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damien listening guitar
Title: Flight
Rating: R (violence, language and sex)
Author: rogoblue
Summary: Adelle and Dominic are trying to get back to Los Angeles, but they are finding it difficult, particularly Adelle who is confronted with having to reveal certain details concerning her past.
Sixth in the Let’s Pretend series (fifth is Tactical Maneuvers, fourth is Strategic Planning, third is Parisian Complications, second is Pretending to Pretend. Link to the fifth is below this summary. You can get to the others from there or via my live journal. Link to the sixth is below the dedication.

You’ll look awesomely angry in black

Words: 7,500
Spoilers: Season 1 a tiny bit and 2 a little bit through episode 12. Set somewhere between 1.06 and 1.09.
Disclaimers: The toys are Joss Whedon’s. The idea is mine.
Dedication: To everybody who understood this pairing could survive Dominic’s stay in the Attic and indeed flourish despite the lies and betrayals and gunshot wounds.

“This is it,” Laurence Dominic muttered. “I think.” Dominic pulled the car into a parking space next to the private hangar to which Evander Zeiss had directed them. He hoped. Dominic had been more or less seeing double for an hour, but he’d managed to keep the car on the road. The rapid approach of Evander himself sealed the deal. Thank Christ!

Adelle was out of the car, greeting Evander with her usual grace and elegance. Grayson was at her shoulder, smiling yet alert. Dominic was trying to muster the energy to open his door. To his complete surprise, Evander did. “Dominic,” Evander said, “you look like hell.”

“That’s better than I feel,” Laurence muttered as he forced himself to his feet, leaning against the Mercedes. “What brings you out here? Not that we wanted to duck you or anything, because we’ll owe you for this and I’m babbling, aren’t I?”

“It’s an interesting departure from your usual, monosyllabic stoic self,” Evander said, offering his hand. Dominic shook it. “I won’t ask what’s going on, but I will ask you tell me when you believe you can.”

“We will.”

Evander grinned. “It took you two long enough.”


“You and Adelle.” Evander laughed at Dominic’s confusion. “To get from Ms. DeWitt and Mr. Dominic to we.”

“No, Evander, we aren’t at we … a we … an us … whatever the hell.”

“Of course not,” Evander said, taking Dominic by the upper arm, steering him to the private jet. “One reason I’m here is to speak with you briefly.”

“With me?” Dominic managed.

Evander offered a slim sealed package. “This arrived via messenger about an hour after Adelle and I spoke. As you’d see if your eyes weren’t crossing from fatigue, it’s addressed to you.”

“To me?” A feeling remarkably akin to fear washed over Dominic. “How in the hell did anyone know we were coming here? Or did they just send the same damn package to every European house in the vicinity of Paris? Damn. If that happened, more than half of them have opened it by now and are poring over the contents.”

Laughing, Evander clapped Dominic on the shoulder as they climbed the stairs into the jet. “I enjoy the exhausted version of you, Dominic. He’s quite paranoid.”

“Fuck you, Evander.”

“If only I could be sure you’d actually recall the experience.” Dominic’s eyes widened and Evander stepped into his personal space when they entered the plane and lowered his voice. “And if my effort wouldn’t scandalize my daughter.”

“Daughter?” Dominic muttered.

“Monique, my dear,” Evander said, propelling Laurence forward, “this is Dominic. He’s been awake I have no idea how many hours straight, so I don’t think you’ll get much in the way of conversation out of him.”

A fifteen or sixteen year old girl with a smile that belonged on a woman of thirty-five had claimed a place in the last row of seats. “Mother says she’d do you in a heartbeat if father wouldn’t demand equal time.”

Blinking several times, Dominic said, “That sounds very … um … fair.”

Monique laughed and stepped toward him. Adelle appeared out of nowhere. The younger woman looked Adelle over. Adelle spared a mere glance at the girl and took Laurence’s arm, steering him toward the seats she’d selected.

“I appreciate the loan of the aircraft, Evander,” Adelle said. “And the antibiotics.”

“You didn’t contact LA, right?” Dominic asked.

“No,” Evander said. “The two men took each other’s measure. “I wouldn’t have against your express wishes were I planning to allow my daughter to fly over with you in order to visit UCLA, would I?”

Dominic’s eyes slid to Monique and back to Evander, instantly revising his assessment of her age to at least seventeen and appreciating the veiled promise of non-violent intent from the Swiss contingent. “No, you wouldn’t,” Dominic said. “Thanks. We’ll see she gets back safely.”

“Do that,” Evander said, grinning at Dominic.

Why’s he smirking now? Oh, I said we again. Damn, I’m tired.

Turning to his daughter, Evander said, “Do pay attention to something other than the young men on campus, my dear. You know your mother doesn’t want you so far away. Your arguments will have to be most persuasive.”

“I’m with the program, daddy. I’ll get what I want.”

“Of that, I have little doubt.” Addressing Dominic, Evander said, “I want to know what’s going on soonest.”

“Understood,” Dominic muttered, grasping the arm of the stewardess passing him. “Coffee, please.”

“Certainly, sir,” she said, smile bright, happy to serve.

“Thank you,” he said, shaking Evander’s hand again. “Just so you know, the precaution about LA may well be just that. Don’t worry too much about Monique.”

“That, I’m afraid, is simply not possible.” Evander turn to Adelle. “You get yourself in the most amazing troubles, beautiful lady. How do you do it?”

“It’s a gift,” Adelle said, small smile flowing into a sigh-shrug combination.

“See that you extricate yourself or have yourself extricated, won’t you? I’ll never hear the end of it from Melinda if you don’t.” Evander leaned closer to Adelle. “You wouldn’t condemn me to that, would you? Not on top of everything else.”

“Of course not,” Adelle said, delivering Laurence to his seat.

“Do see that Dominic takes his meds as well,” Evander said.

“Meds?” Dominic asked.

“Do you doubt he will?” Adelle said, pressing on Laurence’s good shoulder, encouraging him to sit. “Given proper inducement to treat the low grade fever he’s currently running. I’m hopeful it’s no more than a mild infection stemming from injuries sustained on this ill fated trip.”

Evander grinned at Adelle and then at Dominic. “I doubt your prognostication on this particular point even less than I do Monique’s determination to select her university.”

“I don’t need antibiotics,” Dominic muttered as he and Adelle watched Evander kiss Monique goodbye and exit the plane.

Adelle wiped the light sheen of sweat from Dominic’s forehead with a napkin she procured from the ever present and eager to please stewardess. She placed her wrist on his forehead and raised an eyebrow. “You’re sweating and far too warm. I’d be interested to hear your explanation.”

Regarding her for a few moments, assessing the small likelihood of success in resisting, Laurence held out his hand. Adelle dropped the capsules into it and rolled her eyes when he took the pills with a coffee chaser. “There,” he muttered. “Satisfied?”

“Not nearly,” she murmured, dragging a smile out of Dominic against his will. Dutifully, they fastened their seatbelts and prepared for takeoff. Adelle eyed Dominic’s coffee as though hatching a plot to take it from him.

“Mine,” Dominic muttered, cradling his coffee with both hands.

“Caffeine is the last thing you need, “Adelle whispered.

Dominic shook his head. “I need the jolt, because someone sent this to the Zurich House an hour after you called Evander.” Dominic held up the envelope with his name scrawled on the front. Oddly gratified by Adelle’s look of dismay, Dominic tore open the envelope. “What do we have here?” he muttered, glancing at the high quality, 8x10 photographs, several men, two women, none of whom he recognized. Frowning, he muttered, “What the hell is this?” A sharply intaken breath from his left drew his eyes to Adelle. “Do you know some of these people, Adelle?”

“I knew all of them,” she murmured softly, dropping her head to his shoulder for a moment or two. “Quite well. At one time or another.”

“You know them all,” Dominic said, rubbing tired eyes. “Then why was this addressed to me?” Noticing Adelle staring at his coffee cup with an appropriate lack of acquisitiveness, he prompted, “Adelle?”

“Perhaps your unknown benefactor believes you should know a bit more about me,” Adelle said, not raising her eyes. “My past is … somewhat tainted in certain respects.”

He fought the grin her resigned yet discomfited tone threatened to inspire. “So it’s your turn for true confessions,” Dominic murmured, glancing over his seat. Grayson and Monique sat together nearly as far away as possible reading magazines. “I didn’t see that coming,” he said. Dominic rifled through the photographs, selecting one. “So … who’s the little blonde, Adelle?”

“Are you partial to petite women, Laurence?”

Leaning closer, kissing Adelle on the cheek, secure in the certainty Grayson lacked a sightline, Dominic whispered, “What do you think? I’d strain something in my back having to bend down that far to kiss her on a regular basis.”

“Then, happily, the story starts with the taller redhead,” Adelle muttered, still not looking at him.

“My back thanks you,” he murmured in her ear. Grinning, he retreated as far as his seat would allow, holding his coffee in his right hand well away from Adelle. Just in case.

“I met Juliet in graduate school,” Adelle said, taking Laurence’s free hand. He allowed the contact but remained vigilant to an attempt at coffee theft or any movement from the magazine reading contingent. “I was preparing to defend my dissertation,” Adelle said. “Juliet was headed toward her master’s degree. We shared the same advisor.” Looking sidelong at him, she murmured, “We also shared a bed.”

“Double, queen or king?” he asked, expression perfectly deadpan.

“Double, if you must know,” she said.

“Cozy,” Dominic said.

“Cramped,” Adelle muttered.

Unable to resist, he said, “Ok, so you’re both tall, relatively speaking, but I bet you fit just fine on a double.” Grinning, reckless, beyond tired, he regarded the picture of Juliet, glanced at Adelle, back at the picture and at Adelle. “The visual image of the two of you together is … intriguing.”

“You find the concept of me with another woman appealing, Laurence?” she asked, tracing the muscles of his forearm with a finger.

“Not as much as you with me,” he admitted, “not by a long way. But I know guys whose fantasy is seeing their wife, significant other, ex, whoever and another woman get it on. I’m beginning to understand that now.”

“Are you?”

“Oh yeah.” Laughing at her look of distaste, Laurence said, “C’mon, Adelle. Think about it. You touching her with the confidence of knowing what has an excellent chance of pleasing her because it would work for you and vice versa. I wouldn’t mind watching someone make you scream.” He smiled at her raised eyebrow. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully on board with trying my luck without any sort of prior demonstration but, given the opportunity, why not?”

“I wonder if your tune will change once I tell more of the story,” Adelle said, halting her caress of his arm at the approach of the stewardess but not releasing his hand.

“Probably,” Dominic muttered, handing the stewardess his cup and asking for more coffee. “Additional information often leads to some sort of perspective change.”

“Juliet and I were together for only six months,” Adelle said. “I defended my dissertation and went on with my life. She was enmeshed in the master’s program.”

“Were you her first?” Dominic asked.

“First what?”

“Lover, lover of significance, female lover, any or none of the above.”

“I believe the correct answer to be both b and c, Laurence,” Adelle murmured, leaning back in her chair, body facing forward, head turned toward Dominic.

“So … was Juliet upset when you left to get on with your life?” Unsure why he was probing these particular points, Dominic worried his tired mind would be incapable of determining why these photos had been sent to him, no matter how much Adelle talked.

“We had words.” Adelle sighed, looking at him rather than his refilled coffee, an improvement in his opinion. “She had abandonment issues.”

“Did you see her again?”

“If you would allow me to continue your rather strange choice for a bedtime story, you would learn the answer.”

Something in Adelle’s tone warned against further questions, calling to Dominic’s stubborn streak. Probably fortunately, he couldn’t think of another question that wasn’t wholly and completely irrelevant, so he said, “Sorry for interrupting. Go on.”

“After Juliet, there was …,” said Adelle, searching through the photos, “Jean.” A tall, powerfully built man with light brown hair and green eyes stared out of the photograph she placed on Dominic’s tray table. “What does that expression mean, Laurence?” Adelle asked, bouncing their clasped hands on the arm rest for emphasis.

“Hmmm?” Dominic said, frowning at the photograph.

“You look … skeptical.”

“I can’t see you with this guy,” Laurence admitted, finally raising his eyes to Adelle. “He’s good looking, I guess, but he looks too … I’m not sure what. Overt, maybe.” The champagne glass Jean held in the picture inspired Dominic. “Jean seems like the guy who grew up with the proverbial silver spoon who wears the right clothes, drives the right car, knows all the right people and goes to all the right dinner parties and everyone is shocked when he turns up dead from an overdose with a sexually transmitted disease wearing women’s underwear.”

Adelle laughed, a full, melodious, very pleasant sound. “Jean was an extremely social creature who was deathly afraid his parents would find out he was a homosexual and cut off his inheritance.”

“That’s more or less what I said,” Dominic asserted, enjoying her laughter.

“More or less,” she said, leaning closer, gently rubbing his injured shoulder. “He wanted a woman on his arm, particularly at social events his parents were attending.”

“And you were content to be that woman because …?”

“I wanted to make the acquaintance of a particular man,” Adelle said, looking around the plane as if searching for a parachute to escape the situation entirely or a handy assassin to prevent her from disclosing more.

“You were Machiavellian from infancy, then,” Dominic muttered, sipping his coffee. “I guess I’m not surprised. So you used Jean’s need for arm candy to pacify his parents.” Dominic nodded his head slowly, thinking. “For what, though? To climb a few rungs on the social ladder? No,” he murmured, trusting the instinct to force his brain to work. “That doesn’t sound like you. Attract a husband? As if you’d need help with that. Make a sex slave out of a guy who could do you a particular favor? That has possibilities.” Eyeing Adelle with interest, Dominic gestured at the pictures. “Is your target one of those?”

Adelle placed a photograph of a much older, distinguished looking gentleman in a fabulously cut suit next to Jean’s. “Charles,” she said.

Dominic began to wonder if it was him or his suits Adelle really admired. Shoving aside any and all emotion, he said, “Did you leave Jean in the lurch or find him another woman to parade before his adoring public before you jumped ship?”

“Jean knew who and what I was after,” Adelle said, tapping the photo of Charles. “There was little point to lying about the basis of our faux relationship. Jean even helped me achieve my goal in a variety of small ways.”

“A man, even a gay man, who’s copacetic with you leaving his arm for Charles’, is a highly evolved specimen.” Something in Adelle’s eyes called to Laurence. “What am I missing?” he asked.

“He said he was fine with it and I believed him.” Adelle sighed. “Jean was one of those insanely happy people when he wasn’t overwhelmed with fear of his parents discovering his secret.”

“But …?”

“Jean dove head first from an upper story window of his parent’s home about six months later.” She took a ragged breath. “There was a rough brick patio below. He died in hospital within twenty-four hours.”

“Jesus,” Dominic muttered, squeezing her hand slightly in support. Risking an answer she didn’t want to give or he to hear, Laurence asked, “Did he leave a note?” Adelle nodded. Laurence waited.

“It said he’d realized he couldn’t live without me or come between Charles and me.”

“Any doubt as to the handwriting?” Dominic wondered.

“The text was typed and the signature appeared genuine.” Speaking softly, slowly, Adelle said, “Jean’s parents were devastated. Neither spoke to me again.”

Dominic decided to skirt the issue of Jean’s alleged epiphany as to his sexual orientation. “What did Charles do for you, Adelle?” he asked, wincing at the double entendre.

“Other than less than I trust you will?” To his slight smile and nod, Adelle said, “Charles’ patronage allowed me to switch from the science track to the business one at Rossum,” she said, shifting her grip on Laurence’s hand to entwine her fingers with his. “The shift stuck me as intuitive but most everyone else seemed to view it as a risky, highly illogical leap.”

“Once Charles had served his purpose?” Dominic asked, light tone a poor match for the serious considering expression. “Or did you have to marry him to get on the career path you wanted?”

“Charles had a massive heart attack before I had proven myself on the business side,” Adelle whispered. “His doctors called it a miracle he’d survived. To memorialize his new lease on life, Charles asked me to marry him. I accepted. He promised to abide by the regimen of diet and exercise designed by the medical staff. The day he came home from hospital, he had another heart attack. The second was fatal.”

“I’m sorry,” Laurence said, cupping Adelle’s chin in the hand he’d freed by taking the risk of putting his coffee down on his tray table. He lifted her head to look her in the eye. “Did you …? Never mind. It’s none of my business.”

“What were you going to ask?” Adelle said, gripping his hand tighter.

“Did you accept his proposal because he was sick?”

“Yes.” She took a deep breath. “But you must understand, Laurence, Charles was a pleasant man, cultured, intelligent. I could have done far worse.” Forcing a small, tight smile, Adelle said, “Once I’d regained my equilibrium and felt secure in my place at Rossum, I met Craig.” Replacing the photos of Charles and Jean with one of a smirking blue eyed, dark haired man, Adelle said, “This is him.” She stared up at Dominic. “You can’t tell from that picture, but Craig was about 5 feet, 5 inches tall. I towered over him in heels.”

“The Lilliputian’s claim to fame?” Laurence asked.

“He was extremely secure in who he was and in his masculinity,” Adelle said. “He also knew everything there was to know about computers. Craig taught me how to create a backdoor into a system or a program, so I could access at will.” She smiled slightly. “And to play poker.”

“Useful skills,” Dominic allowed. “And?”

“It won’t surprise you that we drifted apart.”

“No. It would surprise me if anyone as secure as Craig took your dismissal in the ‘No hard feelings but I’m done with you now’ sense in which you delivered it.”

“He didn’t,” Adelle admitted, shifting restlessly in her seat. “Craig called, sent flowers, chocolates, diamond earrings, a puppy, many things.” Eyes losing focus somewhat as she harkened back, Adelle said, “Far too many things.” She shivered, prompting Dominic to free his left hand from hers and put his arm around her, pulling her close. “He wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer, Laurence.”

“What changed his mind?” Laurence asked.

“The shot he took to the face in a hunting accident.”

“Christ,” Dominic muttered. Unsure what to say, he opted to stroke Adelle’s cheek with the tips of his fingers.

Jerking away, Adelle muttered, “Rene.” She placed the photograph of a powerfully built man with dark features atop the one of Craig.

“Looks like a bodyguard,” Dominic muttered, finishing his coffee, dissatisfied with the energy burst the two cups had provided.

Adelle kissed Laurence’s caressing fingers. “Rossum security,” she whispered.

“What did you want to access?” he asked.

“His privates,” Adelle said, with an expression that said, “Obviously,” in a perfectly understated British manner.

“And?” Dominic said, managing to infuse a bit of sardonic and laconic into the single syllable. Facing Adelle’s fierce frown, Dominic said, “This guy isn’t your type, Adelle. Someone who follows orders without question is useful in a security detail. In bed, not so much. You were working an angle. What was it?”

“You sound like Juliet,” Adelle muttered.

“So the double bed redhead kept you in her sights and critiqued your choice in men.”

“Yes.” Adelle sighed, crossing her left ankle over her right and nearly immediately reversing the process. “Juliet didn’t approve of Rene, but she understood why I wanted access to the mainframe.”

“And why was that?”

“Rossum maintains a roster of people it would benefit the corporation to associate with in some manner. I wanted that list.”


Meeting his eyes, Adelle said, “To choose my husband.”

“All the better to endear yourself to the corporate powers that be,” Dominic muttered. He gestured to the diminished stack of photos. “Who was the lucky groom?” Catching her reaching hand in his, Dominic said, “Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. I assume you only had to access the roster once via Rene to set up your back door.” When she nodded, Dominic asked, “What happened to him?”

“Rene wrecked his Audi on the autobahn and died instantly,” Adelle said, voice low, vibrant, holding an element of something Dominic sensed was important but couldn’t identify.

“Damn,” Laurence muttered.

“We’d parted ways by that time, more or less,” Adelle said, accepting a bourbon from the stewardess who handed Dominic another coffee. “It was still a shock, of course.”

“Of course,” Dominic replied in a tone that didn’t match the sentiment.

Green eyes bored into blue. “Meaning?” Adelle demanded.

Living dangerously was a fact of life for Laurence Dominic. Add supreme fatigue and the risk of risk taking grew exponentially. “I don’t think it was a shock at all, but I’m not sure why.” Never flinching, Dominic said, “Care to enlighten me?’

“Clutch your teddy bear a bit tighter, Laurence, and we’ll continue with your bedtime story.” Adelle started in surprise when Dominic aborted her reach for Mitchell’s photograph a second time to pull her close. His soft chuckle sounded in her ear.

“Since I mistakenly thought I’d outgrown bedtime stories and teddy bears, I had to find something else to clutch,” Dominic said, smiling, realizing how rapidly his heart was pounding from the caffeine … or something. “If you don’t mind.”

Adelle leaned in for a quick kiss. “Not at all,” she whispered, taking advantage of Dominic’s check of Grayson’s location to select the appropriate photograph. “This is Mitchell.”

He hadn’t been expecting shoulder length blonde hair, pulled into a ponytail, a diamond stud earring or movie star dimples. “Mitchell have anything else pierced?” he asked.

“If I didn’t know any better, Laurence, I’d say you sound a tad jealous.”

“Well, since you do know better, there was no need to mention it at all, was there?” Without waiting for her to reply or comment on the edge in his tone, Dominic said, “Where was Mitchell on the roster.”

“Near the top.”

“How nice for you,” Dominic said. “Assuming the roster wasn’t in alphabetical order, your superiors at Rossum must have been very happy.”

“I was in line for a substantial bonus,” Adelle said, leaning in for a kiss, an undignified squeak escaping her lips when Dominic turned her gentle, persuasive effort into a hard, demanding, borderline violent endeavor. They stared at each other for a long charged moment when they parted.

Sliding his hand behind Adelle’s neck, Dominic whispered, “Would you mind if we tried that again?” Expression intrigued, Adelle shook her head. This time Laurence strove for better balance between desire and demand. He smiled when he realized Adelle had closed her eyes.

“Dominic?” The disbelief and horror in Lisa Grayson’s tone froze him for an instant.

“Yeah,” he said, schooling his features, turning curious eyes up at Grayson.

“A moment?” Grayson asked, focus entirely on Dominic.

“Sure,” he agreed. “Excuse me for a minute,” he said, as Adelle stood along with him to enable him to more easily move past her.

“Take whatever time you need,” Adelle said, her tone mildly amused, tolerant.

Nodding at Monique in response to her big smile and carefree wave, Dominic followed Grayson to a spot about equidistant from the girl and Adelle. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Dom?” Grayson hissed. Not completely sure what Grayson had or had not seen, Dominic kept his mouth shut. “You kissed Adelle freaking DeWitt. Have you lost your mind?”

“Not completely.”

“Not funny,” Grayson said.

“It’s complicated, Grayson,” Dominic said. “Things aren’t necessarily what they seem. You should have guessed that from the hotel room.”

Grayson launched into Dominic’s personal space. “The hotel room? I’ll tell you what I saw in that hotel room, Dom. Two people who were extremely comfortable around each other. You were barefoot for Christ’s sake. She was ordering you lunch and pissed as hell that you hadn’t mention the injuries to your hip and thigh.” When Dominic looked unimpressed, Grayson added, “You had me bring the small automatic for her.”

“So,” Dominic countered. “She needed a weapon in case things went south.”

Looking to the heavens for understanding or patience, Dominic wasn’t sure which, Grayson said, “When a man like you chooses a weapon for a woman like her that’s … that’s like … no, that’s not like foreplay. That is foreplay.”

Dominic laughed. “For the record, Grayson, I prefer firearm free foreplay.”

Punching his sore shoulder lightly, Grayson muttered, “Again with the not funny. Christ, Dom, I can see you with Giselle, the Barcelona goddess, but—.”

“What the hell? Does everybody know about Giselle?”

Suddenly wary, Grayson said, “Define everybody?”

“Adelle freaking DeWitt for one,” he countered.

“Shit, shit, shit, Dom. This is bad.”

“Damn right this is bad. A man can’t take a vacation without—.”

“I’m not talking about your sex-filled vacation. Don’t ask me how I know about it, I just do. I’m concerned that DeWitt knows about your sex-filled vacation.” Shaking him by the shoulders, she said, “She’s looked into your personal life. Doesn’t that bother you?”

“It bothers me that she’s apparently not alone.”

Grayson took a deep breath. “Has it occurred to you that she’s setting you up?” she asked. “Do you want to take the fall or a bullet for her?” She closed her eyes briefly before looking into his. “Probably both.”

“Better me than her,” he muttered, glancing toward the front of the plane, frowning at Adelle examining Mitchell’s picture.

Eyes widening, Grayson said, “Not her. You. You’re setting you up. Oh my God, Dom, how twisted is that?”

“Hopefully just twisted enough to keep her alive while we do what has to be done.”

“We?” Grayson ventured, as if tasting the word for the first time and not sure whether she liked it.

Wishing for more coffee or twelve hours sleep, Dominic said, “Adelle and I.”

“First name basis?” Grayson murmured. “Dom, are you sure you’re doing what you think you’re doing?”

Far too tired to unravel her words, Dominic didn’t try. “What else would I be doing?”

“Kissing Ms. DeWitt because … because …” Grayson took a deep breath. “Because you like it.”

“It doesn’t suck, Grayson.”

“You know what I mean.” Grayson’s agitation was starting to strike Dominic as funny, but he knew better than to give in to the impulse to laugh. In his current state of mind, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to stop. Hoping suppressed laughter looked something like puzzlement, he tilted his head slightly and regarded Grayson. “Dominic, DeWitt’s an attractive woman who has the whole power vibe going. Add in the accent, the clingy clothes, a couple of drinks and a lot of proximity and you have a situation that would bring a lot of men to their knees.”

“I don’t spend much time on my knees.”

Blushing slightly, Grayson said, “I’m not saying you do. I’m just concerned that you might be getting in deeper than you intended. You’re an adult and I’m not your mother or anything, but … DeWitt is hardcore.”

“And I’m not?” he countered.

Grayson bit her lip, clearly contemplating. “Women are tougher when it comes to relationships, Dominic.”

He laughed. “No, they aren’t. They cry. They bitch to their girlfriends about every word a man says or doesn’t say. Everything he does or doesn’t do. All the veiled slams on her weight that had absolutely nothing at all to do with weight. And so on.”

“Men don’t talk at all,” Grayson said. “They just go somewhere dark and dank to lick their wounds once the woman they thought of as theirs is finished with them.”

“So you’re saying we’d be better off if we dissected every second of every encounter with a woman?” Dominic shook his head. “Sorry, I don’t buy that, Grayson. Especially in this case. Who do you think I could talk to who would understand Adelle? Topher? Langton? Saunders? I can tell you the reactions I’d get. Topher’d say, ‘Eeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwww.’ Langton would recommend we spend time apart, even though we’ve not been truly together, so we’re ten thousand percent sure of our course of action going forward. Saunders would recommend I spend more time on my knees.” Dominic shrugged. “I’m not sure any of that helps much, if at all.” He took a breath, eyes darting around the plane, narrowing at Monique’s obvious interest in his discussion with Grayson. “Look, I appreciate your concern. I do, but I’ve got this. I know what I’m doing and I need to get back, because Adelle was explaining some things of potential relevance. Ok?”

Grayson nodded, but her obvious concern threatened Dominic’s aplomb. Troubled, he moved to his seat, forcing Adelle to stand again.

“Is Ms. Grayson preparing a bullet with my name on it?” Adelle asked. “To keep her superior from my evil clutches.”

“I think I made it eminently clear that I’d rather you survived this flight,” he said.

“I appreciate your effort on my behalf,” Adelle said, smiling, catching his hand in hers.

“Tell me about the guy with the ponytail and piercings,” Dominic muttered.

“Mitchell,” Adelle said.

“Whatever,” he said.

Smile broadening, Adelle said, “Mitchell and I met at a charity function raising money for breast cancer research. We had a painfully slow courtship. Despite his ponytail and piercings, Mitchell was shy and I sensed it would be a mistake to push him. So I let the slow progression of our association play out.”

Association, not relationship. Grayson would be all over that. “So did you tempt the fair Mitchell into an unholy alliance with Rossum?” Dominic asked.

Adelle shrugged, but Dominic felt the tension humming throughout her body. “We were to be engaged,” Adelle said.

“What happened this time?” Laurence asked.

“Juliet emptied the clip of her 9 mm into Mitchell before he made the announcement and his security people took her in hand.”

“Double bed redhead Juliet?”

“The same.”

“Jesus Christ,” Dominic muttered. “How many years was this since you and she said your tearful goodbye?”

“Between eight and nine.”

“She kept tabs on you all that time.” Laurence took a few moments to ponder the nature of obsession.

“Closely.” Adelle took both of Laurence’s hands in hers. “Juliet made quite a statement to the authorities. She told of all of my past lovers and of her disapproval of my reasons for being with them.”

“Oh shit,” Dominic whispered. “None of those were accidents?”

“None,” Adelle confirmed, releasing his hands. “A push, an experimental compound, a hunting rifle, weakened brake lines and a Glock 9mm.” She turned into his arms when Dominic embraced her. “It would’ve been an embarrassing yet fascinating trial.”

“But Rossum had Juliet killed before it came to that,” Dominic said, not expecting Adelle to argue. “How else could they protect you?” Dominic ordered bourbon instead of coffee, capitulating to Adelle’s “Laurence does not need any more caffeine” world view, realizing the impact of this disclosure on Adelle in that she allowed the stewardess to see her in his arms. “Did they find out anything more about Juliet, Adelle?” Dominic ran his hands over her back. “Did she keep a journal or any sort of record of what she’d done?”

“I was never told,” Adelle said. “I can only assume she kept records and Rossum has them in case they want to embarrass me into proper behavior.”

“Somehow I don’t think that’s in the offing,” Dominic whispered in her ear.

“An attempt or my compliance?”

“The latter,” he said, nodding his thanks to the stewardess for the bourbon she’d placed on his tray table. He felt Adelle’s deep calming breath and her slight relaxation. “Don’t even tell me the little blonde is Juliet II. Even you can’t inspire every woman you sleep with to homicide.”

“Don’t try to make me laugh,” Adelle said.

“Why not?” he asked, spreading the remaining three photographs on their tray tables.

“I don’t want to laugh.”

“What if I want you to hear you laugh?” Dominic asked, wondering if the tale of the final three was going to be as warped the story of the first six.

“You’ll have to wait.”

“How long?”

“For me to tell you the rest.”

Dominic yawned and hugged her tight. “Adelle, you don’t have to do this.”

“I believe I do, Laurence,” she said, raising her eyes to his. “Someone sent these photographs to you for a reason, perhaps we’ll be able to determine what it is if we continue.”

Where’s Evander when you need him to smirk when one of us says ‘we?’ Adelle picked up the picture of the petite blonde in the obligatory little black dress. “Alisha is a fabulously wealthy patron of the arts. We’d met when I was with Mitchell. She was pleasant company, witty, charming, often irreverent. Our paths crossed from time to time, but I never thought much about Alisha or her privileged life.” She glanced up at Dominic and frowned. “You look exhausted, Laurence.”

“Off topic,” he muttered, smiling to soften the words.

“After one horrendous poetry recital by a reasonably well known and well thought of woman who’d arrived quite drunk, Alisha and I were united in self defense against four men who were determined to use us to relieve their boredom.”

“They expected excitement at a poetry recital?” Dominic said, closing his eyes, realizing his mistake and forcing them back open. “Wait a minute. It wasn’t advertized as a reading of erotic poems by a woman with a phone sex voice to rival yours, was it?” Adelle shook her head. “Ok, so you and Alisha are back to back fending off four poetry fanatics. What happened?”

“Her bodyguard intervened.”

“To what extent?”

“Excuse me?” Adelle asked.

“Were the four guys who were bothering you intimidated, slapped around or hospitalized?”

“After the first lost several teeth, the others went quietly.” Adelle slipped a hand behind Laurence’s neck and began a gentle massage. “Alisha and I accompanied Roger to her car. He sat in the front with her driver, Michel. I … allowed Alisha to seduce me.”

Her choice of word struck Dominic as odd. “Allowed?”

Smiling into his increasingly tired eyes, deepening her massage of the back of his neck, Adelle said, “I succumbed, not because I particularly wanted Alisha. I gave in, because Roger was watching.”

“You had a thing for the bodyguard?”

“I would hardly call it having a thing, Laurence,” Adelle said, tone sharp. “He was an extremely attractive man who had been unfailingly polite while dispatching the human equivalent of vermin. The juxtaposition intrigued me. I wanted him.”

“You wanted Roger, so you let Alisha have you.” Shaking his head, Dominic sighed. “Does it just not occur to you to do anything in a straightforward way, or do you consider a more direct approach too easy?” When Adelle merely rolled her eyes, Dominic pointed to the remaining two photographs, “Which one’s Roger?”

“Neither.” No doubt seeing the surprise on his face, Adelle said, “I was successful in my campaign to have carnal knowledge of Roger Morehead, Laurence. Of that I assure you.”

“If I had doubts, that smile would’ve wiped them away,” he said, suddenly feeling very tired. “So you and the bodyguard had a fling?”

“It was more than that,” Adelle whispered. “Roger was charming, quite intelligent, attentive, engaging, good in bed and … dangerous. I fancied myself in love with him.”

“Uh oh.”

“Explain,” she demanded.

“She who seduces a computer programmer and a security guy to get a look at a list of useful future husbands isn’t going to settle for a bodyguard.” Dominic sipped his bourbon. “Whether she fancies herself in love with him or not.”

Adelle took a deep breath. “I didn’t.” A wistful smile appeared as she added, “We often talked about walking away from our lives and starting over. We both knew it was just talk, but the idea of a simpler,” she glanced at Dominic, “more straightforward life had compelling elements.”

“So …” he ventured, “who are the last two guys?”

“After I left Roger, I discovered I had needs of a sexual nature I couldn’t ignore.” She placed her non-massaging hand on Laurence’s chest. “Much as I have now.” Laughing, Adelle said, “I believe that to be the most tired smile I’ve ever seen, Laurence.”


“No need to be.” Expression all business, Adelle said, “I had needs. Philip and Conrad fulfilled them, each in their own way.” Sensing she was working herself up to a disclosure of significance, Dominic remained silent. “Philip was weak, easily excited, hated any sort of physical discomfort. I cannot describe the sublime pleasure of making him come while in pain. He begged. He often cried. I didn’t like or respect him, but I so enjoyed dominating him.”

Dominic chose his words carefully, not simply because he was tired. “It’s not … generally very interesting to dominate the weak.”

“I know,” Adelle agreed, “and that is why I transferred my new found aggression to Conrad. He needed pain to get excited and he wanted more. He always wanted more.” Slightly wild eyes found Laurence’s. “I gave him what he wanted. I hurt him and he loved me for it. I cut him and he worshiped me while he bled. Until the day we went too far and I recognized what I was becoming. What I had already become. That woman frightened me, Laurence. I never saw Conrad again. I can only imagine the scars he bears.” Closing her eyes, Adelle continued, “After Conrad, I turned down everyone who pursued me. I didn’t trust myself anymore.”

“And that mistrust translated into an Ice Queen reputation,” Dominic observed, loosening his hold on Adelle in case she wanted to pull away.

“I did nothing to disprove that misguided notion.” She leaned closer until they were nearly nose to nose. “It served me well.”

“Strange,” Dominic whispered. “You feel really warm to me. You always have.”

“And that is my latest in a series of transgressions,” Adelle said, kissing him lightly on the mouth. “Warming to you.”

“Do you think that’s why those pictures were sent to me?” Dominic asked. “To suggest the proper designation for me is latest transgression.”

“Do you?” she asked.

“No.” Her attentive gaze drew Dominic out. “I think I’m supposed to wonder whether I’ll have my picture taken or not.”

“Meaning?” Adelle prompted.

“Everyone here,” Dominic said, stacking the pictures into a neat pile, “has one thing in common. You used them. For a wide variety of things, certainly, but the bottom line is the same for all of them. Not Roger, though,” he mused. “You flat out wanted him for no ulterior purpose. Whoever sent these didn’t include a picture of Roger, because he didn’t fit the profile.” Picking up the envelope, Dominic shoved the pictures inside. They went about two-thirds of the way before refusing to go further. Taking them out, he looked inside to see what the photos were getting stuck on. “What’s this?” he muttered, handing Adelle the stack of photos. He pulled out a smaller photo and stared at it.

“Laurence?” Adelle said, her voice a mixture of curiosity and wariness.

Still looking at the 4x6 picture, Dominic said, “You took Victor for a spin, I guess.” Her sharply in drawn breath was answer enough, but Dominic gave over the photograph of Victor in a nicely cut suit, standing on a deck, looking out over water.

“Yes,” Adelle whispered.

She looks like she’s holding her breath. Why? “It’s not wise to use your own product, Adelle. Didn’t they tell you that in some seminar or another on your way up the Rossum corporate ladder?”

“Sex differs from hard drugs, Laurence,” she said.

“Does it?” Dominic sighed. “Not really. The both make you feel good, or ought to anyway. Let you forget your worries for a while. Give you leave to be someone you’re not. Any one of those can be addictive, as you have good reason to know.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she said, voice rising in pitch. In some one else, Dominic would call what he was seeing rising panic.”

“I was thinking of Conrad,” he said, watching Adelle closely. “What were you thinking?” Her eyes darted to the picture of Victor. Adelle had Victor more than once. Ok, but why is she nervous about exposing that after everything she’s told me today? “What did you do to Victor?” he asked.

“I … cut him. By accident. Fencing.”

“Fencing?” I take it back, Lisa. If forced to choose, I think I might prefer firearms to blades in my foreplay. “I didn’t know you fenced.”

“I do. A little. Some. Sometimes.”

“Adelle, what’s going on? What’s the big deal if you had Victor more than once?”

“I never said—.”

“You didn’t have to,” Dominic muttered, glancing down at the picture inadvertently. “I’m trying to figure out why his photo is smaller than the others. Is that someone’s way of diminishing him because he’s an active? Or maybe … two different people put photos in this envelope to deliver two messages. If that’s the case, what’s Victor’s picture supposed to tell me?” Adelle went perfectly still. “Any ideas?” Dominic asked. When she offered none, he said, “What imprint did you select for Victor, Adelle?” She wouldn’t look at him. Dominic frowned. Christ, Adelle! I’m too tired for games. Tough, Dom, think. Who would Adelle want Victor to be? His heart skipped a beat. “Roger,” he murmured, recalling a few of the better geriatric sex jokes people told about Ms. Lonely Hearts. Thinking back, Dominic clearly remembered Adelle being out of the office at least two or three times when Victor became Roger for that particular client. The other engagements, I’d have to check. “Who did you have front for you?” he asked.

“A retired actress,” Adelle murmured. “It made her feel good to be earning money plying her craft again.”

“Damn,” Dominic said. “So you were recreating your relationship with Roger of the absent picture with Victor of the smaller picture. What the fuck does that mean?”

“The question you wish to have answered is ‘Why,’ Laurence,” Adelle said, finally meeting his eyes. “Why I was recreating that relationship at those particular moments in time?” With only the slightest of pauses, she continued, “The answer is because I desired my Chief of Security and feared making a fool of myself if I didn’t get some physical relief.”

Dominic realized his mouth was open, so he lifted his glass of bourbon to it. “You seriously expect me to believe that?” he said.

“Look me in the eye, Laurence, and I’ll confess again and you can tell me if you think I’m lying.”

“I’ve told you you’re without peer when it comes to lying. If you say I won’t think you’re lying, I believe you.”

Adelle wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him, communicating volumes of pent up desire with her lips, tongue and teeth. She let him have access to air briefly before kissing him again. “I want you, Laurence,” she whispered. “If you think about your two message theory, it makes perfect sense that I’m telling the truth. The main message of the nine photos is, ‘She’ll use you and toss you aside.’ The tenth says, ‘Look what she’s done in order to conceal her interest from you, suggesting she has no present intention to and is likely incapable of treating you in that fashion.’”

“That’s either the truth or the most impressive lie I’ve ever been told,” he admitted, still panting slightly from her effort to prove her point.

“Only you can decide which it is,” Adelle said, picking up all of the photographs and returning them to the envelope.

“I shouldn’t decide anything right now,” Dominic muttered, draining his bourbon.

“You should sleep,” Adelle said, a sly smile forming on her face. “You’ll want to be well rested when you divulge all of your secrets to me.” She shrugged at his startled look. “It’s only fair, Laurence.”

“Who says I have any secrets worth divulging?”

“You have at least one.”

Her certainty sped up Dominic’s heart. He winced at the wariness in his voice when he asked, “Which is?”

“How did Giselle convince you to stay three extra days in Barcelona with her?”

Chuckling, Dominic closed his eyes. That question, I can answer.

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It's taken me this long to even attempt to form a coherent response to this. First of all - your characterisation is perfect, Adelle's backstory feels dead on and I wasn't surprised by the women in her past - she's practical enough to use what is to hand after all.

My favourite line,
“When a man like you chooses a weapon for a woman like her that’s … that’s like … no, that’s not like foreplay. That is foreplay.”

Just ridiculously perfect.

For the first time I thought Dominic was concealing more that Adelle - she's doing all the running here and I think I believe she isn't working an angle. But he still is (because of the NSA thing) which made me wonder whether his response to Grayson about Adelle was just his being careful /discrete - or what he really thinks. "It doesn't suck," in response to kissing her made it seem as though it was something he had to do that he could stand - not something he was enthusiastically embracing. But I want to believe in him so...

The foreshadowing disturbed me - because I think I can see what is coming and it's brilliant but also devastating. The thought of it has stayed with me all day. Bravo

Oh my in a that's not have bad sense or in an Uh oh sense?

Adelle is a practical person. I like that about her. And I'm glad to see that her past wasn't too ... strange. It all seemed to fit as I thought of it but I wondered whether I was just more warped than your average person.

I like that line also. That whole whole conversation between Dominic and Grayson worked better than I thought it would when I started it. I was a bit surprised by some of the turns it took.

Yes, Dominic is hiding more now. Or at least I think so too to this point. As to "It doesn't suck," that strikes me as a moderately defensive reaction of a superior getting chewed out by someone who works for him on what is essentially a personal issue. The whole, "It doesn't mean that much to me," tone contrasts starkly with his preference to take the bullet/fall instead of Adelle which he states later. It also doesn't track with getting a bit jealous during parts of Adelle's disclosure. I'm thinking we can be cautiously optimistic about believing in him.

You mentioned foreshadowing and I thought, "What foreshadowing?" b/c I simply couldn't remember what I said in this one versus the next one. I'm going to have to go back and look. I apologize for the disturbing nature of whatever the foreshadowing is, but I think foreshadowing, to some extent in a story like this, has to be a little disturbing.

What's coming would have come as a complete and utter shock to me when I started this--how did I get from Adelle telling Dominic to pack a bag for Paris to this point, but it's interesting to me and to some others so I suppose that's good.

Stayed with you all day. That's a good thing. For me. Maybe not for you if you were referring to the disturbing feeling.

Thanks for reading (and letting me know the characterizations are still ok--so much has happened to them it's hard to know)!

It's Oh my in a good way and I am not sure you can be warped enough when writing about Adelle. There is more than a little darkness in her and that had to come somewhere.

It's interesting where Dom got jealous and yes, OK - I'll go with the fact he was being defensive in front of Grayson. But the taking the bullet for Adelle is about stopping the tech, it's only about her in the sense that he recognises she has a better chance that he to achieve that.

The staying with me all day was an 'oh God, poor Adelle' moment - because of the past and also because of what might be coming.

In a good way--excellent! Adelle has darkness in her as well. Another of the reasons I enjoy her. And it comes out in interestings ways (or so I tried to show).

I have a better answer re Dominic and "It doesn't suck," now. I hadn't noticed how that bit of the Dominic-Grayson conversation had a tone in contrast to Dominic's tone with Adelle. Having thought about it and written further, I now theorize that "It doesn't suck" and the whole taking the bullet b/c she's my avenue to stopping the tech deal is how Dominic is supposed to be vis a vis Adelle. But is that how he actually is? He can be SecretAgentDominic with Grayson but can he with Adelle at this juncture?

Poor Adelle. Poor Dominic too maybe. We shall see.

Thanks for making me think more clearly about what I'm doing.

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