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In Name Only

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When is a hostage not a hostage? When she’s a wife.

It was the only compromise they could reach after hours of negotiation, one that struck neither as fair. Monroe would give Miles the milita, and Miles would give him Charlie as collateral. Only they couldn’t afford to undermine their rapprochement. The appearance of unity – of that terrible partnership – was the only thing holding Georgia off.

So, ‘love’ bloomed conveniently in the ruins of Trenton and a cowed Militia preacher said the vows as Bass shoved a heavy gold ring impatiently onto her finger.

He cradled her wrist in one hand, fingers pressed against her pulse, and his skin was warm against hers. It was the first time he’d ever touched her. And it would be the last.

‘Just until this is over,’ Miles promised before he rode away, hugging her until her bones creaked.

‘I know,’ she said. Her knuckles dug into his back as she hugged him back, even though they’d been chasing ‘over’ since Chicago and always seemed to fall short.

People cheered them into Philadelphia, lining the streets and clapping like it was a parade. Charlie looked for militia agitators in the crowd, but there weren’t any. It seemed to be spontaneous.

‘Everyone loves a celebrity wedding,’ Monroe said, watching the crowd with jaded eyes. ‘They’ll get tired of you soon enough.’

‘Good,’ she said.

It was the closest to a civil conversation they’d had since…ever. Charlie didn’t like it. She didn’t like much about Philadelphia. When she’d agreed to this she’d expected marriage to be a diplomatic way of saying imprisonment. The cell would be nicer this time, but the concept would be the same.

Unfortunately no-one had told the people of Philadelphia. They thought it was real; they thought she had some sort of influence. Charlie had a sinking feeling that some of them were expecting the next generation of homicidal dictators.

The thing was, they needed the person they thought she was. Monroe was terrifyingly brittle – dangerous as smashed glass – and someone who loved him could have put the jigsaw pieces together again.

Charlie didn’t love him though, so all she could do was blunder through the field of glass and hope not to cut her feet down to the bone. It sort of worked. He sort of listened. Sometimes. The maids appreciated not having to clean blood of the floor so often.

The first time he came to her bed he was drunk, reeking of cheap whiskey and cordite. He crawled onto the mattress and curled around her, finding the angles of her and tucking himself in. She woke with a flinch, hand clawing under her pillow for her knife.

‘You’re my wife,’ he said, voice rough and thoughtful.

‘Technically,’ she said, voice dry and cracking. ‘Monroe…’

‘I know,’ he said. ‘I’m not that drunk, Charlotte.’

He stayed there though, arm hooked over her hip with casual possession, until she fell asleep. She hadn’t thought she could fall asleep with him there, but after a while the fact he wasn’t doing anything lulled her brain into complacency. In the morning he was gone.