by: Susanne M. Beck (SwordnQuill)

Disclaimers: The characters in this novel are of my own creation. That’s right, this is an ‘uber’ story. It’s also a sequel to my novel, Retribution, which, in turn is a sequel to my novel Redemption. (That’s right! It’s a trilogy!) You really will want to read those first before tackling this one. Some may bear a resemblance to characters we know and love who are owned by PacRen and Universal Studios.

Violence and Naughty Language Disclaimer: Yup, both. And quite a lot of each, to be truthful. We’re dealing with a bunch of ex-cons and assorted other nasty type people here.

Subtext Disclaimer: Yup, there’s that too. This piece deals with the love and physical expression of that love, between two adult females. There are some graphic scenes located within this piece, but I have tried to make them as tasteful as possible so as to not avoid anyone’s sensibilities. Let me know if I’ve succeeded.

Dedication: Well, it’s that time again, to thank everyone who made the writing of this work a pleasure. It’s a bit sad, as well, since this will likely be the last we hear of Ice and Angel, but heck, it’s been a fun ride, huh? So, deep debts of gratitude go out from me to the following people: Carol "you’d just better have a happy ending!" Stephens; Elizabeth "Four" Baldwin, Linda "Lola" Lynch, Lisa "Sulli" Sullivan, and the rest of the Angry Beavers; Judi "you just better have a happy ending part deux" Mair, Mary "is the Pope Catholic" D, Candace "Theodyke" Chellew, the members of my SwordnQuil list for their wonderful support and feedback, my dogs Kricket and Pudderbear, and a host of other people I’m going to kick myself in the morning for not mentioning. Thanks guys!!!

Feedback: As always, is most welcome. It not only makes this ‘job’ of writing (which is really a love) much easier, it also makes me better at it. And that is my goal. To become the best writer I can be. If the spirit moves you, you may reach me at  with any questions, concerns or comments.

Final Disclaimer: As with my previous two novels, this story will be posted in blocks of thirty or so pages per night. It is fully completed, down to the last punctuation mark, so I won’t leave you hanging. J




Even though it was winter, Ice elected to take the northern route back toward Pennsylvania. That involved heading up into the Flagstaff Mountains, which were a beautiful Faerie Wonderland of snow and ice, not to mention treacherous driving conditions. The Jeep was sure-footed and well equipped to brave the storm buffeting us as we drove along, but I kept my white-knuckled grip on the dashboard (a "mother-in law" clutch, my father used to call it) just the same.

Though it seemed like a year, maybe two, in reality only a few short hours passed before we were out of the snow and entering into the unsurpassed beauty of New Mexico’s Painted Desert. Not that I got to see most of it, mind you. My neck seemed on a spring, the way I kept looking over my shoulder to try and see if we’d picked up a tail along the way.

Of course, my chances of actually spotting said tail were about as great as seeing Elvis singing "Blue Hawaii" next to a roadside Burrito stand, since I wouldn’t know a tail unless it was sporting a "we’re following you!" sign in the front window, but I had to feel like I was doing something.

Right before I would have spent the rest of my life with a crick in my neck, a cell phone and piece of paper was slipped into my hand. I looked over at Ice.

"See if you can get a hold of Donita at any of these numbers."

Nodding, I picked up the phone and started dialing. I soon realized that this task would be as fruitless as trying to spot a tail. Each attempt resulted in an infinite number of empty rings echoing back at me, like some sort of discordant curse.

With a sigh of frustration, I flipped the phone closed and laid it on my lap. "No luck," I said, though it wasn’t necessary.

"Try again in a little while." Though Ice’s voice was the epitome of calm, I could see her jaw muscles tense and bulge.

"Yeah, no problem. We’ll get through this, right?" I gave her a sick little smile.

Her eyes, when she looked back at me, showed nothing but confidence. "Sure we will."

I laughed. "After all, what’s driving around aimlessly with a kidnapped fugitive everyone seems to want dead compared with the things we’ve been through already, huh?"

There really should be a vaccine for ‘Foot-in-Mouth’ disease. And if one ever becomes available, I’ll be the first in line.

"I’m sorry," I said softly, laying a hand on her thigh.

"So am I," she whispered, then lapsed into a silence which went unbroken until our first rest stop. It was an angry silence, but it was directed at herself and not at me. So I squeezed her thigh and loved her as best I could until I could think up something better to do.

Rest stops themselves, as I came to quickly find, were an exercise in creativity. Since ushering a bruised and battered Cavallo into the men’s room at gunpoint seemed to be out as an option, only Ice and I availed ourselves of the conveniences of modern plumbing. Cavallo got to use the bushes by the side of more or less deserted roads.

Since Ice was much more adept at subduing a dangerous fugitive who wanted us both dead than I, I happily let her do the honors, all the while hoping that she would stuff him into a particularly virulent patch of poison sumac or something equally nasty.

He was actually quite complacent that first day. I think it was the combination of the Valium he’d been given and the fact that the woman who was escorting him to and from said bushes could, and had, beaten the living tar out of him, and wouldn’t need much provocation to show off that particular skill again, should he wish a replay.

Rest stops aside, we continued to drive well into the night. The fiftieth attempt to contact Donita fared no better than the first, but I was able to reach Montana, which eased my mind considerably. It seemed that all had gone very well at the ranch. Nia had come through with shining colors, surprising everyone from the Amazons, to the police, to, especially, her husband. A husband who, apparently, came within a hair of going to the big-house for a very long time when the police heard the true tale of why Nia was where she was.

Montana had passed me off to Corinne, who, like me, hadn’t been able to get in touch with Donita or anyone else who might know where she was. We commiserated for awhile, then hung up as Ice pulled into yet another in a long line of nondescript rest areas. This one was long and narrow, with a few parking spaces, a few picnic tables abutting a small evergreen wood, and a tiny clapboard building with a sign in front announcing that it held restrooms and vending machines within.

Aside from a sleeping trucker or two, the place was utterly deserted. A fact, I guess, which caused Ice to pull in there in the first place.

Knowing well my pea-sized bladder, Ice handed me a flashlight almost as long as my arm, and grinned. "Go on and take care of business. I’ll get Mr. Personality here settled for the evening."

Which, of course, told me that there was to be no hotel bed in my near future. That made sense, really. Being trapped in a motel room with no chance of escape while the police or whomever else came swarming in like locusts wasn’t exactly the brightest plan in the world. And Ice was known for being bright.

Still, after twelve straight hours, the last place I wanted to be right then was that Jeep, nice though it was.

Knowing well that beggars didn’t really have choices, I accepted the flashlight gamely and returned her smile with one of my own.

At least her mood seemed to have brightened.

A definite plus, in my book.

Turning on the flashlight’s powerful beam, I followed a narrow, trash-strewn path up to the building and hunted for the little silhouette that announced to all but the most criminally idiotic that a ladies’ room was lingering about. Opening the splintered and graffiti-laden door, I was immediately assailed by the sickly sweet odor of faux strawberry barely covering the baser scent of stale urine and god only knew what else.

After turning my head to take in a deep breath of fresher air, I stepped inside, tried my best to ignore the way the soles of my hiking boots were sticking to the floor, and made my way to the first stall that didn’t have five entire rolls of toilet paper stuffed into the toilet bowl.

"God, this is so disgusting." I could feel my whole face screw up as I relieved the pressure in my bladder while trying my best to stay as far off the toilet seat as I could. If I could envy men for one thing, it would be the ability to pee standing up. My mother’s ageless warnings about the correlation between "diseases" and toilet seats rang through my head, and for the first time in my life, I believed there to be some small truth to her tales.

Task completed, I rinsed my hand (there wasn’t any soap, of course) and didn’t even bother trying to give myself the old "once-over" in the cracked and stained mirror which hung gamely over the sink on one loosening bolt.

Then I made my way back outside, breathing in the fresh, pine-scented air with a distinct feeling of relief. Walking down the trail with the beam of my flashlight leading the way, I caught the movement of Ice as she led Cavallo back to the Jeep.

His gaze met mine in what I assumed he meant to be a vengeful stare full of venom. However, since the eyes doing the staring were mere slits surrounded by swollen, blackened flesh and sitting atop and to either side of a squashed flat lump of flesh which might once have resembled a nose, I’m afraid all the emotion I could come up with was a mild revulsion. Certainly not the white-faced terror he no doubt was seeking from me.

Catching the look, Ice smirked and basically tossed Cavallo into the rear of the truck, then followed him inside. I finished my trek, and slipped into the back seat.

Though Ice and I had stopped at a McHeartAttack’s for food, there was almost nothing on the menu to feed a man who couldn’t open his jaw wider than a half inch, so we settled on a vanilla milkshake. When I handed the shake over the seat, the man glared at me as if I was handing him dog vomit in a cup. Shrugging, I made as if to pour it out, until a resigned grunt made me smile inside.

Using his cuffed hands, he took the cup, caught hold of the straw, and sucked that shake down in two seconds flat.

I guess even dog vomit tastes pretty good to the hungry.

When he was done, Ice eased him back down and chained him up. Then she unbuckled his pants, over his vehement, if badly garbled, protests, took out a syringe from the black bag I handed her, and sent him back into slumberland, courtesy of some really good drugs.

Dusting off her hands, she leapt out of the back of the truck and slid back into the driver’s seat. "What’re ya doin?" she asked, eyeing me over the headrest.

"I figured I’d put some pillows and blankets down," I said, shrugging. "It’ll probably be better for you to sleep back here, since you’re gonna need the extra space."

"Nah," she countered with a faint shake of her head. "I don’t want either one of us that close to him. C’mon up here. We’ll have plenty of room."

I looked at her doubtfully, but her smile was, as always, engaging, and whatever questions I might have had melted beneath the sweetness of it.

She was still grinning as I heaved myself back into the front seat. Reaching behind her, she grabbed one of the pillows and stuffed it into the well between the two seats to make the area more or less flat. Then she lifted the steering wheel to its highest, most out of the way point, reclined her own seat back, and patted her lap invitingly.

Though I knew that she meant for me to lay down and put my head in her lap, I just couldn’t help myself. It took a good deal of wiggling, but the effort was well worth the pain when my lover found herself with a lapful of me, and I found myself the most comfortable seat known to man. Or woman, for that matter.

Grinning at her slightly stunned look, I planted a cheeky kiss on her nose, then snuggled in and rested my head atop one broad shoulder, nestling into the crook of her neck and inhaling her wonderful scent. "Mmm. You always smell so good."

Wrapping her arms around me, she hugged me tight and rested her cheek on my hair. "So do you."

I touched my lips against the pulsepoint in her neck, then felt the slow, steady beat pick up a little as my tongue took a little taste of her skin. Really, I couldn’t help myself. She tasted so good, I took another sample, and then another, and smiled as her cheek lifted from my head, exposing the long, delectable length of her throat to me.

That was all the invitation I needed, of course.

As my lips explored the strong column of her neck, my hands certainly weren’t idle. She’d worn a half-shirt which was incredibly easy to push up, even from my somewhat awkward position, and in virtually no time at all, I held the soft, warm, firm weight of her breast in my hand.

With that, her head lowered, and mine raised, and our lips met in gentle passion.

Having much easier access, her own hand found its way beneath my shirt, and soon my breasts were being deliciously loved, responding to her touch in a way that sent trails of fire to every point in my body capable of feeling.

Which was pretty damn much everywhere.

I tried to move with her caresses, but I was trapped against the glorious length her body to one side, the damnable steering wheel to the other, and the door behind. The entrapment, however, added a subtle erotic underpinning which helped further fuel my desire, as if that had ever needed any help where the fabulous woman who was my lover was concerned.

Knowing that the man sharing the Jeep with us was sleeping by the sound of his healthy snores, I relaxed further, and when her lips pressed more insistently against mine, I responded with everything in me, opening myself up to her all the way down to my soul.

The moans on her breath tasted sweet as honey, and I drank deeply of them while I loved her breasts and the searing heat of her skin with hands tingling from the blood surging through my veins.

Her own hands, so large and so relentless, made their way down my belly and quickly undid the button and zipper of my jeans.

I pulled back from our kiss as her hands reached their goal and began to stroke a raging fire into an all-consuming inferno. "God, yes," I gasped, leaning my head against the cool, moisture-condensed window. "Please . . .keep . . .oh . . .like that, love . . .yes . . .just . . .like that."

"God, I want you," she groaned in reply. Her long fingers delved deep, then retreated, then returned, filling me oh so wonderfully full of her. My hips moved and swayed to the tempo of her thrusts and I had to bite my lip to keep from screaming out my pleasure.

Moving her head forward, she buried it in the crook of my neck, then latched onto my flesh with her lips and teeth as her fingers kept up their never-ending dance within and without. The feel of her teeth hard against my flesh released a flood of passion within me so great that I thought we must both surely drown in it.

I could feel myself opening ever wider to her, my body greedy and hungry for her touch, my need for her almost insurmountable.

Her thighs splayed open and I slipped down between them to rest on the seat. Her hips rocked against the outside of my thigh and her low, guttural moans became grunts of both effort and sublime pleasure as she matched the tempo of her own body to mine in a rapturous dance surely composed by the heavens, so great was its beauty.

I almost yelled aloud when I felt her fingers withdraw, and my eyes popped open, dazed with bliss and shock. "Noooo….."

"I need to taste you, Angel."

"But . . . ."

"Now," she growled, somehow managing to slide herself out from beneath me and position me so that my entire back was pressed flat against the door. My knees were pressed up at the same time my jeans were taken, with no small force, from my hips and down my legs.

It might have almost seemed comical, watching as she somehow fit the long length of her body crosswise against the cramped front seat, but any thought of inappropriate laughter flew right out of my mind when her mouth descended upon me and her ravenous hunger followed. I could feel her lips vibrate against me as she hummed her delight. Her tongue, first silky soft, then firm and insistent, twirled and swirled through my wet heat, before sharp teeth latched on and she suckled lovingly.

I felt as if I’d been turned inside out. Though my eyes screamed out their need to close so that all I would know was the feeling of her loving me, I couldn’t keep myself from staring at that glossy black head as she feasted. As if sensing my white-hot stare, she looked up, and her eyes were silver and glittering and completely enraptured.

My fingers twined in her hair and she returned to her task with a fervor only seen in the most devout of worshippers. My body was her altar, my wetness her font, and her mouth paid tribute in the most passionate of ways.

My hips ground against her and she pressed back, pinning me and taking me and loving me beyond measure until my eyes, finally, slipped closed, trapping me inside a body that could do nothing but feel, and pant, and pray.

When her fingers sheathed within me once again, I imploded until there was nothing left of me but a small pinpoint of brilliantly colored light, which grew larger and larger until I became that light and found the freedom to soar among the heavens for one brief, aching, transcendent moment.

And in that brief span of time, I truly knew what it was like to be immortal.

Tears flowed, and I let them, too weak and overcome with emotion to do anything else.

Somehow, I was eased, and turned, and wound back up within the warmth and safety of her arms. Her lips gently dried my tears, and landed, like butterflies, on each closed lid, until my eyes fluttered open and I looked at her wonderful face through a filmy haze of tears. "I love you," I said, my voice thick with the tears I’d shed. "So much. Sometimes, the feelings, they . . . ."

"Shhhh," she whispered, holding me close and resting her cheek atop my head. "It’s alright, sweet Angel. I understand. Shhh."

She began to hum, softly, beautifully, and as her hand drew soft, lazy circles against my back, I felt my eyes drift closed once again. And though I fought against it for a moment, sleep won out, as it always did, and I felt myself relax by slow degrees, save within the circle of my lover’s arms.


The second day started out much like the first, though both Ice and myself were a bit stiffer for the experience of the night before. Not that I minded, of course. Nor did she, if the grin on her face upon seeing me awake was any indication.

After quickly attending to our own needs and those of our rather reluctant guest, we started out again, traveling in a rather vague northeasterly direction with no definite sense of purpose. It was as if we were, like a circling jet awaiting permission to land, in some sort of holding pattern. But unlike such a jet, we didn’t have the comfort of a control tower watching out for us.

As we journeyed, I stared out of the window at the passing scenery, and began to notice when the jagged edges of mountains gradually gave way to the more rolling plains that characterized the midwest. It was a homecoming, of sorts, and one that was by no means happy. Even if the circumstances had been different, my return to the general area of my birth would not have been met with welcome emotions.

I’ve come to realize, during the course of my adult life, that home isn’t necessarily the place where you were born, or where you lived as you were growing up. It isn’t necessarily the place you settle down into after you’ve gotten married and think to raise a family. It isn’t necessarily the place where you go when you become old, a place where the bright sun leeches the pain from your bones and joints.

No, home is, like it says in countless needlepoint masterworks hanging above countless kitchen sinks, truly where the heart is.

A prison cell. A lakeside cabin. A sprawling ranch. A Mexican hovel. A borrowed Jeep traveling miles from nowhere to nowhere.

My heart was in each and every one of these places far more than it ever was in the house I shared with my parents.

Pretty simple mathematics when you get down to it, really. My home is wherever Ice is. She has my heart, and therefore, she is my home. Think of it as Angel’s Theorem, if you like.

In any event, as the afternoon wore on, my ‘home’ decided that it was time to take another bathroom break, for which my kidneys swore their eternal devotion.

I went first, then switched off with Ice, who handed me her gun to use on Cavallo, if needed. I handed it right back to her as if it were a poisonous snake ready to bite my hand off. She handed it back, pretty as you please. "I’m not buying his good little boy act," she whispered, lips brushing close to my ear. "Just do me this favor and keep it on you. I’ll take it off your hands in two minutes."

"Oh, alright," I sighed, though as soon as she left, I dropped it on her seat and covered it with an overshirt she’d donned that morning.

A bare second later, I heard the sounds of chains jangling, and the jeep began to rock slightly on its springs as a result of the force Cavallo was using to try and yank himself free from his metal bonds. The interior rang loudly with the noise of his curses.

"Stop it!" I shouted above the din. "You’re only going to hurt yourself!"

"I’m gonna hurt you and that fucking bulldyke lover of yours a lot more once I get free," he snarled, though with his still-swollen jaw, it came out as more of a mumble than a clearly voiced threat.

"I don’t think that’s gonna happen anytime soon," I replied.

"Fuck you!"

"No thanks. You’re not my type."

Not the smartest thing in the world to say, I’ll agree, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. The opening was just too wide not to go on and step through.

He bellowed again, and the jeep shook even more violently as a result of his redoubled efforts to break free. "Why are you doing this to me?!? Why the fuck are you doing this to me!?!" After a long moment, he half sobbed in frustration, and gave up his attempts at escape. Sitting up as much as he was able, he peered over the back seat and pinned me with his angry gaze. "Tell me. I have a right to know."

I shook my head very slowly. "You lost that right the day you set Ice up for a murder you committed, you bastard."

He laughed bitterly. "Screw you, blondie. That was all just part of the game. That bitch Steele knew it. If she wasn’t so fucking stupid, she’d have realized she was taking the fall."

"She wasn’t stupid."

"Yeah? Then why’d she wind up in jail, huh?" His jaw thrust out in challenge.

"Guess that makes you just as stupid, now, doesn’t it."

His eyes widened and his face purpled. "Fuck no. You ain’t takin’ me to the cops, are ya? That’s fuckin’ nuts!!! Do you know what they’ll do to me??"

I might have cared. Once. Now, I only shrugged with studied nonchalance.

"You can’t do that to me! You might as well just shoot me now, then! I’m fucking dead! Dead!!!"

"Maybe you should have thought of that before you shot my lover, hmm? Or before you sent that goon squad of yours after her in Canada?"

"Come on! I fuckin told ya! It’s just part of the game!"

I felt my eyes narrow. "It’s not a game to me, Mr. Cavallo. Not at all."

He tried to grin, but the expression looked quite macabre on his swollen and bruised face. "Maybe you should stop playin’ with the big dogs then, huh?"

"I’m not the one chained to the doghouse, Mr. Cavallo."

"Fuck you, bitch. Fuck. You."

"Interesting command of the English language you have there. Here’s a little tip for you, though. Since I’ve got the key and the gun, you might try lightening up a little on the expletives. They’re not winning you very many points."

For a long moment, I thought sure that his head was quite simply going to pop off his neck like a rocket. Then, as if an interior steam valve had suddenly opened, he relaxed against his bonds as the redness drained from his face. "Listen. Whatever they’re offering you, I’ll double it. Triple it, even. I got money, lots of it."

"All the money in the world wouldn’t make me let you go."

"What then? You don’t want no one sniffin’ up your ass no more? Fine. I can do that. I know people. Lots of people. In high places. They’ll make it so no-one’s ever heard of ya. You’ll be free and clear. Just like that. You want a nice house? A nice car? Jewelry? Gals like jewelry. Whatever you want, name it. It’s yours."

"I don’t think so."

"Goddamnit, woman! I’m offering you shit on a platter here!!"

"That’s exactly what you’re offering me, Mr. Cavallo. Shit. No matter how nice and gussied up it is, it’s still shit. And it stinks."

Once again, his face reddened in anger, but just as quickly, the color drained from it. "Listen, lady, just tell me what you want. Anything you want, anything at all, name it and it’s yours. Just let me go, huh?"

It had been a very long time, if ever, that I’d seen a grown man about to cry. Where I once might have felt pity, all I could feel was a faint sense of revulsion which curled the corners of my lips downward.

Fortunately, I was spared from having to answer him by Ice opening the rear door and climbing inside. Cavallo turned and fought her with everything he was worth, but really, what chance did he have against her?

To her credit, Ice was almost gentle with him, and before even two minutes had passed, he was once again slumbering peacefully, all desire to escape drained out with the drug she’d given him.

"Well, that was fun," she casually remarked as she slid once again into the driver’s seat.

"You don’t know the half of it," I replied, handing her back her gun. "You know, I stood the chance of becoming a very rich woman in return for just a tiny, little favor."

"Ya did, huh?"

I couldn’t hide my grin. "Yup. With all the stuff he was offering up I could have been a queen."

"What stopped ya?"

"I didn’t have the heart to tell him I already was one."

Grinning at me, she shook her head and started up the jeep.

"Drive on, footman," I ordered, with an imperious wave of my hand. "My public awaits."

Receiving a gentle pinch to my royal cheek (one of the ones on my face), I burst into laughter as we drove away.


As afternoon bled into evening with the setting of the sun, the cell phone rang, startling me out of the comfortable half-doze I’d fallen into. For two full rings, I stared at it as if a viper had come to life in my lap, before finally picking it up and answering. "Hello?"

"Angel, thank goodness. Where are you?" Donita’s voice sounded tinny and far away.

I gulped, caught between extreme relief and niggling unease. "Donita!" I said, cutting me eyes over to Ice, who gestured with her hand toward a small, nearly deserted strip mall.

Nodding, I returned my attention to the phone. "Are you alright? We’ve been trying to get a hold of you for the past four days! What happened?"

"Long story," Donita replied. "Are you alright?"

"Yes, we’re fine."

"That’s good to hear." She paused a moment. "Remember how I just asked you where you were? On second thought, don’t tell me. It’s probably better right now if I don’t know."

The unease in my gut grew. "Donita, what’s going on?"

A longer pause.

"Are you somewhere you can speak freely?"

I looked over at Ice, and though she couldn’t hear the conversation, she divined the meaning of my look, and nodded. I paused myself as I watched her drive us through the strip mall until she came to the end, which housed a rather large 24-hour supermarket which was quite crowded. Finding a spot near the middle between two smaller cars, she pulled in and parked, then eased herself back in the seat and looked at me expectantly.

"Yeah," I said finally to Donita. "We can talk."

"Alright." She took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. The line went to static for a moment, then cleared. "The reason why you haven’t been able to contact me was that I was given three days tax free housing courtesy of a couple of very large, very intimidating FBI agents."

I went very still for a moment as my mind attempted to process what she had just told me. "Are you trying to tell me that you’ve just spent the past three days in jail??" From the periphery of my vision, I could see my lover’s jaw tighten.

"Got it in one, Angel."

"But how . . .why . . .who?!?"

"Like I said, it was the FBI. They paid me a little visit and tried to talk me into telling them where you were."

"But . . .you didn’t know!"

"That’s what I tried to tell them. They didn’t like that answer. The one about attorney-client privilege went over real well, lemme tell ya."

My head whirled in confusion. "I . . .don’t understand. Could you start from the beginning, please?"

Donita laughed slightly. I could picture her holding up one beautifully manicured hand. "Alright. I know I kind of caught you unaware here." She cleared her throat briefly, then began speaking. "It’s like this. Someone somewhere’s found out that Cavallo has gone missing."

"But how is that linked to us? I mean, you told us this plea agreement was made under the strictest secrecy. How could anyone outside of that meeting room know about it?"

"That’s the part I haven’t been able to figure out yet. The FBI guys weren’t spilling any information. They just wanted mine. Which I didn’t have."

"Damn." As I sighed, I felt a warm hand reach out and grasp mine. Despite the gravity of the situation, I couldn’t help but smile. Ice looked back, her face shadowed, but her eyes full of concern. Not for what I was being told, but for how I was handling it. I gave her a nod to show her I was ok, but she held onto my hand just the same. I laced our fingers so she wouldn’t be pulling away anytime soon. "Ok," I said after digesting her words, "what else?"

"Well, when I wouldn’t tell them what they wanted to know, not being blessed with superhuman abilities, they threw an ‘obstruction of justice’ charge at me and tossed me in the pokey to cool my heels Couldn’t make it stick, though, since they don’t have any proof at all that my clients, and that would be you, are in any way involved with anything even remotely illegal. So they let me out without too much of a fuss, but I picked up a couple of tails along the way." She laughed softly. "Managed to give ‘em the slip though. For now."

"Where does that leave us?" I asked softly, afraid of the answer.

"Safe. Again, for now. They’re spreading a dragnet out around the Pittsburgh area. They’re convinced you’ve kidnapped Cavallo and are gonna use him as a bargaining chip to get the charges against both of you dropped. Which is pretty close to the truth, when you think about it. And, obviously, they do not want that to happen."

I paused for a moment, ordering my thoughts and trying to figure the questions that Ice would most want answered. I was actually a little bit surprised that she was so willing to let me take the lead on this, but I figured that if she had that much trust in me, I wasn’t going to let her down. "How far out does this dragnet extend?"

"Last I heard, it reached west to Dayton, east to Trenton, and south to DC. There aren’t that many agents involved so far, though, so it’s pretty much a hit and miss affair."

Inwardly, I breathed a sigh of relief. We were still perhaps a hundred miles to the southwest of St. Louis, well out of the boundaries of the net. At least so far. Another question popped into my mind, and I gave voice to it. "Can you tell me why the FBI is involved? They’re federal, and the last I heard this was a state matter." I could see Ice nod in satisfaction from the corner of my eye. I smiled again.

"It still is, yes, but someone in the upper echelons of state politics, and no one is saying who, managed to convince the FBI to enter under an interstate kidnapping investigation. Like I said, they’re sure you’ve bagged Cavallo and are traveling somewhere with him. Didn’t take much to push the right buttons, and presto, enter the FBI."

"Jesus," I blew out, resting my head against the cool window. "What a mess."

"You said it, Angel."

"So, what do we do now?"

"Best thing is to sit tight. I know that’s difficult, since I gather you’ve left the ranch already. But coming anywhere near Pittsburgh is a very, very bad idea. Those men want Cavallo, and they don’t much care how they get him. He’s government enemy number one around here."

I choked out a laugh. "And we’re pretty much in there at two and three, aren’t we."

"With a bullet, I’m afraid."

"Your choice of similes leaves a lot to be desired, Donita."

She hissed through her teeth. "Sorry."

"It’s alright," I replied, feeling a headache gather behind my eyes. The queasy kind that makes your guts roll and your head spin. "So, we’re just supposed to what…drive around in circles until somebody either catches us or figures out what to do with us? Is there anybody in the government on our side anymore?"

I knew I was whining, but I couldn’t seem to help it.

"Yes, Angel, there are. The good guys want Cavallo just as bad as the bad guys. And they’re doing their best to make that happen, but it’s a very uphill battle, I’m afraid. They’re fighting against an entire mountain of state politics and a good ol’ boy network the size of China. And you know how quickly the wheels of bureaucracy turn."

"Like maple syrup in a Vermont winter."

"Just about." It was her turn to sigh. "I’m sorry. I’m supposed to be your lawyer and your friend, and I’m doing a piss poor job at both."

"No you’re not, Donita. We’re all just in a bad spot here. We’ll just keep . . .um . . .driving around till you let us know what’s going on, ok?"

"Yeah, ok." She sounded dejected, but then her voice brightened. "One somewhat bright spot, though. If this all continues to turn sour, just dump Cavallo off in the nearest trash-bin and head west. I have a few friends there who will keep you safe. They used to do work for the Witness Protection Program, and believe me when I tell you, they’re in the habit of making some very famous people disappear."

"Not permanently, I hope."

She laughed. "Well, not in the way you’re thinking, no. So, just sit tight, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I know anything. I’m just about to wake the Lieutenant Governor out of his date with the blonde-who-isn’t-his-wife he had dinner with this evening. Wish me luck."

"Good luck."

"You too, Angel. Tell Ice I said ‘hi’, ok?"

"I will."

"Night, Angel."

"Night, Donita."

As I closed the phone with a dejected snap, Ice removed her hand from mine and took it from me. Laying it down in the space between the seats, she then gathered me into her arms as best she could, and rested my head against her shoulder. "It’ll be alright, Angel," she whispered, kissing my temple. "I promise."

And because it was Ice, and because I love her and trust her more than I ever thought it was possible to love and trust another person, I did what my heart told me to do.

I believed.


Whoever said that life is just one big series of giant circles was right on the money.

There’s nothing else I can think of that comes close to explaining why, nearly three years to the day later, I’m sitting in a hotel room very much like the one I went to with Ice on the day of my release from prison, writing on a pad of paper cheap and grainy enough to be from the same tree, and waiting to dash off somewhere yet again just one step ahead of the police.

It’s almost as if the intervening three years between that event and this were just some hallucinogenic or fever inspired dream I couldn’t wake up from.

But the difference in my body and the new lines on my face tell a story all their own and, personally, I’m glad it wasn’t all just a dream, since there were definitely huge parts of it I’m glad I was there to experience in the flesh, as it were.

It’s been twenty-four hours since the conversation with Donita that I related here. Twenty four hours of mostly bad news.

It didn’t start off that way, of course. It never does.

Donita had managed to get a hold of the Lieutenant Governor, apparently our one powerful ally in all this. He didn’t seem to mind overmuch getting yanked out of his tete-a-tete with his latest blonde du jour and agreed to help as best he could.

Things moved swiftly throughout the morning, and I could feel an expectant hope bubble up within me. Even Ice seemed to pick up the mood of the day, and her eyes held a sparkle I hadn’t seen in a long while.

But the eleventh hour, in this case noon, changed all that when the Lieutenant Governor ran up against a group of men with much bigger axes to grind, and so quickly lost the will to fight.

Like Cinderella’s ball gown, our hopes for a peaceful resolution faded away into nothingness and left tattered rags in its place.

Ice happened to field that particular call, and needless to say, our cell phone is now history, may it rest in pieces.

It was then that she decided to take matters into her own hands.

And so we wound up here, on the outskirts of a large, midwestern metropolitan airport, in a small, seedy hotel run by some friends of hers. Friends with heavy beards, crooked noses, and bodies that looked like they could stop a speeding train without breaking into a sweat. Friends who took the description "shady character" and made it into somewhat of an art form. And friends that Ice could, and did, trust with her life. And mine as well.

Cavallo’s here too, kept in a separate room, and being watched over constantly by the largest of the bunch. A true bully, our captive turned belly up the very second he set his eyes on his new keeper. I haven’t heard a peep from him since, which is just as well, since I have a headache that could drop a raging bull.

We argued bitterly today. For hours, it seemed. So bitterly that I must confess to a tiny thrill of fear seeping into my soul as I watched her eyes, silver and glittering with rage, set upon me. It was only for an instant, but in that instant, I felt what her victims must have felt when staring into those same glowing eyes. And it frightened me. Then she walked away and left me all but trembling in her wake.

We were arguing about her plan, of course, and my part in it. Which was to say, none.

She wanted me far away from here, from her. From danger. The city was large, she said, and her friends would help me blend into it. We had money, lots of it thanks to Corinne, and I could set myself up nicely as the events around us unfolded. I’d be safe, she said. And free.

And, of course, I bought none of it.

We got into this together, and we are going to get out of it together, or not at all.

I can be as stubborn as a two headed mule when I put my mind to it. And this time, my mind was very much ‘to’ it. I wasn’t about to be swayed. Not by her pleas. Not by her rage.

It is my right to stand by her side. I’ve earned it. And I’m not about to give it up.

In the end, as I’ve said, she walked away, her anger following her like a roiling thundercloud. She returned an hour or two ago, and though her anger was still there, her mood had mellowed to one of quiet resignation.

She sleeps now, but it isn’t a peaceful one. She tosses and turns, and at times, reaches out for me.

And though every fiber of my being aches to join her on that narrow bed, I don’t. Because I know, sure as the sun rises in the east, that if I give into my impulses, I’ll wake up alone in the morning and she’ll be far, far away.

And I’m not about to let that happen.

And so here I sit, drinking cup after cup of wretched coffee, and wile away the hours writing and watching my lover in her fitful sleep, and pray that this plan brings us the peace we both so desperately need.

Her friends have leant us a car. A car so bland that it could blend in with vanilla pudding and no one would be the wiser. That car will be our means of escape.

Cavallo will be transported by another friend, trussed up and drugged in the back of the jeep, to a spot in the airport’s long-term parking area. When the time is right, that friend will place a call to Donita with Cavallo’s location, and the chase will be on.

If there’s any justice in the world, Donita and the good guys will find him first.

I doubt that will happen, though.

As for us, we’ll be on our way to Donita’s safe house in our bland little car.

I just hope to God we make it.


It’s rather amusing, the things that people say when they think you can’t hear them. I’ve often thought of explaining to the women around me that just because I choose not to speak doesn’t mean that I can’t hear, or listen, or feel.

I’ve never followed through on that, however. After all, what would be the point? Would it lessen the pity in their eyes when they look at me? Would it turn their thoughts and words to more pleasant things?

I don’t bear them any ill will, in any event. They’re young, and filled with life. Grief, for them, burns fast and hot, like a flash fire, and is quickly gone, forgotten beneath the exciting weight of the life they’re busy living.

My grief lingers, an old enemy come home to roost. It has been with me so long that some days it seems more cherished friend than bitter adversary.

My true friends have all gone, and like the strangers they’ve left in their places, I bear them no ill will. They have jobs to do, and people who need them. The world continues to turn, after all, no matter how much we sometimes wish it wouldn’t.

They asked, one might even say ‘begged’, me to accompany them, but the thought of spending the coming winter in a place so desolate and so cold outweighs my desire to have them close around me.

Only Nia has remained behind. She’s blossomed into a kind, compassionate woman whose beauty shines brightly from the inside, as it was meant to. She endures my long, morose silences with nary a complaint, and helps tend to the few needs I have. Sometimes I despair of what I perceive to be her wasted and wasting life, but she is quick to smile and reassure me that, right now, there’s no place she’d rather be.

Perhaps it’s a time, and a place, of healing for us both.

They say that the young live for the future, and the old live for the past. And while once I might have fought anyone with the temerity to actually spout that drivel to me, now I see those words for truth, and accept that truth as my own.

While I might have more things to live for, if you can truly call this living, memories seem to be the only things I want to live for.

And memories I have, both in my head where they play constantly like a film I don’t have to pay money to see, and in the stacks of journals and scrapbooks which take up constant, and reassuring, residence at my side. Though I’ve left the prison library far behind me, it appears my affinity for all things readable has followed me patiently, simply waiting for a time that I was still and quiet enough to realize it.

The journals I’ve read and reread and reread until the words themselves have taken up residence in my brain. I’ve memorized them all, I think, several times over. But if there’s one good thing to be had by living as long as I have, memory isn’t exactly what it used to be. At least short term.

Which means that every time I open one of those precious books, I see the words before me again, as fresh and as exciting and as new as when I first set eyes on them, a little more than a year ago. A small joy perhaps, but in a life filled with anything but, it’s a joy I take and hold to me with all the selfishness of a young child asked to share his toys with a stranger.

The scrapbooks I’ve read and reread as well, but they bring me no joy, and in that I am very thankful that my mind tends to lose hold of the images presented within rather quickly.

For the scrapbooks pick up where the journals leave off, chronicling the last journey of the two women I love most in the world, the women who took my heart and spirit with them when they left, and have never returned it.

They almost made it, you see. Almost, being the operative word. And deep within this rotting blackness I sometimes call a heart, there lives a tiny glimmer of hope that they did, in fact, make it, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The others don’t share that hope, and I’m hardly in the position to case aspersions upon them for that. It’s not as if I don’t sound crazy, even to my own mind.

But the elderly have some immunity when it comes to off-the-norm thoughts. It’s expected of us, so rather than a shot of Thorazine and lovely men in pristine white coats, I only need suffer the slight indignity of pitied glances and thoughtless words.

I suppose, for one to get the full effect, I should start at the beginning, or at least as close to the beginning as I am able to get. Donita has been kind enough to fill in some of the massive holes left behind, but most of what I know is spread out before me in lines of newspaper ink much too small for my aging eyes to easily comprehend, even with the benefit of the glasses I’ve been cursed to wear since I was much younger and more sprightly of form and face.

The drop was made as planned, and Donita received her phone call. There was a jet, fueled and ready, and a freshly minted court-order she’d managed to pull out of her bag of tricks, along with the state prosecutor who’d originally penned the deal (and hadn’t been one lick of help since) as well as two sworn officers of the court who were charged with taking Cavallo into custody.

Somewhere along the way, however, a leak developed, and the FBI jumped in on the case before Donita’s plane had even left the runway. Because they have agents in almost every state, the FBI had a tremendous advantage over Donita.

The only information they didn’t possess, it seemed, was the make of the car Cavallo was held in. That was one thing Donita had sense enough to keep all to herself, and it quite probably saved his life.

The FBI was already searching the lot when Donita’s cavalry came over the hill, so to speak, and I imagine the scene at that time somewhat resembled one of those horrid game shows where the contestants debase themselves by rushing up and down supermarket aisles in search of a certain, big money, product.

The payoff in this case, however, would either make or break the fools in the statehouse who call themselves a government.

I’m told that Donita and the FBI arrived at the holding spot at very much the same time. And perhaps the fight for custody of one simple, if inherently evil, man would have been much fiercer if not for one very large Ace the lawyer held up her sleeve.

The press.

In my scrapbook, there is a picture in grainy news ink which shows Donita holding up her court order for all to see. A triumphant grin is plastered all over her lovely features. She really is quite fetching in her guise of Avenging Angel, and I’ve told her so, once or twice over the years. Off to the side in the same picture stand several very angry looking men, the bulges in their coats a testament to the heavy firepower they are carrying.

The copy below tells the story very briefly and very succinctly. Donita got her man. The FBI was left empty-handed.

And that should have been the conclusion to this sordid little tale. But it wasn’t.

Government agents detest being played for fools, and if they can’t take their frustrations out on the guilty, the innocent will do nicely in their stead.

With Cavallo caught and hauled away, there was no reason to continue to chase after Ice and Angel. But continue they did, determined to exact their pound of flesh in whatever way they deemed necessary. That it had stopped being necessary the minute Cavallo was arrested may well have entered into their minds, but it never stayed their hands. Off they went on another chase, one they determined would not end without bearing fruit.

Donita knew none of this, but I don’t have it within my heart to blame her for her uncustomary lapse of judgement, though not a day goes by when she doesn’t lay that blame upon herself.

The court order had called off the hounds. As is sometimes the way with curs, they turned a deaf ear to their master and continued on the chase, unabated.

No one will ever know with certainty whether or not Ice felt the loop of the dragnet begin to close about her neck. I believe that she did. For it is my steadfast tenet that Ice is, at heart, a feral, wild creature who lives bound to instincts most of us who embrace the so-called civilizing influences cannot begin to comprehend. Such a creature seems, with preternatural senses, to know when danger is closing in.

Perhaps it was that sense of unseen danger, or perhaps it was just a desire to travel a less beaten path, but something made her choose to turn off of a well traveled highway and onto an almost deserted forest road.

Several witnesses, for there were witnesses, stated that the driver of the log truck coming in the opposite direction had been driving erratically for miles. One of the men who had passed him earlier stated that he saw the driver red-faced and clutching at his chest. Based upon this one report, the coroner concluded that the driver’s cause of death was a heart attack. Not enough of the man has ever been found to challenge that diagnosis.

By far the best witness was a young woman, fresh out of college, who had stopped by the side of the road in an attempt to change a flat tire. She never saw the truck coming straight for her, she reported. Never even knew of the immanent danger until an off-white car on her side of the road came, as she says, "charging forward", and a young blonde woman fitting Angel’s description exactly screamed at her to run.

She was only able to jump a short distance away before the log truck collided with the front left of the white car, dragging them both down a long, grassy hill. The rear bumper of the car hit the young woman’s leg, breaking it, but doubtless saving her life in the process. As she rolled from the impact, she was able to see the very tops of both car and truck as they teetered for a long moment at the edge of a ravine. Then they toppled over and dropped, I’m told, more than fifty feet to the bolder-strewn ground below.

Both vehicles exploded on impact, which started a small forest fire that took several hours to contain.

There wasn’t much of anything left when the police came to look for survivors.

We didn’t hear of the news until three days later, and the memory of that phone call sits etched indelibly within this capricious brain of mine. Though my descriptive abilities certainly pale in comparison to Angel’s aptitude with words, I can only state that if Stonehenge had been given form and face, it would resemble almost exactly the tableau in the living room as Montana ended the call from Donita.

After the shock came disbelief. Which was in no way surprising, in that Ice had by that time attained immortal status among the Amazons. More logical minds pointed out that there simply wasn’t enough evidence to conclude anything, no matter what the FBI and the local police were stating with such surety.

Critter, Pony, Cowgirl and Cheeto made the immediate decision to investigate the matter themselves. They left without packing. The rest of us remained behind, too shocked to speak, even among ourselves.

What they found wasn’t revealed to me until well after the fact. My last clear memory of that night was drifting off into a somewhat fitful sleep.

That sleep was indeed a long one, for when I awakened next, it was fully two weeks later, and I found myself staring at a vast, if rather bewildering, array of medical equipment which surrounded me. I had, apparently, had another stroke, my recovery from which was compounded by what the doctors said was a "rather massive" heart attack. I was told that I was lucky to have survived it.

One look in Critter’s eyes told me that such ‘luck’ was a cursed, wretched thing indeed.

I heard the story in tiny increments, in between shots of Morphine to keep me calm and tests which caused far more agony than my life, such that it is, is worth.

The Amazons managed to track down what few witness to the accident there were, including, most importantly, the young woman whose life had been saved by the timely and heroic intervention of two strangers in a white car.

Her description of the woman who had encouraged her to flee was unwavering. Attractive, short blonde hair and brilliant green eyes. As that description also fit a rather large number of women, Pony and the others weren’t unduly concerned.

They had brought with them some pictures; some of Angel, some of other women of similar description.

It had all happened so fast, the witness related, though she pointed out the pictures of Angel as bearing the most resemblance to the woman in the car. She couldn’t be positive, she warned. She hoped they understood.

But then she saw another picture, and I’m told she stiffened and the color drained from her face.

"That’s her," she said. "That’s the driver of the car. Those eyes. I’ve never seen a color of blue like that before, and they were so angry! I still have nightmares about them."

After that, Pony reported, the woman became closed-mouthed and wouldn’t utter another word, no matter how much they pleaded with her.

Armed with no further information, they left and drove to the scene of what was euphemistically being touted as an ‘accident’.

"There’s no way they could have survived it, Corinne," Pony told me after she returned, much against doctor’s orders, and with tears streaming down her face. "No way. And even if they did, they couldn’t have outrun the fire. It’s just impossible. They’re gone. Both of them. For good."

I’ve afraid I underwent a moment of insanity then, though I don’t remember very much of it, except for the memory of a brilliant rage which consumed me, rendering me, even in my weakened state, insensate and all but impervious to the pain I knew I must have been feeling. I hated them all in that moment. Hated Pony for giving up, hated Ice and Angel for dying, and hated myself most of all, for living.

It matters little, however, for that brief lapse into insanity garnered me nothing but the need to be restrained against the possibility of ‘hurting myself’ again.

If it is true that the human species can die simply by willing it so, that fact must have been left out of my genetic make-up, for I believe no person ever willed themselves away from life as strongly as I did during that time.

Yet my traitorous body ignored my wishes and became stronger, until the time came when I was well enough to be released from the hospital.

And the world continued to turn on, uncaring.

As my body continued to heal, I withdrew into myself, and refused to speak, even to those closest to me. I remained, however, acutely aware of life going on around me. And, in particular, the events transpiring in Pennsylvania.

The wheels of justice do indeed turn slowly, but eventually, the inevitable occurred. Cavallo was given his day in court, and a government crumbled as a result. Several high-ranking officials went to prison for an entire laundry list of crimes, and others resigned in disgrace, preferring such ignominy to facing the prospect of a long prison term, or worse.

And, thanks to Donita, both Ice and Angel were remembered for their part in lending aid. With firm political pressure, aided by the ever-present news media, the Governor was finally pressured into honoring the plea agreement and issuing posthumous pardons to both women as well as ordering their criminal records expunged.

Ice had finally made full restitution for her crimes.

If only she were alive to know of it.

Donita sent me those pardons two weeks ago. They now hang, framed, on the living room wall for all to see. I never pass by without stopping to look at them and run my fingers against the bold, floridly written names of the two women I love. Those scraps of paper, so insignificant to most, are the only memorial I have, save for the journals and the scrapbooks and my own fading memories.

Montana, Critter, Pony and the rest keep in contact with me, and the weekly phone calls are the only time I consent to speak, aside from brief conversations with Nia. They are all doing as well as can be expected.

The world turns, and the living move on.

Only the old and the sick seemed trapped by time’s immovable weight, maudlin a thought as that is.

Donita keeps in contact as well, though her busy life limits the number of phone calls she has time to make. We communicate mostly by letters, which I find comforting, in some ways. Letter writing is a lost art, and I was sad to see its passing.

She often tries to brighten my mood with various and sundry bits of nonsense, and constantly chastises me for allowing myself to give up on life. Her threats, of course, hold little sway over me, though I do appreciate that she has taken the time to voice them. I sometimes regret the stony front I put up, but I believe that she understands.

We are bound by our love and respect for two extraordinary women, and a bond of that nature forgives flaws.

I received another such letter--a small packet, really--from her just today, and the contents, though by no means exceptional, caused this entire sojourn into memories past and painful. And though my hand is stiff and aching, perhaps this solitary journey into the past has helped somewhat to ease the demons of pain and guilt which plague me still.

The envelope contained a photograph of the sun setting over some tropical paradise or other. I suppose the setting could be considered beautiful if you enjoy that sort of thing. The photograph was wrapped within a small sheet of unlined paper which contained a plane ticket, and two words.

Small words. Simple ones, really. Insignificant, when taken apart, but when put together, containing enough power to rekindle the flame of hope dancing weakly in a heart weary of living.

Perhaps I’m nothing but a fool for believing in them. But if I am, I shall bear the title of ‘fool’ proudly and damn all who would hope to think otherwise.

The ticket is to an island called Bonaire, someplace in the Southern Caribbean. I imagine that that island is the one shown in the picture in my hand.

And the words?

Simple enough to write, even with an aching hand.

But wondrous enough that I would break my long vow of silence and shout them at the very top of my lungs.

Come home.

The End.



I sit in the warm, dry sand, the trunk of a tall, stately palm doing double duty as an uncomplaining backrest as I write out my thoughts on a simple pad of paper. The brim of my floppy straw hat helps to shade my eyes from the low, westering sun whose heat warms my mostly bare body in the most wonderful of ways.

The breeze is likewise warm, and brings with it the ever-present scent of the sea. Overhead, seabirds whirl and dive for their dinners against the brilliant backdrop of a sky bursting with a kaleidoscope of colors as the sun plays out its last over the open ocean, gilding it in rose and gold.

Thoroughly content in a way I have never before been, I stretch complacent muscles, pleased when they respond quickly and without pain. My broken arm, courtesy of our unfortunate encounter with a runaway truck, is fully healed, and I’m near to being ecstatic that I can write again.

I hear a sound off to my left, and turn my head to see Corinne heading my way with a glass pitcher of iced tea and two large tumblers. Her colorful caftan flutters in the breeze and I don’t even bother holding in my laughter as her hat, nearly identical to my own, flies off of her head like some new species of wingless bird.

She scowls at me, but can’t hold the expression for long before the grin, which has become a nearly permanent fixture, reappears on her face.

Gone is the gray, sickly pallor that colored her skin when she first arrived. Gone too is the stiffness of a body grown weak with age and infirmity. She almost glows now, and appears nearly half her age, as if Bonaire housed the mythical Fountain of Youth and she has drunk her fill from it.

The guilt, heartache and tears that plagued our first meeting are things of the past as well. She understands why events played out as they did, and accepts the need we had to continue the charade of our deaths until the final pardons came through. She also says that she understands why we have chosen a place so far away to call our home, and I have no reason to disbelieve her.

"I don’t suppose you’d be willing to do an old woman a favor and chase down my hat, would you?"

I laugh again, shaking my head as I accept the chilled glass of tea which she hands me. "We’ll get another one tomorrow."

"I could well be dead by then, you know," she replies, lowering her body to the sand next to me.

"Well, then you won’t need it anymore, now will you," I reply cheekily.

"The youth these days are so very rude," she tsks in the tone of a true martyr.

"Yeah, but you wouldn’t trade me for the world," I reply, taking my own hat off and plunking it down on her head.

She adjusts the hat primly before clinking her glass with mine. We sit together in a comfortable silence as the sun continues its final journey to the west.

I look up, and my eyes track the ungainly flight of a flamingo as it moves to the south toward the fresh water lake not far from our home. If there is a god, he or she certainly must be blessed with a wicked sense of humor to create such a creature.

"Mother Mary, have mercy on the soul of this poor sinner."

Corinne’s nearly breathless whisper distracts me and I turn to see her, wide eyed and clutching at her chest.

"Corinne?" I ask, alarmed. "What’s wrong?"

She doesn’t answer, just continues staring out to sea.

I turn my head slowly, and am then struck with the same affliction.

Out from the water my lover comes as if birthed from the sea itself.

A mask and snorkel are clasped loosely in one hand, swim fins in the other, and the only covering on her body is her deep tan and the sheets of seawater which glide down her magnificent form in iridescent droplets of shimmering fire. Backlit by the setting sun, she is beauty incarnate. Wild, and untamed, and as free as the sea behind her.

I jump to my feet before my mind even realizes my body’s intentions, and fly across the sand faster than I have ever run before.

She drops her gear and opens her arms just as I jump into them. With a joyful shout, she twirls me around and around. The sound of our laughter mingles with the sound of the sea.

Then she sets me down, and I am breathless as I look into eyes the exact color of the water behind me. So beautiful they are, so clear and unfettered and filled with the joy of living. No black shadows mar their pristine depths; no guilt mutes their brilliant hue.

I can see right down to her very soul, and what I see is peace and love and joy, and it is so very beautiful.

Her teeth are uncommonly white against the deep, burnished tan of her face as she smiles openly at me, looking very much like the young girl in the picture I so treasure, radiating an innocence once so cruelly stripped away from her. Her body is warm and pliant and taut with muscle and we glide together on the beads of water still dotting her skin.

Our lips come together without pretext or warning. She tastes of the sea, and of passion, and of promise.

I respond, melding my body to hers. My heart and soul follow effortlessly.

The kiss leaves us both breathless as we finally break apart, and we stare at one another, the smiles threatening to shatter our faces.

"I love you, Morgan Steele."

"And I love you, Tyler Moore." A damp hand tenderly cups my cheek as a strong thumb brushes across my lips. "My Angel."

Still embracing, we turn slightly so that we both face the sea, and I lay my head on her chest as the last crescent of the sun dips below the gilded ocean, setting it aflame.

Our journey has been a long one, filled with danger and heartache and angst. But at the end of it, we have both come to find what it was we were searching for all along.





And standing on the precipice of this new life we’ve won, I find that despite the hardships and despite the grief, I am, and always have been, the luckiest woman in the world.




And with that, ladies and germs, we conclude (for now) the tale of Morgan Steele and Tyler Moore, better known as Ice and Angel.

Thanks to everyone who took time out of their busy lives to drop me a note. Each and every one was very much appreciated by me, and I can only hope I’ve given you something to enjoy over the last two weeks of posting.

Keep an eye out for the continuation of DESERT STORM (yes, I’ve picked it up again), and a new little number I’m working on with the tentative title of FULL CIRCLE which will be my first attempt at a pre-Uber.

As for whether Ice and Angel will be making a comeback, all I can say is not in the near future. But sometime, in the depths of a dark night, if Angel happens to whisper in my ear, I’ll more than happily listen.

I’d be curious to know what people thought of both the ending/epilogue and the story as a whole, so if you have some extra time after reading this, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

Ciao for now!

And thanks again.




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