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The Morning After

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Belle French cracked an eye open and immediately regretted her decision. She fumbled for her cell phone, since the alarm was currently blaring at the decibel level of a Led Zeppelin concert, but she was unable to find it in the unfamiliar surroundings. Where the hell was she? The slight soreness of her limbs as she moved them and the not unpleasant ache in the vicinity of her midsection reminded her of the previous night’s rather vigorous activities. Oh.

Ignoring the stabbing pain behind her eyes and the sickening pounding between her temples, she glanced around at the tousled sheets and scattered clothing and spotted her clutch. Ignoring the quietly grumbling shape of Lachlan Gold next to her, she slipped out of the bed, tiptoeing across the floor to rummage in her bag, thumbing the alarm to off and ignoring the dozen or so text notifications almost certainly from her friends questioning her about her questionable judgement.

Belle tossed the phone on the nightstand screen-side down, and padded to the bathroom, guzzling a glass of tepid tap water and swishing a capful of stolen Listerine in an attempt to wash a taste something like she imagined thousand-year-old eggs might from her mouth. She was pretty sure he wouldn’t mind the misdemeanor theft.

When she finished her minor ablutions, which included pilfering a couple of aspirins as well, she glanced around the room, considering whether or not she should just tug her crumpled bridesmaid dress over her head and make the walk of shame to her own room without even waking him. Gold was probably going to feel as hungover as she did when he woke, and she had a postnuptial brunch to attend in less than four hours. She wondered if it was tackier to leave an actual note or to just slip quietly from the room as though she had never been there. What would she even write? Thanks for the orgasms...they were great, see you around maybe?

It wasn’t like the sex was bad, in fact it had been incredible. Mind-blowing. He’d not only delivered on the two screaming orgasms, but there had also been a couple of breathless, pounding orgasms, as well as at least two where she had blasphemed rather loudly and shouted his name as he reduced her to a quivering puddle of languid satisfaction. The question was, where was it going? Maybe he would prefer never to see her again? She didn’t want to seem desperate. Or clingy. It wasn’t like he was going to fall in moony-eyed love with a one-night stand. Like he was going to actually go for a girl who just fell into bed with random strangers. Not that he hadn’t fallen into bed with a random stranger… God, why did women have to worry about shit like this?

“Hey.”

Belle was startled out of her reverie by a bleary eyed Gold. He was sitting up, bare chested with the sheet bunched around his waist, running his fingers through his hair and watching her with an expression she couldn’t quite interpret. She realized she had her dress in her hands, and it looked exactly like what she had been thinking. That she was, in actual fact, intending to sneak out without so much as a word.

“Leaving so soon?” As light as he tried to sound, there was a note of what she could only describe as bitter resignation in his tone. He was staring at the dress clutched to her chest like armor.

“I, um…” Belle stammered, casting a furtive eye around the room, the dress covering her nakedness, but not her flush of embarrassment. She didn’t know what to say.

“It’s ok, Belle,” he said softly, the resignation winning out, “I understand if you just wanna get out of here.” Gold let out a soft huff of air, a self-deprecating snort, as though life was handing him exactly what he expected, and Belle didn’t know quite what to make of that. After a beat of awkward silence where she stood frozen like a deer in headlights, he met her eyes, his gaze a little wistful, perhaps, his smile ironic. “But I’d like you to know that I truly enjoyed last night.” He did that little thing where he tilted his head, his messy hair doing a poor job of hiding the color that rose in his cheeks. Belle’s tummy did a little somersault. She squared her shoulders and decided to do the brave thing.

“Oh, gods, Lachlan, I’m sorry.” She smoothed the dress, draping it over a chair, and went back to sit on the the edge of the bed. She could feel the flush of heat spreading across her chest and down, dropping her eyes to stare at her hands. “I guess I was feeling a little embarrassed. I just don’t want you to think I was expecting anything more from you just because we slept together.” She picked at her thumbnail. “Or that I make a habit of banging random guys at weddings.”

He raised an eyebrow, tossing his head to shake back his hair. “It’s none of my business if you do. But for the record, I don’t make a habit of it either. I know we were a little irresponsible last night, chalk it up to being drunk, I guess, but you have nothing to worry about from me. I’m clean, and well, frankly, it’s been quite some time since I’ve been intimate with anyone.” Gold reached out and ran a finger along her outer thigh and it made her shiver. “I certainly don’t regret it.”

Belle let out a long breath, relaxing, and letting herself be drawn in by his gentle caress. Her eyes flicked to his and they were a little sad, but warm and open, honeyed brown, and oh, so sexy. His expression was soft, expectant. “I don’t regret it either. I’m going to need to stop at a pharmacy later and pick up some Plan B, but I’m clean, too.” She put her hand over his and he turned his palm up so he could lace his fingers with hers. “I mean last night was pretty incredible. Like, really, really fantastic.” Belle shot him a wicked grin, adding coyly, “You certainly more than delivered on your original promise.”

He chuckled, and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to smack the smug little grin off his face or if she wanted to kiss it off, but his next words made her breath catch in her throat and her pulse race.

“I know we may have done things a little backwards, but I’d really like to get to get to know you, Belle.”

“You would?”

There was sincerity in his warm, dark eyes, and her stomach fluttered. The last thing she was looking for right now was a relationship, but Lachlan Gold was handsome and charming and bloody fantastic in bed. No one, no one , had ever gone down on her with such...gusto. And skill. Belle could feel herself getting wet just thinking about the way his mouth had felt on her cunt. She licked her lips, and his eyes dropped to her mouth, his breathing becoming more shallow. It would be nice if there was more to it, the connection they made, the electric thrill that ran over her skin when they touched and kissed. Just the warm, soft burr of his Scottish accent sent welcome shivers up her spine, especially when it thickened in the throes of passion, and she suspected her own Ozzie accent had a similar effect on him as well

“Yes. I mean, I don’t expect anything from you either.” He glanced down at his hands, clasped in his lap. “But for me there was more to it than just the toe-curling, earth-shattering sex, you know? Being with you, it felt different… it felt… right.”

Belle nodded, pressing her lips together in a futile attempt to stifle her own smug grin at his compliment. He tilted his head until he could catch her eyes again, reaching up to cup her cheek, his thumb stroking gently over her bottom lip, pulling it from between her teeth.

“I know exactly what makes you scream in ecstasy, Belle French, and what you look like first thing in the morning, which is beautiful, by the way, but I’d like to know the rest of it, too. I want to learn you. Your favorite book. Movie. What kind of music do you listen to? Do you like opera? Punk? Bluegrass? Rock and roll? Dogs or cats or neither or both? Ice cream or cake? What makes you laugh? What makes you cry? I’d like to know all the things that make you … you.”

Gold slid from the bed, grabbing his cane and ducking into the bathroom with a shy smile and a toss of his head. “If you’ll let me,” he added, before closing the door with a click, and Belle sat there, her fingers tracing the tingling path of his thumb on her lip.

She’d nearly ghosted him in her shame, but she realized there was nothing to be ashamed about. They were two grown adults, and fuck, it had been toe-curling and earth-shattering, and dammit, she wanted more of it. How stupid might she have been to slink out on him in her misplaced desire to seem the less affected? And cruel. How would she have felt if the tables were turned? She chided herself. He was a big boy, and she was sure he would have gotten over it, but he had looked almost sad at the thought she was fleeing without so much as a goodbye. Not that he couldn’t have found her if he’d wanted to, his son, Neal was her friend.

Oh, gods… Neal. He was probably freaking out that she’d slept with his dad. Not to mention the vague, alcohol-blurred, recollection of him finding them in the broom cupboard making out like teenagers at the reception last night. Ugh. Oh, well, she’d cross that bridge in about, oh three-and-a-half hours at the brunch, wouldn’t she?

Belle heard the shower start up from the bathroom, and a moment later, Gold emerged, leaning casually in the doorway, watching her with a crooked grin on his face. She took a moment to fully appreciate his form, small and thin, but with a solid chest, his waist and hips narrow. She liked the fact that though taller, he didn’t tower over her as most people did. When she tilted her face up, his lips were practically right there for kissing.

His thighs were strong and muscular, his buttocks pleasingly round and firm. Very, very pleasingly, if you asked her. Lachlan’s stomach had the slightly softened roundure of middle-age, but he looked like he took good care of himself. Only his twisted ankle, with its ropy scars and reddened skin was less than pretty to look at, but he seemed to manage well enough, the cane only necessary for extra support while he was walking or standing for a long period of time.

Her eyes lingered on his midsection, wondering to herself if he minded her blatant objectification of his body, her gaze following the sparse brown hair on his belly to where it coarsened and darkened. Belle was pleased to see he was neatly groomed, his scrotum smooth and shaven. His cock hung heavy against his thigh, long and thick, stirred by the thought of her, and he was standing there looking at her like she was a poor fieldmouse and he a hungry cat. Arousal flooded between her thighs, and she licked her lips, wondering what he might taste like if she took him in her mouth.

“Hey.” Belle managed, her words seeming to stick in her throat.

“I was thinking about you…in there…” He hooked his thumb over his shoulder. Belle’s eyes slid back up to his face, where that playful smile lingered. She felt the heat rise in her cheeks and she shifted slightly. “Care to join me? It’s a nice big walk-in with multiple heads. Seems a shame to waste it.”

Gold made an appreciative noise in the back of his throat when she stood up, his pupils flaring wide with desire, and she grinned. Belle found she quite liked his sweet, demonstrative nature, it was something she could certainly get used to. She bit her lip. “That would be a shame, wouldn’t it? I do have to go get ready for this brunch thing at noon, but I think that gives us a little time to, ah, continue getting to know each other.”

Belle stepped close and he reached for her, pulling her in for a lingering kiss, her body melting against his as he leaned in the doorway. “Mm, I’m actually going to that brunch as well,” Gold said when they came up for air, “supposed to be Neal’s plus one again, but I don’t think he’d mind if we…switched it up.”

“You do realize we are going to get razzed by everyone after our rather grand exit last night.” She arched an eyebrow at him, her lips quirking into a self-deprecating smile. The steam was billowing out of the shower enclosure and he stepped back, drawing her with him. He shrugged.

“I’ve never been one to put much stock into what other people think of me.”

“Me either.”

“Besides, it’s not like I’m going to look like a total loser after having spent the night shagging the loveliest woman at the whole bloody affair and then walking in with her on my arm the next morning, now am I?” He waggled his eyebrows at her and she snickered, rolling her eyes at him and sticking out her tongue.

“Well, that’s all right then. Won’t I look the sight...having snagged the most eligible bachelor of the evening and screwing his brains out so thoroughly I’ve already got him wrapped around my little finger?”

“It’s a date, then?” Gold tugged her close, laughing, the hot water spraying them as they pressed together, his rigid cock firmly against her stomach. The water washed over them, plastering down their hair and running over their faces as their mouths came together.

“It’s a date,” Belle agreed, smiling against his lips as he claimed hers.

His tongue pushed into her mouth, stroking and sliding, flicking gently against her palate, his hands sliding down to cup her rear. Her whole body shivered, even under the steaming hot water, and she moaned at the sensations, grinding her belly against his hard length. He reached for a cool, mint-scented body wash and squirted a generous dollop into his hand. Lathering it between his palms, he stroked her breasts, his fingers gliding easily over her wet, soapy flesh.

He plucked and rolled her nipples, bringing them to tingling, turgid peaks, leaning down to take first one and then the other into his mouth. Gold was clever with his tongue, leaving Belle longing for more when he let the sensitive bud slip from between his lips, scraping his teeth ever so lightly and sending jolts of electricity shooting through her from her nipples straight to her clit.

His slippery hands played over her buttocks, squeezing and soothing, bold fingers sliding down to tease at what lay hidden between. A pleasant shiver running through her at the thought that he might desire to fill her there, not today, but as they built trust.

Gold ran his tongue up from the space between her breasts, nipping and sucking rivulets of water from the hollow of her throat on his way back to her mouth, covering it with his own, plucking greedily at her lips. Soapy lather trickled down between them, his cock slipping and sliding against her, and she loved the feel of it, rigid and hot against her stomach as they pressed together, skin against skin. Proof of his desire, and a promise of pleasure that made her quiver with anticipation. She knew from last night just how good he would feel when he thrust up inside her, filling her, how busy and attentive his hands and mouth would be, taking his pleasure, but assiduous and deft in ensuring hers as well.

Gold had proven to be a generous and skilled lover, having spent much of the previous night with his face buried enthusiastically between her thighs, and Belle decided it was time to return the favor. She undulated her hips and felt his knees buckle just a little, a tiny moan escaping his lips that she swallowed down with her own. She glanced up to watch his eyes darken as she slid herself down his body, pressing her breasts together with her arms and trapping his hard shaft between them, squeezing and rubbing, earning a sound not unlike a whimper when she bent her head to let her tongue flick out against the hot, flushed tip each time it peeked out from between her slippery breasts.

He watched in wide-eyed fascination as Belle stood and reached out of the shower to grab a fluffy, white towel from the metal rack, dropping the folded thing at his feet. She kissed under his jaw, tracing her tongue down the center of his chest and circling his navel, dipping in to drink down the water that poured over his skin as she dropped to her knees. Her hands slid down from his shoulders, playing over his smooth chest and pinching his nipples hard as the hot water ran over his skin, pulling a sharp gasp from him. Gold’s breathing quickened as her hands traced down his sides, stroking over his buttocks and gripping his hips tightly with her fingertips. She gazed up at his parted lips and lust-filled, disbelieving eyes and let hers slowly wander down until they locked on his gorgeous cock, which was now bobbing at full attention and tantalizingly close.

“Shit. Belle…” Gold breathed, closing his eyes and letting his head drop back. “You needn’t...”

“Brace yourself, it’s happening,” Belle teased, sucking her teeth, and he gripped the metal hand-bars for dear life, rumbling as she ran the flat of her tongue from the base of his shaft to the smooth, purple tip. She swirled her tongue up under the head and across the slit before wrapping her lips around him and sucking until he groaned like she was killing him. Belle smiled to herself around a mouthful of his luscious thickness, closing her eyes and enjoying the feel of his silky-soft skin against her tongue, reveling in the way his head felt as she let it breach her throat, holding herself there until she felt light-headed, and releasing him with a gasp as she drew in air, her abdomen clenching with desire.

Gold was quiet, and she wondered if he was even breathing as she dove in again, taking him nearly to the hilt in one smooth motion and then out again, setting up a rhythm not unlike the way he had fucked her last night. Deep, leisurely strokes from root to tip, hollowing her cheeks to add pressure and swirling her tongue to add friction. She could feel his hips wanting to buck into her, to thrust, his buttocks tensing, and she steadied him with unhurried sweeps of her hands on his hips and thighs.

Gold’s length was considerable, but Belle was good at this and she knew how to take it. As much as she detested doing it for a man who expected or demanded, she revelled in doing it for one who had no delusions that she owed it, no matter how much pleasure he had given her. She relished the thought of bringing this confident man to his figurative knees before her, and she delighted in the way it felt to have her senses engulfed by him, to have her mouth and throat filled with him and his spicy, musky, maleness. Belle moaned around his cock as she took him deep again and again, losing herself in the joy of giving him pleasure.

“Fuck, Belle…” Gold was absolutely wrecked when she finally looked up at him. He was trembling from head to toe, and gazing down at her with slack-jawed wonder written plain across his features. His knuckles were white where they gripped the safety bars. When he spoke, his burr was so thick she could barely understand the words.

“Fuck, sweetheart, I’m no gonnae last if ye keep doin’ tha’.”

She released his head with an obscene pop , licking her swollen, lips with slow and deliberate care, and raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t that the general idea?” She asked sweetly, bending her head to take in and gently suck his deliciously smooth balls one at a time before wrapping her lips around him again. She kept her eyes locked on his as she worked a hand between her thighs to stroke at her clit, and the strangled noise that escaped him made Belle shiver with longing. This was what made her drip with need, a man who appreciated her willing mouth for the gift it was. She wanted to come while he watched her pleasure both herself and him, while he spurted on the back of her eager tongue. Gold let go with one hand to reach down and touch her cheek with tender, tentative fingers, his eyes filled with wonder, and Belle moaned her approval around him. She released him for a breathless second.

“Please...Set the pace,” she gasped before diving back onto him.

“Jesus, Belle, are - are you sure?” He stammered, breathless, the wind knocked from his body.

Belle gave him an emphatic nod, and he cautiously allowed his hips to move forward and meet the grip of his fingers curled at the back of her head. He was taut as a bowstring at first, quivering with need and anticipation, but between her rumbling hums of approval and her own fingers busy between her thighs, he soon let himself be lost in her. Mumbled obscenities were tumbling from his lips as he thrust into her mouth, and her own climax coiled tight and hot, ready to burst through her.

“Fuck, oh fuck, Belle,” he gasped, his glazed eyes following her every movement, the steaming water dripping from the ends of the shaggy hair framing his features. “I can’t... Christ.” He let out a gusty chuckle. “Shit, I’m gonnae come in your sweet mouth if ye donnae move. Oh, fuck…oh, god...”

Belle gripped him tight, a surge of arousal coursing through her as she swallowed him deep. Gold let out a hoarse cry, his fingers scraping against her scalp, his cock pulsing and throbbing, emptying himself into her throat in thick spurts. She held him there through his quaking aftershocks, hips jerking, his quiet noises of pleasure filling her ears until she felt light-headed again, her own orgasm flooding through and threatening to drown her in waves of bliss heightened and intensified by the restricted airflow.

Gold was already softening as she released him, her breath coming in deep gulps to fill her burning lungs with oxygen. She could still see the bright, bursting lights playing in her vision. Gold collapsed to his knees, his bad leg stuck out at an odd angle, dragging her in for a desperate, growling kiss. It was tongues and teeth and the hot water cascading around them as he searched her mouth for the taste of himself, his fingers grasping and stroking, tangling in her hair and pulling her close, plastering his body against hers.

Gold let out a shaky laugh when she pulled back for air, their foreheads resting together. His eyes glinting with adoration and mischief.  “Belle…”

They struggled to their feet, laughing, and washed each other, hands roaming, exploring. Gold wrapped himself around her from behind, burying his face in her neck and slipping his hands down over her belly to tease between her legs. He took the massaging shower head in hand, rinsing the soap from her hair and body, letting the pulsing spray thrum gently against her neck and back.

“Mmmm, that feels good,” Belle encouraged. Gold hummed in agreement, playing it over her skin, her shoulders, down between her breasts and drawing little circles around her nipples. Belle sucked in a breath as he drew lazy patterns across her stomach before bringing it up between her legs to pound against her clit. Belle reached back to grab a fistful of his hair, writhing against him as it beat a hot tattoo of pleasure directly on her already sensitized and swollen core. He held it steady, letting her move herself to find the best angle, and within seconds she was crying out again as the pulsating jets of water had her flying over the precipice once more.

“Oh, gods, Lachlan, that was...I’m going to need to invest in one of those for myself,” Belle huffed, laughing at his wicked smile.

#

Belle eventually made it back to her room in just enough time to change and get ready for brunch. She couldn’t help the grin that was making her cheeks ache as she waited for Lachlan to come to her room to pick her up. He’d insisted. His driver was already coming to take him to the brunch venue and would she be so kind as to allow him to escort her down? Gods, he was so old-fashioned, so buttoned-up and proper with his three-piece suits and his gold-handled cane. Belle was as fascinated and enchanted by that as by his decidedly forward-thinking views on sex and feminism.

They’d spent the last couple of hours sprawled across his bed, just talking, and it had been a truly enjoyable conversation. She’d been hard-pressed to pry herself away to go and get dressed, and had been secretly elated at his eagerness to enjoy her company once again. She jumped up to answer the door when the anticipated knock came precisely on time, her heart skipping up to beat double-time at the little thrill that ran through her.

She was greeted by his genuine smile, one that sparkled in his eyes and made little crinkles around them. Belle’s breath hitched just a little, taking in again just how dapper he looked in a slim-fitted pinstripe of dark grey that was brightened by a dusty-blue silk shirt and a burgundy tie and pocket square in a subtle pattern of oblong checks. She was also rather taken by the look of naked appreciation on his face as he took in her own choice of outfit. Her short skirt of buttery-soft, scalloped, grey leather was nearly the same color as his suit and the burgundy tights and heels neatly matched his tie. A cream and grey polka-dot blouse with short poufy sleeves completed the look.

“We match,” he laughed.

“Should I change?” Belle suddenly felt self-conscious. Gods, all her friends were going to absolutely flip. Gold just shook his head, a little gleam in his eye. He liked that they looked like a power-couple!

“Shall we?” Gold offered his arm, and Belle took it with a smile, grabbing up her bag and closing the door as she stepped out. “You look absolutely stunning, by the way.”

“Thank you. Not so bad yourself, there.” Belle ducked her head, hiding her flush of pleasure at the compliment, as they made their way to the elevators. He couldn’t resist stealing a kiss when the doors closed, but it was only warm and chaste, and didn’t muss her lipstick. The tap of his cane and the clack of her heels echoed across the polished marble of the lobby, but she liked the way their strides matched almost exactly, and they way her heels brought her shoulders to almost but not quite the same height as his. She held her head high, and was there a little jaunt to his step as well? She thought there just might be.

Gold’s car was waiting outside with his driver, and he helped her into the sleek black Cadillac. The exceptionally tall, bald man gave her a cheerful wink and a wide grin as he closed the door, heading around to the driver’s side to assist Gold.

“L’Espalier please, Dove,” Gold instructed when the giant was installed behind the steering wheel.

“Yes, sir,” Dove answered, meeting his eyes in the mirror. “Traffic is typical Sunday morning Boston, but we’re leaving in plenty of time, Mr. Gold.”

“Wonderful, thank you, Dove. Miss French and I do not want to be late and cause a scene.” Dove nodded, and Gold turned his attention back to her with an amused twinkle in his eye. They both knew there was going to be a scene no matter what time they arrived. He slipped his hand into hers, his thumb stroking gently.

“Now, where were we?”

“I believe you were making your case for why we should make a go of this thing.” Belle smirked. “But I’m sure it’s not all candy and roses. Play devil’s advocate, and tell me the cons. Why isn’t a handsome, well-educated, wealthy man like you taken? What’s wrong with you, Gold?” Gold barked a laugh, shaking his head at her boldness.

“Look, I’m not saying I’m the prize of the century here. I’m grumpy, taciturn, and a ruthless businessman with practically no friends. My son and my ex-wife would tell you, I’m a difficult man to love.” Belle heard a soft chuckle from the front of the car, and Gold tapped the back of Dove’s seat with the end of his cane before turning his attention back to Belle. His mouth was set in a thin line, the muscle in his cheek jumping. He met her eyes, and his were dark and deep and utterly sincere. “But I love fiercely, and I’ll protect those I love with my life if needs be.”

“Well, I’m not exactly a perfect little Disney princess myself,” Belle laughed, little frissons of excitement dancing out from where his thumb was rubbing idle circles on the back of her hand. “I’m opinionated, judgemental, and impulsive with a stubborn streak a mile wide. But I’m also passionate, and loyal, and willing to fight when I find something worth fighting for.”

“I’m also twice your age.” He looked away.

“Irrelevant.”

He hefted his cane. “And there’s this.”

“I’m kind of a secret fan of the cane,” Belle admitted, toying with the blue moonstone ring on his third finger. “It makes you look very distinguished.”

“Well, then.” Gold chuckled softly. A moment of mostly comfortable silence stretched between them.

Her Handsome Hero ,” Belle offered. Gold gave her a quizzical glance at the apparent non-sequitur. “My favorite book, my mother used to read it to me when I was a girl.”

“Ah.” Belle leaned into his side, resting her head on his shoulder as his thumb continued to stroke the back of her hand. “Go on.”

The Princess Bride ,” she continued. “The only opera I can stomach is Wagner, but even then…” She shuddered and he made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat. “Punk…no. I love Bluegrass and folk - I mean, like, I’m cream for a shredded fiddle.” Gold practically choked, eyes wide, and she squeezed his hand.

“Classic rock, yes, Queen, Led Zeppelin. Eighties British New Wave - Flock of Seagulls, Human League, Duran Duran. Most music really, I have pretty eclectic taste.” He nodded appreciatively. “Both. Both. Sardonic Scottsmen, apparently. Oh gods, that Sarah McLachlan commercial that comes on at like two in the morning with the dogs in the cages and their sad eyes and the angel song… gets me every time.”

“Me too,” he admitted, cheeks coloring slightly.

“I knew you were a softie.” Belle bumped his shoulder with hers, another soft chuckle drifting back from Dove. Gold blushed. He liked to hide behind his soft curtain of hair when he was embarrassed.

“Yes, well, let’s not let that get around. Hmm?” He tossed his hair back, the light glinting gold off his bottom jaw. “It would positively ruin my reputation.”

“We can’t have that!”

“Certainly not.”

“Why haven’t I seen you around Storybrooke?” Belle asked. “I’ve only been there a few months now, and I’ve seen your shop across the street from the library, but it’s been closed since I took the post as librarian.”

“I’ve been running things from Boston, to be closer to Neal and Emma, but I’ll be moving back in a few weeks.”

“Yes, he told me he’s moving, too. Emma got the sheriff’s deputy position she was trying for.”

“She did.” He beamed. “She wants to be off the streets of Boston and in a quiet town now that she’s expecting.” His smile was wide and genuine when he spoke of his son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law.

“Well, Storybrooke is as quiet as it gets, that’s for sure!” Belle laughed. “Not really much of a night life, unless you like to play pool and drink cheap booze at the Rabbit Hole.”

“Indeed, but I can assure you, I won’t be sorry to be coming back. I’ve been all over the world, but the beauty there is unmatched.” He shot her a grin full of wicked promise and filthy intent, sending her stomach into somersaults. Flatterer!

They pulled up to the restaurant, and Dove stepped out to open the door for Gold, who hurried around to help her out of the car, once again offering his arm. She took it gladly, stepping up to the doors and squaring her shoulders, head held high.

“Ready to face the firing squad?” He asked, tugging her closer.

“Let’s do this.”