Part 18 (Conclusion)

Written by: Sword’n’Quill (Susanne Beck)

Disclaimers: The characters in this novel are of my own creation. That’s right, this is an ‘uber’ story. 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. This takes place in a prison, and where there are criminals, there’s gonna be violence and naughty words.

Subtext Disclaimer: Yup, there’s that too. This piece deals, after a fashion, 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.

Serialization Disclaimer: When I first started writing and posting, I made a promise to myself, and to anyone who read me, that I would never post a work that wasn’t finished. I detest serialization, normally. But . . .this novel, which is one week from being finished, is becoming very long and I’ve had readers write to me stating that they won’t read novels because they just don’t have time to sit down and read such gargantuan works. So, I compromised. This piece is finished (very nearly) and will go up at regular intervals so that the folks who like to read in small chunks can do that and the ones who like to read the whole thing can do that too.

Dedication: As always, I’d like to thank the man who gives up some of his free time every day to read the stuff I send over to him. The best beta-reader on the planet, Mike. I’d also like to thank my other betas: Candace (who read the entire novel in IM and showed her support every night), Rachel, and Alex. A special thank-you goes to Sulli, who made a very bad day a wonderful one with her gift of generosity. I would also like to thank Mary D for reading and housing this at her site. But mostly, I’d like to thank the readers for reading my stuff and giving me such great feedback. It’s what makes sitting in front of this balky computer and tickling the tans so much fun. Feedback, if anyone is so inclined, is always gratefully received and appreciated. I can be reached at .


REDEMPTION (Conclusion)


I’m writing this beneath the flickering lamp of a hotel room that saw ‘new’ two decades ago and ‘clean’ only shortly after that. But the door has a lock that I can open any time I want and the bed is the most comfortable I’ve slept on in years.

That bed is calling to me longingly, and I’ll go, willingly and joyously, just as soon as I get this pressure of words out of my head and on to this paper.

Walking out that door and into the fresh air was the hardest, and conversely, the easiest thing I’ve ever had to do. As I began to take my first steps into freedom, the Bog seemed intent on pulling me back, as if it had sunk invisible talons into my spine. My legs became almost leaden with the strain I was under. The prison seemed to whisper to me on a current of wind; promising to hold me and keep me safe if only I would look back.

But I didn’t look back. It was a promise I’d made to myself and one I was determined to keep. Looking back would only make things harder and I knew that. So I didn’t.

And because I didn’t, my next steps, and the ones following that, became easier as the weight I didn’t know I carried was lifted off my shoulders to be tossed into the drifting spring breeze.

The first sound I truly remember hearing as a free woman was the tether of the American flag slapping forlornly against its metal pole. It was a lonely, desolate sound, and seemed like a bad omen until I recognized the sound of birdsong playing a melodic counterpoint to the ‘ting ting’ of the rope against metal.

The noise of passing cars, fairly uncommon this far out, drew my attention to the road. How the styles had changed in just five years. I hadn’t really noticed it on the drive to and from court, being so wrapped up in my own emotional struggle.

I looked at that road, pitted and pot-holed by winter’s icy reign, curving gently over the breast of a small hill, and wondered where it led. My future was on that road, somewhere, unfettered by the constant metal specter of chains and cuffs and bars and fences. It was as broad as my imagination and as narrow as my fears.

Freedom’s Siren call was infinitely sweeter than the Bog’s brutal cacophony, and so, with a lightness to my step, I walked into that future, alone, afraid, but carrying with me the hope that things would turn out well for me in this new life I was being urged to make for myself.

When my legs began to tire, I headed to a small park, interspersed with walkways and drive-paths, and settled on a wooden bench to watch the sun set over the small pond dug there. A flock of ducks had obviously chosen to make this quiet, out of the way place their spring nesting grounds, and I watched as, tame and winter lean, they were fed by giggling children holding out crusts of stale bread.

Innocent, joyful laughter filled the air around me and I felt a bubble of happiness well up from inside me. The bench’s warmth seeped into my body through my clothes and I leaned back to watch the activity going on around me, just another woman taking a brief interlude from an otherwise stressful day.

Young couples passed by, their hands intertwined, their faces wreathed with the smiles of young love, a smile which had seemed permanently etched into the lines of my own face such a short time ago. I was hit with a pang of jealous longing so strong that my breath seemed to have taken leave of my lungs as I sat there, watching them pass slowly by, their interest only in one another.

When I could breathe again, I noticed that a young mother had come to sit beside me, watching her two youngsters chase the ducks and each other while she worked at her knitting, her hands moving quickly with casual skill. We conversed briefly about nothing of importance and I felt myself gradually begin to relax once again.

When she left, carefully grasping her children by their grubby hands and leading them back to their no-doubt safe and comfortable little lives, I contented myself with watching the play of light on the gently rippling water. I allowed my mind to go mercifully blank for a long stretch of moments, existing only in this moment of perfect peace and solitude, unencumbered with thoughts of future or past.

Gradually, with some subliminal sense that had been honed to a razor’s edge in the Bog, I became aware that I was being observed. Looking casually, first to the left, then to the right, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Still, the hairs at the back of my neck stood at stiff attention and a warning tingle caressed the nerves of my spine.

As nonchalantly as I could, I turned to look over my right shoulder. There, beneath a grand oak cloaked in the first vibrant green of spring, a man stood straddling a motorcycle. He was clad, from head to foot, in black leather with red and white piping running down the sides of his jacket and leather pants. His black helmet had a mirrored visor that reflected the fiery orange blaze of the setting sun back at me. It was impossible to tell if he was my observer, but his head seemed to be inclined in my direction and my heart sped up in an autonomic reaction.

Just as casually, I returned my gaze back to the pond before me, considering my options. When you’ve been in prison for awhile, you begin to listen to your body’s signals. And my body was warning me that something bad was going to happen if I didn’t either prepare to run or prepare to fight.

Was it just jailhouse paranoia? The kind that presupposes a killer behind every locked door? Was this something I was going to have to deal with every day of this new life I was going to forge for myself? Would every stranger’s glance spark this adrenaline rush within me?

My peaceful solitude broken, I concentrated on my breathing, determined to wait this particular test out. After all, people were allowed to look at the sunset in a park without having sinister motivations. I was living in the real world now, and jumping at every shadow just wasn’t going to be an option for long. Not if I wanted to retain some tattered shred of sanity.

Hearing the motorcycle come to life behind me, I let out a relieved breath, congratulating myself for not bolting from something that obviously was turning out to be nothing.

But then, instead of moving away, the motorcycle appeared to be getting closer, its tires crunching over the remains of last autumn’s bounty strewn over the newly luxuriant grass. My heart leapt into my throat again, and my hands, of their own volition, curled into tight fists, ready to defend me if need be. I could feel my spine stiffening as my muscles clenched in an instinctive ‘fight or flight’ response.

The cycle purred closer and I blinked rapidly, my eyes suddenly dry. "Alright, Angel," I whispered to myself. "Don’t panic. Whatever you do, don’t panic. If he’s after you, and you don’t know that he is, he won’t dare do anything in broad daylight with all these people around, alright? Just keep calm. He probably just wants a closer look at the pond or something. He has as much right to be here as you do."

The motorcycle braked to a smooth stop right beside my bench and it took everything I had in me not to just jump up and start to run. Visions of Morrison calmly ordering my execution from the comfort of his prison cell ran through my head tauntingly.

The engine was turned off and I could hear the kickstand as it was lowered to the ground. I prevented my head from turning only with the greatest strength of will, keeping my gaze focused on the play of light over the rippling water. Stay calm. Stay calm. Stay calm.

I could hear the light crunch of gravel as the man got off his motorcycle. Then nothing but the quietly ticking engine and the seemingly far off sounds of children at play.

Why doesn’t he do something? Why is he just standing there?

Because, the darkly paranoid part of my mind supplied, he’s just waiting for the opportunity to kill you without all these witnesses seeing it.

That’s nonsense, my more rational thoughts proclaimed. He’s looking at the water, same as you are.

He could see the water just fine from where he was. Run now, Angel, while you still might have a chance.

Stay calm. Nothing’s happened yet. Start running now, and you’ll never stop. You’ll be looking over your shoulder forever and screaming every time a dog tips over a trash can.

I was so wrapped up in my internal argument that I didn’t even notice when the stranger walked closer to where I sat, stopping less than two feet to my right, just beyond where the bench ended. Knowing that I was betraying my terror more by not looking, I turned my head fully in his direction, summoning up a smile from somewhere.

My image was reflected back at me from the mirrored visor, showing my smile for the false thing that it was. My eyes were wide with barely controlled panic. My heart sped up even more as a sweat broke out over my forehead, stinging my eyes.

He stared at me for so long that I finally just wanted to scream at him to just kill me and get it over with so that I could have some peace.

His gloved hand came up then, and in my panic, I swore I saw a gun. My own hands raised, palm out, in pure reflex, before I noticed that his hand was empty and he was merely reaching for the visor of his helmet.

He moved the faceplate up slowly and I can remember thanking God that at least I would see the face of my killer before I died. Not great, as prayers of thanks go, but it was something to focus my panicked thoughts on.

I couldn’t see much of his face. It appeared to be covered with a black hood of some sort, covering all features but the eyes.

I blinked.

The eyes.

I blinked again, bringing my hand up to shade against the nearly horizontal rays of sunlight shining in my face.

One step, and the sun was effectively blocked by a long body, leaving me free to stare into those beautiful, mesmerizing, magnificent, blue eyes. Blue as the hottest part of a candle’s flame. Blue as the center of a perfect block of . . . .

"Ice?" I whispered, the tears already starting to fall.

Their shape changed to a smile’s almond as they warmed, their color deepening.

"Ice?" I repeated in a voice thick with tears. "Is that you?"

A black-gloved hand reached down, and without thinking, I grasped it. I was pulled up with an ease I well remembered and my shout was suddenly muffled against her chest as the feel and scent of sun-warmed leather encompassed me as much as her arms did, folding themselves around my body in a tight embrace.

My words came out like a flood of water over a shattered dam. "Oh my God. I thought you were dead! I thought they’d killed you! How did you get here? What happened to you?"

Further questions were lost in my sobs and she tightened her embrace, rocking me gently. Beneath the heavy leather, I could hear her own heart racing and I could feel the tightness in her chest that told me she was trying to control tears of her own.

Gradually, she released her tight hold of me, urging me out to arm’s length and gazing intently at me, as if needing to memorize my features again. Her stare was so loving, so intense, that I felt a blush rise to my cheeks.

Laughing weakly in embarrassment, I brushed the tears from my eyes, standing as a soldier might during a parade review. From the corner of my eye, I noticed some curious stares we were getting from passers by. I looked back at Ice, nervous once again. "You shouldn’t be here," I said in a low-pitched whisper which I hoped would carry through her hood and helmet. "The police are still looking for you. It’s not safe for you here. They . . .they could have sent someone to tail me." I knew I was sounding like a paranoid idiot, but my fears were real.

Her eyes warmed in a smile once again as she slowly shook her head. Then, for the first time, she spoke, her voice slightly muffled, but exactly as I’d remembered it. "I’ve been following you all afternoon."

My eyebrow creased in puzzlement. "You have? But, I didn’t . . . ."

Shaking her head again, her eyes still smiling, she gently took my hand and led me over to her motorcycle, which was of a style I’d never seen before outside of the motorcycle races my father sometimes watched on television. It wasn’t a touring bike, like some of the Harleys and Hondas that I’d seen outside the bars near my apartment in Pittsburgh. This motorcycle seemed to be built for speed and not so much for comfort.

Releasing my hand, she went over to the other side of the bike and picked up a second helmet which had been attached to the back of the molded seat, holding it out to me, her eyes full of questions.

Questions of my own, a million of them, flitted through my mind, but I could no more refuse that helmet than I could refuse to breathe.

Accepting the helmet, I pulled it over my head. It was a snug fit, the foam inserts dragging harshly over my ears. I kept the visor up, watching as she rounded the bike again and grabbed my sack of personal articles. The bag wasn’t that big, containing as it did only a couple articles of clothing and Ice’s book. It had two loops, which I slipped over my arms as Ice handed it to me, settling it comfortably on my back.

Picking up the bonsai, she walked back to the bike and lifted the seat, exposing a tiny carry space. She placed the tree almost reverently within, then closed the seat back up and swung her leg over the bike, straddling it once again.

Breathing deeply, I climbed in back of her, never having ridden a motorcycle before. The bike was built for the driver to lean forward, almost resting on the gas tank.

Once I was more or less settled, she took my hands and clasped them across her abdomen. "Hang on," was all she said before she kick started the engine.

And hang on I did.


We rode north, and north, and north, mainly through back country roads, but sometimes on lightly, and not-so-lightly, traveled highways. I spent most of the evening laying almost directly on top of Ice as she leaned over the cycle’s gas tank, the handlebars at her chin, racing to beat the devil.

The miles flew by, my surroundings almost mystical, bathed in the diminishing glow of twilight spring. My terror with this new mode of travel almost caused me to dump the bike as my body rebelled against the gravity of the tight turns Ice was making at incredible speeds. Only her unparalleled strength kept us upright and moving.

Finally, I just gave up and gave in, laying my heavy head against her back and closing my eyes against the onrushing wind which buffeted my helmet. I felt my body relax and meld itself to hers, almost becoming one with it as we continued down the road and into the future.

After hours and hours of riding, my body stiff and sore and aching, my hands blocks of ice chapped by the early spring wind, we finally pulled to a quiet stop in a graveled lot outside of a rundown motel.

It took almost all that I had just to release my death grip on Ice’s waist and straighten my cramped and aching back. She slipped off the bike with her usual seamless grace and then turned and helped me from my perch, releasing me as she dug into her pocket for a single key.

After retrieving the bonsai from beneath the seat, she led me over to a battered door and slipped her key in the lock. The handle turned easily and she ushered me inside.

The room was warm, small, and lit by a single lamp hanging over a battle-scarred table off to one side. A double bed took up most of the remaining space. A knapsack sat atop the tattered, threadbare quilt and I lowered my own sack of belongings to lay beside it. Then I unsnapped my chinstrap with cold-numbed fingers, sliding the confining helmet from my head and shaking my hair free.

From beside me, Ice copied my actions, pulling off helmet and hood and releasing her hair in tumbling midnight waves, running a negligent hand through it to settle the strands into some type of order. My heart doubled its pace at the simple beauty of the unconscious act.

She turned to me then, and smiled, and I fell in love all over again, tumbling headlong into a precipice I thought denied to me forever. Tears sprang to my eyes, and though I wanted nothing more than to be engulfed by her tender strength and powerful love, I needed one question answered; one above all others.

"Why?" That one simple word covered a hundred emotions, a hundred further questions. Why then? Why now? Why this?

Her smile grew tender as she stripped off her gloves and led me to the bed to sit beside her. My body groaned out its thanks for the soft padding beneath it.

"It was something I had to do," she said softly, looking at the table in front of us.

"I don’t understand."

"I know."

"Then explain. Please. I thought I’d lost you."

"I know that, too." Her voice was faintly choked as she turned back to me, reaching out and grasping my hand, and pulling it into her lap. She kept her gaze focused on it, her thumb playing lightly over my knuckles, warming my chilled flesh with her touch. She cleared her throat. "When . . .I was in the hospital, recovering from my wounds, the warden . . .paid me a little visit. He told me that if anyone ever found out who was behind the shooting, or why Cavallo was even there in the first place, he’d make sure that you’d never see your appeal."

Her words, so softly spoken, froze me completely. "My God," I breathed.

"I knew right then that I could never go back. I needed to . . .take care of things so that his threat would never become a reality." She looked up at me, briefly, before looking down at our joined hands once again. "I was chained to the bed by a cuff around my ankle. But they put the cuff around a weak strut." She shrugged. "It wasn’t that difficult to take care of that problem. Then, it was just a matter of waiting for the right opportunity." She took in a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "When it came, I ran."

"Where did you go?"

That quirky little half smile lifted the corner of her mouth. "I got a gun, from an old . . .friend. Then I went to Cavallo’s house." Her smile widened, went almost savage. "It was payback time."

I moaned softly and her eyes darted up to mine again, before looking down once more, her long lashes lowered. "Yeah. Well, I made may way over to his house and took out a couple of his ‘bodyguards’."

"Did you kill them?"

"Nah. They never even knew I was there. Just put ‘em to sleep for awhile. He was upstairs in his bed. Alone." She laughed dryly. "Could never even pay for a woman. Anyway, I walked in there, right up to his bed. I put the gun to his temple, thinking about what he did to Josephine, to Salvatore, to me. About what he, through Morrison, was gonna do to you."

Her hand left mine and curled into a tight fist. "I wanted to kill him so badly I could taste it. My finger was on the trigger—just a hair’s worth of pressure and it would have gone off, ending everything."

She tilted her head up toward the ceiling, her jaw working as she dragged her hands through her hair. "I couldn’t do it," she whispered, harshly. "I wanted to, God, so badly. I wanted to end his miserable, stinking little life." She sighed, shaking her head. "But I couldn’t."


"As I was standing there, watching him sleep, I thought about you." And here, her eyes came to rest, for the first time, on my face. She smiled slightly. "About that time when I had Cassandra’s life in my hands. I remembered you telling me not to give up on my dreams, how she wasn’t worth it. And I realized that if I went back to that person I used to be, the one who killed to get rid of my problems, that’s exactly what I would have done." Tears sparkled in her eyes. "My dreams might not be much, but they were all I had. And I couldn’t give them up. Not for him."

"Oh, Ice . . . ."

I reached out, and she took my hand in an almost desperate grip, holding it up to her chest. I could feel her heart thundering through the thin fabric of her simple cotton T-shirt.

"So, I walked away. I left him there, never knowing how close he came to never waking up at all. As I was leaving his house, I saw a notepad by the downstairs phone. The name of one of Salvatore’s favorite meeting spots, an Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh, was written on the pad, together with a time and Sal’s name written beneath. I knew it was a set-up, and I almost went back upstairs to finish the job."

"But you didn’t."

"No. I decided to give Sal a warning. I went over to his place; didn’t even know if he’d be in." She smiled crookedly again. "His guards weren’t surprised to see me, for some reason. I guess wind of my escape had gotten out by then. But they let me by without much trouble."

"Was he glad to see you?"

"Not really. I was heat he couldn’t afford. So I gave him my information, extended my condolences over Josephina’s death, and left. I can’t say he was sorry to see me go. And I wasn’t sorry to leave. I realized, right then, that that wasn’t a life I wanted to live anymore."

"What did you do?"

"Got on my bike and came out here. A couple of friends of mine own it." Her gaze encompassed the tiny room. "It’s not exactly the Ritz, but it’s safe enough, especially for someone like me."

"They had roadblocks set up all over looking for you. How in the world did you get past them?"

She smiled. "I think, at the time, they were more worried about who was coming in to town than who was going out. I knew Morrison would panic once he got word of my disappearance. I imagine a sizable chunk of the police force was guarding the Bog."

"They were. It looked like a policemen’s convention."

Ice laughed softly. "I also figured that Morrison wouldn’t dare to do anything to you with that much official business loitering around. He was hung by his own fears. I knew, too, that Salvatore would most likely take care of Cavallo if Cavallo tried to follow through on his planned hit. And if Cavallo fell, Morrison would fall with him."

"How did you know that?"

Her grin turned smug. "Who do you think planted those papers in his car?"

I gasped. "You didn’t."

Both eyebrows raised. "Oh, I did."

Shaking my head, I let out a short laugh. "I don’t know why I’m surprised."

"Anyway," she continued, "I hung out here and kept an eye on everything. I’m sure Cavallo knew I’d escaped before he went to try and take out Briacci. I have no idea what, other than ego, made him do it. But he got what he deserved, and so did Morrison."

Her smile became sad. "So, all I had left was to watch over you. I’ll admit I went out and got pretty drunk when I heard you were granted the re-trial."

"But how? Donita?" My temper flared. "Damn her! I . . . ."

"No. It wasn’t Donita. I’d never get her involved in something like this."

"Then who?"

Her silence gave me its own answer.

"Corinne," I said with growing certainty. "It was Corinne, wasn’t it."

Ice nodded, slowly.

I bolted from the bed, my hands fisted in anger. "God damn it! I can’t believe she would hide something like that from me!"

She held up her own hands. "Don’t blame her, Angel. I asked her to keep things quiet."

I turned on her. "But why?!? Ice, I thought you were dead! Do you know what I went through? Do you have any idea at all?!?!?"

Her gaze dropped back to the bed. "Yes," she said softly. "But it was the only thing I could do."

"But why?" I asked again. "Why couldn’t you just let me know that you were, at least, alive? What would that have done except ease my pain?" I was so angry, I was shaking.

"I wanted to, Angel. More than anything. But I couldn’t. This was your chance to get what you deserved: your freedom. And if you knew that I was out there, somewhere, and that came out somehow, they could charge you with aiding and abetting a fugitive, and that chance would have been lost."

She met my eyes again, her own searing with the intensity of her convictions. "Your freedom is worth more than anything in the world, Angel. I did what I did because I had to do it. I don’t expect you to understand, or forgive, my actions."

As I stared at her, my anger began to dissipate. Her actions were borne out of a deep love for me. That much I knew. And if I couldn’t forgive the pain she’d caused, at least I could understand it and accept it as her truth. Loosening my fists, I returned to sit next to her on the bed, clasping her hand as she used the other to tenderly stroke my hair.

I smiled up at her. "So, ya spied on me, huh?" I asked, butting her shoulder with my head.

She crooked a grin back at me. "Somethin’ like that, yeah. And when Corinne called me with the verdict, I hopped on my bike and drove down there as fast as I could. I got there about a half hour before you stepped out of the Bog for the last time."

Her eyes closed. "Seeing you again, it made my heart crawl up in my throat. I love you so much." Pausing, she wiped the lone tear which had escaped from beneath her lashes. "I wasn’t going to talk to you, you know. I just wanted to see you one more time, make sure you got away safely. I would have made sure you had somewhere to stay until you were on your feet again. I suspect Donita offered."

I nodded. "Why wouldn’t you have said anything?" I couldn’t quite hide the hurt in my voice, and felt her stiffen beside me.

"Angel, you’re a free woman now. An innocent woman. You can go anywhere; do anything in this life that you want to. I couldn’t pull you back into my life, living on the run, always looking over your shoulder to wait for some police officer or simple citizen to recognize me."

She sighed. "But then, when I saw you in the park, when I saw the sunlight play across your hair, I couldn’t . . . . I couldn’t leave without telling you I loved you, without saying goodbye to you. You deserved that, at least. And then, when I had you in my arms, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let you go. No matter how much I wanted to, I just couldn’t. I know it isn’t fair to you, and I’m not asking you to be with me. I just know that I needed to say more than goodbye. I needed to explain things. I needed . . .I needed you not to hate me."

The look in her eyes, so lost, so infinitely sad, broke my heart into shattered fragments.

"Oh, Ice. I could never hate you. Don’t you know that by now?"

Her eyes were suddenly shy, and I caught a glimpse of the girl in that long ago photo. "I haven’t been loved unconditionally for a long time," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. "I think I forgot what that was like. But your freedom . . . ."

Reaching up, I clasped her face between my hands, directing her to meet my eyes. "Ice, freedom means having the choice to decide what to do with your life. And that choice was made a long time ago. Being with you is where I want to be."

"But . . . ."

"No buts. My freedom has given me this choice, and I’m not backing down from it. You don’t have to understand it. You just have to accept it. Or not. And that is your freedom."

"I can’t let you give up your chance at a new life because of me, Angel. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment, because believe me, I do."

I could feel my eyes narrow. "So, what you’re telling me is that I’m only as free as you’ll allow me to be, is that it?"

"Damn it, Angel! If you stay with me, you’ll only be putting yourself into yet another prison! Can’t you see that?"

Yes, she was angry. But this time . . .this time, I wasn’t afraid.

"Ice, the only prison I’d be going back to is the one you’d put me in by refusing to let me make my own decisions over what I want my life to be. There wouldn’t be any bars except for the ones around my heart. That’s a place I don’t ever want to go to. It would be a thousand times worse than the Bog could ever be." I grasped her hand and held it tightly, bringing our joined hands upward so she could plainly see them. "My life is with you, Morgan Steele. It has been since the first day I saw you. That won’t ever change, whether you let me stay with you or not."

For the first time since I’d known her, Ice looked frightened. It wasn’t a panic fright, to be sure, but she was scared. "I . . .can’t . . ."

I put my fingers over her lips. "Maybe not," I whispered. "But I can."

Leaning forward, I replaced my fingers with my lips, claiming her with all the love in my soul. After a moment, she responded, sinking her fingers into my hair and drawing me closer against her, to be engulfed by the scent of spices and leather. I was intoxicated.

Reaching behind me, I tossed my sack and Ice’s duffel from the bed, then, wrapping my arms around her shoulders, pulled her down to lay beside me, never breaking contact with her lips, which had opened under my tender probing, allowing me to explore to my heart’s content.

My hands worked with a sure dexterity on the unfamiliar zippers and buttons and buckles of her leather protection, needing beyond anything to feel the solid, living warmth of her.

She moaned at the first touch of my fingers on her skin and I let the full strength of my love and passion for this remarkable woman take me over. I went willingly into the light of my newfound freedom.


And so here I sit, writing while my lover sleeps bare feet away, her hair shining in the feeble light of the lamp above me. Her head is turned away from me, but I know without seeing that there is a smile on her lips. A smile I put there. That thought fills me with joy.

And in a moment, I’ll go back to lay beside her, and nestle up against the long length of her strong body and fall asleep to the music of her heart beneath my ear.

In just a moment.

We’ve decided to head out for Canada in the morning. To attempt to make a life on the land that gave me so much joy as a child. Getting over the boarder might prove difficult, but Ice is confident that we’ll make it.

The chance to share this dream place with her is all I could want in this world.

Some of you may be asking yourself why I would risk everything to live my life with a fugitive, always wondering when the other shoe is going to drop.

And to those questions, I can only give the answer my heart tells me is true. That if, by chance, that other shoe does drop, tomorrow or fifty years from now, I’ll know that I lived my life the way I wanted to. I made my own choices in this world and was happy with them. I loved, and was loved by, the other half of my soul. I wanted for nothing.

And truly, what else can you ask of the hand life deals you?


Well, folks, that concludes REDEMPTION. I thank everyone who has read this far for following along with me on this sometimes rocky journey. Thanks to the many people to took time out from their busy lives to drop me a line and let me know how the story was going for them. I was touched, gratified and overwhelmed by your responses. And thanks once again (a bard can really never say this enough) to my betas, particularly Mike and Candace, for all their help, support, loyalty, and love <g>. Final thanks goes out, once again, to Mary D, whose unwavering support, as well as threats when I said I wasn’t going to bring Ice back <weg> will always be well and happily remembered.

So…who wants to see how Ice and Angel are doing up Canada way, huh? ;)



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