Kristen closed the door with a definite thud and leaned against it heavily. Sure, she should have put up more of a fight to go and question Mark, but in all honesty, she was tired and didn't feel up to facing the jackass once more, even if he happened to be innocent of any wrongdoing in this case. Also, someone had to keep an eye on O.A and make sure he wasn't getting too big of an ego.
She rounded the corner to see O.A smack dab in the middle of the awesome twosome fielding rapid fire questions from both.
"Exactly how tall are you?"
"Oh, I'm 6'5"."
"6'5"! My my." George fanned himself, "All that height, and here I am without a ladder."
"Are you naturally that muscular, or do you spend all your extra time in a stuffy old gym?" Tiffany butted in, expertly tossing her hair over one shoulder while wrapping a hand around his upper arm.
"Well, it's a combination of both." He not so subtly flexed beneath his sports coat.
Kristen made a face as she took in the scene before her, O.A was having way too much fun. "Does anyone want anything to drink?" When she got no answer, she shrugged and walked over to the gift basket that they brought with them. Kristen rummaged through the basket while keeping half an ear on the conversation going on.
"Well, yes, I do happen to be seeing someone right now." Kristen hid her laughter as she continued to dig inside the basket. She could only imagine the pouts on both Tiffany and George's face. An envelope caught her attention, and she chose to open that first, still listening to O.A explain that no, he didn't think his girlfriend was into sharing.
"I don't blame her at all." Tiffany all but sighed.
"Oh my god!" Kristen just barely managed to keep her exclamation under a shout. O.A was up and by her side in an instant, "What is it?"
Kristen held out the envelope, "I can't accept this!"
George tutted as he made his way to her side, "Now now, none of that foolishness." He patted her hand softly, "I saw how much you love that lariat necklace, and seeing as it was confiscated with the rest of your belongings, now is a perfect time to get a new one!"
"An upgrade!" Tiffany clapped her hands excitedly.
"Yes, an upgrade." George agreed. "Honey, after what you've just been through, Jubal should be out there right now picking out the most expensive piece of jewelry he can find, but this is just as good. We can all hop out right now and be back before Jubal ever finds out."
He tapped the envelope that held the name of his personal jeweler, "Anthony will honor anything you pick up to the number that's written down on that card." He leaned in closer, "Although, if you happen to see something that tickles your fancy, I will absolutely cover it. I feel absolutely horrible about the fact that this happened on my yacht."
"No." Kristen shook her head. Of course she couldn't say that the necklace (as well as the rest of her expensive jewelry) was on loan and fitted with top of the line surveillance equipment, she had to think of some way to refuse.
Thankfully, O.A noticed the momentary panic on her face and came up with a solution. He let out a short bark of laughter, "Good luck on getting Jubal to go along with that."
"Why's that, handsome?" George frowned.
O.A leaned in and pitched his voice lower as if he were imparting a state secret, "Well, it's kind of a well known fact that Jubal doesn't like Kristen to wear anything that he didn't give her."
Kristen gratefully seized on the out, "Yeah, sorry George. You wouldn't think it, but Jubal is stubborn like that."
"I should have guessed that." George nodded sagely, "Oh well, we'll just have to hope that he picks out something worthy of you." He winked at Kristen, "I'll make sure to steer him in the right direction."
"I appreciate it." Kristen smiled gratefully as she picked up the basket, "I should go put this away, there's so much stuff in here, I'll finish looking at it later." She was so preoccupied with looking through the contents that she didn't realize George had followed her into her bedroom until he spoke up. "Goodness, this room has a lovely view!"
Kristen whirled to see him pressed up against one of the floor to ceiling windows that looked out over New York. "Thanks." She watched as he poked around her room, commenting on the various things she had on display. It dawned on her that there was nothing of Jubal's in the room. No stray clothes on the bed, floor, or hanging in the closet. No male products in the bathroom, no pictures of the two of them...nothing.
She held her breath to see if the outspoken man would say something, and true to form, after he'd settled himself on the foot of her bed, he raised an eyebrow, "I assume Jubal is the messy one?"
Kristen let out a huff, "You have no idea."
It wasn't really a lie either, for someone who was so neat and orderly at work, at home Jubal was a bit more relaxed. He was generally okay, but he also had a bad habit of leaving half full mugs of tea just laying around, and she wasn't even going to get into the mess she's glimpsed the few times that she's glanced into his room.
Why even have a closet if you're just going to throw your clothes all over whatever piece of furniture that was near?
Not to say she was the ultimate housekeeper either, she had a bad habit herself of placing her clothes in the washing machine and forgetting about them until either she was looking for a particular piece of clothing, or Jubal needed to use the machine. The first time it happened, he helpfully placed her clothes in the dryer, and didn't understand why Kristen went sprinting to the machine…..until she pulled out a top that was now more suited for a toddler.
That was one of the few arguments that had bled over into their working relationship. They spent the better part of a week sniping at each other. When Isobel had finally had enough, she called them into her office to interrogate them and basically put them in a time out. She ordered them to specifically spend a few days apart. Jubal had gone to spend the weekend with his kids, while Kristen had gone to visit with her sister and fiance.
The time apart did them good, neither were used to living with anyone and adjustments had to be made, but after their weekend apart, they both came back ready to compromise. Since then, Kristen (rarely) saw an errant mug, and she was much better about removing her clothes from the washer.
Jubal's room was still a mess, though.
George broke through her musings, "Oh, I can imagine, my Lydia was insistent on separate bedrooms, it was the one demand she had for marriage. She said that her mother swore it was the only reason she hadn't left her father." Kristen cocked her head, this wasn't the first time George had brought up his wife, but he did it so rarely that any mention at all piqued her curiosity.
"Really?" She pretended to be absorbed in looking through the gift basket.
"Oh yes, I had no issues with it obviously, we all need our personal space, and God Bless her soul, but my Lydia tosses and turns like a windmill." He paused, "Although the separate bedrooms did come in handy more than once, her mother used to stop by every week and inquire about our…..relations."
"Oh my God." Kristen couldn't hold back her look of disgust. "That is the definition of being too much into your children's lives."
"Well, her mama had a vested interest in making sure she followed through on her wifely duties. Lydia and her family were well off, but not on par with my family. That woman would have sold her soul to the very devil if it meant moving up." He makes a face, "I have no idea how my sweet wife came from that woman."
"Lydia sounds really nice." Kristen offered.
"She is a true southern belle, and an angel." He looked down briefly, "She's my best friend, and knows me….really knows me and accepts me." His gaze is steady and unwavering when it meets hers, "All parts of me."
"I'm glad." Kristen came to sit next to him on the bed and tucked her hand in his.
"She's the only person I could have ever married, we've been friends since we were in grade school. She's been there for me while I figured out who I really am, and has loved me through it all." He squeezed her hand, "All that to say that I would be the last person to judge you on your living arrangements. Whatever works for you and Jubal is what you should go with, and ignore what anyone else says."
"I appreciate that." Kristen said quietly. The guilt that ebbed and flowed within her on this assignment ebbed once more. George had just shared something private with her, and she was actively lying to him on almost all fronts. She really hoped that when this whole thing wrapped up, she would have a chance to explain her side.
"Okay, enough of this heavy talk." George stood, "We need to get back out there before Tiffany steals my chance to climb that mountain of a man."
"Yeah, about that." Kristen started but was interrupted by what sounded like pounding on the front door and O.A calling for her to stay in her room.
"Like Hell." Kristen shot up off the bed and made her way to the foyer, directing Tiffany to go back and sit with George until they got an all clear. O.A had already taken up position next to the door.
"Do you know who this is?" She whispered to him.
"He hasn't ID'd himself." O.A responded softly before raising his voice, "Who is it?"
"Never mind who I am, you got 30 seconds to open this damn door before I break it down!" The response came quickly.
Kristen sagged against the wall, all adrenaline leaving her body, "Oh my God. Open the door, O.A before he follows through."
"But Jubal said-"
"And I'm saying, it's okay." Kristen gently moved him aside to undo the locks and open the door. "How did you even know where I was?"
"I got an even better question, why are you answering the damn door without your weapon?" The man retorted. "Don't the FBI teach you anything? What if I just opened fire right now?"
"Then I guess I'd be dead." It wasn't the most adult answer, but she was suddenly feeling petulant.
"I guess so." He stepped in and spotted O.A, "Here you got this giant standing over here, but you had to answer the door."
"Uncle Finn, I recognized your voice." Kristen stepped in front of O.A protectively, "I know you wouldn't bring anything or anyone in that would hurt me."
"Damn straight, and you sure wouldn't have gotten roofied on a damn boat neither." Her uncle wrapped her up into his embrace. Kristen returned the hug, momentarily grateful for some kind of family near. But there was still a question of how he knew what happened and where she was living while supposedly being undercover.
"Not that I'm not glad you're not here, but how did you know..?" Kristen trailed off.
"Baby girl, I've been doing this a long ass time. I've got connections, ya heard?" He eyed O.A who was still standing awkwardly by. "At ease, man. We all good here."
"O.A this is my uncle, Detective Finn Tutuola. Uncle Finn, this is one of my colleagues, O.A Zidan." Kristen introduced the two, noticing that O.A visibly relaxed when she mentioned he was a cop.
"Nice to meet you, sir." O.A held out his hand to shake. Finn took it and pulled the agent aside to grill him on what other protocols they apparently weren't following properly.
"Sooo should we just leave?" Kristen had forgotten about her two guests that were peeking around the corner apprehensively.
"Yeah, guys. Sorry, he's probably gonna wait around until Jubal gets back and well, I'm not sure how long that will be, you should go." Kristen apologized. "O.A can escort you both out." The special agent looked like he wanted to object, but Kristen assured him that all would be fine until Jubal came home.
Tiffany drew her into a fierce bear hug, "Call us when you're feeling up to it, we can have a spa day!"
A flurry of goodbye's and one final assurance to O.A later, she shut the door and went to find her Uncle who she could hear rummaging around in the cabinets. "Where do y'all keep the good stuff?"
Kristen made a face, "Yeah okay, about that…."
"So, you still happy about making the switch from analyst to field agent?" Finn asked her after Kristen had given him a rundown of how her last few months have been. They were lounging on the deck outside, and Kristen had even given one of Jubal's prized cigars to her uncle to mollify him a bit.
"I mean, I'm getting to do a lot more now that I would have been able to do as an analyst." Kristen shrugged, "I'm pretty sure I would have never gotten chosen for this if I were still riding a desk."
Finn exhaled a puff of smoke, "This lead agent, Valentine, how's he treating you?"
"Jubal?" Kristen relaxed, "Jubal is great, I couldn't ask for a better first time partner." She frowned, "That sounded a little weird."
"Uh huh" her uncle gestured with his gifted cigar, "If he's so great, how'd you end up in the hospital needing your stomach pumped?"
Even though she knew that folding her arms would be a dead giveaway of being defensive, she did it anyway, "How did you find out about that anyway? This is supposed to be a secret op!"
"I've been a cop for a long time, baby girl, I got contacts everywhere." He repeated smugly as he puffed on the cigar once more with a shit eating grin.
Right then an idea bloomed in Kristen's head, "Hey Unc, since you're in SVU, can I ask you to look into someone?" No way did Mark not have had at least one sexual assault case opened against him, even if it was quashed by his inner circle, there still might be a trace somewhere. That could be a lead into who would want to try and drug Mark not once but twice.
Finn nodded, "Do you know where he's from originally? I could widen the search and see if any old ghosts are rising from the dead." The question sparked something else in Kristen's mind, it may have been a long shot, but she had to ask.
She settled herself down on the chaise near his legs. "Speaking of ghosts, Mark was married once before. We checked into that and the cause was determined to be a drug overdose."
"But since then I've heard things that don't paint it so cut and dry. Can you do your thing and just see what you can find? Maybe look into her family on the low to see if there's any siblings or other relatives that blame Mark for her death?" Kristen suggested.
Her uncle pinned her with a look, "Is there a reason you're having a lowly detective do all this research, and not the fine men and women of the FBI?"
"Kris?" Jubal's voice came from behind them.
Kristen jumped up from the chaise and whirled to find Jubal standing in the sliding door to the patio. She wrung her hands feeling a lot like a cheating housewife whose husband caught her with the pool boy. "Hey! I didn't hear you come in."
"I'm not surprised, the door was closed." He crossed the patio in three long strides to stand next to her. "Where's O.A? He was supposed to stay until I got back." His tone conveyed his displeasure at the younger agent not following his directive.
"It's okay, I told him he could go." Now that he was closer, Kristen could see how tense he was. She reached a hand out to run along his forearm to hopefully ease his worries, "I'm good."
She took note that her uncle still hadn't said anything or made a move off the chaise to introduce himself, seemingly content to just watch them interact.
Jubal moved first, simultaneously extending one hand while the other wrapped around Kristen's waist to bring her more against his side. "Jubal Valentine, and you are?"
Finn blew out another puff of smoke, "Someone who isn't too impressed with how the FBI is treating my niece."
"Niece?" Kristen felt some of the tension Jubal was holding ease.
"Jubal, this is my uncle, Finn Tutuola of the NYPD SVU unit. Uncle Finn, this is special agent Jubal Valentine, ASAIC of the JOC." Kristen went ahead and made the introductions. Her uncle waited a bit before swinging his legs over the chaise and rising to his feet, finally taking the hand that was still held out.
"Nice to meet you sir." Jubal said as he removed his arm from around her waist in an obvious attempt at placating the other man.
"Can't say the same." Finn wasted no time with pleasantries. "You've got problems and snitches all up and through this damn op, man. How you think I found your place?"
Jubal looked at Kristen and she nodded. "He knew before I even told him, we've got a serious leak somewhere."
Jubal tiredly ran a hand across his face, "Fuck." Kristen's eyebrows lifted in surprise, she rarely heard Jubal curse around her, the worst she'd ever heard was when he stubbed his toe against the kitchen table.
"Hey," She caught Jubal's attention, "How did it go with Mark?"
He rolled his eyes, "Apparently it was only a matter of time before someone came after him because according to him, he's becoming a big player in certain circles." His voice was heavy with sarcasm, "He gave a bunch of names for us to check out, Stuarts running them down."
"Any of them women?" Finn interrupted.
Jubal frowned, "No, it was all guys that he did business with, why?"
Finn shrugged, "Statistically, women tend to use non-violent means like poison or drugs when they kill. Men go for more violent ways to kill someone, we may be looking for a woman."
Kristen gestured to her uncle, "Which is why I've asked Uncle Finn to use his SVU contacts to see if there are any skeletons in Mark's closet. I would be surprised if he didn't have a few dozen complaints or silenced cases against him."
"The more cases mean the more chances some former victim, or family member looking for revenge, could have spiked his drink." Finn pointed his cigar for emphasis.
Jubal was wearing his thinking face, "Mark told me that he didn't bring any alcohol onboard himself. He passed the crew a list of what he wanted and it was provided for him."
"So we're potentially looking at a member of the crew." Kristen surmised, "Can we find out who was in charge of the food service? Or, if the alcohol was handled separately, who filled his request?"
"It was George's yacht, but I'm sure he won't have any problem providing that information to the FBI." Jubal said confidently, "He likes you and was beside himself when you were in the hospital."
She snorted, "You have no idea." Kristen thought back to the gift basket and the very generous offer he presented, yeah she was aware that George was fond of her. Jubal shot her a confused look, but she just waved a hand, she would explain later.
Finn stubbed out his cigar, "Okay, I got some looking around to do." He sized up Jubal before holding out his hand, "The next time I come out here, it better be for dinner or something, and not cause my niece was in the damn hospital again."
"Uncle Finn!" Kristen groaned in embarrassment.
"Baby girl, I ain't telling this man nothin he don't already know. Ain't that right, Mr. FBI agent?"
"Absolutely." Jubal agreed.
"Don't encourage him." Kristen admonished him. "Let me walk you out, Unc." She grabbed her uncle's arm and pulled him towards the door.
"One more thing, your moms is getting on my last nerve, you need to call her and tell her you won't be at that award dinner next Thursday for your pops." Finn advised.
"I totally forgot about that." Kristen sighed heavily, "Can you tell her for me?" She gave him her best pleading eyes look.
He shook his head, "I already told her that you probably won't be able to make it, but she ain't listening to me."
"That's your sister."
"That's your moms."
"I'll call her." Kristen finally relented.
"I'll let you know when I got something. Stay safe, baby girl." He left with as much flair as he arrived.
"Baby girl?" She didn't even have to turn around to know Jubal was grinning from ear to ear.
"Nope." She closed the door and locked it, "You are not authorized to call me that."
"I call Abigail that."
Exactly. Kristen thought to herself. She did not want him to associate her with a nickname that he called his daughter, for christs sake! Not to mention, hearing those words from him had a different effect on her than hearing it from her uncle.
Deciding to side step the matter altogether, she turned to face him, 'What's for dinner?"
"So, not only am I stingy, but I'm possessive and controlling now?" Jubal leaned back in his chair.
"Apparently." Kristen shrugged while taking the last bite of her fish. Jubal had stopped at the store on the way home and picked up a couple salmon planks and fired up the grill while Kristen whipped up a quick salad and side dish. She filled him in on some of the contents of the gift basket that George and Tiffany brought, particularly the open invitation to meet his personal jeweler.
She laughed at the disgruntled look on his face, "Oh come on, it was a good save by O.A." She gathered up her now empty plate and headed inside.
"No, yeah. It was a good save" He agreed, following her lead and bringing his dishes inside as well. "I just hate shopping for stuff like this."
Kristen narrowed her eyes at him, "You know you don't really have to go, right? I can pick something out and just say it was from you." They quickly fell into their normal after dinner routine of rinsing the dishes before loading them into the dishwasher.
Jubal filled a kettle and placed it on the stove for his tea."I'm afraid I can't do that." He said with a serious look, "My reputation is on the line, and I need to step up and deliver."
"Oh God." She pointed a fork at him, "Jubal, do not go and pick the most flashy thing in the store. I will refuse to wear it." She closed the dishwasher and set it to run.
"Have a little faith, Chazal." He leaned against the counter-top, and she was hit with the full wattage of his smile. "I said I don't like shopping, not that I'm not good at it."
"Really?" Kristen dried her hands on a dishtowel and tossed it at him to hang it up to dry.
He lifted a shoulder, "Sam liked everything I gave her." The air between them grew heavier as he peered at her, "She's a lot like you, not a fan of anything gaudy or ostentatious."
"Oh." Was Jubal really talking about his ex wife to her? "Yay us?" She managed to get out.
"She was a fan of gold, but for you, I'd go with silver or platinum." His voice was quiet in the room, the humming of the nearly silent dishwasher the only other sound. "It would look better against your skin."
He slid his hand along the counter until it reached her hand, and she held her breath as she watched him play with her fingers, "A ring maybe?" He stroked along her ring finger softly, before continuing up along the back of her hand, "Or a bracelet?" His hand circled her wrist as he brushed his thumb over the soft skin of her inner wrist.
Kristen managed to drag her eyes from their intertwined hands up to look at his face, only to see him watching her closely as he took a step closer to slide his hand further up her arm. She offered no resistance, even slightly leaning into his touch when his hand glided over her shoulder to come to rest on her collarbone.
"Another necklace definitely, but what kind?" The back of his hand skated over her collarbone from one side to the other. His eyes stayed locked on hers as his fingers took a brief dip down the slight V of her shirt, "I liked the long necklace, it looked good on you. What's that called?"
"Lariat." Her voice was soft and breathy.
His tongue came out to briefly wet his bottom lip, "We'll get one of those." He stated before dropping his eyes down to observe his hand wrap lightly around her throat. Her pulse was jumping like crazy, there was no way he couldn't feel it, but he gave no indication one way or the other. "I've always liked pearls, are you good with those?"
"Yes." He could have asked her anything in that moment and Kristen would have agreed to anything as long as he kept touching her like that.
Jubal shifted suddenly to stand directly in front of her, lightly pressing her into the counter while bringing his other hand up to cup her face within his hands. Tilting her head slightly to each side he fingered her earlobes, "Diamonds." It wasn't a question, it was said more like he was speaking to himself.
Kristen managed to get the rest of her limbs to cooperate and brought a hand up to wrap around one of the hands cupping her face, the other went around his waist and burrowed under his shirt to feel the skin of his back.
Jubal gave a slight shudder at the feel of her hand on his back, but didn't move an inch. Kristen decided to poke the bear a little. She deliberately pulled her lower lip between her teeth, releasing it slowly while focusing on his gaze that was suddenly pinned to her mouth.
She knew Jubal would probably never be the one to take that final step, wanting to be respectful of her and all, so Kristen pressed forward ever so slightly and brushed her lips over his. He exhaled raggedly and tightened his grip on her before tilting his head and finally kissing her the way they both had been wanting.
Her moan into his mouth was met with his answering groan. Somehow this kiss was different from all the others they'd shared so far, and Kristen's favorite. There was no rushing like on the yacht, or any need for pretense, this kiss was because they both wanted it and decided to indulge.
Jubal ran his tongue along her bottom lip and when she opened up he wasted no time in sliding his tongue inside to glide against hers. Kristen matched him stroke for stroke, her hunger for him easily rivaling his hunger for her.
She was extremely grateful that he was pressed against her so closely, his body was basically the only thing keeping her upright. Just as she had that thought, he pulled away breathing heavily. Kristen didn't have time to protest because in the next second, Jubal bent down slightly and she found herself now sitting on the counter instead of against it.
Which she didn't oppose at all, in fact,quite the opposite. She could now tug him closer to stand in between her legs while she was free to bury her hands in his hair to guide him wherever she pleased. She leaned back against the cabinets and tugged on the ends of his hair as he trailed kisses down her cheek to her neck.
His hands were busy running over as much of her body as he could reach, and Kristen was momentarily irritated that she was wearing her lounge around the house pants and not shorts or something that would allow her to feel his hands directly on her skin.
She let out another moan as he found the spot on her neck that had her seeing stars. She pulled his face back up so she could slot her mouth against his instead. She loved what he was doing, but if he kept it up it would lead to something that she didn't think she was ready for.
Not yet, at least.
Their impromptu make out session was interrupted by the screaming of the kettle on the stove. Kristen jumped and pulled away at the sound. "What the hell?" She looked around in surprise at the sound.
Jubal dropped his head onto her shoulder and she could feel him laughing into her skin. "Shut up." She grumbled, unwrapping her legs from around his waist. When had that happened?
Without moving from his spot in between her legs, he reached over and turned off the stove. He straightened up and rested his forehead against hers, "Hey."
"Hey." Kristen replied.
"Did I just make a huge mistake here?" He asked.
"If you did, then I did too." Kristen pulled back so she could look him in the eyes, "I was a more than willing participant, Jubal." She took a deep breath, "And if I'm honest, I've been wanting to do that for a while. A long while."
"Yeah?" He searched her face for any signs of dishonesty.
"Yeah." She affirmed. "Kinda why I was so glad that you chose me for this op."
Jubal chuckled nervously as he looked to the side, "If we're being honest, you were my only choice."
"Seriously?" She couldn't believe her ears. She grabbed the front of his shirt and brought him in for a kiss.
He deepened the kiss before pulling back, "In case you couldn't tell by now" he said wryly, "I've been wanting to do that for a long time too."
Kristen tucked her head into the crook of his neck to hide her smile. Finally something was going her way! But just as soon as that thought came, she stiffened when another thought came: what would happen once this was over? They would actually be in the same situation that they were pretending to be in.
Jubal ran his hands up and down her arms soothingly, seeming to read her mind, "I know, it's gonna be an issue, but we can deal with that when this is over."
"You're not worried?" Kristen asked quietly. "I don't want this to negatively affect you."
Jubal shrugged, "Same, but we can't worry about that right now. We have a job to do,and we'll worry about the rest after." He paused, "I mean, if you want an after."
Kristen lifted her head, "I want an after."
"Good." His smile was so big his dimples were on prominent display.
Kristen opened her mouth to suggest they continue their earlier activities but was instead rocked by a yawn that came from nowhere.
Jubal's expression shifted into concern, "I'm sorry, you're probably exhausted, today's been a long day for you."
Kristen wanted to argue, but it was true, her time at the hospital seemed like days ago, it was hard to believe it was only a few hours ago. "Yeah I guess I should get some sleep." Jubal helped her off the counter and walked her to her room.
The confusion must have shown in her face, he was quick to reassure her that it wasn't that he didn't want to sleep together, but that she needed rest.
"I can rest just fine with you next to me." Kristen said suggestively.
Jubal brought her in close for a kiss. "Yeah, but I can't." He admitted before letting her go. "Goodnight, Kris."
Kristen got ready for bed on autopilot. Once she was snuggled under the covers, she tossed and turned for a while before sitting up abruptly. She had to tell someone.
Locating her phone she hurriedly dialed and waited for the person to pick up.
"What's wrong? Emily's voice was on high alert.
"So, you know how you said to let you know the minute something happened?"
"Well, something happened."