Interlude One

Eight Years Before

John Wyddian put the phone down and closed his eyes. One of the agents he had in Moline, Illinois told him that the kid he's been tracking for the last few years was going to be going to Chicago. It was Trelane's last year in college, and John knew that he was running out of time. John was sitting in a large wooden chair, in a large dark house in one of the suburbs or Chicago. The house was barren except for the chair, a pair of phones and file cabinets. In the file cabinets were files on people that he and The Family had been watching for years. He couldn't tell anyone why they were watching them, or what the purpose of the hidden house was, because if he did, they would have turned on him.

He had been worried that he something to trigger Trelane's powers before he turned 22, they would never manifest. Trelane was only a couple of months from graduating. According to all the information he had been able to dig up, Trelane would be able to slip into a quiet job, marry his college sweetheart and never have the major stressor he needed to release the power he had inside of him. John had studied him enough to know that he could be the most powerful mage in a long time, but the powers remained latent.

He thought that the death of Trelane's father and brother in a car accident would be enough to start the process, but it didn't work. He had watched Janus's life since he was a little boy and knew that the relationship he had with his father and brother were the only strong family ties he had. He'd seen people give in to the darkness of life with less of a push, and thought that it would enough. The beauty of it was that he wouldn't have to get involved at all.

Instead of allowing his rage and pain to consume him, Janus's girlfriend had kept him on an even keel. He had been at the funeral, and saw Janus's mother turn it into a confrontation. He waited, watched and wanted to be there as Janus would start down the path that might lead to him becoming one of the most powerful mages to walk the Earth. He watched as the redhead Janus was with got him to leave.

That night, John eavesdropped on the two of them as Janus poured out his whole life story to the girl. During that session, John learned not only about Janus, but about his girlfriend, Belinda. She was everything that she needed to be to get him through that dark night of his soul. She was firm and strong when she needed to be, yet caring and compassionate enough to ease his mind. By the time they went to sleep, John knew two things. First, that Janus had done well in finding someone to share his life with and second, as long as she was in the picture, it would be impossible to tear him down.

In any other person, John would almost think it were sweet. Back when he was human, he would have even asked one of the poets of the Royal Court to enshrine such love in verse. He wasn't human any more, and that love stood in the way of his plans.

So, he hoped to kill two birds with one stone. He waited until the perfect opportunity presented itself.

Finally it had. His agent told him that Janus and Belinda were planning on going to Chicago over spring break, since it would be Janus's last one before leaving college. His agent had even been able to get Janus into one of the hotels on Michigan Avenue that The Family owned. While The Family only used it as a source of easy income, this time, John was going to use it for a much more useful purpose.

That night, John planned everything out in the most meticulous detail, from what the concierge would suggest to them for entertainment to how long he would allow them to enjoy their last trip together. It was all about to come together.

Many members of The Family who still lived in Chicago had given up asking him why he would take such interest in a mortal. Unlike the newer members of The Family, John usually took no notice of humans. All he seemed to care about human affairs were ones that would benefit The Family financially, or when someone came too close to discovering their dark secret. It hadn't happened in ages, but whenever a human came close to discovering that vampires were real, John would take care of the situation himself.

Usually in such a way that members of The Family wouldn't talk about it at all, even in the hushed tones they used for things they wanted to keep from him.

His interest in Janus Trelane had sparked hidden conversation that John didn't care to correct. There were a number of factions of thought. Some felt that he was toying with Janus's life to relieve his boredom. Others felt that he was grooming Janus to become a member of The Family, one as powerful as many of The Old Ones who John had created hundreds of years ago. There were even a few who thought that John was seeing his own life through this mortal's life, and wanted to remember what it had been like if he would have remained alive.

All of them were wrong. None of them had the foresight enough to guess the real purpose behind John's watching the young man grow. He would unleash the mage within this young man, watch as he grew in power, and when we was young enough to still be manipulated yet powerful to fulfill his purpose, use him for his grand plan. Over 500 years had gone by since John had come upon his plan, and nothing could be left to chance.

All was prepared on this chilly spring night, with fog rolling in off the lake. John Wyddian stood and waited, feeling impatience for the first time since the printing press.

* * *

Janus awoke and nearly jumped out of bed when he saw the alarm clock. It showed that it was almost 10 am, and he was almost an hour late for his first class. He threw the blankets off and was hit by how cold the room was. He was sleeping in just his briefs, and his dorm room had only been warm with it was below freezing outside. Now that spring was starting to make a stab at warming things up, the dorm's temperature had dropped.

He grabbed the pair of blue jeans that had been tossed on his chair the night before and opened his closet, looking for a shirt that was relatively clean. He was able to find a T-shirt on a hanger, and one of his flannel shirts on the floor, and tossed them on, all the while looking for his socks and shoes. He remembered kicking them off the night before, but not where they had ended up.

"What are you doing," came the sleepy voice buried under the covers he had tossed off.

"I'm late!" he said, "I've already missed my 9 o'clock, and if I don't get moving I'll miss by 10 o'clock too."

The blankets moved, and a hand finally came into view, pushing them back onto Janus's side of the bed. There was a short, shoulder-length mop of thick red hair, and a face that made Janus melt every time he saw it as Belinda tried to open one sleepy blue eye. "You've lost your mind, you know," she said. Her voice was thick with sleep, but still had that husky quality that had caused him to waste hours on the phone listening to her talk about any and everything.

"Maybe so, but if I miss any more classes, I'm going to fall so far behind that I'll be in the library for spring break," Janus said, starting to get frantic about finding a pair of socks, "Where is everything? I only have one shirt and no socks!"

"They're in your suitcase. Remember? We put them there last night after you did laundry," she said, and Janus could tell she was trying to say more.

Why did they pack everything up when he still had to get ready and go to...

Then it hit him. He was rushing around on a day when they didn't have to do anything. He stopped searching and looked at Belinda, who now had both eyes open and a big grin on her pale, freckled face. "I don't have class today, do I?" he said, wanting to make sure that the second conclusion he was jumping to was the first correct one of the day.

"That's right," she said, restraining a giggle, "we stayed up late last night because we knew we were sleeping in today. Now, you've ruined that."

Janus sat on the chair and bit his lip, "I did wake us up early, and all last night I kept saying, 'It's no big deal, we can sleep until noon.' didn't I?"

She nodded her head, and in so doing, caused the blanket to sag a little further. Janus was able to see her bare shoulders now, and all of the panic that had gripped him mere seconds ago was gone. They'd been seeing each other for almost three years now, and he still felt that stirring that made his knees weak when he saw her skin. The way she looked in the bed was enough to make his lose all rational thought.

She patted the bed next to her where he'd been sleeping just a few minutes before, and he took off the flannel shirt and nestled next to her. He was close enough the could feel her breath on his face as he slid under the covers as well. It was warm and made the rest of the tension he's been feeling melt away. He moved closer to her, and she was warm, soft, and felt like sleep. He kissed her, tasting her lips as if the were fresh strawberries and she returned the kiss wrapping her hands around him and pulling him closer. When he pulled back, he looked at her face, taking it all in. He knew everything about it, but he still studied it as if it were new to him.

He took his hand and gently bushed a few stray stands of hair away from he face. It felt like electricity, and he didn't want to disturb the feeling he had. It was a feeling of total connectedness and bliss. No matter what was going on in the world, they were both here, and everything was right with their world.

"You know," he said, kind of surprised by the sound of his own voice, "we don't have to go to Chicago. I could be completely happy staying like this for the next week."

She kissed him again, and with one of her hands, intertwined her fingers with his. "We tried that for a weekend, remember? We eventually had to go out and find provisions. You can live on love for a while, but I need water and food after a while."

He brought their connected hands up to his face and kissed her fingers, "Ok, we'll go, but only because you insisted."

"There'll be a bed in our hotel room, so we can still do this. We just won't have to worry about making the bed."

Janus smiled and kissed her again, losing himself in the feeling. His hands moved over her body and he kept them in motion until he heard the sharp intake of air that let him know he'd found the right place. As he continued to feel her, his mouth slowly moved down her body until it met his hand. They made love slowly and tenderly, not having to worry about the noisy people in adjoining rooms or getting a decent amount of sleep for class. They took their time, and when they were done, they slipped easily into each other's arms.

Janus wanted to close his eyes and get a little more rest, but couldn't take his eyes off of her face. At first, when she caught him gazing at her, she was a little embarrassed and couldn't meet his eyes. He gently put his thumb and forefinger on her chin and drew her face upward until they eyes locked. Janus wanted to express all that he was feeling, but there weren't any words.

They stayed that way until the alarm finally went off at noon. After Janus turned the alarm off, Belinda grabbed his face and give him a big, exaggerated kiss and said, "Come on, we're burning daylight."

* * *

They had both packed the previous night, so all they had to do was carry the two suitcases down three flights of stairs. Janus had put on the jeans and shirt that he'd rushed around the room to find. He had on a light blue jean jacket against the spring chill. Belinda was dressed better than him, with a big fuzzy sweater peeking out from her black coat that she wore until it was above 60 degrees. She wore a pair of black jeans, and when Janus watched her walk, he was entranced. Knowing they had to get going if they wanted to be out of the dorms before they locked up for spring break, he made sure that he led the way. Too many times he had stopped dead in his tracks as he watched her walking away. She teased him about it, but he always told her, "It's been three years and I'm still ever so much the smitten kitten. Enjoy it now, because when we get old and slow, I might not ogle you so much and you'll miss it. Mark my words, you'll miss it."

Belinda, for her part, did like the attention, not in and of itself, but because she knew that Janus had only gotten more attracted to her as they'd been together. Most guys would lose interest in her after a few months, and oddly, they would quit watching her closely after she'd slept with them. If anything, it had gotten Janus more interested in her. When she knew that Janus was watching her walk away, she would put just the slightest bit more hip action into her walk, just because she knew it drove him nuts.

It felt good to have a lover who was also someone who she liked as a friend. It was the first time in her life those two things had ever combined. When she was in high school, she would have a boyfriend, and then a best friend on the side. Almost as if the best friend was to make up for the deficiencies in whomever she was going out with on Saturday night. This was different. Time with Janus actually felt like a mature relationship. He would get goofy once in a while, but she would too. They were in college, and it might just be their last chance to ever really be goofy. After they were done, they would both get jobs, and, if she could talk him into it, have children. There wouldn't be time for laying by a pond and deciding what animal each cloud that went by looked like, going to the mall just so she could try on tons of clothes that she had no intention of buying, having water gun fights, or any of the other things they would do that she couldn't imagine doing as a married adult.

A nice way to describe Janus's car was vintage. The accurate way to describe it was old. It was a 1971 Buick Skylark with an engine big enough that it would go through a twenty gallon tank of gas after less than 300 miles. It was a faded gold color, and had a black vinyl top that was chipping and flaking with age. The tires were as close as they could be to being bald without being something Janus could get a ticket for. The car was huge, but only a two door, with a back seat big enough to hold all of their luggage, and a space chair or two if Janus had wanted to carry them.

The day was sunny, and when Janus opened up the car, it was nice and warm, despite being just this side of cold outside. He grabbed the sunglasses he kept on the sun visor and slid them on. Belinda had unlocked the trunk and put her two suitcases in ("one for clothes and one for everything else I'll need" she'd said while Janus watched her pack). When she slammed the trunk closed, she checked to make sure it had latched automatically (there had been trouble with that in the past, leading to a few things flying out of the car at 70 miles per hour). As she came around to get in the driver's seat, Janus said, "I guess that the future's so bright, I gotta wear shades!"

She rolled her eyes at that while Janus got in and sat down in the driver's seat. He put the key in the ignition and his other hand on the dash. "OK, girl," he whispered to the car, "you know I love you. Give me some sugar." They both crossed their fingers and Janus turned the key. The car sputtered to life, and when it was running smoothly, Janus slid over to the passenger seat while Belinda hopped over him into the driver's seat. She revved the engine a couple of times, making sure that the engine wouldn't die, and slipped it into drive.

She was the one who drove, since she loved driving and Janus hated it. The trip was only a four hour drive, but with the car burning a gallon of gas about every fifteen miles, they were going to have to stop at least once and fill the tank. There was no trouble as they left the parking lot, even though the car would usually die the first time they would stop. This time, however, it just sputtered a bit and kept running. Once the engine got warmed up (usually about five city blocks), that would stop, and it would run like a top. It was just getting the old beastie running that was the problem. They both hoped that the car would last at least until they were out of college.

As it was for all college students, money was tight for them. Janus had gotten a scholarship and worked a part-time job to pay his living expenses, but unlike most of the other people at school, he didn't have folks at home who were helping out with his schooling. His father and older brother had been killed a little over a year after he started school, and had not spoken to his mother since their funeral. Belinda still got along with her mother, but couldn't count on any money from her and also worked part-time as an editor at the student newspaper.

They were both hoping that Janus could land a good accounting job when he finished his studies so that they could get an apartment close to the school the next year, and then when Belinda finished up school, they would both be working, and could get a car that didn't need constant babying to run.

As they pulled out onto the interstate, Janus pulled out the letter that had set this trip into motion. It was from a prominent accounting firm that wanted Janus to come to Chicago for a week-long interview/seminar. They only asked for a couple hours of his mornings, and in return they would pay for his hotel room and meals. The letter said it was part of a program they had for people who were putting themselves through school, as they made better workers. The letter had been a bolt from the blue, and Janus took a total of 30 seconds before calling the firm to agree to come up. They sent him the reservation information, and he thought it would be a Motel Six or some other place that gave you a bed and a bathroom. Belinda was the one who'd gotten the reservation letter from his mailbox, and was blown away when she saw that it was a week at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue.

When that arrived, she got very suspicious, since her parents had fallen for a lot of the mail scams where you get a free hotel room if you listen to a hard sell seminar. The last few vacations she'd taken with her parents had been to Florida, where she had to sit in a hotel meeting room until late into the night, hearing about how to turn real estate into your own personal fortune. By the time the seminar would let out, the beaches would be deserted and they would be so tired, they would just trudge up to their room and sleep for the next mandatory seminar.

Before she showed Janus the letter, she check out the firm, got all the information she could, and double checked everything. She knew that if she just showed Janus the letter, he'd be so excited about it, he wouldn't even think to look into it. Luckily, she was able to determine that it was all on the up and up within two days. From there, it was just a matter of waiting the two months until spring break.

Janus started talking about the things he wanted to do in Chicago while she drove. It was odd how they had developed a partnership over time. She was the practical one who did all the nuts and bolts stuff, and Janus did all the big overall stuff. There were times they disagreed over things, but for the most part, they worked as a team. She looked over at him, and for the first time, saw him as he would be after he got out of college. He was still dressed like a college student, but she could see him going about the role of an adult. He actually looked older to her as she drove. The slight peppering of a gray hair here and there in his dark brown hair might have added to that, but also the fact that he was going to find out about a job that would pay more than minimum wage in return for easy hours and a discount on some sort of merchandise.

They only had five days, and they both saw this as their last hurrah. When they got back, Janus would be finishing up classes and setting up job interviews and time would be hard to come by. She would be gearing up to start her Senior year, and this summer, she had decided that she wasn't going to move back to her mom's house. She hadn't broken it to them yet, but she and Janus had decided to get an apartment together. She didn't want to move back to Peoria, and they had figured that if they had their own place, they would save money over her living in the dorms and Janus having a small apartment.

They were practically living together now, with her staying at his dorm room all but a couple nights a month. She'd talked to her roommate in person about five times the entire semester, and she didn't think it would be much of change, just a different address.

Janus talked about hitting a couple of a museums after his interview sessions, but the main reason they were going for the nightlife. One night they wanted to hit Second City to see sketch improvisation comedy, another night they wanted to go to the House of Blues, and the other two nights were open for whatever popped into their heads.

Belinda, of course, wanted to spend at least one day shopping on Michigan Avenue, even though neither of them had much money for shopping. It didn't matter though. She didn't go shopping to buy things, since she was happy with what she had. She liked looking at all the things for sale, of course, but it was also fun to just go around with Janus. There was one time they were in Sharper Image store, and had to leave after a half hour because she was laughing so hard at Janus goofing on the different merchandise.

Even before they had gotten in the car, they had found a way around their only major conflict. In all the time they had known each other, they had not grown to like each other's music. Janus was hooked on blues and early 80's pop-punk rock. His cassette case was full of The Clash, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton and B. B. King. Belinda, on the other hand, was heavily devoted to pop music and didn't bring a cassette case, wanting instead to listen to whatever top 40 radio station they could find on the way there. The compromise they had agreed to was that whoever was driving would be in charge of the music.

The problem was, Janus hated driving, it was only four hours, and after about two, Janus couldn't take it any more. "It's all a bunch of pre-programmed crap, designed to separate teenagers from their lunch money," he would say after about an hour, usually when a song they had heard earlier in the drive was repeated.

"I don't complain about your music being so old that most of it isn't even on CDs, do it?" she said, lightly teasing.

"Yes, you do," Janus said.

"Then you are going to have to think of some way to keep me occupied for the rest of the way into Chicago then," Belinda said, a smile on her face.

She watched as Janus looked out the window, and thought about it. There were mounds of snow beside the road in the fields that had once been huge snow drifts. They were just small, dirty mounds of ice chunks, fighting against spring. They passed a large house which had a "For Sale" sign in the yard, and she saw Janus's face light up.

"How about you tell me what a typical day will be like for you in five years," he said, "tell me about the house you are living in, what you do for a living, everything. Don't leave out any details."

"I'm no good at that," she protested.

"Too bad, because I'm not turning the radio back on. The alarm has just gone off, where are you?"

She thought for a minute and after a long pause, finally said, "OK, I live far away from here. Someplace warm, like California. The alarm has gone off at about noon, and Brad Pitt is sleeping beside me. He swept me off my feet during my senior year of college and..."

"So I guess I do get my shot at Winona Ryder. Good, I was wondering if that little dream would come true."

She looked over and frowned, "I didn't say what your life would be like, this is my life." She smiled and went on with her story, stopping only to laugh when she'd thought up something particularly outrageous. They both carried on like that until they made it to Chicago.

When they entered some of the outlying suburbs, she got nervous. Like Janus, she'd never really been around a big city. Of course, he grew up in a town of 2,000 people and she had grown up in Peoria, so there was a difference there. Chicago was different though. Peoria would barely make a decent sized suburb of Chicago, and driving in the big city traffic made her nervous. Janus knew that she didn't like that part of the trip, but they both knew that if drove, they would get lost quickly. She had at least dealt with learning to drive in a city, Janus was used to two lane roads that didn't have divider lines.

She concentrated on the traffic around her, and Janus gave navigation directions, telling her how long she had to go until their next exit, if she was clear to switch lanes, and twice, how to use a different exit to get what they wanted. By the time they got to the hotel, her arms were tired from gripping the steering wheel too tight. They drove around the block the hotel was on, looking for a place to park, but all they could find was a place in front of the hotel where cars much nicer than theirs were pulling up.

"I think we should go up there, and I'll pop in to see where we can park," Janus said. She nodded in agreement, and pulled over behind a black BMW with vanity plates that read MTLFUND. When the car in front of them left, a person who obviously worked for the hotel came over to the car before she could pull forward.

She rolled her window down and said, "Where would be a good place to park?"

The man looked to be in his mid-20's, and had a round face. He was wearing a burgundy jacket with the hotel's name engraved on the right breast pocket, and he smiled and said, "Do you have a reservation?"

As she usually did, Belinda took control of the situation. She grabbed the letter they had been sent by the hotel from Janus's visor and said, "Yes, here's our letter confirming our reservation."

He looked at the letter and said, "I'll get your car parked, just go in to the front desk, and they'll take care of you."

"I don't think anyone's taken care of me since I was 12," Belinda said before getting out.

* * *

Their first day in Chicago was spent in the hotel. They were both amazed at how nice it was. The bed was huge, and the bedspread was the first one Janus had seen in a hotel that wasn't a nightmarish configuration of discordant colors. When he flopped onto the bed, it was so comfortable, he wanted to spend the whole six days laying there on his back. The room was huge, with a large wooden armoire instead of the standard two squat chests of drawers that stood in for furniture for a hotel.

There was even a remote control that would open the armoire when the TV was turned on, and close it when it was turned off if they didn't want to get out of bed. Belinda was entranced by the bathroom, which was bigger than the one in her mom's house. It actually had the sink inside instead of outside of the bathroom in a little alcove. They spent nearly an hour in the room, just looking around, unpacking and looking out the window at Lake Michigan.

They later went downstairs and found the pool (which was bigger than the one on campus) and ate dinner in the hotel dining room, since all meals they would eat in the hotel would be charged to the room. After dinner, they went down to the lobby for people watching. Janus would make up stories about the more interesting people as they came and went. They toyed with the idea of heading out to a nightclub, but the drive had worn both of them out. Instead, they swam in the pool for a while, and then went back to the room to watch a movie on cable. By the end of it, Belinda had fallen asleep, her head resting on Janus's chest.

The next morning, Janus had to be up relatively early so that he could be picked up by a cab and driven to the accounting firm he would be interviewing with. He made it downstairs just as the cab arrived, and actually looked like someone who would be working at a accounting firm. He was in a crisp black suit with a bland white shirt and a black and white tie. His hair was under control (after Belinda has worked on it with a big bottle of hair gel), his face was clean shaven, and he felt like he was going to court. Thankfully, the interview portion was very informal, with one of the team leaders showing him around the office and running him through what most of the people on his team did on a regular day.

There was a lot of rework that Janus could already see, and he mentioned that a lot of the computer entry could be done with adjustable macro programs. The team leader told him that it was that kind of new thinking they were looking for and they were looking forward to him getting out of college and joining the team.

The rest of the morning was taken up with Janus doing some sample reports, trying to see if he could find the errors and fix them. It took him less than a half hour to find the fifty different mistakes, and when he was done, the team leader told him he should have stretched it out longer, since they didn't have anything more for him to do that day.

He was put into a cab, and made it back to the hotel by noon. When he got back to the room, Belinda was sitting in one of the easy chairs, reading a trashy romance novel by the window. Janus filled her in on his day, and she carefully put the book down so as not to lose her place. She stayed in her seat, too comfortable to move and Janus sat on the edge of the bed next to her.

"So," she said after attentively listening to every boring detail Janus wanted to fill her in on, "does that mean you have the job?"

"I don't know. It almost sounds like they've already hired me."

She frowned slightly, and Janus picked up on it immediately, "I'm not going to move here without you, you know."

"I don't know if that's such a good idea, baby," she said.

"What do you mean? I can't move until you are done with college. That's the plan."

"That's just it," she said, her green eyes looking directly into his, "it's only a plan. If this place is big enough to pay for this, and wants you so much they've practically hired you sight unseen, it might be a better decision for you to jump on it, and for me to move up when I'm done."

Janus felt odd, almost as if he felt something slipping out of his grasp. The idea that she would want him to move away was so alien to him, he really couldn't process it in his own mind. Since his father and brother had died in his sophomore year, Belinda had really been his only family. "Are you saying you want to take some time off?" he said, trying to make some sense of it all.

"No, silly," she said, getting off her chair and climbing into his lap, "I don't want you to go away. I don't like it when you have to go to work and I have to spend my night alone in the dorm. But I'm also smart enough to know that a job like this isn't going to get thrown at you every day. Think how great it would be if you got out of college and didn't have to worry about money, like you do now. Or knowing you could afford a car you don't have to adjust the choke every other morning. Or knowing that when I got out of college, we'd already have a place to call our own."

She kissed him before he could voice any more doubts, and as he felt her lips on his, and her hands running through his hair, all of his doubts melted away. She pulled back slightly, and made eye contact with him. Janus stared into her eyes, drinking in every detail. He'd done it before, thousands of times and every color was indelibly imprinted on his soul, but the color and life were never as vivid in his memory.

The were dark green around the outside of the iris, and the rest was like stacks of different green crystals radiating outward from the pupil. Her eyes seemed bigger than most people's (and in school she'd been teased for having Disney Eyes), and no matter what he did, he couldn't stop staring into them.

She pulled him close again, and their lips met. Softer this time, and it felt as if he were kissing a cloud, or a memory of her. She kissed him along his jaw line, and paused when she got to his ear, "I won't let you go, Janus. I won't ever let you go."

He held her close, returning her faint kisses with his own. They took each other's clothes off, gently, and with kisses on every inch of newly exposed skin. They made love slowly, whispering promises with each touch, making vows with each kiss. When they were done, they drew each other close, not wanting to lose the feeling of intimacy that they had shared.

They stayed like that for a time, neither wanting to move. They watched the shadows fall on their side of the building as the sun passed from the east to the west. They whispered the same things they had said before about how much they loved each other, but it wasn't something repeated. It sounded new and filled with passion as if it were the first time they had ever said the words.

They had idea how much time had passed, when Belinda finally said, "As much as I would like to stay here for the rest of my life, I am going to need to get lunch eventually."

Janus looked over at the alarm clock and then turned back to her, "I think we're moving into the dinner hour."

She frowned and slowly got out of bed. She started gathering up her clothes and said, "I know you only did that to keep my mind off of going to lunch and save some money."

"If that's how I can save money, I much prefer it to coupons."

She threw her shirt at him, smiling, "Silly."

They got dressed, slowly, still teasing each other over whatever little thing they could. They had planned on going to the Museum of Science and Industry, so they asked the concierge to hail them a cab. On the way there, they decided to grab something quick in the snack bar and then walk back to the hotel when they were done. They had looked at their Chicago map, they knew that they would be able to walk back through Hyde Park, which had a lot of restaurants.

They planned on finding a nice restaurant in that neighborhood on their way back and call it a night.

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