Dorothy was back in Kansas, and the how wasn’t as important as the why.
While running around Oz trying not to get killed Dorothy had learned of a man who had once pulled the Wizard’s strings and after Lucas did something she was certain she wouldn’t approve of, they got a name.
A name which, Dorothy was shocked to learn, she recognized.
Arthur Morgan was the president of the hospital she’d worked out before a tornado had swept her far, far away. He had personally hired her when she’d graduated with her nursing degree, at the time, Dorothy had been flattered and chalked it up to her stellar record while in school but now…
Now she wasn’t certain of anything.
“Are you still certain you want to do this?” Lucas asked from her passenger seat as she pulled into the entrance of the hotel where the hospital’s annual fundraiser was being held.
“Of course I am,” she answered defensively as she parked and waited for her turn at the valet. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Your knuckles are white on the automobile.”
Dorothy looked down at her hands on the steering wheel and purposefully relaxed them, immediately feeling the ache in the joints from holding on too tightly.
“Is there cause for concern?” he asked, peering through the passenger side window at the hotel, his eyes narrowing suspiciously.
He fit in too well, Dorothy thought with something like regret. He stumbled here and there in this world of hers, much as she had done in his, but he didn’t look as out of place as she had imagined. Not that she spent her nights staring at the stars of Oz wondering how Lucas would fit into her Kansas life but…But on the rare occasions she did she couldn’t have imagined it going this well.
He learned quickly, adapted well, and her parents loved him.
The valet knocked on her window and she didn’t start at the sudden noise, but she wanted to. Turning to Lucas she grabbed her small handbag, “Ready?”
“You lead,” he assured her.
I’ll follow, was the unsaid second part but Dorothy heard it just the same.
Coming back home now of all times, had been fortuitous. She’d had the wind knocked out of her in the empty yard of her mother’s house but as soon as she was able to form a coherent thought she’d worried about how she’d get close to a hospital president she’d only met once. When Aunt Em had reminded her about the fundraiser Dorothy had known this would be her one and only shot.
So, they’d gotten Lucas a rental tux which Dorothy was pointedly not appreciating him in, and she’d taken the red dress she’d stolen from a witch and given it the dry cleaner. Probably knowing better, the woman behind the counter hadn’t asked about the sand or the sweat stains which was just as good as Dorothy wasn’t sure how she’d have explained them.
“You look amazing, by the way,” Lucas complimented as they met on the hotel sidewalk.
Dorothy tried not to blush, but it was hard to ignore the rush of blood to her cheeks. To hide it, and any other response he might be able to see in her eyes, she looked down at her feet, ostensibly to watch where she was going.
He’d already seen her in the dress once before, red and draping it had fit like a dream the instant she’d put it on and the look in Lucas’ eyes when she’d stepped from behind the gauzy curtains had nearly knocked her over.
But it hadn’t been practical in the long run, after leaving the destroyed palace of the witch, Dorothy had changed back into her pants and stolen jacket, stuffing the pretty dress into her backpack. In the moment, she hadn’t considered why she’d kept it, but now she knew.
She hadn’t been ready to give up the feeling of power and beauty which had come from the intimate cut and draping of the most beautiful thing she’d ever owned. And the flare of desire she’d briefly seen in Lucas’ eyes hadn’t hurt either.
She wove her arm through Lucas’ and gave a small smile to the valet who took her car keys. “Remind me what we’re doing here again,” Lucas murmured in her ear.
It was something he did often, the rough and quiet voice spoken directly into her ear so she could feel his breath on her skin. She doubted he had any idea what it did to her and she wasn’t about to tell him. “We’re looking for the president of the hospital because he knows the Wizard. I’m hoping this man will know how to stop the Wizard once and for all.”
“There are a lot of people here.”
Dorothy murmured her agreement as they stepped into the ballroom, it would be tough to find one man in all of this but she didn’t have another option.
“Come on,” she tugged on his arm. “Let’s get a drink.”
He unbent his arm at the elbow causing her hand to slide down the fabric of his sleeve but he caught it in his and held tightly as they wound their way to the bar.
The bartender was polite as he asked for their orders and knowing Lucas wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to get she ordered two whiskeys and handed her date one.
Shit, not date. Partner, she corrected mentally. “Here, sip it.”
Lucas nodded and took a small drink before grinning. “I like this.”
She laughed as he took another drink, the glass at her own red colored lips. “Thought you might.”
Swearing under her breath at the voice behind her she pasted on a fake smile and turned to face a man whom, until this very moment, she’d completely forgotten about.
“Sam!” she greeted, overly enthusiastic, as she shifted closer to Lucas. “Hi.”
“Hi,” he answered but his smile looked stiffer than it had a moment before. His eyes kept glancing down to place where Dorothy’s body brushed against Lucas’. “I didn’t think you’d be coming tonight.”
“It was a last-minute decision,” Lucas explained, his empty hand resting low on Dorothy’s back. “I’m Lucas.”
Dorothy berated herself, “Sorry. Lucas, this is Sam, we work together at the hospital. Sam, this is Lucas.”
There was a note of suspicion, and a dozen questions on Sam’s face and Dorothy prayed to whatever gods existed he wouldn’t ask any of them.
“Are you dating?”
The gods were dead.
“I don’t think-“
“Yes,” Lucas answered and he sounded entirely too smug about the answer. Did he even know what dating was? “We met during the storm a few weeks back.”
“Oh. I thought you were out of town?” Sam asked. “Your aunt said you were helping a relative who was sick?”
“Yes,” Dorothy confirmed and made a mental note to thank Aunt Em for coming up with a plausible excuse for her disappearance. “I was, but Lucas and I kept in touch while I was away.”
“So you just ignored my calls, then?” Sam asked and while he tried to make it sound like a joke there was a tinge of bitterness he couldn’t hide.
“I didn’t call her,” Lucas cut in, his voice smooth and warm and so different from Sam’s Dorothy couldn’t help but think of the doctor as a rather stale piece of bread.
“Then how did you stay in touch?” Sam challenged.
“Writing,” Lucas answered with a sharp smile. “I’m a bit of a romantic that way.”
Dorothy bit back a smile. “I didn’t have cell service, but I did get mail.”
“Post,” Lucas corrected with an affectionate smile and Dorothy couldn’t help but be just a little wooed by the pretense. “Post sounds better than mail.”
“If you say so,” Dorothy laughed, turning back to Sam.
“Either way, I guess it’s good to have you back.”
“I’m not back,” Dorothy insisted. “Just home for a quick visit and then I’m heading out again. I couldn’t miss the fundraiser after all.”
“Oh.” Sam looked back between her and Lucas and then stepped forward, lowering his voice in a way that didn’t affect her half as much as it did when Lucas did the same thing. “Can I have just a moment to catch up with you?”
Dorothy glanced up at Lucas, not for permission, but so he understood she wasn’t just ditching him. “I’ll be back in a second.”
“I’ll get another drink,” he assured her, pressing a kiss to her temple.
Dorothy stepped away from the crowd but kept a reasonable amount of distance between herself and Sam so as not to give him any ideas. “I’m sorry for leaving the way I did,” she apologized before he could speak. “It wasn’t planned and I didn’t mean-“
“You’re with him now?”
Trying for patience, Dorothy took a deep breath. “I am.”
“So it was just me you didn’t want to be with?” he asked, and there was broken shards of glass in his voice which Dorothy could practically feel cut into her skin. “You were just using me till something else came along.”
“We used each other,” she snapped back, keeping her voice low enough to not give the patrons around them fodder for gossip. “I know you wanted more, but I knew it wasn’t going to work.”
“Why? Who is this guy anyway? What do you know about him?”
“No,” she put up her hand. “Stop right there. We were friends, and for a minute or two we were more, but you don’t get to question my decisions. No one gets to do that. I’m sorry you’re hurt.” Dorothy stopped and softened her voice. “I am sorry, but whatever we were is over and I have to go.”
Dorothy turned and nearly ran into Lucas who had been standing just a few feet behind her. “Didn’t you say you wanted to say hello to the president?” he asked easily, handing her another whiskey to replace the one she’d set down.
“I think I saw him over by the food.”
Dorothy didn’t know if he was making things up or if he’d really seen Dr. Morgan but she was willing to take the out if he was offering it. “Oh, good.”
She slipped her hand back into Lucas’ and he squeezed it once.
“I’ll be seeing you, Sam.”
He didn’t say anything, just nodded and turned on his heels to walk away.
“Was he your mate?”
“Lucas,” Dorothy hissed as she grabbed her scarecrow by the arm and led him away from the worst of the crowds. She didn’t want to be overheard when she murdered him.
“Things may be different in your Kansas from my Oz but I don’t imagine the way he looks at you is different from one realm to the next.”
“Listen, it doesn’t matter how he looks at me, okay? I’m not interested.”
Dorothy looked away from the crowd to blink up at him. “Good? Why good?”
Lucas looked briefly surprised, as if he hadn’t realized he’d said anything out loud and for a moment he stared off into the middle distance as if he hoped she’d forget and move on. Fat chance. “Lucas?”
“Good because he’s boring.”
It sounded like an excuse to Dorothy’s ears. “Boring? You spoke to him for all of ten seconds.”
“I was listening to your conversation with him,” he admitted without apology.
“That was rude.”
“I was curious,” he confessed, tugging on her hand and leading her towards the buffet table. “And I wanted to know who he was to you.”
Dorothy only had to think about it for a second before answering. “He was someone I was physically but not emotionally involved with.”
When Lucas didn’t respond, she looked up at him and his gaze seemed focused on something she couldn’t see.
“He wasn’t worthy of you.”
“Lucas,” she admonished but he shook his head to cut her off.
“He wouldn’t have protected you, when it mattered, he wouldn’t have stood in front of you.”
“You of all people know I’m the last person in the world who needs to be protected.”
He stopped moving and looked down at her, something so intense and overwhelming in his gaze she couldn’t have looked away if she’d tried.
She didn’t try.
“I know,” he murmured as he tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear. “But you deserve someone who would.”
Dorothy reached up and wrapped her fingers around his wrist, his hand all but cupping her cheek. “Thank you.”
The moment held and heated and despite Sam and the hundreds of people in the room with them, Dorothy could have sworn they were the only things which existed in the world.
No mothers, no Oz, no Wizard. No chaos, no death, no fear.
Just her and Lucas, quietly together.
“I wasn’t lying before,” he told her. “I did see the man you showed me on your phone, the president.”
Dorothy nodded with a shaky smile, “Let’s go talk to him.”
By the time they got to the buffet table the man was gone, and Dorothy was worried they’d missed their chance. She grabbed one of her friends from work to ask where the president had gone.
Ollie, a receptionist at work, winked broadly at Dorothy when she spotted Lucas and Dorothy couldn’t help but smile when Ollie asked for details. “Another time, I promise. Did you see where he went?”
“Heard something about an appetizer emergency,” Ollie shrugged. “But he won’t be gone for long and it’s not like he’d go anywhere when he’s got a room in the hotel.”
“He’s staying here?” Dorothy asked, looking up at Lucas who was listening in.
“Him and a bunch of the big wigs are, they’ve got a floor set aside for the night.”
“Hey,” Ollie called when Dorothy moved to step away. “Are you coming back to the hospital?”
“I don’t know,” Dorothy admitted. “But I’ll talk to you soon, I promise.”
Moving back to Lucas she started moving through the crowds, knowing he follow closer behind. “He’s staying here.”
“We could wait in his room,” Lucas brainstormed out loud. “It’d be easier to evade us down here with all the people, but upstairs in his room we’d be able to have a one on one conversation with him.”
“Privacy,” Dorothy agreed. “And in the meantime we could try and get into his computer.” Dorothy started heading towards the elevators without even thinking about it. “See if he has any files that can tell us…anything.”
Dorothy stopped a hotel worker and asked her which floor the hospital had set reserved and the woman told her they’d taken up the entire fifth floor.
Pushing the button for up Dorothy glanced up at Lucas. “It’s an elevator, it’ll take us to the floor we want.”
He looked amused by the explanation. “We have elevators in Oz, Dorothy.”
“Do you?” she asked as they stepped into the mirrored box. “How come I’ve never seen them?”
“They’re expensive and ruin the look of a building.”
“Hashtag aesthetic,” Dorothy muttered to herself. “Let’s just hope there’s someone working the floor that can let us into the room we need.”
“How will you know which room he’ll be in?”
“He’ll be in the biggest room,” Dorothy answered confidently. “I worked at this hotel while I was in high school so this isn’t my first time here.”
Dorothy picked up the skirt of her dress to keep it out of the way as she headed down the hall and kept her eye out for someone who worked for the hotel. She saw someone from housekeeping use her fob to let herself into the one of the rooms, a handful of towels under her arm.
“Perfect,” Dorothy grabbed Lucas and pressed him against the door of the room they wanted to be in. “Kiss me,” she ordered as she worked at the buttons of his tux.
“Kiss me, Lucas.”
He didn’t seem to need any more incentive than that, leaning forward to kiss her fully and completely.
She was taken aback by the fierceness, by the sudden whip of passion from him, and not unlike the tornado which had dropped her in Oz, she was simply along for the ride.
The scruff of his beard scraped against her chin, his hands holding onto her waist as if he was afraid if he didn’t hold on tight enough she’d slip from his grasp.
Never, she thought wildly as she wrapped her arms around his neck and nearly forgot the reason she’d had him kiss her in the first place.
Turning her head, she felt his lips slide along her neck, the nip of his teeth at her collarbone enough to incite a gasp from her.
Spotting the housekeeper, Dorothy pushed Lucas back a half step but kept a fistful of his shirt in her hands. “Ma’am? Uh, we seem to have lost our key somewhere between the third glass of champagne and here. Would you mind?”
The housekeeper seemed embarrassed to have caught the guests in a lover’s embrace, and just as Dorothy was hoping, she let them in without question.
They would have to be patient, Dorothy thought as she slipped into the room. They had no idea when the good doctor would be back up to his room but instead of reaching for the light, Lucas reached for her.
She couldn’t see his eyes, but could feel them on her skin, his hands sliding up her waist and down again.
“Tell me to stop, and I will.”
His voice was sand against her ear, almost coarse, almost soft, and warm enough to sink into.
They shouldn’t waste time with this, but his hands had slid up to her ribs so his thumbs brushed against the side of her breasts and a dozen heated, steamy images flashed across her mind.
“Don’t stop,” she whispered against his lips as she pulled him closer to her.
He kissed her, his lips hard and insistent against hers as they stumbled in the darkness until she backed into a table set against the wall. Without even hesitating Lucas wrapped his hands around her waist and lifted, setting her on the smooth wood.
Instinctively she spread her legs so he could fit himself between but the drape of the dress stretched taunt. With a sound which reminded her vaguely of a growl, Lucas reached for the hem of her dress and slid it slowly, too slowly, up her legs until the red silk pool around her thighs.
There were callouses on his fingers, she could feel them as the tips brushed feather light touches on her skin while his mouth teased and seduced.
“This is such a terrible idea,” Dorothy murmured and she could feel the vibration of Lucas’s laugh against her mouth.
“Terrible ideas have worked so well for us in the past,” he reminded her. “Why change things now?”
Dorothy couldn’t stop smiling, making it difficult for Lucas to kiss her so he pressed kisses down the length of her neck instead. “That’s a very good point.”
So they kissed, and they kissed, and when Lucas’ hand slid further up her thigh she knew she should stop him, even as her leg hooked around his to keep him pressed against her. Her fingers had unbuttoned his shirt, pushed aside the fabric and she nearly growled with impatience at finding an undershirt beneath.
She wanted skin, his against hers, so she tugged at the dress shirt until it came loose from his pants and then did the same with the cotton undershirt. When her fingers slid across his abdomen she felt as much as heard his quick intake of breath.
He said something and low and erotic in a language she didn’t understand as he pressed against her so she could feel the hard length of him. It was a rhythm she was familiar with, and if she didn’t stop this now they would quickly find themselves naked and sated, but this wasn’t the place.
It was neither the time nor the place to be doing this, and when they did this thing from which they could never go back, she wanted the time to do it right. She wanted a bed and endless midnight hours with his weight pressed against her. She wanted morning sunrises to trace his scars while pressing kisses to his shoulder.
Funny how that had been true since the moment they’d met but it had been infinitely easier to block out and put it away. Now? Now, that she’d experienced what it was like to have his hands on her, to have her hands on him, she knew there was no going back. She’d always want him.
It was barely a breath, certainly not substantial enough to be considered a word, but he must have heard it because he pulled back just an inch, his breathing ragged against her neck as he tried to get himself under control.
Or at least that’s what she hoped he was doing because that’s what she was attempting to accomplish: long, deep breaths to lower her heart rate, which was absurd. His hand was still high enough on her thigh to do some good if he shifted it just an inch or so but she couldn’t think about that now.
It was all she could think about.
“When I opened my eyes and saw you standing above me, I thought you were most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.”
Dorothy laughed, the sound softer than anything she’d ever made before. “I was the only thing you’d ever seen.”
“And I still haven’t seen anything surpass you.”
He brushed the pad of his thumb along her cheekbones. “We’ll finish this later, yes?”
“Yes,” she assured him, allowing herself another moment to lean into his touch. “Definitely.”
She gently pushed him back a step and slid off the table, shaking out her skirt and trying to fix her hair which had been mussed by his roving hands.
“It can’t be helped.”
Dorothy looked up at him, confused. “What can’t?”
“You look ravished.”
“Not yet, I haven’t,” she reminded him with a sly smile.
He shook his head and grabbed her arm as she walked past him. “You’ll pay for that later.”
“I can’t wait,” she kissed him again, light and friendly because she didn’t trust herself to do anything more. “You get the files in bag, I’ll try to get into his computer.”
“Whatever you say, mistress.”