"And I don't need to tell you, Director Skinner, that the DA's seriously considering filing an incompetency lawsuit on this matter. We don't need these kinds of actions or attitudes from anyone, least of all the Federal Bureau of Investigation," concluded the natty little man in the four hundred dollar suit. He shifted in the leather chair facing Skinner's desk, trying to avoid the late setting sunlight that filtered through the blinds as he added,
"Certain people, and I'm sure you know who I mean, will be hearing about this little fiasco."
"Is that all, Mr. Rendale?" Skinner asked in a bored dry tone. The assistant Director barely looked up from the file on his desk; this seemed to infuriate the visitor even more.
"Disciplinary measures will be taken in due course against Special Agent Patchelli." This final soft pronouncement seemed to deflate Rendale's anger like a leaky balloon--he gathered up his snakeskin briefcase and stood, somewhat wearily.
"Fine. Good. I suppose it will have to do. It's not like losing one witness would damage the case against Provost, but Sunny Maravak's testimony would have been the capper. And I hate forfeiting any relevant ammunition in this damn trial."
Both men know this was an understatement. The Provost kiddy porn ring case had filled both the newspapers and the public's attention for weeks now, and although popular sympathy was with the victims and their families, juries could not be predicted with any certainty. The loss of Sunny Mara vak wasserious.
"Good night." Rendale muttered before heading out of the office. Skinner did not reply. Instead, he reached for the intercom button on his desk and ordered:
"Kimberly, have Pachelli report to my office." She replied something and he interrupted tersely.
"I don't care. Have her take the Redeye, but have her here tonight."
Special Agent Grace Pachelli
sighed as she walked down
the empty hallways of the
The hurried trip back from
Someone had spilled coffee in her seat before she'd sat down and she was compelled to pitch her panty hose when they had snagged on the stone bench at the airport. She looked at her watch:
He would still be here.
Over it all, she knew damn well why Skinner had ordered her back in such a hurry and it was not going to be pretty. Deliberately letting a witness "elude" protective custody wasn't the way things were done at the FBI. The most likely scenario would be suspension without pay for two months, and the worst--
She sighed. And just when things were getting interesting with Walter Skinner.
From their first meeting at Scully's office birthday party last year to the Tortoni wiretap sessions a month ago, it all seemed to be following an intensifying course. They occasionally had lunch. The way he looked at her could melt her bones, make her knees unsteady. And that impromptu good-bye kiss when he had driven her out to the airport--neither of them had expected it, but they had sure done a fair job of steaming up the windows of the Taurus. Grace grinned at the memory. Sure it had been impulsive and rash, especially on her part, but Skinner had kissed her back just as passionately.
Her grin faded.
Oh God. But now.
Now it was all over.
She found herself holding her breath as she stood in the doorway of his office. He was there, back to her, standing and looking out through the blinds at the DC skyline.
He turned and the slight frown he always wore deepened. She inwardly cringed. His tie had been loosened, and his sleeves were rolled up to mid forearms. The only light came from the desk lamp; his glasses glittered in the soft light.
"What happened?" Although it was a question, his soft tone of voice was flat, as if he had only asked out of courtesy. She stepped into the room, giving herself time to frame her answer carefully.
"I heard a noise in the hall of the motel. I told the witness to stay put, then went to investigate. When I returned, she was gone. <Just the way we rehearsed it.>
"Where was your partner?"
"Damien was picking up sandwiches at the Eddy Leonard's two blocks away." <Too far away to catch the cab's license.>
Skinner gave her a steady look. Pachelli glanced down at the carpet, wishing her jacket wasn't so dirty, that her skirt wasn't so wrinkled. He turned back to the window and she felt a twinge of anger at his coolness. With one hand she pushed her bangs back from her face.
"So what happens now?"
"It was my decision to send you and Agent Kanahoe in the first place, so it's up to me." He muttered over his shoulder. "And I know Damien had nothing to do with Ms. Maravaks's disappearance."
"Sir?" she feigned innocence. Bad move. He turned swiftly at her tone and leaned on the desk, his impatient stare drilling into her startled face.
"Cut the crap, Grace. You helped Sunny get away. Rendale was in here this afternoon, practically demanding your pretty little ass on a plate."
"Let him get in line." she snapped back angrily. "Jesus, Walter! The girl was never going to handle telling her story in front of a jury--she's fought hard to get away from the memories and pain. All Rendale wants to do is rip her open again. He's got enough firsthand testimony, enough evidence. She needs to be able to get on with her life."
"None of that is for us to decide."
"Yeah?, well I beg to differ. Damien and I could see that Sunny was losing it, that she might even try to kill herself if she had to face Provost in court. So I sent my partner out, and I let her go. Simple as that."
For a long moment they stared at each other. Grace dropped her gaze to the powerful shoulders in front of her, remembering what it felt like to clutch them. A delicious shiver ran through her. Skinner took off his glasses and dropped them on the desk, sighing.
"I'm not going to debate you on the moral grounds of this issue, Grace. The damage has been done." His last words came out muffled as he rubbed his eyes.
"Under protest, I've got to take disciplinary action against you."
"I figured as much. Suspension?"
"I haven't decided."
She moved around the desk to the window, her back to him. The air conditioning in the office chilled her bare legs. After a moment, Grace laughed softly and crossed her arms. She heard him pick up his glasses.
"What's so funny?" came his growl.
"Oh, I was just thinking that you could always just give me a spanking and make me promise not to do it again." She wondered where that teasing remark had come from--it wasn't like her to be so flippant, especially in the face of a suspension.
"It's not quite standard Bureau procedure, but--" Suddenly he straightened up, his hand reaching to clamp her arm, tugging her to him. She was too startled to protest as he finished, "--probably more effective than anything I could say at this point."
"Uh, Sir . . ." She began uncertainly, suddenly aware of his height and strength. He pulled her around to the front of the desk and slid to a sitting position on the polished top, knocking papers to the floor, unnoticed. He didn't let go of her arm.
" . . . I was being facetious for crying out loud!"
"Drop 'em, Grace."
He said nothing more. His face was so close to hers that Grace could feel his warm breath stir her bangs. The moment seemed weird, timeless--as if they had shifted into a deeper dimension of reality. She was keenly aware of a throbbing in the pit of her stomach. Skinner never took his gaze off of hers.
Slowly she drew a deep breath. Those dark umber eyes of his never gave away anything, never revealed his secrets.
And she realized he was calling her bluff.
"You . . . you mean it, don't you? You're actually serious about--"
Before she could finish, his free hand came up and lightly touched her lips, silencing her.
After a moment, Grace lifted her chin and his hand fell away from her upper arm. He waited.
The dare had been accepted.
Slowly she ran her hands up her thighs, tugging up the hem of her tight skirt. It was difficult, but he made no move to help her; he waited and watched. The two of them kept their gazes locked. Grace managed to raise the hem to her waist.
She licked her lips, grateful that she picked out the green silk thong to wear this morning. Grace could barely feel it against her skin; the air conditioning tickled unmercifully. With her thumbs, she hooked the cords at each hip and slid the panties down to her thighs in one smooth, slow motion.
Her fingers trembled. The thong dropped away, fluttering to her ankles in a silky pool of emerald.
She did, taking one jerky step. Quickly Skinner yanked her across his lap, his left arm dropping across her upper back, seizing her left wrist and twisting it up between her shoulder blades. The pain was brief and sharp. Grace hissed in surprise, but he ignored it, settling her more securely across his thighs. One of her high heels dropped off, and she realized her feet weren't quite touching the floor anymore.
"It's supposed to." He replied, his voice deepening.
She flinched, and her right hand pushed against his muscled thigh, trying to brace herself, but he kept her firmly pinned down against him with his left arm across her upper back. A terrible tension raced through the muscles of her legs, her hips, her buttocks. Grace tried to raise her head to look at him.
"No, please don't--" her husky pleading tone whispered shakily.
"R . . ." He intoned, and a sudden stinging blow landed on her bare ass. She jerked, her hair falling around her face, shock tensing her whole body.
"OW! You son of a--"
" . . . E . . ." Skinner spelled out loud as he deliberately delivered
another powerful smack to the upturned bottom on this lap. Grace writhed and struggled to free herself, hot tears of pain and shameful humiliation running down her face. Her dangling right arm pounded uselessly against his shin.
" . . . P . . ." Her strength was no match for his.
" . . .R . . ." The quiet letters he spoke were punctuated by the sharp slaps; to Grace they sounded far too loud, and far too emotionless. If anything his damn hand had to be stinging too--She choked on a sob, and dropped her head.
" . . .I . . . M . . ."
Grace had her eyes squeezed shut; she bit her lip hard and a tickle of blood welled in her mouth, hot and salty. Shit. He had an erection. An erection!
She could feel the damn thing jabbing her just below her belly button.
" . . .A . . . N . . ."
Great. A sadist. Well then, she'd get though this torture and then smack that thing as hard as he'd smacked her. It would be a thrill to watch him fold up like a lawn chair, grabbing his crotch--
Except--Oh, the hot hard feel of it! Tingles ran in lightning flickers down her stomach and reignited the hot syrupy feeling between her thighs. Hadn't she wondered and dreamed and fantasized about what his would be like? She wriggled a bit, hoping to distract him.
" . . . D . . . "
Another slap sizzled across her fanny and she yelped.
"Graziella Sophia Maria Pachelli, will you ever let another witness evade or elude Federal Custody?"
Another strike on her now extremely tender flesh.
"I didn't hear you."
"No SIR." She shrieked. She felt as if she could yell if for hours if it would make him stop.
Skinner let his grip on her left wrist slacken and Grace sucked in a sobbing breath, feeling the fire across her ass. It burned and throbbed. Violently she clumsily pushed herself up from his lap, her tear-wet eyes glittering.
She broke into a stream of remarkable coarse Italian curses that accused him of maternally intimate acts, of carnal knowledge learned from and practiced with barnyard animals. The husky tone of her voice began to break as she raged on and on, standing there, rubbing her ass.
He said nothing.
Grace didn't seem to notice that Skinner's hands were resting on her bare hips, since the skirt was still shoved up to her waist. She ended her tirade by bringing her two hands up and shoving him. Or trying to, since he was as unmoved by her action as a rock would be by a raindrop.
Suddenly, stupidly she was aware again of his massive erection. She drew a sharp breath and tossed her head back, letting her hands slide into his lap.
"Sparing the big old rod to spank the child?" She muttered intending to be snide, but sounding sulky and hurt instead.
"Oh Christ, Grace--having a sexy, half-naked woman struggling across my lap isn't exactly the most virtuous situation I've ever faced," Skinner growled back.
She continued to knead him through his trousers; he kept his eyes locked on hers. His breathing, she noticed, was slightly accelerated.
Actually, so was hers.
"Well having my bare ass repeatedly smacked by my boss isn't mine either."
Grace leaned forward and send her tongue probing the corner of her mouth for the remains of her tears. "Are we through with the punishment now?"
"Disciplinary action has been taken," Skinner managed to agree through tight lips. His hands tugged her forward, "but it may have to be repeated if you persist with this unauthorized body search."
She didn't stop stroking his lap.
"Checking for concealed
weapons--God, what do you
have in there, a
He laughed; he couldn't help it. The tension between them shattered like a layer of thin ice on a pond. Grace flushed with a strange sort of pride hearing the sound of it over the air conditioning in the office. When the laugh finally died down to deep chuckles, she let Skinner pull her against him, and they leaned against the desk, nuzzling each other.
"You're a piece of work, Pachelli," he rasped into her ear.
Grace arched her neck and huskily replied, "Right now, I 'd rather be a piece of something else."
"You're propositioning a superior agent--"
"Grace--" there was a note of embarrassed warning in his tone but she plunged on.
"Admit it. You want me, Walter Skinner. You have ever since the airport."
"No." He let his hands caress her bare ass; she squirmed, half in pain, half in delight. "Ever since the wiretaps."
"I rest my case." Her teeth found his earlobe. "Now let's go put something soothing under my bottom."
"Such as--?" His hands roamed with featherlight strokes over the globes of her fanny.
"Oh, say, the sheets of your bed."
"Fraternization is not encouraged in current Bureau policy," he teased her.
She pulled away for a moment, studying his expression. Straight face. A twinkle in the eyes.
"Yes sir. But if I happened to be somewhat --distraught--over my upcoming suspension, and felt the need for a superior agent's direct evaluation of my physical well-being--"
"I believe I'm fully qualified to evaluate your physical attributes, Grace."
** ** **
Mulder thought he was imagining them. He tried to lean forward and get a better glimpse, but Scully gave him that "What-are-you-doing?" cough that brought him back to matters at hand. He looked up to find Skinner staring at him. Waiting . Impatiently.
"I'm sorry sir, I--"
"Yes Agent Mulder?"
When the meeting was over he whispered to Scully as they walked out the door.
"Did you see them?"
"See what? What were you staring at anyway?"
"The silk panties under his desk."
Scully gave her partner sceptical look number three, complete with raised eyebrow. Mulder crossed his heart and raised his hand in a scout's salute.
Scully reached back for the doorknob and stuck her head in, quickly. Just a peek. Before she could say a word, both of them heard the Assistant Director's voice.
"Agent Scully, tell Kimberly to get Agent Pachelli in here for further debriefing."
They barely made it to the elevator with straight faces.