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Battle of Britian -- Chapter 3
matching clothing
rogoblue
Title: Battle of Britain Chapter 3


Rating: R (language and sexual situations)


Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue


Summary: More information about the failed SOE operation is revealed and Caroline Farrell enters the story stage left while Dominic and Adelle get to know each other a bit better.







“Your correspondence, Laurence,” Judith announced, entering his tiny office wearing a smile he didn’t care to interpret. She’d delivered his mail ever since the day three weeks ago when he’d libeled Adelle’s volunteer procurement tactics. “Only three bearing perfume or lipstick today. I’m disappointed. Aren’t you keeping up?”


“I’ve been busy,” Dominic replied.


Judith perched a hip on his desk. “A few paragraphs in the space of a week won’t kill you. I could create a schedule.”


He smiled. “I love how you say that word.”


“I admire your attempt, however charming and doomed to failure, to deflect attention from your duty to your bevy of admirers.”


“I’m informed that Captain Dominic has acquired a bevy of admirers on this side of the pond,” Adelle DeWitt said, standing framed in his doorway. “I was unaware he’d left one behind.”


Dominic leafed through the letters. “They’re my younger sister’s friends.”


Judith smiled as Adelle entered to loom over him also.


His heart shifted into overdrive. One of his letters was from Amanda. Judith snatched it from his hand.


Reading over Judith’s shoulder, Adelle said, “Tell us about Amanda Sinclair.”


“I already did. She’s one of my sister’s friends.”


“Why did a letter from her put that look on your face?” Judith asked, passing the envelope to Adelle. “What would you call it, Miss DeWitt? Anticipation? Pleasure? Maybe eagerness?”


“Excitement,” she said.


Dominic held out his hand for the letter. Adelle gave it to him, fingertips grazing the inside of his wrist as she pulled back, calling late yesterday afternoon to mind. Miss DeWitt had read a communiqué from Madeline while standing behind him. Her hands had rested on his shoulders and the subtle scent of her perfume wafted in the air, making him wonder where she dabbed it. His eyes had slid to the base of her throat. Her thumb nail had scraped lightly against his neck when she flexed her fingers—the sensation both pleasant and disquieting. Adelle’s femininity had dominated the small room. Helpless not to, he’d responded and glanced guiltily at the two drawer filing cabinet—the only possible surface for sex in his office. Imagining Adelle DeWitt sitting on his filing cabinet had to be wrong in ways too innumerable to count. Dominic had done it anyway.

“You might as well tell, Laurence,” Judith said, shattering his reverie. “You know I’ll wheedle it out of you eventually.”


“What does Ms. Sinclair look like?” Adelle asked, her warm green eyes invited confidences.


“She’s pretty. About 5 foot 5. I wouldn’t dare to guess any woman’s weight. Red hair. Blue eyes.”


“Read the letter,” Adelle said.


“Now?” Dominic shuffled the letters.


Adelle smiled a clear challenge. “Why deprive yourself of an experience you’re obviously anticipating?”


“A distinct lack of privacy for one thing.”


“Captain Dominic, I do believe you’re blushing.” Judith’s genuine smile cut the embarrassment a little. “Do tell the naughty secret.”


“Ms. Sinclair’s prose is more engaging than the others?” Adelle said in a tone that drew his attention to her perfectly painted lips.


“Yes and I have too much work to do to appreciate it now.”


“You know how relentless Judith can be. Might it be prudent to simply provide the requested information and get on with your life, rather than submit to incessant harassment?”


“I don’t submit very well,” he said, assessing the viable exit strategies.


Adelle laughed. “You obviously haven’t been dominated by the proper person.” Her words crawled into Dominic’s ear enticingly, but he met her gaze.


“You think so?” he forced out of a suddenly tight throat, determined not to look away first.


“Shall I commence the harassment?” Judith asked, breaking the spell.


He slumped his shoulders and rubbed his eyes. “Don’t, all right. Just don’t.”


The two women exchanged a complicated look. “You’re right, of course,” Adelle said. “Familiarity has no place in our interactions. From this moment forward—.”


“No.” Dominic tapped the infamous envelope on his desk. Facing Judith, because it was easier, he said, “I like being teased, most days. You know I do. It ... it’s just ... I don’t even know Amanda that well. We’ve had a grand total of three conversations, I think. Maybe four.” The women waited. “The other letters are versions on two themes—take care of yourself and this is what you’re missing. Amanda’s are about sex and she has quite an imagination.”


Judith turned to Adelle. “Is it really wrong to want to watch him read one?”


“It would be a sin, I imagine, and the Major wouldn’t care for it.”


“I’m going to work now,” Dominic announced, throwing open a file folder.


During their retreat, Judith stage whispered, “You know he’s going to read that letter the moment we’re out of sight.”


“That’s why he’s going to leave the door open,” Adelle said, glancing back over her shoulder at Dominic.


“You’re the boss.”


Dominic had just settled into reading with a reasonable level of concentration when Judith tapped on his open door. “I wanted to thank you,” she said.


“For what?”


“Being a good sport before,” she said, aiming a hurried glance toward Adelle’s office. “That’s the first bit of fun I think she’s had for months.”

***

“I have need of you, Captain Dominic,” Adelle DeWitt said from the doorway of the closet that masqueraded as his office.


“Where are we going?” he asked, while his body longed to interpret her words more in line with the long look they’d shared a couple days ago during what Judith called the Case of the Curious Correspondence.


“We’re embarking on a field trip.” She responded, turning away, forcing him to scramble to keep up. “I assume someone briefed you on our recent incident?”


“I heard something about it,” he admitted.


She didn’t bat an eye. “Just before you joined us, one of our most senior agents in France killed eight other agents and four members of the French resistance. He’s disappeared. We’re looking for him, but it’s not a priority.”


“He killed 12 men and finding him isn’t a priority?”


“10 men and 2 women,” she corrected. “His actions have incapacitated an operation it took months to put into place. Replacing the agents he killed is the priority.”


He nodded in acknowledgement. “Is discovering ‘why’ a priority?”


”I fear Alpha is unstable – that he enjoys killing, particularly those who trust him. One of our agents survived the attack and returned to England. Last night, she disappeared from the safe house; we’re going to collect her.”


As her driver headed east, the large buildings of central London gave way to terrace streets. Her companion looked out of the window, gazing at the damaged buildings – appearing shocked by the devastation. “The east of London was more heavily bombed because of the docks and railways,” she said. “Even now, I don't trust the respite. Like everyone else, I'm waiting for it to resume.”


“What was it like?”


She shrugged. “Like being at war.”


The car pulled into a street that must once have been struggling for respectability – the lawns would have been neat, the houses well looked after. The direct hit that had destroyed one side of the street had changed that.


Her American colleague looked around with interest but kept his opinion to himself. In contrast, her driver’s alarm was palpable.


“You’ll be quite safe,” she soothed. Looking over the band of children of various ages their arrival had attracted, she added, “Select the child who strikes you as the leader and promise to reward him or her as long as no one touches the car. Offer enough money to share between them, but not so much they think you’re an idiot. Make it clear that if even one of them breaks the agreement, they will have no money.”


Dominic laughed. “Where’d you learn that trick?”


“The tactic works as well in Stepney, as it does in Budapest or Cairo.”


The door opened as they approached the house. A young woman smiled and the toddler balanced on her hip gurgled and reached his chubby hands out to Adelle. “You’re getting big, sweetheart,” she said, pinching his cheek. “How are you, Maggie?”


“Not too bad – run off my feet chasing after this lot.”


“You’re doing splendidly,” Adelle said, wary of being patronising.


Maggie brightened. “She’s in the back,” she offered, stepping aside to allow them entry.


The tiny house, although too small for those who lived here, was spotlessly clean and brimming with Maggie’s determination to keep her family together. .


In the kitchen a second young woman looked up from folding a pile of clean washing. She shot a vicious look towards Adelle before turning on Maggie. “I told you not to tell her I was here.”


“I ignored you and did what I thought best.”


“You left the Safe House,” Adelle said. “What did you expect to happen?”


“Not that my own sister would grass on me.”


Maggie shrugged, unrepentant.


“You don’t belong here, Caroline. Mum and dad being gone doesn’t change that. I’m doing the best I can; you should go back to whatever it is you’re doing for Miss DeWitt.”


“You wouldn’t say that, if you knew what it was.”


“Miss DeWitt promised to look after us and she has. Tommy is happy at the solicitor’s office and I like the factory. I know it isn’t what I would have chosen, but there’s food and the rent’s paid. Mum sacrificed so you could go to University; she wanted you to do well, to find your place in the world. This isn’t it.”


“I said I’d help.” Defiance became sulky far too easily with Caroline. Her youth, having lost both her parents and guilt over her younger sister caring for the family rather than her excused very little.


“I could run,” Caroline continued – “I doubt you’d catch me.” She glanced at Dominic. “He might I suppose. Does he speak?”


“When I have something to say.” Dominic held Caroline’s gaze.


“Captain Dominic, meet Caroline Farrell, her sister Margaret and baby brother Sidney. Captain Dominic is working with me.”


“Don’t trust her,” Caroline said bluntly.


“I doubt he does.” Adelle had learnt that her refusal to respond to Caroline’s hostility obtained far better results than remonstrating with her. “Shall we go?”


* * *


“I’ll sit in the front,” Adelle DeWitt said, bland expression giving away nothing, as usual.


Dominic opened the door for Caroline, while the driver attended to Adelle. The tension radiating from the younger woman seemed oddly compatible with the air of assuredness surrounding the older, forcing him to conclude that the scene he’d witnessed was business as usual between them.


“Are you always so quiet?” Caroline demanded before the driver had started the car.


“No,” he replied. “Are you always so belligerent?”


“What kind of mood would you be in if you were ordered to kick up your heels in a safe house when you could be taking care of your family or tracking down the man who murdered your team?”


“Foul,” Dominic admitted.


A bright smile he hadn’t expected. “Exactly. Striking a fatal blow to those who say Army Intelligence is an oxymoron.” Caroline appeared to summon her undoubtedly formidable will before she asked, “Are your parents living?”


“My mother. My father died in ’17.” He understood Adelle’s seating choice—Caroline needed someone to talk to and, given their history, she wasn’t a viable option.


“You were just a small boy.”


“I was the oldest.”


“I know that story.” Caroline leaned back and closed her eyes. Dominic left her to her thoughts and began to pay attention to the scenery again, curious about the location of the safe house. Just when he thought he recognized some buildings, Caroline tapped him on the shoulder and motioned him closer. “Convince her to let me take Alpha out,” she murmured. “He knows too much about how we operate to run around loose.” Hand clamped tight on Dominic’s shoulder, she snarled, “He has to pay for what he did.”


“For which murder in particular?” he asked.


She evaded his eyes. “All of them, of course.”


“Who will you be thinking of, if you get the opportunity to slit Alpha’s throat?” A more intimate weapon suited this angry young woman.


“Paul.”


“Your lover?”


“He should’ve been.” Staring out the window, looking young and ridiculously pretty, she said, “He would’ve been, if I hadn’t shut him out.”


“Many people are afraid to care with the world as it is. There’s no shame in it.”


“Are you?” Caroline turned her upper body toward him. “Do you care about anyone enough to be devastated, if they get buried in rubble when the Germans start bombing again?”


Normally, Dominic didn’t permit himself to consider casualties with familiar names, but there was something about Caroline that demanded honesty. “My best friend is over here. We’ve known each other since West Point. If something happened to Devon ...”


“You’d want revenge.”


“Yes.”


“Talk to her,” Caroline said, haunted eyes far more eloquent than mere words ever could be. “Please, Captain Dominic.”


“All right, but the decision’s hers and if her mind is made up, I won’t be able to change it.”


“I bet you can be persuasive, if you put your mind to it.”


His thoughts flew back to Adelle’s enlistment of volunteers. “Nothing like she is.”


“No one is,” Caroline said.


* * *


Choosing to return to Headquarters rather than the safe house, Adelle left Caroline to stew in one of the waiting rooms while she had a brief conversation with Judith and collected some files.


Caroline leaned back in her chair, trying her best to look nonchalant. “The service here is terrible,” she said. “I asked Judith for tea and as you can see, nothing has appeared.”


“Judith is my assistant, not a waitress.” Adelle said, as she placed a file on the table within Caroline’s reach. “This is the file of a man called Carl Taft. You know him as Alpha. In there you’ll find an assessment of his suitability to be sent to occupied France and my recommendation that he should not be used in such a capacity.” Certain now she had Caroline’s full attention and aware of Dominic’s gaze, she continued, “The fault was mine; I knew he was unstable, but I allowed myself to be overruled, because the need was so great. It’s a mistake I have no intention of repeating.”


“Let me go after him,” Caroline entreated. She twisted around toward Dominic. “Did you talk to her?”


“She anticipated me,” he told her.


“Captain Dominic did as you asked,” Adelle said, “and I haven’t made my mind up yet.” She placed three more files before Caroline. “These are some new recruits identified by Captain Dominic. If you go back, they’ll be joining you; you’ll be the senior operative. The courier, Madeline, is already in place and I am informed that the Resistance has selected a cell for you to liaise with. So, I need you to tell me – which of those lives will you be willing to sacrifice to get your revenge on Alpha?”


Caroline shook her head. “It isn’t like that.”


“Let’s not pretend that such scenarios never happen. If I send you back to France, your decisions will affect these people’s lives. There will be risk. Alpha knows our modus operandi and that is dangerous. However, you can’t pursue him and do what I need you to.”


“He slaughtered them and let me live, because he knew their deaths would torment me.” She bowed her head. “He wants me to come after him.”


“No doubt he also realises that having one of our most experienced agents distracted by pursuing him would damage our work. Should I send another person to France whose emotional stability I question?”


“You used the death of my parents to persuade me to join you; you didn’t care about my emotional stability then.” Adelle inclined her head in acknowledgement of someone prepared to question her propensity to use tragedy and pain to bend people to her goals.


“The only thing you care about is winning,” Caroline continued. “This isn’t my damn war. Me and my family are the poor bastards who do the bidding of people like you. We get blown to bits while you shelter in the basements of your clubs.”


“You think your family would fare better under the Nazi’s?”


“I doubt it – and for some reason Maggie thinks you’re wonderful, but I see through you.”


“I have no doubt of that.” Adelle noticed Dominic watching her – his expression grave and oddly sympathetic. She couldn’t tell if it was she or her agent who had aroused that feeling in him. “Caroline, I know you’re angry and you want to do the right thing for the people you lost. I think most of them would rather you concentrate your efforts on helping the resistance. Wouldn’t Paul want that?”


“He always had a misplaced sense of duty.”


Adelle slipped into the seat opposite Caroline and leant towards her. “You haven’t asked me if I want Alpha dead?” Not giving Caroline a moment to get over her surprise, she said, “Of course I want that. I recruited the agents he killed. I knew all of them and promised each of them I would look after their families the way I promised you I would look after Maggie and the boys. I think we can come to an arrangement.”


“What kind of an arrangement?” Caroline sounded unconvinced.


“If Alpha comes your way, you have my sanction to deal with him, however you see fit. No contacting us and waiting for orders, it’s entirely your decision. In return you agree not to seek him out, that you will go to France and follow orders.”


“If I’m in France, you won’t be able to stop me.”


“But we’ll have an agreement – and I trust you.”


* * *


Dominic stood beside a small airstrip in the dead of night, watching a plane prepare for takeoff. Three American men he’d identified as potential SOE agents were headed to Occupied France under Caroline Farrell’s command. A fresh and vivid memory overtook him.


“You expect us to take orders from a skirt?” Ed had said, all four of them crowded in Dominic’s office. “What do women know about combat or covert ops?”


“Miss Farrell has conducted clandestine operations before,” Dominic had said, endeavoring to sound bored. “Last I checked, you hadn’t.”


“I run a complex division of an international business. I know how to solve problems and get things done.” Ed had looked to Seth and Bill, Dominic assumed for support. “That’s what’s needed in France.”


“I don’t think Caroline likes men all that much,” Bill had offered, “particularly Americans.”


“I’m beginning to come around to her way of thinking,” Dominic had said, suddenly tired and fed up. “When we invade, we’ll need all the intelligence we can get. Caroline can help provide that and harass the Germans in the meantime. Miss DeWitt has faith in her, despite her challenging personality. She trusts Caroline and I trust her. All was well the last time we spoke and nothing has changed, so what’s going on?”


“We got a launch date today,” Ed had said. “This isn’t theoretical anymore.”


“It never was theoretical, Ed.”


“This from the guy who’s staying safely behind in London,” Seth had mumbled.


“Someone has to run the damn op,” he’d growled, even as his mind raced to determine how to save the situation.


“Look, Dom, no offense,” Seth had said, putting his feet up on the small filing cabinet, scowling at Bill who’d slapped them off. “You don’t have a problem with a broad calling the shots. That’s fine, but my Janie doesn’t tell me what to stock in the store. I’m the man; I make the decisions.” Leaning forward, Seth had grinned in a manner that put Dominic’s back up. “Don’t get me wrong. I understand the strategy—play along to get some British tail, but Caroline’s not exactly what you’d call welcoming, so--...”


Seth Boyer had flown into the wall, making a satisfying thud. Dominic had pinned the larger man’s right arm behind his back and hissed, “Another word along those lines and I’ll break it. Am I making myself clear?”


“As crystal,” Seth had mumbled, slumping against the wall, admitting defeat. “Jesus, Dom, you didn’t have to pull my shoulder out of its socket.”


“I think maybe I did,” Dominic had said before he’d released the man and stepped back. “Anyone else?”


“You take orders from that woman and expect us to take them from her strange protégé,” Bill had said. “It doesn’t sit well, Dom.” He’d held up a hand to forestall interruption. “We agreed to go under the command of a seasoned operative, but none of us knew it was going to be a woman until a few days ago. When we met Caroline, unease became disquiet pretty damn quickly. Now, I hear you on the trust issue. That’s important and I appreciate your candor, but the behavior you’re asking for doesn’t come natural.”


“First off, I don’t take orders from Adelle,” Dominic had said, using her first name deliberately, “because she doesn’t issue them. What we do is collaborative. Hell, we argue all the time.”


“That’s supposed to impress us?” Ed had asked, waving a dismissive hand in dramatic fashion. “She talked us all into this, Dom. We know how persuasive Adelle DeWitt is. She has you dancing to her tune and you don’t even know it.”


“Secondly,” Dominic had said, accepting the conversational challenge, “I’d take Adelle’s orders if she issued them, because she’s intelligent, competent, fearless and creative. Believe me boys, that’s a combination you don’t come across in a CO very often.”


“That’s sure as shit,” Seth had allowed. “Before you plucked me loose, I had a pantywaist that was afraid of his own shadow.” Smiling, he added, “I thought they beat that out of you at West Point, Dom.”


“They do if your father isn’t obscenely wealthy.” A shared laugh had encouraged Dominic.


“Caroline swears,” Ed had observed, although it looked as though it pained him to do so. “I hate COs who don’t, but still ...”


He’d realized this could go on the next best thing to forever. “Do I really have to call Adelle in here to convince you all over again?” he’d asked wearily and added a trifle enviously, “or are you ready to do something aimed at winning this war?”


The glance the men had shared telegraphed that Dominic had won, admittedly in a somewhat DeWittian way.


“A penny for your thoughts, Captain Dominic?”


Adelle’s soft spoken question transported him back to the present. “I doubt you’d consider it a wise investment.”


“I’ve found your thoughts worthwhile thus far.”


He chose to ignore the qualifier. “They didn’t want to go under Caroline’s command. I had to browbeat them into it.”


“Even William?”


“He was the politest about his misgivings but, yes, even Bill.”


“How did you bring them round?”


“I’m not sure whether it was threatening to have you convince them all over again or challenging them to go out and help win this war.” He sighed as the plane trundled down the airstrip. “Maybe the combination of the two.”


“But you succeeded.”


“In convincing them, yes. I have my doubts, though. I’m not sure I’d want Caroline calling the shots, if my life depended on it.” Not ready for judgment, he focused on the plane and added, “Although, losing people in her last mission might make a real leader out of her. I hope so, because Ed, Seth and Bill are in this up to their eyeballs because of me and I wouldn’t mind Madeline outliving the average life expectancy of SOE radio operators.” He faced Adelle, expecting a lecture on the need for detachment.”


“I wonder, Captain Dominic, why your protective instincts run to Madeline but not to Caroline,” Adelle said, watching him as a cobra does its prey.


“Caroline’s a fighter, through and through. Madeline is more of a nurturer, so I imagine she needs protection more, but I might have that backwards, now that I think about it.”


Adelle gestured toward the plane rising in the night sky. “The fates of those three men are intertwined with Caroline’s and Madeline’s, whether they like it or not. Yours and mine, at least for the moment, are likewise. Does that trouble you, Captain?”


“I could hitch my wagon to worse.”


“A less than glowing endorsement.”


“I doubt I could do better than you at the SOE.”


She laughed and gave him a long look. “That’s better, I suppose.”


“I aim to please, ma’am.”


* * *


Their entry into the small tea shop caused a ripple of interest. Adelle had no illusions about the cause. She was accompanied by a healthy man, one neither too young nor too old, who wore a uniform and an American one to boot. The other customers in the small tea shop, all of whom were ladies of a certain age, practically fainted with excitement.


In the last week three more teams had been sent to France. The long days and nights this had necessitated caused her to lose her bearings about which day of the week it was. She’d welcomed Captain Dominic’s suggestion that they take a walk to find some refreshments. Belatedly, she wondered if she should have suggested somewhere smarter. It wouldn’t have hurt to take him to Claridges or The Ritz. However, this place was convenient, without being on the immediate doorstep of Baker Street and the walk across Regent’s Park had been pleasant. Perhaps she would take him to Claridges on another occasion.


Her companion seemed amused – looking around with curiosity. “We don’t have places like this back home,” he said, “not even in DC.”


“Don’t get too excited – I’m sure their menu has been affected by rationing.”


“Hasn’t everything? Tea for the lady?”


“Darjeeling if they have it.” This was one of the few places in London where her wish might be granted.


The effect his arrival had on the elderly waitresses amused Adelle; one of the most charming things about him was that he had no idea how charming he was. Even, as she recollected, when decidedly off balance.


“Do you suppose the references to apples and oranges are literal?” Adelle had asked several days ago, as she’d leaned over Dominic’s shoulder to point at the phrases she’d referenced. He’d stared at the document, his body perfectly still yet humming with energy. More puzzled than exasperated when he didn’t reply, she’d said, “The apples being the American men and the oranges Caroline and Madeline?”


“That makes sense,” he’d said, tucking the communiqué into a file before smiling somewhat shyly up at her, “and it means they’ve arrived safely, made contact with the Resistance and will start selecting targets tomorrow.”


Her elbow on the table, she rested her chin on her palm. Her mind drifted to matters not concerned with missions, intelligence reports or Topher’s latest invention. She welcomed the respite, war being a demanding and exhausting task master.


A wistful sigh from one of the two women at the neighbouring table, accompanied by a comment about, “men in uniform,” attracted her attention. “If I were twenty years younger,” followed by laughter.


“Ten years younger would do for me.”


Only one person could have inspired such talk. Adelle narrowed her eyes –seeing Dominic as other women might, as a man rather than as a colleague or a means to an end. He moved his strong lean body with care, though there was nothing tentative about him. Her imagination summoned his features, focusing on sharp eyes that saw everything and conveyed his thoughts and moods. He didn’t suffer fools easily, but he was kind and possessed a sense of responsibility equal to her own. The list wasn’t complete, yet he spoke his mind, had a well-informed opinion and accepted a challenge as readily as he issued them.


Stunningly, this was the first time she was really aware of his masculinity, of how all of the character traits combined and how she responded to that combination. She couldn’t quite stop herself from wondering if he ever thought of her as a woman, or if in his mind she was the section leader and nothing more.


She glanced away when he returned to the table bearing two cups of tea. “You look miles away,” he observed, sitting down opposite her.


“Just reviewing some intelligence.”


“You don’t have to think about it every waking moment.”


She almost blushed because, for once, her mind had been very pleasantly occupied elsewhere.


* * *


“What’s going on, Adelle?” Laurence Dominic asked, not understanding her odd tentative expression. Belatedly , he added, “Sorry, your first name just slipped out. When I’m talking to Judith, I ... um ... we ... get too familiar, I guess.”


“You were once quite emphatic that away from Baker Street I was to call you Laurence. Reciprocity, in this case, seems appropriate.”


The smile rose to his face unbidden. “Deal,” he said, but Dominic remained unwilling to allow his question to fade away. “I know you’re exhausted. I’m tired too. We both needed a break, but now you seem ... I’m not sure what, other than far too focused on having a cup of tea with women a generation older than us.” Lowering his voice, leaning over the table, he said, “Do men typically come here? I’m feeling a bit outnumbered.”


“That’s why you suggested going for a walk?” she asked, frowning impressively, “because you thought I was exhausted.”


“I know you are and, yes, that’s why.” Furtively surveying the other customers, he said, “I’m risking becoming a laughingstock by actually drinking tea. Am I completely beyond salvage if any of my friends walk by and see me in here?”


“No,” Adelle said, smiling in an extremely interesting way, “but only because you’re with me.”


“Why is that?”


She laughed and Dominic revelled in the sound.


“Because,” Adelle said, placing her hand atop his, “I’m not a generation older than you.”


“They’re supposed to think we’re together, you and I, and we’ve chosen to have a romantic rendezvous here?”


Adelle patted his hand. “I’m English. What better place to begin my seduction?” She laughed again. “Or allow you to begin yours.”


Leaping a gaping chasm without a safety net, he asked, “Which would you prefer?”


“The former.”


Dominic looked around the aggressively quaint establishment. The mere thought of anything resembling seduction occurring in such a place dragged a smile to his lips and a chuckle to his throat. When he sobered, he said, “No one’s ever been seduced here, Adelle.”


“I have it on good authority that on this very spot, ages ago, a Saxon leader had seven virgins brought to his tent.”


“One more, they could’ve played baseball.” He absolutely loved her smile.


“Seduction is deeply embedded in the firmament upon which this place is built,” she said. “History repeats itself.”


“The Saxon leader didn’t seduce those girls; he raped them. There’s a difference. Plus, you suggested a more temporally relevant seduction. I’d like to hear more about that and so would the customers at the surrounding tables.” He smirked, as he drained his tea. “If you would be so kind as to enlighten us.”


“Be careful what you wish for,” Adelle countered.


“I wish for a lot of things that’ll never happen.”


“Alas, we have achieved understanding,” she said, raising her hand to his cheek, her fingertips lingering on his skin for a few heart beats.


“You have, maybe.”


“So will you, in time.”


He sighed. “Promises, promises.”


* * *


Their excursion to the tea shop already felt like a long time ago, when in fact it had only been yesterday. The hour of respite had been very necessary, but disaster had come rapidly on its heels. Papers were spread liberally across the surface of the large table and two cups of tea had long since been left to go cold, as they poured over the assortment of reports, intelligence and photographs. Adelle had no idea of how long they had been shut up in her office – checking, double-checking, neither wanting to accept what the evidence dictated.


“There’s no doubt is there?” she asked, reluctant to waste more time. “Operation Duckbill was destroyed by Alpha.” Her companion looked up from the file he’d been studying intently. “You concur?”


“Yes.” His terse reply was uncharacteristic, yet he hadn’t been particularly communicative all day. He’d even snapped at Judith, though he’d apologised immediately. His shoulders were stiff, his movements less fluid that usual.


Alpha’s involvement beyond question demanded further scrutiny—she needed to work out why this operation had drawn his attention.


“I’ll inform Harding,” he said.


“Why on earth would you want to do that?”


“Your former agent is deliberately destroying SOE operations. He’s a risk to everything we’re hoping to accomplish.”


“Do you expect Colonel Harding to have a solution to the problem which we have hitherto overlooked? Perhaps some method of tracking Alpha down and eliminating him? I suppose I might have missed evidence of intellectual acuity and tactical brilliance in him, though it seems unlikely.”


Dominic leant back in his chair, a scowl stamped on his features. “Are you ordering me not to tell him?” He ground out the words as if chewing broken glass.


“Of course not, I’m asking you to provide me with a compelling reason for passing the information along.” When he remained silent she added, “Do you have a reason, other than clearing your conscience?”


“Is that what you think this is about?”


“In part,” she tilted her head back, observing him carefully. “Believe me, if I thought passing on the information would bring about a swift and brutal resolution to the Alpha issue, I’d do it myself. It won’t. All it will do is sow doubt and unwarranted concern at a time when our work is having an impact. We should change how we organise our operations and follow the clue we’ve been given.” At his mystified expression, she tapped the papers on the desk, “Why operation Duckbill?”


“Isn’t it obvious?”


“Alpha is seldom obvious.” The scowl didn’t shift and his tension became more pronounced. She sighed, “I don’t want this information to go beyond this room.”


“That isn’t up to you, ma’am.” Rising he pushed his chair back so abruptly it almost toppled. “I need some air,” he muttered, striding away without a backwards glance.


* * *


“Did you forget something, Captain Dominic?” Judith asked, tone cheerful yet bearing a hint of sharpness.


“My wallet,” he mumbled as he ducked into his office, his anger wrapped around him like a cloak. He leaned against the closed door, willing Judith to go away. Civil conversation was beyond him. He was too conflicted over Adelle DeWitt and the Alpha situation. His obligations had never been less clear.


“Are you all right?” Judith asked the moment he emerged.


Inwardly cursing, he said, “I’m fine. I just need some air.”


“You look feverish,” Judith ventured, rounding her desk at speed. Dominic retreated until his back impacted the wall. “Are you unwell?”


“Nothing getting falling down drunk won’t fix.”


“Why do men think that’s the answer to just about anything?”


Relaxing marginally at her obvious exasperation, he said, “Because it is.”


“And the headache the following morning?”


“It’s all part of the treatment.”


Judith shook her head. “Is there anything I can do?” The image of this young woman naked and smiling up at him leapt into his mind and Dominic had taken a few steps forward before he banished it. Eyes wide, Judith’s hand froze in the act of reaching for his, making him wonder what she’d read in his expression. “Laurence?”


The breathy way she’d said his name made his groin ache. “I don’t need anything,” he made himself say, “other than to get out for a while. It’s been a long week.”


She nodded, finally taking his hand. “Operation Duckbill.”


“Yeah.” Unable to ignore the softness of her skin, he ran his thumb along the inside of her wrist, guiltily relishing the small pleased sound she made. “That whole mess has gotten to me, I guess.” When he made the monumental mistake of looking into her deep blue eyes, Dominic desperately wanted to answer the questions they asked. “I should go.” He winced at the huskiness in his voice.


Judith blinked and a blush crept over her pretty face, but she didn’t let go of his hand and Dominic didn’t pull it away. “I could come with you,” she whispered, “if you want some company.”


Her words eroded his already tenuous self control. Clinging to the vestiges, he said, “That’s not a good idea.”


His mental plea that she not ask failed. “Why?”


Realizing he’d continued to caress her wrist, he stopped. “I wouldn’t be very good company right now, Judith. Not for you, at any rate.”He hadn’t intended the latter sentiment to be audible, but that plan went awry also.


“What do you mean not for me?” she demanded, letting go of his hand.


“It’s complicated.”


“That’s not an answer.” Dominic considered anger an improvement.


“It’s the only one you’re going to get tonight,” he said, trying to lighten the moment with a slight smile. “Go and give the Major a kiss. I’ll see you tomorrow.”


He felt her eyes on him as he approached the stairs, but Dominic didn’t look back.


* * *


“Well, look who the cat dragged in! Get over here, Dom. Where’ve you been hiding?”


Raising a hand to acknowledge John Devon, Laurence Dominic veered toward a table populated by the usual suspects—Devon, Gardner, Bishop and Hill. Dominic slid into the chair Gardner grabbed from a nearby table. “I’ve been busy,” he said.


“There’re 24 hours in a day, Dom,” Devon said. “You aren’t supposed to work them all. It isn’t healthy.”


“You’ve been AWOL for over a week,” Gardner said. “Spill.”


“I can’t,” Dominic said, having no desire to discuss the issues he and Adelle had faced even if permitted. “You know that.”


Amidst the general grumbling about secrecy versus friendship, Hill asked, “What’s her name?”


“There’s no her, Danny.” No matter how much he wished he could claim otherwise.


“Stop shitting us,” Bishop said, laughing hard. “A long list of hers have slapped a target on your crotch.”


“A longer one’s slapped your hands away from theirs, Bishop,” Hill said.


“What can I get you?”


Almost sorry he’d come out tonight, Dominic muttered, “Whatever they’re having is fine,” without looking up. He pondered whether he should’ve taken Judith to dinner tonight until he noticed the silence and the staring. “What?”


“This is a serious situation,” Devon said, expression and tone completely in keeping with his words. “Dominic, our lovely waitress practically shoved her magnificent breasts in your face and you didn’t notice. All this working has dulled your senses to a dangerous degree. Action must be taken.” Devon winked at the waitress when she returned with Dominic’s beer. “Drink up, men. We have places to go and people to see.”


“Let’s just settle in here,” Dominic said, sipping his beer for emphasis.


“I’m doing this for you, Dom. Hell, I’ve been doing it for you since West Point.”


“What are you talking about?”


“You may recall I introduced you to the lovely Janine in our second year.”


Dominic smiled at the memory of the bartender who’d been his lover for almost three years. The older woman liked having a man on top of her but not underfoot. She’d enjoyed the energy, enthusiasm and lack of commitment he’d brought to the bedroom. “You found her equivalent over here?” Dominic asked.


“Not exactly,” Devon said, grinning in a dangerous way. “We’ve been here three months. We should celebrate.”


“We all have drinks in front of us,” Dominic said. “Seems like a good start.” Bishop shrugged when Dominic caught his eye, indicating the others didn’t know what Devon had in mind. Seeing no help for it, Dominic drained his beer and tossed some money on the table.


Devon chattered incessantly about the virtues and flaws of the women they passed on the street, allowing Dominic’s mind to wander to the last SOE—US Army joint meeting he and Adelle had attended. Someone had been blathering on about something insignifcant, so he’d watched Adelle, focus narrowing to her lips until she’d bitten the end of a pencil in annoyance. Far from annoyed, he’d dropped his gaze to her breasts, encased in linen, demurely hidden yet tantalizing nonetheless. They weren’t overly large—Adelle’s breasts—but they were perfectly formed and his fingers had twitched to touch them. However, if Dominic was anything, he was a leg man and Adelle’s were spectacular. Against his better judgement, he had succumbed to the temptation. From the first emergence of the top of her foot from the inevitable heels, to the well turned ankle, the gorgeous calf and what little he’d seen of her thighs had made him salivate.


He’d leaned slightly in her direction, intending absurdly to tuck a stray lock of her hair behind her ear. Catching himself, he’d reached for the pitcher of water and topped off the glass he’d barely dented. Ambrose had babbled. Adelle had remained flawless—relaxed, elegant, her beautiful legs crossed, taking the occasional note; which Dominic suspected might actually be a grocery list. Suddenly, green eyes had met his. Heart hammering, Dominic had held her gaze, offering a shrug. Her smile rocked him to his foundation. He’d looked away first and didn’t feel bad about it. What he’d felt was wrong, dangerous, and too damn exciting to ignore, so he’d taken a long drink of water, as if that would help. Oddly, the weight of Adelle’s gaze hadn’t lifted.


Mustering his courage, he’d turned his head almost ninety degrees and met her eyes with an expression intended to connote, “What?” She’d leaned back in her chair, as if to get a better angle from which to observe him. He’d shifted his chair closer to hers, under the guise of gaining access to the pitcher of water again and tried to ignore Adelle. And failed miserably.


Instead, Dominic had imagined his hand on her thigh, stroking the flesh just beneath her skirt until she spread her legs a little. He’d take the hint and roughly push her skirt higher while his fingertips proceeded gently. Dominic sensed Adelle would appreciate the juxtaposition. Higher and higher, he’d stimulate. Upon reaching her underwear, he’d have a decision to make—apply pressure and make her move against his hand or slide them down or over, slip his hand beneath and do the work for her. Janine had never settled for being teased when she could have culmination, so Dominic had decided he’d move Adelle’s under things out of his way. Imagining her shifting in her chair as his hand had his way between her legs had made him a bit crazy and more than a little hard.


That scenario had felt unsatisfactory, so he’d imagined him and Adelle alone, somewhere quiet and out of the way—not his billet or her place, a hotel maybe—where they could take their time, undressing each other without worrying about anyone with a problem finding them. Dominic hadn’t known what stoked him more—imagining unbuttoning her blouse or her divesting him of his shirt. Unbuttoning was unbuttoning, wasn’t it? Unsure and slightly uneasy, he’d focused on removing her skirt and lowering her onto the bed. Kissing her would be fantastic, because imagining kissing her parted his lips had parched his mouth. His hands would tangle in her hair, as she lay sprawled beneath him, her smile pure sin. He’d drive into her fiercely and she’d cling to his shoulders. She’d feel so damn good. He knew it and so did his body, clamoring as it had been for him to test the premise.


“Here we are,” Devon said, snapping Dominic back to the present and not a moment too soon.


When he recognized the spot, Dominic said, “Everyone goes here now. We’ll never get a table.” Devon smiled and they all traipsed into the bar where Judith had bought Dominic lunch for fixing Myrtle. Devon wended his way through the establishment to the back door leading to the whores. “This is your idea of celebrating?” Dominic asked, uncomfortable for a whole host of reasons.


“Patience, Captain Dominic. Patience.” Devon nodded to the woman who greeted them. “We’re going across the street, Lily.”


“Have fun,” Lily said, gesturing grandly, as if to direct them on their way.


“What’s across the street?” Bishop asked.


“Better company,” Devon said, nodding to a four story building. The more stairs you climb, the higher the price.” He gripped Dominic by the shoulder. “You, sir, are going to the top.”


“No, I’m not. I’m going home.” To get drunk and try to figure out how to stop wanting what I can’t have, he silently added.


“C’mon, Dom, don’t spoil the party,” Devon said.


“I’m not in the mood to pay for sex.”


“Then go back in the bar and grab some for free,” Devon challenged. “I don’t care which route you take, but I recognize the symptoms. You need to get laid.”


“If you’re right, I’d surely have noticed what our waitress was allegedly offering,” Dominic said, not quite believing he’d been drawn into this conversation. “I’m not following your logic.”


“That’s how it works with most men, but not you. You dive so far into denial; you can’t see your way out. It’s a good thing you have me to do it for you. Dom, face facts. You need a woman and you’re going to have one, if I have to pay for it myself.”


“You’re buying?” Dominic laughed and the others joined him. “Who are you and what have you done with John Devon?”


Devon put his hands on Dominic’s shoulders and stared into his eyes. “I’m buying. Climb the stairs.”


Devon’s intensity propelled the men up the three flights of stairs. An attractive older woman sat in a plush chair in the hallway. “Five of you?”


“Just one,” Devon said, pushing Dominic forward. “The second floor is good enough for me.”


“Devon.”


“Dominic.” The concern in his best friend’s eyes dropped his. Money exchanged hands. The wad of bills struck Dominic as thick. “Happy Birthday, Dom, a few weeks early.” With winks, jaunty waves and laughter, the four men descended the stairs, leaving Dominic alone with this floor’s madam.


“What color hair do you prefer?” she asked.


Feeling mildly ridiculous, he said, “Brown.”


“Eyes?”


His throat felt tight. “Green.”


“How about blue?”


Relief at war with disappointment, he said, “That’s fine.”


“Follow me.” She knocked on the last door on the right. “Liz, dear, you have a visitor, an American officer.”


An eon later, the door opened to reveal a woman with long dark hair and amused blue eyes. Dominic kept his first thought—she’s too short—to himself, knowing it served no purpose to compare Liz to Adelle.


Liz’s silk robe flowed with her movements, as she ushered him inside. “Would you like some wine?” she asked.


“Sure,” he muttered.


“White or red?”


“Red.”


He couldn’t interpret the smile she wore as she handed him his wine.


“Thank you,” he mumbled.


She raised her glass. “To polite men.” They drank. “Shall we sit down?” Liz asked, heading to a small table without waiting for an answer. “Do you not do this very often or is this the first time you’ve been to this floor?”


“Yes, to both questions.”


Liz looked him over but wasn’t obvious about it. “Why are you here today, then?”


Surprised, he said, “My best friend thinks you’re the solution to my problems.”


“What do you think?”


Dominic stared at his wine but it failed to provide inspiration. “I don’t know.”


She smiled, crossed very well formed legs and leaned slightly forward. “Do you have a girl back home?” Dominic shook his head. “Here?” He shrugged.


“I wouldn’t blame you, if you didn’t,” Liz said, waving her free hand in the air. “English girls won’t do the things I will. The things you really want. The naughty things. It’s not as though they’re unwilling, so much. They just don’t know how to satisfy a man who’s risking his life simply by being here.” She gestured toward the small window with her wine glass. “Out there, they put too much stock on virginity. Men want it, they say. They’ll go mad for it and marry you to get it.”


“That’s not true,” he muttered.


“Of course not,” she said. “Any man with any sense would want a woman with some experience. Problem is, men don’t like competition. They don’t want to worry about measuring up to the ones who’ve gone before. It’s sad, really.” As if waking, Liz shook herself and refocused on Dominic. “Do you have a girl here?”


“Women have offered. Well, made it clear they’re amenable, anyway, but there’s a ... a desperation to the whole thing that’s disturbing.” Before Liz could speak, he added, “I know you’re going to say it’s the war, but I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s me.”


Eyes widening, she toyed with her belt. “Go on, Captain—right?”


Nodding, he held his wine glass with both hands. “I’ve had lovers, not many, but some. I was in love once. That ended badly. For me, anyway. I like women. I like being around women, but when I flirt over here, other than with the two women I work with, it seems like I’m not a man to them. Not a person, I mean. I’m some kind of symbol and I don’t like it.” Liz beamed at him. “What?”


She reached across the table and stroked his cheek with the back of her hand. “I assure you, Captain—.”


Her throaty tone and exposed skin captured his attention. “My name’s Laurence.”


“I assure you, Laurence, when you’re with me, you’re a man. You’re the man I fully intend to please tonight.” Tracing his lower lip with her forefinger, she said, “Tell me about the women you work with.”


“No.”


“That struck a nerve.”


“Look ... um ...”


“You tell me your sexual history and about how desperation isn’t foreplay for you. Yet you balk at discussing your co-workers.” Liz untied the belt of her robe. “Do you want one or both of them?”


“Jesus Christ!”


“Calm down, Laurence,” she said, tapping him lightly on the nose. “What does it matter if you tell me? I’m not going to repeat anything.” She lowered her voice. “I’ve heard confession is good for the soul.”


Dominic drained his wine. Liz rose, slipped her robe from her shoulders and draped it over the back of her chair. When she reached a hand out to him, Dominic forced his eyes from her cleavage to her face. “A refill?”’ she asked, smiling at his rapid nod. “You only get one. I want you to appreciate me.”


He took deep breaths. Halting behind him, Liz rested one hand on his shoulder and reached over the other to give him his wine.


“Confess, Laurence,” she purred into his ear, her fingers kneading his shoulder muscles.


That he couldn’t see Liz freed him somehow. “I want the woman I report to,” he said and, miraculously, the world didn’t end upon admitting it out loud. “She’s beautiful, smart, manipulative and scary. She fascinates me. It’s getting more and more difficult to pretend my interest in her is completely professional.”


Liz came around the chair and settled on his lap. “Does she arouse you like I have?” He managed a nod. “Do you think she knows she does?”


His horror must’ve shown, because Liz burst into giggles.


“Why do you think that’s a bad thing?” she murmured when she’d calmed, shifting in his lap to press more intimately against him. “A woman feels powerful when her man can’t hide what she does to him.”


“Do you?” he asked. “Right now.”


“Oh, yes, and I like it.” Lust shuddered though his body. “She will too.”


“You think so?”


“I know it.” She ran her thumbnails along the line of his throat. “Would you like me to undress for you, Laurence?”


Breathing rapidly and rock hard, he said, “God, yes.”



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He has to go to a whore to confess his 'sins'. -is strangely amused-

Funnily enough, I'm waiting for Adelle to greet him in the next chapter with 'Enjoy the top floor, Captain Dominic?' That might seriously freak him out though.

Oh, Alpha &hearts You're a crazy son of a bitch no matter what, aren't you?

I'm not sure when and why I became convinced that Dom would go to a whore and spill, but it seemed like the Dollhouse in reverse. He goes to her (with someone else paying, no less). And I liked that the fact that he couldn't see Liz allowed him to actually talk about things.

Adelle has spies almost everywhere. Remains to be seen. Have nearly formatted 4 so ...

Alpha is who he is. I still don't get the kinder gentler Alpha post-thoughtpocalypse. Not enough backstory.

In any event, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!


Alpha running amok in France! With Caroline on the case. I am loving it (and Caroline's family loving Adelle because in my mind, everyone should love Adelle. The Caroline-Dom bonding was lovely too).

I loved the idea that Dom would go to a prostitute to confess everything.

Alpha's role in this story interests me. It's not big, but it matters a whole lot. Caroline after him, as always, is fun too. And I liked that morgan72uk gave Caroline kind of a big family. It made Caroline's surliness and aggressiveness fit the times.

Yes, Dom identifying a bit with Caroline and vice versa was fun too, because they should've in the show--really. And sort of did in The Attic.

I think I liked that Dom was kind of driven to a prostitute by a friend. You need this and you're going to get it, however it happens. I do enjoy Devon.

Thanks for reading! Oh, and everyone should love Adelle.

Edited at 2012-03-09 01:40 am (UTC)

You pretty much had me salivating at the beginning with this:

“I don’t submit very well,” he said, assessing the viable exit strategies.

Adelle laughed. “You obviously haven’t been dominated by the proper person.”


Everything else was just icing on the cake.

Edited at 2012-03-09 06:53 am (UTC)

I like that Dom sort of unwittingly threw down a gauntlet. Wonder if that will come back to bite him (so to speak)?:)

I'm glad this is still playing well for you. We do have something of a way to go. And what's a cake without icing?

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