by Domashita Romero (地下ロメロ)
illustrated by serenity_winner
The three broken ribs and the black eye she could live with; what really had Ginger upset was how they’d taken her lipstick. She had a little split at the corner of her lip that she couldn’t stop herself from poking with her teeth and tongue; without her face on, she had nothing to keep her from bothering at it. Just another indignity on top of all the others today. Getting thrown down the stairs by a Turkish opium dealer had really been the highlight of the day.
She heard some noise outside of her hospital room and pulled the thin, scratchy blanket up over as much of her as she could. She had had enough of doctors for the day, thank you very much. The sound she heard coming through the door didn’t sound like any of the doctors who’d been poking and prodding and interrogating her; it sounded like a very familiar little hurricane.
“I know for a fact that Miss Snapps was admitted to this hospital and you are going to show me to her room before I buy this whole ward and turn it into a bowling alley,” she heard, and closed her eyes as she both smiled and felt a little bit of tears prick at her eyes. “And I don’t even like bowling!” The doctor’s voice was lower and softer, and Ginger couldn’t quite make out what he said, but she sure heard the response. “I didn’t get hit on the head hard enough not to know who my own secretary is. Ginger! Virginia Eudora Snapps, six feet tall, redhead, killer blue eyes, can punch a Frenchman through a church door, and makes a hell of a Manhattan. She came into this hospital with me and you’re going to tell me where you’ve put her.”
There was some quiet again as Ginger couldn’t hear the doctor speak. She wiped a little at her eyes with her fingers, wincing at the sting against her shiner and more again at how the last of her mascara was coming off. “I’m thinking you’re the one who got a serious bump on the noggin, doc, but fine, you show me this Snapps fella you say you’ve got.”
Ginger took a very long, slow breath to steel herself as she heard footsteps come to her door. The doctor opened it and Wallace came marching in; he had a bandage on his head but didn’t look too much worse for wear. That Turk had just given him a solid knock with a blackjack before trying to get past Ginger. It made it all the worse that the creep had gotten away. “Aw, Ginger, sweetheart, look what they’ve done to you,” he said, then glanced over his shoulder to the doctor. “Give us some privacy, would you? You give me much more trouble and I’ll see you taking turkey temperatures in Topeka.” The doctor closed the door quickly and Wallace came close to Ginger’s bed.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Morton,” she said, and her voice was rough from more than just the tears she was holding back. “I’ll have my resignation on your desk as soon as I’m out of the hospital.”
“What?” Wallace said. “What’s all this nonsense, now.” He came over and brushed a bit of hair back out of her face, making a sympathetic sound as he saw the bruising around her eye. Her hair was a mess and she had no means to style it; the best they’d allowed her to do was tie it back at the nape of her neck. “You think I want to get rid of my best girl just because she took a tumble?”
Ginger looked up at him and blinked hard, clearing her eyes as her brows furrowed in confusion. If anyone in the world knew how self-absorbed and caught up in the world of his own majesty Wallace Morton was, it was her, but did he really not even notice? Ginger felt like it had to be the most obvious thing in the world. “Didn’t they tell you, though?” Ginger said. “Wasn’t that what was going on out there?”
Wallace shook his head. “Some nonsense,” he said. “You know the only doctor I trust is my own and that’s because I sign his paychecks. They’ve just got your files mixed up with some fella named Eugene who’s got the same last name as you.” He gave her a grin, the little crinkle of his cheek in his neat beard that never failed to make her heart skip, no matter how much she tried to get it not to. “What, you’ve got a brother you’ve been keeping secret from me?”
She laughed a little, that kind that got all bubbly when you were crying. “In a way,” she said, and sniffed. Wallace was quick with his handkerchief, handing it to her so she could dab her nose and eyes. “Thank you.” She held the cloth to her face for a moment, smelling the dark sweet smell of Wallace’s French cologne. When she put it down again, she held her chin high. “Mr. Morton, I’m starting to suspect you got a knock in your head hard enough to make you go blind, because it sure as hellfire was nothing but clear to all those doctors who treated me that I’m Eugene Snapps.”
Wallace frowned for a moment, and then took a little step back from the hospital bed to give Ginger a very careful long look. Ginger’s hands — and Mr. Morton had to be noticing now the exact proportion her hands were — were trembling as she let the hospital blanket she’d been holding up to nearly her neck drop. She had no idea what the hospital staff had done with any of her underthings, let alone her breasts. Those damned things had been expensive and if she was going to be out of a job now and back to using rolled-up stockings…
“Nope,” Wallace said, breaking her from that train of thought. “You’re Ginger Snapps.” There was a look on his face Ginger had only seen a few times before, like when he’d had a bit too much to drink and someone started talking about his father. “Same Ginger as always. My best girl.”
The tears Ginger had managed to stave off for a while came back. “I’m not, though,” she said. She dropped her voice down to a whisper, even though there was no point in being quiet; everyone outside that door already knew her secret good and well. “I’m a man.”
Wallace just shook his head and reached out to put two of his neat fingers against her lips. He took a deep breath and loosened his tie a bit before tossing it over his shoulder and starting to unbutton his shirt. Ginger felt blood rush to her cheeks, but Wallace made a little scolding sound when she started to look away. He unbuttoned his shirt down to where it was tucked in, and then held the two sides open to reveal his chest. Underneath his shirt Ginger saw cloth wrapped around his chest, not unlike the bandages that were around her own right now for her rib injuries. Wallace kept looking at her, his eyes hard and serious.
“You getting the picture, sweetheart, or do I need to show you more?” Ginger kept looking, and suddenly she gasped as she realized. It was no rib injury those bindings were covering up, nor any other injury at all except the kind she felt herself when she got dressed in the morning. She looked up to Wallace’s eyes, her own wide and wet. He smiled a little and started buttoning up his shirt. “You’re as much of a man as I am a woman.” He got his clothing back in order, though his tie was still hanging loose. “So if I see any letters of resignation on my desk I’m turning them into airplanes and throwing them off the roof.” He let out a little huff of breath; only because Ginger had known him for so long could she sense the little shakiness in it. “I’ll go raise some hell with these idiot doctors and see you walk out of here with your head held high. No one makes my Ginger cry and gets away with it.”
He started to walk out, but Ginger called out to stop him. “Mr. Morton, wait,” she said, and he turned. She let out a sigh and pursed her lips. “Your tie is a mess, come here.”
He walked back over to her and let her fix up his knot. “See? I’d be helpless without you.”
Ginger huffed a little. “You’re helpless no matter what.”
Wallace gave her that grin, bright teeth centered in that beard she now had a few questions about, and gave her a little chuck on the chin. If he felt her whiskers coming in, he paid it no mind. “I was smart enough to hire you, wasn’t I?”
“Suppose you were, Mr. Morton,” she said, and he was gone again, leaving her to dry her eyes some more with his sweet-smelling handkerchief.
“Thank you very much for your resume, Miss Walters,” Wallace said, even though he’d only given the faintest glance over the paper when she’d come it. “Lovely speaking to you today and maybe you’ll be hearing from me again soon.”
Miss Walters — Janice was her name — was a sweet little blonde thing come in to the big city from corn country with sparkling eyes and a heart full of dreams. She had skinny hips and long fingernails and a little gap between her teeth, and while Wallace could see himself giving her a ring, it wasn’t going to be for the job. There was a lot more to working for him than being a good typist and fixing a proper cup of coffee.
He cracked his neck from side to side and put Miss Walters’ resume to the side. “If the next young lady would like to come in?” he called out to the front room. Normally he’d have a secretary sending them in, but, well, hence the need for interviews. No one came into his office, though, and he couldn’t even hear the shuffling of stockings or see a pretty shadow on the wall. “Ah, no one left?” he said, apparently to himself. He picked up the little stack of resumes. “Hell, guess I’ll have to look at these.” There’d been plenty of lovely, smart, talented girls in today, but he wanted to keep an assistant for more than a few months this time; he’d have to be picky.
Wallace had just started to put his feet up on his desk and thumb through the papers when he heard a rattling and slam of the outer door, the telltale sound of high heels on hard wood, and a soft, throaty, feminine voice saying some very unladylike words. Wallace put his feet on the floor and the stack of resumes down and went to the waiting room.
“Now, I’m sorry, Miss, but the time for applicants to arrive ended at four o’clock, and…” he trailed off. He was only playing at hardball anyway, but he couldn’t even think of busting chops once he got a look at the girl who’d come through his door. She had to be taller than him by a full head, and oh, did he have a thing for tall girls. A thing that the boys at the club liked to poke fun at, considering he had to put lifts in his loafers just to get up to five and change. She was tall and she was redheaded — and no boy at the club ever poked fun at a thing for redheads, because they had some sense in their money-padded brains — though what had clearly been neatly, carefully rolled into waves earlier had gone frazzled with wind and sweat, a few strands sticking across her forehead.
“No, you,” she said, and stopped to take a breath, straightening up, or at least trying to. It looked like one of her heels wasn’t in the best shape. “You listen, now. I got here despite my bus not showing up, getting my heel caught in a grate running to the train, getting my dress caught in the door getting on that, and then having some filthy hobo slap me on the bottom while I was coming to your office, and I am not leaving until you at least take my resume!” She held up the white paper she held clutched in one beautifully manicured but very strong looking hand.
Wallace put his hands on his hips and grinned. “Well, I’d be a fool to turn away a girl with such enthusiasm! Let me take your resume and you can come in and have a seat, Miss…”
“Snapps,” she said, and walked to him, chin held high with dignity even as she hobbled on her mangled heel. “Virginia Snapps.” She held out her hand and Wallace took it, brushing his thumb over her soft knuckles as he gave it a light squeeze. She let out a breath and brushed some of her disheveled hair out of her face. “People usually call me Ginger, though.”
Wallace gave her a good once-over. She had a hell of a set of stems, all the way to the floor and back up again, and filled out that green dress she had on just right. Of course, if Wallace was going to hire girls based on looks, he’d’ve been done with this process four hours ago. He wanted an assistant that was easy on the eyes, but that wasn’t all. “Ginger, huh?” he said, and slipped his thumbs behind his suspenders for a little tug. “Well, Miss Snapps, sounds like you’ve had a hell of a day, so come take a seat and let’s have a little chat.”
Ginger dipped her chin a little, clearly still trying to maintain a demeanor of dignity while also obviously relieved. Wallace pulled out the chair in front of his desk for her and saw the greasy splotch that the subway door had left on her skirt as she smoothed it under her to sit down. Damn shame. He’d get that cleaned for her, regardless.
He took a seat behind his desk and looked at her resume, giving it more than just the cursory look-see he’d given others. He had a good feeling about this one. “Indiana, is that right?” he said, and grinned at her. Wallace had been doing a little more grinning than usual today and he could feel he’d have to give the glue of his beard a little touch-up before any evening plans. “Not the first girl who’s been in here today who’s been a Hoosier.”
Ginger looked more calm and collected with every passing moment. While Wallace had been glancing over her resume she’d returned her hair to a reasonably kempt state and managed to clean up a smudge of her lipstick that had made it to the corner of her mouth. “Well, Mr. Morton, if I can be frank–”
“Oh, I love a girl who’s frank,” he said.
Her lips pursed and her chest jumped a little. He couldn’t tell if it was a laugh or a snort of disdain. “Since I can be frank, I’ll say I’m not surprised if there are plenty of girls in this city who’ve wanted to get out of Indiana.”
“Not very exciting, I take it?” he said.
“Depends on how exciting you think corn is,” Ginger said, and her eyebrow arched a little. Oh, he wanted to give her the job right then and there, but he needed to be sure.
Wallace set her resume down. “Well, you’ve got the skills for the job, clearly,” he said, and he could see her get a pretty little shade of pink at that. Redheads. “Excellent typist, dictation experience, and I can tell you’d do a number on my business associates that need a number done on them.” He leaned in a little over the desk. He’d always be a small man, no matter how tall he made his shoes, so he’d learned over his nearly forty years to make up for it with presence. Miss Snapps took in a little breath as he looked at her, so he knew he still had it. “But I have to ask you something, Miss Snapps.”
“Yes, Mr. Morton?”
“Can you throw a punch?” he said, and knew he was one of the few men in the world who could let a grin speak for how serious he was.
Miss Snapps let the arch of her eyebrow speak it right back to him. “I don’t know, Mr. Morton,” she said. “Would you like me to show you?”
Wallace leaned his head back and laughed. “Oh, I like you,” he said. He drummed his fingers on his desk. “This job, see, obviously it’s got the parts that were in the ad: taking notes, typing letters, boring business stuff. But you’ve probably heard a thing or two about me, so you may know I also do business that’s not the kind you do at a desk. And I’d prefer to have an assistant who can assist me with both.”
Ginger bent her head down a little, looking thoughtful. She had beautiful cheekbones and a sharp nose; if you took her all one at a time she might seem odd, but all together she was just breathtaking. “Mr. Morton, I was wearing white gloves before I came here, but then I socked that hobo who manhandled me straight on the jaw,” she said. “So I took them off. And then I ran here eight blocks on a broken heel. So yes, I think I can handle your other types of business just fine.”
If the prick Wallace had in his trousers wasn’t made of rubber it’d be standing at full attention. “Well, hell, then, Miss Snapps, you can start right away,” he said. “The position comes with full room and board at my estate, since I’m something of a round-the-clock gentleman, and…” He looked at her resume again. “Well, I won’t stop you if you want to stay living at that ladies’ dorm, but…”
Ginger shook her head. “No, I’d be glad to stay, but I have to insist on one condition.”
“Bring it on, Miss,” Wallace said.
“If you come calling upon me when I am in my quarters, you are to give me five minutes before you even think of coming in, do you understand?” she said. Her blue eyes were Edison electric. “One moment before and I walk out without any notice.”
“You got it, sweetheart,” Wallace said. Hell, he himself knew the importance of getting your face on before you went to the world; it had to be even worse for real ladies, especially ones as pretty as Ginger. “I only come places I’m welcome.”
The innuendo was not lost on her; her cheeks went pretty, pretty pink. Oh, he liked her. This was a girl who’d been a place or two on her way from Indiana. “So, am I hired, Mr. Morton?”
“I’ll say you are,” he said, and extended his hand across the desk to her. He took it to shake again, and then brought her fingers up to his mouth for a light kiss. Her knuckles smelled like a fight. He was a little in love right then and there.
Part of being Mr. Morton’s assistant was cleaning up his messes, whatever form they might take. Ginger wasn’t a housekeeper, but she kept his house, which occasionally meant to seeing to Mr. Morton’s overnight guests.
She wasn’t surprised he had them, of course. Wallace Morton was something of an infamous figure. His father, Horatio Morton, had been a titan of industry in his own right, but Wallace had made his own fortune. On paper it was through his engineering advances: transportation, weapons, even home appliances, but there were whispers he’d built the foundation of his riches when he’d been a young man during the war, and not always from selling to the right side. None of that mattered much to Ginger; she’d been just a child at the time and had more important things to worry about than who did what to the Kaiser, like dealing with the infamy Wallace built for himself in peacetime.
He drank too much (and there were plenty of whispers about how he made money with that in the dry years), and smoked too much, and gambled, and always managed to find himself in the society pages with some little sweetheart or another on his arm. Funny thing about arms: they were attached to bodies and those bodies ended up in beds eventually. Not that Ginger was scandalized. She wasn’t the most innocent girl herself.
She was a little scandalized the first time another man came out of the bedroom. But only a little.
The girls were a little put out when they’d wake up to discover that Wallace was gone. Little did they know they were all brought to a bed specifically designated for just that kind of guest; Wallace did all of his actual sleeping in his own bed, alone. For such a little fella, Ginger thought but never said, he was awful particular about needing to take up a whole big mattress. He’d wake early and Ginger would pour him a cup of coffee and he’d be off to his office or his workshop before any of his guests would lift their pretty heads from the pillow.
“What a job,” one girl, a bottle-blonde named Miranda who liked to make her daddy angry, said to Ginger one morning while adjusting her stockings, dithering before getting in the car Ginger had called for her. “You don’t look like much of a maid.”
“That’s because I’m not,” Ginger said.
Miranda smiled at her, all teeth. Her makeup was a smudged mess and her dress looked garish in the light of morning. “Well, he’s got you taking out the trash for him, doesn’t he?” Ginger didn’t know what to say to that. “Guess it keeps you from wondering too hard, ‘why not me?'”
Ginger felt her cheeks go hot, but she kept her face straight. She had wondered, from time to time; Mr. Morton was an incorrigible flirt at all times, but their relationship stayed entirely professional. “I prefer to earn my paycheck on my feet, not on my back, thank you.”
“Ha!” Miranda leaned her head back as she barked a laugh. “Only payment I’ve gotten is a champagne headache.” There was a little honk outside, the sign of the car arriving. Miranda tottered towards the door on her heels and stopped to give Ginger a pat on her cheek. “I’ll tell you, though, doll, if you ever feel like retiring from cleaning duty, it’s worth it.”
She had to imagine that it was, but she wouldn’t waste time imagining too hard. Wallace Morton was handsome and charming, but also a cad who rarely kept the same romantic company two nights in a row. And for all that Mr. Morton seemed to entertain guests of both sexes, Ginger didn’t imagine… well, she just didn’t imagine.
Of course, after they’d both learned the other’s secret, after her black eye faded and Wallace was back in the society pages, when he brought home a leggy brunette who slept in her pearls, that was when Ginger couldn’t help but imagine. The girl had actually seen herself out in the wee hours before dawn, and when Ginger brought Wallace a third cup of coffee, he looked at her, and she looked at him, and they both knew what she was thinking: how do you do it?
Well, she had her ideas. When her father had thrown her out of the house — thrown Eugene out of the house — when she was seventeen, she’d wound up on her knees a time or two to make ends meet on her way from Indiana to the big city. A lot of fellas weren’t too interested in what was under the dress as long as the lips had a nice enough shade of lipstick on them. So, she knew quite well there were ways… but it just seemed absurd that Wallace Morton would be involved in anything where his own enjoyment wasn’t foremost priority.
“Ginger, what do you think about Paris?” Wallace said to her before she could leave his office to puzzle over it in private.
“I hear it’s awful nice in the spring,” she said.
Wallace laughed. “Oh, it is,” he said. “But it’s nice year-round. Nothing but wine, women, and song.”
“Why, Mr. Morton, you have plenty of those right here,” she said.
“Ah, but everything’s better when it’s French,” he said, and took a drink of his coffee. “And I’ll tell you something else, Ginger, you can get some real interesting things in Paris. Real specialty items, and I mean a lot more special than what you’ll find in the back page of some magazine.”
Ginger’s eyebrows raised, but she managed to keep her face mostly calm. She’d gotten some rather important items of her own daily wardrobe out of some interesting back pages, sent in discreet brown paper to the ladies’ dorm. A bunch of the girls there knew, and they were sweethearts, all; only wanted to help Ginger look her best. “Is that so, Mr. Morton?”
“It is so, Ginger, it is so indeed,” he said. “You ever seen Paris?”
Ginger laughed. “Someone made an Eiffel Tower out of corn stalks at the county fair once. That count?”
Wallace grinned, big and toothy. “Don’t think it does, but it sounds like a hell of a sight,” he said. “I’ll take you to Paris someday, sweetheart. And maybe you take me to the county fair. They’ve got pig-judging competitions there, right?”
Ginger couldn’t help but smile. “I think we could take home a blue ribbon, Mr. Morton.”
The wind was whipping around Wallace’s ears as he tried to keep his footing on the deck of the dirigible. He grasped onto a railing that was right next to a sign that said “ACHTUNG! GEFAHR!”
“Yeah, no kidding, Fritz,” he said to the misty air around him as he pulled himself steadily up on both legs. He couldn’t see Ginger and he couldn’t hear her, either, not with the wind and the sound of the propellers. He also couldn’t see the snake that’d brought them out here, the man in the grey suit with the bomb that was going to send this whole boat out of the sky.
“Wallace!” he heard her voice, and it was not the time to think it, but damn did he love it when she called him by his first name. The air around him became clear and he could see her down at the other end of the thin deck, the wind whipping her dress around her legs and her hair around her face. He started to move to her as fast as he could, keeping his hand on the rail, but then Ginger yelled, “Behind you!”
Wallace spun around and lost his balance just in time to avoid a punch that would have nailed him right in the back of the noggin and probably sent him over the edge. “Sneaky little devil, aren’t you?” he said, and came back up to put a solid shoe-print right in the center of the Hun’s suit. He staggered back and Wallace went skidding away from him on the deck to get closer to Ginger.
The boxhead wasn’t slowed down enough, though, and was coming in on them fast. They were backed into a corner, too close to tipping over the edge into the whirling blades below them. “Should’ve aimed a little southward, Mr. Morton.”
“C’mon, sweetheart, you know I don’t go for low blows,” he said.
“Liar,” she said.
Wallace shrugged. “True,” he said, and launched himself forward again, giving Jerry a good punch under the jaw and following it up with a knee right in die Juwelen der Familie. Wallace had plenty of complaints about his own lower decks, but not having that particular vulnerability was a nice benefit. “Ginger!” he shouted as he introduced that Teutonic nose to his left fist. “The bomb!”
“Yes, sir!” she said, and he had to admit, he liked that too.
Wallace’s right knuckles were spattered with his dancing partner’s blood, but he turned tail and ran around the wind of the deck before Wallace could get himself a matching set. “Son of a bitch,” he said and tried to give chase, cursing the wind and cursing his damn short legs. He hadn’t put on the right shoes this morning for playing round-the-mulberry-bush with a German saboteur thousands of feet in the air.
He heard Ginger scream as he rounded another corner on the dirigible deck. “Son of a bitch,” he said again as he gave up hanging on to the railing to run faster. If anything happened to her, he deserved to get blown off. He saw Ginger and Fritz at the end of the deck, caught in a tussle. He was even taller than she was, and she was hampered by something in her arms — the bomb!
“Ginger!” he shouted, but hell to his worry, of course his girl had things right under control. She stomped right on one of the boxhead’s pointy feet with the business end of her heel, put the bomb against his chest, and gave him a solid shove right over the edge of the deck. Wallace made it to her side just in time for both of them to startle from the thump and flash of the explosion below.
“Well,” he said, trying not to sound like his heart was pounding to beat the band. “That’s a hell of a way to get back to the Fatherland.” He looked up to Ginger, who had her fingers to her lips. She had to be in shock from what she’d done; they’d been in a lot of tangles together, but never one where she’d even indirectly done someone in. “Hey, sweetheart,” he said, and when she looked down at him, she moved her hand away from her mouth. She’d been hiding a smirk, that sweet little minx.
“You still haven’t taken me to see Paris in spring,” she said. “But I can’t say Germany doesn’t have a nice fall.”
Wallace took in a little breath as he looked up at her, at the twinkle in those pretty blue eyes. “Miss Snapps, did you know I’m in love with you?” he said.
Well, there was the look of shock he’d been expecting a few minutes ago. “I… no, I didn’t.”
Wallace put an arm around her waist and tugged her close. “Well, now you do,” he said, and slipped a hand around the back of her neck to pull her down for a long, good kiss, the kind he’d been thinking about laying on her for ages.
A gust of wind put them off balance and they had to break apart, and their hands met on the railing as they held on. Ginger brushed her hair out of her face and damn if she wasn’t pretty when she was blushing. “Now I do,” she said, and kissed him again, high in the sky.
Their first time was awkward. As was their second time, and their third time, and, well, they didn’t really get things figured out until at least a half a dozen in, but they were in love and they were determined, and hell if the trying wasn’t its own kind of fun. Ginger’d gotten awful familiar with the special Parisian products he kept packed in his trousers. And it was something special; that rubber prick of Wallace’s felt real enough in her hands that she could see why none of the girls playing in the guest bed had ever raised a complaint.
Ginger didn’t sleep in the guest bed, though; she got to take up the other side of that big mattress, right next to the little blanket hog. She didn’t quite feel so particular about those five minutes before he saw her in the morning anymore.
Wallace’s prick felt real in her hand and real in her mouth (though had a bit of a funny taste, but it wasn’t like she couldn’t say the same about some flesh-and-blood numbers she’d experienced), though for a while she still couldn’t understand just what he was getting out of it, not until he’d had her back on the sheets in just her underthings and had spent just an age stroking and squeezing and kissing her breasts through the silk, no mind to how they’d come out of a catalogue. Maybe he couldn’t really feel it, maybe she couldn’t really feel it, but by God did they both feel it, that kind of pleasure right in the root of the brain that was better than anything the body could do.
Well… almost better.
Wallace had given her a blank check to buy herself all of the prettiest, laciest, most disgustingly expensive lingerie she wanted, and after she’d giddily filled her unmentionables drawer with just piles of lovely, fancy things she realized that this generosity was not entirely for her benefit. It made her feel wonderful, of course; even when she’d been sad little Eugene, that was how she’d started feeling right, by putting on something pretty underneath her boy’s clothes. Mr. Morton, though, had his own kind of appreciation.
He’d set her back on a chaise, sprawled back on pillows so she felt something like some Arabian queen. Wallace knelt in front of her and grinned up at her as he took off one shoe and then the other. He kissed the top of her ankle, his beard tickling a little through the silk, and then worked his way up, following the line of one of her legs with his mouth and the other with his hand. Ginger giggled as his head disappeared beneath her skirt and she hiked it up a little, showing the lacy tops of her stockings.
Wallace snapped at one of her garters with his teeth and Ginger laughed, giving him a playful swat on the top of the head. “First time I saw you I thought,” he paused as he kissed the inside of her thigh, making her gasp at the first touch of his lips to her actual skin, “damn, that is a girl with a hell of a set of legs.”
Ginger pulled up her skirt a little more. She got less and less shy every time about showing him, letting him see the way he made those pretty satin panties bulge out. “You’ve told me that before, Mr. Morton,” she said, already breathless.
She whimpered as he mouthed along the lace edge of her underthings and slid his tongue beneath. His voice was a warm buzz right against her skin. “I’m gonna keep telling you, because you keep having a hell of a set of legs.”
His fingers skimmed under the edge of her stockings and she squirmed and put a hand in his hair. He was starting to go grey at the temples and it was so handsome it almost made her heart pop. “You talk too much,” she said, hazy as she bit her bottom lip.
“Yeah?” he said, and she could feel him smirking, mouth right sweet against her inner thigh. “Want me to shut up?”
“Yes, sir,” she said, and grinned at the little wild cat purr that got out of him. “I’d like it if you shut the hell up.”
“Anything you ask, Miss Snapps,” Wallace said, and put his mouth right on the silk, getting it wet as he traced his tongue around the hidden heat, pulled his lips right along the length of her. She gasped and gripped as his hair as he licked her through the fabric, the kind of sweet tease that made it so he wasn’t the only one making her underthings wet.
He nuzzled down between her thighs and even just the touch of the tip of his nose was a thrill on such sensitive skin. “More,” she gasped, and he sucked a wet kiss on the inside of her thigh. She could feel him smiling more as he slipped his fingers under the edge of her panties, pulling them down just enough.
She had spent so long hating that part of herself, her dumb little prick, enough that sometimes she thought of doing something dangerous and drastic, but Wallace was excellent at reminding her it did have a few positive features. Very positive, really, when he was in charge. He’d tugged down her panties just until the tip was revealed and no more, and she barely felt the cool kiss of air on her skin before his mouth was on her.
He was so, so clever and gentle and perfect with his tongue that Ginger had no doubt in her mind why all those girls had left so satisfied in the mornings. But there were no other girls now; there was just her. She was the only one who got that sweet mouth anymore, and it made her gasp and squirm. He stroked her through her panties with just the backs of his knuckles as he swirled his tongue around her tip. His mouth was so wet and hot and perfect; all she could do was let her head drop back against the chaise and moan. Wallace even made her sound good.
He teased her with the tip of his tongue, little flickers that made her breath hitch. He was tasting her, hungry for any ounce of her. Ginger had been so shy with this at first, ending things before they got too far more than once, but now all she wanted was to explode. Wallace’s hand ran up her body, over her stomach to squeeze at one of her breasts, and she did, shouting his name.
When she could flutter her eyes open again as the shivers of climax left her she saw Wallace on his knees in front of her, licking his lips like the cat who got the canary as he carefully put her underthings back in order, neat and pristine, save for the damp mouth marks on the silk and the little red memories of kisses dotting her thighs. He grinned up at her and she’d never felt so beautiful, save for the time before they’d done this, and the time before that. Funny, how it kept getting better.
“Get up here, you,” she said, and her voice was husky. She must have been shouting. Wallace didn’t bother pulling her skirt down as he pulled himself up to settle astride her thighs on the chaise, leaning over to kiss her. His lips were warm and her own taste lingered on his tongue. He kissed her and kissed her, and though that was very distracting, she found focus enough to undo his belt and slip her hand inside of his trousers.
She wrapped her hand around Wallace’s prick and he dropped his head against her neck, breathing hard into her skin. It was warm as the rest of his skin, held to him in its smart little belt. They thought of a lot of things, those Parisians. Ginger could feel her own kitten smile forming on her lips as she played with it, teasing her fingers around the tip. Might be nice, she thought, to have it inside her someday.
Wallace groaned like he could read her mind and raised his head to kiss at her ear. “Want to give me a little more, sweetheart?” he whispered, and she bit her lip.
“Yes,” she said, and her already hammering pulse doubled. This they’d done even less than anything else; this, Wallace had told her, almost no one had done. He took Ginger’s hand and guided it back, past his prick to where he was so wet and slick. Ginger bit her lip and whimpered.
“How ’bout that, huh, doll?” he breathed into her ear as he guided her fingers. “What a state you’ve got me in.”
“Turnabout is fair play, sir,” she said, and Wallace nearly growled against her neck as she found that right little spot with the tips of her fingers, the hot little bit of flesh that she wanted to get so much more familiar with.
Wallace’s hips jerked and rode with her movements, and she could still feel his prick rubbing against her as she touched him. He put his hand into her hair and nudged her head back, kissing all along her neck. “Smartest, sharpest, most beautiful girl in the world,” he was muttering into her skin, distracted as his words became more breath than anything else. Ginger moved her fingers a little faster, pressed a little harder, and the way Wallace jumped and groaned with it made her already itching for another round of her own. Maybe someday they could put their parts together. The thought made her nearly laugh as much as it made her heart speed.
She stroked Wallace’s cheek with her free hand and kissed him, though he was breathing too roughly to be held by her mouth for too long. “My Wallace,” was all she said, and then his hand was tight in her hair as he bucked and growled and ground into Ginger’s touch. She’d almost found herself jealous of how much longer it seemed to last for him than it did for her, but that didn’t last long against how damn proud she was to have caused it.
Wallace stilled her hand and slumped against her, breathing hard against the base of her throat. After a while he lifted his head up, giving her a dazed, sleepy-eyed smile. The edge of his beard was coming just a little unglued, and she poked at it with her fingertip.
“You’re coming a little undone, dear,” she said, and Wallace laughed.
“Oh, I’m undone,” he said. “I’m undid. You’ve got me done and undid and undone.” He laid his head down again, pillowed against her breast. “Couldn’t be happier about it, neither.”
She stroked his hair and held him close. “Me either.”
“This is ridiculous,” Wallace grumbled as Ginger did the necklace clasp behind his neck. “This is ridiculous and I don’t see how you stand it.”
Ginger leaned down to kiss his neck, and he shivered. It was strange to have so much skin exposed, but it had its benefits if she was going to do things like that. “We can still call the whole thing off,” she said.
Wallace turned around and took a good look at her. It almost made him angry that she made just as handsome of a man as she did a beautiful girl. Ginger had gotten her hair braided neat and tucked up under a fedora and Wallace had gotten his best and most discreet tailors — which was to say, his personal tailors — to cut a suit for her, all neat pinstripes and sleek red suspenders flat against her chest. She’d turn any girl’s head. He was preemptively jealous.
“No, damn it,” he said, and tugged at the waist of the dress she’d helped him wrangle into. “I need that safe code and one of those Nakatomi folks has it tattooed somewhere on himself or herself and they’re in those baths every damn night.”
Ginger leaned over and fussed a little with Wallace’s hair. It was too short to put in any proper style of the ladies of the day. He was too damn old to be one of the ladies of the day, anyway. This was the stupidest idea he’d ever had. “There could be another way.”
Wallace scowled as Ginger adjusted the little sparkling hair clips she’d attached to him. She was enjoying this too much. “You got any ideas, sweetheart?”
She smirked. “I could seduce them all.”
Wallace glowered. “Not a chance.”
Ginger arched an eyebrow. “You could seduce them all.”
“If any of the plans involve seduction I’m going and putting my trousers back on,” Wallace said. He sighed and closed his eyes, and felt Ginger’s fingers against his eyelids, perfecting the makeup she’d put on his face. Nothing women loved more than playing dress-up, he supposed. “I could just blow up the safe.”
“And blow up what’s inside it,” Ginger said. Too damn smart, she was. God damn it, did he love her.
“Damn it,” he said, and gave the floor a little stomp, then wavered on his feet. Ginger’d been giving him lessons in how to walk in heels and he still didn’t quite have balance. “If it weren’t for the good of our nation…”
Ginger put a finger under his chin and tilted it up. He felt so bare without his beard that the touch made him shiver. “Since when did you get so patriotic, Mr. Morton?”
He sighed and bit his lower lip, before remember he was just going to get lipstick on his teeth if he did that. Being a woman was annoying. “Since the occasion arose where it would also make me a lot of money!”
Ginger chucked his chin. “That’s the Wallace I know.” She stepped back and gave Wallace the once over. “Now, stand up straight. Knees together. Knees together all night, especially when you’re sitting. And no hands on your hips.”
Wallace grumbled but did as instructed, drawing on some very ancient memory of being thirteen and at some event of his father’s in a pretty dress and hating every minute of it. “This better?” he said.
“You look beautiful,” Ginger said, and damn it if Wallace didn’t feel himself blushing. Absolutely ridiculous.
“See, you’re cheating,” Wallace said. “You’re just doing an impression of me.”
“What can I say?” Ginger said. “Being you is pretty fun.” She held out her arm to Wallace, cleared her throat, and when she spoke again her voice was so deep it made Wallace blink in surprise. “You ready to have a lovely evening, Mrs. Snapps?”
Wallace took a breath and let his own voice lift to a tone he hadn’t used in nearly thirty years, back when people had called him ‘Wallis.’ “I suppose I am.” He had to say, he liked the sound of that ‘Mrs.’ It just needed a different name attached to it.
Paris in spring was everything she’d expected and everything Wallace had promised. It was more. Even the air seemed more elegant. She’d bought a flowered silk scarf and worn it around her hair as she walked along the Champs-Élysées on Wallace’s arm, pretending a little that she might be a princess in exile, hiding out until some hero could help her retake her throne. She had a little hero in mind.
Her hero was being damn squirrely, though. He’d been fidgeting and fussing the entire trip, and Ginger was waiting for the other shoe to drop, for him to reveal the actual reason they were here, how it wasn’t just a pleasure trip but just the first step in some scheme to be enacted, some adventure to be taken. She had packed a fairly sensible pair of flats in case they ended up in the catacombs or somewhere even more ridiculous. She knew Wallace Morton.
Wallace was buzzing like a firefly in a gaslamp even when they were seated at a lovely restaurant for dinner, open to the sweet-smelling air and in view of the lights of the Eiffel Tower. Wallace ordered wine for them in French and she didn’t pay attention at all; she just leaned back and looked at all the lights starting to twinkle in the growing darkness.
“Now, Miss Snapps, I know this is a lovely evening,” Wallace said, drawing her attention. “But we have very important matters to discuss.”
“Do we?” she said, blinking.
“Why, the matter of your contract,” he said, and Ginger’s eyebrows raised. They hadn’t talked about any particulars of her employment in quite some time. “I figure it’s past time we talk some negotiations.”
Ginger blinked at him a few times. He could be the oddest man. “You picked an interesting place for it, Mr. Morton.”
“Always found it in my best interest to do a little wining and dining before making an offer,” he said. He was talking a little faster than normal, which meant very fast indeed.
Ginger straightened up and lifted her chin. “Well, then, make your offer.”
“I was thinking of a very long-term agreement,” he said.
Her mouth curled up in a little smirk. “Well, I hope you have some very good terms in mind if you plan to keep me on that long.”
Wallace pushed his chair back, and then Ginger’s heart nearly stopped as he went down on one knee in front of her. “I was thinking of something like a life-long arrangement.” She brought her hand to cover her mouth as she could feel every eye in the restaurant fix on them as Wallace pulled a jewelry box from his pocket and opened it to her, revealing a diamond of absolutely ludicrous size. “Virginia Eudora Snapps, will you marry me?”
“I…” Ginger couldn’t find her voice. “What?”
Wallace was smiling, but she could see him starting to sweat. “Will you marry me?”
She remembered to breathe. “Wallace, if this is a joke, I swear I will break every bone in your body,” she said, her voice already wavering with emotion. “Twice.”
“Marry me, Ginger,” Wallace said again. “Be my wife.”
She reached her hand out towards the ring, but then stopped. “Just your wife?”
Wallace laughed. “And my secretary, and my partner, and anything else in the world you want to be.”
She gulped in a breath. In that moment she wanted to go back to poor little Eugene, quietly crying at night in bed, and whisper that someday a handsome man would be proposing marriage. In Paris. France. She bit the inside of her lip and held out her hand to Wallace. “Well, you put that ring on my finger right now, Mr. Morton, before I come to my senses.”
Wallace did so and it was a perfect fit. He rose to his feet and kissed her. Somewhere beyond the rushing of blood in her ears she could hear the applause of the other patrons of the restaurant. Wallace pulled away from her and was beaming, happier than she’d ever seen him.
She laughed and dabbed at her eyes with the back of her finger. “You cad, making me ruin my mascara in public,” she said, and Wallace handed her his handkerchief.
He kept hold of her hand across the table as he sat back down. “Still the most beautiful girl in the world,” he said. “Mrs. Ginger Morton.”
“Has a nice sound to it,” she said, and held up her hand to admire the diamond ring now on it. “Why, Mr. Morton, this rock is really going to do a number on someone when I throw a punch.”
Wallace reached across the table to stroke her cheek with his fingers. “Now that’s my girl,” he said, and there was a glimmer of wetness in his own eyes. “My best girl.”
“Helpless without me,” she said, closing her eyes to lean her head against his hand.
“Not anymore,” he said. “Not ever again.”