saga/title/fandom: Adagio chapter 9 (A Man Apart)

author: Rae/Celtia/Celtiareborn

rating/genre: (NC-17) - Romance/Crime Drama

warnings: het, language, violence, and graphic sexual content

summary: Officer Sean Vetter, formerly of the DEA, tries to rebuild his life in Chicago after losing his wife in a botched assassination attempt on his own life. Joining the Chicago Special Tactics Unit, Vetterís bitterness toward life and sullen determination not to care for anyone makes him a nightmare of potential partners, until a stubborn Irish woman named Kate Shea decides she isnít going to let Vetter chase her away Ė from his career or his life. (Sean/OFC)

comments/disclaimers: My summary and first chapter pretty well give away the plot of the movie, so if you haven't seen it yet you might want to wait to read this until you have. FEEDBACK: Two conditions: Please talk to me, not at me; Please do not rewrite my stuff and send it to me the way you would do it. Otherwise have at it. Thanks. ARCHIVE: A qualified yes Ė I would not like the story to appear anywhere else without the person discussing it with me first. NOTES: The story does involve a stalker. Also, there is some violence stemming from Vetter and Kateís jobs as undercover officers. NOTE II: There is some Russian used in the story but I try to explain it unless it explains itself.

CHAPTER NINE

Kate stared at Kafelnikovís house. Brie did a nice job with it. Three stories, a tasteful brick and stone structure with a medieval feel and a huge sloping lawn enclosed by an ornate wrought iron gate. She observed a security camera at the top of the gate and another hovering over the doorstep. Save for an over-reliance on surveillance technology, Grigori Kafelnikov lived in an extremely welcoming home.

She peered up the street. Edwards and Monaghan waited in their black van beneath the protective shadows of a quivering oak tree. She searched for a sign of Vetter. He promised not to show up near the house but she knew in her heart that he would not honor his vow. She felt an odd comfort in that. Byron would have done the same thing.

She took a final preen check in the rearview mirror of the Hyundai. Not bad. She wore blue slacks, a soft blue cotton shirt and a dark blue blazer that revealed her shoulder holster and weapon strapped firmly to her body. She let her hair hang down behind a blue headband and her makeup was minimal. Overall she thought she struck the right note of cop and woman.

Kafelnikovís voice was as pleasant as it had been over the phone as he said he would unlock the gate for her. A buzzer sounded and the gate slowly drew back to admit her, closing after her the moment she passed through it. She felt suddenly that she was caught in a horror movie, about to walk up to the one house she should never go to. She didnít like the feeling but forced herself to ignore it.

Kafelnikov answered the door personally. He wore tapered jeans and a pullover sweater of green and white, the yarn almost inviting her to touch it with its obvious softness. His body shone a smooth mixture of sleek muscle and sinew. His build differed from Vetterís but in its own way it was quite attractive. This was a handsome man, she suddenly realized. Somehow that fact had previously escaped her attention.

"Katya!" he cried joyously at the sight of her.

"Katya?"

"Forgive me, but I feel that alll truly beautiful women should have Russian names. Come in."

He stepped aside so she could enter. She did so, making certain that the front of her blazer did not obscure her shoulder holster. A quick look around the living room revealed an exquisitely furnished suite of blue and gold. The furniture, the carpeting, the wallpaper all matched perfectly, weaving a spell of designed perfection around her. She noticed a collection of Fabergeí eggs on the shelves on the wall. Real Fabergeí eggs, not the kind Romanov wannabes ordered from tacky catalogues. She had trouble taking her eyes off them.

"Your house is beautiful," she remarked.

"You can thank your ex-husband for that. Not only did he design a wonderful home, but he gave me numerous ideas on decorating and landscaping. Heís quite a talented architect. May I get you a drink?" he asked.

"No, thank you. Iím on call so I have to stay on track," she answered.

"Of course. Perhaps a soda then or some tonic water?"

"A soda would be good. Whatever you have will be fine."

He spoke in Russian into the intercom on the living room wall. Kate pretended she did not understand what he said. He invited her to sit down and she took a place on one of the plush sofas, sinking into the blue velvet. He sat across from her in a wingback chair, close enough to hear whatever she might say but far enough away to be respectful. His smile could have lit the skies over St. Petersburg.

"Iím so glad you accepted my invitation," he said, nodding to the maid who brought her soda and his vodka. "I was afraid you might think I was some sort of lunatic calling you out of nowhere to ask you to dinner."

"I know lunatics," she replied. "I havenít seen you at any of the union meetings."

He laughed. "You have a delightful sense of humor. You must call me Grigori. I feel already that we are becoming friends."

"Grigori. The newspaper picture used my maiden name. If we never met before, how did you know that I was Brieís wife?"

"I can see why you are a detective. I must confess another thing to you, Katya: I remembered your picture from nearly eight years ago when I went to Mr. Quinnís office. Youíve hardly changed at all, so when I saw your photograph yesterday I knew right away who you were," he said.

Kate felt a strange sensation overtake her. She did not know whether to be flattered or alarmed by Kafelnikovís confession. She considered a man remembering her picture for a period of eight years to be bizarre if not outright impossible. Then again, if Kafelnikov had remembered her over all that time it was certainly something not a lot of women could boast about.

"Surely you donít mean that," she finally said.

"Of course I do. I found you extremely beautiful when I saw that photograph so long ago, the type of woman I never forget. You must understand Russians: weíre terrible romantics. Weíre all poets deep in our souls so weíre constantly embarrassing ourselves by falling in love with unobtainable women," he said.

"But Iím not unobtainable now. I should think Iíd prove far less interesting to a man like you since Iím no longer someone elseís wife," she commented.

"Quite the contrary. Tell me: do you know my profession?"

Kate did not know how to respond to the question except to say, "I read something about you being an industrialist in the Chamber of Commerce directory."

"That is a generic term for a lot of men with money. I am a dealer in rare antiquities. I import and export precious objects all over the world. That means I have access to all sorts of unusual items," he said.

"Really."

"Yes. In fact, if you will permit me I should like to show you something I doubt youíve ever seen before. Stay here a moment, Katya."

He excused himself and disappeared through a set of French doors. Kate took a deep breath. Oh, shit, here we go; heís going to bring out the coke, she thought. If he did indeed bring out cocaine she would have to bust him. Heíd expect her to Ė if she didnít he would either think she was corrupt or letting him go so she could catch him with his hand in a bigger cookie jar. Either way the investigation into his arms dealing would be in jeopardy.

He returned a few minutes later holding a small red velvet box. He asked if he could sit beside her to show her what was inside. She nodded. He sat next to her and held the box so she could see it clearly in the soft pearl light from the lamp next to the couch. What she observed as the lid came up stole her breath from her.

She had never seen such perfect jewels before. A set of ruby earrings encrusted with delicate diamonds gleamed in the lampís glow, their teardrop shape somehow making the gems seem even more exquisite. He gave her the box.

"I would like you to have these," he said.

"I canít, Grigori," she said. "My god, we donít even know each other."

"Nonsense. Russians believe in the connection of the soul and for that the amount of time you have known someone is of no consequence. Besides, in a way Iíve already known you eight years so you shouldnít be shy about accepting a gift from me," he said.

She closed the lid and gently pushed the box back into his hand. "Itís a very generous offer but really, I canít take the earrings. I would feel like I was taking advantage of you. Please understand."

A smile spread across his face. "How rare to meet a woman with principles where jewels are concerned," he announced. "All right, Katya, I will keep these for you until you feel you know me well enough to accept them. I hope you will permit me to serve you a fine Russian dinner, though."

"Iím looking forward to it. Iíve never had Russian food before, and I always enjoy trying new things."

Kafelnikov seemed taken with the last idea she just voiced. He arose and offered his arm to her. She took it awkwardly, feeling as if she were caught in the pages of a Tolstoy novel. He escorted her into the dining room.

Kate did not know as she dressed for the date that she was to have dinner with the Czar: if she had she would have worn something a bit more appropriate. The table could easily seat fifty but was set only for two. A pair of place settings of delicate white china trimmed in real gold waited at the head of the table and the chair immediately beside it. The wine glasses, made from heavy cut crystal, gleamed beneath the soft light of ten candelabra that formed a line down the center of the table. A full staff of butlers and maids waited silently at attention along the wall.

"Youíve gone to too much trouble," she said as she gazed in awe at the table.

"For you? Never. Sit, please."

He held out the second chair. She eased into it. He sat down at the head of the table and nodded. Immediately one maid and one butler came to stand next to him. He spoke to them in Russian Ė once more Kate pretended not to understand Ė and they hurried off to the kitchen.

"Do you like caviar?" he asked.

"Iíve never had any."

"Then you must try some. This is the finest in Russia. I had it sent in fresh after I spoke with you yesterday."

"May I ask you a personal question, Grigori?"

"Certainly."

"How old are you?"

"Thirty-one."

"Iím going to be forty in a week or so. Iím thinking that you didnít realize my age," she said.

"Your age does not matter to me. A beautiful woman is a beautiful woman," he told her.

"Thatís about the fourth time youíve called me beautiful. Iím not sure Iím comfortable with it."

"Why?"

"Because thatís not how I think of myself."

"Perhaps you should. The one thing I find disturbing about American career women is their tendency to deny the fact that first and foremost they are indeed women. Having a profession changes nothing about what happens between the sexes," he stated.

"Youíre extraordinarily naÔve if you really believe that," she said. "Everything that happens to men and women changes them, and usually not for the better."

"That is the ex-wife in you talking. Put her aside for tonight, Katya, please. While I am with you I want you to believe in romance again," he said, smiling.

She sat still for a moment, then suddenly arose. "Iím sorry, I canít stay here," she said. "Thank you for a very pleasant talk."

She rushed through the French doors. Kafelnikov ran after her, reaching her just before she opened the front door.

"Katya, what is wrong?" he asked frantically.

"Iím not looking for romance, Grigori. I donít want it and I donít need it. I came to have dinner with you because I was flattered by the fact that you would call me up merely after seeing a photograph of me but I realize now that Iím just wasting your time. I shouldnít have come," she said.

"I rushed you. Forgive me. Itís been a long time since I enjoyed an evening with a woman and I got carried away." He reached for her hand as she raised it to the door handle. "I warned you that Russian men are incorrigible romantics. Take what I say in the proper context."

She felt the warmth of his skin against hers. She tried to open the door but could not bring herself to do so.

Outside in the surveillance van Monaghan was dealing with a very nervous Vetter over the radio.

"The son-of-a-bitch wonít let her out," Vetter said. "We need to get in there now."

"Donít panic, Vetter. Give us a minute to see what happens," Monaghan replied.

"You can see the two of them as well as I can. She needs backup."

"Shea knows how to handle herself and she has her piece. Calm down and give her some time to deal with him."

Vetter angrily slammed down the radio mike. He watched Kate and Kafelnikov standing at the door, saw the Russian holding her hand so she could not leave. Just as he was about to get out of his truck he saw Kate release the door handle and follow Kafelnikov back inside.

"Dammit!" he cried, hitting his fist into the windshield.

This time when Kafelnikov escorted Kate to the dining room he did so much more in control of himself. Again he pulled out her chair for her. The Russian servants magically appeared bearing a shining silver tray of caviar and fresh salmon and another with assorted cheeses.

"Help yourself, Katya," Kafelnikov said. "I promise not to interfere."

Kate studied him closely. He did not seem to be coked up. Yes, he was excited, maybe even a little on the manic side, but she saw no signs of drug abuse when she looked at him. Certainly if heíd done as much coke as everyone said the effects on his body chemistry could be residual. She just didnít feel like he was high. Maybe he was like this when he wasnít stoned.

"All right," she said.

Kate waited nervously for Vetter out in front of the precinct. She knew he was at Kafelnikovís house despite his promise to stay away. Not that he made any attempt to hide his sin of commission. As soon as his truck drew up to the curb she got inside and he asked, "What the hell was that shit at the door about?"

"Grigori got a little out of line so I decided I would leave. He persuaded me to stay," she admitted.

"What did he do?" Vetterís anger was palpable.

"Not what youíre thinking. He asked me to believe in romance when I was with him and I freaked. I just couldnít deal with the idea of a romantic involvement. But he apologized and explained that he hadnít spent an evening with a woman in quite a while so he got a little over excited," she said. "Actually, he ended up being a perfect gentleman. I couldnít have asked for a more considerate date."

He stared at her, disbelieving. "You sound like you actually want to see this guy again," he said.

"Heís very charming, Vetter. Heís educated and has wonderful manners. Itís been a while since anyone showed me that kind of attention," she said, adding, "Look, I havenít been on a date for a couple of decades and I admit that I enjoyed being doted on by a good looking man. Donít worry. Iím not picking out china patterns."

He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel in an effort to control his agitation. "What kind of a sweeper did he use?" he asked.

"None. I couldnít believe it. I kept waiting for him to find some kind of excuse to get near me long enough to check me out but he didnít. I donít get it."

"Did you learn anything valuable?"

"Iím not sure. He mentioned that his father came over from Moscow when he was twenty with a couple of other businessmen whoíve made it in Chicago. It occurred to me that those businessmen might be Molokov, Chiuk, and Ovsyannikov and that Grigoriís father might be the key to what he has on them," she said.

"Grigori?"

"We were having dinner together. I was hardly going to call him Mr. Kafelnikov all night."

"So what could the connection be?"

"I have no idea. Itís just a hunch. Grigoriís father would be in that age range, 55 or so, if he were still alive. Iíll bet if we dig around weíll find out that he was a friend to all three of them and that they came to America at about the same time," she predicted. She sensed that he was still upset and looked over at him. "Are you still taking Katie and me out for dinner tomorrow?" she asked.

"Of course I am. I promised."

"Donít do it because you gave your word. Do it because you want to, Vetter. If itís just an obligation to you my daughter and I will be quite happy to spend the evening curled up together reading a book."

"Hey, whatís that tone for?" he asked.

She closed her eyes. "I guess Iím wondering if maybe you were right about my spending time with Grigori. Iím not pissed at you; Iím pissed at myself," she confessed.

"About what?"

"About the fact that I like him. Jesus, I thought I was beyond all that "look at me Iím the princess" shit. I spent three hours being wined and dined by a coke addicted arms dealer and now I catch myself thinking that heís a pretty good date. What a pathetic spectacle my personal life has become." She banged her fist into the dash.

"Every woman likes a little attention," he said, in a voice more gentle than she expected. "Women need that sort of thing."

She managed a small smile. "Men donít."

"I didnít say that. Shea, I know you took a hell of a risk tonight and I admire you for it. You could have run straight into a viperís nest in that house but you went in anyway. You did your job and now you can tell yourself you met the challenge," he told her.

"Iím not done meeting it. At least I may not be. Grigori asked me to the opera."

"Tell me youíre not going."

"I didnít say. I told him he Iíd call him Saturday morning and give him an answer."

"But youíll have Katie."

"The opera isnít until Tuesday evening. Am I crazy, Vetter? Iím willing to go out with a Russian arms dealer just to get evidence enough to bust him and lock him up for twenty yearsÖ" She stopped, tilted her head back against the seat. "Thatís bullshit. The hell with the job. This is all for me."

She clearly hated the confession but felt compelled to make it. Vetter gazed at her for a long moment, weighing his words, seemingly somewhat afraid to speak at all.

"People get lonely," he finally said. "Thereís no way to stop it. It just happens when youíre by yourself for a long time. Youíre no different that anybody else in that regard."

"Am I different from you?" she asked.

He shrugged. "I got past needing anyone a long time ago. So you havenít. Donít think youíre some kind of freak because of it. Just realize where your attraction to Kafelnikov is coming from. Use your head," he said.

She thought hard on his words. "I think Iím not the opera type," she announced.


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