BOTH Legally Yours by agouderia (BHM, BBW, MWG)

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Tad

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It had been a rather Monday-ish Monday so far, so getting a chance to read this was a blessed balm for my brain. Thank you! (and greedily, I hope you have writing time in the next while for the next installment...)
 

fat hiker

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Another deeply involving, emotionally intriguing installment - Thank you!

And, another cliffhanger ending!
 

Undine

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!!! So very excited to see more of this! Thank you for the mesmerizing update!
 

Xyantha Reborn

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I adore how your stories represent character 'issues' on both sides, and the difficulty of coming together...

The complexity of all of the background activities happening in her life adds such a realistic backdrop, and makes me hope for her all the more!!
 

agouderia

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2014 wasn't a good year, in many respects.

And it ended really bad for my writing: At the last meeting of a project, a clumsy colleague overturned a table, several things toppled over, the stick on which I save my stories flew out of my handbag and was smashed by the edge of the table crashing down on it.

So far, nobody has been able to recover the data I had saved on it - including 5 new chapters here of 'Legally Yours'.

Admittedly I was not able to muster the energy to sit down and re-write them over the Christmas break; I was just too frustrated.

Especially since a recent event got my imagination whirring in another direction.
See new thread 'Energetic Expansions'.

So please have a lot more patience regarding the future of Henry & Louisa - so sorry for the awfully long delay!
 

Tad

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Oh, that is terrible about your lost memory stick :( I really feel for you, it is so hard to get the enthusiasm to re-write lost material, at least in my experience.
 

fat hiker

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I know it's been a long time, but have you been able to recreate any of the missing chapters from your broken memory stick?
 

agouderia

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woeful poke?
Yeah - I know... abandoning my fictional friends is not the right thing to do.
But over the past 2-3 years, so much has been going on in my life, I haven't really had the peace of mind to deal with also keeping up with organising their lives either.

Nevertheless, I have continued here and there with writing up some of their journeys - and some alternatives for Henry and Louisa have already been written.

It is extremely touching for me that some readers actually still seem to care what happens to them after so many years - so although I'm not 100% sure any more, where this is going, I'm willing to share my work in progress.

So here is the next, long overdue chapter....
 

agouderia

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16 – H - Wordless Understanding

His field of vision war narrowed to curls, flawless cleavage and wide shocked eyes as Louisa looked up at him. From her position on the floor flat on her behind, she started to struggle to get up – visibly challenging in high heels and with a tight skirt. Watching her helpless exertions to rise in a ladylike manner, turning red in the face, he finally stretched out two hands, allowing her to regain her footing as he helped pull her up.

“Thank you,” she straightened her dress, not looking at him.

Having Louisa at eye level made his ire and bitterness of the past weeks flare again, like seconds ago as he had found her in his office, fussing over the camellia. “If you liked the flower so much – then why were you so …..so …. so …. rude to return it, although it was a present? Then leave, send me emails as if nothing happened? Couldn’t you have just thrown it away clandestinely at home like anybody else?” He glared at her and shoved his fists in his trouser pockets petulantly.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” her eyes opened big in amazement. “I put the plant here, asked Melissa to look after it because I was travelling. You know my office downstairs has no windows. At home I have nobody to water it properly. This is the ideal spot to get it over the winter in bloom – cool, very sunny and with Melissa’s green thumb. As soon as spring is here, I’ll plant it in the antique jardinière on my terrace. I thought you wouldn’t mind, since after all you gave the lovely camellia to me.”

These simple, logical explanatory words hit him like the proverbial ton of bricks. Her calm voice carried stronger than any megaphone. He turned and tottered the three steps to the window front, leaning his forehead against the cool glass and closing his eyes. Without doubt he was the world’s biggest idiot. What Louisa said made total sense – all she had wanted was that his gift was well taken care of. Had written him friendly, personal emails from her travels – not only business requests. Behaved like any normal, nice colleague. While he was a self-obsessed moron of galactic proportions who was incapable of any standard social interaction. Not only had he ruined his relations with Louisa, but his utterly foolish behavior here in the firm would cost him partnership. He hadn’t gotten back to Palmer within the deadline, tonight there would be no announcement … and on Monday he’d be asked to leave…. The soft touch of Louisa leaning her head against his shoulder let him start.

“I’m sorry; I should’ve left you a note explaining, not only told Melissa. Hmmm … I know how easily you can expect the worst ….read all sorts of negatives into normal, mundane actions. Especially in crazy dark times like these. Misinterpreting the flower back in my office…… that could’ve happened to me too,” she said very quietly.

He wrapped his arm around her as if seeking support, letting her lean in more heavily. “Really?”

Looking up at him, she nodded, closing her eyes, snuggling against him. He wrapped her in his arms, cradling her, relishing her plush warmth. “Why would you expect something so negative from anybody?” it sounded too incredible for him to believe it.

“Ummm …. people often aren’t so friendly to me …. I’m not treated like the other girls…” she murmured drowsily, rubbing her curls against his neck.

Not knowing what to say, he held her tight and carefully kissed her cheek in affirmation. That she trustingly settled against him in obvious sleepiness like little Jacqui did confirmed her sincerity to him more than any elaborate oratory could ever have. Her hands grabbling into the fat roles over his belt in the back was more convincing that she did care about him than whatever she could have spoken. She hadn’t thought he was crazy, or paranoid, or stupid – only showed wordlessly she understood, for whichever unknown reasons.

Holding Louisa filled him with a so far unknown calm and quiet satisfaction; she was nicely fluffy, yet sturdy, the perfect material to keep a snug grip on. When Jill hugged him – she was so light, so flimsy to touch, he could feel every rib and he was always afraid of maybe hurting or bruising her if his hold got too firm. Running a hand over Louisa’s full hip and backside curve made hot-cold goose bumps pop up all over his body, letting him shiver as she pressed herself more into him.

In his arms, she was half asleep standing and he lost track of time. The office door opened and closed, a while later it opened again and the lights were turned on: “You are here! And Louisa too! Hurry up -everybody’s only waiting for you two – Palmer wants to start the reception!” Clayton was visibly torn between shaking his head and laughing.
 

agouderia

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“What are you planning on doing after breakfast?” Louisa’s uneasy question blended into his own thoughts the next morning, as they sat at her dining table piled with delicious tidbits. In his opinion, having breakfast forever would be the best, but certainly not a workable option.

He had trouble piecing together the past 12 hours – it had been a sort of limbo detached from reality. At the New Year’s reception, Palmer had given a very thoughtful speech about the challenges of legal work in gray zones and how far helping and assisting clients should go. He made no staff or structural announcements; only reiterated what had already been communicated: Hannerston’s membership was suspended; he had been officially stripped of his partnership in the firm and his section would be restructured. That this piece of obviously universally known information was news to Henry made him cringe, showing how completely mentally MIA he had been in the past self-obsessive weeks. After Palmer’s stern look as he had entered late with Louisa and Clayton he dreaded the talk they were sure to have on Monday.

During the official part of the reception Louisa had half leaned against him for support, visibly struggling to keep her eyes open. Afterwards, as soon as it was politely acceptable finishing one round of mingling, she headed out. In a mixture of wanting to say good-bye to her properly as well as avoiding uncomfortable questions from Jill or Palmer, he joined her. A tentative farewell hug ended in her once more dozing off clinging to him as they waited endlessly for the taxi to arrive, letting him join the ride under the pretext to himself of getting her home safely.

Once arrived, she had continued almost obstinately snuggling into him, like Jasper had as a toddler with a way too big, frightfully ugly blue toy elephant. So he had ended up here in her bed, quickly falling asleep himself, Louisa cozily tangled around him. Waking up late had been to the smell of frying bacon and her asking him to breakfast, with a guilty smirk: “By the way, Jill called at 8:30. She was very worried were you were. I could assure her that you were sleeping safe and sound…”

“How did Jill know I was here? Where did she get your number?” he instantly felt cornered by surveillance.

“Ummm …. she mentioned something about having asked Barner ….. I’m very grateful you brought me home safely – I was too exhausted, couldn’t keep my eyes open. Sorry for having embarrassed you,” immediately distracting him by holding out a plate, with something delicious looking and smelling on it. “A salty version of French toast, with parmesan batter, bacon and tomato chutney – the least I can offer you as compensation is a decent breakfast.” All the rest of her spread was just as delicious, with poppy seed pretzel roles, miniscule jam jars and an exceptional selection of cheeses.

“Where did you get such an assortment of fabulous cheeses? I’d love to buy some there…”

“Androuet.”

“Androuet? Where’s that?”

“CDG boutiques…. It’s contraband cheese….,” she blushed very pink, giggling and cut him a piece to push it into his mouth.

“Mhhhh …. Somehow I always suspected you were into illegal activities ….”

“It’s only harmless smuggling of raw milk cheese…,” Louisa pouted and shoved another tasty morsel between her plump lips.

“Didn’t they check your luggage at customs?”

She shook her head; curls flying and shrugged a small sigh of frustration: “That’s the one advantage of the way I look …. It’s like I have ‘not guilty’ tattooed on my forehead. I’m never checked at customs or immigration.”

“Well … at least it’s a worthwhile criminal activity …. and a very appealing disguise,” he didn’t know where that came from. As diversion from this awkwardness, he reached for more French toast and bacon. “We need to eat this before it gets cold. Hmmmh, so good….”

They continued to eat, discussing only the different tastes.

“So – what are your plans for the weekend?” Her rephrased initial question reminded him of how much better Louisa was at interviewing and questioning. She was more structured in her approach, but at the same more flexible and empathetic, got more out of people than he was able to.

“Hmmmh…”

“What would you normally be doing today, on a Saturday?” That wording did pull him back into reality. There was unfortunately a lot more to his life than Louisa’s breakfast table – even though he was still in utter awe how he had made it here despite his abysmal recent behavior.

“Ummm – today it’s my turn to do shopping …. I need to buy a new lamp for the basement stairs I have to install…. and ingredients for Jill to bake something for Jas’ soccer team tomorrow….,” he tried hard to remember what else was on the list. “Hey – would you like to come along to the soccer game? Jasper would love having you….” realizing too late that this was maybe a rash approach – and cowardly, hiding behind Jasper’s obvious adoration for her.

“You want to take me to Jasper’s soccer match?” Pure disbelief was in Louisa’s eyes and voice.
 

agouderia

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“Ohhh … sorry … if that’s not a good idea …. It’s just …. Well… you know how much Jasper likes you …. he’d love it if you came….”

“Ummhu …you wouldn’t mind …hhmmhh … if I ….you know, to be seen with me there?”

“No- of course not. It would be great if you came … for me. And for Jasper and Jill, they all like you.” He tried to sound as convincing as possible, finding her line of questioning odd. Probably he had got it all wrong again – Jill always told him to ask her out to a nice dinner, not tag along to a kiddy soccer match. Maybe he should give it another try. “Since today is Saturday, ummm … we could also…”

“Okay, if you’re so sure,” Louisa let out what sounded like a relieved sigh and smiled. “I’ll come to Jasper’s match tomorrow. Know what…?” her eyes lit up, “I can bake cupcakes to take along, spare Jill the task. I think I have the perfect idea. So don’t buy ingredients!”

That had clearly backfired again – he was supposed to do something nice for Louisa, not have her bake for Jasper. “Hmmmh … I mean … today, on Saturday, if you’re free this evening …. Instead I would really like to …,” he shook himself. This wouldn’t do. Before he considered anything more personal with Louisa, he needed to apologize to her. Sincerely, profoundly, honestly – hope to heal all misunderstandings and try to prevent further hurtful collisions. Although that automatically entailed admitting how much he cared for her, risking rejection – despite the wordless understanding she had instantly offered him yesterday.

“It’s okay, Henry. I understand if you have second thoughts. Taking me along to the soccer game would look … well it’s better if I stay home, do the washing…” Louisa’s voice was very quiet and looking at her, he couldn’t help but notice the hurt expression that had replaced the smiling enthusiasm of a minute ago.

“No – that’s not what I mean..,” he took another deep breath and looked her in the eye for a fleeting second. “It’s actually the other way around – there’s nothing I want more than to take you along tomorrow…” Closing his eyes again, he tried to conjure the happy memories of their close, friendly and in the end sexy working together in Florida. “I need to apologize to you. I behaved like the world’s biggest idiot – I would totally understand if you no longer wanted anything to do with me. I can’t say how grateful I am that you said yesterday you can relate to my paranoia…” he opened his eyes and gave her a quick glance, but didn’t dare hold it. “I’m sorry beyond words. I would be incredibly thankful if you could forgive me. All I wish for is that we can somehow get back to where we left off in Florida – simply be really good friends that work well together….”

“Good friends again would indeed be good…”



The next day passed like in a long, slow exhale – as if tightly wound tension was gradually leaving his body. Henry vaguely registered Jill’s raised eyebrows when he came home empty-handed or now as he squinted into the sun, where Louisa was walking towards the soccer field with a tray in her hands. In both cases he was subconsciously grateful for Jacqui and Jasper demanding the bulk of their mother’s attention. While doing his chores in the house like changing the lamp, he had hummed to himself idiotically and spent twice the regular time in the bathroom getting ready to watch the game.

Louisa looked gorgeous in a dusty blue parka, approaching like a floaty cloud – only to be intercepted by Jasper: “Louisa – what are you doing here?”

“Hi Jasper – Henry invited me,” she smiled and showed him her tray. “I baked these for your team. See – they are chocolate-vanilla cup cakes in the shape of little soccer balls. I couldn’t resist buying this special pan during one European championship – to make for soccer parties…”

Jasper’s eyes widened in delight: “You baked them just for me..?”

“Not all for you – for your team!”

“So, so cool, wow … thank you!” Impulsively Jasper did what no boy his age normally wanted to be seen doing in public – he hugged Louisa. “May I taste one?”

“Not before the game,” Jill reached them and leaned over to cheek kiss Louisa in greeting. “I can’t say how happy I am to see you here,” hugging her. “Thank you ever so much for coming – and I don’t even know how to express my thanks for baking something so fantastic…”

Feelings of warm fuzziness started emanating from his stomach as he saw Louisa being warmly welcomed by the people most important to him in the world, leaving his throat so constricted he couldn’t speak. Quickly lumbering over the 10 steps to reach Louisa and hug her with one arm to not blunder into the cup cake tray giving her two real cheek kisses.
 

agouderia

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“Uncle Henry, so great you invited Louisa! Look at her cup cakes - they’re awesome!”

“It’s wonderful you came,” he murmured in her ear. “You can see how happy we all are to have you here..,” cuddling her with his one arm. “Had I known you would make such incredibly elaborate cup cakes, I would never have taken you up on your offer. That’s way too much work…”

“It’s fine, I love baking and was happy to have an opportunity to use this fun pan again,” Louisa blushed.

“Don’t leave the cup cakes alone on the snack table,” Jasper insisted. “The others will steal them!”

“We won’t! Now go do your warm-up while I find us some good seats,” Jill ordered. “You Henry, take that heavy tray and help Louisa, don’t just stand there!”

Settling on the stands with blankets against the winter cold, he was completely satisfied just to sit next to Louisa, as close as possible in remaining polite and listen to her and Jill’s chatting, commenting the game and cheering Jasper on. Shortly before half-time Louisa’s phone rang. “Oh hello Martin …., what a surprise..,” he heard her say as she got up and went down the stairs, all the while holding one hand over her other ear to hear something over the noise of the game.

Following her walk away towards the parking lot where it was quieter than close to the field, he could tell from Louisa’s gestures and posture that she was talking animatedly and laughing. On seeing him approach, she turned her back and quickly finished the phone call.

“Hopefully no more trouble with that MercuryScutum stuff….,” remembering he had read the name Martin in Louisa’s report on her travel findings, immediately an uncomfortable sense of jealously rising in him.

“Fortunately not,” Louisa gave him a small, relieved smile. “Martin just wanted to check whether things hadn’t gotten worse over here.”

“That really isn’t his business. Better if all those military contractor guys stay out of this…,” somehow he couldn’t help grumbling this.

Louisa raised her eyebrows in pushing up her sunglasses, making him once more marvel at the arresting turquoise tones of her eyes. “Without Martin we never would’ve been able to assemble half as much evidence to bail out the firm – and maybe get Ryan to give a full confession. If you could overlook the fact that Martin works for the Austrian defense and security manufacturers, I think you’d actually like him. He is very open and sincere, fully aware of the issues connected to his industry,” letting him shrug uncertainly, before having another flash-back to their week in Florida – how much better Louisa was as negotiator. Thinking of the telling-off negotiation he had to face with Palmer tomorrow, the icy wave of dread returned in full force. Since he had already honestly admitted the underlying reasons for his idiotic behavior in the past weeks to her – she might be the best person to speak to, maybe have a few last minute ideas on how to handle it. On his own all he had was a growing mental block.

“Louisa – could I talk to you about something personal…. and professional?” He blurted this before he could finish weighing his thoughts.

“Of course …. if you think it’s something where I might have something useful to offer…” her response came carefully.

“I have an overdue talk with Palmer tomorrow about whether or not I accept partnership,” again the blurt was faster than any coherent thought, showing him how badly the need to talk must have been growing in him.

“Congratulations on the offer – you deserve it,” looking at Louisa, her composed expression and answer told him that this was no surprise to her.

“How do you know…?”

“Jill told me ….. actually she also thought it would be a good idea if you spoke to me about it.” Before his anger over Jill’s interference could fully surface, Louisa quickly continued: “I’m much honored and touched both of you seem to think I could possibly contribute something meaningful to such an important decision. I’ll do my very best to be worthy of your trust. What can I do?”

Her words let him once more realize what a genuinely endearing person the real Louisa had always shown herself to be – in contrast to the distorted perception of her his warped mind tended to concoct from afar.

“Well … hmm … I remembered from our work in Florida that you’re a really good negotiator … much better than I am,” seeing her blush at his praise and try to wave it off. “No … I’m serious … you have the ability of moving people where you want them in negotiations, I was highly impressed.”

“Okay… well… thank you. What do you think I could add regarding your negotiations with Palmer?”

“Hmmh … anything…. right now I have a bad case of negotiator’s block….”

“What do you want to achieve?”

“Ummh… what do you mean?”

“The first question you need to answer for yourself to get a good negotiation result is to know which outcome you actually want, what your goal is. Do you want to accept partnership – and under which conditions? Palmer mentioned restructuring – so knowing where you interests lie in that respect is also important,” Louisa elaborated, unwittingly shocking him with the amount of thinking he would have to do now in only 24 hours, after having wasted weeks.

Somehow she must have noticed his crestfallen silence, for she gently went on: “What I could offer is we go through everything tomorrow morning ….. your meeting with Palmer is after lunch – or not?”

“Yeah – but don’t you have to prepare the next round of Hannerston’s interrogation?”

“Not necessarily tomorrow morning. Palmer’s assistant filed the visitation request too late on Friday – I won’t get an appointment before Tuesday afternoon, maybe even Wednesday. So time enough to pitch in with your case.”

Not knowing what to say, he wrapped her in a bear hug, murmuring “a million thanks” into her hair.

“Let’s go back over now and motivate Jasper – that was the half-time whistle.” Louisa smiled up at him. “All you need to do until tomorrow morning is figure out what you want and at which price. We’ll work out everything else then.”
 

agouderia

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No coherent response came out as they walked back to the field, only grateful little mumblings. His relief ended there because to his less than pleasant surprise, Clayton had appeared; kissing Jill and saying something to Jasper that let his expression turn abrasive. Louisa let out what sounded like a little sigh of frustration before they went to greet Clayton.

“What a surprise to see you here too, Louisa! How come?” Clayton gave her a cynical smirk.

“I’m a big fan of good goalies; they’re the guys who really save the day. Who cares for forwards?” Louisa retorted, resuming her seat and making him grin inwardly. That was a nice and smart retort leaving Clayton looking puzzled.

During the second half of the game, it fully surfaced what he had subconsciously noticed in the first half – Louisa had decent knowledge of soccer specifics. Not overtly surprising for someone who owned a soccer party baking pan. Clayton in contrast was clueless and asked the simplest questions or came up with inane comparisons to American football or baseball, demonstrating that his knowledge of those two sports also was at best extremely superficial. Jill cuddling against him and giving him smitten glances, love deafness letting her overhear his gaffes, didn’t make it any better.

Jasper’s team was desperately defending a 2-1 lead, as one of his defenders more or less tackled the other team’s forward in the 16-m zone. The referee blew the whistle, pulled a red card and indicated at the penalty spot.

“What a great tackle!” Clayton enthused.

“Only for the wrong team!” Louisa snapped angrily. “Poor Jasper now has to defend a penalty shot in the last minute because that defender lost his nerve!”

“What a game for sissies if such a soft tackle gets a penalty shot!” Clayton guffawed. “No wonder so many girls play it!”

“The art of soccer it outplaying your opponent without touching – the basic rule is more like in basketball,” he threw in.

“It also happens to be world male spectator sport number one – by far,” Louisa added icily. “Now be quiet, we want to focus on Jasper and the penalty shot.”

Seeing Jasper fixate the ball and the opposing striker with the most menacing concentration he was capable of, although it came across more as “cute” from an adult perspective. But it did the job for the striker who haplessly bumbled over the ball, giving it only a very soft kick and Jasper the chance to throw himself bodily on it, catching it. Only to be buried under a pile of his team mates who threw themselves at him in jubilation.

Seeing Jill clapping wildly, he used the general cheering to give Louisa another big hug, patting her shoulders in silly delight.

“I knew it – Jasper is such a fabulous goalie for his age! How he glared at that striker –too cute!” Louisa laughed. “Even though he would never look at me again if he knew that is what I thought!”

Jasper kicked off the ball and then only 2 minutes later, the game was over and his team came to celebrate. It took a while before the usual post-game rituals of team assembly, showering and changing were over and the players with their families all united at the buffet table. As soon as the dessert table was set up, Jasper showed off his soccer ball cupcakes with visible pride at the many “wows”. To make sure he got what he considered his fair share, he immediately popped three cupcakes on his paper plate.

“Careful Jasper – if you eat all of those, you’ll get as fat as Henry and Louisa,” Clayton could be heard with a fake laugh, a leaden silence following.

Looking at Louisa, he could see her go as beet red as he himself had to be, her happy smile dropping into a very hurt expression.

Jasper was the first to unfreeze, scowling at Clayton: “My teacher says the brain is our organ which needs the best nutrition. I want to be smart like Henry, not stupid like you! You don’t know a thing about soccer!”

“Jasper - that is no way to talk to Clayton. Please apologize!” Jill gave him a stern look.

“No! I’m not apologizing to Mr. Barner…..,” Jasper’s frown signaled that they were in for a longer argument, but his attention was drawn to Louisa, who hastily said good-bye, excusing herself with jetlag. Watching her walk away looking weary and unhappy, he couldn’t let her go like this. It had been such a wonderful day; Louisa had smiled and laughed more than he had seen in ages. Letting it end on a frustrated note because of imbecile Barner’s blabbing would not do, so he went after her.

“Louisa, wait!” he caught up with her at the entrance of the parking lot. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, just tired and jetlagged.”

From her tense features he could tell this was a formulaic response, not how she truly was feeling. For some unknown reason, everything he normally kept tightly bottled up wanted out today, needed to be verbalized. “Don’t listen to what that jerk Barner said! Yeah – he’s right – I’m fat. But you’re not. You’re beautifully curvy, like women always were and should be ….,” Noticing that she bit her lip and seeing more hurt creep over her expression, this must have been the wrong approach. “You look just as lovely as Hélène Fourment….”

“Hélène Fourment…,” Louisa frowned incredulously. “You mean …. Rubens’ second wife?”

“Exactly! People still go to museums over 350 years later to admire her timeless beauty!”

Although she didn’t smile, an intrigued expression replaced the hurt on her face as she reached up and gave him a real cheek kiss. “Thank you for a lovely Sunday, Henry. See you tomorrow morning – and think about your goals!”
 

Tad

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😍

(I haven't actually read the new material yet, I'm just so excited for an update that this was my reaction. I think I'm going to go back and enjoy this from the beginning again -- I mean, I remember fairly well what happened, but might as well savor this treat as thoroughly as possible)
 

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