Casa Caliente 6: Gifted

Chapter One



Sara tried to reach it again, but even with her long fingers, she couldn’t quite manage. The adhesive seemed welded to the slope of her spine no matter how hard she scraped. In desperation she raised her voice, calling through the bathroom door.

“Grissom?  A little help here?”

A shadow appeared at the frosted glass door and the heavy crystal knob turned; he peeked around inquiringly, his dress shirt half buttoned.

“Problems?” he asked softly, tugging on his cuffs. Sara jutted her hip at him while she gripped the sides of the sink and he grinned, appreciating the view of her thong-clad bottom waggling at him.

I can’t peel this thing off . . .” she complained. He stepped up behind her and let his fingers slide along her hips in a soft caress as he nuzzled her ear. Sara flashed a grin at their reflections in the medicine cabinet mirror.

“Which thing needs peeling?” he teased, toying with the edges of the thong. Sara rolled her eyes.

“The patch, of course. It’s going to hurt like hell, too—“ she grimaced. Grissom glanced down and tried not to smirk, but he wasn’t quite fast enough, and Sara swatted his arm on general principles. He bent down to study the problem closer.

“Ah. Okay, we can peel this off slowly, with a lot of tugging and pain, or we can rip it off quickly with SOME pain,” he cheerfully told her. Sara winced.

“Ripping would be better, but I need a distraction—“

“Fine. I’ll tell you a joke.”

“Forget it—I NEVER get your bug jokes, not even the one about the two praying mantises walking into a bar—“

“Have a better one,” Grissom announced as he worked a fingernail under the patch and prepared to get a good grip on it. “It’s about a robot babysitter.”

“Robot babysitter?” Sara asked, bracing herself both physically and emotionally. Grissom made an affirmative sound.

“A little boy goes to his mother and asks her if the teenaged girl, Sandy, who watches him is a robot. His mother tells him no, she’s human, and what on earth ever made him think she was a robot?”

Sara puzzled over this for a second, then shrugged. Grissom pinched the edge of the patch between his forefinger and thumb as he continued.

“The little boy says ‘Well Mom, I thought she was a robot because Dad told Mr. Petersen next door that Sandy has great high beams, and man, would he LOVE to screw the ass off of her.”

As Grissom ended his punch line he yanked the patch off in one smooth motion; Sara laughed, her shoulders shaking for a moment before she glared down at him, her grin wide.

“That’s disgusting!” she accused merrily. He smirked at her and waved the patch as he straightened up.

“Yes, but it worked.”

“THIS time—“ Sara warned him as she began to peel the plastic covers off the new patch. Grissom cocked his head and watched her glance over her shoulder in the placement decision process; his grin was both amused and tender.

“Alternating cheeks, are we?”

“It’s recommended—“ Sara nodded, handing him the bandage,  “Care for the honors here?”

“Oh the things I do in the name of love.”

At this, Sara gave a little moan; instantly they both remembered the last time he’d said those words and the amazingly erotic marathon that followed them.

For a moment they stared at each other hungrily, but Sara shook her head, planting her hands on Grissom’s chest and giving him a little push, as much for her own sanity as his.

“We’ve got to get going if we’re going to be ready.”

“I know, I know—“ he replied somewhat grumpily. Palming the patch, he brought his hand to her bottom in a solid painless swat, planting the adhesive on the sweetly rounded cheek under his fingers. The added benefit to the move was that it pulled her closer and made Sara jump a little against his chest.

“Hey!”

“I’ll kiss it and make it better later—“

 

***   ***   ***

 

The black limo idled at the curb, its big engine a low purr of power. Sara hesitated, but Grissom guided her to it, his hand on the small of her back.

“They sent a car for us?”

“Alex insisted. He’s got his reasons,” Grissom admitted, following Sara into the spacious interior. A low laugh greeted them both, and Sara realized that both Olivia and Sir Alex were already seated within the car, smiling at them from the opposite bench seat. Alex was in a dark grey suit complete with silk tattersall vest and boutonnière, his eyes twinkling behind his wire rims while Olivia wore a dress and jacket of off-white silk and a necklace of grey pearls.

“Gil, Sara my dear, lovely that you could join us on this happiest of occasions. I hope you don’t mind the arrangements, but Bernard is lurking about and I hate to give him anything without a good chase.”

Olivia swiftly signed to her son, a familiar smirk on her mouth as she leaned forward from her seat to kiss him.

//Since when have you been living at Doreen’s old house, Gil?//

//It’s my house. I can live there if I want.// Came the slightly petulant signs back. Olivia let her smile beam at Sara.

“I’m so glad you could come for dis, Sara—“ Olivia intoned carefully. Sara smiled and awkwardly managed the gestures in return.

//Me too.//

Olivia’s smile grew wider, warmer. Sara blushed and seeing it, Grissom shot her a tender look.

“Practice makes perfect.”

“Speaking of perfection,” Alex broke in,  “we ought to reach the Bellacova within twenty minutes or so. Trevor will be there with the boys. Are you comfortable with dogs, Sara?”

Olivia nodded; Grissom sighed with a hint of exasperation.

//All three of them, mom? You can’t be serious!//

//All three of them are very well behaved. And you love the brutes so don’t even try to pretend you don’t.//

“Dogs?” Sara demanded curiously. Sir Alex nodded.

“Olivia and I have three dogs. Bruce is a mastiff, Lionel is a bulldog and Charlotte is well, something—fluffy. And before you think we’re just a pair of dotty senior citizens, the dogs are actually very important in the scheme of tonight.”

“They’re your family,” Sara deduced, smiling crookedly.

Grissom laughed. “Actually, they’re also a deterrent,” he explained. “Bernard is a stringer for a couple of the British tabloids. He’s been chasing Sir Alex and my mom for years now, but he’s deathly afraid of the dogs.”

“Bruce ate one of his cameras. And Charlotte chased him down de Venice beach boardwalk one year,” Olivia related with satisfaction.

They chatted easily, speaking and signing, and finally twenty minutes later the limo pulled up to Bellacova Gallery. All of them climbed out into the warm sunshine of the afternoon, and Sara felt Olivia touch her arm to catch her attention. She winked in the conspiratorial manner Sara was beginning to recognize; a very Grissom look.

They all walked into the foyer of the gallery together and Olivia let her fingers dance in the air quickly.

//I’m confiscating Sara for a few moments—we’ll be back.//

//Very well my love--//

Alex shot her a knowing look and turned to Grissom, giving a sigh of indulgence as a tall cadaver of a man with long dreadlocks and an armful of small white dog advanced towards them.

“Sir, the priest has been briefed and the guests will be ushered in shortly. Will you and Miss Olivia require anything further at the moment?”

Alex smiled up at the tall man.

“Ah, Trevor—I do hope you managed to get Seville’s to send the rings around?”

“Just so, sir,” the other man intoned. The manservant gently set the dog down and she happily sniffed Grissom’s pant leg. He gave her a stroke on the head while Trevor carefully reached into an inner vest pocket to hand Alex a small leather jewel box.

“Hey Charlotte. Behave,” Grissom told the small dog as he squatted down. Her tail wagged faster at the sound of his voice and he smiled again, receiving an enthusiastic finger licking as he patted her once more. Grissom gave in and spent some time toying with her soft ears.

He liked dogs, his mother’s especially. None of them were show dogs or young, but they always kept the little townhouse lively, and he felt better knowing there were there to keep an ear out around her.

“What do you think, Gil?” Alex was holding out the jeweler’s box and waiting for an opinion. Grissom rose up again and stared at the ring nestled in the grey velvet.

“It’s big,” he finally acknowledged. Alex gave an impatient sniff.

“Tanzanite, with black opals on each side, yes, a little ornate, but I only get one chance at this, and God knows I won’t insult your mother with diamonds.”

The two men looked at each other in silent acknowledgement, and Grissom sighed a little, rubbing the back of his neck. He met the older man’s eyes and nodded slowly, his smile a shy glimmer of approval.

“Mom is going to adore it, and probably cry a great deal.”

Without a word, Trevor held out a handkerchief; Alex chuckled waving it away, and gave a quick sigh, flexing his shoulders. He looked up at Grissom, his eyes bright.

“Good lord, I’m actually nervous. Can you believe that?”

“Come on, Alex, this has been overdue by about thirty years.”

The older man grimaced and began to make his way towards the balcony at the rear of the gallery. Charlotte scampered around him. When he reached it, he gripped the rails and looked out over the desert landscape below and let his flinty gaze rake the terrain.

“Pah, don’t remind me! I know your mother refuses to let me speak ill of Pamela, at least in public but I assure you, my ire is slow in dying even though I’m finally free of that bitch’s brimstone-tainted arrangement.”

Grissom joined him at the rail, thinking back to the yearly November farewells and February welcome backs, the many lonely Christmases apart with a melancholy pang. Alex and his mother had lived nine months together and three away from each other for nearly three decades, all in the name of a love that thrived against the odds.

Despite Lady Pamela’s refusal to divorce Alex, despite the annual 90 day residency requirements for British citizenship, despite the snide commentary of the tabloids, they’d hung on, and made a life together out of what they had, and Grissom had to admit that it worked most of the time. They were definitely two halves of a whole, and had been so for as long as he’d seen them together.

Alex stopped and shot a keen look at Grissom

“Out with it—“ he demanded softly. Gil grinned, blinking.

“Just wondering if you two are going back to California, or England after the honeymoon.”

Alex took off his glasses and made a point of cleaning them with a handkerchief from his breast pocket as he replied.

“No more England, Gil. I’m putting Marstone House on the block. My home, my heart is with your mother and the dogs. THAT will make quite a scoop for Bernard, eh?”

Before Grissom could make a reply, the doors to the balcony opened and Trevor cleared his throat. By his look it was apparently time, and both men followed him back into the gallery.

Guests were arriving, greeting Alex with handshakes and hugs as appropriate. Grissom wandered into the Dainer Alcove where the chairs had been set up and the flowers displayed. Charlotte followed him, circling his steps. He glanced around, taking in the minimal yet elegant décor and let his thoughts wander into interesting territory.

In the ladies lounge of the Bellacova, Olivia pulled out a notebook and scribbled hastily, handing the paper to Sara.

I HAVE to ask—has Gil actually moved into Doreen’s house? If so, that’s wonderful news. He loves that house, but ever since her murder, I didn’t think he’d ever have the heart to stay there—

Startled, Sara looked up and tried to compose herself, but it wasn’t easy, not with Olivia’s bright blue eyes on her. She swallowed hard.

“Uh, yes, he’s been there for a couple of months now . . . He seems happy with it . . .” She stammered back. Olivia scribbled something else on the paper and shoved it over, then looked in the mirror and fussed with her bangs for a moment.

I’m so glad. Doreen adored him, and he took her death very hard. I urged him to sell the house, but he refused. At the very least he could have the garage torn down and rebuilt if it really bothered him, but I suppose enough time’s passed now. Lord, I am so NERVOUS!

At that moment a pair of elegantly dressed women came in and fluttered around Olivia, kissing her cheek and making much of her, clearly old friends. Sara took the note and folded it, moving away to stare in the lounge mirror at her reflection, a myriad of confusion in her expression. After a few moments, she looked back at Olivia, gave her a wave and headed out again. She followed the trickle of guests until she reached the alcove and ultimately, Grissom.

He looked up and smiled, his gaze warm; Sara moved to his side and stood there next to him by the doorway.

“Hey,”

“Hey,” he replied gently, “How’s Mom?”

“Being fretted over by a flock of friends. Nervous but happy I think. And Alex?”

“About the same.”

They stood together for a moment, not speaking, simply enjoying the freedom of being openly affectionate. Sara leaned forward and rubbed her nose with his.

“So you get to walk your own mother down the aisle? That’s a switch—“

“A privilege in this case, Sara, and one I’m pleased to do,” he replied in a low honest tone, his hands capturing hers, squeezing them lightly. “Mom and Alex deserve this.”

She nodded. Discreetly, the Trevor was starting to usher guests in and seat them so she patted Grissom’s arm.

“I guess I’ll sit on the bride’s side, huh?”

Grissom grinned and led her to the front, on the left side, leaning down to gently kiss her cheek.

“Behave.”

“Don’t I always?”

“Actually—“

“--Grissom!”

“Well I could have gone with my original thought—“ he intoned, straightening up. Sara arched an eyebrow at him, demanding,

“Which was?”

“Take notes—“ he whispered over his shoulder as he walked back down the aisle to the doors of the alcove. Sara was too stunned to react quickly, turned only to see him disappear around the corner. She fought the hot little tickle in her stomach, and tried to settle down, but it took a while. 

Grissom grinned to himself as he looked along the gallery hallway, knowing full well that getting the last word with Sara was not only a coup, but also fun. It was hard to catch her off-guard, and hinting at his intentions made little victories all the sweeter. He checked his watch, noting they had almost six hours until the two of them went on duty.

“This way, sir—“ Trevor motioned gently, and Grissom followed him to the section of hall outside the ladies room.  His mother waved him in, and gingerly, Grissom stepped in, trying not to react to the incongruity of his surroundings.

//You look wonderful. Are you ready?// He signed, searching her face. She nodded, biting her lip, big eyes blue and bright.

//God help me, yes.// Came the simple emphatic response. Grissom bent to kiss her forehead while he rubbed her back; his lopsided smile supportive.

//Come on then—//

He looped her arm in his and they stepped out of the bathroom, heading for the alcove. Grissom tried not to notice how short his mother seemed, how frail the little hand resting on his forearm was now. With each step she grew more confident, and by the time they reached the doors she was striding easily. Waiting just inside them, the three dogs looked up; Lionel snuffled; Charlotte wagged her tail.

The assembled friends numbered no more than twenty, and they rose by tradition at seeing Grissom and Olivia at the door. There was no music, but a gentle nod from the priest at the head of the room was enough, and with stately dignity they stepped forward in the slow, measured steps down the aisle. Grissom felt tightness in this throat he hadn’t expected. He kept his gaze forward, and let it flicker to Sara only when he passed her. She smiled.

Grissom brought his attention back to his mother and Alex. With simple dignity he reached for the older man’s hand, gripping it tightly, feeling the elegant strength of it as he gently placed it over his mother’s hand. In front of him, their palms slid together, fingers interlacing tightly in a move so intimately familiar and sweet that Grissom found himself forced to look down.

He moved to step back, but Alex cleared his throat, and gestured with one shoulder to his right. Stunned for a second, Grissom hesitated, and then understood. He moved next to Alex and breathed in deeply as the priest smiled.

His fingers moved in fluid grace, echoing the words as the familiar phrases rang out through the alcove.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered this afternoon in the presence of God to witness this holy union . . .”

 

***   ***   ***

 

The beeper was in vibrate mode, and Grissom grimaced as it thrummed against his thigh. Grateful it wasn’t rattling against his testicles, he fished it out and checked the number.

Brass.

With a sigh, he rose and walked over to Sara, who was sitting and chatting with his mother and the dogs and bent down to whisper in her ear.

“Duty calls. Stay until your shift starts and I’ll see you then.”

She turned to look up at him, eyes questioning but he shook his head.

“Stay and enjoy yourself--I’ll call you if something big is up—“ it came out sounding suspiciously suggestive, and Sara smothered a giggle. Olivia arched an eyebrow and Grissom shot her a look back, daring her to comment. They both smiled, unable to keep up the stare down. Olivia rose and moved to hug her son.

“Work?” she guessed correctly. Grissom sighed and nodded. He squeezed her again and brought his big hands up, gestures swift and economical.

//I have to go, but please make sure Sara has a ride in tonight. Are you and Alex staying in town long?//

//Honeymoon suite at the Luxor for a day or two, and then we’re off to Chicago to see your uncles. They’re determined to beat Alex at five card stud now that’s he’s officially in the family.// Came Olivia’s reply, her beautiful ring flashing. Grissom snorted.

//Fat chance.//

//I know, but it’s so much fun to see them lose their money trying.  And Gil, dear, have you considered how big Doreen’s house is?// Olivia batted her eyes, trying to look both helpful and bland. Grissom cocked his head, his gaze boring into that of his mother’s.

//Big, mom? /

//Well yes—plenty of room there for two people. THREE even, if one of them is very small--//

Grissom captured her flying fingers and gave them a squeeze, his mouth straightening in a firm line that didn’t match the glint in his blue eyes. He risked a look at Sara, who shrugged to indicate her cluelessness.

Very carefully, he released his mother’s hands and held a warning finger up almost under her nose. Slowly and carefully he signed.

//One thing at a time. I have to go, but I’ll try to see you before you two take off. Love you, Mom.//

A quick kiss to her temple and he was gone, heading out of the gallery and dialing on his cell phone for a cab.

Brass met him at the doorway of a small ramshackle house in the outer fringes of Henderson. He eyed the dark suit with surprise. Grissom offered no explanation, merely looked at him.

“Classy date, or funeral,” he guessed. Grissom gave him a patient sigh, and the other man gave up, his expression becoming slightly graver as he motioned to the house.

“We’ve got quite a few bodies in there, and the freak element is over the roof on this one. Kitchen, but we’ve cordoned off the whole place. The rest of the team’s coming, but I don’t suppose you want to wait . . .”

The last was said to empty air; Grissom was already at the door, nudging it open. He looked at Brass, who handed him a pair of latex gloves.

“You owe me.”

“Bill my office—“ Grissom commented, stepping into the house. He noted the cracked linoleum, the general shabbiness with a faint melancholy. In the air was a faint smell of something familiar, a slightly spicy, slightly yeasty scent. He moved through a living room noting the stained faded carpet, the sofa repaired with duct tape, the battered feel to the entire place and moved forward, the smell stronger now.

The kitchen was a large room at the end of the house modeled in the Fifties and untouched since then, the tile and chrome décor all original to the place. Someone had been getting ready for Thanksgiving early, and Grissom identified the scent as stuffing, heavy on the sage. A large bowl of it sat on a corner of the table, half empty. The herb scent wasn’t quite enough to mask the sharper coppery smell of blood hanging in the air, and Grissom let his gaze travel over the little bodies sitting in the pans neatly arranged on the rest of the tabletop and on several of the counters. Brass came up near Grissom’s shoulder and sighed.

“Stuffed turkey I can understand, but stuffed prairie dogs? Stuffed rats? Stuffed possums? It’s like a Deliverance Thanksgiving in here—“

Grissom’s face twisted in wry acknowledgement of Brass’s words; he gave a sigh and pointed at a pan near the back door.

“That one’s a catfish— ‘stuffed to the gills’ I guess.”

Brass snorted.

“Well it’s enough to drag me to the tofu side for a while. I’m getting the rundown on the owner and residents now, but I wanted you on the scene before we start anything else. Catherine’s on her way.”

“Thanks,” Grissom absently responded, already lost in the scene. Brass left him to it and walked back outside, checking the time and shaking his head.

“Stuffing. Why did it have to be stuffing?” he muttered to himself.

 


                                       
Gifted 2                                                       
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