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A Room of One's Own

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"You know that your family is still rather terrifying," Richard said as he steered them deftly through Saturday's early evening traffic, returning them to Belgravia from the latest round of chaos that constituted a Graham family birthday bash.

Lainie laughed. "My mother thinks the world of you now that I told her you rescued Will rather than risk letting my feelings be hurt. Now my father? He said he thought you had better judgment than that."

Richard barked in amusement at that, his voice still a bit rough from all of the dust he'd inhaled clawing his way out of the theatre wreckage four days earlier with their young costar, Lainie's former and unloved boyfriend, in tow.

"Don't worry, I learned my lesson, Tig. Next time? I won't stop for Farmer. His endless horde of groupies certainly would have dug him out of the Metronome about as fast I managed, judging by the throngs clamoring 'round him coming into rehearsal."

Lainie pursed her lips thoughtfully as Richard maneuvered his smart sports car onto the quiet street of embassies and embarrassingly expensive mansions that he called home. "Are you jealous of all the attention he's getting?"

"Hardly," Richard said decisively as he parked the car and cut the engine. "I'm more than happy that he's decided to do the morning show tour, hobbling about on his cane and telling everyone about how it was his war movie come to life. Utter codswallop suits him better than it would me. It's just getting a bit wearing how he's letting that bleed over into preparing to move the show to our new theatre."

Lainie had to agree. It was hard enough to be walking through rough rehearsals at their new location while crew members reconstructed the play's abandoned sets on the stage behind them. Add in young women worming their way into the theatre along with deliveries of lumber or props and the distractions were unrelenting.

"At least I don't have to feed Cat Richard for the weekend, now that my landlady is back, and we can wallow in hedonistic luxury until tomorrow's nine o'clock rehearsal," Lainie observed as she let Richard claim the larger of her two cases from the boot and they entered his house to a host of noisy chatter.

"Mrs. Hunt," Richard said with some exasperation as he crossed the kitchen to switch off the radio. Lainie trailed in, turning off lights as she did so that the glare dimmed to a bearable level.

"She's not usually in on Saturdays," Richard explained, "but I think she worried about me and she wanted to check on some changes I'd requested."

"I think it's sweet," Lainie said as she wrapped one arm around Richard's waist and snuggled up against him, looking out the kitchen window at the evening shadows punctuated by the glow of city lights.

"Sweet, I can do without," Richard grumbled, but without heat, as he moved her from his side to in front of him and nuzzled at her neck. Lainie almost purred as she felt his hands slide along down so that they bracketed her hips against his. "Come on, I have something I want to show you."

"Now, Mr. Troy, I've already seen that!" Lainie said with a smirk. When he raised one eyebrow quellingly, she refused to be cowed, only waggling her eyebrows back at him while she shimmied her hips forward, inspiring some very interesting involuntary reactions on his part if his hissed gasp was any indicator.

"Don't be trouble, Tig," Richard warned, "or you'll never get your present!"

Lainie decided that silence was definitely the better part of valour given the stern set of his lips. She stepped back from their embrace and tucked her hands safely behind her. "No trouble here," she promised while her crossed fingers belied her words.

But Richard was already turning toward away from the front part of the house to a door Lainie hadn't paid much attention to in her visits to his admittedly intimidating mansion. "Better not be an oubliette," Lainie warned as she followed him past the smooth swinging door into one more brightly lit room, courtesy of Mrs. Hunt's illumination obsession.

"It's not," Richard said. "It's just. Well, see for yourself." He gestured widely to take in what was a luxurious sitting room or office or, well, she didn't quite know but it appeared perfect. The furnishing began with two ivory chaises, each scattered with colourful pillows, flanking a wide window that overlooked the small, dusk-shaded garden. Along the left wall, a sleek, clean desk with a leather-upholstered office chair perched on what was probably a treasured antique carpet. In silver frames on the desk, a series of familiar faces seized Lainie's attention: her parents, a group shot of all her brothers, clowning around at Cal's bachelor party, a recent snap of all her nieces and nephews tumbling over each other, oh, and Hannah, forever smiling.

Lainie spun on her heels, looking wildly around this elegant room within Richard Troy's exquisite, lordly house. There, on the other wall, was that an Impressionist painting? The bookshelf to her right held several dozen morocco bound books that appeared to be early editions of Austen & Scott, as well as a few exquisite miniatures of, presumably, either Troy ancestors or impoverished aristocrats of ages past whose images had been bought up by Richard's ruthlessly acquisitive father.

"Um, um," Lainie finally managed to blurt out as she spun once more to face Richard, standing with a quiet, worried frown almost creasing his brows. "What is this, exactly?"

"It's a room for you, Tig. A place for you here, to relax, to read, to work, to pile your stuff, whatever you want and need. I just had it freshened up a bit. I wanted you to feel at home when you're here, not always like you have to perch on our bed with your iPad or tiptoe around when I'm meeting with Greg. Do you like it?"

"For me?" Lainie managed, as she lifted Richard's left hand in her right and cradled his fingers against her cheek. "It's amazing!"

Richard's wide smile was her reward. "Excellent," he said, tangling his fingers with hers and tugging so that she toppled towards him and landed deliciously against his chest. "How about we adjourn to the bedroom and work off some of the calories from that awful birthday cake that Victoria insisted on serving?"

Lainie wrinkled her nose at that suggestion. "Why not christen my new room?"

"We have a perfectly comfortable bed upstairs," Richard began as Lainie's hand wiggled free to unbuckle his belt and move further down to distract him utterly from what seemed to be a reasonable suggestion just moments earlier. "Oh, bollocks, whyever not?"

London Celebrity @Celebrity London. 4h

Richard Troy and Elaine Graham late for rehearsal! Lovebirds get a dressing down from director Alexander Bennett on their tardy arrival...goo.gl/NK5ik8