Casa Caliente 11: Minefield





Chapter One



 “I wouldn’t ask, Alex, if it wasn’t important.”

 

The voice over the connection sighed lightly, and Grissom gripped the phone a bit more tightly, sensing the reluctance and frustration that were weighing every word.

 

“Yes, Gil, she told me about your father. Not much at first, but over the years, as I showed her my love and loyalty I heard more about Howard Grissom. I also spoke several times with Doreen, so between the two Sullivan women I managed to get a pretty good sketch on the man.”

 

“I’m not interested in the personal issues, Alex. I don’t want, nor do I need to dwell on the emotional problems of his past. What I DO want to know is what Mom might have said about his business dealings, his personal properties, his professional life.”

 

“What an extraordinary request! May I ask why the sudden interest after all these years, Gil?” Alex asked softly, his voice low and concerned. Grissom briefly closed his eyes and looked down at the desk in his office. The manila folder was still closed, but he knew the deed to the mine was there inside, as was the letter.

 

“I think the man left a lot of unfinished business when he died. More than just Mom and me,” He admitted, “ Much more.”

 

“Ah. Well one would assume that if nothing untoward has happened in the last forty years then I doubt anything is going to now, unless you stir up a few ghosts.  I’m sorry to say this, but I believe a lot of people are content that Howard is no longer around, Gil. According to your mother, he spent far too much time straddling the law.”

 

Grissom gritted his teeth, and waited a moment before finally asking a question that had bothered him for months. “Alex, did my mom know about his . . . affairs?”

 

The uncomfortable cough at the other end of the connection confirmed it before Alex spoke in a low, dry voice. “She knew. Howard was hardly discreet, and apparently your mother was forced to intervene a few times when several of his paramours confronted him over the years. The man was the very definition of a cad, Gil, and I’m sorry to say that, but it seems to be a truth borne out through the evidence.”

 

“Did she know about his . . . other children?”

 

The pause this time seemed tenser; Grissom wondered if he’d shocked his stepfather, but finally a tiny sigh filled the receiver.

 

“She knew of one, Gil. Are you saying there are . . . others?”

 

This time it was Grissom’s turn to sigh. “I think so. Right now I have another, serious issue to deal with, Alex, but I need your help on two matters, if you’re willing to lend a hand.”

 

The soft chuckle came through clearly, and Grissom relaxed at that familiar, comforting sound. “Of course I will. Family does for family, my boy. What do you need?”

 

“I need a discreet, thorough appraisal on a piece of jewelry that may or may not be stolen property, and if it IS stolen, I need it returned to the rightful owners.”

 

“Fair enough. Langley Wilcox would be the gentleman to do that. And what of this--sibling situation?”

 

“Say nothing to Mom. As you said, forty years is time enough to make peace with the past.”

 

“I suppose that’s for the best, but be careful. Not everyone appreciates having old wounds reopened, even after four decades. Now tell me about this  ‘other issue’ that is so weighing your mind.” Alex’s tone was warmer, and Grissom smiled in shy response, turning away from the glass windows of his office and lowering his voice.

 

“This weekend’s the date. I’ve already made the reservation and got the ring. Even . . . rehearsed asking.”

 

“Sounds very like you, leaving little to chance. So much more appropriate than mine.” Alex chuckled. Grissom stared at the phone a moment.

 

“Appropriate?”

 

“Well of course. I got the call about Pamela’s death, hung up and rolled over to face your mother . . .”

 

“—Stop. I don’t NEED to hear the rest,” Grissom blurted, amused and appalled at the images. Alex’s laugh rang out again, definitely amused.

 

“Oh all right, all right—it’s not as if this would come as a shock to you after all these decades, although I appreciate your discretion. So this Saturday night is the big night?”

 

“Yes,” Grissom choked a little, then recovered, “I believe I’m ready.”

 

“That’s encouraging. And is Sara ready?”

 

“I think so. She’s probably aware of the month, and I haven’t exactly made a secret of my intentions.” Grissom replied uneasily. “Women don’t usually say ‘no’ do they?”

 

“I have no idea, Gil. Both women I’ve asked said yes, but then again, the ring dazzled one of them, and the other has a decades-old endearing fondness for me. Besides, if your mother had said no, she would have had to kick me out of the bed—“

 

“—Too much information, Alex. You do that on purpose, don’t you?” Grissom grumbled. “It’s your way of getting back at me for all those years of poker games.”

 

“Possibly. In any case, I doubt Miss Sidle is going to turn you down, dear boy. She’s come this far, I’d give her the benefit of the commitment.”

 

Grissom sincerely hoped so as he thanked the older man and gently ended the call. He turned back and the folder on his desk caught his attention once more. He opened it and examined the lovely deed of ownership for the Seton-Valhalla mine, then smiled, briefly. He picked it up, and walked out of his office, down the hall and turned into a doorway near the back of the lab.

 

At his stool, Ronnie glanced up at Grissom curiously, then at the paper in his hand.

 

“One question, but only on your off-time as a favor I can repay.”

 

Ronnie shot him a thoughtful look and nodded.  “Might need an extra day off next month.”

 

“Done. Is this—“ Grissom handed over the deed, “--Genuine? Not now, but when you get a break, or whenever. No rush on this.”

 

Ronnie nodded again, and took the certificate, already scanning over it with sharp eyes. “Will do. You want the provenance, history and worth, if any?”

 

“The works. Do that and I’ll find an extra three days in the schedule for you.”

 

Ronnie flashed a small, rare smile and nodded.

 

***   ***   ***

 

Sara patiently fished out another piece of blue plastic from the jumbled scraps in the soggy pile on the trace table. Recovering evidence from garbage disposals was NOT her favorite job, but this one was especially annoying simply because it wasn’t quite challenging enough to take her mind off of Saturday. Every time she let her mind wander to consider it, a shiver ran through her, and she had to clear her throat a little to regain her composure.

 

Saturday. She was pretty sure, FAIRLY sure, very nearly absolutely sure it would be this Saturday. As in, tomorrow night.

 

God she was nervous.

 

All the clues were there, though, she was sure of it. The circled date, Grissom suggesting dinner out at the lake, hinting that dressing up for it would be nice—

 

Sara grinned to herself and then tried to focus again on the heap of garbage on the table. A footstep at the door made her look up and she saw Clem come in holding another sack of garbage.

 

“More? This is getting ridiculous! How much did the Legazis have down that drain? Hey, how are you feeling?” Sara asked gently. Clem had a woebegone expression that made Sara laugh a little; the story about the beetle-induced pounce on Greg was fairly well known around the lab by now. Privately Sara was grateful that her OWN experience hadn’t been discovered, although Grissom had been smirking and limping for a day afterward. Even now the word ‘waffle’ was enough to make her blush.

 

She cocked her head and spoke up softly again. “It’s okay, it’ll die down. You know, everyone’s had something embarrassing happen to them at this place. Warrick got poison ivy from a slide in the lab, once. And Catherine had a skunk run out of a culvert and bite her.”

 

Clem looked a little better at that; she pulled out her whiteboard and wrote on it. //Okay, that’s pretty bad, but still this is hard—it’s not like I can avoid Greg forever, and I think he—knows a little bit of how I feel.//

 

“Um, yeah, I think so too, yeah.” Sara commiserated. Greg hadn’t said anything to anyone at the lab, and managed to turn any questions or comments aside with a smile or a new line of conversation, but at times it was easy to see him watching Clem with a new intensity. A wistfulness. “The question is—how do you think HE feels?”

 

//Don’t know. And that’s what scares me.// came the scrawled confession. Sara blinked, remembering a time not so long ago when those words could have applied to herself quite easily. She rubbed them out slowly.

 

“So ask him out to dinner. See what happens between you. There’s this great little restaurant out near the lake—not too pricey, but not your fast food deal either—might be a good way to find out what’s on Greg’s mind.”

 

Clem brightened a bit; Sara wrote the name and number down on the board, handing it back and smiling as Clem headed off, leaving her to face the refuse on the table again.

 

***   ***   ***

 

 To: the Newest Supervisor of Swing

From: the Homicide Captain who owes her a belated congratulatory dinner.

Subject: Said dinner.

 

Hey Catherine,

 

Listen, I don’t want to get a rep as a forgetful old bastard, so I’m thinking we can do that shift dinner for you and the guys this Saturday out at the Grille. I don’t know if Rick and Nick have plans, but mention that I’m buying and they’ll probably be more willing to show up. The Special is Alaskan King Crab which I thought sort of suited the host, eh? I’ve got an 8:00 reservation for us, so do that fancy RSVP thing and call me.

 

Jim

 

 

***   ***   ***

 

Greg looked at the invitation on the whiteboard and tried to hide the shiver of elation that swirled around his spine. He glanced up at Clem, and took a pleasurable moment just to study her.

 

She had her hair up in a loose bun, with a few of the golden curls escaping to curve along her cheek, and her full mouth was done in a particularly nice shade of fuchsia. Not that he cared about the color, Greg admitted to himself, but ah! The texture, the flavor the HEAT of that sweet pucker were memories seared into him.

 

He blinked, and smiled, nodding.

 

“Yes. I’d love to go out to dinner with you. The Grille sounds pretty good to me but I have to check and see if my mom’s willing to keep an eye on Wyatt.”

 

Clem nodded vigorously; her hair began to tumble down, and Greg grinned. He motioned for her to turn around, then deftly reached up and scooped the curls in his hand, twisting them back up and coiling them on the crown of her head. Gently, he worked a few pencils in until it was all anchored firmly.

 

“There—the House of Sanders special, ala Lyttleton, who’s always doing this to her crowning glory. Not bad, but I like it down myself.”

 

Clem looked over her shoulder at him, torn between being annoyed and amused. He shrugged.

 

“I’m a guy—a woman’s hair is to be played with, end of story. So, what time should I come get you tomorrow, assuming mom’s willing to handle Wyatt Burp?”

 

Clem held up one hand and three fingers of the other one; Greg nodded, and held up a warning hand.

 

“Just to get this out of the way—I believe in parity, Clem. YOU asked me out, so I’M paying. No arguments—“ he waved the hand as she scowled and shook her head vigorously. “--It’s only fair.”

 

She scooped up the whiteboard and began to scribble something on it, pen flying, then held it up to him. //No way! Come on, Greg, I owe you this, after . . . putting us both through that fiasco a few days ago.//

 

“It wasn’t a fiasco, it was a debacle. A very FUN one up to a point, but that doesn’t matter now.” He flashed her a grin. “From this point on we’re not doing anything under the duress of aphrodisiacs, so it’s . . .” he reached for the white board and with a sweep of his sleeve, cleaned it, “ . . . Tabula rasa, so to speak. Starting with a clean slate, okay?”

 

Clem smiled reluctantly, giving a tiny nod of agreement, and feeling a responding giddiness fluttering in the middle of her stomach at the warm look in Greg’s eyes.

 

 She wondered if he liked to dance.

 

***   ***   ***

 

Saturday afternoon

 

It was a pretty ring, Grissom thought. The diamond caught the late afternoon light from the window, sending brilliant flashes of yellow, red and blue across the walls and ceiling. Intrigued, Figaro darted over and tried to pounce on one twinkling flicker that moved on the sofa. His claws turned up empty and he gave a ‘meow’ of confusion; Grissom shot him a look.

 

“Chasing rainbows is often folly, cat.” He chided him, then shifted the ring a little, making the sparkle move on the sofa again. Figaro pounced once more, confident. Grissom admired his tenacity and speed; the house was certainly free of crickets, roaches and spiders these days thanks to the little cat’s unrelenting vigilance. The attacks weren’t so bad, but listening to him consume them was what bothered Sara the most, and often Grissom had to shoo the cat away to crunch up his buggy kills in the back yard, out of earshot.

 

Grissom sighed. The one and three quarters carat emerald-cut diamond was flanked by a pearl on one side, an onyx on the other and mounted on an Art Deco platinum band. It sat in his palm, looking both delicate and elegant. He hoped he had the size right; it was difficult to judge since Sara rarely wore rings, and those she did were often for her other fingers. He rocked his hand to make it play with the light, and with a careless tumble, the ring fell, throwing glints as it dropped to the carpet.

 

Figaro pounced.

 

Grissom moved a fraction too late, and by the time he bent to the carpet, the ring was gone, and Figaro had leapt away, clambering to the coffee table proudly. Grissom paused. The cat’s tail twitched to and fro in a sense of feline pride, and dangling on his chin was the silvery loop of the ring.

 

“NO, cat—“ he warned, slightly desperate. Figaro twitched his ears forward, curious as to this sound, and Grissom carefully edged forward. The cat eyed him suspiciously, and clamped a tighter grip on the stone, backing up a step.

 

“Figaro, it’s not an insect. You HAVE to know that, right? Not wiggling, not crunchy—“ Grissom murmured, carefully sliding forward. Figaro turned, but strong hands snagged his back legs, and he whipped around, striving to free himself. In a sudden flurry of claws and hisses, Grissom muttered a few swear words and disgustedly dropped the cat, which shot off in the direction of the kitchen.

 

“Remember the Pacific ocean, Figaro? And who it WAS who pulled you out of a sinking cardboard box?” came the annoyed commentary as Grissom wiped away the welling blood from the scratch along the back of his hand. He followed the cat into the kitchen, grabbing a dishtowel in the process. With speed and ruthlessness, he snagged the animal again and trussed him up until Figaro resembled a large green and yellow striped burrito with a yowling head on one end. Grissom clamped him under one arm and proceeded to sweep a finger through the cat’s mouth fishing between the needle-like incisors. Nothing but sharp little fangs and a raspy tongue met his touch.

 

“Shit!”

 

Figaro looked utterly pissed. So in fact, did Grissom.

 

The front door opened. Sensing his captor’s distraction, Figaro squirmed harder, but Grissom held on tightly as Sara sauntered in, her attention on the fistful of mail she was sorting as she strode up.

 

“Carpet cleaning ad, the water company bill, electric bill, postcard from Sorcha—ack! She’s getting divorced! Oh, and a notice from Dr. Santos that it’s time to take Fig in for his Feline Leukemia . . . Grissom, why is your hand bleeding?”

 

“Because whenever the skin is ruptured, the most common response of the body is to flood the area with red and white blood cells to combat infection. I think taking Figaro in to the vet is an EXCELLENT idea. In fact, I’ll do it right NOW.”

 

He flashed Sara a sickly smile and clamped his grip on the towel-ball as he tried to sidle past her; she shot him a look of consternation.

 

“Right NOW?”

 

“Absolutely no time like the present. I’ll be back as soon as I can and we can go to dinner.” He leaned over and kissed her nose then tucked the squalling straight- jacketed Figaro under his arm and disappeared. Sara slowly set the mail down on the counter, and sighed.  She heard Grissom’s car start up and pull out, the sound fading as he took off and down Caliente Way; on impulse she checked her watch, noting there was probably time for a quick nap.

 

She’d planned on spending it with Grissom, and sleep could have been a part of it, eventually, but now—Restlessly, she wandered through the house, wishing her nervousness would fade a bit. It was a good sort of anxiety; the culmination of a lot of memories and anticipations. Sara glanced up at the Yin Yang, and absently set it sideways, black over white, as she passed the fireplace mantle. Her eye caught the sheers at the window, and instantly her mind flooded with pictures of bridal gowns and veils, making her laugh a little.

 

“I—“ she announced to the living room, “—Am SO not doing the girlie orange blossom June wedding thingie. I mean, sure this is important, and I DO plan on spending the rest of my life with Grissom, so this is a big change and all, but no . . . . frills. No lace, or trains or attendants and bridesmaids, no. SO not me.”

 

She grinned crookedly at the thought of eloping with Grissom; just parking the Denali along the chapel strip and popping in somewhere on a dinner break, but even as that appealing scenario flitted by she knew it wouldn’t happen. They both had obligations. A lot of them. Olivia would probably want to see her only child get married; Sara knew her own parents would want it as well. And then there were the folks at work, and one or two out of state people—

 

The more she thought about it, the more amazed she was at the ever-growing circle of people who probably had an inkling of her relationship with Grissom. Sara shook her head in amusement, trying to mentally list who actually KNEW about their involvement. All four parents, of course. Her brother and his kids. Brass. Robbins. Greg—well, right there that was ten people, and given Grissom’s reaction at the initial ballgame with the day shift, she was sure a few other people suspected. She slowly wandered to the bedroom, sighing to herself.

 

“STILL not doing the girlie thing. I mean it.”

 

***   ***   ***

 

“Yep, it’s there. This darkish shadow right here along the duodenal area.”

 

“Okay. Good. So how are we going to get it out?”

 

“What’s this WE, Dr. Grissom—I’m the vet; you’re just the entomologist who’s missing a five thousand dollar ring.”

 

“I’m the entomologist who’s footing the bill for the recovery of said ring which I NEED for a proposal that’s supposed to occur in approximately three hours and six minutes, so—“

 

“—So you’re going to be patient and get the ring sometime tomorrow afternoon. Much as you might want me to carve into your little diamond-chomping friend here, he’s got to be prepped, and I need to book time for a surgery.”

 

“You can’t just—make him vomit? OR work a flex down his esophagus and clamp it?”

 

“Vomiting would be a good way to choke him to death—Figaro is still a pretty small cat, and we’re talking a throat with a diameter of about an inch and a half. Frankly I’m surprised he even got the ring down in the first place. I’m used to cats swallowing string, and tinsel, not engagement rings. Were you struggling with him? Whoa, nice scratch, looks painful.”

 

“It is, thank you so much. And the flexible clamp?”

 

“Slice up the inside of his throat to ribbons. Diamonds are sharp, Dr. Grissom, and even a beveled edge can do damage. Nope, this little guy needs to sit overnight and have surgery tomorrow. I’m sure your fiancée will understand if you put it off for a day, right?”

 

“Doctor, whether they give or refuse, it delights a woman to have been asked.”

 

“Ann Landers?”

 

“Ovid. Laxatives?”

 

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that. I’m sorry, but you’ll have your rock by tomorrow, thus sayeth the vet. Go have dinner. Bluff.”

 

***   ***   ***

 

Sara woke up as the front door opened, and when Grissom came into the bedroom a few minutes later she smiled sleepily at him. He stood in the doorway of the bedroom for a moment, drinking her in, then moved closer, pulling off his shirt and draping it on the rocking chair. The rest of his clothes followed, and as he slid into bed beside her, Sara squealed at the chill of his skin.

 

“Hey! Too cold, too cold!” she protested as he wrapped around her and pressed close along her spine. Grissom snorted in her hair.

 

“Sorry. Santos keeps the air-conditioning high. Figaro has to stay overnight.”

 

“Why?” concerned, Sara rolled to face him, and Grissom hesitated.

 

“He’s got to pass a stone,” he finally mumbled, then pulled Sara into a hug, mostly to hide his exasperated expression. She clung to him, warm, amazingly soft and strong, her chin resting perfectly in the curve of his shoulder. Rolling back, he took her with him, and looked up into her face as she rested on his chest.

 

“Poor cat—he’s going to be all right though, right?”

 

“He should be fine. Listen, if you’re worried, and want to just stay home tonight—“ Grissom began distractedly as Sara started rocking her hips against his, moving them in lazy caressing rubs that piqued his interest. She shook her head.

 

“No, no—you’ve had this reservation for . . . a while, and I think Figaro won’t mind. Unless YOU want to stay home—“

 

“Umm?” he mumbled, most of his attention now focused on the erotic wriggle she was making up against him. His hands slid to caress the sweet swell of her taut ass, and Grissom marveled again at the perfect fit of it into his palms. Sexual synchronicity—

 

“Grissom . . . “ Sara bent and licked his ear; he arched his neck to give her better access, and mentally stuffed all thoughts of Figaro and the ring onto an imaginary file folder labeled ‘LATER’. He tightened his grip and turned his head, muffling his words against Sara’s warm throat.

 

“How well can you . . . keep your balance?” his tone was low and urgent; Sara recognized that sound and felt her pulse speed up a bit. She slipped a hand under the pillow behind his head, fingers finding the stocking even as she shuddered a little.

 

“I’m good.”

 

Grissom let his hands slide up the small of her back and around her ribcage possessively, moving up her shoulders and down her lean arms until his fingers encircled her wrists. He smiled, eyes very blue, dimples deep.

 

“Show me, Acushla.”

 

Sara smiled, sitting up and straddling his waist.

 

He shook his head when she held out her wrists. Instead, Grissom looped the filmy black stocking around her back, sliding it teasingly along her skin before wrapping it around her waist and arms, pinning them against her sides as he tied it firmly. Sara flexed a little, aware that she could get out of the band around her if she struggled hard enough. Grissom reached up and cupped her breasts, fingers stroking lightly and her satin skin pebbled up under his touch.

 

“Beautiful. How lucky I am to be loved by a woman unafraid to play, and magnificent in her own right.”

 

Sara dropped her head and flexed, rising up a bit on her knees and smiling down at him. Under her, Grissom lay sprawled, his skin pale against the green sheets.

 

“They say with age comes wisdom,” she taunted lightly, rocking her hips so that the barest caress of her soft folds slid along his warm shaft where it throbbed between her thighs. Grissom’s flicker of annoyance disappeared in a sensual sigh when she bent her head to lick his fingers.

 

“We’ll see what comes first, honey—“ he growled, slipping his index finger into her mouth as he used his other hand to reach between their bodies. Sara sucked lewdly, grinning around his digit when Grissom grunted and arched up, pushing slickly into her.

 

Sara groaned; stretched and full she felt herself held in perfect tension on Grissom’s warm hips and wanting to move. He throbbed deep within her, and she could feel him working to control his breathing, could see the muscles along his chest and neck straining.

 

“Gwisssom—“ she whimpered around his index finger. The rest of his fingers stroked her cheek; his thumb caressed full lower lip.

 

“Age before beauty? Work for it, Sara. Make me come—“ he teased her even as he flexed his hips, moving deeper within her. She flexed her thighs, lifting her body, counter-stroking to his moves and setting up a lovely rhythm between them.  She sucked his finger, raking her teeth against the faint calluses, straining a little against the stocking around her waist and feeling hot, sweet pressure building up with every stroke between her thighs.

 

Grissom felt himself throb hard within Sara, felt the maddeningly snug grip of her supple body around him. Her tongue slithered around his finger in a surprisingly sexy move and his hips stroked harder in quick response as he looked up into her wickedly hot chocolate eyes. Holding his gaze, she pumped a little quicker, adding a sensual wriggle on the down stroke and THAT did it. Grissom rocked up and into her hard, his growl low and helpless as he pulsed deep within her, coming so hard that white flashes went off behind his eyelids. By his third pleasure-filled spasm he felt Sara clench more tightly, felt her teeth sink harder into his finger as her own orgasm tightened around him.

 

Later, as she lay on his chest, both of them cooling down and feeling content and lazy, Grissom nibbled the shell of her ear and whispered, “You win—“

 

“—Again.” she finished with a happy sigh. “Yee ha.”

 

And Grissom laughed.


                                        
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