“What do you want, Robert?” Anna said when she caught sight of his cheesy grin on her doorstep.
“Nice to see you too, Anna,” Robert said. “I haven’t heard from you in a few days. I thought I’d come by and check on you.”
Anna rolled her eyes. “Here I am,” she said dryly.
“So I see. Are you gonna let me in?”
She stepped aside, signaling her resignation with an over-exaggerated sweep of her hand.
He preceded her into the parlor and eyed the half empty glass of scotch on the coffee table. “Ah ha. Having a nightcap, I see,” he said, still smiling. “Or two,” he added as he noted her slightly off-kilter swagger.
“What of it?” she said. She flopped down onto the sofa and reached for the glass.
“All right,” he said. He took a seat next to her. “Let’s have it.”
Anna took a drink and shook her head slowly. “Have what, Robert? Why are you here? I’m in no mood for business right now.”
“I’m not here on business. I’m here for you, Anna. Talk to me.”
Anna groaned and stood. She walked across the room, barely side-stepping the coffee table in her affected state. “Thank you, Robert. But really…”
“Really… I appreciate you coming by. But frankly, I’ve made a mess of my life and I’m content to wallow in my own self-pity for just a few hours, so… you don’t have to stay. I mean, I’m sure you have plenty of other things… other people… to attend to that are more important than I am.”
“What? Come on, now, Anna. That’s gotta be the booze talking. Because it sure as hell isn’t my Anna.”
“That’s the point, Robert. I’m not your Anna, am I? I’m not really anyone’s Anna anymore. Maybe not even my own. The things I’ve done…”
By that time, Robert was on his feet closing the space between them. When he reached her, he took her glass and set it back on the table. Then he took each of her hands in his so she couldn’t just walk away and said, “Hey, what’s going on? What have I missed?”
Anna pressed her lips together and batted her lashes as her eyes began to sparkle with tears.
“Is this about Finn?”
Her face crinkled as she gave a slow nod. “Finn, Peter, everything. It’s all my fault, Robert.”
“Oh, Anna,” Robert whispered. He pulled her into his arms and held her tightly as all the anguish she’d kept locked inside came pouring out onto his strong shoulder.
Once Anna’s tidal wave of emotion had finally subsided, Robert ushered her to back to the sofa and sat next to her. She shared all that had happened since she’d last seen him: the episode with Peter, Chase’s unfortunate illness, Finn’s decision to call it quits, and his blow-up at the hospital.
Robert was quiet for a moment, before asking, “Can I say something?”
Anna gave a sad laugh. “Have I ever been able to stop you?”
“Not really,” he chuckled. He turned to face her. “Look, Finn’s a good guy. And I know you care about him. It’s only natural that you would be upset about losing him. But since when is Anna Devane the kind of woman who judges her self-worth based on what any man thinks of her?”
“Are you forgetting I was the type of woman who gave herself penance for what she did to you?”
Robert sighed and reached out to wipe a straggling tear from her cheek. “That’s ancient history, love. Water under the bridge. We agreed to let all of that go a thousand years ago, remember?
Anna swallowed and smiled, but the sadness in her eyes remained.
Robert continued. “Now, Finn’s worried right now. He’s upset. But what’s happened to Chase is no more your fault than what happened to Tiffany when Faison poisoned her. Just because Heinrik is his father’s son, that has nothing to do with you.”
“But I protected him, Robert. All because I wanted to believe that he was a better man.”
“All right, so… you’re a brilliant spy who—”
“Yes, brilliant,” he smiled. “And you have a history of trying to find the good in people. Duke, Heinrik, and that other husband of yours…Hayward. Occasionally that soft spot slows wheels of justice.”
“Not exactly a virtue in our line of work,” she pointed out.
“No. But it is one of your virtues.”
She tilted her head at him.
“Your romantic side—that compassionate, forgiving heart—is what makes you an incredible mother, and wonderful grandmother, an amazing partner, and by far, the most remarkable woman I have ever known.
Her lips curved just enough to make a genuinely coy smile and Robert smiled inwardly at the pale blush that rose in her cheeks.
“Thanks,” she said. “But… Finn does make a point, you know. If I hadn’t protected Peter, if I hadn’t done what I did, maybe we’d have found something sooner.”
“What you did?”
She nodded and looked at the floor.
“You mean the evidence you withheld from the file?” It was more of a statement than a question.
Anna looked up at him. “You knew about that?”
It was Robert’s turn to nod.
“I can’t imagine you or the Bureau is too pleased about that.” She reached for her glass again.
Robert stood walked to the window. Without turning around, he said, “The Bureau knows nothing about that. They never even knew you had the file.”
He faced her again, his hands clasped in front of himself. “Because the file I gave you was a duplicate file.”
Robert shrugged and brought a nervous hand to his chin. “Well, let’s just say I had a feeling you might be… conflicted. I thought it was better to take precautions.”
Anna threw back the last ounce of scotch and put the glass down on the table with a loud clink. “Why do you do that?”
“Protect me. Compromise yourself for me. You shouldn’t have to do that!” She fell back against the sofa with melodramatic flair.
“Anna, you and I have lived our lives outside the lines, working around the system to get the desired results. All in the name of justice. And we’ve always had each other’s backs.”
“I tampered with evidence, Robert.”
“Yeah. You did. You had your own idea of justice. And it’s no secret that I didn’t agree with you.”
“But you covered my tracks.”
“Just until you came to your senses,” he smiled. “Besides, look, all I did was allow all parties to conduct their own investigations. And even with all the evidence at their disposal, the WSB wasn’t able to turn up the goods on Heinrik. He covered his tracks too well. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a man on the inside at the Bureau.”
“You think so?”
“We had too many leads that turned out to be dead ends for it to be just coincidence.”
“Right! So, how are we ever going to get this guy?”
“Listen, we dealt with Faison enough times. If we could figure him out, we can figure out Heinrik the Copycat Kid.”
Anna couldn’t help but laugh at that. When he took a seat next to her again, she instinctively leaned into him and laid her head on his chest. She slid an arm around his waist, and his arms enveloped her. In that moment she felt more like herself than she had in weeks. She felt comforted. She hadn’t realized until that moment how much she’d truly needed a friend. Jordan had checked in. Felicia had called a time or two. Valentin, in his own way, had been there too. But each of them had their own problems to deal with and she’d been hesitant to let them in, hesitant to burden them. Now, here was Robert. Somehow, after all the time they’d spent apart, he still knew her, understood her in ways that no one else ever had. He was there for her just as he always had been. It seemed almost too good, too easy to be true.
“You really are one of the good guys, Robert Scorpio,” she said, giving him a squeeze.
“Oh, gosh!” he said. And even though she couldn’t see his face, Anna heard the goofy smile in his voice. She felt the love in his embrace and in the gentle kiss that landed on the top of her head.
She sat up to look at him. “Have a drink with me?”
“Do you think you really need another?” he asked. But it took very little to convince him.
* * *
Several hours later, with several drinks and Chinese takeout between them, Robert leaned forward to place his empty glass on the table.
“I should get going,” he said. Though, he wasn’t sure exactly how he was going to get back to his place. Anna had had a considerable head start on the scotch and he’d pretty much caught up with her.
“Unless you want to stay,” she said.
She’d actually surprised herself when she said it. But the look on Robert’s face, and maybe the scotch, made her laugh out loud.
“Tonight? You’re joking!” he coughed.
She wasn’t joking. They’d just spent hours talking, plotting, planning, picking each other’s brains. Just like old times. Her evening had begun with tears and despair, but was ending with hope, laughter, and a plan. And whether it was the nostalgia, or again… the scotch, she wasn’t ready for it to end.
Still laughing at his shocked visage, she tried to clarify. “I’m not asking you to have sex with me, Robert!”
“I didn’t think so!” he said, as if he weren’t secretly hoping. He was a man, after all. And she was… well, she was Anna Devane. Who could blame him?
“No! Please,” Anna said. “I don’t think either one of us could manage that at this point.”
“You don’t think?” He sat up straighter and puffed out his chest, which only made her laugh harder.
“No!” she squealed. “But let’s face it, you’re not in any shape to drive home either.
“You got me there!”
“So… stay. It’s a big house.”
He tossed his hands up. “Why not?”
“Good!” she said playfully, refusing to acknowledge how desperately she’d wanted him to say yes.
She wouldn’t say it out loud, but she had missed him. Oh, he drove her crazy. He could be arrogant, and annoying and he always had to be right. But that also translated into strong, confident, and able to fix any problem. And right now, that was just what she needed.
“What time is it?” she asked.
He checked his phone. “Almost midnight.”
“That means it’s nine in California. Let’s facetime Robin and Patrick. Maybe the kids are still up! Come on!” She grabbed him by the hand and together they stumbled up the stairs in search of the iPad.
Needless to say, Robin was a little bit surprised when she answered the call to find her parents, both inebriated, calling from her mother’s bedroom. But only a little bit. Their grandchildren—Emma in particular—found their grandparents’ giddy moods very amusing, to say the least.
By the time Robert and Anna had wished Emma and Noah good night and caught up with Robin and Patrick, it was after one in the morning. Anna closed the iPad cover with a yawn and tossed to the foot of the bed with Robert’s discarded jacket and tie.
She stood up just long enough to stretch and pull back the covers, then crawled under them, still fully clothed.
“Are you gonna sleep like that?” Robert asked with a yawn.
“Mmm hmm, mostly.”
He gave her the side-eye as she wiggled around under the covers, finally producing her skirt and dropping it off the side of the bed.
“I guess I should find the guest room,” he said.
“Or just stay here,” she said sleepily. She rolled onto her side and wound the blanket around herself.
Robert raised an eyebrow and shrugged. Then, he too rolled over and, without a second thought, wrapped his body around the bundle of blankets lying next to him.
“Just for tonight,” he reminded himself. He’d meant to say it in his head. He thought, in fact, that he had. But a moment later, he wasn’t so sure.
“Just for tonight,” Anna murmured, half asleep. “Or… for… ever…”