In response to Anna's challenge on what were the McCalls, Mickey Kostmayer, and Control doing during the blackout on Thursday and Friday, 14-15 August, 2003?
As always, I'm playing with intellectual properties that do not belong to me, and I'm grateful to the genius of those who created them, and the talents of those who brought them to life. I make no monetary profit from this, wishing only to share my ideas with others.
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"Come along, Scott. I've an errand to run and then we can head for dinner and after that, your concert."
"Hold on a second, Dad. How do I look?"
"Like a first chair violinist, of course. Come along, now. You don't want to be late."
Scott followed his father out the door and headed for the elevator while his father set the alarms and locked up behind them. Holding the elevator, Scott smiled at the elderly occupant, who smiled uncertainly back at him, her arms tightening about her little Shih Tzu, which was snarling and yapping at him.
Robert entered the elevator and smiled at his elderly upstairs neighbor, "Ah, good afternoon, Mrs. Cadwaller. Is your air conditioner working again?"
The elderly woman smiled upon recognizing him. "Oh, yes, Mr. McCall, thank you so much for taking care of that for me. I don't know how I could survive this heat without it. Poor little Willie just suffers so when it's so hot.
Scott smiled. "Yes, ma'am."
"Oh, Mrs. Cadwaller, you haven't met my son, Scott. Scott, Mrs. Cadwaller lives directly upstairs from us."
Scott nodded to the elderly woman. "Nice to meet you, Mrs. Cadwaller." The elevator was making its way down when suddenly, the light went out and the car jerked to a sudden stop.
"Power failure, it seems." Taking a penlight from his inside coat pocket, he turned it on and opened the little door over the emergency phone. Lifting it, he listened, then clicked first the hanger, and then pressed several buttons on the keypad, "And it would appear that the phone is dead, as well."
"Great. Wonder how long it's gonna take before anyone notices?"
"Oh, dear. What about my Willie? We were on our way down for his evening walk?"
There was a soft 'ssppppffffffft' and a hideous odor filled the stranded elevator car.
"Oh, lovely," Robert McCall murmured, taking his cell phone from his pocket. To his dismay, there was no signal at all.
He'd stopped off at his favorite little bookstore, the one owned by the pretty Irish girl, Davan O'Meara, who'd bought it from old Sol Levine when he'd retired and moved to Florida a couple of years earlier. Since then, despite the change in ownership, it had maintained its quiet, pleasant atmosphere. In spite of being in an out-of-the-way cul-de-sac, or perhaps because of it, it did a fairly good business.
He had a meeting in DC the next day, and was in need of something to keep him occupied on the flight. There were only a few customers, mostly elderly folks from the neighborhood. It was odd to be the youngest customer anywhere, these days. Ms. O'Meara had smiled at him when he'd entered, as she usually did. He'd returned the smile and headed to the political thrillers, looking for something new. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything that struck his fancy. Sighing, he wandered over to the science fiction and browsed, but nothing caught his interest. Sighing, he checked the mysteries. Again, nothing. Frustrated, he began to peruse the magazines. There wasn't much he was interested in. Soldier of Fortune? Laughable. Home and Garden? What for? Newsweek and Time, he had subscriptions to. He shook his head. There must be something.
"Are ye havin' trouble findin' somethin', sair?"
He turned to the shopkeeper and smiled ruefully. "I'm afraid so. I need to take a trip, and want something to pass the time."
"How long is the journey, then?"
"Including the airport hassle, about four hours. Actual travel time, about one. Got any suggestions?"
She stood hipshot, arms folded over her middle. "Perhaps a puzzle book?"
"Crosswords? I do the Times in ink, I'm afraid," he softly admitted, like it was a sin.
She grinned up at him. She put his height at about six feet, and he had been the only customer who hadn't seemed to be surprised when she bought the shop from the former owner. He was certainly one of the best looking customers she had, and they'd flirted innocently on occasion. Other times, he'd seemed to be rather depressed or sad about something. But he was always polite, always pleasant, no matter how weary he might look.
"Have ye tried the logic problems, then? I've a book of them that are well nigh impossible, methinks. Here." She lifted a thick magazine from the back of the rack and handed it to him, watching as he opened it and took a look at the first one. He smiled. "These are crime problems."
"That's right, whodunits, they are. Quite good, I think. Don't always get them, I don't. Mayhap ye'll do better?"
He smiled at the challenge in her voice. "All right, I'll take it."
She rang up his purchase and he was just about to leave when the power went out. He turned at her gasp. "It's just a power failure."
"Is it, then?" she asked nervously. Despite two years in New York, she still hadn't adjusted to all the changes.
He turned back. "Were there any other customers?"
"No, you're the last." She shivered nervously, despite the fact it was still daylight. "Me alarm system won't be working then, will it?"
He understood, having done a background check on her when old Sol had told him he was moving down to Florida. She was from Belfast, and had seen her family killed in one of the bombings. She'd taken everything she'd owned and sold it, buying the shop sight unseen and coming over to escape 'the troubles.' She'd arrived just a couple of months prior to the destruction of the World Trade Center, and had been nervous ever since. Not that he could blame her.
"Would you like me to help you lock up?" he offered softly.
She looked surprised, at first, then relieved. "Would ye?"
He grinned. "Be my pleasure."
He followed her around, making sure all the doors were locked and the security gates closed and secured, as well. When all was safe, he smiled at her. "It's gone on a bit longer than usual; I hope the heat won't give you too much trouble?"
"Oh, no. I'll manage, although, could I offer ye something t' drink, at least?"
He smiled, amused. "With the power out?"
"Well, the stove is gas, and I've me gran'da's old tin coffee pot, then?"
"I'd love some coffee, thank you."
He followed her up the stairs to her flat above the shop. He wondered about the building, since it was four stories high, but only the bottom two floors seemed at all used, but he didn't ask. Her flat took up only half the floor and was surprisingly cool, considering the heat wave the city was experiencing. "You must have some great air conditioning."
She smiled at him as she led him to the kitchen. "Oh, yes. Although it's not working now, of course, but it should stay cool enough for the time being. D'ye have any idea how long the power might stay off, then?"
"Well, back in '65, it was off for most of a day, I think. But that covered most of the Northeast. Thankfully, I was in Europe at the time."
She giggled, "I wasn't even born, then." She busied herself at the stove, filling the basket of the old tin percolator and missed his wince at the information. She finished filling the pot with bottled water and set it on the ancient gas range to percolate. "There, now, it'll be done in a few minutes. Please, have a seat?"
"Thank you." He pulled out a kitchen chair and sat down, placing his package on the table. "How are you adjusting to New York? I realize you've been here for a while, now, but I know how big a change it must have been for you."
"Oh, the people here, for the most part, are lovely, although there have been a few wee incidents that keep me a bit unsure." She sat down opposite him.
"I noticed. Has anyone tried to rob you?"
She blushed. "Only once, but I'd done no business that day and had only twenty dollars in the till. The man was right angry, he was."
He chuckled. "I can imagine. He didn't hurt you, did he?"
"Oh, no. Scared me a wee bit, though. And he did take the money, but he hasn't come back, at least."
He frowned. "Did you call the police?"
She looked at him in surprise. "No!" Seeing the concern and disapproval on his face, she looked confused. "D'ye think I ought have?"
"Well, yes. That's how thieves get stopped, by the police. Admittedly, it doesn't always work, but it's certainly better than leaving them loose to rob other people, don't you think?"
"Oh. I'd not thought of that, I'm afraid."
He shook his head and grinned. "Well, hopefully there won't be a next time, but if there is, you should call them."
She smiled and nodded. "I'll do that, then."
"Other than that, you've adjusted well?"
"Oh, it's warmer in the summer and colder in the winter than I'm used to, and there are a lot more people, but I'm learning to like it, I think."
"Do you get homesick?" He saw her expression falter and her eyes flitted away.
"I still miss me family, but they're gone, so there's no point in brooding on it?"
She looked at him in surprise. "Ye've no need to. Tis nothing t' be done, now."
"I'm still sorry. Did you come from a large family?"
She smiled; obviously the memories were good ones. "Not so large, two brothers and three sisters." She sighed and shook her head. "All gone, now. I still miss them, though, y' know?"
"Yes. It's hard, isn't it? Going on alone?"
There was such sympathy and understanding in his voice that she thought he must have lost a great deal, as well. "It is, that," she softly agreed, tentatively touching his hand before standing up to check on the coffee, which had been perking merrily away for the past couple of minutes. "Can I fix ye a bite to eat, then?"
"Don't go to any trouble for me," he softly replied, wondering why he was still here.
"Tis no trouble a'tall. I've a Shepherd's Pie all ready for the oven, if ye'd care to join me?"
There was something about her that he found intriguing. Or maybe it was the loneliness in her eyes as they met his that touched a similar chord in his own heart. "All right." She graced him with a delighted smile as she got the dish from the refrigerator and put it in the oven, set the temperature and then brought over the pot of coffee and two mugs.
"Would ye like anything in your coffee? I've some lovely auld Irish whiskey?"
"Thank you, that would be very nice." She poured the coffee and then returned the pot to the stove after she'd removed the basket. Returning, she had a bottle of very old Irish whiskey, which she generously added to both their cups.
Raising his mug, he softly toasted, "Slainte'."
She grinned in surprise and raised her own mug, "Slainte'," she agreed.
She looked at him as he relaxed over the coffee. "So, then, what sort of books to ye like, I wonder? Ye've bought political thrillers, science fiction, and mysteries that I've seen. Ye seem to avoid the true-crime and romance novels." He snorted a laugh at that.
"I like good historical novels and memoirs." He shrugged. "I think the list of what I won't read is much shorter. Romances, 'how to', and anything based on current events. I want my news as unadulterated as possible. I read the Times, daily, as well as several other papers I subscribe to."
"Ah, a business man, then?"
He smiled. "No, just a habit. I like to know what's going on in the world." He took a sip of his coffee, feeling the warmth of the whiskey flood his body. He'd have to be careful not to overindulge, but it certainly was excellent. "And what sort of books to you like to read?"
"I love auld books, I do. Dickens, and the like. Long historical novels, and auld time adventure stories. I like a good swashbuckler, I do."
He watched her as she waxed poetic over books, surprised that he'd actually read some of her favorites and pleased when she was thrilled to discuss them with him. Dinner was an afterthought, almost. The timer was the only reason they remembered it at all. He praised her cooking, wondering why he was surprised that the dish was made with lamb, rather than the Americanized version with ground beef. Afterwards, he took off his suit coat and rolled up his sleeves to help her with the dishes, insisting that it was the least he could do. Afterwards, she stood staring at him for a time as they had another cup of Irish whiskey laced coffee.
"Come w' me? I've some'at to show ye?"
It was after six, and the power was still out. With a soft smile, he finished his coffee and nodded. She led the way up a flight of stairs to the third floor. To his surprise, she had an oil lamp on the landing, which she lit. The flickering flame revealed twelve-foot ceilings and walls covered with heavy mahogany library bookshelves. They were full of old books in nearly pristine condition, some of them looked new, but he knew by the leather bindings that they had to have been quite old, possibly even first editions. Awed, he approached the nearest shelf and reverently lifted a hand to trace the titles of the books. Looking around, slack jawed, he turned to her.
"These are worth a fortune! My God, they all look like first editions."
"I think they are, but I canna sell them."
He frowned in confusion. "Why on earth not?"
"I've not read them all, as yet."
He turned full circle, looking at the hundreds, no, thousands of books. "It will take more than your lifetime to read them all."
"Aye, mayhap, but I'll not sell a one until I've done it. I can't, you see? How could I bear to part with a one of them until I've read it?"
He turned back to her. "This was part of the shop when you bought it?"
"Aye. Mr. Levine did na' tell me about them, but when I arrived and had taken possession, I got curious as to what was above, since the shop and flat take up only the ground and first floors, and there's a second flat that I could rent out, should I wish. I came up here, and was amazed."
"What's on the top floor?"
"I've not looked, yet. I can't seem to get beyond the books?"
He chuckled. "I can understand that. May I?" He gestured to the volumes on the shelves, and she nodded. He gently removed one of the books and opened it. It crackled with newness. He looked at the flyleaf and as he'd expected, it was a first edition. He turned several pages, marveling at the condition. Lifting his eyes to hers, he smiled. "They're beautiful."
Her breath caught. In the lamplight, his pale blue eyes gleamed with delight. Her heart fluttered and she swallowed hard. He turned and replaced the book, looking at several others. Finally, he stopped browsing and turned to look at her. "You've a lifetime of reading, here."
"At least," she agreed, setting the lamp down on a small table. He couldn't stop looking around at the books. Turning again to speak, he was surprised to find her right beside him, staring up at him. Her eyes caught his and he froze. She looked uncertain as she neared, and then, standing on tiptoe, stretched up to kiss him, having to pull his head down so she could reach.
His lips were soft and warm against hers, and she wondered at her temerity in daring to kiss him. But his hands came up to hold her, and he bent his neck and spine to accommodate her much shorter height, and she realized he was kissing her back.
He drew away first, wondering what in the world had possessed her to initiate that kiss, and wondering at his own accelerated heartbeat. He gazed down into her eyes, a darker shade of blue than his own, a startling contrast with her raven-dark hair and pale skin.
Frowning up at him, she asked, "Why d'ye carry a gun, then?"
His breath caught and he thought of all the lies he could tell her, but something made him tell her as much of the truth as he reasonably could. "I work for the Federal Government and have to."
She looked surprised. Somehow, he didn't quite fit the vision she'd formed of members of the FBI, but then, that had been molded by television and movies, not actual experience. "Oh," was her only reply as she reached up to grasp his head to bring him down for another kiss.
This time, she drew away, first. "Stay wi' me," she whispered, her eyes widening in shock at her bold words.
He blinked and took a careful, deep breath. "Are you certain?"
Her chin firmed and she nodded. "Stay wi' me," she asked again, more firmly.
He bent down and kissed her, his arms holding her tightly against his body, relishing the touch of her against him, his hands gently stroking up and down her spine. Breaking the kiss, he asked again, "Are you certain?"
"Yes." Taking his hand, she turned away, leading him from the room, picking up the oil lamp along the way, leading him down the stairs to her flat, through the living room and kitchen and dining room, to her bedroom.
Once inside, she set the lamp down on the bedside table and turned to look at him. He watched her and saw the touch of uncertainty in her eyes. "Are you sure?" he asked again.
"Yes." She lifted her face to him as he again took her into his arms and kissed her, deeply this time, his hands becoming more familiar with her body. Gently, he undressed her and pulled back the covers on the enormous and aged four-poster bed; tenderly, he lifted her and placed her upon the mattress. She watched him as he disrobed, her heart pounding in excitement as he stretched out beside her and took her into his arms to kiss her again.
His touch was fire and electricity and after a time, he whispered, "Are you sure?"
She whimpered and clutched at him. "Yes."
When he awoke, he was momentarily disoriented. It was dark, and it was too warm for comfort, and there was a woman... Davan. He considered for a time the logic of slipping away while she slept, but she was clinging to him in her sleep, and to dislodge her would be to awaken her. Instead, he relaxed and allowed his hands to gently stroke her body to wakefulness. She stirred in his arms and opened her eyes. Smiling, she whispered, "Yes," and then kissed him.
He needed no further encouragement.
It was too damn hot. The streets were a mess, so there was no way he could drive out of town. The subways were down, as were all other modes of transportation. Bored, he gathered his fishing rod and tackle box and left his apartment, planning on walking down to the harbor. As he crossed over a bridge, he paused and looked over the side. Glancing around, he figured the cops would be far more concerned with other, more major crimes than illegally fishing from a bridge. Humming softly to himself, he baited his hook and tossed the line down into the water below. Much to his surprise, the fish were biting.
Grinning, he caught enough for a good feed and headed home where, despite the heat, he planned on cooking his catch.
It was stifling in the elevator, and the stench... was worse than a Calcutta sewer, Robert decided. He and Scott had tired of standing and, in hopes that the stench was lighter than the surrounding air, sat on the floor. Mrs. Cadwaller had finally tired and with their assistance, was sitting opposite them.
Willie began to whine piteously.
"What's wrong with him?" Scott asked.
"It's long past time for his walk, I'm afraid," the elderly woman explained.
Scott heard his father sigh. "I suppose that there's nothing for it but to allow him to do his business here, as there's no telling how long we might be trapped here."
"Oh, no. He can wait a little longer."
There was another 'pssssspppppffffffffft' and the air again became almost unbreatheable for the two men.
Robert heartily hoped that help would come soon. Trying his cell phone again, he was dismayed that there was still no signal.
It was still pitch black and silent when she awoke. She'd been living here long enough that the silence and darkness felt strange, though not as strange as the man's body cradling her close to him. Although it was quite warm, she felt comfortable. His deep, even breathing was reassuring, as was the possessive way his arms cradled her body. Curious, she allowed her hands to lightly trace over his skin. Her breath caught as her fingers found scars, bullet scars, she realized. She shifted in his embrace and she heard his breathing change. He was very still for a moment, and then his soft, warm voice asked, "What's wrong?"
She hugged him tightly and replied, "Nothing," and kissed him. She'd known enough men with bullet scars, and he had said he worked for the government, perhaps he'd been a soldier, once. Besides, what did it really matter? He was alive, lying here with her, as warm and solid as could be. His arms tightened and she thrilled to his touch.
Still later, when there was just a hint of the coming dawn, he awoke again, marveling at the way she felt lying beside him. They hadn't discussed anything about what they were doing, not why now, why him, why? But he realized that it didn't matter. They might only have tonight together, but it was sufficient. In the morning, he'd go back to his life in the shadows and she'd return to hers in the light. But he'd remember, and with fondness. He shifted, moving out of her embrace.
"Stay," she whispered, almost desperate in her need.
To his surprise, he replied, "I just need the bathroom." Her arms tightened around him and then released, leaving him feeling bereft, then her arm pointed and he found his way to the bathroom. Shaking his head and wondering what in the world he thought he was doing, he used the facilities and returned to her welcoming embrace, and he was glad he did.
There were no false promises, no swearing of undying love, only comfort and companionship offered and accepted. A long night of passion and joy shared, honestly and completely. It was more than she'd expected, and more than he deserved. When the sun came up and they were still together, they awoke together, seemingly surprised to find themselves there. There was no need of words as they shared the shower and dressed for the day. The power was still off, but it was light, now, and it was never as frightening in daylight as it was in darkness. She fixed coffee and breakfast, which they shared in companionable silence, and then he left her.
She wondered if she'd ever see him again, or if she'd just lost her favorite customer, and then realized that she didn't even know his name. Sighing, she opened her shop and to her surprise, had her best business day, ever, as people used to the mind-numbing input of television and radio rediscovered reading and the video of their own minds and imaginations.
Looking out into the day, she smiled, satisfied; hoping that one day, he might return, even if only to purchase another book.
Some time in the long, interminable night, Willie had had enough, and while the humans fitfully slept in the close, insufferably hot, dark elevator, he'd gotten out of his mistress's carrying bag and sniffed around and marked his territory. Satisfied with one final pile between the two men, he returned to his proper place with his mistress to await rescue.
The smell awoke him and Scott groaned, and then realized that his lower leg was wet, as well. Stifling the desire to curse 'little Willie', he shifted and turned over, to come nose first next to Willie's final indignity. Springing back, he banged his head on the wall.
"Scott? Are you all right?"
"That damned dog pissed on my leg, Dad. And watch where you move, there's a pile right between us," Scott whispered.
"Ah, yes, it was to be expected, you know. Like you, I've a damp ankle. Unfortunately, it isn't proper to return the favor."
There was a moment of shocked silence, and then Scott softly chuckled. "Too bad."
Mickey had awakened a good two hours before dawn, too hot to sleep any more. Seeing that the power was still off, he gathered his tackle and headed for the harbor. His cell phone was turned on just in case he was needed, but he rather hoped that no one would call him.
He was walking through the dark streets of Manhattan when his cell phone trilled. Grumbling under his breath, he answered it. "Kostmayer."
"Thank God! Mickey, you've got to come and get us."
"McCall? Where the hell are you?"
"In the elevator in my building. Can you mount a rescue? There are three of us, and a dog."
Mickey grinned. "Sure, McCall. I'm about fifteen minutes away. What floor?"
"Probably the second, but I'm not certain. Just hurry, would you?"
"Don't get your panties in a twist, I'm on my way." He disconnected the call and slid the phone into his pocket, then realized that his admonition might actually have some merit, if McCall had been stranded in an elevator for the past twelve hours or so. With new purpose, he turned his feet towards McCall's place. Ready, willing, and able to see what he could do to rescue his friend from the fiendish little dog that shared the dark, stuffy elevator.
With any luck, he'd have blackmail material for the future.
He'd dragged the building's maintenance man out of bed, demanding that he get the trapped people out of the elevator and how dare he not do his job properly and check; he didn't give a damn if the ten story building's stairs were too much for him, get his lazy butt in gear before he tore him a new hole.
They had to call the fire department for help; thankfully, things had quieted down quite a bit, by the time the sun came up, and they pried the doors open to let the trapped passengers out.
"Thank you, Mickey. Would you care to come up? I'll make a pot of coffee?"
Mickey grinned and shook his head, pointing to his fishing tackle. "No, thanks, McCall, I'm gonna go fishin'. Besides," He leaned close to speak softly, "You reek."
"Yes, well thank you for the rescue."
"You're welcome, McCall. See ya, Scott!"
"Thanks, Mickey." Scott looked down, frowning; Willie had just hiked his leg on Scott's other foot.
Chuckling, Mickey headed out to continue his journey down to the water and some fish.
"So, there they were, stinkin' to high heaven from that little dog pissin' and crappin' on 'em."
Control hid his amusement behind his hand as he and his friends relaxed over a drink at O'Phelan's.
"So, old friend, what did you do during the long hours of darkness?" Robert asked, sipping his Scotch.
"Oh, I just had a simple supper and went to bed early. Rather a pleasant change, to tell you the truth." He was still on his first glass of brandy, and was as relaxed as much as if he'd had four, and he realized that it wasn't the brandy, for once, but his memories.
"Man, that's even more boring than what I did," Mickey grumbled. As the two older men focused on him, he shrugged. "I just went fishin'. No dead bodies, no bad guys, no nothin'. Except that the fish were biting."
Control shook his head. Because of the blackout, his meeting had been cancelled, postponed until Monday. Although the power was back on in a lot of areas, he debated with himself for only a moment. "Well, gentlemen, it's been a nice evening, but I think that I, for one, would like somewhat of a repeat of last night. I'm off for some sleep. I'll see you again, soon." Standing, he dropped a fifty-dollar bill on the table to pay for their evening's drinks, and turned to leave. Pausing, he turned back, "Your neighbor's name, you said Mrs. Cadwaller? Eunice Cadwaller, by any chance?"
"Good Lord, don't tell me you actually know her?"
Control smiled. "She and her husband were coast watchers in Burma. She survived the Bataan Death March. And it wasn't the dog." With that, he turned and left, leaving a shocked McCall and a nearly hysterical Mickey behind.
Controlling himself, Mickey watched the old spook walk away, and sighed. "That guy needs to get laid."
McCall sighed in agreement. "Not likely to happen, I'm afraid. More's the pity."
"Yeah. Me, either. You?"
"I'm afraid not. But his idea of an early night certainly has merit. I think I shall go and do likewise. Take care, Mickey."
"Good night, McCall." Mickey watched his friend walk away, and then glanced down at the fifty-dollar bill. Picking it up, he exchanged it for a twenty, which was more than sufficient to pay for their drinks, pocketing the larger bill. Looking around, he finished his drink and stood. The night was still young, and maybe, just maybe, Jeanine might be available. With a smile at Pete O'Phelan on his way out, he pulled out his cell phone to make a call.
"Hey, Jeanine? Mickey. You busy tonight? No? Well, how's about...."
He stood in the darkness opposite the closed book store and considered the wisdom of the actions he was contemplating. Seeing the light on the third floor, he made his decision and crossed the street, ringing the buzzer by the door.
"Who is it?" The softly accented voice he hoped to hear came, a moment later.
"It's me. May I come in?"
There was a long pause. "Just a moment." A few minutes later, the light from the stairs spilled into the shop, and he saw her dark shape move towards the door. Separated by the glass and security bars, she looked at him, chewing on her lower lip. Then she smiled tentatively, and unlocked the door to let him in. He entered and waited while she locked it up again. When she turned towards him, her face lifted up to look into his, and he hesitantly stepped close to her and leaned down to kiss her, unsure of his welcome, but when her arms went up around his shoulders to hold him close, he knew, and wrapped his arms around her.
Breaking the kiss, she smiled up at him, gently stroking his face with her fingers. "I don't even know your name," she whispered.
For several minutes, he looked deeply into her eyes, debating with himself again. "They call me Control," he finally said.
She tilted her head to look at him, then nodded. "I can understand, but what shall I call you, love?"
He smiled. "I'd like that."
She frowned in a moment of confusion, and then understood. "If I ask you no questions, ye'll tell me no lies?"
His smile broadened. "That's a deal."
"Then come with me, love?"
"How long can ye stay, then?"
"I'm free until Sunday night."
She turned on the stairs to stare at him, "Are ye, now?"
"Yes. I'm all yours until then."
She raised her head, a coquettish expression on her face. "And mayhap beyond?"
He gazed at her, wondering if he dared. "Mayhap, if we're discrete."
She frowned. "Are ye married, then?"
"Only to my work."
Her expression cleared, relief showing clearly in her eyes. "Ah, well, that's all right, then." She turned to continue up the stairs.
He followed, "Is it?"
"Yer married t' yer work, an' that's somethin' no woman can hope to compete against, but at least it's not a loving mistress - it hasn't arms to hold ye, nor lips to kiss ye, nor a heart to hold ye."
"No, it hasn't," he agreed, following her through the apartment to her bedroom, where she stopped and turned to him.
"And have ye no one else, then?"
She looked surprised. "Not even friends, then?"
"A very few, but they aren't always enough."
"Ah, and d'ye think I might be? Enough?"
"I think so. At this time in my life, probably more than enough."
"Ah, then, come, love."
This time, she undressed him; and instead of making love through the hours as they had the previous night, this time, they simply slept, gently clinging to one another, each offering and accepting what the other had to offer, serving as a balm to one another's wounded souls.
And it was more than enough.
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