~ Chapter 20 ~

John waited patiently as Kate searched her purse for her keys. Once she located them, she quickly opened the door to her hotel suite and ushered him inside. She turned on a table lamp to banish the darkness and shed her jacket. After hanging it up, she offered to do the same for John's.

"No need to bother. I'll just throw it on this chair. I'm not planning on staying too long."

I definitely have other ideas.

"How about a nightcap?" she suggested.

"I could use one, thanks. Whatever you're having will be fine."

As Kate filled two snifters with brandy, John paced. He stopped short when he reached the window.

"I didn't realize you had such a perfect view of the penthouse from here."

"That's only been the case recently, since they tore down the old Madison Hotel."

She neglected to add that she'd spent many an evening since then watching him through her powerful binoculars. Catching a glimpse of him – even if it had meant seeing him with Marlena – had been infinitely more entertaining than anything on television.

"Man, this is great! You wouldn't happen to have a pair of binoculars lying around, would you?"

Sensing that she'd lost his attention, Kate saw no reason to hold out. Besides, she'd seize on any excuse to keep him with her a while longer.

"As a matter of fact, I have quite a good one."

Setting down the brandies, she headed for the closet to retrieve the item he'd requested. Upon her return, John snatched the binoculars from her grasp and trained them on the building he called home.

"Hmm… Only light downstairs is the one I left on. Marlena's room is dark. So is North's. I guess they've both gone to sleep."

He breathed a sigh of relief and moved away from the window.

"Thanks, Kate. I feel much better now that I know for sure Marlena's safely in her room, away from the influence of that quack. With the alarm set, I have nothing to worry about."

Could you finally focus on me, then?

"Come, sit down and enjoy your drink," she urged him, patting the seat beside her.

As he lowered himself onto the sofa, John finally felt the tension of the day begin to lessen. He sipped the brandy gratefully, the warmth of the alcohol in his system helping him unwind. He hadn't realized until this very moment how anxious the entire situation with Marlena and Alex North was making him, and how much the effort of being civil to the man over dinner had cost him.

He offered no objection as Kate took the glass from his hand and placed it on the table. She gently twisted his body so that his back faced her, then reached her arms around him to undo the buttons on his shirt. Sliding the garment off, she began to massage his tight neck muscles.

"Kate, I…"

His protest was half-hearted. He had no real interest in stopping her. Instead, he cleared his mind of all thoughts and let her talented hands do their work. As she progressed from his neck to his shoulders, he let out a moan of pure contentment. He hadn't felt this calm in weeks, not since that obnoxious Dr. North had insinuated himself into Marlena's – and by extension, his – life. The mere thought of his nemesis caused him to stiffen up. Kate knew, without being told, the cause of his stress.

"John, relax. North isn't here, Marlena is safe in bed, and our new plan is already bearing fruit."

"You're right, you're right. It does seem that we've finally hit on something useful. Now, we just need to keep up the pressure."

"We will. I've already agreed to go out with you tomorrow evening, and we'll make sure that Marlena thinks it's a date."

"I hope her memory comes back soon. I hate hurting her this way."

Of course, you do. Why can't you see that she's not the one for you? I love you, and I'm here for you. We make a great team, John. Please, choose me.

"We really do make a great team," John asserted, unintentionally echoing Kate's unspoken declaration. "You've been such a help and a comfort to me through all this."

"You know that I'd do anything for you, John," she whispered, as her eyes welled with unshed tears. She was grateful that he had his back to her, so that he couldn't see the emotion on her face.

They both lapsed into silence, absorbed in their own thoughts. John entertained fantasies of revenge on Alex North, and imagined scenarios where he rode in like a white knight to save his wife from her fraud of a psychiatrist. All of his visions ended the same way – with Marlena regaining her memory and running into his open arms. His mood lifted, and he let his eyes close as he gave himself over completely to Kate's soothing ministrations.

Meanwhile, Kate was experiencing dreams of her own. She pictured John, on the sofa, turning to face her.

"My darling Kate, I've been blind. I was so hell-bent on getting Marlena back that I missed what was right in front of me – you, and your unwavering love. Can you ever forgive me?"

She paused, pretending to think it over, when inwardly, she was turning cartwheels.

"Of course, I can forgive you. I love you. I'm so happy you've come to your senses and realized what we have…"

As she leaned in for a kiss, she was jolted out of her reverie by the sound of John's voice.

"Kate? Are you okay?"

"Hmm? Oh, yes, of course."

"It's very late. I should be going."

"Please stay. It's lonely here at night."

The words were out before she could stop them, and she reddened with embarrassment. When she dared to look at him, she was relieved to see nothing but understanding shining from his eyes.

"It would really give Marlena something to think about," she added quickly.

It was late, and he was tired. Not to mention the fact that Kate had raised a very good point. Marlena would be overcome with jealousy if he didn't make it home until morning. On the other hand, did he want to push the envelope quite so much? It could send his wife directly into North's arms.

Nah. There's no way she'll fall for what that charlatan's selling.

Dismissing his doubts, John made a snap decision.

"Okay, I'll stay. Thanks for the offer."

As Kate led John to the guest room, she couldn't help but grin. She had him right where she wanted him – for one night at least – and she intended to enjoy every minute.