Casa Caliente

Chapter One


The case had been--WAS, maddening. Five good clues that didn't add up to a damn thing in any sense of logic: a battered copy of The Kama Sutra, a bag of Legos, a melted beeswax candle, fifteen left sneakers and a small dead, dried guppy.

All of them had clear prints--that weren't in any of the databases. All of them a first glance SEEMED to be second-hand garbage, fished out of trash or dumpsters around Vegas. But they had been recovered from the Topsy Turvy's hotel vault using a key found clutched in a slaughtered man's hand as he dangled head first from a 200 foot overpass on the Vegas Arroyo--

Grissom rubbed his eyes and felt the ache in the small of his back. He'd pushed the team hard on this one, wracking everyone's brains and getting on their nerves until in a private moment, Catherine had glared at him.

"We are ALL doing the best we can, so back off a little, all right?"

"Well our best isn't getting the job done, Catherine. We're no further now than we were two days ago!"

"We'll get it--eventually," she tried to assure him, but he'd growled at her.

"Eventually isn't good enough, damn it!"

And she'd looked at him with that slow impatient scorn of hers, the kind that made most men quiver. Catherine had let the words fly, low and direct, her voice harsh.

"God damn it--you know Gris, you really, REALLY need to get laid--" she'd thrown at him before stalking off.

He'd stared at the file before him after that, face red, unseeing, feeling the hot flush of shameful realization move through his system.

It was true. He'd kept his distance from Sara, put his focus back on the job and the status quo as they'd agreed. The arrangement had worked--or so he thought. Six weeks of concentration of cases had been good up until this last one, when the edges of his frayed patience had begun to unravel with a swiftness that startled everyone including himself. And the hell of it was that he knew it had been coming.

Sara was the consummate professional at work. She kept her distance and her smiles were very PC. Only once in a while would he look up to see a flash of dark heat in those brown eyes, a smoldering hint that stirred his libido and made him suck in a breath as memories stiffened his cock. Those little moments drove him back to his office, to brood.

His cell phone rang; impatiently he fished it out and flicked it open, his voice terse.

"Grissom."

"Sidle. I can't come in this weekend. I have a shipment of furniture coming from my old storage unit in San Francisco and I've got to find some place to park it."

Grissom paused, looking through the glass walls of his office to see Sara standing there on the other side, her long slender back pressed against the clear panes. He leaned back in his chair.

"You're looking for storage?" he echoed, mind racing. He watched Sara nod instead of replying, amused that she knew he was looking at her spine.

Along with other things.

"Yeah--I was supposed to have a place rented for it by now, but I've been-busy--" she responded, her voice surprisingly gentle. Grissom had enough grace to bite his lower lip. He got up and walked towards her, standing on the other side of the glass wall, looking at the back of her neck as he spoke into his phone."I have--a solution."

Sara turned, finally.

"Tell me more--" she arched an eyebrow at him. He shoved a hand in his pocket, voice dropping lower.

"I've got a place you can use--it's empty right now, but--"

Sara took a step back from the glass as a tech passed by, then shot a quick look back at Grissom, who was watching her face carefully. "--A place to store furniture? You ARE a man of surprises, Gris. What sort of place are we talking about?"

"Off of Sahara, west of the fifteen. There's a little road about ten miles out--Caliente Way. Turn north and you'll see a few houses. The fourth one about eight miles down is set back from the road by a gravel driveway. 10867 Caliente Way."

Sara stared first at him, then at the phone, clearly puzzled, but a small smirk was lingering on the corner of her mouth, and seeing it, Grissom felt a shiver of hope filter through him.

"Let me get this straight--you're offering me the opportunity to store my furniture in somebody's garage?"

"No, not quite. It's--complicated. But the place is empty, and if you're in a jam time-wise, it's available. I need to go out and check the circuit breakers after work anyway--interested?"

He tried not to make his voice sound anything other than casual, but Sara leaned toward the glass wall and nodded.

Then, in a sultry move she planted a kiss on the smooth surface, her mocha lip-gloss making a perfect impression of her mouth there. She walked away, leaving Grissom to stare hungrily at her kiss on the glass.

*** *** ***

Sara reached the house first. The cool sunlight of autumn dawn in Nevada was stealing over the land as she pulled up the long gravel drive, worried about the degree of neglect evident along the way. Caliente Way was an older neighborhood, and the houses were miles distant from each other, more rural than urban. Only one had been modernized; the others were small bungalows from the Thirties, single story houses set on huge four-acre lots. Sara wondered if Grissom knew someone out here, an older acquaintance perhaps who owed him a favor.

Other, more lascivious thoughts overrode those however, and Sara glanced at her purse guiltily. Nestled deep in it was a brand new box of condoms, purchased in a moment of utter optimism three weeks back, when she caught Grissom studying at her chest halfway through a debriefing Catherine was droning through. That desperate glance had been enough to renew her hopes and rekindle her patience with the enigma that WAS Grissom.

She'd been good. Superb even, if you considered every opportunity she'd bypassed in the name of their agreement. No re-enactments. No private moments in his office or the staff room. Professional deportment for professional zones--oh she'd been a saint all right, patiently hungering for the moment he'd drop a pair of pantyhose on her desk.

And now this--offer. Store her furniture? Was this some coded message, or worse--exactly what he meant? She tried not to assume the worst, but the lingering fear that their single night at the Desert Inn would be all there were was, haunted her. Sara climbed out of the car slowly and walked to the front porch.

The bungalow, despite the neglect, was charming, a low brick and wood structure surrounded by tall hedges and pines. Someone had set brick flowerbeds along the front, but there were full of weeds now. An air of empty desolation hung about the place, and Sara moved cautiously; if anything it looked exactly like a crime scene.

Snorting at this thought, Sara stepped up onto the porch and over to one of the two bay windows, peering through dusty grey curtains into an empty room. Hardwood floors, plain plaster walls-wait, there were--bookcases. Lots of them. She started counting and reached five when she heard the sound of an SUV coming up the drive. Turning, she caught sight of Grissom's Tahoe pulling up behind her car. Forcing herself to be casual, she came down off the porch towards him, arms crossed over her chest. He climbed out, sunglasses on, mouth in a straight line.

"You made it."

"Yes. Nice place."

"It's kind of you to say so," he replied evenly, striding towards her in his brisk way. At the edge of the porch he reached her, looming close, far closer than he had in a long time and Sara bit back a moan at the scent of him. Grissom had no compunctions about crowding her though, and drove her back against the low arched front door until her shoulders thumped hard against it.

"Let me guess--it's a neutral zo--" Sara barely got out just before his mouth descended on hers and she lost herself in his demanding kiss.

God she'd missed this! Hot and brazen, his tongue slithered between her parting lips, moving in as if it owned her mouth, seeking a sultry dominance here. Sara clung to Grissom's shoulders, slightly dizzy; his big hands curved to cup her ass and slam her up against him.

Oh yes, if the rock hard ridge pressing against her thigh was any indication, he'd missed her too. Sara whimpered into his mouth, busily letting her tongue slide around his, fighting the need to breathe as her fingers dug into his shoulders.

He pulled away gasping, pulling his sunglasses off, eyes searching her face.

"Just over a thousand hours, Sara--that's the total and complete limit I can reach before loss of control sets in."

"Total--?" Sara gasped, trying to follow the line of logic that seemed perfectly clear to him. One of her linen-covered legs slid around his, bringing their bodies into closer contact against the front door and Grissom groaned at the enticing pressure.

"Limit. NEED you--" he growled, kissing her again. Sara cupped his face, fingers splaying out to hold it as she felt his mouth on hers again, hot, demanding. Sweet slurpy kisses echoed on the porch, and Sara lost track of how long they stood entangled there, making up for lost time, fighting for erotic dominance in the wet duel of their tongues.

Gradually she pulled back, her head thumping against the wood of the door as she tried to catch her breath. Grissom pressed his lips to the side of her neck, apparently just as intent on kissing that as her now slightly puffy mouth.

"So this has all been some sort of test?" she asked, even as pleasure from his lips sent spirals of slinky heat down her spine. Grissom hummed affirmatively against her skin.

"I needed to know if I could take it. I'm sorry if it hurts to hear that now sweetheart, but I couldn't tell if this hunger would die or grow," he whispered huskily. She blinked back a sting of tears.

"Yeah, well it grew. For me, it grew--" she told him. Grissom let his teeth nip her neck, making her moan.

"Me too. In my case, exponentially," he admitted with a self-loathing tone in his voice. He pulled away from her and ran a hand through his hair, sending the normally neat grey curls into a slightly tousled disarray.

The sight of it was enough to drain Sara's anger and she smirked.

"And this place was the first neutral zone you could think of, Gris?"

"No--in fact mentally I've rezoned quite a number of places since--" he pinkened and lifted his chin, shifting the subject, "--But it was the first place that came to mind when you mentioned furniture."

He fished out a key ring and unlocked the front door, pushing it open. It creaked, and Sara noted the grime they'd disturbed along the front of it.

"We're leaving a lot of evidence--" she teased. Grissom looked down, frowning.

"It's been almost three months since I've checked on it," he remarked, chiding himself as they stepped inside the low doorway.

"It's very--" she hesitated. She'd wanted to say 'nice' but blurted out, "--dusty."

"Thanks--I've done it in early Addams Family--" Grissom commented lightly as he walked into the living room. Sara trailed after him, moving towards a bookcase and checking out the titles.

"So this is where you keep them all--Spiders of Africa, Stuttgart's Guide to Insects of Europe, The Mind of the Moth, Cockroach Cookbook--yuck!"

"That one was a gift--" he mumbled, looking over one of the other cases. Sara laughed. She shifted her weight on one hip and looked at Grissom's back; he was reaching for a dusty volume over his head in another bookcase and the long line of his broad shoulders sent a spike of heat through her.

"Grissom, what is this place?"

"It's--mine," he replied absently, opening his book and flipping the pages. Sara came over, slightly miffed at being forgotten so quickly, but Grissom looped an arm around her and pulled her close, nuzzling her hair.

"And as you can see honey, it's got almost no furniture. If you want to keep your stuff here, you're welcome to, rent free."

Sara wanted to ask more, but bit back her questions and gave a nod, looking over his shoulder at the layout. A large bare room. An ancient brick fireplace stood at one end of the room, flanked on one side by a windowed door.

"Can I look around?"

"Sure--" Grissom set the book down and waved his arm.

"Living room. That door with the windows leads to the outside and the freestanding garage. Back that way--" he indicated with a tilt of his head, "The archway leads to the kitchen and bathroom, and the other door is the bedroom."

Sara cautiously strode off, looking like a curious cat as she peered around the archway into the tiled kitchen. The design here incorporated green and yellow Mexican tile on the walls and had a brick floor, all original to the house; she laughed at the refrigerator with the rounded edges and car door handle.

"This thing's an antique, Gris--don't tell me it actually still WORKS--" she yanked it open to see several bottles of beer chilling alongside a half empty jar of salsa and a Tupperware container.

"Interesting diet--"

Grissom loomed over her shoulder, arms slipping around her waist.

"I don't ever stay here long enough to eat. But the utilities are on--electricity and water."

Sara glanced over the delicately painted cupboards and down to the end of the galley kitchen, sighing.

"Why?"

"Why not?" he shrugged easily, although his eyes were looking away. Sara slipped out of his embrace and went to the door that led to the bathroom. The frosted glass door swung open when she twisted the heavy crystal knob.

"Whoah--"

"Impressive, no?" he grinned at her. Sara stepped in and rested one hip on the high edge of the silver claw-footed bathtub. The tiles here had seashells and Mexican mermaids in teal and pink. Sara shook her head lightly.

"Impressive yes--this place is gorgeous, Gris--a little work and you'd have a stunning piece of property here. You could rent it, sell it for top dollar--"

He held up a hand, his expression bland.

"--Not interested. I've got enough money, I don't need to make any more at the moment." The look on his face was neutral, but Sara took the hint and shifted her gaze around the bathroom, noting it was cleaner and better cared for than the other rooms. It even had towels out, albeit faintly dusty ones.

"You like your creature comforts I see--Charmin on the roll, under, and bath rugs in good repair."

"The yard work kills me and I usually clean up before I leave--" he offered lightly. Sara looked around at the fixtures in the bathroom, realizing something with a grin.

"No shower--strictly baths."

Grissom leaned against the porcelain pillar sink and nodded. Sara grinned, noting the old-fashioned back brush and moveable wooden tray built to rest across the width of the tub.

"Good clean fun--" she teased. Grissom shot her a glance that could only be described as smutty.

"And fun is always meant to be shared--" he replied. Before Sara could say anything to that, her cell phone rang and she fished it out of her purse, opening it impatiently. Grissom turned and watched her reflection on the medicine cabinet mirror.

"Sidle--yeah, oh, yes, I finally have an address for you--no, no, I understand. I'll accept the fee--" Glancing up into Grissom's face, she paused a moment and continued.

"It's 10867 Caliente Way. Off of the Fifteen, south. Pretty sure it's on MapQuest, yeah. Thank you. Oh! That soon? Oh--well okay. Thanks--"

She flipped the phone off as Grissom cocked his head and spoke up.

"San Francisco is about five hundred and seventy miles from here, give or take. If the van left around five this morning, it should be here at noon. Which means we have six hours to rest up until it arrives."

Reaching for her hand, he tugged her up and led her out of the bathroom, crossing to another frosted door on the other side and pushing it open. Sara followed him into a dim room, smelling a faint, ghostly scent of flowers.

"The only real furniture in the house, and the only true antique, by definition," Grissom murmured, moving to pull a heavy drop cloth off of it. Sara stared, her brown eyes wide at the sight.

"Gris, it's magnificent--" she managed, choking a little. He shrugged, folding his arms over his chest.

The bed against the far wall was a full-sized and elegant one with an ornately carved wooden spool frame and tall posts rising from each corner. Despite the faint light in the room, Sara could see it was probably oak, and fairly sturdy despite it's graceful appearance. She stepped closer.

The spread on it was of--dragonflies, she noted. A delicate pattern of them on what appeared to be a Chinese watercolor background. Quickly she shot a look back over her shoulder at Grissom, who was watching her, his eyes sweetly bright.

"Your bed?"

"Now it is, although I haven't slept in it in about fifteen years. The mattress and box spring are fairly new, custom-made for the frame which is a nonstandard size--between a full and a queen, one of those odd deals," he teetered a hand back and forth as he spoke.

A theory began to form in Sara's mind, and she half-smiled, walking over to the bed slowly, patting the mattress with a gentle hand.

"So--was she from your mother's side or your dad's?"

The soft smile that flickered across his face was full of love and memory.

"My mother's side," he replied in a low voice. Sara moved back to him and slipped her arms around his waist, holding him tightly; after a moment, he hugged her back.


                                     
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