WINNER TAKES IT ALL IMAGE by Pywacket

 

WINNER TAKES IT ALL

by Winnie

A/N:Thanks to Marti for the push for this one and for the quick beta. Thanks To Antoinette for being a wonderful beta and to Pamela for the pic.

 

February 12/2012

 

Buck Wilmington's eyes grew wide as saucers as he walked by the reception desk for the ATF. The woman seated behind the desk was DDG by any standards and his eyes quickly took in the empty finger on her left hand. 'Single,' he thought and sauntered up to the desk where he promptly sat on the edge.

 

“Can I help you?” the woman asked softly.

 

“I believe the sun shone down on me today,” Buck said with a smile, almost purring with the silken sound of her voice.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“I thought I'd come in here to the same old same old and instead I find a goddess sitting behind the desk asking if she can help me...”

 

“Don't take it personally, Buck, she asks everyone the same question,” Dunne said, shaking his head as he walked past and headed for the office.

 

“Maybe she does, JD...”

 

“Excuse me,” the woman said and answered the phone in the same seductive voice she'd used with Buck.

 

“See,” Dunne said and ducked into the office when Wilmington picked up a cup and made to throw it toward him.

 

“Excuse me, but I need to take this call,” the woman said.

 

Buck reluctantly shifted and stood up. The woman's voice caressed his ears and he licked his lips at the thought of getting her number. Valentine's Day was only a couple of days away and if he played his cards right he just might have a date after all. He whistled softly and joined the others in the office, frowning when he noticed Vin and Ezra smiling.

 

“Didn't even get to first base did you Bucklin?” Tanner asked.

 

“I don't believe he even arrived at the plate, Mr. Tanner,” Standish observed.

 

“Give me a chance, Boys, I'll have her eating out of my hands in no time,” Wilmington said as the mail was delivered and Dunne took it from the elderly man.

 

“I do believe the lady in question would prefer someone of refined qualities,” Standish said as JD began sorting the office mail.

 

“I suppose you think you have a shot with her?” Wilmington said.

 

“Indeed I do,” the undercover agent answered.

 

“Yer both outta luck on this one, Boys,” Tanner said and leaned back in his chair.

 

“Why is that...she's not wearing a ring?” Wilmington said.

 

“I know and I plan on inviting her out to dinner at a fine restaurant,” the Texan said.

 

“Oh, please, Mr. Tanner, The Saloon does not qualify as a fancy restaurant,” Standish said as Larabee, Sanchez, and Jackson entered the office.

 

“What's wrong with The Saloon?” Larabee asked.

 

“Ezra says it ain't fancy,” Tanner answered.

 

“Thank God it's not or we'd have to watch our manners and use the right fork,” Wilmington offered.

 

“And drink coffee outta them little china cups with our pinky held up like we's ready ta pick our nose,” Tanner said and shuddered at the thought.

 

“Crude, Mr. Tanner,” Standish said.

 

“But true,” Wilmington said and smiled at the others. “I think we have the makings of a bet...who gets to first base with the new lady.”

 

“A wager sounds intriguing,” Standish agreed. “What should the parameters of our wager be?”

 

“That's easy...when you and Buck lose ya pay fer dinner fer me and the lady,” Tanner said and saw the hint of a smile on Larabee's face before the man moved into his office and left them to discuss the wager.

 

Larabee sat at his desk and looked up when JD walked in with a cup of coffee and the mail. He plopped the mail in the in box and handed Chris the cup. “Thanks, JD.”

 

“Sure,” Dunne said and left the blond alone. Chris sipped at the coffee, enjoying the robust flavor before reaching for the mail. There were several inter office memos and a reminder from his doctor's office that he was due for his physical...last month. He put it aside and frowned when he looked at the yellow envelope that looked so out of place amongst the white ones.

 

Chris picked it up and was surprised to find it was scented and only had his first name written across the front. He opened it and several yellow rose petals fell out on his desk. He looked inside and removed a piece of note paper with a red heart drawn in the top left hand corner and read the simple verse printed neatly in the center of the page.

 

Valentine's Day is for lovers,

That's true

Perhaps it's also time for,

Me and you

 

Chris turned it over in his hands, but found nothing that would tell him who'd sent the card. The only thing he was sure of, was that it had come from inside the building because there was no postage stamp and nothing but his name on the envelope. With a small smile he set it aside and wet back to the papers on his desk, chuckling softly as the trio of would be Casanovas finalized the bet they'd made.

 

“Chris, Dr. O'Hara called to remind you your medical is past due,” Jackson said.

 

“I'll give him a call later,” Larabee said.

 

“Chris...”

 

“I'll call him, Nate...”

 

“When?”

 

“When I get the time,” the blond snapped and realized Jackson was doing exactly what he'd told him too do when he'd first put off the physical. “Sorry, I'll call him this afternoon.”

 

“Glad to hear it, but there's no need. He had a cancellation this afternoon and since we don't have any pressing cases I figured I'd save you the time and have him pencil you in,” Jackson said.

 

“You're all heart,” Larabee said and dropped the file he had in his hand. “What time?”

 

“One-fifteen,” Jackson answered, relieved when his boss simply nodded. There were times when Chris Larabee was his own worst enemy, especially when it concerned his health. The fact that he hadn't kicked up a fuss about the physical made him wonder if the man was feeling all right, but he pushed those feelings aside when the boss spoke.

 

“I'm fine, Nathan, just figure I'm better off getting it over with,” Larabee said and glanced at his watch. “That gives me just under two hours to get through these files so get out of here.”

 

“You need anything before then just let me know,” Jackson told him.

 

Chris looked at the files and then glanced at the card with the heart on it. “Well, if you're female, and God help me I hope you are, then maybe you'll rescue me from this.”

 

Unfortunately, that was not going to happen and he started with the first file as the light scent wafted up from the envelope.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

Buck knew he had to make the best of his time, because the bet consisted of him, Vin, and Ezra each having one hour a day to make their move on the new receptionist. Hell, they didn't even know her name yet, but there was no way in hell that would stop them. Buck had made his way to the small flower shop down the street from the ATF building and bought a small bouquet of flowers. Once they were wrapped, he made his way back to the main floor of the office building and was pleased to see the raven-haired beauty seated behind her desk.

 

Buck quickly unwrapped the flowers and put them behind his back while he waited for the woman to finish her call. “For you, Fair Lady,” Wilmington said when she hung up the phone and looked up at him.

 

“Thank you, Mr...”

 

“Wilmington, Buck Wilmington so please call me Buck,” the ladies' man told her and smiled as she reached for the flowers. Her hand touched his and he felt the softness of her skin just before she pulled away.

 

“Thank you, Buck, they are lovely,” she told him.

 

“A lovely lady deserves lovely things,” Wilmington said and looked at the name on the wooden sign on her desk. “Kate, is it okay if I call you Kate?”

 

“Well, Miss Donovan would feel rather formal after such a thoughtful gift,” the raven-haired beauty answered and held up her hand as the phone began to ring again.

 

“Buck, quit bothering the lady,” Larabee said. He'd exited the office in time to hear his long time friend laying it on thick and wondered if Vin and Ezra should just admit defeat and hand over the money.

 

“I'm not bothering her, Chris,” Wilmington said and reached for her hand. “Am I, Kate.”

 

“Not at all, but I'm afraid I have several calls to make,” she said and turned her attention to the keyboard as the two men walked toward the elevator.

 

“Thanks a lot, Pard, I was just getting started,” Wilmington said.

 

“Sure you were, Stud,” Larabee said with a grin. “Hold down the fort while I'm gone.”

 

“Where are you going?”

 

“Physical,” the blond answered simply.

 

“Oh, Hell, glad I'm not you.”

 

“Your turn is coming,” Larabee told him and entered the elevator.

 

Buck turned away and headed back, hoping he'd be able to chat with Kate Donovan again, but the woman was busy with a phone call even while she tapped at her keyboard. He entered the office to find Vin and Ezra watching with matching smirks on their faces.

 

“Flowers, Bucklin?” Tanner asked.

 

“How cliché,” Standish added and leaned back to place his feet on top of his immaculate desk.

 

“I suppose you can do better?” Wilmington asked.

 

“Indubitably,” the undercover agent answered and glanced at the clock on the wall. “My gift should be delivered before the lovely Miss Donovan leaves for the day.”

 

Vin smiled inwardly at the thought of Standish's gift. He'd pretended to be engrossed in the file that was open on his desk, but he'd heard every detail of Ezra's plan and decided all was fair in love and war...although it really wasn't a good comparison in this case. There was no love, but the war was an all out one to win the lady's attention by Valentine's Day.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

“Miss Donovan, I'll be out of the office for several hours so please hold my calls unless it's an emergency. If that happens then put them through to Buck Wilmington,” Larabee told the woman seated behind the desk, and frowned when she quickly shielded whatever it was she'd been working on.

 

“I'm sorry, Mr. Larabee, what did you say?”

 

“I said you should hold my calls unless it's an emergency...those you can give to Buck Wilmington,” Larabee said and smiled when she stared into his eyes. He could understand why Buck, Ezra, and Vin found the woman attractive and was tempted to ask her out, but three of his team were already vying for her attention.

 

“Mr. Larabee, did you hear me?”

 

“Sorry, Miss Donovan, guess I was daydreaming,” Larabee said.

 

“I've been known to do that myself. Anyway I will hold the calls and messages until you return,” Kate answered.

 

“Thank you,” Larabee said and made his way toward the elevator.

 

Kate watched him walk away and couldn't help but admire what she saw. Chris Larabee was mighty fine in her eyes, and she found it hard to return to work until he was out of sight.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7 

 

Martha Fitzgerald looked at the man holding the gift basket and wondered who was the recipient of such a delicious bouquet of chocolate covered fruit. A hint of a wistful smile formed as she thought about her husband and the last edible bouquet he'd sent her. It was almost ten years since she lost him and sometimes she would see him out of the corner of her eyes while sitting in his favorite chair. A chair that still held a hint of his favorite tobacco and was often a place where she slept the best.

 

“Excuse me, but are you,” the deliveryman said and looked at the envelope. “Martha Fitzgerald?”

 

“Yes, I am,” the elderly woman answered.

 

“These are for you,” the kid told her.

 

“For me? Are you sure? There must be some kind of mistake?”

 

“No mistake, Ma'am, they're yours.”

 

“Thank you...but I don't have any money to give you,” Martha said as she took the basket.

 

“That's okay...it was taken care of by the gentleman who ordered them,” the young man said and hurried away.

 

“Martha, do you have a secret admirer you've been holding out about?” Janet Daily asked. As a secretary for one of the agencies housed in the building she was used to such deliveries around Valentine's Day, but rarely had there ever been a delivery for a cleaner.

 

“I'm as surprised as you are,” Martha answered.

 

“Who are they from?”

 

“I have no idea,” Martha told her.

 

“Why don't you open the card and see?” Janet said.

 

“Would you hold the basket?”

 

“Of course,” the secretary answered and smiled as the woman took the card. She watched as her eyes widened in surprise and was happy when the woman smiled. “Who's it from?”

 

“Ezra Standish,” the cleaner said. The card was a simple one with a few words that made her smile. It simply said 'I was wondering if you would join me for a romantic dinner on Valentine's Day?'.

 

“Isn't he one of the Magnificent Seven?”

 

“I think so, and whoever came up with that name must have been reading my mind,” Martha said and smiled inwardly. If it wasn't for the fact that she was already seeing someone, someone closer to her own age, then she would take him up on the offer. She hoped he would understand when she turned him down.

 

“Yes, they are magnificent,” Martha said.

 

“There's just something about them that screams...”

 

“Sex,” Martha finished for her.

 

“Exactly, and oh my, have you ever noticed how tight some of the jeans are?”

 

“The ones with the silver buckle at the back is especially enticing,” Martha said.

 

“Hell, yes, if only I could...”

 

“Yes, I'm sure there are a lot of women who'd like to undo that buckle,” Martha agreed. “Well, I'd better put these in the staff fridge and go thank Mr. Standish.”

 

“Hmm, any excuse to go into that office...you're a lucky woman, Martha.”

 

“That I am,” the cleaner said and took the basket from the other woman. She walked toward the staff lounge with a smile on her face.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

Ezra Standish looked at the woman standing in the doorway to the main office and wondered why she was smiling at him. She wore the uniform of a cleaner, and he'd seen her around, had even spoken to her on several occasions, but why she was looking at him as she spoke to Vin he had no idea.

 

“Hey, Ez, ya got a visitor,” Tanner said.

 

“Hello, Mrs. Fitzgerald, how can I be of assistance?” Standish asked and wondered why Vin was smiling so broadly.

 

“I wanted to say thank you for the beautiful and thoughtful gift. When my husband was alive he sent me an edible arrangement similar to the one you sent and I appreciate the offer of a romantic dinner, but I'm already in a relationship,” Martha told him.

 

“I am sorry to hear that, Mrs. Fitzgerald,” Standish said and glared in Tanner's direction as Wilmington sat on the edge of the Texan's desk. “Perhaps another time.”

 

“Mr. Standish, if I were 20 years younger I might just take you up on that offer, but I'm afraid you're too young for an old woman like me, but I do thank you for the thought,” Martha said. “If you'd like me to return the arrangement I will bring it up to you.”

 

“No, please enjoy it,” Standish said and was surprised when she pulled him close and kissed him.

 

“Oh, perhaps I should say to hell with the age difference,” Martha said and hurried toward the door as Buck and Vin tried not to laugh.

 

“I have no idea which of you is the culprit, but I assure you I will get my revenge,” Standish said and wiped off the lipstick left by the woman.

 

“Oh, Ezra, I didn't know you liked older women,” Wilmington said.

 

“I could always set ya up with Mrs. Belmont, Ez, she's a little older than Mrs. Fitzgerald, but seein' as how ya like 'em that way...”

 

“You will be sorry, Mr. Tanner,” Standish said and shook his head before pouring himself a coffee. He knew Buck and Vin were finding it hard to restrain themselves and had to admit that they'd pulled one over on him, but this was only the beginning. He would win the lovely Miss Donovan, and he'd make damn sure his friends ate crow.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

Chris returned to the office to find the rest of the team discussing a case that had ended before it even got started. It was one of those rare occasions when there were no injuries and the arrests were made without problems.

 

“How did it go, Chris?” Jackson asked.

 

“It went well. Dr. O'Hara said my BP is back to normal,” Larabee answered.

 

“Until the next go round,” the medic said softly.

 

“Well, hell, Nathan, at least I kept the appointment,” Larabee said.

 

“True, but only because you didn't have time to think about it,” Jackson said. “When will you get the rest of the results?”

 

“I have to call him in a couple of days,” Larabee told him and shook his head. “Everything looks good, Nate, so stop worrying so much.”

 

“Hard to do with this lot.”

 

“I know...and we appreciate it,” the blond said and continued in to the office. He sat at the desk and his eyes were drawn to the card that had been delivered earlier and he wondered who had sent it, but for now all he could do was keep the others from seeing it.

 

“Hey, Chris, I'm gonna go grab something for lunch...”

 

“Vin, it's nearly three.”

 

“I know, but I'm a growing boy.”

 

“Really?” Larabee said with a grin.

 

“Sure is, besides I need to make some plans to woo Miss Donovan.”

 

“So Buck sent flowers...what about you and Ezra?”

 

“Ezra sent fruit covered in chocolate, but they got sidetracked,” Tanner said with a grin.

 

“Ah, I take it you were behind that?”

 

“What makes ya say that?”

 

“Because that's what I'd do,” Larabee told him. “So who got the fruit?”

 

“That nice Mrs. Fitzgerald,” Tanner answered. “Ezra even sent her a card.”

 

“And what did the card say?”

 

“He asked her out to dinner on Valentine's Day.”

 

“Vin,” Larabee said. “Mrs. Fitzgerald is a nice lady and I'd rather she not get caught up in a war between you, Buck, and Ezra.”

 

“Ain't gonna happen...she turned Ezra down flat,” Tanner told him.

 

“She did?”

 

“Yep...seems she's been seein' ol' man Turner.”

 

“Jeb Turner?”

 

“That's 'im,” the Texan said. I introduced them a while back and they've been seein' each other ever since.”

 

“Good for them,” Larabee said.

 

“Wha's that?”

 

“What's what?”

 

“Yer repeatin' yerself, Cowboy? What's that yer hidin in yer hand?”

 

“Nothing you need to worry about,” Larabee told him.

 

“Come on, Chris, a yellow envelope...what're ya hidin?”

 

“It's just a card,” the blond said and slipped it into his coat pocket.

 

“What kind of card?”

 

“A none of your business kind of card,” Larabee answered. “Don't you have files to finish?”

 

“No, finished 'em a while back...is it from a woman?” Tanner asked and smiled when his friend didn't answer. “Tell me it ain't from a man?”

 

“No, Vin, it ain't a man.”

 

“Ya sure?”

 

“Yes, I'm sure,” Larabee said and hoped he wasn't lying.

 

“'Cause ya know there ain't nothin' wrong with a man bein' attracted ta another man...nowadays it's pro'bly the in thing ta do. Hell, if I was gonna fall fer a man it'd pro'bly be someone like you....maybe,” Tanner teased.

 

“Don't do me any favors,” Larabee warned and stretched the kinks from his back.

 

“Well, I gotta go talk with Miss Donovan.”

 

“Time to make your move?”

 

“Exactly,” Tanner said and stood up, popping a couple of Tic Tacs in his mouth.

 

“Good luck with that.”

 

“Luck has nothing ta do with it, Pard, I got natural charm and sexuality,” the Texan said and checked his reflection in the window before leaving the office.

 

Chris couldn't help, but smile at the confidence Tanner had and knew the man wasn't being vain. He turned his attention back to his desk and wondered whether anyone would notice if he left early. One look at the files told him he'd regret it if he did because tomorrow would bring more of the same. With a heavy sigh he reached for the first one and opened it.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

Kate looked up as footsteps approached her desk and smiled at the man standing there. In the short time she'd worked here she'd noticed the abundance of good-looking men and Tanner was no exception.

 

“Hello, Miss Kate.”

 

“Hello, Mr. Tanner.”

 

“Please call me Vin, Ma'am,” Tanner told her. “Miss Kate, I was wonderin' if'n ya would do me the honor of goin' to dinner with me on Valentine's Day?”

 

“Thank you, Vin, I must say you gentlemen are a friendly bunch,” Kate told him and looked up as a young woman brown haired woman exited the elevator and hurried toward the desk. There was no doubt the woman was very pregnant and smiled when she saw the man standing by the desk, even though he didn't seem to notice her.

 

“Does that mean you'll go out with me?”

 

“Vin, did you forget our appointment with the Lamaze Group?”

 

“Excuse me?” Tanner said with a frown. There was something familiar about her, but he couldn't quite grasp where he'd seen her before.

 

“You were supposed to meet me at the hospital. How are you going to be my coach if you don't make our appointments? This is the third appointment you've missed, Vin?”

 

“Do I know you?” Tanner asked and saw something he didn't like in Kate Donovan's eyes. “Miss Kate, I don't know who she is?”

 

“Oh, Vin,” the young woman said and made a show of wiping her eyes. “How can you say that? Why are you turning your back on us?”

 

“Look, Lady, I don't know who...”

 

“Here, Miss...”

 

“Jenny...Jenny Turner,” the young woman said and took the tissue from Kate's hand as the secretary stared at the man.

 

“Mr. Tanner, how could you stand there and ask me to dinner when Miss Turner is carrying your child?” Kate snapped

 

“Kate, I didn't do anything,” Tanner frowned and turned to see Wilmington standing in the doorway to the office with a smug smile on his face.

 

“You've done plenty!” Kate told him and allowed the woman to sit in her chair. “Leave now before I tell you just how I feel about a man who treats anyone like this. Especially when she's carrying his child!”

 

“Buck!” Tanner snarled and remembered where he'd seen the young woman before. She lived in Buck and JD's building and he'd seen her talking to JD on several occasions.

 

“Kate, you have to believe me. I'm not the father of the baby and I don't know her...well, not personally, but I have seen her before,” Tanner said as the woman started crying uncontrollably. 

 

“Leave, Mr. Tanner,” Kate ordered and continued to hold the weeping woman. “It's okay, Miss Turner, you're better off without a man like that.”

 

Vin shook his head and strode toward Wilmington who had been joined by Standish and both men wore a smug look on their face. “What the hell, Buck...”

 

“What the hell what, Vin?” Wilmington asked innocently.

 

“That girl lives in your building...I ain't her baby's daddy and you know it!”

 

“I know and you know it, but it seems Kate doesn't believe you,” the rogue said.

 

“Yer gonna tell her the truth!” Tanner ordered.

 

“I certainly hope he does, but not until after Valentine's Day,” Standish observed.

 

“No, that ain't fair!”

 

“Sure, it is, Vin. Didn't you intercept Ezra's edible arrangement? It seems to me we're just getting started and yet, you seem to be out of the running,” Wilmington said.

 

“It ain't over, Bucklin!” Tanner snapped as he turned back to see the anger in Kate Donovan's eyes. He strode toward the two women and smiled as he looked at the pregnant woman. “Is it still too late to go to the appointment?”

 

“What?” Jenny Turner asked.

 

“We should leave now and maybe we'll call Donny and make sure he knows you've been lying about who the daddy is,” Tanner said and smiled as he reached for her hand.

 

“What? No, we can't do that,” Jenny said and looked from Tanner to Wilmington. “I'm sorry, Buck, but I can't do this.”

 

“I ain't the father,” Tanner said.

 

“Of course you're not...my husband is!” Jenny said and hurried away.

 

“Sorry, Kate, I think someone was tryin' ta put one over on ya,” Tanner said and looked pointedly at Wilmington.

 

“Really, is that what he's doing?”

 

“Yes, Ma'am,” the Texan said. “So how about...”

 

“I'm sorry, Mr. Tanner...Vin, but right now I'm not sure I can say yes,” Kate told him.

 

“I'll keep askin'.”

 

“And maybe I might surprise you,” Kate said and went back to her seat. She smiled at the three men who now stood near the office door and wondered what else they'd do to vie for her attention.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

“Chris, there's a card for you,” Jackson said and passed Larabee a pink envelope. It was nearly five and they'd be leaving on time for a change and he planned to see if the bracelet he'd ordered for Rain was ready. God, he hoped so, he wanted to surprise her with something other than chocolates and flowers.

 

“Thanks, Nathan,” Larabee said and placed it on his desk.

 

“Are you going to see who it's from?”

 

“Later, I want to finish this file before I leave. God, whoever invented paperwork should be shot and pissed on.”

 

“Not in that order either,” Jackson told him.

 

“Exactly,” Larabee said. “Go home and spend some time with your wife, Nathan.”

 

“Thanks, Chris, I think I will,” Jackson said and left the blond alone.

 

“Hey, Cowboy, me, Buck, and JD are going to The Saloon fer dinner...ya wanna join us?”

 

“No thanks, Vin, I'm wiped and I'm going home to relax and watch the hockey game,” Larabee told him.

 

“Ya change yer mind we'll save ya a seat,” Tanner said and spotted the envelope on the desk. “That the same as the business card ya got earlier?”

 

“Maybe,” Larabee said, grabbing it and placing it inside his desk.

 

“Come on, Chris, stop holding out on me...”

 

“Bye, Vin.”

 

“Ain't quittin' time yet.”

 

“It is now...go home or to the saloon before I find a whole new way to do paperwork,” Larabee warned.

 

“Hell...”

 

“Bye, Vin.”

 

“Bye, Chris, hope ya tell me 'bout yer secret admirer,” Tanner said and winked. “Even if she's a he.”

 

“Get out of here,” Larabee said and tossed a box of tissues at the Texan. The others all came and said good night and Chris knew if he didn't leave now he'd wind up sleeping on the couch again. Although it was fairly comfortable, it wasn't great for his back. He closed the last file and remembered the card in the drawer. He pulled it out and caught a light flowery scent as he reached for the letter opener and used it to open the envelope. This time several pink rose petals fell out on his desk as he withdrew the single piece of paper. 

 

Cupid has a bow,

And an arrow for two.

Will he use it on us,

And will it be true?

 

Well, his secret Valentine wasn't much of a poet, but he found himself smiling at the thought of a woman sending him simple poetry. He leaned back in his chair and sniffed the envelope as he tapped the card against his chin. Well, whoever it was would either give up or reveal herself, because he refused to believe it was a man, on Valentine's Day, so for now he would simply keep the others from finding out.

 

Chris left the office, locking the door behind him and smiled at the woman seated behind the main desk. “Good night, Miss Donovan.”

 

“Good night, Mr. Larabee,” the woman said and watched as he made his way toward the elevator. The man oozed sexuality and didn't even realize it; that was something she admired about Chris Larabee.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7 

 

February 13/2012

 

Ezra stepped off the elevator and smiled when he saw Kate Donovan seated behind the desk. He knew Buck and Vin had an early appointment at the courthouse and that was perfectly fine with him. He made his way over to the desk and reached for her hand as she looked up at him.

 

“Can I help you, Mr. Standish?” Kate asked and smiled when the man touched his lips against the back of her hand.

 

“I could not help but notice the lack of a wedding ring and am hopeful that means you do not have a paramour,” Standish said.

 

“I am not seeing anyone exclusively,” the woman told him.

 

“Then perhaps I could entice you to join me for dinner and a show tomorrow evening.”

 

“I do not believe that would go over well with your wife,” Kate said and raised her eyebrows as she pulled away from him.

 

“I am not nor have I ever been married,” Standish said.

 

“Really? I had heard that you were a regular ladies' man and had a wife on every undercover assignment you've undertaken.”

 

“Whoever told you that is lying, Miss Donovan. I assure you I am single and plan to stay that way.”

 

“So this would be a one night stand?”

 

“No, that's not what I meant...I mean...”

 

“It's okay, Mr. Standish, but right now I have to say no.”

 

“Do you have other plans?”

 

“No, at least not yet.”

 

“Please tell me you are not thinking of accepting the offer from my associates?”

 

“A lady doesn't kiss and tell.” Kate looked toward the elevator as Josiah Sanchez and Nathan Jackson exited and walked toward them.

 

“Is he bothering you, Miss Donovan?” Sanchez asked with a grin.

 

“No...at least not yet,” Kate answered and smiled as the three men left her alone.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

“Mail call,” JD Dunne said and dropped several pieces on Sanchez's desk before handing Vin a single envelope; a couple for Nathan and one for Ezra, but nothing for Buck. There were several letters for Larabee, but JD's eyes were drawn to the lavender colored envelope with Chris' name neatly written on the front. It was the same style as the one he'd delivered yesterday and Dunne began to wonder who was sending Chris secret notes.

 

“JD, are you going to stand there or give me the mail?” Larabee asked upon noting the young man standing in the doorway.

 

“Sorry, here, Chris,” Dunne said and placed the stack of letters on his desk. He stood watching as Larabee picked them up and flipped through them without stopping until he reached the lavender colored envelope with his name on it.

 

“Is there something else, JD?”

 

“No, sorry, Chris, that's it,” Dunne said and reluctantly left the office.

 

Chris knew the young man was curious about the envelope, but he wasn't going to tell any of his team about the poetry. Hell, there wasn't much he could tell them. He opened the envelope, not surprised when several lavender colored rose petals fell out on the desk. He took out the simple piece of paper and read the words.

 

Tomorrow is the day,

When lovers dance real slow.

I'd like to meet you under the stars,

And teach you to dance in the snow.

 

*'Dance in the snow'*, Chris thought and shivered at the thought. He loved to dance, but not when it was so damn cold. Lost in thought, he didn't notice the man standing in the doorway until he spoke.

 

“What have you got there, Stud?” Wilmington asked with a grin.

 

“The mail, Buck,” Larabee answered and reached for the other items Dunne had brought him, cursing when Wilmington snatched the card from his hand and began to read.

 

“And teach you to dance in the snow,” the rogue crooned mischievously. “Who is it from?”

 

“I don't know,” Larabee said and grabbed the missive back.

 

“You don't know? You know what that means don't you, Chris?”

 

“No, Buck, but I'm sure you're going to tell me,” the blond said and saw the smile on his friend's face.

 

“It means you have yourself a secret admirer, and a poetic one at that. Seems like the right time for it too since tomorrow is Valentine's Day,” Wilmington offered.

 

“It's also a work day so unless you want to double your workload go get...”

 

“My files are up to date and just need your signature,” the ladies' man told him. “So, are you going to meet her?”

 

“I don't even know who she is, Buck,” the blond told him.

 

“Come on, Chris, you're a cop...you can find out.”

 

“Maybe I don't want to,” Larabee said.

 

“What? Why the hell not?” Wilmington asked. “Wait a minute...you're enjoying this aren't you?”

 

“No, Buck, but...”

 

“Yes, you are. How many poems have you received so far?”

 

“None of your business, Buck?” Larabee said.

 

“Oh, come on, Stud, you can tell me.”

 

“I could, but only if I want it broadcast to the others,” the blond said.

 

“Come on, Chris, I can keep a secret.”

 

“Sure, you can, but not when it's something like this.”

 

“So,” Wilmington said with a glint in his eyes. “You've gotten more than one...two...three?”

 

“Go away, Buck.”

 

“Hell, Chris, come on...”

 

“No!”

 

“Is everything all right in here?” Sanchez asked and plopped several files on Larabee's desk.

 

“Everything's fine. Buck was just leaving.”

 

“I was?”

 

“You were,” the blond said.

 

“You know I'll find out, Chris,” Wilmington said.

 

“Find out what?” Sanchez asked.

 

“That Chris has a secret admirer,” Tanner answered from the outer office.

 

“I didn't tell him!” Wilmington said and held up his hands with a grin.

 

“Didn't have ta. I saw the one he got yesterday,” the Texan said as the others joined them in Larabee's office.

 

“You boys might want to stay out of my business,” the blond said, but there was no anger in his voice.

 

“Buck, you, Vin, and Ezra should ask Chris for lessons,” Sanchez said.

 

“What fer?” Tanner asked.

 

“He means you three are trying to get the girl while the girl is trying to get Chris,” Jackson offered. “Oh, I don't mean Miss Donovan, but you get my drift.”

 

“I'm doin' jest fine with Miss Donovan,” Tanner said.

 

“Sure you are. I believe she was infuriated by your non-disclosure of the woman carrying your baby,” Standish said.

 

“Whoa, wait a minute...Vin got a woman pregnant?” Dunne asked.

 

“No, Buck had Mrs. Turner...”

 

“You got Mrs. Turner pregnant? Her husband's not going to like that!” Dunne teased.

 

“Shut the hell up, JD! I ain't got no one pregnant...it was Buck,” the Texan said.

 

“Okay, now I'm confused...who got Mrs. Turner pregnant?” Jackson asked.

 

“Her husband,” Tanner snapped.

 

“So why did Miss Donovan think it was Vin?” the medic asked.

 

“Because Buck used despicable tactics,” Standish offered.

 

“You would have done the same thing if you'd thought of it first,” Wilmington said.

 

“I assure you I have done nothing untoward...”

 

“Maybe not yet, but...”

 

“Okay, boys, let Miss Donovan settle in before you go scaring her off,” Larabee told them.

 

“Chris, I know those envelopes came from inside the building...maybe I could find out who they're from.”

 

“No thanks, Kid, but if I want to do that I'll take care of it myself,” Larabee said.

 

“I don't mind...”

 

“I do,” the blond said. “Now I know you boys have better things to do than discuss my love life...”

 

“Or lack thereof,” Wilmington mumbled.

 

“Did you say something, Buck?” Larabee asked.

 

“Not a thing, Stud,” the ladies man said and followed the others out of his friend's office.

 

Chris sat back in his chair and smiled at the thought of the six men he'd chosen for his team. He trusted each and every one of them with his life and knew that went both ways. He was a lucky sonofabitch, even more so if the cards he was receiving came from a woman. He picked up the cards and placed them in the top drawer of his desk before leaving the office for his meeting with Orin Travis.

 

“Miss Donovan,” Larabee said when he reached the main desk. “Could you please hold my calls?”

 

“Certainly, Mr. Larabee,” Kate said and sighed as she watched him make his way toward the elevator. The man really did have a wonderful ass, and just maybe she would get the chance to check it out more closely. She reached into the drawer and withdrew a red envelope and sheet of paper and discreetly began writing on the paper.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

The meeting with Travis didn't take nearly as long as he'd thought and Chris was surprised that pretty well everything they'd asked for had been approved. He nodded to Orin's secretary and hurried toward the elevator, hoping his team hadn't left for lunch yet. He reached his floor and smiled when Kate Donovan handed him the day's mail and a couple of messages that had been left for him. 

 

“Thank you,” Larabee said and smiled when he looked into her eyes. They were brown, but flecked with gold and sparkled as she looked at him.

 

“Is there anything else I can do for you, Mr. Larabee?”

 

“No,” the blond answered and noted that her skin was unblemished and her lips a rose color that matched one of the envelopes in his hand. “If the boys keep bothering you just let me know and I'll put a stop to it.”

 

“I can handle them...besides, they're harmless aren't they?”

 

“Well, I never heard them described that way before, but sometimes it fits,” Larabee said and thanked her again before walking into the office.

 

“Hey, Chris, ya comin' with us?” Tanner asked.

 

“Depends on where you're going?” Larabee answered.

 

“Nathan won the coin toss so we're headed fer that little bistro he likes,” Tanner answered.

 

“Sounds good. Give me a minute to check my messages,” the blond said and closed his office door before the others could see the envelope in his hand. He chuckled softly at the fact that he was afraid of being caught like some young school kid with a crush. He tossed the rest of the mail aside and took the red envelope. He looked it over, quickly recognizing the precise handwriting from the previous cards and opened it carefully as several red rose petals dropped into his hand.

 

Chris looked at the card and wasn't surprised to find four lines written carefully in the center.

 

Hair of gold,

Eyes so green,

The cutest tush,

I've ever seen.

 

“Chris, you feelin' all right?” Tanner asked from the open doorway.

 

“I'm good, Vin, you boys ready to go?”

 

“Yeah...is that another one?”

 

“For me to know, Pard, for me to know,” Larabee said and tucked the card into his jacket pocket, unaware that the card fell onto the floor next to his desk.

 

“Must have been a whopper the way yer cheeks are glowin',” Tanner said, and smirked when the blond pushed past him without answering. “Yer not the least bit curious?”

 

“I didn't say that, but it's more fun keeping you boys in the dark,” Larabee said.

 

“Chris, these were delivered for you, but there's no card,” Dunne said and handed Larabee a vase of flowers. There were half a dozen roses, one yellow, one pink, one lavender, one red, one purple, and one white.

 

“I bet they're from you know who and I'm beginning to see a theme here,” Tanner said as Larabee placed the vase on Sanchez's desk. “You've had four love notes...”

 

“Four? You got another one?” Wilmington said, eyes wide with surprise.

 

“I...”

 

“He did,” the Texan said. “A red one this time.”

 

“Kind of matches his cheeks,” Wilmington teased. “What did she...”

 

“Or he,” Tanner teased.

 

“Oh, I never thought of that,” the rogue said mischievously.

 

“Do you really believe Mr. Larabee's secret admirer could be a man?” Standish asked.

 

“If it is he'd better wear body armor,” Tanner said.

 

“You wouldn't shoot him would you, Chris?” Jackson joined in the teasing as they headed for the elevator.

 

“No, but I might shoot the lot of you if you keep this up,” Larabee said.

 

“Something tells me you wouldn't mind keeping it up for your secret admirer,” Wilmington said and smiled at Kate Donovan. “Now, Kate, about tomorrow evening...”

 

“Elevator is here, Mr. Wilmington,” Standish said.

 

“Stop bothering the lady, Buck,” Larabee ordered and held the door for his friend.

 

“Hell, Chris, I was just...”

 

“Bein' an ass,” Tanner said.

 

“You're just jealous 'cause you and Ezra don't stand a chance with me on the prowl,” Wilmington said.

 

“Want to go for double or nothing, Buck?” the Texan asked.

 

“Well I...”

 

“Put your money where your mouth is, Mr. Wilmington,” Standish said with a grin.

 

“I was just going to say it would be like taking candy from a baby, but if you insist,” the rogue told them.

 

“Same rule...winner takes it all,” Tanner said.

 

“So far the only winner is Miss Donovan...she's not falling for any of your antics,” Jackson said as they exited the elevator and made their way toward their respective vehicles.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

Kate enjoyed the attention of the three men; after all she was a healthy, single woman. She worked out on a daily basis and ate properly, and knew men found her attractive, but she wasn't ready to settle down. If she were, it would probably be with a man like Chris Larabee. She'd heard the story of the loss of his wife and son and knew from the other secretaries that he rarely dated for any length of time, preferring to keep his relationships on a less intimate nature. She looked up as Ezra Standish strode toward her and smiled when he stopped at her desk.

 

“Kate, I know it is short notice, but perhaps you would join me for dinner at the Barolo Grill tomorrow evening?”

 

“I'm sorry, Mr. Standish...Ezra, I'm afraid I have other plans,” Kate told him and saw the disappointment in his eyes. “Perhaps another time.”

 

“It would be my pleasure,” Standish said and walked away, wondering which man she'd chosen as her date.

 

Kate leaned back in her chair and glanced at the clock. It was nearly five and she would soon be leaving, but she wanted to deliver one more message to Chris Larabee before he left for the day. The note was inside her desk, but she wasn't sure how to deliver it without him finding out the cards were from her. She shut down her laptop and picked up her purse before hurrying toward the stairs.

 

Kate knew Larabee's Dodge Ram was parked at the end of the third row and hurried toward it once she reached the parking level. There was no one around and she quickly placed it under the driver's side windshield wiper before hurrying to her blue Camaro parked at the opposite end. She smiled and breathed a sigh of relief once she was inside and drove out of the parking lot.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

Chris wasn't surprised to find the desk outside the office empty, especially when he realized it was well after six. The others had already left and he locked up before heading to the stairs and taking them two at a time like a kid on a mission. He reached the parking level and exited, smiling sheepishly at his own behavior and glad there'd been no one around to see him.

 

Chris reached his truck and spotted the purple envelope held in place by the windshield wiper. He looked around, but there was no one nearby, and he reached for the envelope. He leaned against the truck and opened it, not surprised when several purple rose petals fell out into his hand. He took the card out and turned it so the light hit the words and read the simple poem.

 

Poetry and rose petals,

What more can I do?

Except beg you to join me,

For dinner for two.

 

*'I'd say yes, but I don't even know who you are,'* Larabee thought and got behind the wheel. He drove out of the parking lot and smiled at the thought of finding out who his poet was, and had a feeling he'd find out the next day.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

Ezra Standish was never the first man in the office, but he made an exception today because he wanted to make an impression on Kate Donovan. He was still hopeful that he could convince her to join him at The Barolo Grill, but she was not at her desk yet. He placed the single red rose on her desk and made his way into the office.

 

Ezra looked at each desk before moving to his own and sitting down. He had several cases he was actively working on and wanted to make sure he was up to date on any new developments. He glanced at the clock and noted it would be another hour before the others arrived and could just imagine what they would say when they saw him.

 

The phone in Larabee's office began to ring and Ezra rose from his desk and moved into his boss's office to check the ID on the caller. The caller was from one of the other offices and Ezra knew the person would leave a message if it was important. He turned to leave and spotted something on the floor beside Larabee's desk and picked it up. He placed it on the desk, but his eyes caught one word, tush, and he had to read the rest. A smile was born as he took the card and hoped the others arrived before Larabee did.

 

There weren't many times when the team could have some 'fun' with their boss, so when the opportunity arose they tended to take advantage of it. If it was Nathan or Josiah that showed up first, he would keep the note to himself, but only because he was afraid they would try to convince him that it was a private note. Vin, Buck, and JD would be in his camp and would help him come up with a way to use the 'cute tush' note he'd found. 

 

“Ezra, thank you for the rose, but I'm afraid I still have to decline,” Kate Donovan said from the open doorway.

 

“Perhaps I could convince you otherwise,” Standish said.

 

“I'm sorry, but I really do have other plans,” Kate told him.

 

“Have you ever been to The Barolo Grill?”

 

“No, but I heard it is wonderful.”

 

“Yes, it is, and I was lucky enough to book a table for two,” Ezra said.

 

“Perhaps there is another lady you could take?”

 

“I was really hoping I could convince you to join me...”

 

“The lady said no, Ezra,” Wilmington said and smiled as he entered the office with Vin and JD right behind him. 

 

“I believe she said the same to you, Mr. Wilmington, but does that mean you're ready to acquiesce to her requests?”

 

“Ready to what?” Dunne asked.

 

“I have to get back to my desk, Gentlemen,” Kate said and left them alone.

 

“That's one mighty fine ass...”

 

“Crude, Mr. Wilmington, but very true and since we are on the subject of asses...”

 

“You three should stop acting like one,” Dunne quipped.

 

“Ha, ha,” Wilmington said and noticed the card Standish was tapping on the desk. “Ezra, you ol' war dog. Is that one of the cards Chris got?”

 

“I believe it is, and it makes reference to Mr. Larabee's posterior,” Standish said and read the card. “Hair of gold, eyes so green, the cutest tush, I've ever seen.”

 

“Oh, God,” Wilmington said and laughed as he took the card and read the poem himself. “Ezra, where the hell did you get this?”

 

“It was on the floor by Mr. Larabee's desk,” the undercover agent explained.

 

“What were ya doin' in Chris' office?” Tanner asked curiously.

 

“His phone was ringing and I wanted to make sure it wasn't important,” Standish explained.

 

“So what are we going to do with this?” Wilmington asked.

 

“What do you mean?” Dunne asked.

 

“He means we got somethin' here and we can have some fun with it,” Tanner added.

 

“Fun? How?” the youngest member of the team asked.

 

“Come on, kid, ya ain't that fuckin' innocent,” the Texan said and smiled when Wilmington placed his hands over Dunne's ears.

 

“Watch out, Vin, he's still got virgin ears.”

 

“I ain't no virgin!” Dunne said and pulled away.

 

“Glad to hear it,” Wilmington said and sat on the edge of Dunne's desk. “Now, the way I see it is we've gotta do something before Chris shows up.”

 

“Are you afraid he'll kick yer ass, Bucklin?” Tanner asked.

 

“Kick it...no, but I don't believe in letting a rabid dog bite me there,” the rogue explained.

 

“So Mr. Larabee is a rabid dog now?” Standish asked.

 

“Not yet, but he will be when he finds the website,” Wilmington said.

 

“What website?” Tanner asked.

 

“The one JD's going to set up,” the rogue answered.

 

“I'm not setting up a website,” Dunne told him.

 

“Yes you are and you've only got an hour to get it up and send out notices to everyone we know, but it has to be password protected,” Wilmington said.

 

“And just what does this website consist of?” Standish asked.

 

“A contest,” Wilmington answered and saw the smile on Tanner and Standish's face.

 

“The cutest tush contest?” the undercover agent supplied.

 

“Exactly,” Tanner agreed.

 

“And who's tush are we...oh, no. No way in hell am I doing that!” Dunne said.

 

“Come on, JD, the only pictures on the site will be of Chris' ass,” Wilmington supplied.

 

“And where do I get those pictures?” Dunne asked.

 

“Well, see, Chris and I spent a lot of time together before we joined the ATF...”

 

“Oh, here we go...The TEAMS,” Dunne said and rolled his eyes.

 

“That's right, Kid, and rolling your eyes doesn't change what we did. Anyway, there was this one time when we were working our way through a mission...”

 

“What mission?” Dunne asked.

 

“Can't tell you or I'd have to shoot you,” Wilmington said.

 

“Sure you would,” Dunne said and shook his head.

 

“Anyway, I have pictures of Chris' good side and some of them he's never even seen since I was waiting for the right time. Imagine his surprise when he finds out he's won the cutest tush contest.”

 

“He's gonna rip ya a new one,” Tanner said.

 

“Not if JD does it right and Chris can't find out who did this,” Wilmington said.

 

“This is Chris, Buck, he'll know,” Tanner said.

 

“Maybe, but it'll be worth it just to see his face,” the rogue said. “Come on...this is Valentine's Day and think of all the ladies we've heard comment on Chris' ass and how they'd like to see it in the raw.”

 

“Mr. Wilmington, I totally agree with you on doing this public service,” Standish offered. “I've heard the secretaries comment that covering such perfection should be against the law.”

 

“Exactly,” Buck said. “Come on, JD, get started on the website and I'll send you the pictures.”

 

“We'd have to scan them into my laptop,” Dunne said.

 

“No, they're in a file on my computer so I'll just send you the file. Oh, and JD make sure you put lots of little hearts and lips all over the website. After all it is Valentine's Day.”

 

“Okay, boys, what's going on?”

 

“Hell, Chris, how long have you been there?” Wilmington asked.

 

“Long enough to know you're planning something for Valentine's Day. Don't tell me you boys are still trying to get a date with Miss Donovan?” Larabee asked.

 

“Of course we are, Mr. Larabee,” Standish said as the others moved to their desks. 

 

“I thought she already turned you three down,” Larabee stated.

 

“She did, ain't stopped us b'fore,” Tanner said.

 

“Besides we got a lot riding on it,” Wilmington added as Dunne sat discretely behind his desk and powered up his laptop.

 

“Yes, and it is a winner takes it all package deal,” Standish said.

 

“You boys will never learn,” Larabee said and poured himself a coffee before heading to his office and closing the door behind him.

 

“That was too damn close,” Wilmington said and moved to his desk. He quickly accessed the file he wanted and sent the pictures to the younger man. “JD, you have an hour to get this done.”

 

“Then shut up and let me get to it,” Dunne snapped.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

 

Chris looked up from the office memo he'd been reading to find Vin holding a white envelope. He knew without asking what it was and waited for the Texan to hand it over to him.

 

“This one smells good,” Tanner observed.

 

“Hand it over, Vin,” Larabee ordered softly and waited for the Texan to do as he said.

 

“Ain't'cha even a little curious?”

 

“Maybe, but I have work to do and so do you,” the blond said and took the envelope.

 

“Ya gonna open it?”

 

“Later,” Larabee answered.

 

“But what if she wants ta meet fer lunch?”

 

“I have several meetings with other department heads today, so lunch will probably be a bite here and a bite there.” the blond said.

 

“Hell, Chris, it's Valentine's Day...”

 

“It's for lovers, Vin, and right now I'm single and not looking so that leaves me...”

 

“Ya don't have ta be single if'n ya take yer secret admirer up on her offer.”

 

“I don't even know who she is, Vin.”

 

“Not, yet, but maybe she enjoys the mystery as much as anyone else.”

 

“She already knows who I am.”

 

“Maybe she wants to explore the cutest tush she's ever seen...”

 

“What did you just say?”

 

“Nothin'...I was just makin' a suggestion.”

 

“Like hell you were. You've been going through my mail,” Larabee spat and checked his jacket pocket.

 

“I have no idea what you're talking about,” Tanner said as the blond stood up with fire in his green eyes.

 

“Where is it, Tanner?”

 

“Where's what?” the Texan tried and slowly backed out of Larabee's office.

 

“You know damn well what, Vin! Don't make me shoot you!” the blond snarled and advanced on the Texan until they were in the outer office.

 

“Not here, Boss, it'll make a mess and be damned hard to explain,” Sanchez said.

 

“Not if I don't leave witnesses...what the hell is that?” Larabee asked when he looked at the screen of Jackson's laptop.

 

“Some kind of Valentine's Day contest,” Jackson said with a grin.

 

“The cutest tush in town,” Wilmington added and showed Larabee his screen that flashed with pink and red lips.

 

“Sonofabitch!”

 

“Problems, Mr. Larabee?” Standish asked.

 

“You boys better get your affairs in order,” Larabee warned as a familiar tune began to play and words reached his ears.

 

“Oh, Lord it's hard to be humble...”

 

“Dammit!” Chris spat.

 

“When you're perfect in every way,” Wilmington crooned with a grin.

 

“Buck, you promised you destroyed those pictures!” Larabee spat.

 

“I did, but...”

 

“That's pretty cheeky there, Buck,” Jackson observed.

 

“Buck's always making an ass of himself,” Dunne offered.

 

“No pun intended,” Jackson said with a grin.

 

“Buck, I will get you back for this and I promise whoever is in cahoots with him will find I have a very long memory and in this case I will hold a grudge,” Larabee warned.

 

“I can't wait to look in the mirror, 'cause I get better lookin' each day...”

 

“JD, turn that thing off and run a trace on that website,” Larabee ordered and walked back into the office, closing the door behind him amidst the laughter and off-key singing of his team. He couldn't help, but smile as he reached for the envelope on his desk and opened it. The white rose petals dropped onto his desk along with the card and Chris reached for it. 

 

Dinner for two,

At the restaurant of your choice.

Meet me at Skyline Park at six,

And listen for my voice.

 

Intrigued, Chris glanced at the clock and knew beyond a doubt that he was going to be at Skyline Park by six. The woman seemed to be enthusiastic about meeting with him and who knew what would come of it. He heard the others and knew they were having a good laugh at his expense, but sooner or later he would turn the tables on them.

 

At the very least, Buck was involved with the website and that meant he'd probably roped JD into his scheme. If he was to put money on it, Chris was pretty sure Ezra and Vin had also played a part in it. A knock on the door tore him from his thoughts. “Come in.”

 

“Chris, Travis just called to remind you of the meeting with the department heads,” Sanchez said.

 

“Thanks, Josiah,” Larabee said and stood up. “Do me a favor.”

 

“Name it, Boss,” Sanchez said.

 

“Make sure Buck takes down that site,” the blond said as he exited the office.

 

“Hey, I didn't put it up!” Wilmington said and held up his hands.

 

“Maybe not, but you supplied the pictures so either get them down or I show Inez the shots of you in the green polka dot dress and high heels,” Larabee said with a grin.

 

“Whoa!” Dunne said and looked at his roommate. “You wore a dress and heels?”

 

“No...”

 

“He did, JD,” Larabee said and left them alone.

 

“JD, take it down,” Wilmington said.

 

“Not so fast, JD,” Tanner said and looked at the others. “After all what's good fer the goose is good fer the gander.”

 

“Vin...”

 

“JD, just remember who you live with and all the stuff you'd rather Casey not find out about,” Wilmington warned.

 

“I ain't done nothing Casey don't know about,” Dunne said.

 

“Oh really? What about the double-mint twin?”

 

“The two red heads down the hall from you guys?” Jackson asked.

 

“I caught JD being up close and personal with them in their apartment,” Wilmington said.

 

“I was helping them with their hard drive,” Dunne spat.

 

“Hard something all right,” the rogue said as he smiled at the youngest member of the team.

 

“It was innocent and you know it. She didn't mean to crash the hard drive and she needed me...”

 

“To take care of her needs. I know...you told me all about it. Remember?”

 

“All right, Boys, let's put a stop to this right now. JD get rid of the website,” Sanchez ordered, relieved when the Bostonian turned his attention to the computer and did as he'd been told.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7 

 

Kate Donovan spent most of the day fending off dinner invitations from Standish, Wilmington, and Tanner. She knew the other women in the secretarial pool were jealous and would jump at the chance to go out with any of the men known as The Magnificent Seven, but she only had eyes for one man. The final note had been sent and she hoped she would not be disappointed.

 

There were three bouquets of flowers on the floor behind her, because there was no room for them on her small desk. Without even looking at the cards she knew who they were from. The long stemmed roses were set in an elegant crystal vase and shouted the name Standish. The colorful array of lilies and carnations arranged in a simple glass vase spoke to her of Wilmington. The final vase was Terracotta and filled with wildflowers, there was no doubt they came from Tanner and she thought he'd probably picked them himself. All three vases would go home with her, but she hoped Chris Larabee was the man who came with them.

 

“Miss Kate, are ya sure ya don't want ta come ta The Saloon?” Tanner asked upon exiting the office with Nathan Jackson and Josiah Sanchez.

 

“Thank you, Vin, but I'm afraid I do have other plans,” Kate told him.

 

“With me...I hope,” Wilmington said as he joined the trio at the desk.

 

“Sorry, Buck, but I do love the flowers. Yours are beautiful as well, Vin. Thank you for the thoughtful gift.”

 

“Yer welcome,” the Texan said.

 

“Does that mean you are accepting my invitation to the Barolo Grill?” Standish asked.

 

“No, sorry, Ezra, but the roses are beautiful. Now, I will understand if you'd like the flowers back,” Kate told them.

 

“Tha's okay, ya keep 'em,” Tanner said, reluctantly heading for the elevators with the others following close behind.

 

“Wonder who the lucky bastard is,” Wilmington said.

 

“I hope he realizes how fortunate he truly is,” Standish agreed as the six men entered the elevator.

 

“So, are we meeting at The Saloon?” Dunne asked.

 

“Rain's meeting me there at six,” Jackson said.

 

“Casey too,” the Bostonian said.

 

“Might as well...ain't got any better offers,” Tanner said and wondered if Larabee would be there or if he'd have other dinner plans with his secret admirer.

 

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7 

 

Chris drove along Arapahoe Street toward Skyline Park and listened to the soft music playing on Denver's best music station. It was a day for lovers, or so the DJ proclaimed as he started another set of love songs that could have been written just for the day. He pulled in to a parking spot and turned off the truck before exiting it and looking around.

 

It was cold, and snow covered the ground as music reached his ears and he checked to make sure he'd turned off the radio. The dashboard was completely dark, and he remembered a line from one of the poems about dancing in the snow. He stuffed his hands inside his jacket pocket and followed the sound of the music until he spotted the figure of a woman standing near the fountain.

 

“I'm so glad you decided to come.”

 

“How could I refuse such poetry, Kate,” Larabee said and smiled when the woman turned to look at him.

 

“How long have you known?” Kate asked.

 

“Since I saw you standing there. I probably could have found out, but to be honest I was enjoying myself,” Larabee told her.

 

“You were?” Kate asked.

 

“Sure...it's not often a man gets poetry...especially from a beautiful woman,” Larabee told her. “Now, I believe you were going to teach me to dance in the snow.”

 

“I was...wasn't I?” Kate said and moved closer. The music changed to something soft and classic, but they didn't really hear the music as they danced in the light dusting of snow that covered the area. “You've done this before.”

 

“A time or two,” Chris answered and kissed her as the snow fluttered to the ground.

 

“I promised you could pick the restaurant too.”

 

“You did, and I have just the place,” Larabee said mischievously.

 

“Why the smile?”

 

“Well, I'm sure you realize that Buck, Vin, and Ezra are vying for your attention,” Larabee said as the music stopped.

 

“Yes, I tried to let them down easy, but they don't seem to take no for an answer.”

 

“That's because you're a prize.”

 

“I'm what?” Kate asked with a frown.

 

“They've got a bet on who you would go out with tonight.”

 

“They do...well I guess they all lose.”

 

“Do they ever,” Larabee agreed and held her as they walked toward his truck. “Now the way I see it those three are at a little place we call The Saloon.”

 

“I've heard of it. It had a bad reputation until your team went in and cleaned it up,” Kate said.

 

“Well, we did get rid of the Bad Element as Mary Travis said,” the blond told her and opened the door of his truck. “Did you drive here?”

 

“No, I left my car in the garage and got a ride with Mr. Travis' secretary,” the woman answered. “So, we're going to The Saloon?”

 

“Yes, we are. I figure we could enjoy a great dinner and put one over on the boys,” Larabee said. “I figured I owe them for that little website they made.”

 

“The one with the cutest tush in town?” Kate asked.

 

“Hell, you saw that?”

 

“I did and so did most of the ladies in the building, but don't worry, your secret is safe with us. I mean we thoroughly enjoyed looking at your assets,” Kate said as Larabee closed the door and moved to the driver's side.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“Well, I am a woman and I appreciate the finer things in life...your assets are mighty fine,” Kate told him and smiled as she placed her hand on his leg and moved closer. “I'm not a virgin, Chris, haven't been one in more years than I care to think about and I believe in going after what I like. I like you and I hope you don't find me too pushy.”

 

“Not at all,” Larabee told her and enjoyed the feel of her body against his. It took nearly 15 minutes to reach The Saloon and Chris recognized several vehicles parked near the main door.

 

“Are you sure you want to do this, Chris?”

 

“After the website incident...hell yes,” the blond said. He parked next to Vin's battered jeep and moved to open her door, smiling as she reached out and wrapped her arms around him. They stood for several seconds, staring into each other's eyes before Chris pulled her closer and kissed her full lips.

 

“We could always go to my place and order in,” Kate suggested.

 

“Hmm, that sounds like an offer I shouldn't refuse,” Larabee whispered.

 

“Well, I know you want to go in here so why don't we go inside and order dinner to go?”

 

“You sure?”

 

“I want to see their faces too...after all I was the object of the bet between them,” Kate said and took his arm as they walked toward the door.

 

They stepped into The Saloon and Chris quickly spotted four of his team sitting near the back, Josiah was the only one facing his direction and he lifted his finger to his mouth as he walked past the other tables. JD and Casey were seated by themselves at a table closer to the door. Nathan and Rain sat at a booth and Rain spotted him, but didn't say a word.

 

Chris and Kate reached the table just as Ezra raised several bills in the air and proclaimed that they would all be getting their money back, but Chris reached out and took them from his hand.

 

“Hey,” Wilmington snapped.

 

“Excuse me!” Standish blustered.

 

“What the hell!” Tanner snarled as the trio turned and gaped, wide eyed at the couple standing before them.

 

“Boys, this belongs to me and I wanted to say thanks for dinner,” Larabee said

 

“What the hell does that mean?” Wilmington spat and saw the smile on his long time friend's face as he answered.

 

“I believe you said 'Winner takes it all'.”

 

The End

 

 

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