Monday, May 17, 2004

Fleet Street - A New Beginning

Matthew Billings had known Alan Shore for years. Not a large number of years, but enough to be able to consider himself an old friend. Matthew knew Alan to be a lot of things; arrogant, brilliant, manipulative, foolish, even. But Matthew had never known Alan Shore to be a fool. That is, until now.

Don't get me wrong, mused Billings, I like Sally. A lot. Billings had even considered exploring that territory, at one time. Sally is a nice girl, sexy, sweet and a lot of fun. Helluva rack, too. All of that hid her intelligent legal mind and hard work. Matthew really liked Sally. But, let's face it. She was not Tara. Tara Wilson was deep, classy and enchanting. Tara was loyal and intelligent, a woman of substance. Billings thought that her cool, classy exterior must be hiding a heat that one could only imagine. He'd bet a year's salary that she was a fire goddess in bed. The fact that Alan chose to play with Sally, instead of drowning in the depths of Miss Wilson, made Matthew consider the idea that Shore was, as others accused, deeply disturbed.

Across the table, in the crowded bar, Alan sipped his Scotch and glanced at his watch. Matthew dragged him down here to talk, and had not said a word after ordering his drink. Alan had to meet Sally for dinner in an hour, and was growing impatient. Talk, Matthew, he thought. It had been a rough day. Rough week. Rough year.

Matthew liked to think of himself as a loyal and noble friend. He would never snake in on Alan's territory. He would never go out with Tara. He was not that kind of guy. Besides, she turned him down when he asked her out the first week she came to work there. Sweetly said something about workplace complications, etc, none of it bought by Billings. She was not into him. No problem.

"Is there something on your mind, Matthew, or is this some kind of telepathy exercise?" asked Alan.
"Well, I wanted to talk to you about Tara."

Alan's eyes narrowed. Tara was a very sore subject with him at the moment. Although he recognized that he was the one who cut off the exploration of a relationship with her, he was also unhappy over the graceful and mature way that Tara had dealt with his decision. Not really that he wanted to cause her pain, but a few tears and some mild histrionics would have gone a long way to boost his ego. It would have also given him hope that she was pining for him. He liked to think of the lovely Tara, home alone, eating a solitary meal, soaking reflectively in a bubble bath, lying naked in her bed with damp tendrils of hair curled on her pillow, longing for him.

"Alan" barked Matthew.

"Yes, of course," Alan reassured, wiping out the image of the sheets wrapped around Tara's long legs, but not without considerable effort.

"Of course, what?"
"What you were saying."
Matthew shook his head. He never mistook Alan for Denny Crane before, but maybe...

"Alan, pay attention. I am trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with you?"
"That could take some time," Alan drawled, "Is there a particular flaw of mine that concerns you?"
"Let's start with your questionable taste in women," Billings said, "Sally is a fun girl, and I like her a lot, but she is not Tara."
"Good to know."
"Don't be an ass, Alan. If you could have either, why would you choose Sally? I am really trying to understand."

Alan glared at Billings. Nosy little bastard. What did he want him to say? I am playing with Sally because she makes me feel young and free? Or that his past misdeeds were not in her mind, and he had nothing to prove to her? How about that the girl was hot and he simply wanted to have a good time with someone who would be too busy screwing his brains out to want to examine his psyche?

Alan signaled the waitress for a fresh drink. Matthew declined.
"I like the girl, Matthew. We see eye to eye on things."
"Like?"
"Like having fun and not taking things so seriously. Every, single, little thing does not need analyzing and talking about until it dies a horrible death. Tara is too..." Alan trailed off, and took a long sip of his new drink.
"What? Intelligent? Beautiful? Knowledgeable about you? Clear? Honest? Perceptive?" Matthew was getting warmed up.
"All of the above. And...complicated." Alan looked tired then, and older than his years. Matthew felt instant sympathy. What a rough year for Alan. But, then, he brought most of it on himself.

"You are making a mistake, Alan. Tara is good for you."
"WHAT...good for me?" Alan slammed his glass down hard enough to cause several heads to turn. "Why do I need that? I just want to go out with a woman who is going to take me as I am and have fun. Is that a crime? I like Sally. She is smart and funny and sexy and she likes me. So there." Alan drained his drink and stood to leave. Tossing bills on the table, he turned to go.

"Butt out, Matthew. I am a big boy. I know what I want."
"So you don't mind if I ask Tara out?" Matthew bluffed, gamely.
Alan's eyes flashed, instinctively, at Billings.

Then the mask fell.

"Do what you want. That is what I intend to do." Alan turned and left. Matthew let out a breath. For that brief second, he thought Alan would swing at him. No, this is not over yet, Matthew grinned as he finished his drink.

Not even close, pal.


Shore strolls into work the next morning, fairly happy with life. After the drinks with Matthew, he and Sally had enjoyed a casual dinner, a casual movie, and some casual tongue wrestling in his car. Alan smiled. Necking in a car in front of a girl’s house made him feel like a kid again. He walked into the conference room where Sally, Tara, Matthew and Denny waited. He settled in, giving Tara a slight nod and Sally a smile that bordered on a well-heeled leer. Denny Crane began by congratulating himself on securing Clay International as a new corporate client for the firm. He said that the owner and CEO would be in this morning and that they are a VIP client. He assigned Alan to evaluate their tax position and Sally to check their contracts, forms and the like. And Tara, he said, I want you to act as Mr. Clay's personal liaison here. I want him to feel that he can call you and you will take care of his needs. This caused a sarcastic snort from Alan, who quickly wiped the smirk of his face.

The door opened to the conference room and in walked a man of about 30, who smiled at the assembled group. He was not just handsome, thought Sally, he was devastating. She hoped Alan could not read her thoughts.

He could. She turned from the bright light of the stranger's smile to look at Alan, watching her from across the table. Be cool, she thought. Think cool. Snow, icicles, martinis...not working. Alan was not fooled. He turned his gaze to Tara.

Quivering. The woman was actually quivering. Shore was taken aback. Tara? The ideal princess of cool was fluttering her lashes like a drunken prom queen. Shore was amazed, and more than a little unhappy. Who the hell WAS this bozo?

Sean Clay was not impervious to the reaction that he got from women. He just liked to get past it so that he could take care of business. He glanced at Sally, mentally noting the open gaze and seductive clothing of the attractive girl. Unprofessional clothes, he thought, nice rack. Turning to Tara, he found more to interest him. Gorgeous, he noted, what was with the uniform look? He tried to imagine her in clothing more befitting such a beauty. Or none at all. Nothing flickered on his face, just a genuine smile. He nodded at the introductions all around. Billings was good, seemed friendly. Shore. Why did Sean feel that Alan Shore was looking at him as an enemy might? Crane was urging him to have a seat. Sean declined Tara's offer of coffee with a smile. Shore was reclining back in his seat, arms crossed, head tilted. This is going to be interesting. Sean began outlining the scope of his company. It was impressive, one of the largest corporate travel services in the country. Where other companies had faltered after 9/11, Clay's prospered.

"So," said Alan, "did your father leave the company to you?"
"No," replied Sean easily, "my father died when I was 4, I built the company from the ground up. On my own"
Sean noted the instant look of sympathy from Crane, Sally and Tara. Shore just looked annoyed, Billings amused. At what? Clay could not imagine.
"A self made man," Crane intoned seriously, "I admire that."
"Well, I have good people who work for me, I am fortunate to have them," said Sean, modestly.

Ass, thought Shore. Self made, I bet. Between Sally's heaving breasts and Tara's doe-eyed stare, Shore was certain he was going to be sick.

"Well, son, I hope that you are free tonight," said Crane, "I would love to have you as our guest for dinner."
"That is very generous of you, Mr. Crane, but I would hate for people to change plans on account of me."
"Nonsense, my boy, we will be happy to have you. All of us," Crane looked around the table. "Do you need to call your wife?"
"I am not married, sir." Sean offered mildly.

Shore thought that Tara's eyes widened just a touch.
"Or perhaps you have a partner?" Shore said lightly, "Of either gender. They are certainly welcome. We are a very progressive firm, aren't we, Denny?"

Crane looked at Shore like he had suddenly grown a second head. Of course, he stammered, in obvious discomfort.

"No worry there. I have no partner. And I only date women." Sean said, amused by Shore's obvious dislike.

"Such is life," said Shore.
After more talking and more of Crane's butt kissing, Sean Clay rose to leave. He told Crane that he would have his assistant call for information regarding the restaurant for the evening. He shook hands all around, and Shore was certain that he saw him linger holding Tara's hand a few extra seconds. Billings saw it, too.

They all walked out, heading to their respective offices, except Tara, who escorted Sean to the door.

"I do hope that I will see you again this evening," Sean said quietly.
"Of course," replied Tara, "I will be there."

As Sean Clay walked down the hall, with his expensive suit cut to perfectly fit his athletic form, Tara felt like slapping herself. What is wrong with me? Just yesterday, I was sad over Alan's rejection and now I feel like I was hit by the proverbial thunderbolt. Tara shook her head. Can I really be that fickle? She was a bit shamed at her reaction to this man. It was not love at first site. Her heart was still occupied by the reluctant Shore. What was this? Be honest, Tara, she thought, you know what iletcherousust. Pure and simple. For all of her admonishing of Alan for his lecherous ways at the old firm, and her pretense of revulsion, here she was, lusting after a total stranger. Get back to work, Tara, she thought.

She picked up the files for the Murphy tax case and took them into Alan's office. He glanced up from the notes he was writing, nodding as she laid the files on his desk. She turned, wordlessly to go, thinking how difficult it was for them to even talk to each other these days. She missed their easy banter.

"Tara," Alan said, leaning back into his chair, "would you mind closing the door? I have something that I would like to discuss with you."

Tara walked over and gently closed the door, returning to stand in front of Alan's desk. Usually, before their little recent talk where Alan explained about his choice of Sally over her, they would sit together on the couch, and talk like friends. But, today, Alan was maintaining the space of his desk between them.

"Tara," Alan said, in his best authoritative voice, "I am very concerned about you."
"Really?" Tara's eyebrows lifted, "I'm mildly flattered. Whatever for?"
"Tara, I blame myself in a way," Alan began, "I mean, after all of those months of flirting with you and coming on to you, I am sure that you were devastated by my sudden change of heart."

Tara was positive that he must have been using some sort of hallucinogens. Or she was. Surely he was not going there?
"Devastated?"
"Well, upset, perhaps," Alan conceded.
"Hmmmm."
"Anyway, I feel a...responsibility for you. And to you. As a friend. I am concerned that on the rebound of this unfortunate infatuation that you had for me, you might do something less than circumspect." Alan smiled at her as one might a child contemplating a tantrum.

"Like what?" Tara said, not sure whether to laugh or slap that smirk off his face.

"Like falling for the first pretty male object to come along. Like making a spectacle of yourself in some unbecoming way."

Slap, she thought, we are headed towards a slap. Whatever was he talking about? Then, the clarity hit her. Sean Clay. He saw her attraction to the handsome, younger CEO. Jealous. That was it. Tara had to stifle a laugh and worked at maintaining a blank expression.

"Do you think that I have behaved in some manner that was unprofessional, Mr. Shore?" said Tara, her accent becoming more clipped and pronounced.
"Oh, don't worry, Tara, I am sure that no one noticed it but me," Alan reassured her, "I just happen to know you so well that I noticed your flirting with the client today. Most inappropriate." Shore sounded like a principal at a school.
"I'm sorry you were offended," Tara said evenly.
"I was not, but the client could have been. That would be embarrassing for you, and I care about you far too much to allow that to happen. After all, do you think that the CEO of a Fortune 500 company is going to involve himself with a paralegal? I mean, you are lovely in your little...uniform...but this is a man who can have the most stunning women on Earth. I would just hate to see you get your hopes up and be crushed again." Alan smiled.

Fighting the overwhelming urge to throw Alan Shore out of a window, Tara decided to give as good as she got.
"I think Sally found him attractive."
Nice shot, thought Shore to himself.
"I suppose that many women do." Shore sounded bored.
"Well, he is young, and very handsome, rich, successful, charming..." Tara listed.
"Yes, yes, but we are not discussing him. We are discussing you. Perhaps, Tara, you should consider a hiatus from dating or romantic entanglements for a while. Give yourself some time to heal, so that you can make better choices. "

Sanctimonious pig, Tara thought, talking to me about better choices? This was really too much. That egomaniacal degenerate is going to lecture me about romance and proper decorum? I don't think so. Tara geared up for the fight.

"That is something to consider," she said quietly, "I have found men to be rather...disappointing, lately. They just never turn out to be all the man that I believe them to be."

Alan's eyes flickered almost imperceptivity at that shot. Torn between the urge to return fire or grab Tara and kiss her breathless, he chose the less dangerous path.

"There, you see, you are too emotional for rational decisions about romance and sex at this time. You need a break."

"Perhaps. I will certainly give your advice all of the attention and consideration that it deserves." Tara flipped her hair back behind her shoulder, "Is there anything else?"

"No...yes...I wanted to tell you that if you want to forego this dinner tonight, I can make your excuses to Denny and the client. It may make things easier on you," Alan said solicitously.

"How sweet of you, but I promised to be there. I will try to muddle through. I hope I have something appropriate to wear, besides this uniform."

"You would be lovely in anything," said Alan truthfully, "just remember to be appropriate and restrained."

"Thank you ever so much, Alan. I am so touched by your concern for me."
Alan smiled magnanimously.
"I am your friend, Tara, a mentor really. I have a responsibility."

Choking down the laughter that threatened to bubble out, Tara hurried out of Alan's office. She made it to her desk before she allowed a chuckle. What an ass.

Denny Crane walked to Tara's desk, looking for the Kepler file. Tara sweetly asked if she might take the afternoon off. When Crane looked like he might refuse, Tara whispered something about female problems, which was enough to propel Crane into immediate, uncomfortable agreement. As Crane walked away, Tara contemplated Alan Shore's closed door.

You are in for some trouble, Mr. Shore, she thought.

Alan took Sally's coat and handed it to the coat check girl. Pocketing the ticket, he turned to Sally. She looked very pretty, Alan thought, in a very young way. Her lavender dress was ruffled, with a generous amount of cleavage. With her strapped pumps, curly hair and jeweled butterfly hairclip, Alan thought she looked like a pretty child. A child built like a brick...never mind, he thought. Let's get on with this, he mused, as he escorted Sally to the table that already had Crane, Matthew and Sean Clay seated at it. The three men rose, and Alan gallantly pulled out Sally's chair. As she bent to sit, all three of the men at the table were treated to a clear view of her generous breasts. Alan raised an eyebrow to Billings.

"Is Tara not here, yet?" Alan asked, thinking that maybe she did take his advice after all.
"No, not yet," said Matthew.
"I hope that she is alright," said Sally, with genuine concern. She really did like Tara, and held no bad feelings for the romantic stuff that had gone on.
"I am sure she is fine." Alan said, soothingly, absently. Alan worried that Tara had, indeed, had a problem finding something to wear. He had never seen her in anything but casual or business clothes. "She is probably just primping, as you ladies are prone to do."

Alan sat next to Sally, with his back to the door. He hated that, it must be some male need, but he liked to be able to see the door.

"There she is." Shore heard Sally say. He looked up to see Crane, Billings and Clay all staring at the door with expressions of surprise, delight and lust. Sally was smiling, waving at the door. Alan turned to greet the arriving Tara.

A heart attack, he thought. Or, maybe a stroke. Yes, that's it, a stroke. That must be what I am feeling. He watched Tara step down the stairs and glide across the carpet. Her soft, lush hair was gathered up in a loose chignon, with numerous wavy locks escaping to caress her swan neck and soft cheeks. Diamonds on her ears, her makeup smoky, but understated, with soft rose shine on her lush lips. Her sparkling eyes were framed by lashes dark and thick. As she walked to the table, he watched her long legs move effortlessly on high-heeled golden sandals. Her whisper of a dress had a modestly high neck that banded around her tiny throat. The clinging golden, gossamer fabric caressed every curve, appearing to be transparent, but it was a mere illusion. As she turned to greet Crane, Alan saw that the demure front of the dress belied the open back that exposed an expanse of soft, golden skin, right down to the small of her back, at the top of her heart-shaped derriere. Every curve, every long, elegant line of her body was somehow covered, and yet exposed. Alan turned to see Matthew and Sally both looking at him, amused. Alan sat down, after Tara did, grateful that the table hid his instant physical reaction to her stunning appearance. Finally, with the sound of blood pounding in his ears, he felt controlled enough to turn and look at her again.

Tara turned to look at Alan, and she smiled the bewitching smile of a woman who knows just exactly how beautiful she is. Alan had an immediate, uncontrollable, animal urge to sweep the table clean and throw her across it, climb on top of her and make love to this golden goddess in front of him. Her perfume hit him. A stroke. I am dying. All of this turmoil was happening inside him, but his face showed no trace of it. Sally was not perceptive enough, did not know him well enough. Crane was barely coherent on his best days. Clay was not even looking at him. He was smiling at Tara. But Matthew knew. Alan wanted to punch Billings for the merriment on his face.

"Tara," said Sean Clay, "you look ravishing."

Alan turned to see Tara gracefully smile at the compliment. Ordering, small talk and eating seemed to rush by to Shore. He barely ate, only drinking wine for the most part. He was uncharacteristically quiet, even reserved. He talked to Sally, and everyone else, only when asked. He was too busy watching Tara and Sean, in that dance of growing attraction. In that moment, he knew that he had made a mistake of epic proportions. He would have bared his psyche and let her analyze him for hours; he would have even talked about his mother, anything, to have another chance at this. Oh, God, he thought. I am a fool.

After coffee, Clay rose out of his chair and asked Tara to dance. The band was playing standards, and Shore watched her walk out to the floor, watched Sean put his arms around her, his hand resting lightly on the small of her back. If I had a gun, Alan thought, as Sally asked him if he wanted to dance. Robotically he agreed. With Sally's sweet softness against him, dancing, Shore tried to focus on the woman whose head was resting on his shoulder. What a sweet girl, he thought. It is so easy to be with her. The song ended and Sean asked Shore if he wanted to change partners.

There was nothing that Alan wanted more on this Earth than to hold Tara in his arms for 4 minutes. There was nothing he feared more. Sally went to dance with Clay, and Tara slipped into Alan's arms. He found himself looking into the dark pools of her eyes.

"Did I do alright? With the dress, I mean. I know you were worried."
" You look truly beautiful." Alan said.

Tara was touched by his honest answer. She had expected some flip comment. She had wanted a reaction from him, but she was surprised at his quiet demeanor. She looked into his face, and where she expected closed sarcasm, she found open heart. For those few minutes, as the band played, Alan Shore and Tara Wilson lost themselves in each other's eyes. Tara felt his pain, his longing and his loneliness. Alan felt her desire to be close to him, really close, and he allowed himself to feel everything for her in that few minutes. When the song ended, Alan released her, somehow knowing it was forever. Maybe.


The next few weeks went by quickly for Tara, who felt very alive. She had dinner with Sean three times, lunch twice and an ice cream cone in the park on Saturday. Allan threw himself into Sally, almost literally. He had wined and dined her, yet not consummating the relationship. Sally was not a rocket scientist, but she was a very bright woman. She knew that if she was going to be able to seduce the difficult Shore, she would have to make the first move. Something would have to be done. Tonight.

Friday nights were always a welcome relief to the hectic week that had preceeded it. At 6:30 PM, Tara had left with Sean for dinner. Alan was finishing up some notes in the empty offices when his computer beeped, signaling an email for him. He wearily clicked the mouseimmediately, it was from Sally. She had left about two hours earlier without a word.

When he opened the email, there was a rather fetching picture of her in a very small bikini. His interest immediatly perked up, and he reluctantly scrolled down the screen to the writing:

Alan,
Let me take you on an adventure. Are you game?

Grinning, he clicked on the reply button and typed:

Sally, I am always game. What did you have in mind?

Hitting send, Alan waited. He absently stack files and papers, until he heard another beep. Opening the mail, he saw a photo of Sally, in a very sexy teddy, draped over a Victoian bed. There was nothing written below.

Alan again hit reply, and typed:

I see. What would you like for me to do?

A few minutes later, another beep signaled her response:

Since we both have to work, I decided to arrange a tropical getaway closer to home. Be at my house in 30 minutes. Pack lightly and bring your suit.

Alan responded:

Which suit?

The responding email brought Alan a photograph of the lucious Sally, nude, with strategically placed leis and orchids on her. Alan smiled at the site of her cute butt in the air. Only one word was written:

Birthday.

Alan grabbed his briefcase and headed out the door, not even bothering to shut down the computer. Exactly what I needed, Shore thought.

Sally greeted Alan at the door wrapped in a thin sarong, with a yellow flower in her lush locks. Handing him a very cold and very strong drink topped with fruit and a paper umbrella, she took his overnight bag and coat to the closet in the hall. When she led Alan into the living room, he saw that there were plants and palms and even mini Tiki torches. All of the furniture was covered with silky tropical fabrics. She certainly pays attention to details, thought Alan, smiling broadly. He was touched by her efforts.

Sally looked at his clothes and shook her head.

"No. You are way overdressed for this."
"What would you suggest?" Alan asked. "And do not even THINK about a grass skirt. I chafe easily."
"How about this?" Sally held up a long expanse of dark Hawaiian print cloth.
"You CANNOT be serious." Alan shook his head firmly, "I am NOT wearing some kind of mahi mahi skirt thing. You have had too many of these." Alan drank his very strong rum punch.
"Fine. Party pooper." Sally pouted prettily. " I have a nice robe for you. Now, first a soak in the Jacuzzi, then dinner."
"Jacuzzi?" Alan looked around quizzically.
"Come with me." Sally commanded.

Alan followed obediantly, more than a bit curious. Leading him through her bedroom, she walked into the bath, where a large whirlpool tub sat filled with steaming, fragrant water and flower petals. A lone rubber ducky, deorated with a flower attached to his tail. Shore had to smile at the childish touch. Sally flipped a switch and soothing island music mixed with waterfall sounds filled the darkened room. There were flowers and palms and candles all over, giving the illusion of a hidden grotto. Sally turned a knob and the water in the tub swirled, causing the duck to spin crazily. I know just how he feels, thought Alan. He turned to see Sally hanging a thick, black terry cloth robe on a hook on the back of the door.

"Now you get comfortable in the bath. I will go and check on dinner." Sally ordered firmly.
"So, what are we having? Poi?"
"No, we are having jumbo shrimp kabobs with tropical fruit and salad."
"Sounds great. I am famished."

Sally left, closing the door behind her, leaving Alan to undress. When he eased himself into the swirling water, he leaned back and closed his eyes. He finished his powerful drink as his muscles relaxed in the bubbling water. The drink was beginning to hit him, he realized, as he contemplated the kalaidascope created by the spinning flower petals and the bobbing duck. He was very relaxed. A soft knock at the door interrupted his drunken reverie. He noticed Sally replacing his drink with a fresh one. She said something to him, and he shook his head and pointed to his ear that he could not hear her above the whirlpool and music.

She moved closer to him, repeating that dinner was almost ready. Alan just beckoned to her, come closer. She leaned over the tub, near his face, and he smiled up at her as his hand reached out and grabbed her wrist. He swiftly pulled her into the tub with him, causing a surfing duck to tumble to the floor, along with a considerable water. Alan rolled Sally beneath him, pinning the struggling girl underneath him. As he laid on top of her body, he deftly untied her sarong, pulling it off her body and throwing it to cover the watching duck.

"I thought you were famished." Sally whispered huskily, as Shore stared into her eyes. She could feel him on top of her, and his growing physical reaction to her wet bare softness.

"I'm starving." Alan said seriously. His mouth came down to hers, and he kissed her fiercely. She slipped under the water, his mouth on hers, his tongue exploring and commanding her mouth, his hand on her breast. They both came up from the water, and he was feeling much less like an old man as his leg moved to brace her in the water. His head moved down to her lush, wet breasts as her breathing became labored. I'll show you old man, Alan thought, as his hands moved down her body.

A few hours later, Alan Shore sat on the cloth draped sofa, in the black robe. Sally was sitting on the floor, at his feet, leaning her head against his knee. As they both ate ravenously, he contemplated her dark head. What a sweet girl. She was an eager and open lover. He was delighted by her enthusiasm and passion when he made love to her in the tub and again in the bed. No complications, no deep discussions, no need to be defensive. Alan bit into a piece of sweet mango. I feel better already.

Sally rose, taking his empty plate and hers into the kitchen. He leaned back, reclining on the sofa cushions. He felt himself dozing off.

When he awoke, a soft blanket was over him, and silky pillow under his head. He rose, and after finding the bathroom again, he came out into Sally's room. She was curled up under a sheet, nude, her cheek on the pillow. Alan sat on the bed, next to her. He watched her even breathing and the dark shadows of her lashes on her cheeks. He pulled the blanket up to tuck around her. He rose and took off the robe, easing into the bed behind her, curling his body around her warm curves. Her hair tickled his nose on the pillows. She stirred and moved slightly, as Shore eased his arms around her and whispered in her ear.

"Shhhhhhh."

They both drifted back to sleep, wrapped around each other.

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