The whiskey burned as it traveled down Rose's throat. She blinked a few times, trying to process what she was seeing.
I have to be dreaming...because there's no way he'd bring that woman into my home. Because only a bloody stupid git would do something like that...
Reinette arched an eyebrow and made a slow inspection of Rose. James was over to the side preparing a drink and still hadn't realized Rose was in the room. Zoe's head turned slightly and when she caught sight of Rose, her face immediately lit up with a brilliant smile. She ran up to Rose and threw her arms around her legs. Suddenly curious as to what was happening, Sarah lifted her head up from her toys and on seeing Rose, she quickly got up and ran over to James and began vigorously tugging on his jacket. He turned his gaze down toward her.
"Look it, Daddy! There's your surprise!" she said, excitedly waving her finger towards Rose.
James' gaze turned to where she was pointing. His eyes widened upon seeing Rose and his mouth dropped open just slightly. He slowly looked her up and down, taking a hard swallow after seeing all of her.
Rose was more than a little pleased to see she had turned his head. However, his reaction was nowhere near enough to make up for the current situation they found themselves in.
Take a good long look now, mate, because that's all you're gettin'...
Reinette looked from James to Rose and cleared her throat, reminding them of her presence. They both turned their attention to her, the three of them in a stalemate as to who would be the first to speak. Reinette stood up and walked over to Rose and again made a study of her. She turned her head towards James.
"So, does the surprise have a name?" she asked with a smile that definitely did not match her tone.
Rose clenched her fist, imagining the rush of euphoria that decking Reinette would bring. Quickly realizing the complete irrationality of that plan, she relaxed her hand and forced a polite smile.
"This…this is…well, she's…," James stammered.
Oh, for the love of God...seriously?!
Rose rolled her eyes and took a step forward towards Reinette and willed herself to extend her hand. She assumed Reinette would recognize the name "Rose," so she went with the first name that came to mind. "Eve. Eve Tyler. I'm a…uh…good friend of the family. And you are?"
Reinette looked down at Rose's hand as if weighing what to do. Slowly and with much feigned politeness, she took her hand and briefly shook it.
"Reinette Adams…well, Arden, now."
After the polite formality had been met, they both quickly broke contact and Reinette walked over to James, deliberately lacing her arm through his.
"Jamie and I were married this morning," she said and flashed Rose her ring, staking her claim not so subtly.
Rose's mouth twitched as she tried to contain her laugh. James hated being called "Jamie," saying it just didn't suit him. Hearing Reinette use the moniker just drove home the fact that this woman didn't really know her husband. But on seeing James' obvious displeasure at that the name and the discomfort of the situation, Rose decided that if he was going to play along in this charade, then so could she.
"Oh congratulations, Jamie," Rose said as James gave her an exasperated stare and pursed his lips.
Rose took a seat on the sofa and crossed her long legs, causing James to take another deep swallow. Rose couldn't help but smirk, rather amused at seeing him squirm.
"So…how did you and Jamie meet?"
"I had just started at St. Timothy's and happened to attend one of his lectures. He was absolutely brilliant. Then, I saw him at the hospital fundraiser for the new Pediatric wing, and I just couldn't help myself—I had to meet him. After that, everything fell perfectly into place," she said, trailing her free hand down his arm.
He shifted uncomfortably and gave a tight smile. Rose's smile froze on her face as she watched Reinette's familiarity with her husband.
Keep that up and you're gonna lose that hand…
Rose faintly shook her head, trying to break that train of thought. Keeping her smile plastered on her face, she asked, "So what kinda fundraiser was it? I imagine that some of those can be quite dull at times."
Reinette tilted her chin slightly upwards but kept her eyes firmly fixed on Rose. "Oh, I'm sure that's just because you've never been to one. I find them to be quite charming. Especially the one we met at—it was a gala. Wonderful food. A gorgeous brass band. Jamie is quite the dancer, you know."
James choked on his drink at Reinette's last comment and his eyes shot over to Rose.
"Is he, now?" she asked, quirking an eyebrow and giving another amused smirk. James shook his head furiously and mouthed the word "NO".
Reinette continued to flash her false smile at Rose. "In fact, I can't think of one thing I'd change about him. He's quite perfect," she said, leaning forward and unexpectedly capturing James' lips in a small kiss. Completely taken by surprise, James' entire body went rigid and he made no move to reciprocate her kiss.
Rose felt everything around her become motionless and felt fire sweep over her.
I'm going to have to murder this woman…and in front of my children, too…
Rose let out a long yet silent breath, trying to release her possessive anger. Once again, she put on a smile. "Isn't he, just?"
Reinette turned her attention back to Rose and walked over to her, joining her on the sofa. "So…Eve was it? To what do we owe this unexpected…pleasure?"
Rose gritted her teeth, her self-control fighting to remain intact. "Well, I just got back into town. I've been gone for a long while and I just had to see everyone."
"It looks like you tried to dress up for something. I hope you didn't change plans to come see us," Reinette said snide sweetness.
Rose literally bit her tongue till she tasted blood.
He married the Devil…
"As a matter of fact, I had some rather big plans," she said, looking up at James. "Unfortunately, they were canceled just as you arrived."
James shifted again, giving her an imploring look. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for Rose.
Reinette moved her hand over Rose's and patted it. "Oh, you poor child," she said patronizingly. "And after you obviously tried so hard to impress."
James cleared his throat. "I think you look beautiful, R-…Eve," he said in quiet earnest.
The look of longing in his eyes caused her breath to hitch.
Oh, boy…he's still got it…
Rose softened in spite of herself. "Thanks," she said softly.
Reinette's displeasure at James' compliment was more than obvious. She straightened her posture and mumbled under her breath, "Yes, well…"
Sarah lifted her head up and called to Reinette. "Ya wanna play dollies with us, Miss Adams?" she asked sweetly, holding up her half-dressed Barbie.
"No, I don't," she quickly replied, not even looking at the little girl.
Sarah turned back to her toys dejectedly and sniffled. Zoe leaned over and gave her sister a quick hug. Rose felt an almost feral anger rise within her at seeing her baby girl so clearly hurt. Her maternal protectiveness flared and for a moment, all she could see was white.
I need to get out of here…now…before I slap the blonde off of her…
She quickly dropped to the floor beside the girls. "I've got to go do somethin', but I'll only be a mo'. But when I get back, I'll play with you and Zo Zo, yeah?" she said, gently stroking Sarah's curls.
Sarah looked up at Rose with misted eyes and her face instantly brightened. "Really?" she asked excitedly.
Rose smiled brilliantly at her. "You betcha!" she assured her, placing a quick kiss to her head. She stood up and hastily made her way towards the back of the house. On her way, she passed Donna carrying a glass of white wine. Without asking, Rose grabbed the wineglass and downed the contents, handing the glass back to her and walking away.
"Anythin' else I can get ya?" Donna irritably called after her.
As she made her way towards the living room, James moseyed past her, clearly trying to discretely make his way to Rose. Donna quickly realized that the meeting had gone worse than she thought it would. She thought about going to check on the two of them but, based on the look she saw on Rose's face, she decided to let the two of them work it out on their own and continued towards living room.
James knew Rose was furious. He could practically see her fuming. He wasn't happy with Reinette's reaction to Sarah, either; but he was so tied up in knots that he didn't know how to respond to anything anymore. He hastily made some excuse to leave the room (he couldn't even remember what it was exactly) and followed after Rose as quickly as he could without making a scene. He walked to the back of the house and began searching for any sign of her.
"Rose?" he whispered. He turned his head and saw a light coming from the base of the bathroom door. He quickly walked over to it and gave the faintest of knocks.
"Rose?" he whispered again.
Instantly, the door flew open and before he knew it, she had pulled him in with her.
"Shut it!" Rose seethed, cutting him off. She shoved him against the door. "You daft bloody twit! You brought that smarmy bint into our home? And then let her make our child cry?" she hissed, digging her finger into his chest.
"I didn't say ya could talk! What happened to 'I've got to tell her'? Missin' some parts, are ya?"
James suddenly broke into a flirty grin. Rose jerked her head back, surprised at his unexpected expression.
"What are you grinnin' 'bout?" she asked incredulously, though fighting the fluttering that always happened when he looked at her like that.
He put his hands on her waist and pulled her slightly towards him, his grin broadening as he did so.
"Have I ever told you how incredibly attractive you are when you get all fiery like this?" he said, his voice low and flirty.
"Oh, yeah?" she asked, her tone matching his. She reached a hand up and pulled his head towards her till their lips were almost touching.
"Sorry," she whispered, "I don't snog married men," and pushed him back towards the door.
"Oh, that's just not fair!" he groaned.
"Not fair?!" she hissed again. "What's not fair is coming home and finding out the love of your life is married to Satan. And then...then, finding her in your home, pawing all over your husband and making your babies cry. Brilliant choice, Jamie!"
James' eyes narrowed. "Please don't call me that!"
"Why? Because you only wanna hear it from the Plastic Princess?" she smarted.
"No," he grumbled. "Because I hate it and you know it!"
A small knock at the door stopped Rose before she could continue their argument. She went to open it but James stopped her.
"What if it's Reinette?"
Rose narrowed her eyes. "So what if it is? Afraid you'll have to man up and tell her 'bout me?"
She could see the hurt in his eyes and that he was about to say something. She didn't want to hear it and quickly opened the door before he could start. James poked his head over Rose's shoulder to see who it was. They both looked down and saw Zoe anxiously moving from foot to foot.
"I gotta go!" she said hurriedly.
"Oh!" they both said and quickly exited as the little girl rushed in and shut the door.
They stood there a few moments looking at each other, but neither having the courage to speak.
Finally, James found his voice. "Rose, I—"
She put up a hand, stopping him as she fought back the tears that were coming. "Just…don't. Not right now…," she said, her voice breaking. She turned and walked away, sidestepping James as he reached for her arm. He became lost in thought as he watched her walk off.
Zoe came out of the loo and went up to James. "Daddy? Are you sad?"
Her voice pulled him from his thoughts and he looked down at her, giving her a small smile. She stared at him, her eyes wide, worried, and just like Rose's. He didn't have the heart to lie to her.
"Just a little, sweetheart."
"Do ya need a hug?" she asked softly.
His smile widened. "A hug would be perfect," he said and bent down, allowing his little girl to wrap her arms tightly around his neck. She pulled back and he kissed her forehead.
She smiled at him. "Miss Tyler's so nice, Daddy. And beautiful…like a princess. Me and Sarah love her!" she said, running off towards the living room.
"Me, too," he said softly.
Several minutes later, James entered the living room to find Rose on the floor sans heels and playing with the girls. To his delight and relief, Reinette was no longer there. He cleared his throat to get her attention, but Rose ignored him.
"Reinette leave?" he asked, painfully stating the obvious.
Rose nodded but still refused to make eye contact. "Yeah. Said she was…going to bed."
James started to speak, but Sarah beat him to it.
"Miss Tyler, will ya read to us?"
She turned and smiled warmly at her daughter. "Sure. Go pick out a book."
The two girls eagerly stood up and ran up the stairs. Rose stood up off the floor and sat on the sofa, putting her head in her hands. She looked up when she felt James sit down. His eyes were loving, yet deeply troubled.
"Rose…I'm sorry. I went to tell her. I really did. Then, she answered the door and—"
Once again, the girls' presence interrupted them. Zoe wiggled herself between James and Rose, and Sarah curled up on the other side of Rose, handing her a Classics for Children copy of Pride and Prejudice. Rose raised her eyebrows.
"This is a big book for little girls."
Zoe piped up, "Daddy said it was our mummy's favorite. He reads a lil' to us every night."
Rose met James' gaze, her eyes once again misted.
"Really?" she asked, more directed at him than the girls.
He smiled and nodded as Zoe said, "Yep!"
A few tears finally escaped as Rose turned her attention to the book in her hands, opening it to the first chapter.
"Mr. and Mrs. Bennet lived on an estate called Longbourn. They had five young daughters—Jane, Elizabeth, Ma—"
"Daddy says Mummy was just like Elizabeth," Sarah interjected.
Rose softly chuckled at that, but continued to read. "Mary, Kitty, and Lydia…"
By the time Rose had read the second chapter, the two girls were fast asleep. Rose quietly closed the book and put it to the side, careful not to wake them. She turned her head towards James and his eyes immediately caught her notice. They were overflowing with emotion, the intensity nearly taking her breath away. In that moment, she wanted nothing more than to kiss him; to cherish this precious moment in her life. But she was still hurt as James' actions, or lack thereof. She restrained herself and cleared her throat awkwardly.
"Can you…uh…help me take them upstairs?"
James saw the guard she put up and it pierced his heart. He wanted to finally talk with no interruptions about his failure to tell Reinette, but he decided to hold off just then. Without a word, he expertly picked up Zoe as Rose picked up Sarah. They quietly climbed the stairs to the girls' room, placing them in their beds. After placing quick kisses to each of their foreheads, they quietly left and closed the door. They stood there for a few moments, neither making the effort to move away from each other.
"I thought I'd never get to see you do that," James finally said.
Rose met his gaze and cocked her head to the side. "Do what?"
"Play with the girls. Read to them…get to be their mother," he answered quietly, his voice cracking with restrained emotion.
Rose nodded in understanding. "There were times I was worried I'd never get to, either."
A beat passed before James spoke again. "I love you...so much."
Rose cast her eyes away and swallowed hard. James took a finger to her chin and turned her face back to him.
"I do, Rose. I love you…and I'm so sorry I didn't take care of things. I really messed up, didn't I?"
"Just a bit," she said, her voice finally vacant of anger.
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "So…"
Rose sighed softly. "So…now I'm gonna go to bed. S'kinda been an emotional day."
James furrowed his brow. "Where are you sleeping?"
"Well, considering my room's...occupied, I'm bunking with Donna. Where are you sleeping?"
He rolled back on his heels. "Weelll, considering my room's occupied, it looks like I'll be sleeping on the sofa in my office."
"Not gonna sleep with your wife?" Rose said, the pain and hurt clearly evident in her voice.
"My wife is bunking with my sister. It would be rather uncomfortable, not to mention awkward, for the three of us to share a bed," he said with an air of levity, but his meaning was clear.
Rose shook her head and gave a tired laugh. "Y'know…sometimes it's really hard to stay mad at you."
He grinned at her, relieved that she was starting to soften. He stepped closer to her and, once again, put his hands on her waist. "It's my boyish charm, isn't it?"
This time, Rose didn't move away. Instead, she stepped closer and started playing with his tie.
"Among other things. I always did think you were sorta foxy," she said, finally looking up at him and smiling, a flash of pink between her teeth.
"You flirting with me, 'Eve' Tyler?" he grinned, leaning forward.
"Never," she whispered, cupping his head and finally closing the distance between the in a soft kiss.
As the seconds passed, the kiss deepened and became more fervent. Rose put her hand on his chest and pushed back slowly, breaking the kiss far too soon for both of their liking.
"I should go to bed. And, I believe you have something to take care of, yeah?" she whispered, a tad out of breath.
He was clearly disappointed that their little activity had ended, but nodded in agreement.
She pulled playfully at his tie and then stepped back from him.
"G'night," she said and quietly walked down the hall and entered Donna's room.
James turned towards their bedroom door and took a long exhale, thinking about what he was about to do. He made his way to the door and quietly opened it. Reinette was on her mobile and didn't notice him.
"I'm serious, Cassandra! I couldn't believe it! He practically ran out of the hotel and then, we travel all day nonstop and when we finally get here, some blonde chav is waiting! I'm telling you, if he doesn't explain himself, I'm leaving!"
James couldn't help but smile at the thought that this might be easier than originally believed. He was leaning too forward, and accidently stumbled, causing the door to creak and Reinette to turn around.
Still looking at him, Reinette said, "I'll talk to you later, Cassandra."
James straightened himself up but left the door open. They continued to stare at each other for what seemed like an eternity, before she crossed her arms and spoke.
"Well…do you plan on explaining yourself?" she demanded
James opened and closed his mouth several times, every single word in his vocabulary fleeing from his mind in an instant.
"Well?!" she shouted, throwing her arms in the air.
"Uh…," James started.
Just then, the doorbell rang and he silently thanked heaven. "I'll go get that," he said and hurriedly left the room, closing the door just as Reinette threw a pillow at him.
James scurried down the stairs and answered the door, not caring who it was, just thankful for the distraction. He opened the door and was met with the sight of a balding middle-aged man dressed in a well-tailored suit and holding a briefcase.
"Mr. Arden?" he inquired.
James tilted his head curiously. "Yes?"
"Harry Daniels. I'm with the law firm of Harrison, Taylor, and Williams. I'm here to ask you some questions about your wife—Rose Tyler."