A/N: Please enjoy the latest chapter of this. Sorry it took so long, but RL has been not very nice for the last five months. Thanks to Shadows-of -Realm for the beta and Crye4Me for brain storming. Please be kind and leave a review.
Chapter 23- Basking in the Glow
After the last of the guests and cleaning crew left, Rodney plopped himself next to Jennifer on the couch. The entranced woman could not stop looking at the ring on her finger. There was something about it that drew someone in with its intricate design. "You know if you stare at that long enough you'll go blind."
"Shush, you," Jennifer cuddled in close. The events of the evening were still buzzing about her head, expecting to wake from the dream that this night felt like. "You know you really out did yourself tonight. I really had no idea you had any of this planned. You didn't really have an interview this morning, did you?"
Rodney chuckled and kissed the top of his fiancée's head, "That is the whole idea of a surprise, for you to be utterly clueless until the time is right. No interview. I picked up your dad and aunt from the airport. Had to ask his permission to marry you. It's a good thing he said yes."
Jennifer was touched that Rodney had asked her father for permission. It showed the depth of his true character and it made her love him even more. "Yes, it is," she held on a little tighter. The glee radiated off her face and felt like she had to hold on for fear of floating away.
"You like the ring, right? I can exchange it if you don't like it."
"Don't even joke about that," she shook her head and shifted slightly. "I love the ring, but," a playful smirked danced upon Jennifer's full lips. She paused for a brief second before leaning in for a sensual kiss that left both parties out of breath and their hearts racing wildly.
"But?" Rodney asked breathlessly, anticipating how she would finish the sentence.
"But I love the man who gave it to me more." There was a repeat performance of their last kiss.
"Hmm. Good answer," Rodney pulled away just enough to speak and his lips were quickly back upon hers in an elaborate tango that made them forget time and the need to breathe.
It was only when the amorous couple felt lightheaded that they broke the kiss. Jennifer found herself pinned under Rodney and her hands tangled in his hair. His weight was lessened as he used his hands to prop himself up, but leaving enough in the right spots to illicit a moan from the turned on woman.
"Be right back," Rodney had a playful grin on his face as he stopped Jennifer from unbuttoning his shirt. He quickly got off the couch and his grin grew wider when he saw Jennifer's confused and crestfallen face.
Jennifer wanted to scream when her dear other half left her hanging. "Where you going?" her face creased into a frown when he did not answer and disappeared into the kitchen. "Seriously? You're stopping for food?" Jennifer tapped her foot, clearly annoyed that he had started something and was not going to finish it.
"Just needed to get supplies," Rodney appeared at the doorway with a large bowl. "Earlier you said if there was leftover whipped cream that we should put it to good use later. It's now later and there is plenty left. Sorry, but the chocolate sauce was all gone." His eyes sparkled with mischief, knowing their evening was far from over.
"Why didn't you say so?" The annoyance gave was to delight.
"Because you are so cute when you get annoyed," Rodney handed over the bowl of the sweet topping. The real fun was about to begin.
It was not until the morning sun started to make its slight hint of arrival that the couple had worn themselves completely exhausted. After several rounds of horizontal coupling on the couch, it was time to get vertical in the shower. Then they tested the durability of the mattress. It was a good thing that there were no immediate neighbors or else there would have been several noise complaints made.
Jennifer could barely keep her eyes open as she curled up next to a half-asleep Rodney. "Thank you for making this a birthday I will never forget," the satiated woman tucked her head under the chin of her equally satiated partner.
"There will be many more memorable birthdays to come," Rodney said as sleep threatened to claim him. "And many other days just like this," his hand stopped trailing along Jen's bare spine as he let sleep take over.
There was no question that when they woke up later that they would be feeling the effects of the long night. It was the perfect excuse to not leave the bed all day and hide from the world especially if the weather report for a stormy day was accurate.
There were two things that stirred Jennifer from her blissful slumber; the rain hitting the window and the vibrating of her cell phone. The tired woman grumbled as she reached for the phone on the bedside table. "Hello," the voice was raspy as it started to wake up with the rest of her body.
"Oh, Jen. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to wake you," Marie's voice came from the other end.
"Hmm. It's okay." Jennifer rubbed her eyes and blinked when she saw it was close to eleven. "Just give me a second," she did not want wake Rodney who was still sound asleep. "Ow. Ow," the soreness and stiffness of her back and legs made the first few steps unsteady ones.
"You okay?" Marie heard the painful sounds coming from her friend.
Jennifer closed the bedroom door behind her. "Couldn't be better. Long night." The tone told exactly how long and what activities it included.
"Oh," the nurse blushed. What were best friends for, but to give TMI statements? It took a moment to regain composure. "I'm sorry I could make it last night. Radek and I both had to work."
"Janet still making things difficult for you?" Most of their conversations since Jennifer left the practice had steered clear of the vindictive woman.
Marie sighed heavily, "Not so much anymore, but she has her moments. How was the party?"
"Beyond amazing. There is a lot I have to tell you." Jennifer was still on cloud nine and would be there for a while.
"Are you up for lunch today? I know the weather isn't too great, but that never stopped us before."
"Sure. How about I meet you at one at the little French place around the corner from the office?" Jennifer thought that would give her plenty of time to wake up and take a shower.
"Sounds like a plan. See you then." Marie quickly hung up the phone when Janet came into the room and made it look like she was doing some backed up filing.
Jennifer returned to the bedroom, attempting to be as quiet as possible, but Rodney was stirring in bed.
"Who was that?" the man mumbled, obviously still half asleep.
"Marie. I'm going to meet her lunch. Go back to sleep. I'm going to take shower first," the tired woman finished what she had to say, knowing Rodney was asleep before she finished.
"Have fun," the words could barely be made out before the snoring took over.
Jennifer laughed and shook her head as she headed to the bathroom. When she came out Rodney was in the same position as she left him except the covers had been thrown off and his naked body was beckoning her to return to bed.
Choosing to ignore the call, Jennifer covered the tempting body up and got ready for her lunch with her best girlfriend.
Jennifer was running a few minutes late due to delays on the subway. "I'm sorry I'm late. Subway troubles."
"It's okay," Marie replied, looking nervously to her left. "I was hoping you'd be a little late."
The newly engaged woman was about question her friend's motive when she looked in the direction the nurse was and the reason became clear. "She doesn't scare me anymore. Is that a date she's with?" Jennifer was in too good of a mood to have it dampened by any games Janet wanted to play.
Marie nodded, "She's been seeing him for about a month now. Some kind of jeweler, I think. But enough about her. Tell me more about the party. Were you surprised?"
Jennifer nodded. "Had no idea until we got home. Rodney even had my dad there. It was incredible. That wasn't the best part," she was about to break the good news when the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.
"Marie. Jennifer. What a surprise. You are looking a bit worn down. Is everything all right, Jennifer?" Janet tried to sound concerned, but the young doctor knew better.
"Everything is great. Just a late night. That's all. It's a shame you made Marie miss the party last night," Jennifer had to get the dig in. She smiled as she tucked some stray hair behind her ear. Jennifer could not help the comment toward her ex-boss, but she was happier than she ever was and was not going to dwell on the past.
The man with Janet immediately grabbed Jennifer's hand upon seeing the ring on her finger. "Oh, my. That is quite the ring," he let out a long whistle as he tried examining the ring more, but its owner struggled to reclaim her hand. "I'd know that work anywhere. Thom Snow. Very exclusive. Very sought after. Only has one store in San Diego."
The short punctuated sentences annoyed Jennifer and she just sighed. A quick look at Janet showed the woman was not pleased and Marie was in shock, but in a good way. "Okay," her voice was filled with uncertainty. The engaged woman had no idea what the man was going on about.
"Sorry. I'm a jeweler and I get a little when I see such an exquisite piece." He blushed at getting overexcited about a ring and that Janet was clearly not happy about his outburst. His slight Californian accent became clear the more excited he got.
"Evan, enough. We should be going." Seeing the ring made Janet feel like she was kicked in the gut. She had let jealousy get the better of her and turned her into something she never wanted to become. Now there was no going back.
"Rodney proposed last night?" Marie could not could not contain her excitement anymore. "I'm so happy for you, Jen. Congrats."
Evan dismissed Janet's protests about staying. He was too enamored with ring to break away, never expecting to see such a work of art up close. "How did your fiancé manage to get a piece from Snow?"
Jennifer shrugged and looked like she had no idea what Evan was going on about. "I don't know. That's not something I would ask him. Rodney does own a house in California not too far from San Diego. Yes, the ring is amazing and it doesn't matter how much he spent or that apparently the designer is really hard to come by, what matters to me is the man who gave it to me. I can really see why Rodney gets how he does when people try to use him for who he is. Did Janet tell you why I was all but forced to quit working for her?" The stressed woman clenched her jaw and took several deep breaths.
"You used to work Janet? I had no idea," Evan was taken aback by overly defensive woman. "I'm sorry I didn't mean anything by my comments. I let my dork side get a little out of control. I've been a big fan of the designer for a long time and I never thought I'd get to see one of his rings up close."
Jennifer smiled wearily. "It's all right. I'm sorry too. It's just something my fiancé and I have had to deal with once people realize who he is. You can ask Janet about it." Her eyes slid over to her ex-boss who was being unusually quiet and looked like she wanted out of the situation ASAP.
"Yes. Very well," Janet said with unease in her voice. "I apologize for how things turned out with us. I let jealously and fantasies get the better of me. I hope you and Rodney have a long happy life." It looked like it took every effort for the words to sound sincere. Janet really did not want to explain it to Evan and she wanted to get as far from the situation as she could. "I really need to get back to the office." The jumpy doctor began to pull her beau toward the exit.
Just before Janet and Evan were out of hearing range, Jennifer heard Evan's annoyed voice say the piano guy and Janet reply with a huff.
"I'm so happy for you, Jen." Marie could now fully be happy for her best friend without any negative presence. "Did you have any idea he was going to propose?"
"I didn't even have a clue about the party," Jennifer was finally able to relax and divulge in detail the events of the previous evening, quickly glossing over the X-rated parts.
Rodney felt like a zombie when he finally woke. He grumbled and wiped the remainder of sleep from his eyes. The stiffness of his muscles made the musician walk like he was one of the living dead. A pair of sweatpants and t-shirt was hastily pulled from the dresser and quickly tossed on. The musician sighed and rolled his eyes when he saw the full hamper in the bathroom. It looked like his day was going to consist of doing laundry.
Rodney did not bother to make himself look presentable when he went to the building's laundry room. His hair went off in a million directions and it was obvious he had just woken up. "Wonderful," came the grumble when the room was also occupied by an elderly lady that had to be nearing seventy. Rodney barely acknowledged the woman as he went to sorting the laundry.
The woman with salt and pepper hair wondered what was going on with younger generations. Never in her wildest dreams would she dare go out into public so unkempt or sleep so late. Yet, she knew he had to have money to be able to afford to live in the building. The smallest units went for at least half a million. "Do you live in the building?" She thought that there was a chance that the unkempt man was some place he should not be.
Rodney looked over at the woman, wondering what kind of question that was. "I'm using the laundry facilities, aren't I?"
"That really did not answer my question."
"Yes, I live in the building. Top floor. Little place called the penthouse," the pianist let his arrogant side to rise to the surface. Rodney knew he was being judged on his disheveled appearance. "Do you live here?"
The woman wanted to be indignant, but she saw dollar signs when she realized this was the mystery man who had purchased the long vacant penthouse. Forcing herself to look beyond the messy appearance Audra Scanlon gave Rodney the second look over and noticed no ring on his finger. A smirk slid across her rounded face. It was time to get to work. "I apologize for questioning you. I'm not used to running into normal people doing laundry. Most in this building have the help do it. You don't look like the housekeeper type. I'm Audra. I live in 24A."
"Okay." He was not interested in what the woman had to say and refused to play her game. Audra was only interested once she learned Rodney had money and he despised people like that. "I'm just going to finish my laundry," his tone reflected how much he wanted to be left alone.
Audra did not take the hint and continued to talk. "Where did you live before?" After not receiving a response after several attempts, the annoying woman was undeterred. "Not from around here then? How long have you lived in the city?"
"California. Since November," Rodney used as few words as possible to answer the questions.
"What bought you to New York?"
"Work." The stressed Canadian closed his eyes and prayed that the woman would shut up for five seconds.
Audra pursed her lips at the curtness in his voice. "I have this granddaughter and she isn't seeing anyone and well if you are free later tonight, I'm sure the two of you would hit it off. I don't see a ring on your finger."
Rodney's eyes doubled in size and wondered how dense this woman was. Did she not see him sorting women's clothes besides his own? He looked at what was in his hand and thought of a brilliant way to get the nutcase off his back. Rodney doubted telling her he was engaged would not work. It was Jennifer's black bra from last night and it was stained with whipped cream, but he could easily pretend it was something else. "As long as she doesn't mind me wearing this," he held the bra up to his chest and made his voice sound as flamboyant as possible. The disgusted look on Audra face said it was mission accomplished.
Audra could not tell what substance on the garment was, neither did she want to know. She now thought him to be some freak pervert cross dresser and back away several steps. Sometimes a lot of money made people funny in the head.
"Oh and I'm in the entertainment business too. Maybe you are familiar with some of my work. You seem just the type to enjoy it," Rodney continued with the over the top voice. The old woman was making this too easy and too fun for him.
"Well, I never," Audra was repulsed by the insinuation. Her voice was high and squeaky.
To a normal person the annoying voice would drive them crazy, but Rodney found a hidden melody in it and already began to compose a piece around it. The quiet he hoped for was finally achieved and Rodney got the needed loads of laundry into the machines. It was a wicked twist of fate that Audra finished nearly at the same time and they headed to the elevator at the same time. To Rodney's delight the now very quiet woman went to the opposite corner of the lift.
Audra stood and looked at the other elevator occupant with disgust at what she thought was a horrible lifestyle. Men were not meant to wear woman's clothes. She sighed in relief when a stop at the lobby was made because she would no longer be alone with the freak. What happened next threw Audra for a loop; the young woman who got on the elevator went right over to the man and gave him a kiss.
"Laundry?" Jennifer reached up and tamed some of her fiancé's wild hair.
Rodney nodded and smirked as he subtly looked at Audra. "How was lunch?"
"Interesting. Ran into Janet. She is still charming as ever." Jennifer felt eyes boring into the back of her head and turned to see Audra looking at her with the oddest expression. "What's that about?" she quickly turned back to Rodney and whispered.
Rodney chuckled, "Long story, but the short version is that I taught her a valuable lesson." Valuable, at least in his mind. He could see the steam coming from Audra's ears, clearly not liking being talked about as if she was not here. It was time to set the record straight. "First, I don't like being bothered when I first wake up. Second, I don't have a ring on my finger because we only got engaged last night. Third, the bra was hers. Lastly, what right do you have to pawn your granddaughter off on me? You only changed your opinion of me because you realized I lived in the penthouse." the morning grumpiness had clearly not been fully excised.
Audra shrunk back at being chastised like a child, but he had been right about her change in attitude. "You should have said you were involved with someone."
"With the way you were going on I doubt you would have believed me. So I went for shock which did work," Rodney went silent when he felt Jennifer fingers dig into his palm.
Jennifer looked between her fiancé and the woman who caused him trouble. Both had handled the situation poorly, but she was going to have to side with Rodney and not just because she was in love with him. Audra had made two fatal mistakes. One being she only saw money and only money when looking at Rodney and the most egregious being that she tried to take Rodney away from her. Her only recourse was to hold onto Rodney and glare daggers at the offending woman until she exited the elevator.
"Do I even what to know what the whole bra thing was about?"
"Not really," Rodney sheepishly looked down and kept his mouth shut for the rest of the ride. He let the laughter roar once they were in the apartment. "Her face was priceless when she thought I was a cross dresser." Before Jennifer had a chance to reply, the laughing man raced up the stairs.
"Wait. What? Oh, you have to tell me the story now?" Jennifer took after him, laughing as well.
To be continued…
End A/N: I hope you enjoyed this latest installment. I promise to try to be more frequent with updates. It seems like things are getting back on track for me so I've been writing more, but things have a way slamming back down just as things are getting better. Tomorrow is my first day of 2 months of PT to get my ankle back to proper function and hopefully things will be smooth sailing from there on out.