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Rating: PG-13

Mild sexual references, UST.

The woman went nervously up and down within a range of ten meters on the beach. She didn’t care about the waves that soaked the bottom of her dress. When the wind grew stronger she pulled her cape closer around her body to shield herself from the icy wind from the east.

Finally she heard voices grow louder. She turned and ran towards the small group of three men who were heading towards her.

“Gerard… I’m so glad you came!” Irina smiled at him, but he returned her gaze strict and reserved. They had shared a bed more than once and he couldn’t deny that Irina was a very beautiful and sensual woman, yet now she had become worthless to him. Her cover was blown and she was more of a danger than of good use.

“Irina…” he simply replied.

“Please, I need a place to hide because…”

“I know!” he cut her off harshly. “One of my men told me the story. You’ve been careless. Irina, we’ve talked about this more than once! I don’t need careless people in my team.”

“Sure, it was a mistake, but I promise you, something like that will never happen again.” She noticed the two men who stepped to her sides and started to get a little nervous. “Gerard, you know I would never willingly betray you, don’t you?”

“Yes…” he replied and turned away. “Yet suddenly the highest counselor at court knows your name – even more, he knows where you live. It’s only a question of time until he knows who else has been in contact with you over the past years. Maybe he even followed you here!”

“No, nobody followed…” she cut herself off when the men behind her now took her arms and tried to bend them to her back.

“Gerard…” Irina said sharply, but couldn’t hide the hint of panic in her voice as she started to struggle against the men’s grips. “Don’t touch me… what are they doing?”

“Irina, I’m sorry, but you could ruin everything. You’re the connection which could lead the queen’s army to us. You have to disappear.”

“Yes… I know. I could go north and…”

“That would be an option if there was a chance that we could use you again someday. No, I prefer to take a nice ride on the boat with you. And, unfortunately, you fall into the cold water. Of course you are alone on the boat, so nobody will be there to help you. It is an accident, nobody will ever know.”

“Wait…” Irina started to yell and struggle in panic but the men held her mercilessly while they tied her hands and feet. “Gerard… I thought we were friends… even more.”

“We were…” he said. “At least kind of.” He went towards her and touched her chin almost tenderly. Her dark eyes filled with tears and he formed out the shape of her beautiful face with his fingers.

Suddenly loud voices drew his interest away from Irina and he looked at the three of his men tasked to watch out for strangers. They had a fourth man in their midst who struggled against being held. Irina gasped for air – Jack Bristow. He had somehow managed to find her here!

“Who is that? What’s he doing here?”

“Gerard, this is Lord Bristow. I know him, he was my superior once!” One of the men reported. Jack knew him, he had once been a lower ranked officer of his army, but then one day disappeared.

“Now, how interesting. See, Irina, your friend is here. That is what you call not being followed? Or did you lead him here? Well, however, at least you won’t have to die alone now.”

“You will regret this…” Jack cursed, temporarily surrendering to the men’s grip.

“Gerard, please…” Irina whispered. “I did not betray you – I never would.”

“Then how come he is here?”

“I have no idea!” Irina replied. “Honestly! I don’t know!”

“I’m here, to save this Lady’s life.” Jack replied neutrally. “Her family was scared for her since they obviously knew your methods.”

Gerard laughed ironically and even in the pale light of the moon his eyes gleamed dangerously. Jack really wondered how Irina had survived that long being in contact with a man like him.

“And why would an English soldier be interested in saving the life of a terrorist if she’s not working for him?” Gerard’s voice was cold and showed that he didn’t believe one single word Jack had said. Jack’s mind worked rationally and fast. He was used to situations like this and so he did the only logical thing to do, although, he knew Irina would probably kill him for this.

“That’s because Irina and I are engaged.”

“Engaged?” Gerard turned to him and approached him slowly. Irina’s eyes locked with Jack’s in disbelief. She had been able to prevent herself from asking the same question as Gerard in the last second. “Really? Then how come you are the one she ran away from?”

“Things went wrong! Irina and I have known each other for quite some time. I am on your side. I sometimes gave her information. But three nights ago things didn’t go as planned. I thought we would meet an unimportant contact, instead it was her…”

Gerard looked from Jack to Irina, back at Jack and then back to Irina. He couldn’t believe his own ears.

“Is that true?”

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“Yes, yes it is!” Irina said, hoping that her voice didn’t tremble as her body did.

Gerard turned back to Jack and shook his head. “This doesn’t make sense. Why should you search for her if she was your fiancée? My spy told me you asked for her in the city.”

“I had to! Otherwise, I would have risen suspicion within my group of soldiers. I told Irina to leave her house for a few days and hide somewhere here, because I trusted you to help her. When her maid told me that you had probably already heard the wrong version of the story from one of your own men, she advised me to go after you.” Bristow’s words made sense, Gerard admitted silently, still he wasn’t completely convinced.

“So you’ve been Irina’s secret contact?”

When Jack nodded, Gerard turned around and touched Irina’s cheek. “Why didn’t you tell me that you got engaged? I thought, we were friends.”

“Well… considering the last five minutes and what you were planning to do with me I am not sure we are.” Irina replied, slowly regaining her old self-confidence and coolness.

Gerard turned and shook his head. “Fine, I will believe your story under one condition. You have to prove what you said is true.”

“How?” Jack asked.

“Well…” Gerard thought for a minute, then his face lightened up. “You told me you two are engaged. If that’s true, I’m sure neither of you would mind getting married tonight, right?”

Since he was scanning Jack’s reaction he missed the panicked gasp Irina took. Jack was absolutely cool. “Of course not.” He replied. “We wanted to marry before winter anyway.” He ignored the absolutely murderous look he caught from Irina.

“Fine… then be my guest for the next hour while I go to wake the preacher to wed you. As soon as you’re married, I can be sure of your loyalty towards us and you will be free to go wherever you want to.” He turned to his guards. “You can let go of them now, but still keep an eye on them.”

Irina felt as if it had been the better option to be drowned in the sea. Her stomach started to revolt and it took all her mental strength to maintain her composure.

After she had been freed from the ropes that were tying her, the men let her go and Jack pulled her into his arms before she knew what was happening. “It’s okay, darling,” he said softly and his eyes told her to just play the game.

When they were walking to the small house on the coast, Jack bent to Irina’s ear which looked like a sweet caress.

“Just play the game. It will save our lives.” He hissed and she looked at him darkly.

“Go to hell.” She hissed back, her rage hidden behind a tender expression on her face.

Almost one hour later she was standing with Jack in front of a preacher, who had quickly thrown over his dark cape. She felt as if she was in a nightmare and if their lives hadn’t depended on it, she’d have just laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation.

The ceremony didn’t last more than ten minutes. Irina wondered if there had ever been words which had been harder for her to speak than the words she had to say now.

“Lady Irina Laura Derevko, do you take this man as your lovely wedded husband in good and bad times?”

Irina took a deep breath and swore silently, that Jack Bristow would truly regret this whole situation. “I do.” she replied and it was not the promise to forever love him, but a more dangerous one. Jack could read it in her eyes.

“Lord Jack Donahue Bristow, do you take this woman as your lovely wedded wife in good and bad times?”

“I do.” he replied neutrally. This marriage could only provoke a scandal.

“Then feel free to kiss the bride now.” The preacher smiled happily, obviously believing that he had just unified two loving hearts.

Jack looked at the woman in front of him and it didn’t take much knowledge to read the warning in Irina’s eyes. He bent to her and touched her soft lips with his just as he had done several nights ago. He wanted to deepen the kiss, yet he knew better than to do so since he didn’t want to risk an infuriated attack of his newly wedded wife in front of the altar.

Gerard smiled satisfied and kissed Irina’s hand, then he looked at Jack. “Congratulations to a wonderful wife and to be part of our group from now on. You’re a valuable contact.”

They were now free to go wherever they wanted. Ten minutes later they were sitting on the horse Gerard had given to them as their wedding gift, leaving the small village. After they had brought at least fifteen miles of distance between them and the house of Gerard and his rebels, Irina finally spoke the first words after the shock of the sudden marriage.

“Stop! Stop the horse!” she yelled and Jack stopped immediately. Irina slid down the horse’s back without any further comment and simply started to walk into the fields. The dawn was already announced by the singing of some birds.

Jack got off the horse himself and followed the woman. “Irina!” She didn’t show any reaction, just kept walking. Finally, he grabbed her arm. “Irina, where are you going?”

She freed herself, her eyes sparkling with fury. “I am going somewhere! It’s none of your business. You saved our lives, I’m thankful. Now that everything is okay and none of us is in danger anymore, I go my way, you go yours.”

She was about to walk on, but Jack grabbed her shoulders. “Don’t be stupid!” he said impatiently. “You can’t just go away. We are married!”

“Yes, right! Thank you for that too, by the way!” Irina said and folded her arms. “So what? We married to save our lives. That doesn’t mean anything. You can get an annulment in the next city. You’re the man, you don’t need me for that.”

“What do you think Gerard will assume if he learns that we separated not even one hour after we got married? I’m sure he has somebody spying on us.”

Jack was right… Irina knew that it was only reasonable to keep up their fake-marriage for at least three or four days before they separated.

“Please…” Jack murmured. “I promise you to never ever bother you again after this. I won’t have to. I know enough now to arrest the most important people and…” Irina’s hand hit him unexpectedly as she slapped his face. He grabbed her wrist hard and pulled her close to him, but she didn’t even show a hint of fear.

“That was for your rudeness. This whole situation was your fault. If you hadn’t come after me…”

“You would be lying at the bottom of the ocean, dead, I think.” He hissed angrily, his cheek burning from her slap. “Do you think this marriage was my first choice? I had also hoped for a better solution to get you out. But I promised your maid to keep you safe, otherwise, I would just have let them kill you and you would be swimming with the fishes now.” A lie. Deep inside he knew that he would have saved her even if he hadn’t promised to do so to Maggie.

“Well…” she closed the distance between their faces to look into his dark eyes. “Maybe I would have preferred death to a marriage with you.”

“Fine, I will keep that in mind for the next time you are in danger of being killed. But, for your information, I was involved too and I didn’t want to be killed.”

“Your fault. How could you be so stupid to go after me and let them catch you? I know the soldiers of the queen are not the best qualified men, but I didn’t know they were totally unable to not get caught.”

“Lady, I don’t beat women, but you’re really close to catching a slap.” He warned furiously, his voice totally leveled. Irina simply freed herself from him and went back to the horse. Jack looked after her and closed his eyes for a moment. What was up with him? What was it about her that she tempted him so much?

“Do you want to stay there forever? I want to sleep somewhere – a country bar if you want.”

Hearing her annoyed question, Jack turned and followed her. He wanted to help her get on the horse but she ignored his attempts and instead got up herself. Jack took a deep breath and got up behind her. He laid one hand around her waist and pressed her against his body – tighter than necessary to keep her from falling, but he wanted to enrage her after all she had said.

After all, their situation hadn’t been his fault. She was the stupid one who had insisted on escaping and running away on her own, so if she wanted to blame somebody, she had to blame herself.

 

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