After a restless night plagued with dreams that would make me blush, let alone my mother (okay, poor example, maybe not my mother; excellent smutty sense of humour, passed along through family genes), I overslept and was nearly late for work. My frantic rush to impress the boss, aka DCI Christopher Foyle, went unnoticed by him on account of him not actually being there.
In some respects this was a blessing, because I wasn't sure how to face him today. The glittering-eyed man I'd felt so close to in the moonlight might not have been the man who would face me across the staff room.
Sam was still away on her hush-hush mission at Bexhill. Milner, who I had finally met at last, was off interviewing people with Foyle, and I was greeted in my office by a pile of handwritten notes needing transcribing for the boys in blue.
Ah well, it keeps me out of mischief. Mostly.
The morning took too long to pass. Although I was busy, I had been typing on the antique long enough to have gained some speed, apart from the occasional twang/clunk that meant I'd got three or four letters tangled, and so it wasn't much of a distraction from my thoughts. The longer it took before I met up with Chris, the more anxious I became. When I realised, about eleven-ish, that my shoulders were trying to hide my ears, I took a break for a cup of tea. Standing beside the not-yet-boiling kettle, I forced myself to relax. The way of life here in the forties was so much less frenetic. Not much in the way of labour saving devices, but also not so much to clean up either. Life here was complex in its own way, but much simpler in other ways; I hated the confusion of too much choice. Here I could choose to have white bread or brown. Both colours were loaf shaped. No multi seeded, granary, wholemeal, HRT assisting, cancer curing, hormonal, thick, medium, thin, crustless wonders. Just bread, pure and simple. For example, take this bread knife. I picked it up off the draining board by the sink and turned the blade to look at it. One knife to cut most things up, not sixteen different ones with different shaped blades and edges and compositions, with prongy additions on the end. When I get home, I'm going to simplify my life. Get rid of the clutter, sort out the –
"Is there enough water in there for another cup, d'you think?"
Well. All I can say is; it was a good thing that I wasn't using the knife, or I might just have lost a finger or two. I turned towards the dulcet tones of my boss and flicked my gaze over the man standing in the doorway. I managed not to drool. I think.
Absolutely? Hanging around Sam has already begun to rub off on me.
Chris frowned in thought; maybe he was wondering the same thing.
"Are you going to use that?"
Or maybe not.
He pointed at the knife still in my hand. I put it down.
"Oh, goodness, no. I was just looking at it."
Thankfully, the kettle started to boil, so I turned and lifted it off the gas ring, then made a small pot of tea. I glanced over my shoulder and caught Chris looking at my legs. I quickly looked back at the pot before he noticed.
"Where would you like it?"
I turned to look at him this time, and he looked a little distracted.
Definitely distracted. I felt the imp of mischief move into the driving seat.
"Where do you want it?"
Both eyebrows rose; he looked the picture of startlement.
"You can have it here on the table or on the desk in your office. I don't mind which."
Chris smoothed his tie down with one hand. His lips pursed as he glanced up the corridor. Sergeant Rivers was heading this way and would be in the room in moments. Chris' lips curved into a polite smile, but his eyes danced.
"I have no objection to here on the table, but I'd prefer it in my office. Quieter, y'know. Wouldn't want to disturb anyone, if I needed to…um...use the telephone."
I smiled sweetly as the Sergeant passed Chris in the doorway.
"I'll bring it through directly. I expect you like it hot."
Chris hesitated as he turned to leave and gave me what my mum used to call 'an old-fashioned look'.
How appropriate. Pity for him that I could tell he was trying not to laugh.
He cleared his throat instead.
"Usually better that way."
Oh, how true.
Chris went back to his office and I took him his cup of tea five minutes later. We never had chance for any further innuendo-laden banter, as Paul Milner had joined him. I offered to get a cup for him, too, which he gratefully accepted.
I went back to my 'room', and took my tea with me. I felt much more relaxed.
The afternoon went a lot quicker now that I knew Chris was back and not mad at me for last night. I was really looking forward to tonight. I looked at myself in the big two-way mirror, and wondered if I could get my hair done after work. The hairdo I had been using was okay for everyday wear, but I wanted it took look good for tonight, and I had no clue how they managed here without half the gunk I used on my hair back home. While I was looking anyway, I checked my lippy and applied a little more. I rubbed my little finger along my lips and, I confess, wondered what it would be like to have Chris' finger there instead.
I tutted and rolled my eyes at my own reflection before blowing myself a kiss. There really was something to that cupid bow thing that men liked; the forties fashions were actually quite sexy. The whole stocking and suspender belt thing, high heeled shoes, the fitted, accentuating look of the skirts and jackets, they all screamed 'female and proud'.
It's been quite a while since I viewed myself in that way, if I ever really did. I watched my reflection frown and deliberately made myself think of kissing Chris. Without conscious volition on my part, my expression changed to a sweet smile I'd never seen on myself before.
I liked that look a lot better. Note to self: smile more often.
I turned away from the mirror just as I heard something nearby that sounded like a chair scraping on a floor. I kept moving as if I hadn't heard, but sashayed back to my seat. I didn't know who was next door behind the mirror, but I could pretend it was Chris, couldn't I?
Six o'clock finally arrived, I knocked and I stuck my head around the door marked 'DCI Foyle' before I left, but Chris wasn't there. I collected my things and said goodnight to the chap on desk duty before leaving the station.
Walking back along the High Street, I spotted a hairdressing salon, Maison Jules. Its window gave me a view of a black and white tiled floor and a very French-looking style of furniture. Probably never been to France a single day in their life, but Vogue was vogue and people looked to Paris for fashion. And it was 'Open'.
As luck would have it, they were able to fit me in for a wash and style, and within half an hour I was sitting under a dryer, feeling like I was sitting in a noisy hot wind tunnel, and reading a Woman's Own magazine. Living History, it was fantastic.
I didn't go for the Victory Roll; I went for the Rita Hayworth, side-parting, shiny luscious waves. I don't know how the proprietress managed it, but my hair looked amazing.
According to Mrs Summersgill (Jules, I presume), the War is responsible for the elaborate hairdos; people can't afford, or can't even get hold of, new clothes, so they are thinking up ever more elaborate hair to compensate. Even clothing manufacturers are slightly widening shoulder pads to balance out the 'big' hair.
"…it's all very well thinking up these new ideas, but we at the sharp end have to make it work. Personally I prefer some of the simpler classic styles, not because they are easier, but because they often suit the young women better. But the young women today are so confident and sure about what they want; they won't be deterred. Wait until the War is over, there will be trouble at home. The women won't want to go back into the home once they've had a taste of freedom and their own wages. You'll see, mark my words…"
Either Maison Jules is so short of clients that Mrs S has to get all she needs to say out in one go, or she just talks incessantly, either way I learned a lot from her in a very short space of time. Take it from me, she knew her stuff.
My door knocker rattled promptly at seven thirty, and I hurried to the door, pausing only to have a quick spritz of perfume and slip on my heels.
When I opened the door, I was pleased to see Chris standing there, looking smart, as usual.
"Good evening, Lily. You're looking very…umm…yes. Lovely."
I smiled, touched by his compliment, especially the lack of smoothness that said he didn't throw them about too often.
"Thanks, you're looking very dapper, as always. Would you like to come in for a few minutes, or do we have to be off quickly?"
I automatically stood back from the door to let him enter, but he didn't move.
Chris had removed his hat as soon as he saw me. Now he used the forefinger of his free hand to briefly scratch the side of his face as he glanced up the road, before those lovely blue eyes returned to me.
"I think it's…erm…safer if I don't."
Wowzat. So it was mutual. I felt stomach-churningly excited, and ready for him.
I gave him a considered look.
"Supposing I don't want you to feel safe?"
Up went the eyebrow, and there was the lop-sided smirk.
"That's as may be, but it wasn't my safety I was concerned about."
What an odd conversation for a doorstep. I leaned forward and lowered my voice.
"Point number one; I trust you not to do anything I don't want you to, and point number two; supposing I don't want to be safe?"
Chris' smile was rueful.
"I've never met anyone like you before, Lily, and I very much doubt that I shall again. However, I'm not coming in, so you'd better come out, and then we can eat, talk, and walk, whatever you like."
Even in less than a week I recognised that tone of voice. Funny how he can be both commanding and respectful at the same time. What a delish man. His ravishment will have to wait.
Sadly for me, it'll have to wait for his future wife.
"Okay, you bully. Let me get my jacket."
We decided to walk the long way to the restaurant; detouring wide around the big ack-ack gun emplacements, and getting a smile from the young sentry, then along the seafront because, as Chris pointed out, I obviously needed to cool down. Cheeky monkey.
As we walked, we talked, but not about the frisson between us. By unspoken mutual consent, we kept off provocative subjects, but debated in a lively fashion. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and Chris appeared to do so too. There were lots of little moments that I enjoyed almost without realising them; the way Chris always put me on the inner side of the pathway, the way he opened the door of the restaurant and let me walk through first, even the way he waited until I was seated before he took his chair. I'd forgotten all the small courtesies that women of this time probably took for granted.
Carlo was pleased to see us again, and I pretended not to notice the 'significant look' that the two men exchanged as he pulled out my chair. I could almost see the smiling Italian's thoughts; three meals! They must be dating!
I confess I did have a few glasses of Chianti, but only enough to be a little mellow, I was regaining my drinking legs fairly quickly. I allowed myself to enjoy the evening and be me – not so much Lily Davis. Obviously I didn't compromise my work, but I still relaxed. Behind it all though, was a sorrow that this would be our last evening together, just the two of us. It felt to me like I was saying goodbye.
Chris paid for the meal again, this time I didn't even bother to look for my purse; I just said thank-you.
It was dark when we left the restaurant, but the waning moon shone brightly enough to light our way. I automatically turned in the direction of my place, taking the shorter more direct route back, and Chris matched my slower pace.
We had been walking for five minutes or so, but in a companionable silence, partly, I suspect because neither of us wanted to put a voice to what was happening between us.
I was confused about the conflict between what I wanted and what my duty was to this timeline. I had my suspicions about what was happening and why, but I couldn't come out with that explanation and still sound sane. As for what Chris was thinking, I had no idea. He was probably brilliant at poker – he had the face for it.
Eventually I figured that one of us had to bite the bullet or hide the gun, so I opened my mouth to speak, but Chris beat me to it.
"When I said, earlier this evening, that I'd never met anyone like you, Lily, I meant exactly that. You're unique. I find you attractive, intelligent, articulate, and I want to know more about you."
I smiled, thinking how much I could return the same compliment, but I sensed from his tone that there was a 'but' coming.
So I made it easy for him.
He stopped walking, so I did too. He faced me, and his look was speculative.
"But many things about you are just slightly off-kilter. At first, I confess, I thought you were an exceptionally well coached German spy."
That shocked me. He was good, picking up the otherworldliness, if that's what you'd call it, but I should have anticipated the spy thing.
"What made you change your mind?"
"I haven't, not for sure."
"You misunderstand. I don't think that you are working for the Germans, but you have some sort of agenda here in Hastings. I just haven't worked out yet what it is."
We started walking again and I was silent while I did a little deep thinking. I sighed.
"I can tell you honestly that I am not a spy. I haven't come here to hurt anyone, or find out anything."
"I hope not, because I have trusted my instincts on this, and I'd hate to be wrong. I've enjoyed our verbal sparring -"
"Have we been sparring? I thought we were flirting!"
"That, too. I'd hate to think that I was forming an attachment to the 'enemy'."
"Lucifer was the most charming of all the angels."
Chris' infamous eyebrow went up.
"Not the comfort I'd hoped for."
Hang on. Forming an attachment?
Nooo, no no! Not allowed!
"Look, Chris, you can't -"
Before I could finish what I was going to say, there came the unmistakable sound of an air-raid siren building up its warning whine.
Both of us looked up automatically, searching the sky for any sign of the enemy, even as I asked a question I knew was redundant.
"Is it a drill?"
"This time of night? I wouldn't think so."
He didn't really need to answer; I heard the drone of engines high above us, and then, sudden and shocking, there came the distant 'crump' of a bomb hitting the ground and exploding. I actually felt it vibrate in the ground under my feet.
Chris looked around with purpose, probably trying to figure out which was the nearest underground shelter. He took my arm and started to pull me in the direction of my lodging. I knew that there was designated shelter near there, but I knew for certain where we would be safe tonight.
I stopped and pulled his arm back until he faced me. He looked perplexed.
"Chris, listen to me, it's important! If you hadn't met me today, where would you have been right this minute?"
He frowned, clearly puzzled by my question, but also working out the answer.
"Well, if all other circumstances were the same, I'd probably be at home, either reading or asleep."
Quite without thinking, I'd adopted the tone of voice I used at work, when I need facts and now, thank you very much.
"Which way to your place?"
Both eyebrows went up this time, and he looked as if he was trying to decide how to handle me.
"We'd be better off in a shelter-"
I shook my head.
"No, I know we'll be safe at yours. Come on, hurry!"
He opened his mouth, presumably to protest, but a closer 'crump' made us both jump.
Discretion is the better part of valour, and Chris turned to face a north-easterly direction.
"That way, but we'll have to hurry."
Another booming 'crump' sounded from beyond Rock-a-Nore. This time we could hear the answering 'dum-dum-dum-dum' return fire of the Bofors gun in the grounds of the ruined Hastings Castle above our heads. I muttered under my breath.
I slipped off my shoes and picked them up in one hand. I'd never be able to run in those heels.
I've been told that I run like a bloke. Not a simpering female girly waddle, but the ground-churning stride of an athlete. Well, with the bombs dropping behind us, Chris and I moved like sprinters holding hands, him in front, leading the way. Very real fear moved through me. Chris was only going to be safe in his house; if we were caught out in the open, we could very easily be killed. Nothing in the old timeline suggested it, but I'd managed to mess that up tonight.
We shot passed several small shops, then turned right up a lane between a garden on the left, I think, and a church on the right. We turned right at the top of the lane and kept running. Of course, it all just had to be uphill, didn't it? Thankfully, just as my lungs were trying to get out of my mouth, Chris leapt up four steps to the door of a curve-fronted house on the corner. He already had a key in his hand, and we both practically fell into the hall, before he closed the door behind us.
I was wheezing with all the grace of an asthmatic phone-sex pest and promised myself if I lived and got back to my own time, I would take up some exercise. Chris seemed in much better nick than me, and could actually speak.
"Lily, get up, we need to get to the Anderson."
I shook my head, still whooping in oxygen.
"No, s'okay. Be safe here."
"You don't know that."
"Do. Safe here."
Despite his best efforts, I refused to go outside to the Anderson shelter, so Chris insisted that we sat in the cupboard under the stairs. He retrieved some blankets and pillows from somewhere upstairs and so we were cosy, if a little cramped, seated as we were, knee to knee. After a few minutes I realised that I was quite thirsty from all that running.
"I suppose a cup of tea is out of the question?"
As we were saving the candle for emergencies, which this obviously wasn't, I couldn't see Chris' expression in the darkness, but his tone conveyed exasperated humour.
"I'm not going to stand in front of a lighted gas stove while the Germans are trying to flatten Hastings."
"I'll take that as a 'no', then. Biscuits?"
"There is a war on, y'know?"
"Umm. Thanks for the reminder; I was trying to distract myself. Do you know any songs? We could -"
I heard Chris move and felt two hands land heavily, one on each of my knees. Just as I was wondering what was happening, he leaned forward and I can only assume that his night vision was better than mine, because his kiss landed exactly on my lips.
To say I was surprised would be an understatement.
I was astonished, and in my astonishment, my wits were scattered. I'd barely begun to comprehend, let alone respond to what was happening before Chris pulled away.
If I'd have had the scattered wits present, I would have realised that Chris thought I was saying 'no, don't touch me', as opposed to what I was actually thinking 'nooo, don't go away'.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't -"
"Yes! You should."
In a single movement I slipped to my knees, blindly grabbed for Chris' lapels and pulled him down to the floor with me. In a wholly inappropriate manner I yanked him towards me, and hoped that my aim was at least as accurate as his.
It was a kiss like no other. Once he realised that he wasn't going to get his face slapped, Chris devoted his famous concentration to the task in hand. A slow, lazy exploration, nonthreatening but gently determined; he was the virtuoso, and I his instrument. I lost track of everything but the two of us. I didn't even notice that one of my hands had drifted up into the little curls at the back of his neck or that his hand was in my hair, removing bobby pins so that he could stroke the silken strands. It seemed perfectly natural when he deepened the kiss and I made him welcome.
All the waxing lyrical came later. At the time I was in my own little bubble, insulated from everything else, uncaring of anything else, and I'm embarrassed to admit that it was not me that called a halt to things. Chris finally and gently pulled away from me, holding on to my arms so that I couldn't pull him back into them. His voice was a gentle whisper.
"Lily, no, we must stop."
I felt, rather than heard, him chuckle.
"We are in a cupboard under the stairs, and the air-raid is over. Didn't you hear the all clear siren?"
Christ! I never even heard the last bombs, let alone the siren.
"N-no, sorry." Was that breathy voice mine? "I guess I was a little distracted."
I wished I could see Chris' face more easily. The brief silence before he spoke told me a great deal, but his eyes would have told me more. His hands on my arms sort of rubbed me gently, a 'there, there' kind of gesture of comfort.
Completely at odds with what I had felt when we were plastered together, chest to thighs.
Chris cleared his throat, a betraying gesture.
"Then I should be grateful that my distraction worked, shouldn't I?"
Oh, is that what it was? Then, yes, it bloody well worked.
"Well, yes, I guess you should. Your…distraction…seemed to be in fine working order. Thank you."
The gently amused admonishment did not make me repentant. Score one for me.
"You're annoyed with me. Is it because I stopped…distracting you, or because I demonstrated a lack of respect for you by kissing you in the first place?"
"Do you lack respect for me?"
I felt his forehead rest against mine, felt his breath against my lips.
"Quite the contrary, I hold you in great esteem -"
"Except for the whole 'not trusting' thing."
Chris continued as if I'd not spoken.
"…but if it had been my intention to seduce you, I would have made sure of two things."
I tried to snuggle a little closer while he was talking, but he fielded me like a pro.
"One, I would have made sure that we were not in a cupboard under the stairs during an air-raid and two, I would have made sure that you were a free and willing partner to the seduction."
Oh, if only you knew how free and willing I am!
"I'm not seeing anyone, if that's what you mean. I'm a free agent. Well, not an agent, but free, yes."
"Then who is 'Mike'?"