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Between Strangers - Among Friends

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“That’s it?” Rose asked. She was bent at the waist, hands on her knees staring into a tiny little crevice next to the berth on Rory’s boat. She turned and gave him a look that made him feel ridiculous. It was the same look Sally often gave him.

Those two are going to get along just fine, he mused.

Keeping her eyes on the crevice, Rose stuck her hand out behind her. “Give me a Kleenex,” she told Rory.

Rory handed her a tissue. “What are you going to –”


“Uhh, that’s disgusting,” Rory complained.

“So long, Fred. It was nice knowing you.” Rose shook her head and smirked up at Rory, her eyebrow arched high.

“What?” He shrugged suddenly acting all innocent.

“That was not a spider,” Rose declared. “That was a poppyseed with legs.”

Rose came back out to the galley and sat on Rory’s knee at the banquette table. She wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled. Rose could feel Rory’s hands on her back, always caressing, always warm and protective.

“How is it that a man like you is afraid of spiders?” she asked. There was no teasing or sarcasm in her voice, only genuine interest.

“Aren’t you afraid of anything?” he asked softly.

Rose wanted to avoid answering the question and instead succumb to the arousal she was feeling. She wanted to drag him into the berth, not talk, not have deep discussions about their future, and not face the decisions they were going to have to make. Rose felt like a succubus, luring Rory to his demise, dismissing the maturity and responsibility that would bring their relationship to a place that would actually allow it to last.

Of course she was afraid of something. Rose was afraid of finding out that they each wanted something different. She was afraid of not finding a compromise to their schedules, always flying off in different directions and never being together. Rose was afraid that their career aspirations would get in the way of their feelings for each other.

“Rose?” Rory rubbed his hands up and down Rose’s arms. She couldn’t imagine that she might be cold, but she was shivering.

“I’m afraid of losing …” she eventually whispered.

“Losing what?”

“Losing you. Losing everything I’ve worked so hard for over the past year.”

Rory shook his head. “I don’t understand. Why do you think you would lose me?”

Rose stood up and sat across the table from Rory. He reached across and took Rose’s hands in his and held on tightly so that she couldn’t withdraw from him.

“Game of Thrones is over,” Rose said, looking down at the table. “You have to find your next job now. Where will that take you? And where will I be in the meantime? From what Cairn Group has indicated, I’m going to have a really busy year.”

Rose looked up into Rory’s eyes but all she saw there was understanding, concern, warmth and love. “I don’t want to have to choose between you and my writing career. I don't want you to feel like you have to choose between me and your career.”

Rose squeezed Rory’s hands tightly and cocked her head to the side. Guilt wracked through her. Rose felt as though she was putting Rory on some sort of pros and cons list. It wasn’t like that at all, but regret was chewing on her like a dog at a steak bone. She should have thought of all this before she got involved with Rory, before she’d allowed him to give himself up to her.

It would have been better if she’d pushed him away. Rory’s pain would have been a lot less if Rose had just kept her distance and not let him anywhere near her. But it was too late. Rory and Rose were part of each other now, claws deeply piercing each other’s hearts. If they let go, they would shred each other. Rose didn’t want that.

“Do you want to hear what I have to say, Rose?” Rory asked. His words were soothing with not so much as an iota of condescension. He didn’t wait for her to answer.

“I want to take some time off. I have no plans to look for my next project anytime soon.” He gave her hands a little shake to emphasize his words.

“I just finished spending almost a decade getting up at 3:30 of the morning, every morning, so that I could sit in a makeup chair for four hours while they glued plastic to my face. Then I sat in a hard saddle on a cranky horse named Bob for hours at a time. I wore forty pounds of leather and armour in 100 degree heat, fighting and swinging a sword around. I ruined my knee running across the fucking arctic with a man on my shoulder and ended up with a gut-full of fake snow paper and a block of ice on my forehead.”

Rory paused to let it all sink in. He watched Rose crinkle her forehead as she listened to what Rory had had to endure over the past nine years.

“And after all that, I got slammed into a wall about a hundred times by a man who is a hell of a lot bigger and stronger than me. That one scene was harder than everything else I’ve been through put together.”

Rose couldn’t help but smirk as a thought came to her. “You forgot the time that Gwen kicked you in the balls,” she said with a smug grin. Rory dropped his forehead to smack the tabletop between them. When he lifted his head, he grimaced.

“Thank-you for reminding me of that. I might have forgot otherwise,” he retorted sarcastically. He lifted Rose’s hands in his knitting their fingers together.

“My point is, this is your year. I just want to rest for awhile. I have no intention of working for at least a year. My body needs to heal.” Rory wrapped his fingers around Rose’s wrists and slid his hands up the length of her arms. Gripping her behind the elbows, he pulled her a little closer across the table.

“I think we should concentrate on you this year,” Rory told Rose. “The first year is always the hardest. I want to be there to support you through it. We’ll be together the whole time. Then things will start to settle down again, you’ll see. By that time we’ll be able to figure out what’s next and we’ll find our rhythm.”

Rory leaned his forehead against Rose’s. “But this year – this one is for you, and I’ll be with you the whole way. I promise.”

Rose shook her head. “No, Rory, I don’t want you to give up any opportunities because I –”

“Rose! I want to sleep. I want to sail. I finally got my beard back.” Rory let go of Rose’s hand and pulled her by the other bring her back to his side of the table. He turned her so that she was sitting on his lap, back to him and wrapped his arms around her. Rory nuzzled into her hair and kissed Rose on the neck.

“I need you to heal my wounds, Rose,” he said as he moved one hand up over her breasts and one between her thighs.

Rose shifted slightly to turn toward him. Her expression was doubtful and reluctant. Rose didn’t want to take anything away from Rory. She never wanted either of them to have to compromise their careers, and she told him so.

“Rose, I’m taking a year off with or without you. I would rather it was with you.” Dragging a finger up over the side of her cheek, Rory pulled Rose’s hair back and tucked it behind her ear. He put his lips close and whispered. “I love you, Rose.”

Rose broke away from Rory’s grip and turned around. She stood between his knees and looked into his deep brown eyes. For a moment, he looked like a little boy, innocent, happy and completely content. Even over the last few days together at the inn, Rose had seen a difference in him. Rory had gotten younger. His face had softened and relaxed, his whole body had relaxed - although Rose suspected she’d had something to do with that - and he’d been carefree and unconcerned about anything and everything.

Not only did he need a year off, he deserved it. Rory deserved as much time as he wanted. He wanted that time to be spent with Rose, and Rose wanted him, too.

So there really isn’t much to decide, is there? Rose concluded.

She opened her mouth to say something, but changed her mind. Rose stepped in between Rory’s knees and kissed him. Rory picked her up in his arms and carried her into the berth.

Let the healing begin …

“I’m sorry if I ever doubted you,” Sally told her holding her arms wide. Rose gave Rory’s sister a warm hug as they looked over each other closely.

“If I was in your position, I would have done the same thing,” Rose offered. They both knew how sensitive Rory was, how easy it might have been to hurt him. “Besides, I have to agree with you. What are the chances that two people could fall in love without ever actually meeting?”

Sally dragged Rose to the sofa holding on to her hands. They leaned close together like two schoolgirls tittering over a crush.

“So …” Sally hinted. “Are you going to keep me waiting or are you going to give me all the gory details?”

“Don’t you mean the Rory details?” Rose laughed. Suddenly both of them were quiet as they looked up to the side. Rory was watching them, relieved that his two best girls were getting along so well. If only his other best girl was there, too …

It was the first time Rory had thought of Holly without Rose mentioning her first. Funny how he missed her after having known her for such a brief time. If Holly was here, the world would be absolutely perfect. Rose would have everything she ever wanted, and that’s exactly what Rory wanted for her. That’s exactly what Rose gave to him. Rory couldn’t think of one thing – other than having Holly back – that he would ask for.

“Do you mind?” Sally threw an accusing glare at her older brother. “We have things to discuss.” Sally flapped a hand in his direction dismissing him as though he were a mere peasant. Rory swatted at her playfully and raised an eyebrow.

“I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know what you two will be talking about,” he declared as he stalked out of the room, confident that everything was right with the world.

“Hey there, Gorgeous.”

Rose looked up to a big toothy grin. Thick, strong arms wrapped around her. Rose tilted her cheek up where it was graced with a respectable peck.

Rose smiled back. “Hey, Dee. How’s it going?”

“Great. What are you doing here today?”

Rose set her notebook aside and sat up straight in the set chair. “Oh, I hope it’s okay that I’m here. I’m just taking some notes for research. If I’m in the way or … Oh! Am I distracting Rory?”

Dwayne shook his head. His bright toothy grin spread even wider. “Hell, no,” he told her waving away her concerns. “Rory’s doing great. I just wondered how the new book is coming. I read the last one.” He pointed both index fingers at her like guns. “Awesome!” he said.

“Thanks, Dee. Are you sure I’m not a distraction?” Dwayne leaned in close and waggled his eyebrows at her. Could it be possible that his grin got even wider?

“Oh you’re a distraction, all right,” he joked. Rose swatted at him playfully.

“Hey!” Rory bellowed. “Are you flirting with my girlfriend again?” Jurgen the Brutal came stomping across the set. He poked a finger in Dwayne’s chest. “How many times do I have to tell you …”

Rose started to giggle and pointed, laughing. “I’m sorry but I just can’t take you seriously with beard braids!” She continued to snicker as Rory chased her around the set. When he caught her, Rory kissed her and told her just what he intended to do with his braids.

Rose sighed as her giggles finally drifted away. “Okay, okay. I’m going back to the hotel and you need to get back to work.”

Rory kissed her again. “Alright, I’ll see you tonight, luv.”

Rose watched for a few more minutes as Rory found his mark and he and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson practiced their choreography.

Everything had worked out and fallen into a rhythm just as Rory had said it would. Rose was waiting in anticipation for the January release of Jumanji: The Next Level. After they finished filming in Atlanta, Rose and Rory would be heading west. They would be staying in California for awhile so that Rose could do a taping for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and a few other interviews, and Rory could do his TV spots for Jumanji with Conan O’Brien. After that would be the premiere. Then, she and Rory had a meeting with another producer who wanted to put Call It Serendipity on the big screen. Rose had already gotten a call from Tom Hanks and he wanted Rory to star in it.

Whomever they chose, Rose would agree, but with two conditions: Rory had to get the starring role and Rose wanted nothing to do with the production. Movies were Rory’s business and writing was Rose’s. They kept their careers close, but separate. Wherever Rory went, Rose came along. It gave her the opportunity not only to be with him, but to see the world and find new inspiration with everywhere they went. As a result, Rose found that she was writing more than ever before. In fact, the ideas were coming faster than she could write them down.

If Rory wasn’t working and Rose had to travel, Rory went with her. On the odd occasion that they were both working and had to be away, it made their homecoming that much sweeter.

Rose typed the last line of her new book and hit the save button. She been working on this one secretly and decided to surprise Rory with it. If her intense emotions while writing it were any indication, it was going to be a bestseller. Even if it wasn’t, Rose would still consider it to be her best work yet.

Rose hit the print button and waited while the manuscript pages came grinding out one by one.  When the entire novel was printed and stack neatly on the corner of her desk, she picked up her cell phone and called Rory.

“It’s done,” she told him.

Rory informed Rose that he would be home within the hour. He was excited to start reading her new book. Rory didn’t even know the title of it yet. But when he did finally finish reading, it Rory agreed that writing A Letter To A Friend was the best thing she’d ever done.