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The Distant Warmth of Sunlight

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Jack stood at the kitchen counter, hands covered up to his wrists in biscuit dough. It was a beautiful day. The weather was sunny but not yet oppressive. There was a slight breeze, but it was just warm enough that he could comfortably work in nothing but his pajama trousers. He’d spent the first hour of his morning in bed, comfortably reading, but today was the first time that Phryne would meet his parents and he’d promised to make his mother an extra large tin of her favorite biscuits.

 

It took all of his willpower to get up, Phryne’s beautifully tousled hair and her soft warmth calling out to his very core. Once he had finally escaped the alluring scene, he lost himself in his task and her presence in the next room settled over him like a favorite blanket. Jack’s little cottage lay within walking distance of Wardlow. It was their refuge from the world on lazy weekends like this one.

 

Since Phryne had returned from England, they had spent more nights together than apart, but their leisurely weekends at his house held a special place in his heart and he knew he wasn’t the only one. The first time he’d woken up to the sweet scent of her on his sheets had been an absolute marvel. He had shed a few tears as he watched her sleep, unable to believe that they had made it this far. Completely disoriented and with his own sheets being violently ripped away from him had rapidly become one of his favorite ways to wake up.

 

He was still smiling at his own thoughts when he heard footsteps behind him. His smile only grew when two silk-covered arms wrapped around him, before the rest of her joined the onslaught and she pressed her entire body against his naked back.

 

“Morning. Why are you awake at this ghastly hour?” she complained groggily, but her smiling mouth brushed his shoulder blade and he could instantly tell that she didn’t mean it. The tightness of her embrace didn’t leave a single inch of space between them, and he felt himself flush despite her seemingly innocent touch.

 

Feigning indifference, Jack ambled toward the sink to wash the biscuit dough off his hands. He was secretly delighted when she moved with him without ever releasing her hold on him. 

 

“At the ghastly hour of 11:00 am? I’m making biscuits for my parents. My mom taught me this exact recipe, but my parents are convinced that they taste better when I make them,” he summarized the life-long squabble in one brief sentence and felt her chuckle against him.

 

“Unless she makes them shirtless at 11:00 am, I’m inclined to agree with her.”

 

“Mmmh, I wouldn’t put it past her,” he decided as he turned off the tap.

 

He went in search of a dishtowel, smiling at her delighted cackle. That was good. Her unbothered response to the casual mention of his parents made him relax further into her embrace. Phryne’s reaction to meeting his parents had been a constant source of stress for him ever since he had first suggested it. It had seemed the natural next step after she’d met the family dog. She had used the opportunity to grill Jack about his backstory, but he didn’t want to overwhelm her this early in their relationship.

 

Jack knew better than most people that hearing outrageous stories about someone wasn’t the same as meeting them face to face. What he knew of her parents told him that they were the exact opposite of his own. He couldn’t stop worrying that the contrast might be too much. They were extremely important to him to this day, and he hoped it wouldn’t scare her to be welcomed into such an unusually tight-knit family.

 

Oblivious to his racing thoughts, she turned him in her arms so she could press him against the counter. “Sounds intriguing,” Phryne purred sleepily, stealing his heart all over again. “What time do we need to leave?”

 

Jack never tired of gazing lovingly at her sleepy face. Having just woken up, she smelled of nothing but her own skin. He wanted nothing more than to bury his face in the crook of her neck and inhale her scent of sweat and safety. Her eyes held the dreamy look that he loved so much. Her skin was flushed from sleep, her neck and chest covered in freckles all the way down to the edge of her dark green silk robe. He gently traced her laugh lines—one of his absolute favorite parts of her—with his thumbs before responding to her inquiry. His heart clenched when she grinned dazzlingly and they deepened under his fingertips. She was completely at ease in the sanctuary of his home, and that knowledge gave him hope for the afternoon that lay ahead of them.

 

“It’s merely a fifteen-minute drive. We can go whenever you’re ready. I hear there will be afternoon cake, so I suggest we get there at around 3:00 pm,” he told her conspiratorially.

 

“Alright,” Phryne said. He could practically see the cogs turning in her head.

 

“You’re adorable in the morning,” he observed, encouraging her thoughts down the path they were more than happy to take on their own.

 

Her eyes instantly lit up, gazing wickedly around the room before coming to land on his abandoned bowl of biscuit dough. Jack briefly considered protesting, citing his promises to his mother as his excuse for keeping every last bit of dough for himself. He ignored the impulse. He hadn’t been lying when he told her that his mother was more likely to spend his Saturday mornings shirtless than him. She would probably be pleased to know where the dough had ended up. Then, all thoughts of his mother fled his mind when Phryne took a step back and untied her sash, dropping the band of silk seductively to the floor but not yet removing the wide-open robe.

 

“Would you call this adorable?” she asked.

 

“God, Phryne.”

 

She was nude underneath her robe, and his view was of her perfect flesh. The gap of her robe revealed the inner curves of her small breasts, the curve of her belly, and her black pubic hair, which made him instantly moan in his desire to touch her. His hands clenched at his sides, trying to keep from drawing her in and marring her pale skin with wet, bruising kisses.

 

Once she was assured that he had himself under control, she shrugged off the robe and stuck a finger into the bowl of dough. Staring straight at him, she drew a long, thick stripe down her left breast before raising her eyebrow challengingly.

 

“And how about this?”

 

She smirked, confident that she had made her point, but she still repeated the maneuver on her other breast. Jack swallowed thickly, his eyes never straying from the sugary brown dough adorning her impossibly delicious skin, already imagining the irresistible taste of her against his tongue.

 

“I’d call it trouble,” he told her honestly, marveling at how she radiated confidence despite being utterly vulnerable and completely naked.

 

His cock began to harden as he imagined just how he would go about licking it off her skin. He would devour her with his teeth and tongue as her delicate breasts pebbled and flushed under all of the attention. He knew she was as thrilled by her own display as he was, if not more so. She was giving him her vulnerability in exchange for the open desire of a usually restrained man. This new world still felt foreign, and they were both enthralled by its possibilities.

 

Her skin growing warm under the intensity of his gaze, Phryne took a few more steps back until her back hit the table and she hoisted herself onto its surface. Jack knew that realistically, he was too far away to smell her, but the air suddenly seemed heavy with the essence of her arousal.

 

As he watched, her fingers stroked up her thighs and disappeared between her curls. She parted her folds, showing him just how wet she was. “This is all for you,” she taunted. “Come and take it.”

 

He didn’t need to be told twice.

 

***

 

It was 2:45 pm when Phryne and Jack pulled up at his parents’ house. Phryne was in the passenger seat, a large tin of what she affectionately called ‘the sex biscuits’ in her lap. She was dressed in a pink and white blouse and a matching navy skirt that Jack had recognized from their adventure in Queenscliff. She had almost made them late when he confessed that the sight of her pulling her own clothes out of his wardrobe never failed to amaze him. As she took in their destination, she was happy that she’d refrained. She had been delighted to receive access to another part of his life, and her first impression was more than promising.

 

A look through the window revealed a cottage that was substantially brighter and more decorated than its neighbors. The bushes and flower beds lining the front walk drew her eye to its door, which was painted a deep crimson as if inviting her to step inside. The polished windows out front were outfitted with wooden window boxes, and the vibrant blooms that filled them added to the overall feeling of warm gentleness and comfort. 

 

When they both exited the car, they were deposited onto a quiet residential street lined with neat bungalows not unlike Jack’s own. The entire street was empty save for a tall man who stood several houses down from where Jack had parked, while a yellow labrador explored every inch of the house’s front lawn. The man waved at them from afar, and Phryne and Jack reciprocated the gesture.

 

She relished his presence beside her as they moved closer to the man until she could see him properly. They were halfway down the street when he unbuckled the dog’s leash. The labrador bolted, charging towards them at a breakneck speed while his owner followed behind at a much more leisurely pace.

 

Phryne and Jack managed to stay put through the sheer confidence of two people who were intimately acquainted with this very dog. Misjudging his own strength, the dog didn’t collide with them, but his nose left a wet spot on Phryne’s skirt as he halted just before her, wagging his tail excitedly.

 

“Hello, Hermann,” she greeted him, amused.

 

Both of her hands were full, so she merely raised an eyebrow at her overenthusiastic attacker. Besides, she had experienced much worse since she and Jack had become lovers. A shudder wracked her body as she remembered the time Hermann had dumped a dead mouse onto Jack’s bed while she was in it, naked and fast asleep.

 

“Oh, I see you’ve met our dog,” observed the man as he came within earshot. He was taller than Jack by several inches, and the lines around his eyes and mouth were considerably deeper. Other than that, they looked nearly identical down to their thick hair and, based on their nearly identical attire, their obvious affinity for wearing cozy-looking jumpers on their days off.

 

He looked her up and down with familiar blue eyes that set her instantly at ease. When his gaze landed on her tin of biscuits, Jack took it from her with a small, awkward cough. She was instantly charmed by their implicit manner of communication.

 

“I have,” she smiled. “Jack told me all about your heroic rescue story. It was very kind of you to take him in.” She didn’t love Hermann nearly as much as Jack did, but it somehow felt wrong not to pet him now that her hands were free. She bent down and scratched him briefly behind the ears.

 

“It was my wife’s idea long before it was mine,” he demurred, but the corners of his eyes crinkled. Phryne could tell that he was secretly pleased, the thought of which filled her with a gentle warmth. It was truly the best outcome she could have asked for, and she reveled in it as he continued. “She was in my ear about adopting him the moment our neighbor announced his impending move. Jack immediately offered his assistance, and we have never once regretted it,” he said. “Samuel John Robinson. Please, call me John.”

 

“Phryne Fisher.” Shaking his outstretched hand, she introduced herself with a warm smile. “Thank you for the invitation.”

 

His return smile was smaller but no less genuine. It reminded her of the Jack she had first come to know through a series of little glimpses.

 

Jack had been remarkably open during their case in Queenscliff, and it had charmed her almost immediately. Before she knew what was happening, she had gotten used to his mischievous half-smiles and his warm eyes on her, as if she were the only thing in the world that mattered. She had felt both of those losses keenly when he walked out of her life while she struggled to understand how they had gotten there in the first place. When they found their way back together, she’d cherished them even more. Seeing them on a regular basis was a privilege she never wanted to take for granted.

 

Phryne could tell that Jack’s father was reserved, happy to live his life in a small circle of his nearest and dearest. He reminded her of the Jack she knew under the layers of a failed marriage and a lifetime of working as a policeman. She smiled and looked away as John pulled his son into a long hug.

 

Just then, Phryne heard a click from the direction of the little bungalow. When she turned, a beautiful older woman with a low, wavy bun was waving her towards the door. She followed the summons, noticing that Jack was right behind her while John went after Hermann, who had found himself a new front garden to explore while they were otherwise engaged.

 

“Hello, mom. This is Miss Phryne Fisher,” Jack introduced her as he came to a halt beside her.

 

He handed his mother the biscuit tin. Phryne stifled a grin when she pulled him into the sort of rough, almost suffocating hug that reminded Phryne of Mac’s robust way of showing affection. Her instant appreciation of the woman’s character only intensified when she pushed Jack away with an affectionate little shove.

 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Robinson,” Phryne said, once she was certain that she had his mother’s attention.

 

From up close, Phryne could see that she was about her own height, with bright hazel eyes that were appraising but not unfriendly. Her face was free of makeup, and the blue dress she wore was unadorned and practical. She got the impression that Jack took after his father, while his mother was the reason he was so good at being exasperated. The idea thrilled her to no end.

 

“Annette will do. Please, come in.” She waved them past her and into the foyer. “John!” She poked her head out the door to shout for her husband.

 

“Coming, dear,” Phryne heard John’s voice behind her as she followed Annette’s command. This time, it was even more difficult to suppress her smile. Jack placed a warm hand on the small of her back, silently telling her that he shared her amusement. Unseen by his parents, she blew him a kiss in gratitude for his support. This was a lot to digest, and in this largely unfamiliar world, seeing him blush helped her to regain her footing.

 

She took a small moment to orient herself in the hallway. The room was brightly lit, and so similar to Jack’s foyer that it felt instantly familiar. Her heart sped up in sympathy as she recalled the first time she had set foot inside his house. Traces of the man she loved had seeped into every corner, and a similar sense of happiness also permeated his parents’ house. To say that she loved it would be an understatement. Just like the day Jane had dragged an unsuspecting Jack and a yellow labrador to her doorstep, she was on the verge of learning something new about the man she loved, and she was ready to soak it up like a ray of sunshine.

 

Signaling John’s arrival, Hermann pushed past them and started towards the living room. Jack indicated for her to follow, but she only did so at Annette’s insistence that they make themselves comfortable.

 

Two leather armchairs stood opposite a large black sofa, a long, low table between them. Jack sat on one corner of the sofa, and Phryne sat as close to him as she could without actually touching him. She realized her mistake immediately when Jack turned to look at her with mischievous eyes. While she had been careful not to press too intimately against Jack, Hermann had no such qualms. She glared daggers into the dog’s back as he pressed himself against her dark skirt. She could practically feel the little hairs separating from his fur to cling stubbornly to the navy fabric. When he curled up in a little ball, she melted a little despite herself.

 

Beside her, Jack was fighting to keep a straight face, and she lost the last of her willingness to fight the invasion of her personal space. She knew Jack loved the beast dearly, and he loved her. Seeing his partner and his dog interact stirred something in him. Knowing that he deserved it, she scratched Hermann’s warm neck for Jack’s benefit alone. He clearly knew what she was doing, but his utterly besotted half-smile made it worth the sacrifice of her dignity.

 

John and Annette appeared in the doorway, carrying two cakes and setting out plates on the low table. They didn’t bat an eye at Phryne and Jack’s closeness, and she briefly wondered just what he had told them about their relationship. He didn’t strike her as the type to share details of his relationships with others. Then again, they appeared to have a perfectly healthy relationship, and none of her own fears about telling her parents seemed to apply to them. There were none of the inappropriate questions she would expect from her parents, nor the smug glances that told her they’d always known she would eventually be conquered. They were acting as if this was completely normal, as if they were genuinely happy to welcome her into the family.

 

Phryne and Jack’s eyes kept meeting as John and Annette brought out steaming hot coffee in four delightfully mismatched cups. Phryne nodded politely as they explained that the dark chocolate cake had been purchased at the local bakery, while the large, flat cake with crumbs was their family recipe for streuselkuchen.

 

The cakes were delicious, and conversation flowed easily as they ate. Phryne quickly fell in love with John’s quiet charm and Annette’s rough yet no less sincere way of showing affection. She didn’t need Jack to keep her anchored, but she was grateful for him all the same. Whenever their gazes met, she was struck once again by how lucky she was. His thigh brushing intimately against hers was a constant reminder of the miracle that was their relationship.

 

They made light small talk about Hermann. Although John and Annette agreed that having a dog could be exhausting, they valued his vitality and it motivated them to go out more. Annette welcomed the extra company when John hid away with a book or worked his hours away in the garden. On the other side of the story, John liked to take Hermann for long walks around the neighborhood when Annette was feeling cranky or being otherwise disagreeable. Phryne laughed at that while Jack nodded in understanding, having heard the same stories his entire life.

 

When they asked Phryne how she knew Hermann, she told them how Jane had quite literally kidnapped the dog and his unsuspecting owner after running into them on the beach.

 

“I live in St. Kilda with my butler, and my adopted daughter has recently returned from Europe. I sent her to Italy this time as she’s determined to learn every language,” Phryne was happy to fill them in when they asked her about Jane. “I used to have a live-in assistant, but she has run off with Jack’s constable,” she teased. “The house is never empty, and Jack is a true cornerstone of the family,” she finished.

 

She felt surrounded by him on every plane, and his parents’ genuine interest in her life encouraged her to open up to them. Besides, they were deeply invested in his well-being and she wanted to assure them that she loved him as much as they did. The poor man looked ready to combust, and she gently squeezed his knee, reaching out for the first time since beginning this conversation.

 

Annette’s clever eyes followed their every movement. While Jack’s features resembled his father’s, his ability to keep a straight face was all his mother’s doing. Phryne, however, was trained in the art of studying Jack. She could see the slight twitch at the corner of Annette’s mouth, signaling her approval. “That’s a relief,” she said. She leaned back in her chair as she saluted them with her empty cup. “Jack is best friends with his sister’s partner, our honorary daughter-in-law, and we’ve been worried about him ever since she left Melbourne.”

 

Phryne’s wide eyes immediately flew to Jack. Our honorary daughter-in-law. Jack had a sister, who apparently had a female lover. Either Jack had told his parents much more about her than she’d initially thought, or Annette had taken one look at their interactions and decided that she was safe.

 

“My older sister Emma and her partner Meredith live in Sydney now,” he explained, his intense eyes full of promises that he would tell her about them later. His expression was troubled, his eyebrows drawn together as if afraid that he had upset her, but the reason for his secrecy had been delivered to her in the same breath.

 

Her heart feeling full, Phryne nodded minutely before addressing Annette again. “I can assure you that we’re all very fond of him, but I confess to having the same worries and I’m glad he has two families looking after him.”

 

“I am right here,” Jack interjected meekly, his face growing warm as everyone turned to smile at him.

 

“Yes, you are.” Phryne gently kissed his cheek for the pleasure of seeing him blush.

 

“And do you speak any German?” John took pity on him and turned to Phryne. Jack shot him a grateful look as the women in the room smirked at each other knowingly. It made Phryne immensely curious about Jack’s childhood and whether his mother had teased him on a regular basis.

 

“Just some little bits and pieces I picked up during the war. Where should I send my daughter if she wanted to learn the language?”

 

“You could send her to us,” Annette cut in as she helped herself to another piece of the chocolate cake.

 

“Really? I was extremely impressed by Jack’s German and yours must be even better,” Phryne said sincerely, touched by the kind offer from a woman who barely knew her. She and John had been nothing but kind to her from the moment she had entered their little paradise. Phryne looked forward to telling Jane about this opportunity, knowing that she would be absolutely delighted. “If you don’t mind my asking, how did you come to live in Australia?” she asked, genuinely curious about their backstory.

 

“Jack’s grandparents on his father’s side were the ones who emigrated to Australia. John worked in the steel industry, and his parents sent him back there to gain experience. We met during his first week in the country and the rest is history,” Annette told her confidently as Jack and his father snorted in unison.

 

Noticing her confusion, John leaned forward in his armchair and elaborated in a stage whisper, “She refused to let me leave without her.”

 

At that, Phryne let out a delighted laugh. Hermann, who had been dozing against her thigh, flinched at the loud noise and she grimaced, patting his warm back reassuringly. Her heart melted when she looked up only to find three pairs of eyes gazing at her in adoration. She felt incredibly loved, which reaffirmed her desire to introduce Jack’s parents to Jane.

 

As her gaze flickered lovingly between the older couple, she clasped the hand not currently stroking Hermann in Jack’s. She squeezed it in a silent thank you for introducing her to these wonderful people.

 

“Our lives would be considerably poorer if she hadn’t,” she said, her tender voice broadcasting the intensity of her emotions. It told them just how much she loved their son, the thought of which made her unreasonably happy.

 

Annette grunted her approval. “See?” She wiggled her eyebrows at her husband as if challenging him to contradict her.

 

This time, all four of them dissolved into uncontrollable laughter. Phryne loved the way Jack’s eyes crinkled at the corners, and she kissed him, hoping that they too, would have such a playful and long-lasting relationship. The air between them crackled as her smiling lips clung softly to his. When she pulled back, she saw the same hope reflected in his brightly twinkling eyes and she couldn’t imagine being happier than this.

 

***

 

“They are absolutely lovely, Jack.”

 

Sleep and reality melted together, the sensation reminiscent of floating on a bed of clouds, as he combed his fingers through her hair while rocking them gently back and forth on his parents’ porch swing.

 

After several more hours of animated conversation, Jack’s stomach began to rumble and Annette had shoved them out the door with a grumbled, “One would think that two adults in their forties would be able to feed themselves,” and a strict order not to return until dinner was ready. Though it had been a struggle, Phryne had managed to resist the urge to tell her that Jack had eaten his body weight in biscuit dough off her breasts mere hours before their arrival.

 

While they waited for Annette to prepare their dinner, they took great pleasure in walking Hermann around the idyllic neighborhood. Phryne’s casual declarations of love had left them both giddy. When it became unbearable to be this close to each other but not touching, they shared an almost painfully tender kiss on the deserted street. Hermann had run circles around them, as delighted to be reunited with two of his favorite people as they were to declare their love to the world.

 

Under the glow of the dying sun, he traced a single finger over her nose. He studied the explosion of freckles over her delicately carved cheekbones before he spoke.

 

“They love you, you know.” He had seen it in the way they had clung to her every word, and not just because she made him unbelievably happy. She never felt more alive than in the company of her favorite people, and she never failed to light up a room with her genuine kindness and her laughter.

 

Phryne beamed up at him. “They’re going to love Jane too. I look forward to introducing them.”

 

“Are you sure? They came to terms with their lack of grandchildren a decade before we even knew you existed.” His tone when he raised the question was wry, but she instantly picked up on the underlying concern like a loose thread on his frankly offensive olive wool jumper.

 

“If they’re willing to change their plans, I’d be happy to introduce them. The bigger and more varied Jane’s support system is, the better,” she doubled down on her argument, staring up at him with such fierce determination that all the self-control in the world wasn’t enough to suppress his smile. She was brushing off her former fear of commitment as if it didn’t apply to their current life.

 

As if to make a point, she reached down and scratched Hermann, who had curled up on the grass just underneath the swing, behind the ears without ever breaking eye contact with him. She was as confident in their relationship as she was in anything else she loved, ready to fight anyone who dared question her even if that person was him.

 

“I’m not sure what we did to deserve you, but whatever it was must have been incredible.”

 

The angle was awkward, but he slowly leaned down at the same moment that she propped herself up on her elbows. They managed to make their lips meet and chuckle against each other’s mouths. It was the perfect kiss given the unusual circumstances, artless and full of promises they had every attention to honor with their whole hearts.

 

“Are you two lovebirds ready to come inside?”

 

The sound of the door slamming open was accompanied by Annette shouting at them from across the lawn. They spluttered and jerked apart, but righted themselves just in time to hear the door slam shut again behind their backs. Phryne reached out her hand to pull him up, but not before leaning down and pecking him lovingly on the nose, chin, and lips.

 

This was the latest in a long series of interruptions, and Jack was delighted how the circumstances had changed. He took her hand in his and pulled her against him with a flourish. He relished the soft pressure of her against him, a warmth suffusing every part of him as they gazed happily into each other’s eyes.

 

“Coming, mom,” he responded in a voice that would have been too quiet to travel the distance even if Annette hadn’t already closed the door. He had eyes only for Phryne as he picked her up and carried her towards the house, the setting sun watching over them as he laughingly hauled her across the threshold.

 

***

 

Dinner was wonderful, the atmosphere at the table so homey that Phryne instantly fell in love with it. They sat at a high table in a different section of the cozy living room, which was decorated with a tablecloth with a flower pattern that was almost painful to the eyes. John told her that Annette hated it with a passion, and that he hence made sure to whip it out on anything that could possibly be interpreted as a special occasion. On the table was an assortment of delicious full-grain bread and rolls and several platters of meats and cheeses. The experience reminded her of sharing a casual meal with a group of friends.

 

It couldn’t have been more different from the dreary society dinners that had taken up a significant portion of her time in England. Knowing she had her family waiting for her at home had elevated those experiences from dull to positively unbearable. Even though it had been weeks since she’d returned to Melbourne, she felt a sudden rush of gratefulness for these people and everything she’d experienced since coming home to her family.

 

She was still floating on a cloud of soft contentment when John pulled out four beers and suggested that they retire to the sitting area. By the time the clock struck ten, Phryne and Jack still hadn’t said their goodbyes and they were both more than a little tipsy. John and Annette smiled at each other fondly. It seemed they were the last to know that they wouldn’t be returning home tonight.

 

“You know where the kitchen is if you need anything else. Jack’s bedroom is down the hall, and he can point you to the bathroom.”

 

Annette pointed them in the appropriate direction as they stood in the hall just outside the living room, which was empty now except for Hermann. It shouldn’t have been so funny when after making for the exit, both Jack and his father turned back as if pulled by an invisible string. The two women shook their heads at their partners’ insistence to bid Hermann good night before retiring to their beds.

 

“Mom!” Jack spluttered indignantly. He wasn’t exactly scandalized by the assumption that they would be sharing a bed, but her direct reference to their relationship was a shock all the same.

 

“Oh, please. Your sister’s girlfriend spent a shocking number of nights here, and for years the two thought they were being stealthy. It’s good to be back on familiar territory.”

 

Phryne nodded enthusiastically. Her heart warmed again as she filed that information away for later examination. The afternoon had been amazing, but her exhaustion ran deep and her body craved the closeness of Jack’s. She reached for Annette’s hand and squeezed it in appreciation.

 

“It’s been a lovely day, truly. Are you doing anything on Friday? Perhaps you could come to my house for dinner.” Phryne didn’t know she would extend the invitation until it left her mouth, but John’s answering smile filled her with the gentle warmth she was beginning to associate not just with Jack, but the rest of his family as well.

 

“We’d be delighted to. We’ll discuss the details over breakfast.”

 

“I’ll hold you to that. Good night, John, Annette.”

 

“Sleep well, you too.” Annette smirked suggestively before pulling her husband towards their bedroom and leaving a flustered Jack and a grinning Phryne to their own devices.

 

Upon entering the bedroom in question, she discovered that it contained a charming mix of Jack’s childhood furniture—a surprisingly large bed with a dark blue doona, a wardrobe, and a wooden desk—and at least three shelves’ worth of spillover from John’s already impressive library.

 

She could feel Jack’s amused eyes on her as she acquainted herself with the room, running soft fingertips over the desk, which was bare save for a jar of pens and a letter-writing set tucked neatly into its top right corner.

 

She loved that his parents made the effort to maintain this room, especially given the size of the house and the fact that they had no staff. Her assumption that he spent the night here on a fairly regular basis only grew when he pulled an immaculately pressed pajama set out of his wardrobe. His clothes weren’t here because they had to be—the distance between here and his bungalow was short enough to walk on foot—but because he genuinely enjoyed spending time with his parents.

 

Closing the distance, she wrapped her arms around the man who had turned her entire world upside down more times than she could count. Her attempts to kiss him gently were derailed by her wide grin, which refused to be contained. Her happiness only grew when he lightly sucked at her bottom lip before deeming their kiss a lost cause.

 

He settled for pressing his forehead against hers as his hands found her hips and squeezed them gently. The comforting scent of his skin rose around her as she settled into the embrace, obscuring all of her other senses.

 

“Do you want a set of my pajamas?”

 

His dark eyes boring into hers and his soft, low voice sent several shots of lightning through her. She felt her desire from this morning returning as she saw the same love that had been an undercurrent throughout their day break the surface in full force.

 

“I can sleep naked,” she murmured seductively and looked up at him through her lashes. She gave him a low laugh when his hands flexed helplessly around her hips.

 

“God, woman. Are you trying to kill me?”

 

She released the back of his neck to run both her hands along his chest, one coming back up to cup his soft cheek while the other massaged the growing hardness at the front of his trousers. “It’s revenge for not telling about your sister.”

 

Her heart sang as he arched his hips against her palm, simultaneously encouraging her ministrations and letting go of a fear that had been plaguing him for some time. By introducing the topic of his sister into their teasing, she was absolving him of any lingering guilt over his secrecy.

 

Her eyes soft, she took a step back and began to undress for him. The soft fabric of her blouse whispered against her bare arms as she removed it. Jack could only stare in amazement as her skirt dropped to the floor with a soft swish. She was still wearing her heels, her legs encased in stockings that shimmered sinfully as they caught the light.

 

The cool air of the room felt divine against her dripping flesh as her tap pants followed her skirt. The blush pink of her camisole obscuring her down to her waist, she teased him with glimpses of her bare backside and the dark curls between her thighs as she bent over to retrieve them.

 

“You can't sleep naked in my childhood bed.”

 

“Shall I tell your parents I’ll be needing the guest bedroom after all?”

 

“Miss Fisher—“

 

Phryne made it as far as pressing the door handle about an inch, before he caught her around the waist and hauled her towards the bed. Her half-suppressed gasp was a poor stand-in for the laughter bubbling up inside her as he threw her across the blanket. His eyes were on her small breasts, unbound and bouncing under her camisole. Wanting to tease him further, she raised one foot onto the edge of the bed so that her pink cunt, glistening with her juices, was on full display for his searing gaze.

 

“We’ll talk about this another time,” Jack said, his eyes still on her sex as he approached the bed.

 

“Oh, we absolutely will.” She tugged him against her, and once he lay atop her—still fully clothed—she pushed lightly against his side and rolled them so that she was on top. “Now, Jack… Didn't you always dream of someone ravishing you in your childhood bedroom? The only remaining question is… what would you like?”

 

Her knees were on either side of his hips, and his eyes were hot on the pink flesh that was just visible beneath her pubic hair. His hands on her hips were almost reverent as his Adam’s apple bobbed, and it took all of his willpower to meet her eyes.

 

She could see the vulnerability in them as he whispered softly, “Sit on my face. Please.”

 

She looked down at the large bulge at the front of his trousers in mild concern, but the steadiness of his gaze told her that he meant it. She’d spent the entire day feeling surrounded by him in new and unexpected ways. She was too grateful to put into words and all too happy to fulfill his simple but sincere request.

 

After unbuckling her Mary Janes, she shuffled forward on her knees until she was directly above him. It was all she could do not to whimper as he licked through her folds with such an exquisite gentleness that she nearly cried. Her heart felt full to bursting as he showed her just how happy he was to be here with her.