Jack doesn’t make it to supper.
He stumbles into Wardlow late in the evening, his manner worn and ragged, his eyes tired and dull. He’s frayed around the edges, hungry and sullen, and Phryne knows without a doubt that it has been a day.
He lowers himself onto the chaise with a heavy sigh and gratefully accepts a drink and a covered plate of sandwiches that’s been carefully pre-arranged by a prophetic Mr Butler.
“Tough day?” Phryne asks, and Jack hums around a mouthful. He’s ravenous, she can tell as much; the prim manners he cultivates with such care going out the window as he takes big bites and moans appreciatively at the quality of the food. She doesn’t give a fig, the starving Collingwood girl in her understands the relief and gratitude at a nourishing meal.
She takes a seat next him, ghosts her fingers over his nape.
“Did you miss supper again?”
Jack swallows and takes a deep gulp of whisky.
“And lunch,” he answers sheepishly, his spotless social conduct returning now that he’s watered and fed. “The meetings I had at Russell Street went on longer than planned.”
“Poor man,” she coos affectionately and bends a little to kiss his smooth cheek. She can still detect traces of his shaving cream on his skin.
Jack turns his head and presses his mouth to her pursed lips, and she tastes whisky on his tongue. Her fingers flutter against his jaw, and she hears glass clinking against wood, as he blindly puts his drink away and leans into her to deepen the kiss.
It’s the first she’s seen of him in days, and the dull ache at the apex her thighs yawns and gaps at his touch. Her breath stutters and breaks against his parted mouth – it’s been too long since she’s had him in her bed, too long since she’s felt his body pressed against hers.
When Jack pulls back – too soon in her book; not enough, not nearly enough – Phryne sighs in protest and he smiles, indulging her pouts and her objections by pressing one last kiss to the line of her jaw. And when he hands her his half-drunk glass, and her fingers brush against his as she takes it, she feels almost inebriated with him.
The room is warm and softly lit, and Jack is lovely in his ease in her home. He seems to revive in her presence, the fraying less visible, the weariness all but gone. And when he places his head on her knees and looks up at her, she can’t help but be ridiculously content.
“Lady, shall I lie in your lap?” Jack asks, his voice low and slightly roughened, his eyes dark and unreadable. Phryne laughs quietly, her own eyes fond and tender.
Jack turns his head and presses his nose into her belly, his breath hot against the thin fabric of her frock.
“I mean, my head upon your lap,” he murmurs against her flesh and Phryne shivers at the sensation.
One impossibly blue eye peeks from under the folds of her dress, a golden eyebrow rising in challenge.
“Do you think I mean country matters?” he breathes and wiggles his eyebrows, and Phryne can’t help but laugh at his quirky antics; at this playful rendition of the tragic play. She’s overcome by fondness for this rare man; this man who is serious and noble and filled with countless passions and mysteries, all tucked away behind a dour countenance and enough dryness to burn down a village. He’s hers – he’s hers - and even though she doesn’t need him, doesn’t require his validation to be herself, she finds that she wants him above all others and all else.
Bending over his face – not missing the inhaled breath he tries to regulate at the nearness of her low décolletage – Phryne places their shared drink on the table and leans backwards, catching Jack’s eye.
“I think nothing, Inspector,” she obliges him, twisting the quotation in a manner that would make him regard her in fond exasperation.
But Jack’s eyes are half-lidded and hot in the warm light of her parlour, and Phryne’s breath catches a little at the intensity of his gaze.
“That’s a fair thought,” he sighs and turns into her again, “to lie between maids’ legs.”
She’s suddenly reminded of all the other times he’s quoted filthy lines of poetic obscenity in her ear, under the guise of easy banter between friends, so charmingly enticing in that unassumingly witty way of his. How attractive he seemed to her then, full of easy-going intelligence and self-deprecating smiles.
“I’m sure it is,” she breathes, her eyes sultry and suggestive.
Jack takes one look at her and sighs.
“You have no appreciation for The Bard, Miss Fisher,” he announces dramatically, and presses his forehead into her belly.
And how attractive he is to her now.
“On the contrary, Inspector!” Phryne objects, biting at her lip to stop herself from laughing giddily, like a besotted schoolgirl. If only his constables could see him now. “I have the highest regard for dear ol’ Will; he was a cheeky sod who knew a thing or two about obscenity. We’re practically kindred souls, he and I, don’t you find, Jack?”
Jack’s eyes are shining with mirth and something else that she’s afraid to name.
“Oh, so it’s filth you’re after, is it?”
When he presses his whisky slick mouth just above her clit, she jumps a little in surprise, infinitely glad that she had the presence of mind to put her drink away. His right arm comes around her hips to pull her closer as his left hand bunches the material of her dress upwards, nimble fingers slipping under the soft fabric to ghost over the gossamer material of her stockings. She shudders, already slick under the clever ministrations of his mouth, and she’s more than ready to push him off her lap and yank the damned dress out of his way, when a stray look at Jack catches him trying to stifle a yawn unsuccessfully. His fingers still continue their lazy exploration of her inner thigh, his lips mouthing at her covered centre, but Phryne’s arousal has shifted from the pit of her belly and climbed into her lungs, turning into molten warmth of affection. She threads her fingers in his slightly loosened hair, and brushes the stray curls from his forehead, smiling down at the dear man in her lap.
Jack sighs and leans into the pressure of her fingers against his scalp, his eyes closing in pleasure.
“I’m trying to seduce you, Miss Fisher,” he admonishes her half-heartedly and she laughs – softly, clearly, easily. His lips curl, and he presses his mouth to the inside of her wrist.
“Seduce me in the morning, Inspector,” she whispers, her fingers flexing. “I promise to be an obedient Ophelia, if you wish me to.”
Jack’s eyes open and he regards her with a look that speaks volumes, with fondness and wit and not a little dose of adoration.
“You, obedient?” he asks, and that familiar half-cooked smirk of his rekindles fire deep in her belly. “Are you sure your thespian skills are up to the task?”
She’s reminded of the countless nightcaps they shared, before; of the way his gaze would turn her inside-out and shape her want into a conflagration – of the slow blink of his glance, of his own hunger for her. He doesn’t seem so tired now, not by the glint in his darkened eyes, or the dance of his fingers – up her thighs again, up her –
“I can be a great deal of things, Jack,” she purrs, leaning into his touch, bending over his face.
He’s calm as still waters, serious as an aneurism; the weight of his want for her heavy and welcome.
“And yet,” he murmurs, and the hand that held her waist is now cradling her nape, the thumb ghosting over her jaw, “I wouldn’t want you to be anything but yourself, Miss Fisher.”
He’s hers – he’s hers – this serious man with mysteries and passions and a heart as deep as the sea, and she wants him; she wants him.
Phryne turns her face and kisses his thumb – a soft press of lips. There’s warmth in her belly and fire in her heart. Jack surges up with more grace than she expects of a tired man and kisses her deeply, his teeth scraping at her lower lip.
“I’d like to die in thy lap now, if you will have me,” he breathes against her mouth, and Phryne whimpers at the words. Damn the man for his vast knowledge of Shakespeare!
“Pardon for the lack of a suitable quoted reply, Inspector,” she gasps as his lips trail down her neck, “I seem to be too lustfully compromised to be witty.”
Jack’s mouth curves against her skin. Wicked man.
“I’ll take it as a ‘yes’, then,” he murmurs and nips at her collarbone.
She laughs breathlessly; almost giddy with excitement and desire. Jack pulls her to him, rucking up her dress with hasty fingers, kissing every inch of bare flesh he can find. He’s eager and hungry and full of vim, and she finds it beyond endearing, above invigorating; she’s helplessly in love with the man.
The room is warm and softly lit, and Jack is lovely in his passion for her. He’s alive in her presence, there’s no sign of fraying or weariness, and when they tumble off the chaise and onto the rug in a heated embrace, she can’t help but be ridiculously content.
He's hers – hers, hers, hers – and, oh, how she wants him.
They never make it up the stairs.