Read My Lips

Author: Kim C.

Disclaimer: 'Scarecrow and Mrs. King' belongs to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. I am simply borrowing them, with due respect to their creators, for a short duration. I am not making a profit from this story.

Rating: PG-13

Timeline: Third season, shortly before 'All the World's a Stage.'

Summary: Amanda finds it necessary to prove her capability to her dubious partner.

Archive: SMKfanfic and Blue Boxers and Beyond have blanket permission to archive anything I submit here. Anywhere else, please ask me first.

Author's Note: This is a reworked story. Someone suggested that I rewrite one of my old stories, 'Kissing Lessons.' At first, I didn't want to do it, but the more I thought about it, I started to think it might be fun. And Now a Word of Gratitude: To my wonderful betas, who push me to improve and stretch my limits with every story I write.

Feedback: Yes, please.

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Amanda King watched as her partner, Lee Stetson, paced back and forth in their Section Chief's office. She dearly wished the chair she was sitting in would swallow her up. The blue vein in Lee's neck was pulsing at a dangerous rate, and he was clenching and unclenching his hands as he spoke.

"I just don't think it's a good idea," he stated insistently. "And as Amanda's partner and *superior*, I should have a say in all of this."

Billy Melrose sighed deeply, opening his desk drawer to retrieve a folder. "Here's Logan's dossier." He handed it to Lee and then sat back into his chair, his gaze following the younger man with a mixture of exasperation and amusement.

Scowling, Lee flipped through the file, studied the photo inside, and snorted in disgust. He tossed the folder onto the chair next to Amanda. Placing his hands on the desk and leaning over it, he said, "Billy, this is crazy. You can't expect Amanda to . . . to pull off this assignment. Get someone else. Get Francine; she's *good* at this kind of thing."

Amanda felt her cheeks become warm with indignation. "And I couldn't be?" She heard her own voice quaver with resentment. He was talking about her as though she weren't even there.

Lee shook his head, turning around to look at her for a long moment. "Come on, Amanda; that's not what I'm saying." He spoke gently now, almost condescendingly, but she could hear his underlying frustration.

"Yes, it is. You said . . . "

"Amanda . . . "

"Both of you, please!" Billy interjected, holding his hands up in a call for a truce. "Lee, Amanda has accepted the assignment. As I've already told you, Francine isn't available; she's still working on the Andover case. Amanda is your partner, and besides, you'll be at the party with her."

Lee's eyes bore into Amanda's in silent accusation, apparently having heard no further than the fact that she'd accepted the case. "You accepted the assignment?"

"Yes, Lee," she affirmed stiffly, smoothing nonexistent wrinkles from her gray skirt. "I really don't understand why you're getting so upset about it."

He closed his mouth, still staring at her. "I'm getting 'upset' because I dont think you're ready for an assignment of this magnitude."

"Magnitude?" Billy chuckled, reaching for his coffee. "It's a simple case, Lee. All she has to do is distract Mark Logan at the party until you can get up the stairs and into his office. You may need more than a few minutes, and that's why having Amanda there will be helpful. She can keep him busy."

Lee resumed his pacing. "Any female agent could keep him busy. I don't see why you're insisting that it be Amanda."

Billy closed his eyes and rubbed his temples in a circular motion. Patiently, he explained, "I'm not 'insisting' on anything, Scarecrow. We happen to know that Logan has a penchant for brunettes. In fact, Amanda fits the bill perfectly. She's very similar to most of the women that Logan dates. She's the perfect candidate for this job."

Lee's eyes narrowed and he stopped pacing, folding his arms across his chest. "Fine. But as soon as we get what we need, we're leaving. We're not hanging around so that Logan can paw *my* partner all night long."

Without another word, he flung open the door and stormed out of the office. Amanda felt her cheeks flush as her boss looked askance at her. After a moment, he shook his head and finally spoke. "Well. That was quite a show, wasn't it?"

Her mouth was dry, her heart hammering in her ribcage. She'd seen Lee behave jealously before, but this was different - far more intense. His hazel eyes had flashed, and in his voice she'd heard far more agitation than he'd let show.

"I . . . I guess he's just worried about the assignment. You know, about my being able to, uh . . . distract . . . Mr. Logan." She shrugged, unable to say anything more, yet feeling that what she had said was ineffective and flimsy.

Billy was shaking his head. "I don't see how he could doubt your ability to be distracting to a man when he's . . . " He left the thought unfinished, but his implication was obvious.

She felt her face heat up even more; she was sure that by now it was the same shade of red as the blouse she wore. Rising from her chair, she gave him a weak smile. "I'm sorry. I don't know what you're talking about, Sir. If you'll excuse me, I'll just go up and check on Lee."

"Go," he said, his fondness for her betrayed by his brown eyes. "If anyone can calm him down, it's you."

Dreading the confrontation with Lee that was sure to come, she nevertheless made her way up the stairs and boldly entered the Q-Bureau. He was sulking at his desk and didn't look up or acknowledge her.

"Hi," she said softly, closing the door behind her.

He glanced up and then back down at the upside-down report in his hands. "Hello." Stifling a smile, she walked over and sat on the corner of his desk. "Interesting reading?"

Exhaling roughly, he looked up at her. "How could you do that?"

"Do what?" She was struck afresh by his intensity.

"You *know* what." Tossing the profile down on the desktop, he stood, the chair scraping along the floor. "How could you accept an assignment, first of all without talking to me, and secondly, one that requires you to . . . to come on to a guy?"

She frowned slightly. "Sometimes, it's part of my job," she stated evenly. "It's part of your job, too. I've seen you do it often enough. And Billy talked to *me* about the case, Lee, not to *you*. All I have to do is keep Logan occupied while you search his office. I don't see what you're . . . "

"Did you see the file - his picture? Is that why you accepted the assignment?" His annoyance and jealousy were undisguised, and Amanda wondered if he realized it. "Is he that attractive?"

For a moment, she stared at him in dumbfounded silence, but she recovered quickly.

"No! What a ridiculous thing to say!" She glared at him and placed her hands on her hips.

"Well, you were certainly impressed with that . . . that art guy a few months ago," he reminded her accusingly. "What was his name, again . . . Andrew? Alex?" She frowned, taken aback. "Allen?"

"Whatever - the documents expert. Don't think I didn't see your interest written all over your face when you saw his picture." He appeared to be challenging her to deny it.

"'I wonder if that's his own hair,'" he mimicked.

He sounds like a jealous lover, she realized with a shock. Nervous laughter threatened to escape her lips, but she quelled it. She took a deep breath and spoke with more patience than she felt. "What does Allen Chamberlain have to do with this? I can't believe you, Lee. This is just an assignment, nothing more. You're acting like you're . . . you're making a big deal out of nothing."

"A-man-da." He put his hands on her shoulders, shaking his head condescendingly.

"Don't be nave. This kind of thing is way out of your league. Just what do you think 'distracting' him means? You're simply not the type to . . . "

She shrugged off his hands. "To what?" she demanded, her anger growing.

He blinked, as if just realizing how he must sound. "To, uh . . . you know. Well, face it, Amanda, you're not really the . . . " He lowered his voice. " . . . seducing type."

"Not really the sed . . . " Insulted and embarrassed, she bristled and stopped mid-sentence. Did he realize how utterly ridiculous he sounded? How did he know whether she could be seductive or not? What made him think of her as less of a woman than any other? Besides, it wasn't as though she'd ever tried to seduce him, so he had no grounds for making such assumptions.

He stepped back, spreading his hands out in apology. "I didn't mean it in a bad way, Amanda, you know that. It's just that it takes a certain *type* to pull something like that off, and you . . . well, you . . . you're attractive, of course . . . " He paused, clearly regretting having started the conversation in the first place. "Very, uh, attractive . . . but you're just not . . . "

Her eyes met his, willing herself to remain calm. Now she was determined to find out exactly what he thought of her. "Not what, Lee?"

He was suddenly absorbed in picking at a string on the hem of his sports coat.

"Nothing. Forget I brought it up."

Unwilling to let the matter drop, she went on. "Not seductive? Not alluring? Not sexy? Not tempting? What? What am I *not*?"

He flinched at her words and tone, finally yanking the offending thread from his coat. The same hand reached up and loosened the tie at his throat. "No. That's not what I meant, Amanda. You're putting words in my mouth. It's just that . . . "

"So, then, you *do* think of me in those terms." It was a statement rather than a question.

To a degree, she was enjoying his discomfiture. She knew from the way things had been heading lately that he was interested in taking their relationship a step further, and she'd been letting him take things at his own pace. The mild flirting . . . the hand-holding . . . the jealousy - it all told her what he hadn't yet put into words. Whether it was mere curiosity or more, she had yet to find out.

Despite all this, she was just uncertain enough, and she was determined to pursue the matter to her satisfaction.

"Yes. No . . . I mean, yes. I mean . . . " He stopped, and she saw his eyes widen in obvious alarm as she sauntered over to the door and clicked the lock firmly in place.

"I see." Amanda turned back to face him. Slowly and deliberately, she raised her hand and released the comb holding her hair in a French twist.

"Um . . . " He swallowed convulsively, reaching out to his desk to steady himself. "You do?"

"Uh-huh. You just don't think I can be . . . distracting. I understand." Her hair tumbled down and she shook it around her shoulders. Casually unbuttoning the second button of her blouse, she took a step toward him. "Care to prove your theory?"

She was close enough to see the pulse racing in his neck. He reached up and loosened his tie, backing away from her as he did so. "P-prove my theory?"

"Right. Call it research," she whispered. He continued to back away from her as she pursued him at a steady pace across the office. Finally, he wound up with his back against the vault door.

"Research?" he echoed.

Reaching out, she placed her hands on his chest, looking him in the eye. "If I can distract you, I can distract Logan. I mean, you know me so well, but to Logan, I'm just a stranger with unknown capabilities of seduction, right?" Her hands had wandered down to his waistline and were now working their way up to his shoulders.

"I don't think that's really necessary," he began. "The, uh, research, I mean."

"Oh, but it is. I'm your partner, and you need to believe in my abilities, don't you? We need to have complete faith in one another. I don't want you up in Logan's office wondering if he's going to walk in on you, having seen through my ploy to distract him."

As she spoke, she trailed her fingers back down his upper torso.

He cleared his throat and made a less than half-hearted effort to remove her hands from his chest, ending up lightly rubbing her arms instead. "Oh, well . . . "

She stepped closer as he backed up against the door to the vault. "Besides, if I do have to kiss him, this way I won't be out of practice."

He inhaled a sharp breath. His heart was throbbing beneath her fingers. "Kiss?" he repeated unsteadily.

"Right." She nodded affirmatively as if he'd said something of profound intelligence. Pressing herself snugly against him, she wondered where she was finding the courage to be so forward. If he really found her lacking in seductive powers, though, he had to be shown otherwise.

"You . . . we . . . ah." He blinked and then looked away from her and focused on something across the room.

"Put your hands around my waist," she instructed in a sultry voice. "Pretend I'm a . . . woman."

"I . . . I never said you weren't a woman." His voice had grown deep and was slightly reproving. Still, she felt his arms obediently encircle her.

She pursed her lips. "I know. But really: think of me as a *woman.* Not your partner, not your . . . friend."

Letting her hands roam up his neck and into his hair, she caressed him with her fingers. His eyelids fluttered and then fell closed. His jaw tensed as though awaiting a blow, and his breathing became shallow and rapid. A soft sigh escaped his lips and whispered through her bangs, tickling her forehead.

Feeling his arms tighten around her waist, Amanda felt more powerful than she had in a long time. She'd forgotten what a heady feeling it was to have a man under such control. At the same time, it made her nervous to have such unaccustomed power over this particular man.

Determined to finish what she'd begun, even though Lee was already more than a little distracted, she brought one hand around to his face and tenderly ran her thumb across his cheek. A deep, shuddering sigh escaped his lips, but he made no attempt to stop her. In fact, his lips were slightly parted as if in anticipation.

Emboldened by the knowledge that he so obviously wanted what was about to happen, she moved forward and placed a soft, lingering kiss on the corner of his mouth. Then, feeling her own heart racing at the contact, she confidently brushed her lips across his and took his lower lip between hers. Deepening the kiss, she felt him return the pressure. She pulled back for only a second and then reclaimed his mouth, keeping one hand on his face.

After a few seconds, she ran her tongue lightly over the rim of his mouth and he opened to her. If he hadn't been trembling, she'd have thought he was challenging her to go further, but she could tell that he was lost in the moment. With growing confidence, she skimmed her tongue along the roof of his mouth.

Hearing his low, guttural moan brought her back to reality and she decided she'd better stop before he took over the kiss and got the upper hand. She placed her hands on his chest and gently pushed away from him. Assuming an expression of expectation, she sauntered back to his desk and leaned on it, facing him.

"So?"

His eyes were glazed, his hair mussed, and his hands were fidgeting at his sides. Once before, she remembered, he'd looked at her in this surprised, bemused fashion after sharing a kiss. "Lee?" she prodded.

After a few seconds, he snapped out of his kiss-induced stupor. "Yeah, yeah. That was . . . it . . . you . . . it wasn't bad."

She cocked her head to the side and stared at him indignantly. "Not bad? You're gonna have to do better than that, Stetson."

Absently, he ran a hand over his mouth and then took a deep breath. "You pass. I don't think you'll uh . . . have any problem . . . distracting Logan. Hopefully you won't have to . . . go that far . . . " He stopped, gesturing vaguely at his lips. "But you won't have any problems."

"Well, good, then," she said with a nod. "I guess that means I have your approval." She strode to the door and opened it and then turned. "Just tell me one thing. Were you very distracted?"

He avoided looking at her and instead walked over to his desk and sat down heavily. "Oh . . . Yeah."

She grinned. "Good. Then Mark Logan should be a piece of cake." Turning on her heel, she started to head toward the staircase, but stopped when she heard him speak under his breath.

"You'd just better not distract him *that* much."

Smiling to herself, Amanda thought, 'Don't worry, Lee. You're the only one I want to distract *that* much.'

The End