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Not Exactly to Plan

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Jack came to pick her up on the Saturday evening, upon her instructions. Phryne still wasn't entirely sure what had convinced him to attend the party with her. Though to be sure, she was exceedingly charming. And she had lured Jack into her bed again the previous night.

 

Phryne was even more charming in bed.

 

“Phryne,” Jack said, as she opened the door. And it gave her a warm feeling that he no longer needed to be reminded to call her by her first name.

 

“Jack! Please, come in.”

 

Jack took off his hat and followed her inside. Phryne led him to the parlour, and handed him a glass of champagne. Looking slightly bemused, he placed the hat on a table and tipped the glass in query.

 

“I wished to congratulate you,” Phryne said. “As of today, you are a happily unmarried man.”

 

Jack's smile faltered for the briefest of moments, but he recovered quickly. “Congratulations,” he murmured to her, and toasted the air. “To not feeling trapped.”

 

And Phryne experienced somewhat of a paradigm shift, like a lens sliding into place and bringing the past few weeks into focus.

 

After his huffiness the night of the church ceremony, Jack had let the whole thing go. He hadn't brought up the marriage, he hadn't made jokes, he hadn't been annoyed. He hadn't attempted to have any deeper discussion about their feelings or relationship at all, not when he came for dinner believing she was asking for more (and with the intent to start it), nor when he came to her bed.

 

After her conversation with Mac, Phryne had thought that it was because he felt deeply about it, and she needed to be more careful with his feelings. However, it had suddenly struck her that something else had been going on.

 

As much as Phryne had been concerned about Jack's feelings after their 'marriage,' he must have been even more so about hers. After all, she was very open about her lack of interest in marriage, and what he'd seen of her lifestyle didn't suggest she was likely to commit. If Jack had been pursuing her, however quietly, with that in mind, he must have thought that she might react very badly to being forcibly trapped in a marriage.

 

Phryne had gone with denial instead, and Jack had facilitated that. He'd been trying to manage her, to come out of this whole situation with whatever was between them intact; to prevent her panicking and running from the whole thing.

 

There was a great deal of irony in that she'd been trying to do the same thing with him from a different angle.

 

“To not being trapped,” Phryne said softly, and looked Jack in the eye. They both sipped their champagne. “Here, I have something for you.”

 

She dug in her bag for a moment, and her fingers closed upon thick paper. It was the other copy of the marriage certificate – her solicitors had delivered it personally yesterday. At first she hadn't been sure whether giving it to Jack was a good idea – she still wasn't.

 

“I thought you might like one too,” Phryne said, and drew it out. Jack took it, and stared at it for a moment. Then his eyes came up and met hers searchingly. “As a... souvenir.”

 

“A souvenir?” Jack asked roughly. Phryne could feel him start to withdraw, though he didn't move physically, and wished she'd phrased that differently. She reached out and placed both her hands over his nearest one, wrapping her fingers around his tightly clenched ones.

 

When he saw the ring, she felt the change in him instantly, and cautious warmth rekindled in his eyes. Jack brought his other hand up to touch the sliver band on her middle finger curiously.

 

“A souvenir of what?” he asked more calmly.

 

“Of the time you almost got me into wedlock,” Phryne said teasingly. “A feat more impossible than Hercules' Labours. And, of course, only accomplished by extensive trickery on your part.” She grinned at him.

 

“My part!” Jack objected. “I think you're forgetting who it was who was so quick to announce us as an engaged couple. Clearly this was all a ploy on your part.”

 

“To get you into my bed?” Phryne asked mock-innocently, batting her eyelashes, and ran her fingertips lightly up his arm. Jack spluttered, but his pupils dilated, and she smiled in satisfaction.

 

“Surely we should be going,” he said hastily.

 

“So soon?” Phryne murmured.

 

Jack swallowed. “Or I fear we will not go at all,” he rasped.

 

“Well, then. Take me where you will, Jack, I'm yours.”