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Battle of Britain--Chapter 21
longer, dominic
Rating: R (language and sexual situations)

Author: morgan72uk and rogoblue

Summary: Plans and preparations are being made and adoption agencies are proving to be challenging.

“You will?” Dominic asked, unable to take Adelle’s response at face value. Smiling, she nodded. He mirrored both actions before molding his lips to hers. When he’d imagined this moment, which he had several times, Dominic had thought they’d be overcome with passion. In the kisses that followed, tenderness and a sense of mutuality underscored the passion. Every kiss, caress and moment of eye contact felt precious. Awe crept in to the mix when he realized he was no longer alone.

“Sir? We’ve arrived.” Driscoll’s voice called Dominic back to himself.

The hotel Adelle had chosen for him in London seemed part of a distant past, as if meeting Kate had sped up time somehow. “Adelle, do we have enough time?” he asked, instinctively flowing with the stream of his consciousness.

“Let’s get inside,” Mason said, tone the epitome of neutral. “Those fortunate enough to have returned to London this morning have ensured that your suite is ready.”

Stepping out of the car, Dominic offered a hand to Adelle. She rose, took his arm and murmured, “We’ll find a way.”

Already sorting through details, he said, “I need to make some international telephone calls, Driscoll. Find out how to get that done.” The sergeant saluted and peeled off to follow the order. Before he took three steps, Dominic added, “I need to know where the nearest decent toy store is too.”

“We’ll go to Hamley’s tomorrow morning,” Adelle said, smiling at Mason’s dramatic sigh.

Dominic’s mind turned to teddy bears, while he and his fiancée strolled through the hotel. Entering the suite triggered a surge of doubt. “We have less than a week. I’m due back in Berlin on Sunday.”

“Perhaps Vandermeer could free up a few more days,” Adelle suggested. “We’ll need some time after the wedding to see to the adoption or whatever part of the proceedings requires us both to be present.” Before he could register any protest, she added, “If anyone can assist with this tight timetable, it’s Sebastian. I’ll contact him as soon as you’ve completed your telephone calls.”

“I don’t like the idea of leaving you here with Mason.” Dominic silently admitted the threat Alpha posed paled in comparison to what he wanted. “I’d prefer to make the trip back with you and Kate, but I’m not sure if even Vandermeer can make that happen.”

An interesting smile flickered across Adelle’s lips. “Perhaps he will if he’s given proper incentive.”

“What might that be?” Dominic asked, pondering possible threats.

“To grant his commanding officer’s wish to travel with his new wife and daughter.” She laughed at his start of disbelief. “Sometimes the truth serves, Laurence.”

“I’m not sure I’m ready to give up the element of surprise.” Driscoll arrived with a fastidious looking man in tow.

“I am called Mr. Beane,” the man said. “If you’ll accompany me, Colonel, I will assist you in making your telephone calls.”

“Lead on, Mr. Beane,” he said, grabbing Adelle’s hand. Beane’s eyes widened, when Driscoll and Mason followed. “Miss DeWitt has a call to make too,” Dominic said, as everyone other than Mason crowded into a small office. Driscoll quickly checked for security risks, while Dominic gave Mr. Beane two phone numbers. Transatlantic connection made, Beane and Driscoll stepped out.

Dominic took a deep breath. “Hello, mom,” he managed.

“Laurence, my goodness, what a pleasant surprise!” Mona Dominic’s voice picked up a hint of anxiety, when she asked, “What couldn’t wait for the post?”

“I’m getting married.” He glanced at Adelle who smiled encouragement. “This week, if we can swing it.”

“Oh my word.” Not sure what to say next, Dominic waited. “Why haven’t you written of your engagement? Am I too homespun for your future wife?”

“Not even close, the two of you would understand each other completely, I think.” Laughing, he added, “Probably without even speaking. English at any rate.” His grip tightened on the phone. “It … it just happened. I haven’t even given her a ring yet.”

“I see.” Her clipped tone startled him. “May I ask the reason for this haste to wed?”

He breathed a sigh of relief. “Adelle isn’t pregnant.” The woman in question’s arms slid around his waist. “We’ve met a child, who’s lost her parents, a little girl named Kate we’d like to adopt. She’s heading to an orphanage in a couple of weeks, so we thought why wait when we could spare her that experience.”

He tilting his head and the phone, so Adelle could better hear both sides of the conversation.

“That’s wonderful news. My only son with a wife and a child. I’d begun to fear I’d never see the day.”

“Your confidence in me is inspiring, mom.”

“Is Adelle with you now?”


“May I speak with her?”

Dominic looked over his shoulder at Adelle. After a deep breath, she took the phone.

* * *

Adelle was momentarily at a loss. Being happier than she had been in years brought a sudden awareness that she did not have parents with whom to share her news.

“Hello?” The friendly voice on the other end of the line reminded her that Mona Dominic wasn’t a perfect stranger. She had gone out of her way to write a warm, affectionate letter to a woman involved with but certainly not engaged to her son.

“Mrs. Dominic,” she murmured and suddenly the words flowed freely. “It’s wonderful to speak to you at last. I hope you’re pleased by our news?” It mattered enormously that she approved of their union and understood her daughter in law would never be conventional.

“I couldn’t be more delighted, my dear, and you’re to call me Mona.”

“I’d like that.” Adelle decided to confront what would undoubtedly be Mona’s main concern. “It must seem strange that we’re marrying so far away and in a hurry.”

“Compared to what might have happened to Laurence in the war, those things aren’t so important.” She heard the catch her voice, before Mona added, “I’m so glad he’s happy – he deserves it.”

“He does,” Adelle agreed, smiling at the man under discussion. “He seems happy at the moment.”

“You know I am,” Laurence murmured.

“There’s a little girl as well?”

“Kate,” Adelle said, finding it difficult to look away from Laurence. “She’s two and a half with enormous blue eyes and a battered teddy bear. I have to report, Mona, that your son – the stern, stoic Colonel, is entirely smitten with her.”

“He’ll spoil her, given half a chance.”

“I imagine he will.”

“Are you smitten also?”

Adelle had been affected by the little girl, but she was more reserved, more careful. “I will come to care for her; it would be difficult not to. She has no one and is very sweet. She deserves something good to happen.”

“I’m sure you’re right, but at that age, she’s going to be a challenge. She will have tantrums and be naughty. Don’t allow Laurence to have all the fun while you become the disciplinarian. You should play with her also. I wish I’d had more fun with my two, but I was always so busy.”

Being busy had kept food on the table and paid the rent, but Adelle didn’t feel comfortable making that observation yet. “That’s good advice, thank you, but I hope you’ll play with Kate. I’d love it if we could visit you and you could come to Berlin.”

“I don’t know about the latter.”

“I insist.” Laurence shrugged when she looked to him, so she added, “Laurence agrees that you should come. We certainly want Kate to know you. I’d like to meet you as well.”

“Maybe in the spring.” Adelle let the subject drop, content she’d planted the idea. “Do you have enough time to plan a wedding? I know soldiers often married when on leave during the war, but what about now?”

“My uncle can perform the ceremony,” Adelle said, “he’s a clergyman.” It struck her as unwise to mention Sebastian’s position within the Church of England. “We’ll get a special license.” They needed to find a church as well, but she intended to leave that in Sebastian’s capable hands. “I don’t know whether Laurence told you about my parents.”

“He mentioned they’d died in an accident when you were young.”

“When I was 18. I have a number of uncles, aunts and cousins but only a few I am close to.” She’d invite them all, of course, and perhaps the spare had something special lurking in his cellar. The heir might turn down an invitation to appease Aunt Eunice, but Edgar, Juliet, James and Nigel she actually wanted at her wedding. “As long as we have witnesses to sign the register, we will be fine.”

“What will you wear?”

“I really have no idea.” Frowning, Adelle considered her wardrobe, well aware that London’s fashion houses had not yet recovered from the war. “A dress might be the most difficult challenge, but I’ll think of something.” Conscious of the time, she said, “I’ll hand you back to Laurence now. Goodbye, Mona, we’ll speak again soon.”

“The next time, you’ll be a member of my family.”

* * *

“My uncle is a clergyman?” Dominic said, ushering Adelle into their suite after her conversation with Sebastian. “I’m going to call him that on our wedding day and blame you when he looks appalled.”

Adelle spun to face him. “I didn’t want to come across as … oh, I’m not sure what.”

“Upper crust? Too well bred for me?” He laughed. “Why the hell not? You are and my mom knows it as well as I do. Not to mention that half your relatives think I’m after you for your money.”

“What of your sister?” she asked, tone casual, demeanor anything but.

Dominic kissed her on the forehead and held her close. He chuckled as inspiration struck. “Lynn might accept that I’m marrying you to increase my net worth, if it wasn’t for Kate.”

Adelle pulled back to the small extent he permitted. “What does Kate have to do with her disapproval?”

He cherished the rare experience of Adelle looking confused. “Lynn will assume you’ve refused to have my children. To her, that’s anathema. ”

“Your stance on my reluctance to procreate is …?”

“I didn’t know you were, but I understand why you might feel that way. We’re getting a late jump on starting a family.” Dominic cupped her chin in his hand. “I’m fine with continued use of condoms, if that’s what you want, so long as we have Kate.” Adelle looked troubled and he struggled to find the right words. “I need you. If that’s the price, I’ll gladly pay it.”

“But surely your sister’s good opinion is of some importance to you, as is the future you’ve always imagined.”

“I never envisioned anyone like you.” He took Adelle’s hands. “Lynn’s gotten married and had two children, since I came over. Not having kids of our own will eventually equate with you being selfish.” Dominic kissed Adelle like there was no tomorrow. She fully participated. “I know you’re in as deep as I am, by the way you talked to my mom and your uncle, if nothing else. Sebastian is happy for the both of us, I think.”

“He said he told you I’d come around.”

Adelle’s expression suggested caution. “He did,” Dominic allowed, “but I wasn’t so sure. I hoped and would’ve prayed, if I believed in that sort of thing.”

She started as though waking abruptly. “Will you mind being married in a church, Laurence?”

“Whatever works for you.”

“Will you be uncomfortable?”

“Ritual has its place and, if God exists, He knows I asked for help from a trench in Italy, when I ran out of ideas and ammunition.” He smirked, as he freed her blouse from the waistband of her skirt. “Let’s table the theological discussion and go to bed.”

“And risk scandalizing Kevin further.”

Leave it to Adelle to invoke Vandermeer’s first name. “He’s not scandalized; he’s curious. He wants to know why I need a character reference from General Crane or anyone else with a star. I didn’t feel the need to tell him it’s going to help me adopt a child.”

“What of your schedule?”

“I could listen to you or Judith say that word for an hour.”

Tugging him toward their bedroom, she said, “Tell me.”

“He says he’s sorry, but next week can’t become the week after.” Dominic stared at his shoes. “I raised my voice, but nothing changed. ”

Her slow smile sped up his heart. “I enjoy a challenge and I’m eminently grateful to Corporal Vandermeer for providing me with one,” she purred.

“Are you trying to make me jealous?”

“No, my love. I’m trying to make you hard.”

He smiled. So did she. Clothes were shed. Bodies caressed, stimulated and merged. Adelle moaned his name and he barely managed to groan upon release. So much change loomed on the horizon, Dominic felt as though he’d miss something if he blinked. Closing his eyes to try and rest seemed risky, but he followed Adelle’s example and fell asleep nearly immediately.

* * *

Hamley’s was a child’s paradise and, often, a nightmare for adults such as their bodyguards. Mason had looked apoplectic at the mere idea and even the normally imperturbable Driscoll swore under his breath at the crowds. People might have very little money, but the traditional holiday visit to Hamley’s transcended the limitations of rationing, packing the shop with children of all ages and parents trying to keep track of them.

Laurence had wanted to be here as soon as the shop opened, but Adelle had insisted that they call the adoption agency first. He’d given way, though disappointed and his mood hadn’t been improved by the conversation they’d had with the woman responsible for Kate. Worse than throwing cold water on their request to adopt Kate, she had been condescending. Adelle hoped the meeting they had arranged for the following day would establish matters on a more positive footing.

There had numerous other things to do today, including paying a visit to Edgar and Juliet. She had persuaded Sebastian to keep the news of their engagement to himself for a day, but she had little confidence he would hold out any longer. First, however, a bear would be purchased.

“Can I be of assistance sir, madam?” The sales assistant did not fill her with confidence; he looked oily with a manner that could easily tend towards the servile.

“We’re looking for a bear for a little girl,” Adelle said, when Laurence merely glowered.

“Of course. We have lots of bears.” He smiled nervously at Laurence. “Perhaps a soldier bear?”

“Absolutely not!” Laurence’s decisiveness made Adelle smile. “We want a bear that’s actually a bear.”

“Yes, I well – well, if you’d come this way?” Their strides fell easily into step and they moved in tandem purposefully across the shop floor, other customers parting like the Red Sea.

“Do you have any other ideas about the bear?” They turned, if his look of abject fear meant anything, matching intimidating gazes on him. “I’ll let you browse.” He backed away to what he evidently considered a safe distance.

Side by side, they stalked along rows and rows of bears. The immense amount of variety left Adelle uncertain where to begin.

“They all look too cheerful,” Laurence complained.

Instead of suggesting that his current mood influenced his preferences, she considered his words. “A melancholy disposition,” she said and added, “but still I think a noble bearing.”

Laurence’s lips twitched. “I’m not ready to be in a good mood,” he grumbled.

“That poor man is terrified. He doesn’t know that you’re angry with the adoption agency.”

“That woman was...”

“She was,” Adelle agreed, even though Laurence hadn’t fully articulated his thought. “By now, she’s spoken to Mrs. P and when we meet tomorrow, she’ll have a better understanding of the situation. I expect she’s just trying to do what is best for Kate.”

“Kate should have a family of her own.”

“Yes, but in order to accomplish that, we must let this woman think she’s calling the shots, particularly when she isn’t.”

“I can’t believe I forgot how your devious mind works.” She inclined her head at what she knew to be a compliment and he added, “I hate someone else having that level of power over us.”

“We’re far from powerless and we will work out how to influence her.” She let Laurence chew on her declarations but started to lose hope after fifteen more minutes of bear shopping. The sales assistant hovered nervously, seeming to think it inconceivable that Hamley’s would be unable to meet their requirements.

“Adelle,” Laurence whispered, pointing. In a dim corner, pushed out of the way, sat a large bear with pale fur and an expression suggesting he had not always lived a happy life.

“He’s bigger than she is,” she pointed out.

“She’ll grow.”

“Well yes.” Adelle ruffled the bear’s fur. “He’s very soft and doesn’t seem to be a very popular.”

“It is a slightly older model,” the assistant said. “I think it’s the only one of this particular type left in stock.” She wondered if Laurence also thought a bear no one seemed to want perfect for Kate.

“I know a little girl who would be delighted with him,” she said. “We’ll take this one please.”

“Of course, madam.”

* * *

“Is there a problem, Mason?” Laurence Dominic asked, maintaining a bland expression in the face of the bodyguard’s darting glances at the enormous bear seated next to Adelle in the backseat of the car.

“No, sir,” Mason said.

“It’s a teddy bear, not an assassin,” Dominic said, feeling amusement ripple through the woman tucked against his left side. “Look.” Dominic reached across Adelle and poked the bear in the head, chest and belly. He took advantage of the situation to press her back against the plush seat and steal a kiss.

“It’s … ah … big.”

“Hamley’s had larger ones,” Adelle offered, her tone soft, almost lazy, as Dominic retook his seat.

He tilted Adelle’s chin upward. Her slow smile tested his self control, but he persevered. “Do you remember the ridiculous brown one with the ear to ear smile? It was supposed to be really happy, but it looked maniacal to me. That one would’ve given Kate nightmares.”

Mason obviously perked up. “Who is Kate?”

Adelle raised an eyebrow, clearly awaiting Dominic’s response. He met Mason’s eyes in the rearview mirror and mentally thumbed his nose at the snooty woman who would decide the matter. “The little girl Adelle and I plan to adopt.”

Mason looked away. Dominic imagined him mouthing, “Adopt?” With a sharp nod, Mason muttered, “This itinerary is finally starting to make sense.”

When they made a right hand turn, Adelle leaned forward and tapped Mason on the shoulder. “This isn’t the way to my uncle’s,” she said.

“We aren’t going to your uncle’s yet,” Dominic said, trying a small smile when she narrowed her eyes at him. “We have a stop to make first.”

“Laurence, we agreed to have lunch with Edgar and Juliet.”

“We’ll probably arrive more or less on time.” Perversely enjoying her mild ire, he said, “If all goes well.”

“Where are we going?” Adelle demanded.

“It’s a surprise,” Dominic said.

“A decidedly unpleasant one.” She slid over and plopped the bear between them.

Mason deftly turned a laugh into a cough, but Dominic glared at him anyway, because he hadn’t completely banished his earlier bad mood. Accomplishing that feat depended on Adelle, but he refrained from mentioning that. Adelle’s anger held a hint of hurt. “We’re going to a park,” he said in an effort to dispel the latter. “I’d like to stretch my legs and talk with you more privately than we can here or at your Uncle’s. That’s all. Ok?”

“It’s far too cold for a walk in the park,” she decreed, ostentatiously turning away to look out the window.

“Please, Adelle.” Something in his tone drew her beautiful green eyes to his. “Walk with me,” he whispered as Mason parked. Not waiting for a refusal, he exited the car. Mason beat him to opening her door.

“Where are your gloves?” Adelle asked, as she took Dominic’s hand and allowed him to help her out. He shrugged. She sighed. “You will have to show a better example to Kate, if you’re to be a proper father.” ”

“I promise I won’t get frostbite,” he countered, steering Adelle along a walkway with a bare hand at the small of her back. Their bodyguards took up station, one ahead, one behind, far enough away to allow them privacy, exactly as he’d specified.

Adelle said, “So talk.”

“Soon.” He scanned for a suitable spot. At the center of a quaint wooden bridge spanning a frozen pond where several kids skated, he caught her gloved hand. “Stop for a second.”

“Whatever for?”

“Close your eyes, grumpy.”

“It’s evidently my turn.”

“Fair enough,” he observed with a chuckle. “Close your eyes, Adelle.” She frowned. “C’mon, play along. My men are watching.” After she rolled them, she did. Dominic slid the glove off her left hand and hoped the redness appearing on her cheeks wasn’t solely due to the breeze picking up. Slipping a cold hand into his pocket, he struggled to open the small box and extract the engagement ring. Slowly, solemnly and with his heart beating far too erratically to be healthy, he slid it onto her finger. “You …” The words stuck in his throat. He took a deep breath and resumed. “You can open them now.”

She stared into his eyes for a few seconds before her gaze dropped to her hand nestled in both of his. The diamond glowed in the harsh winter light.

* * *

As Adelle leant over to kiss her Uncle Edgar, he caught hold of her hand. “What's this?”

They had arrived just a few minutes earlier, but he'd already noticed the ring now gracing her left hand. The beautifully cut diamond wasn’t particularly discrete; she'd had some difficulty taking her eyes off it in the car. She adored it as a symbol of their relationship and because Laurence had gone to such pains to make sure the ring had no trace of Nazism associated with it. Through means he declined to divulge, he'd procured a stone that had been newly cut in Antwerp, probably assisting a family of diamond cutters in rebuilding their business.

“I take it this is good news?” Edgar looked towards Laurence as he asked his question.

“Adelle has done me the great honour of agreeing to be my wife.”

Juliet kissed her niece first and then Laurence. “I'm so happy for you both.”

“This calls for a celebration.” Edgar clapped his hands. “I’ve hidden away a decent bottle of champagne for a special occasion. It will go splendidly with lunch.”

“Before we eat, there is something else.” Adelle reached for Laurence's hand. Their smiling, expectant faces made the necessary disclosure easier, though she half wondered if Juliet at least expected an announcement of a pregnancy. “We've met a little girl, an orphan. Her name is Kate and we very much want to adopt her. That's why we are going to try to get married this week.”

“Does Sebastian know?”

“Adelle spoke to him last night,” Laurence told Edgar. “I know it looks rushed and maybe irresponsible, but marriage isn’t exactly a new topic for us and we'd like to complete the adoption before I need to return to Berlin.”

“One more reason to celebrate,” Edgar said, offering Laurence his hand. “Welcome to the family.”

“Thank you,”

“What's going on?” James wandered into the room.

“Adelle and Laurence are engaged,” his mother said, leading to more kisses and handshakes.

“You might have held out a bit longer, Addie.” James’ complaint couldn’t survive the twinkle in his eye. “Now you're off the market, the family will return to worrying when I will remarry. I was enjoying a break from that attention.”

“James, you can go back to sea to escape,” Adelle suggested.

“Let's have lunch,” as Juliet guided them towards the dining room she took Laurence's arm. “Am I allowed to know how you proposed?”

Before Adelle could worry over much about him possibly disclosing that he'd first proposed in bed and been turned down, Edgar caught her arm and drew her back. “I won’t ask if you’re happy; I can see you are. I am surprised you’ve decided to take on a child. You’ll only just be married; most people need time to adjust.”

“Kate has no one. She fell in love with Laurence at first sight and the thought of her going to an orphanage devastated him. He wants a family, Kate needs one and I want him to be happy.”

Her uncle nodded and kissed her forehead. “Your parents would be very proud of you and I know they would approve of your choice.”

“What’s the plan for this wedding?” James asked as they drank coffee and brandy after lunch.

“Thursday at the latest,” Laurence said. “Hopefully Wednesday. Sebastian thought he could get us the license by then.”

“You and I should go out tomorrow to mark you last night as a bachelor.” He grinned at his cousin. “Don’t worry, Addie, I’ll take very good care of him.”

“You won’t have a choice,” she retorted, setting her coffee cup down. “Two bodyguards under strict instructions to make sure no harm comes to their Colonel will see to that.”

“Are you sure you want to marry her, Laurence?” James asked. “She’s awfully bossy.”

“James, don’t provoke your cousin,” his mother chided gently. “Her next few days will be quite hectic. Adelle, how on earth will you find something to wear for your wedding in a day?”

“Actually, I have rather less time than that. We must meet with the adoption agency tomorrow and we’d like to visit Kate again.” Adelle shrugged, realising she expected a great deal. “I hoped you might know someone who could rise to the challenge and that you might have something we could alter.”

“I’ll make some telephone calls and then we’ll have a look in the attic.”

“Do you need anything for the adoption?” Edgar asked.

“A character reference each,” Laurence said, “from someone who knows us well. My aide in Berlin has been working on mine since last night.”

“And what about you Adelle?”

“I’ll talk to Clive Ambrose, I’m sure he’ll help.”

“What about Churchill?” Edgar asked. “You’re his favourite spy.”

“I’m a soon to be retired spy,” she said, “and, I probably shouldn’t bother him.” Churchill had retreated after the loss of the election; she didn’t know if he was in the country.

“I’ll make some calls this afternoon and see if I can track him down. I can’t imagine an adoption agency turning down anyone with a character reference from Churchill.” A little stunned, Adelle looked towards Laurence who nodded encouragingly. “Besides,” Edgar added, “he’s always talking about the importance of the transatlantic alliance.” Gesturing with his glass he said, “You two are its living embodiment.”

* * *

“Adelle said it herself, Laurence. She’s soon to be a retired spy.”

Dominic looked up from the newspaper he’d been reading, while Adelle and her Aunt Juliet spoke with another seamstress. He’d promised to accompany them, until the wedding dressmaker had been selected. “For the most part,” he said, eyeing Juliet warily.

She sat on the bench next to him. “Her career is important to her.”

“Dominic took a breath. “I realize that by taking her to Berlin, I’m precluding her from returning to whatever job she held prior to the war. I don’t feel badly about it, because I know she’s not interested in it anymore. We haven’t talked it over, but she’s had so much more responsibility these last few years, I can’t see her returning to significantly less.”

“Adelle needs to feel useful.”

“She is and will continue to be.”

Her voice lowered but the increase in intensity more than compensated. “Not just as a wife to her career military husband and mother to your adopted child.”

Dominic respected Juliet’s fierceness. “Adelle will never be ‘just’ my wife. Not to me, anyone associated with me, anyone with his or her wits about them or anyone with eyes to see. Hell, Juliet … um … sorry, ma’am.”

She waved away his cursing. “Continue, Laurence.”

“My men trust her. They look to her more than they do me in matters relating to covert operations, although they’re smart enough not to trumpet that too loudly.” He gazed at the floor between his feet. “That’s the subject of a long and somewhat embarrassing story,” he muttered in response to the interrogative noise she made. “I’m not ashamed to admit I need her to help navigate the diplomatic waters I’ve been tossed into. Her mind is so astute; she sees layers other people, myself included, simply don’t. She won’t receive pay for those services, but they will be acknowledged and very much appreciated nonetheless.” He held up a hand to forestall an interruption. “What’s more, she won’t be a retired spymaster until she’s run all of her existing operations to the end.”

“What do you mean?”

“Couple your niece’s ingrained sense of loyalty to an absolute unwillingness to accept harm to those for whom she was responsible to go unpunished and you have years of meaning ahead for her. She’ll finance her inquiries with the money I’m not marrying her to control.” Regret came quickly on the heels of desperation to explain. “Please don’t tell Adelle I’ve shared that with you and, if it isn’t a breach of trust in your relationship, I’d rather you didn’t tell Edgar either. It’s a very private matter for her and I shouldn’t have disclosed so much.”

“Adelle doesn’t trust easily and she clearly trusts you.” Juliet sighed. “Being her choice will suffice for Edgar and I. Laurence, I do understand the need for speed, but, surely you’d prefer it if some family of yours could attend.”

“I’d like my mom here, but she won’t travel in lousy weather. She’ll do better in the spring.”

“What aren’t you saying?”

He shook his head. “It can’t run in the family, because you and Adelle aren’t blood relations. How do you know there’s something I’m not saying?”

Juliet patted his forearm. “I suppose you looked as though you wished you could speak.”

Having told one of Adelle’s secrets, he couldn’t countenance keeping his. “My sister thinks I’m making a mistake. She thinks Adelle and I are from two worlds that can’t be reconciled and that she’ll break my heart, sooner rather than later.”

“I see.” Juliet clasped her hands on her lap and regarded him solemnly. “You don’t concur, obviously, but I wonder why.”

“No you don’t.” She sat up straighter and he smiled. “Your niece never brought a man home to meet her favorite aunt and uncle before me. Adelle never accepted a proposal and I don’t kid myself that I was the first to offer one. I won’t tell you how often I asked or hinted before Kate inspired her to answer in the affirmative. It’s clear you’ve never seen her so happy. That makes me happy and sure my sister is wrong.”

Juliet nodded slowly. “Is your sister vindictive?”

“Just narrow-minded. She’s not seen much of the world and doesn’t trust people who have, unless they’re related to her.”

She laughed. “Particularly those who intend to marry her elder brother after having selected an appropriate seamstress.”

Dominic followed the direction of Juliet’s gaze. Adelle and the diminutive older woman looked conspiratorial. “I’m well pleased, Aunt Juliet. Thank you.”

“You’re both quite welcome.” Juliet’s smile grew more encompassing. “All three of you, actually.”

* * *

“How much do you know about young children, Miss DeWitt?” Adelle managed a smile and found the will not to say that dealing with Whitehall officials resembled dealing with small, quite spoiled children.

“Not a great deal,” she admitted quietly. “During the last few years, I have had other priorities.” The intense woman on the other side of a desk overloaded with papers and files didn’t react, but Adelle knew humility to be the way forward. She hoped Laurence would leave this up to her. He looked perturbed, but she thought his frustration stemmed from the desire to help with Miss Hartridge. “I realise I have a lot to learn,” Adelle continued, “but we are both very serious about this. We know how busy you are and wouldn’t dream of wasting your time.”

“The character references I received from General Crane and Mr Ambrose were impressive,” Miss Hartridge acknowledged, albeit reluctantly. “But that doesn’t mean you have the first idea how to raise a child.”

“Don’t all new parents begin like that?” she asked. “If Kate’s parents hadn’t died, she would have been brought up by people who had no direct experience of raising a child.”

“But they did die and now she is my responsibility.”

“Of course,” Adelle said, “and I think we all agree that Kate would benefit from having a family of her own.”

“Even one that has no knowledge of children and is relocating to Berlin?”

“One that loves her.” She couldn’t let Miss Hartridge rile her and remaining calm in the face of her scepticism would help make the case that she could handle a small child.

“Adopted children are not easy. They often take time to settle and to develop a bond with their adoptive parents. Sometimes they never do. I understand Kate seemed very much taken with you, Colonel.” She turned her sharp, beady eyes on Laurence.

“Yes, ma’am, it was mutual.”

“Since you won’t be taking care of her day to day, her relationship with Miss DeWitt is rather more pertinent to my inquiries.”

“She liked Adelle,” he replied.

“That’s something I suppose, but it takes more than that to raise a child.” Looking down at her notes she asked, “Miss DeWitt, what would you do, if Kate had a tantrum?”

“I’d probably ignore her.” Lips were pressed together, an eyebrow raised. “You can’t reason with a two year old and I assume paying attention to bad behaviour just makes it more likely to be repeated. Of course, if there is a reason for chastisement or for the child to apologise, then that should be explained clearly but simply and followed through. Overall, I believe it’s more important to give praise when it’s due, to ensure good behaviour is recognised and encouraged.”

The lack of a response suggested Adelle had answered correctly. Given that she had based her answer on how Sebastian trained his dogs this was surprising. Laurence took her hand as Miss Hartridge continued, “your proposed living arrangements concern me. You’re intending to take Kate to Berlin?” She imbued that single word with a substantial degree of horror.

“The war is over,” Laurence said. “Berlin is occupied, it’s where I am stationed and Adelle’s work is there.”

“But her role is ending.” Turning to Adelle she added, “Why wouldn’t you remain in London to raise Kate here?”

“No,” Adelle’s tone was flat, implacable. “Laurence and I have been separated for long enough. I will not marry him and live apart. I’m marrying a soldier who can be posted overseas, but I’ve travelled and lived in other countries for most of my life and am quite prepared to carry on doing so. I speak German. Thus, I can be useful in Berlin and I need to have some occupation alongside looking after Kate.”

“But the influence on the child?”

“Travel broadens the mind. Both Laurence and I are multi-lingual. Kate will learn German and French alongside English and come to know people in the international community. She’ll be well educated and live in a safe and loving environment.”

“I have reservations,” Miss Hartridge said, “but, I’d like to give you a chance.”

Clearly, she expected them to be grateful and almost in unison they murmured, “Thank you.”

“Spend more time with Kate. Make sure you really understand what raising a child requires.” Her gaze rested on Adelle. “You can’t change your mind later.”

“You were brilliant!” Laurence exclaimed as they stepped out of the building housing Miss Hartridge. Pulling her close, he kissed her cheek. “She wanted to get to you and you remained calm and unruffled, just like all those meetings with Ambrose and Harding.”

“Do you think my icy demeanour will be an appropriate response to Kate?” Stepping out of his embrace, she said, “Miss Hartridge doesn’t think I can be a mother.” She stumbled over the word, knowing its power without precisely understanding it. “What if she’s correct, Laurence? What if I’ve kept my distance for so long that I can’t build a relationship with Kate? What if I resent her, because I’m losing my work and she’ll effect what I can do in the future? What if she comes between you and me?”

* * *

“You weren’t icy, Adelle,” Dominic said, resting his hands lightly on her upper arms. “You spoke with care and thoughtfulness. Those traits certainly can’t hurt in childrearing.”

“I suppose,” she muttered, stalking past the car.

Feeling unease from his men as he fell into step with her, Dominic chose his next words carefully. “I hope you appreciate what I’m about to do, Miss DeWitt,” he said, voice pitched low. Confused green eyes gazed over at him. He glanced briefly at the bodyguards trailing in their wake. Taking her hand to slow her pace, trusting other pedestrians to circumnavigate them, he turned his full attention on Adelle. “I love you with everything I was, am and will be. Nothing and no one will ever change that. If I have to make a choice today, it’s clear and simple. It’s you. It will always be you.” He took a deep breath. “I think I love Kate, too, but the difference in the emotions is so big, I’m not sure I can put it into words.”


Her soft spoken request couldn’t be denied. “Without you, I’m nothing. There’s no meaning to my existence, because I’m incomplete. Kate doesn’t fill any holes. She can’t and she shouldn’t. No child should. She’s icing on the cake, extra and yet integral in a sense too.” He frowned. “I’m not explaining very well.”

“I’m still listening, Laurence.”

A facetious comment about the bodyguards getting an earful too died in his throat. “Imagining a life without you is impossible. Life without Kate would be disappointing. I’m not sure how else to put it, other than to state for the record that I can live with disappointment.” Adelle shivered. “You’re cold,” he said. Dominic drew her to his side and reversed the direction in which they walked. “We can continue this in the car, if need be.”

Her arms wrapped around his waist and Dominic suspected she might be smiling. “Mason will still be able to hear you,” she said.

“That’s an improvement over all of them.”

“Are you truly embarrassed to have made the attempt to cheer me up?”

“I talk to you about things that I don’t talk about. Hell, things most men don’t talk about. I don’t understand it, but I do it all the time.”

“In this instance, I should think the why of it is obvious.” Dominic helped her into the car and walked around behind it to join her. “I expressed concern over whether our relationship could accommodate Kate and you endeavored to alleviate it. What’s so mysterious about that?”

“My men have learned a thousand times more about me since you came back into my life.” Glaring at the back of Mason’s head, he said, “They’ve started to classify things as Before and After Adelle.” He shook his head. “I figured I might as well mention that while we were on the topic of embarrassing things.”

Adelle smiled. “I never thought of our lives in precisely those terms.”

“Which proves you aren’t insufferably arrogant, I guess.”

“Just merely arrogant,” Adelle offered, making him laugh. Dominic suspected Mason’s cough masked a similar sound. “Mason, we’ll be returning to the countryside.”

“To deliver the woebegone bear?” Mason asked.

“Yes,” Dominic replied, thinking woebegone a perfect descriptive word for the stuffed toy, “so we have to stop at the hotel to get him.” Mason grinned. “What?” Dominic demanded.

“I won the bet,” he said. “I told them he was a he.”

“Clearly,” Dominic muttered, amazed that anyone could’ve thought otherwise and glad to have amused Adelle a little. “Drive, Mason.”

“Yes, sir.”

Trying to recall all of the points she’d made after their adoption agency meeting, Dominic turned back to Adelle. “If Miss Beadyeyes really thinks you’re not cut out to be a mom, she’s wrong. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can do anything you set your mind to.” Not giving her time to refute his assertion, he said, “We’re living proof of your ability to make connections with people. I was alone and satisfied with it, when I didn’t want to end it all.” He chuckled. “Now I’m rushing to my fancy hotel suite to retrieve a teddy bear I demanded we buy.”

As he completed the task, Dominic thought about Kate’s impact on Adelle’s career. “I’m asking her to give up her career,” he whispered to the bear they’d deliberately refused to name. “That’s too much, isn’t it?” He sighed, tempted to nod the bear’s head in agreement.

“Laurence?” Adelle prompted when he and the bear were settled in the car.

He stared out the window. Ignoring the hint, she took his hand. “I’m sorry I’ve been so selfish, Adelle,” he said, still not looking at her. “I didn’t think about how a child might limit your career options, because she won’t impact mine.” Finally, he faced her to kiss her softly on the mouth. “I hate that that woman was right about me.”

Adelle stroked his cheek with her fingertips. “It’s my turn, it seems,” she said. “You weren’t being selfish. There is no shame in finding joy in a set of circumstances.”

He intended to argue, but something in Adelle’s expression changed his mind. Wanting to think he’d read her right, rather than taking the coward’s way out, he lapsed into silence. She snuggled closer, but he wondered if she was merely cold.

Dominic had achieved out and out brooding by the time they arrived at Mrs. P’s. He offered the bear to Adelle.

“It was your idea,” she said. “You should give him to Kate.”

“But Miss Hartridge said—.”

“Need you continue a word further into that sentence?” Adelle said before smoothly greeting Mrs. P and Frances. “We’d like to see Kate, please,” she said, smiling, “if she’s accepting visitors, that is.”

Once everyone had been ushered into the morning room, Mrs. P dispatched Frances to bring Kate. “I understand you’ve met Miss Hartridge,” Mrs. P said, her smile wry. “She’s very protective of her charges, you know. I wouldn’t take anything she said terribly personally.”

“It’s somewhat difficult not to,” Adelle replied.

Kate bounded in the room and stopped in her tracks. “Law-rents have a teddy bear!”

“Not exactly,” he grumbled, as the older females had a laugh at his expense.

“He more big than Mr. Buttons,” Kate observed, squeezing her bear tightly and approaching Dominic and the other bear slowly.

“He’s for you,” Dominic said, resting the bear’s hind paws on the floor.

Kate exchanged a complicated look with Mr. Buttons. The child made the bear nod his head and then placed him on the floor. “Bye, bye, Mr. Buttons.”

“No,” he said quickly. “This is a new friend for you and Mr. Buttons.”

“What his name?” Kate asked, picking up Mr. Buttons and grabbing one of the other bear’s forepaws in her smaller hand.

“That’s up to you,” Dominic said.

Kate’s brow furrowed, an odd look on a toddler, to Dominic’s eyes at least. “Can’t be Law-rents, that’s you. Maybe,” she glanced shyly at Adelle, “Goose-tov.”

“You know I approve of that name for very special teddy bears, Kate,” Adelle said.

“Goose-tov more big than me,” Kate whispered, tone clearly awed. “Goose-tov from the Untied States?”

“He’s from a big toy store in London,” Dominic said, not sure what to make of the wide-eyed shock on the little girl’s face, but he certainly didn’t like that she dropped the bear’s paw as if it burned her. “What’s wrong, Kate?” he asked.

“She’s never had a new toy, Colonel,” Frances said. She put her arm around Kate’s shoulders. “It’s ok, Katie-cat. Goose-tov is a present for you. He’s yours now.”

“Mine?” Dominic’s nod brought a loud whoop of joy, a large smile and a small torrent of tears. Unexpectedly, the first hug came to him, rather than Goose-tov. Recognizing the transcendent nature of the moment, he basked in it.

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Oh man, I worry how Kate and Adelle will get along. :/ It just seems to rushed to me but I know you guys will do it justice. :) I have faith in you both!

Oh and I love Juliet! She's fabulous! I love all of Adelle's family actually. They're all so unique and supporting. <3

It is rushed, but I think Adelle needed a push to actually allow herself to agree to marry him. So ... we shall see how the relationship develops!

Juliet is a maternal figure that Adelle is finally permitting herself to avail herself of. Wow--that was really poor sentence structure, but I hope you get my meaning. Even the snooty members of Adelle's family came off ok, I think. It might be natural for them to imagine that Laurence is after Adelle's money.

Oh no, I agree she needed a big push. It just makes me nervous how she'll get along with the little girl since it's Dominic who has the touch with her.

Haha, I got what you meant. And yes, even the snooty members came off well. All of their reactions were perfect.

Awww, Kate loves her teddy bear Gustav (after Adelle's). SO CUTE! I hope everything works out for the three of them. They are too precious.

Powerwalking in a BAMF way through a toy store was brilliant. My contribution to that bit was that the bear had to be BIG!

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