Winning Phryne

Winning Phryne

Monday, October 27, 2014

Chapter 10

Jack stared wordlessly at the women in the doorway.  Phryne stepped around him and said, "Rosie, please come in."

Jack almost imperceptibly shook his head, whether in an attempt to deny her entry or shake off the momentary stupor that finding her on the doorstep caused him, he wasn't sure.  His mouth opened and then closed with a snap and he resigned himself to dealing with whatever she had brought to them.

Phryne offered her hand, which Rosie studiously ignored as she stepped past both Phryne and Jack. 
"I need to speak to my husband - alone!"  The last word was almost spat out and caused Phryne to take a step back, but her eyes narrowed as she prepared to tell Rosie to leave.  Jack beat her to it.

"Rosie, I am not your husband any longer; you made that choice if I remember correctly.  Now, please leave."  The words were spoken with iron-clad civility, but there was no mistaking that he had no intention of allowing her behavior to continue.

"I will not!  I must speak to you, Jack."  Her words held an emphatic plea that both Phryne and Jack recognized.  It was unlikely that she would just go away.

"Jack, perhaps you should speak with your ex-wife so that she can be on her way." The quiet words brooked no resistance for Jack; he knew that tone and he knew also that the best way to get rid of Rosie was to find out what she wanted. 
"Very well, Rosie," he said, stepping aside and ushering her into the parlor.  

Rosie stepped past Phryne and then Jack, head held high, and although her face was terribly pale and her eyes red-rimmed, she seemed more in control of the situation than they did.

"Rosie, would you care for some tea?" Phryne asked.

"NO, she would not; she isn't staying that long," Jack stated, standing in the parlor now, hands planted on his hips in an unspoken demand for action.

"Very well, then," Phryne said, pulling the door closed behind her.  When she turned around she saw Dot and Mr. Butler both standing in the dining room, questions clearly written on their faces.

"I don't know," she told them, wearing a frown on her normally good-natured face. She shrugged and went into the kitchen, Dot and Mr. Butler both following behind.

"It's been quite a day, hasn't it, Miss?" Dot said, setting out cups for tea as Mr. B put the kettle on.

"More than you could imagine," Phryne said, and couldn't help how curious she was about what was happening in the parlor.


"What do you want, Rosie?"

"Is that anyway to talk to your wife, Jack?" Rosie said, looking at him as she took a seat.  He was angry, she could tell by the way his body stood ramrod straight.  His eyes watched as she sat down and settled into the chair, and a look of resignation crossed his face.  Her face took on a softer look as she said, "Please, Jack.  I need your help."

He sighed and said, "Rosie, you are no longer my wife, a fact that I'm sure you haven't forgotten.  Say what you have to say and then leave."  He hated being so harsh but she seemed determined to make trouble and he found he hadn't a bit of patience for it.

"In the eyes of the church, we are still married, you know.  They don't believe in divorce, Jack," she stated simply.

He stood silently, waiting for her to speak again.  He thought it very convenient of her to think of such things when it suited her.  When she wanted the divorce she seemed to forget that fact.

"Oh, alright," she said with a huff of annoyance, realizing that he wasn't going to say anything about her statement.  "Jack, I need your protection now, the protection of our marriage.  You must realize that I'm in a very precarious situation as far as society goes.  Moving back into your house will allow me some time to recover a bit.  Since we don't know what is going to happen with father, well, the support would be invaluable to me."

He couldn't believe her presumption; that she was ignoring their divorce, the divorce that she wanted to begin with was almost funny.  Believing for a moment that he would agree to such a ridiculous ploy was pure foolishness. 
"No; now it's time for you to leave."  He wasn't really such a cold-hearted bastard he told himself.

"Jack, be reasonable, please.  It would only be for a short time, until things have settled down a bit."  When she saw that her words had no impact on him she lowered her head, to hide her face a bit and told him, "Surely you wouldn't just cast me out?  We were married for 16 years after all."

The years of their marriage sped through his brain; the good times early on and the worst times in later years.  There was no love lost between them, no romantic love at all and hadn't been for many years.  Of course he cared what happened to her, how could he not, but this was asking too much.  He didn't want to have to toss her to the wolves because she would be eaten alive by them.

But could he cast her out alone now?  A hard question to answer.


Earl drove slowly through the streets, trying hard not to attract any attention, especially of the constabulary type.  At the safe house Sidney exited the automobile while Earl continued on with their cargo; Sidney decided it was none too soon because the stench that rolled off of the odious man was horrendous.  

Inside, after he bathed and ate, he decided to sleep for a few hours.  The safe house wasn't luxurious, far from it.  Certainly it was barely adequate he thought as he gazed at a bed that was covered in a rough textured coverlet that looked neither sufficiently warm nor comfortable. He took what comfort he could from the fact that it wasn't the gaol and that it was temporary as well. 
They had much to accomplish later in the evening, task's that would require careful planning and daring.  He wanted to be at his best when he killed Phryne Fisher and Jack Robinson.  By this time tomorrow he and Rosie would be out of Australia permanently and good riddance to it he decided.  He'd been moving money and his seat of operations to Singapore for the past few years and it was all ready for them.  Rosie would look beautiful swathed in the rich silks and jewels of the Orient.  The thought left a smile on his face as he fell asleep.

When Earl returned to report that his mission was accomplished Sidney nodded approval.  "I want you to go and keep an eye on Miss Fisher's residence to see what is going on there.  But for god's sake, don't let them see you!" he cautioned.

Earl nodded and headed off to do the job for the boss.  It'd be a nice quiet afternoon he thought with a coarse smile.  Miss Fisher was a looker and maybe he'd get himself a good long look.


Phryne sipped nervously at the cup of tea that Dot had sat before her.  It might as well have been brackish river water for all that she bothered to taste it; she was beside herself with curiosity about what was happening in the parlor. 
Both Dot and Mr. Butler continued to wonder about the ring on Miss Fisher's finger; it was a beautiful emerald and thus far she'd said nothing about it.  Maybe it was the reason for the family dinner tonight Dot supposed, although she couldn't help but wonder about that because her Miss wasn't wearing the ring when she had Dot arrange the dinner this morning. 

Phryne's pensive attitude did not suit her at all.  She didn't waste time worrying about things; she took action to solve whatever was bothering her.  But this was beyond her abilities; whatever was going on in that parlor it was between Jack and his former wife.

It didn't bother her that he had aformer wife; they both had relationships in the past although admittedly hers were severely limited in duration.  A small shiver crept up her spine at the thought of what might have happened if she'd stayed with Rene Dubois; she might have, at least for awhile had it not been for Mac and her other flat mates.


He made her feel as alive as the war had deadened her.  Was there ever a war that left anyone feeling happy?  Certainly not the women, who usually were the ones in the ambulance services taking care of the poor souls who were unfortunate enough to end up in their care. Or they waited at home, dreading each and every knock on their doors.

Phryne was strong, she knew that, but days, weeks, eventually years of caring for them, a never ending, swirling miasma of pain and suffering ultimately made even the stoutest of hearts grow numb.  If it didn't, you wouldn't survive it all Mac had told her. She knew that it was the truth, after holding the hand of hundreds of soldiers as they died, giving what comfort she could in their last moments of life, hoping that she had somehow made a difference in their last minutes.

The ones that survived were profuse in their gratitude, and Phryne had received more than one marriage proposal from a young man who saw her as their personal angel.  She smiled and tenderly rebuffed them, trying to let them know that since life went on that all those things that they were missing from home, all those people, would be waiting anxiously for their return from this thing they called war. 

War.  The brutalization and perversion of life and all for what she wondered.  Would it ever end?  Would countries ever decide to just live peacefully among themselves, let their people be and encourage them to find a way to live with peace?  It seemed an unlikely prospect as long as men continued to beat their chests like savages and claimed to be the supreme ones.

But it had ended, thankfully; that war but Phryne felt sure that there would be another, sooner or later.  The numbers showed that the death toll was 16 million people, mostly men but enough women and children caught in the wrong place at the wrong time to make that number horrific in the end.  Armistice, lay down your arms they declared, it's over, now everyone can be at peace again.  How was that supposed to happen?   A seize fire referred to the guns, the militant hostilities; it had nothing to do with the state of mind that the population was left to deal with.  Phryne was certain that she wasn't the only one who carried around ghastly emotional scars of it all.

Paris after the war was magnificent; almost as if the war had never happened.  People were desperate to put it behind them, live in the moment and Phryne and her friends were no different.  None of them had much money, so Phryne and Mac shared a flat with two other girls from the ambulance unit.  Claire and Blythe were the perfect girls to live with while all of them determined what to do.  Phryne knew that she could write home, have money sent but perhaps she just needed this time, just for her, to help her forget the past few years.

A stroke of luck helped her find Pierre and Veronique Sarcelle; posing as one of his models was a perfect diversion for her and even paid a bit of money, enough to allow her to live on anyway.  It was a bit unnerving the first time she shed her clothing, however it was apparent quickly that the only woman that Pierre was interested in was Veronique; Phryne was only a body to be painted and so he did. 

Pierre was enthusiastic but he was also funny and Phryne enjoyed the hours spent with the Sarcelle's.  He would spend days sketching onto a canvas only to scream in frustration and toss his hands in the air because he couldn't get her hand just so.  Then he'd swish his charcoal over the canvas, cursing as he did so, an action that would usually cause a great deal of dialog between he and Veronique.  At first Phryne couldn't understand much of their conversation at all and was convinced that he hated her, hated her body, but in time as she understood more she knew that wasn't the problem at all.  Like many artists, Pierre was a perfectionist and when it wasn't just so, he grew angry with himself.

Phryne spent many happy days and evenings with the Sarcelle's.  Veronique would go to the vendre and bring back bread and fruit and rich red wine which would fortify their energies for the evenings. 
All that changed 3 months after she started modeling for Pierre.  A friend of theirs came around to see them.  Rene Dubois had been in the south of France for a year, learning about the Fauvist and Cubist style of painting with his friend Jacques Villion.  The technique was a bold impressionist style that Rene loved and he came back determined to convert Pierre to it.  

As soon as he saw Phryne he considered himself in the presence of beauty itself.  She took his breath away and he knew at once that he had to have her, as an artist and as a man.

As much as he admired her, desired her, he kept his distance at first; she was Pierre's model and there are some things that a man must respect about his friend and taking his model was one of them.  Still, belle un peu, his beautiful one, as he thought of her cast longing looks in his direction from time to time so to take the edge off he threw himself into his art, finally painting a fantastic mural in the new style on the wall at Café Anatole, much to the crowds appreciation and enthusiasm. 

She approached him then, after his magnificent performance, the desire and longing he saw reflected in her stunning blue eyes too much temptation to resist.  They made love that night, glorious, soul-searing love!  He would never be the same again; his heart would never soar higher than it did with her.

He told her that, time after time, usually after he had chastised her for a seeming infraction of his ideals.  He must be uppermost in her mind at all times!  He only allowed her to continue her work with Pierre because of his long friendship with him.  He demanded that only he, Rene Dubois fill her mind and heart.

The more time they spent together the more Phryne saw through his machinations, his bravado; he was a scared and jealous man, and not just of her relationship with Pierre and Veronique.  He was jealous of the talent that Pierre had, the sheer genius of his work, the way his brushstrokes made the paintings come to life.  Phryne saw through his attempt at scorn for his old friends talent, saw straight through to the marrow of it and the venom and vitriol of it made her feel ill.

Her friends had grown worried about her as she became more subdued and withdrawn from them, not understanding that even her friendships with them were being criticized by Rene.
He resented her time with them, urging her to move in to his loft with him so that they could be together all the time.  As the demands for obedience grew harsher, she grew more melancholy and fearful of what would happen between them.

"Phryne, you must leave him!" Claire urged.  "Seriously, the man grows more deranged daily."

"She's right, Phryne," Mac told her, worry filling her pale blue eyes.  "Dear girl, this is not love, this is about possession."  Mac knew that Phryne felt guilty because Rene claimed he loved her and could not live without her.

She knew they were right, but how did she break away?  She was positive he'd come after her and Pierre wasn't finished with the current painting of her; he claimed that it was the best he had ever done and she knew that she would spoil it if she left.

The decision, when it came was easy.  After practically dragging Phryne away from a session with Pierre, Rene staked his claim to her, vehemently.  "You are MINE.  Body, mind and soul," he told her.  It wasn't enough that the fingers that held her face tightly dug in and caused pain, the final indignation came with a sharp slap to her face.  He walked away without a backwards glance, likely expecting that she would follow obediently. 

As the pain, rage and finally determination took over, she knew that she had had enough. 
She ran for the flat as the tears that streaked her face cemented her resolve to get away.  Out of breath, she practically ran up the 5 flights of stairs and threw open the door and closed it quickly, leaning against it as if to make sure he couldn't follow.

Blythe and her lover, Michel was there as well as Mac.  "What is wrong, mon cherie?" Michel asked, concern for her showing clearly in his face.

"What has he done, now?" Mac asked and stepped close to her to eye her friend carefully. 
The impression of his hand was still faintly showing and Mac turned away with a cure.  "Are you ready to get away now?"  Her eyes dared Phryne to deny the truth.

"I…I don't know how, I haven't enough centimes to get across town; how one earth could I get to England because if I stay here he will surely find me." 

They all pooled their money; Mac was determined to accompany her to England, to her family.  They found enough to cover the train fare, but the crossing was out of the question.  After a few minutes of debate Michel came up with a solution; his cousin was a fisherman in Escalles.  There was no phone for him but Michel would write a note to him that the girls would deliver; Michel was sure that he would help them.

Claire came home as Mac and Phryne were hurriedly throwing clothes into a valise.  When she was told what was happening she added a bit of money to the pot, for food or whatever they might need she told them.

Phryne wrote a note to Pierre and Veronique but found that her words were terribly inadequate to express her guilt for leaving so suddenly and her gratitude for their friendship.  Several of her tears marred the surface of the note, but there wasn't time to do it over.  Claire promised her that she would personally take it to Pierre and Veronique and they all promised to not tell Rene where she had gone. 

It worried Phryne a great deal, what might happen when he discovered she had left him.  He could be vengeful she knew and she worried what he would do to her friends.  Michel promised her that all would be well and she could only hope that he understood the dangers.

The train to Escalles took almost 4 hours and then another 2 until they found Alain Leclere.  He was a weathered fisherman, older than his cousin Michel and a bit grizzled in looks.  But he had very kind eyes and after he read the note from Michel he nodded and agreed to take them to Folkstone across the channel where they should be able to reach her parents.

"Merci, monsieur Leclere.  Merci beau coup."  Phryne barely managed to choke the words out, so overcome with gratitude for the man's kindness.

" Non, ce n'est pas un problème un peu," he told her.  The girl was still shaking from the encounter with the monster who had struck her.  It was no problem for him to help her he decided.

Crossing the channel went quickly and when they reached Folkstone, Phryne again thanked him for his help.  As he watched them go he shook his head, saying a small prayer that God would be with them and get them to safety.

The crossing gave Phryne a chance to think, to decide her destiny perhaps. She had been victimized as a child by her father, usually in one of his drunken stupors but too often to ignore.  Being locked in a closet, complete darkness surrounding her had scared her witless at times.  He had told her many a time that it was for her own good, that her attitude must change.  Even though she feared the dark, it also strengthened her resolve to not let herself be victimized and for a while, Rene made her forget that.

Never again, she decided.  No man would ever make her do something that she didn't want to do; no man would ever own her again. 

Mac watched as Phryne found herself on that journey; the resolve to take charge of her own destiny in her friend was miraculous to observe. 

Phryne took a sip of her now cold tea and wondered how long she had been lost in the past.  The past had a lot to teach a person if you only listened.  She only hoped that Jack remembered and was listening.

To be continued…

Monday, October 20, 2014

Chapter 9

Jack reached for the small box, trying unsuccessfully to take it from Phryne's fingers that held it tightly.  "Phryne, it's not what you think."

"Well then, what exactly is it?"

He swallowed, hard and then cleared his throat in an effort to stall for a moment as he tried desperately to think of what to say to her.  The ring was a symbol to him, of his love for her.  Could he explain it without her being panicked by what she would surely deem a commitment?  He had to try, he knew.

"It was my grandmother's ring actually.  Before she died she gave it to me and told me to give it to my true love."

"And that wasn't Rosie?"

"No; my grandmother knew that all along actually.  So I've carried it for the past year or so, Phryne.  It's…it's a symbol of what I feel for you."

"True love?"

"Yes, true love.  It's reassuring to me that I've found it."

"So you keep it hidden away in your pocket as if it were some lucky charm?" she asked, clearly puzzled by it all.

"Yes, exactly that.  It makes me feel closer to you, I suppose.  When I thought you were killed in the accident, it kept me from losing my mind on the drive to the scene.  I know it's silly, Phryne, but it's the truth."

She pursed her lips as she examined the ring more closely.  It was truly exquisite; a large oval cut emerald surrounded by diamonds in 24 ct gold she noted.  "Your grandfather had excellent taste," she murmured with a small smile that somehow made her look angelic, an attribute he rarely ascribed to Miss Fisher.

"Yes," he stated simply, still wanting to tuck the ring away.  It was humiliating in a way; she'd discovered a secret that he'd not been ready to share.  Since he knew that she didn't believe in marriage he accepted that she'd never wear the ring. "He did," he agreed, reaching for the ring box again.

"A symbol, you say?"

"Yes.  Now Miss Fisher, you've had your fun.  May I have it back?"

"Not so quickly, Inspector," she said, again using his title since he'd had the impertinence to call her Miss Fisher again.  She pulled the ring out of the velvet box and held it up to look at it a bit more closely.  It really was stunning, in an old fashioned way, charming actually.  And clearly, Jack placed a great deal of value to it, and not the monetary kind she knew.

She slid the rind onto her finger and looked at him, a daring look with a raised eyebrow.  "I do believe I like this symbol, Jack," she said, watching his face carefully.

"Phryne, please," he said, believing that she was toying with him.

"Jack, if you were to offer this ring to me as a…symbol, I would be delighted to wear it." As he started to protest she continued, "I'm not being irreverent about the ring, Jack.  Symbols have great meaning and power and I do believe in them.  I don't know how I'll feel about marriage in the future, Jack but I'd be lucky and happy to wear this as a symbol of our love and growing relationship now."

His breath caught in his throat for a moment; he wasn't sure he'd heard her say what he thought she'd said. She wanted to wear the ring?  She wanted to wear the ring now?

"I, um, I don't believe I heard you correctly.  You would like to wear the ring?"

"Will it offend you if I do?"

"No, never."

"Then I'd like to - very much."

"Phryne, some people won't look at it the same way we do, you know."

The thought had occurred to her.  There would be those who considered them engaged because of the ring.  That might be a good thing in certain circles she knew, with Aunt Prudence and his position within the Victorian Constabulary as well.

"I know that, Jack, I accept that.  We know the truth of it.  I know that even though you are a very modern man in many ways, Jack, that underneath all that you still have definite ideas about relationships between men and women.  But I need more time to come around to that.  Can you give me that time?"

"Of course, yes," he told her and meant it.  "All the time you need, Phryne."  He looked serious and he was but his heart was filled with joy at the thought of her wearing his ring.  He picked up her hand and kissed her palm and then turned her hand over and kissed the ring finger, trying to show her his feelings about it all. When he looked up into her face he saw tears glistening in her eyes.  He probably had them too.  That's what happens when dreams come true.

She held out her arm and admired the ring.  "It really is beautiful, Jack.  I will wear it proudly.  But now, Detective Inspector, I believe it is time for you to sleep.  You look worn out and we have plans for this evening."

He smirked, knowing what those plans were and delighted in the anticipation he felt.

"Not those plans, Jack!" she said, not bothering to hold back a merry laugh.  "Well, those too, later, much later." She explained about the family dinner and he felt almost giddy; they would all notice the ring and that made him feel happier still. 
Maybe he wasn't quite as much the enlightened man as he wanted to be he thought with a grin.
"What is making you smile so cleverly, Jack?"

"Not a thing.  Um, happiness I guess.  Now, I do believe I need to be tucked into bed, don't you agree, Miss Fisher?"  He laughed at her indignant huff.  Still, she slid off of his lap and held out a hand, leading him up the stairs to the bedroom. 

If she teased him a bit, taking a good deal of time and 'accidental' brushes against him when she helped to undress him she figured that he deserved it. 

Miss Fisher, indeed!


It was a few minutes before 2 o'clock when Dot and Phryne sat in the dining room, talking about ideas for Dot and Hugh's wedding.  Phryne was insistent on paying for the dress and the wedding celebration following. 

"Oh, Miss, that's too much.  And Hugh and I don't want anything fancy," she insisted, hoping that her Miss would accept that.

"Nonsense, Dot.  It isn't too much at all, no matter how simple or fancy you chose it to be.  I just want it to be a day you'll remember with love and pride.  It will only happen once you know!"

Talk swerved back to the wedding dress; Phryne was determined that they visit Salon Fleuri so that Dot could have her dress designed.  Dot was not in favor of the idea, although she was reluctant to tell Miss Fisher exactly why, she found herself fumbling for words to say what was on her mind and not offend her Miss.

"Alright, Dottie, I can tell that something is bothering you a great deal.  Tell me, now!" Phryne stated, her fingers tapping on the table top as she waited for the reply.

"Miss, please, I…" Dot foundered, clearly uncomfortable with the subject.  Finally she took a deep breath and decided to just tell Miss Fisher the truth.  "It's Madame Fleuri, Miss.  She said I should know my style and that my style is a suit.  She said I could be married or buried in a suit."

"And clearly you don't want to be married in a suit?" Phryne said, feeling relieved that Dot had finally told her what was wrong.  As Dot vigorously nodded her head Phryne added, "So then you shall have the most beautiful dress of your dreams, Madame Fleuri be damned!  Whatever you like, Dot.  Perhaps the younger Miss Fleuri would be more helpful for your tastes?"

"Do you think that would be okay, Miss Fisher?  Last time Miss Fleuri tried to help me but Madame Fleuri wouldn't let her."

"I shall make sure that you get exactly what you want, I promise," Phryne said, laying a reassuring hand on Dots, an encouraging smile on her face.
They both looked up started for a moment when they heard a knock at the front door.  Mr. Butler hurried from the kitchen to answer it and Phryne and Dot both heard female voices, speaking quietly to Mr. Butler before he came back into the dining room to speak to Miss Fisher.

"Miss, there is a Mrs. Robinson and a Mrs. Markham here to speak with you and the Inspector.  Shall I wake him?"

Phryne felt a bit perplexed for a moment; Mrs. Robinson?  Surely that could only be Jack's mother.  Goodness, news travels fast she decided as she stole a glance at the ring on her finger.  Mr. Butler and Dot had both taken it in stride, neither asking anything about it but she'd caught them both smiling broadly.  Most likely they believed that tonight was a celebration of an engagement, which of course wasn't true at all

Mr. Butler stood waiting expectantly for an answer and Phryne frowned for a moment, taking a deep breath before she answered.  "No, not yet.  Let him sleep a bit more.  Did you show our guests to the parlor?"  She knew the answer to the question already; Mr. Butler's impeccable manner's precluded any other action.  At his nod she added, "Thank you, Mr. Butler.  Would you please bring tea to the parlor while I greet our visitors?"

"Certainly, Miss.  I won't be but a few minutes; the kettle is already on."

Phryne smiled, knowing that the kettle was always on it seemed.  She stood, and smoothed down the dove gray slacks she wore today, wishing she had on a dress instead.  Still the silk georgette blouse in varying shades of blue brought out the brightest blue in her eyes and made her look appealing, or so Jack had told her this morning.  She rose and headed into the parlor, feeling a bit anxious, a feeling that was foreign to her.  She laughed to herself that she'd never before had the occasion to meet prospective family before; she hoped that poise and intellect would stand her in good stead.

She entered the parlor and went to the women, offering her hand to the elder one first.  "Hello, I'm Phryne Fisher.  Welcome to my home."  After she shook first one hand and then the other they each offered their names and as they all smiled, Phryne indicated they should sit down. 
"Mr. Butler will serve us tea in a few minutes, so please make yourselves comfortable."

When they were seated, Phryne smiled at them both, noting their apparent ease with a bit of surprise.  Both were dressed in well-tailored clothing, following the current fashion trends.  The younger one, Mrs. Markham had her hair cut into a short bob, much like Phryne's but the color was closer to Jack's and she noted the waves in it as well.  So that must run in the family.  She could see a bit of Jack in his sister but she could see more in his mother.

"Jack is sleeping right now; he had a very late night with our case and then was called to see Commissioner Matlock this morning before 7 am.  I can have Mr. Butler wake him if it is important." Phryne thought that an incredibly foolish thing to say; why else would they be here if it were not important?  For that matter, how did everyone seem to know that he was here? 
Mrs. Robinson was very impressed with the young woman before her.  She was beautiful, but then Jack had told her that already so it was expected.  Suddenly the emerald on Miss Fisher's finger caught her eye and she couldn't resist the smile that spread across her face. 


Jack awoke slowly, a smile on his face as he stretched in the bed.  The sheets were the softest he'd ever felt and the bed itself was truly amazing.  He kept his eyes closed for a moment longer, inhaling the sweet scent of Phryne that clung to the bed covers and wished that she was here with him.  His imagination ran away with him for a few minutes as he plotted all the delightful things he planned to do with Miss Phryne Fisher and realized some of those thoughts might well get him arrested in some places.
Reluctantly he opened his eyes and saw that the draperies were still pulled closed, but that a pale light shown through the cracks where they didn't quite meet.  A glance at the bedside clock told him it was 2 in the afternoon and he decided it was time to get out of the bed because there was a great deal to accomplish today.  As he swung his legs over the side of the bed he thought of Phryne, wearing his ring and an excited ripple flowed through his body.  Tonight, all the 'family' would see it and he couldn't feel happier about that.

Someone, whether it was Phryne or Mr. Butler had straightened and smoothed all the wrinkles out of his clothing that he had hastily tossed aside earlier as he did his best to entice Phryne to come lay in the bed with him.  He knew that he had needed rest and so did she, but his body also knew what it wanted and it definitely wanted the delectable Miss Fisher.  Two years was more than long enough to wait and a few more hours shouldn't make that much difference and yet somehow it felt as if it did.  He stared down ruefully at that evidence right now and tried to change his thoughts to something a bit less erotic. 
Once he felt himself in control, he hurriedly dressed and headed down the stairs.  At the bottom stairs he saw Mr. Butler leaving the parlor and greeted him.

"I have just served the ladies tea, Inspector.  Would you care for some as well?" 

Jack nodded yes and inquired, "Ladies?"

"Yes, Sir."

Jack heard a voice he recognized and a brief moment of panic made his flatten himself against the wall next to the doorway.  In a mere whisper he asked, "Is that my mother?"

Mr. Butler checked his smile as he affirmed, "It is, Inspector and your sister as well."

Jack tightly shut his eyes and let out a long breath.  How did everyone find him here?  "Thank you, Mr. Butler.  I'll join the ladies."  He wondered how long they had been there and how Phryne was handling the situation.

With great aplomb he saw if the smiles were anything to go by as he stepped through the door.  She looked up, a radiant smile on her face as he entered the room and said, "Jack!  I hope we didn't wake you?  I've just been getting to know your mother and sister.  You didn't tell me that they were both so beautiful!"

Jack smiled and bent to kiss first his mother and then his sister on the cheek, before sitting next to Phryne on the loveseat.  He took her hand and if she felt a bit of a tremble in it she didn't acknowledge it.

"Mother, Amanda, what brings you here?"  The unasked question, how did you know I was here hung in the air.

"We heard about George of course and we wanted to check on you, Jackie," Elise Robinson said. 
Phryne couldn't help but notice the slight pink flush that spread up his neck and face.  She had to bite her tongue to keep from smiling; it was rare that Jack got so flustered.

"We know you thought a great deal of him, so we were worried about you.  The papers said you are the one who arrested him."  His sister smiled kindly at him, concern written on her face.

"I must admit that the whole thing has left me shocked and discouraged.  I have looked up to him for so many years and I have a hard time believing he could be bought by Sidney Fletcher so easily.  The proof however was irrefutable."

Both women nodded in sympathy as Mr. Butler entered the room again with another tray, this one carrying a cup and saucer for the tea and a small plate of sandwiches.

"Inspector, I took the liberty of providing you with some sandwiches; I thought you might be a bit peckish."

"Thank you, Mr. Butler, I am."  He picked up one of the small triangles and observed, "My favorite, thank you again," he added with a smile before realizing that another bit of evidence that he was a regular in this household had just been revealed.

"Ham, cheese, mustard, pickle?"?Amanda teased.  "You never could get enough of them, Jackie!"

Jack grinned, and finally shrugged his shoulders; so everyone knew, he couldn't help that.  He decided to just enjoy his repast while the ladies continued to chat.

"Phryne, your trousers are positively divine, are the couture?" Amanda asked.

"No, prêt à porté actually," she said with a smile.  "But don't tell Madame Fleuri, I'm afraid she might not make any more gowns for me."  Both Robinson women laughed at that comment.

"We've never visited the sisters Fleuri; we heard that Simone Fleuri can be a bit haughty," Amanda added and then apologized for her rudeness.

"No, I'm not offended in the slightest.  Simone can indeed be a bit arrogant but her sister Renee is very forward thinking and modern.  Amanda, you should visit her sometime; tell her I sent you.  Better yet, my companion Dot and I will be visiting soon to see about wedding dresses, why don't you join us?"

"Wedding dresses," the elder Mrs. Robinson asked, staring again at the ring and then at her son who practically choked on his sandwich.

"I'm sorry - wedding dresses for Dot, my companion; she is engaged to Jack's constable, Hugh Collins.  The gown is my gift to her."

"Oh - I see," Elise finally said. 

"Jack and I haven't talked about that yet," Phryne said, hoping to smooth over the situation but knowing it would be difficult now due to her careless slip.  "It's all fairly new to us."

"We just, um, this morning, Mother.  Give us time," Jack told her gently.  Both he and Phryne were studiously avoiding the word marriage, a fact that was noted by both women.

Jack had told them in the past of his fears concerning Phryne's inability to form a strong commitment to men; he'd shared what he knew of her father and Rene Dubois.  In truth, Jack had shared a great deal about his Miss Fisher and his family knew that he loved her dearly.  She had brought life back to him and for that they were prepared to love her dearly.  Now she was wearing his grandmother's ring; surely that must mean something?

"Take all the time you need, darlings.  You'll know when the time is right," Elise offered.  "And Phryne, we'd love to visit Salon Fleuri with you. Will you call us and let us know when you plan to visit?"

"Certainly I will.  Dot is going to make a reservation for us, Elise."

Jack noted that they were already on a given-name basis; just how much had he missed before he came downstairs.

"Well, Amanda my dear, we must rush off.  We have an afternoon meeting with the Women's Political Association.  Have you ever been, Phryne?"

"No, but I've heard a great deal about it.  I would enjoy taking in a meeting sometime."

"Wonderful, we'll let you know the schedule when we go to the salon.  Oh, Jackie, your brother is coming for the weekend.  Can you believe the twins are going to be sixteen?  We're celebrating their birthdays.  Dinner on Sunday?  And you as well, Phryne.  You're family now, darling."

Before Jack could speak up Phryne said, "Of course, I'll be looking forward to it.  What time?"

"Shall we say noon?  James, Jack's father likes to have his dinner at 1 o'clock and then Jamie and his family will need to catch the train back to Sidney later in the afternoon.  That should give us time to chat and get to know each other a bit more.  James is looking forward to this immensely.  He knows your aunt, Prudence Stanley."

"Oh dear!  Please don't hold that against me," she told them with a laugh.  "She really is a dear."

The echoing laugh told her that they got the joke, which made Phryne feel ever so much better. 
"Until Sunday, then?" Amanda asked, giving her brother a hug and another one for Phryne, which was followed by one from Elise.  Phryne and Jack waved from the door as the women walked to the car that sat at the curb.  Amanda climbed into the driver's seat and waved as the car pulled away.

"Your sister drives?" she asked, somewhat surprised.

"Yes, both of them and my mother as well.  Father taught them all."  Jack tried hard not to laugh at her shocked expression.

"So the Robinson men are somewhat enlightened?"  Jack was of course, but she was a bit surprised that a Supreme Court justice would be so open-minded.  Perhaps it was because of the job she mused.

"We are indeed, Miss Fisher," he told her, pulling her into his arms and pressing his lips against hers in the most delightful manner.  She leaned into him, thrilling to the feel of his body against hers as anticipation washed over her, making her feel quite heady with desire.  "I must admit however that the Robinson women do not drive with the reckless abandon of another woman I know," he teased.

She gave a small laugh that sounded musical to Jack's ears as she smoothed down his tie and then used it to pull his mouth down to hers again.  "Abandon, Inspector?  Probably.  Reckless?  Never…" she whispered against his lips.  She felt his lips tweak upwards as he smiled before taking hers in a lingering kiss.  

She was molded against him, inflaming his desire for her; he needed her and he couldn't wait to make her his, to love her completely.

Another knock on the door broke them apart.  Jack opened the door and stood speechless at the newest visitor.  Phryne looked over his shoulder, her eyebrows raised in question.

This should be interesting…

To be continued…