And yet, the very night her suspension became official an overnight envelope was delivered to her duplex. In it was a ticket for first class airfare to Sydney, Australia in addition to reservation information at the Hilton. A handwritten note indicated there would be a ticket to the opera waiting for her at the hotel's front desk.
She'd given Ardelia a lame story about wanting time away. This corresponded with not just the shooting, but her application to the Secret Service being kicked back. She was sure someone at Justice was responsible. She'd known for a while her path with the Bureau was going to be limited. She'd hoped she could make a transition to something else akin to what she was doing as an agent.
She hadn't even told Pilcher she was leaving. She knew what it said about the state of her relationship that she hadn't bothered to say goodbye when she was set to be away for over a week.
The plane ride had been amazing. She couldn't believe there was luxury like that available thousands of feet above the ground. The hotel was nothing short of beautiful as well. And when she'd checked into her room, she found practically an entire wardrobe of clothes waiting for her. All exactly her size, all in varying shades of colors that were nothing short of flattering to her.
The opera was set for the night after her arrival. She didn't need to read the note attached to the lone gown to know it was the one she should wear. She'd heard stories about the Sydney Opera House, never imagining she'd set foot in it. Opera wasn't really her thing to begin with and traveling abroad for pleasure not Bureau business wasn't likely.
Temptation. He was tempting her, showing her what her life could - nay would - be with him if she made that choice. Finding out the Secret Service application had been rejected brought her one-step closer to making that choice.
So, here she sat in a box seat designed for several all by herself watching The Mastersingers of Nuremberg. He had arranged for her to get her hair and nails done as well as a massage. She was surprised by how glamorous she looked.
So, where was he? She felt sort of strange sitting her alone, though she doubted anyone was really paying attention.
It was late into the second act when she felt hands on her shoulders. He was lucky she was calm by nature or she would have screamed the fancy opera house down. And drawn attention to them both. Where was her head that she hadn't even sensed someone, anyone - he - was there?
She hated to admit it, but despite understanding none of the words she was enjoying herself. It was hard not to. He leaned down, placing a kiss at her bare shoulder just where it joined her neck. She shivered at the touch. It was the lightest of kisses, she barely even felt his lips, but it affected her deeply. She wasn't stupid enough to try and deny why he affected her like that. Only him.
"I hope you're enjoying the show." His voice was barely a whisper at her ear. Yet even using hushed tones it elicited the strangest images in her. Most with a bed or bedroom as the focus. That should have embarrassed her. She'd never really been prone to those kinds of thoughts.
She waited to respond until he took the seat next to hers. "It's lovely."
"I thought you might enjoy it."
"It's funny in parts. I always thought operas were tragic."
"That is part of the reason I thought you might enjoy it, yes. As far as I know, it's the only comedic work written by Wagner."
"I thought they were going to get away with running away together."
He took hold of her hand and seemed to settle comfortably into his seat for the first time. She wondered why that was. Why was he so late?
"Ah, a romantic at heart then, Clarice?"
"Well, they obviously love one another. I don't need do understand the language to get that. And she's like some sort of prize. Right?"
"You are correct, but her father does have second thoughts about it."
"Well, that's good," she said softly.
They were quiet for the rest of the act. The lights went up in the audience area and she watched as people milled out the doors to the lobby area. He made no effort to move and neither did she. Now that she was here with him she didn't want to share him with a crowd of people.
"Are you staying?"
"Yes. I had to be sure you weren't followed you understand."
"I wouldn't betray you. Not like this. I certainly wouldn’t be here, wearing clothes you've given me if I was going to do that."
"I didn't say you betrayed me, Clarice, but the possibility existed that a flag was placed on your passport. Or a sudden departure might have drawn attention."
"I doubt anyone cares what I'm doing right now, as long as I stay out of their hair and don't make a stink about what they're doing to me right now."
"And what is that?"
She regarded him for a moment, saw that his question was sincere. He truly did not know. "I've been suspended pending an investigation."
"I shot and killed a suspect."
"Then you should have nothing to worry about."
"That's not all. I mean, you're right, but there's more. My application to the Secret Service was kicked back, too. I think the two are connected. They don't want me to go anywhere but stay right where I am."
"I didn't know you had aspirations of protecting your president."
She shrugged, realizing the gesture probably looked entirely too cavalier compared to what she was feeling right now.
"I didn't really. I just know, knew, that I'm not going any further with the Bureau."
"And advancement is really that important to you?"
"Well, isn't it to everyone? I mean, my goal wasn't to spend the rest of my life bumbling around because people with penises can't handle the fact that I can keep up with them. Check that. That I can not only keep up but be better at the job than they are."
He chuckled. "I have no doubt you could keep up with me, Clarice."
"I know you do and I know you would if you were my boss or superior. You're not, however, and you're a rare breed it seems. Anybody who thinks equality has taken fruit needs to visit cop shops and see."
"So this trip came at an opportune time."
"In more ways than one. From my point of view anyway."
"How's that?" She knew full well where his thoughts were taking him. She wanted, no needed, to hear him say it though.
"Well, this trip was my apple."
"Yes, I'm the serpent I believe."
"And I'm Eve?"
"Something like that."
"So, am I supposed to take a bite of the forbidden fruit?"
"You're here, aren't you?"
"It was meant as a taste, but maybe you want more than that now."
"I'm not sure. It's too soon, too raw."
"Where are you staying?"
"My reservations are at another hotel, but they can be changed."
"If my presence was requested elsewhere that is."
She smiled at that, turning to look at the audience begin to take their seats again. The third act wasn't too far off.
"Cops' eyes, Clarice."
"Does that bother you?"
"No, I wouldn't change anything about you, certainly not that. If you are to spend time with me, be it small chunks or longer, more permanent ones I wouldn't want you to be anything but vigilant."
"Are you offering me a job?"
She smirked. "Sounds like you want me to be your bodyguard."
He leaned in then, draping an arm around her and grazing her bare shoulder with his fingertips. "Oh, I want you to be my bodyguard, Clarice, just not in the traditional sense."
She blushed and he was smiling at her like a wolf. She had no idea how to reply to that. What was she supposed to say?
"I've made you uncomfortable."
"No, not exactly anyway."
"I spoke too forward?"
"I've never had anyone say anything like that to me."
"Not like you just said it. I've had come-ons by the likes of Paul Krendler and other agents, but they were always cheap. And they weren't offering what you are."
"And what am I offering?"
"The forever type of thing."
"Minus the fairy tale ending."
"I don't know that I ever believed in fairy tales."
"I think I did once."
"Before the war?"
"My complaints seem rather trivial compared to what you went through. What you saw."
"We grew up at different times, different worlds. Your loss is no less significant than mine is. Perhaps more. You were a girl deprived of her mother at a young age."
She took his hand then, lacing her fingers through his. She didn't know a lot about his past, his childhood, but she knew enough. And the fact that he seemed to trivialize what he'd gone through for her sake endeared him to her. Not that he needed more help doing that.
"I would very much like your company tonight," she said as the lights went down.
"And tomorrow night?"
"I think it's safe to say I want your company for as long as you're of the mind to be in mine."
"Be careful what you say, Clarice. I may never let you go."
It was on the tip of her tongue to say she was counting on that, but the action began and she didn't want to miss anything. That was one drawback to not being able to understand the language, she had to rely on her eyes and the activity in the scenes to relay the story to her.
She suspected he already knew her response anyway, though imagined he might like to actually hear it spoken.
She was a little tipsy, though not inebriated, when she tried to work the key card on her room's door. Why couldn't they just use old-fashioned keys? Some hotels she'd been in the key card slid along the side, some you had to insert it just so.
"Sure, you're more accustomed to these things than I am anyway."
"You presume I've spent a good portion of my freedom in hotels."
"Well, you had to at some point. You didn't escape and instantly have a place to live."
"Again with the presumption, Clarice. A couple of glasses of wine and you underestimate me."
"Never." She watched as he slid the key card in perfectly the first time followed by the soft click of the lock being disengaged. "Are you saying that you had a place stashed away in the event you eventually escaped?"
"Of course. Only a foolish man would keep all of his holdings in his name."
"Oh." No wonder they'd hit one brick wall after another after his escape. There was no trail. While they were busy checking the top notch hotels around the world for anyone checking in resembling him he was tucked away, sleeping like a baby in a safe house he'd had somewhere all along.
He pushed the door open, allowing her to pass as she expected he'd do. "One day perhaps I'll enlighten you on just how broad my horizons are."
She frowned, certain she was seeing things. Her things were no longer the only belongings in the room. "How?"
"I called from the restaurant. I didn't think you'd mind."
"No, I just wasn't expecting your things to be here."
"Rather cozy, isn't it?"
She swallowed, glancing at him as she sat on the edge of the bed. Her feet were killing her. She wasn't meant to wear super high heels. She was on her feet a lot, sometimes all day depending on the case she was working. To come home and put them into the torture devices some women seemed to get pleasure out of wasn't her favorite thing to do.
The shoes had gone magnificently with the gown, even if no one saw them due to the length of it. She was just glad to be able to take them off now.
"I don't think I thanked you for the clothes. You're far too generous, and I can't very well bring these things home with me."
"Back to Virginia, you mean?"
"Yes, that's still my home."
"For now, but you're right. I expected as much. I'll arrange for them to be transported back to me so they'll be there for you when you've grown tired of the games."
"I'm already pretty close to that point."
"I got that impression from our conversation both at the theatre and at dinner earlier. I'm trying not to push."
"And that's what's throwing me. You always push."
"Not in this, Clarice. This decision has to be yours and only yours. I will not have you six months or one year from now say that I somehow coerced you."
"Can we not talk about this tonight? I'm trying to sort it out."
"We can talk about anything you would like, Clarice. I am a rather captive audience you might say."
She smiled. "How many people could say that about you?"
"That weren't patients, you mean?"
She nodded, realizing she should have made that stipulation. "Yes."
"One sincerely and she's here in this room. Others I'm sure believed they had my undivided attention but I very rarely paid full attention. People tend to droll on indefinitely, which was fine since I preferred to be a man of few words."
"You're being entirely too forthcoming."
"There are times for games and witty banter, Clarice. This is not one of them and I realize that. You're here. I wasn't sure you'd come. Coincidence brought you here, dissatisfaction with your life more than my invitation. That may not last, and I don't want you going back to D.C. questioning my sincerity."
"If I didn't believe you were sincere before, I do now. You've spent entirely too much money…"
"It's only money, Clarice."
"Says you. From my perspective, a person who doesn't have - and never has had - a lot of it."
"That could change. I do attempt to fly under the radar as they say. While by no means humble I'm not surrounded by the luxury you saw in my case file before my arrest. It is by no means a meager existence either. I could offer you comfort, travel, the world, Clarice. Anything you'd want."
She knew he could, he wasn't telling her anything she didn't already know. Hadn't already thought about. Several times. When her mind took her that route she felt incredibly shallow, thinking of what he could offer her. It was more than that, though. The travel, the things, they were all just an added bonus. Bonus to what? To having him in her life, her world. And what a world it would be. She'd never had someone the way she'd have him.
"You look quite serious. What are you thinking?"
"That it's never been about what you could give me or do for me. It wasn't who you were or are or what you have. It's just you. And I want that."
He smiled then and sat next to her on the bed. He placed his hand over hers and she lifted her fingers, lacing them through his.
"This has been far too easy, you understand if I'm hesitant."
"No, it hasn't, for or on either of us."
"Of course you're right. I stopped believing that things would end well for me a long time ago, long before I ever took my first life. And I was so young then."
"I'm not going to dwell on my criminal activities, Clarice. Just give me a minute to say this and then I'll bask in the pleasure of your having used my given name for the first time."
"I had no use for things like fate. I believed you took control of your life and were responsible for the path taken. As a child I couldn't defend my sister, couldn't save my parents or the home I'd grown up in. I learned that lesson then, I held the control. And there isn't one person remaining who was involved in the demise of my sister, my parents, or my household. I did that. I planned and plotted. And then the taste was there. I was good at it, you see."
"I don't believe it was an accident Jack Crawford chose you. You were sent to me. For me. And I decided that day that I would move heaven and earth to have you and to chase your demons away."
"Don't you have your own?"
"Yes, well, by exorcizing yours I can do the same to mine."
"That's kind of sweet in a rather macabre sort of way."
"Would the spark that began the flame between us be any less than macabre, Clarice? You think I chose to lose my heart to you?"
"No, I don't believe those things can be helped or even fought really. You can move past it, but the damage is still there."
"Yes, I've found the same to be true."
"I need to ask you something."
"This whole thing. This trip. These clothes. The opera. Romantic dinner. Your things being moved here."
"I know what you want from me. We've hinted at it, skirted around it."
"What would that be?"
"That's part of what I want from you, yes. But that's not all of it, Clarice."
"I know. I'm just not sure I can. Tonight. Right now."
"You invited me here, Clarice."
"I know and I want you here with me in this big huge bed. I'm just not sure I can do more than that yet."
"As I expected. I do have self-control, Clarice. Though I suppose there's evidence pointing to the contrary where you are concerned. I assure you I can keep my libido in check until such a time as you are ready for me to release it."
"Thank you. This whole thing it's taken a lot out of me. The wine at dinner made me feel better, but it didn't really solve anything."
"You didn't have that much."
"You're talking to someone who doesn't drink much, so a few glasses is a lot."
"I didn't realize."
"I'm not drunk or anything if that's what you think. I just would prefer to be completely in possession of all of my faculties when I take that step."
She stood then, releasing his hand. She walked to the clothes he'd bought for her, found one of the nightgowns. He seemed to pick it out with just this scenario in mind, sleeping not seducing. Did he know her that well? Or was he just covering his bases? It was still nice, probably more expensive than all of the underwear type stuff she owned put together. She turned to face him and he was watching her intently, curiously really.
"Is this okay?"
"I chose it, so I would certainly say yes."
"It seems like it's appropriate for this step."
"It would be appropriate for any number of steps." He stood then and closed the distance between them, his hand closing over hers bunching the fabric in her fist in the process. "I think you underestimate your appeal, Clarice."
"I'm not that appealing."
He shook his head then and tsk'd. "You obviously don't see yourself as I do." He used his other hand to touch her chin, tilting her face up to meet his. His eyes weren't hypnotizing in the true sense of the word. They were such an odd color that she couldn't help but stare and let herself get bespelled. Maroon. She'd never seen eyes that color before and she doubted she would again.
Her heart started to race and she knew that he was going to kiss her. Right there. Right then. In a hotel room that she'd invited him to. It was her fault, not that he was doing anything she hadn't imagined him doing a thousand times before.
And then her thoughts and doubts were pushed aside because there he was, lips against lips. His hand skimmed along her jaw from her chin, cupping the side of her face as he deepened the kiss. He was careful. She'd say practiced, but that wasn't right either. He was exercising caution, not wanting to scare her off.
She fought to open her fist held captive in his larger, stronger hand. He let her without much effort on her part. Her arms went around his neck, drawing him closer. Her lips parted and she initiated the meeting of their tongues. Someone made a sound, him she thought and that gave her confidence. She'd kissed before. Even gone further than kissing so she wasn't completely naďve. She just imagined herself as being clumsy about these things because romance and love weren't her thing.
She realized now she just hadn't kissed the right person, because much like he'd done to her heart she opened up to him like a wilted flower seeing the sun for the first time in days. He backed her up against the wall, one hand bracing against it beside her head. Their bodies flush against one another. He had more layers on than she did and her gown was much more form fitting than his tux but she still felt the hardened plains of his physique.
She had no idea a kiss could be like this, convey so much. There was no room for lying or misunderstandings here. His hand at her face slid lower to her neck and bare shoulders, skimming the length of her arm as far as he could reach. And then lower to her waist, her hips and up again, cupping the swell of her breast. The dress was so low cut and off the shoulders, she'd foregone a bra. It wasn't something she normally did but figured she could get away with it for a night at the theatre.
This time she was sure the sound came from him not her as he discovered that very article of clothes was missing. His mouth left hers, just in time too, because her head fell back against the wall as his thumb found her peak and stroked it through the gown. It sent a jolt through her body, centering between her legs.
He nipped at her neck, taking a small bit between his teeth which caused her to grab onto his shoulders for all she was worth. Was he testing her? Seeing if she'd stop him or be afraid of him? He released the skin then, rubbed his roughened chin against the same spot. And she cried out. It was too much.
"Are you trying to convince me that I'm making the wrong decision tonight?"
"No, I'm just doing what I've had the urge to do since the moment I saw you. You are safe, Clarice."
She laughed at that. "I don't think so."
He placed a relatively chaste kiss against her collarbone and lifted his head to look at her. "From unwelcome advances you are."
"You make it very tempting."
"That is the idea."
He stepped back then, her arms dropping from around him to her sides. One hand still clutching the nightgown she'd gone to get in the first place. She swallowed with a great deal of effort. She wanted him to continue, to take the next step. She knew, though, that she wasn't ready. She couldn't take that next step until she made a decision once and for all about what she'd do. She couldn't make love to him and go back to Virginia as if nothing happened, as if she hadn't literally slept with the enemy.
So, why was she okay with him sleeping beside her? She wasn't sure and didn't know what it said.
"Would you prefer I take my leave to the bathroom instead so you can change?"
"I think so."
"All right, Clarice." He grazed a fingertip along her collarbone and she hitched in a breath. "You look stunning tonight if I didn't already mention that fact."
"I think you might have once or twice."
"A man can never say such things too frequently."
"I don't think I'd grow tired of hearing you say it, so I guess you're right."
She woke at some point during the night. Judging by the barely perceptible light through the curtains she guessed it was close to sunrise. She wondered what had woken her. Beyond the oddity that was sleeping next to someone, in someone's arms. And he hadn't released her from his embrace since they'd gone to bed.
Oh, he relinquished it some if she shifted this way or that, but his arm or his hand was always touching her, always there to remind her she was not alone. For the first time in her life she had someone beside her as an equal, not a parent.
It was a heady feeling, something she hadn't given much thought to. She was always alone, since being a teenager. She supposed once or twice as a girl she'd crawled into bed with her daddy, but she couldn't recall doing so.
She was surprised to realize that her needs now weren't so very different than the needs she'd probably had as a small girl climbing into her daddy's bed. Comfort, warmth, security. She tried to deny needing or wanting those things, but here she was clinging to him as though he was a life preserver.
He stirred as she stood from the bed.
"I'm just going to the bathroom," she whispered. And that was enough to get him to release her.
She returned to the bed not too much later, finding her side of the bed still warm. Barely, but it was. He gathered her to him once she was there. Facing him she was pressed against him. He wore pajamas. She'd never taken the time to picture what he might wear to bed. Pajamas wouldn't have been it even if she would have, but she supposed they were safe. And she'd needed safety. Last night she had anyway.
She took the time to look at his face. He had lines where older photographs of him showed none. They flattered him, though. He was in good shape. She didn't need to see him without clothes on to know that. He had to be strong to do the things he did.
She reached to touch the valley at the base of his throat where his collarbone met. The pajama top was unbuttoned enough she had access. He let out a soft sigh, shifting a little under her touch. She lingered a moment before letting her fingers touch his neck, his jaw, and his ear. Her fingertips found his lips at the same time her mouth did.
She knew when he woke up. She knew, too, when he realized that she'd changed the more conservative nightgown in for the more revealing one that had been included for her. It was much shorter and practically see-through, but it covered everything. Except now laying here it wasn't doing that great a job.
He groaned as his hand found her bare butt and met her kiss, deepening it. He rolled them so he was on top of her, eyes watching her.
"Good morning," he whispered.
"Hey," she said with a hesitant smile. She wasn't a seductress, but when she'd pulled out this nightgown she questioned how difficult it could be. Now that he was here, on top of her aware that she wore the flimsy nightgown and nothing else she wasn't so sure. She did what seemed natural given the circumstances, began working the buttons of his top.
He grabbed her wrists, they didn't both fit into his hand but almost. His eyes never strayed from her face. He was intense but she saw the softer look in his eyes, a softness for her.
"Are you sure, Clarice. We're here for a week. I can wait, that long or longer if need be."
She swallowed, sliding her fingers along the button she still clutched. "I'm sure," she whispered.
That was apparently all he needed to hear. She knew he wouldn't ask again, but also was aware that he didn't need to. She'd woken up in his arms, surrounded by him not just physically and she'd known to not take this step would leave her full of regret. Even if they didn't get the future he seemed to think they had a chance at.
He kissed her everywhere through the thin silky material that prevented her from being completely nude under him. He lowered his mouth to the hem of the nightgown, kissed her thighs there and she gasped, pulling her leg up. She didn't need to coach or coax him she knew, but she acted on instinct.
He repeated the path in reverse, this time kissing her bare skin as he worked the nightgown up her body, over her head and off. His eyes clouded with desire. For her. As he looked at her, letting the back of his hand skim along her side and up again.
His mouth found hers again, timing their tongues meeting with him entering her with a finger. She mewled into the kiss, spreading her legs more. She pressed against him as he added a second finger, just the tips really. She wasn't sure how she knew that he hadn't slid them completely inside of her.
He drew away from the kiss, eyes watching her as he slid both fingers further inside of her. She gasped, biting her lower lip. It wasn't from pain or discomfort. Just the opposite, it felt so good she was afraid she'd make an idiot of herself.
"You're all right?"
She nodded simply, pressing against him again because she wanted more of him.
His mouth found a breast and she cried out as he clasped over a sensitive nipple with his teeth just shy of too hard. And then he licked and sucked, soothing the spot he'd bit and she was putty in his hands from that point forward.
His mouth strayed from her breasts, lower along her belly and further south to join his fingers in their attentions. She grabbed the edge of the mattress as his tongue found her clit and brought her closer and closer to an orgasm.
She fell over the edge when he skimmed her ass with his pinky finger. She cried out as the orgasm worked its way through her body.
He kissed her inner thigh, his fingers still inside of her and then knelt between her legs. She knew she should be doing something to him, but wasn't sure what just then and he seemed content to focus his attention on her. He worked the rest of the buttons on his pajama top and then stood to remove the bottoms. She watched fascinated as he returned to her. Ready for her. He seemed so big, but she knew he'd be mindful of the fact she hadn't done this before.
"Should I…?" she asked, unable to ask what was on her mind.
"There's time for that, Clarice. I want to please you."
He smiled. "And that pleases me."
She nodded then as his mouth found hers again and he guided his cock into her. He was slow, careful, stopping a time or two to let her adjust. Only when she moved against him did he continue. It wasn't as bad as she thought it would be and once assured there was no real pain only a bit of discomfort from having something the size of him inside of her. Well, she could let go and enjoy it. She relaxed against him and he sensed the moment she had. Relinquished all control to him. And she knew that was as much a turn on to him as being inside of her was.
They were side by side, facing one another. He was still inside of her barely and she was lazily tracing circles and odd shapes on his arm. He was drifting off to sleep, she wasn't too far behind. She wanted to take a moment, though, and put this moment away. Remember how she felt, how he'd made her feel. How he'd made her act.
He'd made her lose control, something she didn't do easily. Of course, he lost control as well. Never had she seen him more vulnerable then the look on his face and in his eyes as he finished inside of her. Completed the act however archaic it sounded of making them whole. He'd tasted her, taken her inside of him. And now he was inside of her.
"Stop thinking so loudly, Clarice."
"I'm not trying to."
He chuckled, nuzzling against her breast still sensitive from his earlier bites (because there'd been more than the first one). She shivered against him.
"It'll be hard to top off the opera my first night here and then this."
"Actually, I scheduled the opera for your first night here intentionally."
"Yes, that way if we don't feel like leaving the room for the balance of your stay I won't feel as if I've deprived you completely of a vacation."
She laughed then, no sense trying to get offended she couldn't. "Good plan," she said instead.
"I thought so."
"Humble, too, I like that in a man."
"Now about those things you could do to me…"
"There's no time like the present, Clarice."
"I thought you were going to sleep."
"Mm, my body doesn't seem to want to sleep with you pressed up against me and the scent of our lovemaking in the air."
"Tell me what to do?"
"I don't think you'll need a guide, Clarice. Just do whatever strikes your fancy. I don't think you'll go wrong."
It didn't take her long to find out he was more than right.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com