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What She Wanted

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Hildy Johnson (Burns, but not professionally) knew better than to ever trust her loving husband and editor. Walter Burns was many things – a fast-talking snake, an overbearing monster, a double-dealing blustering ham sandwich of a man, an editor's editor – but one thing he was not was honest, unless you considered his thoroughgoing devotion to The Morning Post and her. For the paper first and foremost, and for his wife and star reporter a regrettably distant second, he honestly would say any goddamn thing that he thought would get him what he wanted.

So when Walter showed up at her desk at the end of the work day, smiling sweetly as would a shark upon spotting his evening snack, she stopped making notes on the story she was chasing and said wearily, “What are you up to now.” It was in no way a question.

“Up to?” he said. His look of injured sensitivity wouldn't have fooled a child of six.

Her chin on her hand, Hildy surveyed him. He flashed his teeth again in that shark-smile. She said, “Tell me.”

“First, you get any leads yet on that story I'm waiting for?”

As Walter knew very well, Hiram Cochran was Hildy's current target. She'd first got a tip from a secretary in his local factory that Mr Cochran, captain of weapons industry, was cooking the books – double-charging Uncle Sam for the defective bullets going to be sent to the boys going to that hellhole of a European theater of operations. She'd dug for supporting material, enough to be able to prove it, but she needed to talk to Cochran, get the right human details before she laid the crook out in thick black type on the front page. But Cochran was more like, well.... “Cockroach hasn't been seen in public in a week. He's hiding, the big fat money-grubbing ass.”

“I'm disappointed in you, Hildy. Time was, you'd have charmed your way in and hidden in his dumbwaiter to do battle with the fraudster, but you've gone soft in your old --”

“Walter, you say one more word, I'm going to poison your coffee in the morning.”

“You always say that, honey, yet you never do.”

“Tomorrow is a new day,” she said.

When he grinned at her, a real amused grin, she felt her heart turn over. He was a monster, was Walter, but he was hers. To hide the telltale signs of love – because her man would take every advantage of a second's weakness – she began to pull the cover onto her typewriter. “So,” she said as she tugged it down, “what are you up to?”

“Since you're stuck, I thought I'd take you to dinner.”

She pressed her hand to her empty stomach; until he said the word, she'd forgotten she'd skipped lunch in her sifting through records in the courthouse. But – “What's your angle?”

He took her hand, his touch sending sparks through her like always, and pulled her to her feet. This close he smelled of fading starch and lemons and cigarettes and clean sweat. His smile changed again. “No angle, honey. I'm hungry too.”

However, when they got into the back of the taxi he flagged down in front of the Morning Post's headquarters, he leaned forward and said to the cabbie, “The Morningside, please.”

Hildy sat up straight, even as the cab jolted into traffic. “We never go to the Morningside.”

“Sure we do, we go all the time,” Walter said, and ran his hand under her skirt. His index finger teased at the skin just above her stocking, his little finger made a sweet, slithering circle in the hollow of her knee –

“Stop that.” She batted his hand away (albeit with a sense of reluctance). “What's the deal, Walter? You always say the Morningside's full of fat cats and fatheads and fatty meat, plus the publisher raised a stink the last time you tried to expense a meal there.”

He put his hand back where it was, and squeezed slightly. She furiously thought that the son of a bitch never did play fair, damn it, he knew that made her crazy, public cab or no. Before she could tear off his head, however, he leaned in and nipped just below her ear. What came out of her mouth was a moan, rather than a curse.

He whispered in her ear, “It's our anniversary, honey.”

She got her hands on the lapels of his suit jacket. The intention was to push him away, but that didn't quite work, as she found herself pulling him even closer, warmth and hardness and that stupid cleft in his chin that she loved to lick, although not as much as the dimple in his left ass-cheek which was adorable – “Listen, you imbecilic baboon,” she said in an approximation of her usual manner, “our anniversary is in May.”

“Not the second time, woman. I'm talking about the first time. It's the real one anyway.”

She wished she thought that was romantic, but she knew better. Then he was kissing her, hard and deep, and she was kissing-fighting back, and the cab rattled over a loose manhole and the world was thunder and shifting lights and Walter's hand going even higher under her skirt, and then his other hand –

The cab jolted to a stop. “The Morningside,” the cabbie announced, a snigger underneath the words.

She managed to get out of the cab with reasonable dignity, but her legs were still a little shaky from frustrated lust. Damn him.

Walter swept her through the cold and the crowd, up the steps to the glass-and-brass of the double doors, into the moneyed hum of the restaurant, where a dinner-jacket monkey manned the gate. The monkey looked up from his red book and inspected them. “Welcome to the Morningside. Do you have a reservation?”

“Burns, two for six-thirty.” Walter was grinning again, the untrustworthy grin that meant he was absolutely up to more than steak and Scotch.

“Ah yes.” The monkey didn't take menus, though; instead he glanced over his shoulder at the reasonably full house. “Your table will be ready in twenty minutes or so. If you'd care to wait in the bar?”

“Certainly,” Walter said, and steered her expertly into the smoky crimson room to their left--

Where, Hildy saw at first glance, Hiram Cochran sat at the end of the bar, his hand on a showgirl's thigh.

“Happy anniversary, honey. Don't say I never spoil you,” Walter said in her ear, and then kissed just below the earring he'd given her after he'd screwed up their first honeymoon.

“Oh, Walter, you are wonderful,” she said with equal parts affection and acid, and then went forward.

When she was a step away from Cochran, she glanced down and realized that Walter somehow (well, she knew how) had opened the top three buttons of her shirt. Monster. Baboon. Editor-genius.

He'd do anything for a front-page story. Wasn't it nice that it was what she wanted too.