Summary: Amanda's cousin is getting married, meaning a vacation to Maine for Amanda, Dotty and the boys...and Lee?!?
Time Frame: Around the third season.
Disclaimer: The main characters belong to Shoot the Moon and Warner Bros. Productions. The story is a product of my rather overactive imagination.
Lee Stetson was having a rotten day, and was not in a good frame of mind. He was heading back to the Agency. It had been a long day, and Amanda hadn't made it into work. Billy hadn't said why, just that she wouldn't be in.
He'd had to stopp at Augie Swann's, and Augie asked him, "Where's that cute chick of yours at? She ever change her mind about mud-wrestling?"
Annoyed, Lee had given Augie a look before retorting, "She's not my chick, she's not with me today, and no, she does not want to mud-wrestle."
"That you talkin' or the chick?" Augie asked with narrowed eyes. "Cause I think she's got some great gams."
"The chick has a name, Augie, it's Amanda. And I happen to know for a fact that she would never be interested in mud-wrestling!" Lee was getting more and more agitated with this conversation.
"Shame," Augie shrugged. "I'd like to just see her covered in mud..."
Lee held up a hand. "That's enough, okay?"
"Well, excuse me, Mr. Sensitivity." Augie was clearly offended. "There ain't nothin' wrong wit' a coupla good-lookin' chicks wrestlin' in da mud."
"Yeah, Augie. Perfectly respectable," Lee called over his shoulder as he stalked out of the bar.
"Give 'er my card," Lee heard Augie yell.
Now as he drove towards the Agency, he spotted Amanda sitting at a bus stop, and the bus was coming along. Curious, he pulled the Vette over and yelled, "Amanda!"
Amanda was clearly not anxious to miss her bus. "Hi! What?" she called back.
"Come over here," he motioned.
"I'll miss my bus!" she shook her head, pointing at the bus as if Lee could miss seeing the ten-ton vehicle not 30 yards away.
"I'll give you a ride," Lee shouted over the noisy bus.
Reluctantly, Amanda walked over and got into Lee's car. "I wasn't going home," she informed him.
"Where else do you have to go? And where's your car?" Lee looked over at her.
"My car is dead, it's in the shop, and I need to have alterations done to a dress at Georgiana's Wedding Boutique," she told him.
"At a wedding boutique?" Lee's curiosity was piqued.
"Yeah, my cousin is getting married, and they asked me to be in the wedding," Amanda explained. "I have to be fitted for alterations."
"Amanda..." Lee groaned.
"Lee, I was taking the bus! That's why I didn't come over right away. Now what made you think I was going straight home?"
"All right, it's okay! I'll call Billy and tell him I'll be a little late," Lee eased up, realizing she was right.
"No, no. Just drop me off and I'll get a bus home."
"No, that's okay," Lee gestured randomly. Suddenly he didn't want to be out of her company just yet.
"Lee," Amanda sighed. "It'll be a while for the alterations, and it's hot in the car, and there are no shops for you to browse through in the meantime. Please, drop me off."
"I know about alterations," Lee said, offended. "I'll wait in the shop."
Amanda looked over at her partner. Sometimes he confused the heck out of her. "Suit yourself."
The entered Georgiana's and a middle-aged woman approached. "Ahh, a beautiful couple! When is the wedding?"
Amanda shook her head. "No, no, no. We're *not* a couple. My cousin is getting married and my dress was sent here, and I'll need alterations."
Lee looked at Amanda, and thought: She didn't have to be quite so emphatic about us not being a couple!
"Amanda King, right?" The woman guessed.
"And you are..." she eyed Lee up and down.
As Lee opened his mouth, Amanda supplied, "A friend. Just a friend."
"Well, come along with me, dear, my name is Alice," she took Amanda's hand, leading her to the back of the store. "Are you wearing your hair up or down for the wedding? It makes a difference with the dress, believe it or not..."
"Up, I'll show you a picture of how my cousin wants our hair to look..."
Five minutes later, Amanda emerged from the dressing room and stood in front of the large mirrors.
"Just step up here, dear," the woman was saying.
Lee turned around and glanced up. Her hair had been pinned up recklessly, stray strands falling out already. But the dress...
Amanda studied the dress in the mirror. It was an unusual style, it almost looked like something out of the forties. The dress came almost off the shoulder, the neckline going straight across, but the backline plunged to expose much of her back. The fitted sleeves came just to the elbow. It was fitted almost down to her hips where it flared out, ending just below the knee. It was of a royal blue, with matching gloves. It was very flattering, emphasizing her tiny waist and flaring just at the right spot.
Lee was staring. He'd never seen Amanda look lovlier. She looked like an actress out of an old movie. He watched as she turned around slowly, studying herself crtically in the mirror. She seemed oblivous of his presence for the moment, so he felt free to admire her.
"What kind of a bra does one wear with this kind of dress?" Amanda asked.
"One doesn't, or one wears pasties," Alice replied.
"Well, it's not as though I have must to worry about, is it?" Amanda laughed confidentially. Then, horror-stricken, her eyes met Lee's and she blushed a rosy pink, looking away quickly. Lee smiled to himself, thinking, how cute!
"Nonsense, my dear," Alice contradicted her. "You have a wonderful figure. You're very delicate looking, you know. Like Audrey Hepburn. But you have a sultry voice, like Kate Hepburn. Yes, you're marvelous!" Her words echoed Lee's earlier thoughts.
"Thank you," Amanda smiled, embarassed to death. She could not believe Lee was standing there watching and listening to all of this!
Lee watched as Alice nipped and tucked, and soon the dress looked even more devastating, if that was possible. Amanda showed her what shoes were to be died to match the dress, and went to change back into her clothes.
They got back into the car, and Lee said, "Now where to?"
"Oh, that's it," Amanda said. "Just home."
"Oh," said Lee, feeling a little disappointed. "Well I guess I'd better get back to the Agency. Billy will be waiting. I never did call him. By the way, Amanda, why didn't you call me this morning for a ride into work?"
"Oh, I didn't want to be a pest, and besides-"
"Amanda, you are not a pest," Lee interrupted.
"Right," she said, unconvinced. "Anyway I needed to get the alterations and everything so I decided to take the day off."
"Right. Well. When will you car be finished?"
"Tomorrow morning. I'll be in a little late."
"I could take you to get it," Lee offered.
Amanda smiled. "Thanks, but they have a shuttle service."
"Oh," Lee shrugged, disappointed again. "So when and where is the wedding?"
"It's next month, on the fifteenth, just a little more than five weeks away. In Maine. I'll leave a few days before the wedding. I have to be there for the rehearsal."
"Just you? What about your mother and the boys?"
"Well they're coming up for the wedding, but not for the whole week. The boys have school."
"Ahh," Lee nodded.
Lee dropped Amanda off at home. "Thanks, Lee," Amanda said as she got out of the car.
"No problem," Lee called.
Four and half weeks later...
In their office, Lee glanced up at Amanda, who was on the phone with her mother. "I know, Mother," she was saying. "Trish and the family will be disappointed if you don't make it to the wedding, but if you've just come down with the flu, it wouldn't be a good idea to fly...uh-huh. Yes, we'll hope for the best...Okay, bye-bye."
"Your mother's sick?" Lee asked, concerned.
"Yeah, and Phillip says he has a sore throat. They'll probably miss the wedding."
"I need to go downstairs for a second. I'll be right back."
"Okay," she said.
Lee went downstairs to find Billy waiting for him.
"Scarecrow, Francine, come in here please," Billy called.
"What's up, Billy?" Lee asked, walking into Billy's office.
"I need one of you to go to Maine next week," he began.
"I'll do it!" they both exclaimed.
"Hold up, people," Billy interjected. "It's nothing exciting, believe me. Just a routine check-in with the governor's office, that's all."
"I'll do it, Billy," Francine said again. "I'd love to go to Maine. Maybe spend the weekend."
Lee folded his arms. "Give me a break, Francine. You just *had* a vacation."
She tilted her head and challenged, "Well, you don't *take* vacations!"
"Well I need one," he argued.
Billy was watching Lee carefully. He knew Amanda would be in Maine that weekend, and would have asked her to do it except that she would be busy with the family and the wedding. Interesting that Lee was suddenly demanding to take on a routine assignment. Billy made up his mind.
"Okay, Scarecrow," he said. "You're it."
Francine's eyes widened in shocked disbelief. "I can't believe this! That is just not fair, Billy!" she complained. "We didn't even flip a coin!"
"Can it, Francine," Billy warned. Francine flounced out of the office.
"Thanks, Billy," Lee grinned.
"Do you think you'll be able to get Amanda to invite you to the wedding?" he couldn't stop himself from asking.
"What are you talking about?" Lee couldn't quite pull off an ignorant demeanor.
"Don't try to fool me, Lee," Billy shook a finger at Lee.
"I don't get you, Billy," Lee said. Billy just laughed.
Lee went back upstairs. "I'm back," he said with a big smile on his face.
"So I see. You look like the cat who swallowed a canary," Amanda observed.
"Who, me?" Lee feigned innocence, sitting down at his desk.
After a few minutes, he asked, "So...got a date for the wedding?"
Amanda laughed. "No, who would I take? It's in Maine! Not that my life will be easy when I show up 'empty-handed', as Aunt Lillian so delicately puts it," Amanda said, gesturing with quote marks. "She will give me a hassle to no end." Amanda laughed again.
"Well, are you allowed to bring a guest? Is the RSVP closed?"
Amanda looked at him with a funny expression. "I m allowed to bring a guest, yes, if I wanted to. There was an RSVP, but they wouldn't care if Ibrought someone, which I'm not, so it doesn't matter. Why...don't tell me you'll be tracking a terrorist at my cousin's wedding!?"
Lee laughed. "No, nothing like that. But I will be in Maine. Billy just assigned me a dull routine assignment. I don't know why he didn't just give it to Francine."
"Well I'm glad he didn't ask me. I'll have my hands full," Amanda smiled.
"I'm sure Billy took that into consideration," Lee said, smiling back at her.
Amanda went back to her paperwork. "Well?!" Lee prompted.
"Well what?" Amanda looked up.
"Well, if you want I could save you from your Aunt Lillian but being your date," he grinned.
Amanda smiled, then shook her head. "Thanks for the heroic offer, but that would be worse," she shuddered.
Lee's smile fell. "Why?"
Amanda sighed. "Because, my family would want details of our 'relationship'," she gestured again. "Aunt Lillian would put you under a heat lamp and grill you like a steak. Besides, what would Mother say?"
"Your mother has the flu, remember? She'll be at home. Anyway, it might be fun," Lee smiled adorably. "We've played at the couple thing before," his eyebrows wiggled at her as he leaned across her desk.
"Yeah, for a case, Lee. Not to fool my family," Amanda said but couldn't suppress a smile at Lee's antics.
"Then we go as friends," he shrugged. He was determined to get Amanda to invite him.
"I don't know," Amanda held off. "Why do you want to go, anyway?"
"I'll be there, in Maine, and you'll be there, and you're the only person I'll know in the whole state." He gave her a feel-sorry-for-me look.
"Poor man," Amanda shook her head. "Maine is a huge place, too."
Lee nodded enthusiastically. "See?"
"Okay," Amanda gave in. "Would you like to accompany me to my cousin's wedding?"
"I'd love to," Lee smiled.
"Okay, well I'll call you tonight with some information. I'm leaving in the morning."
"Need a ride to the airport?"
"If it's not any trouble, I was going to call a shuttle," Amanda said.
"No, no problem," Lee smiled.
Amanda had been in Maine for four days. The rehearsals were over, and everyone was excited for the wedding the next day.
Amanda had been having a wonderful time catching up with everyone, especially her cousin Trishia.
"I want to see this so-called friend of yours, Amanda," Aunt Lillian kept saying. "I can't believe your mother isn't going to make it."
"Well, like I told everyone, she was sick and now the boys are sick. It's just the way things worked out. She stayed home to take care of them, and she still wasn't feeling too good herself besides."
It was the same conversation over and over. Amanda was relieved when she was able to get away to pick up Lee at the airport.
Lee couldn't keep the grin off of his face when he saw Amanda heading towards him in the terminal.
"Hi!" he said as she approached.
"Hi," she returned, smiling at his silly grin. "You're certainly chipper," she said.
"Chipper? Me?" Lee laughed.
As they drove, Amanda told Lee, "Well, my Great Aunt Amanda, for whom I was named, has an enormous house. I mean really big. She's insisting that you stay there, and she won't take no for an answer."
"Sounds good to me," Lee smiled.
Amanda laughed wickedly. "You don't know my family!"
"Well, now I will, eh?" He cocked an eyebrow at her flirtatiously. "Anyhow, my job will be done by this afternoon. Totally easy stuff."
"Why did Billy send you again?" Amanda asked.
"Well, Francine thought it was beneath her, and there was no one else," Lee was amazed at how easily he avoided telling Amanda the truth.
"That's funny," Amanda was puzzled. "Because I overheard Francine complaining to Marie about not getting to go."
Lee laughed nervously. "Oh, you know how fickle Francine can be," he improvised.
"Fickle? Not particularly," Amanda shook her head.
When they arrived at the house, Lee took the car to head on and take care of business. At Amanda's advice, he decided to come in and meet everyone when he returned.
"Otherwise you'll never get out of the house in time to take care of your assignment," she warned.
Later that afternoon Amanda was playing a game of hide and seek with her smaller relatives. As Lee drove up to the house, he saw her sneak around to the side of the huge old house and sprint over to a gigantic tree.
He watched the kids racing around the yards, looking for her. Lee walked over to the tree and slowly came up behind Amanda, who had her back to him and was looking around the other side of the tree.
She straightened up and bumped into him, gasped, then spun around quickly. He caught her in his arms because of their close proximity. "Hi," he smiled. "I'm back."
Amanda nodded, flustered, and stepped back from him. "Yes, you are." She cleared her throat. "Are you ready to go meet the family?"
"Sure," Lee agreed, disappointed that he hadn't been brave enough to just pull her into a deep kiss while he had the chance. Never before had he experienced such desire to kiss a woman, and never before had he experienced such paralysis when presented an opportunity to fulfill that desire.
Amanda took his hand and they walked towards the house. The kids came screaming, their arms and legs flailing. "We found you," they yelled.
"Yeah, well, I'm a lousy hider," she smiled at them.
"Is this your boyfriend?" Hannah asked. "No, Sweetheart. This is my friend, Lee."
"He's a boy, and he's your friend. He's a boyfriend," Jacob deduced. All the kids broke out in rambunctious laughter.
Amanda shrugged an apology to Lee. "And this is just the kids," she teased. 'Don't say I didn't warn you, Stetson."
"Am I complaining?" he asked good-naturedly. Actually, he was enjoying this more than he cared to admit to himself.
"Not yet," Amanda muttered under her breath.
They entered the house, which was alive with acitivity, and Amanda said, "Hey, everyone, this is my friend, Lee."
One and all, the family descended upon Lee Stetson. He was a little overwhelmed, but met everyone and tried to submit their names to memory.
The group in general headed into the dining room where dinner was being laid out. "Everyone, just eat wherever you can. There's far too many people here tonight to worry about tables and formailities!"
Lee suddenly found himself without Amanda, and Aunt Lillian cornered him. "So you're dating my niece." It was a statement.
"Well, no. We're friends, and we work together."
"Why aren't you dating her?" Aunt Lillian pressed.
Lee thought for a moment. "Well-"
"Well what? She's not your type? It's the kids, right? The ready-made family thing? Is it my sister Dotty? Does she drive you nuts?"
Amanda came into the room and to his rescue. "Aunt Lillian, they're putting the paprika on the deviled eggs."
"Lans sakes, child! Excuse me, Lee. They always use far too much paprika. I must supervise!"
"Thanks," Lee said with relief.
"I told you," Amanda said, embarassed. "I'm sorry, Lee."
"It's okay," he smiled. "She cares about you, that's all."
"Yeah," Amanda smiled back.
They rejoined the others and served themselves from a buffet style dinner of BBQ burgers and hotdogs, beans, salads of all kinds, and perfectly paprika'd deviled eggs. Lee and Amanda wandered outside due to a lack of seating and sat on the grass by the old tree.
"Your cousin Trishia is really nice," Lee said. "I didn't meet her fiance, though."
"Mike is out on the town for a night of guy stuff. The bachelor party. That's also where all my male cousins are, by the way."
"Ahhh," Lee nodded.
They sat, eating in silence for a few minutes. Then Amanda asked how his assignment had gone, and he filled her in.
After they finished eating, they went back into the house, to a chorus of teasing, 'I know where you two were's, at which Amanda rolled her eyes.
Later that night, Amanda showed Lee to his room as they brought in his luggage. "And where's your room?" he asked.
"Oh, right next to yours, actually," she said, pointing.
"Okay, well...goodnight Amanda," he said.
"Goodnight," Amanda said, but Lee did not close the door. Instead, he leaned slightly foreward and...
Aunt Lillian came down the hall. "Be sure to show Lee where the restrooms are, Amanda," she ordered.
Lee backed away quickly, watching as Amanda jumped back herself. Lillian disappeared again, and Amanda said, "Bathroom's right there." She gestured across the hall, and said, "See you in the morning," and disappeared into her own room.
Amanda could not sleep. She tossed and turned, thinking of what Lee must have intended to do before Aunt Lillian came down the hall.
Amanda's heart had been beating wildly, and Lee's eyes were closing as he leaned down toward her...
What had brought that on, she wondered. Well, now she'd probably never know. At least they weren't on an assignment that he could blame it on.
Finally Amanda got up and headed downstairs in her sweats and t-shirt. The house was quiet and still now that most of the family had gone to their own homes. Only she, Lee and a few other relatives who had flown in were staying in the house overnight.
Amanda noted how dark the house was. She made her way to the kitchen and took a glass out of the cupboard, filling it with water.
Feeling better, she went back upstairs. As she was heading down the hall, she bumped into someone. "Lee?"
Stepping forward, she put out a hand and touched a bare chest. "Lee is that you?" she asked again, knowing it must be him, but confused that he wasn't responding.
Suddenly her hand was grabbed and she was encircled by a strong pair of arms and kissed fervently on the lips. Her mind reeled, her body turned to instant oatmeal. As the kiss continued, her arms made their way around his neck and into his hair, resulting in her being pulled even closer. The kiss deepened and intensified, and Amanda felt like she'd been on a roller-coaster. Her knees were weak and there were butterflies fluttering around inside her stomach.
When at last the contact was broken, the hall was suddenly quiet and still again. "Lee?" she asked shakily. He was gone.
Amanda went back into her room and sat down on the edge of her bed, trembling. "What happened out there?" she asked herself, reliving the sensation of being grabbed in the dark hallway and kissed passionately, not to mention being held so close...
She had a difficult time falling asleep, and soon found herself wondering if she had somehow dreamed the whole incident.
Lee lay awake, too, himself shaking, half expecting, half hoping for Amanda to knock on his door. What had possessed him to do that? He'd been afraid at first that she would slap him, but she didn't. He hadn't expected her to be there, and when she was, he acted on sheer impulse, raw passion. She had returned the kiss and made him crazy with wanting her.
What was this game they were playing? Would he mention it in the morning? No, he decided to see if Amanda brought it up at all. He ran a hand through his tousled hair and laid down.
When Lee woke up the next morning the whole house was again abuzz with wedding excitement. Upon asking, he was told that Amanda had gone into town with Trish to meet the rest of the bridal party for breakfast and to have their hair done for the wedding.
The morning was a blur, and Lee didn't see Amanda again until the wedding, because after the hair appointment she was with the other girls at Trish's house getting dressed.
Everyone met at the park, where the ceremony was to be held. It was a gorgeous, hilly place which was almost entirely canopied by ancient trees. There were flower gardens everywhere.
There was a large rose-adorned trellis set up under which the couple would say their vows, and rows and rows of white chairs for the guests.
Eventually all of the guests arrived and were seated, and the ceremony was about to begin. Three violinists stood off to the side, and began to play 'Canon in D'. The first couple emerged and walked down the aisle to stand at Mike's side. Another couple followed, Amanda and her cousin Charles, who stood off from where Trish would stand.
Amanda looked simply stunning. Lee couldn't take his eyes off her. Her hair was piled high on her head with a profusion of curls on top and tendrils hanging down. As she passed, she glanced over at him nervously and then quickly away again. The sight of him moved her to trembling as she recalled last night's encounter. Charles mistook her shakiness for nerves and patted her arm reassuringly.
Lee was sure that his true feelings must be written openly on his face. He closed his eyes and tried to compose himself.
Two more couples followed and took their positions. Trish walked down the aisle last, on her father's arm. She looked beautiful, but for Lee, no one could compareto Amanda. Everyone ohh'd and ahh'd as Trish passed. Lee watched Mike, whom he still had not yet met. Mike looked like he was going to explode with happiness. Lee was just beginning to get an inkling of how that kind of happiness could be possible.
The cermemony went quickly for Lee, who spent the entire time staring at Amanda, who did not meet his gaze again even once. He wondered if he'd upset her after all.
Everyone piled into cars and drove over to the reception which was held in an old mansion. Lee tried to get over to Amanda, but she was being whisked off with the wedding party for photos before they joined everyone at the reception.
Lee got stuck riding over with Aunt Lillian...
As they drove through town to the reception, Aunt Lillian turned to Lee. "How did you enjoy the wedding, Lee?" she asked.
"It was beautiful. Really gorgeous. Stunning..." Lee's voice trailed off and he realized he was talking about Amanda, and not the wedding.
Lillian gave him a knowing smile and said, "I see," in a voice that told Lee she did indeed see. How did this small woman, sister of Dotty West, see through him so easily, when he found it so easy to keep everyone guessing?
"My niece is lovely, isn't she?" she went on without waiting for a reply. "You know, she had intended to stay single for a long time...travel, have an exciting career. Oh, yes," she smiled at Lee's surprised glance. "She was quite the adventurous one of the family. She used to get herself into quite a bit of trouble."
Lee turned and looked out the window so Lillian wouldn't see his amused smile. Used to? he thought wryly.
"Then she met Joe, and fell in love with him. It was remarkable how once she was married and had a baby she threw herself into it like that was what she had wanted all along. Then things didn't work out with Joe. He was a nice guy but he didn't appreciate Amanda and his children enough. Amanda struggled for a while, she didn't want a divorce. But she told me one time, she loved Joe but she wasn't in love with Joe anymore and was beginning to wonder if she'd ever really been in love in the truest sense of the word. I never saw her look at Joe the way she looked at Roger."
Lee looked at her sharply. "Who's Roger?" he asked.
"Roger Nelson. Her first love. They were in kindergarten together. He told her when they were five that he would marry her some day. But they both found someone else in college and I can't help but wonder where they would have wound up if not for Joe and Karen."
"So this Roger is married? To Karen?" Lee relaxed a little.
"He was. They divorced...funny, it wasn't even half a year after Joe and Amanda split. He'll be at the reception. Amanda doesn't know it, it's a surprise."
Lee shifted uncomfortably. He didn't like the sound of this at all. He was immensely relieved when they reached the reception.
The cavernous ball room was decorated in lush mauves, a nice backdrop to the bridal party. There were flowers everywhere. People were taking their assigned seats, and Lilliian grabbed hold of Lee's hand and led him to a table.
"You're with me here. Dotty would have been at my table, but of course she and the boys are ill," she said with disappointment. "Roger will be at this table too."
Oh, great, Lee thought. And Amanda will be at the bridal party table. He hoped dinner would be served quickly so he could be with her...dance with her.
About an hour later, the bridal party was announced. They were seated at the reserved table at the head of the ball room. Amanda found Lee, who was watching her. She gave him a shy smile.
Lee wanted nothing more than to go over to her and take her into his arms. But he couldn't. He had to sit here with...
"Roooooger!" Lillian exclaimed as a striking man approached the table. "Dear Aunt Lillian," he said as he gave her a hug. "I hope you don't mind if I still call you that."
"Not at all, dear. Not at all!" Lillian proceeded to introduce Roger to the others seated at the table. Amanda's Great Aunt Amanda was also at this table and couldn't hear worth beans, Lee noted. He was delighted, however, when she was presented with her prime rib dinner, to hear her exclaim, "Oh, my gosh!"
He had to endure Roger's anecdotes about "Mandy" all through dinner. Just when he felt he couldn't take it any longer, it was announced that Trish and Mike were about to take the floor for the first dance.
A few bridal party dances and family dances ensued, with Amanda towering over Charlie, the cousin with whom she had walked down the aisle. He couldn't have been more than five four.
Finally guests filled the dance floor and the bridal party went out to mingle and say hello to guests. After a little while, Amanda found herself at Aunt Lillian's side, who said, "Look who's here, Amanda."
"Mandy!" Roger stood up and held out his arms.
"Roger?" Amanda's face registered delight and surprise as they hugged, for just a little too long, Lee thought. Lillian was watching his face and he gave her a sour smile that turned out more like a scowl.
"Mandy, we have to dance," Roger was pulling her to the dance floor. Amanda turned and said, "I'll be right back," to Lee.
Roger kept Amanda on the dance floor for the next three dances. When the fourth began, Lee had had enough. He strode purposefully to the middle of the dance floor and tapped Roger's shoulder.
"May I?" he asked gruffly. It was not a request, despite the polite customary words he used.
Roger reluctantly placed Amanda's hand into Lee's, winked and said, "I'll catch you again later, Mandy."
Lee danced wordlessly with Amanda for a moment, holding her close. Then he said, "Having fun with Roger?" in a tone that told Amanda exactly what he was feeling: jealousy.
"I'm sorry, Lee. I know you don't know anyone here, and I've left you alone all day. But that's how weddings are. And I didn't expect to see Roger. I haven't seen him for a very long time."
"I understand," Lee said. His tone changed and he said, "So you used to go out with Roger? Before Joe?"
"Yeah, kind of," Amanda's response was non-committal.
"Kind of? Your aunt said you wee childhood sweethearts." Amanda looked up to see Lee's jaw tensing.
"I guess we were, sure," Amanda responded.
Lee looked into Amanda's eyes. He drew her closer without thinking. "You look beautiful."
His voice was so sincere. And the way her was looking at her made Amanda feel like she could melt into a puddle of goo right there in the middle of the dance floor.
"How did you sleep last night?" she asked, fishing.
"Fine, you?" Lee mentally kicked himself.
"Oh, okay I guess," Amanda looked down again.
Lee fought to rectify the situation. "I hope I didn't disturb you when I got up in the middle of the night," he floundered.
"Oh, not at all. I was up myself, for a few minutes," she rejoined.
Lee was tongue-tied. The mere mention of the kiss had both of them reliving it now, and their faces revealed their thoughts. Their eyes locked. Lee opened his mouth to speak, and clumsily stepped on Amanda's foot.
"Ow!" she exclaimed. The music changed to a more upbeat tempo and after apologizing, Lee led her to the table he'd been sitting at so she could get off her foot for a moment.
They sat for a few minutes in silence while Amanda nursed her sore foot. "Is it still sore?" Lee grimaced.
"No, it's better. Don't worry," she smiled.
"Amanda..." Lee began, reaching for her hand.
"There you are!" Aunt Lillian rushed up to the table and took a seat. "I was beginning to wonder where you two had got off to!"
Amanda smiled a long-suffering smile. "You're too much, Aunt Lillian."
Lillian just smiled back. Soon they were joined by Roger and a few other guests. Mike and Trish came over and Amanda introduced Lee to Mike. Then the couple were off to greet more guests.
Lillian, Roger and Amanda were talking animatedly. Roger said, "Remember the time we cut class? I still can't believe I talked you into it!"
"Yeah, well," Amanda waved her hand at him. "You were a bad influence."
He caught her hand and kissed it. "I've missed you," he said looking into her eyes. His tone was light, but his face was serious.
"I've missed you, too...I've missed everyone," Amanda said, pulling her hand from his grasp, to Lee's relief.
Lee noticed that her other hand rested in her lap. Casually he put his own hand under the table and laid it over hers. He noted her quick intake of breath, heard her stumble over her words to Aunt Lillian, who was asking about the boys.
Lee kept a poker face as he pretended to watch the dancers on the floor and listen to the conversation. He took her index finger and began caressing it slowly, then went on to the next and the next. Amanda had a little trouble with coherence, but did not pull her hand away from his.
Roger said, "Amanda, let's dance," extending his hand to her.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Roger. I promised the next dance to Lee," she lied.
"Shall we?" Lee grinned at her knowingly.
As he led her to the dance floor and took her into his arms, Lee said, "You lied," and raised his eyebrows at her.
"I know. I just...wasn't in the mood to dance with him right at that...moment," she said, looking at his tie.
Lee said nothing, just held her close as they swayed to the music. He was afraid to bring up the recent 'moments' between them. She hadn't stopped him, but she wasn't encouraging him, either. Lee wasn't sure what was going on inside her mind, but he didn't want her to tell him to leave her alone.
Amanda was at a complete loss. Lee had never indicated that he felt this way about her...if he felt anything for her besides friendship. She was even wondering now if the kiss came from her imagination. He hadn't said a word about it. And what he'd been doing to her hand just now...just that simple contact had taken her breath away. She wondered if he was toying with her...teasing her with no intent of continuing his attentions after the weekend.
She looked up and met his eyes. He smiled, asked how her foot was doing. "Fine," she said, and looked away. It was so hard to meet his eyes.
Lee kept Amanda away from Roger for the rest of the evening. Soon the reception wound down and Mike and Trish left for their honeymoon. Lee offered to drive Amanda back to her great aunt's house, but they wound up with Lillian and Grat Aunt Amanda in the car with them.
"I hope you don't mind, Lee, but a few more of the relatives are staying at the house and driving back home tomorrow morning. So we need your room. I'm putting you in with Amanda."
"Aunt Lillian!" Amanda was horrified.
"Now, Amanda dear, don't be coy. I see how it is between you," Lillian said. "Besides we truly need the space. You have a big bed in there, girl."
Lee risked a look over at Amanda, who looked extremely nervous. She would not look over at him, but said, "Keep your eyes on the road, please."
As they headed into the house, Great Aunt Amanda loudly declared, "Amanda, darling, this husband of yours is a fine looking man!"
Amanda went crimson as Lee watched her, amused. She put a hand on her Great Aunt's shoulder and said loudly, "He's not my husband."
The elder Amanda looked Lee up and down, then looked at Amanda. "Well, that's a crying shame. All this time I've been thinking the two of you were married," she trumpeted.
They entered the house to find a room full of family members already changed and watching old family movies.
They went upstairs and changed into sweats and came out of their rooms at the same time, going downstairs together. Amanda walked away from Lee and deliberately chose a seat between her uncles Phil and Chuck. She was mortified beyond belief and regretted letting Lee come along. What must he be thinking?
"What are we watching?" Lee asked, sitting as close to Amanda as possible, on a footstool that could not be comfortable.
"Home movies," Uncle Phil yelled. Was Amanda's whole family going deaf? she wondered. He stood up and said, "Have a seat by your girlfriend, son. I need some fresh air, and I've seen these home movies dozens of times."
Lee got up and sat next to Amanda, closer than he had to. He casually draped an arm across the couch. She looked at him and he gave her a super brief grin and whispered in her ear, "I always get what I want."
"I had a bunch of the old reel films transferred to video tape, Amanda," Lillian told her. "This is just past the beginning of the tape. I tried to keep them in some kind of order."
Everyone was haiving a wonderful time watching the old movies. Amanda wondered if Lee was bored out of his mind, but he seemed very comfortable and was watching the tape asking questions.
Lee dropped his arm down to around her shoulders, resting his hand on her upper arm. From time to time his thumb would move back and forth on her arm. Unwittingly Amanda settled in closer to Lee and he gave her a squeeze.
"Oh, there's Amanda and Trish," Lillian gushed. "Look how cute they were!"
Amanda figured she must be about six in the video. She and Trish were standing on the front porch of this very house, singing "Stand By Your Man" at the top of their lungs. Amanda glanced over at Lee, who was laughing. He'll probably obtain a copy for bribery later, Amanda thought to herself.
"So many talents," he whispered. He was so close she could feel his breath on her neck. Amanda fidgeted with her collar. This is not fair! she thought.
Other shots were of talent shows (Amanda tap dancing at age seven), weddings (including her's and Joe's), graduations, babies (Jamie and Phillip and cousins), and the like.
Finally the tape was over, and Lillian asked if anyone wanted more wedding cake which met with a resounding, "No!" from the room in general, save for the kids.
They sat around talking and remembering old times, laughing at most of the memories. Lee was enjoying himself more than he would have ever thought possible. Then one by one, everyone expressed the need to 'hit the sack' as they all seemed to call it, and started getting ready for bed.
About an hour later, the bathrooms were finally free, and Lee was going to get ready for bed, having moved his luggage into Amanda's room. He looked around for her, but she was nowhere to be found.
He stepped outside, heading for the old tree where they had eaten their lunch the day before. Amanda didn't see him approach, she was sitting on an old tire swing. He was about to speak when she said something, and he realized she wasn't alone.
"Roger, it's late. I should really be getting inside," she said but didn't move. Slowly, Lee backed into the shadows and stood still, listening.
"Mandy, what's wrong? I thought you'd be so happy to see me," Roger said, coming up behind her and setting the swing into motion.
"I am, Roger. It's just that I wasn't expecting...I wasn't expecting you to say what you just did," she sighed deeply.
"I made a mistake all those years ago, Mandy. I shouldn't have dated other girls in college, but I got a big head and forgot how much I loved you. But I never stopped loving you. And you met Joe, and married him. But now we're both free. You know the family always expected us to get married."
"I know that. But we've grown up, Roger. We're not the same people anymore-"
"That's not true," he argued. "Basically we are the same as we always were. I still love you," he told her.
Amanda didn't respond. Roger came around to the front of the swing and stopped it. Holding onto the ropes he said, "Why, Mandy? Tell me why you don't want to give us another chance."
"We live in two different states. You have a wonderful career here, I have a promising career. Neither of us would want to move. My sons don't know you. It's been a very long time."
"You're in love with someone else," Roger stated.
"No," Amanda said solidly.
The single, tiny word cut through Lee like a knife. He started to back away, towards the house.
"I mean yes...I mean I don't know," Amanda suddenly sounded drained of all emotion.
Lee stopped in his tracks. She had said yes, she was in love with someone else. His heart lept for joy, it had to be him! He strained to hear what was said next.
"I knew it. I knew it," Roger said, implying that he knew it was Lee. Amanda remained silent. "I wasn't sure about you, probably I was blind, but I could the way he looked at you. I should have known. I did know."
"Roger, we're not together. I mean...he's just...he's...we work together, and...I don't think it's the way you think it is."
"Of course it is, Mandy. How could he not want you? Well, I guess that's it then. I understand. I think I'll be going now," Roger said, knowing he was beat.
"I'm sorry, Roger," Amanda said in a small voice.
Roger took off across the grass towards his truck, and Lee walked slowly back to the house. A complete stranger could see that he was in love with Amanda. Was he really that transparent?
He went upstairs and brushed his teeth, then went into the room and laid down on the bed in the dark. He had to tell her. He had to let her know how profoundly he loved her.
After ten minutes, the door opened and Amanda entered the room. She didn't turn on the light, but walked over to her suitcase and opened it.
Amanda was so lost in her thoughts that she forgot she was sharing a room with Lee. As Lee watched her silouhette in the darkened room, she peeled off her sweater and bra with her back to him and slipped on a t-shirt. Then she left the room again with her toothbrush and paste.
Five minutes later she returned to the room, set her things on the dresser and literally fell into bed...right on top of Lee.
She started to scream, but Lee covered her mouth and flipped her over onto her back, half leaning on her. "Shhhh," he hissed.
"Why didn't you tell me you were in here," Amanda whispered angrily. "I took my shirt off in front of you!"
"It was dark, I didn't see a thing. Besides, you're back was to me," he said.
"Oh," she said, somewhat pacified. Then the full import of his words hit her and she squeaked, "How do you know my back was to you if you didn't see a thing?"
"Shhh. How was I supposed to know you forgot I was in here, huh?" he asked logically.
"Oh, sure. Yeah, I'm in the habit of taking my clothes off in front of you!" Amanda shot back sarcastically.
Lee mulled the thought over in his mind and couldn't resist smiling. Amanda socked him and tried to turn away, but he held onto her.
"Lee, let me go!" She struggled against him.
"Amanda, calm down, will you?" Lee held her firmly in place.
"I'm going to sleep on the couch," she told him.
"No, you're not. You're not going anywhere, and neither am I. You're staying right here...with me."
"Fine," she relented and laid still. He released his hold on her and she turned her back to him.
"Amanda," Lee sighed. "Please don't turn away from me." Something in Lee's voice made Amanda turn around and face him. In the process she inadvertently scooted closer to him.
Lee enjoyed the moment. He could imagine spending all his nights like this, with Amanda at his side. He could smell her hair, her soft perfume.
"Listen, Amanda," Lee began, half expecting Aunt Lillian to come barging into the room.
"Yes?" she asked in a voice barely above a whisper.
"Would you let me kiss you again?" Lee asked, his tone suddenly deeper. He ran a finger along her arm, sending a shiver down her spine.
"Again?" Amanda asked innocently, her voice quivering.
"Yes, again," Lee said. "Amanda, I can't stop thinking about that kiss. I've been wanting to kiss those lips of yours for a long time. Being in a dark hallway so far from home, it just seemed to be the perfect time."
"You've wanted to kiss me for a long time?" Amanda repeated.
"A very long time," Lee confessed.
"I thought maybe I was going crazy when you didn't bring it up," Amanda replied.
"I was afraid you'd tell me to get lost."
Amanda laughed softly, a wonderful sound to Lee's ears. He thought back to the conversation he overheard between her and Roger.
"So...how's Roger?" Lee asked.
"Who?" Amanda asked. "Let's get back to the subject at hand. Yes."
"Yes what?" Lee was confused.
"Yes, you can kiss me again," she whispered.
Lee propped himself up on his elbow and looked into her eyes. Slowly he moved toward Amanda and saw her eyes close. He placed his other hand on her side. When their lips met briefly and parted, they both sighed and kissed again. Lee pulled Amanda over so that he was on his back and she was leaning on his side.
"Amanda," Lee ran his tongue over his lips, savoring the lingering flavor of hers. "I've never wanted anyone like I want you. I don't know what you've done to me."
"I don't know what to say, Lee," Amanda absently ran a finger along his collar bone, giving him chills. "This weekend has been so...completely different between us. So suddenly."
"No, not suddenly. My feelings for you are anything but sudden." Lee's voice was thick with emotion.
"I guess you're right, then. Because I've cared for you for a very long time, too," Amanda was relieved to finally be able to admit her feelings to him.
Lee was relieved to hear her say the words. "I was afraid you would be swept off your feet by Roger," he confided in her.
"I cared for Roger a long time ago. If it weren't for you, maybe we would have tried it again. But I don't love him," she admitted.
Lee kissed her again. "I'm glad to hear it." He kissed her again. "Much as I'd love to stay up with you all night, we'd better get some sleep." He cleared his throat.
"Okay," she agreed, laying her head in the crook of his arm.
Neither one of them wanted to rush their newfound relationship. Amanda marveled that after all her fears about being in the same bed with Lee Stetson, now that he had admitted he had feelings for her she wasn't nervous at all.
Lee had the same thought as he pulled her closer, smiling to himself in the dark.
The next morning, everyone was in a rush to leave for home either by car or plane. Finally Lee and Amanda were ready to head for the airport.
"You two look well-rested," Aunt Lillian observed. "I guess maybe I was wrong all along," she winked at them.
"Aunt Lillian, please don't say anything to Mother," Amanda said.
"Oh! I love a secret, especially when I can keep it from Dotty! Although, I don't quite know what the secret is," she muttered, confusion written all over her face.
On the plane ride home, Lee managed to trade his ticket so he could sit next to Amanda.
"I really enjoyed being with your family," he told her. "I missed out on all that chaos. I never thought I'd miss what I never had, but your family proved me wrong."
"I'm glad you liked them," Amanda smiled.
"I'm going to enjoy getting to know you even better than I already do," Lee looked into her eyes and she blushed.
"What?" Lee asked. "What did I say?"
"It's not what you said. It's how you're looking at me," Amanda smiled shyly at him.
"Well, get used to it. I'm going to be looking at you like this for the rest of my life," he smiled and leaned over for a kiss.