Mr. LW had departed for work and all was quiet chez Ladywriter.
She was still snug in bed after a restless night, fully expecting a calm, peaceful, perhaps even slightly dull day to mark her 52 years on earth.
But that’s not what happened.
She awoke to find herself looking up into a pair of kohl-lined eyes of azure blue.
Even in her short-sightedness, she could recognize those peepers anywhere. He was also leaning down over her, his particular musky, spicy, ultra-masculine scent filling her nostrils.
Not an altogether unpleasant way to wake up.
“Awww. So you are awake, my lady,” the dark knight rumbled.
“Sir—Guy, what are you doing here this early?” LW said drowsily, rubbing her eyes and reaching for her glasses.
He certainly looked as if he might be up to something, she thought. And a tad nervous, too?
Sir Guy tilted his head and flashed those dazzling white teeth—really, was it fair for someone from the bloody Middle Ages to have a toothpaste commercial smile?—and took her hand. “I wanted to be the first ChaRActer to wish you a happy birthday, dear LW.”
He paused, licking his lips as he expelled a breath.
“I—have a surprise for you. Lady Leigh helped me with it.”
What had Leigh come up with?
Ladywriter raked a hand through her hair, wishing for a brush. And some lippie. Oh, well, Sir Guy had seen her plenty of times before in a less than glamorous state.
He still loved her anyway, the big lug. And she, of course, adored him.
“Don’t keep me in suspense, my dearest Dark Knight.”
Sir Guy held up one elegant index finger. “Just one moment.”
Striding over to the computer hutch, he began to punch keys on the desktop.
Suddenly, music poured out of the external speakers.
Ladywriter’s eyes widened when she recognized the tune. Was the Hot Velvet Henchman going to serenade her?
It seemed that he was. Sir Guy cleared that lovely, long column of white throat and opened his mouth–
Blam! Blam! Blam! It sounded as if someone was trying to batter down the front door.
Sir Guy, a rather ferocious frown crossing his face, cut off the music and stomped one large foot. “God’s tears! Who can that be?”
Ladywriter shrugged. “I certainly wasn’t expecting anyone.” She sighed. “Since not everyone can actually see you, I suppose I’d best answer the door.”
Blam! Blam! Blam!
“Good thing I wore shorts and a tee to bed, I suppose. Otherwise, our visitor would probably knock down the door before I could even get dressed.” Ladywriter grumbled as she padded into the living room.
“Hang on, hang on, I’m coming!”
She took a quick peek through the blinds of the front windows before opening the door and gasped.
“Happy birthday, Ladywriter!” A chorus of male voices greeted her.
Ladywriter clapped her hands in delight, then held open the storm door and waved her visitors inside. “What a surprise! I wasn’t expecting all of you–”
A jumper-clad fellow sporting a sunny smile leaned down to plant a hearty kiss on her cheek. “We couldn’t miss your birthday, dear LW. The missus sends her best.” He held up a round plastic container. “And I brought you a cake!” He waggled his brows. “Lots of layers and lots of chocolate.”
Ladywriter couldn’t resist pinching Harry Kennedy’s cheek. “Sounds delicious. As are you. You’re a regular dose of sunshine, you know.”
Harry blushed in a most attractive way, his blue eyes twinkling merrily. “Well, there you go . . .”
“Oi, budge over, Harry, give us some room,” laughed another visitor, impressive biceps bulging beneath his olive tee-shirt as he placed the bag he was carrying on the floor. “I want to give LW a nice bear hug for her birthday.”
Soon Ladywriter was enveloped in John Porter’s strong arms. “Happy birthday, luv. My family sends you their love, too,” he murmured in her ear.
“It’s wonderful to see you, John. Just wonderful.”
Ladywriter sighed as she rested her head against that muscular chest. Wrapped in a John Porter embrace was a good place to be. And whilst he might no longer be on active duty, he was still most definitely fit.
“Give the rest of us a chance, will you, Portah?”
Ladywriter stepped back and looked up into a pair of heavenly blue eyes smiling down at her. “Lucas—you are looking so well, too. You all look just—great.”
Lucas bent down and kissed her on the cheek, gently stroking her cheek with the pad of his thumb. “So do you.”
“Liar,” said LW with a wry shake of her head. “But I will take the compliment, nonetheless.”
She glanced over Lucas’s shoulder at the lanky figure in the jaunty beret and blue smock standing behind him. It was Lucas’s rather famous art instructor.
“And bonjour to you, Monsieur!”
Monet bowed and took her hand. “So delighted to be here on the occasion of your special day, Madame.” His address might be formal, but there was a teasing glint in those incandescent blue eyes.
Monet held up a basket. “I brought some fruit, crusty bread, cheese and le vin.”
Ladywriter laughed. “How very French of you, mon ami.”
“Mais oui, Madame.” Monet gave her one of his infectious smiles.
Lucas held up a large shopping bag. “And I’ve got the decorations.”
Ladywriter raised a quizzical brow. “Decorations?”
Harry grinned. “Of course. Ladywriter, this is your birthday bash!!”
“And we are taking care of everything,” Lucas added.
Porter grinned. “And I’ve got the champers and some sort of fancy—what do you call ‘em?—hors d’oeuvres that Layla prepared.”
“Eh-hmmmm.” Someone was clearing his throat. All eyes turned to see Sir Guy standing there, arms folded across his broad chest, eyes narrowed.
“Pray, why did no one apprise me of these plans? I was just preparing to present my lady with her special birthday gift.”
Porter grinned. “Well, if it isn’t the Medieval Menace himself.” He could not quite resist getting a dig in. “Maybe we thought you couldn’t keep a secret.”
The Dark Knight’s nostrils flared as he thrust out his stubbled chin. “That is simply NOT true–”
Harry raised a hand. “Now, now, Sir Guy, the sergeant is just teasing you, of course. Actually, I believe you were, perhaps– indisposed—with one of your many lady friends whilst we were organizing our plans?”
Sir Guy’s bristling stance relaxed a bit as his mouth curled into a knowing smirk. “Ah, yes. That is a definite possibility.”
Porter snorted. Guy glared. Ladywriter shot both a warning glance. “Let’s all try to get along, boys, it is my birthday, after all.”
Harry nodded. “That’s right, lads, let’s all pull together and be extra kind to one another. Now, LW, you just sit back and relax and we shall take care of everything–”
Blam! Blam! Blam!
“Were—we expecting anyone else?” Ladywriter queried.
The ChaRActers all looked at one another, shrugging and shaking their heads.
This time, Harry peeked through the blinds.
“Well, what do you reckon . . .”
(to be continued)