Title: If You Go Down to the Woods Today...
Pairing/characters: Jess/Becker, Emily, Lester
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: Approx 5428
Summary: If you go down to the woods today...
AN: Denial Secret Santa for the very lovely clea2011, based on the prompt, ‘Fairy tale AU is always fun’. This is a fairy tale AU based (extremely loosely) on the story of Little Red Riding Hood.
AN2: Also fills the ‘Bright Colours’ square on my Primeval bingo card
“It’s beginning to snow.”
Jess peered out of the window at the gathering white clouds.
“Hmmm, you might be right,” Uncle James admitted, coming to stand beside her. “We should gather supplies and prepare for the worst.”
Jess rolled her eyes. ‘Prepare for the worst’ seemed to be James’ motto in life. Sometimes she suspected that if she had commented that it looked like a nice sunny day, his response would have been much the same.
“What about Lady Emily? She’ll be stuck in the forest if the snow is deep. We should take her some supplies as well, before it gets too deep to travel.”
If it gets too deep to travel. Jess still wasn’t entirely convinced it wouldn’t just be a brief flurry, that would achieve nothing more than getting the village children excited about the prospect of sledging and snowball fights before melting away and leaving a lot of mud and puddles.
James didn’t look entirely happy, and Jess sensed he was about to get all protective of her. Again.
“James, you know she’s all alone out there. We should at least check and make sure she’s all right.”
The fact that Jess wanted an excuse to spend more time with Emily, who knew all sorts of things about the woods and hunting and survival and exciting things that ladies didn’t normally know about, had nothing to do with her desire to risk the snow and go to see her, of course. No, if James protested, Jess intended to make several valid arguments about community spirit and banding together and watching out for each other, and make no mention at all of wanting to see Emily’s collection of maps and weapons.
But James did not protest. He did, however, raise his eyebrow in that manner that made Jess suspect he knew exactly what was going on in her head, and had decided it was probably useless to argue, no matter how much he disapproved.
“I won’t be long, I promise,” Jess said, grinning at him.
“I highly doubt that,” James sighed. “But do be back before dark.”
The two of them put together a basket of food, mostly bread, cheese and dried meats, and James insisted on helping Jess put on her biggest, thickest red cloak. It was quite sweet, really, how much he worried, and how much he tried not to let it show. Jess could see it in the little creases at the edges of his eyes, though, and the way he fussed with the cloak, straightening the hood and making sure it lay flat.
“James, I’ll be fine,” Jess said gently. “I’m only going to Emily’s house. Not the far side of the forest.”
“I know,” James pinched the bridge of his nose. “But I promised your mother I would look after you. You don’t make it a very easy job.”
Jess reached up on tiptoe and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. It was worth it just for the startled look on his face.
“I’ll be fine. Now stop worrying and make sure we have enough firewood while I’m away.”
Jess was almost out of the door when James called out.
“Jess. Be careful. Stay on the path. And be back before dark.”
And then she was gone.
Their little cottage was right on the edge of the forest. Jess looked out of her bedroom window at it every day, and yet she never failed to have a thrill of excitement when she stepped beyond the safety of the village into the semi-darkness of the trees.
When the twisting path turned around a knot of trees and the cottage was no longer in sight, Jess shivered. She told herself it was just because of the falling snow.
Jess had been to Lady Emily’s house in the forest many times. Considered somewhat eccentric by most of the villagers, Emily preferred to keep to herself. Jess, though, found as many excuses as she could to visit. She loved to hear the stories of Emily’s travels, the far off places she had visited, and hear the stories that went with all the strange objects she had collected.
Emily didn’t care what people thought of her. Emily was tough. Emily was independent. In short, Emily was everything that Jess secretly wanted to be. Which was precisely why James disapproved quite so much.
Snow slipped down the back of Jess’ neck and she squealed and shivered and pulled the hood up. She looked up, and saw that the snowflakes were getting bigger, and falling faster. She looked back at the path. It was beginning to cover over with a thin layer of white.
Jess hesitated and then carried on. It would be fine. It was no more than an hour’s journey to Emily’s. Still, she walked a little faster than she had done before.
Jess spun round. A man waved at her from within the trees, and started heading her way. Through the falling snow Jess couldn’t immediately tell who it was, and looked around for a branch or rock that could be used as a weapon.
“Who’s there?” she called out.
He paused, and Jess realised he was carrying an axe. And was that a sword at his belt as well?
“It’s me, Becker.”
Becker the woodsman! Jess breathed a sigh of relief, and allowed herself a smile.
Becker was widely regarded the most handsome, and eligible, bachelor in the village. Jess would absolutely deny that she sometimes waited at her bedroom window to watch him return from the forest. Or that she secretly wished for the times when he would look up at her window and wave or smile. Because that would be silly and unladylike, and why would tall, handsome Becker even consider her as anything more than another giggling village girl? Besides, James would no doubt disapprove.
That didn’t stop her looking out for him, though.
He reached the path and propped the axe against a tree trunk.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. Jess, isn’t it?”
Jess absolutely didn’t want to squeal out loud in delight. He knew her name! Also, if possible, he was even more handsome this close up, with his tight dark trousers and just a hint of chest hair showing where his linen shirt wasn’t quite done up to the top. The battered leather coat was just a bonus, really.
“Yes.” Jess paused, and the blurted, “I live on the edge of the forest.”
Becker gave her an amused smile.
“I know where you live. I see you waving at me nearly every time I go past.”
Jess had a horrible suspicion she was flushing bright red.
“What are you doing out here in this weather?” Becker asked. “What can possibly be so urgent?”
Jess indicated the basket.
“Supplies for Lady Emily. In case she gets snowed in.”
Becker’s smile suggested he couldn’t decide whether she was sweet or foolish.
“Emily has lived out here for a long time. I’m sure she can cope with a bit of snow.”
Jess scowled at him. She wasn’t sure she liked his tone of voice. “I’m sure she can. But that’s no excuse not to be neighbourly.”
“Surely one of the boys from the village could have delivered that, though?”
Jess pulled herself up to her full height and glared.
“Why? Because I’m just a little girl who shouldn’t be out in the forest alone? Is that what you think? Because, for your information, I know this forest better than anyone else in the village, except probably you and Lady Emily. So yes, I think I am exactly the right person to be doing this.”
Becker held his hands up in mock surrender.
“I didn’t intend to cause offence. I just...” he shook his head. “No. You know what, you’re right. I’ll just shut up and let you be on your way, shall I?”
Somehow he still managed to look more smug than apologetic. Jess was seriously beginning to doubt whether she would be watching for him from the window any more. Becker had been far nicer from a distance, before he opened his mouth.
“I think that’s the most sensible thing you’ve said so far,” Jess said. “Thank you for your concern, but it’s not necessary.”
“Apparently not,” Becker replied. He looked far less smug now. Possibly even annoyed. “But that’s no reason not to be neighbourly.”
He turned and picked up his axe and walked back into the trees until he was lost in the falling snow, leaving Jess staring after him, her own words echoing back in her head.
“Oh, well done, Jess,” she muttered to herself. “He’ll never speak to me again now.”
Although perhaps that might be for the best if that was the sort of man he was.
Jess shook off the snow that had settled on her cloak while she was stood talking, and set off again.
Jess was still annoyed and thinking about the encounter with Becker when it occurred to her that she really ought to have been at Emily’s house by now. The snow was still falling, and while it didn’t appear to be getting any heavier, it was coming steadily and the ground was covered in a thick layer. When Jess tried to peer ahead to work out where the path went, she could not see further than the next bend.
Or was it a bend? The trees seemed thicker than she expected. Jess knew there were numerous little side-paths leading off the main path through the forest, all of them meandering this way and that, most of them leading further and further into the forest.
Jess paused. No. This was the main path. She knew the way to Emily’s house well. She had been careful to look for landmarks, and even beneath the snow the ground had always felt hard, like a road, and not the soft, uneven grass and undergrowth.
No, she was going the right way. She was sure of it. She had just been thrown a little because it looked so different in the snow, that was all.
Jess went another few steps and was rewarded with the flicker of a light in the distance. It was just for a moment between flurries of snow, but it was there.
She hurried as fast as she could through the snow, which she had to admit wasn’t particularly fast at all. As Jess got closer the light reappeared, flickering in the white. She still couldn’t see Emily’s house, but surely the light could be nothing else? She rounded a tree... and stopped.
It was not Emily’s house.
It was... actually, Jess had no idea at all what it was. It was like a big ball of broken glass floating in the air, rotating gently, causing the soft light to flicker. It was beautiful and mesmerising, and Jess stepped towards it and held her hand out. A silver shard slipped past her fingers and she shivered at the sensation.
That was when she saw the footprints. Like a dog, but bigger. Much, much bigger. There was a trail in the snow, rapidly disappearing underneath new snowfall, but still visible. Jess was no tracker (and wouldn’t the annoying Becker have been useful right now?) but the animal seemed to circle around the area for a while before heading off into the trees. But when she followed it back to where it came from, rather than where it had gone, Jess felt the first stirring of real fear.
A very large animal had appeared out of nowhere, right beside the glowing ball.
The noise was so low and so quiet, that Jess almost didn’t hear it. She froze. Then she slowly turned her head and looked around. She could see nothing but snow and trees.
Jess slowly took a step away from the ball of light. Then another step. Then another.
The growl came again, lower, louder, longer lasting.
Something huge and grey lunged out of the snow at her. Jess screamed and ran.
It’s a wolf.
All her life Jess had heard stories of wolves; how they attacked travellers, how they were vicious hunters, how they preyed on the weak. She had seen pictures, but she had never seen one in real life before. Not until now.
The snow hampered every step and Jess had a second to realise that she could never hope to outrun it. The wolf lunged right behind her. Jess screamed again as its claws raked her back, but her red cloak deflected the worst of the blow. Her flight came to an abrupt stop a second later when she was almost garrotted by the drawstring of the cloak, and Jess’ feet slipped from under her and she hit the ground.
It had hold of her cloak.
Jess twisted onto her side so she could look back. The wolf’s claws had ripped a long tear in her cloak, but its pale eyes were fixed right on her. It began to push itself up, and Jess knew it would attack again, and this time it couldn’t possibly miss. The basket had dropped from her hand and rolled away. Jess scrambled for it and grabbed the basket. Gripping the handle in both hands, she swung it around as the wolf came at her. The basket smacked the wolf in the face and it yelped and tumbled sideways, probably more out of surprise than from the force of the blow, Jess suspected.
Jess took the opportunity to get up, but even as she began to run again she heard the wolf recovering. She was going to die. It was going to eat her!
A figure appeared out of the curtain of falling snow in front of her.
Emily had a bow drawn and ready to fire, and her eyes were locked on the creature behind her. Jess threw herself to one side, and the arrow whistled past her. The wolf yelped again.
Jess tried to catch her breath, but Emily was already pulling another arrow from a quiver at her back, her eyes never leaving the predator.
Jess was frozen to the spot. If she ran, what about Emily? She couldn’t leave her.
Emily fired another arrow.
A hand grabbed Jess’ arm and she squealed and spun round.
“Come on,” Becker shouted. “Do as she says.”
He dragged Jess with him, and they ran.
“We have to help Emily!”
Jess tried to resist, even though she had absolutely no idea what she could do to help the woman.
“I’m right behind you. Go!”
They ran. Jess was half blinded by the snow and had no idea where they were. What had happened to the wolf? Had Emily killed it? Please, please let Emily have killed it.
A dark shape loomed out of the whiteness and Jess almost collapsed with relief at the sight of Emily’s house. Becker continued to drag her until they were through the door and into the main room. Emily piled in after them, but before Jess could even catch her breath Emily had slammed the door shut and barred it.
“Are you all right?” Becker asked.
Jess was still gasping for breath. She started towards the window. She had to see if the wolf was still out there, if it had followed them.
Becker grabbed her arm again and swung her around to face him.
“Jess! Are you all right? Are you hurt?”
“Yes, I... I think so.”
In truth Jess was shaking, but she couldn’t decide whether it was with cold or shock, or if she really was injured.
“Here. Sit down.” Becker started to tug her towards the table, but Jess yanked her arm away.
“Stop talking to me like I’m a child!”
Emily spun round and they both stared at her.
Jess’ gaze skittered between the two of them.
“Where did that wolf come from? Why didn’t we know about it already if there was a wolf that big in the forest? How come you two suddenly appeared out of nowhere and didn’t seem the least bit surprised to see it? And what the hell was that light thing? What is going on?”
For several seconds there was silence save for the crackling of the fire in the hearth. Then Emily strode across the room, took three cups and a bottle down from a shelf, and poured them all a drink at the main table.
“Drink this. And sit down. Not necessarily in that order.”
Jess slid into a chair and sniffed at the liquid. James never let her drink whiskey, normally. Jess hesitated, and then downed it. It hit her almost as hard as the wolf had, and Jess closed her eyes and shuddered as it went down. After the initial shock, she felt warmth spreading through her that did more to warm her up than the fire.
Becker took a drink from his cup and then headed back to the window, standing slightly to one side so he could look out without necessarily being seen from outside.
“Is it there?” Emily asked.
“But Emily shot it. Isn’t it dead?” Jess wasn’t proud of how high her voice sounded.
“I hit it twice, but an animal that size won’t die from arrows unless I hit something vital.” Emily sat down across from Jess. “Jess, tell me exactly what you saw in the forest.”
Jess took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down and think.
“I don’t know what it was. It was a ball of light, like broken glass, but it was moving. I saw tracks, footprints around it. I think it was the wolf. But the tracks seemed to appear out of nowhere. How can that even be possible? Emily, what is it?”
Emily sipped at her drink for a moment, her eyes never leaving Jess’ face. Jess had half expected Emily to laugh, or tell her she must have been imagining it, but her expression suggested she believed every word.
“You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? You’ve seen it before?”
Emily glanced at Becker, and then back at Jess.
“Yes. I’ve seen it before. It was years ago, though. I was beginning to think it might never reappear.”
“What is it?”
“I believe it is a magic portal to another world. A world of monsters you can barely imagine.”
A harsh laugh cut through their conversation.
“Monsters?” Becker scoffed. “There’s no such thing as monsters. It’s a wolf, an animal. Nothing more.”
“Have you ever seen a wolf that large before?” Emily snapped at him.
“And have you seen any sign before today of a wolf pack moving into the forest? You work out here every day, surely if that had happened it would not have escaped your attention?”
“No, Becker. Jess is right. The wolf seemed to appear out of nowhere because it did appear out of nowhere. Or rather, it appeared out of the light. And we must either kill it, or persuade it to go back through the light if we are to prevent it from laying waste to the village.”
“Would a lone wolf really attack the village?” Jess asked. Jess said ‘the village’, but in her head she was thinking ‘James’.
“Normally, no,” Becker said. He was still watching out of the window while he spoke. “But I’ve never seen one that big before. And in this weather it might get desperate for shelter or food.”
“Then we have to warn them.”
Jess stood up and a sharp pain shot through her leg. She hissed and sat back down again. Emily was beside her in an instant, and even Becker turned his attention away from the window.
“What is it? Are you sure you’re not hurt?”
“My leg,” Jess admitted.
Emily pulled aside the torn remains of the red cloak. When Jess looked down she was surprised to see blood staining the back of her calf.
“You said you were fine,” Becker said, the accusation clear in his voice.
“Everything happened so fast, I hadn’t even realised it got me.”
“It’s not that bad,” Emily cut in, her voice calm as ever. “Stay there, I’ll clean and dress it.”
Emily got up came back moments later with a bowl of water and cloths, and began to treat the scratches.
“Thank you for saving me,” Jess said as Emily worked. “But how did you even know that I needed saving?”
“You have Becker to thank for that,” Emily said.
Jess glanced across, and Becker looked momentarily self-conscious.
“I came across wolf tracks in the snow and I immediately thought of you being out here alone. I came here to check that you had arrived safely, and see if you required an escort back to the village.”
“When we realised you had never arrived, we went out to search for you.” Emily looked up from where she was bandaging Jess’ leg. “Becker said you were worried about me. Thank you, I do appreciate the thought. Although it would have been safer for everyone if perhaps you had not come alone.”
“Shhh!” Becker hissed.
Jess and Emily both turned towards him. He had become very still, staring intently out of the window.
“It’s out there,” Becker whispered. After a moment he glanced back at them, his expression grim. “I don’t think it’s the village we need to worry about right now.”
Jess stood up and she started towards the window. Emily caught hold of her, and whispered, “Slowly.” Together they crept to the window.
The wolf was right outside, no more than a dozen or so paces from the house. It was prowling, sniffing the ground. Even through the snow, Jess could see its sheer size, its power. She shivered again, despite the warmth of the house. The wolf looked up, and Jess could have sworn it was staring right at her.
“What is it doing?” Jess whispered.
“It’s hunting,” Becker said. “It’s hunting us.”
“How does it even know we’re here?”
Becker glanced at her. “You were bleeding. It probably followed the scent of your blood. Plus, what happened to your basket of food?”
“I hit the wolf in the face with it. It seemed to distract it, at least.”
Becker looked momentarily impressed.
“Not a bad move. But assuming it’s investigated the contents of the basket, it now knows that we are a source of food, and that we bleed easily.”
“So we have no choice,” Emily said, her voice grim. “We have to kill it.”
Jess looked around the room to where she knew Emily kept her collection of weapons. They were all still there, mounted on the wall like painting on display.
“We have bows. Can’t we just shoot it from here and kill it?”
“Doubtful, unless we get very lucky with a shot,” Emily replied. “More than likely we would simply injure it, and it would retreat into the cover of the trees, forcing us to go out and meet it where it has the advantage.”
“A couple of decent blows with a sword should do it,” Becker mused. “But the problem is getting close enough to do that. It’s fast, and it’s difficult to sneak up on it because its senses are so acute.”
“So, basically, we need to get close, without it knowing we are close, and we need to keep it where we have the advantage?” Jess looked around the house again. Despite everything, she smiled. “I think I might have an idea.”
“Are you absolutely sure about this?” Becker asked for the tenth time.
“Because if not I can-”
“Becker! I can do it.”
“Sorry. Look, I didn’t mean... I just thought...”
“You just thought that I was a silly little girl who shouldn’t be doing this kind of thing. That’s what you thought.” Jess shot him a look that just dared him to deny it.
Becker at least had the grace to look apologetic.
“I appreciate what you’re trying to do Becker,” Jess added, her voice softer now. “But you and Emily need to be ready for part two. I really can’t help you with that. So the first part has to be me. Besides, as you have said yourself, the wolf already associates me with food.”
Becker winced at that comment, but then he nodded.
“You know what you have to do?” Emily asked, adjusting the red cloak around Jess’ shoulders one last time. They had argued about whether to use the cloak or not, but Becker had pointed out that not only was it warm, it was bright red, already stained with blood, and it looked like a great big target. And right then, that was just what they needed.
“Yes. And you’ll be ready for me?”
“Ready and waiting.”
Emily suddenly hugged Jess, which was both surprising and slightly awkward.
“You’ll be fine. I always knew you weren’t like the others in the village.”
“I hope you aren’t including me in that,” Becker muttered.
Jess and Emily simultaneously rolled their eyes at each other, and strangely that seemed to do more to calm Jess’ nerves than any reassurance the others had given her.
“Right. Everybody in position.”
Becker and Emily finally stopped fussing over her, and gave her the word as soon as they were ready.
Jess approached the door to the house, paused for a moment, and took a deep breath. Then she opened the door.
It was still snowing, and Jess shivered against the sudden cold after the warmth of the house.
The wolf was waiting at the edge of the trees. Jess watched it, knowing it was watching her right back, calculating. It didn’t move.
“Come on,” Jess muttered.
The wolf remained where it was. A flurry of snow obscured it for a moment and Jess’ heart raced for the few seconds when she couldn’t see it. She knew exactly how fast that thing could move. But when the snow cleared, it was still there, staring at her.
Jess took a step outside. The wolf didn’t move.
She took another step, and another, all the time getting further and further away from the safety of the house.
“Come on, come on,” she said under her breath. “I know you can smell the blood. I know you want it. Just come and get it.”
The wolf licked its lips, and waited.
Jess took another step. She knew she was rapidly approaching the point that Becker and Emily has both agreed was the limit beyond which she should not go.
A fat flake of snow swirled into her eye and Jess ducked and blinked.
The wolf attacked.
Jess spun round and ran for the doorway. She heard the sound of footfalls in the snow behind her. She was almost there.
For the second time that day the cloak was her undoing. The wolf snapped at the cloak and Jess felt herself being yanked backwards. She dived for the doorway and heard the sound of ripping fabric behind her.
Jess landed in a sprawl, half inside the house. The wolf pulled on the cloak. Jess got her fingers to the knot of the drawstring that tied the cloak around her throat, tugged hard on the end of the cord, and the cloak slipped off her. Jess got to her hands and knees and scrambled into the house.
The wolf snarled and lunged after her. Jess twisted in time to see the wolf enter the door. Becker and Emily dropped the heavy blanket they were both holding above the door... and missed.
No, that wasn’t quite accurate. The blanket landed on the wolf, but only on the lower half of its body. Its head was still free, and it snarled and snapped at the heavy woollen material that was suddenly tangled around its back legs.
Emily jumped down and grabbed her bow and fired an arrow at the wolf. It stuck in the wolf’s shoulder, and it howled.
Becker leapt off the chair and drew his sword. He took a step closer and swung to plunge his sword into the wolf’s body. It twisted at the last moment and snapped at him, baring its teeth. Becker jumped back and swung again, but the blow barely glanced off the wolf.
It struggled and flailed and Jess saw the blanket beginning to slip away. If it got free they would stand no chance at all.
Emily fired another arrow, but it bounced off the blanket.
Jess saw the red of her cloak, still on the floor beneath the wolf’s head where it had dropped it. Without stopping to think, Jess dived towards the wolf, grabbed the nearest end of the cloak, and threw it over the wolf’s head. The wolf twisted towards her, snapping and snarling, but Jess clung on. Her arms were wrapped around the wolf’s neck, encasing its head in the red cloak.
“Becker! I can’t hold it for long. Kill it!”
Becker stepped in again and thrust the sword down into the wolf’s back. This time its howl was cut short. Emily moved in with a dagger and pushed it deep into the wolf’s neck, right above its shoulder. The wolf shuddered as its blood spilled, and it finally lay still.
Shock, terror and relief all flooded in on Jess in one great wave. She let go of the cloak and shoved herself away from the animal until she hit a table leg. Then she curled up and let it all overwhelm her.
“Here. Drink this.”
Becker sat down on the floor next to her and handed Jess a steaming mug of something. Jess sniffed it, and decided that a hot drink with plenty of alcohol was probably the best thing right then.
“Are you okay now?”
Jess nodded, suddenly self-conscious.
“Sorry. I was sort of useless for that last bit.”
After briefly making sure Jess was all right, Becker and Emily had wrapped the wolf’s body in sheets and dragged it to the woodshed outside, and then cleared up all the mess of the fight. Through it all, Jess has stayed exactly where she was, curled up in the floor beneath the table. She felt somewhat ashamed of that now she was coming back to her senses.
“Jess, you were amazing.”
She shook her head. “You’re the ones who killed it.”
“Which we couldn’t have done without your quick thinking.” Becker smiled at her, and Jess remembered why she waited to see him every day at her window.
She wasn’t sure if it was his words, or if it was the drink, but Jess was feeling better by the minute.
So much so that she threw him a cheeky look.
“Not so much of a silly little girl, after all, eh?”
Becker chuckled. He slipped his arm around Jess’ shoulders and tugged her close. Jess was happy to let herself settle against his chest.
“No. Definitely not,” he agreed.
Emily came around the table and looked down on them. Jess got the feeling she was trying to look disapproving.
“We should get you home, Jess. James will be worrying.”
It was true, he would be. But right then, Jess didn’t want to think about James. She snuggled against Becker. He really did have a very warm and comfortable chest.
“Could we wait just a little longer, do you think?”
Emily rolled her eyes, but then gave Jess a knowing smile.
“I suppose a little longer wouldn’t hurt.”
She disappeared and Jess heard her putting the weapons back, rather more noisily than was entirely necessary.
“So, what is your Uncle James going to say about all of this?” Becker asked. His words were slightly muffled, because he appeared to be gently nuzzling her hair.
“Oh, I expect he’ll disapprove,” Jess said. She could picture the look on James’ face, but right then she really couldn’t bring herself to worry about it.
Becker shifted and leaned closer. “And what will he say about me?” he whispered into her ear.
“Oh, he’ll definitely disapprove of you.”
Jess wriggled and turned to Becker with a mischievous grin. She normally wasn’t this brave, but this couldn’t really be considered a normal day any more. She caught his jaw with her hand and guided him in for a kiss, sweet and chaste and barely more than a brush of lips.
Becker pulled back, a question in his eyes. Jess smiled, and moved in for a second kiss. There was nothing chaste about this one.
Well, she thought, if James was going to disapprove anyway...