Rose Tyler had never imagined herself living in the heart of a bustling city. Well, Powell had been a decent sized one. It was too big to be considered a bustling metropolis, but it also wasn’t an out in the back of beyond either. It just wasn’t like this, like Tardis. Powell’s highest building had been all of twenty-five stories. Tardis’ largest building was Saxon Tower, standing at a massive one hundred and ten stories! It glistened in the morning sun, as she stepped out of her new bedroom onto the balcony and let the cacophony of the morning traffic ring up from busy streets.
“It’s all so big, Shareen. So noisy.” She sighed into her mobile, as she braced a hand on the concrete ledge. “‘Nd the pictures weren’t kiddin’ either! The tower is massive!”
“I can’t wait to come visit! How’s unpacking coming.” Rose looked back over her shoulder at the haphazard array of boxes and plastic containers strewn across the room behind her. “How big is your room anyways? Mum says your mum said the flat takes up the entire floor of the building.”
“It does. My room ‘nd the ensuite is like mine and Tony’s room combined with the livin’ room back hom-I mean, at the old house.” She shifted back inside, staring at how the items she had already unpacked barely covered any of the shelves. “Almost completely unpacked, ‘nd it looks empty still. Surprised mum hasn’t been blowin’ up everyone’s phones with pictures yet.”
“Only cause you and your dad haven’t taught her how to use a smart phone yet.” Shareen snickered, and Rose had to laugh at that. “‘M so jealous, though. You got out! You escaped Powell, and now you’re livin’ the high life.”
“It isn’t high when you wake up every mornin’ to see Saxon Tower.” She fiddled with the new comforter that her mum had bought, wishing fervently she still had the cheap pink one from her old room. It was gone though, donated to charity with everything that wasn’t a family heirloom or had sentimental value. “Never thought I’d miss Powell, but I do.”
“Oh please!” Shareen snorted, and Rose could see her rolling her eyes in her mind. “Come on! Six months ago you were workin’ two jobs, strugglin’ to finish uni, and your parents were about to go bankrupt! Saxon Industries investin’ in Vitex was a miracle!” Rose heaved a sigh at her friend’s dreamlike exuberance. She wasn’t lying. It had been nothing short of a miracle. “Now you’re living in Torchwood Towers, in Gallifrey, and your Dad’s face is plastered all over the telly and billboards!”
“I know, but.... I miss home.” She rolled over onto her stomach to grab the photo of her, Shareen, and Mickey. “How are things....” she dragged her voice off, hoping her friend got the true question in her voice. “I saw there was a robbery at the shop. Did they cat-“
“Stop it!” Shareen groaned, and Rose grimaced. “You agreed not to worry about things like that! Remember? That was one of the benefits of movin’. You don’t have to be Bad Wolf in the city.” She put the picture back and propped her chin in her hand. “You can blend in, be normal, not feel obligated to use your powers and risk exposure!”
“I know, but, I feel territorial is all. Did they at least catch them?” They would have if she was back home. Rose would have tracked the robbers down, kicked their arses, and dropped an anonymous tip off with the police within twelve hours.
“Not yet, but they got good video of their faces.” Shareen sounded confident, but Rose wasn’t so sure. Then again, there wasn’t anything she could do about it now. Her friend was right. She agreed to move to the city with her parents so she could try to have a normal life. Also to keep her mum from crying about her staying. “Speaking of crime fighting super heroes-“
“‘M not a superhero, Shareen.”
“Have you seen him yet?” There was an edge of excitement in Shareen’s voice that made her roll her eyes. “The Oncoming Storm?”
“No, but I’m sure it’ll happen. I’ll take a picture.” Rose laughed as she sat up and eyed the outfit she was supposed to be changing into. She didn’t really want to go to this networking brunch, but her dad had asked. Her mum was taking Tony to interview at his new primary school.
“Rose, baby, the car will be here in fifteen minutes.” Her dad called from the door. “Better start getting ready!”
“Okay!” Rose pushed herself off the bed, squinting at the outfit and the pricy tag dangling from the sleeve. “I’ll text ya in a bit, Shareen.”
“Later then!” The call ended, and Rose tossed the mobile down. She untied her robe, hanging it up on a hook beside the floor to ceiling mirror her mum had insisted she pick out. Luckily she’d curled waves into her hair and done her makeup, which she wasn’t complaining about her mum insisting she spend top dollar on that, when she’d gotten out of the shower. Now she just had to put on her clothes.
“This jacket costs half of our old rent.” She huffed, as she pulled the powder pink shirt off to button it. If she wanted to blend in, to keep what she could do a secret, then she had to act like it. Rose had to admit it was a bit relaxing, not having to worry if her mask hid her face or if someone other than her parents and Shareen recognized her when someone got a video of her on social media.
Tardis had a superhero in the mysterious Oncoming Storm, and he had the city protected well enough on his own. Rose had already promised her parents her vigilante ways were at an end. Not only was her own anonymity riding on it, but their safety and success was as well. She couldn’t turn off the wolf like powers that slumbered in her veins, but she could choose not to act on them. If she wanted to keep a good job, save up enough to move out on her own, and maintain a normal social life, she couldn’t be rushing off, ducking out of back doors, and lugging the back pack with her all black outfit around anymore.
That backpack was safely tucked away in her massive closet, and she hadn’t touched it once in the four days since they’d arrived. Rose knew she couldn’t either. She didn’t know the city, the back alleys, the cracks and crevices necessary for an anonymous get away. Maybe it was better that way, although she did miss the thrill of helping people, of tracking down missing kids, of accosting criminals. She loved helping, but she’d promised to set it aside.
Gathering her purse, Rose stepped into the pink heels that matched her shirt, and picked up her purse. She spritzed on some perfume, grabbed her mobile, and headed out to the open main room where her father was fussing with a tie. “Daddy, stop.” She giggled as he turned to face her, his face scowling at the red tie.
“Well look at you Princess!” She rolled her eyes as she hooked her purse strap over her shoulder and took the tie in her hands. “You look like you should be heading up Vitex, not me.”
“And the company’d tank in two weeks.” Rose deftly knotted the strands of material together and snugged it up to his collar. Her mum and dad kept pressuring her to join with the company, but she didn’t know the first thing about business. Her degree was in art, focusing on illustration and photography. “Didn’t inherit your talent for business, Dad. Let’s hope Tony did.”
“You should have heard him negotiating with your mum over taking his vitamins this morning.” Rose chuckled as her dad smoothed his tie and nodded towards the door. “He’s definitely inherited it. You know you’re always welcome in branding and marketing. If it wasn’t for your work on that brochure, no way S.I. would have noticed.”
“Dad.” Rose follower him out to the narrow hallway that led to the lift and emergency stairwells. “I told you. ‘M gonna be like you, chase my own dream, ‘nd build my life for myself. ‘Ve got four applications in already, and two companies already started calling my references.”
“I know, but you can’t blame me for wanting to keep you cushioned. I couldn’t before, but now I can.” Pete draped his arm over her shoulder, and Rose leaned into his side. “Especially now that you don’t have to worry about the other things.” His half whisper made Rose sigh. Her dad hadn’t been as insane as her mum about what Rose did as the Bad Wolf, but he hadn’t liked it either.
“So would you’ve preferred me sneakin’ out to meet boys or keepin’ our town safe?” She quipped, earning her an affectionate tug of hair as they entered the lobby and made their way out to the waiting car. “That’s what I thought.”
“So, I dunno if I told you.” Pete looked a bit sheepish as he slid into the seat beside her. “But Harold Saxon himself is going to be there today. So, it’s important that you don’t sass off like you did when the investment team was over for dinner before they decided to work with Vitex.”
Rose snorted as she looked out the window at the passing cars. Honestly, it had been one remark, and it hadn’t cost Vitex anything. She just couldn’t stand the way that woman had sneered down at her mum. “Well if Cassandra O’brien hadn’t been acting like a right bitch to Mum, I wouldn’t have told her your inventions were worth more than the silicone in her tits.”
“I’m so not sorry.” Rose shook her hair back as she examined the manicure her mum had dragged her to get yesterday. Honestly, she preferred the ones back home. She’d take gossiping over whose kid was doing what than listen to the high pitched giggles of the primly painted, clone like girls that had brown nosed them. “Money may buy things, but it doesn’t mean you’re better than someone.” She felt her father’s eyes on her, so Rose sighed and looked up. “But I promise not to do anythin’ that might hurt Vitex.”
“Good girl.” Pete squeezed her hand as his mobile rang, and Rose tuned out his conversation in favor of watching the city pass by. His phone rang a lot these days, which was to be expected when you’d gone from having three employees working in a garage to over five thousand working in a huge manufacturing lab in a matter of six months.
A shadow fell across her face, despite the clear morning, and Rose gasped as a flash of lightning forked overhead. It didn’t come from a cloud, but from a figure. There, adorned in brilliant blue and gold, surrounded by whisks of gray fog as he hung in the air, was a man pointing at something, and with another strike of lightning he sunk behind a building and out of sight. “The Oncoming Storm.” She murmured, pressing a palm to the window. “Wonder what-“ before she could finish an explosion rocked the car and a fireball flew into the sky at least eight blocks away. She watched, awe struck, as a strange looking silver object arched towards them and crashed into a car. “Oh my god!”
“Bloody hell!” Her dad exclaimed beside her, dropping his mobile. Rose couldn’t blame him, as most of the pedestrians kept walking on as if this was an every day occurrence. Then again, this was Tardis, and robot attacks and radioactive psycho killers weren’t exactly uncommon.
“Ah... a Cyberman.” The driving chuckled from the front seat. “Looks like another robot invasion has been thwarted again.” Rose was still trying to keep her heart in her chest, and if she’d been driving they’d have crashed. The man driving hadn’t even flinched.
“Still think the big city’s a good choice?” Rose arched an eyebrow at Pete. That was exactly why she didn’t like being called a superhero. Pit her against hardened thugs or rabid animals, and Rose would come out on top. Deranged robots were not exactly something she could tangle with. Her dad gave her a warning look as he scooped up his mobile. “Exactly.” She winced as sirens began wailing, piercing her sensitive hearing, and then mentally kicked herself for forgetting to take the picture.
The drive was otherwise uneventful, as they reached Saxon Tower. The building was even more exquisite up close, surrounded by sculptures and massive fountains. The glass walls reflected the sun back, nearly blinding Rose as she looked up the length of the building. “Bit intimidating isn’t it?” Her dad chuckled, placing a hand on her back. “Wait until you see inside.” Rose had seen pictures of the lobby in interviews and pictures, but stepping into the building was infinitely better.
Stunning was too plain a word. The floors sparkled brilliantly, black instead of the typical white, which only amplified the infinity waterfall in the middle that was surrounded by a tiny garden with comfortable looking chairs. Upon closer look, she was shocked to see the plants and grass were real, currently being pruned by a man in the cleanest landscaping uniform she’d ever seen the lifts were all glass, showing dozens upon dozens of people moving up and down. Only one lift had black glass, and judging by the two burly men in black suits, it would be the only lift that went up to Saxon’s sprawling pent house at the very top.
There was a massive reception desk, which was manned by about ten people, all ridiculously good looking men and women. To the left was a queue standing behind heavy velvet ropes, and beyond the man checking a tablet in front of them was obviously the restaurant where the networking brunch would be held. “I think ‘m underdressed.” Rose brushed a tiny wrinkle in her grey skirt, feeling, for the first time since arriving in the city, that maybe she should have let her mum buy her that tennis bracelet and matching earrings.
“Nonsense, you look lovely.” Rose tore her eyes away from a redhaired woman who looked like she’d just stepped off of the pages of a business magazine when her Dad stepped up to the man holding the tablet. His name, according to the gleaming tag pinned on his red coat, was Brian. “Excuse me, I’m Peter Tyler and this is my daughter Rose Tyler. We’re supposed to be-“
“Ah yes, you’ll be in the conference suite.” The man flashed a smile so perfect and white Rose had to wonder if they had been somehow CGIed into onto his face. “Antoinette, love, could you please escort them back?”
“Of course.” Rose didn’t know how it was possible for so many insanely gorgeous people to be in one building, much less a room, when Antoinette smiled sweetly and gestured with one hand. “Right this way.”
“Okay, is, like, plastic surgery a requirement to work here?” Rose hissed to her dad as they followed the woman. “Because this is a bit ridiculous.”
“I asked your mum the same damn thing.” He chuckled, and Rose sighed in relief. Good, so she wasn’t imagining it. “This is us then. Thank you Antoinette.” Pete waved Rose into the door the woman had opened and followed her in. Upon seeing the people gathered around the massive table and spread of food, Rose relaxed a bit. The men looked more average, like her father, and were obviously not employed by S.I. The women were all in suits similar to Rose’s, but also varied in attractiveness levels.
“Pete! There you are.” Rose turned to find the source of the voice, and she squeaked as she found herself nose to tieknot with a man. “Whoops, careful there.” The man stepped back, and she floundered for a moment as none other than Harold Saxon was smiling at her. “You must be Rose. I’ve heard so much about you.”
“Yep, I mean, Yes. ‘M Rose.” She felt her cheeks flush as he held her gaze with his intense hazel eyes. Everything about the man radiated power, despite his light form and young face. His smile, his pressed suit, the lift of his jaw, the smooth way his hand extended, and his charismatic tone all bespoken confident assurance. Rose drew a sniff instinctively, measuring the quality of the air around him. After years of evaluating people, she had learned that just as animals do, humans bore a distinctive smell based on their personalities. Harold Saxon smelled musky like a man, but he also oozed that particular, alluring spice that truly confident, alpha type people did. Translation, he even smelled powerful. “And I hope you’ve only heard good things. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Saxon.” She slipped her hand in his fingers, expecting a handshake.
“Oh, the pleasure is entirely my own. I can assure you of that.” To her surprise he lifted her knuckles up for a brief kiss, those intense irises never breaking away. Rose wasn’t exactly sure if he was flirting of subtly trying to intimidate her. Either way, she ignored the blush she knew was evident and refused to look away. “And please, call me Harry.”
“Harry it is.” Rose flexed her fingers as he released her hand to look over at her father. Immediately they launched into a conversation about stocks and patents, which she knew enough about to understand Vitex was going nowhere but up, and she followed them over to the table lined with food.
She really didn’t understand why her dad had brought her along, as she had nothing to do with the business, but she figured it was because Vitex was trying to build a reputation as a family friendly company. While Pete had always dreamed of being an inventor, of his ideas being in every household, he also wanted to inspire other inventors. Rose knew the best way to do that was to reinforce that he wasn’t just brilliant with business, but also a devoted family man. Everyone close to them knew it, but it was important to make sure the public knew too.
Also, her Dad’s new public relations guy, Jack Harkness, had given her and her parents a nice lecture about how it wouldn’t be long until tabloids and social media would be stalking them. If they presented a solid, united front, it would make all the difference. So Rose smiled and nodded as she was introduced around, made polite conversation, before she settled into a chair with her light lunch to pull out her phone and check her email. She scrolled through the typical junk emails, until a subject line on one caught her eye.
In regards to your application to Vortex Publishing.
We were impressed with the resume you submitted for the position of illustrator. We accessed your online portfolio, and we find that your style would fit well with our clientele. We would like to schedule a preliminary phone interview as soon as possible. Please email us back with a time to contact you.
Head of Human Resources
“Yes!” Rose gave a quiet squeal of delight, as she quickly hit reply and began typing in her availability. She had been hoping, but hadn’t expected to get in at Vortex. Despite being a small company, employee wise, they dominated the literary market. A lot of it had to do with their owner, James McCrimmon. The man had the capability to take the crappiest manuscripts, edit them, and then turn them into best sellers. That had earned him the nickname, The Doctor, because as sick and mangled as a book could be, he’d fix it up like a plastic surgeon.
“Well isn’t someone a bouncing ball of excitement.” Rose looked up, as Harry slid into the chair beside her. “Heard your little squeak and I had to come see what the fuss was.”
“‘Ve got an interview for a job!” Rose couldn’t keep her ecstatic grin off of her face, as she turned her phone screen to show him. “At Vortex Publishing!”
“Illustrator?” Harold took her phone, arching an eyebrow as if thinking, and Rose was reminded of a cat as he smiled back up at her. “Oh, yes. Your dad said you were an artist. You did the brochures and art in the proposal! You know, talent like that could help Vitex.” She resisted rolling her eyes. It seemed everyone wanted her to stay in the family business, but she wasn’t going to.
“Don’ wanna live with the stigma of getting a job because of my dad.” Rose brushed her hair back, meeting his eyes as he tapped her phone against his knee. “I want to make my own life, forge my own path, and that path starts at Vortex.”
“You could fit pretty well at S.I. Too. We’ve always got openings for graphic designers.” Harry’s smile lifted his lips, and it struck Rose then that he was an attractive man. She could also tell by his posture, that he probably hadn’t had to hear the word ‘no’ anytime recently either. “You’ve got the skill, and after the way you handled Cassandra O’brien, you’ve definitely got the tenacity.”
“I don’t tolerate disrespect when it comes to my family.” Rose didn’t bother keeping the sharp edge from her tone. So he knew she’d insulted the head of his investment team, but she still wasn’t sorry. “We’re just as good as anyone else, whether poor or rich.” She leaned back, but extended a hand for her phone. She still had to hit reply. “And I don’t wanna work for my dad’s boss either.”
“I’m not his boss.” Those hazel eyes danced in delight, as his smile grew broader. “Vitex isn’t a subsidiary of Saxon Industries.”
“You own seventy-six percent of his stock, ‘nd you’re grossing thirty-five percent of his sales. You may as well be.” Rose smirked, knowing she had him there. She wiggled her fingers for her phone again, waiting for him to acknowledge defeat. Instead, Harold leaned back and waved her phone.
“Vortex published six of my books, as well as my biography. I could send you a letter of recommendation right now, and you wouldn’t even need to interview.” The smirking smile morphed into one of challenge, and Rose was somewhat reminded of a tom cat trying to lure a female cat up to a fence.
“Unlike most other folks, Mr. Saxon. I can’t be bought.” Rose leaned forward again and thrust her hand into his personal space. “I’d rather get in on my own merit, yeah?” She stared him down, not letting him strong arm her into giving in. “If you don’t mind. I still need ta hit send.”
“Done.” Harold clicked her screen, and then to Rose’s surprise, he closed her email app and began typing one handed. Before she could blink, his chest chimed and her phone was in her palm. She looked down at the screen, saw he had sent a text message to a number she didn’t recognize. “My personal mobile, Miss Tyler. Don’t be blasting that all over twitter.” She watched as he pulled a mobile from his inner pocket and typed rapidly.
“Why do I need your personal mobile?” Her phone dinged, and she looked down at the screen. It was, no surprise, from Harold.
You’re a feisty one, aren’t you?
“I don’t often get challenged by people. Never realized how intriguing it is.” It took Rose half a minute to realize that he was flirting with her. Harold Saxon, the fifth richest man in the world, business tycoon, untitled lord of the international technological and medical community was flirting with her. “Besides, setting up personal dinner plans on company lines would be unprofessional.”
“And you think ‘m just gonna have dinner with you, like that?” Rose turned her phone off and dropped it into her purse. “‘M blonde, Harold, not naive.” She fixed him with her most stubborn look. “Like I said, I can’ be bought.” She moved to her feet, shaking her hair back and glancing around for her father.
“Exactly why I’m so interested in talking to you more.” Harold stood beside her, tucking his phone away. “I mean, unless you don’t find me attractive.” He flashed her a sly smile, and Rose rolled her eyes. He was the kind of man who knew damned well he was good looking, but Rose wasn’t about to let him think a smile could break her.
“I’ll give ya a seven out of ten. If you’ll excuse me.” Rose spun on her toes and made her way over to her dad, who was exchanging business cards with someone. Her phone dinged in her purse, and she dug it out. Of course, it was from the man she’d just dismissed.
Italian or Greek?
Rose didn’t reply, but she did smile just a bit. It had been a while since anyone had seriously flirted with her, not since she broke up with Jimmy last year. She just slipped her phone back in her purse and joined in her dad’s conversation about whether or not Vitex would be expanding into automotives.
James smoothed his jumper as he unlocked the door to his office and turned off the light indicating he was not to be disturbed. Then he moved to flop down in his chair. “And three, two-“
“It’s about bloody time.” The door flew open to a concerned scowl and a flash of red hair. Then it shut, and he fixed his sister with a smile. “So what was it this time, mutant lizard people?”
“Cybermen, that lunch?” He perked up at the brown bags and soda tray in her hand. She dropped the food onto his desk and went around to close the window. “Mmm, smells like burgers.” James eagerly grabbed the bag that didn’t smell of onions and opened it. After such a brutal morning, something greasy and heavy would really hit the spot.
“Thought you got all their labs.” Donna grabbed her own drink, obviously having eaten already. James chewed his bite as he shrugged.
“Honestly, thought I did, but apparently this one wasn’t powered up when I swept the city last year.” He wiped his mouth with a napkin, humming in satisfaction as the burger helped ease the adrenaline high he got from watching evil, horrible threats to his city go boom. “New company bought the building, abandoned cigar factory mind you, and the cybermen went nuts.” It had taken him by surprise, but luckily none of the robots were powered up enough to do any real damage to him.
“Well hopefully there aren’ anymore. I worry about you, Dumbo, when you’re up against things like that.” Donna glanced over him with a critical eye, and he knew she was checking to see if he was injured in anyway. He started to open his mouth and protest he wouldn’t get hurt, but she cut him off. “I’m allowed to worry, just like Mum and Dad used to worry. Grandad worries too, but more about you being exposed.”
“Well as long as we keep talk like this outta work.” James nodded to the closed door behind them, emphasizing the thirty or so people spread out around their building. “We don’ have ta worry.” He took another bite, not bothering to wait until he swallowed just to watch her roll her eyes. “I miss anythin’ while I was out?”
“Um, yeah actually. I got an email back from that Rose Tyler, the one who’s resume you liked. She said she’s free anytime after twelve for a phone interview.” Donna pulled her phone out, scrolling down the screen as James continued to enjoy his lunch. “I’ve got a meeting with printing on that new young adult series. Think you can call her?” She moved to her feet, and James reached over to unlock his computer. “You sure about her though? She’s got no experience, and she’s only been in the city less than a week.”
“Her work is fantastic, and her Professors say she’s a hard worker.” Granted, her previous employment records weren’t exactly the best, but what can be expected when a person is juggling two jobs and uni. “She’s got guts, applying here with no experience. I wanna see if she can deliver on that.”
“Right, well I’m leaving Sarah Jane to man the phones. I’ll check up with you when I’m back.” Donna dropped her empty cup in the rubbish bin and made her way out the door.
“Now then, let’s see.” James scrolled through his emails until he found the one from Donna, and he picked up the desk phone to key in the number. Then he pulled his phone interview questionnaire out of a drawer. The line rang twice, before a chipper voice answered.
“This is James McCrimmon with Vortex Publishing. ‘M tryin’ to reach Rose Tyler.” James chuckled as he heard the sound of something crashing to the floor, before Rose spoke again.
“This is she.” The sound of a young boy shouting in the background was followed by the slam of a door. “Sorry, I just got home. Hello, Mr. McCrimmon, I didn’t expect a call back so quickly.” He checked the email, and it had only been half an hour since she emailed Donna. “‘M ready for the interview though.”
“Good, now, I want to talk about your employment history. You’ve had thirteen jobs in the last five years.” He opened her resume to double check, most had barely paid minimum wage. Then again, Powell wasn’t exactly a booming city, he’d looked it up. “Why so many.”
“Schedulin’ mostly.” He’d figured that, and did plan on calling the ones Rose had been with the longest. “Was in uni, and I had to babysit my little brother, Tony, a lot.” James was about to ask if that would be an issue now, but Rose apparently caught what she’d said. “But now my mum’s going to stay home, and ‘m graduated. I promise I’ll be there every day, work over time too.”
“Well that’s reassuring.” James liked that about potential employees, the ability to anticipate what was going to be asked. Initiative would be vital to melding with their company. “Let’s talk about your talents. I saw on your art pages and social media that you typically work in photography or canvas. ‘M assumin’ you studied art on computers as well.” He didn’t have time, nor the extra personnel to train her on it.
“I did. I got firsts in my digital arts classes, and it was my minor study.” Rose sounded confident in that, so he checked off the box. “‘Nd I can send you some of the files I have on those.”
“No need. You’ve only been in Tardis for four days. Why the sudden move, ‘nd without a job lined up?” This was what had him curious. Her address was listed as Torchwood Towers, which wasn’t the most luxurious building, but it definitely was well above middle class.
“My dad’s business took off. They asked me to come with them, so I did.” He opened up his browser and quickly typed in the name she’d listed as her emergency contact. “Oh, please tell me you aren’ googlin’ him.” Rose sounded a bit distressed at that, and as the results popped up he saw why. The whole city had been abuzz with talk of Vitex, the up and coming technology business. “Look, I don’t want anythin’ to do with my dad or Vitex influencin’ your opinion on hiring me.”
“Don’ worry. ‘M not the kind of person whose opinion can be swayed that way.” James had to smile as he closed the browser and leaned back in his chair. So far, he couldn’t find anything that would bar her from a face to face interview. “You’re the kinda woman who wants to get by on her own merit. That’s exactly what we wanna hear. You understand that this job isn’t like selling a paintin’ or doing a photoshoot. You have to be able to take rejection, to accept criticism ‘nd correction from the editing teams and authors.”
“Don’t call me sir.” James didn’t like that word, even though he owned the company. He was just the same as his employees, and she’d have to understand that.
“Yes, Mr. McCrimmon. ‘Ve done a lot of research into what being a book illustrator and cover designer requires. I like bein’ challenged, and I can take anything you throw at me.” Rose’s tone was again confident, but it wasn’t arrogant. “When can I come in for an interview?” That was a bit arrogant, but James smiled at the phone. There was that initiative again.
“Who said I wanted you to come in?” He waited for her sharp intake of breath or apology for being so forward, but it didn’t come.
“Well, then I don’t want to take anymore of your time, Mr. McCrimmon. Thanks for considering-“
“Tomorrow, ten am sharp. You’ll meet with Donna. Expect her to email you a description of a character. We’ll want it in color, on paper, but you can choose the medium.” James leaned forward to key in the appointment and add it to his sister’s calendar. “Attire is business casual.”
“I’ll be there!” The excitement in her voice was nearly palpable through the phone, and James dropped the phone to the cradle as he ran a hand over his hair. Now that that was done, he had to get started on the final review of a self help book targeted towards people who suffered from agoraphobia, ‘How to Brave the World’.
Since he didn’t suffer from it, he couldn’t exactly sympathize with the subject matter. What James had been able to do, however, was get rid of the dull passages, assist with researching personal stories on blogs instead of clinical studies, acquire the permissions to use the examples, and help make the chapters flow smoothly instead of short, blocky sentences. Once all of that had been done, and the author had implemented his suggestions, it was shaping up to be as much of a best seller as a book could be for such a small audience.
It helped that James was a speed reader, because he could blow through all twenty chapters in the time it took most folks to read six. That came in handy when the police scanner went off two hours after he hung up with Rose. There was a robbery in progress at a jewelry store, and the robber had taken the fee customers hostage. “Fantastic.” James flipped on his do not disturb light over his office door, pulled his jumper off, kicked his dark denim pants and heavy boots aside, pulled his mask out of the pocket of his thinner, tighter blue trousers he almost always wore under his clothes, and then snapped it into place.
It had become a habit, over the last twenty years, to move as he changed. By the time he’d buckled his other, more flexible blue boots on, he was summoning the gusts of wind that would swirl around him like a dervish and was sprinting across the roof to launch into the sky. When he and his granddad had first designed his disguise, when he was fifteen, the copper lined material had been uncomfortable, particularly where it was thickest to protect his vital organs. Now he barely noticed the weight or the way it sizzled as he soared over the city.
Just ahead there was a half circle of police cars facing the jewelry store. James crossed his arms over his chest as he plummeted to join them. He ditched his gruff burr in favor if a more proper accent, another key in his disguise. “I’m here. Where is he at?” Years before, when he first started utilizing his powers to help, the police had been reluctant to treat him with equality and dignity. That had changed, as he proved to be an ally.
“He’s got them all in the back room, but he’s knocked out the security footage.” A woman, obviously a hostage negotiator judging by the cellphone in her hand and clipboard with what looked liked demands written. “There’s three employees and five hostages.”
“Cover me, I’ll get in.” Without waiting for a response, James summoned the air around him and began striding up to the glass doors. The leaves, rubbish, and dirt began swirling, as he manipulated the winds into a tight, powerful tornado the size of his body. Then he slammed it into the glass door, watching as it shattered. He expected screams, or even the robber to order him out. Instead, as he stepped into the glass and readied himself to fight, he heard a series of thuds, two grunts of pain, and a single gunshot.
James ran towards the screams that were now emanating from the back of the store, but then they turned to cheers. “What the hell?!” He threw open the doors, confused by the applause and thanks, and blinked at the scene before him.
A masked man was unconscious on the floor, as dust and insulation drifted from the ceiling. A blonde girl of about nineteen or twenty was straddling his back, tying his wrists with that looked like a rather expensive woven belt. The hostages, or well former hostages were applauding. “I see my job has already been done.” He let the electricity in his veins simmer away, as she turned. “That’s going to bruise.” Her nose was dripping blood and her eye looked rather swollen. James felt his heart skip as she flashed him a tongue touched grin, making her face light up. She was absolutely stunning.
“‘Ve had worse.” The blonde woman shrugged as she stood up, and even he winced as she delivered a firm kick to the man’s ribs. Then she wiped her nose on her sleeve. “Sorry to steal your thunder.” The other hostages broke into a peal of giggles and chuckles. “Pun not intended, but I don’t take kindly to havin’ a gun pointed at my brother yeah.”
“Wosie kicked his bum!” A tiny blonde boy of about five came crawling out from under a chair and latched himself around her jean clad leg. “Wight Wosie?”
“Right Bubba.” Rose, apparently, ruffled his hair. Rose? No, it had to be a coincidence. She couldn’t be the same Rose he talked to not two and a half hours before.
“No thunder stolen.” James chuckled as the boy took him in and went wide eyed in awe. “Was anyone else beside Rose hurt?” He glanced over at the others, who were checking themselves over or pulling out their phones. He was used to it, being recorded, but she was looking away from them and kneeling down to check her brother. They all uttered confirmations of being unharmed, before they began clapping her on the shoulder and thanking her. “Okay then, police are outside. I’ll get this stupid ape and follow you out.”
The hostages began filing out, but Rose was having difficulty getting her brother to move. “C’mon Tony. I’ve got to talk to the police.” She was trying to pick him up, but he was wriggling like a wet cat. James chuckled at the scene, as he knelt to check on the still unconscious robber. He was bleeding pretty bad from his scalp, and he had some nasty scratches on his face like claw marks. A quick glance at Rose revealed what looked like a fresh manicure that had been bloodied. Wait, she said Tony? It wasn’t a coincidence, but he had to be sure.
“But he’s da Oncomin’ Storm, Wose! I seent him on da telly!” Tony was looking between them in obvious star struck wonder, and James felt his chest swell as his cheeks flushed. One thing he never got over, never grew used to, was the wonder that his presence always brought to kids. “I wanna take a picture with him. Please!”
“I’m sure he has to get on-“
“Always time for a picture with a brave young man.” James stood up to move away from the bound up robber to kneel beside the chairs. “Come here” he held out an arm, as Rose flashed him a grateful smile. Blimey, it was brilliant the way it made her eyes sparkle. Tony ran over to him, and the tiny boy threw his arms around his neck. “Oof, easy there. You’re strong. What’s your full name then?” There, that was an inconspicuous way to confirm his suspicions.
“Anthony Peter Tywer.” Tony beamed, and then he raised a finger. “And dats my sissy Wose Tywer! We were buying Mummy a birfday pwesent!” Rose giggled at his excitement as she raised her mobile, and James was glad the mask hid his upper face, because his eyebrows were in his hairline. It was her, well, he’d have to tell Donna that this pretty much sealed the deal on hiring her. “Say Cheese Mr. Storm!”
“Cheese!” James fashioned his mouth into a smile just in time for the flash to snap, and then he stood up. “Now, you be a good boy for your parents and sister.” He gave the boy a gentle push, and Rose pocketed her phone. “And thank you, Miss Tyler, for handling this moron.” It was such a rare occurrence for someone in the city to step in these days, but then again, she wasn’t a city girl. They grew them from tough stock in Powell, that’s for certain.
“I’d say any time, but I’d rather not give you competition.” She bent to scoop a small bag up, as Tony took her hand. James chuckled at her tease, and he didn’t intend the smirk he gave her to be flirtatious. Even so, her unmarked cheek flushed a bit. “I better go give my statement ‘nd get home.”
“See you around.” Oh yes he would, but Rose didn’t know that, couldn’t know that. Also, he needed to get the urge to reach out and shake her hand away. He was about to be her boss, and besides, he didn’t date, ever. It was next to impossible, despite his attempts, because they’d never understand, and if they knew, they’d be a target.
“‘Ll be lookin’ up, ta.” With that, she headed to the door. James was just bending down to scoop the unconscious idiot up, when she looked back. “Small favor, um, could you drop my scarf off after. Was my gran’s. ‘M on the west balcony of the twentieth floor in Torchwood Tower. There’s a mosaic wind chime and teal curtains on the door.”
“Can do.” He nodded once, as he tossed the man over his shoulder. Then Rose was gone, and James felt a bit odd. He couldn’t figure out if it was amused, shocked, or intrigued, but he didn’t let himself dwell on it. By the time he made it outside, passed the criminal over to police, gave his own statement on what he’d walked in on, she was gone.
After convincing the arresting officer that the scarf wasn’t evidence, he curled it around his hands and drew the strong wind and mist he used to fly around him. As he flew, he admired the material. It wasn’t top of the label chain, but it was obviously the level of expensive that would have rated a birthday or Christmas gift fifty years in the past, and it was in well loved condition. He knew where Torchwood was, and sure enough, he found the balcony as described.
The curtains were tied back, and the room inside was empty and dark. James noted that an easel was propped against the wall, so he tied it securely to one leg. Then he launched back into the air, eager to find his sister and tell her about what had transpired.
Rose sighed as she turned her face in the mirror. She’d treated enough black eyes over the last seven years to know exactly how to get rid of them, but this one was stubborn. Even after two hours with an ice pack and another hour with a tea bag on it, followed by sleeping in cold cream, there was still a bruise running from her nose to the outer corner. Granted, it wasn’t swollen, but the makeup was covering most of it. Hopefully Donna, the woman interviewing her, had seen the news clip last night. She didn’t want to go in for an interview and have them assume she was bad news for showing up like this.
It was bad enough her parents, mum in particular, had flipped their lids. That was until Rose assured them the robber was such a moron she didn’t even have to use her powers. Honestly, all she’d done was tackle the guy, which caused his head to smash into the wall and her face to collide with his jaw. There’d been a brief struggle for his gun, which she had won by simply digging her nails into his face with one hand and over extending his arm with her other. Once he’d fired at the ceiling, the recoil had loosened his grip causing it to slide away, and then she’d grabbed him by the throat and smashed his head into the floor twice. He’d been knocked unconscious then.
Luckily, five year old Tony didn’t even remember the gun being pointed at him. He just remembered meeting the Oncoming Storm, of course. It was all he talked about over dinner. Rose was pleased about that, because she didn’t want him having nightmares. She’d also been pleasantly surprised when she’d gone out to the balcony that morning with her coffee to put the finishing touches on her water color pencil sketch for the interview and found her scarf tied to the easel she’d left out. It was wet from the late night rain, but there.
So he was as courteous as he was strong apparently. Rose wasn’t usually one to fawn over men, not anymore. She had too much to keep secret, to protect, but he was something else. She hadn’t had a chance to get a good scent on him, as the air was tainted with gunpowder, ceiling debris, sweat, and the blood from her busted nose. Still, when he’d first came in, lightning had been dancing on his skin, and she could feel the power radiating off of him. It had vanished once he realized the situation was in control. He’d been polite and amusing too. What she could see of his covered face was handsome, and the outfit had shown he definitely kept in shape.
She was surprised that she found herself drawn to him, but maybe it was because they were somewhat alike. They both had more than human skills, and they both had secret lives. She had checked the scarf, but her senses were still working on adjusting to the plethora of smells in the city. She’d only picked up rain, dust, and the city pollution. Rose knew she was being a bit selfish, wanting to get his scent, because then she’d be trying to track him anytime she was out. His secret was his own, and that was that.
Confident with her makeup and outfit of choice, gray business pants with pale blue pinstripes and a matching blue blouse, she slipped into her grey heals and picked up her portfolio. She’d already called a cab, and now she just had to get down to the lobby. If traffic was nice, she’d be fifteen minutes early. Her mum was out school shopping for Tony’s uniforms, and her dad was at work. So she locked the flat, which was only five floors down from being a pent house, and took the lift. Sure enough, the cab pulled up just as she stepped out. “Zero nine zero nine Rift Blvd please. Vortex Publishing.” She smiled to the cabby and settled into her seat. From her purse, her mobile rang. She dug it out and snorted in amusement as she saw the number.
“Hello, Mr. Saxon.” Rose lifted the phone to her ear, watching the passing cars. “How can I help you?”
“I’ve told you to call me Harry, so you can start there.” Rose rolled her eyes at the amused tone in his voice. “But other than that, I just got out of a meeting with your dad. He said you have an interview at Vortex today.”
“Yep, on my way now.” She rubbed at a spot on her window, wondering why she’d caught his interest. Rose didn’t buy the few back and forth texts from the night before, where he said he was intrigued by her indifference and wanted to know why she was playing hard to get. “Don’ you have an empire to run? Personal calls during company time is highly unprofessional.”
“It just so happens I’m on my way to my private jet to fly to Arcadia to look at a new site. So, it’s not company time.” She didn’t offer him a response. “I just wanted to tell you good luck.”
“‘Ll take merit over luck any day.” Rose giggled as the cab stopped at a redlight, and she saw a toddler pointing at a balloon stand. “But I can appreciate the thought, ta.”
“You still haven’t answered whether you prefer Italian or Greek food.” That was three times now he asked, but Rose wasn’t about to give in so quickly. She sort of liked having the power here, as years of seeing the truth behind common folks had taught her never to give in so easily.
“Because I don’t see why it matters, yeah. We aren’t going to dinner.” Rose wasn’t ashamed to admit Harold was attractive, but she wasn’t a gold digging socialite. If he wanted dinner, he’d have to prove it wasn’t just to add another sycophantic notch to his million pound bedpost.
“You know, the more you refuse, the more determined I’m going to get.” Harold’s voice was low and held a hint of determination. “This is where I’d normally send thousands of pounds in flowers or a few sparkly trinkets, but you said you can’t be bought. Guess I’ll have to change my tactics.”
“Guess so.” Rose smirked in triumph, as she drummed her fingers on her folder. She could practically hear the gears in his mind turning over the mobile. “‘M small city girl, Harold. ‘Ve got standards and morals. ‘M not gonna swoon over the first rich man who winks at me.” There was the sound of typing on a tablet screen in the background.
“Your social media isn’t very private. Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, but hmmm no Twitter.” Rose wasn’t shocked he was looking her up. She’d thrown him a challenge, and like any good businessman, he was researching how best to acquire what he wanted. “I’ll make reservations for Friday at seven.”
“There’s a fine line between confidence ‘nd arrogance, Harold.” Rose teased, but now she was curious with what he was planning that had him so sure she was going to agree. The two boyfriends she’d had were typical estate type blokes who thought a dozen of roses and box of chocolates from the corner shop was the epitome of romance. She’d already told him she couldn’t be bought by jewels or anything of the sort, so this would be interesting.
“It just so happens, I have excellence balance.” Harold quipped back, as the sound of a door opening and voices echoed through. “I’ll land around eleven thirty, so call me then to tell me how the interview went.”
“Later.” Rose ended the call and finally glanced up at the driver, who was watching her through the review mirror. “What? Never heard a girl refuse a date before?”
“Nobody in this city says no to Harold Saxon, love.” The driver gave her an odd look, like she’d grown a third head.
“Well I’m not from here.” Rose smirked back, as he pulled up to the curb. She had ten minutes to spare, but early was always better than late. “Here ya go. Keep the change.” Rose passed over enough to double the fare, which she liked to do since she was so used to barely tipping the bare minimum. “Have a nice day.” With that she stepped out and looked up at the brick building.
It was smaller than she’d imagined, but she instantly the mid-century classic design. The aged red bricks paired with the random growths of creeper vines along the corners gave it a charming appeal, making it seem warm and inviting compared to the remodeled buildings flanking it. The circular brand of the company adorned the front door, and she pulled it open. There was a lovely redheaded woman at a reception desk, and the name plate on the counter said ‘Amelia Pond.’ She smiled at the woman, as she looked up. “Hello, I’m Rose Tyler. I have an interview with Donna Noble.”
“One sec.” Amy looked down and rifled through some papers. “Ah ha! There you are. I’ll phone to let her know you’re on the way up.” Amy pointed to a set of lift doors. “Go to floor five, turn right, and Sarah Jane will show you where to go.”
“Thanks!” Rose made her way to the lift, wiping her palms on her trousers. Okay, so she was nervous. Interviews could be a bit overwhelming, especially for such a well known and tight knit company. She watched the numbers, as she checked her folder to make sure the required sketch was still there. The lift doors dinged open to a small hallway lined with poster sized book covers, and Rose took a right. The hall came to an end at an open space with two desks. Behind them was a glass wall, obviously an office, with the blinds open. A kind looking woman with brownish hair was hanging up a phone, and in the glass office a redheaded woman was talking to a man with dark hair and a leather jacket.
“Hello, Rose. I’m Sarah Jane Smith.” The woman at the desk stood up and extended her hand with a smile. “Donna will be out in just a second. She’s with the Doctor, sorry, James now.”
“Nice to meet you.” Rose managed to smile as she shook Sarah Jane’s hand, and then she looked back over at the pair in the office. The man was glancing at her now, with an arched eyebrow, and he nudged Donna with a smile. Rose felt a small thrill at that smile. It was familiar, somehow, and he was gorgeous. Even from this distance, she could tell he had piercing blue eyes. Rose shook that feeling aside, reminding herself he may very soon be her boss, and then Donna came out.
“You’re a bit early. That’s good. Hello I’m Donna Noble.” Rose shook the proffered hand, instantly liking the friendly feeling the woman had about her. She smelled a bit strange, in a pleasant way, like a breeze after a thunderstorm. “Come with me, we’ll go into the conference room.” They had barely closed the door when Donna turned to arch an eyebrow. “‘M guessing by the bruised nose and eye you’re the Rose they were talking about on the news last night.”
“Guilty as charged.” Rose resisted the urge to touch her still sore face. It didn’t bother her until she thought about it. She’d had far worse. “I tried to cover it-“
“Nonsense. Only brought it up cause my brother and I were wondering if it was you when you came in.” Rose was about to ask if James was seriously her brother, because they looked nothing alike. “He’s my step brother. I know, everyone asks.” She gestured to a seat, and Rose took it. At least Donna was being friendly and open. Usually potential employers were a bit stiff during interviews.
“I hope you don’ think I’m the kind of woman who goes ‘round startin’ fights, cause ‘m not.” Well, not anymore, but she didn’t say that. Yesterday had been a fluke. Even if she hadn’t been there, The Oncoming Storm would have taken care of it. This was his city, his territory, and Rose had promised to set the Bad Wolf aside. Although it had felt good, but she couldn’t think about that.
“James was just joking that if your art work is acceptable, we’ll also put you in charge of running the lotto pool to the shop instead of him.” Donna settled into her seat with a smile. “Honestly, that’s all this interview is riding on, the drawing I hope you brought.”
“I did!” Rose was pleased to hear that her references had paid off, but she was wondering slightly if someone else, a particular hazel eyed billionaire, hadn’t gone ahead and overstepped his boundaries. She pulled the art work out, sliding it over to Donna. “Just curious, nobody called or sent in a letter of recommendation did they? A friend of my dad’s offered, but I told him not to.”
“Not that I’m aware of. James would’ve mentioned it.” Donna looked down at the sketch, and Rose held her breath. “Why’d you choose to give him shoulder length hair?”
Rose winced internally, hoping she hadn’t missed anything the four times she’d read the description. The hair length hadn’t been mentioned at all, so she’d improvised. “Well, since the length wasn’t totally described, but he kept brushing it behind his ear in the excerpt, I kept seeing it as about shoulder length.” Then again, she had thought some parts had been purposefully omitted.
“Well, you nailed it. The last person to sketch it gave him hair just to the bottom of his ears. Good job.” Rose relaxed at Donna’s compliment. “When can you start?”
“Immediately.” She felt a grin break across her face, as Donna stood up. Rose followed suit. “Right now, if you want.” She was anxious to get started, to put some roots she could call her own in the city.
“Well, it’ll take about two days for me to get your hiring paperwork processed and your bank information on the payroll.” Donna held the door open, and Rose stepped back out. James’ office blinds were closed now, and there was a red light labeled ‘Do Not Disturb’ glowing above the door. “Maureen won’t be finished cleaning her office out.” She pointed to a small alcove Rose hadn’t noticed beyond the two desks. It had empty boxes in a corner and a massive desk covered in art supplies. “Until she gets back from Arcadia in two days. Which is also her official retiring date. So how about you come in on Friday at eight, and we’ll set up your log ins and get you introduced around.”
“Sounds great!” That would give Rose time to adjust her sleep schedule, plan her morning routine, and gather her own office supplies. “I’d introduce you to the Doctor, ‘s what everyone calls James, but he’s on a call. When that light’s on, we don’t open the door, rule one.” Rose wondered if she was imagining that look of worry on Donna’s face.
“Right, got it.” Rose was giddy as she bid the women farewell and started towards the lift. Luckily for her, a cab slowed down as soon as she waved her hand, and she slid into the seat. They only made it two blocks before traffic came to a stand still. “What’s goin’ on?”
“Let’s find out.” The cabby turned the radio up, just in time to hear a breaking story that tanker full of hazardous waste had overturned, and the Oncoming Storm was using rain and wind to keep the fumes filtering up and the waste from seeping down the street. “This may take a bit. The detours should start poppin’ up soon, love.”
“I’m not in a hurry.” Rose was curious to see what the scene looked like, but she also knew she’d never get close. Instead, she pulled her mobile out to access the streaming news page. Then she scooted forward so the driver could watch too. They couldn’t see much, except the on the scene reporter explaining that the truck was mistakenly marked petrol instead of this toxic waste and should never have been in city limits to begin with.
“Mistake my arse.” The cabby snorted. Rose found she was of a similar line of thought. “If you drive through the city to the treatment plant instead of the appointed routes for hazardous materials, it saves about two hours. That truck was mislabeled on purpose, bet my left leg.”
“Oh I believe you. Two years ago in Powell, someone from Arcadia was dumping medical rubbish in one of our lakes. Took until last week to get everything cleared out.” Rose didn’t mention that she had donned her disguise and tracked the driver to a weigh station thirty minutes out, where she unhooked his battery cables and left an anonymous tip on the information line. The driver wasn’t even licensed to haul the stuff, and he claimed he was told it was permitted. He even had papers to dump there, except the company on them had been closed for three years due to merger with another company called Kasterberous Reclamation.
Mickey had just started on the local police force, and he told Rose that K.R. was a ghost company. It existed only on paper, with no living owners, and, despite the extensive investigations, they couldn’t find who was funneling the money to pay the driver. It was eleven forty when traffic began moving, and Rose’s phone began to ring.
She sighed, expecting to see Harold’s name, except it was Shareen. “Hey! Guess what?!” Rose was eager to tell her about her new job. “‘M working-“
“I already know!” Shareen sounded like she just hit the jackpot. Okay, Rose wasn’t expecting her to be this excited. Wait, how could she know? Rose hadn’t told anyone yet. “I just got the call from Harold Saxon himself! He’s chosen the Powell Community and Youth Center to be the first recipient of the Y.A.N.A. proceeds.”
“Wait, what?” Rose jerked in her seat, unable to believe her ears. “What’s Y.A.N.A, and why the hell did Harold Saxon call you?” It had only been a little under two hours since she’d spoken with him.
“It’s a non-profit organization his company backs, ‘nd through donations, both of money and supplies, they remodel and help community and youth outreach programs.” Shareen sounded half way to swooning. “We can finally rebuild the playground and remodel the building.” Rose still didn’t quite understand. How had Harold known they were trying to do that? “He said he knows you, and it was the link to the fundraiser on your Facebook that inspired it! Rose! Why the hell didn’t you tell me you were working for him?!”
“Because ‘m not.” Rose swallowed as the realized what was going on. Damn that man. She’s told him he couldn’t buy her affection, and he couldn’t. “I’m workin’ at Vortex Publishing startin’ on Friday.”
“Then why was Harold Saxon prowling your Facebook?” Shareen’s voice had that conspiratorial, juicy gossip tone.
“Because, he wants to take me to dinner. I turned him down and told him he couldn’t buy my interest.” She Was going to slap him! Although she was glad the community center would be remodeled. It was a good, safe place for kids to play and study. “I gotta go.” She ended the call on Shareen and immediately called Harold.
“Hello Rose. Did you get the job?” His voice was echoed by a group talking around him and high winds. “Hang on, let me get in the car.” A door shut, and the line was silent.
“I did, yeah. That’s not why ‘m calling.” Rose arched an eyebrow even though he couldn’t see her. “I told you, Harold. You can’t buy my agreement to dinner.”
“Is this about Y.A.N.A.?” Rose snorted in confirmation, ignoring the look from the driver. “I’ll have you know, I didn’t spend a penny except to secure the certification for the non-profit, which didn’t even cost two hundred. The banquet to raise the funds will be hosted and paid for by an associate of mine. All proceeds to be sent to the community centers will come strictly from donations. I’ll have to give one eventually, but not this go around.”
Rose could very nearly hear the non-verbalized checkmate at the end of that sentence. She had spent her last few weeks in Powell helping fundraise for the community center, and, until now, they’d only raised enough to replace some of the picnic tables and plant some flowers. “What does Y.A.N.A. Stand for?”
“You are not alone.” Harold was smiling. Rose could hear it in his voice. “I saw a comment your friend Shareen made about how the lack of help made the community center employees feel alone. It seems a shame for such a place to feel that way. The Powell center will be the first to get the proceeds, but Y.A.N.A. will help two community centers in need of support a year.”
“And what do you get out of this?” There had to be a catch. There was always something when it came to the rich. There had to be. A tiny voice in her head reminded her that her parents were rich too.
“Apart from dinner with you? Just the knowledge that I’m giving back to Gallifreyan cities in need. Non-profits aren’t designed to make money, Miss Tyler.” Some did, Rose knew. However, it was too early to tell if Y.A.N.A. Would. She was a tad impressed that he had found a way to prove his interest without something absolutely material and superficial. He’d paid attention to something she wanted to do, that others had ignored. That was a tad impressive.
“How should I dress for dinner?” Rose sighed, as the cab finally pulled up to Torchwood. “Because if you say however I want, I’ll show up in jeans ‘nd a vest top. Try me.”
“Cocktail attire would be perfect.” There was a brief pause, and Rose sent a silent thanks to her mum for insisting she furnish her wardrobe with three new cocktail dresses. “And wear your hair down.” Right, french twist it would be.
“I start at Vortex on Friday, so if you’ve made reservations already, you may want to change them until seven-thirty or eight so I can go home and change.” Rose didn’t fancy changing at work or being picked up there. The last thing she wanted was for her new bosses to think she was Saxon’s latest fling. It was just dinner, after all.
“Done. I have to take another call. Have a good day.” The call ended and Rose slid the cabbie the fare and a tip. Then she made her way up to the flat.
“Wosie!” Tony came barreling through the small foyer shirtless and covered in what looked like icecream. “You back! Guess what!”
“What?” She managed to block the messy fingers before they stained her pants and turned him to march him back into the kitchen. Her mum was wiping up what looked like the entire tub of icecream off the floor.
“I figured out where Mummy hides the icecream!” He proclaimed, and Rose laughed as her mum swatted him with the messy towel.
“Can’t even take a shower, can I?” Jackie huffed, and Rose lifted Tony up to the counter by the sink to wash him off. “Listen, can you mind Tony Friday night? Your dad has this dinner thing with somebody named Adam Mitchell with a design engineering company.”
“I’d love to, but ‘ve already got plans.” Rose sighed, knowing she couldn’t back out of them. If only her mum had asked this morning. “‘M going out to dinner mi’self.”
“With who?” Jackie stood up and deposited the destroyed ice cream container in the bin. “You don’t even know anybody except Jack. Oh, are you going with him? He’s a bit flirty, but fit!”
“Um, Harold. He invited me to dinner.” Rose braced herself, and sure enough her mum made a noise somewhere between a strangled cry and a gasp. “Don’t, Mum. It’s just dinner, yeah. He’s only askin’ because my attitude intrigues him.” She rolled her eyes, knowing that once he tried to get her in bed and she shot him down, he’d back off. “‘M not even considerin’ it a date.”
“Rose Marion Tyler, it is a date! You’re blushin’!” Her mom accused, and Rose sighed. Yes, okay, so maybe she was flattered just a smidge, but she wasn’t going to fawn over him. “Just wait til I phone Bev!”
“Mum! No! Don’t!” Rose lowered Tony down and headed to change. “It’s just dinner!” She shouted over her shoulder, but her mum was already on the phone.
“I can’ find anythin’ on a Kasterberous Reclamation service.” James shoved his mouse away and looked over at Donna, who was curled up on his sofa with her laptop. “You?” That had been the paperwork in the truck that had overturned, but everything he was finding past the official permits and certifications. There were dead ends to dead people to an empty bank account in Tanzania.
“Nothing, at all.” She shook her head and closed it. “You think it’s another one of Saxon’s ghost companies then?”
“Has to be.” James locked the screen out of work habit and stood up to stretch. “I jus’ wish we could trace it back to him. Maybe then I could prove he’s the Mater behind all the other chaos in this damned city.” Cyberman, enhanced tools for criminals, anonymous threats and firebombing of small businesses without a trace of arson, the only man who could do all that undetected was Harold bloody Saxon. “Six years ‘ve been tryin’ ta prove it Donna, and nothin’. I promised Bill, Dad, and Mum.”
“I know.” Donna set her laptop on its case and came over to wrap him in a hug. He encircled his arms around her, breathing in the smell of her perfume, the same one their mother, Sylvia, had worn. He’d gotten it for her for her birthday, and it just felt comforting that she wore it. “We’ll prove it. He’s only human, James, and humans make mistakes.”
“‘Ow can we be sure he is only human? What’f he’s like me, like Mysterio, or however many other folks are out there?” James hated harboring that thought, but he was born to two humans himself, and yet he’d started showing his powers right when puberty hit. The only hint at birth that he was more than human was that he had a binary cardiovascular system, and his lungs weren’t, well, lungs. “I think we need to look deeper into the suicides linked to S.I. and its affiliates.”
“I’m still working through them myself. We’ll get him, James. Don’t worry.” Donna gave him a firm squeeze, and James did do his best to relax. His sister and grandad were all he had left in the world. They had to be protected at all costs. “You may be a superhero, but you aren’t a god.”
“Dunno, that blogger chick compared me to Tho-ow!” Donna had thwapped him hard in the back before pulling away with an eyeroll. “What was that for?”
“Stop googling yourself, dumbo! Your ego’s big enough as it is.” She gave him a playful shove, and James finally chuckled. He couldn’t help taking a peek now and then. He was human, after all, and, yeah, he had a streak of pride. “‘Ve gotta get home and review the monthly evals for you to sign.”
“Need a lift?” James hated her driving at night, especially with the crime rate spiking the way it was. Although, heaven help the moron that tried to rob her without a weapon. He had taught her how to fight, and despite his powers, she still rang his bell a few times.
“Nah, then you’d have to come get me to get my car.” Donna kissed his cheek before shouldering her laptop bag and purse. “I’ll text you when I get home.”
“Be safe and lock your doors!” James called as she slipped out. He stared out the window at the clear night. He’d already had dinner, and he wasn’t quite ready to sleep. He was too wired, had too much energy in his system. A good flight over the city might clear his mind.
Stripping out of his clothes, he slipped his mask on and buckled his boots. Once he was high enough, he could take the mask off and enjoy the air on his skin. Hiding who he was was a nuisance, but necessary. The last thing he wanted was Donna’s and Grandad’s life becoming a paparazzi chaos not to mention targets for criminals. He’d long since gotten over the childhood fear of becoming a lab rat, since he could easily fight his way out.
Launching out of the window, he free fell for a moment before summoning the whirlwind that would carry him. Up here, in the sky, breezing over buildings and traffic, he was free. Even with the city lights, there was enough shadow to mask his presence. It felt wonderful to be untethered, to know nothing but himself and the night.
Maybe he’d fly out to the small spattering of abandoned islands just past the bay, where the light pollution didn’t mar the stars overhead. Coincidentally, that path took him through the city, past Saxon Tower, where he ignored temptation to ease onto a balcony. He’d long since learned the windows were sound proof, so he’d hear nothing. He tried to quell the venom in his mouth at the man, Harold Saxon, the Master. Yet, the abomination of a man was standing on a balcony, with a lovely brunette at his side, and Saxon had the audacity to raise his glass of wine in salute as James whipped past. The brunette woman followed Harold’s eyes and she raised hers too. Not wanting to let on how much he despised the man, James waved back.
His flight took him onward, as another smaller tower, came into view, Torchwood. His speed slowed, as that undeniable draw he’s felt not only at the jewelry store, but when Rose had come for her interview pulled at him. Curiosity was always his weakness, and James found himself aiming for the balcony where he’d left the scarf. The light was on, and blonde hair glinted from behind a book where she was sitting on a chair. A tray with tea was sitting on the table beside her. The wind of his flight rustled the pages, and she looked up, eyes blowing wide in surprise. “Did you find your scarf?” Why did he open his mouth instead of flying. At least he had the clarity of mind to change his accent.
“Yes, thanks.” Rose’s surprised look melted into a smile. “Just comin’ back from savin’ the day?” The easy way she spoke to him, even when he was in disguise, took him off guard. Usually folks clambered for a photo or an autograph. Despite the way Rose was looking him over, well, what was visible through the swirling mist that encased his lower body, she seemed unphased by his otherness.
“I was just out for a flight before I turn in.” James contemplated dipping lower, but he didn’t. “Saw you on the balcony as I flew by, and thought I’d stop to make sure you found it.” He smiled, despite himself, as she tucked a strand of hair his wind was whipping behind her head. “How’s your brother? Tony, right? He isn’t shook up by the robbery is he?”
“He’s fine. Doesn’ even remember being threatened. He jus’ keeps goin’ on about how your his new best friend.” It was so easy to hear the love for her brother in her voice, and James knew the feeling. Donna was his best friend, and he loved her more than just about anyone else. “You want some tea? Must be chilly in all that mist ‘nd wind.”
“My suit keeps the chill off.” James gestured at the material, but he did ease down just a bit more, so he was resting his elbows on the rail but not close. “What are you reading?” He nodded at the blank covered book in her hand.
“A stupid romance novel.” Rose shrugged, as she closed it. “Helps me relax before bed. You didn’ get hurt or an’thing by that mornin’ before last did you?” Well that was a first. Most folks assumed he was invincible, unable of being injured by things. Granted, he had a more stalwart system than most, but some things affected him.
“Not at all, thanks for asking.” James resisted the urge to tug his ears, which were pinned back a bit by his mask. He always avoided any nervous ticks that may give him away. Rose was making him feel a bit odd, in a pleasant way. She was different, unphased by his abilities. It was refreshing, but his interest was piqued. “No offense, but you don’t act like anyone else would if I showed up on their balcony at ten at night.”
“Well you’re not on my balcony.” Rose smirked, gesturing to the obvious picture. “‘Nd why should I act all swoony or ecstatic? You’re just a guy, a superhero, but a guy.” He felt his jaw drop in shock at her nonchalant attitude. “What?”
“Nothin’.” He stuttered, forgetting his affected accent for a moment, before finding himself. “I just wasn’t expecting you to be so calm about a superhero dropping out of the sky.”
“You think you’re so impressive.”
“I am impressive!” James had never felt the urge to show off before, but he shot up to hover above her. “Come on, I’ll show you!”
“Can’t.” Rose shrugged, as she stood up and began cleaning up her tea. “I start a new job in the mornin’. Wouldn’t due to be late on my first day.” He didn’t miss the way her lips twisted into a small smile, and there! Her ears tinged pink.
“Suit yourself.” James was pleased she’d finally reacted in some way, and he drifted up. “Sleep tight, Rose Tyler.” He shook his head, wondering how she could turn him down like that. Any other single woman would have tripped over themselves. He knew, because he’d seen the comments on Facebook and Twitter.
“Watch out for planes!” Rose laughed, and then carried her tray and book inside.
It wasn’t until he was circling back towards the bay that what had just occurred slapped him in his face. He’d flirted! He never flirted! Not only that, she’d shot him down! James Noble wasn’t exactly immune to rejection, back when he did date, but the Oncoming Storm was the fantasy of half the women and some men in the city. Donna had even teased him by sending links to some stories online. Maybe Rose wasn’t into men, or maybe she wasn’t single.
Why was he brooding over it anyways? James needed to get those sparkling amber eyes out of his mind, because he wouldn’t drag anyone else into the secrecy of his life. There was just something about her he couldn’t put a finger on. “I’ll figure it out once she’s been at Vortex for a while.” He mused to himself, banking back over the city towards his building.
He always made sure to come in from above, and as silently as possible. There were only shops on either side, but he never knew when one of the five other tenants below him might be looking up. Once home, he showered and settled into bed.
It was storming when he woke up, six minutes before his alarm, but James loved the stormy weather. It made his veins sing, and the thunder that slumbered in his mind reveled in the peals in the sky. Feeling refreshed and cheerful, he dressed and headed down to the small covered parkway in the back of the building that housed their cars. He always drove to and from work, because it was a normal thing to do. The morning commute was always a pain, but that couldn’t be helped. Still, the thunder echoing overhead made it worth it.
James had temporarily forgotten about his late night conversation and the fact that it was Friday until he paused to wipe his wet boots on the mat inside the door and something slight, slick, and soaked crashed into his back. “Sorry! Blimey! Didn’t except these heels ta be so slippery.” He turned as Rose’s hand gripped his shoulder for support, and he caught her elbows. “Oh! Mr. McCrimmon!”
“Mr. McCrimmon was me dad. Call me James, or Doctor, whatever suits ya.” Rose’s cheeks were flushing an adorable pink under her rain slicker hood. “Not used to heels, I take it.” Her eyes were even brighter up close, and as she stepped back he looked down to find she was indeed wearing some rather gorgeous peep toe heels that revealed a french tip pedicure.
“Not ones this fancy. That obvious huh?” Rose lowered the hood as she carefully twisted each foot on the matt. “First day of work gift from my dad. Says, um, new shoes for a new journey.” There it was again, that draw he felt just being near her. “Like that jacket though, very U-boat captain.” Her tongue wedged between her teeth in the corner of her mouth in a way that had him smiling despite himself.
“Thanks, was my dad’s.” He jabbed over his shoulder to the lift. “You’re about fifteen minutes early, but I can show you to your office ‘nd how to log in to punch your time.”
“Sounds great, Doctor.” Rose was unzipping her rain coat by the time he’d summoned the lift. “And thanks, again, for givin’ me this chance. I know I don’t have th-“
“Donna told you you’re also in charge of the lottery run, right?” He teased, earning him a giggle. So, she wasn’t always feisty and sassy. Maybe it was only when somebody flirted with her.
“Yeah, your poor chances at winnin’ are safe with me.” Rose flashed him a playful smirk and shook her head. The motion sent a wave of jasmine and vanilla over his face. It smelled wonderful. The lift doors opened. “After you boss.” She waved towards the hall.
“Don’t call me boss.” James laughed as he lead the way down the hall. Sir and boss were two titles he just didn’t like for himself. “I own the company, but I still grunt work like everyone else.” He led her over to the alcove like space that had become the illustrator space for this floor. He pulled out the rolling chair for her to sit in front of the double monitors. “Most of our illustration programming runs great on two monitors, but I can get a third if you need it.”
“Two’s more than ‘m used to using, ta.” Rose beamed, as she woke the sleeping system. “Okay, so username?”
“RTyler, and Donna should have made your password your first initial capitalized, lowercase middle and last initial, zero, zero, and double asterisk.” James was relieved Donna still kept the same new employee set up, because Rose got right in. “Feel free to change it, of course. Now, see the hourglass icon?” He leaned over her shoulder to point it out, and to his surprise, Rose drew an long, audible sniff. “Did you jus’ smell me?”
“Yeah, sorry. Armani Code is my favorite cologne.” Rose blushed, and James felt his heart skip just a bit at the embarrassed smile on her face. “You still smell like rain too.”
“That can’ be helped.” He laughed. He probably smelled like rain all the time, for all he knew. “Now, this is pretty cut and dry. Time Clock is just that. Time Management is where you submit your weekly time sheet, and Time Planner is where you request days off. Just put in if you’re comin’ in late or not at all.”
“Simple enough.” Rose opened up the time clock screen to reveal the four punches: in, lunch out, lunch in, and out. “So how long is lunch?” She queried, turning to look at him.
“An hour, but if you take half an hour you can leave half an hour early for the day.” He shrugged, as he caught sight of Donna coming up the hall. “And here’s Donna to give you the rest of the orientation briefing. Don’ forget to clock in.”
“Eight on the dot.” Rose chuckled, and James came from around her desk to head to his office. So far, he thought he’d like having her around, but as he settled into his seat, he looked up and her eyes met his through the blinds. Donna was standing with her back to him, so James chanced a playful wink just to see that blush again. Sure enough, her eyes darted down and she fiddled with her hair. Then he mentally slapped himself. He wasn’t supposed to flirt, allowed to flirt. That had to stop.
So far the morning was going great. After her double embarrassment with James, who she just called the Doctor since everyone else did, Donna took her around to introduce her to everyone. Everyone was super friendly and nice, but Amy and Sarah Jane were the most open and welcoming. They had informed her that every Thursday was girls night out for drinks, so that would be something she was looking forward too. Then she was planted at her computer to do the typical, new hire, mundane training videos on cyber awareness, confidential materials, and such.
There was an upside and a downside to her space on the floor. The downside was she couldn’t see down the hall, which made her antsy, but on the upside she could see everyone else. That meant she could see into the Doctor’s office too. He had settled behind his desk after Donna had shown up, and was engrossed in papers and his computer. Rose knew when she was being watched though, and every so often she looked up in time to see those intense oceans of ice flick away from her.
God he was gorgeous, even though he was obviously twelve or so years older than her. He smelled amazing too, and she didn’t mean just his cologne. Rose had rarely met two men in the span of a week who radiated true, dominant scents. Yet James was just as potent as Harold, but where Harold’s was dangerous, exciting, and overwhelming, James’ was wild but comforting and warm. It had made her lose herself for a moment, slipping up so much he had caught her. It was also the first time she’d felt inexplicably drawn to two men in such a short span.
Her unexpected visit from The Oncoming Storm the night before had disappeared in her excitement of the new day, but oh, she could remember how tempted she was to accept his offer. The rain and wind around him had obscured his scent, only leaving the smell of a gathering thunderstorm, and the desire to wrap her arms around his neck and see just how he smelled behind it all had nearly won out. Rose had run inside instead, because there was no way she could live the life she promised to her friend and parents if she’d gone with him. She felt such a similar draw to James as well, so much so that it physically pulled at her gut to look up. Everything about him looked so inviting, so perfect, from his proud nose to those lips that moved as he read to himself to the curve of his prominent ears. He was so friendly too, and hadn’t thought her slip up weird. Hell, she’d flirted with him, just like she’d flirted with the Storm.
Rose jerked her eyes back to her monitor, pressing the replay button on the video she had daydreamed through. This had to stop, because she couldn’t let herself fall. Yet, she was distracted again as Donna let out a loud. “Bloody hell! Who’s that for?” She looked up in time to see Amy come out of the hall pushing a cart with a vase full of orange and white roses as well as a box of chocolates.
“Rose!” Amy giggled. “Roses for Rose.” She angled the cart towards her, and Rose felt her cheeks flush in embarrassment. She prayed, emphatically, that they were from her dad or mum, but as James wandered out to see what the commotion was about, she picked up the pink envelope resting on the box. That was not her dad’s handwriting.
“Seems Rose’s boyfriend is excited about her new job.” Sarah Jane joined the other two ladies, and James arched an eyebrow behind them.
“I don’ have a boyfriend.” Rose mumbled, her ear tips burning as she pulled out the card. She intended to read it silently, but with four sets of eyes trained on her she caved in. “Rose, I know you’re not overly fond of gifts, but I thought some flowers might make your new work space a bit brighter. Don’t eat too many of the chocolates, or you won’t have room for our dinner. I look forward to tonight. Harold.” She wasn’t about to read that last name aloud, but Amy had peeked over the top of the card.
“Oh my god, Harold Saxon?! You’re dating Harold Saxon?!” She gasped, and to Rose’s surprise James made a noise like he’d been punched.
“‘M not dating anyone. We’re having dinner, as thanks, for raising money to the community center I was fundraising for.” Rose snapped the card closed, and swallowed. It wasn’t a date, right? They’d been texting quite a bit, about rather banal things. Mostly her taunting him about not buying into his games, and him insisting he wasn’t playing any. There’d even been a handful of selfie exchanges, but she hadn’t been.... fuck it all, she had been flirting with him too.
“You sure he knows that?” James snorted, and Rose swallowed as he looked at the gifts with a look that could only be described as disdain. “Edited a book on flower meanings a few months back. Orange roses embody energy, desire, ‘nd passion. White roses represent purity, charm, new beginnings, and mean ‘I’m thinkin’ of you’. So he’s thinkin’ of new beginnings with desire and passion.”
“Go be a know it all somewhere else.” Donna elbowed him, but she too looked a bit distrustful. “You know Harold’s got a-“
“Reputation, yeah.” Rose shifted under everyone’s stares, but she still lifted the flowers over to an empty spot on her desk and set the chocolates beside them. “Um, you can all have some of the chocolates, but ‘m gonna get back to my orientation training.” She mumbled, returning to her seat.
“I’d rather choke on a pear.” James scoffed, and Rose looked up in time to see him turn on his heel and stalk off to his office.
“Doubt they’re poisoned.” Donna shrugged and snagged two from the box, as did Amy and Sarah Jane, and the three women huddled off whispering. Rose sighed as her cheeks finally stopped burning and pulled out her mobile.
Thanks for the flowers and chocolates. They’re gorgeous.
She was about to slide it away when it dinged in response.
So she does accept gifts without a fuss! I don’t believe it.
Rose rolled her eyes and texted back.
There will be no passionate desire going on tonight, Harold Saxon .
There was no response, so she slid her phone back into her purse. Rose glanced up and found those intense eyes watching her as if viewing her in a new light from behind the open blinds. She didn’t know why, but before she could stop herself, she was opening the company’s internal messenger.
RT: I’m serious about him not being my boyfriend. I hope him sending these didn’t impact me working here.
JM: Just be careful. He isn’t who he seems to be.
RT: Who is these days?
JM: I’m serious.
Rose: I can handle myself, but I’ll be careful.
The text bubbles popped up and disappeared four times before a number came through.
JM: If you need a ride or an excuse out of dinner, text or call me. I’ll come get you.
Rose glanced up in surprise to find him watching her over his monitor with an indescribable expression. Could it be, was it, jealousy? No, she was imagining it. He couldn’t be. Hell, they’d just met!
RT: I’ll be fine. What’s Harold Saxon after taking out a jewelry store robber. ;-)
No sooner had she hit send than she got an away from my desk message. She jerked her head up in time to see the blinds snap shut and the light over the door flick on. “Must be on a call.” She murmured to herself. About three heartbeats later, the air in the room changed like a window had been opened, but then it went back to normal. Rose shrugged it off and went back to her video. She finally got a text from Harold, but all it wasn’t enough for her to respond.
Maybe some new beginnings then.
Friday lunches were apparently ordered in, but James’ conference call went past it. Rose was in love with the pizza, and upon learning the name of the shop, ecstatic that it delivered Torchwood. The rest of the day was a blur of taking her photo for her scan badge to access printers, the print shop, and the security system if she worked late, getting her first assignment, which was a children’s book but she didn’t mind, and getting her certifications verified for the art apps on the computer. On Monday, Donna promised to get her a laptop to take home.
James didn’t reappear from his office until Donna was telling her she could leave an hour early since Rose didn’t have any supplies to start on her assignments. She was a bit nervous he’d be upset, but, wait, did he smell like sweat? His face was a bit flushed. Maybe he worked out in his office. “You drive or take a cab?” At least he didn’t seem upset now, despite the flowers in her arms. She was relieved when he hit the lift button for her.
“Taxi. Wanna learn my way around the city before I get a car.” Rose offered as they stepped onto the lift. “You?”
“I drive, but sometimes I take a cab myself.” James shrugged, and as the lift doors closed that draw towards him became nigh on unbearable to resist. The weird thing was, he seemed to be resisting something himself. “Want a lift home?”
That took Rose by surprise, but not as much of a surprise as the mental yes that screamed in her mind. This was so strange. “Not this time, but thanks for offerin’.” She gave into the urge to playfully nudge him with her shoulder, which finally earned her a grin. “You’re pretty generous for my first day, Doctor.”
“Jus’ want ya to feel welcome.” He nudged her back, and Rose giggled. The noise shocked her, because she felt her tongue curl up like it did when she was flirting. They exited the lift together, and Rose led they way past Amy who wished them a good weekend. “Don’ forget. If you need an escape tonight.”
“I know.” Rose grinned as the taxi she had called pulled up to the curb. “Like I said. i can take care of myself.” James shook his head, but he opened the cab door. “See ya Monday, Doctor.” She eased the flowers in first before sliding into the seat.
“See ya, Rose Tyler.” The door closed, and Rose let out a breath she didn’t even know she was holding.
“Torchwood Towers please.” Rose normally liked to chat with the drivers, but today she just wanted to unwind her mind. She wanted to have her wits about her for dinner, not to mention the hullabaloo her mum was going to be throwing once she got to get dressed. So, she pulled her mobile out to scroll through her social media. There wasn’t much to see from her friends, but she did note that the news was discussing a robbery had occurred at a lab around noon, where some highly contagious viruses had been nabbed. The Oncoming Storm had chased them for a while in the air, unable to safely stop them in the city, but then took out their tires with lightning when they made it to the highways. Then he’d chased them on foot before retrieving the case. It had taken almost four hours to end.
Honestly, were people stupid to commit major crimes like that with him around? They had to be. Just knowing a vigilante was liable to turn up in Powell had stopped most of the major crime, and Rose did worry that her absence would soon be noted. She’d helped nab most of the major criminals there, but petty ones were still going on. Yet she couldn’t go back, not now. Then people would figure out it was her.
“Keep the change.” Rose smiled as the cabby pulled up to Torchwood. It took some difficulty to push the lift button, but she set her flowers down to unlock the door to the flat. Surprisingly her mum wasn’t home, and there was a note on the fridge saying she had taken Tony to the couple the next floor up to babysit. She was out to get her hair done for dinner. “Peace and quiet!”
Rose was a bit relieved to not have her mum rambling on about the dinner with Harold, because she still wasn’t sure how she felt about it. Growing up on the estates, she had always been taught to watch herself with men and dating. That lesson was still ringing in her mind when it came to Harold as she stripped down and climbed into the shower.
As she bathed, Rose tried to consider why she had so easily flirted with James and The Oncoming Storm but was so hesitant about calling an obvious date a date. Maybe it was because she still saw herself as an estate girl, despite having money now. She was so used to carrying that stereotype, and maybe Harold’s position did affect how she viewed him. After all, rich men only looked at estate girls as a fun time. Harold may be looking for that, or he might be genuinely interested. Girls back on the estates didn’t get flowers and chocolates delivered at work.
“‘Ll be open minded.” Rose told her reflection, as she plugged in her hair dryer after she toweled off. “Don’ have ta be in a relationship to have a date every now and again. Datin’s part of being normal, ‘nd I want normal.” That’s what she was going to do, enjoy the dinner, have fun, and pretend she was just an average woman. As long as she ignored the black bag in her closet, she could have that.
She selected a plain black cocktail dress that showed just a tasteful amount of her chest and collarbones, a pair of black heels, and did put her hair up in the french twist. Rose had just applied her lipstick and perfume, when the guard at the front desk sent a notification to the resident app that she had a car waiting. She shot back a message that she was on the way, and grabbed a thin black scarf to wrap around her bare arms.
When she reached the ground floor, Rose expected to see a driver waiting by the standard black car, but was surprised to see Harold, in a pristine suit, leaning against a cherry red expensive looking convertible. “Hello Harry.” She tried the nickname, wanting to do what she planned to keep an open mind. It felt a bit weird, but that may change.
“You look absolutely ravishing this evening, Miss Tyler.” He grinned, while pushing away. “Not that you didn’t the last time we met.” Harry took her hand and raised it up to brush his lips over her knuckles. Rose at least had the decency to blush, but inside she was a bit disappointed that the draw she’d felt towards James and the Storm wasn’t there.
“You look handsome as well.” Rose smiled as he released her hand to open the door for her. “And apparently in full gentleman mode this evenin’.” She slid into the passenger seat, glad she’s opted for an updo if the top was staying down.
“Wasn’t I the last time?” Harold laughed, as he slid behind the wheel. He flashed her a cat like smirk, and Rose snorted while fastening her seatbelt in time for him to ease into traffic.
“You stole my phone ‘nd texted yourself.” Rose laughed, which made Harold chuckle. “Although ‘m surprised you picked me up. All your drivers busy?”
“My dad taught me how to win at business, and my mum taught me how to win a lady.” He looked over as they stopped at a traffic light. “And you’re the kind of lady who prefers a personal touch versus a power touch.”
“‘M so far from bein’ a lady, Harold Saxon.” She arched an eyebrow at him, and was shocked when he reached over to squeeze her hand on her knee. His fingers felt nice, warm with just the right amount of gentleness, but Rose preferred calloused hands over smooth ones.
“Figure of speech.” His hand slid away, and Rose flexed her fingers. “How was your first day?” At least he knew how to take a hint about dropping a subject. Rose launched into a run down, excluding the embarrassing moment where she sniffed James and her boss’ reaction to his gifts. “Sounds like it was a good day then.”
“Best first day ‘ve had.” Rose turned her attention back to the city, marveling at the lights as the weekend nightlife began blossoming around them. She had always imagined city life being busy and hectic, full of rude people like portrayed in movies. During the day, it did seem that way, but the city at night was a different creature. “It’s beautiful at night, isn’t it?” She glanced over to see him flick his eyes at her and smile. “The city that is.”
“You’ll have to come to my place sometime. The balcony off of the entertaining room gives a clear view of the skyline. It looks like the city is made of stars, and you’re hovering above it all.” Harold replied over the increase in noise as they started through the clubbing district. It was an open invitation, but didn’t hold the pressure that implied he meant after dinner.
“‘Ll consider it.” Rose called back, as she anticipated him slowing down to stop at one of the numerous valet booths. He wasn’t though, and Rose watched as the lights and music disappeared in the wing mirrors behind them. Then her internal senses perked up to alert her that a black SUV had been following them for sometime. Instantly, she prickled, feeling the hairs on her arms and neck raise, and her fingernails began to ache to grow. She clenched her fists and leaned over to him. “Harry, um, we’re being followed.”
“That’d be my personal security, my clever Rosebud.” He released the wheel long enough to caress her cheek with the knuckle of his index finger. Rose relaxed a smidge, as embarrassment flooded her face. She shifted back to her seat, drawing a breath to ease the Wolf in her mind. “Keen eye though. Most people wouldn’t notice.”
“Most people you know didn’t grow up walkin’ home at one in the mornin’ through high crime areas, yeah.” Rose fired back, earning her a contemplative nod as they turned into a rather upscale looking area opposite the central park of Saxon Tower. It seemed predominantly residential buildings, but up ahead a line of restaurants were glowing.
“Fair point.” Harold eased up to a line of luxurious looking cars, and a valet hurried over. The man opened her door, and helped Rose out as another came around to hand Harold a ticket. “No joy rides, Marcus.” He chuckled, as the man took his seat, and Rose let him link her arm with his as he came around.
“How’d you know I prefer Italian.” Rose queried she took in the sign overhead when they approached the maitré di.
“You really should lock down your social media.” Harold snickered, before launching into a string of Italian to the man. All she caught was their names before they were being led in. “Luckily, this restaurant serves that lamb dish recipe you pinned on Tuesday.”
“Stalker.” Rose hissed, though she was a bit pleased that he had taken into account what she had been wanting to try. She had been apprehensive he might take her somewhere she’d have to have him read the menu to her.
“Developmental research.” He quipped back, sliding his hand around to the small of her back to guide her to the chair. Rose didn’t miss the soft, testing stroke his fingers made from the right curve of her hips to the left. “I did take the liberty of preordering the chef’s appetizer platter and a bottle of wine.”
“That’s fine, ta.” Rose honestly didn’t mind that forethought, because as she took her menu from the gorgeous, redheaded waitress, she balked at the wine list that was ridiculously intricate. “‘Ll just have a glass of water while we wait then.”
Harold looked up at the waitress, again spouting off in Italian. Once she disappeared, Rose found herself under his intense hazel stare. She didn’t balk at it, meeting him head on, holding his gaze with the same intensity he was giving her. She didn’t think he was trying to intimidate her, just testing the waters on how she would be for the evening. It was amusing, because she could nearly see the thoughts flashing behind the intimate lighting reflecting on his eyes. After what felt like an eternity of charged silence, he smirked and blinked before leaning back with a casual but confident aire. “I like you.”
“You hardly know me.” Rose scoffed, but she held her tongue further as the waitress, Michelle, returned with their wine and water. Once she filled their glasses and left the bottle, Rose continued. “‘Nd ‘m not entirely sure I like you.” She was teasing, because she liked him well enough. She still wasn’t sure if it was enough, though.
“What is it about me you don’t like?” Harold cocked an eyebrow at her, and Rose tried to find a reason. He was cocky, a tad rude, but she didn’t necessarily dislike that. The only thing that was truly off putting was his reputation as something of a playboy. “Well?” He lifted his wineglass to his lips.
“You go through women like I go through hair ties.” There, that should knock him down a peg or two. “‘M not interested in bein’ your flavor of the month.” She picked up her own glass, chancing a taste. It was delicious, of course. Harold laughed, a true, belly deep sound that startled the waitress as she set the appetizer tray full of fruit, cheese, and an assortment of sample sized meat down.
“Are you implying I’ve slept with every woman that’s been photographed on my arm?” Rose plucked a slice of orange up and popped it between her lips as she nodded. Harold leaned forward to snag a slice of pear and dip it into one of the soft scoops of cheese. Their lack of utensils earned some disapproving stares, but Rose didn’t give a rat’s arse about the looks. “Maybe a little under half.” He shrugged, and Rose swallowed her bite of food with a smirk of triumph.
“I’m not looking for a flavor of the month.” He cut her off, his face falling into a serious line. “Yes, I’m guilty of enjoying the privileges that come with being an attractive, successful man. What I’m not guilty of is tricking those women into thinking they were anything more than a week fling or a prop for cameras.” That caught her off guard, and Rose reached for a bit of kiwi to hide her lack of response. “It’s fun, true, but it’s lacking something. I didn’t know what it was until you sassed off to me.”
“What’s it lacking?” Rose nudged a bit of strawberry towards him, and he picked it up to hold it between them.
“Effort. I crook a finger, flash my wallet, whisper weekend in Aspen, and they’re as soft and juicy as this strawberry.” His voice dropped, and Rose didn’t miss the way it took on a husky tone as he turned the fruit. “You, well, getting you to even agree took work. I couldn’t task it off to someone else, couldn’t persuade you with well placed compliments. I had to put effort into getting you to say yes.”
“So you find me rejectin’ you attractive?” Rose queried, wondering why he was still holding the fruit between his fingers instead of eating it. She got her answer when he leaned forward to touch it to her lips. She accepted the bite, chewing slowly as he resumed his seat and picked up a bit of the meat.
“Not exactly. Physically, you’re already absolutely delicious, but that defiance, that wall you’re so fiercely holding up even from our first conversation, that’s what makes me want to chase you.” He flashed her a sly smirk that made her swallow, not out of fear, but out of excitement and curiosity. Most men found her attitude as turn off. “Who is Rose Tyler, really, behind those stunning eyes?” He finally dropped the meat onto his tongue and curled it back into his lips with a heavy look.
“Just your average estate girl who knows when she’s bein’ pillow talked.” Rose fired back, picking up her wine glass and leaning back into her seat. “And learned to listen to her brain ‘nd not her libido.” He was good, she’d give him that.
“If your libido was all I cared about, we’d be having dinner at the Tower.” His husky chuckle was interrupted by Michelle appearing with their dinner, and the power play that had sparked between them simmered down enough for Rose to enjoy her meal. The conversation turned to lighter topics: had she ever been to the theatre, what was his favorite movie, what was her go to comfort snack, and what country had he not traveled to that he wanted.
Since he was driving, Harold limited himself to two glasses of wine, but Rose allowed herself a third. She wasn’t drunk, since it dampened her senses when she was, but she was feeling rather relaxed. When he wasn’t trying to bait her into their heated game, Rose found Harold was actually quite an open man. He didn’t sugar coat his opinions, which was a trait she wished more people had, and he took her teasing jabs at his ego and behaviors with good humor.
Once dinner was paid for, Rose was wondering if she had at least found a friend if she decided to turn down his romantic pursuit. He was easy to talk to, and although she didn’t feel that gut draw to him like she had with James and the Storm, his company was more pleasant than she expected. “So what’s on the agenda for the rest of the evening.” She asked, as a glance at the clock on the dash of his car showed it was barely past nine.
“See, that’s the question that I would usually angle back to my house, but if I try, you’ll say no.” Harold shook his head, and Rose rolled her eyes. At least he was being honest. “Instead, I’ll take you home and go back to my ridiculously large bed all alone.”
“‘M sure you have a girl or two that can help with that.” Rose snickered, as she leaned her head back against the headrest to watch the lights pass overhead.
“True, but not in the mood for mindless fucking tonight.” Rose jerked her head to look over at Harold at the foul word. “Besides, to get you, I have to prove I’m not just looking to add another notch.”
“You’re so full of shite.” Rose looked back up as she laughed. Sirens became audible over the sound of music from the clubbing district, and Rose thought she saw a streak of silver overhead. That draw jerked at her stomach, before he disappeared behind a building. Luckily, with this area so busy, Harold had to focus on driving. So the ride was silent until they pulled up at Torchwood.
“I’ve got it!” Harold called before Rose could Open her door. He left the car idling, as he came around and helped her out. She mean to reach back for her wrap, but Harold had grabbed it and was draping it around her. This had her quite close to him, and she drew a deep sniff. He smelled good, just like before, and Rose tried to place exactly what he smelled like. “Did you have a good time tonight?”
“Yes, actually.” Rose reached out to straighten his lapel that had flipped up in the wind. “Did you?” She already knew the answer, but asking regardless was polite.
“What do you think?” Harold murmured, and suddenly his fingers were curling under her chin. His eyes met hers in the lights coming from the lobby doors, and Rose wasn’t sure if she wanted what she knew was coming, but she was also unsure if she didn’t, either. His lips met hers with a testing caress, and then pressed more firmly.
Rose let herself enjoy the warm sensation for only a heartbeat, and then she pulled back and shoved at his chest to regain space. “‘M not invitin’ you up either. I told you, ‘m not fallin’ for-“
“I wasn’t asking you to invite me up.” Harold dropped her chin and smiled, the change in demeanor and easy acceptance of the rejection was a stsrk contrast to the way he’d been acting earlier. “Goodnight, Rose.”
“Text me when ya get home, so I know you made it in one piece.” Rose turned away from him to head into the lobby. She knew it was rude to leave so abruptly, but her head was feeling a bit too dizzy. She let herself in the flat, relieved her parents weren’t back yet. The kiss had her a bit off kilter.
It had been pleasant, her first one in a year. It was the gentleness that surprised her. She’d expected something more dominant, more demanding. It wasn’t until she kicked her heels off in her closet that she realized he’d been testing her. Strangely, she didn’t know if she’d failed or passed. “Jesus Christ.” Rose shut her room door and dropped her clutch to the sheets to flop down beside it. “He didn’t even ask for a second date.” Her mouth voiced the thought as soon as it formed.
Rose’s mobile dinged, and she dug it from her clutch, expecting it to be Harold. It was just her mum saying they’d be home around midnight and that Tony would be sleeping at the neighbors. She sent back a text that she was home now, and not to worry about rushing back.
She weighed her phone in her hand, contemplating the evening, and she wondered why, despite her good time, that feeling just wasn’t there. A whole evening, and that core deep sensation of being drawn had only come for a fleeting moment, and it hadn’t been to Harold. It was gnawing at her now, as she glanced over at the closed balcony doors, beckoning her out to look at the sky. Why had she felt it towards the hero of the city, and why the hell had she felt it towards James.
James, the Doctor, her boss, who had been worried and concerned with her safety. The flat was so empty and quiet, and Rose was sick of her whirlwind thoughts. Her fingers were moving before she contemplated.
Hey, it’s Rose. Just wanted you to know I survived dinner unharmed. I’m home now.
There was no immediate response, and she wondered if it was a stupid move to make. He probably thought she was being sarcastic and snobbish for sending it. Rose was halfway to her ensuite to wash off her face and strip out of her dress, when her phone dinged. She hurried back to grab the mobile.
How do I know he isn’t texting that to trick me?
Rose giggled at his tease, and contemplated a convincing reply. An idea came to mind, and she flipped the camera on as she flopped back onto the pillows. Then she snapped a selfie and sent it through. Grinning ear to ear, she waited for another quip, and nearly dropped her phone on her face when it rang a call, flashing James’ number.
James had been poised on a roof top not far from Torchwood, tending to the slight graze on his leg he’d gotten from the shrapnel of the bomb that had gone off when his mobile had dinged in the interior pocket of his top. Luckily, the small distribution warehouse had been empty of employees, as they had spotted the first bomb and evacuated. He’d managed to fry the circuits on two, but the third had detonated before he’d found it. If his stepmum, Sylvia, hadn’t insisted his suit be lined to prevent such things, it would have been imbedded in his calf. As it was, the cut barely warranted a bandage, although it was bleeding and stung.
It had been distracting enough to overpower the draw he felt being so close to Rose’s home when he’d flown over. Although, he had contemplated landing on her balcony and jokingly asking for a first aid kit. James had felt the draw earlier, as he flew over traffic, but it had faded when he moved to the outskirts of the city. Now it was pulling at him again.
He had expected the text to be Donna, checking in on him, but it came from Rose, telling him she was home. Somehow, he’d known it, the moment he passed Torchwood, but having it confirmed shook him up a bit. He’d just been teasing her with his text, as he held pressure on the cut and waited for the bleeding to subside, but when she sent the selfie, that urge and draw he felt towards her only flamed higher. He couldn’t just fly over there now, so his thumb pressed the call button before he realized it.
“Um, hi!” Her voice sounded as shocked as he felt, and James wondered if he was an absolute moron for doing it. She didn’t want to talk to him, even if she had been staring at him and very blatantly informing him she was not anybody’s girlfriend. Donna had ribbed him about that, saying it was flirting. Was it though? If Rose wasn’t impressed by the Storm, and she wasn’t fawning over Saxon, why the hell would she flirt with James? “How’s your night.”
“Middling.” James shrugged though he knew she couldn’t see. He’d had worse, but he’d definitely had better. “How was your date?” Horrible, he found himself hoping. Not horrible as in Harold was cruel or mean to her, but horrible in that she wouldn’t want a second.
“Intriguing’s a good word for it.” Rose’s voice sounded like she was indecisive. Well, he’d take that over wonderful, but wait, she wasn’t refuting it was a date now. “He’s a unique man, ‘ll say that.” There was the sound of pillows shuffling and the phone moving, and James cast his gaze over at the lit tower. “Don’ think you called to talk about whether or not ‘m seein’ him again.”
“Nope, just wanted to make sure you really were in one piece and unmarred is all.” Let her take that for what it was worth. Harold’s only long term girlfriend, Lucy Cole, who lasted a whole two months three years ago, had died in the same yacht explosion that had killed his family and foster sister Bill. According to forensics, the bomb had been in a gift to her for her birthday.
“‘M fine, Doctor. I can handle myself, you know.”
“Keep sayin’ it ‘nd you might eventually convince me.” He winced at his own words, hoping she didn’t take offense to it. Luckily, all he got was a laugh. Why was this bothering him so much? He barely knew her, but just the sound of her voice had him ready to fly over there.
“Can we talk about somethin’ other than Harold?” Rose sighed into the phone, a delicate thing that said she was obviously done with the topic. “Any plans for this weekend?”
“I’m gonna go out with Donna and her boyfriend Lee for drinks tomorrow night.” Where did that come from? He didn’t have any plans, but it had just fallen off of his tongue. “You?”
“Just sketching stuff out for that assignment and maybe taking Tony to the park tomorrow.”
“Want to come tomorrow night?” Damn his big mouth. Why had he asked that? James needed to get his mouth and brain to operate on the same wave length, because they were not working as a pair.
“‘D love to!” Rose sounded absolutely pleased by the invitation, and James swallowed a groan of annoyance with himself. Now he’d have to call Donna and tell her about the last minute plans. “Will anyone else be there?”
“Just us.” He couldn’t believe she’d agreed to come, much less that he’d asked. He fervently hoped Donna and Lee didn’t already have plans. “The four of us, I mean.”
“So your girlfriend isn’ comin’ then?” Rose’s casual question sent him for a loop, and he found himself noticing that her voice was a bit odd, not strained but almost like she was exerting some sort of resisting effort.
“Don’ have one.” And he wouldn’t. He couldn’t, ever. Dating was too complicated with his life. There were too many risks. He must have imagined the pleased tone in her hum. Okay, so James was flirting with Rose, unable to ignore that gut deep draw he was feeling. “And yours isn’ invited.”
“I don’ have a girlfriend either.” Rose’s sassy quip made him roll his eyes. “Bu’ if you mean Harry. He is not my boyfriend.” Hang on. Why did Rose put so much emphasis on the word no? She couldn’t be flirting with him. Why would she be? He was twelve years older than her, and women her age always went for men like Saxon or pined after The Oncoming Storm. “Doctor?”
“Sorry, was distracted.” By her, but she didn’t need to know that. “‘Ll text you which pub when I find out.” More like when he planned it. Donna better not have plans of her own. Again, Rose gave that almost strained sigh again. “You okay?”
“Yeah, jus’ think dinner didn’ agree with me. Stomach’s a bit achy.”
“I can let you go.” He didn’t want to hang up, but he definitely didn’t want to bother her if she was feeling ill.
“No!” Her strangled protest shocked him, but it also gave him a bit of satisfaction. She didn’t want to hang up either. “I mean, um, you don’ have ta hang up. ‘M fine.”
“You sure?” There was noise in the background, like doors opening and the traffic noises were audible like she’d stepped outside. The Tower was too far to tell if she had. That pulling urge in his gut tripled in intensity.
“Yeah.” There was a brief pause, and James almost spoke, but Rose’s voice came through a bit more strained. “Can I ask you a question?”
“‘M an open book.” Well, a censored, open book, but she didn’ need to know that. He waited for her to speak again, but the question didn’t come.
“Nevermind, ‘s more a face to face question.”
“Ask me tomorrow night.” What could she possibly want to ask? For a fleeting moment he wondered if she had figured out the truth. Of course she hadn’t. That was preposterous. His leg gave a slight throb of discomfort, as he lowered it down off the ledge to test his weight on it. He winced, as the bleeding began again. He needed to get a bandage on it. “Listen, ‘ve got a call from my grandad comin’ in. Can I text you in a bit?”
“I’ll be up.” Rose obviously didn’t doubt his lie, but then again she didn’t have a reason to. “Talk to ya later.” James tried to ignore that she sounded a bit reluctant to hang up, and he definitely tried to ignore how pleased it made him feel.
“Later then.” He ended the call, sliding his phone back into its pocket, and yanked on his mask. He turned on the ledge of the building, summoning the winds to him, and drifted out into the air. It took all he could not to angle back towards Torchwood Towers, but he managed it. Once home, he cleaned and bandaged his leg and then called his sister.
“H-h-hey J-j-James.” Lee’s voice answered. “D-d-She’s just getting out of the shower.”
“Hey Lee. How’s the book comin’?” James flopped down on his sofa and stared around the empty flat. Lee was an author who had a pretty popular adult fantasy series out. It was how Donna had met him, editing his work. She had fallen for his written words.
James had thought the man’s stutter would be a no go for her, but Donna didn’t mind it in the least. They’d been together six months, and she had recently moved in with him. He liked the man better than anyone else Donna had dated, and Lee treated her with nothing but love and respect.
“Good, alm-most done w-with chapter ten.” There was the sound of a door opening, and then the phone being passed off.
“Hey Spacebrain, What’s up?” Donna’s voice came on, and James swallowed a but nervously. “You never call this late. You get hurt?”
“Jus’ a scratch, but tha’s not why ‘m callin’.” He tugged at the ear not blocked by the phone, just knowing Donna was about to unleash the full brunt of her teasing. “You and Lee wanna get drinks tomorrow night?”
“We’ve got plans to go to his mum’s already.” Well shit. This wasn’t good. “Hang on, you never invite out for drinks. What’d’ya do James?”
“I sorta asked Rose to come out for drinks with us.” He waited for the onslaught of taunting, but what happened next shocked him.
“Thank you for earnin’ me twenty quid.”
“What?” James sat up straight, despite being alone. “What do ya mean I earned you twenty-“
“I bet Sarah Jane and Amy you’d ask Rose out by tomorrow night. Sarah Jane said by next Wednesday, and Amy said by Friday.” James groaned in exasperation and confusion. “What? You think we missed you two starin’ at each other every five seconds before you disappeared on that bank robbery?” Hang on, Rose had been staring at him? James knew he’d been looking a bit too much, but he tried not to get caught! “Then Amy overheard you offer her a ride home through the intercom system. You never offer new people a ride!”
“You’re annoyin’. Did’ya know that?” He growled. “Can’ you come out after dinner with Mrs. McAvoy?” No way could he turn up to drinks without them. That would make Rose think it was a date. It wasn’t a date. He didn’t date, period, end of story.
“Sorry big brother, but we can’t.” Damn her. He knew they could, but Donna was being intentionally obtuse. “You and Rose should have fun. Play your cards right, and maybe she won’t wanna go out with Saxon again.”
“Donna, you know I don’ date. You know I can’t!” The words came out too quickly for his mind to process. Once Donna laughed, he realized he’d kicked himself if the arse. “Donna...”
“It’s drinks, Dumbo. It’s not like you’ve gotta tell her everythin’.” He could see his sister’s eye roll in his mind. “Don’ you dare cancel either! Go, have fun! You could use some.”
“I hate you.” He growled, realizing she would tear him a new one if he did back out. Great, now he had to find an excuse to explain why they weren’t coming.
“Love you too. Night!” With that, the call ended.
James stared down at the screen, wondering what the hell he’d gotten himself into. He couldn’t deny that he wanted to get to know Rose, that there was something there he’d never experienced before. That was the crux of the issue. If he gave in, what could come of it? There would either be lies upon lies, or the truth and risk exposing everything.
He opened up the text to Rose, drawing a breath. He’d have to cancel, because there was too much at stake. The picture she’d sent was there, her amber eyes and cheeky smile fanning that drawing urge in his gut higher.
You still up?
His fingers moved before he could think.
Was falling asleep, but I don’t mind texting a bit longer.
No. You sleep. I’ll text you in the morning. :-)
Great, now he was sending emojis? What the hell was going on? James was losing his mind.
Sweet dreams. Ttyl8r :-D
Look forward to it. Sweet dreams Rose.
He tossed his phone onto the cushion, staring out at the open window. What the hell was he going to do now?
Rose was confused, but she wasn’t complaining about it. She and James had been texting on and off all day, the first of which had been her typing a good morning just as his came through. Then it had been so many different things from books to current events to whether she should get a vanilla cone or a sorbet cup from The ice cream vendor in the park with Tony. What confused her was how much she was smiling, because it made her feel giddy just talking to him.
Rose didn’t get giddy or smitten, not anymore. Dating for real, with an actual intent at wanting something substantial wasn’t something she could consider. Yes, she’d enjoyed her night with Harold, enjoyed their conversation, and the kiss had been pleasant, but that was just casual dating. She hadn’t been nervous picking out an outfit, doing her makeup, or styling her hair for that. Technically this wasn’t a date either. She was getting drinks with her boss and coworker.
Even so, Rose had tried on five different jeans and six different shirts, since the address he’d sent her was just a casual type pub. Then she’d found herself redoing her eyeliner three times and debating on pink lipstick, red stain, or a clear balm. She went pink. She’d given up on her hair, which wouldn’t straighten to save her life, and threw it up in a high pony tail with a few strands framing her face. It wasn’t a date, but she still dabbed perfume behind her ears and the crook of her neck like it was.
It was just drinks, but she still found her heart racing in the cab. The closer she got to the pub, the more she found herself fidgeting, and then she felt it. It pulled at her gut like someone had dropped an industrial magnet into her core and it was straining to latch on. She paid the cabbie, stepped out, and felt her face break into a smile that wedged her tongue between her teeth. James was on the curb, mobile in hand, and his eyes met hers. Then he smiled, and Rose’s stomach did a summersault. Her feet were moving, and suddenly she was face to chest with a dark green jumper. “Hey you!”
James had been nerves all day, which was ridiculous. Despite what Donna said, this wasn’t a date. Yes, he’d been glued to his mobile all day, unable to let more than a minute go by without replying to Rose’s texts. Yes, he’d gone out to get a hair cut and shave. Yes, he’d splashed on the cologne she’d complimented, but it was not a date.
The smile he’d been unable to get rid of was not because he liked her. Rose was just a friend, sort of. Sure, they’d basically played the first meet twenty questions all day. Okay, the more he learned the more he needed to know. It was not a date. They couldn’t date. Rose could never be put in that danger. Still, he felt that pull, like a spontaneous gravitational field pulling him into her orbit as the cab approached. He had been unable to ignore it, to look up just in time to see her grin all tongue touched and dancing eyes, and his feet had moved of their own accord. It took everything in him not to hug her.
“Hello yourself.” Rose beamed, and she looked towards the door. “We waitin’ on Donna and the other guy?” Shit, he hadn’t thought of an excuse. He’d been so distracted all day.
“Uh, she just texted actually. They’re having issues with the water pipes in their flat.” James’ bright smile turned a bit shy, and Rose had to swallow to resist the urged to lace their fingers together. Not only was she making sure this was not a date, but he probably wouldn’t like that. “‘S just us. That all right?”
“Yeah.” James was relieved that Rose wasn’t upset at the changes. “Let’s go in! ‘M tired of all the posh food Mum makes or orders in now. ‘Ve been cravin’ something greasy and horrible for my arteries.” He smiled at the mischievous glint in her eyes, and he might have bit his lip to stifle an approving noise as she turned toward the door and he got an eyeful of how well those jeans she was wearing fit.
“Luckily, this place serves some of the best greasy, artery clogging food around.” He laughed as they ducked into the pub. His first thought was to grab a bar seat, but they were full. The only open seating was a table tucked in the back corner. “Looks like that’ll be us.”
“Works for me, ta!” Rose didn’t think as she slipped her hand into his, but the instant their fingers laced together, that pulling, nagging sensation in her gut thrummed in response and nearly stole her breath. The wolfish call that slumbered in her veins was practically howling joyously. She swallowed, unable to keep from looking up at him as they wove towards the table. Her heart skipped as he looked what could only be shocked and relieved. When they both grabbed for the chair facing the door, Rose found it hard to release his hand. “Nuh uh. Can’ sit with my back to the door.”
“Me either.” James was befuddled by the way her hand had literally eased that nagging sensation. The storm that filled his veins, constantly yearning for release, quieted at the simple touch. He hoped that surprise and relief it brought didn’t show too obviously on his face. It took all of his willpower not to grab her hand again, as they stared each other down over the chair. “Makes me anxious.”
“Me too.” Rose shifted her stance, unsure of how to handle this little dispute. She watched as he eyed the other chair, and then smirked. In what seemed like a blink, he had the other chair sitting beside the first instead of across from it. “There we go.” He dropped into it and gestured to the first one. “Now we can both see the door.”
“Genius, you are.” Rose dropped into her own seat and hung her purse on the back so it was between their chairs. The arrangement still had them close, so much so that their arms brushed on the tabletop.
God he smelled good, as he leaned casually back in his seat and raised a hand to signal one of the waitresses. The cologne was obvious, but underneath it all he smelled like he’d been walking in the light rain. It had drizzled that morning, but it clung to the air around him. Every person had their own unique scent, and Rose found his soothing.
“Did you jus’ sniff me again?” James watched as Rose blushed, and the sight made his stomach do a little flip. She nodded, tucking a strand of loose hair behind her ear. “Why do ya do that?” That was twice now, and while he found it amusing, he wondered at why she did it.
“‘Ve got this condition called hyperosmia.” Rose let the old diagnosis roll off her tongue. It was the first thing that had triggered her parents into knowing something was off about her. The doctors had diagnosed that, and then came the diagnosis for hearing. When she hit puberty, and began growing claws and having her eyes glow when she was upset or in danger, they stopped taking her to see the doctors. “‘Nd ‘ve got hyperacusis as well. Basically my sense of smell and hearin’ are elevated. I can block out the sounds mostly, but the smells can’t be helped.”
“That’s gotta be handy, but probably gets annoying.” It was the first time someone had assumed, correctly, that the abilities could get bothersome. “How sensitive?” He playfully nudged her arm, and Rose had to fight the urge to take his hand again. Honestly, she’d never felt the inherent need to touch someone so badly in her life. “They say people have cat like reflexes, but do you have hound like senses?”
“Wolf like.” Rose could have slapped herself for saying it, but she doubted James would make the connection to the old Powell vigilante. “‘Nd I keep sniffin’ you, because you smell good. Not jus’ your cologne, but you, as a person.”
“So everyone has their own unique scent?” Shit, James was in trouble. He had been near Rose as the Storm, but had he been close enough for her to smell him? He didn’t think so, but if she had, would she connect it?
“Yeah. My mum has a sort of baked goods smell all the time, sort of comfy and pleasant, and Donna smells like a breeze, playful but cheerful.” James tried not to swallow in nerves, choosing instead to arch an eyebrow at her. “You smell like the air just before it rains in the summer, wild but soothing.” Her eyes shifted towards the crowd, and he could tell she wasn’t fully describing what she was taking in.
“That’s all I smell like, wild but soothin’ rain?” Rose bit her lip at his question. How could she possibly describe what else was there, that inherent, dominant, alpha scent that made her skin tingle. “C’mon, I won’t judge you.”
“‘S hard to explain.” Rose paused as the waitress appeared to take their order, and then continued when she left. “You smell dominant, but not cocky. ‘S like how animals know who is in charge.”
“Take it you know a few to recognize the scent.” James was flattered that Rose found his scent soothing and nice. He was trying to subtly ask if she had paired two and two together, without outing himself if she hadn’t. “Any here in Tardis?”
“Besides you, just two.” James forced himself not to tense up at her words. “My dad, of course, and Harold Saxon.” She met his gaze with a somewhat shy smile. He ignored the wave of distaste at Harold’s name. “I’m pretty positive The Oncoming Storm has that smell too, buI haven’t gotten close enough to tell.” Now he relaxed. She hadn’t gotten his scent. “He’s quite the character, isn’ he?”
“You met him apart from the jewelry store?” He knew the answer, of course, but if he was going to keep up the charade, that was the safe question to ask.
“Um, just once more. I tied the robber up with my scarf and asked him to bring it back. He swung by a few days later to make sure I got it is all.” Rose wasn’t about to tell James that the Storm had flirted with her and invited her to go flying. The masked man hadn’t been back, even though she kind of wanted him to. It made her feel a bit guilty, which she didn’t understand.
“Well that was polite of him.” Rose shrugged and smiled as the waitress reappeared with their food and drinks. “Never heard of him making house calls. He must like you.” James elbowed her playfully, and Rose rolled her eyes. She did laugh, as she shook vinegar onto her chips.
“Oh, so the Storm’s okay for me to have late night balcony chats with, but Harold isn’t?” She was just teasing, but James’ entire demeanor tensed up. Instantly, she regretted her words, but now her curiosity was snagged. “You really don’ like ‘im, but you publish his books?”
“I have my reasons.” It was obvious James wasn’t going to divulge them. “But yes, the Oncoming Storm is a much better choice, if you’re choosin’ that is.” The wry smile on his lips had Rose thinking he didn’t like either option, and the thought had her feeling a bit flustered in a good way.
Wondering if she was losing her damned mind, she chanced reaching over to touch his arm. “Nobody but you said I was choosin’ between them.” She offered in her easiest tone. Just the simple contact of her fingers on his sleeve had her heart racing. That pull, that urge, magnified, screaming at her to slide her hand down and lace their fingers together.
At Rose’s touch and soft words, both of James’ hearts went haywire. Mentally, he knew this was wrong, dangerous, and breaking every rule he’d set for himself. She didn’t know he was the Storm, but that shy smile on her face and the way her fingers were trembling lightly against his sleeve were clear indications that she was into him, James. “I just assumed.” His brilliant tongue failed him, and the urge to take her hand was growing too strong to resist. He couldn’t, shouldn’t do it. So he fought it, reaching out to grab his drink.
“You know what they say about assumin’.” There was a flicker of disappointment in Rose’s voice as her hand fell away and rejection flashed over her face slightly. How could he resist her when she sounded like that. After the drink, he set it down and draped that arm over the back of her chair. The motion gave him the contact he was craving, all be it to her shoulders, and Rose’s rejected look vanished. “Why’d you get into editing and publishing anyways?”
“My dad was a journalist, ‘nd before he died he got me into books. When I grew up, I wanted a job where I could be exposed to all kinds, but still be my own boss.” That was pretty much the truth. It also helped that a career like that meant he made a decent enough living but lived in obscurity. Nobody would notice if he disappeared for a few hours or came in late, and he could work from home if needed. “Was doin’ it on my own for a while, but then Donna was havin’ a hard time finding work. She’s the fastest typer ‘ve ever met, so I started splitting my editing jobs with her. Then my stepmum’s friend Sarah Jane retired from teaching, but she was bored. So we hired her on as a part time secretary. Then suddenly, boom, we were buyin’ a building and publishing books.” He had to really touch her, so James risked trailing his thumb along the back of her arm, his entire body relaxing as skin touched skin. To his surprise, Rose relaxed too.
“Mum thinks ‘m nuts for gettin into illustratin’. I like it though, ‘nd working on this first assignment has been challengin’ already.” Rose couldn’t help but lean just a bit more into him. Just the simple weight of his thumb against the back of her arm was a relief she couldn’t describe. It was like that satisfying moment when a piece of a model car or a puzzle snapped into place. She shouldn’t be doing it. Shouldn’t be risking all the wild ideas flying through her brain, like would it be too forward to turn and find out just how soft his lips were. “I get to bring imagination to life.”
“You’re gonna be fantastic at it.” Rose must have imagined him glancing down at her lips. “Can’ wait to see what is in your mind when you’re finished.” He was definitely looking down at her lips, and Rose was speaking before she could stop herself. The pub suddenly seemed too crowded, too loud.
“Do you maybe wanna pay and just walk around for a bit?” She hoped he’d say yes, even though that would probably be over the line just a bit. James’ arm was gone, and Rose winced internally. Had she gotten the wrong signals? He was dropping the money for the food and drinks on the table.
“Read my mind.” James was kicking himself for agreeing, but the thought of walking with her, maybe even getting to hold her hand, was too tempting. That temptation was sated as she stood, grabbed her purse, and slid her hand into his. “There’s a park jus’ that way that has performers and stuff. Wanna walk there?” He only knew of it because a fire dancer once accidentally set it on fire last fall, and he had to fly in and extinguish the flames with rain.
“Sounds perfect.” Rose squeezed his hand, and James relished how perfect it felt. The ability to resist her was growing weaker, especially when she tucked her hair back and smiled all tongue touched like that. By the time they’d reached the park, chatting the whole way about the book she was illustrating, he realized he had pulled her in so close she hand brought her other hand up to rest on his bicep and her chest was brushing his arm.
“Someone needs to get that man a record label.” Rose was in agreement as they paused on the outskirts of a group surrounding a man with a guitar who was singing. “What type of music do you like?”
“All kinds. My playlist is very weird.” Rose had never felt so at peace pressed so closely into someone. She didn’t understand, but obviously James was definitely okay with it. As they stopped to watch a magician, he was tracing his thumb against hers. It struck her then, that somehow drinks with a friend had turned into a date, and maybe the easy feeling she got when they were so close was a sign. The question was, did he feel the same?
“Penny for ‘em?” Rose was obviously lost in thought, and James was dying to know what was in her mind. Their night of drinks, which he swore vehemently to Donna wasn’t a date, was sure feeling like one. The thing was, James was so content with the idea that he hadn’t resisted it the entire time they were walking. He hadn’t given a single thought to who he really was.
“Stop me, if ‘m out of bounds.” Rose turned, looking up at him as they paused in an empty area near a bench. “But, this sorta feels like a date. I don’ wan-“
James finger came up and covered her lips, silencing Rose’s confession. The way his eyes were bouncing between hers, she wasn’t sure he was going reject her or kiss her. “That a problem?” God his voice sounded so delicious when it dropped low like that, like an invitation, and his hands were on her waist. She shook her head, unable to speak past that tugging sensation inside of her. This time it was pulling her into his arms, up just a bit on her toes, and her hands to move to his shoulders.
Their noses brushed, and Rose closed her eyes. Her heart had never felt so manic in anticipation of a kiss before. His breath broke over her lips, and Rose felt her own catch. Then a sound emanated from his pocket, stabbing into her sensitive ears, making her yelp in shock and pain as she slammed her hands over them. “Sorry!” James’ apology was flustered as he dug his phone out. Thankfully, the sound ended, but when she looked he was frowning at it. “Rose, ‘m so sorry. I have to go. Emergency.”
“Everythin’ all right?” Rose’s voice was a bit strained, and James was swearing internally at the information from the police scanner app. It was another bomb. Of course, right at that moment.
“Yeah, family emergency.” James grabbed her by the cheek and pressed a kiss on her brow, feeling guilt at having to rush off. Then again, it gave him clarity. This is why he couldn’t have a relationship. “Can you get a ride home?”
“City’s full of taxis.” Rose wanted to take his hand, insist on coming with him, but it wasn’t her place. His face was ashen, as the smile he had been wearing was gone. “Text me later!”
“I will!” Then James was gone, running down the path at full speed. Rose sighed and plopped down on the bench. As he grew further away, the pull lessened, until all that remind was an absent twist of her gut. What had she been doing? Her mind was clear now. He was her boss, and besides, he didn’t need to be caught up in her secret. This was a mess.
James slumped behind his desk on Monday morning, rolling his shoulders as he yawned. After the bomb Saturday night, there had been a robbery, and then Sunday Morning had woken him up to an out of control bus, a suicidal man on a skyscraper, and finally dinner at his granddad’s. Interspersed between that all had been texts with Rose, begging Donna to come up with some fake emergency to explain him running off, and then finally finishing the editing on a book about time travel. Donna said she’d have her excuse ready by the time she came in at nine after her annual check up.
He hoped that the city didn’t need The Oncoming Storm today, because he was exhausted. It wasn’t just physically either, no. Mentally he’d been beating himself over the unwise decisions made Saturday night. He’d opened a door wide for Rose, and now he had to close it. It surprised him how much it pained him to consider it. He had it all rehearsed though. He was the head of the company. She was an employee. It wouldn’t be professional.
James knew he could do it, but as that pulling feeling began, indicating Rose’s presence downstairs, he felt his willpower begin to crumble. She was early by twenty minutes. Then his phone dinged a text, Sarah Jane wouldn’t be in because she had a stomach virus. Great, that left him and Rose alone until Donna showed up. He’d have time to talk to her and say that another night like Saturday couldn’t happen. A second text came in, this one from Donna, reminding him to take Rose to the storage room to pick out a laptop when she came in.
Even better, because that meant he didn’t have to do it in either of their offices. He could bring it up when they were walking. Yet the stronger that pull grew, the harder James was finding it to keep his resolve. The sound of heels on the hall tile had him looking up, and when Rose came in carrying a messenger bag over her shoulder their eyes met. The smile that blazed across her face crumbled the argument in his mind.
Rose had been working up the courage all weekend to tell James that this couldn’t happen, well this being a repeat of Saturday night. First, she couldn’t let him know about her secret. It wasn’t something she could ever put onto anyone else. Shareen knew, because Rose had let her abilities slip when she was thirteen. One friend at risk was enough. Second, James was her boss, and it would look horrible to everyone else in the company if they were together.
Seven times she’d tried to tell him over there continuous texts, but each time she chickened out. It would be better face to face, Rose thought. Yet, as she came in early, that pull was knotting her stomach, and as the lift went higher, her excuses for stopping this from progressing were growing weaker. The instant those blue eyes met her through his open office door, her resolve was decimated. “Mornin’!” She beamed, her entire body feeling electrified as he stood up, and she turned into her workspace to drop her bag on her desk.
“Morning yourself.” James’ voice took her by surprise as he was already halfway to her, and Rose had to fight with everything she had to resist the urge to throw her arms around him. “Sarah Jane’s out today, and Donna’s gonna be in a bit late.” Knowing they were alone made it harder to resist that shy smile of his.
“I’ll just make some coffee for us then.” Rose brushed her hair back to hide how her body felt like it was literally vibrating due to his proximity.
“Already did.” James jabbed his thumb over at the machine that was finally heating up the water to brew. “Get clocked in so I can take you over to the storage room and pick out your laptop.” He needed to do this now, because every millisecond they were alone was clouding his judgment. He felt like he was electrified, and every fibre of his being was urging him to plunge his hands into her hair and snog her senseless.
“On it!” Rose hurried behind her desk to not only log in, but to create space. His eyes had been practically glued to her lips, and if she didn’t look away, she was going to forget why this couldn’t happen. She punched in, then stood again, fighting the draw of her hand towards his. “Lead the way.”
“‘S at the other end of the hall.” James swallowed, trying to force himself to keep a conservative distance between them as he lead her down to the door. Grabbing his badge from his pocket, he pressed it against the sensor and held the door open. “Ladies first. Lights are on the right.” Rose’s perfume was intoxicating as she brushed past him to step into the narrow room. Then the lights flicked on, revealing the shelves.
It wasn’t so much a room as an oversized closet, Rose noted, and it was packed with shelves and boxes. Most of the labels said supplies, but there were also spare monitors, towers, keyboards, and wires. “Where’s the laptops?” She looked back at James, who’s eyes ripped up from her bum as his cheeks flushed. Okay, she needed to do this now. “Also, we need to talk.”
“Should be that back shelf.” James pointed at the one where the should be, but he couldn’t see around her. “Yeah, we do.” Perfect, she initiated the conversation. Now he just had to take the lead, which was for what reason again? God those pants fit her just right as she bent over to look on a bottom shelf. “About Saturday night.”
“Exactly.” Rose found nothing but empty laptop bags on the bottom two shelves, and she righted herself to check the third and fourth. It was so hard with him so close, and the urge to touch him felt like it was physically resisting the protests in her mind. The third and fourth shelves were only boxes of extra chargers and batteries for the laptops. “We almost kissed, and, aha!” On the very top shelf, she caught the glimpse of a serial number barcode. “Found them!”
“We did.” James looked up as Rose went up on her tip toes, finding the laptops just out of her reach. “And I was thinking that-“ his words were cut off as her fingers brushed the edge of a laptop and it knocked into a stack of them beside it. “Watch out!” He rushed in, pushing her out of the way, as he threw his hands up to stop the stack from falling.
Rose gasped as she found herself trapped between him and the corner where the shelves met. This close, smelling him, hearing his heart racing so loudly it sounded like two, she couldn’t remember why she was speaking. Then a sound made her jump. The door had clicked shut. “Doctor, um, was there a particular reason you were holdin’ the door open?”
“Yeah, because I unlocked it with my badge ‘nd not a key.” James edged the laptop pile onto the shelf beside her, his whole body humming as he realized just how close they were, how her rear was pinned against his thigh. “Locks back as soon as it closes that way. In case we get broken in-“ he jerked his head around as his clouded mind processed her question. “Shit.”
“Doesn’t open from the inside does it?” Rose turned around, meaning to duck under his arm, but she froze as she found herself eye level with those gorgeous lips. Every protest inside of her mind died, as his tongue darted out to dampen the lower one.
“Nope.” James felt his logical reasoning dissipate in a cloud of desire as he was drowning in how close they were. He was a strong willed man, but the swallow Rose made, and the subsequent gasp as he met her eyes in the dim lights was overpowering. He didn’t even have a choice to move, because Rose was sliding her hands up his arms. Her fingers met the bare skin of his neck, and that incessant urge to touch her exploded.
Rose gasped as James’ lips crashed into hers before she could even breach the minute gap herself. That overpowering urge she’d been fighting erupted in her chest, spilling warmth into her entire being. She sighed into him, looping her arms around his neck as he wrapped one arm around her waist and tangled the other hand in her hair. Then, with a snap deep inside of her, that magnetic pull was relieved.
Deep inside of her mind, that feral howl she had been ignoring for weeks but had lived with her whole life hushed into a pleased, satisfied chuff. Never had anyone, even her parents, been able to calm it. It was as if his lips, James’ very touch, was feeding an aching hunger Rose hadn’t realized she had been carrying.
James couldn’t get Rose close enough, as their tongues met and parted. It was indescribable, how just the tightening of her fingers in his short hair undid him. The explosion that shook him to his core wasn’t devastating. It filled him with a sensation he couldn’t explain. It was like soaking in a spa but carried with it the calm he felt when he soared high above the clouds. Her lips, the way they moved with his, was quenching a ravenous thirst he never realized lived inside of him.
The powers he had fought to keep in check, the barely containable maelstrom that ruled his mind and sparked lightning in his veins quieted. That sensation of being caught in a gravitational pull ceased, like when he landed after a flight. This was right. Rose was the calm that had never followed his storm. He pulled back, breaking the kiss long enough to meet her eyes, and the relief, disbelief, and adoration he saw there stunned him.
Rose felt breathless, as she stared up at James. Even with their lips free, that pull wasn’t urging her anymore. Instead, it was replaced with a content, completed feeling she’d never before experienced. “I feel...” she couldn’t describe it. “More!” Rose hauled him forward by the lapels of that leather coat, and as their lips met again, it wasn’t frantic or needy.
James had experienced his fair share of kissing, but none had ever had such an impact on him. That desperate urge to taste her lips had quieted down, and now it was a soft beckon. Their lips moved quieter this time, slower, more exploratory. Some part of his brain warred logically that he should stop, but it was drowned out by their mutual sighs. “What’ve you done to me?” He whispered, as her fingers trailed along his jaw.
“Same thing you’ve done to me?” Rose knew she should listen to the tiny voice of reason telling her to stop, telling her not to push his shoulders down, not to straddle his lap as he dropped to the floor and reclined against a shelf. She couldn’t. All she could do was card a hand through that close cropped hair and whimper as his delicious lips sucked gently on her lower one. What did surprise her, was that this prolonged embrace, this intoxicating dance of their tongues, wasn’t spurring her into lustful yearning. Oh, she was feeling aroused, but not desperate. It was beautifully confusing.
James had never kissed someone so long without his body stirring and demanding relief. Oh yes, the weight of her on his lap was enticing, but the arousal pouring into his veins wasn’t that superficial carnal lust. It was slow burning, infusing ever atom of his being, and he could just have easily gone on kissing her as rolling her onto her back and drowning in her skin. Then his mobile rang, chiming out Donna’s ringtone. The peaceful moment shattered.
“Ohmigod.” Rose jerked, as the tune of We Are Family filled the closet. She scrambled back, gasping for air as James fumbled with his pocket and pulled out his mobile. “I can’ believe we just-“ she cut herself off as he raised his phone to his ear. She felt her cheeks flush, as she saw her lipstick smeared along his lips and chin.
“Donna, you on your way?” James hoped he didn’t sound as breathless and dazed as he felt. He cast a glance over at Rose, swallowing at how swollen her already plump lips were, and how smeared her pink lipstick was.
“Yeah, bout to pull in. Amy just called, said you and Rose aren’t answering your desk phones.”
“Bout that. We’re um, sorta trapped in the storage closet. Forgot I had my mobile.” James wiped his lip with his thumb and felt his ears burn as it came away sparkling and pink.
“You forgot you had your...” he winced, hoping Rose couldn’t hear what she was saying. “James Jonathan! You better not be shaggin’ at work!”
“Never. Just hurry up here and let us out.”
Rose bit her lip as her keen hearing picked up the admonishment Donna practically shouted, and she stood up on shaky legs to plunder some of the supply boxes. She was relieved when she found one contained napkins, and quickly ripped open the plastic to pull two out. “Um, you’ve got.” She passed him one, as he shoved the mobile away.
“Thanks.” This was not good. This was completely opposite of what she had intended to do. Rose was supposed to be ending this, not leading him on more. Yet, she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t end something that felt so perfect. Maybe James was it, the one she could let her secret out to. “I shouldn’ have done that.” He wasn’t wrong. Kissing should not happen at work.
“Right, because we’re at work.” James couldn’t look at Rose. If he did, the barely renewed logic in his mind would falter. “Have to keep it for off the cl-“
“Period. I shouldn’ have kissed you at all.” James wiped his lips, trying to rid his skin of her tantalizing taste. “Rose, ‘m your boss, even if I hate that term. I shouldn’t ‘ave even invited you out in the first place.” The sound she made was like a puppy being kicked. It felt like someone was shoving a flaming knife in his gut, and the words tasted like poison on his tongue. “It’s what I wanted to talk about in the firs’ place.”
“You’re right.” Rose swallowed back the ache his words brought. It shouldn’t hurt so much, shouldn’t burn like acid in her veins, but it did. Yet, she wasn’t angry, because hadn’t she wanted to say the same thing. “Was jus’ a heat of the moment thing. ‘M not offended.” Some how, despite concealing her truth for years, that felt like the biggest lie she’d ever told. It took every ounce of control to extend her hand. “Still friends?”
“Yeah, still friends.” James bit back the words he wanted to shout as he took her hand and shook it. Somehow, he knew she was lying, despite the confident and open smile on her face. The instant their hands parted, the storm raged into his veins again, thundering its disbelief at what he was doing. It was wrong, but it had to be done.
“Lemme take that.” Rose plucked the napkins from his hand and shoved them in her pocket as she heard heels coming down the hall. James’ whisper of thanks was barely audible past the forlorn howling in her mind. The Bad Wolf didn’t like this arrangement one bit, but there was nothing Rose could do to fix that.
Rose did her best all day at keeping a happy demeanor. She was so used to keeping her truth and feelings inside, that it wasn’t too difficult. Even though there had been some light hearted jokes from Donna about keeping things professional until five, the most difficult part was resisting the need to look up across the room at James. That had drained her for some reason, emotionally and physically.
So, when the taxi let her off at Torchwood, she was more than ready to go upstairs, grab a bottle of wine, and spend the rest of the evening soaking in her tub and then reading or painting. Before, when she had been separated from James, the pulling urge had disappeared. Now it was there, an aching loss in her gut that throbbed like a healing bruise. “Not dat one! Dah blue one!” Tony’s voice echoed down the hall.
“Mum! Dad! ‘M home!” Rose breathed in the rich aromas filling the house, glad her mum was obviously almost done with dinner.
“Wosie’s back!” The sound of something clattering down was audible.
“Whoah! Watch out there Tony!” A familiar voice laughed from the direction of the kitchen, and Rose bit back a groan of disbelief. No, this wasn’t happening. “Rosebud, you’ve got incoming.” The warning was unnecessary as Tony’s rapid patter of his sprint signaled him rounding the corner and latching onto her waist.
“Hey handsome!” She lifted her grinning brother, who smelled suspiciously like the apple juice he wasn’t supposed to have past four. No, the voice wasn’t there. He couldn’t be. Not today. “How was your day.”
“Hey yourself beautiful, and my day was amazing.” Harold came in, wiping his hands on a napkin. Just flippin great.
“She was talkin’ ta me siwwy!” Tony looked back with a grin. “Hi Wosie! My day was cool! I went to school, ‘nd I pwayed with my new fwiends on da swide!”
“Where’s Mummy?” Rose shifted her brother to her hip and pushed her bad day aside in an attempt to smile at Harold. She liked him well enough, but she didn’t want to deal with his flirting after what happened.
“She’s on her way back.” Harold offered, as she carried her brother towards the kitchen. “Had to run get something for dessert because somebody.” He looked pointedly at Tony. “Decided to try to drink the chocolate cake batter and ended up bathing in it.” He pointed at the lonely looking cake pan on the counter. “Also, which blue cup is he asking for?”
“The one with the dinosaurs.” Rose snagged it from its usual spot as she lowered her brother. “And he can’ have apple juice after four, or he won’ go to b e d.” She spelled the word out, wanting to avoid her brother throwing a fit. She quickly filled the cup with water and handed it to Tony.
“My mistake.” Harold tossed the juice stained napkin into the bin and leaned against the counter with a grin. “No offense, but you look like you need a drink.”
“I don’ drink when ‘m watchin’ Tony.” Rose sighed, as she eyed the wine chiller installed in the far wall. “Why exactly are you here?”
“Mummy invited him!” Tony beamed, and Rose suppressed the sigh of irritation. It wasn’t Harold or Jackie’s fault they didn’t know she’d had a bad day. “‘M gonna go watch toons!” And in a flash of blonde hair and red shirt, he was gone.
“Technically I’m watching Tony, if you want to pour a glass.” Harold smiled in a sly way that made Rose finally return it and sigh. He had her there, and Rose couldn’t counter that. “That’s a yes.” He crossed to the wine chiller and began reading labels.
“So did my mum really invite you or did you call her and invite yourself?” Rose reached into a cabinet and pulled down a glass. If her mum did invite him, she couldn’t be upset. If Harry invited himself, she was definitely saying something.
“Ran into her at my tailor during lunch, and she asked me to come. She was picking up a suit for Tony.” Harold righted himself, holding up a bottle. “I wasn’t going to pass up on a chance to see you again.”
“You’re so full of it.” Rose pulled the corkscrew from a drawer and passed it to him, before opening the oven to check on whatever new recipe her mum had found. It looked like a baked ziti of some sort. “We’ve been textin’ on and off all day. You didn’ think to tell me?”
“Wanted to surprise you.” She stood up as Harold held out her now full glass. “Surprise.” His arm snaked around her waist, pulling her into him. It should have felt wonderful, a gorgeous man wanting to hold her and make her smile, but it just felt wrong. After feeling how right James had made her feel, Rose wasn’t sure if any other man would ever make her feel that way. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, jus’ stressful day.” Rose shoved her thoughts of James aside. He had made it clear that it was not happening, and honestly he was right. She raised her glass to her lips for a sip, and then she hummed as the sweet sting of the wine coated her tongue. Harold did have good choice in vintages. “How was yours, apart from dealing with that annual auditor?”
“Productive, as always.” His arm around her waist tightened. “Want to talk about why yours was stressful?”
“Not really.” Rose snorted, but then she took another sip. Honestly she did want to talk about it, but who could she tell? Nobody even knew how she was feeling. What she really needed was-
“Come here.” Harold plucked the glass from her hands, cutting off her train of thought, and before Rose could blink, she was nose to his soft dress shirt, with his arms around her. His hands were circling against her spine in soothing motions. “Just relax, Rosie. Day’s over.”
“Yeah.” Every atom in her body told her that this wasn’t the man she needed. Then again, her stupid body wanted a man who wasn’t willing to try. She wrapped her arms around Harold’s waist, breathing in the luxurious smell of his cologne and expensive laundry soap. “Thanks. Needed a hug.”
“Anything else you need.” His words were followed by a squeeze, and Rose looked up at him. He was grinning in a playful way, as his hazel gaze flicked to her lips and back up to her eyes.
“No, jus’ a cuddle for now.” Rose couldn’t stand the thought of kissing anyone else so soon, so she settled for resting her cheek against his shoulder.
“Well isn’ this sweet?” Jackie’s voice made Rose jump back in surprise. She had a bakery box in her hand. “But ‘m gonna need my kitchen back!” She was shocked that her mum wasn’t throwing a fit. It was odd for her to be okay with Rose in any man’s arms. Then again, Harold wasn’t exactly some bad boy from the estates.
“Why don’t we take these.” Harold snagged the bottle and Rose’s glass. “Somewhere we aren’t in the way.”
“There’s a balcony jus’ off the living room.” Rose grabbed another glass for Harold, pressed a kiss to her mum’s cheek, and led him out to watch the city.
James soared over the harbor, his hearts racing as he searched the dark water for the dinghy. With the heat of summer coming and the days growing longer, it wasn’t uncommon to hear a call about a capsized boat or stranded fishermen. In those instances, he’d fly out and make sure nobody was injured. Then he would shoot lightening up to alert the rescue crews. This was different, a true life or death situation.
An eight year old girl and her thirteen year old brother had gone out fishing after school. Something had caught up in their propeller, and the brother had jumped in to untangle it. The wake from a passing boat had pushed him away, and he couldn’t get back to her. He had been found clingy to a buoy what he said was about an hour later, but she was nowhere in sight. With night falling, and the tide turning, it was imperative that she be located.
James had already been in the air an hour, and he was well past the boundaries of the harbor. He hoped she was cognizant enough to use a whistle or turn on a rescue beacon. “Kira!” He shouted, using the storm in his veins to boom his voice across the open expanses. “Kira, if you can hear me, blow your whistle!”
The only noise was the crash of the waves beneath him and the whip of the wind around his body. “Kira!” He scoured the waters in a full circle, pleading for the nearly full moon to rise. “Kira! It’s okay! Give me a sign!” He sent his voice out on thunder again, this time towards the spattering of islands. James quieted the wind just enough to keep him airborne but low enough to hear her if she called back.
A blink of red caught his peripheral, no brighter than a firefly, and he spun towards it. “Kira!” Summoning the winds to full strength, James barreled towards the light. It blinked again, and his hearts sang in relief. “I’m coming! Just stay calm!” Just as he was worried about, her tiny boat was stuck in a strong receding current, but he was honed in on her distress light. It may have been five minutes or five years, but the red blinking grew brighter.
Then, in the soft glow of the gibbous moon, he could see a dark distortion of the waves. “Help!” The sound wasn’t much louder than a mewling kitten, but James had never been so relieved to hear anything. “Someone help me!”
“Kira!” James shouted as he circled down to the boat, and he finally saw her tiny form looking up. “Help’s here! Move to the back.” He waited until she scrambled out of the middle of the boat so he could touch down and sit. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you, sweetheart.”
“I want my mummy!” She sobbed, as she scrambled towards him. Her skin was freezing where it wasn’t sunburnt. Smart girl still had on her life vest.
“Let’s take this off, and I’ll get you right to her.” James didn’t often take supplies on his missions, but he was glad he’d packed water and blankets. Even in the moonlight, as he undid the buckles of the life vest, he could see Kira’s lips were blistered from the sun and dehydration. Six hours in the direct heat doesn’t seem like it would do that to a person, but in a child her size, it could have been worse. “Drink this, love.” He brought his pack around to hand her a water bottle while he unfolded the small blanket.
“Is Kevin okay?” She sniffled, as she sipped. “Mr. Storm?”
“Scared for you, but he’s fine besides that. Take small sips.” He tossed the life vest aside and zipped the bag back up. Once it was closed, James slung it back onto his back. “Now, let’s get you bundled up.” He wrapped the blanket around her, making sure she was securely covered. “Now, have you ever been on a plane before?”
“No sir.” Kira sniffled, as she wiped her face. “Why?”
“Because today you get to fly.” Without giving her a chance to be afraid, James scooped her up in his arms, cradled her to his chest, and stood in the boat. “Your ears are gonna feel a bit funny, but that’s normal.” The girl gave a yelp of surprise, but James summoned the wind to him and leapt into the air. Tiny arms latched around his neck, but he held Kira even tighter as he blew towards the faint glow of the main rescue boat.
James only stayed long enough to make sure Kira was safely in the care of a medical team before he took flight again. He knew that her parents would want to thank him, but he never stuck around for things like that. He didn’t do it for praise. He did it because it was the right thing to do.
Needing a moment to truly breathe and relax after such a long and tense rescue, James dropped on the top of a building and sat on the top of the roof exit. Then he pulled his mobile out at shot Donna a text.
Found her. She’s on her way back.
Donna had been with him when he went out on the call. He knew she’d be worried, and it would probably be another half hour before the news got wind of Kira’s safety.
Knew you would! Love ya!
Love ya too.
It was a habit born of the weekend to close her text and automatically open Rose’s. He mentally kicked himself as he saw her goodnight text from Sunday night, but no fresh ones. Right, he’d cut her off. Still, the yearning to see her, to hear her voice, to feel her hand in his twisted painfully. He’d expected it to fade, like it had before they kissed, but it was a physical ache in his gut, like he hadn’t eaten in days.
Maybe it would lessen if he just saw her. It was only nine, which meant she’d be out reading or sketching on her balcony. Just one flyby, one glimpse to ease the gnawing abyss in his stomach. Rose wouldn’t even know it was him. If she saw him, it would be The Oncoming Storm, not James. He stuffed his mobile away and leapt into the wind. Besides, Torchwood Towers was on his way home.
Rose leaned against the railing, the balcony’s smooth concrete floor cool against her bare feet. “Here you go.” Harold’s voice was followed by a warm cup of tea coming into view. “Chamomile, one cream, three teaspoons of honey.”
“How’d you... Mum.” Rose shook her head, smiling as she took the cup. The three glasses of wine from dinner had her buzzing warmly, and the pleasant conversations and easy banter that had gone on had her feeling relaxed and destressed. “Where’s yours?”
“Waiting to be made at home.” Harold leaned sideways against the railing, tilting his head as he watched her with a soft look. “Just wanted to catch a few moments alone before I headed off.”
Honestly, Rose should be upset he had come through her room, but the intention behind it was sweet. Something inside of her kept saying he had some ulterior motive, some reason he was so actively pursuing her, and it reiterated the fact that he wasn’t the one she needed. then again, that voice inside was pretty much the reason for her bad day. “Thanks. I appreciate it.” She took a slow sip, turning away from the city to look at him. “I had a nice time tonight.”
It was the truth. Harold’s charismatic charm had easily adjusted to everyone at the table, even little Tony. While her dad had been surprised to see him at first, Pete had quickly taken in Harold’s proximities to Rose and Jackie’s approving smile and relaxed. “Me too. I got to see a side of you I didn’t think you’d show me.” Rose arched an eyebrow in question. “Your more laid back and relaxed side. A whole dinner with no quips about not wanting to be my next conquest.” He playfully tugged her hair, and Rose rolled her eyes.
“Still don’ wanna be, Harry.” Rose honestly didn’t understand why of how she caught his attention. There were thousands of women that may not necessarily be more attractive, but were definitely better suited for his lifestyle. She wasn’t a socialite or anything of the sort. She just wanted to be herself, be independent. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Fire away.” Harold’s hazel eyes roamed over her face. Rose didn’t miss the analytical gleam in them either.
“Why are you devotin’ so much time to trying to date me?” She shrugged, as if to say it wasn’t really a big deal. It wasn’t, honestly, but her curiosity had the best of her. “Not that ‘m saying I’m not worth chasin’. I just don’ get it. From the day we met, you’ve been at it.”
“Honestly?” Rose sipped her tea again and nodded. “I told you that I’m bored with the women I usually keep around.” She suppressed a snort at that, because she didn’t believe it. “But, there’s more to it. I turn thirty in October, and I’m ready to try the whole settling down thing. You can’t do that with gold diggers or arm candy, not the way I want at least.”
Rose almost dropped her tea cup over the rail in surprise. She had expected the whole rhetoric about how he was interested because she kept rejecting him. “Oh? Well...” she didn’t really have a response to that. “How do you want then, if not with the glitz and glamor trophy wife.”
“Someone who isn’t dependent on me and my money, who knows how a family should work, someone who is stable.” Harry gave a wry chuckle, as if he was shocked he was admitting it out loud. “Someone who is my opposite, in most ways. Yet, they have to be strong, powerful in their own way, and they have to challenge me.” His left hand extended, and a single finger trailed down her arm. “I was honestly just flirting with you at first, because you were what we call ‘shark bait’, but then you turned me down. I realized then that there was far more to you than a cheeky smile and blonde hair”
“‘M flattered, really.” Rose felt her cheeks flush. She’d been hit on enough in Powell to know when a man was trying to be slick, saying what he thought she wanted to hear, but the softened tone in his voice wasn’t that. For a moment, Rose pondered if he was being genuine. “But I don’ think I meet all those qualifications.” There were many she did, Rose knew that, but some of the others were so far off base. Stable, her? Oh he had no idea.
“I think that’s up to me to decide.” Harold pulled her to him gently, and Rose barely had time to register it through her alcohol dazed mind. His lips brushed across hers once, softly, as if in question. Like before it felt nice, but it didn’t electrify her, didn’t make her whole body hum. Then they pressed against her with a bit more intent.
The logical part of her mind told her to enjoy it, a handsome man who was obviously into her should be a pleasant thing. So, she moved her lips with his, although there was no relief in the contact. Then that pulling, gnawing, sensation that indicated the nearness of James or The Oncoming Storm twisted her gut. Given their height off the ground, it wasn’t James. It totally obliterated the rational, logic voice. “Harry, wait.” Rose pulled back, shaking her head.
“You okay?” Harold’s palm caressed her cheek, but Rose turned away from it. This wasn’t right. “Rosie?”
“I just need some time to think ‘s all.” There, a polite letdown that wasn’t exactly a lie. “‘M not sure I’m ready to even think about dating ‘nd all that.”
There was a cold flicker in his eyes that Rose swore she must have imagined, because it was gone in a blink. His lips pulled up into a soft smile. “I understand.” He backed up enough for her to fully relax and checked his watch. “It’s getting pretty late. I’ll text you when I get home.”
“G’night Harry.” Rose offered him a smile in return, waiting to hear her bedroom door shut. As soon as it did, she set her cup down. “If you’re here to offer me midnight flight again, ‘m not really in the mood.” She flicked her eyes up to the vacant balcony that was the upstairs guest room. “Although, I didn’ take you for a voyeur.
James hadn’t meant to land, but when he’d seen and heard the tale end of the conversation below. The shock, disgust, and jealousy had been too much to ignore. Saxon made his skin crawl, and seeing him with Rose felt all kinds of wrong. He jumped over the ledge, hovering to her rail, but he made sure he was definitely down wind and a good space away. “I’m not a voyeur. I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Rose picked her tea cup up from the rail and sipped. It took everything he had not to scoot over and chase the remnants of Saxon off her lips.
“Because you didn’t look too thrilled by his company.” And because he is a cold, cruel, murdering madman, but he couldn’t say that. Instead, his mind grabbed onto the question he’d been ignoring. “How’d you know I was there?”
“Saw you land.” What a little liar. He’d come down well out of her line of sight. “Look, ‘s not that I don’t enjoy our random chats, but if you’re here because you think ‘m some moony eyed girl you can sweep off her feet, just forget it.” Rose looked down at her cup, her normally sweet features twisted in what looked like pain. He could sympathize, because right now his entire body was in agony with the space between them. “Because, ‘ve got enough man problems, ‘nd I don’ need to add a third to the list.”
A third? How could she have two? As far as he knew, the only ones who wanted her was himself and Harold. James was about to ask, when Rose heaved a choked sounding sigh and flopped to the floor with her back to the wall. In the yellow lights of the city, James could see her eyes were turning red. “Hey, no. I just was passing by.” He hovered a bit closer, so he was right across from her. Guilt, like nothing he could explain, stabbed into his gut. Some part of him had a feeling he was to blame. “Do you want to talk about it? I won’t judge.”
“Honestly,” Rose’ golden eyes met his. “Yeah, I really do.”
Short, because it would have made the last chapter too long!
“Don’t know why ‘m even crying?” Rose wiped her eyes. Then she growled at the smeared mascara on her hands. Just great. “‘S stupid.” She couldn’t explain why she was willing to open up to the Storm. Some part of her registered it was because they were alike, more than human, holding secrets deep within.
“Not stupid to me.” His voice, which was so similar to James’, she realized, only deeper and smoother than his rough and clipped bur. “Take your time. I’ve got all night unless someone decides to rob a bank or something.” She watched as he lowered just a but, so he could fold his arms on the rail and rest his chin on them.
“How come you never actually come onto my balcony?” It was a good question to distract him while she tried to beat the need to jump up and run over to him.
“I don’t want to put a target on your back.” It wasn’t technically a lie, James was proud of his brain for forming that reply despite the nigh on overwhelming urge to go over and hold her and tell his secrets. “If I stay out here, in flight, it looks like a friendly conversation should anyone be watching me. If I were to come over there, well, my enemies might think there’s more. They might use you as bait.” There was the crux of all his issues. “But we aren’t talking about me.”
“Right.” Rose gave a huff, and James had fo swallow at how torn she looked. Had he missed something between her and Harold. “See, there’s this guy I like.” Jealousy flared through him, but it was slapped by what she said next. “Technically he’s my boss.” Well shit. He had her feeling this way. The guilt gnawing at him began to grow painfully. “We had a sort of impromptu date Saturday, and then today, well, we kissed.” Kiss didn’t even begin to cover how those stolen moments had made him feel. “Actually that’s an understatement. I mean, it was a kiss, yeah, but it felt like.... like....” Rose blew out a breath, as if scrambling for words. “Like my soul had found this missin’ piece.”
No, no. It wasn’t possible that the kiss had been that strong on her end. James was absolutely dumbfounded, but he did manage to nod weakly and hope his mask hid his reaction.
“Thing is, after, he told me it was wrong. That we couldn’t do it again.” Rose ran a hand through her hair as she chanced meeting his concealed gaze. “I lied, and said that I agreed. It hurts though. Can’ even begin to describe how badly.”
“So you turn to another man?” The Storm’s words weren’t exactly accusatory, but they weren’t judgmental. Rose was so thankful for that.
“Not exactly. Harry, he wants more, but honestly, ‘ve got no feelin’s for him.” Rose sighed for what felt like the gazillionth time. “So basically ‘ve got one man that I want but doesn’t want me. He isn’t rich or powerful or even what society says is hot. He’s just.... well, James.” She watched as he seemed to be considering her words. “I shouldn’t want him, especially since the second most powerful man in the city wants me.” An eyebrow may have raised under that mask. “You being first most powerful, duh.”
James laughed out loud at Rose’s eyeroll. It was basically the only thing he could do to keep himself in check. She wanted him, somehow felt that core deep attraction that he did. Then again, maybe he had somehow projected it onto her? He still didn’t know just what his full powers were. “Logically, my choice should be Harry, but...”
“It’s just not right.” James had to admit he was glad she felt nothing towards Saxon. She nodded, offering him a small smile. Still, curiosity got the better of him. “And by adding a third, you meant you thought I dropped in to flirt?” That earned him a snort and an exasperated look. “Honestly, Rose, I can sympathize with you on your conundrum.”
“There’s this woman I like. She’s beautiful, funny, clever, and talented. When she walks into the room, I can barely think straight.” Which was happening at that very moment, but Rose couldn’t know, couldn’t ever know. “But, I can’t ever let on to her about how I feel, because then I put her in danger. So, I keep her at arms distance, even though it hurts.”
“Having a secret life sucks arse.” Rose gave a wry laugh. Oh, she knew how much it sucked. The funny thing was, she could probably tell her secret to him. The Storm would probably be the only person she knew who truly understood the agony and burden that came with powers. That realization eased the ache just a bit, which only caused the urge to stand, walk over, and let him whisk her off into the night. That urge, that soul deep burning and yearn, had he ever felt it? Maybe it wasn’t just her powers. “Can I ask you a weird question?”
“Shoot.” His lips pulled up in a tense smile, and Rose finally noticed how his fists were balled under his chin. “Unless it’s ‘will you take off your mask’.”
“‘S not.” James relaxed a bit at that, even though if she did, he’d probably do it. The longer thy spent, the harder it was to resist her. It was burning inside of him. “Have you ever met someone, but, before you even saw them, you felt this pull. I mean, not emotionally, but physically, like there’s a magnet in your gut or or...”
“Like you’re being sucked into their own gravitational field?” The words slipped out before he could stop them. She felt it! But, no, that meant she’d feel it now. James refused to let his fear at that show. “Why? Is that how you feel around James?”
“Yeah, and....” Rose’s voice caught, and the blush that soaked her cheeks and ears was absolutely breath taking. James knew she could feel it now, feel that agonizing, torturous need to touch. The question was, did she piece it together? “Is that how you feel around her, that woman?” Speaking was not a wise move, so he nodded. “How do you handle it? Cause ‘m not sure I can face him tomorrow.”
“I go flying, find something to distract me. Distancing myself works most of the time, but others, well, it burns my insides like lava.”
“These midnight chats are a distraction then?” Rose fiddled with her sleeve, a bit dejected that that was his only reason. No, she already had enough man issues. Adding the city’s masked hero was not on the agenda.
“You’re easy to talk too. You treat me like anybody else.” Understanding washed through her. It wasn’t just a distraction. He was as lonely as she was. “Most people just see the man or the mask. You see the man with the mask.”
“Well, you’re welcome.” Rose fought back a yawn. Despite the nagging pull, talking to him had helped her immensely. And thanks, for listening.” This time the yawn did escape, earning her an amused chuckle. “What?”
“It’s five of ten, you should head to bed.” James pushed himself away from the rail, because the adorable way she looked when she yawned almost undid him.
“One of your powers the ability to guess the time?” There it was, that snarky fire that kept sucking him in deeper.
“No, but I can read an alarm clock.” He pointed past her to the room beyond the doors, ignoring the flash of an image that came of him hopping the rail, kissing her senseless, and throwing her on that bed. “I should probably get some rest too.”
“Oh shut it.” Rose snorted as she stood, forcing her feet to not cross the balcony, grab him by his face, and see if his kiss would chase the pain of James away. “Goodnight.” Her body was humming again, as the pull became far more intense.
“Sweet dreams, Rose.” James had to get out of there, because if he didn’t, then everything was ruined. Without another word, he let go of the wind to free fall four stories, then he summoned it again and shot off towards home.
James made the executive decision not to torment Rose, after her unknown confession that she didn’t know if she could face him. He texted Donna to say he was still tired from his rescue the day before and would be working from home. It wasn’t common for him to do so, but he had done it before.
Yeah, well girlfriend seems a bit disappointed you aren’t here.
Damn Donna and her teasing.
Rose isn’t my girlfriend. You know I can’t do that!
He tossed his mobile aside to stare blankly at the manuscript before him. For the first time since his powers had come under control, James couldn’t think straight. He’d reread the paragraph in front of him nine times, and he still didn’t know what it was about.
So snogging in the supply closet is gonna become part of every new hire laptop retrieval?
How do you know we kissed in there? We could have been chatting about her assignment.
You wear Frost Berry lipstick now? Because if so, I’ve got a tube I haven’t used.
I hate you. Okay, so we kissed. Yeah. Then I told her it wouldn’t happen again. So drop it.
James glowered as he turned his attention back to the screen. This wasn’t working. Why was it the one time he needed a crisis to happen, the city was the epitome of peace?
Do some work! I’m busy!
If he didn’t need his mobile for his scanner app, James would have turned it off. Instead, he shoved it as far away as possible and turned his attention back to his laptop. This book wasn’t going to edit itself. It took him six sentences and five blinks before he realized it was a book on edible flowers. The chapter he was currently reading was about roses. “Bloody hell!”
James saved the file and closed his laptop. “A walk. A good walk’ll clear my head.” He snagged his mobile and went to change. He slipped on his Storm gear, then pulled his typical dark jeans and jumper over it. Even in the summer heat, he never got hot. At least, he never felt it.
This was flippin’ ridiculous. Why was it this girl, this absolutely typical woman, was so far under his skin? Why? Why was she like the cliched flame drawing him in like a bewitched moth? Who was she that merely looking at her, seeing that bloody, thrice damned tongue touched smile made him want her to know the truth? None of it made sense.
Rose didn’t buy the story that James was feeling ill. She had at first, but then Donna had been looking at her with an odd expression before glowering at her mobile and slamming it in a desk drawer. He had obviously told her what had happened, including the events after.
It made the atmosphere of the office a bit uncomfortable. It didn’t help that Donna had loudly announced “While the Doctor’s away, the nurses will play! Brunch mimosas!” Rose had turned them down.
“‘M jus’ gonna walk down to the cafe a few blocks over.” She needed to get out from under the ginger’s knowing gaze. Rose had made it halfway down the pavement before she realized she left her purse. The conversation with the Storm last night had eased some of her rejected feelings, but it hadn’t given her clarity. Rose didn’t understand what was happening to her.
Okay, so she’d had crushes, hell, she’d thought she’d been in love with Jimmy. This was different. Never before had anyone gotten so deep under her skin. Just being around him was simultaneously relaxing and invigorating. How was it that the Doctor, James, could suck her in with a smirk. Rose couldn’t think of anyone who had made her feel the need to openly confess her truth, the life she’d abandoned. Well, nobody except the Oncoming Storm.
Maybe it was her instincts, the wolf in her veins. Shareen had loved watching wolf documentaries and comparing them to Rose’s mannerisms. She’d constantly joked that Rose didn’t keep a boyfriend, because none of them were Alpha enough, didn’t have the qualities her instincts saw as a partner. Well, the Storm definitely cornered the market in the mutual secrets and super human powers. So why James? Besides his cool confidence, flipping gorgeous looks, and that rough bur that made her knees weak, he wasn’t any different than a normal man. She’d know. She’d have smelled it.
Speaking of smells, one was beginning to choke her senses. Rose sneezed, trying to rid the acrid burning smell from her nostrils, and then, she heard shouts. There was a fire. “Ah hell.” She was glad she’d opted for flats and trousers instead of heels and a dress, as she tore down the street towards the screaming. “Christ on a motorbike.” A building of low income looking flats, about fifteen stories, was, indeed, on fire.
Smoke billowed out of the center windows half way up, as the residents on the lower floors and folks from nearby buildings swarmed out. The stabbing screech of the fire alarm stabbed her ears, and Rose couldn’t just observe. People were screaming about family members and neighbors still inside. For the first time in weeks, she yielded to the Wolf.
“Are you crazy!” Some man shouted, as she barreled into the building. Almost every door on the first few floors were open, and those that weren’t, she kicked in. The flats had been empty.
It was around the seventh floor, when the smoke became oppressive. Doors were wide open here as well, but she managed to locate two flats with elderly couples who thought it was just a prank or a false alarm. “Just go!” She bellowed.
At the far end of the hall, she heard weak cries. “Shit!” Rose tried to kick the door, but the deadbolts held strong. Luckily, storming into drug houses and robbers safe rooms had taught her a valuable lesson. If the door was strong at the locks, it was weak at the hinges. “Break! Damn you!” She growled, then she howled in triumph as the door shattered around the flimsy metal. “Where are you?”
“In here!” The weak cry of a mans voice drew Rose to the one bedroom. There, sprawled on the floor, was a man in his nineties, grasping an equally old looking dog, his oxygen hose askew. “My leg... I can’ move it!”
“Come on!” Rose ignored the cringe of fear as she rolled him over and saw the look on his face. “Yeah, mi’ eyes are glowin’! What’s your name?”
“Bert. Please, go get help!” She ignored his plea, coughing as the smoke began trickling in. Sirens were beginning to wail, but they didn’t have time. She scooped his thin frame into his arms, made sure his whimpering and shaking dog was tight in his, knocked his oxygen hose aside, and bolted down the hall. She ran into two teenagers who recognized Bert.
“Take him down! Go now!” She made sure she kept her face averted. Old men couldn’t find her online, but teenagers could.
Rose ripped her blouse off, as she shot up the emergency stairs, wrapping it around her face, both to filter the smoke and to hide her identity. The wolf was in full control now, and she turned to her hearing to continue going through the building. It was hard, as the upper levels kept trickling panicked people down, knocking into her. Then, Rose hit the eleventh floor and skidded to a stop.
Flames were licking the walls, snaking into open doorways, and she had nowhere to go but the stairwell. She’d just made it to the railing, when an explosion rocked the building. Howling in shock, Rose dove for cover. Shielding a mum and two girls from the ceiling debris that was crashing down. “Go! Get out!” She roared, when the flames began to trickle under the door.
“But Teddy! I want Teddy!” One of the girls cried. Then they were gone.
“Damn it!” Rose eyed the stairs, then shouts were ringing over head again. She couldn’t ignore them, and Bad Wolf had her racing up the stairs. Debris had blocked a door, and the smoke was so thick Rose could barely see. The shouts and banging were on the other side. “Stand back!” She cried, letting her now long nails rip into the fallen tiles and metal, tossing it aside. The door burst open, and six people rushed past her.
Rose darted into the hall, recoiling as flames curled the paint and carpet around her. An ear piercing screech, louder than the sirens, louder than the alarm, had her sprinting, coughing, gasping for clean air. It was coming from the furthest flat, and Rose kicked it open, crying out in pain as her overworked and bruised foot made her stumble in. Two cats raced past her. “Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me?!” She coughed, leaning against the wall. The flat was totally empty.
Rose turned to rush into the hall, but a second explosion rocked the building, and the roof collapsed in, exposing hot wires and gushing water. “No!” The flames were dancing closer, and Rose knew she was trapped. The smoke was too thick, air too scarce. She needed to breathe, to think.
Backing into the flat, she spotted the sink, and she quickly wet her blouse before tying it back on. Then she darted from window to window, looking, praying, hoping for a fire escape. In the second bedroom, she found it, but to her horror, the explosions had ripped the downward steps away. Far below her, she saw the firemen and police trying hard to get the trucks into position. The heat was becoming unbearable, and Rose went back to the door, slamming it shut, hoping the electrified water outside would keep it at bay until she could be rescued. “Mum’s gonna kill me!” Then she felt it, that pull, that urge. Either James or the Oncoming Storm was outside.
A third explosion rang out, this one over her head, and she barely threw herself out of the way before the roof broke, sending more debris and live wires down. She had nowhere to go, blocked from the fire escape, with only the living room window and an eleven story drop as her escape. Rose hoped with everything, that it was The Oncoming Storm out there.
James had responded as soon as the scanner picked up on the fire. It wasn’t far from Vortex, in an area that wasn’t exactly well built. In fact, many of the businesses were going bankrupt, and the building on fire had been up for sale. As he grew closer though, that familiar pull began to blossom beyond the abandoned hum. Dread filled him. No, it couldn’t be. Rose could not be in there! He dropped to the ground beside the fire captain, hearts racing. “Everyone out?!” He shouted, over the alarm, screaming, and sirens.
“Yeah, but people are swearing a girl was in there kicking in doors and carrying people out!” He shouted back, shaking his head. “Probably just seeing things! The gas was leaking and we’ve had two exp-“ the sentence was cut off as the air boomed and glass shattered out of the top floor. “Make that three!” He pulled at his radio. “Everyone out! Get out now!”
James summoned the wind around him, as that pull tugged at him. It was Rose in there, no doubt, but where?! Why wasn’t she coming out?
“There was a woman. She had blonde hair , and her shirt was tied around her facd.” A woman with little girls grabbed his arm. “She was heading up to the eleventh floor. She didn’t come back down. She protected us!”
“I’ll find her!” James shot into the air, circling the building. Was she hurt? Was she trapped? Then, as he reached the fire escape at an open window on the eleventh floor, he heard a weak howling. It wasn’t a dog. It sounded almost like a wolf, but different. The storm in his soul clapped thunder in response. “Rose!” He wasted no time, darting into the window, and instantly he began choking on the smoke. “Rose!”
“Help.” The cry was weak, and James covered his mouth as he ducked further into a flat. There, huddled under the window, covered in soot and red skin was Rose. Her face was half obscured but the makeshift mask, but there was no mistaking. “Watch out for the wires!”
“Lightning beats human electric.” He snorted, pointing a finger at them and frying the dangling danger with a well aimed bolt. “Are you nuts?!”
“Maybe!” Rose stood shakily, but then,
as he moved closer, he saw her shoes were gone and her right foot looked swollen. “How bout that flight?” She hissed, her leg buckling, and James didn’t know whether to shake her or kiss her. “Watch out!”
He looked back to see flames beginning to trickle in the door, catching the carpet, spreading. They had to move. Not thinking, he grabbed her hand. “Run!” He shouted. He yanked her along, away from the fire, into the bedroom opposite the fire escape. The window here was shattered, and James wasted no time. Scooping Rose into his arms, he jumped out of the window.
Rose squealed in surprise as she plummeted in the Storm’s arms for three stories before the wind was suddenly around them, shooting them up, up, higher, until the fire and smoke were below them. The feeling of safety, of security in his arms was unlike anything she had ever felt, and instantly, Bad Wolf calmed. “You saved me.” She gasped, as she clung to the odd material. It was stretchy, but insulated, and maybe lined with metal of some sort. She couldn’t smell yet. The smoke still permeated everything.
“Sort of my job.” James wasn’t exactly sure where he was headed, so he slowed to a hover just below the cloud banks. There was an odd sensation against his neck, like nails shrinking, but that was impossible. Carefully, so as not to jolt her, he eased his hand behind her head and untied her shirt. The skin beneath it was clean, unlike her soot covered face. The thin white undershirt she had on exposed singed skin. “You’re burned.”
“‘Ve had worse.” Rose could feel the sting now, but it felt like a sunburn. “Bit of aloe or some oatmeal paste, ‘nd I’ll be right as rain.” She chanced a look down, and her stomach did a flip. “Blimey we’re high!” She wasn’t afraid of heights, but it was unnerving to feel like she was suspended over nothing. Well nothing except his arms.
“I’d never drop you.” James had never dropped anyone, well, not accidentally at least. He’d taken a few criminals for a short flight and dropped them thirty or so feet into water or snow. They’d been fine. “What the hell were you thinking, running into a burning building?!” It was taking all of his control not to let his feigned accent slip.
“I just wanted to help.” It wasn’t a lie, and now that the Wolf was calm, and the adrenaline was waning, Rose felt the forgotten drain that came after such exertion. Her right leg ached from being used to kick so many doors in, and she was almost positive her ankle was sprained. Her head swam, and his shoulder seemed like an excellent place for it. “Was scared there for a bit, when I got trapped. Knew you were out there though. I-“ she shut herself up. No, even in her exhausted state she couldn’t tell him. “I knew you’d find me.”
“You’re taking the cake for jeopardy friendly, Rose Tyler.” James had to chuckle at the smiling blush playing on her lips. “But yes. I found you.” He resisted the urge to kiss her, though the temptation was nearly overpowering. Rose was insane, but the fact that she’d wanted to help only endeared him to her all over again. “Want me to take you home?”
“Yeah.” Rose needed to wrap her leg and treat her burns. She couldn’t exactly go to the hospital, because they’d run tests, and then there’d be questions. “‘M just gonna keep my head here for a mo’.” She mumbled into his neck. He gave a chuckle that vibrated her whole body, and with a gust, they were moving again.
The sweet mist around them washed over her, cleaning out her smoke clouded nostrils. It was such a relief, that Rose had to draw in a deep breath. His skin smelled so good. He smelled like power, like wind after a rain, like a tantalizing cologne that made her stomach flip. No... it wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be possible. Again she drew in his scent, and her heart began to race. “We need to land.”
“As soon as we get to Torchwood.” James needed to get her home, to check her over and tend to her. “It’s only a few more-“
“James McCrimmon, land!” The growling power in her words shocked him as Rose cur him off. Then what she said kicked in. Damn it! “Doctor! Now!”
“You smelled me, didn’t you?” The Oncoming Storm, no James’, voice was resigned, and Rose understood. She understood the real reason why he had said it couldn’t happen. Well, she wasn’t going to back off without a fight. “My flat’s just a few blocks over.
James was doing his best to keep himself calm as he caught sight of his building and began the slow decent to the secluded area that blocked his landing from view. Rose had gone silent, and he wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. Well, it was all horrible because she knew, and knowing put her in danger. “Here we are then.” He set her down gently on the narrow fire escape to open the single window.
“You can drop the accent.” Rose wasn’t angry in the least. She was somewhere between shocked, relieved, and kicking herself for not connecting the dots. She ducked inside, feeling a bit odd after the flight. When James joined her, he shut the window and closed the curtains.
“Mask goes on, and accent comes out.” James wasn’t exactly sure what to do. He wasn’t sure how Rose was going to react now that she knew the truth. He flipped on the lights and swallowed hard. Drawing a breath, he reached up and pushed the mask away. The urge to touch her was nigh on painful with her so close. She had to be feeling it too. “Rose, I can explain everythin’.”
“This is the real reason, isn’ it? It’s not ‘cause your my boss.” Rose had been replaying the last conversation with the Storm in her mind. He was attracted to someone, felt that same pull, but couldn’t say. “Because, honestly, it’s the best reason ‘ve ever heard.” Oh she wanted to touch him, to just cross the distance and give in to the core deep need to feel his skin under her fingers.
“Yes, now do you understand why I can’t? I won’ put you in danger.” James tossed his mask aside, forcing himself to look away. “Get off that foot. I’ll grab some ice. Think ‘ve got some aloe around here somewhere.” Tending to her injuries would be a good distraction.
“I’m not some weak girl who’ll get kidnapped by the villain.” Rose flopped down on the sofa, sighing in relief as the weight came off her ankle. Only, now, the burns were becoming a bit irritable. It wasn’t as irritating as him assuming she was just another woman who couldn’t hold her own. “Haven’ you figured that out yet?”
“Taking down a robber ‘nd running into a burning building is nothin’ compared to some of the things that threaten this city.” James filled a zip bag with ice and grabbed a towel. He dug in the cabinet above the fridge, where Donna had kept her vacation things before moving out. Relieved, he did find a half used bottle of aloe. Carrying his goods, he rejoined her in the living room.
“You’re not the only one with abilities, ya know.” Rose couldn’t help herself from snorting. It was time to come clean. “Jus’ not everyone grew up in Tardis.” She hissed a bit as he knelt beside her and gently lifted her swollen leg up to rest on the low table, and then he set the ice on it. The tenderness in his touch was only outshone by the instant relief that his skin against hers brought. “You feel it too, don’ you?”
“Yes.” James knew instantly what Rose was talking about, even as he forced himself to move away from her leg and hand her the bottle of aloe. “Rose, a relationship with me is impossible. You can’ possibly understand wha-“
“Bad Wolf.” Rose took the bottle from him, as she decided to finally lay it all out there. “‘S what the papers called the vigilante back in Powell.” She squeezed a bit of aloe out, applying it to her scalded arms. The look on his face was sheer confusion, and she smiled. “Look it up.”
James was confused. What did some vigilante in a small city have to do with this. Unless, no, it wasn’t possible. He dug his mobile out blindly, unable to look away from the pained by resigned look on Rose’s face. “You mean, you’re-“
“Look, it, up.” Her enunciated words had his fingers moving over the screen, and James blinked down at what the news articles said. For the last six years or so, a masked vigilante had been cleaning up Powell. Nobody but the criminals saw them, but they all had the same description. It was a masked person, probably a woman, with glowing eyes, sharp nails, who growled, howled, and fought like a wolf.
Rose took the brief distraction to swallow hard and give into the shewolf slumbering inside of her. She felt the feral power fill her, her nails growing, senses enhancing even more, and the call of the hunt sparking under her skin. Those oceanic eyes met hers, and she curled her lips back in a low growl. “Like I said. ‘M not some weak girl.”
James felt his phone slip from his fingers. It was Rose on his sofa, but she had changed. Her honey eyes were gone, replaced by a pair of glowing, feral, yellow wolf eyes. Her beautiful features had shifted into something wild and breathtaking. Her teeth seemed sharper, stronger, and her cute nose had shifted, broadening slightly into a striking wedge shape. The nails on her hands, which gripped the aloe bottle, were not the acrylic he had assumed, but were longer, darker at the beds where the polish ended, and they had become pointed and curled instead of the rounded squares. Even her ears were transformed, slightly angular, shifting in canine fashion. “Rose.... you’re.”
“Yeah, a wolf.” Rose tossed the bottle aside, squeezing her eyes shut, and tried to hush the wolf into slumber. It was never easy, but now she was being beyond stubborn. “Oh, come on.” Never before had the transformation been so difficult to reverse. Then, suddenly, fingers stroked her cheek, and in a breath, the wolf chuffed herself back into slumber. She opened her eyes, shocked to find James cupping her face. The relief was bliss. “How’d you know that would work?”
“Because, when you touch me, the Storm isn’t as hard to contain.” James had seen Rose struggling, but he wasn’t sure if his help would ease her shift back. Yet, he blinked, and the Rose he knew was again seated before him. Then understanding washed through him. “You’re like me?” Gently, he touched the other side of her face. Her makeup was gone, and there was a pink tinge to her skin there that wasn’t a blush. Maybe this was why he was so drawn to her, why she felt the same.
“Yes.” Rose winced as his fingers stung the slight burn on her cheek, but she reached up anyways, touching his face, as a new sensation washed through her. It wasn’t just the ease that touching him and being touched by him brought. It was like she had finally found somewhere she belonged. “I don’t wanna fight this anymore.”
“We don’ have to.” James had no excuses left. Rose wasn’t some innocent bystander at risk. She was like him, a warrior for peace and justice. Without the excuses, his willpower crumbled, and he leaned in to catch her lips. Rose made the most delightful noise, and it was all instinct to shift her gently sideways into his lap as her hands slid down to his neck. As their lips parted, and he hesitantly sought to let their tongues dance, that feeling returned, the one that said a piece of his inner most existence had been found.
Rose lost thought of the aches and burning in her body, as James’ lips moved over here, and his strong hands held tightly to her waist and trailed up her arm to tangle in her messy hair. The kiss in the supply closet had been heated and full of a tension she couldn’t explain. That tension was gone now, replaced by a relaxed acceptance, and she reveled in it. The wolf, who was almost always aggressively poised was now preening contentedly in the recesses of her mind, and it chuffed eagerly when James’ teeth softly pulled at her lower lip before curling his tongue along it.
James felt like the outside world had vanished, as Rose’s fingers brushed through his short hair, and her deft tongue stroked along his with a soft sigh. It didn’t hit him why this kiss felt so different than their others, until he realized it was an honest one. They had both exposed their greatest secret. Suddenly, Rose’s lips were gone, and James was about to protest until they were pressing just below his jaw, shifting to his ear. “Rose...” he wanted to warn her that if she kept that up, this costume wouldn’t hide much, but he found himself kissing along her neck, to her exposed shoulder.
Rose wasn’t trying to turn things, but she couldn’t get enough of the taste of his skin. The sensation of his lips on hers was blowing her mind. Even under the smoky residue that clung to it, James was irresistible. He smelled wonderful, so powerful, so fresh like rain, and oh, a new scent began coating his skin, aroused. It spurred her on, even as she felt him stirring under her, and she chanced trailing her tongue along the curve of his ear.
James was done for. There was no resisting her, and as Rose’s happy sighs turned into husky groans, he pulled her down tighter to him, letting her feel what she was doing. Then, his phone rang, shattering the moment. “Hold tha’ thought.” He gasped, shifting Rose back to the couch and bent to retrieve his mobile. It was Donna, and he answered with speaker. She’d only call if it was urgent, preferring texts. “Hey-“
“Rose is missing.” Donna’s voice sounded panicked, and Rose finally remembered that she had really overdone her lunch break. James’ face was adorable as he smiled and winked at her. “She hasn’t come back from lunch, and her stuff is still here. It’s been two hours!” Rose raised an eyebrow to ask if she should speak. James shook his head.
“You saw the news about that fire?” James was trying so hard not to laugh. Donna’s gasp of disbelief was all too perfect. “She was nearby, went in to help people get out, ‘nd well, I found her on one of the upper floors.” This time her gasp was of shock, and Rose let out a giggle. “And I scooped her into my arms, took her for a flight, ‘nd now she’s sittin right here icing down her ankle and bathin’ in aloe.”
“Hi Donna. Sorry, taking a long lunch today.” Rose reached down to adjust the ice pack on her ankle, and then she leaned into James’ side. “Didn’ mean ta worry ya. ‘M safe.”
“I’m gonna beat you both! Don’ scare me like that! Are you mad?!” Donna’s exclaim made James chuckle, as he draped an arm around Rose and press a kiss to her hair. The taste of smoke and soot wasn’t pleasant, but he didn’t mind. “Superhero or not, James, ‘m gonna smack you for makin’ me think.... oh, shi-“
“It’s okay. I figured it out. You didn’t tell any secrets.” Rose found herself grinning ear to ear as James barked out a laugh beside her. “Don’ think ‘ll be comin’ in for the rest of the day though.” Then she saw the filth on her clothes and the smudge of soot on his face from her hair. She needed a bath.
“I’ll swing by to grab her things after closin’.” James knew he was smiling like a maniac, but he didn’t care. “Love ya.” With that, he ended the call and tossed the phone aside. “Now, where were we?” He growled teasingly, making to pull Rose back into his lap.
Rose wanted to continue, but not all dirty and covered in grime. “Maybe we can pick up after you let me use your shower, ta.” She didn’t want to stop, but the state of her clothes and hair was something of a turn off. “‘M disgusting, ‘nd if I come home like this, Mum’ll kill me.”
“Donna has some stuff in her old room for when she crashes here.” James rolled his shoulders. “I should probably change mi’self.” He moved to his feet, extending a hand as Rose made to stand. “Come here you.” He carefully looped an arm around her waist. “I can throw your clothes into wash too, if you want.”
“That’d be great, ta.” Rose was basically over the shock of finding out the truth, as the adrenaline from the fire wore off completely. “Then we can talk about things.” Just as they reached Donna’s room, her stomach gave a growl. James chuckled, and she felt her cheeks flush.
“I’ll fix us somethin’ to eat while you’re in there.” Rose’s blush was all too endearing, and James waited patiently for her to pass her clothes through the door. “‘Ll bring you somethin’ to change into.” As he made his way to take care of what he said he would, he felt lighter than he had in years.