This is it – the absolutely final instalment of Rage Against Time. The epilogue is longer that I thought it would be but as always I just got carried away with the story. Hope you enjoy
"Mummy, Mummy. Molly say's I'm a baby!"
"Hmm?" Alex looked up from her book as her youngest daughter came skittering across the sun terrace to where she was lying on a lounger. "What is it darling?"
"Molly says I'm a baby!" she repeated indignantly.
"Well she is a baby," Molly countered before plugging herself back into her music.
"Am not! Not any more. Mummy?"
Alex reluctantly put her book to one side and turned her attention to the insistent little girl tugging at her arm. She smiled and brushed her daughter's wayward dark curls to one side. "Lola I think…"
"Not Lola," the little girl said as she stamped her foot, "am Weesa!"
"Weesa?" Alex thought for a moment and then the penny dropped. "Ah Louisa." Louisa was certainly her given name although almost from the day she was born a little over four years ago she'd been called Lola by just about everyone.
"That's what I said – Weesa!" She pouted and just for a moment took on a startling resemblance to her father. She scrambled onto the sun lounger next to Alex.
Alex ruffled her hair. "Well Louisa I think that you're getting to be a very grown up little girl indeed."
Lola preened and stuck her tongue out at Molly. "See! Mummy says I'm a big girl now." Triumphant she leapt up and ran towards the interior of the white-washed villa.
"Where are you going?"
"Want to see the puppy."
Alex started to heave herself upright but was interrupted by Evan.
"It's alright – I'll see what she's up to. I was going to get a drink anyway."
Alex smiled gratefully as she watched him go but she got up anyway and clutching a bottle of sun lotion as an excuse, went over to where Molly was stretched out catching the sun's rays.
"Make sure you don't burn Mols."
Molly opened her eyes reluctantly. "I'm not a kid."
Alex sighed deeply. There seemed to be a theme developing amongst her daughters today. "Yes I know." She sat down next to Molly on the lounger. "I'll put some on your back and then you can toast for as long as you like. Just don't say I didn't warn you."
Molly humphed loudly but then rolled over and submitted gratefully as Alex began to cover her in Factor 20.
"You shouldn't tease Lola so much," Alex said gently.
"Well she is a baby."
"And you're a grand old lady of 16 so give her a break." On getting no reply Alex continued to apply sun lotion. "Are you still sulking over Sebastian?"
"His name is Seb. And I'm not sulking."
Alex's lips twitched in amusement. "Of course not."
Molly turned her head. "I'm not. But I still don't see why he couldn't come on holiday with us?"
Molly interrupted. "…because Gene said so I suppose."
"Yes because Gene said so. And on this occasion I happen to agree with him."
"Mum!" She abruptly sat up and faced Alex.
"Listen sweetheart I know it's difficult and you're almost an adult now but that's exactly why this holiday together is so important."
"I don't get it."
"This might be one of the last chances we get to do this – just us as a family. Next year you might decide you don't want to come – you might want to go off with friends for the summer. Or maybe, just maybe, you can bring a friend here. But after all we've been through I just think being together as a family is important."
"Suppose," Molly agreed reluctantly. "But it's not like me and Seb are having sex or anything!"
Alex's eyes widened. "I'm very glad to hear it. Just don't mention sex in front of Gene will you or you may never see the light of day again."
They both laughed and Alex put her arm around Molly. "Why don't we invite Seb to dinner when we get back? I'd love to meet him properly."
"What about Gene?"
"He'll be fine and it will give him a chance to see that he hasn't got anything to worry about."
"Thanks mum." She kissed Alex on the cheek. "Now if you don't mind I'd like to work on the tan."
"Okay. I know when I'm not wanted." She turned on her heels and started to walk towards the house. "Molly?"
"Don't give Gene too much of a hard time. He does love you, you know."
Alex retreated to the cool interior of the villa and poured a cold drink for herself before standing at the terrace doors to contemplate her growing family. Molly had settled down to sunbathe, Lola was busy chasing the Yorkshire Terrier puppy that Evan and Lilly had recently acquired, while Lilly herself was resting under the shade of a large umbrella, looking immaculate and stylish as ever in a coral bathing suit and oversize sunglasses. Alex counted her blessings as she had so many times in past. She watched Lilly smiling affectionately at Evan as he stood at the edge of the pool and then dived in to a round of applause. Alex was glad that Evan had finally found someone to love and that, miracle of miracles, Lilly returned that love tenfold.
Of course it wasn't the first time they had visited Lilly's home, the Villa Julia. This had been where she and Gene had spent a very exhausting but happy honeymoon and they had returned at Lilly's invitation every year since. Alex had initially been overwhelmed by Lilly's home – not really expecting the huge and elegant six bedroom villa that she had encountered. But Gene had an explanation.
"She's a wealthy woman is our Lil," he explained.
"Her husband, god rest him. Eddie Hatton."
Alex still looked blank.
"Hatton Estate Agents? Big chain of them all over Manchester. Anyway when he died she inherited everything and then when she decided to retire she sold the whole business and moved to Spain. She's a wealthy woman in her own right Bols."
It has certainly been an eye opener for Alex and Lilly had been very generous with her home, inviting Gene and his growing family to visit at every opportunity. Of course, with Evan now retired and married to Lilly there was even more of an excuse to visit. In fact Gene was already dropping hints that he'd like to retire here himself one day.
But that was for the future. For now Detective Chief Superintendent Hunt had his hands full as head of the Met's anti-corruption squad. It was a position he had initially resisted, but after working under Freddie Truman in Operation Artemis for two years, he was more than qualified to run the 'Ghost' squad, as it was known. To Gene's own surprise he seemed to have developed a knack for ferreting out corrupt police officers and he was respected and sometimes feared by his peers and subordinates alike. He was good at his job although Alex suspected that his zeal was fuelled by past experiences with Tony Das and SuperMac.
Alex frowned as she recalled Gene's struggle to come to terms with Tony's fate. He had eventually been charged with attempted murder – unfortunately there were 500 witnesses who could testify and Tony never even attempted to deny it. Gene had done what he could and there were mitigating circumstances but in the end Tony had been sentenced to six years at a medium security prison. Alex knew for a fact that Gene still visited Tony regularly, although he never talked about it. Still, Tony had been the model prisoner and he was due for parole soon. She was sure that Gene would want to help him when he was released and that wasn't a bad thing.
As for SuperMac, Alex privately thought he could go to hell – although there was a fat chance of that. He was currently residing at Her Majesty's Pleasure in a category C prison in Norfolk. Scarcely 'hard bird' as Gene had disparagingly commented. But as Alex had pointed out at the time, he had actually received a longer sentence than Tony Das – eight years, and been dismissed in disgrace from the Met. 'Not enough', Gene had said. He was probably right.
Her old colleagues from Fenchurch East were doing pretty well too, each finding their niche in their own individual ways. To absolutely no one's surprise Shaz was proving as ambitious as the day was long, and Gene had finally recognised her talents and steered them in the right direction. She was currently a Detective Sergeant in Shepherd's Bush nick and doing very well for herself. Meanwhile Chris was still a Detective Constable but he had found his place working for Gene, using the latest technology to extract information about potential fraud and corruption suspects. And as for Ray, he too had found his ideal role – still at Bethnal Green station as Detective Inspector. Gene told him he was a lucky bastard and that DI was the best rank to be – still free enough to hit the streets and collar villains personally but with just enough pay and responsibility to make it worth while.
At least Alex didn't have to worry about Met police politics any more – at least not on her own account. She had removed herself from the fray and officially resigned from the Met not long after Lola was born. Of course Freddie had tried to tempt her back to work for him but she was adamant – she wanted to spend time with her family and to develop her writing. Her first book on the psychology of trauma had been a great success and was widely regarded by experts and laymen alike. So much so that she was now working on her second book which dealt with the psychology of corruption. She occasionally worked for the Met as a consultant so all in all it was a pretty perfect life.
She smiled as Lilly approached, looking as cool as the proverbial cucumber.
"Had enough sun love?" Lilly enquired.
"Just taking a breather. Thank you again for inviting us. The girls really look forward to it."
"Nonsense. You're my family – where else would you be. Besides, I can never repay you. Not only did you bring Gene back into my life, you also brought Evan."
"You're happy then?"
Lilly looked out to where Evan was lying in the shade with Lola now tucked beneath his arm fast asleep. "I always wanted a toy boy," she said with a hearty chuckle. "Never thought I'd find love again at my age. I'm very lucky."
"I happen to think that it's Evan who's the lucky one."
"Bless you love. And speaking of lucky, where's that son of mine? He's been gone a long time."
"Oh I know exactly where he'll be – in fact I was just going to find him."
"Don't hurry back on our account – we'll keep an eye on Lola." Lilly winked at Alex and then wandered back towards the pool.
Alex drifted quietly along the cool corridors, her feet padding softly on the tiled floors towards her destination. As she got closer, she could hear the gentle murmur of Gene's voice talking softly.
"…of course it wasn't all bad son. I got to meet your mother."
Alex smiled and paused at the threshold of the bedroom as he continued.
"…most beautiful thing I'd ever set eyes on – even if she was wearing a skirt so short you could see what she'd 'ad for breakfast."
She raised her eyebrows as she wondered exactly what information Gene was going to impart to his son.
"…anyway, long story short, life was never the same again. Your mother's an extraordinary woman – don't forget that…"
Alex quietly opened the door and crept through.
"…mad as a box of frogs mind, but extraordinary." Gene's eyes flickered away from the baby in his arms and met Alex's. He smiled and then kissed the top of the baby's head. "Remember what I said now James. And don't tell your mother."
"I thought I'd find you here."
Although she'd rarely been privy to Gene's tête à tête's with his son, she knew they took place. He'd done the same with Lola when she was a baby and the habit had continued after James was born three months ago. He might draw the line at nappies and he conveniently developed acute deafness in the middle of the night but when it came to bottle feeding babies, he certainly knew his stuff.
"Man-to-man talk Bolly."
"Of course." She sat down on the bed and watched as Gene cradled the baby in his arms, rocking back and forth slowly in the old rocking chair. She swallowed a lump in her throat and had to close her eyes for a moment. It was absurd to feel jealous of Gene's closeness with his own son but after the traumatic birth, she sometimes felt that it was someone else's baby and not hers. Stupid.
The truth was that she had almost died giving birth to baby James. Everything had been going well, the labour hadn't been any more difficult than expected, Jamie had been born – and that's when it had all started to go wrong. She had started bleeding. And bleeding. Concerned frowns had given way to restrained panic as efforts to stop the bleeding failed. She remembered hearing shouting and Gene's voice demanding to know what was happening. She vaguely remembered being wheeled at high speed along a corridor and then…nothing.
The next thing she remembered was waking up in a hospital bed attached to a drip, with Gene dozing in a chair at her side and the baby in a cot beside her bed. She was officially classified as 'poorly' for quite a few days, drifting in an out of consciousness, with hazy visions of her mother, The Clown and Gene floating through her head. It was Gene's voice that finally pulled her back though. "Come on Bols, you can't leave me now. Not after all we've been through. Your kids need you Alex. I need you."
She came back from brink to Gene's obvious relief. But the end result was that it had been initially difficult to form a bond with her youngest child. Those vital hours and days necessary for bonding had gone and there was nothing she could do to get them back. She loved James and that love was getting stronger by the day but it was Gene who had looked after him during that first week of his life, Gene who had fed and looked after him until Alex had finally been well enough. Gene who had bonded with him.
She opened her eyes to find Gene standing by her side with James in his arms.
"I'm fine. Just thinking."
"Wanna hold him?"
Alex nodded and Gene carefully laid the baby in her arms.
"Did he have the whole bottle?"
Gene chuckled. "Yeah the greedy bugger."
"Takes after his dad."
As she spoke the baby opened his clear blue eyes and looked directly at Alex. Her heart lurched into her stomach. He really did look like his father in many ways. Those intensely blue eyes, the blond hair and by the look of it, he had inherited his father's long, lean limbs. He was all Hunt this one. Alex took hold of one tiny baby hand and James' fingers latched onto hers. She watched entranced as, lulled by body warmth and a full stomach, his eyelids began to flutter and close. Alex kissed his brow gently. Whatever the rocky start to their relationship, she was determined to give her son as much love as he needed. There would be no more babies after all.
Gene sat on the bed next to them both and wrapped his arm around Alex as they looked down on the baby.
"He's perfect isn't he?" Alex said.
"Apart from the farting and puking you mean?"
"Yes, apart from that."
"Yeah," Gene said softly, "he's a good boy." He kissed Alex on the cheek. "Shall I put him down to sleep?"
"No. I'll do it."
She carefully got up from the bed cradling the precious bundle, and walked to the adjoining door to the small nursery. She smiled as she settled him into the crib – he really was a very placid baby compared to his sisters.
When she walked back into the main bedroom, Gene was standing at the threshold of the small balcony with a glass of white wine in his hand, staring off into the distance. A wave of love mixed with a healthy amount of lust washed over her. After only a couple of days in the sunshine he looked absolutely gorgeous, with a light tan already developing. He was dressed casually in a loose, pale blue linen shirt and beige cotton trousers, his feet bare, his hair bleached lighter by the sun. He turned to Alex and smilingly held out his hand. Yes, his hair had streaks of grey now, but that only served to enhance his steely blue eyes.
She joined him at the balcony and wrapped her hands around his waist.
"Drink?" he asked.
She shook her head.
"Molly still sulking about that boyfriend of hers?"
"A little but she'll get over it – and so will you."
Gene grunted and moved back into the bedroom. It had been his first serious disagreement with Molly and it had unsettled him to say the least. He was an indulgent father to his daughters but this was one area where he simply wouldn't be moved.
"I've said she can invite Seb to dinner when we get back."
"Seb? What kind of a poncy name's Seb? And what d'yer mean you've invited him to dinner?"
"It's called compromise Gene. Besides if he comes to the house that means you can give him the third degree."
Gene's eyes lit up. "True. I still don't like it though. He's too old for her."
Alex laughed. "He's only 18 – barely two years difference."
He crossed the room to where she was and stood behind her, placing one hand on her waist as he moved her hair aside and started to nuzzle her neck. "Blokes learn a lot in two years. Fancy a demo?"
"Thought you'd never ask."
She closed her eyes as he kissed his way down her neck and along her shoulder, fingers smoothly pulling at the ties of her loose kaftan until it fell away from her body and pooled at her ankles. With a growl of appreciation Gene traced the shape of her body with his hands, lingering over her breasts before moving onto her belly and hips.
"You're a beautiful woman Bols," he whispered.
"I'm a mother of three children," she said pragmatically.
"Makes no odds to me. I'm hardly love's young dream either."
Alex opened her eyes and turned around to face him, examining him closely. He had a few more lines around his eyes to be sure and a touch of silver in the hair. But there was still something in his face that made her heart skip a beat – especially now with his holiday stubble coming along nicely.
"No. Not love's young dream. My dream. My reality."
Wordlessly she undid the few remaining buttons on his shirt and pushed it from his body. Meeting his eyes, her fingers trailed lovingly over his lightly sun tanned chest, ghosting over his nipples and then boldly skimming his belly until she reached the waistband of his trousers. She fumbled slightly with the fastenings and Gene's laughter rumbled in his chest.
"Just pull to release."
"That's exactly what I was planning," she said, smiling up into his face.
When they were both naked, they stood facing each other, revelling in the sensation of the afternoon sun streaming into the bedroom and warming their bodies. Alex sighed appreciatively as her hands wandered over his body, caressing his shoulders and back, lightly squeezing his buttocks before turning her attention finally to his, by now, quite obvious erection. She heard a small groan of approval as she took him in hand, her fingers grasping his cock lightly but firmly and then stroking his length with firm, smooth strokes.
"Alex…" Gene rocked on his heels as she began to work him, her hands moving possessively over him, cupping his balls and then working the whole length of him in an insistent rhythm until he was gritting his teeth. He didn't want to waste this – they were only just getting back to normal after the baby was born! He wanted to be inside her, feeling her warmth, feeling her clench around him as her made her come.
And then she stopped.
He looked at her quizzically but she was still smiling at him.
"Time to take this to the horizontal level I think. Come to bed Gene."
He watched her walk to the huge bed in the centre of the room and then lounge provocatively…waiting.
"You know, I could get used to these siesta thingies."
He covered the distance between them in short shrift and was soon beside her, his eyes greedily drinking in the sight her naked body beneath his. He touched her, hesitantly at first but then with sure intent, the smooth warm skin beneath his fingers felt like silk, sending ripples of pure lust ricocheting through his body.
"You have no idea…" he whispered.
"How much I love you…how much I need you."
The air grew hot and heavy, despite the cooling breeze through the open balcony door. She reached up to touch his face.
She lay back and luxuriated in his kisses, clutching him closer, desperate for the touch of his skin on hers. She giggled softly as his fingers tickled her sides, feeling deliciously wicked as his mouth found her breast. As parents of young children time alone together was often hard to find. And yet here they were – making love on a soft bed in the full glare of the afternoon sun. It was too erotic for words.
Gene felt it too. The shedding of responsibility combined with the Mediterranean sunshine – it was a heady mix which went straight to his head. Alex was the mother of his children, his wife and his partner. But more than that she was the best friend he had ever had. He could talk to her about anything and everything – there was no one else on earth that he was closer to. And on top of that she had a body to make grown men weep.
He kissed his way down her body and breathed in her scent – musk and lavender, sunshine and coconut oil. It all combined to leave his senses reeling. And she tasted as good as she smelled. He lapped at her goodness, swirling the tip of his tongue around her core as he tasted her like a fine wine.
"Gene…oh god…" Alex wriggled and squirmed under his touch, her hips lifting towards his mouth as she desperately sought her climax.
He grinned wickedly. "Like back and think of England love."
He really was impossible. Alex moaned as wave after wave of pleasure rolled over her body, the absolute climax always just tantalisingly out of reach. But she loved the way he loved her, loved the way he knew exactly when to stop and when to press on, she loved the renewed familiarity of their lovemaking and just couldn't get enough.
And then he was there, inside her and all around her, filling her senses and making her feel as though there were no one else in the world. He edged slowly forward, deeper and deeper until he was fully embedded. Alex quickly wrapped her legs around his hips just in case he was tempted to go anywhere else.
Gene slowed to a complete halt, almost holding his breath, afraid that even the slightest movement would send him off – and it was way way too soon for that. Instead he took a deep breath and looked into her eyes, kissed her eyelids as he held her head between his hands; kissed her mouth with all the passion he could muster and then gently began to flex his hips against hers.
They moved together seamlessly, confident of where the journey would take them and both enjoying the ride. Gene quickened the pace, suddenly conscious of Alex's increased need as she writhed underneath him, tilting her hips and letting loose with a few choice oaths. He held her hips steady and thrust hard and deep, again and again, until he felt the first quiver of her body as it began to clench around him. He reached between then and stroked her intimately and was immediately rewarded as Alex bucked underneath him, the expression on her face registering a silent scream of orgasm. His own climax was not far off and he felt the sudden rush of electricity through his body, the loss of control as hips went into overdrive and the sudden emptiness as he shouted her name and then collapsed into her arms.
"Wow!" Alex said breathlessly, when she finally came back to her senses.
Gene raised his head and looked at her. "Good?"
"More than good." She sighed contentedly as he rolled off her. She curled up next to him and rested her head on his chest, listening to the comforting thump, thump of his heartbeat. "We really must do this more often."
A low rumble of laughter echoed in his chest. "Well that was the plan."
They lay in contented bliss, legs entangled, letting the soft breeze cool their bodies. Alex could feel herself drifting away but forced herself to speak before the thought got away from her.
"I really am happy you know. Very."
He angled his head to look at her. "Really? After all that's happened?"
She kissed his shoulder and laid her arm over his chest. "Really. In fact I do wonder sometimes…no, it's silly."
She sat up slightly, resting her head on his chest and looking up directly into his eyes. "I sometimes wonder if we ever woke up from our respective comas. I mean, I've got you and Molly and now Lola and James - is it too perfect? Are we still dreaming?"
Gene looked at her with a quizzical expression before answering. He stroked her cheek, one finger tracing over her lips. "Would it matter?"
She thought for what seemed like an eternity but was only a microsecond. "No – as long as I have you and the children, I don't care where I am."
"Good. Now stop talking woman. Man can't get any peace at all around here."
Gene felt her breathing become slower and steadier as she finally fell asleep. He was content to lie there for a few moments longer, quiet and still as he listened to the sound of her breathing and feeling the warmth of her skin against his. He thought back to when James was born, how terrified he had been that he was going to lose her again. But he hadn't. She was still here and so was he.
He smiled and then closed his eyes.
Alex woke slowly, gradually becoming aware that the sun had shifted in the sky and that there was an empty space in the bed beside her. She stretched her limbs one by one and then rolled onto her back, taking the rare opportunity to hog the bed and just lie there and think. She felt wonderfully sated and relaxed – probably the best she'd felt since giving birth to James. She might not be able to have any more children but she adored the ones she already had. She had a husband she was besotted with and who was equally besotted with her, children she worshipped and a warm and loving family – everything she had always hoped for. And if this was a dream, she never wanted it to end.
As she lay she heard the sound of voices from outside filtering in through the open balcony door. She couldn't hear what exactly was being said but she heard Lola squealing with delight and then Gene's gruff voice teasing and she could imagine them playing together. She forced herself to move, rising from the bed and throwing on her kaftan as she walked towards the nursery.
James was wriggling, eyes wide open and gurgling contentedly.
James responding by smiling and opening his eyes even wider.
"Oh you are so beautiful aren't you darling?" Alex picked him up and settled him against her chest. "Shall we go and see what everyone else is doing?" She walked over to the balcony, just in time to see Lola running circles around Gene and Molly casually looping her arm with his as they walked off together towards the beach.
"Mummy!" Lola squealed as she spotted Alex.
Gene looked up and waved. "Just going for a quick walk – back in ten"
Alex waved as she watched them go, quietly pleased as she saw Molly laugh in response to some remark that Gene had made.
"Mummy, mummy – bring the baby. Want to see baby! We're gonna have a bee queue."
"She means barbeque love," Lilly supplied, still lying on her sun bed, Evan lounging by her side.
"Be right down."
She stood for a moment watching her family enjoying themselves, her heart full of absolute contentment. She suddenly remembered something someone had said a long time ago. 'If you're smart, you'll learn that being where the Guv is, is the right place to be' And for once in his life Ray had been right. This was the right place to be.
She smiled down at her son. "Come on sweet baby James, time to face the masses."
Thanks to everyone for sticking with this story and for all the reviews, comments and support for all of my stories. Not sure what I'm going to write next or when but I just want to thank everyone for reading my ramblings here.