Jack disembarked from the boat and took a moment to readjust himself to solid ground. He had taken the leap and decided to follow her. It was probably one of the most spontaneous things he had ever done. Putting in for some unused leave, booking a cabin on a boat, and heading out within a week of her flying off hadn’t given him much time to second guess himself. However, the trip had been very long and very boring, so he had had plenty of time to think. Phryne Fisher really had brought out a different side of himーshe had been something he didn’t even know he needed.
The memory of her kiss still lingered in his mind. He had asked her to repeat her request just in case she wanted to take it back. But she had repeated it and willingly been pulled into his arms. Many nights had been filled trying to remember the feel of her body against him for what had been the briefest of momentsーthe taste of her lips and the shudder that ran through him as he felt her tongue make contact with his. She was intoxicating. He had lived his whole life following what was expected of him, but in the last year, she had pulled him out of his shell and made him see that there was more to life. This may not be the biggest decision of his life, but it certainly had been the least thought out.
So as he stood on the dock, he thought through the plan he had finally been able to make as he spent many lonely nights on board. He hadn’t called ahead or written to let her know he was comingーhe was taking her at her word that she wanted him to come after her. They had gone through some rough spots, but had seemed to come out stronger on the other side. He had kept the vision of her running toward him, the swallow pin he had given to her attached to the scarf flying in the wind.
Two months was a long time to go without seeing her face or hearing her voice. In the year he had known her he hadn’t been away from her for more than two weeks at a time. The fact that he had wished her gone at the beginning made him laugh. Where would he be right now if she hadn’t kept popping up at his crime scenes? He didn’t really want to think about it. He hadn’t truly appreciated how much she added to his life until she wasn’t there.
So as he stood on the dock, his body was vibrating in anticipation. He was sure that spending all this time with her family would have her even more excited to see him. With his limited luggage, he got himself a cab and headed to the Fisher Estate.
When the cab stopped in front of the house, he was surprised to see several people leaving. They all looked solemn, and many of them were dabbing handkerchiefs at their eyes. His heart suddenly dropped and it seemed that his lungs forgot how to work, and he had to force the lump in his throat down as he exited the vehicle. He hadn’t thought it weird that he hadn’t received any letters or telegrams, but the sudden possibility that she might not have been able to send any hit him like a brick wall. He didn’t notice the driver place his luggage on the sidewalk and drive away. Taking a few careful breaths to try and calm his racing heart, he walked into the house.
He frantically scanned the room, looking for any indication of what was happening. His eyes finally caught a familiar black bob and a flash of red lipstick. He hadn’t realized he had been holding his breath until he gasped for air. But he was still frozen in place as the fear subsided. He noticed that she was in a thinly disguised heated conversation with her father.
“Did you know the deceased?” The question came from a stout gentleman standing beside him.
“The deceased? Um…” he mumbled awkwardly, surprised by the man’s sudden presence.
“Margaret Fisher. Wonderful lady. A terrible loss.”
“Yes. Terrible loss.”
The gentleman gave Jack’s shoulder a firm squeeze and walked away.
His head spun in the direction of the familiar voiceーhow he had missed hearing that. Despite the fact that he had apparently walked into her mother’s wake, he couldn’t help the smile that lit up his face. There was a hesitancy in her walk as she neared himーfar from the run across the field he had been remembering. He couldn’t read her expression which normally wouldn’t be a problem, but in this situation, he certainly hadn’t expected her to be masking anything.
“What are you doing here?” It wasn’t an accusation, but certainly wasn’t said with any excitement.
“You asked me to come.” He shouldn’t have to remind her of that fact.
“You shouldn’t have come. I’m sorry.” She turned and walked away.
“What? Phryne.” Ignoring the people around him, he moved to go after her.
“You best give her some space, Jack.”
The voice belonged to Henry Fisher.
“And you would be an expert in what would be best for her.” He shook the man’s hand off his arm and turned to look for her, but she had disappeared.
It may have taken a lot for him to not overthink this tripーto just go with his heartーbut he had had a lot of time to think on the trip and he knew he had made the right decision. So to show up and have her walk awayーtell him he shouldn’t have comeーwas a stab in the heart. He turned and walked out of the house.
She had gone straight to her bedroom, leaving the guests behind. Standing against the door, she tried to catch her breath. But it was more than just a short sprint up the stairs and down the hallway that had her struggling to breathe. Jack Robinson had just walked through the doors of her house in London. He had followed herーjust as she asked. She closed her eyes and pressed her palms against them. She refused to cry but it was all becoming too much. Up until now she had been able to disassociate from her feelings as she had prepared the service and made all the other arrangements. She hadn’t had time to think about Melbourneーabout him .
But if she were being honest with herself, she hadn’t really wanted to think about it. Her heart couldn’t take any other pain. So she had refused to hope that he would come. And then he had walked through the doorsーin the middle of her mother’s wakeーin the middle of a fight with her father. He had not caught her at a good time, and reacting rashly, she had pushed him away.
Phryne knew that it was going to be a hard day, but she had put on a brave face for all of the people. She had watched her father make his rounds playing the grieving husband. Maybe that was a harsh attitude to have toward the man who had just lost his wife, but right now she was having a rather hard time caring. She had no doubt that he had loved her mother and had done the best that he could to be a good husband, but his best had never been enough ーat least not in a very long time.
Before the flight home, there was a moment where she had seen a side of her father she didn’t know if she had ever seen before. He had opened up to her, and she thought that maybe he could be different, but they didn’t really get a fair chance to find out. Arriving home to find her mother in the hospital had put quite a different twist to their homecoming. As much as Phryne had hoped her father would change, she hadn’t been able to get past the feeling that he was responsible for her mother’s deteriorating health.
The tears threatened again. She hit the door with her palm out of frustration, and the stinging pain temporarily distracted her.
Her resentment towards him had been escalating over the last couple of weeksーhis actions in Melbourne still causing her to see red if she thought about it too much. And just now she had caught him doctoring his drink and it had tipped her over the edge. She certainly couldn’t blame him for wanting to drown his sorrows, but he could at least wait until there wasn’t anyone else around. She just needed him to hold it together for one dayーone lousy day.
Pushing herself away from the door, she ran her hand through her hair. Balancing on a chair, she unbuckled her shoes and kicked them off. She had no intention of going back downstairs. Downstairs. Jack. Would he have left? She sighed. She couldn’t expect him to stick around after she had so brusquely told him he shouldn’t have come.
Why had she done that? She slid into the chair she had been leaning against.
Maybe she had been doing too much thinking recentlyーlet her father’s behavior eat away at her confidence. She had begun to wonder if she and her father were too much alike. When she was younger, her mother would comment that that was why she and her father were always at odds with each other. It was something that had lingered in the back of her mind and she had tried everything she could to prove she was nothing like him. But he was her fatherーthere were some things that you couldn’t changeーit was part of you. So maybe that had been too present in her thoughts recently seeing where her mother had ultimately ended upーin her mind due to her father’s actions.
Did Jack get as frustrated with her as she did with her father? Phryne had often expressed to her mother that she didn’t understand why she put up with it. And her mother had always just said that she loved him. But in Phryne’s mind that wasn’t enough, because it seemed that her mother wasn’t happyーhadn’t been happy for a while, and that was not what she wanted for anyone. She didn’t want Jack to end up regretting being with her. There had been several times she had messed things up for him and she had no intention of changing who she was, so she would probably continue to make a mess of things.
Had she been foolish to think this was a good idea? She couldn’t deny that she was happy to see himーnot just happyーher heart had skipped a beat at the sound of his voice. Even just the few words had stood out against the hum of conversation. Turning away from her father, her eyes had quickly scanned the room. She hadn’t thought she had imagined it, and then she saw him. The butterflies in her stomach fluttered in a way she had yet to get used to when it came to Jack Robinson, and when his eyes landed on her she had panicked.
He hadn’t heard Phryne talk about her mother much, but no matter what their relationship, this wouldn’t be easy. And he knew her well enough to know that she would put up a brave face, that her father would push her buttons, and that she would put up walls. Though he had certainly seen her open up to him more in recent months, grief was a strange thing, and everyone responded to it differently. So as much as her rejection stung, he wasn’t going to scare him away. Plus, he hadn’t missed how her eyes had lit up at the sight of him, and it gave him the hope he needed to pull himself together.
He located his luggage, managed to get Henry to explain to the butler who he was, and was given a room. He would wait her out.
Jack had been pacing up and down the halls and had finally found himself standing outside what he had been told was her door. He had already walked past it a couple timesーpossibly hoping to run into her. His heart was breaking for her and he couldn’t even imagine what she was feeling.
His arrival had obviously been very different than he had anticipated. Never would he have imagined arriving during her mother’s funeral - he would have been less surprised if he had walked in on a murder investigation. And now he found himself alone on the opposite side of the door than he had imagined. So all he could think of was to stand out here and let her know he wasn’t going to leave. They had been through so much togetherーthey had come too far for him to be so easily deterred. She had had enough people disappoint her, she needed to know she could push all she wanted, but he was here to stay.
So, with a book of Shakespeare, he leaned against her door and started to read some of his favorite sonnets out loud. He of course had no idea if she was awake, but he needed her to know that he was here.
Sleep was not coming and staring at the ceiling just made her feel more alone. So many things had gone wrong in the last couple of weeks. She had spent days after taking off from Melbourne thinking about that kiss and the fact that she had asked him to come after her. She hadn’t been sure he would, but when he had grinned and asked her to say it again, she felt almost giddy inside. And then he had kissed her! She couldn’t say she wasn’t expecting itーthey had come close a couple evenings before, but she wasn’t used to being kissed like that. She had been left breathless and feeling a bit dazed. He really was always a surprise.
Her challenge of coming after her had been a way to leave the ball in his courtーthe next step being up to himーbut that kiss had kind of been a challenge of his own. And then he had shown up in London!
She pulled the blankets up over her face. It was all sinking in.
He had come after her and what had she done? She had pushed him away within moments of him walking through the door. He had traveled all this way and she had not only walked away, but had told him he shouldn’t have come. Whatever her reason at the time, it no longer mattered. All she wanted to do right now was to rewind time and get to redo that whole scene.
More tears threatened to break through her wall, but she refused to let them. She wouldn’t regret her decisionーshe was just emotional, and she wouldn’t let herself cry about any of it.
Rolling over, pulling the blankets around her, the moonlight glimmered off the swallow pin that sat on her bedside table. Yes, he meant a lot to her and she would even say she knew that she loved him. She had thought she could make it work. However, if her rash decision to push him away was any indication, she was not good at relationshipsーand before Jack Robinson she would have said she didn’t do relationships. But he was different.
“Love isn’t just one thing, Phryneーit’s all the little things that grow into love. That’s how it lasts.” Her mother didn’t often give Phryne relationship advice; she had learned early on that her daughter didn’t appreciate it and would always do what she wanted anyway. But one day while sitting by her mother’s bed, Phryne had opened up about Jack. “You have always done exactly as you wanted, my dear, and you are naturally good at so many things. But there are some things we all have to try a little harder atー things that matter to us. Does Jack matter to you?”
Tears filled her eyes and she nearly gave in to the overwhelming sadness, but a creak in the hall caught her attention. As it was currently quite late, she didn’t know who would be walking through the halls.
The sound of his voiceーshe would recognize it anywhereーcarried into the room. She hadn’t even known he was still here. He had stayed even after she had sent him away.
Who was he talking to?
Blinking away the unshed tears, she quietly pushed the blankets back and crawled out of bed. Tip-toeing across the room, she paused every few steps to listen.
Shakespeare. This sweet man was reading Shakespeare outside her door. Her heart battled with itself. One partーthat part that had nearly leapt out of her chestーwanted to fling the door open and make passionate love on the hallway floor. The other part was much more worried about what it would mean if she opened the door. She was still having a hard time completely pushing away the idea that she and her father were alike. She didn’t want to hurt Jack.
So, instead of opening the door, she sank to the floor against the door and just listened to the cadence of his voice.
He had just finished Sonnet 47 and the line “With my love’s picture then my eye doth feast” made him think of the picture he had hidden away. It was not too long after they had first met and Hugh had been trying to take Phryne’s mugshot. They had all ended up as candid shots that Jack had refused to throw away. From the very beginning, she had made life more interesting.
He closed the book.
“Phryne.” A sigh escaped his lips as he rested his head against the wall.
He didn’t know what to say to her. He had been so sure earlier that she would come around, but as the evening stretched on he was slowly losing confidence.
“I hope you know that I am here for you.”
The thought of going back to Melbourne without herーwithout knowing she was at least coming back to himーwas devastating. He had been fine before she arrived at his crime scene and batted her eyelashes at him, but over the past year, he had regained his “fight”ーas Rosie had put it.
“I’m not leaving. You’re going to have to force me to leave.”
He didn’t want to go back to the man he was before he met The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, and he didn’t want to go another day without her.
Listening to his voice, it was impossible to keep certain thoughts from popping into her head. Jack had been full of surprises in the weeks leading up to her trip to Londonーthe swallow pin, the waltz, the romantic overture, and of course the kiss. He had clearly shown her what he wanted and it had been incredibly sexy. Phryne knew her mother’s words were true. There were so many little things that she had come to love about himーthey had all slowly been breaking down her walls and before she knew it, he had found his way into her heart.
However, just as it was reaching a climax, it had all been halted by the fact that she had to jump on a plane to fly her delinquent father halfway around the world so that her mother wouldn’t leave him. Everything had happened so fast with the wedding after the case wrapped up that she hadn’t had a chance to talk to Jack. She had been bitter and resentfulーher father’s momentary openness not helping to curb either. But then she had seen Jack’s car drive onto the airfield, and she had been elatedーstill somehow surprised that he had thought to come.
Her fingers danced over her lips as she again recalled the sensation of kissing him. There were too many different emotions surging through herーanger, grief, joyーand they all made her want to cry.
She took a long unsteady breath. Anger was really the only thing keeping her from not crying, but all these thoughts of Jack were slowly eating away at it. She had made it through her mother’s rapid decline, had sat by her bed, and held her hand. The one thing she had refused to think about, because she needed the anger, was that her father had also sat by her mother’s bedーday after day he had never left her side. When it had really mattered, he was there for her.
She noticed that the talking had stopped but there had been no indication that he had left. She waited to see if he would continue.
A shiver ran over her bodyーshe should probably get back in bed. The decision on what to do could wait until tomorrow. He would probably still be here.
Standing up, she was about to walk toward the bed when she heard him say her name. It was almost a cryーthe pain in his voice grabbing her heart. She couldn’t move. His next words were a whisper, but she heard them.
Finally able to move, she pulled the door slightly ajar. In the dim light of the hallway, she stared at his leaning form against the wall. Unshed tears glistened in his eyesーher own welling up too. He must have been lost in thought because it took him a moment to realize she had opened the door. She watched as he just looked at her. Just that look in his eyes had her crumbling to the floor.
She felt the floor kept swept out from under her and the smell of his soap surrounded her as he carried her across the room. The tears could not be stopped and she held onto his solid frame.
He hadn’t heard the door open so he wasn’t sure how long she had been standing there, but she looked tired, her hands pulling the robe tight around her body. He had barely gotten to look at her since he arrivedーbefore she had pushed him away and escaped to her room. He hadn’t seen her in so long.
She was beautiful and he couldn’t keep his feelings off his face. Apparently that was all it took because the tears began to fall and she started sliding down the door frame. He was quick enough to catch her and lifted her into his arms. Her fingers were gripping the fabric of his shirt as she clung to him.
The room was pretty dark, but the moonlight lit it up just enough to see the outline of the bed. He navigated to the side where the blankets were turned down. Placing her on the bed, he tried to release her, but his shirt remained firmly grasped between her fingers, the sobs wracking her whole body.
Awkwardly kicking off his shoes, he shifted her to the middle of the bed as he crawled in with her. He pulled the covers up over them both and just held her as she cried. He was happy to have her in his armsーthough this wasn’t how he had imagined his arrival to be.
The sobs eventually slowed and were replaced with an occasional hiccupped breath. He ran his hand over her hair, pulling the strands that had gotten stuck in her eyelashes. She adjusted her body and got a little more comfortable but stayed wrapped in his arms.
“Stay with me.”
“I’m not going anywhere.” He pressed his lips to her forehead.
“I missed you. I’m sorry I pushed you away.” Her voice was barely a whisper and they were so close that it mostly felt like a breath against his neck.
When she woke, things were pretty fuzzy. She had probably had too much to drink, and come to think of it, had hardly eaten anything the last few days. But she had actually slept quite well and was thankful for finally getting a good night’s sleep. But as she took a deep breath, a familiar smell reached her nose. Jack. The memories of the previous day came rushing back and she shifted to look at the man sound asleep beside her.
She had missed him since leaving him on the airfield, but her father had been a lot to handle and had kept her pretty busy. And then they had arrived home. She shook her head...she didn’t want to start crying thinking about the last couple of weeks. Instead, she wanted to focus on the still fully clothed man in her bed.
Leaning over him slightly, she brushed a stray curl off his forehead. He didn’t move. She couldn’t blame him for sleeping, a boat trip wasn’t nearly as relaxing as you would think, and he was probably exhausted. So she just stared at him. God he looked good. His hair was a little longer than she remembered and travel on the boat had given him a bit more of a tan.
Her fingers had traveled down his face and were resting on his chest, the top few buttons on his dress shirt undone. She felt the need building within her as her eyes trailed down his body, the blanket not doing much to cover either of them. Her fingers tingled with the desire to continue where her eyes had landed.
She felt his body tense just before she heard her name in a hoarse whisper. She shifted her gaze away from the now growing tent in his pants to his face. She couldn’t help but lick her lips, her eyelids heavy.
He had followed her to London after all. In a swift movement, she straddled him, and for the briefest of seconds, she was worried that this wasn’t what he wanted. But it was quickly washed away as his hand came up to pull her head down to kiss him. Her hips ground into his pelvis and she felt him moan into her mouth. She felt his other hand cup her assーpulling her closer to his growing erectionーas the kiss intensified.
“You have far too many clothes on,” she whispered breathlessly when she finally had to pull away. Her hands frantically pulling at the buttons on his shirt. Before she realized what was happening, she was on her back and he was leaning over her.
“Maybe you should worry about your own clothes and let me worry about mine since you’re obviously struggling with them.”
The glee in his eyes made her giggle. This was going to be fun.