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Thread: Keeping Up Appearances (2nd repost attempt) 3rd August 2015

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    Keeping Up Appearances (2nd repost attempt) 3rd August 2015

    Keeping Up Appearances


    Rating: NC-17
    Disclaimer: I don’t own Smallville.
    Spoilers: Possibly.
    Warning: Huge warning. This fanfic will contain one of the worst things imaginable in the Chlex verse. Chloe is going to be with someone other than Lex. I know, I know, but it spoke to me so here we are. Don’t worry our preferred billionaire will turn up, at some point.
    Summary: Chloe goes undercover as Oliver’s spoilt fiancée in order to discover who is infiltrating the Justice League.

    A/N: Due to the bug problem my story is now here so hopefully everyone can see it and it can be updated. How is everyone?

    Prologue

    “Oliver Queen this had better not just be some scheme to get into my pants”, Chloe said, reclining against the limo’s soft leather interior as they wound through the streets. She tucked her short blond hair behind her ear and and then popped a chip inside, pressing it to assure herself that it was working.

    “Don’t flatter yourself Sullivan”, a decidedly masculine voice replied as he likewise inserted and checked his earpiece.

    She rolled her eyes. Not taking him seriously. She flipped open her compact mirror and examined her reflection. “Enjoying the view, boys?”

    “You know it”, the voice came through clearly from her earpiece. Causing her to smirk.

    “May I remind you that that is my wife you are talking about”, Oliver’s voice broke in.

    “Future wife. And only if things go really wrong”, she corrected him and clipped the compact shut, denying the other members of the Justice League a view of her features.

    “Ever the optimist”, he flashed her a dazzling smile.

    “That’s why you pay me the big bucks”, she returned.

    He opened his mouth as if he would have replied but as they pulled him he just grinned then whispered, “Welcome to Italy”.

    “Grazie”.

    ~*~

    Chloe stood in the penthouse of Rome’s premier hotel, bathed in the bright sunlight which flooded in through the large open windows, draped in an affected air of self-importance and Gucci. She looked about her without enthusiasm from the view, to the hotel suite, to the maître d’. The last of these she sent on its way with a flick of her manicured hand, leaving the utilitarian matter of payment to her beleaguered beau.

    Oliver handed over several hundred Euro notes, ordered that they not be disturbed under any circumstances and locked the door once they were alone, while Chloe simply took out her phone and became wholly absorbed by it.

    Oliver came to stand by her and placed his hand on the small of her back as he asked, “What do you think of the place?”

    Chloe raised her eyes from her device for a moment and answered in bored accents, “It is hopelessly deary”. With that, she lost interest in him and began wandering from one room to the next dividing her apparently unimpressed attention between the splendours surrounding her and those on her screen.

    “Yes, I suppose that it is rather”, he examined the frescos, with a smirk in her direction he continued, “you would have thought that they might have done it up in the last hundred years or so”.

    She shot him an irritated glance, before responding, “Quite”. She continued her strolling until finally she deigned to return to his side, snapped her phone shut and declared, “Done”.

    “No bugs?” Oliver checked.

    “None whatsoever”, she smiled. “I found and disposed of a couple remotely from Watchtower but no new ones have manifested themselves”.

    “You are brilliant”, he declared with boyish enthusiasm and admiration.

    “Thanks boss”, she patted him on the arm.

    He smiled. He always did when she called him that. “So, what do you think?”

    “Are you kidding? It is brilliant!” Chloe enthused skipping back out of the living room into the adjoining master bedroom. “I have to call Dad just to tell him. And Lois and …” She broke off as she came back down to earth.

    “Sorry”, Oliver ran his hand through his short blond spikes.

    “It’s alright”, Chloe shrugged, embarrassed that she had let herself get carried away. It wasn’t like her. “I’ll just tell them when it is all over”.

    “Unless they see you in the papers first”, he teased her.

    “That is what the glasses are for”, she indicated to the large pair of designer sunglasses she had placed on the coffee table soon after they had entered the room but which had adorned her features whilst outside.

    “They will still be able to tell”, he replied as he fingered the oddly shaped glasses. They were enormous.

    “Only if they look closely and Dad won’t read an article just because it centres around you. His schedule is far too busy now that he is retired”, she said happily. She had been worried about him becoming bored and lonely once he had given up work. His decision to take up tennis had been a nice surprise. The surfing had been a little more shocking but he seemed happy enough.

    “No”, Oliver conceded, “but Lois might”.

    Chloe shrugged and flopped down on the bed. “Hopefully we will be out for here before it ever … I take it back”. She had been moving her head around to stretch out her neck when something had caught her eye, reminding her of her earlier discovery.

    “What’s the matter?” He asked, coming up to where she had been lying only to have her dash off into the bathroom.

    “I’m sorry Mr Queen”, she began very seriously, “but I have deduced that we cannot possibly finish this project in a few mere days. I am afraid that a new piece of information has come into my possession and we won’t be able to leave for at least a week!”

    “And what might that be?” Oliver enquired following her into the en suite, his interest piqued.

    “Have you seen the size of that bath?” Chloe clapped her hands together once.

    The corner of his lips began to quirk upwards but he strove for control and a serious expression, “A Jacuzzi bath in point of fact”.

    “A Jacuzzi bath in point of fact”, she repeated and then sighed, “I’m in heaven”.

    “There is a mystery to be solved”, he reminded her with mock sternness.

    “Good, I always get bored without one”, she replied cheekily. She was like Nancy Drew.

    He just smiled and shook his head.


    Chapter One

    Chloe jerked awake. Immediately alert. As always.

    Her eyes scrolled across the room. For a few seconds she had no idea where she was or why she was surrounded by such foreign, delicate décor. One hand grabbed for the duvet cover and pulled it up to her chest while the other surreptitiously sneaked its way under her pillow to retrieve her gun. She strove to keep her breathing deep and even as she searched for the source of whatever the disturbance had been.

    A car horn sounded, loud and imperatively outside her window. She jumped. And she realised what it had been that had awoken her so rudely. That was all that it had been, a stupid car horn. She was going insane. Slowly but surely, she was going absolutely, stark raving insane.

    Now that she was awake she could hear all of the noise, a constant stream of of traffic passed the gardens surrounding the hotel. Apparently in Rome even in the most expensive of hotels, noise was still an issue. It just went to prove that there were some things that money couldn't buy. Peace. Quiet. Love.

    She looked around once again, swallowed, and tucked her gun back away for now. Chloe stretched and headed for her en suite to try to wash her foolishness and regret away. He was dead. Burned. And buried. He wasn’t going to come back for her.

    Her tears mixed with the water in the shower and were washed away just as easily. But the pain, a hard stone right in her heart remained. Now all that was left for her was to dedicate her life to the cause, and search for atonement.

    ~*~

    Oliver bounced out of bed and proceeded to do a quick couple of hundred push ups before heading for the bathroom. He was in an excellent mood; the sun was shining, he was in Italy and he had the company of a gorgeous woman. The only slight blot on the landscape was the unknown individual steeling highly confidently information from Queen Industries but they were going to captured soon. With him and Chloe on the case, what could possibly go wrong?

    He was still in this good mood as he returned to his bedroom, got dressed and was confronted by a grinning fool in the mirror.

    This just made him smile yet more brightly and bounced off in search of his ‘fiancée’ as he heard stirrings in the main living room.

    “I must say that Versace suits you”, he declared without preamble or discretion.

    Chloe turned to him, a look of amusement (and something that he could not quite place) on her face. “Yes, let’s just hope that I don’t spill anything down it. I think that this one dress is about one month’s pay”, she looked down as is trying to assess the price by the way that it fit over her hips.

    He smiled thinking very extremely humorous. Of course he wouldn’t expect her to pay for he dress, even if she were to ruin it. The clothes were all part and parcel of their trip. “You can’t worry about things like that if you are supposed to be a rich bitch”, he reminded her. He adored the fact that she was so different from the other women he knew, but he was concerned that that might bode ill for their deception. If people noticed her inner sweetness and infectious smile then they were screwed.

    “So I shouldn’t think about the fact that my earrings are worth more than my Dad’s entire house?” She enquired, gesturing to the diamond studs which adored her lobes, forcing him to transfer his attention upwards.

    “No, definitely not. You need to channel the ‘I can buy and sell your entire family twice over on what Daddy gives me for lunch money’ look”, he told her, well aware that he was one of them and that Chloe had probably viewed him in that light at least once in their acquaintance. “If in doubt, just look haughty”.

    Chloe was already dressed like a débutante in her silk dress and diamond jewellery,but she became the embodiments of hauteur before his very eyes. She raised her chin a fraction of an inch, made her eyes hard and did something to her mouth and suddenly almost every trace of what he liked best about her was gone. It was rather unsettling but did confirm that she was up the challenge.

    “Yeah, that’s the one”, he grinned at her.

    “Either that or say ‘I don’t use public transport, I don’t want to catch poor?” She declared in her most affected tone.

    “Stick to the look”, he advised with a snigger.

    “Alright boss”, she smirked. “Do you want me to call down for breakfast. See I’m all rich and lazy already”.

    He figured that she had forgotten that he was rich and used to having servants to cater to his every whim. Either that or she was trying to make a point.

    “It might be more believable if we were to go out for breakfast. It would give the people more of a chance to see us”, he stuffed his hands into his pockets. He didn’t know why he felt the need to explain his wish to take her out for breakfast so comprehensively, “Our success depends on being believed as a couple”.

    “Then what are we waiting for?” Chloe asked sauntering back into the main bedroom, spritzing herself with perfume and grabbing her handbag.

    Oliver followed her in through the open door and followed her over to the dressing table. It was strange, but oddly soothing, to see her doing something so personal. Normally he only saw her while working, he never felt as if he had a window into her actual private life.

    Chloe turned back around and looked up at him and he realised that it was a bit weird for him to just be standing there. He hadn’t thought of that when he had followed her in there. He reached out for the bottle and squirted himself with it as well. “For continuity”.

    If she had really been his fiancée he would have held her and kissed her so much by the time that they had left the hotel that he too would have smelled of her scent. Actually, if Chloe had really been his fiancée he probably wouldn’t have left the hotel at all but that would hardly further their plan.

    ~*~

    “We have to make this believable”, Oliver repeated for the umpteenth time since they had got into the limo.

    “I know”, Chloe said, trying not to snap - it was her boss she was addressing after all.

    For over a year now she had dedicated her entire life to Watchtower. To being everything that the heroes needed and asked nothing in return. She had been the one to bring them together, to solve the millions of problems that assailed them from unmasking evildoers to dealing with the IRS. She had been the one who had discovered that there was some form of leak in Oliver’s company and yet he repeatedly told her that they had to “make it believable” as if she were unprofessional or a screw up or ...

    “Good”, he didn’t sound angry as much as concerned.

    Oliver was always good and kind and she felt bad for being so waspish. She thought of telling him that she hadn’t slept well but she didn’t. That wouldn’t be professional either.

    She reached into her bag and found her compact, unclipping it immediately and staring into it. She looked far more put together than she felt.

    “Are you calling the boys again?” Oliver wondered.

    “No, just checking my hair this time”, she returned it to her bag.

    “Right, we are almost there", he pointed ahead to where they were headed, “We are about to become the worst of American tourists going only to the most famous of landmarks, ignoring half of the real culture, and generally just missing the point entirely”.

    “Well, we wouldn’t want to destroy a perfectly good stereotype, now would we?”

    “I wish I could show you the real Italy”, Oliver said with something close to a sigh. “It really is an amazing country”.

    “As long as we get the job done, nothing else matters”, she reminded him, trying to get away from a subject which was becoming rapidly uncomfortable for her. She had been to Italy before.

    “Right”, Oliver seemed to hesitate before asking, “Are you alright?”

    “Sure”, she flashed him a smile, “just itching to get going”

    They came to a stop. “As you wish”.

    ~*~

    The limo pulls up outside a small café in the centre of Rome which was famous amongst Americans for being the place to be seen - if you had the money - and famous amongst the Romans for going only if you wanted to overpay for second rate food and have a first row view of bad manners.

    Oliver almost winced to be seen there but it was necessary. He got out first and held out his hand to assist Chloe in doing the same. He smiled, not for appearance’s sake but due to the transformation which had taken place in Chloe within a few seconds.

    She slid out of the car. Her delicate feet , placed elegantly on the ground, coming into view first. The her long legs. Then the rest of her perfect silk clad figure. And then finally her face. She had covered half of it with a pair of enormous sunglasses which happened to be in fashion, but they could not disguise her exquisite beauty or the hauteur which oozed from her every pour. He had to give it to her, she was a good actress.

    “Darling”, the endearment made him do a double take. So much for being believable. He realised after a second that he was standing in her way. He moved to the side and she strode ahead, causing him to then have to dash ahead to open the door for her. He was the one who was going to have to work on his performance, she really had hers down pat.

    Or maybe they both would he considered as he noticed her flinch slightly as he placed his hand on her lower back. He was not sure what was wrong, if she was just shocked or it was something to do with their mission. He also noticed that she neglected to thank him for holding the door open as she normally would have.

    Once inside, he noticed her inhale deeply as the smell of coffee washed over them. Nothing could dilute Chloe’s love of coffee. He kept his hand on her back, stroking it in what he hoped was a soothing motion, and leant over to whisper in her ear, “Don’t worry you’re doing great”.

    She turned her head to look at him and for a second he thought that it might have gone too far, until she reached up to kiss him on the cheek before whispering in his ear, “I thought that I saw something, behind the car”.

    “Darling, please forgive me, I forgot my phone. Do you mind if dash back to the car for a second?” He asked, just loudly enough for anyone around them to believe his story.

    “Just as you please”, she said in a snotty tone, but he knew that Chloe understood.

    “I’ll be right back”, he kissed her cheek again and dashed back out to the car. He scanned the area and then ducked back into the car, leaving orders for a more thorough investigation to be carried out, but quickly returned to the café.

    He knew what Chloe was like. She would want to go out there and investigate herself or at least be there sticking her nose to the glass to see what was happening. He could appreciate how difficult it must have been for her to go and sit at the bar, as if nothing of interest were occurring.

    Unfortunately she was also attracting men to her like flies. Large, and in one case muscular, flies. They definitely weren’t in Metropolis any more. It wasn’t a chore for him look annoyed and possessive as he strode over to Chloe and placed his hand once more on her back.

    She almost jumped out of her skin and the men backed off, he slipped onto the stool closest stool to Chloe. She was ridged to his touch and he leant over to assure her, “There was no one there, but the team is on it just in case”. He didn’t doubt her. If she said that someone was there, then someone had been there.

    “There is no need to worry”, he reassured her, stroking her back his hand travelling lower without his realising it.

    “How realistic is this supposed to be if we are going to go sightseeing today”, Chloe asked in a whisper as she arched an eyebrow at him. He shook his head with a smile, as if his desire to immerse himself in the role had merely got away from him.

    It was true if he continued like this no one would believe anything but that he had taken her back to the hotel. He teased her in an audible voice this time, thinking that it would only add to the performance, “Are you absolutely sure that you want to go sightseeing today. We could spend the entire day in our hotel suite?”

    “Yes, I need more stimulation that”, she smirked at him.

    “Ouch”, he held his hand over his heart. He would get her back for that. He called the server over and before she could, he ordered her breakfast for her, knowing how much she hated things like that.

    She smiled sweetly but he could tell that she was annoyed. She was turning pink and even more adorable. He began to trace patterns on her back, idly as he whispered in her ear as if they were really lovers.

    “Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb”, he whispered, that was what they said on stage wasn’t it?

    Chloe giggled.

    “What’s so funny?” He breathed against the delicate shell of her ear.

    “You?” She laughed.

    “I’m not that humorous. Hell, who am I kidding? I’m hilarious”, he purred.

    She laughed again and he wrapped his arm around her, hugging her to him and burying his head in her neck. “Fine, I’ll bore you instead. I’ll tell you all about the last Queen Industries stock meeting”.

    Even this made her laugh, although she may have just been acting. It was irritating to say the least when their coffee arrived and he had to let her go to pay.

    He turned back to Chloe and smiled at her and raised his cup to her, “Buon appetito”.

    “Buon appetito”, she replied in kind and took a sip.

    “Strong?” He inquired, hiding his smirking mouth behind his own cup.

    “I can take it”, she informed him with a lick of her lips, even though he knew that she normally preferred the American style lattes with sugar-free syrups “And anything else you can dish out”..

    “Good to know”, he smirked and observed her not only as she drank her coffee but also as she began to nibble delicately at her marmellata. He knew how hard it was not for her to tear into it. He’d always had the utmost appreciation for her healthy appetite, if a slight concern for her ability to go hours without sustenance, work all night long and then inhale take out in under a minute. He had timed her once last week, ten hours straight working and then less than three minutes to receive the food, eat it and recycle her carton. All the while typing with one hard

    He’d have to get her some more snacks later. As tasty as his pastry was, it was hardly substantial. He fancied a nice big bowel of Wheaties himself. The rest of their breakfast was passed in quiet, companionable silence. He started to feel a little more relaxed.

    Unfortunately, a picture was taken of them and not by the paparazzi. Walking. Together. His hand on her lower back.

    ~*~

    “Convincing liar aren’t you?” Chloe said, in her normal tone as the reclined in the car.

    “You aren’t the first girl to tell me that”, Oliver admitted.

    “I’m sure”, she said, getting her phone out automatically and checking for updates.

    He shot her a look.

    “Come on Ollie, you disappear all of the time, come up with lame excuses and do have something of a playboy history”, she said without looking up from her screen, “you have to expect that you are going to get some flack for that”.

    “True”, he conceded.

    She sighed, realising that she might actually have hurt his feelings. She tore her eyes away from her life line and patted his leg. It was odd for the to have physical contact, even after the display in the coffee shop. “When you tell a girl the truth, she’ll understand”, she consoled him. “Girls are suckers for the whole tortured billionaire saving the world thing. Plus good guys”.

    “But not too good hey”, he joked.

    She froze. Then rolled her eyes. Clearly he hadn’t been too upset. She opened her mouth to say something when their new driver turned around and winked at them.

    “Get going speedy Gonzalez”, Chloe ordered.

    “Si” , Barry saluted her.

    Ollie looked surprised. “I know that you said you had someone we could trust, but ...”.

    “He was the obvious job. He almost speaks the lingo”, she pointed out.

    “He is also going to slobber all over you if you aren’t careful”.

    “I heard that”, Flash called from the front seat of the car.

    “He’s had his shots”, Chloe shrugged.

    “I heard that too!”


    Chapter Two

    “You realise that I hate you”, Chloe informed Oliver as she walked into the living area of their hotel suite later that evening. After a long day of sightseeing they had followed the Italian tradition of the afternoon nap to recoup their strength before getting ready for their big night out, but Chloe had been up for over an hour getting ready and so knew that his alarm clock had only gone off ten minutes ago and yet there he stood.

    Oliver Queen had certainly won the genetic lottery. Some people spent thousands upon thousands of dollars in plastic surgery to obtain what came naturally to him. Golden blond hair, large dark eyes, chiselled features, sculpted body and a ready smile. He also looked extraordinarily dapper in dark business suit and crisp white shirt. It was very rare that she saw him all GQed up - as he was more casual than most other billionaires that she knew - but he certainly knew how to wear a suit when he wanted to.

    He looked like he had stepped out of the pages of a magazine. And after only being awake less than ten minutes. It was ridiculous. If she didn’t know better she would have sworn that he was meteor rock charged.

    Oliver looked up at her from where he was standing fiddling with an apparently errant cuff-link. His large brown eyes filled with a combination of surprise and hurt. How had she never noticed that he looked like a puppy dog in certain lights before?

    They spent a lot of time around each other - mostly in the Watchtower - but never really together until the last forty-eight hours. As a result, although she could recite his biography and could work out how he would react in almost any high risk situation, there was so much that she didn’t know about him. For example, the fact that he could be hurt by such a stupid little comment.

    If nothing else it would be interesting to learn more about the man in whose company she passed so many hours of her life. Unfortunately, that day’s sightseeing hadn’t enlightened her to much though - other than Italy culture and art, and the fact designer heels were still high heels and as such were murder on your feet after the first few hours of tramping around. Oh and the fact that she was going crazy and kept thinking that she saw someone following them when there was no one there.

    “I’m joking. I don’t really hate you”, she assured him. “It’s just that I have spent an hour getting ready and you just walk out here looking like that”. She didn’t feel weird giving her boss a compliment as it wasn’t really a compliment. It was just a statement of fact. He could have been a model.

    “Oh”, he smiled a charming, boyish smile. “Well, in your case it was well worth it”, he surveyed her outfit with unmistakeable approval.

    “I wasn’t fishing for compliments”, she informed him curtly and quickly walked over to the table which held the coffee maker. Due to their wish for privacy, they were restricting the number of times that they called down for assistance which was just fine with her. She was accustomed to looking after herself.

    “I know”, he assured her and paused for a second before asking, “Why do you always say that?”

    “Say what?” She wondered looking up at him.

    “That you weren’t fishing for compliments”, he explained, “Or something else dismissive whenever someone gives you a compliment”.

    “I don’t”, she scooped the coffee granules into the machine and clipped the top down.

    “You do”, he argued back.

    “Well, I don’t like those girls who are all ‘I’m so fat and crap”, she replied, doing an unflattering impression of them. Her awkwardness showing through.

    “That makes sense, but you can’t even accept a ‘you look nice today’”, he noted as he walked over to her. Chloe’s only response was to lower her head, allowing several strands of hair to fall in front of her burning cheeks. He reached out to gently tuck them back behind her ear. “You know I can see you blushing”.

    “It’s hot in here”, she tried to defend herself but only succeeded in ensuring that she blushed an even deeper hue. That was not what she needed to be saying him with him that close to her!

    “No, it’s not”.

    Her head snapped up to stare at him. His matter of fact tone reminded her so strongly of someone else. Someone she was trying to forget.

    “What is it?” He asked, placing his hand on her shoulder.

    “Nothing”, she looked at him unflinchingly, sensing that he wasn’t going to let this go. “I just don’t trust people who are ready to tell you that you are beautiful. Or smart. Or anything really. They always want something”.

    “Ah”, he said knowingly, staring at her. “So you were that girl in High School”.

    “That girl?”

    “The class beauty. You know the ‘look at me and die of envy’ girl. The one that all of the boys flocked and constantly complimented and all of the girls secretly hated”, he described his image of her. “I can imagine that that would be hard, That it might make you a little”, he appeared to be searching for the right word, “mistrustful”.

    Not as hard as being ignored, Chloe thought to herself with a snort but only answered simply, “No, that was Lana”.

    “Really?” He sounded disbelieving.

    “Really!” She didn’t need his pity. Thankfully the percolator had finished its job and she reached for a cup.

    Oliver grabbed the coffee pot and filled her cup up for her. She offered it to him but he shook his head. Their eyes met and there was an uncomfortable moment. “You must have been a heart breaker through”, he finally said stuffing his hands into his pockets.

    “I was an story breaker”, Chloe corrected him. “I was very busy getting into trouble, at least once a week, with very little time or inclination for anything else”. That wasn’t entirely true. She had been fully of inclination, in fact if her inclination had ever had the chance to be unleashed in her teenaged years then Clark would have been walking funny for a week. As it was, it had been bottled up well into her college career.

    “So you intimidated them”, he decided.

    She studied him for a few seconds as she tried to determine if he was mocking her, thne shook her head. He really couldn’t imagine a world not being attractive and the centre of people’s adoration. He couldn’t imagine what it was like for her even though he had immediately fallen for Lois and seen Clark with Lana. Did he just think that they had been soul mates and there was someone lurking around for Chloe? The idea was utterly preposterous. She had thought that once, but had soon woken up from her twisted dream. There was no fairy tale happy ending for her.

    He was still staring at her, trying to figure her out. “No”, she shook her head again, “I just wasn’t on their radar and they weren’t on mine. I always wanted to get into journalism. A boyfriend wasn’t going to help me with that”. She added a shrug for good measure and hoped that she sounded nonchalant. She was disgusted with the number of tears that she had said, there was no need for anyone else to know of her shame.

    “True”, he granted. “But still learn to take a compliment. It is really annoying.”

    She quirked an eyebrow up at him, a smile toying around her lips.

    “Well, it is”.

    “Do you really want to get into a listing annoying traits battle Queen?” She demanded, she would have placed her hands on her hips, but that would have meant relinquishing her coffee.

    No”, he admitted, with a good natured smile. That was what she liked about him. He was so free from darkness. “But still, you act as if no one has ever told you that you’re beautiful”.

    Chloe dismissed this and concentrated on her coffee, “Are you sure that you don’t want some? The Italian coffee maker makes one hell of a espresso”.

    “Oh my God, they haven’t, have they?” He exclaimed in shock.

    “Don’t be silly”, she moved to walk away from him but he reached out and grasped her arm before she could. She looked down pointedly at the large hand on her arm, then back up at him but if he had noticed that he was acting strangely, he was ignoring the fact.

    “Chloe”, he prompted in a far sterner tone of voice than she had ever heard him use before.

    “Are we including my Dad? She tried to joke her way out of he situation.

    “I like Gabe, but no”, Oliver said plainly.

    One person had. One person had told her just how fucking gorgeous she was and exactly what he would like to do to her. In great detail. And the idiot she was she had actually believed him.

    Chloe sighed, “Let’s just say that I don’t have the best luck with compliments. Facts, I like”.

    “Well”, he slid his hand up her arm and around her shoulders in a loose embrace, “as my fiancée you’ll have to become accustomed to them”.

    “As I am only going to be your fiancée for a few more days, a week tops, I don’t need to get too used to them”, she pointed out.

    “Well for the time being at least I am getting to know more about you. It doesn’t seem realistic for me to know so little about my fiancée”.

    “Ollie do you trust me with your life? To run Watchtower?”

    “Chloe, you know that I do”.

    “Then you don’t need to know anything else about me. It really isn’t necessary for this assignment. You aren’t pretending to be engaged to actual Chloe, only pretend Chloe remember. And she’s only here to make you happy. So don’t worry”. Someone trying to ‘get to know’ her scared her. More than any of the evil she dealt with on a daily basis.

    Oliver didn’t look thrilled by this reminder.

    “Buck up sailor”, she reached out to do the Lois shoulder punch. That ought to sort him out.

    Oliver grabbed her hand before it had chance to connect with his shoulder. He took her cup from her and placed it on the side before cupping her face in his space hand to make sure she had no choice but to look at him. “Chloe, you are incredibly beautiful and I don’t just mean today”.

    ~*~

    “Wow, Chloelicious”, their chauffeur whistled as he saw his favourite blonde sauntering out of the hotel into the warm night air. “I know that they say that Italy has the tastiest treats but damn. Don’t you look good enough to snack on?”

    “Yes thank-you Rapid Gomez, I think that I will be able to help her into the car”, Oliver sent the younger man a warning look. And not just because he was risking their cover.

    “Speedy Gonzalez”, Chloe corrected him, trying not to smirk as both men grappled for the door.

    “Bart”, he corrected them both, succeeding in being the one to open the door.

    “Whatever”, they chorused as Oliver helped her into the car with a superior look.

    “Honestly Oliver, no need to check out her ass like that. Have some manners”, Bart said, easily evading Oliver’s swipe.

    “He has superspeed”, Chloe reminded Oliver as he slunk into the back seat next to her and closed the door after him.

    “I know that he is super annoying”, Oliver grumbled. “You know that he was just trying to wind me up, right?”

    “Hmm?”

    “I mean, I wasn’t checking out ...”

    “My ass? I know”, she patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. I know to take everything that Bart says with a couple of bucket loads of salt”.

    “Hey”, their speedy companion complained as he returned to the front seat and slammed the door shut.

    “What?” Chloe looked innocently at him.

    “I am wounded. Beyond wounded when you know that all my special skills are yours for the asking”, he grinned at her through the rear view mirror, his intentions obvious.

    “Oh Speedy, some things are better off a little slower”, Chloe teased him.

    He blushed bright pink and Oliver chuckled to himself. Still, Bart bounced back and asked, “So, where are we off to?” Still clearly checking Chloe out through the mirror.

    “To the address I already gave you”, Oliver responded, a little curtly, “we can’t take any chances”.

    “Dinner and then a show?” Chloe confirmed the schedule even though she had booked it for them.

    “Yes, I’m being very traditional today”, Oliver smiled at her.

    “It’s a good option”, she considered, “especially seeing the number of socialites likely to be there. We are bound to come across at least one of the people who can issue us with an invitation. Or at least an invitation to a party to get an invitation”.

    “Did you follow that?” Bart called from the front.

    “Yes”, Oliver called back, “keep your mind on the road”. Then focused on Chloe, “Very true”, he agreed. “But we want to avoid getting too close until we can be certain. The more eyes the more chances of them picking up on something”.

    ~*~

    “I’m sorry darling”, Oliver purred, learning across the table to take her hands.

    “What for, darling?” Chloe inquired in a whisper.

    “That I brought you to such a crowded restaurant”, he smiled, “we haven’t been able to have a moment to ourselves”.

    Chloe laughed, looking from the man before her around the restaurant. Neither of them had any idea what had happened that night but there was hardly a soul about and certainly not the normal high flyers for whom they would have been an object of interest.

    “It must be your personality”, she quipped.

    “Oh really?” He asked with a laugh as he poured some more wine into her glass.

    “Why, Mr Queen, are you trying to get me drunk?” Chloe inquired very primly.

    “Maybe”, he wiggled an eyebrow at her.

    He couldn’t tell if she was feigning tipsy or not; she was a brilliant actress. A beautiful, brilliant actress. This was the first chance he had really got to spend time with her. She had never precisely snubbed him before, she just hadn’t wanted to spend time with him. The enthusiasm in her eyes the first time that they had met was not as evident any more and she seemed to spend every hour in the Watchtower since its creation just over a year ago. But still, she was fascinating to him. She was just so .... Chloe.

    She shook her head in amusement and took another sip of her drink. “Umm”, she let out a low moan of pleasure and her eyes rested shut for a second before blinking back open, “this is very good”.

    A purely male desire shot straight to his crotch and he had to have a brief but serious talk with himself concerning the reality of the situation: Chloe was acting and that wasn’t her discreet way of asking him to fuck her hard against the nearest wall.

    “Really?” He leaned even further over (once he thought that he had himself under control) and brushed his thumb down the corner of her mouth and across her full lower lip. He tasted the imaginary droplet of liquid. “Delicious”

    She leant even further forward and crooked her finger at her, beckoning him to do the same. Then whispered conspiratorially,“There was nothing there, was there?”

    “Maybe, you’ll never know”, he grinned at her.

    “So, I am getting to see the patented Oliver Queen moves, am I?” She sat back in her chair and surveyed him.

    “I haven’t had them patented”, he grinned cheekily at her.

    “Oh come on”, she cajoled. Her voice was barely a laughing whisper but he heard every syllable.

    “The nice suit. The compliments. The”, she gestured in the air around her, “handsome, very self-assured thing. Oh, and the limo driver”.

    “The limo driver is a smart mouth”, he cut in.

    She giggled, “And you bring me to the finest restaurant. Oh, and the hand on the back, cool confident - don’t think that I didn’t notice that”.

    He winked at her and laughed, not surprised that she had been able to see straight through him. “Hey, I’m a gentleman”.

    She raised an eyebrow at him in challenge.

    “I resisted the urge to squeeze”.

    “What’s what passes for gentlemanly behaviour these days?” She asked with a mock sigh, before continuing her list. “And all of the waiters know your name. Plus the soft candle light, the wine, the witty conversation, and casual dropping of endearments”. She tilted her head on one side. “Does it work?”

    “Usually, yes”, he admitted with a laugh. “You really are something else, aren’t you Chloe? Wait, no, that’s wrong”.

    She raised her eyebrow at him.

    “No, I mean you clearly are something else, but the name is wrong”, he tried to explain.

    “I’m fairly certain that that is my name. At least that is what it says on my birth certificate”, Chloe informed him as she reached out for her drink once more.

    “I mean that I should be using some sort of endearment”, he elaborated.

    “No, darling doesn’t sit well with me”, she said. “I know that you’ve been using it on and off all night but as no one is around to hear us at the moment. Just, no darling”.

    “Not inventive enough, honey?” He teased her with a warm smile. He was about to ask why she was starting to tense up again over one word when their waiter re-materialised. Oliver bent a finger at him and ordered for both of them, too quietly for Chloe to hear before sending him back on his way.

    “Ordering for me, how very manly”, Chloe said, reclining in her seat, sipping her wine.

    He studied her, trying to figure her out until he finally just came out and asked, “Sexist?”

    “Unwise”, her expression broke into a smile. “Unless it contains chocolate”.

    “Lots”, he assured him. “Tiramisu”.

    “Trying out another nicknames?”

    “No”, he laughed, “what we ordered but I like the idea of food based terms of endearment”.

    “Very sweet”.

    He rolled his eyes, “That was such a bad pun that I’m not entirely sure that it counts as a pun”.

    “I know, my little”, she thought, “cream puff?”

    He winced.

    “What would you prefer my”, she searched her brain for another food based name, “Dumpling? Sweet pea? Sweet potato? Brioche? Pain au chocolat?”

    He laughed, alcohol certainly agreed with her.

    “I’m not sure. I’m probably could get used to all of them”, he had never had a problem with any names which came out of the mouth o fa beautiful woman. “But ...”

    “Do you think that we are having too much fun with this?” She wondered.

    “No, not at all but we had better make it convincing”, he gestured towards the waiter - re-emerging with their dessert in hand -, his eyes twinkling.

    “God, this looks good”, she groaned as the delicious concoction was placed before her.

    Yup, that was convincingly. Once the waiter had vanished once more Oliver watched with fascination as she dragged her spoon across the sinfully rich, tempting chocolate confection and brought it to her lips. She savoured it with a groan of pure delight, her eyes closing and her head lolling back slightly in unabashed delight. Her pink tongue darting out to lick her lips.

    An embarrassing noise like a strangled mew, was ripped from the back of Oliver’s throat.

    “What was that?” Chloe jumped back to attention.

    Under her scrutiny he felt himself colouring up. He could have said that he had only been acting but he doubted that she would have believed it. “Parsnip”, the word escaped him.

    “I bed your pardon?”

    “Or would you perhaps prefer broccoli? Tater tot? Pickle?” He tried to cover his ass with the joke.

    Chloe laughed. A little too exuberantly.

    “Oh bugger”, Oliver swore under his breath as something caught his eye.


    Chapter Three

    “What’s the matter?” Chloe demanded, instantly on the alert.

    “Nothing, parsnip”, he assured her closing his hand over hers. “Just something a little odd. Possibly a lead”.

    Chloe wanted to turn around to get a better look but Oliver reached out his hand to caress her face and she kept it where it was, guessing that she was not supposed to look around just yet. In spite of herself, a chill went up her spine. Not dread. But nerves. She expected at every second of her life to be caught out and what she had thought that she had seen that morning had not helped. In short, she was jittery.

    For a year she had practically lived in the Watchtower, her own project and design financed by Oliver. It enabled her to see everything. To know everything. To control everything. Now that she was back in the real world, she was decidedly jittery.

    “What is it?” She asked, trying to sound calm, all traces of her earlier alcohol induced mirth forgotten.

    “A man I know. Possibly a little too well”, he threw some notes on the table. “Come on, I don’t think that he has seen us”, he held his hand out to her and the second that it looked as if the man’s attention had been diverted, he pulled her along.

    Chloe wasn’t normally one to follow but this time she did, allowing herself to be tugged along into a corridor off the main eating area. They got a strange look from the waiter who was coming back through but Oliver shook his head and he said nothing.

    Oliver pulled Chloe once they reached the end of the corridor and wrapped his arms around her. “Don’t worry”, he whispered..

    “What happened? I thought that we wanted to be seen”, she replied quietly, trying not to be affected by the way his head was buried in the crook of her neck. She knew that it was just so that any waiters that might see them wouldn’t ask questions.

    “We do”, Oliver breathed against her, “but not by him”.

    Chloe angled her head so that she could stare into his eyes questioningly.

    “He knows me too well”, Oliver explained with a pointed look.

    Chloe understood. The man in question was likely to realise that she wasn’t his usual type and blow their cover. Either that or Oliver would be embarrassed when he returned to Metropolis or Star City to have people knowing that he had been slumming it.

    “Are you okay?” Oliver questioned quietly.

    “Yeah, fine”, she returned in a whisper.

    He wrapped his arms around more securely. “He is a sneaky bastard if ever there was one and knows everything about everybody”, he elaborated.

    “So what are we going to do?” Chloe asked.

    “I’m not sure yet”, Oliver scanned the surrounding area. They had prevented themselves from being immediately spotted but the danger was still imminent; it was a very open restaurant and the only way to get out was by sneaking back passed the man in question. They could have just stayed where they were until he left, but there was always a very good chance that he would need to use the bathroom which was passed where they were standing. They were as good as trapped.

    “We are going to have to make a run for it, aren’t we?” Chloe surmised.

    “It looks like it”, Oliver evaluated the situation. “Okay, we are going to stay close together, like we are talking intimately and head for the door in three, two, one”.

    The man in question turned his back on them as he sat at a table and they hurried across the room, a little too quickly apparently as they drew his attention. Chloe didn’t need to turn around to know that. She looked up at her date with questioning eyes. Damn, they needed an excuse to be leaving like this. Their desserts had barely been touched and they were rushing out of there.

    She could hear the footsteps gaining on them and then, just before they reached the double glass doors Oliver pulled her to the stop. “I can’t wait to have you”, he growled, crushing her into his chest.

    Chloe gasped and immediately found her mouth covered by his.

    ~*~

    Chloe was frozen against her boss. Oliver’s arms were wrapped around her in a passionate embrace, which had about as much give as steel. Her senses reeled. The searing heat of his body. The smouldering desire in his dark eyes. The scorching passion of his mouth as it pressed insistently against hers. It was all too much for her, seeming to threaten to incinerate her.

    She knew that she had to make this look good but she didn’t know how. She couldn’t simply sink into his embrace - accepting it for what it was - as she once would have. Everything was more complicated now.

    Slowly she tried to open her mouth, every fibre of her being screaming at her that this was wrong, wondering how she would ever manage to fool anyone that this was a normal action for either of them. She tilted her head to one side and tried to turn her brain off and just focus on the movement.

    She tried to appreciate the softness of Oliver’s lips. The strength in his hard body. The passionate nature which clearly simmered just beneath the surface. Instinctively, she let out a moan. It was just a reflex, she told herself. It didn’t mean anything.

    His tongue slipped into her mouth. She tried to push it out and the sensual dance began. She moaned again and this time could not quite convince herself that the delicious tingles which accompanied the muffled noise were merely a reflex.

    “Chloe? Chloe”. Oliver reached out and touched her shoulder.

    Chloe jumped about a foot in the air, “What?” She demanded.

    “I was just checking that you are alright. You have been quiet ever since we left the restaurant”, Oliver pointed out softly.

    “Are you saying that I am normally a chatterbox?” She tried to joke.

    “No, I was just checking that you aren’t upset about anything. You aren’t, are you?” He reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder. “If there is something wrong you can tell me. I want you to tell me”.

    “You really are one of the good guys, aren’t you Oliver Queen?” Chloe thought out loud.

    “I hope so”, he rubbed his hands up and down her arms. “What’s the matter?”

    “Nothing, honestly. I’m just a bit tired”, she shrugged it off.

    “You are sure that that is all that it is? I mean you just stood there for ten minutes once we got through the door. You didn’t even hear me day your name five times”, he pointed out the pieces of evidence which seemed to contradict her story.

    “What would be bothering me?” She asked as the memory of Oliver’s warm body assaulted her. It was pleasant enough itself but brought back too many memories. She had never through that she could enjoy, or even bear, to have another man touch her.

    He slid his hands up to rest on her shoulders, “Look at me Chloe. Whatever it is, you can tell me. I will always be there for you”.

    “It’s nothing”, her tone was convincing, but she couldn’t help but blink back tears.

    “Right”, Oliver squeezed her shoulders, “so it is just as I thought”.

    “As you thought?” She repeated uncomprehendingly.

    “Our kiss was to blame”, he grinned at her, “It was just so awesome that it rocked your world and you are still a little shaken. It’s okay. It happens”.

    “Ollie”, she pulled away and punched him lightly on the shoulder.

    “What?” He protested, “You wouldn’t be the first woman to fall for the Green Arrow”.

    “Whatever!” She rolled her eyes.

    “Whatever? Wow”, he teased her, “I haven’t heard that used as a comeback since what, the mid-nineties”.

    Chloe held her fingers up in such a way as they spelled a capital W.

    “The coup de grâce to be sure”, Oliver outright laughed at her. “Oh come on”, he jostled her a little. It’s funny. Smile. It will make whatever it ‘isn’t’ better, I promise”.

    She managed a small smile, accompanied with by an even smaller sigh. “Are we okay?”

    “Why wouldn’t we be?” Oliver looked confused.

    “I mean, you don’t think that he suspected anything?” Chloe clarified. “This is all just getting a little strange, isn’t it?”

    “I don’t know”, he ran his hand through his short blond spikes. “I told you he is a suspicious man, he has worked for some of the wealthiest families in America for exactly that reason. But don’t worry, we will make it work whatever happens. We will get on that island”.

    “I could rope in Aqua Man if needs me”, Chloe pointed out, only half joking.

    “No thanks, I’ve already got one team member slobbering all over you”, Oliver huffed.

    “You shouldn’t talk about yourself like that”, she replied, trying to hide her smile.

    “I meant Bart!” He protested.

    “Oh, you really need to be more specific”, Chloe joked with a straight face.

    “Funny”, he rolled his eyes, “I thought that it was only Bart”.

    On that note, she wandered off into her bedroom as revenge for teasing her earlier - and because she thought that for the good of their professional relationship, a little time apart might be useful.

    “Chloe, come on. It’s only Bart right? If my men are getting distracted I need to know”, Oliver pointed out.

    “Good night”, Chloe told him with a smile as she turned around to close the door.

    “You know that this is a full service deal!” He called out, unwilling to let her have the last word.

    “Good night, Oliver”, her voice came clearly through the wood.

    He grinned and shook his head as he called back, “Goodnight Chloe”.

    ~*~

    “Have you forgotten me so easily, my darling?” The words, spoken in a distinctive purr, wrapped around Chloe as lay in the large bed in the middle of a fitful sleep.

    “No”, she whimpered in distress as she thrashed about, the covers binding her leg and arms.

    She felt his hands trying to get a grasp on her. She fought. Not knowing if she was trying to get away from him or nearer to her tormentor. As her hands reached for his, it was gone and on another part of her body.

    “You failed me, my darling. You ...”

    “No”, Chloe cried so loudly that she roused herself. “Lex”, she sat bolt upright in bed. Cover in cold sweat. Her hands clawing for him.

    “Lex”, she called out again, scrambling around her bed for something anything. She found the light switch and the room was illuminated.

    Lex wasn’t there.

    She stroked her hands over her stomach, her arms, her legs. Her skin still tingled from his touch. She could smell his scent.

    He had left her. Abandoned her forever. And it was all her fault.

    “Oh God Lex, I’m so sorry”, she broke down, her arms wrapped around her middle, hands clenching until her nails dug into her flesh. “I’m so sorry. So sorry”, the words ripped out of her in a howl of pain. She had loved him so much and now she was destined to be alone for the rest of her life, haunted by her memories of him.


    Chapter Four

    Chloe trudged out of her bedroom the following morning so tired that she could barely keep her eyes open. The only thing keeping her moving was the aroma of coffee which she was following.

    Her throat was scratchy, her head was throbbing, and her eyes felt like their lids were made out of sandpaper. She felt like hell and probably looked like it too.

    Finally her eyes settled on the beloved beverage in a large silver canteen and she renewed her efforts to drag her heavy limbs over to it. She made it somehow and collapsed onto the sofa, wondering how she would ever manage to gain enough coordination to pour the damn thing.

    She tried to lift her arms but some evil doer had apparently replaced them with lead during her sleep and she barely managed to get them up to chest level.

    A cup of coffee mercifully floated over to her of its own volition. With no small amount of effort she managed to clasp it and moan out a noise of thanks to the kind magical cup. She then brought it to her lips and downed the scalding liquid in one gulp. It burned her throat, caused her eyes to water but caused her to regain enough of her senses to consider the possibility and probability of a floating cup. Probably not even in Smallville.

    She forced her head up unwillingly and found that the second hovering cup was being held by Oliver. He was already up - clearly - sitting there in a suit looking far too handsome and composed. Breakfast set out in front of him. She didn’t have the energy to think of anything other than her second dose of coffee.

    She gratefully accepted it and down it in one as Oliver refilled her original cup and her new one. The third espresso returned her to almost normal functionality.

    “Thank-you”, she thanked the actual provider of her coffee this time. “What’s going on?”

    She winced, the words still hurt her throat. Her head wasn’t that much better either. That was what happened when you spent half of the night awake crying.

    “Breakfast”, Oliver said with a smile, “I thought that we should eat in this morning; we need to re-evaluate.”

    “Oh”.

    ~*~

    Years on and isolated island surrounded by wild animals followed by almost a decade as the Green Arrow had sharpened Oliver’s hearing and reflexes beyond belief. He was up and out of bed one Chloe’s first murmur. He was charging out of his door as she cried out.

    “Chloe”, he bellowed. “Are you alright?”

    He came to a screeching halt just in front of her door and pressed his ear to it.

    He received no reply but could hear something. He tried the door knob only to find that it was locked from the inside. His blood ran cold.

    He checked his urge to beat in the door. If some evildoer had got in and had Chloe tied up then he needed the element of surprise. After his shout they would be watching the door. He searched around for a solution to the problem and then he thought that he heard something else. He rushed to the open French windows onto the balcony.

    His keen eyes scanned the darkness but was only able to distinguish a faint rustle in the bushes below. Possibly it was unconnected. He had men posted around the outskirts of the hotel so if there was someone there then they would catch him. Saying (or rather thinking) that though, it should have been impossible for anyone to get in the first place.

    With an agility born of practice he climbed onto the railing of the balcony and leaped onto the next one without making a sound. He pulled himself close to the wall and peered around the corner of Chloe’s window.

    “Oh fuck!” He swore.

    Chloe was thankfully alone and not tied up or being tortured but she was clearly in pain. She was curled up in a ball in bed with her arms wrapped around her middle, moaning in pain.

    “Chloe”, he called out here name as he sped to her side, exhibiting no concern for her privacy as he crawled over the bed to get to her. He dragged her over to him and felt a wave of relief as he saw that she wasn’t hurt.

    He brushed the hair out of her face and she scrunched up her features and she murmured, “I love you. Don’t do this”.

    “Shh. Shh”, he soothed her and stroked her hair a few more times, wondering what to do. She was clearly only dreaming and in no danger of actually hurting herself. She was too lost in her subconscious to even know that he was there. Oliver debated what he should do. He wanted to end it for her but knew that you weren’t supposed to wake someone from a nightmare. The most natural thing for him to do seemed to be to hold her and offer her bodily comfort, but he wasn’t sure that it was his place

    “Come on”, he whispered some more comforting words to her. “Come on Chloe, it’s going to be alright. Everything will be alright”, he continued to pet her. That wasn’t quite as inappropriate as hold her in his lap.

    Slowly but surely Chloe seemed to calm down. Praying that she would be able to sleep peacefully now, Oliver strode back over to the window and returned via his personalized route to the living room. He pressed his ear against the door once more just to double check that Chloe was still well and then went into his room and grabbed his mobile.

    He punched in several numbers and Bart’s voice was immediately on the other end.

    “Has anyone reported anything strange to you?” He demanded.

    “No, why?”

    “It’s probably nothing. Do a quick ...” Oliver started his request only to be stopped before he could finish it.

    “Done”, Bart replied cheerfully.

    “Done?” Oliver exclaimed. He knew that he was The Flash but that still seemed quick.

    “Twice over. If anyone has broken the perimeter then they were a ghost”, Bart said confidently.

    “Thanks”, Oliver said, genuinely. As much as the kid could bug him he knew that he was loyal and would give his life for Chloe.

    “Is Chloe, alright?” Bart asked, not quite managing to sound casual.

    “Yes, I think so. I ... I’m probably just being paranoid but the safety of my team is paramount”, Oliver said.

    “Right. Take care of her Oliver”, Bart replied.

    “Don’t worry. I will”, he promised. He hung up with a goodbye and chided himself for being ridiculous. She was having a bad dream, it wasn’t a Justice League matter. Still, he made another call. “Clark?”

    “Yeah, it’s me. Are you alright Oliver?” Clark answered his phone after less than one ring. Oliver was starting to feel really slow surrounded by two supercharged individuals.

    “I’m fine. Tell me everything that you know about Chloe”, Oliver replied curtly.

    “What?” There was a whoosh of cool air and Clark was standing before him. “What’s wrong with Chloe?”

    Oliver smiled and shook his head. “Nothing, at least not physically”. He related what had happened - and after Clark had performed his own lightening speed check - sat down on the sofa and ran his hands through his hair. “What do you think caused it?”

    “I don’t know”, Clark confessed. “She has been distant this last year but I’ve been away a lot and she’s been working hard. I thought that she was just tired”.

    “Me too, but it is clearly more than that”, Oliver sighed.

    Clark shook his head. “I just don’t know. The only relationship that she has been in was with a guy called Jimmy Olsen at the Planet but I’m fairly certain that that ended before she left”.

    Oliver nodded thoughtfully. It was possible, he supposed. He had often wondered why Chloe had been so willing to give up her dream job for a complete change of career but she had always avoided the issue and he had never felt comfortable enough around her to force the issue. It was her life after all.

    “I’ll pull up every bit of information I can on him. Find his location etc. You don’t think that he could hurt her, do you?”

    “No, I don’t think so”, Clark answered, trying not to laugh. “Jimmy was pretty harmless. I never could understand how they ended up dating in the first place he was just ... Vanilla. But I will check”.

    “You aren’t going to Blur your way into his room are you?” Oliver wouldn’t put it past Clark if he thought that she was in trouble.

    “No, I was just going to corner him by the coffee maker at work”.

    “That could work too”, Oliver smiled. “I’m sure that I am just being overly concerned. I’ll have my people get on it”, his Queen Industries people obviously, not Chloe, “and you corner him and I’ll talk to Chloe tomorrow”.

    “Alright, call if you need anything. I’d better get back to Metropolis, there might be a crime taking place. Keep me up to date”, Clark said rising to his feet.

    “Will do”, Oliver said and found that he was talking to an empty room. Yup, he was definitely slow.

    He made another call to have information sent to him and then considered his mobile. From what Clark had told him about Jimmy it didn’t sound as if he could be the source of Chloe’s distress but you could never tell. He knew what it was like to have his heart broken, smashed into a million tiny pieces. At first he hadn’t even liked to be around Chloe because she reminded him too much of Lois but it was something that he had got used to. Like remaining friends with Lois. If he had had the chance - like Chloe had - to start afresh. He probably would have.

    He selected the number of his ex and called.

    Lois did not answer the phone immediately. In fact, it took about five rings before her gravelly voice purred, “Lois Lane here. Wanton sex goddess with a very bad man between her thighs”.

    “Good evening Lois”, Oliver said, forcing a smile to his lips to cover his hurt even though he knew that she couldn’t see him. It was a habit by now, just as she always covered any awkwardness by teasing him. Sometimes with quotes from Bridget Jones’ Diary.

    “Hey Ollie. Not that it’s not always nice to hear from you but why are you calling me at ... What time is it where you are?” He hadn’t exactly gone into details about the business trip that he was on. It would have been difficult especially as she had no idea how Chloe was related to his work.

    “3am”, he told her with a glance at his watch. He had clearly been with Chloe for longer than he had thought. “Wait, why are you in bed at 8pm? Are you sick?”

    “Nah, just an exhausting day after an all nighters yesterday”, Lois informed him.

    “I’m sorry to disturb you”, he apologised.

    “Don’t be silly. You know that you can always call. Besides, I’m just watching a movie with some company and Ben and Jerry can wait. What’s up?” He could hear her moving around.

    He considered what he was going to tell her. Clark would keep a secret from Chloe, Lois would not. In fact, she would probably wake Chloe up and tell her right then and there. “Nothing in particular. I just wanted to hear the sound of your voice”.

    “Are you sure that you are alright? You sound a little weird”, she inquired. For all of her brashness, Lois was a sweetheart.

    “I’m fine, I was just wondering ...”

    ~*~

    “We need to re-evaluate”, the sentence came out of Oliver with a little more authority than was strictly necessary.

    “Oh”, Chloe replied, blinking.

    Oliver gave her a smile, to soften the the tone of his words. He longed to reach out and hold her but he resisted, keeping her hands in his lap. She looked so sad and lonely and yet so strong and he was concious of a purely human desire to help her.

    “Are you well enough to continue with this?” Was his first question as he reached for the tongues to place a pastry on a plate for her, along with some aspirin. He had guessed that she would probably feel ill that morning.

    “Yes, of course”, she took the plate and looked at the aspirin enquiringly. “How did you know that I would have a headache?”

    “Call it intuition”, if she didn’t remember anything about last night then he certainly wasn’t about to enlighten her.

    “I’m fine”, she told him causing deep lines to form on his forehead.

    “What’s the matter?” Chloe inquired and then popped the pill in her mouth and swallowed it with some more coffee.

    “Nothing, I’m just not sure that that was what the manufacturer suggested”, Oliver said, with a certain measure of censure.

    “Coffee and aspirin”, she announced, “It’s a great combination”.

    “I’ll take your word for it”, he said with pursed lips. He had no idea if you were allowed to take aspirin with caffeine. It didn't seem like a good idea to him. That would have been enough to perturb him under any circumstances, although he did accept that he might have been more forgiving if she had not just deliberately lied to him.

    “Please”, she rolled her eyes at him, “like you’ve never tried it. Seriously what’s wrong?”

    Oliver sighed. The problem was how convincingly Chloe had just told him that nothing was wrong. If he had never seen her last night, he would have believed her. That she could lie to him like that, that was more than just a problem.

    “Do you need a doctor?” He offered.

    “No, thank-you, I already told you, I’m fine”. She sounded a little more exasperated this time.

    “Fine”, he paused, “I mean that’s good”. So much for getting to the bottom of that particular problem. “So, we need to sort out what is going on”.

    “What’s going on?” She repeated mildly, a placid expression on her face but he was certain that he had seen a flash of fright. He steeled himself, determined to eke as much information out of her even as they dealt with the more simple questions which were plaguing him at that moment.

    “Yes, we know that someone is tampering with my company and, by the looks of it, several others. And we can predict from several other inexplicable movements in the stock market that someone is planning something large. Possibly just for Queen Industries and a few other companies or maybe for the whole of Metropolis and Star City”, Oliver recapped the situation, although none of this was news to Chloe. In fact, she was the one who had brought it all to his attention.

    “We”, by which he meant Chloe, “have managed to trace several of the payments to a island off Italy and several other sources indicate that there will a meeting there. There have also been rumours of a large party which is extremely exclusive and this wouldn’t be the first time a party had been the cover for big business”.

    “No, quite the contrary in fact. It is the best place to get people relaxed and to subvert the suspicions of anyone who might be watching”, Chloe agreed.

    “Exactly”, he had used that ploy himself more than once. “So we need to get into the party. Which shouldn’t have been difficult at all. Be seen in the right places, chat with the right people, get an invitation. It’s as easy as falling off a log. Or at least, it should have been”.

    “But the right people are all magically missing”, Chloe concluded for him.

    “Exactly. So we can conclude ...”

    “That you are so old and out of it that you don’t know where the cool spots are any more”, she offered a perfectly practical explanation with a smile.

    He was glad to see that at least she hadn’t lost her sense of humour, but he scowled at her anyway. “Words hurt!”

    “I’m sorry”, she said, although neither her appearance or tone lent credence to her words.

    “Apology accepted. But, really, I don’t think that it is that”, he rubbed his chin.

    “No, I don’t either. Not really. It is far more likely in cases like this that there are several house parties being held before hand, specifically designed by those involved in order to have a cover for meeting discreetly in expectation of the larger meeting. It is perfectly normal in these circumstances. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that to start with”, Chloe thought out loud.

    “That would make sense”, he started before something occurred to him. “How did you know that?”

    She blinked, just once, and then answered simply, “Research”.

    At least that lie was less convincing, unless she was triple bluffing him. The mind boggled but he wouldn’t have put it past Chloe. She could do anything she put her mind to. But what he couldn’t work out was why she would want to do something like that. What on earth was there that she couldn’t tell him?

    “When do we need to leave?” She asked, suddenly changing the subject. “I ... I have some work I need to do first. For the Justice League”.

    “When you are ready and not before”, he assured her.

    She nodded. “I had better go and get ready”, she announced and was off the settee and halfway to her own door before he could blink.

    “Chloe”, he called out and she turned. He debated for a second what to say as he couldn’t tell her again that she needed to talk to him when it was obvious that she wasn’t going to. To buy himself he got up and walked over to her, placing his hands on her shoulders. He was much larger than she was, yet somehow he always felt small around her. Insignificant. “You are really alright, aren’t you?”

    “Yes, why do you keep asking me that?” She inquired suspiciously.

    “I don’t know, you just seem a little ...” He trailed off and frowned. “I guess that I just feel guilty for putting you in this situation and I’m imagining things”.

    “Well, 1) you didn’t put me in this position. 2) I’m fine. 3) This is my job. And 4) I’m a big girl and I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself”.

    ~*~

    Chloe raced around her hotel room, checking every single surface, behind every object, under every article of furniture frantically and without any real idea of what she was doing.

    She wasn’t even dressed yet. She had barely allowed the door to close after herself before she had began her hunt. She was too shaken to think straight. Something was not right. The way that she had woken up. The way that Oliver was acting. The whole situation was just starting to feel increasingly odd and Chloe’s instincts were never wrong.

    Shaken she continued to scour the area until she had convinced herself that she had not missed anything. She was being ridiculous. She had had a bad dream and that was it. She walked over to check the clock which sat proudly on the room’s mantle piece and assured herself that her little panic attack hadn’t eaten up too much time. She would be able to hide it from Oliver. She had actually taken care of Justice League business the night before. She never shirked her duty. She was just slowly but surely going insane.

    Seeing that man last night in the restaurant didn’t mean anything. It was just a coincidence. As Oliver had said, he worked for many of the larger American families, not just the Luthors. It didn’t mean anything. It was just a coincidence. However many times she repeated this mantra to herself, it didn’t seem to help.

    In fact, as she thought of him. Of the last time that she had had anything to do with him. She began to shake. She made it to the toilet only just in time and emptied the contents of her stomach into the porcelain bowl. She collapsed next to it on the cool tiles. Shaky. Exhausted. Miserable.

    This had to stop.

    After several long minutes she finally felt able to lift herself up. She washed her mouth out thoroughly and then peered at herself in the mirror. Things definitely had to change.

    She had never expected to find herself back there in Italy and even when she had figured that it would be a necessity to get to the bottom of this mystery, she hadn’t thought that it would effect her like that. Memories surrounded her. Words whispered against her skin. Soft kisses. Smiles. His hands. His eyes. His love.

    Chloe scrunched her eyes shut and tears trickling down her cheeks. It was all over now.

    ~*~

    A hot shower washed away the worst of the visible traces of her folly and a thick coating of war paint - make up - transformed her into the confident woman she had been for the last year. Chloe was ready for Oliver when she headed back into the living room.

    “48 hours”.

    “What?” He inquired, forgetting his manners as he stared up at from the laptop which was resting on his knees.

    “24 hours to continue with the original plan and hope that we find someone else who we can use as an in discreetly as we will be in a more precarious position if anyone suspects what we are up to or even that we want to get onto that island”, Chloe explained the first part of the new plan of action.

    Oliver nodded slowly.

    “If that doesn’t work, then we have another 24 hours to ingratiate ourself with Slope. It won’t be as effective but it might work”, she stated simply.

    “What happens when we get to the 48 hour mark and none of this has paid off?” Her boss inquired hesitantly.

    “If at that point it doesn’t work then we do it by force”, came her response.

    “By force?” He repeated.

    “You didn’t hire me to be weak”, she told him sternly. “Do you trust me?”

    “Yes”, his answer was instantaneous.

    “Then we have 48 hours to get what we need. If not Mr Slope will have to chose his allegiances”. Chloe had a steely glint in her eyes and a will was as intractable as granite.

    Oliver moved his laptop over to one side so that he could move over to her before asking, “And if he doesn’t side with us?”

    “Oh, he will”. She knew what it would mean and what path that would send her spiralling down, but she didn’t care. She had built up the Justice League. They would follow her. They would extract the information and invitation that she needed. If it came to it.


    Chapter Five

    Oliver sank down into the settee in hotel suite’s living room. It had been a long day and not a successful one. He and Chloe had traipsed all over Rome and yet they hadn’t found succeeded into bumping into any of the ‘right people’. Her determination had spurred them on, keeping them ploughing on without respite until he was ready to collapse. He was the Green Arrow, he had been through countless adventures, fourteen straight hours of walking shouldn’t have tired him but he was exhausted, no closer to getting the invitation he needed or to figuring out the mystery that was Chloe Sullivan.

    He sighed and considered the glass of wine before him. Chloe had not wanted to join him in partaking of it and had resisted every single one of his attempts to get her to open up to him. She had bid him a weary goodnight and gone to her room. And so it was that he was sitting there, alone, worrying.

    It was getting late. He should probably get to bed himself. He went and got washed and changed into his boxers only to head over to Chloe’s door again just to double check. He heard a noise. His shoulder went crashing into the door and he was inside.

    Years of night time operations had accustomed his eyes to functioning in the darkness. He scanned his surroundings from the open window with curtains wafting in on the cool night air to the bed where Chloe lay, wrapped up in covers, half of her body exposed, writhing as if being branded and crying.

    “Chloe”, he race to her, gathering her up in his arms. She clawed at him and he winced in pain, but he kept his hold on her, desperate for her not to hurt herself.

    “It’s alright, I’m here”, held onto her tightly.

    He leant over her, reaching out to turn on the light, trying not to squash her as he did so but once he was completely surrounding her she began to calm down. Relieved that she had finally stopped fighting and the risk of her getting harmed was lessoned, he repositioned her so that she was being ‘held’ by him, her entire body enveloped like a baby wrapped up ready for sleep.

    Oliver held her, tightly, assuring her over and over again, “It’s alright, it’s okay, you’re safe. I’m here. No one is going to hurt you. I’m not going anywhere. Whatever it is, we will fix it”.

    Chloe’s heartbreaking sobs eventually died away and she settled down into his arms and her sleep became more restful.

    Oliver, on the other hand, lay awake hating himself for not coming to her aid last night. For not forcing her to tell him what was wrong. For not making this better. She was going to tell him what was causing all of this and he was going to fix it. God help anyone who stood in his way.

    ~*~

    “Hmmm”, Chloe snuggled closer to the warm masculine form that was wrapped around her. She breathed in deeply and stroked the warm skin contentedly, then her eyes snapped open. The sensation was wrong.

    Her head was tilted upward and even through bleary eyes and at an odd angle she could recognise the man in her bed.

    “Oliver?” She croaked, “what are you doing here?”

    “Chloe, you’re awake?” Oliver’s voice sounded rough.

    “Yes, hence the talking”, she tried to process the situation. She had never been at her best first thing in the morning, especially not pre-coffee. “What are you doing here?”

    “I came in last night”, he started but trailed off as Chloe’s eyes travelled over to the door, which she was sure she had closed and locked.

    “You broke the door down?” It wasn’t a question. She could see it hanging open, looking a little worse for wear.

    “It’s not what you think”, he exclaimed hurriedly.

    “Why don’t you tell me what I think?” She said, in deceptive calm.

    “Er”, he paused, “last night you were screaming. I was afraid, I came in but there was no one else here. You were having a bad dream. I tried to calm you down but you must have been really out of it, I couldn’t wake you. You were thrashing around, I was afraid that you were going to hurt yourself”.

    “That’s why you are wrapped around me”, Chloe concluded, hoping that she sounded nonchalant.

    “Yeah”.

    “Did I ... Did I say anything?” She had to know.

    “Like what?”

    She wished that she could see his face fully to be able to better interpret his words, but then again, hers being obscured from him might be working in her favour.

    “I don’t know. Just, anything. I mean apparently I was having a nightmare. I would like to know what it is about. Call me curious”, she explained and hoped that she sounded natural enough.

    “You really don’t remember a thing? You have no idea what might have sparked it?” Oliver sounded disbelieving.

    “No”.

    “Call me crazy but I find that hard to believe”, he outright accused her.

    “You’re crazy”, she informed him as she shifted, trying to work out how to get up, then she stopped. “Oliver, what is that against my leg?”

    When no reply was immediately forthcoming she asked again and strained her neck to see that he was actually blushing.

    “Oh God”, she groaned and tried to roll away from him only to find that it was possible and not because of his magnetic personality. They were wrapped around each other, their limbs so intertwined that she felt as if she were bolted to him.

    “Would you believe my phone?” He asked as he started to untangle them from each other and the bed linen Chloe had got herself messed up in even before he had arrived.

    “For the good of our professional relationship, yes”.

    ~*~

    “It rings in the morning”. Oliver’s ridiculous parting words to Chloe reverberated in his mind. Mocking him. How on earth had he thought that that was a good joke to make at a time like that?

    He had finally succeeded in untangling them, gritting his teeth to smother a groan as his hardened length brushed against her firm, warm buttock which was mostly uncovered as her satin shorts had moved in her sleep. That feeling was going to haunt him.

    So much for him getting to the bottom of what was bothering her as soon as she woke up that morning. He had stood there his boxers very obviously tented. Ollie Junior was standing erect, proud and ready for anxious. It was the only time in his life that he had been ashamed of his equipment. That was when the stupid joke had come out.

    One hour, and one incredibly cold shower, later he was still embarrassed and hoped to God that he hadn’t upset her.

    “Oh, grow a pair”, he ordered himself as he stood - full dressed and deflated - outside Chloe’s bedroom door. She had not emerged, he really hoped that she was not crying.

    “Chloe”, he called out, knocking lightly on the door.

    “One second”, she replied, sounding calm.

    Oliver listened to her shuffling around, it sounded like she was logging off her computer and then she appeared looking cool and refreshed.

    “Good morning Ollie”, she gave him a winning smile.

    “Hello Chloe”, he responded, but with a shy smile and she giggled. He stared at her.

    “So I guess that my plan of just ignoring the awkwardness isn’t going to work”, she walked into the living room and set about preparing coffee for Oliver and herself, trying to regain a sense of normalcy.

    “I guess not”, Oliver followed her over and stood next to her, still feeling awkward.

    “Oliver relax”, Chloe giggled as the coffee began to peculate. She reached out and stroked his arm and he felt a sense of relief sweeping over him. “Don’t worry I haven’t been traumatised and I’m not reading anything into it or about to sue you”.

    “I didn’t think that you were going to sue me”, he assured her. Actually, that possibility had never even occurred to him.

    “Like you said”, Chloe continued with a grin, “It rings in the morning. It’s no big deal”.

    Oliver smiled with relief but then pulled a fake offended look.

    “I’m sorry”, she commiserated, “that was an unfortunate choice of words. Let’s just blow past it shall we? We have work to do. I have planned out our agenda for today. If this doesn’t work then kidnapping but I think ...”

    “No”.

    She looked up, not used to him disagreeing with her. “I know that it sounds a little extreme but really Oliver kidnapping will ...”

    “No”, he cut her off, “I mean that we can’t just blow passed all of this”.

    Chloe raised an eyebrow at him in an amused/bemused way and Oliver sighed, truly wishing that they could just gloss over the whole problem but he had learnt the hard way not to just let things fester. “We have to talk about what happened”.

    “Okay”, she poured two cups of coffee and handed one to him before sinking down onto the sofa. “Well over night your testosterone levels will rise especially in the REM cycle and this leads to a phenomenon known as nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) which is when ...”

    “Not that!” He expostulated.

    “Then what?”

    “Chloe”, he sat down on the coffee table in front of her, placed his cup on the side and took her hands. She regarded him with mild suspicion but that didn’t stop him. “Last night you were crying”.

    “Oh that”, she tried to dismiss the idea.

    “Yes, oh that”, he steeled himself for this conversation. He couldn’t help but think that it would have been much easier if she had still been lying in his arms - without adding his hard on into the equation.

    “It was nothing”, Chloe said decidedly, “and I’m really embarrassed that it happened but ...”

    “Chloe there’s no need to be”, Oliver stroked her hands. “I don’t want you to ever feel that there is anything that you can’t tell me or have to hide from me. Whatever it is, I’m here for you. As a team-mate and as a friend”. He wasn’t about to add in boss as he didn’t think of himself that way.

    “I don’t need anything”, she informed him.

    He sighed. “I guessed that you would say that”.

    “Good, then you were prepared”, she tried to stand up but he kept possession of her hands, preventing her from fleeing.

    Oliver watched as a range of emotions flashed across her face before apparently she decided that it wasn’t worth the fight and returned to her seat. Once she was settled again he brushed his thumbs against the backs of her hands and started, “You know that I have an enormous amount of respect for you. You are the one who came up with the idea of Watch Tower. You have saved all of our lives a hundred times over. You are the strongest person that I know. Meteor Freaks and aliens included”.

    “I’m nothing special”, she gave a self-deprecating shrug. “I’m just a girl from Kansas”.

    “That’s not true Chloe. You are extraordinary. But no one can do everything alone which is what you have been trying to do for an entire year now”, he fought against the urge to pull her into his arms and cuddle her, “The stress would be enough to get to anyone”.

    “I’m fine. The fact that you think that I had a bad dream ...”

    “Chloe, you were having a nightmare”, he corrected her. He couldn’t let her get away with that.

    “Whatever”.

    Oliver pursed his lips. He knew that something was wrong when she resorted to saying ‘Whatever’. Her next argument: “It doesn’t mean anything, haven’t you ever had one?” didn’t reassure him either.

    “Well, haven’t you?” Chloe prodded.

    “Yes, and it was a sign of post traumatic stress disorder”, he explained, “apparently being shipwrecked on an island having to hunt to survive was stressful. Who’d have thunk it?”

    Chloe smiled and squeezed his hands in a silent gesture of support. “I guess that it would be”.

    “Hey, we’re made of tough stuff in Star City”, he smirked before turning serious again, “but, Chloe, nightmares can be a sign of something very serious going on”.

    “I know Ollie, but sometimes a bad dream is just a bad dream. Nothing more”.

    He would have liked to believe her, but there were just too many elements “Why didn’t you wake up?”

    She blinked at him.

    “Chloe, you need to tell me”, he stared deeply into her eyes.

    “No I don’t”, she stood up, ripping her hands out of his and stomping off towards the door to her room.

    “Chloe”, his voice grew steely as he followed her. They had to talk this out.

    She tried to open her door but he was too fast, managing to reach over and close it before she could escape him. She whirled around and their eyes met.

    “Don’t you dare try that large powerful man in charge routine on me as if I am suppose to just wilt. You are my boss and nothing else. You have no right to know anything about my personal life, my well being or anything else to do with me”, she spewed vehemence at him.

    He was taken aback, he had never seen her so angry before. “Chloe ...”

    “And”, she continued, her eyes crackling with anger, “if that is a problem for you then you can have my resignation”. She was breathing heavily.

    “Don’t be absurd”, he interrupted her and she looked about ready to growl at him. Her chest rising and falling with with angry, erratic breath. “This is your life, helping people. You aren’t going to quit and I’m not going to let you. And I’m not going to let this go”. He saw that she was about to try to leave again, this time in the opposite direction so he placed his hand on her shoulder. Keeping her where she was.

    She crossed her arms, fuming mad.

    “Why didn’t you wake up Chloe?” He demanded, having a sinking feeling that he already knew.

    Her teeth remained gritted.

    “Fine”, he removed his hands from her body and opened her door. She tried to block his way bodily but he moved her to the side so that he could enter. Within two strides he was halfway across the room and Chloe was back in front of him.

    She demanded with righteous (and probably entirely justified) fury , “What the hell do you think that you are doing?”

    “I’m sorry Chloe”, he moved her back out of the way and continued his way through her room, heading straight for her bedside table. “But this is far too important for me to just it let go”.

    “What the hell does the phrase ‘it’s none of your business’ mean to you, exactly?” She got in his way again but he had already reach the table and pulled out the draw and seen the tell-tale orange bottle, half empty.

    He reached out to take the container but Chloe snatched it out from under him.

    “Congratulations. Now you know my deep dark secret”, she spat the words at him, “I have insomnia”.

    He stared at her mutely. She was standing there baring his way, her entire body shaking with suppressed fury, her cheeks flushed with anger, her chin quivering with wroth. But there was more to this than simple anger. Oliver could tell that she was also distressed, something which bothered him far more than her indignation ever could have.

    “Saving the world on a weekly basis”, Chloe continued, her tone the closest he had ever heard it get to nasty, “keeping track of people across the entire globe with no schedule, and staring at a screen only minutes before going to sleep is not great for a restful night’s sleep but the next day I need to be on my game so the doctor proscribed these pills to help”.

    Oliver swallowed uncomfortably. “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have got you some help”. He had, of course, been aware that Chloe was working far too hard and spreading herself far too thinly but he hadn’t realised that she too had been aware of that fact. He felt an overwhelming sense of guilt.

    “Because I didn’t want you to know, and because my medical issues are none of your concern, and I don’t need help”, she jabbed the bottle pills into his chest to underline each point. It rattled as she did so.

    “If it affects your health then it is my concern”, Oliver corrected her sternly, in spite of his culpability. He also snatched the bottle away from her and placed in neatly on the night stand.

    “Because you are my boss?” She demanded with her hands on her hips.

    “No, because I am your friend. Whatever you say while you are mad. I know that you would never do anything to hurt the team, but you would destroy yourself easily”, he tried to control his emotions enough to get his point across and saw her swallow.

    “Chloe”, his tone softened still further, “tell me what the nightmare was about. I can probably fix it. Tell me what’s wrong. You kept begging me not to leave, you wouldn’t calm down until you were being held”, he didn’t add ‘like a baby’. “What do you call that?”

    “Repression?”

    “Chloe ...” He started and his voice took on a warning edge.

    “I’ve been through a lot”, she answered with a shrug. “Everyone I have ever cared about has left me - except my Dad, and I worry about his health.”

    “Oh”, he knew enough about her past - from what he had picked up second hand from Clark and Lois - to corroborated that fact and when he stared into her eyes he saw enough heartbreak to know that she was telling him the truth.

    “You can’t fix that can you, you arrogant jerk?” She asked, sounding more like her normal self suddenly.

    He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing. If she had really suddenly started feeling better or if she was just much better at lying to him than he had ever realised. Maybe it had been a joke or ...?

    “No”, he had to admit, “but I can promise that I won’t leave and hey I have enough money to track down anyone else who tries to leave you and drag them back”. He had decided to take it as a joke and attempt one of his own. He wasn’t happy with this resolution, but it would do for now.

    Chloe tried to smile, but there was still such haunting sadness in her eyes. Oliver longed to brush it away.

    “So, what do you say that we table this for now go out to breakfast and track down our invitations?”
    Chapter Six

    “Alright, so here is what we are going to do”, Chloe began with authority as she laid out their plan of attack for the day.

    “That all works, in theory”, Oliver said thoughtfully, “but that does mean that we have to actually know where Slope it to be able to ensure a meeting”.

    With a smug smile, Chloe slipped a piece of paper from between her breasts and handed it over to Oliver.

    He raised an eyebrow, unable to keep his eyes from whence the note had appeared.

    “What? This dress doesn’t have any pockets”, she defended herself. “Besides, you didn’t really think that I would be less than 100% prepared, did you?”

    “I should have known better”, he agreed as he took the paper and saw - in Chloe’s clear, precise writing - the address of a hotel in the centre of the city. “Do I want to know how you got hold of this?”

    “Probably not”, she replied with a smirk.

    “Anything that I am going to have to bail you out for?” He inquired, continuing to study the script and then the woman sitting before him.

    She appeared to be considering this for a few seconds, before shaking her head.

    “Chloe”, he prompted.

    “Oliver”, she laughed, “it is fine. I promise”. Seeing that he was just continuing to stare at her, she sighed and explained, “I hacked into all of the hotel’s files in Rome searching for his name, aliases and associates. That didn’t work but they couldn’t trace that back to me, even if they were to work out that they had been hacked - which they won’t”. She wasn’t being arrogant, just honest. Only one man in the world would have been capable of such a thing and he was no longer in any position to thwart her.

    “Then how did you ...?”

    “Simple”, Chloe smiled, “I remembered that I have amazing legs”.

    His eyes went down to survey them appreciatively. “I can hardly argue with that, but that doesn’t exactly answer my question”.

    “Fine”, she said with an overly exaggerated sigh, “I also remembered that I know Bart. He super speeded his way around Rome about thirty minutes ago with a picture and checked one by one”.

    “Wow”, Oliver commented, “that’s a hell of a lot of work”.

    “Hence the legs”, Chloe laughed, her attempt at lightness and good humour beginning to seem a little strained. “He started with the most expensive hotels and only had to go around two before he found our man. Slope was registered under an alias completed unconnected to any one I have seen before but it is definitely him”. She produced another item from her bra.

    Oliver took the still warm gift and noted, “He has a nice pair of pyjamas”.

    “The blue stripes are rather distinguished, are they not?” Chloe agreed with a smile. “So, we can just get going hang out around there, bump into someone, ingratiate ourselves, get an invitation and then”, she mimed brushing off her hands.

    “Sound good to me” Oliver smiled.

    ~*~

    “Quick, I see them”, Chloe hissed at her companion. She tried to dash after them but found herself being pulled back. “Oliver”, she protested, “come on, we need to hurry!”

    “I know a short cut”, Oliver said, grasping hold of her hand firmly.

    “Fine, let’s go”, she allowed him to lead her down a small side street, trotting after him as fast as possible, trusting him to know the way.

    “Hurry up”, he called over his shoulder, his words just audible over the gaggle of tourists that surrounded them.

    “I’m going as fast as I can”, she snapped. She weaved in between people over the cobbled streets until her fashion choices proved too much. Chloe’s stiletto got caught, her ankle turned and she pitched forwards.

    “Chloe”, Oliver whirled around and caught her just before she landed head first on the streets of Rome.

    “Are you alright?” He demanded, “What happened?”

    “Nothing I just tripped”, she assured him, her head spinning as Oliver set her back on her feet. She tried to take a step to continue with their plan but gasped in pain.

    “You’re hurt”, he concluded, “don’t worry I’ll get you to a doctor”.

    “No, Oliver don’t be ridiculous. It is just a twist. Quick, go on without me”, she tried to send him on his way.

    “I’m not leaving you behind”, he told her sternly, hoisting her up into his arms and continued onwards.

    Chloe wrapped her arms around him automatically, even as she tried to protest, “Ollie, honestly I’m fine. Just put me down before you hurt yourself”.

    “Don’t be ridiculous Chloe. I hauled Clark out of a warehouse full of Kryptonite once. Carting you around isn’t going to do me in”, he answered as if it were nothing.

    Chloe swallowed. She had slimmed down quite considerably over the last year but she knew that she was still no wafer. He had to be extraordinarily strong - and not in a meteor/alien way.

    She swallowed again at the thought. She knew that he was in good shape. She had always known it. His good looks, charming smile and muscular physique had not been lost on her upon their first meeting - she was only flesh and blood after all. And it had been no easier to ignore in the Watch Tower. In such close proximity his physical attributes had proven difficult to ignore. Even more so that morning. Even more so now.

    Chloe felt herself swallowing again. He was going to think that there was something wrong with her throat at this rate. The warm masculine scent of him surrounded her. The heat of him enveloped her. The feel of him around her, his strong, protective arms, cocooned her from the bustle of people around them.

    She had been so preoccupied by her new form of transport that it came as a shock to her when they were suddenly back on one of the main roads. She stared around, blinking, uncertain of their location.

    “We lost them”, she articulated in a defeated whisper as she finally succeeded in orientating them and looked in the direction their quarry should have been heading.

    “Oh ye of little faith”, Oliver winked at her as he began to stroll leisurely in that direction.

    Chloe’s brow furrowed for a second when she heard Oliver’s name being called. She froze but he continued to saunter along, as if he did this every day - which, for all she knew, he might.

    “Oi Ollie wait up!” One of the voices, distinctly British, was more insistent this time and Chloe only had a few seconds to school her features into an appropriate expression before the sound of hurried footsteps behind them transformed into a face in front of them.

    “For goodness’ sake Queen, get the plunger out and get some of that wax out of your lug holes”, a second face appeared.

    Chloe blinked. She had seen the men in question from a distance and in pictures before but up close they were really cute. It was hard to believe that they were nephews of Slope - who was mercifully absent -, just getting their feet wet in the business world. The brothers had both been blessed with curly sandy brown hair - which was slightly over-long and fell over their grey eyes - and perfect ivory teeth which they both flashed with ready smiles.

    She had read that they could get out of any scrape using their ‘boyish charms’. At the time, she had thought that they were over stating the facts - and that a cash bribe had been issued. Now she wasn’t so sure. They really were cute.

    Chloe blushed as she realised the image that she must be presenting. The image of the sleek business woman had been well and truly destroyed the second that she had fallen over - if not during the mad dash. And it wasn’t as if she could ‘pull a Lana’ either; she was no damsel in distress. Just a messy sloppy lump in her bosses’ arms.

    Oliver smiled at the duo and greeted them, “Mason and Daniel, hello”. He jostled her up higher in his arms, getting a tighter grip on her. “This Chl-” He broke off with a cough as he was surreptitiously elbowed in the ribs.

    “Claire”, Chloe broke in, reminding him of their story. It was too risky to use even part of her real name and this way they had the advantage that at least it began with the same syllable - giving them a chance to think.

    His suggestion: Zoe wouldn’t not have worked as well. There was no safety net with the name Zoe. Besides, she had known a girl called Zoe in high school - she hadn’t liked her.

    “Claire”, Oliver covered with a smile. “We had a little accident!”

    “So I see”, Mason - the one who was slightly taller and slimmer - replied, “Dan saw the back of your head and thought that it was familiar. We chased you for an entire street before we caught up for you. Half of Rome knows that we are looking for someone called Oliver”.

    Oliver smiled, apologetically.

    “He was obviously distracted”, Daniel reminded him. “Can we offer you some assistance?”

    “Oh yeah”, Mason blushed, having forgotten to ask what he had intended. “Can we help?”

    “No, thank-you”, she demurred, forgetting for a moment that this was exactly what they wanted.

    “Thank-you”, Oliver spoke over her, pointedly accepting their offer.

    “We are close to our hotel”, Daniel smiled.

    About 100 meters by Chloe’s count and she allowed herself to be carried that far. She was soon in their hotel suite, laid on the couch where Oliver attended to her ankle. “Don’t look so worried”, he whispered.

    “I’m not worried”, she lied, hopefully convincingly.

    “It’s not broken”, Oliver assured her with a smile as his large hands ran over her pale, slender limb.

    “Right”, she whimpered.

    “Does it hurt?” His head shot up.

    “No, no, I’m fine”, she promised him, heartily embarrassed. “I told you before, I’m fine. I could have walked”.

    “Evidently not in those heels”, he smirked.

    “It wasn’t the heel’s fault, it was the cobbles!” She defended her footwear.

    “Sure it was”, he continued to massage her ankle.

    She shivered. She knew that Oliver was a captain of industry, a titan, the Green Arrow and a seducer of women, but she wasn’t used to seeing him like that. Around her he was more of a sweet, gentle puppy. The assertive part of him was rather appealing. There was something seriously wrong with her. Why was it that she never fell for the puppies?

    “Is everything alright?”

    Chloe looked up to see, “Daniel?”

    “Right first time”, he grinned at her. “Are you alright?”

    “Yes”, she returned his smile.

    “It’s just twisted. It will be fine with some rest”, Oliver summed up the problem.

    “That’s great to hear”, Mason came over and began to hand out cups of tea. It wasn’t a beverage that she was particularly partial to but she took it with a few words of thanks and sipped it. It wasn’t terrible but she still preferred coffee.

    The others did the same and got settled. “Ollie”, Daniel started the conversation, “I haven’t seen you since you abseiled down the Thames in a pair of Union Jack boxer shorts on a dare”.

    “Has it really been that long?” Mason asked, thinking hard. “Bloody hell, it has been. What have you been up to?”

    “No, I mean yes. We haven’t seen each other for ages”, Oliver admitted, running his hand through his hair, “I’ve been busy”.

    “So I see”, Daniel said, looking pointedly at Chloe’s hand.

    “Subtle”, Mason huffed.

    “What?”

    “Come on Mase, you know that he held that question in as long as he possibly could”, Oliver joked, transferring his grip on Chloe to pull her forwards so that her legs were draped over his lap and his arm was around her.

    “Yeah, I suppose so!” Mason sighed but Chloe could tell that the brothers were incredibly close.

    “So, am I going to get an answer?” Daniel inquired, unashamed and unabashed.

    “What question might that have been?” Chloe inquired, teasingly placing her hands on Oliver’s shoulders showing off the ring that he had purchased for her for their ‘engagement’.

    The brothers smiled as Oliver took her hand and kissed it, “I have had a bit of good fortune haven’t I, baby?”

    “You did indeed, my darling”, she answered, in similarly soppy accents.

    “I am going to be married”.


    Chapter Seven

    Oliver felt her warm hands on his shoulder. Her breath on his cheek. The scent of her perfume tantalizing his nostrils. It was all an act, on both parts, but he couldn’t stop his chest from puffing out with pride.

    “Wow”, Mason breathed.

    “I guessed from the ring but I still never thought that I would see the day when you would consider getting married”, Daniel agreed, without any trace of tact.

    “Believe me, I’m doing far more than considering it”, Oliver ran his thumb across the back of Chloe’s knuckles.

    “So, how did you tow get together?” Daniel persisted with his line of questioning.

    Oliver’s gaze flickered between the brothers and his ‘fiancée’ and found himself blushing. It wasn’t the teasing - he was used to that, and on any other day would have been giving as good as he was getting -, it was the thought of lying to men who were so close to him. When they had planned this out he had glossed over this part and had been presuming that they would be dealing with their uncle Slope, or someone else, not his friends. Maybe if he just told them the truth they would agree to help him anyway. “It’s complicated”, he began with a sigh.

    “Not to be a woman but ...” Mason began.

    “We’ve got to know”, Daniel backed his brother up. “Oliver Queen getting hitched just isn’t something that you hear everyday”.

    Oliver paused. Debating his option.

    “Why so hesitant?” Mason wondered.

    “Because I was his intern”, Chloe stepped in, helping him out - or so she thought.

    “Ah”, there was a noise of acknowledgement from the boys.

    “Yes, exactly”, Chloe echoed.

    Oliver thought that that was an odd explanation, but it seemed to be working. He turned to stare at her.

    “Nothing illegal I swear”, she put her hands up in a gesture of surrender, causing them all to laugh.

    “I had”, she paused, as if considering how much she should confide in these strangers, “some family problems and ended up alone in the Big Prune (Star City) at 18, fresh out of High School and broke”.

    Oliver reached out to her. Responding to the truth and pain behind her words, rather than her made up story. He knew that she had gone through times of heartbreak, loneliness and financial hardship and he could relate - well, with the first two, not the last one.

    “I had a stroke of fantastic luck”, she said with a squeeze of his hand.

    “You got a job working for Oliver”, Dan surmised.

    “No, well, yes, not directly”, Chloe smiled and Oliver knew that their plan would work. No one could doubt her. It was scary. He felt a bit sick about it. “I got a job in the mail room”.

    Silence.

    She laughed. “Hey, in this economy anything is good. I worked my way up until finally I saw this opportunity”, her eyes lit up and Oliver couldn’t help but wonder what event in her life had inspired that story and that look. Oliver held her hand more tightly.

    “Then what happened?” Oliver was thankful that one of the boys had asked that rather than him.

    “I interviewed”, Chloe laughed with a shake of her head. “I was so nervous. It took me a month to even decide to apply”.

    “I didn’t know that”, Oliver found himself saying, getting into the story.

    “Well, I was just a girl without much education who worked in the basement”, Chloe said.

    “That wouldn’t have counted with me and you are so smart”, Oliver assured her. There was no reality in the universe where he wouldn’t have been impressed with her. No reality where he wouldn’t have instantly hired her and considered himself to have been blessed.

    “Well, I didn’t know what you were like at the time. You were just a man on a cover”, Chloe pointed out.

    He stared at her. She was so convincing that he actually began to wonder if this idea had some root somewhere in their joint history. But he couldn’t believe that she had ever thought that. What had she thought of him when they had met for the first time in reality?

    “I finally got my courage together and got my application in just seconds before the deadline and then I spent the next fortnight researching and scouring every bargain store in the Big Prune for formal looking clothes”, she remembered with a shake of the head.

    “But you got the job, right?” Dan checked.

    “Of course she did”, Mason elbowed him.

    “I almost didn’t”, she informed them.

    Oliver stared at her in shock. That didn’t sound right. This had to be believable. In what world would she not get the job? Or anything else that she wanted?

    “I planned my route down to the last detail. I got up at five o’clock. I should have had two hours extra but the traffic was horrific and the bus broke down. I ended up having to get out and run all of the way over there. I got there with only two minutes to spare, sweaty, with my hair in a mess and had to deal with the snooty secretary who wasn’t even going to let me through because I wasn’t there quarter of an hour before the meeting then he came out”, Chloe ran off the list of her imagined difficulties.

    “Some secretaries can be so problematic”, Daniel sympathised and Oliver narrowed his eyes. He knew for a fact that no receptionist had ever caused any difficulties for the multimillionaire so could only assume the worse and was pleased that they had opted for lying rather than confidence.

    “I know”, Chloe nodded. “He was standing there like a golden haired Adonis and I resembled a drowned rat”.

    “Drowned?” Mason picked up on the word.

    “It was raining outside, did I forget to mention that?” Chloe looked around.

    “Yup” Daniel confirmed.

    “Well, it was raining outside”, she announced. “And I almost turned back around and walked back out. I just thought: I can’t do this. I didn’t even have time to brush my hair and they say that people only get three seconds to make a good impression, so I knew that I had made a bad one”.

    “She made a great first, second and third impression”, Oliver argued with a besotted grin. He had been picturing her story in the head, interspersing it with images from their real lives. A few weeks ago, for example, it had been raining heavily and Chloe had walked into the office soaked to the skin. Her white silk blouse had been plastered to her body and his eyes had grown wide, even as he had offered her his jacket and been about to go and find a blanket for her. He hadn’t wanted her to get sick, but he wouldn’t have been human if he hadn’t been a little disappointed to know that she had had another change of clothes at the office.

    “Liar”, Chloe snapped him back into the present and into their lie.

    “I’m not”, he protested, “she marched right up to me and shook my hand and looked me straight in the eye”.

    “Almost tripping over my own feet as I went”, Chloe attempted to tarnish the image that he was creating, although he wasn’t sure why.

    Oliver laughed that off. “I asked her into my office”.

    “I was wiping my hands down my skirt as I went, trembling I was so nervous. I thought that I might even lose my actual job”, Chloe somehow managed to inject a slight tremor into her voice.

    “That could never happen”, he brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. “You will always be safe with me”. That was far too deep for what they were supposed to be discussing, but he couldn’t help himself.

    Chloe licked her lips and blushed. Once again Oliver was overawed by her acting abilities.

    “What happened?” Dan demanded. Mason shushed him but Oliver noticed when he transferred his attention to him that they were both on the edges of their seats.

    Chloe giggled and ran a hand through her hair. “We went into the office - which is huge by the way -”

    “You already said that bit”, Oliver reminded her.

    “Well it was”, she shot back.

    He smiled, they were bickering like an old married couple. The image was strangely appealing.

    “He asked me the usual questions and I gave the same pat answers, not that it matter as you could barely hear me”, Chloe murmured self-deprecatingly.

    “I could, I was paying attention to every word believe me”, he countered.

    “Then he made his mistake ...”

    Oliver hung on her words.

    “He asked me what I thought of the current political situation in Star City and before I could think better of it I was off on a rant which lasted for several minutes”, Chloe explained.

    “Which is especially impressed when you consider that she managed it without taking a breath at about a thousand words a second” he had seen her do that before. It was cute. Amazing. Fascinating

    Chloe blushed and once again Oliver found himself wondering if she was really that good of an actress or ...

    “And he offered me the job”, Chloe brought them back to the point. “It was the beginning of a completely new life for me. He saved me”.

    Oliver swallowed. “I wouldn’t say that”. It seemed impossible that he should ever really save her life but he supposed that he had ... in a way. Chloe never confided in him but from what he had gleaned her financial situation had been none to stellar when he had employed her. He couldn’t tell if that she was what she had thinking of now in order to lend verisimilitude to her story, or if she just had a knack for deception.

    For several long moments they stared at each other. Both lost in the story and in their own thoughts.

    “Then what?” Daniel demanded. Mason didn’t bother to hush him this time.

    “Oh”, Chloe gave another adorable little laugh, “Nothing”.

    “Nothing?” Every man in the room (including Oliver) stared at her in shock.

    “Well, nothing for a long time”, she explained, seeming nervous.

    Oliver tried to come to her aid before thinking that that might have been part of the act, “I was trying to be a gentleman”.

    No one looked as if they were believing him.

    “I was trying very hard. Hard being the operative word”, he added, tongue in cheek.

    “Ollie”, she she exclaimed, blushing to the roots of her hair. To him, she still looked cute.

    He pulled her closer, so that she was practically in his lap. “Well it wasn’t my fault. You were just too adorable. All bouncy and professional”. That was what she was like in the Watch Tower so he assumed that it was how she would act in any work situation - including the fictitious ones.

    “As if you even noticed”, she poked him in the chest with her index finger, “You, mister, had so many girls milling around that I bet that you never even noticed me”.

    He blinked at her shocked. He supposed that he did have quite a few women around - although far fewer recently - but in semi-social situations Chloe had met dozens of them. Did she really feel marginalised by their presence?

    She raised a challenging eyebrow at him and he realised that he was supposed to respond. “Well”, he started, clearing his throat, “I seem to remember a fair few suitors sniffing around you”.

    Chloe shrugged a shoulder. “I was finally ready to have some fun”.

    “Yeah, I remember”, Oliver said, doing a very good job of sounding put out by Chloe’s imagined relationships.

    They all stared at him and he took over the story.


    Chapter Eight

    Oliver was still wiping the sleep from his eyes when he staggered into work. The alcohol which he had been able to swig like Ribena a few years ago was having far more of an effect on him these days. Yet its ability to distract him from the stresses of running a company and the loneliness of his home life diminished with every passing week.

    It was long past time to quit.

    Every Sunday he told himself that this was the last time. This was the last time that he would wake up hung over. This was the last time that he would wake up with someone – some three – in his bed whose name he could not remember. If he had ever thought to ask. In a moment of abandon, ‘Baby’ always seemed extremely effective.

    He screwed up his face in response to the bright lights of the office and wished that he could do the same with his ears as the sounds of typing assaulted him. He would have to speak to someone about this. He must be wasting a fortune on lighting and overly loud keyboards. How was it that he had never noticed this before?

    He wasn’t normally in the office by this hour. He realised, as he saw the large clock hanging above his office door. It was 9 o’clock. He wouldn’t have been today if he hadn’t had an important meeting to prep for. When dealing with Bruce Wayne, it always paid to be prepared.

    With a suppressed groan at the thought of the other billionaire Oliver pushed open his office door to be assaulted by the heavenly smell of coffee. He breathed in deeply and sighed.

    “Good morning, Boss”, his blonde assistant – cum protégé – greeted him in blessedly dulcet tones. “Am I to take it that you require coffee?”

    “Always. Intravenously.” There two words. What a word-smith he was.

    “Would you accept in-a-nice-cup-iously?” She inquired with a cheeky smile as she held out a mug filled with thick, steaming espresso.

    He took the proffered cup and inhaled it greedily, not even pausing to thank her.

    Chloe provided him with another.

    “Thank-you”, he breathed after gulping that one down as well.

    “You’re welcome and I’m sorry but I can’t give you any more”, she removed both cups and busied herself with putting them on the tray to be washed up.

    He raised an eyebrow. Chloe hardly ever talked back to him – unless she thought that he was about to make a mistake in business. Then she occasionally interrupted him even in the middle of meetings, once by chucking a lemon scented gel pen at him.

    “Unless your plan is to avoid this meeting by being carried out of here on a stretcher”, she continued.

    “Ah”, he took her meaning. “Not a bad idea actually, but what makes you think that I want to get out of this meeting?” He may he had a playboy, but he thought that he did rather a good job of running the company which he had inherited … all things considered.

    “I can read the business pages”, she paused as she turned back around to stare at him. “And you”.

    “Can you now?”

    “Yes”, she answered decidedly.

    “Go on then”, he challenged, crossing his arms, more intrigued than annoyed.

    “Well I don’t blame you”, she started. “You are in a very difficult position having known someone so well and then not seeing them for a long time. It is always difficult to know how to act in situations like that, and when you add business into that, well”, she sighed, “it just makes it even more complicated”.

    “Yes, but what is it exactly that you think that I am”, he paused, “concerned about”. He refused to even consider the remote possibility of using the word ‘worried’ – even in the hypothetical sense. Business tycoons did not worry. They just occasionally threw chairs through the window. Smashed their new Porsche. Bankrupted an entire company. You know, the normal ways of blowing off steam or expressing disapprobation.

    “You are concerned about meeting someone who was your school yard crony, with whom you no doubt got into all sorts of trouble. As I see it, there are two options. 1. He has changed and you are afraid that he won’t take you seriously, that he will still see you as the boy you were instead of the man that you have become and that his opinion could rub off on others. Or 2. You are afraid that he won‘t have changed as much as the media pretends he has, that he won’t be serious enough and you don’t want a reminder of what you were like in your youth”.

    He just stared at her.

    “So, how did I do?” She enquired, looking rather pleased with herself.

    “No comment”.

    “I’ll take that as an ‘Exactly right Chloe, well done’”, she replied glibly.

    “You may take it however you like”, Oliver replied without anger. And not just because he was too tired and hung over to get really angry. He never felt angry around Chloe. Quite the reverse in fact.

    She grinned, “So, are you feeling better now?”

    “A bit, yes, thank-you”, he answered.

    “Well enough to get all of the way over to your desk?” She inquired in a manner which, although not quite teasing, was not perhaps as respectful as should have been when addressing her boss.

    “I think that I can manage that yes”, he said.

    “Okay? Do you need a hand?” Chloe replied, placing a hand on his back.

    “No, these old bones will probably make it”, he assured her and staggered over there - it seemed to be a very long way - and collapsed into his chair, pulling it under his desk. His brain was just about clear enough to realise that something was wrong. There was a large, bright blue folder sitting there. “What’s this?”

    “Just some notes”, Chloe said with a shrug as she walked back over to her own desk in the corner of the room and began to type.

    Oliver opened the folder and began to flick through the pages slowly. A frown clouding his features. It was extremely thick. “This is just a few notes?”

    “Sure. Categorised by theme”, Chloe supplied helpfully.

    “So I see”, he examined the labels. There were at least fifty of them.

    “I wanted you to be prepared”, Chloe said. As if that explained all of that work. “For every eventuality!”

    “Fire?” He couldn’t help but test her.

    “Page seventy-two”, she replied with a smirk.

    “Earthquake?” He continued.

    “Page eighty-five”, she shot back.

    “Hostile take over?” He challenged.

    “Chapter Nine”.

    “Seriously?” That was going a bit far, even for her.

    “Yup!” She grinned cheekily.

    “Hell Chloe! Are there no ends to your talents?” Oliver exclaimed, incredibly impressed.

    She appeared to be considering this for a few seconds, “No, not that I have encountered”.

    “Modesty. I like it”, he grinned at her - and felt a pain in the side of his head. Even her sunny disposition couldn’t completely obviate the residue of toxic liquor in his system.

    Oliver went through the documents, skimming them due to lack of time, becoming more impressed by the second. He looked up from his desk at the woman who had done it, thinking that she probably deserved a raise ... and a binding contract. Although the latter was more for his benefit than hers.

    His right hand was sat at her desk. In the few months he had known her she had changed so much, it was evident even in the way that she typed. She was so much more confident now. So smart. So powerful. Or maybe she hadn’t changed that much at all. Maybe she had just been ground down when they had first met. He ignored the feeling, it made him uncomfortable.

    If there were any justice in the world she would have been the one with a multi billion dollar multi national company in her name.

    She must have sensed that he was staring at her as she turned to look at him in a questioning manner.

    “Um”, he cleared his throat, “thank-you”.

    ~*~

    Oliver was standing outside his office, with Chloe at his side, waiting for Bruce Wayne and the meeting. He was feeling slightly nervous about it all and surreptitiously wiped his hands down his sides. He was being ridiculous and he knew it, but he just couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible was about to happen.

    It was just as he was thinking this that the doors of the lift opened with a ping, to reveal Bruce Wayne. Oliver’s eyes swept over his old school ‘friend’ and saw a tall, brooding man in a dark business suit with a rakish smile. Pretty much what he had been in High School just with a little more stubble and muscle mass.

    The suave (and far too handsome) little bugger sauntered into the room, his eyes fixed not on his old school friend but on something to his left. Oliver turned and saw that he was staring at Chloe. Of course, Bruce had always been a terrible flirt and had always had an inclination for blondes.

    Oliver felt his stomach clench. A sensation which only increased as he came over and greeted him and asked to be introduced to “This vision of loveliness”.

    “This”, he tried not to grit his teeth, “is Chloe Sullivan my colleague”.

    She looked at him with an odd expression.

    “It is a pleasure to meet you Miss Sullivan”, Bruce took her hand.

    “Likewise Mr Wayne”. Oliver was surprised (and a little put off) to see that Chloe actually blushed as returned the greeting.

    “Please, call me Bruce”, the dark billionaire flashed her the smile which had made far harder women than her melt. Oliver, on the other hand, felt no inclination to melt. On the contrary, he wanted to knock his perfect teeth out.

    “Then you must call me Chloe”, she finally managed to retrieve her hand.

    Yup, every single one of those pearly whites needed to go.

    “Will you be joining us in our meeting?” Bruce inquired debonairly.

    Chloe turned her gaze on Oliver, face filled with light and hope.

    “Of course”, Oliver could hardly say no.

    ~*~

    The meeting was a success from Oliver’s perspective. Chloe’s papers had prepared him and his right hand was intelligent and ruthless. There was nothing to be upset about. In fact, he should have been elated but he was feeling distinctly uneasy.

    Chloe had been dressed better than normal - in a short dark blue business dress - and judging by the way that she had responded to Bruce Wayne he started to suspect that it had not been laundry day. Bruce had definitely noticed too. He hadn’t been able keep his eyes off her through out the meeting and seemed more ‘stimulated’ than anything else when she had taken him to task.

    Oliver checked his watch. He had only been at this drinks reception for a few minutes. No doubt he would feel better once it was over and he could get a good night’s sleep. Those thoughts ended when saw Chloe walk in.

    He was at her side in seconds. “Chloe, what’s wrong? Business?”

    “Oliver, look at the dress”, she gestured to the length of aubergine fabric that was wrapped around her.

    He stared down at her. Studying her figure appearance. She was gorgeous. How the hell hadn’t he noticed this before?

    “You aren’t here because there has been a disaster and you needed to find me”, he surmised.

    “No, I’d have used this new gadget called a phone for that”, she answered with a smirk.

    She was her usual cheeky self. He liked that. “Then what ...?”

    “Sorry about that Chloe, but I promise that that was the last business call for tonight”. Bruce came over and wrapped his arm around Chloe.

    Oliver’s jaw clenched, “You are here on a date?”

    “Yes, Bruce asked me after the meeting”, Chloe suddenly looked worried, “that’s okay, isn’t it?”

    “Of course, I don’t have any to say about your personal life”, he tried to sound reasonable but it came out a little harsh. “I think that you will be bored though”.

    “Thanks for that Oliver”, Bruce responded, rubbing Chloe’s shoulder.

    “I meant with the drinks reception”, Oliver clarified, for politeness’ sake. “They are normally extraordinarily boring”.

    “Ah”, Chloe smiled.

    “Well, I will try my best to keep you entertained”, Bruce teased his companion, stroking his hand down her arm.

    Oliver wondered if ripping his arm out of its socked and beating him with it would cause too much of a scene. It probably would. But it may still prove necessary.

    ~*~

    Oliver raced towards the hotel’s doors. The huge oak and glass panels being thrown open just in time to prevent a collision. He tore out into the freezing night air onto the streets of Metropolis. His head swung around from one direction to the other, thankful for the light pollution of the city.

    “Chloe”, he roared.

    There were people scattered around and most of them jumped at his outburst. Faces turned to him and then, further down the street than he would have thought possible, he saw her.

    “Chloe come back here”, Oliver called out as he sprinted down the street.

    She stopped but made no move to head towards him. It didn’t matter he was by her side in under a minute. He came to a halt just in front of her, shocked by her appearance. She was so small. Shivering. Fighting back the tears.

    Oliver had always been the perfect boss - or at least he had tried to be. He had tried to be respectful and courteous but he forgot about that now. He pulled her to him. Unable to do anything else. She felt so delicate. She was shaking terribly. He pressed her even more tightly to him.

    He had watched her all night. It had been the first time that he had not been bored at one of these events. She had zeroed in on several local big wigs and asked what started out as a fairly innocent question, which had then flared up into a fully fledged interrogation. Every pair of eyes in the room had ended up on her. And not just because of her beauty.

    Finally the mayor - who apparently did not appreciate it - had snapped at her. She had blinked, brushed it off and left the room. Bruce had taken off after her, which Oliver had been thankful for while he deal with the stupid Mayor. That was the last year that he was going to be in office.

    Then he went to find the couple. It was reported that Mr Wayne had headed to the bar, whilst his young companion had left. In great distress.

    “I’m sorry”, she whispered, her chin quivering. Oliver barely heard her. Tipped her chin up.

    “What for?”

    “Embarrassing you”, she said through hiccups. “You gave me a job and”, hiccup, “and ...”

    “No”, he replied sternly.

    She blinked, causing more tears to fall.

    “You didn’t embarrass me. You could never embarrass me”, he had no idea where she could have got an idea like that. He stared down at her. Her eyes were wide (still a little watery) but filled with hope.

    He didn’t know what he was thinking. He probably wasn’t. His head descended and he kissed her. Right there, in the middle of a Metropolis street.

    ~*~

    Oliver and Chloe sat on the settee in their hotel suite in Rome, surrounded by business men but getting so lost in the story that they were just staring at each other. Of their own volitions, their heads moved in until they were only inches apart.

    “An interesting story certainly”, a dry voice broke the spell at they both jumped.

    Oliver’s eyes locked on the source of the disturbance: Slope. The older man’s gaze was fixed squarely on Chloe and the billionaire felt his hands begin to tense. There was something going on. Something he didn’t like and he would get to the bottom of it.


    Chapter Nine

    Oliver rolled a tumbler full of liquid between his hands. His eyes trained on the slow repetitive action. The dim light of the Roman evening filtered in through the open windows, casting a kaleidoscope of colours in his drink. It was water - he wished that it were scotch, but he still had work to do that night.

    The day had been a success. In theory. They had found the men in question, made contact, and he was confident that they would get the invitations they so desperately needed. All without blowing their cover or any major casualties - Chloe’s ankle wasn’t badly injured. After so many days of trying for one tiny opening, they had even got the entire group in their hotel suite for one evening, pitched them a story about how they met and then ... He downed his drink. It definitely needed to be scotch.

    He replaced his glass on the coffee table in front of him and looked over at the closed double doors which led on to the master bedroom a.k.a. Chloe’s bedroom. The hard wood sent an unmistakable message. Your way is bared. You are not welcome. He couldn't blame her, he supposed.

    Oliver stood up, stretching his legs. He had acted like a jackass. She had only gone into the room - leaving the party for a few moments originally - to answer a ‘business’ phone call. Once the call had apparently been finished, Slope and several other men had floated into her room. They hadn’t done anything really untoward. They were just talking to her. But Oliver had not liked it.

    He had finally turfed them out of her (theoretically their) room with some pert comment about not being accustomed to seeing so many men in his bedroom. Especially not with his fiancée. That had got them out and broken up the party in a believable manner. They had an appointment with them all for lunch tomorrow so he did not despair of having ruined everything, but Chloe had not been impressed.

    “Seriously?” One word, scathingly uttered had been her only comment on the matter. Before she had closed the door in his face.

    Oliver sighed and he strode over to be faced with the large wooden panels. They would have to talk about all of this. Her past. Her nightmares. Her drug use. Her ability to lie to him.

    He took a deep breath and wrapped his knuckles on the door.

    “What is it?” Chloe’s voice called out, sounding irritated.

    “I want to talk to you”, Oliver said in a tone which was meant to make it clear that this was not a request.

    “Can it wait a few minutes, I’m rather busy”, Chloe called back.

    “No, not really”, he replied, wanting it kick himself. ‘Not really’ seemed to undermine his authority.

    “Fine”, she answered with a huff.

    Oliver waited for a few seconds, wondering if she was going to come to the door. “Chloe?” He called out again, a little more hesitantly this time.

    “I said fine!”

    Taking it to mean that he was welcome - or permitted at least - to enter her inner sanctum, he strode into the room and found her sitting at the desk in the corner, typing at her laptop, wearing only a towel.

    “Chloe?” He asked, his eyebrow rising.

    “Is it really that urgent?” She demanded, “I’m really quite busy”.

    Her abruptness surprised him. He understood that she was doing a lot for him, that she was tired, stressed and her ankle might hurt, that she had problems going on at home - which she did not see fit to confide in him - but it was still odd for her to be anything less than polite.

    “So I can see. Will anyone die if you stop for a few minutes?” It was a legitimate question in their line of work, even if it might have sarcastic to anyone else.

    “No, no one will die”, she admitted, tearing her eyes away from the screen and turned around halfway so that she could observe him. She didn’t seem overly impressed.

    “Good”, he breeched the gap between them and not seeing a second chair, sank down onto one knee. He didn’t want to be looming over her for this. He reached out and took one of her hands. She didn’t pull it away from him, but she didn’t seem very pleased. At any other time it would have seemed like an odd for him to have done, but right then he just wanted her to know that he was there for her.

    “I’m sorry that I pissed you off”, he started.

    She continued to stare at him.

    “I shouldn’t have reacted the way that I did to seeing those other men in here”, he continued.

    “No, you shouldn’t”, she gave him no quarter.

    He sighed. “But you have to understand that it bothered me ...”

    “Why?” She cut him off.

    He chose to believe that she was inquiring why it bothered him rather than doubting that she had to understand his comportment. “I don’t know. Things ...” He paused as he sought for the right words but upon viewing her eyes narrowing, realised that that wasn’t going to happen. “Things haven’t exactly being going to plan over. Particularly over the last few days”.

    “No kidding”, she snorted and he almost smiled.

    “But”, he stressed, “I want you to know that you can trust and confide in me.”

    “I do”, Chloe replied simply.

    “No, you don’t”, he replied and a meaningful look passed between the two of them.

    “Oliver”, she finally broke it, “there are just some things about me that you don’t need to you. Which you have no right to know. That”, there was a noise from her laptop and she turned back around, withdrawing her hand from his.

    “For Pete’s sake Chloe”, he shouted, jumping up to his feet. “This is getting absolutely ridiculous”. He began to pace. “I’ve had just about enough of this. I need to know what the hell is going on with you and I won’t be shut out any more. I want to help you and”, he stormed back over to her, her back was still to him as she typed.

    “Are you going to at least do me the courtesy of eye contact?” He no longer cared if he was towering over her. Let her feel uncomfortable.

    She spun around and he saw the flash of fear.

    “I’m sorry”, he took a step back immediately. “Chl -”

    “No”.

    He blinked.

    She was on her feet. “I’m sorry”.

    “Don’t be sorry, Chl-”

    “No”, the syllable was forced from her once again. Too abruptly. “Kiss me!”

    ~*~

    Chloe felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up on end as she said those words. She thought that she had left behind the days of the nervous school girl begging a man for love and affection. She had certainly hoped that she had. She had no interest in anything like that any more and yet there she was standing in the middle of a hotel room, dressed only in a towel, begging one of the world’s most eligible bachelors to kiss her. She would have laughed had it not been quite so pathetic.

    Oliver stood there. Staring at her. His large, chocolate brown eyes filled with confusion. He probably thought that she was crazy, which in all fairness, she might have been but it was the only thing that occurred to her at that moment that might get them out of this predicament.

    “Oliver”, she pronounced his name slowly, hoping that she sounded alluring rather than nauseous - which was how she felt - as she pressed herself against him.

    “Chlo-”

    “Shh”, at least she managed not to scream out “no” this time. She placed a hand on his cheek, prompting him to look only at her and hoped that she could somehow convey her message just through one long, meaningful gaze.

    It might have worked, if said message had been “please look at me as if I had just lost every last ounce of common sense I possessed”.

    Instead of trying again, she raised up onto her tip toes and pressed her lips softly against his. She felt dizzy, but from nerves rather than passion. She was positive that he was about to push her away without further comment - not that she would blame him - and think that this is all some crazy scheme just to get close to him. Or something. She was sure that women had tried crazier rouses in the past.

    Her lips remained anchored to his. For several interminable seconds it was like trying to kiss a statue and she feared that all might be lost until he began to respond. Relieve flooded her body to quickly that she felt weak and his strong arms wrapped themselves around her, pulling her close to him as he assaulted her mouth.

    She tried to pull away but felt his head come up to grip the back of her head as his one remaining arm hoisted her up off the floor. He was certainly very good at pretending once he realised what was expected of him. He was doing such a good impression of an ardent lover that her towel became momentarily dislodged but Oliver either didn’t notice or didn’t care.

    Chloe allowed herself to do sensuous battle with him for a few more seconds before gently biting his lower lip. With a groan which had nothing to do with pain he retreated for a second and she took her opportunity to place kisses along his jawline until she reached his ear.

    “Play along”, she whispered, before taking his lobe between her teeth.

    She felt him tense underneath her touch at the words and was momentarily concerned that he might give them away but then his training kicked in and he took the incisive.

    “Baby”, he breathed the words into her hair, and Chloe felt a shiver travel down her spine in spite of herself.

    “It’s just make believe”, she reminded herself as his grasped her even more closely to his hard body and a wave of nostalgia crashed over her. This was insane. It was just because it was the first time that she had been held like this since ...

    “Ollie”, she moaned his name to keep herself from thoughts that would be her undoing.

    “What’s going on?” He whispered, once he had arranged it so that his mouth was by her ear.

    “There is another bug”, she replied, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck and nuzzling him.

    “Shit”, he swore, thankfully not too loudly.

    She continued to ingratiate herself with the side of his neck, preparing to speak but he beat her to it. Tangling his hand in her tresses, he manoeuvred them so that he could growl into her ear. “Where is it hidden?”

    She grasped his head in her hands and planted a kiss on his full lips before breathing against them, “in the bed’s headboard”.

    “Last night”, he began, worried.

    “No”, she shook her head and then wrapped her arms around his shoulders and buried her head in the crook of his neck as if she only wanted to cuddle with him. “I didn’t miss anything”, she assured him hurriedly and quietly. “This is a new one, one of our guests installed it but I didn’t see which one. I have a scanner which is constantly checking”.

    “Are you sure?” He asked, his hands tensing for a second before he returned them to her back.

    “Positive”, she never made mistakes.

    “And you can remove it”, he checked as he stroked her spine, inadvertently loosening her towel yet further and then having to hitch it back up. It was a good job that Chloe’s face was buried in him as her cheeks were bright pink.

    “I could”, she started and he picked up on it.

    “You are worried that they might think that we are on to them? What if we pretended to be cleaning or something?”

    “Maybe but ...” She paused. She didn’t what him to think that she was using him. “Maybe we could use it to our advantage ...”

    Chapter Ten

    “Use it to our advantage”. The words rolled around in Oliver’s head. The idea had many delightful possibilities: spending more time together, holding hands, giving him a better chance to get to the bottom of the mystery which was Chloe Sullivan. It was the only logical plan really.

    “You’re right sweetheart”, he purred, as he stroked her back. “Let’s not fight, why don’t we go into the sitting room and try to talk this would over a nice cup of coffee?”

    Chloe grinned up at him, “You had me at coffee”.

    “Seduction had always been one of my special abilities”, he wiggled an eyebrow at her.

    “I’ll have to bear that in mind”, Chloe teased him in retaliation. The perfect picture of a couple.

    “You do that”, he leant down and kissed her on the forehead and then on the tip of her nose. “I’ll get your robe, you’ll be more comfortable”.

    “You just like it because the fabric is so much thinner”, she teased him.

    “That’s not true”, he protested as he strode back over to the door to retrieve the article of clothing in question.

    “No?”

    “No”, he turned back to her with a smirk, “it also has this lovely little feature”. He twirled the belt of the dressing gown around.

    “A draw string thingie?”

    “Yes, the very famous, innovative, draw string thingie”, he played with it as he covered the ground between them.

    “Do you normally get quite so excited by a simple piece of string?” She was a very good actress, he couldn't tell where she stopped and the acting began.

    “One which can remove every scrap of clothing of my delectable fiancée”, he grinned.

    “Honey tongued devil”.

    A gave her what should be his patented Charming Oliver Queen Smile. He had used it a thousand times, probably even more, in every aspect of his life. Whilst it had never been exactly natural, it had never felt fake before now. He had never felt dirty before now. Normally, he was never Oliver Queen around Chloe, just Ollie.

    “So, are you all talk and no action or are you going to help me out here?” She coaxed him gently.

    “You don’t have to ask me twice”, he said with a wicked grin even though she had had to prod him quite a lot.

    She gave him a challenging look.

    He was conscious of his racing heart-rate, rising temperature and his palms becoming sweaty. He opened the garment and drew it around her, her back was to the camera so that he was covering her completely.

    He caught her eyes and saw her mouth, “Play along”.

    She dropped the towel and wrapped herself in the cotton garment in the blink of an eye. If fast, she did it so quickly that he didn’t even catch a glimpse of her. Unfortunately it didn’t do anything for his libido; he could make out lush curves through her dressing gown and knew that she was completely nude underneath it. He swallowed.

    “Perv”, she shot at him and accompanied with a wink.

    “How did you do that?” He whispered, taking her arm as she moved to breeze past him.

    “This isn’t my first time”, she smiled sweetly.

    “It isn’t?” The words came out of his mouth before he could think better of them. Or think of them at all actually.

    Chloe gave him an expressive look.

    “Right”, it didn’t matter - for the moment - he just needed to play along.

    He watched her move away with what he hoped as an unconscious sway of her hips. The delicious swell of her curves through the thin cotton enough to drive him insane. He groaned and looked down, at least one part of his anatomy was definitely playing along.

    “Are you coming?”

    “God I hope not”, he muttered to himself before calling out, “I’ll be right there!”

    ~*~

    Chloe was very nearly shaking, no where near as calm as she had tried to make out. They were being bugged. That was a serious matter and that was before she had suggested that they played along. It was a sensible plan, it was the only way to get to the bottom of all of this, except for one small problem: she felt like she was about to be sick.

    She tried to thrust these feelings down as she called out to Oliver. She took several deep breathes before he entered and forced a smile to her lips.

    Oliver came around the door and nodded his head at it, to ask if she wanted him to close it.

    “No”, she shook her head, the more open they seemed the better.

    “It seems that we have quite a lot to discuss”, Oliver commented, as he crossed the room to where she was sitting.

    Chloe was impressed. His voice would carry while he was standing there, but not now that they were seated unless they were to shout. He sank down next to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

    “Are you alright?”

    “Don’t start that again”, she said, although not harshly, “we need to sort out what we are going to do”.

    “Is it ...”

    “It’s safe to talk here. They can’t hear a word that we are saying ... Unless we shout”, she explained.

    “Good”, he squeezed her shoulder.

    “Do you know who did it?”

    “No, but my money is on Slope”, she admitted, annoyed with herself for not knowing the answer and for ever allowing it to happen to start with.

    “Do you know what reasons he might have ...”

    “Not a clue. But I don’t trust him as far as I could throw him and as I disdain to touch the disgusting creature, that isn’t very far at all”, she added with a hollow laugh.

    He smiled at her. “What are we going to do?”

    “We are going to have to play along. They clearly aren’t looking for information about the company”, she started to device a plan.

    He gave her a look.

    “They wouldn’t have bugged the bedroom if they wanted to know about business matters”, she pointed out.

    “They want to know if we are really in a relationship.” she thought aloud. “They know (or have guessed) that we are aiming for an invitation and want to know if that is based on the basis of our relationship and wanting to see old friends or ...”

    “They think that we are onto them?” Oliver supplied.

    “Yes”, that was the only explanation. Well, the only that she would allow herself to consider.

    “So we pretend to be the perfect couple to divert attention”, he pondered the prospect. It didn’t sound bad at all to him.

    “Yes”, she said once again.

    “I can tell that you are plotting. How, exactly are we to accomplish that?”

    “Doing something that only a real couple - not a fake couple - would do”, Chloe came up with the next stage of their plan.

    He raised an eyebrow and hoped that nothing else rose in unison.

    “We are going to have a fight”.

    ~*~

    “Oh for he love of God I am sick and tired of having the same fight with you over and over again”, Oliver roared.

    “Well then just tell me the truth once and for all”, Chloe screamed.

    “I am telling you the truth. She came onto me, got me drunk and-”

    “Yeah, that’s every man’s defence”, Chloe snarled.

    “I’m not every man and it is not a defence. It is a reason”, he protested feeling his body reacting to the upset even if there was no reason for it.

    “Like hell it is!

    “Claire damn it, will you just listen to me?” Claire never sounded right.

    “I’m tired of listening to this crap. Every time that I think that we have got passed it, it all comes back up”, she flopped back down onto the settee as if her entire energy reserve had been expended on this stupid fight.

    “Yes, because you brought it up”, he ran his hand through his hair.

    “No, you did”, she shot back.

    “All I asked was why were you in the bedroom with those men?” He snapped, getting tired himself.

    “What do you think that I was doing? Magically having an invisible affair with them with the door open and you in the next door?” She demanded irately.

    “No, of course not. I ... I just ...” He didn’t know why it had bothered him in reality, he had no clue why it would have bothered his alter ego.

    “You just what?” Chloe hopped back onto her feet and stormed over to him.

    “I want to know the truth”, the words rang with truth.

    “So do I”.

    There was silence. Both of them breathing hard. Staring at each other. It was fake but it felt so real. Both had had real relationships which had ended badly. Ended in the spiral of screaming, tears and recrimination. It was never good.

    He wanted to hold her, to tell her that it was alright, it was all just pretend. He took a step towards her.

    She side stepped him, walked to the door which still stood ajar and looked over her shoulder at him. “I’m exhausted. I’m going to bed.”

    He didn’t know if her voice would carry at that moment, but her expression. The camera would catch it and no one could doubt that she knew what heartbreak was.

    This was terrible.

    He moved to the doorway and watched as Chloe made her way over to the bed, and without bothering to change, got in and pulled the covers over her. She looked so small. He swallowed.

    Oliver watched her for a few long minutes as he debated what to do. He was still breathing hard from the argument - even though it had not been real. It had been a good idea, Chloe was right. It added verisimilitude and ensured no intimacies would be required of them that night. He opened his lips. He should have said that he would stay in the guest bedroom that night as she was clearly so angry, it would have been a good excuse, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.

    He strode over, passed the bed, towards the bathroom - he would have to find a way to sneak his own things in there tomorrow - but for tonight used the soap and toiletries provided. Once he was slightly more in control of himself and calmer he stripped down to his boxers and traipsed back into the bedroom. He flicked off the lights but there was still a glow from the city which allowed him to make his way to the bed.

    Oliver got in and lay on his back. On his own side. He stayed there for what must have been an hour. Fingers drumming on his chest. He wasn’t going to get to sleep like this. Turned to Chloe. Judging by how rigid her posture was, neither was she.

    “Sweetheart”, he whispered, not sure if he was playing a role or not, as he reached over and stroked her arm.

    “Don’t”.

    He paused.

    “I just want to go to sleep and not think any more about any of this”, she continued in a whisper.

    He hoped that she was acting.

    “Alright sweetheart. Just sleep. We’ll deal with everything tomorrow. Goodnight, my angel”, he kissed the back of her head.

    He felt her tense up at those words. He couldn’t say Claire.

    In spite of his belief that neither of them would ever get to sleep that night, Oliver was wrong. He must have been because he woke up to find Chloe’s soft form pressing against him, begging, “Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me”.

    “Don’t worry my darling, I won’t”.


    Chapter Eleven

    Chloe lay rolled up like a toasty cinnamon bun in her comforter. She took a deep breath, enjoying the smell of fabric softer. She had been right to splurge for the good stuff. She sighed.

    “Lazy bones, are you planning to get up at all today?” A very familiar, soft teasing voice lilted across the room.

    “Mmmmmm”, she moaned, noncommittally. She loved him even more than her duvet.

    “I’ll take that as a yes”, her beloved boyfriend’s voice grew closer as he padded over to her, his bare feet making no sound against the floor. “Come on lazy bones”, he prodded her. She felt the mattress giving way next to her as he climbed onto her small bed.

    His large arm wrapped around her, “More than enough energy to steal all of my covers during the night but not enough to move this morning. Interesting!”

    “You are such a drama queen”, she lifted her head just enough to be able to see a tiny corner of blanket by her foot that wasn’t currently in use. “There is a bit there”, she kicked it towards him.

    “Yeah, that isn’t going to work”, he noted the whole three inches of cover that she had so generously offered him.

    “You know, this wouldn’t happen if you were more of a snuggly sleeper”, Chloe nettled him.

    “I’ll bear that in mind”, he chuckled. They had been working hard to overcome his aversions to all things couple-like. Most were surprisingly easy with Chloe, others would take a little more time.

    He spooned her from behind now and nuzzled her neck.

    “Ummm …”

    “So, can I unravel you or are you hibernating?” He inquired, smiling.

    “Fine”, she huffed and then decided, “I can unravel myself”.

    “It will be more fun this was. Trust me”, Lex said as he jumped up, stepped over her and then tugged on it. Like Cleopatra immerging form her rug, Chloe was released from her duvet.

    Chloe smiled seraphically up at him. It was the first time that she had seen him that morning. He was gorgeous all smooth and sleek and lean and yummy. She felt energy stirring within her once more.

    “Well I’ll be damned”, Lex grinned down, at her wolfishly, greatly enjoying this vision laid out before him.

    Chloe naturally struck her most seductive if over blown pose.

    “Well, I was going to ask if you if you wanted any coffee, but that can wait”, Lex decided, pouncing on her.

    “Coffee?”

    ~*~

    Chloe stirred at the sound of someone entering her bedroom and rolled over. The other side of the bed was pleasantly warm and had a masculine scent to it. With a contented yawn, she allowed her eye lids to flutter open and smiled as she made out the figure in the doorway.

    Tall and sturdy with blond hair and brown eyes, carrying a tray of breakfast goodies.

    It was not the man she had been hoping or expecting to see in her dreams but the delusion no longer hurt as much as normal. She liked to imagine that that was due to the presence of pastries rather than that she was getting caught up in the fantasy life that they were creating.

    “Good morning darling”, he greeted with a practiced, charming smile.

    “H-”, she croaked and then realised that she was dehydrated. She pulled herself up into a seated position and grabbed her glass of water, downing half of it in one large gulp. “Hello”, she tested her voice out and this time it worked.

    “Better?” He inquired with a knowing smile.

    “Yeah”, she nodded, straightening the straps on her nightgown, hopefully in a way that seemed convincing in front of someone who was already supposed to have seen her naked numerous times. “What’s all this?” She asked, staring pointedly at the tray in his possession.

    “Just my way of saying sorry about yesterday”, he said, a little guiltily.

    She stared at him, trying to work out if this was just a charade for the camera or if there was a grain of truth in it.

    “Is it safe for me to come in?” He inquired, in the tone of a man who really thought that he was in the dog house.

    “Yeah, of course. And as for getting around me, this is a good way of doing it”, Chloe admitted, inhaling deeply.

    He chuckled as he strolled over to her and sat down on the side of the bed nearest to where Chloe was lying. He placed the tray on its little legs and over her much longer ones. He reached out and stroked her hair. “I really am sorry. I shouldn't have got mad or jealous”.

    Chloe swallowed. His apology felt real. “It's alright”, she replied quietly.

    He smiled at her tenderly and leant in to kiss her forehead gently. “Good”, he said as he came back and stared at her, then he leant forwards like a man in love.

    “Mostly because I’m ravenous”, Chloe cut off any amorous intentions.

    He laughed as he halted his progress. “We had better dig in then”.

    “Wait?” She placed her hand on his chest, “You think that you are getting some of this?”

    “Well”, his eyes trailed down her, “that depends on what you are referencing to exactly”.

    “The pastries”, she answered dryly.

    He pouted then teased her, “Greedy! I’ll just leave you to it then”, he offered, standing up.

    “Come back I’m only teasing”, she patted the bed beside her. “Honestly, sometimes you are such a drama queen”.

    “Okay”, he dashed around to his side of the bed and got back under the covers. “Hand over the good stuff!”

    “Just like a man”, she taunted.

    “This from the woman who wasn’t going to share any of her entire plate of pastries with me”, he flashed her his best puppy dog eyes.

    “Good point”, she said, as she offered the plate to him while he poured the coffee. “You know you are going to have to stop treating me like this or they won’t be able fit into a wedding dress”.

    “So I’ll buy you a bigger one”, he offered, kissing her temple.

    “You’re going to need to at this rate”, she said as she bit into the soft flaky flesh of the sweet dessert with a groan of sheer ecstasy.

    “Yeah”, he noted with the strained tone of a man who was imagining something else.

    “God men are easy”, she smirked.

    “God women are mean”, he replied, even as he poured them both coffee.

    She giggled at him. “Eat your breakfast”, she reached out and claimed her steaming beverage. “Ohhhhhhhhh”, another sigh of contentment.

    “Seriously Ch”, he couldn’t say Chloe. Claire, that was her name now but he couldn’t bring himself to use it. “Darling, you’re killing me”.

    “Wait till I get my hands on the wedding cake”, she smirked.

    “I’m looking forward to our honeymoon!”

    ~*~

    “Do you think that they brought it?” Chloe whispered to Oliver as soon as they had entered the relative safety of the living room. She had surreptitiously rechecked the entire apartment digitally with her ‘phone’ and there was still only the camera in the headboard.

    Their romantic breakfast had been followed by his seductively muttered suggestion that they “Go and freshen up”. She wasn’t sure how strong the microphone in the headboard was, but if it was any good at all then they had got a good audio performance of two lovers showering. Of course, whoever was spying on them didn’t need to know that they had taken separate showers with the other person facing the corner for modesty’s sake.

    “Yes, it was very convincing”, Oliver assured her. Seeing that she was not entirely convinced, he smiled, “Also may I say that this is majorly going to help me rep. The noises that you were making … I must be pretty awesome”. She didn’t need to know that they had made him hard.

    “Hey”, she blushed, “I’ve got to make my future husband look good”.

    “Yeah”, he smiled at her words for a minute, but then his face fell. Why was it that that didn’t appeal to him. He didn’t want his street value to increase. He didn’t want other women to want him. He just wanted her all to himself.

    ~*~

    “So, couple-y enough for everyone, do you think?” Oliver was the one to ask this time.

    “God I hope so”, Chloe replied with a groan. Her feet, once again, were killing her. Rome and stiletto heels were not a good combination.

    “I wasn’t aware that being in a relationship with me was so challenging”, Oliver commented dryly as he scanned the surrounding areas to make sure that no one was listening into their conversation. They were not, the tourists milling around were far more interested in picking up cheap souvenirs than in the American couple.

    “According to Lois … yes”, Chloe said, unable to help herself.

    “Thanks”, he muttered under his breath, even as he wrapped an arm around her protectively. He was sure that they were being watched from somewhere, by someone and he didn’t think that it was his paranoia.

    “Look, I’m sure that it isn’t but being in a fake relationship for the sake of someone watching us …” She sighed, “That’s stressful!”

    “Yes, I would imagine that it would be”, he squeezed her shoulder and gave her a reassuring smile.

    “It isn’t for you?” Chloe wondered turning to face him head on.

    “Sure”, he shrugged, he hadn’t really given it a lot of thought. “I mean yes but it is my company that we are doing it for, right?”

    “Right”, she agreed. She supposed that that would make a difference. That, and the fact that the love of his life hadn’t died and left a huge gaping hole in his heart - as far as she knew.

    “Have I told you how grateful I am today?” He stroked his hands down her arms.

    “You don’t have to be grateful Ollie”, she said, and not just to be polite. He had saved her, even if he didn’t know it.

    “Chloe”, he cupped her face, taking a deep breath before getting something off his chest.

    “Chloe? How strange, I was informed that she was called Claire”.

    The couple turned around, dazed, to see a middle aged woman with deep set dark eyes and black hair lined with silver standing in front of them, watching them intently.

    “Typical”, Chloe thought to herself, “we go all over Rome looking for a way into the party and then the woman just walks right up to us at just the wrong moment.”

    “Mrs Hargrove”, Oliver greeted pleasantly, trying to brazen it out.

    “You’re the Mrs Hargrove”, Chloe asked, hoping to flatter the woman.

    “Yes”, the woman’s eyes were shrewd. “And I would like to know what is going on”.

    “I’m Chloe Sullivan”, Chloe introduced herself, “Ollie’s fiancée”

    “And I was informed that you are calling yourself Claire because …?”

    “It’s a nickname. Claire, you know like the outlander book series”, Chloe clutched desperately for an answer.

    “What, exactly, are you trying to pull?”


    Chapter Twelve

    Chloe staggered into her tiny studio apartment, exhausted and bleary eyed. She dumped her bag and kicked off her shoes, groaning in pain. High heels were the work of the devil.

    “Damn the sadistic bastard who created them”, she moaned before shuffling over to her coffee maker. Her one indulgence. Was it an indulgence if it was the only thing keeping you going? She filled it up and went to take a shower.

    She emerged a little over ten minutes later, the ends of her hair slightly damp and dressed in a different outfit with a fresh layer of make up hiding the bags under her eyes. She drank the black coffee straight out of the jug, too tired to notice its scalding temperature.

    With a wince at her reflection in the mirror the former owner had thoughtlessly left by the front door, she picked up her second work bag and left the apartment at the time she should have been crashing into bed.

    The short walk through Metropolis’ frigid night air did little to revive and although she did her best to complete a full night’s work at Queen Industries she didn’t manage it. She had managed to survive on four hours sleep per night since Lex’s disappearance, but the last three days without so much as a nap had been too much. Without knowing it, she fell asleep.

    ~*~

    “Chloe?”

    Oliver Queen frowned. He had come into the office building at six o’clock in the morning, having arisen early and well rested only to decide that he didn’t want to go to the gym. He had noted that one of the lights was on in an office off the main corridor. He wasn’t an eco-warrior but that bothered him. He had gone to investigate and had discovered Chloe, asleep, at a right angle.

    “Chloe?” He asked again softly.

    What on earth was she doing here?

    “Chloe?” He was getting quite worried now. He leant down and touched her shoulder gently yet she still did not wake.

    “Chloe?” He almost shouted this time, concerned that she was seriously ill. He pressed his hand against her forehead and then her neck. She was overly warm but there was nothing wrong with her pulse, she could just have been hot due to sleeping under a lamp for however long she had been there.

    He crouched down next to her and stroked her cheek softly, “Come on Chloe”. He ran his thumb under her eye and foundation was removed. He flinched as he saw the extensive bruising. The poor girl was shattered.

    “Come on then”, he said, turning off her computer - noting what was on the screen - and took her bag before gently lifting her onto his arms and carrying her up to his office. He would worry about the lightbulb later.

    He lay her down gently on the settee in his office and slipped off her jacket and shoes before covering her with a blanket which had always resided in his cupboard for reasons unknown. At least now she would be slightly more comfortable.

    It was seven hours before Chloe began to stir, by which time Oliver had discovered a lot more about what had been going on in Miss Sullivan’s life recently. He had, of course, been aware that she had been fired/had departed from The Daily Planet and had been working for some tech company but not much more than that. It turned out that she worked for a tinpot tech company and overnight for him as of two weeks ago. Apparently using his global satellite to track the goings on in the Arctic.

    To say that he was a little annoyed would have been an understatement, which would explain his rather terse greeting of, “Good afternoon Miss Sullivan”, even though it was technically morning.

    “Ollie?” Chloe blinked at him and then put her hand to her head.

    “Yes”, he affirmed, “it’s me. And no, you’re not dreaming”.

    “What am I doing here?” She questioned in a cracking voice.

    In spite of his annoyance, he got up and brought her over a glass of water. “Here you are”, he sat down by her feet.

    “Thank-you”, she said, drinking it thirstily and trying to pull herself up into a more complete seating position. Oliver helped her.

    She stared at him, then down at her bag and shoes and then back up at him. “Oliver, what’s going on?”

    “I was about to ask you the same question”, he pursed his lips and noted that she looked ashamed. After several moments of silence, “You aren’t going to tell me?”

    “I don’t know how I got up here”, she said, “you don’t think that I broke and cr-”

    “No”, he shook his head, almost smiling. “I brought you up here when I found you passed out in front of one of the computers. Rather odd really, considering that I wasn’t even aware that you worked for me”.

    “Why did you do that? You didn’t hurt yourself did you?”

    “Don’t change the subject Chloe”, he fixed her with a stern look.

    “I wasn’t”, she protested, “but I will explain. I came in here to work but then I fell asleep. I’m sorry, what’s the time?” She looked down at her watch. “Oh damn it, I’m so late”. She made to jump up but was prevented by a wave of dizziness.

    “Don’t even think about it”, Oliver said, holding her down. “You need to rest”.

    “They are going to fire me”, she complained, nervously.

    “Probably. That isn’t important. The question is what are you doing working for them in the first place? The pay packet is an insult. Oh yeah, and why did you apply for a job here in secret?” He demanded.

    “It wasn’t in secret”, Chloe argued.

    “I don’t remember you coming to me”, he snorted.

    “Well, no, that isn’t how you normally go about getting a job”, she rolled her eyes at him.

    “It is if you know the boss and are as smart as you are. What the hell are you doing working for barely more than minimum wage? And why are you in an apartment which is more than the one at The Talon if you aren’t doing well financially?” He demanded, with no thought to the priority of such questions.

    “You went through my personal details?” Chloe hissed, fighting against his hands to get up but he kept her recumbent. She was too frail to storm off, besides he wanted answers.

    “Technically no I went through my details - or rather the details of my business -, then I went through yours”, he smiled, “besides, are you really in any position to question me or anyone else about their methods or privacy policies?”

    “I’m lying down on your couch”, she answered the position question literally.

    “You don’t have anything else to say?”

    She shrugged. “You’re right. I’ve stepped over boundaries”.

    He shot her a knowing look.

    “Alright, I’ve obliterated the damn things. They are so irksome!” She admitted.

    Oliver smiled. “I know”, it was one of the things that he had always admired about her.

    “So, are you going to let me up now?” She inquired.

    “Are you going to try to jump up and run out of here only ending up making yourself fall over?” He countered.

    “No, I promise”, she assured him.

    “Alright then”, he transferred his grip to her hand and helped her up, “here we go”.

    “Thank-you”, she smiled at him.

    “Tell me what is going on Chloe. Please”, he begged, using his puppy dog brown eyes on her.

    “I’ve”, she shrugged, “this isn’t your problem”.

    “I want to make it my problem. You are my friend”, he squeezed her hand. He would plead and cajole it out of her, and if that didn’t work then she wasn’t leaving.

    She took a deep, sustaining breath, apparently not clear where to begin. “I haven’t been having a great time recently”.

    “I’d gathered that”, he smiled gently and moved around so that he had an arm around her shoulders and was relieved to see that she didn’t pull away, instead she stared at his leather shoes.

    “I wanted to work at The Daily Planet for as long as I can remember and when I got there it was a let down”, she began. It seemed to be easier for her to talk to his foot than to his face.

    “Then everything with Lex. It was horrible. He took every chance to belittle me”, he felt her tensing as she remembered aloud. “I had to walk out but I didn’t really have anywhere to go. The job market is tough”.

    “You could have come to me”, he reminded her.

    “No, I couldn’t. I can’t be dependent on anyone else and I couldn’t keep living with Lois it just all brought back too many bad memories, Smallville, everything”, she shivered.

    “It’s going to be alright”, he promised her. “You are worried about something else though. I doubt that you were using my satellite fixed on the Arctic for nothing”.

    “I”, Chloe’s gaze fixed on her hands which she was wringing. “I ... You probably know that Lex was out to hurt me”, she said slowly, “I need to know what happened to him”.

    “Things were worse than anyone thought, weren’t they?” He asked slowly.

    “Yes, it’s why Lana left. I ... I don’t want to talk about it. Lex and she split and I somehow got in the middle of it”, she said, awkwardly.

    “Chloe, Lex is dead. No one could survive that. But if you are concerned about it I’ll look into it”, he promised her and pretended not to see the glimmer of a tear in her eyes. She really must be terrified of him.

    “Thank-you”, she whispered.

    “And I wasn’t aware that you were hiring yourself out. If so, I could use a good sidekick”.

    They hugged and Oliver didn’t see the slight smirk on her lips.

    ~*~

    Chloe lay in the bed she was sharing with Oliver Queen as cold as ice.

    “Don’t worry”, Oliver whispered and began to pull back the sheet that was covering her, “I’m not going to hurt you”.
    Last edited by HotCrossedBunny; 3rd August 2015 at 15:04.

  2. #2
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    Re: Keeping Up Appearances (2nd repost attempt) 3rd August 2015

    Chapter Thirteen

    “Don’t worry”, Oliver whispered and began to pull back the sheet that was covering her, “I’m not going to hurt you”.

    “It’s alright”, Chloe murmured back. This was the right thing to do. Somehow they had not only talked their way out of a bad situation but around the woman in question. Tomorrow morning they would be heading to the private island where the meeting would take place as personal guests of Laura Hargrove. They were so much closer to solving the mystery and getting back to Metropolis, they just had to get though that one night.

    Oliver’s face hovered just above hers, bathed in moonlight filtering through the curtains, his entire body weight resting on his arms.

    She had got ready that night before him in the bathroom, slipping out of it and into bed wearing only a tiny nightie. She had waited for what had seemed like hours, but had in fact been more like twenty minutes, and then he had come in. She wasn’t a virgin. For several years she had had a very healthy love life. Then, when that had ended, had worn out the batteries in a vibrator. Plus several steamy novels. Still, as she had seen him stride manfully towards the bed, her body had given a small lurch.

    Oliver was different to any man she had ever been with before. He was taller and more imposing physically but somehow less powerful. She smiled nervously as he settled over her. She knew that he wouldn’t hurt her or take advantage of the situation.

    She licked her lips her body aching with longing. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him in for a long, luxurious kiss, amazed by how easy it was to lose herself in the deception.

    “God”, she heard him groan and grinned.

    “You like that?” She teased him, running her hand down his back. She knew that she would have to take some of the initiative, proving to him that he wasn’t going to hurt her.

    “You know I do”, he leant down and nuzzled her neck, causing her to release a moan for her own. He nipped her skin and she yelp, bucked up and their heads almost crashed into each other.

    “Ow”, she rubbed the back of her neck where she had just strained the muscle. “I’m so sorry”, she apologised immediately, dropping character. “Are you alright?”

    “I’m fine sweetie”, he assured her reaching over and rubbing his hands along her shoulder. “Is your shoulder acting up again?”

    “Yeah”, she grasped for his explanation.

    “Well, I’ll just have to solve that problem, won’t I?” He grinned roguishly at her.

    “You don’t have ...” She broke off as he kissed her neck and then whispered, “Trust me”.

    “Okay”, she moaned, the blood quickly leaving her brain.

    She knew Oliver Queen’s reputation but she still have to admire his skills. He had somehow managed to remove her nightie in one fluid motion and get her to lie on her front, all without letting the camera catch a glimpse of her breasts.

    In spite of her decade long crush on Clark, a sweet innocent little flower, sexually she had always been attracted to men who were confident in the bedroom. Who knew how to touch a woman. Oliver definitely fit into that category.

    He ran his hands through her hair, making her melt into a puddle. She knew that he was worried about what they had to do that night, concerned that he might over step the line, but his touch was deliciously reassured and she had been working very hard recently. Her body was one huge knot.

    She let out a soft, contented sigh.

    “You work to hard”, he informed her.

    “Yeah”, she mumbled into the pillow.

    Oliver Queen was a magician. He massaged Chloe’s entire back of her body from head to toe, somehow finding every single sore spot and every one that made her hot too. As he rubbed the soles of her feet she almost purred into her pillow, her brain melting into a puddle of hormone filled sludge.

    “You alright there?” Oliver asked, with a husky laugh.

    Chloe made a noise, somewhere between a yeah and an um.

    He leant forwards and kissed her neck, and whispered, “Seriously, tell me if something is wrong”.

    “What?” She asked turning over and revealing herself completely to both Oliver’s lust filled gaze and the camera, not realising what she had done until he gasped.

    “Damn it”, she thought, as the realities of the situation crashed down around her, but she knew that she couldn’t go back now. Leisurely she stretched her arms out above her head, unsurprised when her ‘fiance’s’ eyes went straight to her breasts. The pert flesh pulled taunt and her nipples hard and begging for attention. I had been a loooooong time since her needy flesh had felt a man’s warm, assertive touch.

    “Well, what are you waiting for?” She asked, her voice thick as she locked eyes with him.

    “You’re gorgeous”, he murmured as he finally tore his eyes away from her breasts to survey the rest of her with undisguised hunger.

    “I bet you say that to all of the girls”, she teased him, nudging him with her foot, careful to keep her knees together so that he didn’t get a flash of her damp curls.

    “No”, he grasped her ankle, “only you”. He leant down to kiss her foot, still careful to preserve what was left of her modesty. Slowly and cautiously he kissed and massaged his way back up the front of her body, skimming over one hip, until he got to her breasts.

    He hesitated, she knew for her sake and knew that she was going to have to take the lead again. They had to get this done. That was her only reason. Honest! “Ollie”, she pleaded, “don’t tease me”.

    He laughed again and covered her breasts with his hands. She hadn’t realised just how large they were until that moment. She moaned helplessly as he began to massage her gently.

    “God I’ve missed this”, she groaned, trusting that Ollie would think that she was acting.

    “Me too baby”, he leant down and kissed her cheek, “You alright?” He whispered.

    “Fine”, she smiled back.

    He kissed her firmly and Chloe wrapped her arms around him, drawing and keeping him closer.

    “Let’s not fight again”, he suggested mischievously, loudly enough for the camera to pick up on ... Assuming that it had audio capabilities. If not they were taking a lot of precautions for nothing.

    “Either that or fight more and make up more”, she smirked up at him, running her hand through his hair.

    “That could work”, he smiled before burying his face in the crook of her neck, he breathed in her sweet scent before murmuring, “Are you ready?”

    “Yes”, she nodded, stealing herself.

    Oliver pulled the blanket over them both and then slipped off his boxer shorts and cast them aside, thankfully he had another tighter pair on underneath, still she could feel the heat from his hardened length against her thigh a be began to mimic the movements of love making.

    Chloe held onto him, stroking her hands down his exposed back, feeling the muscles working beneath her touch. He was rigid as he rocked them both back and forth, every inch of his straining not to actually plough into her. It was so hard to remember that they were only pretending when she moaned so convincingly against him.

    “I love you baby”, he whispered, “I love you so much”.

    Chloe’s hands clutched at him, pulling him closer to her. She was beyond convincing. Her legs wrapped around him, her back arched arched pushing her breasts against him, her sweet breath, coming in soft pants, tickled the side of his face. Oliver was forced to shift his position again so that she wouldn’t be so aware of his length hardening, unfortunately, by doing so, he inadvertently pressed his hip into her. The pressure was too much for her, the sensation of his hands on her hips, his hard chest chaffing her nipples, the pressure on her clit. She came with cry.

    It was too much for Ollie. He followed suit, coming against her thigh with a shout. “Oh shit!”

  3. #3
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    Re: Keeping Up Appearances (2nd repost attempt) 3rd August 2015

    Nice story

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