12 ~ Felix

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Felix stood in front of the mirror, assessing the level of embarrassment she would face when she left the bathroom. The bikini Mrs. Clark offered wasn't exactly the type Felix would have chosen for herself. Beggars can't be choosers and all that. Sure, the size was right, and the halter style was acceptably old school. It was the Barney purple background with yellow umbrellas that made her look like a cartoon character. Did the woman buy her swimwear from minions?

Mrs. Clark was ready with ice tea and questions when Felix entered the kitchen, paying no attention to her purple state of dress.

"So, Felicity, I hope Ryan has behaved himself while you've been staying with him. Sometimes he lets his work persona slip into his personal life. He really is a sweet boy."

Mrs. Clark did a terrible job of seguing into a subject. Felix remembered that about her, but she didn't make a blatant display of checking out Felix's tattoos as she talked. The sugar skull could be interpreted as disturbing. Was the woman too freaked out to mention them? Her tats were a big reason Felix had come out of her shell.

"Yes, Mrs. Clark. Ryan is very sweet. And you can call me Felix. Everyone calls me Felix now."

"Oh, that's cute. Like Felix the cat, but you probably aren't familiar with him. He was before your time. How's your family? Is everyone well?"

Felix plastered a smile on her face, although she felt like her stomach had been punched. "Everyone is well, thank you. Ryan tells me Todd is a father. I'm sure you're happy about being a grandmother."

Mrs. Clark's shoulders slumped enough for Felix to notice. "I love being a grandmother, I just wish my grandkids didn't live so far away. They're in Seattle."

Felix nodded, sensing the woman's angst. Who wouldn't want to keep family nearby? "At least it's easier to keep in touch with people now that we have computers and smartphones."

Ryan walked into the room, and Mrs. Clark made a hasty retreat to the counter to pour him a glass of tea, dropping the uncomfortable topic. Felix could have kissed the guy for his well-timed entrance. Ryan had the kind of lips you'd want to kiss, and he was built like a slab of granite. Felix had seen her boyfriend's bare chest plenty of times, but Andy had the physique of a scarecrow. Ryan's hip-hugging swim shorts didn't even pose a distraction, not with those pecs winking at her.

"That's a good look for you, Felix. Biker chick meets My Little Pony." Ryan gave Felix's body an unabashed scan as his lips lifted into a crooked smile. Those damnable lips.

She bit back her smartass reply as Mrs. Clark handed Ryan his tea. "I think Felix looks lovely in that suit. Purple is your color, dear. Why don't you two head out to the deck and hop in the Jacuzzi."

Despite the ninety degree temps outside, the water in the hot tub absorbed all the tension in Felix's cramped muscles, providing instant relief. She appreciated that Ryan didn't feel the need to talk, and they spent the first five minutes relaxing with their eyes closed. Felix reached for her glass at the same time Ryan did, and they shared a grin as they drank.

"I hope my mom wasn't interrogating you. She's been bombarding me with texts about your wellbeing. She's a worry wart." Ryan dragged his wet fingers through his hair. The result made him look like a lost boy.

"She's acting like a typical mom, and she didn't ask me anything too personal, although I think she's a little freaked out by my tattoos."

"I don't think she's freaked out by them, I think she's surprised to see them on you. I have to admit, I was surprised too. We all remember you as the shy girl next door. I don't think any of us expected you to get seriously inked."

"Well, you know what they say. You can't stop at just one." She smiled across the tub, recalling the day she came home with her first tattoo. Her parents thought she had done it under the effects of psychedelic drugs and threatened an intervention.

"What about the Harley? When did you start riding?"

"You're going to think this is cliché, but I bought my first bike after my first tattoo. In addition to his career in the inking arts, my friend, Rusty, rides bikes."

"Rusty? Ironic name for a tattoo artist."

Felix chuckled. "He always gets razzed for it."

"So, how long has it been since you've seen your family, Felix?"

Ryan managed to choose the least appropriate topic for a relaxing hot tub experience, but Felix refused to believe his interrogation was premeditated and let him off the hook.

"I met my mom and dad for lunch about eight months ago, but I had to jump through about a million hoops to manage it. I haven't seen my sister in almost two years. She lives in northern Montana. They all think I'm still living in Cambridge."

"Does your boyfriend know where your parents live?"

Cripes. What was this, the Spanish Inquisition? Was it too much to want to sip iced tea and soak in a hot tub with a hot guy? "He visited them once, back when we started dating. I doubt he could find the place again."

Ryan stopped his rapid fire questioning and breathed into his glass before taking a drink. "I can tell you're uncomfortable with these questions, Felix, but if you want my help, I need to have an idea what's going on."

"I know. I figured it would come up eventually, just not while I was sitting in a hot tub trying to take my mind off things. That is what you promised, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is." Ryan lifted his glass in a show of surrender. "Why don't you pick a topic?"

The first topic that came to Felix was nude hot tubbing and how to subtly introduce it into the conversation. Should she be thinking about another man's dick so soon after dumping Andy? Had she dumped Andy? By the time she had redirected her mind to an appropriate subject, Ryan's cell phone rang, Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith, which bumped up his cool factor. Not that he needed it.

Ryan scowled as he looked at the screen. "Damn. I need to answer this. Hold whatever thought you had in that pretty head. I'll be back in a flash. Agent Clark, here. How can I help you, Officer Fulton?"

As Ryan stepped out of the hot tub, Felix's mind was at it again, picturing him flashing her as he toweled off. She reclined against the fiberglass, pretending not to be interested in his conversation as she strained to listen.

"Alabama? Why can't the feds down there handle it?"

Felix watched Ryan pace through the perfectly manicured lawn, his back glistening as droplets of water ran down his spine to the top of his shorts. The baggy nature of swim shorts didn't define men's assets very well, but she knew what was there. She had seen him in jeans.

"I wasn't planning to," he went on, a grimace adding lines to his handsome face. "How soon do you need me down there? Fine, but I don't want to fly. I'll take my car. I'll leave the paperwork with Harris. Yeah, no problem."

Ryan hung up the phone and slipped back into the water while Felix waited for him to get comfortable, feigning interest in a succulent plant on the pool deck. She didn't think it was appropriate to ask about the call, which was clearly work-related. After staring into the chlorinated bubbles for a few minutes, Ryan caught her eye, and she let him dissect her across the hot tub.

"So, Felix. Have you ever been to Alabama?"

PLAYLIST SONG: Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith

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