Disclaimer: This story is based on characters copyrighted by Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. Some references and phrases are taken from various episodes. This story is meant for enjoyment purposes only and cannot be redistributed without permission from the author. I retain the rights to the plot, not the characters. No infringement is intended.
Date Written: February-Sept 2001
Author's Note: We've seen Lee check up on Amanda many times by peeking through her back window. I'll bet there were a few times when he didn't get to talk to her for one reason or another: someone else might have been there and she couldn't get away, or she might have been busy and not seen him. These little stories are about some of those times. Thank you, Andrea, for always providing a boost to my self-confidence. And thanks to Pam for the idea for part 4.
Time Frame: The first story takes place in first season just prior to "I Am Not Now Nor Have I Ever Been a Spy," second story is from second season, and third story is from third season. The last story takes place after their marriage and assumes "Mission of Gold" did not occur.
It's in His Kiss
Lee parked about a half-block away from 4247 Maplewood Drive. He was on his way home from a late assignment, but thought he would stop by Amanda's house to…uh, to talk with her about…to see if…well, actually he forgot exactly why he was here, but he knew he'd remember by the time he reached her backyard.
It was nearly 10 o'clock. Lee had noticed Dean's car parked in front of Amanda's house, so was not surprised to see Amanda and Dean sitting on the couch watching a movie. The boys were probably in bed and her mother must have "made herself scarce" upstairs so the two could be alone. Dean had his arm around Amanda's shoulders, although she was sitting upright next to him, not leaning against his shoulder as might be expected. Lee frowned and ran his fingers through his hair. He'd seen Dean several times before. He couldn't for the life of him figure out why Amanda kept seeing the man. Dean didn't seem like her type. Lee wasn't sure what her type was exactly, but Dean was not it. He just couldn't see the two of them in a relationship together.
The movie ended. Dean removed his arm from Amanda's shoulders and stretched leisurely. Both rose to their feet. Lee ducked to the side of the window so he wouldn't be seen. He felt slightly embarrassed at observing the pair and knew he should leave. Amanda would not be pleased if she knew he’d spied on them. But just then Dean pulled Amanda toward him and Lee's embarrassment disappeared as his irritation got the better of him. Dean kissed her, but Lee thought Amanda looked uncomfortable. She gently pushed him away, pointed to her watch and laughed nervously as she spoke. Dean smiled, oblivious to her mood, and nodded his head in agreement, grabbing his jacket from the edge of the couch. They disappeared from the den and from Lee's line of sight. Lee knew he should stay put to wait for Amanda's return to the kitchen, but he stealthily made his way to the corner of the house so he could see what was going on at the front door through the cover of the bushes. He couldn't help his curiosity about the two.
Lee got to his listening post in time to hear Dean comment, "Do you remember that next weekend is the annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Meteorologist Convention? Did you think any more about coming with me? We sure would have fun. There'll be lots of terrific exhibits and presentations to attend. I can't wait to hear Dr. Foxworth's new theory on tornado formation. He's the foremost expert on this topic." Dean's enthusiasm for all facets of weather and weather forecasting was evident. Lee shook his head and chuckled to himself as Amanda tried to muster a properly interested response.
"You know, Dean, it sure does sound like fun. But unfortunately Mother will be out of town that weekend, so I need to stay here with the boys."
"Oh, that's a shame. I know you'd have loved it. Well there's always next year. And who knows," he leaned towards her and whispered conspiratorially, so that Lee had to strain to hear him, "by then we could be attending as Mr. and Mrs. Dean McGuire."
He grinned at Amanda who smiled weakly and replied noncommittally that only time would tell. He leaned in for another kiss as she turned her head so that it landed squarely on her cheek. Dean didn't seem to notice and sauntered to his car, whistling softly. Amanda watched him leave, sighed heavily with a concerned look on her face, and turned to re-enter the house.
Lee shook his head in disbelief. That poor guy! Amanda was sending him signals loud and clear and he was completely clueless. Lee actually felt sorry for the fellow. He seemed like a nice enough man. Dull as a stick, but nice enough. But he sure needed some lessons in the romance department. Kissing Techniques 101 should be the first course he signed up for. Those brotherly kisses he sent Amanda's way were never going to cut it. Amanda was a beautiful woman. Any man intent on kissing her should let his feelings for her come through his kiss. If he were Dean, he would caress her face as he gazed into those gorgeous brown eyes, entwine his fingers into her dark silken curls, then lean in to touch those inviting lips with his own as he pulled her body close to his. Then as the kiss deepened he would—he shook his head. But he wasn't Dean. Amanda was his friend and sometimes coworker. Not someone he would be likely to kiss. This was all just hypothetical.
However, Dean's lack of kissing technique was just as well. Let Dean practice on the next woman who entered his life. For Lee felt sure that Dean's days with Amanda were numbered. For some reason, this gave him an immense sense of satisfaction.
Lee was so lost in thought that he didn't notice the kitchen light being clicked off as Amanda headed up the stairs for bed. He wouldn't be talking to her tonight after all. He headed out for his car, secure in the knowledge that everyone in the King household was tucked in safely for the night.
Sugar 'n Spice
Lee headed over to Arlington on his way home from… well, it actually wasn't on his way home, but it would only be a tiny bit out of his way. Hardly worth mentioning. He liked to keep tabs on the occupants of 4247 Maplewood Drive. Amanda had not been scheduled to work today, so Lee hadn't seen her since yesterday. He felt he should check up on her just in case.
It was a warm spring evening. As Lee made his way quietly to the back yard, the intoxicating scent of jasmine drifted out to him. He inhaled deeply to fill his lungs with the wonderful scent. Although the backyard was in total darkness, the fragrant blossoms glowed white with reflected light from the kitchen, causing them to appear suspended in air. He glanced at his watch. The boys should be deeply entrenched in homework by now. He hoped Amanda would have a few minutes to spend with him tonight.
Lee raised his hand to tap on her back window pane, but paused in mid-air. Amanda was alone in the kitchen, but she looked so intent on her task that he didn't want to disturb her. She was dressed in a pink-and-white striped shirt tucked into tight-fitting jeans, showing off her trim figure. She looked so gorgeous with her hair pinned up off her neck and her long sleeves rolled up halfway to her elbow. She was obviously baking something. The mixer she held in her hand was whirring away at a pale yellow mass of something in the bowl. Lee noticed an opened package of brown sugar next to the bowl. He wondered what delectable confection would soon be emerging from her oven. As the thought wandered around in his mind, she turned away to head for the oven, turning it on. She cracked first one egg, then a second, third, and fourth into the large glass bowl. Next came vanilla. More mixing. Then she carefully counted out six cups of flour, leveling each cup carefully with a spatula. Whatever she was making, it was going to be a lot of it. When the flour was mixed in, she bent to retrieve several cookie sheets from a lower cupboard. He spied bags of chocolate chips on her counter. Aha! Chocolate chip cookies! No one could say that his deductive skills were lacking. His mouth watered at the thought of freshly baked cookies. He hoped she was making a large batch so she could bring some of them in to work tomorrow. He would make sure he got there early so he could snag more than his fair share. After all, she was his partner.
Just as this possessive thought entered his head, Amanda looked out into the backyard toward him as if she were wondering about something. She absent-mindedly began to open the bags of chocolate while a soft smile adorned her face. Lee caught his breath quickly as he felt a strange sensation. It was as if they had just shared an intimate moment, even though he knew he would be the last thing on her mind.
He almost picked that moment to come into view so he could tap on the window and spend a few minutes with her. But just then, Philip and Jamie came bounding into the kitchen. Philip took the stool closest to the mixing center so he would have a good view of the activities. Jamie gave his mom a big hug around the waist. She bent to kiss the top of his head, since her hands were full of flour. Jamie then took up his seat next to Philip and reached out for a handful of chips. Amanda stopped him with some words and a frown whereby Philip clunked him over the head with an empty plastic measuring cup. Lee chuckled as Amanda scolded both of her sons. Then relenting, she smiled and poured out a small pile of the tiny treasures for each boy. They nibbled happily while she finished mixing the dough. The boys chattered to Amanda who answered them lovingly. Lee was in awe at the closeness the three shared. The love was palpable even to him looking in from the outside and not hearing a word they said. He watched the family, unsure why such a seemingly normal activity such as baking cookies could hold such fascination for him. Maybe it was because he had experienced few such activities in his own childhood.
As soon as Amanda finished the mixing, Philip and Jamie each clamored for a beater to lick off the remaining sweet bits of dough. It wasn't long before the cookie dough was lined up in perfect little rows on the shiny silver sheets. While two of the sheets were in the oven, Amanda scooped the rest of the dough onto the waiting sheets lined up on her counter.
A little weary of her task, Amanda used the back of her hand to brush some stray curls back from her forehead. In doing so, she managed to deposit a bit of flour onto her forehead and a small dab of chocolate onto the top of her cute little nose. The boys noticed, and pointed at her, laughing uproariously. Lee grinned at the three of them and thought Jamie and Philip might fall off their stools they were laughing so hard. Amanda laughed herself and didn't seem to mind their teasing. Her face was slightly flushed from the heat of the oven. Not for the first time, Lee marveled at how beautiful she was. He wished he were in the kitchen with her so he could draw that slender body to his and kiss the chocolate off of her nose. He anticipated she would smell like lavender and brown sugar, a delightful combination. Then his mouth would move toward hers via her jaw line and her neck, she would wrap her arms around him and their lips would meet in a… The agent stopped in mid-thought. Whoa, what was that all about? This was Amanda here, his friend Amanda. Not someone he would be likely to kiss. Although if he were to kiss her… No, no, he would not be likely to kiss her.
It wasn't long before the freshly baked cookies began emerging from the oven. They were lined up in neat rows on a rack to cool. The boys dove in eagerly, getting the warm chocolate on their hands and faces, laughing and clowning around while they munched. Lee wished he were sitting on a stool next to them enjoying the delectable goodies while he watched their graceful mother's every move.
After their milk and cookies snack, Amanda shooed the boys upstairs to get cleaned up before bed. Dotty made an appearance in her robe, helping Amanda stash the cookies in their tins and clean up the kitchen. She then kissed Amanda on the cheek, wished her good night, and headed back up the stairs.
Lee was just about ready to try tapping on the window again, when Amanda looked furtively into the hallway and up the stairs as if to make sure she was indeed alone at long last. What was she up to? She then reached for a small serving plate from an upper cupboard, took out a paper doily from a drawer, and began to arrange cooled cookies festively on the plate. Lee's heart sank. At least some of the extra cookies were obviously intended as a gift. She might not be taking them to the office after all. That plate was too small to share with the entire bullpen. It was probably for a bake sale at school or something.
She carefully covered the heaping plate with plastic wrap. Next came a bow. This gift must be for someone special. Lee rubbed his chin while he reflected. Maybe the older lady next door. Amanda then rummaged in a drawer for a white note card on which she drew a design and wrote a message. She surveyed the card, but then discarded it in the trash and began again. The second note card also did not please her. Finally on the third attempt, she appeared satisfied, so she attached the personalized note to the top of the cookie plate, and then gently ran her hand lovingly across the plate with a small smile tipping up the sides of her mouth. She again glanced out the back window into the backyard, this time seeming a little disappointed. Lee's curiosity was really getting the better of him now.
But it was getting late, and Lee decided he'd better head home. He would not be chatting with Amanda after all this evening. Just as he turned to go, Amanda called something up the stairs. She wiped her hands on a kitchen towel and headed purposefully out of the kitchen and up the stairs, leaving the gift plate unguarded on the counter. Seizing his opportunity, and without a thought to the possible consequences, Lee tried the glass-paned door to find it was unlocked. He really must talk to Amanda about this. But another time. For the moment he switched into agent mode and crept into the kitchen without a sound, heading straight over to the plate of cookies. The note card adorning the gift read simply "To Lee, From Amanda."
Lee's heart lurched inside his chest, and his face colored at the discovery that the homemade gift was for him. He beat a hasty retreat for the door, unable to resist the temptation to steal one cookie from those still cooling on the rack on his way out. He closed the door noiselessly behind him and moved further back from the window than he had been previously. He couldn't leave until he was sure Amanda had locked the door for the night.
A few minutes later Amanda reappeared in the kitchen. She got out the tin to pack away the remaining cookies. Since they were lined up in neat rows, the missing cookie was clearly evident. She looked at its empty space with a puzzled expression. She glanced over her shoulder towards upstairs, shook her head as if dismissing the idea that it was one of the boys, and then looked out the window in Lee's direction. She couldn't see him, of course, since he was far back in the shadows. She looked over her shoulder towards the front hall and then walked towards the back door causing Lee to move further to the side to avoid being detected. Amanda poked her head out the door and called softly "Lee? Lee, are you out there?" Receiving no response, she shook her head again, retreated back into the kitchen, and locked the door behind her. She picked up the plate of cookies, fingering the bow with a tender look on her face. She then put the plate into a shopping bag and placed it next to her purse ready for the morning. Surveying the kitchen to be sure it passed inspection, she turned out the light and headed up the stairs.
Lee had been frozen in place, not wanting to be discovered with his hand literally in the cookie jar. When he was sure she had retired for the night, he let out the long breath he had been holding. That had been a close call. With the taste of the cookie still fresh in his mouth, he made his way silently around the side of the house and out to his car, the scene he had witnessed still engaging his thoughts. That little lady sure was something. She found time to be a loving mother to her boys, a devoted daughter to her mother, and a good friend and partner to him. She whipped up a mean batch of cookies, served on numerous charities, and would do whatever it took to watch his back so he would be safe. What other hats did this woman wear that he wasn't even aware of? Amanda…enigmatic… mysterious… He had a lot to learn about her. He smiled softly with a faraway expression in his hazel eyes.
Mother, I Can Do It Myself!
Lee pulled up two houses away from 4247 Maplewood Drive. He didn't actually remember intentionally driving here. He had gone to pick up his dry cleaning, made a quick stop for coffee at the store, and then had headed home. But he became lost in thought and his car made the familiar trek to Arlington on autopilot somehow. He ran his hand through his hair. He glanced over at the house, shaking his head in disbelief. Well, as long as he was already here, he might as well check to be sure everything was okay.
He quietly exited the car and unobtrusively made his way around to the backyard. As he came closer to the back door, he could hear voices. It was a cool evening, so Amanda must have left the windows open for the slight breeze. Damn. He frowned. Since he heard voices, that meant Amanda was not alone. He wouldn't get to talk to her. He turned to leave when Amanda's exasperated voice caught his attention, stopping him in his tracks.
"Mo-ther, I really am quite capable of managing my own love life!"
"But that's just it, dear, you don't have a love life to manage." Lee moved closer to view the den and saw Amanda roll her eyes and wait patiently for the lecture she knew was coming. A well intentioned lecture, no doubt, but a lecture nevertheless. Amanda had a magazine in her lap. Dotty was doing needlework. He grinned. Maybe he would stick around for a few minutes. This might be interesting.
"First it was Dean. I never could understand what happened between you two. One day you were happily discussing marriage plans, and the next day—poof!—he seemed to have disappeared from your life."
"Mother, we were never discussing marriage plans."
"Well you know, darling, you could have been. I know Dean did propose to you on more than one occasion. Don't try to deny it."
"No, I won't deny it. But how did you know about that? I never told you."
"Well, of course you didn't, dear, Dean told me himself. We had many nice little chats, Dean and I. He was so easy to talk to. It was kind of like talking to a nurse, you know, he was nice and soothing. Did you two have a fight?"
"No, Mother, we did not have a fight. We just kind of went our separate ways. I don't think I was what Dean was looking for."
"Uh uh." Dotty shook her head emphatically. "You were exactly what Dean was looking for. But Dean was not the kind of man you were looking for. That's it, isn't it?"
"No, Mother, it was nothing like that. Dean was a very nice man."
"And dependable and responsible."
"Yes, he certainly was dependable and responsible."
"And he was punctual. Yes, always very punctual. Those are very important traits, you must admit, Amanda."
"Yes, Mother, they are."
"But sometimes dependable and responsible can be a trifle dull I suppose." Amanda looked up, seemingly wondering at her mother's astuteness.
"I suppose you would like someone a little more exciting. I suppose Dean being nice and soothing was not exactly what you were looking for."
"Well, not exactly."
"Well what are you looking for, Amanda?"
"Mother, I'm really not looking for anyone right now. I haven't been divorced all that long. I need some more time. You seem more eager to marry me off than I am to be married off."
"I'm not saying you have to get married again in the near future."
"Then why are we having this conversation?"
"Amanda, I just want what every mother wants for her daughter. I want you to be happy. And I think a wonderful man would make you happy. And it certainly wouldn't hurt if he had a full head of hair. His own hair. And if he were a little bit handy so he could fix a few things around here. And if he were big and strong so he made you feel safe and protected." Dotty sighed. "And it certainly wouldn't hurt if he were handsome."
Amanda looked away from her mother and out the back window in Lee's direction. Since it was dark in the yard, and he was in the shadows, she couldn't see him. She began fidgeting in her chair. Then she rose and headed off to the kitchen.
"Would you like some tea, Mother? I'm going to get some for myself."
"No, dear, but thank you for asking. I just think it would be so wonderful to have a nice strong handsome man around the house. You have to be on the lookout for a nice man, my dear. You never know when he might pop up. It could be in the most unexpected place. It could be in the grocery store, at the service station, at the train station."
Amanda looked through the darkened window once again, and then peeked at Dotty suspiciously from around the corner of the cupboard. "Mother, you know I never take the train."
"No, of course not, dear, I was just using that as an example. You just never know when Mr. Right will come along and sweep you off your feet. It can happen just like that." She snapped her fingers for emphasis. "You have to be ready. It could happen anywhere."
"I appreciate your concern, Mother, but—"
"Now Amanda," Dotty interrupted, "are you sure there isn't someone special at work who would appeal to you?"
Amanda dropped the teacup she was holding and it clattered onto its saucer. She looked decidedly uncomfortable. Lee could see the color heighten in her cheeks even from this distance. He felt his own cheeks begin to burn. It was as if they were thinking as one person.
"No, Mother, I've told you that before. There's no one special at work. Everyone's very nice, but there's no one special."
"What about that Mr. Steadman who calls you at the oddest times?"
Amanda was rummaging around in the kitchen, no doubt thinking this conversation would never end. Lee chuckled to himself. He couldn't wait to hear Amanda's response. But wait he did, as Amanda was slow to answer.
"Mother, do we have any more of those fruit bars? They would go so well with my tea."
"Amanda, you are evading my question." Wow, Dotty could be so persistent. Lee wondered if she had been reading the KGB interrogation manual.
"What question was that, Mother?"
"You know very well what question that was, Amanda. I asked you about that Mr. Steadman who calls you. He has such a nice voice. You can tell so much about a man from his voice."
"Oh, you mean my boss?" As she spoke, Amanda threw a worried look out the window in his direction, but Lee was far enough back so she couldn't see him.
"Yes, dear. How many Mr. Steadmans do you know?"
"Only one, Mother."
"Is he married?"
Amanda looked decidedly uncomfortable and moved toward the window. As she was about to slide it closed, Dotty objected, "Darling, please don't close the window. The breeze feels so refreshing." Amanda moved away from the window, but when she didn't say anything, Dotty's relentless questioning continued. "Is Mr. Steadman married?"
Amanda moved back to the chair and her tea, and when she answered her mother, her voice was quieter, although Lee could still hear her. "No, Mother, he's not married. But I don't think he plans to get married. He has lots of girlfriends."
"Amanda, just because a man has lots of girlfriends does not mean he doesn't want to get married. He might want to get married but just doesn't realize it or he might think he doesn't want to get married but he really does. What I'm trying to say is he might not know he wants to get married. These things can be very confusing for some men. He just may not have found the right woman yet. Is he good looking?"
Amanda's expression changed as if she were thinking of something other than her conversation with Dotty. She didn't answer for a moment. Then she shook her head and spoke quietly. "Is who good looking, Mother?"
"You know perfectly well who, darling. That nice Mr. Steadman."
"Mother, there are more important things than a person's appearance."
"Yes, dear, of course I know that. I'm getting to those. But is he good looking?"
"Well, I suppose so. Yes, I suppose you could say he's good looking." A dreamy expression transformed Amanda's face for a few moments. Lee caught his breath at the sudden tenderness that was revealed to him. Dotty didn't notice as she was looking down at her needlework. Amanda's next words were spoken softly. "You know, Mother, I'm really very tired. I think I'll go up to bed."
"But you haven't finished your tea, dear."
Amanda took a large swallow of her tea and then rose to head to the kitchen. "Yes, I know, but I just remembered I have to do an errand on the way to work tomorrow. So I'd better turn in."
"Yes, you should get your beauty sleep. I'm rather tired myself. We can finish this conversation another time I suppose."
"Of course, Mother, another time."
"Good night, Amanda dear. I'm glad you don't think I'm meddling in your affairs. You know I just want what's best for you. I want you to be happy." She kissed her daughter on the cheek, gave her a hug and a smile, and then headed up the stairs.
Amanda called after her "Good night, Mother. See you in the morning."
Amanda proceeded to wash up the teacup and dessert plate, moving as if she were in slow motion. She then wiped down the cupboard. She appeared lost in thought.
Lee himself was also lost in thought. He was thinking how mysterious Amanda looked with that slight smile playing at the corners of her mouth. That soft mouth, with the pink lipstick adorning her perfect lips. He noticed how gracefully she moved, how her soft hair brushed against her neck. As he continued to watch her, he became mesmerized by her beauty. She appeared to him as if in a trance. The room around her disappeared. Only her figure was visible, outlined by a golden glow of light all around her. She was walking towards him, arms outstretched, reaching to him. The walls of the house receded into nothingness as they came together. The rest of the world faded away as they held each other in a close embrace, reveling in the feel of their bodies meeting at long last. Lee buried his face in her hair and breathed in its glorious scent. He allowed one of his hands to move slowly up her back and embed itself into her luxuriously thick locks. He gently bent her head back to gaze into her soul through her deep brown eyes. He could see more clearly than ever before. She cared for him as much as he did for her. Lee's heart was hammering wildly in his chest. He wanted so badly to kiss her. Nothing was holding him back. She was warm and willing in his arms. He lowered his mouth to hers and his eyes drifted shut. Her lips felt so soft against his. She returned his kiss with a fervor that matched his own. Surely this could not be real…this was heaven…his Amanda in his arms at last, returning his passion with her own…
As his mouth worked possessively against hers, a sharp thud shattered this perfect image as Amanda slid the window shut. He heard the click of the lock. He nearly lost his balance as he was jolted so roughly out of his reverie. He took a deep cleansing breath and leaned back against the fence for support. He watched as Amanda stood for a few moments at the window peering wistfully out into the darkness with an ethereal smile illuminating her lovely features. She slowly moved to touch the window as if she were connecting with something on the other side of the glass. Then the smile faded and she took a deep breath as she turned slowly and walked across the kitchen toward the stairs. She clicked off the light and then she disappeared from his view.
Lee was unable to move for a few minutes as he tried to regain control of his emotions. The vision he had experienced had opened his eyes to the depth of his feeling for this woman who had so abruptly entered his life what seemed like only yesterday. Before he met her, his existence was predictable and ordered; at least he had perceived it that way. But from the first moment circumstances had thrown them together, she had turned his life upside down and inside out with her incessant rambling, her uncanny ability to provide the insight he needed when the chips were down, her beauty and her charm, her friendship and her trust. He could no more live without her in his life now than he could stop breathing and still expect to survive. It was as if they were halves of a whole being united at last by destiny.
Lee quietly exited the yard to return to his car. A strange sense of calm had come over him. Accompanied by nervousness. And a little trepidation. And a great deal of excitement. As he left the boundaries of her front yard, Lee looked up toward Amanda's bedroom window. As he watched, the light was extinguished and he pictured her slipping into bed. Someday he would join her there. They would end the day wrapped in each other's arms, and greet each new day together. Neither would ever be alone again.
As he felt the Corvette's engine come to life, he felt an infusion of new energy entering his own being. Suddenly laughter erupted within him and he shook his head in amazement, running his fingers through his hair. He would need all that energy if he were going to keep up with both Amanda and her mother, not to mention Philip and Jaime. He grinned as he remembered Dotty's gentle chiding to her daughter about not having a love life to manage. He hoped that topic of conversation would never come up again.
A Family Affair
It was 4:30 PM on a perfect April day. Usually Friday afternoon at Dulles would be the last place Lee Stetson would want to be. But not today. Today the handsome agent was delighted to be here. For he normally would still have been on his overseas assignment. Fortunately the debriefing had finished up earlier than expected, and Lee was able to arrive back in D. C. a whole day earlier than planned.
He looked at his watch repeatedly while waiting for the luggage carrousel to eject his bag. It had been a long two weeks and he couldn’t wait to get home. It wasn’t so much that his empty apartment held such appeal, but he couldn’t wait to wrap his arms around his beautiful wife and feel her squirm when he hugged her too tightly. He smiled as he imagined her lovely face staring up at him from the depths of his embrace, her brown curls gently caressing her neck, her dark eyes sparkling with love for him, and her soft smiling lips waiting to be kissed. She would bring her arms up around his neck and pull him to her… a sharp jostling brought him out of his daydream as a woman next to him tried to lift her suitcase off the carrousel and accidentally bumped him. He lifted it for her and barely noticed her grateful "thank you" as he spied his own bag circling toward him. Jerking it off the rack he headed out to the taxi waiting area.
Lee’s first thought had been to call Amanda to pick him up. But she wasn’t expecting him till late tomorrow afternoon, so he thought he would surprise her. Besides, she might be busy with her family since she wasn’t expecting to see him. He knew she had cleared her schedule so they could be together tomorrow night, but wasn’t sure how his unexpected arrival would fit into her plans for tonight. Dotty and the boys knew they were "dating," but were not aware that the couple had sealed their marriage vows just two months ago.
At his apartment, Lee quickly shaved and showered, changing into blue jeans and a casual shirt. Traffic from the airport had been miserable and it was now after 6 PM. Unpacking could wait. So could dinner. Seeing Amanda could not. He grabbed his keys, tossed his leather jacket over his shoulder, revved up the Corvette, and made the familiar trek to Arlington.
Pulling up near 4247 Maplewood, he parked and observed the neat white home. No signs of life from the front, but Amanda’s car was parked in the driveway. He traced his usual path to the backyard. Over the years he had learned a lot by his observations through Amanda’s back window. Tonight he would take a peek inside to see if she were alone. He hoped she would be so he could tap on the window to get her attention. Then she would come out to be with him. His arms ached to hold her again.
Everyone was gathered in the kitchen and den area. No window tapping tonight. In spite of his disappointment, Lee smiled at the peacefully chaotic scene that greeted him from the back window. Philip was "plugged in" to headphones with textbooks spread out in front of him on the kitchen table. Dotty was busy at the sink presumably cleaning up the supper dishes. Jamie was wielding a spatula covered with chocolate frosting as he helped his mother frost cupcakes.
And Amanda…beautiful Amanda… time slowed as Lee’s eyes devoured her. She was removing cupcakes from the oven while she and Jamie frosted the treats that had already cooled. Her movements were fluid as she seemed to do three things at once. She looked divine dressed in snug-fitting jeans and a white blouse, sleeves rolled up to her elbows, and collar open to reveal her diamond heart pendant nestled into the hollow of her throat. Lee could hardly wait to get his hands on her. After he kissed her mouth and nibbled his way to her throat, he would slowly make his way to that tiny spot behind her ear. The spot that drove her wild. Lee rubbed his hands together as though eager to begin a feast. Then he remembered that there would be no feasting since he was not likely to even be able to talk to her tonight as she was busy with her family. The window was open to take in the cool evening air, so Lee could hear the family’s conversation as he observed their activities.
"Amanda, darling, I’d be glad to pick up the movie when I’m through here. That way you can finish up with the baking and Philip can have a few more minutes for his project. Would that work?"
"Thanks, Mother, that’d be great. I’ll write down the second and third choices in case "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is already taken. My mind usually goes blank when I get to the video store and am faced with the huge array of choices. Of course it probably doesn’t matter that much since the boys have seen all of the choices at least three times, right fellas?" She smiled affectionately at her sons.
"Grandma, I’ll go with you, OK?" Jamie questioned. "I know what we want to see, so you won’t need Mom’s note. I could help you look for the movie, OK?"
Dotty looked to Amanda who was frowning at her younger son. "Now wait just a minute, young man. Do you plan to leave me with all these cupcakes to finish up by myself? These are for your photography club bake sale if I remember correctly. When you double the recipe, you get lots of cupcakes."
Jamie hung his head. "Yeah, OK, Mom. I’m getting tired of frosting ‘em, that’s all."
"Well, why don’t you take a break from frosting and do the sprinkles for now?"
Jamie brightened at that suggestion. He got the shaker and started sprinkling the cupcakes with multicolored candy bits. "Can I eat the extra sprinkles that fall on the plate?" he asked hopefully. Amanda noticed that more than half of the sprinkles seemed to land on the plate rather than on the cupcake. She sighed, but couldn’t hide the grin that was forming as she knew her young son was trying to outsmart her.
"Yes, I suppose so. But please try to aim a little closer to the cupcake. That jar of sprinkles is the only one I have."
Philip seemed to perk up when Jamie began the decorating. "Mom, remember you promised a special cupcake for me. One with extra frosting and extra sprinkles. And I want you to make it, not Jamie."
Not to be outdone by his older brother, Jamie stuck out his tongue at Philip. "I don’t want to make yours anyway. And Mom, if he gets a special one, I do too. I’ll make it myself with lots of extras on it."
"Jamie, do not stick out your tongue. Philip, your brother is doing the decorating, so if you want extras, you’ll need to ask him nicely. And Philip, please turn down the volume on those headphones. I can hear your music all the way over here, which means it’s way too loud. You’ll damage your hearing."
"Aw, Mom." Philip had heard this before. He shrugged resignedly and turned the volume lower.
Jamie agreed to make Philip’s special cupcake. Then he pleaded, "Mom, can Philip and I each have two special cupcakes? Please?"
Lee chucked at the resourcefulness of the two boys.
"Come on guys! I give an inch and you take a mile." Amanda laughed and exchanged an amused look with her mother. "OK, two special ones each." She noted the "thumbs up" and grateful smile Philip threw Jamie’s way and shook her head. "But that’s it. We need to keep some for dessert tomorrow, and then I want to save a few for Lee." Her voice softened as she mentioned her husband.
Dotty noticed her voice inflection and inquired, "Amanda, when’s Lee coming home?"
"Tomorrow afternoon." She sighed. She hoped she could last till then. Two weeks was such a long time for newlyweds to be separated. She missed him so much. She longed to touch him. For his strong arms to hold her. For the feel of his lips caressing her skin. Her imagination went a step too far and she placed her fingers on a sensitive spot behind her ear. It had not taken Lee long to discover this tiny bit of her anatomy. She blushed at the memories this action evoked.
Watching her still unobserved, Lee noticed her movement and her blush, and realized they were sharing the same thought. As his eyes remained fixed on her, Amanda involuntarily glanced to the window, the memories of all the backyard meetings swirling in her mind. Those encounters had been a microcosm of the events that shaped the foundation of their relationship. The moments they shared on the other side of that window paralleled the tiny steps in their daily lives that led their paths to merge at last in vowing to spend the rest of their lives together.
Lee gazed at the woman he loved and at her family members around her. He was related to these people now. He actually had a mother again after all these years! Dotty was always so warm to him—he knew they would get along great as they got to know each other better. And Philip and Jamie… the thought of two stepsons was a little frightening. But with Amanda to guide him, he would be able to fulfill this new role too. The boys were great kids, no small thanks to Amanda’s skills as a loving and nurturing parent. With a little time and adjustment, Lee hoped they would accept him as a part of their lives. Little did he ever guess, that day at the train station so long ago, (or was it just yesterday?), that his chance encounter with a suburban housewife would lead him to find his soulmate and allow him to become part of a normal family once again. He was not the same man today he was at the train station, and his emotional maturation was a direct result of Amanda’s influence. He hoped he had had a positive influence on her personality in some way as well.
Lee noted the look of longing on Amanda’s face and knew his face mirrored her emotion. His pulse quickened just looking at her. He simply couldn’t wait any longer to hold her. It became clear that there was only one way he would accomplish this goal tonight. He took a deep breath, straightened his shoulders, and retraced his steps to the front yard.
Lee’s nervousness caused his fingers to hesitate slightly before ringing the bell. He could count on both hands the number of times he had actually come to the front door when Amanda’s family was home. Even though her family thought they were dating, it was still a strange sensation to stand openly on the front porch and ring the bell. Only seconds elapsed before Dotty opened the door to him, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel.
"Hi, Dotty, I hope I’m not intruding, Amanda’s not expecting…"
Dotty gave him a warm, welcoming smile. She drew him into the entryway with one hand and put a finger to her lips with the other gesturing him to be quiet.
"Amanda, someone’s here for you!" she called backward over her shoulder toward the kitchen, still grasping Lee’s arm.
"Coming, Mother. Who is…"
Dotty stood back a short distance from Lee. Both watched expectantly for Amanda’s entrance.
"Lee!" Amanda fairly shrieked with joy as she caught sight of her husband at the front door. She ran toward him flinging her arms around his neck, and he caught her up in a big bear hug.
Dotty beamed and made her way back to the kitchen to give them some privacy. The chemistry between those two was so strong that she could see sparks between them. When were they going to realize that and do something about it? She had remarked once that Lee was an eleven. Now that she was getting to know him better, she had upped that rating even higher. She hoped one day to welcome him into the family. She shook her head in puzzlement and went to join the boys.
Lee held Amanda as closely as possible, his face nuzzled into her neck. God, she smelled so good. Why had he ever allowed Billy to send him overseas? The time spent away from this wonderful woman was unbearable.
Amanda wriggled in his embrace. "Lee, I can’t breathe!" she protested laughingly.
Lee loosened his arms just a bit and looked down at her upturned radiant face. He whispered, "Mrs. Stetson, I love you," before his mouth descended to hers. Time stood still as they were lost in each other. The kiss expressed the longing each had felt and their delight at being together again.
When they finally broke apart, Lee was solemn, his fingertips tracing the features of her face as he spoke. "Amanda, you have no idea how much I’ve missed you. These last two weeks seemed like two years to me."
Amanda laughed up at him. "You silly, I know exactly how much you missed me because I missed you just as much. I didn’t know how I was going to make it till tomorrow ’cause I was thinking of you every moment." She entwined her fingers in his hair and pulled him down to meet her lips again. "I love you too, Lee. I’m so glad you’re home early!" The kiss they shared left Lee no doubt of her sincerity.
Amanda broke the kiss and grabbed his hand to pull him into the kitchen. "Come on, we should get back to the family. We’re going to rent a movie and make popcorn. Did you have time to eat or should I heat something up for you? You must be starved."
"Amanda." He spoke quietly.
She stopped to look up at him. He grinned devilishly and pulled her back to him, murmuring in her ear, "I need one more kiss before I share you with everyone else."
She glanced over her shoulder. "But the boys might come in…"
"I think your mother will keep them corralled in the kitchen for another minute or two."
They smiled and held each other close. Lee kissed her gently at first, then slowly intensified the kiss. Amanda felt herself melting in the heat they were generating. This would have to wait till later, if only she could pull herself away from him. But she didn’t have that much will power. Lee made his way slowly across her cheek and down her neck, and was headed to that little spot…
A small strangled cry escaped Amanda’s throat as she gently pushed him away with all the self-control she could muster. "Lee Stetson, you stop that right now! You know what that does to me." She laughed up at him while caressing his cheek, and then whispered, "I promise we’ll have time for that later."
"You’re right, I’m sorry, Amanda," Lee answered contritely. "It’s just so hard to keep my hands off you when we’re together. I missed you so much. Forgive me?"
The dimples appeared and Amanda felt herself wavering. Maybe just one more little kiss…
Dotty’s voice called out from the kitchen. "Amanda, why don’t you and Lee go to pick up the movie? I can stay here with the boys to finish up the baking."
Lee brightened. "Did I ever tell you how much I like your mother?"
Amanda rolled her eyes. "It’s only 5 minutes to the video store."
Lee teased, "So I suppose they’d be suspicious if it took us a couple hours to get back?"
Amanda smothered a grin and playfully swatted him on the chest.
He laughed. It was so good to be here with her again. He could relax completely in her presence and regain perspective on what was really important in life.
"Let’s go in to see your family and then we’ll get the movie. Okay with you?"
"No?" Lee asked in surprise.
She locked onto his gaze. "No, we aren’t going to see my family. We’re going to see our family."
Lee felt his throat tighten and he swallowed hard. He took her hand, interlacing their fingers, bringing her hand up to his mouth for a kiss. "You’re right. Let’s go see our family. I really like the sound of that."
They walked hand-in-hand into the kitchen, big smiles on their faces. As the boys greeted Lee enthusiastically, and Dotty grinned delightedly at the couple, Lee couldn’t help but glance out the kitchen window into the backyard. It certainly felt different here inside the house than it did looking in from outside. It was a noisy, rather frenzied atmosphere from what he was used to at home, but filled with warmth, affection, and awfully good smells. He was glad he came in to enjoy the view.