Running To You Chapter 6
Veteran’s Lake –
Derek sat quietly thinking about the first time he had come here. The team had come back from a harrowing case, one where children had been the victims; six teenage boys…he couldn’t get the crime scene photos out of his mind. Even three years later the innocent faces with the dead eyes still haunted him in his sleep. He found himself coming here less and less now that Penelope had taken the place of the forty-five minute drive out of town. She was his solace now and…
Her determined declaration of not loving him still stung, still pressed like a dagger into his heart. His heart had been his last coveted possession even though he wasn’t quite sure if he’d given it to her or she’d cleverly stolen it without him knowing how or when, she now held the deed to it lock, stock and barrel.
Had he been so full of himself, so conceited that he’d imagined something between them that was not there? She didn’t love him. She’d spoken the words yet his foolish heart still didn’t want to believe. Suddenly the room had gotten smaller and his need for air and a way to save what was left of his pride became of utmost priority and so he ran…he had become quite good at running.
BAU Headquarters –
Penelope wanted to go after Derek but she stood stock still trying to deny the last few seconds of her life. Just as she found the strength to move again she rushed toward the door. JJ had not said a word. She’d seen the hurt in Derek’s eyes…and the humiliation. Derek Morgan was a proud man and she knew that the appearance of Penelope’s rejection was something he would not want others to witness. Just as Penelope reached the door, a familiar face appeared in the doorway.
“Boy you really messed things up this time, Chiquita!”
“Aunt Esperia? What are you doing here?”
JJ’s eyes widened as the spunky older woman stepped into the office. Her bright red hair almost glowed around her and JJ understood everything that she had ever wondered about her friend.
“Derek asked me to come back with him, something about having an extra seat…I don’t know but, here I am, little girl!”
Penelope pulled her aunt into her arms and began weeping against her shoulder. It was obvious that Esperia had missed the contact with her niece as she held onto her for dear life. JJ had heard her speak fondly of an aunt in California who’d offered her refuge after her parents’ death.
“I’ve missed you so much.” Penelope cried.
Then pulling away Esperia looked into the desperate eyes of her niece.
“I’ve missed you too but we’ll have to catch up later, you’ve got work to do!”
“Uh…yes, yes, I’ve got to find Derek! I didn’t mean what I said…I was just rehearse…oh never mind…”
“Give him some time, Penelope. Let me tell you he has more issues than you do…I just don’t understand what’s wrong with young people they make everything so hard, ya know?” She said shooting a glance at JJ.
Smiling, JJ shrugged her understanding. Esperia gently took Penelope’s hand and led her out of the office and down the hall.
“So, where’s that hot Italian you work with…he owes me money!”
Mar’s Bistro –
Her call couldn’t have come at a better time. He needed a distraction besides it had been a long time since he’d seen her. There was a time several years ago that he’d thought about dating her but with his job and his inability to trust he didn’t pursue anything beyond friendship with her. Penelope had warned him to be careful and that if he wasn’t ready to fully commit he’d do more harm than good. So, like the countless women in the past he let her go.
The waiter had just brought his second drink when she walked through the door. She was even more beautiful that he remembered. There was something special about her one of the few women who had not pursued him simply for a physical encounter. He stood and hugged her then pulled her seat out for her to sit.
“Wow, it’s been a while.” He began. “You look amazing, Tamara.”
“Why thank you.”
“I was hoping that offer of a drink was still good after all these years.”
“Of course, but it looks like you’ve already gotten a head start.”
She reached across the table and placed her hands on his. She’d often thought of him over the years and wondered what would have happened had they met under different circumstances.
“What’s going on with you, Derek? You don’t look good.”
“Wow, thanks I’ve never had a woman tell me that before.” He teased.
“I’m sure you haven’t and that’s not what I meant. It’s just…you look troubled.”
Without answering, Derek downed his drink and signaled the waiter for another. Tamera frowned she’d never seen him like this but she hadn’t spent much time with him to know him as anything but the man that stood by her during a difficult time in her life.
“You know maybe this was a bad idea. I don’t want you to think…”
“Derek, talk to me.” She began. “When my brother was killed you were there for me. Now, let me be there for you…please.”
Home of Penelope Garcia –
Penelope desperately wanted to talk to Derek but after several calls going straight to voicemail and her aunt’s insistence on giving him time, Penelope invited her aunt back to her place. She wanted to catch up it had been seven years since she’d seen her aunt in person. On the way home, the two women had stopped at the market and now Penelope stood near by as Esperia created an amazing meal for the two of them. Penelope remembered the many meals prepared in her aunt’s tiny kitchen in California. Her food always seemed to take away a little of the sting of grief and took her mind off of her problems. Her surprise visit was right on time.
“So, what’s on the menu?”
“Surf and turf enchiladas with my special pesto cream sauce.”
“Well it smells heavenly but I’m not very hungry.”
“You know my food has magical powers, right?”
“Yes, I do know.”
“Well, I assure you I haven’t lost my touch. So humor this old lady and eat!”
Esperia placed two full plates on the table while Penelope poured them both a glass of mint ice tea. For the first several minutes the two ate in silence enjoying every bite of the steak and shrimp stuffed enchiladas.
“OMG! This is amazing!”
“Thank you, I’m glad you like it.”
Penelope finished the last bite and blissfully leaned back in her chair. For a moment she was able to forget about the mess she’d created of her life.
“So do you love him?”
“Because if you don’t, release him…give him back his heart…let him go.”
“Don’t Tia me! It’s Aunt Esperia to you right now, little girl!”
“Okay, fine and yes, I love him!”
“Then why do you keep running from him? Have you seen him?”
“Yes, I have…he’s gorgeous, he’s hot! He’s…”
“Yes, of course he’s all of those things but that’s not what I mean.”
“Have you seen him? Don’t you see how his heart beats for you? He’s given you his heart and placed it in your hands…he trusts you, Penelope! Whatever you do, don’t drop his heart because beyond all those muscles and…and delicious looking abs…he is very fragile, do you understand that?”
Penelope looked down at her empty plate and when she looked up again tears were streaming down her face.
“I hurt him so bad, so, so bad.”
Esperia reached across the table and grabbed her niece’s hands.
“Listen to me and listen good. You’ve got to stop running away from him because every time you run you’re taking his heart with you and no one can live without a heart.”
Penelope wiped a tear from her face and continued to listen as her aunt spoke. This was the woman who’d pulled her through so many dark days before she headed out on her own. Without her she would have been lost forever. She had rescued her then and she was rescuing her now.
“So how do I fix this?”
“You find the courage to love him, without fear and without trying to figure out the why’s of the matter. This time you need to run to him…He needs his heart back. You Penelope, you are his heart!”
Home of Tamara Barnes –
He was a mess. Between his past, his job and now his feelings for Penelope, Derek Morgan was hurting. She wanted to be the one to heal him…to save him but she was a realist. She was much too late to do either of those things but for the meantime she would do what she could for him. He’d been her hero and even now after so many years she knew he’d come running to her rescue if she called. So, pulling the comforter over his exhausted sleeping body, Tamara picked up his phone from the table and quietly headed out of the room into the kitchen.
Penelope and Esperia were putting away the last of the dishes when her phone rang. Both women looked at each with hopeful expectation as Derek’s face flashed across the screen. With a shaky hand Penelope picked up the phone and answered.
“Who are you? Why are you calling on Derek’s phone?”
“This is Tamara, Tamara Barnes…it’s been a while.”