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Where the Heart Is

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Dear Lord, she was tired. Phryne roused herself from the near-stupor she’d fallen into in the back seat of the cab. The driver had been lovely, an older man who’d chided her warmly for being out so late, and whose cab had a glass panel between the front seat and back. He wanted his lady fares to feel comfortable in his company, he’d assured her. It had worked—she’d napped a little on the thirty-minute drive to her house, so she was not quite as exhausted as she might otherwise have been.

The last leg of her flight from London had been remarkable, really. After three weeks of flying all day, every day, she’d intended to set down near Sydney and save the last few hours’ flight for the morning to reach home as fresh as she could manage. But the night had been clear and the winds favorable, so she’d pushed on, happy to have the company of the stars, finally back in their proper places. Along the way, she’d thought about how fun it would be to surprise everyone with her presence at breakfast; if she knew Mr. Butler, her room would be fully prepared.

Tired though she was, she couldn’t regret that decision now that her house was in sight. She thanked her cabbie with a smile and a generous tip and made her way up the path to let herself in by the front door.

The entryway was dark, the house sleeping, but once inside, she stopped to take a deep breath. It smelled of home—lemon polish and baking bread, with hints of her perfume. A smile stretched her lips as she headed up the stairs, her carpetbag in hand. She noticed halfway up that she was automatically skipping the parts of the stairs that squeaked, and her smile grew further. It was good to be here.

Quietly, she swung around to let herself into her bedroom, opening and closing the door without a sound. With a small sigh, she set down her bag and made her way in the sleeping darkness to her en suite; without turning on a light, she gratefully stripped off her flying costume, relieved herself, and washed her face and hands. As she dried her face on the towel that hung on the rail below the washbasin, she thought she detected the scent of sandalwood and bay rum. Wishful thinking, most likely, but it made her smile nonetheless. Finding Jack Robinson was high on her list of priorities for her return to town, and with luck, he’d be amenable to seduction, and perhaps more.

Phryne paused a moment, studying the shadowed reflection that looked back at her from the mirror above the washbasin. She’d gone over and over this in the months that she’d spent in London and en route each direction.

She’d thought, before she left, that they could act on the heat between them, that they could move their relationship into the sexual realm, and she’d taken steps to attempt it. It had been clear that Jack would have been months more in the build-up, and she’d never had much patience. So she’d invited him for dinner, and she’d planned for everything—the perfect dress, the perfect menu, her family planning device in place and a set of satin pajamas for him to wear afterward… She shook her head. Her father had ruined that night, and she and Jack had fallen back into old patterns, for the most part.

But Jack was not the kind of man to be happy with a casual lover, anyway. For a long time, the thought of entering a committed, emotional relationship had unnerved Phryne—she hadn’t done that since 1918. After months of considering and many sleepless nights spent imagining what could be, she’d realized that the two of them were already in one. The way she’d missed him when he’d pulled back after the Gertie Haynes case had been as painful as if he’d been her lover already, and she’d found herself thinking of him—making notes on what to tell him, wishing he was there to dance with at every party, wanting the warmth of his calm presence by her side—even as she’d taken London by storm. So she might as well accept it. More than accept it—she should revel in it. The thought made her shiver. She wanted him. Rather desperately. And she knew that if she didn’t try to meet him on his terms, to reach for that metaphorical brass ring, she would regret it.

He’d felt the same before she left, she was certain. The kiss he’d given her on the airfield just before she’d flown away—and how she’d wished she’d left him with more encouraging words—had been one for the record books. Closing her eyes, she relived it for what seemed like the millionth time. The strength of his arm around her, the warmth of his hand at the back of her head, the brush of his breath and the sweetness of his lips… Another sigh left her as she contemplated it.

She wanted more of that, more of him. She wanted to explore the toned body she’d been watching all those months they’d worked together, wanted to know what it felt like to be skin to skin with him, wanted those long fingers on her breast, wanted the hard length of his cock stroking into her willing body as he kissed her again and again. And more than that, she wanted to laugh with him, to sit and play draughts with him, to work side by side to solve crimes with him. She wanted to feed him and tease him and banter with him until they both were overcome with passion.

Phryne had not felt this way about a man since those early days in Paris, if then; after months of thought, she was absolutely certain that she would feel this way for a very long time. She hoped he still wanted her.

Turning away from the washbasin, she considered finding nightclothes, but didn’t want to turn on the light and risk waking herself up more; she was already anticipating the need for a little tension relief to calm herself down after the images that had played in her head. So with a shrug, she moved back out into the bedroom, easy in her nakedness. There was very little light—only what moonlight peeked between the curtains, and though she could see, it was all in shades of gray. She brushed her hand over the fur throw at the foot of her bed and moved up to pull down the doona and slide beneath it on her stomach.

She sighed again at the welcoming give of the mattress and the surprising warmth of her silk sheets against her skin; her pillow cradled her head in just the right way, and when she breathed in, the sheets smelled of her perfume and… was that sandalwood and… citrus?

As she tried to pummel her tired brain into finding a reason that her bed should smell like her memory of Jack, Phryne stretched, enjoying the warmth between the sheets. Her hand, reaching out for its accustomed resting place in the cooler spot beneath the pillows, brushed against something that should not be there.

Adrenaline spiked, and Phryne sat up in bed, clutching the blankets to her bare torso. Someone was in her bed. Reaching out, she found the lamp on her bedside table and flicked it on.

The man in her bed started awake, pushing himself up and twisting to face her. His dark hair was mussed, his blue eyes sharper than they should be given that he’d been sound asleep a moment before. He wore the navy blue satin pajamas that she’d purchased for him before that first failed attempt at a seductive dinner—the color flattered him, she noted—and his mouth with its pronounced cupid’s bow hung open in surprise.

“Phryne?”

The word left him on a breath, and Phryne began to smile—she could feel it pulling at her cheek muscles, and she had no wish to stop it.

“Hello, Jack,” she said, looking him over. The pajamas were open at the throat, and she felt a thrill of arousal at the sight of that seldom-glimpsed skin. He had pillow creases in one cheek, and he smelled divine.

“Phryne, I… you weren’t due till tomorrow… Mr. B insisted…” He stopped, swallowing hard. “I’m so sorry to be where I shouldn’t. I’ll go.” He moved to throw off the doona and step out, but froze when she spoke.

“And here I thought this was your version of coming after me.” Phryne could feel the disappointment that he was so eager to get away pulling the smile from her face. She wasn’t sure why she said the words—Jack was hardly the type to lie in wait in a woman’s bed in the hopes that she’d be too tired to notice him.

His face serious, Jack regarded her, his eyes on hers. As far as she could tell, he hadn’t even looked down to see that her shoulders were bare. Such a gentleman, her Jack.

“I wanted to,” he admitted, the words soft and warm. “So much.” He swallowed again, his jaw working.

“I know,” she said, reaching out to lay a hand on his arm. “Your letters were clear on that.” Pulling her hand away, she stroked his arm, and he dipped his head to watch her hand retreat.

The silence stretched between them, and finally Jack raised his eyes back to hers. She fancied that she could feel his gaze stroke against her bare arms and across her shoulders and neck before he met her eyes again.

“Phryne…” his voice was hoarse, as if he was holding in things he didn’t think he should say.

“You don’t have to go,” she whispered in return, shaking her head slightly.

“I should,” he said, his hand lifting to cup the back of her neck. “I had everything planned out.” He pulled lightly and she leaned in, her eyes on his mouth. “I was going to make a real romantic overture this time, with wine and dinner and dancing…”

His lips brushed over hers and Phryne’s eyes fluttered closed as she let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding.

“Later,” she replied, tilting her head to better fit their mouths together. “Let’s seize the moment.” The motion of her lips against his as she spoke was a series of small kisses, tiny shocks that loosened her body and set her mind reeling.

With a groan, Jack sealed his mouth to hers, kissing her as if he was starving for the taste of her. He tugged her closer, rolling them so that he was above her on the bed, his mouth avid. Phryne let go of the doona as she fell with him, closing her eyes and sliding her hands into his hair; she arched against him as his taste flooded her mouth, the satin of his pajamas slick and soft against the sensitive skin of her breasts. The weight of him was miraculous—something she’d felt before, with other men, but made new again because it was Jack above her, against her. She bent one knee to make room for him to fit his hips against hers, and the hard line of his satin-covered cock rubbed warmly against her sex.

Jack didn’t stop kissing her—a plan she was wholly in favor of—but the hand on her neck slid down to cover her breast, and she felt his gasp against her mouth. His fingers were warm, and her breast fit snugly into his palm; Phryne moaned at the sensation and he made it better, taking her hardened nipple between his thumb and forefinger and rolling it. It was her turn to gasp as he pinched lightly, and he swallowed his name as she called it.

As he continued to knead her breast, Phryne took action of her own, sliding her hands down to undo the buttons of his pajama top; when she’d opened it, he shrugged it away. She whimpered at the loss of his hands and mouth, but he replaced them quickly, shoving the doona aside to get closer to her. The heat of his chest against hers shouldn’t have felt so different from the satin of his pajamas, warmed by his body, but the velvet texture of his skin was divine. With a groan, Jack kissed her again, but quickly—a moment later, his mouth was on her breast, and Phryne’s attention was captured yet again.

She slid one hand into his hair, gripping gently in an effort to hold him closer; he was devoting his considerable attention to her breasts, first one and then the other, his lips skating along the full underside, his teeth raking gently across her aureolae before suckling sharply at her nipples. Phryne reveled in the sounds he made, soft noises that meant he liked the way she tasted, but she wanted more.

Raking her nails down his back, she reached for his pajama trousers, but could only get the tips of her fingers beneath his waistband, riding the curve of his bottom.

“Jack,” she pleaded softly. “Take these off.”

He raised his head, his eyes cloudy with desire and his lips plumped from the suction he’d been applying. Phryne pressed her pelvis against his stomach, knowing that he’d feel the wetness there against his skin.

“Take these off,” she said again.

With a nod and a hard swallow, Jack rolled off the bed, unfastening the trousers as he moved. She admired the taut curves of his ass as he bent to push them off, unable to resist reaching out to run one finger down the hollow on one side. He shuddered, her name falling from his lips in a guttural curse as he turned back to her.

“Wait,” she said softly, sitting up. “I want to look at you.”

“Phryne,” he said yet again, protesting, and in the light of the lamp, she could see the color rising in his cheeks.

He had nothing to be embarrassed about, in her opinion. Standing there with his arms loose at his sides—though she could tell that part of him wanted to attempt to cover the magnificent cock that rose, proud and stiff, between his thighs—he was a work of art. Broad shoulders tapered to a narrow waist and flat stomach; his arms were toned, with raised veins tracing their length above hard muscle. His skin was a warm gold everywhere the sun had touched, and the areas that his undershirt and trousers had covered had a paler golden cast.

Finally, she raised her eyes to meet his, and he tilted his head to one side, as if to say “are you finished?” Her smile was sly as she nodded her head.

“Reach into that drawer there, will you?” She pushed the doona away and lay down, one knee bent and her arms open wide. “I didn’t anticipate needing my device, but there are… alternatives. In the wooden box.”

Jack’s smile was a tiny thing, found mostly at the corners of his eyes and in the slightest curve of his lips. He slid open the drawer she’d indicated and withdrew the small, carved box. Closing the drawer, he set the box on top of the nightstand and opened it, withdrawing a condom packet.

“Always one step ahead,” he murmured, climbing back onto the bed and covering her mouth with his as he stretched his body atop hers.

Phryne wrapped her arms around him, loving the texture of his skin against hers. She moaned her pleasure as he caught her behind her bent knee and raised her thigh to curve around his waist. His cock lay heavy and hot against her sex, and he rocked himself against her. Bending her other knee, she laid herself open to him, curving her back so that his length rode precisely along her folds. Her clitoris was swollen and sensitive, and even with the fluid that lubricated the space between them, the friction of his skin moving against hers was electrifying. Phryne cried out again as he pressed closer, and Jack—being the detail-oriented man he was—did it again.

Phryne arched her neck, pulling her head away from his kiss, surprised as a climax overcame her. She’d always been quick to climax—apparently, not all women were so lucky—but this was remarkable, to say the least. But then, Jack often brought out the the best in her.

“Please, Jack,” she whimpered, “now!”

She heard the rustling of the condom packet and felt his hand between them as he covered himself; then she had no coherent thoughts at all as he pushed inside her body. Lifting her head, she set her teeth to his shoulder, her hands clutching at the hard ridges of muscle that rose on either side of his spine. She heard his soft curse, and then he was moving within her, long and hard and deep. For lengthy, lovely minutes, she received him over and over, her knees wide and her heart open. This lovemaking felt to her as if it was so much more than what she’d done before—it was as if the connection of their bodies was strengthening the connection between them, and the idea made joy rise within her.

Gasping, Phryne slid a hand up to his hair again, turning her head to kiss him; his breath sobbed in his lungs, and she sucked softly on his lower lip, drawing a groan from his chest. Jack’s big hands cupped the backs of her shoulders, and he turned his head to push his tongue into her mouth in counterpoint to the thrusts of his cock. As he did, he picked up speed, his hips slapping against her clit with each press inside her body, and Phryne felt herself winding toward climax again.

“I’m… Phryne…” he groaned, his tempo increasing yet again. “So close…”

Knowing that she was close, too, Phryne slid her other hand down his side and burrowed it between them to help herself along. When Jack realized what she was doing, he pushed up on his elbows to give her room, his eyes tracking down her chest to where her hand disappeared between them.

“Are you close?” He gasped the question, raising his eyes to hers.

The intensity of his expression took her breath away, and all Phryne could do was nod. His nostrils flared, and he leaned to one side, freeing a hand to slide over her breast. Phryne arched, pressing her nipple into his palm, and he smiled, satisfied at whatever he saw on her face. The pride in that look was enough to send her over the edge, and Phryne gave herself over to the pleasure as she shattered, climax making every muscle in her body flex.

With a hoarse shout that he muffled in the curve of her neck, Jack let his own orgasm take him; he buried himself within her, his hips pressing tight against the fingers she had on her clit, and she felt him jerk with release. His fingers clenched on her breast, and his belly shuddered against hers.

As her climax released her, Phryne turned to press a kiss to his temple, her hand smoothing his hair where she’d pulled it. Pulling her arm from between them, she wrapped it around his back to hold him close as he recovered; his lips moved against her throat, whispered words that she couldn’t understand and clandestine kisses that she most definitely did.

Before too long, he stirred himself, rising to dispose of the condom; Phryne, half-asleep already, murmured a protest that he silenced with a kiss and a soft “shhhh.” He tugged the blanket up over her nakedness, and she snuggled down beneath it. Through half-closed eyes, she watched him move across the room to the bath, his backside a thing of beauty. She heard the toilet flush and then he was back again, striding toward her, a Renaissance statue come to life.

Coming to the side of the bed, he reached to shut off the lamp, then hesitated.

“Jack?” Phryne reached out to touch him in the darkness, her fingers trailing down his arm.

“Should I find another place to sleep?” The whispered offer was given carefully, and her eyes flew open.

“Don’t you dare,” she said, her hand gripping his forearm.

His teeth gleamed in the now-dark room, and he lifted the covers to slide beneath them. Phryne moved close, nestling her head in the hollow of his shoulder and sliding one thigh over his. She had no intention of letting him leave.

“I didn’t mean to be here,” he murmured against her hair, his arms wrapping around her. “We anticipated you in the morning, and Mr. Butler suggested that we all stay here tonight.”

Phryne raised her head at that. “‘We all’? Who else is here?”

Jack chuckled softly. “Everyone, I’m afraid.” He met her eyes, his hand coming up to cup her cheek, his thumb brushing her cheekbone. “Both Collinses—they’ve been so grateful that you let them stay here while you were away, they wanted to make your homecoming memorable.”

“Oh, I’m certain it will be that,” Phryne said, her voice wry.

Nodding, Jack went on. “Jane and Mr. Butler, of course, and Mac is in one of the guest rooms. Bert and Cec are rolled up in their cab, round the back—they didn’t want to miss out. Oh, and your aunt is expected first thing in the morning.”

“Good lord,” Phryne whispered. “And you? Why are you in my bed, Jack Robinson?”

“Well, Mr. B insisted that someone should sleep here and, as it’s exactly where I wanted to be, I didn’t fight too hard when he suggested it be me.” He leaned in to kiss her, his lips soft and his tongue darting sweetly to touch hers. “I didn’t anticipate that the bed would come with you in it.”

“I have imagined coming with you in my bed many times,” she murmured, as she snuggled down beside him. His chuckle reverberated under her ear, and she smiled, her eyes drifting shut. “I thought I might have to work harder to get you here, though.” She sighed happily, sliding her hand up to cover his heart, her fingers spread. “You always surprise me.”

“Welcome home, Miss Fisher,” he said quietly, and she felt his lips against her hair.

She hummed her response, her body quickly succumbing to exhaustion now that she was no longer being stimulated. As sleep overwhelmed her, she smiled, happy to be home.