Buck walked out of the ocean and back onto shore looking around him before going to retrieve his towel to dry off. He couldn't see Gracie anywhere and figured she must have gone for a walk or a run. The swim had completely invigorated him and he felt more energized after hard exercise than fatigued, ready to tackle something more serious. Like going after Elliot and his murderous lifestyle, had to be a main priority.

But at least Gracie had not been tangled up anymore with that lowlife. If they had gone through with the wedding…Buck didn't even want to think about it. He didn't want that for the woman that had always been his best friend let alone the woman he loved…because he had to admit that part of the driving force behind his decision to go and bust up her nuptials had been because even if Elliot had been the patron saint of goodness, Buck didn't want Gracie to marry him.

Oh he felt like a heel for even believing that he had the right to tell her who she could and couldn't marry but these feelings…when had life gotten so complicated? He had thought only a few months ago that he would be entering into marital bliss with his own fiancee but then that wedding had been busted up by a madman and part of him…he had been loath to admit it at the time had almost been relieved. That had bothered him for quite some time because he really believed that despite his playboy lifestyle, he had been the kind of guy to settle down into a more domestic lifestyle with the right woman. And that had been a list of women, right?

Wrong on that one, he admitted to himself. More freely now than he had back then because in the back of his mind he had believed that another woman had staked her place there instead. Probably back when he hadn't been aware of it, when he had been working his way through his infamous Rolodex. The one that Gracie and Ethan and the secretarial pool had joked with him about for the years they had known him. He had bristled sometimes at their banter because it carried a ring of truth to it.

He looked at his watch, nothing was on the schedule but maybe they could go out to dinner or order inside tonight. But the sunlight beckoned so Buck decided to relax some more on the beach hoping Gracie would be returning soon.

Gracie ran down the beach, noticing the calmness of the ocean next to her and the quietness around her. She hadn't really appreciated the peacefulness of her enforced sabbatical until several days had passed. It proved a great environment for thinking and reevaluating her life…which was necessary given that she had nearly married a hit man being none the wiser. Even if she had any suspicions about Elliot, would it have been enough to stop her if Buck hadn't shown up? And her feelings about him, they were all tangled up, because she knew that part of the reason she had gravitated to Elliot in the first place had to do with her feelings about her friend.

Because what did it mean when a woman kissed some man she had known her whole life only a day or so after running out on her own wedding? Seriously, she hadn't even told Elliot she would be leaving; she had just run off in a hail of gunfire, how normal was that?

She didn't need a man, she needed a good therapist.

Running helped smooth out her rough edges in her thinking of why she had been drawn to loser men with homicidal tendencies so much later because who could forget Randy? Seriously the last good boyfriend she had been with had been Bryan and someone else had murdered him, to get at her. The pain from that loss had taken a long time to recede, maybe in some ways it never had completely ebbed away.

She stopped for a moment to grab her breath, wiping her forehead. What good could come out of overanalyzing her relationships with men, when she had to focus on how to extricate herself from one professional killer and his borderline sociopathic sister who had always worried Gracie more than a little bit.

Deciding to head back, she turned around and then she saw her…was that Ivory the neighbor and what was she doing all the way down here? Ivory looked up and smiled at her and Gracie started jogging, reaching her.

"It's a beautiful day," Ivory said, "Great for some exercise."

Gracie wiped her hair out of her face.

"I thought I'd get away from him for a while and let him do some guy things while I enjoyed some time alone."

Ivory nodded knowingly.

"That's good for any relationship," she said, "You've been together long?"

Gracie thought quickly, make it simple, she decided.

"Well it certainly seems that way sometimes but no, this is a new development for both of us."

Ivory smiled.

"He's certainly a looker…not that I'm looking…"

"He wants to marry but we really hadn't known each other long enough," Gracie said, "Besides I don't believe that something like that should be rushed into…"

Since when, Gracie thought feeling like kicking herself but she smiled instead.

"Not that he's not great but we've got to work a few of our idiosyncrasies out first."

Ivory nodded again.

"I can see why that might be important," she said, "so where do you hail from anyway?"

Gracie tried to act all casual.

"Oh L.A…originally but we might be thinking about relocating…I'd love to live near the beach fulltime."

"It's a great place...Though in the winter the weather can be quite harsh, the ocean washes parts of the coastline away and we get landslides sometimes."

"It's like that in Malibu where my boyfriend lives," Gracie said, "We've done our fair share of sandbagging."

Ivory chuckled.

"So been there and done that but on days like this, it's so worth it."

Gracie couldn't argue with that. Maybe she really would move out to a beach community like this one and commute to work…she knew that if the day ever came when she wanted to get married and have a family she didn't want to be living in the city. She wanted clean air and plenty of space for her kids to run around and be happy….like had been the case when she had been growing up. She knew that Buck wanted similar…in fact a bone of contention with him and his fiancée of five minutes had been that she felt drawn to the city life whereas he liked to work in the city but wanted to retreat to a rural lifestyle to get away from the intensity of time spent in L.A.

"So what about you Ivory…what drew you here," she asked.

Ivory beamed.

"Oh my family grew up on a beach near Santa Barbara and I always remember fondly the times we spent paddling in the ocean and collecting sea shells…I wanted to do that as a grownup too."

"I can understand that."

"There's plenty of real estate left," Ivory said, "and it doesn't cost as much money as you might think."

Gracie didn't want to tell Ivory that money was really no object for her or Buck so she just nodded.

"I…we might look into it."

Ivory looked at her watch.

"Well I'd better get going," she said, "I have some ceramics to prepare for the kiln…I do that on the side…through an online store."

"That sounds great…"

Ivory nodded.

"I've got some orders even though I've only been at it a few months."

She waved goodbye and headed down the beach while Gracie started jogging again back to the beachfront in front of the house. As she approached, she saw Buck lying on the towel, but couldn't tell whether he was asleep or just relaxing after his arduous swim. He sure looked fine, his physique definitely accentuated by his swimsuit. She had never told him this but when she dropped by the ranch when he lived there in the morning when he swam his laps, she had been much more impressed by how he looked than she had ever let on. But he probably had been used to women lining up to compliment him on his great looks; she had been used to it as his closest friend.

She approached the towel next to him and sat down, reaching for her water bottle to take a nice long sip. The sun had been quite warm and a hint of humidity from the ocean dampened the air. Buck hoisted himself up on his elbows to look at her.

"Good run?"

She nodded.

"How was your swim?"

He smiled.

"Very energizing…how would you like to go out to dinner tonight or would you like to order in?"

She considered her options.

"I'd like to order in…actually…I think we've been out enough lately."

She reached for some sunscreen and put it on her skin. Buck watched, because she might be his best friend but she sure could fill out a bikini very nicely. She shot him a look catching him at it.

"What are you looking at?"


"I can see that…but it's not as if we haven't seen each other like this thousand of times."

"I know but this is different…"

Yeah it was, she realized because they really had been conducting themselves a bit differently than they had during their friendship. She still remembered when they had kissed but she really shouldn't be thinking about that because everything was just so difficult now, too complicated for those types of feelings to spill over when everything was such a mess.

"I know…and it's just not a good time for that kind of different right now."

Buck sat up and stroked the hair off of her shoulders and she enjoyed it too much to say anything.

"It's all going to work out," he said, "The interview went great this morning and Roy's working hard on his end to help resolve all this."

She sighed.

"It shouldn't be something that had to be resolved," she said, "I really thought I knew what I was doing…but I think I was just trying to avoid reality and that's you…and the fact that it's hard to have feelings for you when your own social life is so complicated."

He moved on to caressing her back, and that felt even better. She really should say something but she just had been through this really stressful week and what he did relaxed her so she didn't feel so badly about it. She almost could believe what he had said, that it would all work out in the end.

But did that include them, because she did want something with him, she just didn't know what or what she could realistically expect from a guy like him.

"I think we could really work together," he said, "if we just take that leap."

What he said made sense but she didn't know if she could do that with him…she felt so nervous about what it would mean…especially if it didn't work out. Could she walk away from him if that's what she had to do?

"I don't know Buck…I don't know if I'm ready to take that leap."

"That's fine…I'm in no rush."

She chuckled at that.

"Oh Buck, you'll be back to L.A. soon enough to your busy life…that most of us can't even keep up with let alone understand how you seem to be on top of it."

"My life's as busy as I want it to be right here."

She sighed.

"At least it's not crazy like mine…between the wedding and hiding out here, I don't even know what I'll be going back to when it's over."

He looked at her.

"Why don't we forget that for a little while and go inside and figure out what to order for dinner," he said, "and keep it simple."

She nodded at his suggestion but inside she told herself that things were about to get anything but simple between them.