Author's Note: Since it's 11/11/11 and my birthday, have a present :) Thank you all for your truly lovely reviews; especially Nt A Clue Hw 2 Spll Annymus and Shadow x0 for the comments that ended up inspiring this instalment! Enjoy.
MOTH TO A FLAME PT 2
The great hall was bustling with people, the band in the corner playing soft music which barely competed with the steady flow and ebb of conversation. A few couples had commandeered the centre of the room as a dance floor and they span and dipped to the waltzes and foxtrots as the songs flowed one to the next whilst everyone else stood round the edges, drinking cocktails and discussing the weather, the newest additions to the museum, academia and the latest fashions.
Jonathan, Rick and Evelyn had barely managed to avoid the rain on their way; it was only thanks to the combined effort of the two men and an overlarge umbrella that the only evidence of the dismal weather was a few drying spots on the hem of Evelyn's silk dress.
Rick noticed that his wife was staying close to him as they stood near the door. Jonathan had disappeared off to the bar to fetch a round of drinks – although Rick suspected he would down two in quick succession before eventually bringing some over to them – and it wouldn't be long before people started noticing them, bringing the inevitable chatter and pandering to their currently quiet niche. Evelyn was all for hiding behind one of the potted plants but knew that once they'd been noticed and talked at for half an hour the novelty would wear off and they would be left in peace. Rick had apparently noticed her discomfort as the arm slung loosely around her waist tightened minutely and he bent down to murmur in her ear.
"If you grin and bear it for an hour or so we'll go and find somewhere a little quieter to have our own celebration..."
She tried to look shocked at the leer on his face but knew it fell flat when she'd been thinking the exact same thing only moments earlier. It showed how much her husband had influenced her when rather than studying the relics of past times all she could think about was getting him in a dark corner all to herself. Jonathan called it the curse of the newly-weds; she called it exciting. Rick called it something else entirely that couldn't be repeated in polite company.
They'd been hovering in the corner for a good fifteen minutes before the curator approached them and started an in-depth conversation with Evelyn that Rick tuned out as he scanned the room. Jonathan was somewhere across the other side with a platinum blonde hanging onto his every word, but other than that Rick realised that he didn't know a single person in sight. This wasn't an unusual occurrence; most of his life had been spent moving from one foreign place to another with a group of men that hardly knew each other, but this was different. He'd been armed to the teeth then, and most people were ignoring him, fighting him or running from him. Here he felt at a disadvantage, in his uncomfortable suit and having to mind his manners.
"Would you mind awfully if I stole your wife for a while?" he heard the curator say, and he blinked momentarily before lifting a shoulder in a decidedly Gallic shrug.
"As long as you bring her back in one piece," he replied, and the amusement he gained from the bemused look on the curator's face was dimmed somewhat by the pointed glare he received from Evelyn. He raised an eyebrow at her and she shook her head.
"I wont be long darling. Apparently there are some journalists that would like to ask a few questions." She was pulled over to the waiting circle of journalists, all talking over one another in a desperate attempt to be heard and gain an answer to the burning question of the moment that would secure them immortality in print. She, in her flame-red dress, stood calm and composed in the centre of the men in their black-and-white suits as they fluttered round her, vying for attention. He was proud of how she managed to deal with them – he hated them with a passion. There'd been no end of them out in Cairo, always hovering around the latest scandal or treasure-seeking expedition, waiting for the story that would give them their break. He studied them with his lips twisting into a moue of distaste, mentally giving them five minutes before he'd go and retrieve her.
"I'd suggest keeping the scowling to a minimum," Jonathan's voice suddenly spoke in his ear, and Rick turned his head to raise an eyebrow at his brother-in-law, who was offering him a glass of - something. "Well, you know what they're like. They take an instant dislike to you and dig up the dirt and you find it splashed across the front pages next to the main story. You don't want anything like that to reflect on my darling baby sister, would you?"
Rick took the drink, suspecting there was a hint of guilty experience behind the levity, but decided to leave that for another time. Jonathan's third (or was it fourth?) cocktail of the evening was already half empty, and he cast a mildly disapproving eye over the young man. "Careful with those drinks Jonathan. You don't want to get too drunk and cause a ruckus that would be splashed across the front page, do you? It would reflect badly on your darling baby sister."
Jonathan regarded him sardonically, a hint of a self-mocking smile. "Touché, old chap."
Rick shook his head lightly, grinning, the almost-tension in the air between them already dissipating. There was still so much left for them to learn about one another, and any arguments that needed to be had were best left behind closed doors (and possibly with Evelyn as mediator). "You go enjoy yourself, Jonathan. I'll keep an eye on her."
"Good show, O'Connell. If they start getting rowdy, go in guns blazing." With that, Jonathan headed off in search of the buxom blonde last seen hanging off his arm. Rick suspected she'd already moved on to the next well-off chap dripping with booze and expensive aftershave, but there were plenty of other buxom women in the room for him to work his way through. He'd noticed that for all her innocence and naivety, Evelyn was well-versed in the ways of gold-diggers and showed a surprising amount of tolerance for Jonathan and his ladies. It was another facet to the rather complex woman under the bookish façade of Evelyn Carnahan (O'Connell, he corrected himself, not without a small thrill of pride) and he loved that he was one of the very few that got to see and understand the many sides of her.
He stood in quiet appreciation of her for a while, happy to stand on his own out of the way, until a smooth voice came from behind him and he mentally chided himself for being so caught up watching Evelyn that he didn't hear anyone approaching. "I understand you're one of the guests of honour here tonight." He turned to face a young brunette, about Evelyn's age, in a light chiffon dress (a style that he'd heard Evy call 'flapper' when they'd wandered past a shop window and she'd gazed in wistfully at one similar). Her perfect coiffure and flawless makeup blended seamlessly with the sparkling jewels at her throat and ears, and screamed 'money' to Rick, but whether it was her own or someone else's was another matter.
"Something like that," he gave her a self-deprecating smile, quickly scanning the room to see if Jonathan, Evelyn or any friendly face was available to rescue him. Unfortunately Jonathan was nowhere to be found, Evelyn was still patiently answering the same questions in the crowd of journalists, and there were no friendly faces. "What brings you here? Surely you have something better to do than hang around boring old guys talking about long-dead civilisations?"
She tilted her head back and laughed; a light, breezy sound. "I have to say, I do find it rather fascinating once in a while. The jewels and treasures that are being found...it's mind-boggling!"
Rick allowed himself a wry smile; she'd been talking to him for less than two minutes and already got to the crux of the matter – she was interested in money, whichever form it came in. Something that he had a feeling most of the women in the room had in common.
When he didn't reply, she held out a dainty hand. "Lydia Holt. And you are?"
She'd known he was a 'guest of honour' but not his name, he mused. "Married," he replied with a cheerful grin, ignoring her hand.
She hesitated, but leant in, smiling. "And that matters...how?"
Apparently in this world of superficiality, money and titles, the sanctity of marriage didn't exist. He knew what she was hinting at and he felt a mixture of pity and scorn for her. She needed to be loved by someone as much as he loved Evelyn, but she was obviously insecure enough that she tried to get involved with men that were unattainable; shallow relationships that wouldn't last and certainly wouldn't fulfil. He glanced over to where Evelyn was still surrounded by a crowd of people, still incessantly asking questions, and he realised that his mental five minutes was probably well over. "If you don't mind, I'm going to find my wife," he directed the comment in Lydia's general direction, but by then his attention was fully focused on the figure in red in amongst the fluttering reporters. If Lydia made any response he didn't hear, and he set his drink down on a nearby table as he strode past.
"Excuse me, may I steal my wife back?" he interrupted, and Evelyn shot him a look that was part desperation, part gratefulness. She'd probably been answering the same questions phrased differently over and over, and the initial enthusiasm was starting to wear thin. He grabbed her hand and guided her to the door, giving the curator a jaunty wave, and they rounded the corner into the corridor. He paused, but Evelyn seemed to read his mind and took the lead, tugging him down the darker end where there were fewer people. She knew where she was going and he let her guide him. This was what he loved about her; for all her faults she trusted him implicitly. She might not understand why he did something, but she was willing to go along with him. He'd nurtured her sense of adventure until she was almost as eager as him to explore new places.
"Where are we going?" he questioned, and she let out a short laugh, turning until she walked backwards, her hand still firmly ensconced in his own.
"You tell me – you're the one that dragged me out of there."
Amused, he tugged her until she collided with his chest, and he pressed a kiss to her nose. "I wanted my wife. Plus, you did look like you needed rescuing."
She tilted her head in assent, running her free hand up his chest, a thoughtful look crossing her face. When he caught sight of her expression, he groaned. "Oh, I know what that look means..."
Evelyn giggled, then suddenly ducked away from him and headed further down the corridor, leading him on a merry dance through darkened rooms and exhibits. Finally, they ducked through an almost hidden doorway, Evelyn's giggles muffled by her hand although they'd left all the other patrons five minutes ago and hadn't seen a security guard since the third floor. It was certainly an advantage having a wife that knew all of the hidden rooms and offices in the museum, despite not having worked there herself.
This particular musty room seemed to be in a section being prepared for a new exhibition – half the cases were full of relics, artifacts and a couple of mummified corpses – and as Evelyn led him to a corner in near-pitch darkness, he spun her round and gripped her waist. She giggled again, moving backwards until her back hit the wall, looking coyly up at her husband through her thick eyelashes in a way that she knew drove him crazy, despite the unlikelihood of him actually being able to see it in the dark.
"You are a little minx, you know that?" he chided, his large hands spanning her waist and pulling her body flush against his.
"So I've been told..." she murmured, her own hands trapped between them, picking lightly at the buttons on his shirt as her mouth found the skin at the edge of his collar and started to suck lightly, gaining an appreciative groan. He pressed a kiss to her forehead, then her temple, then trailed his lips down over her cheekbone to the edge of her mouth and started nibbling his way in until she made a small noise of protest. The kiss started off teasing but when she freed her arms and wrapped them round his broad shoulders, her fingers delving into his thick hair and encouraging him closer, it deepened until it was almost desperate and ravishing. Only the need for air parted them, and even then their faces stayed mere inches apart, warm breath ghosting over skin and leaving tingles in its path. "Something tells me you've been waiting all night to do that," Evelyn breathed, and he let out a soft chuckle.
"Is it a crime to want my wife when she's wearing a dress like this?" As he spoke he fingered the soft silk that clung to her body like a second skin, and nuzzled her cheek. It was Evelyn's turn to let out a small laugh.
"I wanted to wear the warmer, thicker dress, but it was you whom convinced me to wear this one..."
"And now you know why," he rumbled, hands running up and down her back. She rolled her eyes affectionately as he kissed her again, one hand lightly parting the silk where the modest split stopped at her knees and sliding under the material to stroke the soft skin of her leg. When she didn't protest, he moved his hand daringly higher, over the cold smooth metal and –
He paused, then pulled back, raising an eyebrow at his wife. "What's that, Evelyn?"
A faint shaft of moonlight from the overhead window caught her innocent expression. "A holster."
"With a gun?"
"Well, yes. You bought it for me, you should know." It was true enough. He'd bought it for her not long after reaching England and they'd decided to take more trips out to Egypt. He'd taught her how to use it and how to clean and care for it. He wanted her to be able to protect herself if he or Jonathan weren't there to help her.
"But why have you got it here?" Had he been watching carefully, he would have seen the mischievous look that flitted across Evelyn's face, but he was a little preoccupied.
"We're in a museum full of Egyptian corpses, there are at least twenty people here who can read Ancient Egyptian and I'm sure somewhere someone has a copy of a domestic Book of the Dead. One can never be too careful."
Rick stared at Evelyn in mild shock. She'd been around him too long; his sarcasm was rubbing off on her. He tried to form a response but a base part of him found the idea that his deliciously rumpled wife was armed underneath that dress was rather hotand all other thought processes seemed to halt there as he stood staring at her with a slightly slack-jawed expression.
After two minutes of his silence, Evelyn began to wonder if she'd finally broken her husband.
Author's Note: Yes, inspiration has sort of struck. There are two more 'chapters' after this, leading up to and covering the second film, but I think that's going to be it. I have ideas for them in my head but may need some inspiration to get them flowing!