By Roda Werland
The phone rang and rang. Elizabeth Olivet let it ring. She stared at the papers in front of her. She had brought them home from office because this is what she had been doing over there as well ... just staring at them. Instead of working on them, she had spent time dodging Ben's calls and messages on the answering machine. She had promised to hand in to Ben this psychiatric evaluation before the holidays but had not been able to concentrate although it was almost two weeks since Ben had given her the news that more than fifty women had come forward to give testimony that Dr. Meritt had molested them as well. She should have been jubilant at the news but here she was on Christmas Eve in a noiseless apartment staring mindlessly at documents about a psychotic killer. She had never felt more alone in her life. A repetitive pounding broke into her consciousness and she realized that someone was at the door and it was not just her headache. A hazy image of Mike Logan appeared in front of her through her peephole. What was he doing here at this hour? When she opened the door, he held up a red bag with Chinese letters on it.
"Ho, ho, ho! Look what Santa's got for you."
"What are you doing here, Mike?"
"I took a chance you would be in the mood for Mooshu Chicken."
"Do you know what time it is?"
"I thought this was supposed to be the season to be jolly."
"Suppose I had been asleep?"
"It's only nine. Besides I called and you didn't pick up the phone."
"That told you what?"
"If you were sleeping you'd roll over automatically to pick up the phone. Since you didn't it meant you were deliberately ignoring the call. Simple."
"How did you ever make Detective?"
"I just finished a particularly crappy shift so can we eat first and trade compliments later?"
Liz helped him unpack the boxes of steaming rice and chicken, suddenly glad to have his unexpected company. She and Mike had developed a casual easy friendship once they had got passed the sexual tension that had developed between them after she treated him for grief at his partner's murder. He had been the first person she had turned to in her hour of need when Dr. Meritt a famous and respected gynecologist had raped her while she was trying to collect evidence against him that he was molesting his patients. Mike had been like a guiding beacon in a tempestuous storm. The best thing about his friendship was that he hadn't offered her any words of false comfort. She also sensed his smoldering rage against Dr. Meritt embedded not too far from the surface, as if he would love to get him alone in a dark alley like he had done for Max's killer. It satisfied her primal feeling of vengeance to know he cared enough about her to feel that way.
Now she said, "I thought you were Ben."
He stopped with chopsticks in the air. "Need I point out that Stone is three inches shorter and forty pounds lighter than I am? Not to mention I have hair."
Liz gave a smile in spite of poor spirits. She explained "I didn't pick up the phone because I thought it was Ben calling about the psychiatric evaluation that I was supposed to get to him before the holidays. I'll work on it over the holidays now."
"You're going to be working over the holidays?
"You do it every year so what's the big deal?"
"You have a family that you like to spend time with; I don't. What do your folks have to say about this?"
"Nothing. I told them I was going to Aspen with a friend. I couldn't take their concern right now."
"I thought you were going to a shrink? Isn't she helping?"
"She says I will get over it."
"Yes. But you once told me healing can't begin till you let go the anger and helplessness."
"Do you think I am still in denial?"
"I think you're too smart for that."
"I don't feel smart. In fact, these days I don't feel much of anything…. except tired."
She glanced over at the bare Christmas tree standing forlornly in the corner. "I took out the ornaments to dress the tree a week ago but I haven't been able to go through with it. What's there to celebrate?"
"You're alive and healthy, that bastard Meritt won't be able to hurt other women and you're sharing Christmas dinner with me. Those seem pretty good reasons to celebrate."
"Sharing Christmas dinner with you?"
"Did I forget to mention that yet? I'm picking you up at seven tomorrow. We're going over to Phil and Elaine's."
"I'm not going, Mike."
"Hey, you can't bail out on me. Elaine said bring a friend."
"Whatever happened to the flavor of the month?"
"She's got plans."
"So that's why you came tonight ... Mooshu chicken was a cheap bribe Logan."
"Next time I'll get you take out from the Waldorf."
"I know what you're trying to do, Mike, and it isn't working. I don't want to be your Christmas charity case. Go work in a soup kitchen."
"Is this your three-digit IQ at work?"
"Sorry. I know you're trying to help but please, Mike don't force me on this."
"We'll talk about it later."
"After you make coffee and we finish doing the tree."
As they strung up lights and she explained the history behind every ornament Liz found she was relaxing for the first time in six months. Finally she unwrapped the last box and took out an angel from the tissue to put on top of the tree. He took it from her and inspected it.
"It belonged to my Nana's grandmother. It was hand painted with gold leaf by her father."
"Whew! I don't think we ever had anything so fancy on our tree." He reached up to fix it on the top.
"Make a wish."
"My Nana always let me make a wish on it before putting up the angel."
"In that case, maybe you should continue the tradition to put it up."
Liz pulled up a chair and took of her shoes. When she climbed on, she held out her hand to Mike for the delicate white and gold porcelain angel.
"She gave it to me the year I got my Ph.D. She said there was no point waiting for me to have a family before she gave it to me because with those letters after my name I was going to scare away all the good men."
Mike laughed and Liz looked down at him. Hazel eyes met gray ones and time stood still. Liz swayed as her knees felt weak all of a sudden. Mike reached up to catch her but it was already too late ... the angel slipped out of her nerveless fingers and lay in pieces on the hardwood floor. There was an awful moment as they both stared at the broken angel. The strength that had been propping her up since the last six months cracked, and she sank down on the chair and covered her face and started to sob.
Mike swept her into his arms and carried her to the couch where he held her close to him as she snuggled her head where his chest curved into collarbone and cried copious tears for the first time since her life had gone to hell. She cried for whitish had gone through at the hands of an arrogant bastard and for the loss of herself. She cried till she could cry no more. When she stopped crying she lay limply against him hearing his steady heartbeat resonate through her. Her senses slowly inhaled his scent and long dormant feelings for him reared up.
He loosened his hold on her and the thought of his leaving her alone terrified her. "Don't leave me," she whispered and pressed her lips to Mike's.
He tasted of chocolate mint and coffee, and she heard him groan when her fingers slid up to cup his neck and run through his hair. Suddenly she was held fast as his mouth devoured hers. Liz shivered as she felt his hot open mouth move down her neck, then his tongue lapped the pulse that hammered in the hollow at the base of her throat. He made another rough sound in his throat as she pressed herself against him, her full breasts flattening against his chest. His palms were hot through her creamy blouse as they grazed the side of her breast and her nipples hardened to pearls pushing against the soft fabric. He bent his head and caught one between his lips, greedily suckling it to fullness.
Scorching sensation shot through Liz to her womanly core and wrapping her hands around the back of his head, she arched her back to push the tip of her breast deeper into his mouth. He transferred his attention to its mate while Liz whimpered with ecstasy, then lifted his head and stared at her slumberous eyes, swollen lips and the damp fabric that clung to the hard thrust of her nipples. Mike let go a ragged breath and claimed her mouth again. He skimmed his hands down her back and insinuated them under her blouse to caress the silken skin of her waist as he drowned in her softness. A police siren going by in a distance tugged him back to reality.
"Hmm?" Liz blinked up at him with drowsy confusion. "What?"
"We have to stop, Liz."
By the time it began to sink in that he was no longer kissing her with desperate urgency, his hands were sliding away from her body and he was moving away from her on the couch. She looked up at him with hurt filled eyes and he almost teetered off the edge of control.
"I promised you once that I would never make a move on you till you wanted me to and even though you think you want me to just now, you will hate yourself in the morning." He saw sanity reach her eyes as she listened to his words. "If we ever make love again, it will be when you want me as a man and not as a teddy bear."
Liz closed her eyes as embarrassment crashed down on her.
"Believe me, you can't be feeling half as unhappy about stopping as Little Mike is," he joked. She blushed further.
"Don't worry, the day will come when we'll both be ready and willing. Just now though you need to get some sleep."
He scooped her up into his arms once again and placed her head against his chest, but she could tell that it was comforting touch not a sexual one. In the silence as she burrowed her head into his shoulder, she heard an unfamiliar sound in a distance.
"Can you hear bells, Mike?"
"Well, it is midnight."
"Merry Christmas, Mike."
"Merry Christmas, Liz."