Here's a silly piece of fluff as a belated birthday present for escapewithstories. Hope you enjoy!

Lucien had missed breakfast again.

Admittedly, snooping around the Carmichael's abandoned farm in the dead of night reeked of recklessness, but he had found the damning evidence. Determined to see the investigation through the bitter end, he observed the interrogation and subsequent confession without sparing thought a for the promise he made on his way out the door to call his fiancé to keep her apprised. Only when the morning sun accosted him upon his exit from the station did he realize his error in judgement.

He had not called Jean.

Resolved to make it up to her, Lucien broke every law of the road on his way home. Their engagement was not fresh and exciting enough to excuse his thoughtless behavior, so she would cross with him. With her potentially foul mood in mind, he practically snuck into his own home, easing the door shut behind him so it made as little noise as possible. He winced as he stepped on a squeaky floorboard, but Jean did not call out to him.

Not a good sign.

Finding the main rooms empty, he peered through the sunroom blinds and saw Jean, partially shrouded by her flowers and sipping tea on the couch. Hoping his unknotted tie and unfastened top buttons would make him more forgivable, he tugged on his waistcoat and rounded the corner with his most sheepish expression. "Good morning," he said, leaning against the doorframe.

Jean's tight smile was a better greeting than he deserved. "I left some breakfast for you."

Of course she did. "Right. Thank you, darling." The new endearment rolled off his tongue without a thought, but judging by blush Jean tried to hide in her teacup, she received the title with pleasure. "Could I…bring it out on a tray and sit with you?"

"I've got work to do." Jean did not look at him as she spoke, proving that it would take more than an olive branch and a pet name to make up for yet another mistake.

"Can I—can I help you with any of it?"

Jean's derisive laugh did not bode well. "No, thank you, you'd just get in the way." Immediately she winced and stole a peek at him. "I'm sorry. That was harsher than I intended."

Daring to take a few more steps toward her, Lucien shook his head. "Please don't apologize. I'm sorry for not calling like I promised."

Despite her earlier irritation, Jean tried to wave his apology off. "I'm not your keeper."

Lucien could not abide Jean invalidating her feelings with insecurities of second thoughts. Rounding the workbench full of flowers, he sat down next to her. "No, you're the woman I'm going to marry, and you deserve a man who keeps his promises." He reached for the hand not steadying the teacup and saucer resting on her knees and kissed the back of each finger. "I am sorry. I'll do better."

Cheeks flushed, Jean nodded resolutely and fussed at his collar. When her fingers lingered on the bare skin just above his collarbone, his eyes nearly fluttered shut. He'd spent months longing for her touch.

"You're quite a sight, Doctor," she teased, her voice as soft as the memory of her breath on his lips. Just when he thought she would lean the rest of the way into a kiss, she rose with a coy smile. "Come have breakfast. You've got patients in an hour."

Groaning, Lucien closed his eyes and leaned back on the couch.

"Stop being so dramatic."

He'd only intended to peer at her through one eye to emphasize his retort, but his eyes nearly bugged out of his skull when he saw the hems of trouser legs about her ankles. While Mattie had quickly conformed to the fashion of the day, Jean had never expressed a wish to don a pair of slacks.

Christ help him if she had.

Inch by inch, he scaled the length of her legs, encased in gray slacks, with his eyes. As much as the sight of her stockinged legs pleased him, the thudding of the pulse in his neck intensified when he thought of every stitch, unencumbered by a slip, brushing against her bare skin. Perhaps the sight wouldn't have been quite so astonishing had he not two days before woken from a tantalizing dream of her kissing him astride his lap in a pair of slacks. In his fantasy, he painted her thighs with the warmth of his touch, itching to squeeze her bum—

Knowing he'd been caught ogling, his gaze flickered to her face, only to find her studying him with an eyebrow quirked and lips curved in a coy smile.

"Something the matter, Lucien?"

You're quite a sight yourself, Mrs. Beazley, he wanted to say.

"Uh, well. Right. No, everything's—fine."

A more genuine, amused smile replaced the flirtatious one. "Just fine?"

With a nervous chuckle, Lucien briefly tore his eyes from her figure to collect the shards of his confidence piled in a smoldering heap on the floor. He rose from the couch, hands in his pockets, and growled, "Marvelous, really."

Jean's breath hitched, and she once again focused on his state of undress. This time, however, instead of touching his skin, she fastened the buttons on his open waistcoat. Mei Lin had been gone for nearly a week, but the strain of her presence lingered on Jean. While they couldn't possibly be more delighted with their engagement, Lucien's attempts at physical displays of affection clearly unsettled her in a way they hadn't before. In the days after their ardent embraces in the driveway, she shied away from his touch, as if it was not hers to enjoy. How he longed to see the light in her eyes that used to be his reward for a casual brush of his hand on her back as he passed her in the kitchen, a gentle squeeze of her shoulders in the sunroom, a kiss on the cheek on a rare night alone.

But she wanted him. He felt it in their kisses the day he proposed, in the way she blushed when he caught her studying him, in the position she assumed under his arm on the couch. Perhaps her faith or her pride held her back from fully embracing the freedom of love. Or perhaps her hesitation was a reaction to the whiplash of falling in love with him, denying her feelings for the sake of duty and honor, and becoming the fiancé of a married man. No matter when or how, they would be man and wife, and Lucien desperately wanted Jean to feel the same elation that overwhelmed him.

Instead of choosing the safe option, bestowing a peck on her cheek and following her to the kitchen for breakfast, Lucien opted to take advantage of the delicious opportunity for their mutual benefit. Slowly, he skimmed his fingers over the seams of her pockets, waiting till the last second to slide his finger and thumb into each. Bending low, his lips brushed her ear as he whispered, "You're exquisite." Determined not to push her too far, he removed his hands, and only then did he peck her cheek and start for the kitchen.

But Jean caught his wrist in her hand, and when he turned, she tossed him another one of those fetching coy smiles. At her gentle tug, he followed her lead, smiling as she slid her hands up his arms and around his neck.

"You like them?" As she brushed her thumb along his neck, her nail scraped deliciously against his hairline, and suddenly he couldn't keep his hands from fidgeting where they cupped her hips. "They're much more comfortable to work in, as it turns out. Mattie's been trying for ages to get me to buy a pair, and I finally gave in."

A barely suppressed smile tugged at the corners of her perfect mouth, and Lucien marveled yet again at the thought of spending the rest of his life with this remarkable woman. "I'll thank her in my next letter, shall I?"

There, he thought as her light, tinkling laughter broke the tension and lit her eyes. There it is.

"You'll do no such thing."