By Stephanie and SarahB
Disclaimer: As always, this is just for fun! Neither of us own the characters of Jessica Fletcher or George Sutherland. And like everyone else who is participating in this Writer’s Challenge, our intent is not to infringe on anyone’s copyright, nor is it to make any money.
"Honey, I’m home," George called out as he closed the door to their apartment. He deposited his keys onto the small, oak table that sat next to the door, and slid his briefcase beneath it.
As he shed his overcoat and removed his winter boots, he called out once more, "Jess?"
Not hearing any reply, he went to the kitchen. There were no signs that she had been cooking, a fact that he found curious. He made an effort not to take Jessica’s home-cooking granted by insisting on dinner out as often as possible, but he didn’t recall making plans for this evening.
He flipped through the mail that lie next to the phone and then checked the caller i.d. Hmmmm, he thought to himself. Tessa, the youngest of his sisters, had rung earlier in the day.
Next, he strolled into Jessica’s office and then into their bedroom where he still found no sign of her. After changing out of his suit into a pair of Dockers and a long sleeve Polo shirt, he heard the front door open.
He hurried out to find Jessica struggling to close the door while balancing her purse, briefcase, and several packages.
"Hello, darling. Where’ve you been?" he asked, giving her a quick kiss and relieving her of several items.
"George, you beat me home,” she said, slightly short of breath. “I’ve been out shopping."
He eyed the bags, "And what treasures did you procure?"
"Oh, just a hodge podge of things really."
"Hmmmm,” George said thoughtfully. “Fancy a fashion show?"
"Oh, George, really. I just picked up a few items that I’ve had my eye on - nothing special."
She took the bags back from him and carried them into their bedroom. He followed, and lounged on the chaise while she slipped out of her heels and unzipped her skirt.
Graceful was the word that came to mind as he watched her.
"Did you have a good day today, dear heart?" she asked as she stepped out of her slip.
Graceful and beautiful, he thought to himself.
He waited another beat before answering, trying to remember what she had asked.
Finally, he answered. "Rather – at last, we’ve managed to find some common ground with the Lebanese. It was quite a coup, really."
"George, that’s marvelous," she replied as she slipped her earrings off and placed them in a small crystal dish on her bureau.
"Aye,” he agreed. “I noticed that Tessa called. What did she have to say for herself?"
Jessica stepped into the closet, scoured her rack of clothes for something warm and comfortable to wear. "Just checking in, she’s thinking of coming for a visit later this month."
"Hungry?” she asked before pulling a soft cashmere sweater over her head. “French bistro?" she added as she fluffed her hair with her fingers.
George wrinkled his nose slightly.
"I guess you're not in the mood for French," she said, crossing the bedroom to the chaise where George lay reclined.
"Well,” he said, taking her hand in his and grinning like the big, bad wolf. “Perhaps some French perfume, French lingerie, or a French kis..."
"Stop right there…please,” she pleaded with an exaggerated roll of her eyes, as he pulled her down into his arms.
“I’m really in the mood for foie gras. If you don’t care to be adventurous, you can order the steak frites," she continued as she hopped from the chaise, pulling him with her.
The thought of eating goose liver, regardless of how delicately prepared, caused George to wrinkle his nose again but he followed her into the living room and retrieved her coat anyway.
"Pigalle?" he asked as she slipped her arms into the sleeves.
The dimly lit bistro was festive and provided a warm respite from the blustery weather outside. After they were seated in a corner booth, George ordered two glasses of pinot noir and onion soup gratinee, a mutual favorite, as an appetizer.
Jessica looked around,
taking in the decor. It was rather
cliché but she enjoyed the atmosphere.
"George, I love coming
here. It reminds me of that
little place we discovered near Montmartre in
"Aye, near the Sacre
Couer," he said, bringing her hand to his lips and kissing it
tenderly. "I'd like to take you to
"And I'd love it. If we ever find the time," she added with a smile.
When the wine arrived, he touched his rim to hers in a toast and then took a sip. "Mmm, delicious,” he declared before setting down his glass and continuing.
“So, Jessica, what’s that little sister of mine up to these days?”
It was unlike George’s
youngest sibling to plan a trip to
Jessica shook her head ‘no’ as she set her spoon down. “No, nothing like that,” she assured him with a slight smile. “She just wanted to say hello.”
George nodded. Jessica was obviously holding something back, he thought. He tasted his soup and considered the possibilities but with little success.
“You mentioned she might be visiting us later this month.”
Jessica quickly did a
mental scan of her upcoming calendar.
“The last time we spoke, I invited her to join me at The Met to see La
Bohème on the 31st since you’ll be in
Nor would she until the last moment, George thought to himself ruefully. “If I were you, love, I’d offer the ticket to someone else if Tessa doesn’t commit in the next few days. You know how…how um...”
George had been trying to decide between impulsive and unreliable but capricious somehow sounded better. “Aye,” he agreed. “You know how capricious she can be.”
Jessica reached across the table and patted his hand. “If she can’t make it, I’m sure Eli and Jenna will be only too happy to take our tickets.”
Realizing that there was
no point in furthering the discussion, George steered their conversation toward
other things – Jessica’s spring semester classes at
Their dinner was wonderful as usual. Jessica had ordered the duck foie gras terrine and the warm goat cheese salad while George satisfied his meat and potatoes palate with a steak, cooked medium rare, and a side of French fries.
When Jessica offered him a taste of her foie gras, he refused quickly but politely.
"You eat haggis but you won't even try the duck liver?"
"I'll leave it to you. Besides, it's not politically correct," he informed her as he cut his steak.
"Oh, please," she said with a laugh. "Speaking of things Scottish,” Jessica said, pausing until she had his full attention. “I read that Robert Burns’ birthday is coming up later this month."
He reached across the table and squeezed her hand. "Aye, good old Robbie Burns. He seemed to have you and me in mind when he wrote."
"I was thinking that we should celebrate," Jessica suggested.
"You'll cook a haggis for me?" he asked with a laugh.
"Not on your life, but I think we should do something. I'll put my thinking cap on," she said, taking another sip of her wine.
There, she thought to herself, I've planted the seed. Now, I'll have to conceive of some way to get him into that kilt.
Changing the subject, George suggested dessert.
"Oh no, I couldn't eat another bite", Jessica protested.
"Not even a spoonful of chocolate mousse?" he offered temptingly.
"I thought you didn't like chocolate," she laughed.
"Well, this is deux chocolates. I can handle the white chocolate. And I know it's your favorite. Anything for my sweet," he further tempted.
George motioned for their waiter and ordered mousse aux deux chocolats for two. Jessica's favorite part was the orange liqueur sauce that was served on the side.
They walked back to their
Once upstairs, Jessica attended to her mail and followed up on correspondence. When she finally finished, she found George already in bed, reading a biography of Winston Churchill. He put down the book when she entered the room.
"It's about time," he teased.
Jessica shook her head at him and headed to the bathroom to perform her nightly routine. She emerged wearing her favorite pajamas - one of George's button down Oxfords. She climbed into bed and cuddled up next to him.
"Mmmm, you smell good," George said, nuzzling her neck and inhaling deeply.
She whispered seductively, "You mentioned earlier that you were in the mood for French perfume."
"Aye, and that's not all that I'm in the mood for," he responded before engaging her in a fiery kiss that made her blood run hot.
The following morning
after George had left for work, Jessica busied herself with unpacking her
packages from the previous day. Amongst
her purchases and hidden within a large
Using a kitchen knife to cut through the packing tape, Jessica opened the box to find a pleasant surprise. Not only had Tessa sent everything that George would need for the Burn’s Night Party - kilt, jacket, knee-hi socks, shirt, etc. – but she had included a gift for Jessica.
Tucked beneath George’s kilt in the blue and green of the Sutherland old clan tartan, she found an exquisite silk sash. And just for fun, Tessa had also included a matching beret in the red and green of the MacGill clan.
Along with the gift was a brief hand-written note.
I wish you the best of luck in your quest. You’ll likely have no trouble getting George into his kilt. He is, after all, a proud Scotsman. But don’t count on convincing him to participate in the dance portion of the evening. It’s a long shot at best. And, if by chance you do, please send pictures.
One week later
While George watched the
late evening news Jessica paged through
“This looks interesting,” she offered enthusiastically, opening the paper fully and then folding it so that the community notices were prominently displayed. She handed the paper to George, who read the details of the event before commenting.
The headline read: Burns Night 2007. Interesting, George thought before
continuing. Music by Celtic Knot…Kiss
Under the Stairs, Miscellany II…address to a haggis, neeps and tatties,
“I don’t suppose anyone has written an opera based on Burns,” he asked hopefully.
“I didn’t think that you were particularly fond of the opera.”
Truth be told, he wasn’t. But he was even less fond of the Highland Reel. “Maybe we can find something quieter, more romantic,” he suggested.
George’s obvious wish to avoid the event only intrigued Jessica more and she took a moment to consider how to proceed.
“If we look, I’m sure we’ll find a poetry reading somewhere,” George suggested much to his own dismay. Sutherland, what are you thinking? He would much rather spend a quiet, romantic evening surrounded by candles and the gentle flickering of a fire, reading Burns to her than to go out.
“Or maybe there will be
something going on at McIndoe’s,” he added, mentally crossing his fingers and
hoping that his favorite
The following morning George searched through his closet for a blue oxford. “Jess,” he called out to her in the next room, “have you seen my blue shirt?”
Maybe our dry cleaning got mixed up, he thought as he opened her closet to look for his shirt there.
Jessica poked her head into their bedroom. “It should be in your closet, hanging next to your gray suit.”
When he didn’t answer, she noticed that her own closet door was open. Perhaps it had gotten mixed in with her own things. “George, did you find it?”
“Jess,” he said very calmly from inside the large walk-in closet. “Would you mind telling me why my Argyll jacket and kilt are hanging in your closet when they should be hanging in mine in Wick?”
Jessica thought about doing an about-face and retreating but instead joined him in her closet. She gave him a thin smile and shrugged her shoulders.
"Jessica," he scolded firmly.
When she still didn't
respond, his tone softened. "What
do you have up your sleeve, Jessie?”
She stepped closer, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him sweetly on his lips. "Remember, I mentioned Burns Night?"
George grimaced and slipped out her arms. "You're not going to beguile me into going, Jess." He walked out of her closet and back into his own, continuing the search for his blue shirt.
Jessica leaned against the door frame and looked at him curiously. "But George, I thought you'd enjoy it. What do you have against Scottish dancing?"
He finally located his shirt and slipped it on, giving her a look that said, don’t pursue this any further. However, he acknowledged to himself that she was not likely to let this go easily.
He chose a tie and moved to leave the closet but she blocked his way. He picked her up and deposited her on the bed before sitting down on the edge and proceeding to don his tie. Silently, she sat up on her knees behind him and took the striped Stefano Ricci silk out of his hands and then, leaning over his shoulder, she finished his double Windsor knot. Finally, she kissed him on the cheek and left him to finish getting ready for work.
After pouring a second cup of coffee for herself, she went to her office, closing the door behind her. She was in the middle of an e-mail when George knocked lightly and ducked his head into room.
"I'll see you
She gave him a little wave and then continued typing. He closed the door behind him, shaking his head. Stubborn lassie, he thought to himself.
He was putting on his overcoat when she finally emerged. She caught him at the door, where George pulled her into his arms and kissed her tenderly. He hated the thought of leaving her for the day without a proper goodbye.
"George, have a good day. I love you."
"Aye, I love you too, lassie. Now, be good today, or else," he threatened, causing her to laugh. He kissed her one last time and departed for his walk across town to the British Consulate.
George's daily two mile
walk to the consulate on the east side of Midtown usually gave him a chance to
prepare his thoughts for the long day ahead, filled with meetings, calls and
the generally unpleasant business that was involved in dealing with
international terrorism. However, on
this particular day, his thoughts were only of Jessica. He had quickly put two and two together and
knew that Tessa had been Jessica’s accomplice on the far side of the
It had been some time
since he had last dressed formally in his kilt - his nephew's wedding at
His next thought evoked an inward groan as he remembered the excessive number of reels that the band had chosen to play at the reception The entire clan, Jessica included, had enjoyed a grand time but George had never fancied himself much of a dancer. He certainly would not willingly go to a Scottish dance with the sole purpose of dancing. He had had enough of that in his youth.
semi-monthly department meeting at
When she finally arrived home, she rushed into the bedroom to try on the dress once again before George got home. She had forgotten her new dancing shoes at home that morning and was relieved to find that the dress was the perfect length.
The taffeta dress was the same hunter green as the MacGill tartan with a fitted bodice, square neckline and three-quarter length sleeves. An extra layer of tulle, added by the dressmaker, gave the tea length skirt a very full look.
Jessica removed the sash that Tessa had sent and slipped it over her head. She was examining her reflection in the full length mirror when she heard the front door open and George call out her name.
She rushed to close the bedroom door. After all, he still didn’t know that they were indeed going to the dance.
George eased the door open, afraid that she might be catching a cat nap, and caught her in the midst of unzipping the dress.
"Ah, ha," he said.
Jessica blushed and turned away from him before sighing defeatedly, "I guess you caught me.”
He crossed the room and kissed her lightly, "Red handed. Now, let me guess, Tessa had a hand in this little scheme, didn’t she?”
Jessica shook her head guiltily.
“You really wish to go to this Burns dance, I take it."
"Yes, I really do. Trust me, George. I know you'll love it."
"I'm sure I will but only because you'll be there,” he said, pulling her close in his arms. "But no reels," he added, stubbornly.
"We'll see," she said, smiling up at him. "How do I look?"
"Beautiful, very beautiful,” he answered. Before she could answer, he covered her mouth with his in a lingering kiss. His hands cleverly eased the zipper down the remaining length of the back of her dress and at length, he helped her out of the dress.
Jessica turned her attention to helping him remove his suit and began planting kisses on his neck and shoulders. "Are you sure you won't dance at least one reel with me?" she asked, continuing to taunt him with soft caresses.
"Well, maybe just one, but only if you’re wearing the tartan of the Sutherland clan," he murmured before his lips met hers in another lingering kiss.
When they parted, Jessica wondered out loud, “Just exactly how would I go about that?”
George grinned broadly. “You’d marry me.”
"That's blackmail," she teased, trying to keep her tone light.
"Aye, a taste of your own medicine, lassie?" he responded, looking down at her. He might have said it in a light-hearted manner but deep down inside, they both knew that he was serious.
Without answering, Jessica pulled herself out of his arms and changed into a pair of jeans and a light sweater before making her way to the kitchen, where she began to warm the leftover clam chowder that she had cooked earlier in the week.
George joined her in the kitchen and suddenly feeling the need for a stiff drink, poured himself a short glass of Scotch, neat. He leaned against the counter and watched her. If her body language was any indication, there was little doubt that she was angry with him not only his resistance to attend Burns Night but also for bringing up the topic of marriage once again.
"Jess, don't be cross."
Feeling that it was better to say nothing than to say something that she might regret, Jessica remained silent as she stirred the chowder to a simmer. Next, she placed rolls in the oven and then made a salad. When she finished, she began to set the table, and having finally calmed herself a bit, she replied to his comment.
"Of course, I'm not angry, George. I just don't understand why you wouldn't want to attend an event celebrating your favorite poet. You have, after all, been quoting him to me since early in our friendship."
"Jessica, this isn’t about Burns. I just don't want to attend a country dance."
"But I've seen you dance before,” she argued, “at Kennan’s wedding?"
"Yes, you’ve seen me dance,” he admitted, “but if we go to this Burns thing, we’re going to be expected do dance a bloody reel and I’m not particularly fond of that particular dance.”
Not fond of, Jessica thought. That was obviously an understatement.
“If you really want to go dancing, how about if I take you to the Rainbow Room?”
"I don't want to go to the Rainbow Room, I want to go to the Burns Night!" Jessica said, being completely inflexible.
She was exasperated with George over this matter and didn't wish to discuss it any further that evening. If he wasn’t so obstinate, he would simply explain to her why he disliked the Highland Reel so much. Obviously, he had yet to figure out that that was a major part of the problem.
"Stubborn Scotsman", she murmured under her breath.
He didn’t have to hear her to know what she was thinking. The look on her face said it all. Instead of making things worse, as would undoubtedly happen if he said anything more at this juncture, he opened a bottle of wine and poured them each a glass. They ate in silence, something that rarely occurred when they were together.
After dinner, Jessica flipped through a magazine while George watched a rugby match on BBC America. He finally broke the silence by suggesting that they attend a movie the following day. Jessica, still frustrated with him, was noncommittal, stating that she had grocery shopping and other errands to run.
After turning in for the night, Jessica fell asleep quickly while George tossed and turned. He couldn’t stop thinking of all of the house parties and country dances he had attended in his youth.
Despite his natural athletic ability, he had never fancied himself a graceful dancer, especially when it came to reels or jigs. As he thought back, a particularly humiliating memory flooded his mind - the last time he had danced the Highland Reel. He had been fourteen years old and it had ended in complete disaster. Not only had he slipped and broken his leg but he had landed directly on top of Maggie McKenzie – face to face, chest to breasts…well, you get the picture.
Two years older than George, Maggie, with her lovely red hair and milky white skin, was the most beautiful creature that he had ever encountered in those first fourteen years, not to mention the most high-spirited. To say he had had a crush on her would be another understatement. As a matter of fact, Maggie was George’s first love.
Thinking back on it, the entire thing may not have been such a mortifying experience had there not been an audience. But with what seemed like hundreds of people watching, it had been horrible. In addition to the merciless teasing that he endured the first week or two after the incident, his two months on crutches had done nothing to improve his outlook, and once his cast was removed, he vowed never to dance the Highland Reel again.
George finally flipped
over on his side and fell into an uneasy sleep.
The next morning, he awoke earlier than Jessica and after checking the
weather, decided to go for a run in
He pulled on sweats and running shoes and wrote a short note to let her know where he had gone, placing it on the entry table. When he collected his keys, he knocked a small envelope on the floor. He picked it up and examined it. Inside, were two tickets to Burns Night that Jessica had obviously purchased. She had included a short note inside, paraphrasing Robbie Burns' poem "A Red Red Rose":
As fair art thou, my handsome lad,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
He replaced the envelope on the
table and left the apartment quietly. As
he jogged toward
Sutherland, time to grow up and put your pride aside, he thought to himself.
Later that day, when Jessica was out of the apartment, doing their grocery shopping, George began preparing for their evening out. He removed Jessica's new dress from its garment bag and hung it on the hook over the door. Next, he laid out all of the items he thought she would need for the evening – shoes, sash, beret, and the Scottish thistle pin that he had given her for Christmas.
When he was satisfied, he began to get himself ready, taking a long shower and shaving. As he dressed, he was amazed that Tessa had managed to pack everything. She had even remembered his sgian dubh and his kilt pin. Jessica always said that she liked the way he looked in a kilt. Hopefully, she hadn’t changed her mind about that.
When he finished, he retreated to the office to wait for her. He waited and listened quietly as the concierge assisted her with her purchases, and when the man had left, he cracked the door and called out to her. "Jess, I'm just finishing up some paper work. I'll be out in a few minutes."
Jessica unloaded and stored away the perishable items she had purchased and then retreated to their bedroom to freshen up and to slip on a heavier sweater and a nice warm pair of socks. She was pleasantly surprised when she found her dress and accessories laid out. Hearing footsteps outside the door, she turned to find George there, resplendent in his Balmoral Classic attire with Argyll jacket and Sutherland old clan tartan kilt.
"Oh George..." she said, her voice breaking as he wrapped his arms around her.
"My bonnie Jessie, it would be my honor to accompany the lassie I lo’e best in a reel or whatever else her heart desires. But if you're going to get me onto that dance floor, ye best gie a move oan!"
Jessica laughed and reached up to hug him, planting a long, lingering kiss on his lips. Maybe I will wear the Sutherland tartan someday, she thought happily. Maybe.
When they parted, he patted her gently, kissed her on the nose, and then scooted her toward the bathroom.
Later that evening
Keeping his hand at the small of Jessica’s back, George escorted her from the dance floor. The evening had begun with The Bonnie Banks O’ Loch Lomond and had continued with Fagail Lismo, a popular Scottish waltz.
“Admit it, George,” Jessica said brightly as they found two empty seats. “You’re enjoying yourself.”
George stretched his back, twisting side to side before sitting down with her. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and leaned in close, speaking softly, the words brushing lightly against her ear. “How could I nae when I get to spend th' entire forenicht holdin' ye in mah arms?”
Jessica leaned back so that she could see his face and then, she smiled. “You’re going to need a great deal more than your incredible charm and that enchanting brogue that I’m so terribly fond of to get out of dancing a reel with me.”
“What will it take?” he asked.
His eyes were serious, Jessica noticed, completely lacking their usual playful twinkle.
“Tell me why you don’t like to dance the reels,” she coaxed.
George slouched and rolled his eyes.
“George Sutherland,” Jessica said, scolding him as she might a student, “don’t you dare roll your eyes at me.”
Her tone had him sitting upright immediately. Embarrassed, his face flushed a bright red. “Jess, don’t talk to me like I’m some bloody school boy.”
“Then stop acting like one and tell me. You’ve got about 60 seconds before the first reel begins.”
It was a no win situation. “Fine,” he pouted. “I broke my bloody leg the last time I danced a reel.”
“That’s it?” Jessica exclaimed. This was a man who had been shot in the line of duty three times and was still working in the field for New Scotland Yard. There was obviously more to the story and Jessica wanted the truth.
“Aye, that’s it.”
She stood and grabbed his hand. “Let’s go,” she said, pulling him toward the floor.
Before he could protest, they were swept up by the other dancers and soon found themselves as two members of a reel of three. George locked eyes with Jessica, who smiled. When the music began, he took a step forward and to the left, then forward and to the right.
When they finally passed each other for the first time, he asked quietly, “Did I ever tell you of Maggie McKenzie?”
Jessica smiled as George disappeared behind her.
When they passed again, lightly rubbing shoulders, she answered, “No.” It was all she could manage and still concentrate on her steps.
The three dancers continued to weave in and out of one another as they followed a simple figure of eight pattern. Each time they passed, George, relayed another piece of the embarrassing tale.
How can he possibly tell a story and never miss a step, Jessica thought as they passed for the final time before returning to their starting positions. As with ballroom dancing, George definitely underestimated himself.
Jessica smiled at him sympathetically and then mouthed a single question. “Really?”
George shook his head in response. He actually felt a little better, having told her the story – still embarrassed but somehow better.
Silently, he bowed his head slightly and then offered Jessica his arm to lead her from the dance floor after the band announced a short break. “Do you know what I would have done if I was Maggie McKenzie?” Jessica asked as George searched out a pair of chairs far away from the dance floor. He had had enough dancing for the time being.
Before he could answer, they were interrupted by the leader of the band. The man extended his hand toward George. “Ye have tae be a real Scotsman, th' way ye jink th' reel.”
“Aye, guilty as charged,” George answered as he shook the man’s hand.
“Robert Gibson,” the band leader said, introducing himself.
“It’s a pleasure,” George said before introducing him to Jessica. They chatted for a few minutes before Robert excused himself to fetch a glass of water. “You’ll be jiggin’ th’ next one,” he said over his shoulder as he walked away. “It’s an Inveran an' most ay these Yanks need a guid Scot tae lead th’ way.”
“Of course he will,” Jessica answered for him.
She wrapped her arms around his neck. “I’ll make you a deal. If you dance, when we get home tonight, I’ll show you what Maggie McKenzie should have done with you all those years ago,” Jessica promised. “Had you both been a great deal older,” she added in a whisper.
How could he possibly decline such an offer?
He couldn’t, so they danced
- to Hooper’s jig,
George and Jessica were
among the last of the couples to leave the ballroom of the Waldorf Hotel on
east side of
"Want to grab a midnight snack at the Cosmic?" George asked.
"No sir, straight home." she said, winking at him and squeezing his hand tighter.
Once upstairs in their building, George unlocked the apartment door and pushed it open for Jessica. Once inside, she turned and enveloped him in her arms. They swayed in the embrace for several moments before George leaned down and kissed her fully.
After they parted, Jessica looked up into his eyes, "George, thank you for tonight. I couldn't have had a better time."
"Aye, I loved being there with you. But I think I can guarantee that you'll have a better time when you fulfill the deal you offered me earlier," he said, kissing her neck and pushing her coat off her shoulders.
She sighed deeply, overwhelmed by the feel of his lips on her. Finally she said, "Yes, I remember our deal. Just tell me one thing first?"
"What's that?" he asked, lifting his head and looking at her.
"Did you wear your kilt the traditional way this evening?" she asked mischievously.
George threw his head back in resounding
laughter then snatched her up in his arms and carried her to their
bedroom. "Time for you to find out
for yourself, my impertinent lassie!"