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A Modern Arrangement

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“What are we going to do with them?” Phryne perches on Jack’s desk, an inch closer than usual. The station is hushed and half dark; with drunks in the lockup, the night shift is downstairs. Jack has just sent Hugh home.

He raises an eyebrow. It’s the end of their next investigation (or the beginning). As Phryne bends toward him, the tail of her chiffon scarf wafts onto his knee. Her touch has been this light, of late, hovering with extraordinary gentleness at the corona of his heart. She won’t torment him, not much, and that means something.

It was a serious question. They are a paradox — his constable and her companion. Jack loves looking up at Phryne, but when he stands they’re nearer. “Well, Miss Fisher,” he says, “if this is a modern age, we’ll simply have to devise a modern arrangement.”

Phryne tips her chin down, gazing at him through her eyelashes. “Jack Robinson, I suspect that you’re a great deal more modern than you let on.”

Jack can feel the warmth humming between them when they stand like this. By force of habit, he steps back, and there’s the familiar ache. He has always been one to pause and think, to take a moment. But he’s done all his thinking. In this moment, he closes the door to his office — and locks it. He turns, hand on his hip, and sees Phryne’s breath catch. She stays still, though, as he returns to her side.

Before he met her, Jack wouldn’t have dreamed of kissing someone in his office. He has dreamed of it often, since. Since Phryne, the distinction between dreams and waking has become less solid. Reality shimmers away behind visions of what might please her (excite her).

“Interesting theory,” he says. He leans in, letting the words ghost across her cheek. “You are a lady detective — perhaps you should investigate.”

Phryne only has to turn her head to capture his lips. For an instant, Jack is riveted by the caress careening through him. She doesn’t exhale until he kisses her back, and only moves when his arms come up to draw her close. Then she clutches at him, ruffling his hair as she wraps her hand around his nape, dragging fiercely at his jacket as her hips crush against him. Jack likes her fierce. Her kisses are velvety sweet and deadly. He lets the coat drop to the floor and his mouth moves down her throat, hungry for her. When he sucks at her pulse, he can feel her gasp buzz on his tongue. His fingers curl into fists, rucking up her skirt.

Jack pulls back. Phryne’s lips are parted, lipstick smeared. Her eyes are deep and glittering. She has fallen back onto the desk, and his hand is on her knee, underneath her dress. She looks at him. “Yes, Jack,” she says, with that edge of gentleness. “Always yes.”

He knows why he waited, how his chest clenched with every agonizing No. He knows he needs her fiercely too, but his desperation burns more slowly. He holds her gaze as his fingers trail up her thigh, whispering over the silk stocking. His other hand grasps her scarf, and it glides around her neck as he removes it. The material catches, constricting for a moment, and Phryne gives him a devilish smile. She reaches for his tie and begins to tug, just as slowly, at the knot.

Jack arrives at the top of her stocking: the band of lace, then the satin skin, then the dagger’s hilt. He can’t help but smirk back at her. Her eyes go wide as he slips the weapon ever so carefully out of her garter.

“Phryne,” he says, and kisses her, cradling her face. His Yes. Her fingers tremble at the hollow of his throat, where she has undone the top buttons, and at the waistband of his pants. He presses against her, letting her feel how he wants her. In tandem, their breath stutters into a moan. She wraps her leg around him gracefully, and her dress gathers at her waist.

Jack tangles his hand in her hair, baring the shell of her ear. His lips trace the arc, and he murmurs, “quiet.” Phryne shudders. And then he’s on the floor, crouched between her thighs. His fingers connect them, charting the impossible skin revealed above her stocking. He can’t resist rubbing his cheek on the silk and inhaling her.

Phryne watches as he brings the dagger up and touches the point to her flesh.

Their history has been woven through with violence. The countless murders, Jack always hunched close to Phryne over a corpse. The dangerous thrill of her flirtations — confrontational at first, and then a more seductive assault. The devastating moments when he feared he would lose her. The paralyzing moments when he feared he’d lose himself. The knife is her protection, and it flays his heart.

Jack looks up at Phryne, holding the steel flat against her thigh. Her breasts rise and fall rapidly, but she stays so very still. She licks her lips as he slides the dagger under the suspender attached to her stocking. The blade is sharp, and the ribbon shears easily in two. Phryne gasps. Jack hooks his fingers under the lace and feathers a kiss on the skin it covered. And then one higher, and again higher. She tastes like whiskey. He lifts his head and sketches the knife along the line where the ribbon lay, listening to Phryne’s nearly silent whimpers. At the frilled edge of her lingerie, he pauses, replaces the bite of the blade with his mouth at the crook of her hip. She bucks into him and the knife is back in a flash, putting pressure just there through the creamy silk.

Jack tries not to dwell on how long he has wished to be exactly here.

“Careful,” he says. He meets her eyes.

“Always.” Phryne’s voice wavers with desire.

Jack turns his attention back to her knickers — flirty and luxe, draped over all but a few wayward curls. He angles the blade, brushes it across her mound as he slices the fabric right through. He lets the knife clatter to the floor, then, and spreads her open with his thumbs. Exquisite and glistening.

“Jack,” Phryne says. It’s a promise more than a plea.

When he tastes her, the world stops. He traces each fold with his tongue, memorizing. His fingers steady her, splayed over her belly, as she attempts to rise off the desk. Phryne’s hand fists in his hair; he feels tension at his neck and realizes she’s drawing him in by his tie. Smiling against her, Jack finds her pearl and sucks.

Phryne’s hips set a rhythm that he follows by instinct. With her dress slipping off one shoulder, he can reach the swell of her breast as she arches into his hand. His other hand comes up underneath, making swirls around her entrance. Jack hears a strangled cry and his fingers are pulled from the tempting peak of her nipple, enveloped in molten heat. Phryne sucks on him, hard, and his groan is drowned in her. Almost in her throat, he feels her sound more than he hears it as he presses two fingers inside her.

She’s slick and tight, smooth and rippled, and Jack seeks the throbbing places to stroke. He wants to survey every inch of her. The ruined lingerie tickles his nose and her thighs close around his head. He can hardly breathe, but when Phryne speaks — “Yes. Jack. There.” — he’s never felt safer. He crooks a third finger into the hole beneath, breaching the taut muscle and knowing them both in layers — her parts cloaking his hand. Phryne inhales once, seizes up, and peaks in waves, her mouth a silent O. He hasn’t forgotten that they’re in his office, but he’s never felt more at home.

When Jack locks the door, Phryne stops thinking about Dot and Hugh. She stops thinking. It has taken practice, letting him lead. She’s accustomed to striving for what she wants. But ungrasping, she’s learned, has made space for sudden tenderness. He walks toward her, and she lets him.

Jack stands so close that she can smell him — laundry soap, hair oil, and musk. Her heartbeat quickens and heat sinks like a weight in her belly. She is delighted.

“Interesting theory,” he says. He’s practically sighing in her ear. “You are a lady detective — perhaps you should investigate.”

It had come to her slowly, the idea that Jack demurred not out of prudishness or honor, inexperience or censure. The idea that he refused her because he was all too serious about what she offered. The evidence was mounting. His words sound like an invitation — and those are rare and precious, from him. In any case, she never turns down a challenge. So she kisses him.

His lips are softer than she remembers, silken against hers. Phryne doesn’t dare move. She has no idea what will happen now, and it thrills her. Then his mouth draws at hers, with a hint of tongue and teeth, and she melts into his arms. They are absolutely consuming, Jack’s kisses. She had forgotten kisses like this, ones that send a thousand unsaid words searing through the body. Kisses with an undertow that pulls them closer until she’s tearing at his clothes to reach his skin. Even the back of his neck is heavenly to touch, velvet with close cropped hair.

With Jack’s mouth at her throat, she loses track of undressing him. Mercifully, he sheds his jacket, and she grips the flex of his biceps through a cotton shirt. She can only clutch at him and slot her hips around his thigh.

Jack stops, abruptly. His hands land her on the desk as he pushes away and she realizes he’s caught up her dress. She looks into his eyes. He doesn’t want to stop.

Phryne has one bequest for him — so easy for her to give; so hard for him to accept. The same as it ever was: “Yes, Jack. Always yes.”

She invariably yearns to go faster. But it is exquisite how slowly Jack’s hand inches up her thigh. She watches him as he takes a fistful of her scarf and pulls, the fabric sliding off in a delicious caress. Oh, the things she’d like to do to him with her scarves. Or — she puts her fingers to work at the knot of his tie.

And then he reaches her dagger. Had he been thinking of the weapon all this time? She’s caught off guard by his positively wicked gaze. As he claims the knife, Phryne trembles with excitement.

Jack almost never says her name. It floats across her lips as he leans in to kiss her, so sweetly. She wants to take him, but she wants more to hold his heart. She wants to touch his cock, but she hesitates. He thrusts against her — he’s already hard. The pressure is perfect, and she moans. He does too, she’s certain. It’s quite unfair that only she’s admonished to be quiet, but she can’t mind when he whispers it so darkly in her ear.

When Jack kneels between her legs, though, she wonders if she’ll be able to obey. She wonders if he’ll do it, what it seems he might. It’s not what she’d expect of a man like him, but Jack has long since shattered her expectations. Phryne’s breath comes shallow and quick. He rubs his face on the inside of her thigh, and she knows she’s very wet. And then she feels the pinprick of the dagger and all her muscles tense.

It’s so like Jack to stay her on a knife’s edge. It’s like their every stolen moment: her the leap over the precipice and him the counterweight that catches them. Deadly serious. She loves him looking up at her, all tightly coiled feeling and desire. For him, she can be quiet. And she can be still.

Phryne watches him slide the dagger along her flesh, feels the forged and sharpened threat of the steel. She has often imagined him unhooking her suspenders. Instead, he cuts the ribbon right in two. Jack, inviting himself in. She can hardly help her little moans as his lips stroke her skin, moving ever higher up her thigh. His lips, and then the knife. She knows he won’t cut her, but she knows he could. Jack sees intimately how danger intoxicates her.

He dips down suddenly, sucking open mouthed at the hollow of her hip. His tongue flicks under the hem of her lingerie, ticklishly close to where she needs it. She rises to meet him but the blade stops her arc, pressing right at the damp crease in the silk. Just there, the point a stab of arousal at her crest. Deadly serious, her Jack. She is breathless when he gazes up at her — nearly undone.

“Careful,” he says.

Phryne wants to tell him — she’s never been more so than with him. “Always,” she says.

But when he glides the knife between the silk and her muff, slicing her knickers clean through, abandon throbs to the surface. Luckily, he doesn’t tease her. He spreads her open to him, rapturous. She is so exposed (her favorite). Wonderful man, Phryne thinks, as she murmurs his name.

For once, he doesn’t make her wait. His mouth is everywhere — too much and too little to bear. She tries to focus on the nib of his tongue, the patterns he’s etching on her flesh. His long fingers tether her to the desk, elegant and slightly rough on her skin. Her hands grasp for him, tousling his hair into curls and seizing his tie. With purchase, she steers him to the spot that makes her quake — and holds him there.

Phryne leans back on her elbow, strewn amongst the case files and office trifles on his desk. Jack reaches up and finds the curve of her breast. His fingers brush her nipple, papery light, and she has to choke a moan.

There’s magic in a locked door (perhaps that’s behind her love of lockpicks). Her parlor has no lock. Phryne can hear the occasional muted sounds of officers passing through the lobby outside. She’s certain Jack can’t — and if hooking her knees over his shoulders to clasp him to her helps to close his ears, so much the better. There’s an odd security to his professional domain, the lettered door a ward against interruptions. She doesn’t want to stop.

Still, she was instructed to be quiet. His fingers are the nearest things, so she pulls them to her mouth and sucks. A groan vibrates through each of them. Hers, because Jack is exploring her with his other hand. He flutters his fingers at her entrance in time with his tongue, drawing out the liquor as she clenches at nothing. When he pushes inside, Phryne bites down on the taste of him.

Jack is relentlessly methodical, not thrusting like most men but probing for her secrets — an interrogation. His fingers map one ley line and then another until she can’t tell how they’re every place inside her. She murmurs nonsense — mostly “yes” and “Jack,” her only words — and then, when he circles a waiting climax: “There.” He penetrates her arse, closing the circuit so that all of her thrums with Jack, Jack, Jack. The surprise and the sensation are divine, and Phryne tips over the precipice into a soaring abyss of pleasure. Only an ecstatic gasp and the surge of her hips betray her.

Afterwards, she flows off the desk and onto the floor, caught in Jack’s arms. Her legs are shaking. She pillows her head on his chest for a moment, kisses his neck where she feels his heartbeat racing.

“You hold many mysteries, Jack Robinson.”

When she looks up at him, he’s smiling serenely. “If I were predictable, I’d hardly stand a chance.”

Phryne kisses him — tasting herself, spelling schoolgirl love notes with her tongue — and manages to distract him from her hand at his fly. He is so hard, still. She has the buttons half undone when they both hear a noise from the station — an indistinct request and rummaging at reception.

Jack grips her wrist. His eyebrows draw together as if in pain. “Phryne, I can’t. Not here.”

“I know,” she says. She keeps her eyes on him, reassuring, as she reaches for the discarded scarf. He hisses but lets her work one hand into his shorts, threading the delicate chiffon underneath his cock. She ties it in a neat bow, snug enough to capture his erection.

“A promise,” she says, and tucks the whole bundle back into his pants.

“Perhaps a change of scene is in order, then?” His voice has gone gritty.

Phryne thinks of her home — right now, Dot and Hugh are probably sitting at her kitchen table, doing puzzles from the paper. “I do have quite a large house, if you recall. Perfect for all manner of modern arrangements.”

Jack raises an eyebrow. “While that venue might prove educational for some, I believe you’ve never visited my home, Miss Fisher.”

She knows full well she hasn’t, and she beams. “Is that an invitation?”

Jack stands and helps her up, buttoning his shirt and righting his crumpled tie. He adjusts the awkward bulge in his pants but doesn’t protest. He certainly deserves it — Phryne’s fussing with the tangle of her damaged lingerie. Impatient, she locates the dagger and splits her knickers up the hip in one smooth motion. Jack coughs. She leaves the dangling garter and frees the torn smalls from the intact side.

Phryne steps closer to Jack, who’s wearing a lopsided smile. “Two problems solved,” she says. Bunching up the silk, she skims it across his face, wiping any evidence from his mouth and chin. Jack watches her, his eyes filthy with devotion.

When she’s satisfied, he pulls her into an embrace, holding her against him as they time their stealth departure. Phryne feels their bodies simmering in rhythm.

She slips her knickers and her dagger into his jacket pocket. "If we’re retiring to your house, it seems only fair that I drive." She has plans for him in the Hispano. And tonight, she thinks, Jack wouldn’t refuse her anything.