Until Next Time By Alanna J. Rubin

For Lucy – I hope you like flirtatious adventure.

“She saw the gun, covered every so slightly by his sleeve, and looked at what he had his eyes trained on – The royal carriage coming up the drive.”

How rude, Leanna thought to herself. She could not abide being interfered with, so he had to be dealt with. She quietly mumbled some unladylike words to herself as she realized the only way was to give up the advantage of her current position. Her predicament rankled, but she did the only thing she could and jumped down from her concealed perch in the green-leaf covered tree above. The blonde haired man didn’t know what had happened, just that the bright day suddenly went dark as he was hit from behind.

Leanna took consolation in the fact that he’d wake with a headache. “Sweet dreams,” she whispered as she dusted off her black pants and glove clad hands. Leanna didn’t have time to waste, however, as the opulent carriage covered in colors of gold and burgundy continued its steady march toward her. Quickly, she dragged the rather heavy unconscious man behind the low lying bushes. She did not have time to resume her previous position, so instead, began to run alongside the road obscured by the bushes and trees, hoping that her built up momentum would allow her to catch the carriage.

As it began to pass her, she pushed herself forward with a momentary burst of speed, allowing her to latch onto the window sill and golden foot rail of the carriage door. Leanna’s position was a precarious one, and she could feel her hold slipping, when a strong hand grabbed hers and helped her through the window opening. She tumbled inside, not the graceful entrance she had planned, and she silently cursed the fellow who had forced her descent from her hiding place too soon. Her anger at the indignity of the situation was quickly displaced by the happiness she felt when she saw the face of the man who came to her aid, Richard. He was as handsome as ever. Dark stubble darkened his angular chin and the dark blue collar peaking above his gray jacket set off his stormy hazel eyes. Leanna could not have been more delighted and, even though it was not obvious from the disapproving look on his face, she knew the feeling was mutual.

Leanna righted herself and took a seat on the cushioned bench opposite Richard, who remained silent, leaving the conversation to her. “It’s a shame that we find ourselves on opposite sides of the law,” Leanna declared with a small pout. “Otherwise, I’m quite sure we’d be the happiest couple in all of England!”

“Is that so?” Richard replied, attempting to keep a straight face. He hated to admit it, but he found Leanna to be the most irritating and bewitching woman he’d faced in his years of being a detective.  He very much looked forward to their encounters. No one made his pulse race like she did. Richard often wished that they could have a future together, but such thoughts were useless fancy. The law was nothing compared to the other obstacle in their way.

“Mmhmm,” she uttered. The sound came out sultry and the intensity of her stare made the interior of the carriage feel a little too confined.

“Stay right there,” Richard commanded as she began to move to sit on the bench next to him. She looked disappointed and settled back into her seat opposite him.

“You’re hurting my feelings,” she declared with a pout as she leaned forward.

Richard leaned in to meet her gaze, their faces a mere inch apart. “I’m very sorry,” he said as soothingly as possible. Leanna took that as an invitation to caress his face and Richard reveled in the touch of her gentle hands, then cuffed her. The look of surprise when she heard the silver cuffs click around her wrists was priceless. Their interlude had come to an end and he was both sorry and grateful.

Leanna slumped against the back of the seat in defeat. “At least tell me where you’re taking me?” The annoyance was thick in her voice.

“To the palace. You’ve been very busy the past couple of months.”

“You know me. I abhor being idle,” she said nonchalantly.

Richard couldn’t help but laugh, “So you decided to start robbing the royal carriages? You couldn’t have chosen a past time that was a little less inflammatory?”

“I prefer the challenge,” she shrugged.

“You’re the princess for God’s sake! You could do almost anything you wanted.”

“True, but not nearly as fun.” She cast him a mischievous smile that could melt the heart of any man. Richard’s knees felt weak and he was relieved that he was sitting down. “Are you sure we’re going to the palace?” she asked.

“Of course,” he said, but the look in her eye made him question his certainty. Richard pulled back the red velvet curtain to look out the carriage window. “We’re going the wrong way,” he groaned. “How did you…?” he trailed off.

She winked at him as the carriage came to an abrupt halt, causing Richard to lose his balance and fall into her lap. Leanna leaned over him excitedly. “Darling,” she talked softly, “it’s been a pleasure as always.” Their lips were a breath apart and Richard moved to close the gap when she backed away and stated, “I really must be going. I can’t have my brother finding me.” She opened the door and shoved him away so that he fell out of the carriage onto the soggy ground, ruining his gray trousers. Leanna was a vision as she descended from the carriage. Her wavy long dark hair was tied politely back with a burgundy ribbon, her black form fitting pants showing the curves of her body, and the femininity of the frilled white blouse balanced the toughness of the black boots she was wearing. Even informally attired, she looked nothing short of the princess she was.

Richard was slowly taking in her beauty when he noticed that her hands were no longer cuffed. He chastised himself, when he realized that she had picked his pocket during their intimate moment. Leanna approached him, dangling the cuffs in front of her. “Now, my dearest Richard, I must take my leave,” she kissed his cheek and then gently, his lips. He was still reeling from the sensation when he felt the snap of handcuffs across his wrists. He looked down at his hands in disbelief, then back at Leanna. She flirtatiously shrugged her shoulders in response then threw the keys into the woods. “Until next time,” she said seductively as she gently tapped the tip of his nose with her finger then walked away. He watched stunned as she alighted into the basket of the tethered hot air balloon. She blew a kiss at him and waved as she rose up into the clear blue sky, quietly drifting out of sight.

“I look forward to it,” Richard whispered into the wind.

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