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From My Heart to Yours

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Phryne woke with a start to the sound of persistent voices barely muffled through the door to her boudoir. Her mind had not yet shed the sticky fog of sleep; she shifted, abandoning the luxurious embrace of the bedding below to settle onto her side. She was momentarily vulnerable to the noise until she pulled the covers into place, the delicious rustling of the silk drowning out most of the commotion as she fell back into bed. She wasn’t yet ready to greet the sunlight, clutching instead onto the remnants of almost forgotten dreams swirling around her like smoke. Distantly, her mind already drifting off, she became aware of a blunt pain, a dull throbbing sensation as she moved to get comfortable, but soon brushed it aside, stifling all worries in favor of her slumber.

“She’s not fit to entertain guests!”

Dot’s frantic voice caused her to tense, her heart picking up speed as a deafening silence encompassed her. Something was off, Phryne realized. All of a sudden, she was wide awake and rigid. Then, the outcry was followed by a second voice; much calmer, but struggling to remain that way, if the irritated undertone she knew so well was anything to go by.

“I’m here on official business, Miss Williams. I was informed of a break-in that took place here last night. Is that correct?” Jack’s tone was tight, harsh-sounding, and where Phryne had previously been relieved, almost amused to find it was him quarreling with Dot on the threshold to her boudoir, his spat-out words set her right back on edge. Up until now, last night’s occurrences hadn’t consciously crossed her mind, but the memory crashed down on her at once, knocking the breath out of her lungs in its force.

Jack’s sudden arrival had her thoughts coiling in horror, her mind supplying her with a wide array of more severe incidents that might have transpired as she’d slept. Operating solely by habit in the last of her sleepiness, she’d been cautiously delighted to see him, eager to welcome him back into her home. The tone of his voice merged with the tight emphasis on official business sent her high spirits falling, plunging to depths she’d just months ago thought impossible. He hadn’t come to see her. So far, the ache in her heart had been quiet, tiny pulls as she went through her days, her case providing just enough commotion to endure. She saw now why she hadn’t dared hope.

“Yes, that’s right, but I can’t let you in – she’s in her nightgown!” With that, Phryne felt her muscles loosen slightly, apprehension and worry subsiding. Underneath it all she found a flaring of her temper, shooting up to cushion her fall. It couldn’t be that serious if Dot, usually so quick to follow orders, was concerned about her modesty. Though, if no greater strike had occurred while she’d slept, she couldn’t fathom why Jack might turn up on her doorstep. Surely he possessed more decency than to close the distance for the sole purpose to exhibit disapproval.

Phryne was at once aware that she was operating from a stance of fury, readily shelving their past as history in an effort to protect her heart. What she found before her was a blank page, its edges blackened with fury, worn thin with the past scratched out. But before she could entertain that line of thought any further, perhaps dismissing it for a more sensible path, the door burst open to reveal Jack. He appeared even more upset than had become usual as his gaze focused on her, frantically scanning her body.

Behind him, Dot let out a small shriek, positively scandalized at his unexpected disregard for decency and unsure whether to leave or step in to protect her. Phryne, on her part, observed it difficult to remain enraged with the subject of her fury was near. Her heart, foolish as it was, longed blindly to have him close, though she did her best to silence the pull.

“Inspector?” Phryne’s voice was slightly raspy with sleep, her tone suspended amidst suspicion and heavy, unyielding defeat. Sighing, she sat up to regard him but hissed as a painful dart shot through her side, spreading from a concentrated point along her ribcage to leave her momentarily stunned.

He came rushing to her in a blur, his hand hovering above her shoulder in an impulse to reach for her. His nervous gaze found her own; her puzzled, frightened eyes were enough to make him falter. He appeared for another moment to be reviewing the benefits of touching her and then pulled back, his hand falling back to his side as self-imposed restrictions fought to persist. He cleared his throat to collect himself, but his gaze conveyed no less distress. Phryne could almost see as the change in their partnership settled over him, caging him in. He was no longer firm in his approach, couldn’t decide whether to consider her with care or constraint.

Straight away, she noticed that he was now avoiding her eyes, his focus darting across the room. Whatever impulse it was that had taken him to her home, he appeared as bewildered by it as she was. Shaken, but unwilling to admit it.

“Collins told me everything.”

He was visibly straining to regain control of his racing thoughts, the subtle shifts in his demeanor only visible through the trained gaze of long-time partnership. To unlearn it would take a lot. She hoped hesitantly she didn’t have to.

In all honesty, Phryne wasn’t certain what had him so worked up, though she felt her temper pulling also at her soul, exhaustion twisting with a primitive urge to defend herself against his forthcoming allegations. Clearly adept to advance without her, she felt that the theft could be of no import to Jack; the mere notion that he’d come for her seemed foolish.

“Jack, you’ve made your disapproval perfectly clear. If all you want is to chastise me for my morals, I’d rather-”

“Can I see it?” At once, Phryne fell silent. The inquiry seemed to take a lot out of him; he clenched and unclenched his fists and Phryne could make out the hard set of his jaw in the sunlight streaming in through the gaping curtains.

“What are you talking about?” She made every effort to steady her voice, but couldn’t shake the slight quiver in her tone. Additionally, her voice came out soft as if fearing that he might break, channeling the ache in her heart rather than the coldness of her thoughts.

“The bruise. He hurt you, didn’t he?” Oh. She felt a warm ache, foreign after days spent in icy bleakness, fighting to win back its claim over her battered heart. So far, the remains of her guard stood firm, though she suspected they wouldn’t last.

If all went according to her, she’d simply turn a blind eye to the large bruises currently adorning her ribcage and the pain that stemmed from them, letting them wither from a pressing blue-black to pale yellow until they ultimately faded. However, she was well aware that Dot was unlikely to leave her side after such an occurrence, insisting on continuous inspections until she was fully healed. It was to no surprise to Phryne that she’d told Hugh and therefore made the incident known to Jack. Though, if she couldn’t stand Dot’s caring gaze, she certainly didn’t need Jack’s judging one.

“It’s really nothing, Jack-” It wasn’t nothing, but his turmoil made her uneasy. She was getting tired of the push and pull on her heart. It threatened to split under the strain of tender hope and hollow fury.

“No. I need to see it.” He sounded certain now, even stubborn.

Carefully keeping her hips concealed by the covers, Phryne gathered her nightgown and lifted it just enough to expose her injury. She made certain to hold his gaze as she did so, communicating her bemusement at his suspicion. She felt a sudden, defensive need to prove she had nothing to hide, hoping the challenge in her gaze might keep a lid on any declarations of displeasure he might feel compelled to voice. And, perhaps, that he would offer his trust in return.

Jack, eyes wide and cheeks slightly flushed as he understood too late that the reveal of her injuries would demand his seeing her bare skin, drew a sharp breath upon seeing the assortment of bruises proudly standing out against the alabaster of her skin. What had last night been bright red spots, severe, but not entirely sinister-looking as she’d encountered much worse, had with the hours become a dark blend of blue and purple, the edges frayed in washed-out crimson. The bright rays of sunlight only seemed to worsen the appearance, illuminating her skin in stark contrast to the shadowy marks.

If Phryne herself was startled by the development, she could only imagine how the spots must look to him. She had an abrupt urge to pull the blanket higher around herself.

And so, as he reached out, it was all she could do not to swat at his hand defensively, at once awaiting to be scolded for her recklessness, her quickness to invite Beatrice, her too-eager involvement in his case. Just when she’d pictured the icy whirlwind between them calming to a gentle breeze. Even steeling herself for the blow of his forthcoming words, Phryne knew it would hurt more than her bruises ever could. To her surprise, it never came.

She kept very still, watchful of any shifts in his expression as he drew near. His face was close, only inches from hers, and while his eyes remained fixed on her injury, she could see the emotions flickering behind them. A startling merge of pained cautiousness, the remaining traces of shock, and something that appeared almost to be fascination? She feared her blurred emotions were playing tricks on her, his closeness overcoming all rational thought. It had to be the rational thing to remain harsh. Didn’t it?

Still, she had a cautious hunch that he was marveling at her exposed skin rather than examining her bruises. It was with some relief that she identified his inspection as not entirely medical if his hesitation was anything to go by. Phryne thought briefly of Mac, of the clinical sternness, the confident touch she employed with her patience.

Jack’s approach was nothing like that. That first, slightest touch, his fingertips hovering on her bare skin, felt almost explosive, igniting fires she’d finally thought tamed. Though, if Jack felt any of the fiery heat, he did his best to conceal it beneath a mask of hesitation. Phryne wished almost to rescue him, though she thought wickedly that the hardship might do him some good after what he put her through.

Although it was she who had been hurt, he seemed to be the one to suffer. If due to her injury or his principles, requiring him to look out for her when he was so clearly flustered, she wasn’t certain. She couldn’t quite let herself to entertain the notion of anything more than that.

At the very least, the sight of her skin appeared sufficient to drive away his displeasure as he was obviously battling his own manners. He was certainly making it difficult to hold her anger, all debate dissolving into mist under the heat of his touch. She wanted stubbornly to keep her chin up but found she didn’t have the heart after he’d gone out of his way to check on her, apparently without malintent.

“Jack?” She aimed to ease the tension that was shifting from tensed to charged in an entirely different fashion, one final attempt to stay strong. Instead, his name came out in a soft whisper. Just then, his hand found its mark – or nearly missed it. Neither of them knew if she’d frightened him or his aim had purposely been off. He didn’t quite touch the bruises; his fingertips pressed into her tender skin, both of them releasing a shaky breath as his advance grew more daring. His eyes finally found hers, darkening as he searched her face.

“Phryne.” His voice was low, gravelly. He leaned in even closer; she could feel his breath caressing her cheek, his hand flexing, then tightening around her side, fingertips digging slightly into her skin and–

A sharp pain jolted through her and she winced, dropping involuntarily back into the pillows as her arms that she’d relied on to remain upright buckled beneath her. Well, so much for her attempt to gloss over her pain, as well as not to alarm him to treasure the loosening of his demeanor. It was ironic, really – getting him worked up just as she was allowing herself peace.

And indeed, Jack appeared entirely too startled for her liking, even as she once more steadied herself. He’d taken a large step back and was now leaning not-quite-casually against the wall. While he was obviously trying and failing to appear calm, a difficult undertaking after he’d quite literally jumped out of her way, Phryne couldn’t help but find the whole situation comical.

She fought back a sudden onslaught of laughter at which Jack became more shocked, which in turn she found even more hilarious, desperate to release the long pent-up tension. It turned out to be an unpleasant thing, to laugh as her insides twisted in pain, the force of it seeming to strain against her damaged skin. All that came out was a choked giggle that faded into a shaky moan. She chose instead to smile weakly up at him, hoping it would convey her carefully rising spirits rather than the aftershocks of pain.

“It’s all right, Jack, I swear.” Phryne made certain to keep her tone even so as not to frighten him any further, though she wasn’t sure that was even a possibility. He was watching her from afar, eyes moving between the solemn expression she hoped had found a home on her features and her still exposed side. He drew in a deep, steadying breath, then another.

“I believe your demonstration warrants another look, don’t you think?” It was outstanding how swiftly he’d gathered his wits, turning his tone almost wry. While her outburst had visibly shaken him, he looked much calmer than only moments ago; there was even a small twinkle to his eyes. He indicated for her to lie flat on her back, and Phryne groaned. She’d hoped the short examination would suffice to ease his guilt even as it had come to such an abrupt conclusion.

“Jaaack! It was no more than a nasty blow; certainly unpleasant, but nothing to raise such hell over. It’s done; he got what he came for – I was... in his way, is all.” He shot her an irritated glare, the familiarity of it sending her hopes flying, her heart stumbling.

“Down. Now, Miss Fisher.”

Gleefully intrigued by his command, Phryne obliged, unceremoniously flopping into the mattress that bounced slightly at the impact. She raised an eyebrow at his agitation but watched intently as he yet again pulled aside her nightgown to get a better picture of her injury.

It was a mesmerizing sight – his fingers, strong and golden against the fair softness of her skin. She bit her lip in an effort not to whimper as Jack stroked the angry blue marks, pushing down slightly to ensure that the skin and the bones underneath were intact. However, she fought even harder to contain a moan at the occasional brush of his fingers against her undamaged skin, the touch feeling strangely intimate after their separation.

Involuntarily, her eyes fluttered shut, allowing her to savor the sensation. It wasn’t so bad, once she got over the initial discomfort. He touched her with his usual assuredness but maintained a suitable tenderness whenever possible; she could feel in his caress that he was enjoying their position almost as much as she was. Finally, he’d let himself go a little.

His fingertips were a bit rough against her side; she loved the way they felt on her skin, leaving a trail of tingling warmth as Jack’s attention shifted from the innermost bruise over the unharmed skin in between to the ones closest to her side, almost wrapping around it. She breathed in deeply, and then, all too soon for her liking with one final, gentle brush, he pulled back and her eyes snapped open, checking that she hadn’t again startled him.

Jack was definitely blushing as he withdrew. His uncertainty was evident, a reluctance to bridge the gap to what had been. Phryne sat up, her nightgown dropping to conceal the dark spots. His eyes immediately went to the last of her skin before it disappeared from view under the fabric, then returned to hers. Lifting her hips, she pulled the nightgown back down beneath the covers and he took a step back, restoring a safe distance between them.

“What do you think, Jack? What’s your expert assessment – will I be alright?” Will we be alright? Feeling she’d done all that she could, Phryne thought it fair to provide him an easy way out. She reached out with her heart but left it his choice to close the space between them. The air was heavy with words unsaid.

He paused, turning her question over in his mind, a rose easily wilting, fragile petals crumbled under unschooled hands. “Without a doubt, Miss Fisher. In fact, I think you're well on the way.” His expression was open, eyes deep in a way she'd rarely seen. “Please send word if I can be of assistance. In any way.”

“Actually, there is one thing…” Having expected to be dismissed, Jack came to a halt by the door with his hand resting tentatively on the handle. Still, when he spun to face her, his look was one of eagerness, longing to make up for their shared faults. “Anything, Phryne.” There was endless emotion in the way he said her name.

When she’d summoned him back, she hadn’t arranged her words, wanting only to nurture her blossoming hope. A wave of wonder washed through her even as the request dropped from her lips.

“Kiss me better?”

Jack drew in a shaking breath, his eyes growing impossibly deeper. She expected an amused, pointed glare at best, an uneasy half-smile as he turned to leave at worst. Instead, he returned swiftly to her side, drawn in as the unseeable bond between them grew taut with anticipation. It shocked her, seeing him so willing. Or, at least, not entirely disinclined, even as he was pondering whether to proceed as the true gravity of her request settled over him.

When he finally drew close, his gaze flicking delicately to her lips, his tenderness moved something within her. Taking the place of the butterflies she’d felt at her inquiry was a stunning calm, a sense of rightness underneath the soft flutter of her heart that left her in awe. Her fingers curling into his hair, she wrapped her hand around the back of his neck to pull him in.

The world dissolved into nothing, holding its breath as their lips met. His were soft, gentle, at first, waiting for her to set the tone. She opened her mouth gently against his, their breath hitching as his tongue first brushed hers.

They parted way too soon, both immediately mourning the loss, but light-headed from their closeness. When Jack’s eyes fluttered open, clearly mesmerized and glistening in tender affection, she felt with unmatched certainty that they would be alright.

Resting her forehead against his, Phryne couldn't help the smile touching the corners of her lips. Her relief was a palpable thing, warming her as it flared through her blood, replacing every last trace of her fear. She couldn't help but draw him back in.

They took their time exploring each other’s mouths, soft sighs building into moans as they grew breathless. Jack’s hand, having previously cradled her face as the other gripped the headboard behind her for balance, slid hesitantly lower, brushing her neck and collarbone in a feather-light caress, making her shiver. Yet, Phryne was getting impatient, longing to feel more of his enthralling touch.

Taking hold of his wrist, she gently guided his hand to cup her breast. At first, he froze, his breath catching in his lungs at the feel of the soft swell of her breast beneath his palm. She arched into his hand in encouragement, her nipple hardening through the thin material of her nightgown. Jack, emboldened by her obvious welcome, lightly pinched her nipple, the press of his fingers mingling with the delicious friction of the lace to make her moan. He swallowed the sound with his kiss, continuing his ministrations; circling her nipple through the fabric and sending sizzling currents of warmth through her. She clutched at his shoulders, shuddering.

She needed him to know how much she wanted this, that this was no place for the remorse he might maintain from their quarrel. Relishing his touch, she made of their disagreement no more than that – a short intermission, aiding them to come together, all the more mindful of the blessing of their partnership. All else, she knew, they would work out another time. Now was for showing him that they could.

Deciding it wouldn’t do for him to remain so utterly composed while he brought her undone under his thoughtful touch, Phryne slid his suit jacket off his shoulders and pulled him down on top of her. She felt his growing erection pressing against her belly as he hovered over her, loving the low moan that escaped him as she rocked her hips against his.

Still, when he broke their kiss, eyes sweeping for a moment to his hand still covering her breast before they found hers, betraying his want, Jack paused to consider her. “Are you sure you want this, Phryne?”

She’d never been more certain than in this moment, made aware by the all-engulfing grief their separation had caused, settling like a curtain of smoke over everything to color her world just a shade more cheerless.

“You know I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't want to.” She ran her hand along the side of his face, cradling his cheek. Her eyes earnest, she allowed to the surface the affection she'd so long suppressed, the tender glances she'd been hesitant to send his way summoned into a single beam.

Jack only nodded, admiration clear in his features, and Phryne’s heart stumbled at the sight. An astonished smile passing between them, he was the first to look away as he focused his attention completely on her pleasure.

Phryne had just unbuttoned his waistcoat and undone his tie, dropping both off the side of the bed before beginning her work on his shirt and earning a mildly irritated glare – though it appeared to stem from habit rather than genuine annoyance – as she felt Jack’s hand travel up her leg. He slipped it underneath her nightgown, the tips of his fingers slightly calloused against her warm, smooth skin.

When he found her gaze lacking any sign of disapproval, he dipped his head, kissing along her collarbone and licking into the hollow at the base of her throat. She tilted her head, eyes fluttering shut and hand threading into his hair as she held him close.

He stroked one hand up the outside of her leg, grasping her hip before sliding around to squeeze the curve of her ass. Holding her in place, he added his second hand, trailing slowly up the inside of her other thigh, leaving tingles in his wake. At the same time, he dragged his lips along the deep neckline of her nightgown, impossibly hot against the swell of her breasts.

“Jack-” Phryne began, but quickly faded into silence when he found her wetness. They moaned in unison at that first touch, her hand in his hair tightening, her hips bucking helplessly up against his finger. He slid easily along her slick folds, her breathing growing heavier as he circled her entrance.

She gasped, the sound soft and shaky, as he pushed one finger into her, his thumb sliding in slow circles against her clit. His touch was steady but gentle and Phryne, overcome by the swirl of want and affection that enveloped her senses, pulled him up from where he was kissing along the side of her neck, intending to once again capture his lips. She was caught off guard by the expression on his face, the look of open wonder as he watched her.

Jack looked more disheveled than she’d ever seen him, his hair tousled from her fingers, his shirt halfway unbuttoned to hint at his chest, the skin of his neck golden before it disappeared underneath the thin undershirt that did little to conceal his sculpted chest.

“What is it, Phryne?” Even now, his voice deep with desire, he held back, always checking to confirm she was at ease.

Her words, when she found them, took her by surprise; they caught her off-guard, at first, but left a soothing sort of calm in their wake, a heavy weight lifted after weeks of strain.

“I’m glad you didn’t sacrifice us.”

The optimistic side of her longed to believe that all was well. That it had to be, with the earnest gleam in his eyes and his fingers rubbing steadily against her, leaving her trembling, breathless with desire. More rationally, she knew they had a lot to work through, though a first stone had been laid to forge their path. All that was left now was to hope he’d stay by her side in its persuasion, learning where it would take them.

She dragged him down into a long, slow kiss, arching and rocking against him as his finger curled gently inside her, brushing the spot that would make her shudder. He added a second one to the first, continuing in steady motions to bring her to the point of shattering.

Phryne clung to him when she went over, moaning his name as her body went from tense and trembling to boneless. Jack maintained his movements between her folds until she shifted away, gently bringing her down until all that filled the air was the rising and falling of her breathing as it steadied.

When she opened her eyes, smiling a soft, exhausted smile, she found him carefully watching her. It was only the concentration in his darkened eyes that gave away the effort it took to steady himself.

“Do you have a little more time to spare?” She brought her hand up to his face, feeling the tense set of his jaw.

“I shouldn’t,” he said, “but I suppose our new murder suspect won’t be going anywhere.” His restraint was truly extraordinary.

“I’m glad to hear it, Inspector.” She leaned up to kiss him once, softly, then curved upward to allow him to gather her ruined nightgown and pull it off over her head. His breath lodged in his throat as her body was revealed to him; Phryne felt utterly at ease as she felt his gaze caressing her curves. He lingered for a moment on her breasts, taking in the rosy flush to her skin and her pebbled nipples, before traveling lower. Her legs spread automatically, a warm tangle of want once more coiling tighter inside of her. His fingers trailed softly along the side of her breast, the curve of her waist, her hip, as though assuring himself she was real, more than a dream threatening to dissolve at his touch.

As his eyes returned to hers, accompanied by an upward stroke of his fingers, he halted at her bruises, a dark cloud crossing his features, there and then gone.

“Jack,” she whispered, fearing he might change his mind. Instead, his serious eyes shone with renewed dedication that went straight to her heart.

“I thought that staying away from you would keep me safe.” His fingers were the barest tough against the dark spots, the echo of a touch so light she couldn’t feel the sting. “I know now that I need to take the risk. The thought of losing you without giving this – us – a chance – I couldn't bear it, Phryne.”

Her eyes brimming with tears and her heart pounding wildly, Phryne sat up to press her lips to his, clutching at whatever parts of him she could reach, needing to keep him close. She ran her fingers over bulge tenting the front of his trousers, sobering a fraction as he all but whimpered into her mouth, arching helplessly into her touch. She could no longer keep him waiting.

“Stay here,” she whispered, gently biting his earlobe before she, somewhat grudgingly, released her grasp and moved out from under him. She made her way to the bathroom, cast him a fond smile over her shoulder, and went to take care of family planning.

She came back to find him, naked, on her bed, patiently awaiting her return. His eyes softened as they landed on her, a warm graze against her skin.

Phryne, when she reached him, ran her hands softly along his arms and down his chest, marveling at the feel of him, golden skin over firm muscle. He kept his eyes, deep and sincere, on her face, but shuddered as her fingers brushed his nipples. She wrapped her hand around his cock and he moaned, his eyes fluttering involuntarily shut. She created a slow, agonizing rhythm, carefully watching his face flushed in passion.

Jack forced his eyes open to look up at her and his hand gripped her arm to still her motions. “Please, Phryne – I need you.” His voice was a low, soft but desperate groan that drew her to him, wrapping around her heart. She positioned herself above him, savoring his touch as he held her tightly in his arms.

“Are you ready, Jack?”

He gave a small, serious nod.

Her legs locked around his hips, she lowered herself to take in his hot, throbbing length. For a moment, all that filled the air was their heavy breathing as they paused to savor the sensation. Phryne thought back to a time when every smallest touch, each unplanned brush of his fingers on her skin had ignited her soul. It made this moment, connected to him in body and heart, all the more special.

“Alright?” Asked Jack. Phryne nodded, leaning in to kiss him slowly, sensually, and hoped to convey with her lips the relief she felt at their closeness. It was as though the universe had finally shifted into place. She ran one hand along his spine and he shivered; his arms came around her, his large palms spreading across her back to gather her close.

She began to move, then – small, deliberate motions that astonished them both in their strength. She rose only a fraction, arching her back and panting as she ground all the way down. Jack was happy to follow her lead; he rocked his hips into her, brushing her clit with each thrust and rubbing the front of her passage with his cock.

It didn't take long until she was shaking against him, the clenching of her walls around him making it so it took all of his will not to let go. He was trembling beneath her, each deep press of his hips testing his restraint. Phryne cupped his face, bringing it once again to hers from where it had been buried in her shoulder in concentration.

“Let go, Jack,” she panted against his lips. Arching forward, she ground down a final time, her entire body flush against his. Her pleasure unfurled in a rush; she came with a sob and felt him spilling himself inside her, his own low cry muffled against her neck.

All that remained was the sound of their calming breathing as they held each other, taken aback by their closeness, the intimacy of the moment they’d shared. They moved to lie on the bed, Jack’s head resting on her breast, listening to the steadying beat of her heart.

It felt too soon when he shifted to look at her. “I’m afraid I must be going – we do have an investigation to get on with.” The corner of his mouth showed the ghost of a smile, a striking contrast to when he’d first entered her bedroom. Yet, in that short flash of time, everything had changed.

“Of course,” agreed Phryne. He kissed her once and then, at last, let go.

Jack dressed in silence while she watched until all that recorded what they’d done was the tender sparkle in his eyes. He passed her a robe to wrap herself in, the material flowing against her sensitive skin.

He turned to look at her when he was finished, keeping close to the door. “Goodbye, Miss Fisher.” She smiled softly and felt uncharacteristically flustered, pinned by his gentle gaze on her.

“I’ll see you at the station,” she said. He nodded almost imperceptibly, then turned, with the slightest hint of hesitation, away.

Her mind lingered with him, his intense eyes and sure touch. Allowing her smile to grow, she sank back into the pillows to await Dot’s arrival with her breakfast and the morning paper.