing this to myself? I deserve better,” she stated, while throwing everything back into the box and shoving it back under her bed. ‘One day I’ll get rid of all this stuff,’ knowing the it wouldn’t be fair to Brian to have memories of another man stuffed under their bed.
“Amanda, are you in there? Brian is here and he’d like to see you.” Dotty called from the hallway.
Wiping her tears with a Kleenex, Amanda replied, “I’ll be right down,
Mother.” Gathering her composure, she opened the door and headed down to
see her fiancé.
Hearing the small sound escape her lips, Brian turned around and gave Amanda a shy smile. "Amanda, I didn't hear you come in."
"I'm sorry, I was just admiring you. You're quite handsome, do you know that?"
Brian was a shy man. They met at the library and seemed to hit it off right away. He reminded Amanda of herself back before she met Lee.
"Thank you." A light shade of pink enveloped his cheeks and he got up to place a quick kiss on Amanda's cheek. "How are the last minute wedding plans coming? You haven't changed your mind, have you?"
A nervous laugh left Amanda's mouth before she could stop it. "Of course not, silly. I can't wait to become your wife." Amanda put her arms around his neck and laid her head against his chest, even though her heart wasn't in it.
"I'm glad. I plan on making you the happiest woman alive. Besides, I've always wanted a family and you can give that to me. Speaking of family, your mother ran a few errands. She wanted me to tell you she’d be back in a couple of hours"
"Thanks. Mother and he boys have really come to like you, Brian. I think this is the best for everyone." Amanda tried to sound convincing, but she wasn't fooling herself. There was only one man that she loved unconditionally and he left her three years ago. Now she would just have to settle for second best.
"Oh, which reminds me. I found this ad in the paper and I was wondering what you think about it for our honeymoon." Brian picked up the paper and handed it to Amanda. She noticed an advertisement on the top page of the newspaper. The words “A Great Place for a Honeymoon” jumped out at her. Scanning the ad, she read all about their amenities; a world class chef, tennis, a pool, Jacuzzi, and a full service spa. 'This sounds perfect,' she thought. Her gaze traveled down and stopped when she came to the bottom of the ad. The Cumberland Resort. The same place that she worn the cover of Lee’s wife. Where she had thrown a tantrum at the sleeping arrangements and forced Lee to go hide in a suspect’s room. Where her and Lee had a romantic dinner where prices weren’t on the menu and he had kissed her hand so softly.
As the color drained from her face, Amanda could feel Brian's questioning gaze on her. Too many memories would await her there and spending her honeymoon surrounded by remembrances of Lee wouldn’t be fair to Brian. Or to her. Trying to recover quickly, Amanda mumbled, "Uh, this is ok, but I thought we could go somewhere and take the boys with us. Maybe somewhere family friendly like Disney World or something."
"That's a great idea! I'll book the reservations and get some information for us. I'll see you later." Brian leaned in and pressed his lips firmly to Amanda's. Smiling, he went out the front door.
"See you…" Amanda let her words drift off and scolded herself for picturing Lee when Brian's lips met hers. 'He made his choice by running - we could've been his family.' Looking back at the Cumberland ad, Amanda felt the tears start to burn her eyes and went upstairs to take a nice, warm bubble bath.
Ten minutes later Amanda was submersed in hot water surrounded by lilac scented bubbles. Resting her head back against the tub, she closed her eyes and remembered the love that she and Lee had shared. It had taken a few years of working closely together, and eventually Lee had opened his eyes and realized that his soul mate was right before his eyes. They had shared their whole lives with each other and never once regretted their relationship, even though it put a strain on her relationship with Mother and the boys.
After her marriage to Joe ended, Amanda promised herself that she wouldn't get involved with a man whose job would come before family. Even though Lee's past as a playboy and workaholic accompanied him, she saw the real Lee and knew that he had a lot to give to someone. She knew he wouldn't be pressured into a serious relationship, so she gave him his space. She let him date other women, let him push her aside during cases, and managed to hold her true feelings inside of her. But she always made sure she was there for him, whether it was to listen about the end of a relationship, to help him with his expense accounts, or even to play a part in one of his many covers. She had never let him down and it had paid off.
Her thoughts drifted back to that wonderful day when he finally professed his love for her. Sure, he'd been on the run and it had been over TP's phone, however she couldn't have asked for anything more. That was just Lee's style - always doing things out of the norm. That was one of the things that she had loved about him. He treated her as an equal…well, most of the time. She always tried to keep her emotions and feeling in check so not to scare him off. Until that afternoon when he stood in her bedroom, looking like the most handsome, sexy man she had even seen. She repeated those precious words back to him and was rewarded with a soul-searing, toe curling kiss. They had run together. Running from everything that wasn't the safe and secure feeling of being with each other. Friends and family be damned.
That night they had teased each other about being a "typical" spy family cleaning their guns. Amanda had been overcome with a sense of extreme sadness with the uncertainty of the coming days. Would they be able to prove their innocence? Seeing at how much the whole Stemwinder incident was affecting her, Lee comforted her. He knew that she had gone through a lot listening to him in Sonja's apartment. Their kisses of comfort had quickly progressed into kisses of want and desire in one point two seconds. At that point in time it was only the two of them. No Agency. No Billy. No Francine. No Dotty. No boys. No Soviets. Just two adults enjoying the feel of the others hands, lips, and bodies.
She had let all reservations, concerns, and fears fall away. For once in her life, Amanda King just wanted to feel and be taken away in the moment. And that she was.
Making love to Lee had been the single most powerful sensation that she had ever experienced. Even with his colorful past, he had made her feel as if she was the first woman for him. He was gentle and caring, taking his time pleasing her. When their bodies had finally joined as one, so did their hearts and souls. Content in the afterglow of such wondrous feelings, thoughts of never ending devotion balanced in the air around them.
That had been their one and only time together. Realizing that what they had was pure magic, Lee wanted to "court" Amanda in the way that she deserved to be. He sent flowers, left her cute little notes, made dinner for her, and repeated over and over just how much he loved her.
'What happened to us?' Amanda thought, saddened by the way her thoughts had moved. Getting ready for ones wedding was supposed to be one of the happiest times in a woman's life. Unfortunately, all it did was bring back painful memories for her.
Amanda had thought things were going perfect. She was sure that Lee was going to propose to her, after all, he asked for his pension and retirement numbers. He hinted about getting together with the boys and going on family trips. There was nothing hinting of what was to come.
The Agency had been deep into the Addi Birol case. They were trying to capture the well-known terrorist and Lee was getting first hand information from his best source, Nightcrawler. They were so close to finally putting an end to Birol's network when all hell broke loose.
Amanda took a deep breath and pulled herself back to the present and away from all of those painful memories. She stood up and dried herself off, putting on a purple robe that hung down to her toes. She started downstairs to make herself a cup of hazelnut coffee. Amanda felt exhausted and she really hadn't done much of anything today. 'Damn these memories. Why can't I just let myself be free to love again?'
Amanda went into the family room and lay down on the couch. It would still be a while until the boys got home and she wanted as much time to herself as she could swing.
A cold shiver went over Amanda as her mind returned to the Birol case. Even after so many years, the events were fresh in her mind. She had been trapped in a room and kept having visions of Lee standing before her telling her that he'd come to get her. Finally, he had shown up, courtesy of Birol, and it took her a while to realize that it was really him and not a part of her imagination. They had melted into each other’s arms and held on as to never break their bond.
She had begged Lee not to make the list for Addi. He used the excuse of buying more time for them, however she wasn't sure if he was reassuring her or himself. Addi had come in and taken the list and left them with their fears. Lee had told her during that time that he had gone to the house and seen Dotty. She was shocked that he would make the effort to go there and face Dotty, but then again, he would do anything for her. They had been sitting on the couch when Lee had looked at her like she was his life love and proposed marriage. Her dreams were coming true, and she had happily accepted. Then Magda had let the Zap gas fly and Lee had to take Birol out. It was all over quite quickly and Lee had gathered Amanda into his arms and they let the effects of the gas wear out, content to be so close.
After being checked out in the Agency clinic, they were both given a clean bill of health. Their debriefing had seemed to drag on forever then finally Billy gave them the authority to go home. Before leaving, Lee slipped that diamond ring on her finger and kissed her gently. Amanda had wanted to go with Lee to his apartment to celebrate, however he told her that she needed to go to her house and that Dotty and the boys needed her more.
The following day she noticed changes in Lee. That week after she returned
home was filled with Agency work, carting the boys to and from sports practices,
school plays, and just trying to get over the whole Birol experience. The
time that she spent with Lee was pretty much nonexistent. She tried to
set up lunch dates, dinner dates, and even just an hour or two for them
to spend time together. Every day Lee had a different excuse. Billy had
put him on three new cases and because Amanda wasn't back on field duty
yet, he worked those cases alone. Every time she tried to grab a minute
to talk to him, he made a quick exit. Whenever she tried to touch him,
he scooted out of the way. They went days acting like the old Lee and Amanda
and finally, one-week after she was rescued, she realized why.
As soon as Amanda King entered the Q Bureau, she realized something was wrong. Glancing around the small office, she couldn't see anything out of place. Nonetheless, she had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach that told her something was seriously wrong. Setting her purse in her desk drawer, she looked over to her fiancé’s desk. It was much cleaner than usual, absent were the piles of reports to be finished, unanswered phone messages, and remnants from yesterday's lunch. In fact, his desk was spotless. Too clean as a matter of fact. Even though they were officially engaged, this past week she said more words to Mrs. Marsten than to him.
The ringing of the phone brought Amanda back to the present.
"Q Bureau. Amanda speaking."
"Amanda, it's Billy. I'm glad you're there. I need to speak to you, so I'll be right up."
"Sir, I noticed that Lee's desk was…" her voice trailed off as she realized that her boss had already hung up. It was quite odd that Billy would be coming up to the Q Bureau, for usually he requested all meetings to be held in his office. Kind of like a home court advantage. 'I wonder what could it could be.'
A quick knock on the door followed by Billy Melrose caused Amanda to turn her head towards her Section Chief.
"Good morning, Sir. If this is about returning to the field, I'll have full medical release on Monday. I'm really looking forward to getting back out there."
"That's good, Amanda. I'm looking forward to having one of my best agents back. However, that isn't the reason that I came up here. This is one of the toughest things that I've ever had to do in my entire life, however I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place."
"Sir, what's wrong? Is it Lee? Did something happen to him?" Amanda quickly rattled off the questions, a look of fear crossing her beautiful face.
"Kind of. Look Amanda, I'm not sure how to say this so I'm just going to blurt it out. Lee has transferred to the New York office."
"What? You can't be serious! This is a joke, right?" Tears started to gather in Amanda's eyes, and she willed herself not to cry.
"I'm sorry, Amanda. I wish it were a joke. Lee requested a transfer on Saturday and the position in New York was the first thing to open up," Billy explained.
Sinking down into her chair, Amanda felt the tears starting to fall. She started to shake, realizing that Lee had sent Billy to do his dirty work. "Billy, why didn't he tell me? Why are you here? There's so much that you don't know and I'm so damned confused."
"I may know more than you think. I'll start at the beginning, and we'll go from there." Billy walked over to Lee's desk and sat down, and scooted his chair closer to Amanda. "Lee came to me last Friday night after you left here. He was quite upset about your abduction and was feeling very guilty. He blamed himself for you being taken and, in typical Lee Stetson fashion, closed himself off from his feelings. I told him to go home and get a good night's rest and come see me in the morning. Sure enough, Lee was in my office Saturday morning before eight. He looked like shit, and I could tell that he hadn't eaten or gotten any sleep in days. He handed me a transfer request and told me that he couldn't work in DC anymore. Needless to say, I was extremely shocked and I pleaded with him to explain. He said he was doing it for you."
"For me? How can he even say that? This is the worst possible thing I can hear right now."
"I know it's hard, Amanda. But please listen and maybe you'll understand. Lee explained to me that you guys have been, uh, involved for some time and that he was totally and undeniably in love with you. This put him at a disadvantage since he has tried his entire life not to get close to people. When he realized that Birol had taken you, he realized that he put you in danger, and for that he has to pay. I understand that he went to your house and spoke to your mother, is that right?"
"Yeah, he mentioned that he had gone over there and that it made him feel closer to me."
"It seems that when he was there, he realized that you had a real life away from him and the Agency and that should be your number one priority. He couldn't forgive himself if something terrible happened to you and it left your sons without a mother. Amanda, Lee grew up without parents who loved him and he doesn't wish that on Phillip or Jamie. Realizing that your family needs you, he made the decision to transfer so you can get back to your old life. Now, I'll be honest with you, Amanda. Lee wants you to leave the Agency. He doesn't want you in any danger and he's left you some money from his retirement fund. He wants you to use it while you find another job. Personally, I think you're an outstanding agent and I'd love for you to continue working here. However, I understand that it may be too difficult for you without Lee here. I'd like for you to take the weekend to think about it and let me know Monday morning. He's doing this for you, Amanda. Because he loves you more that his own happiness."
"I need him, Billy. Doesn't he know that? I've lived my life for so long trying to please others; my parents, Joe, the boys. Not that I regret that, but for once I'm living my life for me. I thought I was living for my one chance at real happiness. When we were in Birol's hideout, he proposed to me." Amanda lifted her necklace from her neck and showed Billy the ring that hung from the gold chain. "I said yes. I love him. Doesn't that count for anything?" The last words were barely a whisper as Amanda could hear her heart-cracking deep inside her chest.
Billy got up and put his arms around Amanda, trying to give her some of his strength and support. "I know you do, Amanda. I know you do. I had no idea that Lee had proposed." Waiting a few minutes while Amanda composed herself, Billy had a moment of reflection. "I'm sorry, Amanda. I tried to push you two together. I should have known that Lee was not emotionally stable to have a serious relationship with someone. He was always such a loner, I just thought I could make things better for him. I knew as soon as I saw you that you were the one who could change him. I'm sorry."
"Oh, Sir. It's not your fault. It's not anybody's fault. I just need to find him and explain some things to him. Make him understand that he's my life and that I need him. Yes, that's what I'll do. Just give me his new address and I'll…"
"I'm afraid I can't do that. Lee's first assignment has him stationed in the Middle East for the next year or so. He wanted to get away so you couldn't find him. He said he wasn't strong enough to face you again."
"Oh my gosh. He's really gone, isn't he?" Amanda asked, still waiting to wake up from this horrible dream.
"I'm afraid so. He did leave this for you." Billy pulled an envelope out of his suit pocket and handed it to Amanda. "I'll talk to you on Monday."
Amanda didn't know how long she sat staring at the light blue envelope until she finally decided to read it in the privacy of her own home. Grabbing her things, she raced home to the secure confines of her bedroom. Once there, she forced her shaky hands to open the envelope.
My darling Amanda --
I had big plans for our future
Said I'd give you the whole world somehow
I tried making good on that promise
Thought I'd be so much further by now
Never could build you a castle
Even though you're the queen of my heart
But I had the best of intentions from the start
Now some people think I'm a loser
Because I seldom get things right
But you make me feel like a winner
When you wrap me in your arms so tight
Please tell me you will remember
No matter how I do wrong
That I had the best of intentions all along
I gave you a ring and I promised you things
I always thought we'd do
But my best laid plans slipped right through my hands
To show my love for you
And if you could read my heart
Then you'd know without exception
It was all with the best of intentions
I'll love you forever,
Amanda had called Billy that night at home and gave her resignation.
Understanding her feelings, Billy waived the two-week notice and told Amanda
to keep in touch. Throwing herself on her bed, she let the rest of the
"Wake up, Mom. We're home." Amanda opened her eyes to find her sons staring back at her with concerned expressions on their faces.
"Sorry guys. I must have drifted off. What can I do for you?"
"Mom, we were wondering if we could stay over at Greg's house tonight. His dad said it was ok. Can we?" Phillip asked.
"Yeah, Mom. Can we? Please, please, please," Jamie doubled his brother's pleading.
Considering her current state of mind, rather heart, she agreed. "Yes, that's fine. However, I want you to call tonight and be home tomorrow before noon. Understood?"
Both boys nodded and grabbed their duffel bags which, funny enough, were already packed and waiting behind the couch. "Thanks, Mom. You're the best." Phillip and Jamie leaned over to place a kiss on her cheek, then raced out the door.
"Alone once again," Amanda sighed. She could call Brian and invite him over for supper, but decided against it. Not with her heart and soul playing games with her. Something was going on in her head against her will.
Dragging her body off the couch, she went to get the mail. Pulling the huge stack of what were probably bills out of the mailbox, a brightly colored envelope caught her eye. It was tropical orange and had a brightly colored flower stamp on it. It was addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Lee Stedsman. Quickly tearing open the envelope, she pulled out a card which pictured a beautiful sandy beach and read "Happy Anniversary". Numbly, Amanda's fingers opened the card and read the inscription -- Wishing the happy couple a wonderful 5th wedding anniversary. It had a list of signatures none of which Amanda recognized. Then like a jolt of lightening, she realized that in a few months would be the 5th anniversary of her and Lee's San Angelo wedding. 'Has it been five years already?' she asked herself. It was on that assignment that Amanda fell for Lee. When their lips had met after the brief ceremony, Amanda could've sworn she heard angels singing. After they had returned to DC, Lee had informed her, Billy, and a smirking Francine that he used fake information for his name, address, birthday, etc., etc. At first she had been very hurt by that statement, then she was glad so she wouldn't have to go through the hurt and newly found feelings if they should have to get an annulment.
'Maybe this is a sign from God.' The thought entered Amanda's mind before she could stop it. Deciding that there was only one real thing to do, Amanda picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number that she would never forget, no matter how hard she tried to. Waiting for someone to pick up on the other line, Amanda stared at the card, a fluttery feeling invading her stomach.
"Good afternoon. International Federal Films, how may I help you?"
"Uh, yes. Billy Melrose, please."
"And who is calling?"
"My name is Amanda. Amanda King."
"That name sounds familiar. Oh, aren't you the Amanda King who worked with Scarecrow? I've heard so many stories about the two of you. I love the one where…."
"Excuse me, but I really need to speak to Mr. Melrose."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Of course, I'll put you right through."
Amanda waited a few minutes until Billy picked up the line. She could only picture the look on his face when the receptionist told him who was on the line.
"Amanda? Is this really you?" a voice asked.
"Yes, Sir. Long time no talk."
"It's so good to hear from you. I must admit, I've been keeping an eye on you these last few years. I still need to make sure you're safe. How's life been treating you?"
"Pretty good. Um, I'm getting married in a few weeks," Amanda volunteered. She was greeted with nothing but silence on the other end of the line. "Sir, are you still there?"
"Yes. Yes, I'm still here. Just a little speechless at the moment. So, who's the lucky guy?" Billy needed to know, for certain that the information would come in handy.
"Well, his name is Brian and we've been dating for about 8 months. He works at the downtown library and he gets along great with the boys and Mother." Why Amanda felt a need to explain that to her former boss, she didn't know.
"Congratulations. Are you working now? How are you mother and the boys?"
"Right now I'm working as a temp employee for a placement firm. The hours are flexible and I never have to get attached to a place because I only work there for a maximum of one week. Anyway, we're all doing great. Just great." Amanda tried to sound convincing, but Billy heard the hurt in her voice.
"I'm assuming this isn't a social call, however I did tell you to keep in touch. What can I do for you?" he asked, knowing that somehow it was going to involve Lee.
"I need Lee's address in New York." Direct and to the point.
"You're not going to invite him to the wedding, are you? I really don't think that would be such a great idea."
"Of course not! I just…I mean….I'm still in love with him. I can't marry Brian in good faith unless I know that Lee and I have no future. I need to see him. Please, Sir. Please help me."
"I'll be more than happy to give you his address, however I must warn you. I talk to Lee about once a month and I still keep an eye on his assignments and such. Amanda, Lee's become very much like the old Scarecrow. He's still in the field, requests long lasting and intense assignments, and refuses to let anyone help him. He's really gone down hill. Are you sure you want to do this?" Billy decided to leave out the fact that whenever he speaks with Lee, he always asks how Amanda is doing, if he's heard from her, etc. Deep down, he still loves her and that's his justification for doing this.
"I see. Listen, Sir, I've tried to get him out of my mind, but he's embedded in my heart. I can't marry Brian unless I know that I don't stand a chance of being happy with Lee. I’m assuming he's not married by your descriptions?"
"No, no he's not. As a matter of fact, I don't think he dates at all." Hearing the "hmprf" that came over the line, Billy grinned. "OK, so maybe he didn't revert ALL the way back to his old ways. I wish you luck Amanda." Billy gave Amanda the address and told her he'd have one of his assistants book the 5:00 flight to New York for her and along with her ticket will be an envelope for her to deliver to Lee. Amanda wasn't sure if this was Billy's way of making sure she didn't chicken out or if there really was a document that Lee needed.
Amanda grabbed her maroon overnight case from her closet and began to throw a few days worth of clothes into it. She looked at herself in the mirror and decided to change. She pulled on a pair of black soft wool pants and a violet sweater. 'Much better.'
Amanda pulled the box from beneath her bed and grabbed the small blue box and tossed it in her purse. 'I'm either going to return home with this on my finger, or I'm not bringing it back.' She scribbled a quick note to her mother, and picked up the phone to leave Brian a message.
"Hi Brian. It's Amanda. I need to go out of town for a few days, but I'll call you when I get back. Bye." A smidgen of guilt entered Amanda's mind at the coldness of the message that she just left her fiancé'. Forcing it from her head, she grabbed her keys and headed out to the Jeep.
The drive to the airport seemed to drag for Amanda. She expertly wove in and out of the traffic, hoping that it'd keep the butterflies that have taken permanent residence in her stomach at bay for a while. 'How many times did I drive to the airport to pick Lee up?' Amanda pulled into the Overnight Parking structure and grabbed her bags.
Just as Billy promised, a ticket and a crisp white envelope were ready for her at the ticket counter. Looking at the clock above the counter, she made a mental note that she had about 45 minutes until the plane was set to depart. 'I need a drink.'
A few minutes later, Amanda was seated at the bar in the airport lounge with a second glass of white wine in her hand. 'Why am I so nervous?' she asked herself. Her heart answered for her, 'Because you've loved Lee Stetson for so long and you want to be happy.'
Amanda let her mind wander to the times that she shared with Lee. Never in her wildest dreams would she ever imagine that she'd be involved in things that involved National security, KGB, and detonating bombs. Heck, she probably never even said those words before that fateful day at the train station.
Her thoughts were broken by the announcement that they were going to
begin boarding her flight to LaGuardia. Amanda put down some bills and
headed for the terminal, mentally readying herself for the shock of seeing
Looking up at the brick building in a not so nice part of town, Amanda couldn’t help but compare it to the welcoming apartment of his in DC. Since this complex didn’t even have a doorman, Amanda walked in and pushed the ‘Up’ button for the elevator. When the doors opened, a smell of stale air hit Amanda between the eyes. Pushing the button for the 6th floor, she hoped the entire building didn’t reek of this stench. ‘I suppose if he’s not in town much, it really wouldn’t matter where he lives,’ she thought, trying to come to a logical conclusion of why Scarecrow would be living in such despair. She smiled as she thought back to when she first met Lee, and how she laughed at how stylish and self-aware he had been. Some had even called him conceited and shallow.
The elevator doors opened and Amanda noticed that there were only 2 apartments on this floor. Since the apartment on the right had yellow police tape warning “Do Not Cross”, she made the safe assumption that’s Lee’s apartment was the one on the left.
Taking a deep breath, Amanda forced herself to knock. After a few seconds and no answer, she knocked again. She frowned as Billy had assured her that he was in town and would be home. Amanda leaned her ear up against the door and decided that nobody was home.
She pulled her hairpin out of her hair and inserted it into the lock. With a quick leap into the past, she quickly and expertly picked the lock and entered Lee’s apartment.
Closing the door behind her, she gasped at the mess she saw. The apartment consisted of one big room. There was a small kitchenette to the left and a queen bed and dresser on the right. There were 3 bookcases in the main area all littered with magazines, books, and papers. A small TV sat on a milk crate in front of a ratty, worn couch and scratched coffee table.
Amanda walked a little further into the room, wishing that she had the wrong apartment. ‘This is so much worse that his old apartment,’ she thought, worried that something had happened to Lee. Sitting on the edge of the brown and orange couch, she wrinkled her nose at the half eaten peanut butter and banana sandwich that seemed to look at her, with it’s dark green fuzz coating almost every surface. ‘Oh, that’s just gross.’
Getting up, she crossed over to the bookcases. Her eyes kept watch to make sure no other living thing was around. She wouldn’t doubt that there’d be a mouse or cockroach amongst the mess. The books that littered the shelves ranged everywhere from mystery to science fiction to romance. There were also a few copies of Hot Rod Digest and Popular Mechanics thrown in for good measure.
Her eyes roamed over the cases until she saw a picture of them. Her and Lee. Together. It was taken at Rock Creek Park and they were sitting on a huge rock, Amanda snuggled between Lee’s legs and her back pressed up against his chest. They each wore bright, happy smiles. The silver frame that covered the photo had numerous fingerprints on it, as if it was picked up frequently. ‘Oh Lee, we were so happy.’
Deciding that she would drive herself nuts if she just sat and waited, Amanda started picking up the old newspapers that littered the floor. Next, she went to task with picking up his clothes. She assumed all were dirty, so she started a load of wash in the tiny utility closet that was offset from the kitchen.
Donning one of his old t-shirts, she brought an empty garbage bag into the room and proceeded to dump all the old newspapers in it. She decided against trying to save the plate that held the green banana sandwich, so she tossed the whole thing in the bag. She also added what had to be a month old piece of pepperoni pizza, some stale potato chips, empty beer and soda cans, and what looked like a really old piece of meatloaf. She wouldn’t put any money on it, though. She emptied almost the whole contents of his fridge in there, as well.
She fished around under the sink and came up with bottles of unopened cleaning liquid. ‘I obviously don’t need to guess how long it’s been since someone’s cleaned this place.’
It gave her a small sense of satisfaction. Amanda had been ready to encounter a pair of women’s panties, maybe a discarded or torn bra, or even a hair clip. She had come up empty. Nothing in Lee’s apartment even hinted at him entertaining women. She let a small smile cross her lips.
She collected the rest of the empty plates and cups, washed them, then put them in their proper places. She dusted every available surface. She found a vacuum in the utility closet, and vacuumed the whole apartment.
She dreaded it, but decided to look in the bathroom. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad. She just picked up a few tissues, scrubbed the toilet, and washed the mirror.
Three hours later, Amanda was exhausted. She remembered the first time she picked up Lee’s apartment. She was amazed how anyone could let things pile up. This was worse. Much worse. It was also past midnight. ‘I just need to rest a few minutes, then I’ll head back to the hotel.’ Sitting down on his bed, Amanda fell asleep.
Lee Stetson pushed himself up the rickety stairs of his apartment complex. He was bone tired and hungry and he didn’t need the elevator trapping him, as it had much too frequently during the past few weeks.
The supposed “milk run” that he had accompanied a rookie agent with today had turned bad. He spent the better part of the afternoon listening to the freshman agent recite his Last Will & Testament in case he didn’t make it our alive. After untying his binds and helping young Randy out of his, they headed out of the warehouse and tried to contact the office. After being “rescued” their debriefing and paperwork had taken hours.
His mind reverted back to his first few days with Amanda. A smile played on his lips as he remembered how strong she was. Sure, she was scared. But she had never cried like Randy had back there. ‘What a wimp. I bet he won’t make it three months,’ he thought, while fumbling in his pockets for the door key.
He glanced over at the apartment next to his. ‘Poor Sutton,’ he thought, remembering how just last week the police had arrived with a warrant and, along with Sutton, carted out pounds of crack cocaine.
He finally put the key in the lock and turned it. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. ‘Something’s not right,’ his mind told him. He drew his gun and slowly pushed the door open.
The first thing Lee noticed was the smell of lemon, pine, and honeysuckle that hit him and that the lights were on. His eyes bugged out of his head as he realized his apartment was clean. Not just clean. Spotless. ‘What the hell is going on?’ his mind screamed. ‘There’s only one person who brings the scent of lemon, pine, and honeysuckle.’ Lee’s gaze quickly darted over to his bed and realized with a sharp gasp that he was right. There, on his lumpy mattress, lay Amanda King – the love of his life.
Stunned, only three little words escaped his mouth. “Oh my gosh.”
His heart twisted and just as if he stepped into a time warp, he was transplanted back three years ago.
Lee felt a stab of pain near the vicinity of his heart as he watched Amanda quickly exit their office. He knew his distant behavior was upsetting her, but he wasn’t quite sure how else to act. Ever since that day he stood in her kitchen talking to Dotty, he became very aware that he wasn’t the only person in her life who needed her. As much as he depended on her to make his life complete, there were three other people who had first rights to her.
He tried to make sense of his hurtful actions, but it was no use. His mind, which usually helped him attract women, seemed to rebel against it’s normal instincts. It somehow tried to force the truth into his brain. ‘You grew up without parents, do you really want Phillip and Jamie to lose her?’ Lee put his head down on his desk and took some deep breaths, trying to quell the bile that was threatening to rise.
“Why did I ever get her involved in all this?” he asked the empty room, not expecting an answer.
“Because you realized that she was somebody special and that you could trust her with your life.”
Lee quickly glanced up, watching his boss leaning in the doorway. “Hey Billy,” he mumbled, not feeling very chatty at the moment.
“So, what’s got Amanda all upset? Did you two have a fight? Lee, I know you two are involved and it’s hard to separate work from your personal life, but you have to try. For both of your sakes.”
“Billy, you just don’t get it! Birol took Amanda and used her to get to me. She was in danger all because I got her involved at the train station that day. Damn it, she has a family who needs her more than anything. I’ve watched them for the past three years and I see how she keeps that house together. What would happen to them if she wasn’t there to bake cookies, coach softball, and kiss away their injuries. I grew up without that and I’d never wish that on anyone. Especially those two boys.” Lee surprised himself with the fierceness in his voice.
“What about you, Lee? You need her too. I can’t believe how much you’ve changed in those same three years. You’re a much better person and agent and we have Amanda to thank for that. For some reason, you let her into your life, and she changed you for the better. I’ve pushed the two of you together and I take full credit for your relationship. Can you sit here and tell me that you wish you never would’ve saw Amanda that day? That these past few years never happened?”
“Of course not, Billy! I love her so much it hurts inside! I’ve never felt this way about anyone in my entire life. I need to be near her, I need to hear her laugh, smell her perfume, and hold her hand. Unfortunately, her first devotion should be to her family and if she can’t see that I need to make her see it. I’m a grown man who can survive on my own, but there are two young boys who can’t. Their father left them because his work was more important than they were. They shouldn’t have to go through that twice.”
Billy looked over at Lee who looked so torn. Realizing that there’s something else on Scarecrow’s mind, Billy pushed a little further.
“Lee, you say you can survive on your own, but at what cost? Won’t seeing her everyday just tear you apart? You know Amanda loves her job and even if she would leave the Agency, could you really refrain from driving past her house, following her around town?”
A look of regret quickly passed over Lee’s face and he quietly voiced his request. “You’re right, Billy. I wouldn’t be able to stay away from her. Which is why I’d like a transfer. Anywhere but here.”
“WHAT? Lee, you can’t be serious. You are a great agent and my best friend so I’ll tell you that you’re making the biggest mistake of your life by letting her go.”
“I know, Billy. I know. This is just something that I have to do. I’d like the first thing that opens up.” Lee gave one last look at his boss, then left the office before Billy could see the tears that were starting to fall.
That night Lee sat in his apartment trying to find a way to tell Amanda how he felt. Expressing his feelings were never his strong point, although he’d gotten much better since meeting Amanda. She brought out the best in him and he’d be forever grateful for the time they had together. For once he didn’t turn to the Scotch bottle that called to him for comfort. Getting drunk wasn’t going to diminish the hurt, just make it worse.
Lee thought back to the Stemwinder case. It seemed as awful as those days were, he’d never exchange them for anything. During that case, a closeness had been born between him and Amanda, and not just because they had made love.
That thought quickly made Lee aware of what exactly he was giving up. Amanda had knocked down many of his personal barriers in that small apartment and he was extremely grateful for that. He never had the intention of making love to her, but it seemed only natural to comfort her in that way. He sensed her nervousness and had slowly and gently brought her to bliss over and over. He had never experienced anything like that in all his years. It was at that time, he finally understood the differences between having sex and making love. His skin tingled as he could almost feel her warm hands gliding gently over his body. They had fit perfectly together and neither one regretted it for an instance.
In the weeks following that case, it had been increasingly harder to keep from making love to her again. But he had promised himself that he would treat her with respect and admiration and not use sex as a way to express those emotions. Communication, as Amanda said, was everything in a relationship. That didn’t mean they didn’t kiss or touch. In fact, Lee had become quite aware of what kissing and touching could do to a man. It made everything seem so much more intense.
As he was starting to waver on his decision, a snapshot of Amanda and the boys caught his eye. She had given it to him as a sign of her love. Seeing the trusting faces of Phillip and Jamie, he knew what he had to do.
The following morning as Billy reached his office, he found the official Request for Transfer form, waiting for his signature. He could always deny it, but that wouldn’t help anybody. He quickly scribbled his name on the bottom and prayed for his favorite team, who were no longer.
It took a few days for the request to go through and be approved. Finally, Lee was offered a transfer to New York with a beginning assignment overseas.
“Billy, it’s exactly what I need. I’ll be too busy to worry and think about her and she won’t be able to contact me,” Lee explained to a somber Billy.
“Lee, what are you going to tell her? She’s going to lose it. Something tells me that Amanda can only be so understanding and compassionate.”
“Um, well….actually I was hoping you could…..”
“Absolutely not! No way! I’m not doing your dirty work for you, Scarecrow. You want to lose the best thing that ever happened to you, fine, but I want no part in it,” Billy yelled, hoping to knock some sense into his best agent.
Which is why it dumbfounded him an hour later as he watched Lee exit the bullpen for the last time.
Billy looked down at his shaking hands and grimaced at the letter to Amanda he was holding along with papers for some of Lee’s retirement money to be given to her, and a promise to Lee that he’d tell her. ‘Damn he’s good.’
Billy knew he had to break the news to her, but didn’t quite know who to handle it. In all his years, this was one of the toughest things he’d have to do.
Later that afternoon, Lee glanced around at his apartment remembering all the women he had dined and entertained. However, only the housewife from Arlington and their many dinners stuck out in his mind. Lee grabbed his bags and shut the apartment door. At the sound of the click, Lee’s heart broke, knowing he was shutting the door on his life with Amanda as well.
Wiping a lone tear from his eye, and with a muttered ‘Damn’, Lee headed
out to begin the drive to New York.
Brought back to the present by Amanda stirring in her sleep, Lee was paralyzed by the fact that it wasn’t a dream and that his Amanda was here, in his apartment. He quickly moved to the edge of the bed and sat down, careful not to wake her.
He tried to fight the urge to touch her, but it was useless. His shaking fingers gently rubbed her forehead, letting them lead the course through her soft, brown hair.
Amanda felt a zap of electricity in her deep slumber and wondered what caused it. She slowly moved from the deep stages of sleep to realize that she was not alone. Quickly remembering where she was, she opened her eyes to find herself staring into a pair of hazel eyes that held the look of surprise, regret, and love. That last emotion gave her hope.
She smiled and stood up to face him. He followed suit and soon they were standing face to face. They both were trying to capture each feature of the other, trying to see the little things that time had changed.
Amanda took a deep breath. “Hi.”
“Umm, I hope you don’t mind but I straightened up a little. I’m not sure if you spend much of your time here, but I got here and you weren’t home, so I kinda picked the lock and let myself in. I just started out picking up a few things and then I realized that I might as well do the full thing. I know that bachelors like to have their home looked lived in but this was ridicu…..” Amanda’s voiced stopped as Lee pulled her into his warm, welcoming embrace.
“Oh God, Amanda, I’ve missed you so much.” Lee felt as if he couldn’t hold her tight enough. He ran his hands down from her shoulders until he grasped her hands. Pulling them up to his mouth, he was going to kiss them until he saw the glimmer of a diamond solitaire.
Fear and confusion settled in, “Amanda, what that hell is that?” he asked, pointing to the third finger on her left hand.
“Amanda, I asked you a question. And I’d like the truth,” Lee spoke with a bit of harshness in his voice.
Looking into the hazel eyes that she trusted with her life, Amanda knew that she owed Lee an honest answer. Amanda lifted up her left hand and twisted the ring that she had never really gotten used to seeing on her finger. “This is my engagement ring.” A short and simple answer.
“You’re engaged?” Lee asked, astonished at the fact. Not because some other man found Amanda attractive, caring, and funny – because in his deepest heart of hearts he wished Amanda would never give another man the gift that she gave him those few years ago. “Who is he? Do I know him? How long have you known him? What does he do? Is he good to the boys? How are the boys? And your mother?”
Amanda laughed, “You sound like me. Take a deep breath and I’ll explain everything.” She moved away from the temptation of the bed and settled on the couch. ‘Take it slow. Don’t scare him off,’ she told herself as she prepared to tell her story.
Lee followed her over to the couch, but couldn’t sit next to her. Just seeing her again started his blood pumping to certain parts of his anatomy and he didn’t want her to know how she still affected him. “I’m listening.” He lowered himself on to an easy chair.
“Well, his name is Brian and we’ve been dating for about eight months. We met at the library where he works and he asked me out to dinner. I accepted and actually had an ok time. He’s a few years older than I am and he’s never been married. It felt so weird in the beginning. I had to remind myself that I was free. Every time we went out, I kept looking for you – waiting for you to come out of the shadows and act jealous, claim me as yours. Obviously, it never happened.”
“Amanda, I….” Lee tried to interrupt.
“No, don’t talk. You need to listen to me.” Amanda made sure she had Lee’s attention before she continued. “He’s a nice guy. Kind of reminds me of the pre-Lee Amanda. Quiet, shy, down to earth. He treats me well. Mother and the boys love him. Mother more so because she can get first crack at the new romance novels that come into the library before they’re put out. And the boys don’t have to worry about overdue fines,” she grimaced, not believing that she was talking about library books.
“You’re engaged to a librarian? What kind of job is that for a grown man?” Lee laughed, picturing a stick thin man with gray hair, glasses, and a pocket protector.
“Damn it, Lee Stetson, do not make jokes! Brian is more of a man than you’ll ever be! He doesn’t run away from things and he doesn’t make his friends to his dirty work for him!” Amanda yelled, her voice filled with hurt and anger.
Lee sat in shock at hearing Amanda’s outburst. He had hardly ever heard her swear and she usually fought with silence. “I’m sorry, Amanda. Please continue.”
Willing the tears not to fall, she turned her head and continued. “Brian has a stable job, a nice house, and he has always put my needs first. He’s taught Phillip about computers, he’s taken Mother to garden shows, and he’s helped Jamie with numerous science fair projects. Not because he has to, but because he wants to. Because he likes spending time with my family. Anyway, he proposed to me two months ago. I accepted because it was the right decision. Sure, I may not be head over heels in love with him, but look where that’s gotten me in the past – two men who ran away.”
“I didn’t run away, Amanda!” Lee tried to protest, but Amanda was ready for him.
“No? You don’t think so, do you? You have no idea how I felt those weeks after Nightcrawler. You wouldn’t touch me, kiss me, talk to me. Then one day you’re gone. And you ran so fast and so far that you didn’t even have the time to tell me! Don’t tell me you didn’t run away – you did! That’s what you always do. Run when things start getting serious. When things don’t go your way. It’s the easy way out for you.” Amanda could no longer hold back the tears that filled her eyes. Slowly, one by one, they began to slide down her smooth cheek.
Lee knew the worst thing for him to do at that moment was to touch her. His whole body screamed for him to hold her so it could feel her softness again. “I’m sorry, Amanda. I know I didn’t do things right back then but I’m sorry.”
Amanda looked up and saw someone she hadn’t seen in a long time. Scarecrow. Not Lee, the man whom she fell in total love with. The hard-nosed agent who begged for her help that autumn day at the train station. “Sorry doesn’t cut it anymore, Scarecrow. I’ve learned a lot these past years. Sorry is just a word. Just because someone says their sorry doesn’t mean that they really are. It’s a word that you throw out a lot. You used it a lot back when I first met you – you’d yell and put me down then come back later with an impersonal ‘I’m sorry.’ There are other ways of apologizing, ways to show that a person really means it.”
He couldn’t believe that this woman sitting on his couch was the same Amanda King who he knew back in DC. The brown of her eyes lost their sparkle, she didn’t automatically smile when she finished talking. She was harder, more wary of people. And, as much as he hated to admit it, he made her this way. “Amanda, you spent your whole life watching and waiting for ‘happily ever after’, why are you settling for this Ben guy?”
“Brian. His name is Brian. That’s right, Lee. I’ve spent my whole life waiting. I thought I had that fairy tale twice before in life. Never again will I follow with my heart and not my head. This marriage to Brian makes perfect sense. The boys get a male influence and Mother gets a man around the house to do the handiwork.” Amanda tried to figure out why she was defending Brian, when the real reason she was here in New York was to try to get Lee back. She didn’t have an answer. They had too much to figure out.
“What about you, Amanda? What do you get out of this?” Lee rose up from the chair and made his way to the couch. He could almost feel the magnetic field drawing him over to her.
“I get a partner. Someone who I can come home to and share my day with, go to a movie with, eat dinner with. Someone who when it’s cold outside can cuddle with me and keep me warm. Not to mention a stable home environment, another paycheck, and a friend. That’s what I get,” she explained.
Just the thought of Amanda snuggled with someone else, making love to someone else, drove Lee to frustration. Quickly deciding to change the subject, Lee asked, “If you needed money, why didn’t you use the check I gave you?”
“How do you know….”
“The company who runs the Agency’s retirement fund called about a year or so ago wondering why the check was never cashed. I wanted to help you out, Amanda,” he whispered, sitting down next to her on the couch.
“I didn’t want your money, Lee, I wanted you!” Amanda shut her mouth, realizing what she just said. She didn’t want Lee to see her vulnerable and that admission didn’t help.
“I wanted you too, Amanda. Truly. I left that money for you so you wouldn’t have to rush into another job. I knew you wouldn’t stay at the Agency, and I was right. Billy told me you didn’t even need a day to make that decision. What did you do? Where are you working now?”
Amanda knew this conversation was taking a new turn, and she tried to forecast where Lee was leading with it. She really had to watch her step to make sure that she wasn’t being led into a discussion where she’d lose her hold on her emotions. She needed to let Lee know exactly where she stood. “I work for a temporary agency now. I have since you left. I didn’t want to grow accustomed to any one place, or one person.”
Amanda knew she hit a sore spot when Lee’s eyes flickered with regret. ‘That’s right, Amanda, slowly get him to lower his defenses.’ She had to break through to the Lee that fell in love with her before going for broke.
“Well, you obviously became accustomed to Bob, didn’t you?” Lee accused. He stood up and tried to figure out exactly why Amanda was here, and he needed her to tell him, not for him to ask.
Amanda sighed and stood up, “It’s Brian. Not Bob. And yes, I suppose I am comfortable with him. Why?” Amanda challenged, standing toe to toe with Lee.
Lee noticed the look of defiance in her eyes and slowly realized that the Amanda King he knew and loved was slowly coming to surface. He could always read her eyes, and they were still as expressive today as ever. “Because I can’t see Amanda King settling for a shy librarian who does nothing for her physically.” Lee returned her challenging look.
Amanda knew she was threading into dangerous territory, but she had to stand up for herself. She wouldn’t let Lee take over and she couldn’t back down from his taunting gaze. “How do you know how Brian affects me? You haven’t seen me in three years. Maybe I’ve changed.”
“Oh no, no, no. I know you, Amanda. I know you better than anyone else. You need danger in your life.” Lee took a baby step towards her and they were thigh to thigh. “You want the intrigue.” He put his hands on her slim hips. “You desire passion.” He pulled her into the V of his legs. “You want the feelings and touches that we shared during Stemwinder every night of your life.”
Amanda was dazed and confused. She was slowly losing the battle with her emotions and she was trying desperately to hang on to control. But just being this close to him was scrambling her brain. Hearing him whisper her true needs, wants, and desires awakened parts of her that have been dormant for so long. She looked up and saw desire in his eyes and she was sure that it matched the look in her eyes.
Lee knew that this was wrong, but he couldn’t make himself push her away. Just staring into her eyes, he saw her passion being reawakened. He had to push her. It was the only way. Pulling her even closer to him, he softly said, “You want all of that, don’t you? You haven’t even made love since we did, have you?”
Amanda didn’t respond.
“C’mon Manda, you can’t deny it, can you?”
“No, I can’t,” she admitted.
“That’s why you’re here, right? You want all of that, and you want it with me. Admit it.”
“Yes, Lee, I admit it. I want you.”
He took one step away from her and looked directly into Amanda’s eyes and tried to fight the urge to lower his lips to hers. Now that he knew why she was here, he was slightly upset. “So that’s why you’re here? For one last fling before you marry Bert…Bill….whatever the hell his name is. I hate to disappoint you, but I’m not interested,” he spat out. Even though he was angry, blood rushed to a part of his anatomy that hadn’t seen any action in a long, long time.
Amanda felt as if she’d been slapped. The look of disgust that was etched across Lee’s handsome face scared her and she almost missed the connotation of his words. ‘One last fling….’
“Lee, you got it all wrong. I’m here because…”
“Please spare me any sob stories about how you need to do this to put our relationship to end or how you need to sow your wild oats before tying the knot. I may have been interested in casual sex years ago, but not any more. As a matter of fact, you’re not the only one who’s been living the lonely life. I won’t allow myself to be used to satisfy some last minute hunger.”
Amanda laughed at his statement. Laughed aloud and the sound of her musical voice took Lee’s heart and squeezed it. “That’s really funny, Lee. I’m sure it’s really tough for you to be living in New York and living like a monk. Don’t your looks attract the women out here? Or did the time we were together dull your charm and make you forget your pickup lines? And as far as using people, now you know how I felt when you left. I felt used and cheated. I’m not sure why you needed me back then, obviously it wasn’t for sex, or was it just convenient for you? By dating your partner, you didn’t have to think up any stories or explanations.”
Lee’s anger simmered at the edge of outrage. Amanda had no idea what she was talking about and she was making him out to be the bad guy. She was ignoring the fact that she had basically propositioned him. “You make it sound as if it was easy for me to date you. My past relationships always knew where they stood. We were just out for some fun. Then you come along and bam! I was head over heels in love with you and I couldn't even tell people. You were the one who grew up with a loving family, not me. Your love created two sons. That was all new to me and you’re calling in convenient? You’ve obviously forgotten all the sneaking around, interruptions, and how our relationship put both of us in increased danger. What’s convenient about all of that?”
Lee was proud that he’d managed to turn the tables around. He’d be damned if he’d take all the blame. A small corner in the back of his mind alerted him to the fact that what he just said had almost nothing to do with why Amanda was here.
“I was always there for you. How many times did you call me the day of some kind of party asking me to go with you because it ‘wouldn’t look right’ for you to go alone. Showing up at my house telling me to pack in 15 minutes for some sort of trip. I’d say that was damned convenient.” Taking a deep breath, Amanda needed to explain the real reason that she was here. “Lee, I’m here because I need to know where things stand between us. I need to know if there’s a chance for us.”
Lee was taken aback by what Amanda had just said. She wasn’t just looking for a last fling, she wanted to know if there was a future for them. The only thing was, he didn’t know what to tell her. “What about Brad?”
“It’s Brian. He’s a really great guy and I owe him a lot. He’s helped me deal with a lot of emotions these last months. Indirectly, of course. If he knew that he was helping your case instead of his, I doubt he’d be pleased. But that’s the thing. I need to do something for myself. I tried explaining this to Billy when he told me you were gone. I’ve lived my entire life for others; my parents, Joe, the boys, and you. Everyone seemed to care about my feelings, but deep down they just wanted me to be there for them. I’m doing this because I still believe that you are my one chance at true happiness. If you tell me that you couldn’t possibly love me anymore, then I’ll go home and become Mrs. Brian Hill. As much as I’m doing this for me, I still want Mother and the boys to be happy, also.”
“It’s not that black and white, Amanda. Our relationship, both professional and personal, was very complicated. And I’m sure you think that it was real easy for me to walk away, I can assure you it wasn’t. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what my days would be like if I would’ve stayed in DC. Stayed with you. Met your family. Married you.”
Amanda was focused on those last words. “Oh, that reminds me. I have something for you.” Amanda got up and walked to the counter where her purse was. She opened it and pulled out the blue box with the white ribbon. She held it for a few seconds then tossed it over to Lee. “I believe you forgot this when you packed.”
Fortunately his reflexes were good, and he caught the box in flight. He didn’t have to open it to know what it was. He had spent hours in Tiffany’s looking for the perfect ring for his love. Nothing too big or too small. He had wanted a traditional diamond on a band of yellow gold. After going through about a hundred rings, he had decided on this one. It was about a half karat, but brilliant in color and quality. That was one of the things he had learned from Amanda – it’s what ‘s on the inside that counts.
Truth be told, he was a little surprised that she still had it. It wouldn’t have surprised him if she’d thrown it into the ocean or something as far fetched. Something about a woman scorned, maybe? He got up and put the box on the bookcase, looking at Amanda from across the room. She really hadn’t changed all that much, At least not on the outside.
“Would you like a glass of wine, Amanda?” Lee moved into the kitchen and pulled out a bottle of wine. He needed something to keep him occupied and he really could use something to ease his nerves.
Amanda looked at Lee as he opened the bottle. She was getting tired, but didn’t want to stop talking. Once they stopped, who knows if they would reach this far again tomorrow? ‘Just keep it going.’ “Sure, I’d love a glass.”
Lee poured the amber liquid into two glasses and gave one to her. They lifted their glasses in a silent toast and took a drink.
He leaned against the counter and asked, “So, where do we go from here?”
Amanda didn’t know how to answer this loaded question. She still didn’t want to force the subject, and she still had a lot of questions. Best go for broke. “Well, you said that it wasn’t easy for you to leave. I guess I’d like to know why you did it then?”
Not really surprised by the question, Lee was, however, surprised in the blunt way in which Amanda asked. ‘She has definitely changed on the inside,’ he thought, not quite sure if he liked the change or not. “You’re right, it wasn’t easy. Amanda, the first thing that I thought of when I realized that Birol had taken you was that I couldn’t live without you if something happened to you. How would I continue working when everything reminded me of you? I blamed myself for putting you in that dangerous situation to begin with. And not only that day. From that October morning at the train station. I never should have gotten you involved with the Agency in the first place. My entire world was spinning out of control and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Both Billy and McJohn were too worried to pull me off the case. That way they could at least keep an eye on me. As soon as that case was closed, I was going to propose to you. Flowers, candles, a nice dinner. The works. Then after you were taken, I realized that I might never have a chance to tell you how I felt. I was so scared and I wanted to be near you. That’s why I went to your house.”
“And you met Mother? She was really surprised that you came over that day. She still talks about it. Did it help you? Did it make you feel closer to me?” Amanda had sidestepped around Dotty’s questions for weeks after Lee’s visit. She didn’t want to give a truthful answer, so she avoided the conversation. Even to this day, she couldn’t picture Lee having a calm conversation about her disappearance with her mother. She heard the stories on how Lee acted when she was in danger. They weren’t pretty.
“Yes. Yes, it did. But it also brought back to my attention that you had two small boys that depended on you. Here I was, responsible for your abduction, and I could think of nothing else except how my life would be if you weren’t in it. After looking around your house that day, I called myself every name in the book. I realized that Phillip and Jamie would be devastated if they lost you. I was a grown man who could take care of himself and I was putting my needs in front of theirs. Amanda, you know I grew up without parents. I would never, ever wish that on anyone. Especially your boys. They needed you then. And they need you now.”
Lee looked over at her in tense apprehension, waiting for her lecture. But it never came. In fact, she looked at him as though she was seeing him for the first time.
Amanda had never heard more wonderful words spoken before. As soon as she realized that he left because of Phillip and Jamie, she knew that she had him. “Oh Lee, that’s the sweetest thing…..”
Lee broke her response. “What? I was a selfish bastard and you’re calling it sweet?”
“Listen, Lee, you put the needs of my sons before yours. And I know what that cost you. You were used to being the object of my attention when we were together. Sure, I talked about the boys and everything, but we were all never together. By having you admit they needed me, you also realized that you would have to share me. Something I’m sure Scarecrow was not used to. So you did what came naturally; you ran away.” Amanda took a deep breath, ready to go in for the kill. And by the look in Lee’s hazel eyes, she was going to emerge from all of this a winner in love. “But you need to understand one more thing, the most important aspect of all this. Their father never put their needs in front of his. He left us because I wouldn’t put his needs above the boys’. That angered him and he left. Sure, you left too, but you left because you put their needs in front of yours. Nobody has ever done that for me and now I realize what a great father and husband you’re going to make.”
“Father? Husband? Have you forgotten that you’re engaged to Bruce?” Somehow this conversation had taken a turn and nobody gave Lee the new map. He was confused, flustered, and absolutely terrified of what she was saying.
“I was only engaged to Brian because I was going to settle for second
best. Now that I know why you left and your reasoning, I now know that
we can have a future together. That is, if you want to have a future with
me. Lee, the boys are almost out of school. Soon they’ll be heading off
for college and I’ll be home alone. I want someone there to share my life
with. Mother’s going to be moving in with Curt soon and I’ll have the house
to myself. I’d like to share it with you. I want to marry you and have
a family of our own.” She pulled off Brian’s ring and set it down. Amanda
walked to the bookcase and took the other ring out of its’ blue box. She
held it out towards Lee. “What do you say? Will you give me my ‘happily
“Amanda, there are things that you don’t understand. It’s not just as simple as putting that ring back on your finger. I’ve changed in these past few years and you may not like the man that I am now.”
Amanda placed the ring on the scarred coffee table and turned to face Lee. His shoulders were hunched over and she could tell that he was struggling with his true feelings. She longed to go over to him and put her arms around him and make it all better like she did with the boys.
“Lee, I’ve always tried to be there for you. I know you’ve been alone these past few years but I’m here now and I’d like to help you. You couldn’t have changed that much and I’m sure I could bring out the Lee Stetson of old.”
“I’m not sure if he exists anymore. When I came to New York I tried to start fresh. I couldn’t let myself rethink my decisions. That’s why I went overseas – there was nothing over there that reminded me of you. That was the hardest case I’d ever been on. It was painful; both physically and emotionally. I came so close to death more than once and the only thing that went through my mind was wondering if you’d ever find out. Thinking about you was the only thing that kept me going. Then I’d remember that I wouldn’t be coming home to you and I’d punish myself.”
“Lee, you could’ve always come home to me. I begged and pleaded with Billy to tell me where you were or how you were doing during those first few months. After no word, I finally let myself come to terms with you leaving. I’m not saying that I accepted it, just that I pushed it aside because it hurt so badly. I would wonder if you were doing ok. After that year was up and I still didn’t hear back from you, I concentrated on getting my life back on track. It was hard, but I managed. I had always expected you to come back and say you couldn’t live without me.”
Lee watched as a lone tear fell down Amanda’s cheek. It broke his heart to hear her verbalize what he feared. She had waited for him and then had given up on him. ‘What did you expect, Stetson?’ he asked himself. To be honest, he was surprised Amanda wasn’t already married. Which brought him to the present and why she was here. She was getting married to someone else. Jealousy ripped him apart on the inside. She was supposed to have been his wife.
“Amanda, can you honestly say that if I had come back to you a year later you would’ve welcomed me with open arms?”
Amanda looked directly into those hazel eyes that were greener than usual. “Yes.”
It was a mere whisper but Lee heard it. He could not even guess what it had cost Amanda to reveal that three-letter answer. She was looking at him as if waiting for him to challenge her answer. Even he knew that it would be a waste of time to do so.
“I’m sorry, Amanda.” Lee could almost hear his heart pounding. He knew that apologizing no where near communicated what he felt, but he had to say it. For someone who had spent the last three years pushing everyone away and being alone, his emotions were sure getting their workout.
At hearing Lee’s voice, Amanda’s heart fell to her feet. It sounded so painful, so full of regret. It was as if he was saying he was sorry for pushing her away again. ‘He really doesn’t want me.’
“No, I’m sorry for barging in here like this. I’ll be getting out of your way as soon as I change into my shirt. I won’t be but a minute.” Amanda walked over to the bed and snatched up her blouse and carried it into the bathroom. She quietly shut the door and began to change.
Lee stared at the closed bathroom door, cursing that Amanda had entered into his private space once again. Now, everything in this damned apartment would remind him of her and the past three years of trying to forget will have gone down the toilet. He jerked as the door opened and he saw a glimpse of creamy white skin as Amanda was pulling her shirt down. He closed his eyes at the quick memory that came to mind. It was the same perfect stomach that he had caressed and kissed in that small, dingy apartment during Stemwinder. They had made love until the sun had come up. At that thought, his jeans became a little smaller in a certain area.
He tried to find his voice. “Uh…Um…” It wasn’t working.
“Don’t worry, Lee. I’ll let you get some sleep.” Amanda pulled on her coat and reached into her pockets to pull out her gloves when she came in contact with the envelope from Billy. “Oh, I almost forgot. Here, Billy wanted me to deliver this to you.” She held out the envelope and their hands accidentally brushed as he grabbed for it. A spark of electricity shot up their arms and they stared at each other until Lee broke the connection and opened the envelope.
Lee was trying to figure out what could Billy have possibly wanted to give him that he had had Amanda deliver it. He unfolded the piece of paper and read the words. Then re-read them. And then he read them a third time. In Billys’ printing was the answer that he’d been trying to find since he found Amanda curled up in his bed. “Don’t waste a second chance at true love. You may not get another. B”
“Wait!” The word was out of Lee’s mouth before he knew it. Amanda was just about ready to shut the door and stopped in her tracks. “Please come back and let’s talk.”
Amanda followed his instructions and sat down on a counter stool. For a second there, she really thought Lee was going to let her go. She was relieved that he stopped her. “Well…..?”
“I’m not sure where to start. I guess I need to first tell you that I’ve changed a lot. It may not seem like it, but I have. I’ve become colder. Harder. I’m the old Lee, minus all the women.”
“I don’t believe you. I think you….”
“Amanda, listen to me! I’ve changed and don’t try to tell me otherwise.”
“If you just tell me what you’re feeling I can help you. I’ll help you search and discover all the answers. Just tell me what you’re feeling.” Amanda walked over to him and reached out to touch his forearm.
“That’s just it,” he cried. “I don’t feel anymore. What kind of person can I be if I don’t feel anything?”
Lee was sorry he’d said the words as soon as they left his mouth. He was sure Amanda would pull away and he’d see dislike and disgust in her eyes. But he didn’t. There was only softness and sadness there, and gentleness in her touch.
“If you don’t feel anything, then why am I still here?” she asked.
“Because I’m scared to let you go again.” How could he make her understand?
“At least you’re feeling something.”
Her words almost made sense to him. That was scary. At one point in the past he was the only one who could decipher Amanda’s words. He looked out the window and saw couples walking under the moonlight, holding hands. He was lost in the shadows of the past few years.
He turned around and faced Amanda. All he could see was love and understanding. Hell, it even made him feel human. He didn’t feel cold and unloving when he was with her.
“When I was younger I was proud not to have feelings. It made me a damn good agent. Now, it just feels lonely,” he confessed.
“It doesn’t have to be. You just have to let someone in. You have to reach out to someone and let them hold you. Everything else will come,” she explained, hoping he would see the light. “Let that someone be me.”
“I want that, Amanda. I want you. But life isn’t all about what I want. We have the boys and your mother that play into all this, too. I don’t want them to get hurt.”
“I don’t want that either, however I’ll be hurt if I leave here without you. Do you want that?”
“Of course not! I don’t want anyone to get hurt. And no matter how this turns out, someone will get hurt.” Lee sighed, as if willing an all-encompassing solution to seep into his mind.
“Damn it, Lee. What is it going to take to convince you that I want to spend the rest of my life with you? That I want to be your partner, your wife, your lover, and the mother of your children. That I want to make a life with you – one that we can both share. I love you, Lee Stetson, and you’re really getting on my last nerve so just tell me that you love me and kiss me.” Amanda rambled until she was out of breath. She watched Lee walk to her.
“You just did, sweetheart. You just did.” He pulled Amanda into his arms and held her tightly. He bent his head down and touched his lips to hers. Lee was convinced that the voltage of current that raced through their bodies could’ve lit the whole city of New York. “I love you, Amanda. I never stopped loving you. I’ve wanted women in my time and the wanting was easy but I admit it meant nothing. This love that we have is something else. This tears me apart inside and rips at my gut, but not having you is worse than that. Please forgive me.”
“I’ll make you a deal. I’ll forgive you only if you promise to make me the happiest woman on Earth and marry me.” Amanda smiled, pretty sure of Lee’s answer.
“What? Why not?” Amanda wasn’t sure what it was, but she definitely missed something.
Lee pulled the ring out of his pants pocket and dropped to one knee. He took Amanda’s hand and spoke, “Amanda, you are my life. I love you so very much. Will you marry me?”
Realizing that it was male ego that made Lee turn down her proposal, she smiled. “Yes.” She felt the ring being placed on her finger and couldn’t remember a time when she felt so happy.
Lee stood up and kissed her again. He was back and he’d never leave again. This is what life is about, loving someone and being loved. He would be forever grateful for Amanda coming to find him and knock some sense into him. Remembering why she came here in the first place, because of Bart, Lee grimaced.
Amanda was happily chatting about telling her mother and the boys and how happy they would be. Of course, they would wait to marry until the boys and Dotty was comfortable with Lee. Lee tried to grab her attention but to no avail.
“I’m really tired, let’s go to sleep. Then in the morning you can tie up any loose ends here and we’ll head back to DC and tell Mother and the boys.” Amanda pulled him over to the bed and pulled him down beside her. They lay spoon fashion and pulled the comforter up over them.
“Amanda. What about Brian?”
Amanda sighed. “Brian who?”
Amanda stretched lazily and smiled. She had always been one to jump right out of bed when she first woke up. That is, up until four months ago. Now, she always luxuriated in huddling under the covers before beginning her day. It’s amazing what changes have taken place since her wedding to Lee three months ago.
She reached over to wake her sleeping husband, only to find his side of the bed empty except for a small note telling her to stay put until he returned. She sat up and realized she better make a quick trip to the bathroom. She scrambled out of bed and dashed across to the master bath.
She emerged a little while later and rushed back to bed. She didn’t lay back down though, in fear of falling back asleep. According to the alarm clock, it was already past eight. She pushed her pillow up so it cushioned her back as she leaned back against the headboard. As she looked towards the door, waiting for Lee’s return, she focused on the frame that hung to the left of the door. As a one-month anniversary gift, Lee had framed their wedding invitation as well as a card that he had written out to her on that day which had accompanied a dozen yellow roses.
Every time she walked out the door she always glanced over at the frame, as if to verify that her and Lee were actually married. The card that was centered under the invitation was rumpled and had numerous tears dried on it. Nonetheless, Lee had incorporated it into the collection. A dried yellow rose was also in the frame. She remembered how she read the words on the card and cried, having to start all over with her makeup. She had read the card until it was memorized. She recited it softly -
So here I am asking your forgiveness
And praying that you'll understand
Don't think that I take you for granted
I know just how lucky I am
And though you deserve so much better
You'll never find devotion more true
I've had the best of intentions loving you
That day was perfect from beginning to end. It was a celebration and a time to relax from the tense months that preceded it. They returned to DC two days after Amanda entered Lee’s apartment. Amanda had called her mother and said that she’d be home in a few days and to be ready for some surprises.
The first thing they did when they had arrived back in town was head to visit Billy. To say that he was speechless was an understatement. They had laughed later wishing they had a camera when they walked into the Bullpen.
Her and Lee had discussed their jobs and had come to the conclusion that Amanda would continue her role as a temporary employee and Lee would find a way out of the field. They had given the request to Billy and it had only taken a few days to find Lee a new job as an Agency instructor. It wasn’t quite a desk job, but he wasn’t running all over the city either.
Of course, when they arrived home Dotty had the front door opened before they had exited the Jeep. She rushed out to greet them and was shocked to see Lee. She had never seen him since that day he visited and was confused as to why he was with Amanda. They had called the boys down and had a long discussion about everything. Amanda explained how she had worked with Lee back when she was at IFF and how they had dated for a while. Lee had owned up to the fact that he had left town for another job because he was scared of his relationship with Amanda.
All in all, the whole night went pretty well. Until the topic of Brian had come up. It was actually Phillip who’d asked what Brian had said. Both Lee and Amanda had skirted around the topic until confessing that he didn’t know yet. Lee had offered to go with Amanda the next day and speak to him, but she declined, stating that it was something that she had to do on her own.
The next day she had gone over to Brian’s house and broken their engagement. He didn’t seem too surprised, and had said that he had been having second thoughts for a while. According to him, Amanda was too independent. That she always had to be doing something and wasn’t content to stay at home. He said she wasn’t “normal”. She had actually laughed aloud at that accusation. Who would’ve thought that Amanda King wasn’t “normal”.
In the months following their return, the entire household had worked on building a new family. Lee took Dotty to dinner weekly, played ball with Phillip on Saturday mornings and took Jamie to museums on Sunday afternoons. He really liked his new job and was almost able to be there for supper every night. He had rented an apartment on a six-month lease and it was in January that they had set their wedding date.
Amanda had been much more interested in planning that wedding than the one that she had been planning a mere six months earlier. They had decided to keep it small; just family and close friends. It had been a beautiful April day and it was one of the most wonderful days of their lives. They pledged their love to each and promised to keep the lines of communication open.
That had been three months ago and they were still living the good life. Lee was the perfect husband – attentive, loving, compassionate, caring, and helpful. He had also taken the role of stepfather to new heights. Everyone loved having him in the house and he reveled in that fact.
A sound brought Amanda out of her daydream and smiled as Lee entered their room carrying a tray.
“Good morning, sweetheart. Did you sleep well?” He leaned over and greeted her with a soft kiss.
“Yes, I did. Once I got to sleep that is,” she joked. They had made love last night in a slow and steady manner and it had been wonderful.
“Well, if I’m not mistaken I wasn’t the only one keeping us up.” Lee placed the tray over her lap.
Amanda looked at the pancakes, bacon, blueberry muffin, and orange juice and heard her stomach grumble. It reminded her that their supper had gotten interrupted last night. She had made Lee a nice supper and when she told him the news; he carried her upstairs and left the roast beef downstairs.
“Mmmm, this looks so yummy. You didn’t make it, did you?”
“Hey! Ok, so I’m not a great breakfast cook. But you’re right, Dotty helped me. I wanted to celebrate our three month anniversary and our little miracle in style.” Lee placed his hand on Amanda’s tummy. Their honeymoon had proved to be the source of this little miracle that was set to make his or her appearance just before Christmas.
“Thank you. It’s wonderful and so are you. I love you and I thank God everyday that you gave us another chance. I promise to be the best wife anyone could want.”
“Your welcome. I’m just as thankful that you hunted me down and forced me to confront my true feelings. You are already the best wife because you’re mine. And I just hope that I’ll be as good of a father as you are a mother.” Lee kissed her again.
“I know you will. No matter what happens in the future, we’ll instill the need for love and the need to be loved in our children. Let’s eat, I’m starving.” Amanda smiled and picked up a piece of bacon.