They lay in each other's arms in silent, lazy contentment as the new day dawned.
Sonny had awoken first, before the light began to peek through the curtains. Alexis's face was buried against his chest, her hair splayed across him like unraveled yard. His fingers couldn't keep themselves from sifting through the soft strands and letting them fall back down upon his bare skin, over and over again. Alexis didn't stir. Not until his palm gently cupped the back of her head and caressed its way down, all the way past the ends of her hair, and continued along her spine to the small of her back.
Her body squirmed beneath his touch, snuggling more closely against his as she purred in her wakening bliss. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and she slipped her arm around his chest. A moment later, Sonny heard her sigh. He smiled to himself, grateful to God for the abundance in his arms. Life couldn't possibly get any better than this.
"Good morning, Spud."
He kissed the top of her head.
"You're never, ever going to be much of a morning person, are you?"
"Must be why you love your morning coffee so much."
"How fortuitous for you that you're in love with a coffee importer."
"Mmm..." She looked up at him with a curious expression. "Am I?"
His fingers grazed up the length of her back, making her shiver. She laughed and held him tighter as she kissed his chest.
"How fortuitous for you that you're in love with an attorney."
His fingers halted, holding still against her skin. The harsh reality of who he was lay deeply embedded in her words and it felt like a kick in Sonny's gut. That reality hurt like hell. So he tried to lessen the pain the way that Alexis would - rationalizing.
"If you weren't an attorney, we may never have even met."
Alexis sighed again, saying nothing. Her silence sent the shame rising up in him, engulfing him like a tide. Was she thinking the same thing that he was thinking? Was she feeling the same shame? Why wouldn't she? He was a crook, and she was his defender. Those roles used to be okay. Not any more.
"I have my share of regrets, Alexis. About things I've done. About choices I've made."
"Who doesn't have regrets? But what's past is past. So regrets are a waste of energy, don't you think?"
"I think - I KNOW, that I wouldn't change anything about my past that led me to you."
Her fingertips drew light, lazy circles along his belly.
"Neither would I."
Sonny smiled sadly. She was being too generous. He wanted to tell her that he knew she deserved better than who he was - that she deserved a man she could respect, not a man she had to defend. And he wanted to promise that he would become that man for her. But a promise was only a gift made of words. Instead, his gift would be silently given to her in the things that he did and the choices that he made. He would give Alexis the gift of being able to truly respect the man she loved.
Sonny suddenly realized how quiet Alexis had become. He wondered if she'd fallen back to sleep.
"Honey?" He whispered. "You asleep?"
She shook her head, hair tickling his arm as it moved back and forth.
She nodded. He was almost afraid to ask. But ask he did.
Alexis lifted her face from his chest and looked up at him with a smile. She was thinking about how she loved him in spite of what he did...and wondering how long she could pretend that all he did was import coffee. But she wasn't ready to stop pretending. Not just yet.
"I was thinking about whether I should let a cold shower fully wake me up, or wait for a strong cappuccino."
Sonny drew his fingertips up the side of her body, watching with a twinkle in his eyes as her lids fluttered in response.
"How about you lay here with me a little while longer and fully wake up on your own time?"
"It was supposed to."
She kissed his chest, and then glanced over at the clock on her side of the bed. His eyes followed hers.
"Don't tell me you have somewhere to rush off to?"
"Not rush. But I do have somewhere to go this morning."
Sonny was silent. Alexis looked up at him as she set her chin back down upon his chest.
"I'm going to the PCPD. I need to see Taggart, to have him officially drop the charges against Sorel."
He breathed a sigh of relief, even though she'd already told him that she wanted it over. His relief was premature.
"And...I also need to see Thomas Malloy, to let him know that charges against him are being dropped as well."
Sonny stared down at her. "You're going to let the man who helped Sorel hurt you go free?"
"Because I want to. Because he risked himself to make sure I didn't die."
Sonny's jaw tightened. She raised herself up on her elbows, eyes widening to emphasize her final point.
"And from a purely legal standpoint, charges won't stick against Thomas for aiding and abetting a kidnapping if charges against the primary kidnapper are dropped."
He frowned. What she said made sense, but he didn't like it. He didn't like it at all. And he hated the idea of Alexis seeing that man again.
"Okay." He sighed. "I'll grant you the legal standpoint. But would you please just let Taggart handle telling Malloy? That's his job, not yours."
Alexis pushed herself up and tucked her legs under her body as she sat beside him.
"Look, I know how you feel about Thomas, but..."
"How I feel isn't the issue, Alexis! How you feel IS. And the last time you saw that man, you came home drowning in so many feelings you couldn't handle that you almost drowned literally."
She opened her mouth to counter him, but quickly closed it again when his last words gelled in her head. It hurt to have her stupidity thrown back in her face, even in good intent. But she had to make Sonny understand.
"That's exactly why I want to see him again - to talk to him, this time. I already know why Sorel did what he did. I need to know why Thomas let himself be a party to something that was so egregiously against his nature."
Sonny's eyes drifted away from hers as his fingers toyed with the edge of the sheet.
"You need to find the reasoning in everything. I don't know why I should expect this to be any different."
"True. But this is different. This is personal."
He nodded slowly. Alexis reached for his face, stroking it lovingly until eh looked back up at her.
"The feelings I can't handle are the feelings I don't understand. Talking to Thomas will help me understand."
He closed his eyes and took her hand in his.
"I know." He murmured. "I just..."
Alexis leaned down and kissed him on the mouth, laying the full length of her body out upon his.
"I'll let Johnny take me, if that makes you feel any better."
"It does. A little." He ran his hands down her back, over her hip, and firmly cupped her behind. "But this makes me feel LOTS better."
"You're just trying to keep me...distracted, so I CAN'T go to the station."
"Are too." She kissed him on the nose and wriggled out from under his grasp. "I'm going to take that shower now."
He grabbed for her again, flipping her over onto her back and wedging his knee between her thighs.
"I just wanted to remind you of what you're forsaking for a measly shower."
She ran her tongue across her lips and stared up into his dark, needful eyes.
He grinned and slid his knee down the inner length of her thighs.
"I'll go get started on that strong cappuccino - AND breakfast."
"You're going to spoil me rotten."
"I hope so."
He kissed her on the shoulder before jumping out of bed and grabbing his pants off the floor. Alexis stretched her limbs out along the warm sheets, admiring the beauty of his tanned, well-muscled form. As he zipped up his trousers, Sonny turned back around to find her looking up at him with a sly twinkle in her eye.
"I was just admiring the view."
Her long, shapely calf slipped out from between the white sheets.
She took his breath away, lying before him bathed in the soft morning sunlight with the cotton making a winding path up the center of her lithe body. He moved closer, grinning wickedly as his eyes traveled along the length of that temptingly exposed leg.
"Well, fair's far."
"Fair's fair, Alexis..."
A deep-throated echo sounded in her ears, and the image of Sonny's face above her suddenly distorted as he whipped the sheet from her body. Heat exploded within her just seconds before the searing pain cut through her head and a swirl of vivid colors flashed before her eyes. Alexis grimaced and grabbed at her skull with a strangled cry.
Sonny's blood ran cold. "Honey?"
Terrified, he quickly kneeled on the bed beside her, reaching hesitantly for her face as she bit down hard on her lip.
"Alexis, what it is? Another pain?"
She couldn't respond as her body gave in to an uncontrollable shudder.
"It's okay." He pulled the sheet back up, tucking its warmth carefully around her. "Just try to relax so it can let go of you."
She shuddered again, hand still tightly clutching at the side of her head. Sonny could barely breath, watching her trapped in yet another torturous grip from which he couldn't set her free. But he tried to help ease her through it, gently stroking the back of her hand until he felt the tension begin to release.
The muscles in her face slowly relaxed under his watchful eye and rhythmic touch. He still had a knot in his stomach. This hadn't come on it's own. Something he said or did had pulled the trigger - pulled it fast and hard. It made him afraid to touch her or open his mouth to speak, even though he'd already done both.
Alexis's eyes finally opened and she blinked rapidly, grasping for focus. Sonny was silent and still, gazing down at her with worry until her beautiful brown eyes found his. Her hand lifted from her head and turned within his to take hold of it as she smiled shyly, cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
"I'm okay." She cleared her throat. "It's gone."
Sonny's voice had abandoned him. All he could do was tighten his hand against hers and sink deeper into her eyes.
"Really. I'm okay." Alexis brushed the back of her fingers across his cheek. "Please don't look so scared."
"I look scared because it scared me."
She frowned and looked away from him. "I know."
"What made it happen? What did I do that..."
"I don't know, Sonny. I don't even know for sure that it's anything external. It could be some random thing inside of me that just has it's own will."
"No." He shook his head. "I saw it take hold of you and it wasn't random."
She sighed heavily, let go of his hand, and pushed herself upright.
"It doesn't matter. The pain is gone, and I'm fine."
Alexis pulled Sonny's face toward hers and gave him a soft, slow kiss.
"And right now, I just want to go take a nice, hot shower...and then share cappuccinos with you. Okay?"
"Breakfast too. I want you to eat."
She smiled, pushed the sheet from her body, and swung her long legs over the side of the bed with a forced casualness that Sonny couldn't ignore. And he watched her with concern as she ran her hands through her tousled hair on her way toward the bathroom.
"Don't forget the chocolate..."
"Sprinkles." He finished the sentence for her. "I won't."
She gave him a sexy tilt of her head. "You're too good to me."
"Back at ya."
Alexis slowly pulled the bathroom door closed. Sonny's eyes drifted down to the soft impression of her body that graced the bed. He ran his hand within it, feeling the warmth that lingered there as he thought back to the moments before the sweetness of the morning had been stolen away. What had he done? What had he said? And what hidden memories were still trying to break free?
Leaning against the closed bathroom door, a thin trickle of hot tears of frustration running down her cheek, Alexis wondered the same thing.
Sonny took a bite of toast and peered at Alexis as her tongue swept a tiny fleck of chocolate from her lip. He smiled to himself as he leaned back against the sofa cushion. Lucky chocolate. She turned the page of the newspaper, folded it in half, and pushed the slipping glasses further up her nose. He was glad she didn't wear contacts. She looked adorably sexy in her glasses.
He took another bite of toast, still watching her discreetly as she stabbed at a grape with her fork. The grape slipped out from beneath the tines and rolled to the other edge of her plate. She stabbed at it again. Again, it fled from her fork. Alexis looked at Sonny sideways to see if he'd noticed. His smile grew.
"Slippery little suckers." Sonny quipped.
Alexis set down the paper and arched her brow. "You stole that from 'Pretty Woman'."
Sonny reached over, skillfully impaled her grape on his own fork, and held it up before Alexis. She pursed her lips.
He grinned wide. Alexis plucked the grape from his fork with her fingers and popped it into her mouth. Sonny stared as she chewed it with a small smile of satisfaction on her face.
"I believe the proper response would be, 'Thank you'."
"Thank you." Alexis mumbled.
"You're welcome." Sonny picked up his cup from the coffee table. "Ms. Stubborn Grape Chaser."
She sighed as he sipped, and then set her sights - and her aim, on a slice of peach. Sonny's eyes shifted to her plate, and a sweet memory of his mind's fancy swept over him. Alexis's fork halted mid-air as she caught the dimples deepening in his cheeks as he stared at her.
"Nothing. Except...forks can be highly overrated."
His dimples tried but failed to stay hidden. Alexis eyed the piece of peach with suspicion, a sense of déjà vu creeping up on her.
"Hey...you laughed at me a few days ago, when I asked for peaches on my waffles. And you wouldn't tell me why."
Sonny bit his lip, feeling his face burning.
"What's so funny about a peach?" Alexis rhythmically beat the end of the fork on her plate with each word that she spoke. "Spill!"
He unconsciously licked his lips as he set his cappuccino down. He wouldn't tell her - he'd show her. Sonny gently slipped the glassed from her face and set them down on the table. Alexis wrinkled her nose, confused.
"What are you doing?"
He shoved the newspaper from her lap and heard it crackle on its way to the floor.
He captured the slice of peach between his fingers and slid it off the tines.
"Sharing...my private fantasy about you...with you."
He leaned over her, pushing her back against the throw pillows until she was all but prone on the couch. Gravity quickly went to work on the front panels of her silk robe, slipping them apart. Alexis opened her mouth, but Sonny put his finger to her lips.
Sonny took his finger away and turned the slice of peach within his fingers, letting the tip of it hover just above her lips. She laughed lightly and opened her mouth to let him feed her.
"Not yet." He whispered with a shake of his head.
She bit her lip and gaze up at him, waiting for him to continue.
"The day I brought you home from the hospital, I went to the kitchen to make you some lunch while you went upstairs to take a hot bath."
"I was cutting up fruit when you came downstairs, barefoot, wearing that big, fluffy blue robe that looks two sizes to big for you. Your hair was damp, falling over your shoulders in these unruly waves like I'd never seen on before. And your clean, bare face was glowing all pink from the heat and steam of the water. God, you looked beautiful."
"Sonny, I looked like hell."
"No." He said sternly. "You looked beautiful. And you smelled so damn good. I wanted to take you in my arms right then and there and kiss you like there was no tomorrow. But I knew I couldn't take any chances with you - not until you were well and I was sure that knowing the way I felt about you wouldn't hurt or confuse you."
"Shh." His finger returned to her mouth, silencing her. "I forced my eyes away from you and looked down at the half-cut peach in my hand. I focused on the feel of its wet flesh between my fingers, the smell of its sweet, ripe fragrance in my nose...and I imagined the way that it would feel and taste in my mouth. And when I heard you sigh beside me, my imagination took flight."
"What did you imagine?" She murmured.
Sonny touched the tip of the peach to the corner of her mouth and gently drew it across her bottom lip. Her tongue instinctively followed in its trail. He smiled.
"That." He grazed the sweet, sticky fruit over the fullness of her lip once more. "Only it was my tongue doing the licking."
He turned his fantasy into reality, sweeping his tongue across her lip and then kissing her as fully and deeply as didn't dare to do when she stood beside him barefoot, bare faced, wearing an oversized robe and smelling like five kinds of heaven. Alexis ran her fingers through his hair and pulled him closer, moaning as his tongue gently explored and caressed. She tasted of every sweet thing on earth. And he knew that as long as he lived, he would never get his fill of her.
Sonny softened his mouth against hers, letting their kiss come to a slow, sensual end. His hand found her face, stroking the softness of her cheek as he pulled back to look at her flushed face. Her eyes were still closed, lips slightly parted as if she was waiting for him to kiss her again. And the silken robe parted even more, as if it was inviting him to touch her everywhere. And touch her he would - but not just yet. He brought the peach back to her rosy mouth, letting her take just a small bite as she laughed.
Sonny had other plans for the rest of that wanton slice of fruit.
He lifted it away as his lips closed over hers once more. And then, Sonny drew the tip of the wet, sticky slice down the side of her throat. She gasped into his mouth and he smiled, withdrawing from their kiss. He moved down her body, tongue flicking at the starting point of the sweet trail. Alexis's head fell back as she gasped again, her response sending a surge of new tension in his groin. He gave a gentle tug on the loose belt that held the thin silk robe in place, and set her beauty free.
Alexis squirmed beneath him, her fingers raking through his hair as she gave in to desire - hers and his. And everywhere he drew the sticky sweet trail upon her beauty, Sonny's mouth followed, licking and kissing his way to the base of her throat and down the valley between her breasts. Her back arched, body rising up to meet the lips that grazed over her soft swells and the tongue that tickled its way down to the taut plane of her belly.
The unexpected feel of something small and wet landing on her navel opened her eyes in surprise. And then, Alexis felt Sonny's mouth closing down around the same spot...and devouring the slice of peach. She sank back deeper into the sofa cushion as his tongue swirled against her skin. And as her eyes drifted closed again, a thought crossed through her mind. Sonny was right.
Forks were highly overrated.