She pulled marginally away from him but kept her hands on his shoulders, "I'm sorry, Rollin. I shouldn't have …"
"What?" he whispered, "You shouldn't want me?" There was gentle humor in Rollin's tone, as he held her. "I am not at all offended, Cinnamon."
They hovered in front of one another, sitting on the bed, close enough to indulge in another kiss but resisting, saying nothing. They merely appreciated the intimacy for what it was. The silk of her nightdress was enticing and Rollin, because of the September heat-wave, was naked from the waist up.
"How long has it been, Cinnamon?" he asked her, knowing she would understand his meaning. She looked away from him, not answering but her manner telling Rollin all he needed to know. While Miss Carter had been with the IMF she was the ultimate distraction, a seducer of enthralled men, and the irony of her eventual outcome was not lost on either of them. "We need to sleep now." he murmured, close to her ear. "I know enough about you to realize that rushing in will only cause harm."
Her eyes met Rollin's again, valuing his understanding.
"Come to bed." He dropped his hands reluctantly, leaning back on his pillow and lifted the side of the sheet closest to him. "I want you close but won't do anything you don't want me to do. I'll control myself." he promised.
"But that would be cruel on my part." Cinnamon looked to the bedroom's open door. "Maybe I should just go back to my own room."
"You really want to do that or do you want to lay in arms that have wanted to hold you close for years and years?" He patted the mattress beside him, "Not cruel. A pleasure."
Wistfully, Cinnamon nodded. She rounded the bed slowly and crawled in beside him. She felt oddly comforted when he bid her goodnight. He then waited for her to snuggle in close before he held her in his arms.
The days that followed seemed a wonderful rush of dinners, conversation, laughter and learning about each other all over again.
Rollin had discovered that Cinnamon no longer favored roses but loved lilacs and, one cool Friday morning, he had an elaborate bouquet sent to her office near Fairfax. Of course, Ivy and Betty questioned their superior about her new lover, wanting to know all about him. Where did they meet and how long had they been together? Cinnamon was able to divert the women's attention with the urgency of a fashion layout that had mere weeks for completion. They needed to get ready for the November show.
Then, during an evening in early October, when Rollin had taken her to Antonio's, a restaurant serving only the finest Italian cuisine, she felt a change in the air. Cinnamon asked him what was on his mind, why he was so distracted, and Rollin confessed he had been thinking a bit too deeply about some past assignments with the IMF.
She reminded him that it did no good, rehashing Solinia, and that if they had a future together they needed to move forward.
He could have reminded her that, more than any other, he understood. Rollin was not pushing her into physical intimacy until she was ready, but instead he said: "It's not Solinia I was thinking about."
"The East European People's Republic." he said and waited for her reaction.
"The Emil Scarbeck case?" she recalled.
"Yes, you were Mona Bern and I was Fritz, the Master of Ceremonies." he nearly smiled.
"Ah yes, and clever Kurt Lom." She smiled and shook her head back and forth, recollecting the challenges of the case. "What made you think of that mission?" she asked.
"We worked very closely together then, rehearsing the act, and I remembered admiring you and thinking that you were a natural."
"Actress or flirt?"
"Both, I suppose." His smile lessoned, "But I hated the danger Jim put you in."
Cinnamon looked at her companion closely, "All the missions were dangerous, Rollin."
"Scarbeck was a psychopath and Jim's plan left you alone with him for far too long."
"I nearly did not participate in that mission - thinking even then that I might leave the IMF - but that was until I learned what he had intended, the danger he had placed you in. I couldn't stay away, Cinnamon. If the nightclub act was going to be successful I knew I would have to be the one to put it together. I needed to be there to watch over you."
"But why?" she wondered, "Rollin, I was never in any real danger. With Jim, Barney, Willy and yourself there …"
"All Scarbeck had to do was pull a gun or press a little too hard while strangling you … If we couldn't get to you in time, if the knock out drop hadn't worked, you would be a dead woman."
Cinnamon scrutinized him, gauging the war he was fighting within himself, and she began to wonder if she shouldn't be worried. While she certainly had issues to get through, Rollin was a man dealing with his own demons. She understood this but also knew he was formidable, strong enough for the both of them. Yet, at times like this, when he contemplated the past and was possibly feeling his age, wondering if he had lived the best life he could, his melancholy was practically in the air they breathed.
And he was waiting for her. He would wait for as long as it took, he said.
Cinnamon, not for the first time, wondered if that was natural and if she was contributing to his gloom. It was time. She needed to break down some walls, one very important wall if her relationship with this man was to move on. Cinnamon lifted a hand, reaching across the table, and touched his cheek. "Let's go back to my place, Rollin."
"We haven't been served yet." he murmured.
"I don't care." Her eyes met his, steady and warm.
He said nothing, merely leaving cash and a generous tip on their table.
They were in each other's arms, embracing, taking in each other's scent, kissing and experiencing one another, before she closed and locked the front door. They pulled off their light coats, tossing them to the floor and she was halfway up the stairs, urging him to follow without words but actions.
Inside her room, they moved to the bed, still embracing, lips pulling, hands caressing.
"Cinnamon …" he kissed her neck, "… are you sure?"
"Yes." she breathed, "Oh, yes."
They undressed one another, tenderly.
He was attentive but careful, watching her reaction, and when he lowered her to the bed, felt her sudden nervousness, Rollin whispered: "It's me … only me … you and I together, Cinnamon. I love you. More than anything or anyone."
"Oh …" She molded herself to him and begged Rollin to continue. Then, Cinnamon whispered, "I love you too." as she opened herself to him.
Mr. Robert Howard
Miss Susan Cartier
Respectfully request the pleasure
of your company at their wedding ceremony
Lewis Morrow Hall
December 20, 1980
Reception to follow.
"She's lovely." Colleen Collier, Barney's wife, whispered by his side as they watched the couple dance, holding one another close, speaking softly as they embraced. The music was soft and lyrical and a few other couples were on the floor as well. Cinnamon wore an off-white dress, trimmed with antique lace, the hem just slightly past her knees. Her silver-blond hair fell in soft waves, held slightly back with a diamond hair clip. Rollin wore a stylish blue suit and appeared quite dapper. "Has he always had the limp?" Colleen asked, "I hardly noticed it at the ceremony."
"No." Barney replied, studying them, "It's not as bad as it once was."
Their wedding had been simple, to the point, but meaningful. 'Economical.' Jim Phelps would have said, ignoring the deep meaning behind their words or how, after ten years, the couple had once again found one another. 'With my help.' Collier nearly smiled, recalling his meeting with Rollin a few years ago.
"He's rather handsome. I feel I have seen him before." She thought aloud, "You say you worked with them both?"
"Yes." Barney sipped a glass of champagne.
"On some of those secret government assignments you could never tell me about?"
"Yes." and he looked at his wife, smiling mildly.
She nodded, knowing better than to press him further. It was the life she had agreed to, marrying him many years ago, baring Barney a handsome son, and never questioning when he came home exhausted - often after weeks away. Occasionally, she would get a call, telling her Barney was wounded, but she should not worry … Not worry? Always mysterious but she had accepted it. If she had loved her husband less they might have parted years ago - but she did love him, secrets and all. He was a good man, intelligent nearly to a fault, and a great provider.
Willy Armitage came over to them, without his date who had disappeared into the powder room, lifting his own glass of champagne. He did not indulge often but, when the occasion called for it, he was happy to celebrate with his friends, "Have you seen Jim?" he asked Barney and Colleen, "I'm surprised he's not here."
"I'm not." Barney said and met the big man's eyes, pointedly.
"Guess you're right."
They had always suspected the leader of their IMF team was deeply attracted to Cinnamon, possibly even in love with her. After the debacle in Solinia, when she and Rollin had left the IMF, he was never quite the same.
On the floor, Rollin asked her: "Are you happy?"
"So happy." Cinnamon replied. "And in six months we will be even happier."
They were adopting a child, a little girl from India, with large brown eyes and a warm smile. They were disappointed at first, finding they had to wait so long but, Rollin surmised, it allowed them - as newlyweds - to have an extended honeymoon. They would spend a few weeks in Hawaii, a month in Europe, and then Cinnamon would want to come back to their new home in Beverly Hills, to work on their daughter's bedroom. They would make her happy … and they would be a family; something neither thought possible a year ago.
They gazed at one another then Rollin glanced briefly away and spotted Barney and Willy, who lifted their champagne glasses in their direction in a 'cheers' gesture. He smiled at them and waved.
Cinnamon, seeing this, did the same as her new husband.
To the back of the crowd, unseen by most, another man with white hair and a rather glum expression, also lifted a glass. "Mission accomplished." he muttered, drinking then putting his glass on the nearest side table.
He walked from the hall and did not look back.