Here we are
on earth together.
It’s you and I.
God has made us fall in love.
I’ve found someone like you.- Michael Buble, “You and I”
You’re a mystery, you’re from outer-space.
You’re my every minute of my every day.
And I can’t believe
That I’m your man
And that I get to kiss you, baby just because I can.
Whatever comes our way
We’ll see it through
Because you know that’s what our love can do.- Michael Buble, “Everything”
In my world before you
Didn’t know where I was going
I lived outside my emotions
Till that day I found you.
How you opened my life to a new paradise.- Mark Wills, “I Do (Cherish You)
Mark drummed his fingers against the steering-wheel as he dialed Bridget’s mobile before reversing out of the carpark. Despite a long day of traveling, he was in surprisingly high spirits, and they lifted even further as the call connected.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, mrs Darcy.”
“Mark! I didn’t expect to hear from you until later; I supposed you’d be busy.”
“I’m between Meetings,” Mark lied smoothly, his smile widening as he imagined his wife at the other end of the line, likely curled on the sofa with a glass of wine and settling in for a cozy night in, or so she thought. “How has your Valentine’s Day been?” he asked.
Bridget heaved a long-suffering, ‘I’m a martyr on the path to the lions’ sigh. “Lonely without you.”
“I’m sorry, my love. I’ve missed you, but it couldn’t be helped.”
“I know,” she said gently. “Your great legal brain is in high demand, but I’d just hoped we could be together for our first Valentine’s Day as, you know. . .” She giggled.
“Smug marrieds?” Mark finished. Two weeks earlier, he’d been called unexpectedly to New York to consult on a case and was originally scheduled to return on the 16th, but after concluding his business earlier than anticipated, he’d arranged to return today—an itinerary change which, for reasons of his own, he’d concealed from Bridget.
Turning his attention back to the conversation, he said, “I know it’s disappointing, but I’ve already planned to make it up to you, and in any case, we have a lifetime of Valentine’s Days ahead of us.”
“I knew there was a reason I love you.”
“Just the one? You wound me.”
Bridget laughed. “There’ll be plenty of opportunities for you to add to the list.”
“Challenge accepted. Listen, darling, I must go, but I’ll talk to you soon, I promise. I love you.”
“Love you too,” whispered Bridget.
Still smiling, Mark ended the call and placed a second to ensure the stage was entirely set for the next phase of the surprise.
“Tom, it’s Mark.”
“Mark, are you back then?”
“Just landed; I’m on route home now. Is everything under control?”
“Never fear. Bridget doesn’t suspect a thing. She wanted to get everyone together for drinks, but I convinced her to let us come round instead, and that’s what she’s expecting, so she’ll be right where you want her.”
“You’re lucky I managed to carry it off; I’ve never been a skilled liar. The guilt is crippling. I hope you appreciate this sacrifice of my clean conscience.”
“No offense, but as much as she values your friendship, I fully intend to distract her from her disappointment in your duplicity.”
“You really love our Bridgeleen, don’t you.”
“Would you have allowed me to marry her if you thought otherwise?”
“Hmm, no, we bloody wouldn’t have. No more emotional fuckwits for our little Bridget.”
“Well, I’ve just arrived home, but I did want to thank you for playing along with the charade.”
“Happy to help,” Tom assured him. “You children behave, now.”
“I’ll be a perfect gentleman,” said Mark. “You have my word of honor.” ‘Or not,’ he added as he ended the call and gathered his belongings from the car. Crossing his fingers, he let himself in and set suitcase and attaché down in the foyer before heading off in search of his wife. The surprisingly enticing fragrances wafting through the house directed him to the kitchen, where he stood in the doorway for several moments to admire Bridget as she stood with her back to him, oblivious to his sudden appearance. She’d dressed in a pair of jeans and a spaghetti-strap tank-top reminiscent of the outfit she’d worn on the night, not long after they’d begun dating, when she’d endeavored to cook him a pasta dinner only to be distracted, to the detriment of her dinner, by a string of phone calls from the dating war command. They’d wound up ordering pizzas, and the memory of the outfit had become a fixture in Mark’s mind only because he’d thoroughly enjoyed removing it.
She stood now at the work surface, intent on prying the lid off a jar of sauce; a bowl of uncooked pasta waited to be tipped into a pot of boiling water.
“Good evening, Mrs Darcy,” said Mark, stepping quietly behind her. With a surprised squeak, Bridget spun round, the jar lid in her hand clattering to the floor. For a moment, she stared in wide-eyed disbelief; then launched herself at him, nearly knocking him off balance as he caught her and returned her embrace with matched enthusiasm.
“Mark!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing home? I didn’t expect you for another two days.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day, darling.” Smiling, he pulled her closer and buried his face in her hair. “How I’ve missed you,” he whispered, brushing his lips against her ear.
“I’ve missed you too.”
“Did you?” he teased. “Because this all looks suspiciously as if you were expecting someone.”
“Oh, just Tom and the girls were going to come round to keep me company. If I’d known--”
“Bridget, the point was that you didn’t know. It was supposed to be a surprise. Where’s your sense of spontaneity?”
Bridget rolled her eyes. “This from the man who folds his underpants.”
Mark laughed. “I surprise even myself sometimes.”
“If you’re hungry,” she said, moving to disentangle herself from his arms, which he deftly prevented by dipping his head to kiss her while slipping his hand beneath her tank-top to unclasp her bra.
“Problem?” he inquired, pausing in his ministrations.
“No, um, I mean, it’s just, you know, nice husbands don’t rip their wives’ clothes off and make mad, passionate love to them in the kitchen while they’re trying to fix dinner.”
“Hmm.” Mark trailed his lips over the hollow of her throat. “Oh yes, they fucking do.”
“Well,” she acquiesced, “it is a special occasion; we could indulge ourselves with starters.” As she spoke, she made short work of unbuttoning his shirt. He pulled her closer, the better to press himself between her legs, his momentum pushing her back against the kitchen island. He cupped one of her breasts in his hand and lowered his head until his lips hovered just above hers; she responded by tightening her arms around his neck and pointedly pressing herself against his erection. With one swift motion, Mark hoisted her onto the countertop. Realizing what he had in mind, she blushed becomingly before wriggling out of her jeans and top and tossing them to the floor. His clothes quickly followed, and he lowered himself beside her. Repositioning himself, he gently lifted her knees and hooked them behind his shoulders before lowering his head and touching the tip of his tongue to her inner thigh. When she urged him on with a shiver of pleasure, he teased away the soft tangle of curls between her legs and redirected his attentions, much to her satisfaction. She clenched her fingers in his hair, his name falling from her lips in a sigh that made his own body shudder with arousal. When she tugged on his shoulders, he endeavored with some difficulty to alter his position so as to better accommodate what would inevitably follow.
“Come the fuck on, Mark!” she gasped. Obediently, he braced himself on his elbows and thrust. She was coming quickly, her nails raking his flesh, her back arching as she pivoted her hips forward to meet him. They matched each other thrust for thrust, their eyes locked as their bodies moved in sync. As each found their release, their mouths came together in a long, deep kiss. With one last shudder, Mark rolled to his side, momentarily forgetting his current position.
“Christ,” he exclaimed, gripping the edge of the countertop to steady his balance. “I support innovative techniques for enhancing the bedroom experience as much as anyone, but remind me why I thought that was a brilliant notion.”
“You just shagged me in the middle of the kitchen.”
“All evidence would point to that conclusion, yes, so I think,” he replied, lifting one brow before dipping his head to kiss her, “you might be forced to amend your statement about me being—what was it? Incapable of doing anything spontaneous or potentially affectionate?”
“You might be right.” Bridget trailed her lips along the curve of his shoulder; then her blue eyes lit with a teasing glint as she gazed up at him. “I suppose you still expect me to actually, um, feed you.”
Mark bent his head to nibble her earlobe. “What do you say to dinner in front of the fire, Mrs Darcy?” Before she could respond, he slid to the floor and swept her into his arms to carry her from the kitchen.
“Mark!” she squealed. “My clothes!”
“Formal attire is optional in this establishment, my lady,” he said, depositing her on the sofa with a quick kiss. “Besides,” he added with a wink, “I believe I requested a view with my reservation.”
As Bridget’s dinner preparations had been abandoned in favor of satisfying other appetites, they settled for ordering pizzas, which they ate before the fire, snuggling beneath blankets and pausing occasionally to snatch kisses.
“I probably ought to have rung Tom and the girls and told them not to come,” said Bridget. “Though it looks like I’ve been stood up anyway.”
Mark smiled. “Forgive me, but I took the liberty of canceling your plans earlier. I didn’t think you’d mind.”
“but you couldn’t have.” Bridget frowned. “Not unless—hang on. Who else knew you were coming home today?”
“Everyone knew: Tom, Sharon, Jude, the usual suspects.”
“Did my mother know?”
“Purely in the interest of not diluting the security of classified information, I’m afraid not. If I’d told your mother, she’d have just whispered it to my mother, confidentially, you understand, and you know the trajectory after that. My mother would have stretched to include the Alconburys, who’d have thought just to mention it to the Enderbys, and before anyone could stop it, the entire Grafton Underwood grapevine would have been buzzing with some outlandish story of me whisking you off to Paris in a hot-air balloon or some such nonsense.”
“No hot-air balloon then?” asked Bridget, manufacturing a pout.
Mark kissed the top of her head. “There’s always next year, love.” Tears glistened in Bridget’s eyes as she hugged him tightly. Gently, he removed her now-empty wine glass from her fingers and pulled her onto his lap.
“I’m so glad you’re home,” she whispered, snuggling against his chest. For answer, he bent his head to nuzzle her neck, and the next moment he felt her hands, warm and soft between his legs, her stroking fingertips drawing tantalizing circles along his inner thigh. Repositioning himself, he took hold of her wrist to guide her ministrations, realizing at the same moment that she needed no direction as she took him in her hand. He closed his eyes, allowing his body to sink into the cushions as Bridget trailed kisses along his shoulder, his chest, his stomach, and finally, with a quickness that left him slightly dizzy, she took him in her mouth. Mark let himself plunge into the wave of sensations her touch awoke as she drove him nearly to the edge of consciousness. As he trembled with the shudder of his release, her name fell from his lips like a prayer. He didn’t know for how long he lay there, drifting dazedly on the ebbing tide of his arousal; he floated back to consciousness only when he felt Bridget’s hair tickle his cheek.
“Better?” she asked.
“Mmmhm.” The long day of travel followed by a double round of lovemaking had left him utterly spent. Bridget sat up, slipping an arm behind his back to cradle him against her. She retrieved the blanket that had slid to the floor and draped it over him before dropping a kiss on his brow. Warm and sleepy, he allowed her to pull him into her arms and leaned his head against her breast. He wanted to tell her he loved her, but his exhaustion was already carrying him toward unconsciousness, and he managed only an incoherent murmur.
“Love you too,” she whispered, touching her lips to his brow. He searched in the folds of the blanket until he found her hand and gave it a brief squeeze, and he drifted to sleep with his fingers still linked with hers.