"...but...what if I wanted...more?"
Foyle hardly dared to breathe lest it blew away the fragile question. Sam wanted more than friendship and respect?
Could he break through his own reticence to seek happiness again?
Desperately hoping that he had not misunderstood, he sought refuge in the facts. Anything to prove that he was not losing his mind or hearing things.
Sam nodded jerkily, unable to add anything else.
Foyle felt her pulse thrumming under his fingers and it drew an answering beat from his heart. Only once had he felt this connection before and he knew if he didn't act he would regret it for the rest of his life.
He faltered, unable to find the words to ask her. It was too complex, too much everything. She was too young, despite what he had told her father. He was too old.
Though it was the last thing he wanted to do, Foyle reluctantly released Sam's wrist.
"You couldn't possibly want..."
Sam nodded once, her eyes never leaving Foyle's. Having burned her bridges, she had nothing to lose. She felt him withdrawing from her; it lent urgency to her tone and gave her the courage to put her hand on his arm to prevent a retreat.
"Yes, I do. I know I do. And please don't think of me as a silly girl. I know how I feel, and it feels right."
It feels right.
The words echoed in Foyle's heart.
"You're not a silly girl, Sam, you are a beautiful young woman in the prime of her life. The last thing you need is to tie yourself to an old man like me."
Sam felt herself relax; at least he hadn't scolded her or told her that she was stupid and sent her packing. Her smile was gentle.
"You're not an old man, simply an older one. Besides, it's up to me to decide how I want to be tied up, and with whom."
Utter surprise rendered Foyle momentarily speechless but he wasn't so diverted by the idea of being tied up that he missed Sam's wistful smile a moment later.
"You really think I'm beautiful?"
Foyle caught the flash of insecurity under the pale complexion of his former driver. He inwardly cursed his own insensitivity. He stood and took one of her hands in his. Her fingers were cold and he warmed them.
"Very beautiful, inside and out."
Sam shifted slightly, and somehow they were standing much closer together, though Foyle wasn't certain how it had been managed. Her free hand rested flat on his chest and he could feel the heat through his shirt.
"Thank you." Her grin turned cheeky. " I think you're lovely, too."
Foyle shook his head, but smiled gently.
Sam lifted the hand holding hers up to her cheek for a moment before bringing it to her lips.
There, I've done it; very definitely crossed the line.
She looked into his eyes and thought of everything she wanted to tell him; that he had captured her heart, that he was all she desired, and how fearful she had been that this would never happen.
Foyle returned her gaze steadily, hoping to convey reassurance. He had dreamed of this moment for so long that he almost couldn't believe what was happening.
He mirrored Sam's gesture and brought her hand to his lips for a kiss. He felt so very protective of her.
"What will your friends think when they find out about us?"
Sam searched his eyes again.
"Are we an 'us'?"
Foyle gave her a considering look.
"So it would seem..."
Sam's smile lit up her face. Her confidence was gaining ground now that she was more sure of him.
"Oh, that's lovely. I was so worried that it had all been for nothing."
Foyle smiled; he was quite aware that he had been manipulated, but he could not bring himself to mind.
"Well, at least I already have your father's approval."
Sam tried her best to look surprised, but he had known her too long.
"Really? How marvellous..."
A raised eyebrow indicated his scepticism of her innocence, but the twinkle of blue eyes diluted the effect.
Suddenly Sam was eyeing him up as if he were a delicious pastry. She leaned closer and smoothed a hand down his lapel. It created an air of intimacy that quite diverted him.
"...but do we really need to be talking about my father just at this moment?"
A successfully distracted Foyle appeared mesmerised by Sam's lips.
"Um? N...no, no."
Sam's voice dropped to a whisper as she inveigled herself even closer.
"After all, we are now officially officially engaged."
Foyle could feel her breath upon his lips; it wouldn't take much to close the gap between them.
Just the small matter of overcoming a lifetime of reticence.
Foyle took heart from the fact that Sam showed no sign of withdrawal or reluctance.
Any thought of retreat was flung from his brain once their lips finally touched. Foyle had intended his kiss to be a light and respectable promise of things to come, but what Sam may have lacked in experience, she more than made up for in enthusiasm.
Within moments Foyle gathered her close and her arms wound around his shoulders. His breath hitched in his chest as their kiss deepened without his conscious volition; his only thought was to follow the glowing thread of desire wherever it may lead. The passion unleashed was multiplied as it sang back and forth between them, each kiss blending with the next, until there was no concept of parting.
Sam felt her heart bounce excitedly; how many times in the past had she imagined being held in Christopher's arms and kissed like this? When he lowered his head to cover her mouth with his, the reality far exceeded her fantasies. Light and tender, his firm lips moved over hers with such care that she was almost moved to tears. When he gently coaxed her mouth open with his tongue, she could no more have denied him than stop breathing. She wanted to taste him and have him taste her. Unaccustomed heat flooded her body as desire washed through her; she didn't know exactly what she wanted, but she knew with an increasing sense of urgency that she didn't want this, whatever it was, to end.
Just when she thought her legs would give way, the gentle pressure of his mouth eased. With a final butterfly light touch, he drew back and Sam opened her eyes. Still dazed, it took her a moment to realise that she was clinging to Christopher as if her life depended on it.
Foyle was just as shaken. He was quite certain that his own expression mirrored hers. He felt exhilarated, as if he had survived a lightning strike, but was shocked to the core that he had very nearly yielded to the overwhelming urge to pursue this passion to its natural conclusion, right here, right now, and without benefit of clergy.
The image of a disappointed Reverend Stewart was enough to dampen Foyle's ardour, so he gently pulled back, loosening but not breaking their embrace. Sam's glowing face regarded him.
"I had no idea, none at all, that it could be so wonderful. The only bad thing about it was that you stopped; I wanted that kiss to last forever."
Foyle was only human, fallible as the next man to a heartfelt compliment. With fingers that still shook slightly, he tucked an escaped lock of Sam's hair back from her face.
"I can assure you that you are not alone with that thought." He regarded her flushed face and kiss-swollen lips. "When I look at you I forget to be sensible; I want to hold you, keep you close, and protect you."
"I love you, too."
Foyle's mouth quirked.
"I haven't -"
Sam boldly interrupted him by putting her fingers on his lips.
"Yes, you did. Anyone can say the words, but you showed me that you love me."
It amused him to think that he would have to get used to her unorthodox conversational skills at home in the future.
"Even so, I'd like to use the words too, if you don't mind."
I look into your eyes and I want to hold you forever.
"I do love you." He scanned her face as if committing her indelibly to his memory. "If I ever dared to imagine this moment, I would have imagined a respectable courtship, followed by an equally respectable, if lengthy, engagement..."
Sam's moue of disappointment pleased him inordinately.
"...but as I am not in the first bloom of youth, I don't want to wait any longer than absolutely necessary."
Sam brightened perceptibly, and hung on his arm. It made it so much easier for him than he thought.
"Marry me, Sam, and soon, if it pleases you."
Sam, his dear Sam, tilted her head as she looked at him with her heart in her eyes.
"I thought we were already engaged?"
Foyle's lips twitched.
"Yes, but now it's really official. So I'd be obliged if there was an official reply."
Sam's smile widened.
"Oh, yes, absolutely yes. Officially."
Foyle started to relax at last.
But he should have guessed that Sam wasn't finished.
"Of course, that does mean you have to kiss me again."
Feeling the flare of desire that just the thought of what happened a few moments ago caused, Foyle's feelings were mixed about the sensibility of another kiss.
"I'm not sure that's a good idea..."
But her wide grin gave away her true thoughts.
So he kissed her anyway, and she kissed him right back.
When I finally surfaced from what felt like a very short nap, daylight streamed through the curtains we didn't get around to closing last night. I ached all over, but it was the delicious satiated ache of a well loved woman.
I frowned. Okay, a well loved woman with a full bladder. Funny how prosaic life can be. I slid carefully out from under Mike's arm and tiptoed out to the bathroom.
A naked woman with seriously messed up hair grinned back at me in the mirror as I loaded my toothbrush. I felt so damn good it was all I could do not to sing, and really, I can't sing. Or shouldn't.
Ten minutes later I returned to the bedroom with coffee and croissants and waited for the aroma to rouse Mike. It took about four seconds.
His eyes looked incredibly blue this morning; the five o'clock shadow was as sexy as hell as he shaded his eyes from the sun and smiled.
I grinned back.
Mike propped himself up with pillows and smirked as he took a croissant.
"Actually I was talking to the croissant, but thanks."
I slid my hand under the cover, heading for a spot that I now knew would render him almost helpless. Mike caved immediately.
"Okay, okay. Stop. I give up. I meant you, not the delicious warm buttery confection. So, please, come and sit here while we have our first breakfast together as a couple."
He lifted an arm and I climbed in beside him.
"So, we're a couple, huh?"
"Damn straight. I wouldn't waste some of my best moves on just anyone."
I pretended surprise.
"They were your best moves? Oh, I thought we were still on the nursery slopes, y'know, while you got used to things...?"
Mike's smile was laid back and unconcerned. He was confident – justifiably - that he had acquitted himself with honour.
"Well, I have a few more tricks up my sleeve, but I thought I'd save them for a rainy day."
"Oh, never thought I'd look forward to the rain. Yum."
We lay in contented silence while we finished off the croissants and coffee, then Mike shifted to look at me.
"Have you decided?"
I was distracted by the scent of my warm naked male and didn't catch on immediately.
"Mmm? Decided what?"
"When we get married, of course."
"When did it become 'when'? I thought it was still 'if'."
"Ah, y'know, I'm an old fashioned kinda guy and I want to be married to the woman having my babies. Besides, if someone takes advantage of me, well, I think they have to do the right thing by me. Otherwise I might feel used."
I could tell he was trying to be amusing, but there was an undertone that told me he was serious about marriage. The 'babies' bit worried me too. I didn't even know if I was capable of being a parent.
"I wasn't using you. We were using each other. A lot."
Mike rolled over and before I could do anything he had my legs pinned by one of his and his chest and hips lightly pressed me to the bed. I opened my mouth to ask him what he was up to when he interrupted me. His kiss tasted of coffee and lust; I forgot what I was trying to say right about the time his hips flexed and his arousal nudged at me. I wriggled to accept him, but he held off penetration, just teasing me with the lightest of touches, giving no more than an inch, before pulling back and doing it again. It was as frustrating as hell.
I could see the strain on his face, feel it in the corded muscles of his arms and hear it in his voice. He wasn't doing this for fun.
"Tell me that we're just using each other. Tell me that this is just sex. A quick roll, a fuck 'n' go; look at me and tell me that you don't feel anything else. Tell me, Lily, that you don't love me too. Because then I'll not bother you again."
Honestly, I think I was willing to tell him whatever he wanted to hear, just to get him inside me, but when I looked up into his eyes I knew I couldn't lie to him. The thought of not seeing him again scared me into the truth.
Mike looked pained and tried to pull away, but I stopped him and he frowned as I tried to explain.
"I can't..." I allowed a small grin to escape. "...get you out of my mind...I just want to be with you. You're one of a kind."
Blue eyes blazed as he quivered above me. I ran my hands down his arms and slid my palms around his ribs and on to his back. He didn't say anything but it was obvious to me that he was listening hard, just as I had.
...love me too...
I put as much truth as I could into my voice.
"I can't lie to myself any longer..."
I imagined being able to see him like this, well, almost like this, every day. To kiss him, to be with him, to hold him.
Something inside me warmed and melted as my soul sighed.
"I think I've loved you for quite a while..."
Mike dropped his forehead to touch gently with mine. I couldn't see the smile on his face, but I could hear one in his voice.
"It's about time..."
He look at me and we grinned like idiots, which, oddly enough, makes it difficult to kiss properly, but we tried anyway, until Mike finally lifted his head.
"...and just for the record, I love you too."
I would have sassed him, but just as he said 'too', he plunged in me, well on his way to finishing what he started. As distractions go, I'd rate it a twelve, maybe even a fifteen.
Out of ten, naturally.
Blearily I opened one eye and wondered what had woken me up. The sun was still bright, but it had moved across the window and the shadows fell at different angles. It finally registered with me that I had heard my front door close.
The idea that someone I knew well enough to give a key to might find me dishabille spurred me out of bed. I grabbed my robe and headed for the main room but there was no-one there. A quick look around the apartment didn't turn up anyone, but I'd already figured from the lingering scent that Grammas had made a flying visit. I wondered why she hadn't stayed for coffee. Had she seen me and Mike sleeping and left?
Mike appeared, looking dishevelled but fetching with a towel slung low around his hips.
"Yeah, it was Grammas. Usually she stays for coffee, but I guess she thought I was busy."
I looked around the room and noticed a little gift bag on the table. A small card was addressed to both of us, with a short note inside, which I didn't immediately read.
Mike came over to me, curiosity written all over him.
"What is it?"
"I don't know; a gift from Grammas."
I said that I didn't know, but I had a sudden hunch. It was about the right size and shape...
My stomach swooshed up and down and I felt a little light-headed.
Mike was at my side in an instant, guiding me to the sofa. He plucked the gift bag from my hands and put it on the small table.
"You look like you've seen a ghost. Can I get you something? Glass of water? A cracker? Anything?"
I shook my head. I still felt a little shaky, but I would live. I was so used to looking after myself that I found his solicitousness endearing. It felt different to when he looked after me when I left the hospital, because now I was not ill.
"No, I'm okay. I just need more breakfast." I yawned massively, "And possibly more sleep."
Mike smirked unabashed.
"Wasn't me screaming 'yes, yes' all night."
In a juvenile but wholly satisfying manner, I stuck out my tongue.
With a smirk, Mike retrieved the gift bag and dangled it in front of me.
"Aren't you curious?"
"You mean you are. Go on, help yourself; it's for both of us."
He took me at my word, and lifted the tissue wrapped contents out of the bag. Typical bloke, he didn't see the note, but he read it over my shoulder once he'd realised that there was one.
To Lily and Mike,
My darling Lily, I was beginning to think this day would never come.
The enclosed is a gift for you and Mike, to be held in your care until it has to be passed on.
Like me, you will know when the time is right.
Lily, you were fascinated with the enclosed when you were very little,
so I was relieved that your aunt Jasmine, my eldest grand-daughter, was never one for
family traditions and didn't want to look after it. I give this to you both with my love,
Katherine St Just.
P.S. Try to have a girl first, they are such fun, XX
Honestly, Grammas is the limit. Baby talk on our first morning as a couple and Mike's reading it too.
Which reminded me.
He stopped unwrapping again and looked up at my tone, one eyebrow raised in enquiry.
"Earlier, you mentioned a baby..."
His smile was infectious.
"Babies, more than one."
He seemed to be very happy with the idea. I didn't want to disappoint him, but I wasn't sure how I felt about it yet. To my surprise, I wasn't as horrified as I thought I would be. A little Mikey, with those baby blues.
"Supposing I can't...? I'm not twenty-two any more. I don't know if...it's even possible."
He set aside the gift and took both of my hands in his; he was warm and reassuring.
"I'm sure it will be fine, please don't get upset. But even if it isn't to be, well, that's okay too. What will be, will be, as my mum used to say. Things have a habit of working out."
I was so carried away with lust yesterday that I never gave anything else a thought. Just as well that I've been on long term contraception even though I wasn't seeing anyone. I'm supposed to wait six months after stopping before trying to get pregnant. At least that meant I didn't have to rush into a decision.
"I use an implant..."
"...I'd have to wait -" What he said suddenly registered. "You know?"
Mike nodded, suddenly sober.
"Yeah. When you were coming back from theatre after the first operation I was waiting for news when I overheard the surgeon say something about complications. I didn't hear it all, but it was about the implant, which they'd had to remove. I just assumed it was too close to the wound."
I felt ice run under my skin. They'd removed the implant weeks ago.
I grabbed his arm.
"Why didn't you tell me? This was important."
Mike didn't seem at all bothered by the bombshell that had knocked me sideways. Something wasn't ringing true about his reaction.
"Well, I didn't know that you didn't know. Besides, what difference does it make? I don't mind if we start a family straight off the bat; it'd be cool."
How can I love someone and still want to throttle them?
"I mind. Why didn't anyone tell me at the check ups?"
Mike pulled a 'search me' face.
"I guess they didn't think you'd be too worried because your med-chip noted that you'd missed your last renewal appointment; the implant they removed had been useless for three months anyway."
Mike seemed either unwilling or unable to see the ramifications. I'd been without protection since before the mission. I'd had no periods for months, but I thought nothing of it, I'd just put it down to the implant and post-op stress.
I reminded myself not to panic.
It didn't work. I stood up and paced across the room to stare out of the window. The fab view didn't help. I turned to look back at Mike.
"Lemme get this straight. You and most of the hospital staff knew that I was unprotected, at the least from the moment they removed the implant and probably longer than that, but yesterday you didn't think to ask me if we were fixed before shagging me senseless. Correct?"
Mike had the grace to look sheepish, but I could detect a smidgen of smug pride mixed in with it.
"Focus, Mike, and answer the question."
"What question? Oh, don't pull that face. Yes, I was aware of what happened to the implant while you were in hospital, but you were in no fit state to be needing it. I just assumed that you'd sorted it out after you were cleared for work. Yes, I admit that I should have checked with you first, but you weren't the only one being shagged senseless you know. Small brain was in charge, I went all keen gardener; guilty as charged y'r honour."
He shrugged and I had a prescient glimpse of what little Mikey would look like with his hand caught in the biscuit tin.
"Yeah, well, erm. Y'know, couldn't wait to get planting."
While my jaw hit the floor – again - Mike had finished unwrapping the gift from Grammas. Even though I was half expecting it, it still came as a shock to see the small trinket box that I had given to Chris just before my retrieval. It diverted me away from the subject of gardening, at least for a few seconds.
I don't know what I expected to happen when Mike saw the box, but I was dimly aware that I was holding my breath. He traced a gentle finger over the delicate filigree then hesitantly lifted the lid and looked inside. He frowned.
I really wanted to know what he was thinking.
But I sure as hell didn't want him to know what I was thinking.