Authors: Cecilia London
Part Five in the
© 2016, Cecilia London/Principatum Publishing
Cover art by Luminos Graphic House
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher, with the exception of excerpts for reviews and blog postings.
Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.
Jack was holding her, twirling her across the basement floor in a classic waltz. Before she even knew it, the song was over. Caroline clapped her hands and spun around, breathless after a few too many dances. She laughed, amazed at how she hadn’t tripped over herself so far.
“This is fun,” she said.
He smiled. “You really are quite good for a beginner.”
She tried not to blush. “I have a good teacher.”
The next song came on and Caroline recognized it immediately. “The Way You Look Tonight.” She’d forgotten it was on the playlist. One of her favorites.
She closed her eyes. “Oh, I love Tony Bennett’s version of this song.”
“Well then, my lady, let’s take this one a little slower.” Jack reached for her hand and pulled her closer to him. She put her arms around his neck and leaned in. His cologne smelled so good. They started to dance.
“You’re lovely,” he murmured.
Was that directed at her or was he mimicking the lyrics?
He held her closer and their movement slowed. She sank into him until there was nothing between them, feeling happy for the first time in an eternity. Caroline leaned into his shoulder as if it were the most natural thing in the world, not realizing that they had almost completely stopped moving.
“Caroline?” She heard his sweet voice again. “I’m not sure we’re dancing anymore.”
“Does it matter?” She lifted her head up.
Jack looked into her eyes. “Not unless it matters to you.”
And he slowly brought his lips to hers…
* * * * *
Caroline’s inaugural gown had been much more than Scarlett O’Hara. She’d made the mistake of wearing a corset to keep the girls in place and was certain most of her ribs were broken.
“Screw this pseudo-Antebellum dress,” she said. “I need to get it off. It’s a hundred degrees in this thing.”
Jack guided her into the bedroom. “Humor me for ten more minutes. I’ll make it worth your while.”
He did look quite dapper in a top and tails. She almost wanted him to keep his clothes on. Almost. Caroline raised an eyebrow. “Oh, really?”
“What do I get after ten minutes?”
He grinned, loosening his tie. Dammit. How could she tactfully ask him to let her do that?
“I’ll crawl under this monstrosity and rip your panties off,” he said.
?” she asked. “I thought you liked it.”
“I do.” Jack trailed his fingers along her back. “But I prefer when you wear clothing that provides me easy access.”
“Don’t forget. I’m wearing that corset.”
He nuzzled her neck. “I thought it looked familiar. The one from our wedding night?”
It appeared to have shrunk. She was trying to figure that one out. But she’d eaten a lot of candy over the past few weeks. “The very same.”
He bit her shoulder gently. “Must you make everything difficult for me?”
“Do you really want to know the answer to that question?”
Jack spun her around. “New plan. I will not crawl under the dress. I’m going to toss you on the bed, throw it over your head, and go to town.”
“You act like I would be upset by that.”
He laughed. “You want to play the fair maiden tonight?”
She was already plotting dialogue in her head. “Only if you’re the dangerous yet dashing pirate.”
He ran his thumb across her lower lip. “Although I would love to ravish you, I prefer seeing your face as you scream in ecstasy.”
“Is that a promise?”
Jack shook his head. “You’re distracting me. No sex yet.”
He kissed her lightly. “You owe me a dance.”
“Didn’t we dance enough tonight?” she asked, watching him walk over to the stereo system. A nice perk in the master bedroom at the Governor’s Mansion, even if it was a little retro.
“You always ask that, sweetheart. And the answer is always no.”
She lifted up one leg dramatically. Maybe she could coax him into a massage. “My feet hurt. Especially this one.”
“Take off your shoes. It’s nothing too intense.”
The music started to play and Caroline smiled. “Nice.”
“My man Tony Bennett,” Jack said, taking her in his arms. “I think you can manage one more dance, right?”
To that song, in this room, on this night? “I suppose.”
Caroline playfully stepped on Jack’s toes in her bare feet and he danced them in time until they were laughing so hard they had to slow down.
“You looked beautiful tonight,” he whispered. “Never lose your breathless charm.”
“Stealing all the best lines, I see.”
“I’d say that no matter what song was playing.”
Caroline leaned into his chest, which was much easier to do in bare feet than in three inch heels. “I love you,” she said softly. “And I’m so proud of you.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something?”
She laughed. He’d been hassling her all day about his new title. “I’m so proud of you,
Jack laughed too. “I like the way that sounds when you say it.”
“Do you want it to be one of the things I scream in ecstasy?”
“I’ll think about it.”
Oh, she’d definitely be working it in before the night was over. “Before I forget, thanks for not mentioning the shaky Bible earlier today.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” he said. “Were you nervous?”
“All you had to do was stand there and look good. I was the one who had to make the pretty speech afterward.”
“I was afraid I was going to drop it.”
Jack pressed his lips to hers. “You
due for your annual Twitter trend.”
How nice of him to remind her. Every clumsy moment she’d had lately had been captured on film. “I’d rather not. Let’s lay low for the next four years, okay?”
She sighed. “Eight years. Then we’re going to buy a llama farm or something.”
“I can live with that.”
Caroline squeezed him tighter. “Less talking. More foreplay.”
He undid the back of her dress. “I have to say, this is significantly easier than figuring out that corset.”
She untucked his shirt. “You only figured it out because you helped me put it on.”
“Worth every minute,” he said, letting go of her and spinning her around. “But this is quicker.”
“The song’s not over.”
Her husband had spent a considerable amount of time examining the lacing, and his research had paid off. Her dress fell to the floor. Jack spun her around again, grinning. “The dancing is.”
* * * * *
Caroline stared out the window across the gardens. The mansion was almost empty now. Most of their protective force left after she and Jack gave them a long speech about needing to prioritize their own families. Several of the men vowed to stay on, which was touching, but it was only a matter of time before all of them would be in tremendous danger.
She and Jack debated whether to run before anyone got to them, but they felt a strong obligation as the chief executive and his spouse to provide the people of the Commonwealth with stability and security. They couldn’t abandon their responsibilities even if it meant risking their lives. They would have to hope that their remaining security personnel could protect them when the time came.
They hadn’t heard from Tom or Christine since they left with the girls a few days prior. That wasn’t entirely unexpected; any contact that would allow the government to trace their position was to be avoided at all costs. Caroline and Jack wanted their children to arrive in Canada safely. They would worry about tracking them down later. They knew the account information, knew the names on the passports, knew the locations they’d decided during hurried conversations with Tom and Christine in the dead of night when they hoped no one was listening in.
Since their security had thinned, their public appearances had ceased, and their children were gone, they spent as much time as possible in each other’s arms. When they slept together the sex was furious, frantic, and desperate, for they knew each time might be the last. There were some nights when they wouldn’t speak, just undress and hold each other as they cried. They’d cling to each other, very rarely sleeping, waiting for the wolves to scratch at the door, wondering if this was the moment they ought to make their escape. But they stayed anyway.
Caroline heard Jack’s voice and turned around. “Hi,” she said.
He had his hands behind his back. “Guess which one?”
“The left,” she said. “Always the left.”
“But if possible you would have guessed the mushy middle.” He grinned at her. “Right?”
“I know you love my mugwump.”
Jack extended his left hand. It was empty. “Try again.”
Caroline sighed. “The right, then.”
“Very good.” He pulled a CD from behind his back, and handed it to her.
Tony Bennett’s Greatest Hits.
“Would my wife grant me the pleasure of a dance?” he asked, crossing over to the CD player.
Dancing was happy. Gleeful. Safe. It felt wrong. “Jack, I don’t know.”
“Indulge me,” he said, taking her hand. “Let’s forget the world for three minutes and nineteen seconds.”
She couldn’t help but smile. “Did you memorize the liner notes?”
“I memorized the lyrics. Just for you.” The song started and he wrapped his arm around her, taking her hand in his. “Dance with me, my sweet Caroline.”
“Okay,” she whispered.
They moved slowly. They’d danced to this song so many times and Caroline had never gotten tired of it.
His lips were at her ear. “Do you know how much I love you?”
She closed her eyes. Sometimes she felt like all she’d done the past few days was cry. “I do.”
“We’re going to get through this,” he whispered. “I promise.”
“I don’t know, Jack. What if-”
“We’re not going to talk about that tonight,” he said. “Just dance. Clear your mind and dance.”
Caroline leaned in closer, into the arms that had always protected her. She yearned to bury her head in his shoulder, cry to him, tell him she wanted nothing but him and their children for the rest of their lives. To abandon everything the two of them had been doing so they could all be together. But she knew too much had happened to go back. She tensed up.
“Clear your mind,” Jack repeated, and leaned down to kiss her. He removed his arm from around her shoulder and cupped her face in his hands, tasting her, teasing her, until she could barely catch her breath. Tears ran down her cheeks and he kissed them away. “I love you, Caroline. Never forget that, no matter what happens.”
All those fears. All that uncertainty. All the doubts. They melted away whenever he touched her. “I’ll do whatever you want if you kiss me like that again.”
“I’ll fulfill that request.” He started to remove her shirt, bringing his lips to hers.
“What about the dancing?” she asked against his mouth.
“Isn’t this better?”
“Well, yeah,” she said, as he kissed his way down her neck. “But you seemed so focused on-” He nipped at her breasts through her bra. Caroline began to moan softly.
Jack continued to unbutton her blouse. “What was that, baby?”
She didn’t have to think. She just had to feel. “Nothing.”
“Are you going to be quiet now?”
He pulled off her shirt and tugged at her pants. “Good.”
Caroline unbuttoned his dress shirt as they made their way to the bed. “I love you, Jack. So much that it hurts sometimes.”
His tone wasn’t arrogant. It was confident. Secure. The type of assurance that had taken him years to achieve.
“I need you,” she said.
He smiled. “I told you to be quiet.”
Jack was so gentle. So kind. He’d overlooked the tremor in her voice, running his hands up and down her arms in silent comfort. As he peeled the rest of her clothes off and laid her down on the bed, she didn’t say another word.
Caroline tried not to cry. Didn’t want to burden him with her tears. She’d leaned on him so much the past few days and it didn’t seem fair, especially during an intimate moment. But when he pressed a damp cheek to hers and let out a heavy sigh, she knew she wasn’t the only one overcome by the moment. She let her emotions carry her off, and he kissed her sobs away. He didn’t move as quickly as he usually did, and she followed his pace. Their bodies danced against each other in a delicious grind that seemed to go on forever.
“I love you,” he whispered. “Never forget how much I fucking love you.”