After, as the desert air cooled their bodies, they lay side by side, facing each other. Phryne curled her right arm under her head and used her left to stroke his tousled hair back. Jack watched her with soft eyes, his hand resting still on her hip but for the occasional movement of his thumb to stroke her skin.
She wanted to say something, to tell him that making love to him was more overwhelming than she could have expected. To tell him how good it had been. She suspected her moans and cries and orgasms had given him some idea, but he deserved to be told. Even so, she found herself unable to say it. There were so very many things she found herself unable to say. If only he would give her the opening and coax it out of her as he did with his raw confession about his heart.
“Jack,” she whispered, tracing his upper lip with her finger. How she loved that mouth with its crooked, hidden smiles. And she finally knew how it felt moving over her body after months of only feeling the effects of his deep, rough voice.
Jack used his tongue to draw her fingertip gently against the edges of his teeth, and she shivered.
“Cold?” he asked.
She rolled her head once against her arm. “No.”
He slid his hand from her hip to the small of her back, feathering his fingers over the thin, sensitive skin of her spine. “Part of me is still afraid that this is a dream,” he said. “That I’ll wake up and you’ll be dead.” He swallowed, and she watched the movement of his throat, invisibly but indelibly marked now with her kisses. “There were… bad nightmares.”
Her eyes stung as they found his again. She had once seen his reaction to thinking her dead for only an hour. In the stillness and quiet, away from a surprised group of mourners, she was able to open her heart fully to taking in how broken he must have been for long weeks on end. How it must have suffered, that heart as deep as the Pacific Ocean.
She rested her hand over his heart. “You were brave to give me this,” she said. “I promise I’ll be more careful with it.”
“You, careful?” he smiled. He laid his hand over hers and leaned closer to kiss her.
“Not with my driving,” she said against his lips. “Not with scaling buildings or running after gunmen. But with this, yes. Jack, you are…” Her breath caught, and she closed her eyes. Jack waited in the silence, for which she was grateful. She opened her eyes, flicking her gaze between each of his eyes, so close and expectant. “You are so precious to me. And when I think of the pain…” This time her voice failed her.
“You know the pain of loss as well as anyone,” he said. “No one thinks you intended such news to get out.”
“I telegrammed Dot that very afternoon after we—after the memorial service.”
“And I telegrammed Collins. Between the two of us, they heard the good news.”
“And what of your position? I didn’t want you to risk it, and my plan was to return immediately.”
Jack smiled and sighed. “And that was why you told me not to come.”
“Well, yes.” She sat up suddenly. “You didn’t think—”
“The letter arrived a day or two after the newspapers announced that the Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher had wed a maharaja,” he confirmed, looking up at her.
Phryne flopped back down ungracefully, her hands covering her face. “Oh God, Jack.” He chuckled a little and pulled her over to rest her head on his chest. She ran her hand down his muscled arm and back up to cup his shoulder. The thing she wanted to say to him was more difficult, somehow, than admitting that her heart was his. But she owed it to him. “I missed you so badly,” she murmured. “Even when things were exciting and dangerous. If anything, I missed you more because you weren’t there to enjoy them with me. I missed you so much that I felt angry with myself, as if I had to keep reminding myself that I didn’t need any man to be happy. I didn’t want to miss you or need you.”
A silence fell, and then Jack’s chest moved beneath her. “And now?”
She raised her head to look down at him. “Now I know it isn’t a weakness to want you near. It… It isn’t a weakness to love you.” His eyes shone, but he smiled. “And,” she continued, grinning, “now that I know what it’s like to make love to you, it might be the only thing I want to do for a very long time.”
Jack rolled her beneath him and smoothed her hair back. “You and I both know”—he paused to kiss her—“that if someone cried for help, you would throw on your robe and be out of this tent in a matter of seconds.”
She pursed her lips at him. “And so would you.”
“And so would I,” he confirmed.
“When did you know?” she asked as he kissed his way down her body. His teeth grazed her nipple, and she regretted asking the question, wanting his mouth back on her immediately.
Kind man that he was, he covered her needy flesh with his hand while he answered her question. “Your birthday party. You had stared down danger and grief, but you danced as if you hadn’t a care in the world. And you looked so beautiful.” He rubbed his cheek against her breast. “I could have stared at you all night.”
Phryne pulled him up to trail kisses along his jaw. His deep moans were a sound she found utterly intoxicating, and she was determined to discover every way to hear them.
“And you?” he asked. “When did you know?”
“The footy match. When you put your scarf around my neck, the look on your face… I knew.”
Jack kissed his way down her neck and back to her breasts. “Were you afraid?” he asked.
“Yes. Were you?”
They rewarded each other’s admissions with a heady kiss – though Phryne had to wonder if Jack Robinson gave any other kind of kiss. She surrendered herself to his hands and mouth, growing more and more impatient at his slow, teasing pace. Finally, as he kissed and nibbled her inner thigh, she groaned his name in desperate frustration.
He glanced up, smiling, tracing her hipbone with his fingers. “Someone once told me that you need to have faith.”
“And someone told me to tell him when I need him!” She pushed him onto his back and climbed over him with a triumphant grin. “See? Sometimes you just have to act, and you can’t wait for—oh, God.”
“You were saying?” he asked as his fingers and thumb continued the work they had started.
“No explanation needed this time, Jack.”
She wasn’t afraid anymore.