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Road Trip Part 10/12
damien listening guitar
rogoblue
Title: Road Trip Part 10/12
Rating: R (language and sexual situations)
Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue
Summary: Dominic and Adelle clamber over a few other obstacles to their developing relationship.





Laurence Dominic felt decidedly besieged. Gavin and the butchers took over his life for over a week. Bill poked at him and Adelle. Adelle poked at him and Adelle. Will the fun never end? He snuck a look at Adelle and really wasn’t surprised to discover her watching him with disturbing intensity. “So …,” he began, making his way through the conversational minefield she’d set before him with care. “What is it you think I’m lying to you about, exactly?” When she didn’t respond immediately, he said, “You said you … require honesty. I … I’ve been honest with you.”

“Honesty and intimacy,” she said, slowing her pace, limp more pronounced.

“Where intimacy has an honesty component too,” he said, steering Adelle toward a stand of trees featuring a stump large enough for both of them to sit. “I know I’ve been less than perfectly honest in the past. I’ve practically stipulated that, but I haven’t lied to you this trip. Not consciously, anyway.”

Understanding dawned in Adelle’s eyes. “I’m not harkening back, Laurence,” she said, allowing him to assist her in sitting, clearly indicating the severity of her pain. “Nor am I looking very far forward.”

“This is about openness, then?” He struggled for words. “Both ways.” Settling in next to Adelle, he said, “Taking as well as giving and giving in a more … meaningful way?” Smiling ruefully at her nod of agreement, he said, “Sounds good in theory, Adelle, but I’m not sure what it means in practice.”

“You distance yourself,” she murmured, taking one of his hands in both of hers. “Sometimes physically, other times intellectually, most often emotionally.”

“How am I doing spiritually?”

Adelle smiled over at him. “Just fine,” she said.

“I get passing marks for honesty and spiritual openness.” He looked away. “Sounds like there’s a lot of room for improvement. Are you sure you aren’t just wasting your time on a lost cause?”

“Yes.”

Not questioning the impulse, he stroked her cheek lightly with his free hand. “Adelle, I think you’ve made a poor choice. I don’t have much experience with real relationships.” He sighed. “I’m excellent at faking them when I’m in character, if you will. But actually connecting with someone else as me, no.”

“What about Bill?” she said. “And Clyde.”

“In case it’s escaped your notice, Adelle, they’re both guys.”

Undaunted, she said, “Kelly. Haley. That blonde I saw you with the other day. With the pony tail.”

“Helen.” Dominic trailed his fingers along the line of Adelle’s throat, a jolt of satisfaction flowing through him at the hitch in her breathing. “Friendship is different from what you’re talking about.”

“Yes, but friendship is a component of an intimate relationship.”

“Not always,” he murmured, dropping his hand from her shoulder.

“It will be of this one.”

Extricating his other hand from hers, he said, “Friends, lovers, equals in terms of … lasting impressions. Sounds nice but kind of exhausting.”

“It will require … effort.”

He laughed. “You were going to say commitment, weren’t you?” Adelle simply smiled at him in the manner that robbed him of breath. “I can’t believe you deprived me of the quintessentially male experience of rolling my eyes at a woman demanding a commitment from me.”

“Because I wasn’t referring to a commitment in that sense.”

“Weren’t you?” Leaning closer, he whispered, “Aren’t you?”

“A commitment implies a shared future.”

Hearing the amusement beneath her words, Dominic said, “That would define a connection as a commitment dating from today to a couple of weeks from now.”

“Laurence, don’t make light.”

“I’m not,” he said, sliding his arm around her. To her raised eyebrow, he said, “Well, maybe I am, a little. Sorry. I’ve never had a conversation like this before.” An idea struck him. “Then again, we’ve had several conversations that I would classify as atypical. And that’s another thing. How can you say I’m not open with you? I’ve talked about the Attic with you. Twice. How fitting is that? Is that irony or something else.” Shaking his head as if to dispel the thought, Dominic said, “Anyway, we both know how huge that is. Hell, Adelle, you may know more about me than anyone else on the planet who isn’t related to me or the agent who ran me for the NSA forever.” Dominic liked the pleased look on Adelle’s face and wanted to keep it there. Knowing he risked doing just the opposite, he asked, “Is this because of how busy I was at our last stop or does your dissatisfaction go beyond that?”

“In some very significant ways, you’re still in the Attic, Laurence, and I fear that whatever is building between us won’t survive an extended stay in that nomadic lifestyle. Not without strong anchors in shared experience and the equality I spoke of.”

“Can I change the subject a little for just a second?” he asked. Clearly interested, she nodded. “You … really want to be with me?”

Using his shoulder for support, Adelle shifted from next to him onto his lap for the second time within thirty minutes. “I want to scratch your back in earnest, Laurence.” Bringing her perfect lips to his, she emphasized her point. Finished, she smiled slowly. “I need to see your eyes glaze over with pleasure.” Leaning close, she murmured, “You’ll give me what I need, won’t you?”

A deliberate shift of her ass drew a groan from his lips. “God, Adelle, stop that.”

“This?” she asked, moving again, making him think of the hotel room and bed he’d contemplated earlier. “Or that?” The second motion had him biting his lip hard.

“All of the above,” he muttered. “Why are you doing this when you’ve made it clear that you don’t want to go further if I can’t give you what you want?”

“Because I sense you’re willing to try.” Storming his lips, she lured him into a devastating kiss. The thin cotton of her shirt permitted him to feel the fabric of the bra beneath and the erect nipples encased within.

They stared at each other when they parted, hearts racing, breathing labored, hands not quite steady. “How’s that for a shared experience?” he asked, not bothering to dodge her fist aimed at his shoulder. “I’m just trying to do my part to anchor our relationship.” Dominic hugged her close. “As for equality, I don’t think we’re all that far off. I’ve helped you. You saved my ass at least twice. I didn’t ask you for anything in return. That doesn’t mean I got nothing. I got a lot. I was able to put the Attic in perspective because of you. To feel a little less of a monumental failure for my part in making this fucked up world.” Feeling inarticulate and sensing the danger in it, Dominic cupped Adelle’s chin in his hand. “As to leaving a part of myself with you, I did that last week dealing with the butchers. I kept myself on plan thinking of you.” He smirked. “And of how you knew things about me that you could spin into a nice obituary if need be.”

“Let’s not let matters develop in that direction, shall we?” Adelle said, hands clutching his shoulders.

“We’re in complete agreement on that point, Adelle.” Wishing for far more privacy than they had, Dominic said, “Tell me what you’re thinking.”

* * *

“That I shouldn’t ask you for something I am not prepared to give in return.” She touched his face, fingertips stroking his cheekbones and then his lips – memorising his features.

“Adelle,” he murmured her name, his eyes closing and the breath of plaintive longing was far too much for her to ignore.

When he looked at her once more she said, “the man I told you about, my first lover – he left me. Twice.”

“Twice?”

“The first time was shortly after we graduated. We were engaged, planning a wedding but when I did rather better in the finals than he did it upset our plans. We’d applied to Rossum together but only I was accepted and as a consequence our relationship became strained. I don’t think he had imagined that my achievements would outstrip his and when that happened his ego was too fragile to be happy about my success and to build something comparable to secure his own. He broke off our engagement and we went our separate ways.”

“But you met again?”

“No,” she closed her eyes – hoping to put the moment off, only to realise just how impossible that was. “I ran the Dollhouse Laurence, consider the resources at my disposal.” In his dawning understanding there was, she thought, a hint of disgust. “I realise that makes me just as pathetic and self-deluding as all the souls I sold our wares to for all those years.” His silence wasn’t inspiring but she had started now and it would certainly be a cleaner cut to just get to the end. “I created a version of Roger, one who hadn’t left me and who knew what I did for a living. Even in my delusions I favour honesty – only of course not enough to tell him that his was one of the lives I traded.” She took a shaky breath and made herself say the last few words. “You might recall the Miss Lonely-hearts engagements?”

“That was you?” His tone was clipped and she felt uncomfortable, perched on his lap. When she re-positioned herself at his side he made no attempt to stop her retreat. “I must have been a hell of a Head of Security not to pick that up.”

“We both had secrets,” she offered – attention firmly focused on her hands. “After, your real mission was revealed I stopped the engagements – I couldn’t risk giving Rossum anything more to use against me although, as it turned out, the company was aware of my transgression. But there was one last occasion when my restraint lapsed. Things had been going badly wrong, spiralling out of control and Anthony’s contract was almost up, I thought it wouldn’t hurt and I needed - something. I was punished though – ‘Roger’ regretfully informed me that he had met someone else – someone he couldn’t live without. Victor’s feelings for Sierra or, if you prefer, Anthony’s for Priya had transcended the imprint. I was just the old woman trying to hold onto something she’d never had in the first place.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Adelle, you made your choices. This had nothing to do with me.”

“It’s an illustrative example that if it means anything, honesty can be difficult. And perhaps I wanted you to know that you aren’t the only one with little experience of real relationships.” When he didn’t reply immediately she pushed herself to her feet, “I think you might need some time to think and I need to make sure that Topher isn’t leading his patient astray. Good night Laurence.”

“Good night.”

She cursed her injured leg, which prevented her from making the swift exit she’d prefer. But she held her head high as she limped away. What she’d done was in the past, she knew that even if the feelings of rejection and humiliation were still raw. As she walked on, putting ever more distance between herself and Laurence she realised that what had been a devastating failure when she had been young had in the end been far less damaging than the failures of judgment and character that had come later.

* * *

Laurence Dominic walked along the bank of the river for a long time, thoughts in turmoil. First, Adelle tells me she slept with Victor. Way more than once. Then she says she wants to be with me in a big way. How in the hell am I supposed to measure up to an active imprinted as her grand passion without ego issues about her success?

“Dom, what are you doing out here?” Haley asked, twisting her upper body away from the young man embracing her.

“Not as well as you,” he said. To his immense surprise—it seemed to be the day for it—Haley unwound herself from her beau and took Dominic’s hand, leading him several paces upstream.

“Bill said you were … um … totally into Adelle.”

“That was before she wanted to have the conversation from hell.”

“I’m sorry.” Haley stopped, imploring eyes demanding he stop as well. “I’m doubly sorry to be the bearer of bad news then. We took in three new groups today. They’ve been scraping together an existence for a while.”

“Did any of those groups have new members?” Dominic prompted.

“Two of them took in strays within the last several days,” Haley said. “Both women. Both innocuous looking. I’ll point them out to you tomorrow.”

Heart racing, Dominic muttered, “Christ, Haley. Where are they now?”

“I don’t know,” was written plainly on her face.

“Thanks for the heads up,” he said. Looking past her to the young man she’d left, he said, “Sorry.” Dominic kissed Haley on the cheek. “I have to get back.”

When he could without alarming Haley and whoever, Dominic sprinted full out until he reached the outlying edges of the caravan. From there, he walked briskly toward the hospital truck.

“Only you could manage to screw up what you had going,” Bill said, falling into step next to Dominic. “Adelle was on your lap doing what appeared to be very nice things for you, wanting to take a walk to get you alone. How did you progress from there to wandering around by yourself looking for someone to kick the shit out of?”

“I told you things were complicated between us.”

“Slow down, Dom, and—.”

“This isn’t a good time for any kind of lecture or marginally humorous anecdote, Bill.”

To Dominic’s relief, Bill’s expression lost all vestiges of playfulness. “What’s going on, Dom?”

Arriving at the hospital truck, Dominic drew his gun. “Anyone showing an interest in us?” he asked.

“No,” Bill murmured.

“Stay out here,” Dominic commanded, pushing the door open slightly. Cursing under his breath, he realized he wouldn’t be able to see Topher or Adelle unless he opened the door wide. Taking a settling breath, he sprang into the truck and closed the door behind him all in one motion. From a crouch just to the left of the door, he easily spotted Adelle DeWitt’s 9 mm pistol pointed at his head. Dominic lowered his weapon first. “You know about the new people?” he asked. She nodded slowly.

“Everything ok in there?” Bill asked.

“Yeah, Bill,” Dominic said, opening the door a crack again. “Anybody paying any attention to this truck now?”

“There’s no one in sight, Dom.”

“Good.”

“You up for a couple of drinks?” Bill asked, grinning up at Dominic, clearly anticipating his answer.

“No. I’m in for the duration.”

Evidently swallowing a smart remark, Bill opted for a wiggling finger wave before retreating. Dominic heard, but chose to ignore the chuckling. Steeling himself for whatever was going to happen, Dominic closed the door and faced Adelle. Unable to read her expression, he said, “How’s your leg?”

“It’s feeling better now that I’ve taken on the less strenuous task of reviewing the address Gavin plans to give tomorrow,” she said, gesturing to the papers beside her on the bed.

“You’re a speechwriter now?” he asked, trying a small smile.

“My role is more editorial.”

“Oh.” A painfully awkward silence fell as they stared at each other. Hearing a prolonged sigh, Dominic glanced toward the bed Topher had taken to sleeping beneath and saw only the edges of several blankets peeking out from under the bed. Doesn’t mean Topher isn’t or won’t. Knowing there was nothing to be done about peeping neuroscientists, Dominic forced himself to move, walking toward her slowly, as he’d done so often in the Attic in attempts not to frighten scared people further. Adelle watched him warily, much as those self-same scared people had. “Do you mind if I sit down?” he asked when he reached the bed.

“Not at all.”

He sat and silence reigned again. Nerves jangling, Dominic said, “I’m sorry if I reacted badly before. You surprised me.” Amazingly, once he began, Dominic couldn’t seem to stop—something that seemed to happen routinely with Adelle. “Really surprised me. It never occurred to me that you were so isolated. Lonely even. You always seemed to be the focal point of everything. At the Dollhouse. At Rossum corporate functions. Everywhere. The thought of you seeking company like that was completely foreign to me. Up until a couple of hours ago, anyway. Now I’m back to being impressed by you.”

“Impressed?”

Her surprise somehow fueled Dominic’s disclosure. “I’ve been isolated a lot. I know how hard it is to reach out like you did. How much of a risk it is to ask someone into your life and to accept what comes along with that. I know, because I’ve never been able to do it.”

Adelle shifted slightly closer and Dominic released the breath he’d been holding. “Didn’t you … in the Attic with Clyde?” she asked.

“No, he did. Like … like you did.” Dominic shrugged and looked down at the blanket he was sitting on. “I’m not much of an initiator unless it’s part of a role I’m playing.”

“I … see.”

Her careful annunciation called to something within Dominic. “I … I’d like to be what you want.” Smile tugging at his lips, he said, “No, no, no, no. What you need.”

“You had a gun in your hand the last time you said similar words to me as well.”

Grateful she seemed on the verge of smiling, he admitted, “I was pissed off.” Grinning, he said, “I missed the vodka for you, you know.” Risking life and limb, he took her hand. Dominic heaved a sigh of relief when Adelle entwined her fingers with his. Only then, did he holster his sidearm. “I’m not sure I can be the man you want, need, deserve, whatever word you want to use. But I’ll give it a shot. That is, if you still want—.” Her lips on his answered the question she’d interrupted. “Good,” he murmured, glancing sidelong at Adelle, not bothering to mask his hesitance.

“Yes, Laurence,” she said.

“May I ask you a possibly wholly inappropriate personal question?”

“You may ask.”

“What was it like? Being with an active like that.” Her mouth looked as though it was caught between a smile and a frown. “You don’t have to answer, Adelle. Forget I asked.”

* * *

“You don’t have to answer, Adelle. Forget I asked.”

But neither of them was going to do that – especially if she didn’t take the opportunity to put this completely to rest.

She hadn’t expected him to come back. For the last couple of hours, even though she had taken refuge in editing Gavin’s rather wooden prose, her thoughts had been taken up by the knowledge that the truth had likely destroyed everything that had been so carefully building between them.

She’d realised how painful and difficult it would be to lose him – especially with things unresolved. But he’d surprised her and very few people managed to do that. It was a greater gift than she had any right to expect and it made her determined not to throw away this opportunity.

She could tell he was uncertain, perhaps even intimidated, by the knowledge that she had slept with an active. It was a reminder that for all his strength under fire he was reserved when it came to relationships. They needed to move beyond this once and for all and it helped that the answer to his question was perhaps not the one he was expecting.

“Actually, for all that it was seductive to be able to create something that so entirely met my needs, at times it was exhausting.”

“I’ll bet.” She was relieved to see his smirk – even though it underscored the reason he’d asked the question in the first place.

“Not because of that, although if the sex had been terrible that would have been somewhat disappointing.”

“You could have fixed that with just a tweak or two.” He leaned forward to kiss her cheek, stroking his hands along her back, rubbing at her injured shoulder. The breathy gasp she couldn’t quite contain probably did more for his confidence than any words – but he seemed to want her to finish the explanation she had started. “Tell me why it was exhausting Adelle.”

“When you’re living out a fantasy, one you’ve created yourself to meet some deep-seated need you have a sense of not wanting to waste a single moment. Everything has to be perfect. A bad day, a bad mood seems incredibly profligate; you don’t want to spend your perfect day complaining about your employer or having a row. You always have to be at your best and that is exhausting.”

“So, perfection is overrated?” His wry smile tempted her to smile back, “I think I can live with that.” She squeezed his hand, looking up at him – willing him to understand.

“I want something real Laurence – and I do understand the difference.”

* * *

Laurence Dominic watched the women in his group spar, keeping a sharp eye on Adelle DeWitt, sure she shouldn’t be taking hand to hand combat training with her leg and shoulder not fully healed. Eyes lingering on Adelle’s long lean lines, Dominic sighed. The pressure had been building steadily and pleasantly between them since their intense conversation of several days ago and he was catching himself staring at her more and more often.

A couple of Gavin’s men stopped to watch the activity, Kyle among them. Dominic listened to the men comment about “girls on girls” and “catfighting bitches” for several minutes, watching many of the women he was instructing bristle.

“Well, let’s see,” Dominic said, pointing at Kyle. “You, come here.” Making a show of looking over his choices, Dominic said, “Haley, front and center.”

“You’re not serious,” Kyle said. “She’s too small.”

“I’d sign an affidavit, swearing she isn’t,” Dominic said, smiling inwardly when Haley appeared at his side quickly. “C’mon, you’re not afraid of this petite thing, are you?”

Dominic felt Adelle’s eyes on him but kept his attention on Kyle. Two of Kyle’s buddies pushed him forward. “No way, dudes,” Kyle said. “I don’t want to hurt Haley.”

“Don’t worry,” Haley said, expression and tone blindingly bright. “You won’t.”

This time, Kyle didn’t resist when his mates thrust him into the area freshly cleared of sparring women. Leaning in, Dominic said, “Remember, there are no points for style, Haley, and no room for mercy.”

Haley stepped forward to meet her opponent. Kyle did as well, expression far from resolute. Dominic spotted Gavin hovering on the periphery, radiating annoyance. Attention on the conflict to come, Dominic said, “Anytime the two of you are ready.”

Kyle advanced. Haley waited. He struck. She dodged. Kyle feinted left. Haley smiled sinfully. Kyle froze. Haley kneed him between the legs and slammed him in the temple when he bent over in agony, dropping him quickly.

Dominic laughed out loud. He wasn’t the only one. Slipping an arm around Haley’s shoulders, he murmured, “That was a thing of beauty.”

“Thank you, Dom,” Haley whispered, kissing him on the cheek.

“Well, ladies, I think we’ll call it a day on a victorious note,” Dominic said. “See you next time. Remember, fighting dirty is what it’s all about.”

Chuckling softly, Dominic made his way to Adelle, gauging how her injuries were faring by her posture and demeanor and relieved by his assessment.

“That was well done,” Adelle said, leaning into him slightly.

Arm coming around her waist, steering Adelle toward the hospital truck, Dominic asked, “What?” in his very best innocent tone.

“Showing Gavin that Kyle was no match for Haley.”

Lowering his voice, Dominic asked, “I didn’t want to risk watching Gavin’s reaction. How’d he take it?”

“Resolutely.”

“Even Gavin can’t see Haley with Kyle after that,” Dominic said. “Right?”

“It might be some time before he admits it aloud, but I believe you are correct.” Adelle looked sidelong at him.

Dominic met her eyes and failed to understand what he saw in them. “Adelle?”

“I had trouble with the attack from behind we drilled on today,” she said. “I was hoping to persuade you to enlighten me.”

“Sure,” he said, following Adelle when she went around the back of the hospital truck. She faced away from him. Dominic came up behind Adelle, wrapping both arms around her torso, pinning her arms to her sides. “What do you do if he does this?” Adelle pressed her body back against his, effectively turning his thoughts to where they might find some privacy to conduct activities more intimate than hand to hand combat instruction. When she took his hands in hers and brought them up to her breasts, Dominic’s grip reflexively tightened, thumbs brushing against Adelle’s nipples. She moaned and exposed her throat to him. “Excellent play,” he murmured, applying lips and teeth to the offered flesh, trying to convince himself that the threat from Rossum wouldn’t manifest within the next couple of hours.

“Please, Laurence,” Adelle whispered, turning in his arms, wrapping herself around him.

He lifted her and pressed her against the hospital truck, her injuries forgotten as his lips dueled hers to a draw. His fingers twisted in her hair, bringing her lips to his harder, more relentlessly. Adelle’s fists clenched in his T-shirt and he tugged her shirt out of her pants. Dominic almost lost it when his fingertips found the soft flesh of her abdomen. Adelle met him on equal footing with respect to both kisses and caresses.

A glimpse of her bruised throat brought Dominic careening to a halt. “Christ,” he whispered.

“Don’t stop,” Adelle murmured.

“I don’t want to, Addie, but I didn’t figure you for an exhibitionist, and I know I’m not.” When Adelle met his eyes, Dominic glanced to his left and her eyes widened at the motley collection of people who were watching them.

“Oh,” Adelle said, pulling back slightly. Dominic wondered why Adelle was shivering.

Turning, his body shielding Adelle’s from most everyone’s view, Dominic announced, “Nothing to see here people. Move along.” Adelle clutched his shoulder when a tall blonde woman mentioned that she’d enjoyed his sparring technique immensely.

* * *

“She’s one of the new people?” Adelle asked quietly, as they watched the group disperse.

“Just joined a group we took in a couple of days ago – they don’t know much about her. There’s a new woman in one of the other new groups as well. Our sniper could be either of them. Or they could both be completely innocent.”

“Impatient,” she observed – referring to the sniper and the prospect that they had decided to infiltrate the caravan, “or keen to accomplish the job before Rossum sends reinforcements. That may mean there is a bounty on us, or that the price of failure is high. Knowing who we’re dealing with I’d favour the latter. Of course the fact that all of the other people who came after us are dead could require a change of strategy – integration rather than a frontal assault.”

“We need to find out some more about our new guests.” His tension was palpable and she regretted the transformation from the man who just minutes before had been intent on pleasing her.

“Well, in my role helping Gavin to implement the new trading and tithing rules I need to speak to them.”

“Carefully,” he offered.

“Of course.” She narrowed her eyes, “they’re both single women, so there is one other person whose assistance we could enlist. But that strategy has an element of risk.”

“Bill,” he said, his expression making fairly clear that he didn’t like the option.

“Knowing Bill we might not have to ask him to introduce himself, but let’s see what we can find out first and then reconsider.”

“Agreed.” His expression shifted to something she would describe as pensive and she touched his cheek, asking the question with her eyes. “Should I be telling you to stay safely out of sight while I handle this?” Dominic asked.

“Only if you want me to practice some of those hand to hand skills on you – or better yet show you what damage I can do with a blade. I’m good at this Laurence and I will be careful.”

“I’ll talk to Haley about finding you a knife,” he mused, “something light with an ankle strap.”

“I’m sure she’ll enjoy the idea of helping you find me a weapon.” His fingertips traced the line of her throat and he frowned – presumably at the marks he’d left.

“Don’t even think about apologising,” she caught his chin in her hand so he couldn’t look away. “I was enjoying myself immensely – at least until you pointed out that we were drawing a crowd.”

“Adelle,” he sighed the word – drawing it out over several syllables and though she had liked the way he’d called her Addie; this was far, far better. She was perfectly aware of the pressure that was building between them, but she didn’t know yet whether it was a good idea to try to resolve that tension or acknowledge that with the sniper possibly close at hand the best they could hope for was a few stolen moments such as this one.

She swung herself into the back of the medical truck with barely a twinge to her thigh. The young man who had replaced Jenkins as Topher’s main guardian smiled in greeting and told her he was heading off to get some food. Jenkins was awake and Topher was under the bed; she could just about hear Sergei muttering to himself in Russian as he sorted through medical supplies.

Beside Jenkins was a small, device, that seemed to have been constructed from all sorts of random objects – it rested on a set of papers with lines, points and squiggles on them. “What’s this?”

“A get well soon present,” Jenkins said, “it’s a telescope – works as well. And these are maps of the constellations – I don’t know how he made it.”

“He’s a genius.” She said, crossing to the bed and lowering herself to the ground, her back to the wall. “That was kind of you,” she said to the bundle of blankets. “It must have taken you some time to make.”

“The stars look at us, we look at the stars,” Topher told her solemnly – shuffling towards her. “You’re hurt,” he said, lifting his hand towards her throat and then stopping, ”someone hurt you.”

“No,” she raised her hand to her throat, wondering if she should even try to explain. “Laurence and I were…”

“K.I.S.S.I.N.G.” he sang softly – mouth turning up into a smile.

“Yes,” she was embarrassed, a little defensive. But Topher just blinked at her as though he had lost track of that particular moment of lucidity. “It’s easy to lose yourself,” he said, “I lost myself and now I can’t find me again.” Or maybe not. “Don’t get lost.”

“I won’t,” she promised, actually meaning it. If she knew anything it was that a relationship shouldn’t require the surrender of self – she didn’t want that from Laurence and she had no intention of giving it to him.

“Here,” she jumped as Sergei dropped a tube of cream onto the bed beside her. He smiled at her – apparently enjoying the moment, “this will take the redness out of the bruises.”

* * *

“Why the long face, Dom?” Bill said, dropping into a chair across from Dominic. “Other than eating lunch alone, drinking inferior product, I mean.”

“Adelle will be along shortly,” Dominic said, shrugging, “or so she said.”

Grinning, Bill raised his glass. “To public displays of affection. What?” Bill pouted when Dominic made not a twitch toward his glass. “So there’s a ton of sexual tension smoldering between the two of you. So what? Hell, man, I’m happy for you. It’s nice to have someone to care about in this screwed up world.”

Dominic’s eyes tracked the tall blonde woman he could now put a name to—Melinda Paulle—but little else.

“What the fuck are you doing, Dom?”

“Huh?”

“You are not … I repeat, not … going to throw Adelle the magnificent over for larger breasts and a bad dye job.”

Sipping his beverage, Dominic asked, “What are you talking about, Bill?”

“There will be no staring at the new girl at this table, is that clear?”

Following finely honed instincts, Dominic leaned forward and asked, “What do you know about Melinda Paulle?”

“Enough to steer clear. The woman is a predator.”

Deciding predator fit comfortably with assassin, Dominic prompted, “How so?”

“She has Kyle Monroe, Ben Beck and Jason Karrington tied in knots,” Bill said, cupping his tumbler in both hands. “Those boys are going to kill each other over her.”

“Is Monroe the Kyle Gavin wanted for Haley?” Dominic asked, uneasily sure that the answer was going to be affirmative. Sadly, he wasn’t mistaken.

“What’s going on, Dom?”

“I don’t know,” he said, “but something’s not adding up for me.”

“I expect your outlook to improve directly,” Bill said, grinning at Dominic in an unsettling way. “If not your addition.”

Hands descended upon Dominic’s shoulders. He leaned back his head and smiled up at Adelle. “Hey.”

“Walk with me?” she asked, leaning against their table. Smiling, she specified, “Before lunch.”

“I’ll take over your plate, but you’re on your own with the drink,” Bill said, looking at Dominic’s tumbler with distaste. Expression brightening, he said, “Hello, Adelle. How are you on this fine afternoon?”

“I’m very well, thank you, Bill,” she said, granting Bill a small smile before turning a sensual version on Dominic. “Laurence, I’d like your opinion on a proposed alteration in the caravan route.”

Ignoring Bill’s inquisitive look, Dominic stood. “Sure,” he murmured, wondering why Gavin felt the need to change things up at this particular moment.

“Take the swill with you,” Bill said. Staring at Bill, Dominic took a long swallow and nearly laughed at the overt cringe in reaction.

“May I?” Adelle asked, pointing to his tumbler. Dominic offered it to her as they strolled toward Gavin’s office at Adelle’s pace. “Thank you,” she whispered, sipping the drink.

“What’s Gavin up to, Adelle?”

“It would be simpler to show you.”

Nodding, Dominic did his best not to notice how fluidly Adelle moved, even though her injuries weren’t yet healed, and gamely resisted the urge to place his hand on the small of her back. He sipped his drink and watched her hands gesturing while she talked, emphasizing some point or another.

“ … heard a word I’ve said?”

Dominic blinked at Adelle, mind racing, seeking to recall. “Um … not the last few,” he ventured as they stepped into Gavin’s office. Mildly surprised it was empty, Dominic said, “Sorry.”

“The map is over here,” Adelle said, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear, bending over Gavin’s desk.

Dominic closed his eyes, but his mind had already made her position sexual. She’s pointing out something, Dom. Get with the program. He stepped beside Adelle and dutifully looked down at the map. Until his eyes drifted to the skin exposed by the combination of unbuttoned shirt buttons and leaning forward. Adelle turned her upper body toward him, expression expectant. Unwilling to admit he had no idea what she’d asked him, he kissed her. In stark contrast to last time, his lips sought to persuade rather than dominate. Since her lips seemed amenable, Dominic’s meandered their way toward the flesh that attracted his attention in the first place.

“Does … does that … ummmm, Laurence … do you approve of the new route?”

Straightening with a sigh, Dominic whispered, “I approve of Gavin being elsewhere.”

Adelle smiled when he lifted her to a seated position on the edge of the desk. “But, surely, the route—.”

“Can wait,” he murmured, hands moving possessively along her back. When they skimmed the sides of Adelle’s breasts, she made a very interesting sound and wrapped her arms around him. Wanting to hear that sound again, he concentrated tactile stimulation to the evidently sensitive area. Adelle clung to his shoulders, eyes drifting closed. Her soft groan drew his attention to her face and Dominic’s breath caught in his throat. “Do you have any idea how gorgeous you are right now?” he whispered. “Let anyone who’s attracted to women see you like this and you could name the terms of their surrender.” Smiling, halting his caresses in awe, he said, “You could start your own cult.”

“Worship me,” she ordered, expression imperious, eyes full of desire.

“Find Kyle,” Gavin Montgomery said, voice of command firmly engaged. “I need him to take a message on ahead. And I’ll want to go over the proposed changes with Dom—oh, you’re here, Dominic. Excellent.” Gavin continued delivering his list of orders to an aide.

Heart pounding erratically, Dominic wondered if Gavin hadn’t noticed what he’d interrupted or if he was simply choosing to ignore it.

* * *

In the warm sunshine of early evening Adelle took a meandering path away from the main site towards the river and a particularly secluded spot on its bank.

As she walked her mind was on the scene Gavin had interrupted several hours earlier. She was a little embarrassed about how easily she and Laurence had been carried away in someone else’s office, but mostly she was thinking about what she’d said. She’d been flushed with desire from caresses and kissing, but her arousal had spiked at seeing Laurence’s response to her, in seeing her beauty reflected in his eyes. The command for him to worship her had been the product of that moment.

She wasn’t averse to giving orders in bed, though her preference was for a more subtle approach when it came to communicating her needs to a lover. She wasn’t seeking an acolyte; didn’t require worship and while she would happily bask in his admiration from time to time she would be more comfortable if that could be reciprocal.

Which explained her current excursion. A little intelligence gathering had revealed Laurence’s current location and the opportunity was really too good to be ignored. The bathing spot had been chosen well and finding it involved slipping away from the main path, through a copse of trees and picking up the river bank further along.

Her mind travelled to another conversation, one she’d had a little earlier. She’d just finished meeting with some of the most recent arrivals, certain that the new member of their group, Mary Chappell, was hiding something but whether that made her their sniper she hadn’t been able to tell.

But as she concluded her conversation Haley had fallen into step beside her. She was surprised, Haley hadn’t made a habit of seeking her out and her expression indicated that she had something she wanted to say.

“I know,” she’d said, smiling brightly, “we’re not exactly friends. You’re the most intimidating woman I’ve ever met and I’m me.”

Adelle had been unwilling to concede that Haley’s youth, vitality and comfort in her own sexuality was intimidating in its own way. “What can I do for you Haley?”

“Actually, it’s what I can do for you.” She’d taken a breath, looking actually quite nervous. “The single women in the caravan have a pact, for when we have a special night coming up and need to feel sexy, we have a store of stuff tucked away. I know as far as everyone else is concerned you and Dom are ‘established’ already but since I know you’re not and since you’re having trouble keeping your hands off each other, I thought I might offer you the use of our little box of wonders.”

She hadn’t bothered to correct the assumption about the stage she and Laurence were at and it was clear that her quiet ‘thank you’ had surprised and pleased the younger woman. Haley had gleefully led her across the site to her own vehicle and sorted through the boxes of goods she stored for trading purposes. When she emerged she was clutching a small case as though it contained her prize possessions.

“Don’t get over-excited, this might not be what you’re used to.” The contents of the case were reminiscent of the contents of a drawer she imagined many women had. There were small tubs and tubes of creams, perfume, make up and razors. She rooted around for a little while, less surprised by the supply of condoms than by the little blue pills.

“You won’t need those,” Haley said – grinning conspiratorially at her.

Actually she’d needed very little of it. She’d been securely tucked away in a place where such things had not yet become scarce and even the provisions she carried with her had not yet been used up. But, as much to please Haley as anything else, she’d taken one of the razors. The idea of shaving her legs using something other than a Swiss army knife for a while was a pleasant one. She’d have to see what she could find to trade for something to replace what she’d taken.

As she arrived at the small clearing she allowed all of the other thoughts to drift away. Laurence was in the water, swimming rapidly from one bank to the other. She sat down on the bank, chin resting on her knees – enjoying seeing him relaxed and also taking great pleasure in admiring the strong, lean lines of his body as he moved fluidly through the water.

“Adelle?” He must have been concentrating, because it took him a while to become aware of her presence. When he did the sight of him standing in the waist high water, wiping liquid from his face made her mouth go dry and her thoughts momentarily derail themselves. “Is everything all right?”

“Everything is fine, better than fine actually,” she said, smiling at him in what she hoped was a distracting manner.

“Are you coming in?”

She shook her head, though it was an idea for another day. “I feel like watching.”

“OK,” he didn’t sound very sure about that.

“You have a beautiful body Laurence.” She could tell that her compliment disconcerted him, but there wasn’t much point in denying the obvious. Even from here she could see the definition of his muscles and imagine herself filling idle moments by tracing the freckles that covered his shoulders. “It’s no chore to admire it - to give compliments, tell you I’d probably do just about anything for you right now, if it meant you’d stay just there for a little longer.”

“I’m supposed to be having a quick bath,” he said – definitely uncomfortable with her scrutiny.

“Don’t let me stop you.”

* * *

Laurence Dominic was glad the river water was ice cold, because Adelle DeWitt watching him bathe was incredibly hot. He knew it was his imagination, but Dominic could almost feel her eyes move over his torso and wondered what she was thinking. He’d never had a woman so focused on his body without touching him. Beautiful? C’mon, I look decent. It’s a point of pride. Decent, even good, is a far cry from beautiful. We’re definitely in eye of the beholder territory..

He’d been mildly surprised Adelle hadn’t called him on not being completely honest with her. A quick bath doesn’t typically include swimming laps in an effort to tire himself, so he could put sex out of his mind and concentrate on ferreting out an assassin. Face it, Dom. A quick bath doesn’t typically include an audience either. He risked a glance at Adelle. She hadn’t moved and Dominic swore she sighed when he reached around to soap up his back. What does that mean?

“Is this a well kept, secret British tradition?” Dominic asked, no longer able to withstand the intense silence. “Or do you just have a voyeuristic bent?”

She shrugged. “Voyeurism aside, you have made it perfectly clear on more than one occasion that you find me more than merely attractive. I chose this method to inform you the feeling is mutual, Laurence.”

“Knowing full well how uncomfortable it would make me.”

“Knowing full well how uncomfortable it would make me not to reciprocate the sentiment you shared with me in Gavin’s office.” Adelle leaned forward slightly as though to see him better. “Isn’t it fitting that I enjoy looking at the man who enjoys looking at me?”

Putting his foot up on a river rock in order to wash his leg, Dominic muttered, “Bath watching takes some of the mystery out of things, though.”

“The decrease in mystery is nothing to the enhancement in anticipation.”

The way Adelle savored the word “anticipation” sent a bolt of desire shooting through Dominic. “If I anticipate any more,” he said, “I won’t be able to function.” Her laughter relaxed him, somehow imbuing the bizarre situation with an element of normalcy. Washing his other leg, Dominic gave in to the urge to smile.

Adelle returned it and stood, stretching out her back. “Would you like me to help you towel off?” she asked.

“Not today,” Dominic replied.

Sighing audibly, she asked, “Soon?”

“Probably.”

The smile that greeted his response demanded Dominic’s full attention, roughly and completely shoving aside thoughts of assassins, the Rossum Corporation, butchers, dumb shows and everything else that was fucked up in the world.

“Laurence?” Adelle prompted, breaking the spell, expression more curious than concerned. “What are you thinking?”

“That all distractions aren’t created equal.”

“Meaning?”

“You’ll see.”


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Excellent chapter.

Awww, I loved Adelle and Laurence and their 'why are we interrupted by the caravan when we attempt to make out' relationship as well as Adelle's slightly exhibitionist tendencies. I loved their talk about being honest with one another (and Adelle telling him about Ms. Lonelyhearts and him being rather alright with it) as well as Topher’s moment of lucidity.

Thank you so much.

Interruptions are my thing. I think they're funny. Morgan72uk indulged me in that regard. And I liked that these two were suddenly into PDA--that surprised me but it seemed to work fine.

Adelle is clearly more comfortable in her sexuality than Dom, but, that's ok, he'll get there.

Honesty, between these two characters, is necessary. At least in this context, trying to achieve this goal. This necessitated Adelle disclosing Ms. Lonelyhearts. I was proud of Dom for how he took it, because I honestly didn't know before I started to write how this version of Dom would react.

Topher came across better than I ever would've imagined in this story. K.I.S.S.I.N.G.

I loved the idea of Adelle watching Dominic bathe in the river. That was a concept that emerged early on in the planning stage that we refused to abandon.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

(Deleted comment)
There might be an epilogue.:)

Topher rose to the challenge, as he has a few times in this story. And, I confess, I love interruptions. It's a flaw in my character (or perhaps the product of having young children).

We're so grateful you're still interested. That's huge. Thank you. And we hope the conclusion is worthy of what's gone before, but I suppose only time will tell.

The sexual tension is KILLING me. ;) Which, I'm sure, is all part of your evil plan.

Only two chapters left! I can't wait to see what you do with them.

As evil plans go, I think it's a pretty good one. Because it seems to be working.:)

I find it difficult to believe sometimes that there are only two chapters to go, but I'll be kind of glad to rest my posting muscles.

Oh man, I should've been in bed like an hour ago, so I'm gonna keep this short.

Interruptions FTW! They just spike up that sexual tension so much so that I know when they finally do it, if they do, that I'll die of pure happiness. lol This was a great chapter, and I can't wait for the last two, even though they're the final ones. :( Still. You guys are amazing!

Disrupting sleep patterns was not our intention. I hope you got a good nights sleep anyway.

Don't want anyone dying (even of pure happiness).:) Still Dominic and Adelle do seem to be on the right path. There have been a few bumps in the road, but now they (the bumps, I mean) seem more benign.

Thank you so much for reading and the positive feedback. It means a lot.

It's always difficult to end something that you've put a lot of work into, but it needs to be done. Stay tuned!

Actually, I overslept. lol But that's not really because of last night, it's more the week ganging up on me, so no worries. ;)

Hehehe, I'm excited! I love you're dealing with those bumps and I definitely think they're becoming benign. I feel like we're getting to a really good place with them, so I'm all flaily.

:D I will!

Oh GOD, Laurence, just give in already! Although the tension is wonderfully done.

He's trying to give in. He's just getting interrupted. Then at the stream, I think he was too disconcerted to take the next step. I loved the idea of the bathing scene and am envious that it wasn't mine.

I'm not at all sure what it says about me that it was my idea...

It says that you were pondering what might throw a shy man for a loop (an attractive shy man to make it doubly worthwhile for the woman) ... or something a bit more personal.

as I recall I was looking for something that might just push him to let go of the last of his restraint /shyness. I had this image of her watching him in the water and thought it might work.
The way it developed meant it gave Adelle an opportunity to deal with the 'worship me' moment from their earlier encounter... which she needed to respond to in a constructive way. But I like that it still keeps him slightly off balance.

I agree with otahyoni, the sexual tension hurts! But it seems to be killing Laurence and Adelle on a much bigger level.

“How am I doing spiritually?”

--LOL, leave it to Dom not to skip a beat. I laughed so hard here!

Overall, I love the beautiful intimate scenes we were given this chapter. Sounds like it will be a growing trend! Can't wait for more.




The tension is ... um ... high. That's for sure.

I loved that line, partly because it just flowed when I wrote it and later because I actually realized that it was funny. I like when Dominic has glib moments, because he should. He was undercover for a long time and good at it.

Yes, the intimacy was increasing in this chapter as well, not merely sexual tension. So glad all of that came through.

Laurence Dominic felt decidedly besieged. Gavin and the butchers took over his life for over a week. Bill poked at him and Adelle. Adelle poked at him and Adelle. Will the fun never end?

Your opening lines/cut-tag lines are usually stellar, but I think this one is my favorite. :-)

OHMYGOSH! She told him about MISS LONELYHEARTS?!?!?!?!!!! Okay, wow.... You know you've fallen hard, when...

“That was before she wanted to have the conversation from hell.” lol, that would definitely put a damper on things....

“When you’re living out a fantasy, one you’ve created yourself to meet some deep-seated need you have a sense of not wanting to waste a single moment. Everything has to be perfect. A bad day, a bad mood seems incredibly profligate; you don’t want to spend your perfect day complaining about your employer or having a row. You always have to be at your best and that is exhausting.” That's a fantastic point....very interesting...

*insert obligatory how-awesome-is-Topher comment here* K.I.S.S.I.N.G! :P I feel that even completely lucid Topher would have the same response... "Hey Ivy! You'll never guess who I caught trying to spear each other with their tongues in the hallway!" "...what." "You know! Tongue spears! Tonsil hockey! K.i.s.s.i.n.ging?"

...well, hello, there swimming/bathing!Dominic...I...I think I'm just going to sit over here next to Lady DeWitt...

Dominic was not in a great place at the beginning. Poor thing was feeling a bit put upon.

I don't blame Dom for taking a walk after hearing about Adelle and Victor/Roger. I thought he handled it well, particularly when I had no IDEA when I started writing of how he'd tak it.

Can't take credit for how Adelle explained her time with Victor/Roger. It was brilliant and really made his acceptance seem more ok.

I hadn't thought about "normal" Topher saying that but, you're absolutely right. I can almost hear him say it.

Make room for me on Adelle's rock too!

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. It's fun!

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