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Battle of Britain--Chapter 19
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rogoblue
Rating: R (language and sexual situations)


Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue

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Summary: Dominic and Adelle are reunited in London and someone might have an ass kicking coming.






A letter from Berlin lay on the tray, but Adelle didn't recognise the handwriting. Snatching it up, she headed for the front door, intending to read it in the car.

“Adelle, wait!” Her cousin James clattered down the stairs and she resisted the temptation to look at her watch. “I thought I'd come with you.”

“James,” she began.

“Mason agreed it would be a good idea,” he interjected. Her bodyguard studiously avoided meeting her eye.

They'd had to tell James the truth. Another explanation for being wrestled to the ground by a large, former US serviceman when he had tried to gain entry to his parent's home hadn’t suggested itself. James had reacted with the steely nerve of a man who had spent the war seeking U-boats, though she doubted he would forget his house key again. As she hesitated, he added, “Besides, I want to meet the man all the fuss is about.”

“I do not fuss.”

Smiling blithely, James said, “Of course, you don't, but dad is practically killing the fatted calf. Naturally, I'm curious.”

“He and Laurence got along,” she acknowledged and wondered if the news bothered James.

“I can't remember the last time he was impressed by someone from the Army; it's unheard of.” That explained his curiosity. “I could do with someone else to talk to as well.” He meant someone male. James had proved to be a pleasant companion over the festive period, but she suspected he hoped to be relieved of that duty.

“Very well,” she allowed.

She didn't know her cousin as well as she ought. The few years she’d lived in England during her childhood had been spent at the other end of the country. When she had returned, James had already been at naval college and, though she had lived in theory resided in her uncle’s house outside University terms, their paths had seldom crossed.

James guided her towards the front door. “This way, I can drive, Mason can watch for assailants and you can read your letter. I'd rather keep my eye on you until we hand you over to the Americans.”

“This isn't a hostage exchange,” she observed but didn’t argue.

Settling into the back of the car, she ripped open the envelope, heart sinking as she read, “The Colonel wasn't seriously injured but...”

She and Laurence had arranged to meet at a quiet restaurant, since he couldn’t be specific about his travel arrangements. The location was convenient to Claridges, where they would be staying. James found Mason a good vantage point and ordered her a stiff drink. “Try to calm down, Addie”

“How do you suggest I do that?” she hissed, fully aware she had the wrong man in her sights. “I warned him, explained what Alpha is capable of and, in an attempt to ensure his safety, I spent Christmas apart from him. Then, by all accounts, he walked straight into a trap.”

“By one account,” James corrected gently. “It sounds as though he had little choice about attending the party. You can't expect a man like that to stay locked up in his fortress, Adelle.”

“That’s why I tried to make sure he understood the danger. But, I suppose telling Laurence he wouldn't stand a chance against Alpha was a red rag to a bull.”

James patted her hand. “Try to remember that he's alive.”

She sighed. “Stop making sense.”

“I’d rather not,” he replied, smirk drawing a smile from her.

“Adelle?” Her relief at hearing Laurence's voice nearly prevented her from registering his decidedly hostile tone.

* * *


Adelle DeWitt sat at an out of the way table with an attractive man. Laurence Dominic strove to think of the situation as fair, given what had happened on Christmas, but rage flared within him along with a fierce possessiveness.


The dark haired man stood, smiled and offered his hand. Confused and spoiling for a fight, Dominic stared at it. “I’m James,” he said.


“Dominic,” he replied, taking the proffered hand and the measure of the competition.


“James DeWitt,” he clarified, glancing at Driscoll and Adams over Dominic’s suddenly less tense shoulders.


“The Navy man?” When James nodded, Dominic said, “I hope your parents are well.”


“They are.” Lowering his voice, he added, “However, my cousin is angry with you.”


Dominic closed his eyes. “Which of my men am I going to cut loose, Adelle?”


She gracefully rose. He leaned in for a quick kiss, happily lengthening it when Adelle wound her arms around his neck. “Did you plan to tell me, Laurence?”


“I’m not sure how else I’d explain the new scar to your satisfaction.” He took a deep breath. “I made a mistake.”


“I described the danger Alpha posed.”


“He looked nothing like any of the photographs I’ve seen,” Dominic insisted. The raw need for Adelle to understand threatened his composure. “His hair was cut very short and he wore glasses. You might not have recognized him.” Feeling lightheaded and a little nauseous, he hugged her fiercely. “I’m not looking to die anymore, Adelle.”


Beautiful green eyes wide, she asked, “You wanted … to die?”


“Not always consciously and not every day,” he admitted, sighing. “I’d lost everyone I cared about and I was going through the motions rather than living.” He tried to shrug off her concern. “I wouldn’t have minded checking out, but everything changed in Nuremburg.”


“Yet you allowed yourself to be maneuvered into a room alone with a killer,” she muttered. “What on earth were you trying to prove?”


“Nothing!” Gripping her shoulders, he brought them nearly nose to nose. “I went to a function I had to attend and escaped from a persistent woman by stepping out onto a balcony in late December with every reasonable expectation of privacy. Alpha was out there. I thought I’d found someone to talk to, a way to pass the time that wouldn’t get misconstrued as cheating on you.”


“Are you suggesting Adelle is to blame?” James’ evident amusement tired Dominic.


“Tried that; didn’t work.”


“I might have recognized Alpha,” she allowed.


“If you’d been in Germany, we’d have been together, so I wouldn’t have been looking to escape or for a conversation. Problem is,” Dominic continued, battling the beginnings of a headache, “had Alpha gotten to me under those circumstances, he’d have found a vantage point from which to enjoy your reaction to his murdering me.” He loosened his grip but didn’t release her shoulders. “The thought of owing my life to him is making me nuts.”


“You owe Alpha nothing!” Adelle snarled, her vehemence backing Dominic up a step. “His aim is to make you doubt yourself.”


“When I realized what he’d done but not the extent of the damage, I thought I’d squandered what we’d found together, because I didn’t take Alpha seriously and of how angry you’d be at my funeral.”


“You know Addie pretty well.” Dominic blinked at James, having forgotten him.


“My anger has its roots in fear, Laurence,” she said, placing her hands atop his.


“Alpha had the blade in my belly so fast. Then, I just felt stupid. The fear came later.” The admission hurt, but Adelle didn’t pull away. Spent, Dominic dropped his hands to his sides. “Do you want to finish your drink?”


“A most excellent idea,” James said, holding Adelle’s chair out for her. “Finish mine, Colonel. I’ll head home to report your safe arrival.”


“Take Adelle with you,” Dominic said. “I’ll find someplace to stay and we can try this again in the morning.”


She waved away her cousin, who inclined his head in acknowledgement. “I’ve booked a suite at Claridges.” She took his hand. “We can walk there, when you’re ready.”


“We?” She nodded. “You’re not mad anymore?”


“I am, but I’m a whole host of other things as well.”


Caution seemed appropriate. “A suite?” he asked, watching James wend his way through the haphazardly arranged tables. “Does that mean a big room or something else?”


Adelle leaned forward and gestured for him to do the same. He did. “It means privacy,” she murmured.


Stunned didn’t begin to cover it. “You want to be alone with the idiot who almost got himself killed?”


“Oh, yes.” Her smile was wicked. “I intend to satisfy myself that you’re hale and hearty.”



* * *

Adelle smiled, as they stepped into the suite and incredulity overtook impatience in Laurence’s expression fleetingly, since it wouldn’t do for him to look overwhelmed by his surroundings. In other circumstances, Adelle might have missed it, but she couldn’t take her eyes off him.

His politeness had its limits tested by people who stood in the way of the privacy she’d promised. They’d been greeted by one of the hotel’s senior staff, proving that someone felt it important to welcome Colonel Dominic on his first visit. Rightly famed for its personal and discrete service, no one at Claridges batted an eye at bodyguards and a mistress.

A porter brought up the luggage, supervised by Adams. While Driscoll and Mason conducted a security sweep the porter was dismissed when Laurence gave him, she assumed, a handsome tip.

They stood in the main room, completely certain what would happen the moment everyone left. “Do I need a suite this big?” Laurence asked.

“There is a room for the bodyguard on duty,” she told him, “and a space for you to work or receive guests. I’ve arranged for a room on the floor below for the other men.”

“You’ve thought of everything,” he said lightly.

“I try.” They exchanged another smile, watching each other until Driscoll cleared his throat.

“We’re clear, sir,” he said, “would you like us to—.”

“No – it’s fine,” Laurence growled. The look the bodyguards exchanged spoke volumes about their transparency, but she didn’t care. She’d started towards Laurence before the door opened and she doubted either of them heard it close.

Their lips crashed together, the kisses powered by mutual fear and anger and followed by a progression to the bedroom best described as an urgent stumble. She unfastened his uniform top, pushed him down onto the large bed and followed him. The scar tissue on his abdomen drew her attention; the wound might have been small but half an inch higher and it would have been fatal.

“I’m fine,” he said, using her momentary distraction to reverse their positions. “What to do with you?”

She sighed as he cupped her breasts, thumbs teasing her nipples through her jumper. After shifting to allow him to pull it off her, she settled back onto the covers. “Protection?” she murmured.

“Shit!” He sat back on his heels. “Don’t move an inch” he said, expression hungry. Seconds after he’d left, she heard a crash followed by the unmistakeable sounds of rummaging through luggage. When he returned, she lay in the same position, now naked.

“Damn,” he said from the doorway. “I love the way you think.”

“Come here.” He obeyed that order with alacrity.

***

“We should discuss Alpha,” Adelle said.

“I’m not sure enough blood has returned to my brain, so you might want to wait a few.”

“I’ll take my chances.” Wrapped together, naked and sweaty, her cheek rested on his chest. Their bedclothes in glorious disarray, only one pillow had survived the onslaught. “Tell me what Caroline found out.”

“Alpha has been using the name Adam Greco since just after the war ended. He killed a fairly high ranking Nazi officer and used his money to buy a new identity. Caroline found evidence of a lot of commercial activity overseas and five more bodies. She thinks his attack on me a grand farewell gesture.”

“Alpha likes to be one step ahead,” she agreed. “His next destination will be somewhere unexpected.”

“Caroline thinks South Africa. She found a possible reference to Johannesburg buried in a document. It seems thin, but I wouldn’t mind having a continent or two between us.”

“What else did she say?”

“Why would she say anything?”

“Caroline isn’t known for keeping her thoughts to herself.” She hadn’t expected to see ... guilt. “Laurence? Did something happen?”

Sighing, he rubbed a hand over his face. “No,” he said wearily, which should have been reassuring.

“But?”

“I’d taken my pain meds and hated being flat on my back on Christmas.” She waited, not sure she wanted him to continue but knowing she needed to hear the rest. He looked embarrassed and then defiant. “I got hard when we spoke.”

Everything went still and quiet. “Did she realise?”

“Yeah, but that’s as far as it went, Adelle.”

“A physical reaction,” she said, patting his shoulder. “I understand.” She managed a smile, as she settled at his side once more. “Aren’t you tired?”

He stifled a yawn and rubbed a hand along her bare back. “You wore me out.”

“More likely it was your injury and travelling.”

He yawned again and stretched. “Definitely you.”

Lying beside him, Adelle listened to his breathing even out as he fell asleep. The knowledge that he had been aroused by Caroline caused pain and was a salutary reminder of why she had been reluctant to give any man this level of power over her.

Tears welled up in her eyes, self-pity that a young, beautiful and powerful woman had attracted him while age and emptiness crept up on her.

Carefully she edged her way out of his embrace. She would collect her clothes, dress in the bathroom and leave him a note; inventing an excuse to explain her departure. Mason would remain here or be dismissed. She couldn’t face her humiliation with a bodyguard for company.

A few hours would enable her to rebuild her walls and begin to make alternative plans. She had very little else to do.


* * *


“What are you doing?”


Adelle spun to face Dominic, wearing her underwear and pulling on her skirt. “I should think that rather obvious.”


Dominic liked that her eyes roved his naked body before she reached for her sweater. He caught her hands in his. “Adelle, what’s wrong?” She didn’t reply, so he guessed. “Did something happen to a member of your family?” Even as he spoke, he wondered if Alpha might have followed them to England. Relief surged through him, when Adelle shook her head. “What is it, then?”


She freed her hands and continued to dress. “We need some time apart.”


“We just had weeks apart.” He planted his feet, so he filled the bathroom doorway. “You aren’t still mad about Alpha getting close to me,” he muttered, refusing to allow her to push past him. Something in her eyes spoke to him and he sighed. “Christ, Adelle, what happened with Caroline was just a moment between two lonely people.”


“Between you,” she stepped back and gestured to encompass his entire body, “and a quite stunning young woman. Were you wearing any clothing?”


“I had pajama bottoms on and the medic went a little crazy with the bandaging, so my abdomen was covered too.”


Adelle appeared to consider before frowning impressively. “A man doesn’t become fully aroused in a single charged moment.”


“It wasn’t that … fleeting . I just meant … Look, Caroline flirted. I was a captive audience and the attention made me forget the Alpha debacle for a few minutes.” He smiled ruefully. “Suddenly, it became more than having a little fun. Just as suddenly, it was over. The moment of truth passed and she talked about her plans for South Africa.” Dominic pulled Adelle into his arms, wincing at her tension. “I’m sorry,” he murmured into her hair. “You’ve always been so open about the physical aspect of our relationship. I’d added reacting to Caroline to my list of things to be embarrassed about and didn’t want to recite the entire litany today.” Unable to ascertain what her continued silence meant, he said, “I planned to tell you, just not tonight. Hell,” he said, risking a small smile, “I didn’t figure we’d get around to sentences longer than four or five words until lunchtime tomorrow.” He hugged her tighter. “Please come back to bed and tell me why you’re so upset.”


“I shouldn’t be,” she said.


“That’s absolutely right,” he said, grinning in relief.


Adelle glared in return. “If I didn’t love you so much, your interest in a younger woman wouldn’t sting.”


“I’m not interested in Caroline or any other woman, younger, older or the exact same age to the minute.”


“I wouldn’t tolerate you taking a mistress,” she stated, tone flat and implacable


He smirked. “As much as I might like to brag otherwise, I don’t have the energy for two mistresses.”


A small smile appeared, although he sensed Adelle fought it tooth and nail. “I meant if we were to marry.”


“Why would I want a mistress then?” he asked, struggling to navigate this strange conversation.


“For the purpose every other man who has a mistress does.”


“This is making less and less sense, Adelle. Are you saying we wouldn’t have sex after we got married? Why wouldn’t we?”


“No, Laurence,” she said, tone imbued with what sounded like exaggerated patience, “but—.”


“There’s no but. Hell, it isn’t even a question of sex or lack thereof.” He kissed Adelle soundly. “If we get married, that’s it. There will be no other women.”


“Not even someone like Caroline at Christmas?”


“Nothing happened!”


“Be honest, Laurence, do you regret that? Did you at the time?” Dominic picked Adelle up and carried her back into the bedroom. “Answer my questions,” she demanded when he placed her on the bed.


“My only regret is that she wasn’t you.”


* * *

“You are an impossible man,” Adelle said, as he joined her on the bed. She hesitated to allow him to charm her, even though she didn’t doubt the sincerity with which he’d declared he wasn’t interested in other women of any age.

“Who loves you,” he said soberly.

“Sometimes that seems the most impossible thing of all,” she replied, stroking his cheek. Adelle realized she should have considered the values his upbringing had instilled in him. His expression had been almost comically confused when she attempted to distinguish the roles of mistress and wife. He clearly found the idea of having a wife, as a hostess to support his public profile, and also a dazzling young mistress completely alien. Unfortunately, her role in his life troubled her far less than her lack of any other role.

“With you, there are always layers, always more than one thing going on.” He smiled. “I had to look further, delve deeper, just to keep up. So, what is this really about, Adelle?”

“Can’t it just be that I am displeased you found another woman attractive?”

“You’d take your displeasure out on my hide. Instead, I caught you sneaking away. You’re upset, not jealous or angry.”

“It would help if you were less perceptive,” she said, annoyed.

“You’d have gotten bored with me a long time ago, if I was.”

Turning towards him she said carefully, “I know until recently it’s been difficult for you to think about the future but, when you do, what do you imagine my life will be like?”

He blinked, looking genuinely surprised before answering quickly and firmly. “You’ll be with me and I’ll do my damnedest to make you happy.”

“But what will I do with my time?” His somewhat sheepish look prompted her to roll away and sit up, hugging her knees to her chest. “I have only a few months left to discover the fate of my missing agents. After that, my superiors have no further need of me.” Not able to look at him, she added, “Since the destruction of my flat, I can carry my worldly possessions in a suitcase or two. I love you and have a caring family, which makes me more fortunate than many people, yet thoughts of my future leave me lost and empty. Today, I wondered if I might lose you as well, to Caroline of all people.”

She’d said so much, withholding the last details made little sense. “Before Nuremberg, I considered going overseas, to build a new life elsewhere. As it stands, I don't want to be without you, but I know I need more in my life and haven’t the slightest idea where to find it.”

* * *


“Do you want a formal job or a way to engage your mind beyond telling the cook what to prepare for dinner?” Dominic asked, attempting to address a very real issue he’d been too self-absorbed to consider.


“Isn’t that what a job is?” she asked, “a way to exercise the mind.”


“Some are.” He dragged his fingers through her sex tangled hair. When she smiled up at him tentatively, he embraced her and lowered her into a reclining position, cradling her upper body against his. “You don’t need a job to have things to think about, though.”


“Well, no,” Adelle grudgingly allowed, “many people have intellectually stimulating hobbies; however, I’ve never gone in for collecting and writing my memoirs holds no appeal.” She smiled and traced his lips with her fingers. “Freelance journalism might have been possible, if I’d gone abroad. I have some contacts and there’s generally a market for articles on travel to exotic locations.”


“How about on traveling through war ravaged Europe?” he suggested, sliding his hands beneath her sweater to stroke her back. “I can imagine a demand for that sort of thing, particularly in the States. Americans will want to read about what their boys helped preserve and are already morbidly curious about what was destroyed and by whom.”


“Do you believe I could make my way as a journalist?”


“Adelle, you can get information out of anyone, even if they aren’t inclined to talk,” he said, deftly gaining access to bra-encased nipples. “The mind boggles at what people who actually want their stories to be heard might tell you.” He kissed her slowly and softly, resisting the temptation to plunder her yielding mouth. “I’d support you 100%, so long as you attended to your other professional responsibilities.”


Adelle wrapped her arms around him and pulled her head even with his. “What responsibilities are those, Laurence?”


He waited until she met his eyes. “You’re the spymaster of my group in Berlin, unofficially, of course, because you aren’t a United States citizen.” She laughed. He didn’t and waited. Eventually, she looked inquiringly at him. “Vandermeer isn’t cut out to be a spy, but Williams is and he could benefit from your advice.” He sighed. “If we have to throw Vandermeer into the ring at some point, I’d feel better knowing you’re looking out for him.”


“Williams won’t take my counsel,” she said, tucking the blanket closer around Dominic when he shivered, “even if you insist.”


“Things have changed since you left, Adelle.”


“What things?” she asked, radiating skepticism.


“My bodyguards insist you have better judgment than I do, about the clandestine at least.” Her startled yet pleased expression warmed him more than the blanket. “Listen to the damn woman next time is pretty close to a direct quote from Driscoll, who’s come to love you even more than Adams, which I didn’t see coming.”


“Adams has taken no particular interest in me, Laurence.”


“He’s declared himself your favorite.”


“You are my favorite,” she whispered.


“Take your clothes off and assert that louder.” To his delight, Adelle sat up and pulled off her sweater. Smiling, she massaged her breasts before unhooking her bra. With a soft sigh, she shrugged it off of her shoulders. Eyes boring into Dominic’s, she lifted her hips slightly. He fumbled with the zipper of her skirt. She spread her legs. He partially suppressed a groan. Adelle pulled him in for a long languorous kiss. Panting hard, he muttered, “I said take your clothes off and assert that louder.”


Adelle removed the rest of her garments and lay back on the bed, seemingly content to let him admire the view, which he did. “I reward my favorites handsomely, Colonel Dominic,” she murmured, arranging herself wantonly.


He sat up abruptly. “Marry me.” Dominic took a harsh shallow breath. “Adelle, will you marry me?” He leaned in and kissed her hard several times, ravaging her bottom lip before he relented. Struggling for calm, he asked, “What do you say?”


“I want to be with you always, but I’m not sure I want to marry.”


Now he knew what a sinking heart felt like.


* * *

“Good morning.” Laurence Dominic bounced onto the hotel bed and greeted Adelle DeWitt’s sleepy glare with a cup of tea. When she attained a seated position and accepted the beverage, he offered a small gift wrapped. “Merry Christmas, Adelle,” he whispered, the nervousness he’d felt when purchasing the item returning in spades.


“Shall I dress and open it?” she asked, tugging at the cuff of his shirt, frowning exaggeratedly.


“I can’t think of a single reason for you to do the former.”


Ignoring her mumbled, “I can,” he nudged the gift closer. Adelle regarded the box before gathering a sheet around her and rising.


“Where are you going?” Dominic demanded, the belated Christmas moment definitely not proceeding as planned.


“I have something for you as well,” she said. “I’ll just be a moment.” She was three minutes and twenty two seconds, according to his watch, but he knew better than to comment. Adelle placed a larger package next to his.


“Ladies first,” he urged.


She undid the ribbon slowly, expression thoughtful. Adelle eased the box from its wrapping exactly as she slipped a shirt from his shoulders. He held his breath, when she lifted the lid. She gasped and his stomach clenched.


The bracelet’s too simple, he thought, yet the intricate workmanship suggested both femininity and strength—a duality embodied by the most important women in his life.


“Laurence, this is … perfect.”


He grinned. “So are you.”


“Hardly,” she murmured, securing the bauble around her wrist. She kissed him, softly yet soundly. “Thank you.” After admiring the bracelet from all angles, she handed him the other package. It felt like a book. “Your turn,” she said, tone and expression challenging.


He snapped the ribbon and ripped off the paper. Dominic felt his face reddening. How could he tell anyone Adelle had given him The Illustrated Confessions of a Courtesan? He couldn’t. Ruminating on how to hide the book without being obvious about it, he said, “Um … thanks.”


“Look at me, Laurence.” He took a deep breath. “What are you thinking?” she asked.


“I’m not sure what to think.”


Adelle tapped him lightly on the nose. “If this book constituted a complaint about your sexual performance, I’d have left it on your nightstand in Berlin.” She gestured to the general disarray of the bed. “What’s more, you obviously please me greatly.”


“You can take the boy out of the small town …” Dominic didn’t finish the sentiment and neither did Adelle. Feeling foolish, he glanced anywhere but at Adelle or the book.


“Have a look inside,” she suggested, sliding close and slipping her arms around his waist. “I promise it won’t bite.”


“I’ve never even seen a book like this, Adelle.”


“How can you know what it’s like when you haven’t opened it?”


“Do you?” he asked, against his better judgment.


“My copy perished when my flat was destroyed.”


“Right,” he mumbled.


“Would you feel more comfortable perusing it, if I left the room?”


“Doubt it,” he said, offering the book to Adelle. “Why don’t you show me your favorite part?”


Her smile gave him very different ideas, but he held firm. “I found Chapter 14 quite illuminating, Laurence.”


The title If the Man is Shy made him laugh. “I guess you read that a few times back in ’43.” Shaking his head, he said, “I’m not sure I can face the illustrations.”


“I have taken the liberty of marking a few for your examination,” she admitted.


“I’ll take whatever liberties you’ve selected,” he said, “back in Berlin where we have a whole household to scandalize.” He tossed the book aside. “For now, I’d like to hold you while you finish your tea and celebrate Christmas a little more before we face the day.”


“Sounds lovely.”


* * *


When Adelle returned to the bedroom after bathing, Laurence sat on the bed, his attention fixed on the book she had given him, looking concerned it might explode. Crossing to his side, she ran her palm over his back and looked over his shoulder. She smiled. “I used silk scarves to tie you to my bed,” she said, tracing the prone figure in the illustration with her fingertip.


“I remember.”


She relished the prospect of a repeat performance, but other things mattered more now. “I love my bracelet,” she said, “but I think I made a mistake with your Christmas gift.”


“No, you didn’t.”


“You don’t much like it or understand why, of all the things I might have marked our first Christmas together since our reunion, I chose this.” He shrugged. “May I explain?”


“There’s no need.”


“I think, perhaps, there is.” Settling beside him, she pressed a kiss to his cheek, sighing when he turned his head to catch her lips. “I want us to be open about and explore our desires. I thought the book might give us a shared vocabulary at least, but that’s only part of it. You’re alive, Laurence; you have begun to embrace what that means. Sex is very life-affirming and I wanted you to have a gift celebrating that. ”


He looked surprised and clearly struggled to come to terms with her explanation. She imagined the feelings engulfing him. “I know you feel guilty, but you’re allowed to feel other things as well – excited, aroused. I’d love to help and have every intention of making sure you enjoy it.”


“I’ll bet.” He took her hand, lacing their fingers together. “Thanks for explaining. I understand the spirit in which the gift was given now.”


His gaze reluctantly returned to the book. “You’re wondering why you’re so drawn to this,” she guessed, fingering the prone figure again, “why it resonates with you? Being restrained excites you, but you don’t know what that means.”


“You do?”


“I have a theory.” She smiled at his overdone scepticism. “You give orders all the time, Laurence. You’ve needed control and discipline to rise to your current position and function despite devastating losses. That’s why it’s good for you to give up that control occasionally, or to have it taken away. Being tied up allows you to surrender without shame and I so want you to feel safe enough with me to allow yourself that.”


“I don’t allow myself too much these days, but I’ll try ... for you.”


* * *


“There’s been a change of plan.” Adelle did not want to hear that, especially just having stepped through the front door of her uncle’s house.


Fixing her cousin with a look that generally put Laurence on guard, she demanded, “What does that mean?”


James stepped back. “Don’t do that, Addie. You look like you‘re considering killing the messenger.”


“I haven’t ruled it out.”

Getting out of bed had been a challenge, especially after turning down Laurence’s proposal, albeit without actually speaking the word, ‘no’. They’d made love afterwards and she thought he understood that she rejected the conventions of marriage rather than him. She would have much preferred to spend the evening curled up with him in the large, warm hotel bed.


“We are still having a family dinner,” James said, “just with slightly more family than mother originally envisaged.” He smiled in the face of her irritation. “It’s not our fault, Addie. Word leaked out that you were in the country, with a suitor in tow and they couldn’t resist.”


She turned to the man been patiently standing by her side. “Laurence, I apologise, it seems we are going to have to endure ...” She whirled back to James. “Who’s come?” James’ smile bordered on evil. “All of them?”


“I can’t remember the last time they gathered like this.”

Adelle raised her eyes to heaven, before addressing Laurence once more. “All of my uncles, plus their wives, have come for dinner.”


“Great.” He didn’t sound displeased at the prospect, but he’d only met one branch of her family.


James clapped Dominic on the shoulder. “Adelle scares them silly, always has done, so no one will greatly misbehave, but remember, dear cousin, you can’t have them killed.”


“Our wine cellar will suffer, if I harm the spare. That leaves the others at risk.”


“You really refer to them that way,” Laurence said, “the heir, the spare?”


“It’s family speak,” James said. “They refer to themselves that way. Except for Uncle Daniel, he’s always called by his name.”


“That’s your father, Adelle?” Laurence asked.


“Yes. One benefit of being the youngest, I suppose. He’s allowed his name.” Looking down at her skirt and jumper she sighed. “I have to change. I will be twenty minutes at the most. James, you will look after Laurence.”


“I’m pretty sure he can take care of himself.”


Smiling at her lover, she said, “I have absolute faith in Laurence’s ability to handle the family, but that is not the point. He is my guest and in my absence, you will see that he is shielded from the more extreme eccentricities. If there is a problem, I know people who, if I ask them nicely, will make you disappear. Would you prefer to be lost at sea?” Not allowing time for a response, she added, “Now, is Aunt Juliet still upstairs?”


James shrugged. “If she’s come down, shall I send her up to you?”


“Please, I won’t keep her long.”


“She’ll be grateful for the respite. Follow me to the alcohol, Colonel. A stiff drink is the best opening gambit.”


Gazing into her wardrobe, Adelle regretted the clothing lost when her flat had been destroyed, including the red evening dress that had once bewitched Laurence. She’d had an opportunity to replace some of the more expensive items, a guilty pleasure with so much still being rationed. The fashion houses in Paris had seemed grateful for her custom, even though she had only purchased one evening gown, which would do nicely for this evening.

When her aunt arrived, she had already changed and was attempting to put her hair up.

“I am sorry about this,” Juliet said, deft fingers quickly twisting Adelle’s hair into a neat chignon. “It was not my idea.”

“Is Laurence all right?”

“James is plying him with Scotch and he’s being polite and careful.” Adelle smiled in relief. She wanted to tell her aunt about his proposal and her response, but since she couldn’t explain herself adequately, she remained silent. Part of her had wanted to accept, although in the end her uncertain future loomed large. She wouldn’t risk marrying him and making them both miserable. “Do you need anything else, Adelle?”

“The key to your safe.” Juliet smiled and disappeared for a while, returning with a small key.

“You’re ready to wear them?”

“I don’t know.” She toyed with the bracelet that Laurence had given her for Christmas. “But I think they will go very well with this.”

“That’s quite lovely.”

“I know.” She was still charmed its simplicity, elegance and beauty. “It was a gift.”

“What did you give him?” Ever the romantic, her aunt wouldn’t dream the gift hadn’t come from Laurence.

“A book.” In response to a raised eyebrow, she added, “A first edition.” She’d also selected a set of expensive silk lingerie she thought he would enjoy unwrapping, especially since she intended to be wearing them at the time. But her aunt didn’t need to know everything.

* * *

“So this is the American,” said a woman in her mid forties. Dominic pegged her companion as five or six years older than Edgar, but he had no idea if that made him the heir, the spare or the bishop. James had stuck by his side, except to tell Juliet that Adelle needed her upstairs. Edgar had wandered over and made small talk. Everyone else had merely eyed Dominic curiously, until this couple made their move.


“I’m sorry if my uniform isn’t appropriate, ma’am,” he said. “I didn’t think to bring a formal dinner jacket.”


“I was told you’re here to attend a wedding,” she said.


“Adelle thought Judith, the bride, would prefer the uniform.”


“A new bride shouldn’t have preferences with regard to the attire of any man other than her husband,” she said, looking aghast and stepping closer to her spouse.


James hid a grin behind his hand, while watching the encounter avidly. “Having never been a new bride, I couldn’t say,” Dominic replied. The men laughed and the woman looked askance at them all.


“Henry DeWitt,” said the tall thin man, offering his hand. Dominic took it. “Everyone calls me the heir, even though that’s technically my son these days.” He pointed. “Nigel is the young man brooding next to the fireplace. I have inherited, obviously but old habits, you know.”


Nodding, Dominic said, “I’m pleased to meet you, sir. Laurence Dominic.”


“Well met, Colonel.” He took the woman’s hand. “My wife, Eunice.”


“Ma’am.”


“What does Adelle see in you, I wonder?”


“I should think it obvious,” James chimed in finally, but Dominic doubted his mischievous tone boded well. “You know how demanding and exacting Addie is.” He winked and clapped Dominic on the shoulder.


Dominic tried to appear accommodating and precise. “You niece is a spectacular woman,” he said. “I’m privileged to know her.”


“At least he pretends to know his place.”


“Juliet’s redone the dining room, my dear,” Henry said. “Why don’t we have a look?” She took his arm. “I wager my brothers want a crack at … May I call you Laurence?”


“Absolutely.”


“At Laurence before Adelle descends to protect him.”


Dominic closed his eyes and took a deep breath when heir and wife departed, but James surprised him. “That went well.”


“It did not,” Dominic said. “She hates me.”


“Eunice hates everyone she hasn’t given birth to and those she did can do no wrong. Neither sentiment is shared by Uncle Henry.” James grinned and tapped the rim of his glass to Dominic’s. “You did fine.”


“When all is said and done, I only care what Adelle thinks.”


“As it should be,” James said, stepping smoothly to Dominic’s right. “Uncle Sebastian, how is the Church of England treating you?”


“Not so subtly informing our American guest which brother I am.” Sebastian put his hands on Dominic’s shoulders and looked solemnly into his eyes. “Do pretend I’m giving you a stern lecture on sins of the flesh, young man. Eunice will never let me hear the end of it, if I don’t do my duty by our Addie.”


Hoping to appear contrite, Dominic looked down at his feet and shuffled them for a few moments before he asked, “Do all of you call her that?” James and Sebastian shared a look. “Only the men,” Dominic decided.


“Adelle would insist upon intelligence,” Sebastian said. He smiled somewhat ruefully. “As a sorry excuse for a spiritual advisor, I must ask if you plan to marry my niece?”


“If she’ll have me.” Dominic shifted his focus to his drink. “Which is far from assured.” Trusting his instincts, he said, “She thinks marriage will limit her. I want her to be independent and it isn’t as though I am interested in any money she may have. I have my own nest egg.” The DeWitt men shared another meaningful glance. “What?”


“Adelle came into a considerable sum when her grandfather died last year,” said James.


“She never mentioned an inheritance.” He decided not to disclose she hadn’t even mentioned her grandfather’s passing. “Were they on good terms at the end?”


“He doted on her in his own way, but she never understood it as such,” Sebastian said. “To be fair, not many strong women would have recognized that particular brand of affection.”


Standing next to a Bishop suddenly struck Dominic as an opportunity. “Um … I’m not sure what to call a Bishop. Is it Father or something else?”


“Try Sebastian.”


“Might I have a word, Sebastian?”


“I’ll help my father entertain Henry and Eunice in the dining room.” Tapping Dominic on the shoulder, James added, “Don’t be shy about pouring yourself a refill. Uncle Charles likes his liquor to be appreciated.”


Dominic raised his glass in the direction of the only older man he hadn’t met. He got a sardonic grin and a matching gesture in return.


“What’s on your mind?” Sebastian asked, steering Dominic away from everyone else.


“I don’t want Adelle’s money, but I need her.” Dominic met Sebastian’s kind eyes. “Before I found her again, I wouldn’t have minded dying. Hell, most days I wanted to.” He closed his eyes. “I’m sorry for cursing, but I’d lost everyone who’d meant a lot to me, Adelle included. I watched my best friend die and sent three more along the same route. I just … I couldn’t …” Dominic bit his lip and embarrassedly wiped away a few tears. “Sorry,” he mumbled but, this time, he found it easier to face Sebastian. “Adelle made me want to live. ”


“Adelle knows of these friends and your attachment to them?” Sebastian asked. Dominic nodded. “Then neither money nor her need to be her own mistress will come between you. Give her time.” He smiled affectionately. “She’s always been independent, too much so, if you listen to her aunts. Even Juliet, on occasion, will remark on the burdens attendant to a woman fending for herself. Addie has to learn that depending upon you isn’t a weakness, Colonel.”


“Laurence, please.” He laughed. “I’m not a religious man, Sebastian, but I’m grateful for your taking the time to speak with me.” Dominic took a deep breath. “I have to tell you in all honesty, I want Adelle in my life, regardless of whether she agrees to marry me.”


Sebastian hugged him and whispered, “I hope you’ll consider allowing me to bless your union.”


“I don’t think Adelle would agree to anybody else blessing her union with anyone.”


“That pleases me.” Sebastian looked over Dominic’s shoulder. “I’m also glad you felt you could confide in me, but I believe it’s time to place you under Adelle’s tender care.”


Dominic looked over his shoulder and his heart stopped. Adelle had her hair up, wore a lot of diamonds, the bracelet he’d given her and a dress the man he stood next to would probably deem indecent. “Lord have mercy,” he muttered.


“You’d be better served praying that Addie does,” Sebastian said, wearing an uncleric-like smirk.


* * *


Adelle didn’t expect to see Laurence deep in conversation with Sebastian. He had always been the most ambitious of the brothers, despite the path he had chosen, which gave the two men something in common. Reaching the upper echelons of the Church of England had fulfilled that ambition, but Sebastian used his skills well and his compassion and worldliness might well appeal to a soldier who needed both to fulfill his current mission.


Laurence looked slightly dazed as she reached his side, but the heat in his eyes made her shiver and wish the dinner party had ended rather than only just begun. “I'm sorry,” she said, kissing his cheek.

“I'd put up with a lot worse than this to see you in that dress.” It was on the tip of her tongue to promise to let him take it off later, but she thought that might push even Sebastian's worldliness too far.

“Are you behaving, uncle?” she inquired, leaning forward to kiss Sebastian’s cheek.

“I'm on my very best behaviour, which is more than I can say for you. Are you planning to give your aunt Eunice a stroke?”

“She’ll be disappointed if I don't scandalise her.”

“Forcing her to converse with me didn’t do the trick?” Laurence asked, exchanging a wry smile with Sebastian.

“If she isn’t afforded numerous opportunities to disapprove, she won't enjoy her evening.”

“Speak with Nigel,” Sebastian suggested. “He's been waiting for you. Laurence, I hope we are able to speak again soon.”

“I’d like that, Sebastian.”

Adelle slipped her arm through Laurence’s, as they crossed the room. “Sebastian wasn’t what I expected,” he said.

“Don’t be fooled, if he played the conservative. My mother and I lived with him during the last war. He organised a hospital and campaigned against men with shell shock being sent back to the front. Secretly, he’s as radical as they come.”

“Interesting family you have, Miss DeWitt.”

“They’re exhausting. Perhaps if I’d grown up surrounded by them, I wouldn’t find them so overwhelming.”

A young man, looking as though he longed to be somewhere else, leaned against the fireplace. “Nigel,” she said as he straightened.

“Adelle, it’s wonderful to see you, even if your return provoked this rather alarming gathering of the DeWitt clan.”

“I didn’t suggest it,” she said firmly while turning to her companion. “Laurence, this is my cousin Nigel. Nigel, meet Colonel Dominic.” Sharp eyes peered from behind thick spectacles, but Nigel hesitated. She doubted Laurence would be fooled by her cousin’s reserve; he had seen straight through hers.

The two men shook hands and Nigel asked shyly, “You’ve both been in Nuremberg and Berlin. What do you think the prospects are for the trial?” Adelle let Laurence answer first, following his remarks with an analysis of her own. Nigel listened and offered an opinion, with which Laurence agreed.

“What are you doing with yourself?” she asked, once the prospects of the greatest trial in history had been explored.

“Trying to study.” Nigel pulled a face. “I’m pretty rusty, though.”

“It will come back,” she said reassuringly. “Your mind’s been full of codes and ciphers, that’s all. Nigel was a code-breaker at Bletchley Park.”

Laurence looked suitably impressed at this news. “You broke the Nazi codes. That was good work.”

“A small cog in a large and very brilliant wheel and what Adelle neglected to mention is that, without her, I wouldn’t have so distinguished as a war record. My parents arranged for me to sit it out in some dreary administrative role. I asked Adelle to pull some strings.”

“If your academic record suggested you were suited to a dreary administrative role, I wouldn’t have arranged for you to go to Bletchley.”

“Mother still hasn’t forgiven you.” Adelle shrugged; Nigel grinned. “I will be forever grateful.”

“Tell Laurence about Egypt,” she encouraged.

“You’re an archeologist?” Dominic asked.

“I’m trying to be. It isn’t easy when father wants me to care about the estate and mother keeps introducing me to debs.”

“Debutants,” Adelle supplied, suspecting Laurence hadn’t a clue what that meant. “Very well bred, very suitable young women. All of them very keen to snag the oldest son of a Viscount.”

“It takes time and effort to hold them at bay,” Nigel said. Finally facing Dominic, he muttered “Waves of parental disappointment follow.”

“You’re allowed to choose for yourself,” Adelle asserted, glancing over at Laurence and smiling. “I thoroughly recommend it.”

“We aren’t all like you, Addie; some of us were brought up knowing we had duties and obligations. Being the heir means you can’t do whatever you like.”

“The world won’t end if you choose your own wife, in your own time.”

“I recommend intelligent women,” Laurence said, drawing a smile from Nigel. “I’ve found the challenge worthwhile.”

“Thank you for being nice to Nigel,” she said when they’d been summoned to dinner. “He wanted to fight, but his parents refused to countenance his doing anything dangerous.”

“So you found him a job as a code breaker; you’re more involved with your family than you think.” She didn’t entirely agree, after all what she had done for Nigel wasn’t so different to how she had recruited agents.

“Dear Lord,” As anticipated Aunt Eunice looked shocked, by the dress, the diamonds, possibly both.

“Adelle is wearing her mother’s diamonds for the first time,” Juliet interjected, before her sister in law said anything tactless. “She looks beautiful, doesn’t she Laurence?”

“She looks beautiful in anything,” he said. As he glanced at her, she knew very well he was thinking, “or in nothing at all.”


* * *


“You don’t have to stand guard while Adelle is doing whatever she’s doing up there,” Dominic said, gesturing to James with his brandy glass. “I can hold my own for a few minutes.”


“Clearly, you haven’t met cousin Jane.” James gestured with his chin. “The young lady pretending to be extremely bored by whatever Nigel is saying,” James replied. “She cares little for intellectual pursuits of the type that fascinate him.”


Jane looked a couple of years younger than her brother and was two or three inches shorter than Adelle but shared the same build. Her hair tended slightly toward red in the subdued lighting and she appeared to have dark eyes. Dominic wondered if James was pulling his leg. “If she’s her mother’s daughter, she wouldn’t deign to speak to me.”


“She’s not,” James said with a soft chuckle. “Not in the sense of cutting you, at least.” Someone cleared their throat and James nodded past Dominic. “Hello, Jane. Have you met Laurence?”


“You know very well I haven’t had the pleasure,” Jane said, even as she leaned in to kiss them both on the cheek.


Well and truly tired of kisses on the cheek, Dominic consulted his watch. Taking Jane’s frown as a reprimand, he said, “I’m not used to waiting on Adelle. She’s the most efficient woman I’ve ever met.”


“Adelle’s leaving with you?” Jane asked. She and James shared a complicated look when Dominic nodded.


“Your mother will have a few things to say on that subject, I imagine,” James said.


“More than a few,” she said. “Is that how unmarried people behave in America?” Her blatant curiosity and moderately censorious tone surprised Dominic.


“We aren’t in America,” he said, trying a small smile to lighten the mood.


“Even so,” Jane said, stepping closer and lowering her voice. “Have you given a single thought to Adelle’s reputation?”


“I … well, she …” Not wanting to admit that he hadn’t carefully considered her reputation, he said, “Where Adelle sleeps is her business.”


“Our uncle is a Bishop, for heaven’s sake,” Jane said, gesturing grandly in Sebastian’s direction, causing him to glance over at them. “Your impropriety reflects on the entire family.” She glared at James’ slight smile, making Dominic feel slightly better. “Adelle has always operated on the fringes of society when it suited her, but this is something else again. Don’t you agree, James?”


Only when eyes as green as Adelle’s landed on him did Dominic realize that this man’s good opinion mattered. “No,” James said, annunciation slow and careful. “The urgency and finality of this war aren’t yet reflected in societal norms, but they will be. There’s no stopping that.”


“You have fallen under the spell of the conquering hero as well,” Jane murmured. “I’d have thought better of you, cousin.”


“I’m not a hero,” Dominic ventured.


“Oh, of course you are. Adelle wouldn’t have it any other way. She’d never bring home anyone ordinary. That’s for the rest of us to do.” Jane faced her cousin. “You’ll agree with me on that point, won’t you?”


“Deborah wasn’t ordinary.”


Jane raised a hand to her cheek as if James had slapped her and Dominic wouldn’t have blamed him for actually doing so, assuming Deborah was his late wife.


“Is everything quite all right over here?” Eunice asked.


“Jane’s had enough brandy,” James observed. “She should have an early night.”


“I merely dared to say what everyone’s been dancing around tonight,” Jane said, aiming imploring eyes at her mother. “Taking a lover discreetly isn’t enough; Adelle must flaunt her shocking behavior.”


“She didn’t know we were having dinner with anyone other than Juliet, Edgar and James tonight, all of whom I’d met,” Dominic said, told low and forceful.


“How do you explain the diamonds, then?” Jane asked, smiling as though she’d won.


“I can’t,” he admitted. “I didn’t know she had jewelry like that and have no idea why she chose today to wear them.”


“So you aren’t after her for her money,” Eunice said. “That’s something, anyway.”


“Her wealth just sweetens the pot, mother.”


“Excuse us,” James muttered, taking Dominic by the bicep and tugging him toward the drinks cabinet. “Laurence, on behalf of the DeWitt family, I apologize for my aunt and cousin. ”


“There’s no need for an apology,” Dominic said, as he accepted more brandy. “We’re sleeping together outside of marriage. A lot of people would look down upon us for that.” He regarded James closely. “Maybe even you, although I doubt you’d come right out and say so.”


“Addie dressed for you tonight. That’s all you need to know about what just happened.”


Shaking his head, Dominic decided to simply ask his question. “Do you disapprove of our relationship, James?”


“I can’t in good conscience disapprove of anything that makes my cousin so happy.” James sipped his brandy. “She’s been dead serious since ’39, Laurence. It’s been a joy to watch her relax and have fun, despite the entire family being here to rain on her parade.” He raised his glass. “Thank you for that.”


They touched rims and drank. “It was my pleasure.”


“Hardly,” James said, laughing, “although, I suspect Adelle will make it up to you a bit later.”


“Nigel looks pensive, Henry is watchful, Jane is fuming, Eunice is fussing over her and the two of you exude an air of conspiracy.” Both men faced Adelle. “Did I miss anything?” she asked.


“Just the open discussion of the scandal Laurence embodies,” James said.


“Thank God,” Adelle murmured, as she took Dominic’s arm and accepted a brandy from James.


* * *

“You’re very quiet,” Adelle observed. Her head rested against Laurence’s shoulder, as they sat together in the back of the car. Mason drove with Driscoll beside him, reminding her to thank them for maintaining a discrete presence throughout the evening. Learning that a dangerous killer, a man she had sent into occupied France as a spy, might have targeted them would have been too much for many of her relatives, not just Aunt Eunice.

“I’m thinking,” Laurence said, stroking his hand over her side, his thumb just grazing her breast and making her shiver. Sighing softly she moved closer. A moment later he said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

He’d heard about her grandfather then. “An old man who died in his sleep seemed trivial compared to your losses, especially when my feelings about him were ambivalent at best.”

“He was your grandfather, Adelle.”

“He refused to see my mother after her marriage. He never forgave her for defying him. When we returned to England during the last war he wouldn’t let us stay with him so we had to live with Sebastian. He didn’t come to the memorial service after their disappearance. Whenever he looked at me I saw bitterness, guilt and pain. He left his money to me because he had no one else. I’d have much preferred a grandfather who cared.”

Dominic hadn’t known either of his grandfathers and didn’t feel qualified to speak on that issue further. “Jane thinks I’m a fortune hunter.”

“Jane is conveniently forgetting that many of her ancestors married for money,” Adelle responded tartly. “The estate couldn’t have been maintained otherwise.” Dismissing Jane with a sigh, she said, “I should have told you.”

“How much of a fortune am I hunting anyway?”

“The bequest was considerable, though the death duties and other taxes are crippling. I’m quite wealthy, Laurence, but there are people I’m responsible for, that I promised to look after. Grandfather would heartily disapprove.”

“I guess that’s ... fitting.”

Clasping his hand, she said, “I didn’t intend for us to run the full gamut of the DeWitt clan.”

“Obviously,” he said, “but I learned a lot.” He smiled but sobered quickly. “Adelle, I won’t allow our relationship to damage your reputation.”

She saw no point in pretending she wouldn’t be judged, wasn’t being judged already. Hypocrisy or not, men’s and women’s behaviour was viewed differently. If she had accepted his proposal, people would overlook their sexual relationship as long as they remained relatively discrete. But she hadn’t.

Their relationship held risk for him, as the senior US Officer in Berlin engaged in a politically sensitive task at a time of great change. His reputation could be damaged by their liaison, by his having a known and visible mistress. “I feel the same way about you,” she said. “I worry I’ll damage your career. You make me happy,” she added, pressing a kiss to their clasped hands. “But we’re both too old to believe that’s all that matters. No other man would have reacted as you did when I didn’t accept your proposal and I don’t deserve you.”

“I told you, Adelle, I—.” She pressed her fingertips to his lips, shaking her head to prevent him from continuing.

“I need you to be happy and successful, Laurence, and to know I didn’t stand in the way of fulfilling your potential. The subject of marriage isn’t completely closed; I can promise you that much.”

He looked at her, eyes clear and sharp. “I’ll hold you to that, Miss DeWitt.”


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Oh Clan DeWitt. Poor Laurence, at least he had some allies on this battle front. The Bishop was awesome (I love him being the most radical of all the brothers.)

I also love that the idea of marriage isn't completely closed to Adelle and that she told Laurence this even after her initial rejection of his proposal. Plus, the uber discreet bodyguards make me laugh every time, I love them.

I loved it.

It was fun imagining all of Adelle's uncles and aunts and such. Sebastian did come off rather well and, in my opinion, continues to do so. The radical priest--yay!

Once we decided he needed bodyguards, I got to thinking that they'd have to be discreet. Otherwise ... the tales they could tell! The juxtaposition of Adelle DeWitt and marriage is a strange one.

Thanks so much. Unfortunately, this morning, my hard drive died. Fortunately, I have flash drive copies of the rest of this. I don't know what I would've done otherwise. morgan72uk might have put out a hit on me.

Another fantastic chapter! I really feel like I have nothing more to say. It's all just fabulous and I'm enjoying the ride tremendously.

I'm pleased to hear that it's still working for you even after all of this time. I hope we'll surprise you a little in the future so you might have things to say!

In sad news, my hard drive is no more. RIP. In happier news, I have all of the remaining chapters on flash drive. Whew! I might have cried otherwise.

Oh my god, thank goodness! I know I would have cried!

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