The Gentle Touch - Part 4
“I’m so glad to hear that,” Sara said to Anne as she sat on the couch in her cabin, Brian by her side.
“You sounded concerned on the phone last night,” Anne said as she looked out over the gardens, “You haven’t been having any dreams, have you?”
“No - I was worried about how Chloe might cope in particular, but from what you said Angela ended up helping her as well. When will you be heading back?”
“Tuesday, I think - the kids have school tomorrow, so we’re wrapping up tonight with a meal. I think we’re ready to move on to the family game next. Listen, Sara - there’s something you need to know.”
“Alicia and Bobby - they know your family past now.”
There was silence on the other end of the call, before Sara said “Good - I trust them to keep quiet. What else happened?”
“I’ll tell you all about it when I see you with Chloe - let’s just say the adult women have all had fun. See you Saturday?”
“Looking forward to it,” Sara said before Anne ended the call and put her cell phone away. Walking into the dining room, she said “How is everyone feeling?”
“Wonderful,” Cassie said as she leaned her head on Jo’s shoulder. “I can’t speak for the others, but...” She closed her eyes and hummed to herself for a moment as Jenny shook her head.
“Well, for the next exercise I think you’re all ready for a family game, like the ones you used to play - an escape challenge.”
“Oh no,” Jennifer said as she looked at John, “Not...”
“The kids are going to bind their mothers,” Anne continued, “as they would for a family game.” Susan and Anne Bowden let out a sigh of relief as Anne continued “Colin, would you take care of Angela please, and I will ask Jo, Dave and John to prepare Cassie, Connie and Miranda. Desmond and Mr Bridges will take care of their wives.”
Alexander and Simon looked at each other and nodded as they listened to this. “What are you two going to be doing,” Susan said as she looked at Alexander.
“Well,” Simon said, “I think we need to take the time now to thank Amy, Veronica, Anne and Chloe for being such a fantastic set of facilitators over the last twenty four hours. I mean, look at us now compared to yesterday.”
The women looked at each other and, to the surprise of the others, burst out laughing as they clapped in agreement. “So they’re going to be impartial judges,” Alexander said. “If they will come with us, you can start to be bound in here. There are ropes over there for just such a purpose.”
“And just what do you have in mind, Monsieur Bowden,” Chloe said as she looked at Simon.
“You’ll see,” Simon said with a smile, “Ladies?” Alexander held the door open as the four guests walked out, closing it as Jennifer said “All right, let’s do this.”
“A real proper escape challenge - hog tie and all?”
“I’m looking forward to it,” Cassie said as she stood up. “Let’s see if anyone can BEEEEAT me.”
“Oh this is going to be good,” Connie said with a smile. “So, how shall we do this?”
“Well, if you all stand in a line and cross your wrists behind your back,” Bobby said as he stood up, “We’ll take care of you all at the same time, in the same way.”
“In for a penny,” Miranda said as she and Angela stood up, the others joining them in a line as their binders stood behind them, selecting a suitable length of rope each as they got to work...
“There now - ready to judge?”
Alexander and Simon stood in front of Amy, Veronica, Chloe and Anne Duncombe, who all nodded in unison. The wide strips of white micropore tape over their mouths were holding large sponges in their mouths, while the ropes around their arms and chests held them firmly against the backs of the chairs they were sitting in. Their ankles were bound tightly together, as were their legs below their knees, and then pulled under their chairs so that their toes were pointing to the floor.
The door to the schoolroom opened and the other women were escorted in by their binders. Each had their wrists crossed and bound tightly together behind their backs, with rope around their waists and their stomachs, while their lower heads were wrapped in a band of tape. From the way their cheeks bulged, it was obvious to all something filled their mouths underneath, and if you looked carefully you could see the slightly raised band of the strip of towel used as a cleave gag underneath.
“Welcome,” Alexander said with a smile as he looked at the line of women, “Now, please kneel and you will be helped to lie on the floor.”
Jennifer let out a low groan as she got down onto her knees, prompting Jenny to ask “Are you all right, Mum,” as she looked at her. Jennifer opened her eyes and nodded to her daughter, unable to explain the way the rope rubbing against her clit and forcing the vibrator in her to make her feel even more aroused, even at the lowest setting. Even if she was capable of doing so, how could she? Jenny was still too young to know what was happening to her...
Connie and Cassie were slightly more vocal as Dave and Jo helped them to kneel down, the low moans emanating from their mouths making both their partners smile. “You do know that’s staying in until we get home,” Dave whispered into Connie’s ear, making her turn and look at him with eyes so full of wanting he had to lean over and kiss her gagged mouth there and then.
“Your family do know how to have fun,” Jo whispered to Cassie before she helped her to lie down, crossed her ankles and started to tie them together. Cassie slowly nodded as she pondered her current situation. Any escape challenge before she had won with ease, but this was different - she was with a woman she realised she loved more than anything, and the buzzing that she felt inside her was distracting her like crazy.
She wouldn’t have it any other way, however, as she gazed at Jo binding her legs together, wondering what they would do tonight.
Susan and Anne Bowden were already lying on their stomachs, the pleasure as their tightly bound legs held the rope even more firmly in place reflected in the slightly glazed look in their eyes as they wriggled very slightly from side to side. Their sighs were amplified for a moment as they felt themselves approaching another climax, and they lay still, eyes closed as the feeling ebbed.
Lucinda was having a similar problem, as Desmond leaned over and moved her hair away from the back of her neck. “Good luck,” he whispered into her ear before he kissed her neck, Lucinda nodding as she tried to move her feet away from her arms. It proved useless - save for the way it rubbed the rope even more against her damp labia...
As Mrs Bridges twisted and groaned into herself, Miranda and Angela found themselves next to each other, as their binders worked they way down and checked all nine women. As they walked to the side of the room, Colin said “Well, who do you think is going to win?”
“My money’s on Aunt Cassie,” Jenny said with a smile, “She hasn’t even got her hands covered, and she was the only one who managed to get free that night. Plus she’s the best escape artists of all of us - no contest.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Alicia said with a smile, “I have a feeling Angela may beat all of them.”
As they talked, they didn’t notice John handing a small box to Jo, who looked at him and nodded quietly.
“Are the judges ready?” Alexander said as he looked at the four seated and silenced guests. They nodded as he looked down the line of hogtied family members.
“Are you all ready?”
They looked up and nodded as Alexander joined the husbands who were standing with Jo. “Ready, set - go!” he called out, and as one John, Dave, Alexander, Simon and Jo pressed the remote controls they had in the palms of their hands.
“Hllyysht!” Cassie moaned out as she raised her head and then rolled over onto her side, her cheeks flushing as she felt the increased stimulation inside her and started shaking. Jennifer looked at her husband in mute frustration, adoration and ecstasy, as Connie, Susan and Anne Bowden also rolled onto their sides.
The four seated judges starting laughing into their gags as Jenny stared at her aunt. “Want to pay up now,” Colin said with a smile as he poked her in the ribs.
“I don’t get it - what’s happening here,” she said quietly as Angela and Miranda looked at each other and edged closer together, the other women moving their legs as much as they could to and fro as they lay there.
“Maybe it’s the air conditioning - they do look flushed,” Bobby said, then he looked at his father and said “What’s so funny?”
“Sorry,” Alexander said with a laugh, “I’ll tell you some other time. Come on Susan - you can win this if you want to.”
“Mbbeedntwntt,” Susan moaned out as she arched her back, and then let out a mute scream, while Miranda looked over her shoulder as Angela worked on her hogtie.
Jenny was still staring at Cassie, who was giggling as she lay on her side, her legs tightly clamped together. “This can’t be happening,” she said as Lucinda and Mrs Bridges started to edge towards each other, while Miranda stretched her legs out and then went to work on Angela, “I’ve seen Aunt Cassie escape from worse than this, and she was the only one who escaped that night. What’s happened to her?”
“Well, she’s had a few shocks today,” Jo said from the side of the room as she touched a button, and Cassie started to relax, “Maybe it finally got to her.”
Jenny saw her father smile as he looked at Jo, and then back to Jennifer and Connie as they wriggled round on the floor.
“Your granny seems to be in the lead,” Colin whispered into Jenny’s ear, and as she looked round she saw that Miranda and Angela were now sitting back to back as they worked on each other’s wrists - but Miranda had already managed to work one wrist free, and was loosening the wrist binding for Angela as well.
“She always liked to play fair,” Jenny said as she looked at Amy and Veronica in their seats. “You’re not trying to get free then?”
“Hnnn,” Veronica said as she shook her head, “Wprmsd.”
“That’s right,” Desmond said as he walked over, “This is our way of saying thank you - to allow them to watch and see just how good the rest of the ladies are at getting free.”
“Yeah - but Mum doesn’t want to get free by the look of her,” Alicia said as she saw the glazed look once again in her mother’s eyes.
“I know,” Simon said quietly, “It would appear that all the fear of being in this situation has been driven out, isn’t that right Anne?”
Anne Bowden nodded as she looked up at her husband, while Connie looked over at Dave, who had the biggest grin on his face.
“Phwwwwaasgh now that was easier than I thought,” Miranda finally said as she pulled her gag off, while Angela was untying her ankles. Lucinda and Mrs Bridges were also working their arms free, as the other women stopped wriggling round and relaxed a little. Cassie rolled over and looked at her mother, muttering “dmmt” before she started to work frantically at the knots near her fingers, but it was no good, as Miranda and Angela stood up as one, holding hands as they called out “WINNERS!”
“Very well done,” Alexander said as Jenny and Alicia clapped and cheered. “As your prize - we have four willing volunteers over here for you to tickle as much as you wish.”
“Wddntgrttht,” Veronica said as she looked at Amy and Anne Duncombe, but for Chloe it was too late, as Angela quickly came over and started to tickle her ribs as she sat helpless in the chair.
“I’ll pass, thank you,” Miranda said as she walked to the side and poured herself a glass of water. “Come on Lucinda - you’re not normally this slow.”
Lucinda looked over at Miranda with eyes that looked troubled by something, but then she looked at Angela, and concentrated instead on bringing her arms round so that she could remove the rest of the ropes that were around her.
Mrs Bridges was the next to free herself, walking over to her husband and hugging him as she gave him a long kiss, while Lucinda was helped to her feet by Desmond before she too went for a drink of water. “That’s better,” she finally said as she looked at Miranda. “How long do you think it will take the others to get free?”
“A little while longer, I think,” Lucinda said before she let out a small gasp. “All right, Lucinda,” Miranda said with an eyebrow raised, “What’s going on here?”
“I’ll telllll you later,” Lucinda said with a small gasp as Cassie finally managed to free herself, standing up and walking over to Jo as she said “A word, Captain Frost, if you would be so kind?”
“Of course, Captain Craig,” Jo said as the two of them left the room, and the last four women slowly started to free themselves. “Why don’t we leave them to it,” Lucinda said as she guided the others out of the room, “and have a chat outside.”
The others nodded as they left the room, hearing the muffled laughs of their mothers and aunts as the door closed.
“So,” Colin said as he looked at Jenny, “What do I get for winning the bet?”
Jenny looked at Colin, then threw her arms round his neck as he kissed her. “That’s what you get,” she said after she moved her head back, “and as a thank you for being here this weekend. It’s been one hell of a ride.”
“Understatement of the century,” Bobby said as he shook his head. “I’m just glad to have my mother back again.”
“Amen to that,” Alicia said quietly, “Even if the change has been a little...”
“Dramatic,” Lucinda said with a smile. “We’ve all been very tense and afraid these last few weeks, dear, so forgive us if we let our hair down a bit.”
“A bit? Granny, when did you last wear something like that? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear that sort of outfit?”
“Maybe I should wear it a bit more often - I’ve still got the figure for it, after all.”
“And that’s just a little too much information,” Bobby said with an embarrassed smile. “So what are we going to do now?”
“Let’s go and see if we can find something to eat,” Mrs Bridges said, “and then I need to make preparations for dinner tonight.”
“No you don’t,” Lucinda said quietly. “The caterers will be dealing with that. The two of you are joining us for the meal - no excuses. As for the rest of the afternoon - I have an idea, but I’ll tell you when the others are available.”
The large grandfather clock showed four as the party was gathered in the room the looked out onto the garden, drinking tea as Veronica said “So, before dinner, we’re going to split into four groups, and I want you to just go for a little walk round the grounds. Yesterday, we talked through how you felt that night. This time, I want you to talk through how you felt today.”
“Sounds fair enough,” Miranda said, “So what are the groups?”
“Jennifer, Connie, John, Dave and Jenny will form one group. Next up will be Susan, Alexander, Anne and Simon, and Bobby and Colin. The third group is Lucinda, Desmond, Mr and Mrs Bridges, Cassie and Jo, and Alicia. We will follow with Miranda and Angela.”
“Fair enough,” Jennifer said as she looked over her shoulder, “but we have to stay as we are, right?” All the women had their wrist crossed behind their back again, with a rope belt around their waists to hold them firmly into place.
“Oh yes - consider it the last time for today,” Anne Duncombe said with a smile. “So, when you are ready, the first group may head off.”
Jennifer and Connie were helped to their feet by John and Dave as Jenny opened the doors to the gardens, and they walked slowly out into the garden and along the path.
“So how are you really feeling, Mum,” Jenny said as she saw her mother gasp slightly. Jennifer looked at her daughter, wishing she could explain about the second length of rope her wrists were tied to - the one making the rope rub against her with each step and each pull, or the freshly recharged vibrator that was now pulsing with a regular medium strength rhythm inside her.
“Honestly, Jenny,” her mother said with a smile, “I haven’t felt so good and relaxed in ages. What do you say, Connie?”
“Oh I Agreeeee,” Connie said with a gasp, “it’s as if all that fear, all that anger has just been rubbed away.”
“Right,” Jenny said as she looked at both of them, “Well, something seems to have put a spring in your step at any rate. It’s almost as if you have become completely different people over night.”
“You have no idea,” her father said with a smile as he put his arm round Jennifer’s waist. “Looking forward to seeing the twins when you get home though, aren’t you?”
“And Danny as well,” Connie said with a sigh as Jenny looked back to see the boys following, “I can’t wait to see his cute little face again. IT was that that kept me going that night, more than anything.”
Dave looked at Connie as a small frown appeared on her face, only to be replaced by a bright smile as she looked at him. “Thanks, I needed that,” she said as she gripped tightly within her the now more strongly pulsing vibrator, the pleasant warmth spreading within her.
“Any time - just remember,” Colin said as Jenny looked at him, then her aunt. “So that night - what happened doesn’t scare you anymore?”
“It would if I thought about it,” Jennifer said as she slipped her hand into her husband’s “but talking about it last night, spending time as a family reminding ourselves of what we mean to each other - it puts it into a new perspective.”
“Hearing about it reminds me of the night we were all held hostage,” Jenny said as she looked down the path, “and how sacred I was that night when I woke up and found Cassie had gone. The relief I felt when I saw she had hopped in to be with you...”
“Come here Jenny.”
Jenny walked over to her father as he put her arms round her. “You and your sister are two of the bravest and most wonderful girls I know,” he said as he looked into his daughter’s eyes, “and I just want to say thank you.”
“Hear, hear,” Dave said as he hugged Connie. As he did so, he pulled her wrists up slightly, out of sight of Jenny as Connie buried her head into her husband’s neck and moaned as quietly as she could. The added pressure of the rope pushing the vibrator in made her mumble “stoporshe’llguess” as quietly as she could.
“So - Aunt Cassie and Dr Frost?”
“Ah,” John said as they resumed walking, “You don’t have a problem with that do you?”
“No, I don’t” Jenny said quietly, “but what are we going to tell Cassie?”
“About the weekend or about them?”
“Well,” Jennifer said as she gasped again, “for your Aunt Cassie, we tell her the truth. But the other things - John?”
“Sorry, Jenny, but I’m invoking the Compact on what you heard. One day, we’ll tell her, but not until she is ready.”
Jenny nodded, and said “I agree,” as they resumed their walk down the path, arm in arm.
“They seem happy,” Bobby said to Colin as they walked with the Bowdens and Bobby’s parents.
“Well, we’ve all had a lot to think about and cope with,” Susan said as she twisted round a little, and then moaned as she leaned into Alexander. “It has been a most unusual weekend.”
“Tell me about it,” Anne Bowden said as Simon hugged her, and then a little yelp escaped from her lips as well. “It’s been a great release, however.”
“How scared were you, Mum,” Bobby said as he walked by her side, watching as Jennifer wriggled between John and Jenny.
“I was terrified,” Susan said quietly, “and I was right to be, son. I had things done to me that night that had never been done to me before, and I had to tell someone how it felt. As it was, none of us wanted to talk - really talk to each other, but last night we all realised we felt the same way.
“That made it easier to share with each other - but I suspect Anne was more scared than I was, especially with Angela there.”
Anne slowly nodded, before saying “I would not want her to experience anything like that, ever again. I would sacrifice myself before that if anyone threatened her, or Alicia, or even threatened to hurt Andrew in any way.”
“They’d have to get through me first,” Simon said as he hugged his wife, Anne smiling broadly as she stopped and buried her head into his chest.
“Well, whatever happened, I’m glad you’re back Mum,” Bobby said as he hugged Susan, not realising how wide her eyes got as he pulled her arms up. She looked at Alexander, who was standing there trying desperately to stop himself laughing.
“One thing I still don’t understand,” Colin said as he turned and looked round. “What did you do last night that made you so - so happy this morning?”
Simon and Alexander looked at each other, before Simon said “We spent time with our wives, your mother and your aunt, and we helped them to understand exactly how much we loved them, and how much we wanted to be there for them and to care for them.”
“That’s right,” Susan said with a smile, “but we did more. We also faced the things we feared most from that night, and we learned just how much the fear had to be lost, driven out, and dealt with - whatever you want to call it.”
Anne nodded and then groaned slightly as once more the constant and persistent buzzing between her legs had the desired effect on her.
“So what you’re saying,” Colin replied, “is that you’re no longer afraid of what it was that was scaring you the most? What happened - did it become something you desired more than anything, as if it was a food you used to hate.”
“You could say that,” Susan said with a giggle, Anne joining in as they both leaned against their husbands. “Let’s just say we’re not afraid any more, and leave it at that for now.”
“All right,” Bobby said with a shake of his head, “but I still think something else is going on here. What about you, Dad - are you afraid still as well?”
“You know, Bobby,” Alexander said with a smile, “I’m just glad this whole sorry episode is behind us.”
“For now,” Colin said, “There’s still the trial.”
“There is that,” Simon said as he put his arm round Anne, “but I don’t think seeing them again is going to worry you any more, is it?”
“Not with the right approach, no,” Anne said with a smile as they made their way along the path.
“Well, I can certainly have a word with the headmaster, Jo - but I happen to know we do need a new science teacher at a senior level, so I think your application will be looked upon favourably.”
Jo smiled as she walked arm in arm with Cassie, while Desmond walked with Lucinda beside her. “Thank you,” she said, “I would very much appreciate it, and it means Cas and I do not get into any issues with working in the same school.”
“Well, given your partnership I think it shows a very personable approach,” Lucinda said as she walked along. “I must advise, however, that we do have a strict policy regarding attire for teachers.”
“I’ll try to bear that in mind,” Jo said as she looked at Alicia. “So, do you think you can cope with me as your chemistry teacher for GCSE?”
“Well, it will be science, not Chemistry - I haven’t picked that as my options,” Alicia said with a smile.
“Oh,” Lucinda said, “and what did you pick?”
“History, French and Economics,” Alicia said with a smile. “Mum and Dad agreed with me.”
“Well, that seems a reasonable approach,” Mrs Bridges said with a laugh. As she did so, she pulled her wrists up her back, and let out a deep sigh of contentment.
“You’re not getting stiff, are you dear,” Mr Bridges said as he looked at his wife.
“No, no - just feeling the love,” she replied with a smile as Desmond looked back at them.
“Can I ask you a question, Miss Craig?”
“Pleasssseeee,” Cassie sighed, “Call me Cassie - we’re not standing on formality here.”
“Well, Cassie, why did you and Jo have to keep your relationship secret? I mean, it’s not as if society is going to condemn you?”
“Some might,” Cassie said, before she groaned at the sudden increase in the vibrator rate inside her. She turned and looked at Lucinda and Mrs Bridges, mouthing “How the heck do you cope,” to them.
“Practice,” Lucinda replied quietly, before saying “Have you covered the Cold War yet in history?”
“No,” Alicia said.
“Well,” Cassie said as they kept walking, “at the height of the Cold War, in the 50’s and 60’s the Russians and Americans used to use knowledge of someone’s sexual preferences to blackmail them into working for their side. IT means the people I used to work for, and those Jo is working for currently, get a LEEETLLELEEE skittish with same sex couples.”
“Cassie is right,” Desmond said as he looked at Lucinda. “People like Blunt and Philby proved to be a real - shall we say, embarrassment to those in charge. I guess the army and the others just have to change.”
“Good luck with that,” Jo said as she tugged Cassie’s arm, Alicia noticing the blush as she did so. “What happened to you lot last night,” she finally said.
“Nothing happened to me last night,” Cassie said as she looked at Jo. “It’s just been a day for revelations, I guess.” Jo nodded and leaned over to kiss Cassie’s neck as Alicia looked at them.
“I know you don’t want Suzie to know, but what if she hears something or asks us about it?”
“Then tell her to talk to her mother, Alicia - we’ll work it out from there...”
“I want to thank you, Anne for everything you and the others have done for us. I had no idea what Desmond and Lucinda had planned, but this has proven far more successful for all of us then I had dared to dream of.”
“I have to agree,” Anne Duncombe said as the final group walked round the grounds, “the therapy does seem to have put a real spring in the steps of the others.”
“Not to mention giving them a real buzz,” Miranda said as she looked at Amy and Veronica. “Tell me, whose idea was it?”
“Whose idea was what,” Angela said as she looked at Chloe.
“I believe your fathers, uncles and grandfathers merely applied a little reverse psychology to the situation you found yourselves in, mon ami,” Chloe said with a slight smile.
“Well, whatever it was, it certainly worked. Now the only question is, what happens next?”
“We go home, we put this whole dreadful business behind us as much as possible, and we get on with our lives,” Miranda said as she looked at the three groups in front of them, “for the sake of all the children, you included Angela.”
“I’m hardly a kid,” Angela said with a shrug, “I have my A levels next year.”
“Still, you have a lot to learn,” Veronica said, “so don’t be in too big a hurry to learn it all.”
“Have you spoken to Dorothy since you came over?”
Amy shook her head in response to Miranda’s question. “No - she’s spending the weekend with the girls, and we’re having a housewarming in a few weeks.”
Amy looked at Veronica before saying “Fairly much so - it’s going to be unique.”
“Well, I hope we see the girls soon as well.”
“Might happen,” Veronica said with a shrug, “Might happen.”
Slowly, the four groups made their way round the paths, as the sun started to lower in the clear sky.
As they approached the main doors again, Desmond noticed two men standing in the large open doors, looking at the four groups.
“Excuse me a moment,” he said as he walked back to Anne Duncombe, and the two of them talked in quiet tones. They then walked quickly up to the house, passing all the others as they reached the open widows first.
“I do hope there’s not a problem,” Jennifer said as the four of them stepped inside, and then a shiver ran through her as the rope pressed against her moist clit. John held her closer as they approached the entrance, stepping into the cool room as Desmond came back in.
“Excellent,” he said as he rubbed his hands, “Dinner will be served in an hour - I suggest you pack and load the cars up, as we will probably leave soon after.”
John nodded as he and Dave led their wives away, leaving Jenny with Desmond.
“Yes, my dear?”
“I was wondering about Sara - Lady Holderness told us who she was.”
Desmond nodded and said “It came as quite a surprise to me as well, I assure you. Having said that, my American cousin is a most remarkable woman, and one who I believe would prefer to remain in the shadows. Can I trust you and Colin to respect that?”
“Of course, sir - it just seems so strange, as if something or someone was guiding your families together.”
“Yes - it does, doesn’t it,” Desmond said with a smile, as Bobby and Colin entered with the Holderness and Bowdens. “You’d better go and pack as well, my dear - I’ll send Alicia up when she comes in.”
“If I could have your attention for a moment?”
The group looked at Desmond as he stood at the head of the table, while the plates were cleared away by the four waitresses who had served the meal for them.
“Yesterday lunchtime, we gathered here, a group of very scared and worried people, to try and work through our feelings and emotions about what happened at the Manor House. None of us knew what was going to happen, and if I am being honest I had no idea if it would be possible to move forward from that night and truly put it behind me.”
Jennifer reached over and gripped John’s hand as Desmond spoke, while Alexander and Simon put their arms round their wife’s shoulders.
“I know when Lucinda and I discussed how we were going to do this, there were many things we knew would be a risk - making all of you confront that night again, reliving what happened, but also explaining to you what had really happened.” He looked at Jenny, Alicia, Bobby and Colin, who nodded as they looked back at him.
“So I think there are some people we need to thank - and I start with Anne Duncombe and her friends. It is always good to know we have friends who will drop anything if you call, and I know Anne did just that, as did Chloe, Amy and Veronica. I think we owe them all a great debt of thanks and gratitude, for taking the lead and helping us to confront all our fears and angers.”
“Hear hear,” Jo Frost said as she hugged Cassie. Amy and Veronica blushed as Chloe smiled in return at the thunderous round of applause that filled the room.
“We also need to thank you,” Desmond then said as he looked at the teenagers. “You have shown a remarkable maturity over the last day - a thing that makes me, your parents and all the others proud. I know we have placed a great burden on all of you, but I wanted - no we all wanted to say thank you for being here.”
It was the turn of Jenny, Alicia, Bobby and Colin to blush as the parents, aunts, uncles, and others turned and applauded them. Anne Duncombe, Chloe and Lucinda had the biggest smiles on their faces as they did so.
“Tomorrow, as they say, is another day, but I think we all face it in a far better place then when we came here. So, I ask you to take your glasses and join me in a small toast - to the future.”
“The future,” everyone said as they raised their glasses, and drank, each of them looking at each other before they sat and talked for a while. Eventually, it was Alexander who looked at his watch, and said “I think we need to be going. Colin, we’ll drop you off at your house.”
“Thanks,” Colin said as he stood up, and walked over to Jenny as she stood up. “I’ll see you during the week,” he said as they hugged, while Bobby hugged his mum and dad.
“I’ll look forward to it,” Jenny said with a smile as Colin waved, and Susan hugged the four American visitors. “Thanks for everything,” she said through tear filled eyes, before taking Alexander’s arm and following the boys out of the room.
“I think we’d better be going as well,” Cassie said as she and Jo stood up. “Connie, I hope you don’t mind if I go with Jo - we have a lot to talk about.”
“I can imagine,” Connie said as she embraced her sister, “have fun.”
“We will,” Cassie said as she went to hug the others, while Jo shook Anne Duncombe's hand.
“Thank you,” she said quietly, “for the invite and everything. Perhaps we can meet again and discuss professional matters?”
“I’d like that,” Anne said as Jo walked out with Cassie, the others watching.
“Right,” John finally said, “we need to get going as well, or April and Jessica will be wondering what has happened to all of us. Desmond - thank you, for everything.”
“It was our pleasure,” Desmond said as Anne Bowden, Miranda, Connie and Jennifer said goodbye to the others, and they left the room.
“Well,” Desmond said as he looked at Mr and Mrs Bridges, “I guess it’s back to the Manor House, but first we need to take you to your hotel. I cannot thank you enough - you’ve almost become like family this weekend.”
“Our pleasure,” Amy said as she was embraced by Lucinda. “Will you join us for breakfast tomorrow, before we take the jet back?”
“It will be an honour,” Lucinda said, “A true honour.”
“There you are,” April said as she looked out from the front room. “How did it go?”
“Judge for yourself,” John said as Connie and Anne came in and picked up their babies, hugging them close to them and kissing them as they did so.
“So are things better now,” Jessica said as she stood up and embraced her sister.
“Much better, thanks,” Jenny said with a smile as she looked at the sleeping twins. “Were they any trouble?”
“Of course not,” Jessica said, “Cassie called - the girls are on their way back.”
“Would you mind hanging on until they get back and getting them settled,” Jennifer said as Jenny came in and yawned, “It’s been a long weekend, and I want to get to bed early.”
“No problem,” Jennifer said as Anne embraced Connie and Jennifer, while Simon shook the hands of Dave and John.
“See you at school tomorrow,” Alicia said to Jenny as she took Andrew in his carry seat.
“Oh yes,” Jenny said as the Bowdens left, followed by Connie and Dave with Daniel. “Do you mind if I go to bed,” Jenny said as she yawned.
“Of course not,” Miranda said as she hugged her granddaughter, “We’ll see you in the morning.” Jenny nodded as she hugged the others, and then left the room.
“How much does she know,” April said as the door closed.
“Enough,” Miranda said, “not everything, but enough. Who wants some coffee?”
John whispered into Jennifer’s ear, who giggled as she said “Not us - we’re going to bed as well. Good night everyone.”
They left the living room and made their way to the bedroom. As John closed the door, Jennifer removed her clothing and felt the soaking wet rope between her legs.
“Can I take this off now, John,” she said as she looked at her husband, “I want you, and nothing should stop that now.”
“Oh? I was just thinking of doing one last thing,” John said as he took the remote out of his pocket and pressed the button.
“HHHMGDDDDDD” was all Jenny heard as she left the bathroom, shook her head and made her way to her bedroom, lying down as she thought “I’ll get to the bottom of this one day” as her eyes slowly closed...
One week later
“I’m glad - it sounds like the weekend helped everybody.”
Anne Duncombe nodded as she accepted the mug of coffee and watched Sara sit down.
“It did - and it helped me realise a few other things as well. For example, the fact I was there when your mother died.”
Sara looked at Anne and slowly nodded. “I know - now. I’ve never been able to look in that book, or at that clip, but when I did I recognised the name. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything before you went, but I had to do something first.”
“What was that?”
Sara looked up, a tear in her eye, and said “Go to her grave. When I was there, I met a mother and daughter, who said they were there that day as well. The way they spoke, I realised they were the ones my mother had seen in her dream.”
Anne put her cup down and smiled. “From what I heard from the kids, your family, the Holderness family and the Strong family keep running into each other.”
Sara nodded. “I spent some time reading the book while you were away, and putting things together myself. I think I know now why Lord Holderness has been so kind to me - and why that dream was so vivid.”
Brian walked in and sat down next to Sara, as Anne said “Actually, I also need to ask a favour of you two.”
“Sure,” Brian said, “What is it?”
“Well, Amy and her partner are holding a housewarming in a few weeks, and they have decided to invite the guests in a rather unique way. Would you be willing to bring some of them to the house for me?”
“Sounds fun - anyone in particular?”
“Five people - and one of them is your neighbour...”
The Holderness house
“Suzie, I swear, if you don’t give me back that book, I’ll keep you in the room for the whole day!”
“Promises, promises,” Susan heard her daughter say as she closed the door and looked at Alexander.
“Everything all right,” he said as he looked at his wife.
“Oh yeah, everything’s fine,” Susan said as she sat down. “Xander, I’ve been thinking.”
“Always an interesting thing to do,” he said as he put down his paper, “Thinking about what?”
“Well,” Susan said as she smiled, “With Andrew, Daniel and the twins arriving, I was wondering if it was time...”
Alexander looked at Susan, and then a small smile crept over his face. “Oh,” he eventually said, “Now I know what you were wondering. You know it may take a little while?”
“I can wait,” Susan said as she sat next to her husband, “but it would be nice, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes - yes it would.”
The home of Cassandra Craig
Cassie smiled as Jo came into the kitchen, drying her hair with a towel.
“Good morning to you as well,” Cassie said before she kissed Jo. “Ready for the first day of your debrief.”
“As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess. What was it like for you?”
“A bit different - after all, I was called back rather quickly. On the other hand, you don’t have a major terrorist organisation baying for your blood.”
“True - but I do have one thing you had as well.”
“Family,” Jo said as she filled a mug of coffee. “If nothing else, I learned that a week ago - family is everything.”
“Amen to that,” Cassie said, “Amen to that.”