A Little Something To Remember You By
Rick Simon threw open his brother's kitchen door and dashed in the house. He ran to the blond man and grabbed his elbow.
"A.J., come on! You have to hurry and get ready!"
A.J. stared up at his brother nonplused. It was late on a Saturday afternoon, and the younger Simon was stretched out on the sofa reading a book. After a morning of fighting traffic and crowded stores while running errands, A.J. had spent the better part of the afternoon cleaning his house. He had no intention of moving any farther than between the couch and kitchen until he went up to bed for the evening.
Rick half lifted his brother off the sofa until A.J. was left dangling in mid-air the way a pair of fuzzy dice dangles from a car's rear view mirror.
"Rick, what the hell are you doing?"
A.J. stumbled forward when Rick awkwardly deposited him on his feet. The lanky detective reached out and snared his brother by the shoulders, preventing him from taking a header into the coffee table.
"Just go," Rick ordered while pushing A.J. from behind. "Get your butt upstairs and get ready. We have to pick them up in an hour."
"We have to pick who up in an hour?"
"A.J., it's no wonder you're sittin' home alone on a Saturday night. Don't worry about what girls! Just get ready."
A.J. solidly stood his ground when Rick gave him another shove.
"Rick, I'm not going anywhere until you explain to me what in the heck you're jabbering about."
"I'm not jabbering about anything. I got you a date."
A.J.'s head shook back and forth. "Ooooh no. I don't have any desire whatsoever to go on a date you've arranged."
Rick's stance spoke his annoyance as his hands came to rest on his hips. "And just what is that supposed to mean?"
"It means I'll end up spending the evening with a woman who smokes cigars. Or the bearded lady from the circus. Or, heaven forbid, some broad who's done time for serial murders."
Rick's upper lip curled into a sneer. "You're real funny, ya' now that? And just for your information, Leslie's cousin isn’t any of those things. She doesn't smoke cigars; she doesn't have a beard...or even a five o'clock shadow for that matter, and she's never been in jail. Katie's a real nice gal. As a
matter of fact, when I first met her I thought of you."
A.J.'s eyed narrowed. "How so?"
"I just think you two would hit it off. She's likes jazz. She loves to read. She's an avid tennis player. And she's lonely."
A.J. turned away from his brother. "I'm not lonely."
"Maybe not. But ever since you and Liz parted ways you've holed up here in this house like a mole."
"I have not!" The blond whipped around on his heels. "I was seeing a number of attractive ladies right after Liz and I...called it quits."
"Yeah," Rick snorted. "And you couldn't even remember half their names. Not to mention the fact that several of them turned out to be married, and their pissed-off husbands were just itchin' to crack your skull against a slab of concrete."
"I've already told you a half a dozen times I didn't know they were married. They'd taken off their wedding rings and conveniently left that little piece of information out of the 'getting to know you,' portion of the conversation. I don't date married women."
"Glad to hear it." Rick placed a hand in-between his brother's shoulder blades and urged him toward the stairs once more. " ‘Cause Katie's not married, so she's just your kinda
"Rick, I haven't been on a blind date in years. Not since I was in college. I don't like blind dates!"
"Who does? But once an' a while they're a cross all single men have to bear, little brother."
"Not this single man. Not anymore. Besides, it was you who barely a month ago was telling me I had to slow down."
"Slow down, yes. But not come to a complete halt." Rick let go of his brother to perch on the arm of the easy chair. "Look, A.J., I know this thing with Liz threw you for a loop."
"I don't want to talk about Liz."
"I know you don't. But I think you need to. You thought she was waiting for you to ask her to marry you, only to find out she was screwin' around with another guy behind your back. That had to come as a pretty big shock."
A.J. tried to make his shrug seem indifferent, but instead it only spoke volumes to Rick as to how much Liz's rebuff had hurt his younger brother.
"I don't think she was cheating on me while we were seeing one another. Liz wasn't that kind of woman. She kept pressuring me to propose, and when I wouldn't she found someone to take my place. When I finally decided to ask her to marry me, it was too late. I'd waited too long."
Under his breath Rick muttered, "Not in my opinion you didn't."
"I said sometimes those things happen. If you and Liz were meant for each other then you woulda' ended up gettin' hitched. It didn't turn out that way though, so it just wasn't meant to be. That's what you have to keep tellin' yourself, kid."
A.J.'s eyes fell to the floor and he sighed. "Yeah, I know."
Rick reached up and clapped his brother's arm. "And for just that reason I've set you up with Katie tonight. You need to go out and have a good time with the kinda woman you deserve. Not like those others you were seein' a few weeks back. The trashy ones who give you a phony name and lie about bein' married."
A.J.'s eyes took on a mischievous twinkle. "You mean the kind you've been dating your entire life?"
"Yep," Rick grinned. "Those are the ones. But see, the difference between you and me is, I'm used to those kind of women. I know how to handle 'em. And their husbands. You don't. You're too classy for cheap bimbos like them. Even I'm gettin' too classy for those kind of gals. Leslie's really making me see the other side."
A.J. couldn't disagree with that. Leslie was different from most of the women Rick had dated. She wasn't just a casual one-night stand, or someone to take to Baja for the weekend. Rick had been seeing her for three months now. Which made this the first serious steady relationship A.J. could recall his brother ever being involved in.
And another thing that was different about Leslie was that A.J. liked her, too. She wasn't just another woman friend of Rick's that passed through his brother's life whom A.J. either didn't care for, or didn't get the chance to know before she was replaced by another. Leslie was an intelligent, hard-working,
compassionate individual. A dedicated assistant to Marlowe's veterinarian. All in all, quite different from most of the women Rick had been involved with in the past.
A.J. supposed that if Katie was Leslie's cousin she couldn't be all that bad. But still, the thought of a blind date didn't sound overly appealing to the blond.
"And you've met this Katie?"
Rick nodded. "Several times."
"And she's normal?"
"Normal as you and me."
A.J.'s eyebrows rose. "As normal as you and me?"
"Okay, okay. As normal as you. Really, A.J., I'm not kiddin' ya'. She's a nice lady. And a heck of a looker, too. Not to mention built just like you like 'em. Long and leggy with full firm tit--"
"What?" Innocence oozed out of Rick's mouth like honey from a jar. "That is the kind of woman you go for, isn't it?"
"Well...sometimes I guess it is. But not because that's specifically what I set out looking for. I
just...I'd just like to go out with a lady who shares some of my interests."
Rick gave a satisfactory nod. "That's Katie."
"And who has a brain in her head. Who can carry on an intelligent conversation about a variety of subjects."
"That's Katie, too."
"And who just wants to have a good time without any strings attached. Just someone who's looking for an occasional dinner out, or a Sunday afternoon bike ride in the park."
"That description has Katie written all over it, A.J."
A.J.'s eyes narrowed with suspicion. "If this woman is as wonderful as you say she is, how come half the single men in San Diego aren't lined up ahead of me waiting to ask her out?"
"Because she hasn't been too interested in dating lately."
"She just moved here six weeks ago from North Carolina. Her fiancé called off their wedding."
"So she's been kinda down, ya' know? Not too enthusiastic about starting up another relationship."
A.J. understood all too well. "I see."
"But then Leslie was telling her about you, and after a few days of thinking it over Katie gave Les permission for us to set the two of you up."
"What about my permission?"
"I figured if I asked too far ahead of time you'd say no."
"You figured right."
"I know. That's why I waited as long as I did. So come, get a move on. We're supposed to pick the girls up at Leslie's place at five o'clock sharp."
"And if I agree to go along, where are we going from there?"
"Out to dinner first. Then to a movie."
A.J. thought a moment. It sounded innocent enough. Just dinner and a movie with his brother and Leslie and Leslie's cousin. He supposed it beat sitting home alone on another Saturday night.
"All right," the blond finally conceded. "I'll go."
Rick's enthusiasm burst through his grin. "That's great! I know you'll have a terrific time."
A.J. raised a warning finger. "But there's one condition."
"That there's no pressure. That if Katie and I don't hit it off, you won't ask me to go out with her again. That there will be no hard feelings between you and me, or between me and Leslie over this."
"There won't be," Rick promised. "Leslie and I already discussed it. If this isn't right for either you or Katie, then so be it. It won't be mentioned again."
"Okay. I'm going to hold you to that."
"Fine." Rick pushed himself off the chair. "Go on and get ready. I still have to shower and shave, too. I'll meet you outside in half an hour."
"Whose vehicle are we going to take? We won't all fit in your truck or the Camaro, at least not comfortably...or Leslie's little Horizon for that matter."
"I know. I guess I'll have to take my truck and you'll have to take your car."
A.J. wrinkled his nose. "I don't know, Rick. If Katie and I don't hit it off, it could end up to be a pretty uncomfortable evening if I have to drive her--"
"Don't worry about it. You'll hit it off. And besides, riding together in the Camaro without me and Leslie breathing over your shoulders will give you two a chance to get to know one another."
The blond head shook with doubt. "I don't--"
"Go on, A.J." Rick gave his brother a final push toward the stairs. "Quit worryin' and go get your shower. You're gonna have a great time."
As the kitchen door shut signaling Rick's departure for the Hole in the Water, A.J. sighed and slowly climbed the stairs.
"Sometimes I wonder how I let you talk me into another one of your schemes. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now."
The evening turned out to be far more enjoyable than A.J. could have ever imagined. Rather than being awkward and uncomfortable with one another, he and Katie were immediately at
Rick hadn't stretched the truth in the slightest when he'd said Katie was an attractive woman. Actually, he'd down played her beauty. She was tall and slender like Rick had said, and possessed a flawlessly rich peaches and cream complexion. She viewed the world through eyes as large and innocent as a child's in a startling shade of deep plum. Her nose was small and straight, her lips full and inviting. Her flaxen hair fell in full, carefully brushed waves to the middle of her back.
A.J. appreciated women with style, and of that Katie had plenty. Her sleeveless cornflower blue dress spoke softly of summer and a casual evening out with friends. It had an Empire waist and buttoned up the front. The bodice, while not overly snug, was fitted just enough to emphasize the woman's lithe build and full breasts. The skirt was loose and free flowing, and ended just above shapely bare knees. The neckline dipped down to Katie's collarbone. A gold chain encircled her throat and she wore a matching bracelet around her right wrist. The rich California tan she had already acquired allowed her to forego the formality of nylons. Her long legs were smooth and well toned, giving A.J. the indication she was no stranger to
physical exertion. Her bright white shoes were made of soft canvas and styled like a ballerina's slippers.
Katie had been just as apprehensive about this evening as A.J. She thought she'd be lucky if he turned out to possess half the attributes Rick and Leslie claimed of him. And she didn't think he could be anywhere near as handsome as Leslie said. Katie even tried to beg off at the last minute, calling her cousin at four o'clock to say she was sick.
"Sure you are," Leslie replied. "Katie, you're not sick and we both know it. Now come on. Get ready and drive over here. The guys will be here in an hour. You'll like A.J. I promise. He's a great guy."
"I'm sure he is. But after David--"
"Kate, you're going to have to put David in the past. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but it's over. You have to face that. Now come on. Tonight's your chance to meet someone new."
"But, Les...I don't know. I've been thinking that I should stay home tonight. Maybe David will call. After all, today was--"
"Katie, he's not going to call. He's not going to call, or write, or suddenly appear on your doorstep like some kind of Prince Charming out of a fairy tale. Just for this evening forget that David ever existed."
"But you said A.J.'s thirty-six. Don't you think he's a little too--"
Leslie issued her final command before hanging up on her cousin. "Katie, if your rear end isn't in my house in exactly forty five minutes I swear I'll come over there and drag you out of that apartment by the roots of your hair."
Butterflies were dancing in unsynchronized rhythm in Katie's stomach when Leslie's doorbell rang. If she could have dashed out the back without her cousin coming after her she would have. Facing a blind date was difficult enough after the certainties a three year engagement brings to one's life, but
making the situation even more difficult was the fact that Leslie had just told Katie she'd have to ride to the restaurant alone with A.J.
Within seconds of meeting A.J., however, all of Katie's apprehensions vanished.
Gosh, he's gorgeous. And such a gentleman.
Just like A.J. appreciated a woman with a sense of style, Katie appreciated that quality in a man. The blond detective was dressed in a pair of casual cargo style midnight blue trousers. The oxford shirt he wore was short sleeved and striped in three shades of blue. Katie immediately took note of his trim waist,
broad chest, and prominent biceps muscles that told her he lifted weights among other things. She didn't know what kind of aftershave he was wearing, but she loved its musky scent.
Leslie and Rick tried to pave the way for the blond couple, but ended up exchanging amused smiles when it became clear that A.J. and Katie weren't in need of assistance. The younger couple
quickly discovered they were reading the same novel and had been forced to stop that afternoon on almost the exact same page. An animated discussion followed over what had already occurred in the book, and where they both thought the story was heading.
Rick ushered everyone out the door soon thereafter. The Camaro followed the Power Wagon onto the street. Rick glanced in the rear view mirror at every stoplight. After they'd driven several miles he couldn't help but shake his head and chuckle.
"What?" Leslie asked from where she sat snuggled against him. "What's so funny?"
Rick's eyes flicked to the mirror again. "A.J. and Katie. Their mouths haven't stopped moving since we pulled out of your driveway."
Leslie started to look over her shoulder.
"No, no,” Rick commanded. "Don't turn around. We don't wannna make them self-conscious about it."
Leslie nodded. "You're right. I'm just glad they're enjoying one another's company. Katie really needs to meet a guy like A.J. after what that jerk David did to her. She needs to learn how to live again."
"Tell me about it. A.J. too. Katie's the first woman he's been out with since Liz that I can honestly say he's got something in common with. She's not just someone to hit the sack with, or to avoid going somewhere alone with."
Leslie's eyes twinkled as she looked up at her beau. "It looks like you and I make a pretty good pair of matchmakers, Mr. Simon."
Without taking his eyes off the road Rick leaned down and gave Leslie a kiss on the lips. "I couldn't agree more, Miss Hayes."
As the evening progressed it only grew more enjoyable for the blond man. The restaurant Leslie and Rick had chosen had something for everyone on its menu. It was neither too formal nor too informal, but rather middle of the road. The perfect place in which to take a blind date. The movie afterwards was
the same way - a well-acted, uproariously funny comedy that stayed within the lines of decency and good taste. Again, the perfect type of movie to see with a woman you've only known a few hours.
Afterward the couples walked several storefronts down from the movie theatre to a quaint ice cream parlor fashioned after those of an era long since past. They sat around a black wrought iron table laughing and talking and eating sundaes until ten thirty.
The Camaro followed the Power Wagon back to Leslie's house. The woman invited A.J. and Katie in, but the blonds politely declined. A.J. held Katie's car door open for her before saying good night to both his brother and Leslie. He backed onto the street and waited for Katie to pull out in front of him.
Although she had told him it wasn't necessary, A.J. insisted on following Katie to her apartment to insure her safe arrival. Right before he drove away, A.J. saw Rick follow Leslie into the house.
Guess that means I'm in charge of Marlowe tonight, the blond thought with amusement.
A.J. parked his car in the small section reserved for visitors in the parking lot outside Katie's apartment building. He walked her to the main entrance and stood with her while she unlocked the door.
Because of the lateness of the hour, A.J. followed the woman into the brightly lit foyer and up a flight of carpeted stairs. The hallway she led him down was softly illuminated with recessed lighting. Katie's neighbors appeared to be a quiet bunch, as A.J. couldn't even detect the sound of a television coming from behind the closed doors they passed.
Katie stopped at the last door on the left. The gold numbers on the outside labeled it 204. She and A.J. were within an inch of being the same height. When Katie turned around she didn't even have to look up at him.
The woman smiled and issued a demur invitation in her soft Carolina drawl. "Would you like to come in for a few minutes? It won't take me long to make us a pot of coffee."
A.J. was tired, and hadn't given it a thought that Katie might ask him inside once they arrived at her door. He hoped she didn't feel obligated to.
"It's late," he smiled in return. "And I'm sure you're tired. Perhaps another time."
She reached up and laid a hand on his arm. "Really, A.J. I'd like you to come in. You don't have to stay long. I'd just like someone to...to talk to for a few minutes. I've been lonely since I moved here."
"I'm sure you have been," A.J. sympathized. "I'm sure it hasn't been easy to move so far away from your family and friends."
The young woman's eyes fell to the floor. "No. No, it hasn't been."
A.J. felt sorry for this small town girl so far from everything familiar. And despite the lateness of the hour and his own weariness, A.J. had to admit that a shared pot of coffee and quiet conversation with a woman with whom he had a great deal in common sounded good for a change. Darn good.
"All right. I'll come in. But only if you're sure it's not an inconvenience."
Katie's head came up and her full mouth broke into a sincere smile revealing her flawless white teeth. "It couldn't possibly be."
The interior of Katie's apartment looked as A.J. had imagined it would. It was spotlessly clean, without so much as a stray shoe or piece of mail out of place. The kitchen and living room were decorated in a warm country motif that blended tones of deep blues, rich greens, and soft peaches to give the urban apartment a cozy air. A short hallway straight ahead of the foyer held to a bathroom. The apartment's only bedroom was on one side of that bathroom, and a small linen closet on the other.
"Make yourself comfortable on the sofa," Katie instructed.
"I'll be there in just a minute."
The kitchen and living room were separated by nothing more than a raised breakfast bar. Conversation flowed easily between the couple as Katie moved effortlessly from the refrigerator to the cabinets.
Dark fragrant coffee was poured into thin china cups. The dishes were adorned with delicate hand-painted lilacs and baby's breath. The cups, as well as saucers and spoons, were set on a
silver serving tray. Katie added a tiny matching pitcher of cream and the matching china sugar bowl. She reached in the cookie jar and filled a china plate with oatmeal cookies.
A.J. rose to take the tray from her when she entered the room. He carefully set it on the coffee table.
"I didn't realize we were going to be so formal," he teased. "Nor did I realize we were going to eat another meal."
Katie's delicate laugh rippled like tiny bells throughout the room. "I love to bake. Ever since I was a little girl I've wanted nothing more than a houseful of children to bake cookies for, just like my mama used to do for my brothers and sisters and me. She always had a plate of warm cookies and cold glasses of
milk waiting for us each day after school."
A.J. smiled with fond memory. "That sounds like my mother."
The couple sat next to each other on the couch. Katie reached for a coffee cup and handed it to A.J.
"Help yourself to the cookies."
A.J. leaned forward. "I will. Thank you." He took a bite of the thick chewy dessert. "Mmmmm. These are fantastic. Even better than the ones I make."
"You bake?" Kate had never before met a man who was so comfortable with himself and his masculinity as to admit he enjoyed an endeavor often associated with only the female gender.
A.J. nodded. "I like to cook. It became sort of a hobby of mine while I was in college."
Katie smiled warmly. "Just one more thing we have in common, A.J."
The detective couldn't help but smile in return. "It sounds that way."
The couple sat together and talked while sipping coffee and nibbling on cookies. They discovered more common interests as their conversation progressed, and A.J. began to think that it might not be a half bad idea to make another date with this beautiful Southern lady.
The blond man glanced at his watch and sat his coffee cup down on the tray.
"Would you like more coffee, A.J.? Or another cookie?"
"No, no. Thank you. I don't normally eat cookies at midnight. Especially after eating ice cream only an hour before. That's more my brother's style."
"A bottomless pit, huh?"
A.J. laughed. "Yes. As a matter of fact he is."
Katie nodded. "I have a brother like that, too."
Katie's empty cup chattered delicately against the saucer when she sat the dishes down and slid the tray to the far end of the coffee table. A.J. took this as his signal to call it a night and started to rise.
"Katie, I've had wonderful time this evening, and I'd really like to see you--"
Katie reached up and snagged A.J.'s arm. Before the blond realized what was happening, she'd yanked him back down to a sitting position.
The woman's smile was overflowing with adoration and she gazed deeply into his eyes. "I've had a wonderful time too, A.J. Thank you. Thank you for everything."
Suddenly, A.J. wasn't too sure about the signals Katie was broadcasting. He wriggled his hand out of her grasp. "You're welcome. But I need to be going. It's late, and I'm sure you're ti--"
Katie firmly planted both her hands against the blond's chest. With all the skill of a high school wrestler, she flung him backwards and hurled her lithe shapely body on top of his.
"I'm not tired," she whispered seductively while nipping tenderly at his right ear. "And you don't have to go. I'd like it if you stayed here tonight."
It was funny how just a few weeks earlier A.J. had been bedding a good number of women on the first date and not thinking twice about it. But somewhere since then he'd gotten his perspective back and come to his senses. That wasn't his normal style. He liked to get to know a woman before he took that first intimate step. And rarely did he ever feel he knew a woman that well after only one date. Even a woman like Katie,
with whom he shared so many interests.
Katie's full lips began to rain tiny kisses over A.J.'s face. He brought his hands up and gently but firmly grasped her shoulders. He lifted her off his supine body just enough to hold her suspended several inches above him. Her wheat colored hair cascaded down over his chest and tickled his bare throat.
"Katie...I don't think tonight's the night for us to start something like--"
Katie disengaged herself from A.J.'s grasp and her full weight came to rest upon him once more. Her roving fingers moved to caress his strong chest. "Yes it is, A.J."
Katie slipped open three buttons on the blond's shirt and slid a warm teasing hand inside.
The seductress leaned forward and pressed her lips against A.J.'s, effectively cutting off his protests. She pried his right hand from her wrist and moved it to a silky leg. She tried to further entice the handsome man by gliding his hand up that bare leg until it was under her dress.
"Go ahead, A.J.," came her husky invitation. "Do whatever you'd like."
Right at that moment it would have been so easy for A.J. Simon to totally abandon himself to the pleasures the beautiful woman sensually moving on top of him was offering. The hand caressing his chest, and the teeth gently nibbling his lips, held the promise of sexual ecstasy. But for some reason, the entire situation seemed off-kilter to the blond man. This temptress who had suddenly transformed into an aggressive tigress was hardly the same demur young woman of gentile Southern manners A.J. had spent the evening with. His detective's sixth sense told him something was amiss.
Katie's palm moved to lightly travel over the front of A.J.'s trousers. When she reached for his zipper both his hands darted down to stop her.
Katie's blond head dipped and her tongue flicked out to lick A.J.'s bare chest. "But, A.J.--"
A.J.'s hold tightened painfully on Katie's wrists. With one deft move he thrust the woman off himself and sat her none too gently on the couch. His voice was hard and stern.
"I said don't."
A.J. needed no more words. His firm tone and the inflexible expression on his face spoke volumes to the young woman.
The detective was taken aback by her reaction. Katie covered her face in her hands and began to cry. Not small, phony cries meant to lure him closer in sympathy, but rather deep wracking sobs that left her gasping for breath.
"Katie? Katie, what's wrong? Look...that...what happened just now wasn't a brush-off. I mean, it's not that I don't find you attractive and desirable. It's just that I think you were moving a little too fast...for both of us."
A.J. could barely make out the woman's hiccuped words. Her shoulders heaved in rhythm with the spasms of her diaphragm.
"I...I..I... kno...know. I...know. But I...I...I'm still...I'm a virg...virg...virgin, A.J.
A twenty...twenty...twenty-one year old virgin. Probably the only twenty-one year old virg...virg...virgin
left in the entire U...U...United States."
Twenty-one! A virgin!
The flabbergasted detective sat there staring at the young woman, his mouth agape, while he quickly buttoned up his shirt. Had the circumstances been different, A.J. would have been amused at how Katie made her age sound so old, while to him it sounded so young. But considering all she'd just revealed he was having a hard time finding any humor in the situation.
Thanks a lot, Rick.
"Well then if you...if you're...if you're a..." A.J. attempted to speak coherently before being forced to start over. "If you knew things were moving too quickly, why did you start them in the first place?"
Katie stammered out between her sobs, "Be...be...because I wan...wan...want to have your ba...ba...baby."
A.J. was certain his strangled shout could be heard two apartments away.
A.J.'s shocked roar only made Katie cry harder. When her sobs didn't subside the blond man scooted closer and placed a chaste arm around her shoulders.
"Katie, don't cry. Come on. I'm not angry. Just...confused. Come on now, stop crying please."
A.J.'s gentle words and comforting presence caused the woman's sobs to begin to abate. When she reached up to wipe her eyes with her hands A.J. retrieved the clean white monogrammed handkerchief from his back pocket.
"Here. Use this."
Katie's long hair hid her face as she nodded her thanks. She dabbed at the tears in the corners of her red eyes then blew her nose. She pulled away from A.J. and leaned back against the couch, exhausted by her emotional storm. She brought her long legs up and tucked them underneath her dress. She held
onto A.J.'s handkerchief, nervously twisting it between her slender fingers.
A.J. remained perched on the edge of the sofa. "Are you okay now?"
"Yes...yes. I am sorry, A.J.," Katie drawled softly in a nasally tone thick with the aftermath of tears. "You've been more of a gentleman about this than I deserve. If you want to leave now...well, I understand."
"I'm not going to leave until I know for sure you're all right. And until I know what you meant about wanting to have my baby."
"I sincerely apologize for that. I don't know what overcame me. It's just that...just that David...my former fiancé David and I..." Katie's voice quivered like a sprung bow. "We were supposed to be married today, Aaay Jaay," came the woman's weepy wail. "This was supposed to be my wedding day."
A.J. leaned back and took the young woman in his arms once more as her wail climbed to a high soprano and her sobs rapidly grew out of control. The detective was at a loss as to how best to proceed in this type of situation. He finally settled on allowing Katie to cry into his chest while he comforted softly, "It's all right, Katie. Don't cry. Everything's going to be all right."
"I'm sorry. I'm very sorry," The woman apologized in a shaky voice from the vicinity of A.J.'s shirtfront. "I feel like such a fool. I just...all I ever wanted was a husband and a
houseful of babies. I know a lot of women think I'm old fashioned. Leslie does. But nothing could make me happier than having one baby growing inside me, while another one sits on my hip, while a toddler pulls at my skirt. I've wanted to be a wife and mother for as long as I can remember. And I thought I would
have that with David. I loved him so much, A.J. He was my high school sweetheart. But he called off our wedding just three months ago because he fell in love with another woman. I already had my dress bought, the hall was rented, the caterer hired, and my bridesmaids had purchased their dresses. It was
so humiliating having to phone everyone and tell them the wedding was cancelled. Those dishes there, the china dishes we used tonight, were an early wedding gift from my parents." Katie's purple eyes swam in water once more. "They were supposed to go in our new home."
"But that still doesn't explain to me why you said what you did. About wanting to have my baby."
Katie brought her head up and moved out of the protective circle of A.J.'s arms. She was unable to meet the detective's gaze.
"I...I thought if we slept together tonight I might get pregnant."
A.J.'s eyebrows disappeared into his bangs. "You planned this? You knew all along you were going to invite me back here for just that reason?"
"No, A.J. No." Katie looked up. "Please don't get mad. No, honestly, I didn't plan it. As a matter of fact, I even called Leslie about an hour before you and Rick were supposed to pick us up and tried to back out. I was really nervous...I thought maybe...well, I was afraid that Leslie and Rick had exaggerated as to your attributes. You sounded too good to be true."
A.J. couldn't help but smile. "Thanks a lot."
Katie managed a smile at the blond man's teasing. "But they didn't. Exaggerate, I mean. Once I met you...well, right away I liked you a lot. We had so much in common. And you're such a gentleman. My daddy would like you. My brothers, too. Then I got to thinking about David. You remind me of him a
little bit. Your looks, I mean. And I got to thinking of him, and how we would have been starting our honeymoon about the time I invited you to come in. I had saved myself for him A.J....saved myself for my wedding night just like the Bible says a woman is supposed to. Just like I was taught I should
do by my mama and daddy. But then...a little while ago with you, I went crazy I guess. But I'm so unhappy here. In San Diego. It's a beautiful city but it's just not home. I want to go back home, A.J., but I don't want to go home alone. Without anything."
"You mean a husband and a baby?"
Katie gave a slight nod. "All my friends are married. And with the exception of Leslie, all my cousins, too. But she doesn't count because she was married for ten years before she and Jim divorced. And except for Leslie, all my cousins have children. I'm going to end up an ugly old spinster just
like my great aunt Vivian."
A.J. chuckled. "Katie, believe me, you could never end up an ugly old spinster no matter how hard you tried." The humor left the blond man's tone as he grew serious. "But, Katie...even if I would have agreed to sleep with you tonight, and even if you would have gotten pregnant, that doesn't necessarily mean I would have married you. We barely know one another. If that would have happened I would have wanted to be a father to the child, provided financial support for him or her, but--"
"But you don't know if you would have wanted to marry me."
A.J. shook his head. "No, Katie. I don't. To be quite honest with you, I've never found myself in a situation like this one before."
"I wouldn't have forced you to marry me, A.J. It would have been nice to go back home with a husband like you...someone who's so charming and handsome, but if you had refused I probably would have gone back to North Carolina anyway and had the baby alone. Raised it by myself. I really hadn't given it much thought."
A.J. realized then, that for as much as Katie had appeared earlier in the evening to be mature, well-read, and worldly...and at least six years older than twenty-one, she actually wasn't much more than a naive young girl from the rural South.
"I think you should have given it a lot more thought," A.J. admonished sternly. "Katie, you're a beautiful young woman. You'll meet someone else...someone who will take the place of David in a very important way. But you need to let nature take its course. These things have a way of working out with
very little assistance from us. Don't ruin your life by bringing a child into it out of wedlock. My father died when I was very young. My mother raised Rick and me by herself. I saw how hard it was for her at times, Katie. It wasn't easy being both mother and father to two growing boys. Don't be so foolish
as to put yourself in that position."
Properly chastised Katie admitted, "I guess I was being rather stupid, wasn't I?"
"Yes, you were," A.J. scolded like a stern older brother. "And you could have gotten hurt. Most men don't like to be toyed with. If you'd suddenly come to your senses and realized how foolish what you were doing was...well, I could have stopped, Katie. I know myself well enough to know that I could have
stopped at any point in time when you indicated it was all a mistake. That you didn't want to go on. But some men won't stop. In a situation such as that, some men would have felt you were teasing them...leading them on. If you pull a stunt like that with the wrong guy, at the very least you might find yourself with a black eye. The worst case scenario is you run the risk of being raped."
Katie's eyes fell to the sofa in shame. "I'm sorry, A.J."
"Don't be sorry. Just don't ever do it again. Katie, in the business Rick and I are in I've seen a number of women the day after they've been beaten up by their so called boyfriends or husbands. It's never a pretty sight, and it always turns my stomach. I just don't want you to ever be one of those women
who's coming to me for protection."
"I won't be, A.J. I promise. I just...I lost my head. I wasn't thinking. David...he hurt me so much. He broke my heart, A.J." Two tears spilled out of Katie's eyes to trickle down her cheeks. "As the good Lord is my witness, he broke my heart."
A.J. took the woman in his arms once again. "I know," he
crooned. "I know."
Katie wiped at her eyes with the only dry spot left on A.J.'s handkerchief. She stayed snuggled warm and safe in the detective's arms as she looked up into his face. Her voice was soft and held an unspoken question. "Rick told me you recently experienced a broken engagement, too."
A long minute passed before A.J. formulated a reply. "I wouldn't exactly call it a broken engagement. Liz...the woman I was seeing, Liz and I weren't engaged. I went to her house to ask her to marry me and," A.J. gave a mirthless chuckle, "well, some guy answered the door with nothing more than a towel wrapped around his hips."
Katie sat up and pulled away from A.J. Her eyes shone with sympathy and shared pain. "How awful. Oh, how awful. I'm so sorry, A.J."
A.J. shrugged. "I should have seen it coming. Liz and I had been dating fairly exclusively for four years. She'd been giving me ultimatums concerning marriage as long as a year before this happened. I guess she simply got tired of waiting."
"Why didn't you ask her sooner?" Katie questioned with child-like curiosity. "I mean, if you'd been seeing her for that long how come you never got around to asking her to marry you?"
A.J. looked off into the distance as if Katie's question forced him to be honest with himself for the first time regarding his former relationship with Liz.
"I don't know. Probably because all along I knew a marriage between us would never work. Don't get me wrong. Contrary to what my brother might tell you, Liz and I had a lot of good times together. But for one thing, she didn't like the work I do."
"Your private investigation work?"
Katie gushed, "I think it sounds exciting."
A.J. smiled. "No doubt you've been listening to a few too many of Rick's embellished stories. But regardless of whether or not it's exciting, Rick and I work a lot of odd hours. We're often tied up on cases throughout the weekend and at night. That didn't go over very well with Liz as the years went on. She
wanted me to get into another line of work. One which would allow me to devote more time to her. And she and Rick didn't get along whatsoever, which only made things more difficult. So, I suppose I knew almost right from the start of our relationship that we'd never end up marrying. Therefore, I imagine I even
took advantage of her in some ways. I had everything with her most married men have with their wives, but without making the final commitment. I was content to let things stay that way. And I suppose, rightfully so, Liz wasn't."
"You'll meet someone else, A.J. Someone who will take the place of Liz in a very important way. But you need to let nature take its course. These things have a way of working out with very little assistance from us."
A.J. laughed as he heard his earlier advice echoed word for word.
"You think so, huh?"
"Yes," Katie nodded. "I'm sure of it. You're a great guy, A.J. A true gentleman." Katie's eyes twinkled and she let her accent come through stronger than it had previously that night. "And every Southern lady knows a true gentleman when she meets one, kind sir."
A.J. pulled Katie into his arms for one last hug. "I'll have to take your word on that. It's not often I run across a Southern belle as lovely as yourself here in San Diego."
The couple rose from the couch as one. A.J. stopped in the doorway and put a gentle hand under Katie's chin.
"Are you okay now?"
"I'm fine, A.J. Really. Thank you for everything."
A.J. gave a throaty chuckle. "I didn't do anything."
Katie's cheeks flushed pink. "That's not what I meant. I mean, thank you for being so understanding. For not hating me. Thank you for making me see how foolish I was being about David, and a baby, and losing my virg...well everything."
"I'll wash your hankie for you and get it back to you as soon as I can."
"You don't need to go to all that trouble. Throw it away if you'd like."
"You don't want it back?"
"No," A.J. shook his head. "I've got a couple dozen more at home like it."
"Then I'll wash it, but I'll keep it."
"Keep it? Why?"
"Oh...just for a little something to remember you by."
A.J.'s eyes sparkled with amusement. "I guess I won't argue with that. Better to remember me with the hankie, than with what you originally hoped I'd give you."
"What...oh." Katie's eyes fell to the floor with embarrassment. "A baby."
A.J. nodded. "Yes, a baby. I think my hankie will be a little easier to explain to your mother."
Katie laughed as she reached out to give the blond man a final hug. "Thank you, A.J.," she breathed softly into his neck. "You're the first real friend I've made since moving to San Diego. I'll never forget you."
"And believe me, Katie, I won't soon forget you either."
The couple softly laughed together. It felt good to both of them to once again share a private joke with someone of the opposite sex. Without realizing it, both A.J. and Katie took their first steps toward healing that night.
Before Rick even entered his brother's garage the next afternoon he heard the rhythmic 'smack, smack, smack,' of boxing gloves connecting solidly with a punching bag.
Sweat rolled freely down A.J.'s face and bare chest as he danced and jabbed, danced and jabbed.
Marlowe lay out of A.J.'s way dozing on the cool cement of the garage floor. When he caught a familiar scent his eyes opened and he lifted his head giving a happy, "Whoof!"
A.J. glanced over his shoulder. Marlowe pushed himself up and lumbered to his master. Rick bent down and offered the dog his undivided attention. When Marlowe was satisfied his place of importance in his master's life was still secure he returned to his nap.
The heels of Rick's cowboy boots clacked against the garage floor. He hiked his rear end up on his brother's tool bench.
"Hey, A.J. Thanks for takin' care of Marlowe for me."
A.J. threw a punch at the swinging bag. "No problem."
"So...uh...did you and Katie have a good time last night?"
"Yes, we did."
"She's a nice girl, isn't she?"
A.J. danced to his left and threw a punch to his right. "Yes, she is."
"So when are you two seeing each other again?"
Rick spoke over the pop of A.J.'s boxing gloves connecting against the vinyl of the bag. "But you just said you had a good time."
"But...would you stop that for a minute please."
"The dancing and the jabbing. I'm tryin' to carry on a conversation with you here and you're making me dizzy."
A.J. stilled his feet and reached out to stop the swaying bag. He rested his boxing gloves on his hips.
"Thank you," Rick stated. "Now I thought you said the two of you had a good time."
"And I said we did."
"Then how come you're not seeing each other again?"
A.J. pulled off his right glove and reached for the clean towel resting by Rick's thigh. He dabbed at the sweat trickling down his warm face.
"Rick, before I agreed to go out with Katie last night I told you it would be on one condition. And the condition was, that there would be no pressure from you if she and I didn't go out again."
"I'm not pressurin' you. I'm just askin.’"
"If you must know, Katie and I came to the mutual agreement that it would be best if we don't see each other again."
"But how come? You two had so much in common. You like the same kinda music, and the same kinda books, and the same kinda--"
"Okay, okay. I'll drop it. I'm just sorry it didn't work out. But, hey listen...if this was more her idea than yours, maybe I could talk to Leslie. I'm sure she'll talk to Katie
"Rick, it wasn't anymore Katie's idea than it was mine. I already told you it was a mutual agreement. You're right, we have a lot in common, and she's a nice young lady who will someday make some nice young man very happy. But that man won't be me, so let's just leave it at that, shall we?"
A.J. tossed the towel back on the bench and resumed his workout.
"It's the age thing, isn't it? You think she's too young for you."
"It would have been nice had you mentioned her rather tender years ahead of time, but no, overall her age has nothing to do with it."
"I guess she's got kind of a funny laugh. Like bells jingling or something. I suppose that could get annoying after a while."
A.J. glanced over at his brother. "I liked her laugh just fine. As a matter of fact, I thought it was rather cute."
"Oh. Well it's the accent, huh? I guess that drawl would take some gettin' used to, but given time I would think a guy could grow accustomed to--"
"There was nothing wrong with her accent. For heaven's sake, Rick, anyone born in that part of the country is going to have an accent like Katie's. I'm sure she thinks we're the ones with the accent."
"Yeah, I suppose you're right. Well then, I guess she was a little too tall for--"
"Rick, let it rest," A.J. advised. "I've already told you all I'm going to."
A.J. threw a resounding left hook at the bag. "Really."
Rick put his hands on the bench and used them to propel himself to his feet. "Okay. Have it your way. But I really did think you two were meant for each other."
The lanky man whistled as he strolled past his dog. "Come on, Marlowe. Let's go to the boat."
A.J. thought Rick had long departed when abruptly the oldest Simon stuck his head back into the garage. "It was her hair, wasn't it? She probably needed to have it trimmed up just a little. I noticed how she kept pushing it off her face."
A.J. turned around and glared at his sibling. "Rick, would you get the hell out of here!"
"Okay, okay, I'm going."
Just to further leave his brother guessing, A.J. couldn't resist calling loudly after him, "And no! It wasn't her hair!"
Three weeks later, on another Sunday afternoon, Rick entered his brother's home. A.J. was sitting on the couch in the den with his legs propped up on the coffee table. He was reading the thick weekend edition of the San Diego Chronicle while keeping half an eye on the Padres game.
Rick opened the refrigerator and snared a cold beer. "Want one?"
A.J. glanced up. "No thanks."
Rick rounded the snackbar and plopped his lanky frame down into the easy chair. Marlowe got up from where he was sunning himself in front of the French doors and sprawled out on the floor beside his master.
Rick popped the tab on his beer can. "What's the score?"
"Astros eight, Padres one. Bottom of the ninth. The Padres have two outs, two men on."
"Oh great. A rally."
A.J. shook his head in wonder at his sibling before returning his attention to the paper.
Within a minute's time the game came to a disappointing conclusion.
"Damn. They lost again."
A.J. didn't look up from the column he was reading. "And that surprises you?"
"You know what your problem is, A.J.? You don't have a lick of faith in your soul."
"I have plenty of faith in my soul. But only faith in things that I know will come about. The Padres pulling a game out of the cellar in the bottom of the ninth with two outs when they're down by seven is not something that will come about."
A.J. laid the paper aside and reached for the remote control. His index finger hit a button, and the TV's sound and picture disappeared. The blond laid the remote back on the coffee table while taking note of the wet circles ringing the armpits of his brother's blue work shirt.
"Where have you been?"
"Helpin' a friend move."
"What friend? I didn't know one of your friends was moving."
"Yep. I just finished helping her brothers load the moving van. One of them is driving it back to North Carolina, while the other one rides with Katie in her car."
"When did she decide to move home?"
"A couple weeks ago. She's gonna be able to return to her old job. According to Leslie, they're thrilled to be gettin' her back. So she gave a two week notice at the office she's been workin' at here, and called her family. Her brothers pulled in around nine o'clock last night."
"Good," A.J. nodded. "I think that's the best thing for her. I'm certain she was running away from her ex-fiancé more than anything else. She was very homesick."
"Yeah, she was." Rick reached into his shirt pocket. "Oh. I almost forgot. She asked me to give you this."
A.J.leaned forward and took the thin tissue paper wrapped parcel from his brother. "What is it?"
Rick shrugged. "I don't know. She didn't say, and I didn't ask."
A.J. unwrapped the small gift and found a woman's white starched lace handkerchief inside. The initials KMD were embroidered in pink in one corner. A hand written note lay on top.
Thanks again for everything. Here's a little something to remember me by.
Forever Your Southern Belle,
A.J. chuckled as he loosely rewrapped the handkerchief and note in the tissue paper.
Rick could no longer contain his curiosity. "What's that all about?"
"Oh...just a private joke."
"I see," the lanky man nodded. "Uh...A.J...I wanted to say...well, I wanted to tell you that it was pretty nice how you treated Katie and all."
A.J. viewed his brother through veiled eyes. "What do you mean, how I treated her?"
"You know, when she came on to you so strong. You could have really taken advantage of her. Of her naiveté and emotions. I think she was pretty confused that night."
"She was. But how do you know about it?"
"Katie told Leslie the whole story. And after Katie and her brothers left this afternoon, Leslie told me. Les really appreciates everything you did for Katie. Including knocking some sense into her head concerning getting pregnant with the first guy that comes along, and being overly aggressive with a
man she's just met."
"I didn't do anything special," A.J. down played the incident. "She was simply a lonely, dejected young woman far from home who really needed a friend to talk to more than she needed anything else."
"Well, Leslie sure is grateful to you. If she'd have known that's what Katie had up her sleeve she never would have suggested us hookin' the two of you up."
"I know that. I'm just glad I was there, and that Katie didn't try to pull that trick on some other guy. God only knows what the outcome might have been."
"She could be pregnant," Rick stated.
"Yes. Or she could have been seriously hurt. She's never..." A.J. cleared his throat. "It would have been her first time, Rick."
"Her first time for what?"
"For picking oranges, bozo! What the hell do you think it would have been her first time for?"
"Oh. That?" Rick's eyes widened. "Really?"
"Man, and here I didn't think there were any of them left over the age of nineteen now days."
"Well, thanks to you, I found one."
"So that's what you meant about her getting hurt, huh?"
"Yes. To say she came on strong is putting it mildly. Any man would have guessed she possessed a vast amount of experience when it came to sex. Someone could have easily been too rough with her. Or she very likely could have changed her mind at the last minute. She might have realized the foolishness of what she
was doing and tried to put a halt to the activities."
Rick nodded grimly. "We've seen enough date rape cases in our day to know circumstances like those can bring about some pretty unfavorable results."
"Yes, unfortunately we have."
"Still, I woulda' given my last dollar to see the look on your face when Katie told you she wanted to have your baby."
A.J. tried to appear angry, but lost out and ended up shaking his head and grinning. "I was rather shocked, to say the least. I've had women come on to me aggressively at various times over the years, but never one with quite that purpose in mind."
"That you're aware of."
"Well...yes, you're right. That I'm aware."
"Have you ever wondered about it, A.J.?"
"Wondered about what?"
"Well, you've had your share of relationships with a number of women since you were in college, and I've had my share of relationships since I got outta high school and--"
"Your share? Rick, get real. If you lined up all the women you've seen since you were eighteen they'd be able to link hands and make a continuous chain from here all the way to New York City."
"Probably," Rick conceded. "And that's why I can't help but wonder sometimes."
"If I've got a kid somewhere. Do you ever think about that?"
"No. Because I'm careful. Because I make sure me or my lady friend is using some sort of birth control."
"I do, too!" Rick defended. "I always have. But what if they lie to you, A.J.? I mean, if you had gone to bed with Katie she coulda' told you she was on the pill and you probably woulda'
A.J. reluctantly nodded. "You're right. I probably would have. I've never questioned any woman in the
past who has told me that. But, then again, in most cases I know the woman fairly well and don't feel she'd lie to me."
"But one of 'em could have."
"I suppose so."
"So it kinda makes you think, doesn't it?"
"Yes, it does. But not half as much as it should make you think."
"What do you mean?"
"Rick, hypothetically speaking, for every one child I might have spawned over the years, you would have spawned five. Now think about it. How would you explain that to Mom?"
"Mmmm. I wouldn't wanna have to, that's for sure. I guess I'd better continue to stick with Leslie. I know for certain what kinda birth control she uses."
A.J. drew his feet back off the coffee table. "Sounds like a good plan, brother."
The blond straightened the papers and placed them in the magazine rack beside the sofa.
"And speaking of Leslie," Rick said. "She's got a girlfriend she thinks you'd really like. Now I haven't met this woman yet, but I'm sure we can-"
A.J. rose, taking Katie's package with him.
"No more blind dates. My last one was an adventure I won't soon forget."
"Where are you goin'?"
"Upstairs to take a shower."
"But you just took a shower this morning."
"I know. But I have a date."
"A woman I met when I was at the coroner's office talking to Jerry Reiner the other day."
"Is she alive?"
"Of course she's alive!"
"I'm only kidding."
"I was hoping so. Regardless, she's a medical examiner for the county. She went out to lunch with Jerry and me. She seems very nice, and she and I have a lot in common. So I asked her out for dinner tonight and she said yes."
"Good for you," Rick smiled. "I knew you'd get back into the swing of things when the right gal came along. Of course, I didn't think she'd be someone who spent all her time with stiffs, but I suppose in that case you don't have to worry too much about her steppin' out on ya'. After all, most of the
guys she spends her days with are beyond payin' attention to a pretty face."
"Rick," A.J. shook his head. "You're sick, you know that?"
Rick laughed at his own joke. "I know. That's why you and Mom love me so much."
"I don't know who started that rumor, but I can assure you the person was lying."
Rick chuckled at the teasing as A.J. headed up the stairs. He listened to the water thunder from above. When the shower shut off Rick could hear A.J. whistling as he went about shaving and getting dressed for his evening out.
Rick reached down and scratched Marlowe behind his ears. "Guess things are finally gettin' back to normal for him, Marlowe. I'm glad. Don't tell A.J. I said this, but he's a good guy. The kinda guy any man would be proud to call brother. He deserves a good woman at his side.
"But geez...I sure hope this one ain't like Liz."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~