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HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA

The man stood sheltered in the stygian shadows of the deserted boardwalk. The games and rides had long since closed down for the night, and there was no one to observe him as he trained his binoculars on the brightly-lit Silver Star. There was evidently a party going on in the bar this evening. Music and laughter spilled out to be swallowed up into the night's silence. Through the window, he could see balloons and streamers, a large, beautifully decorated cake, and an enormous bouquet of red roses. There were packages, too, adorned with ribbons and bows.

The center of all this attention was a stunning woman with dark hair and green eyes. Her dress was flame red, with thin shoulder straps and a full skirt that swirled around her legs as she spun in her companion's arms. Her dance partner was a tall, ruggedly handsome man whose bearing called to mind a soldier. As the music ended, he bent her back in a graceful dip. The woman laughed as he helped her to straighten up. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek.

The watcher scowled slightly at the sight, one hand absently rubbing at the smooth expanse of scar tissue on his own cheek.


"Are you having a good time?" Matt Shepherd asked. He told himself that it was the noise of the crowd that made him lean in close to speak in her ear.

"I'm having a wonderful time!" Margo Vincent exclaimed happily.

Her eyes were sparkling with merriment, and Matt couldn't recall seeing her look quite so happy – or quite so beautiful. Wordlessly, he passed her a small, gaily wrapped box.

"Matt, what's this?" she asked in surprise. The gifts the boys gave her at the party were regular items – perfume, flowers, scarves and the like. Her 'real' gift had been given in private that afternoon. They'd ordered her an evening gown from Claudia Schneider – one designed especially for Margo, with a sheath for a small knife sewn into the bodice (Benny Ray had supplied the knife) and concealment for a lock pick and a garrote. She'd been overwhelmed and certainly didn't expect any more gifts. Certainly not something the size of the jeweler's box being offered by a suddenly quiet Matt Shepherd.

"Go on. Open it," he laughed nervously.

Smiling, she complied, curious to see what had Matt fidgeting like a schoolboy. Nestled against the red velvet lining of the box was a teardrop shaped diamond pendant, suspended on a fine gold chain. The stone was small, but exquisite, reflecting the room's light in a rainbow shimmer. "Oh, Matt!" she gasped, "It's beautiful!"

"Not as beautiful as you," he whispered huskily.


An evil thought began to form in the watcher's mind as he saw the tall man step around behind the woman, apparently fastening a necklace. The man was a fitting companion for such a beautiful woman, but that might easily change. The more he considered that, the more appeal the notion had. He intended for Margo Vincent to suffer before she died, and making her watch as her handsome friend became... not so handsome... seemed an excellent place to start.


It was harder to maintain his vigil during the daylight hours, but the watcher had a great deal of experience in these matters, and a burning desire to exact his vengeance... in blood. He didn't mind that some of the blood spilled would be that of Margo's companion. He remembered seeing the man once before. They'd been working together, interfering with one of his operations and costing him a considerable amount of money, a great deal of damage to his professional reputation, and... his hand drifted to his face once more, touching the slick smoothness of a scar.

Focussing again, he raised his binoculars and scanned the beach. There they were, walking along the water's edge. He knew they wouldn't see him. Not here, under the pier where the homeless took shelter. A fetid cardboard and rag enclosure sheltered him from prying eyes, masking any tell tale glare that might reflect off his binoculars or his weapons.


Matt glanced down at Margo as they strolled along the water's edge. The beach was nearly deserted at this hour. He wondered what was on her mind. She'd been so happy last night – he hoped she hadn't received any bad news. "What's up?" he finally prompted.

Margo steeled herself, realizing that her words would hurt him, but knowing that it was best for them both to say it now. She reached into her pocket as she began to speak. "Matt, I... I can't accept this."

Stunned by her words, Matt realized that she held the necklace he'd given her.

Slowly, she reached out and folded it into his palm, closing his fingers around it.

"Why?" he finally found breath to ask.

Margo looked out over the water, unable to meet his eyes. This was the hardest thing she'd ever done, but she had to do it now, before either of them was hurt. "It's too much, Matt. I... I'm sorry... I need to... I have to go." She moved as if to turn away.

Matt swiftly caught her arm, knowing that if she left now, he'd never see her again. "Margo, don't do this," he begged.

"Matt, it's for the best."

"Why? Is it me? Did I wait too long to try to tell you how I feel? Or did I read you wrong – I thought... I thought maybe you had feelings for me."

Margo twisted in Matt's grasp, trying to avoid his eyes. "I do," she finally whispered. "I haven't felt this way for anyone in a very long time. That's why I should have left, long before things got to this point."

Matt grasped both her shoulders firmly. "Margo... Margo, look at me. This is as much my fault as yours. I should have said something a long time ago. There's a reason why people like us don't do well in relationships. The good ones are based on trust and honesty, and there will always be things that we can't discuss with anyone not in the game. But you and I... we're in this together, all the way. We can make it work between us – I know we can." He tried to pull her a little closer. "All you have to do is stop running... from your heart... and from me."

"You make it sound so easy," she whispered.

"No, it's not easy... the good things never are... but I think it's worth it."

"Matt, the last time I felt like this about someone... he was taken from me. I can't go through that again. I can't."

Matt tipped her face up so he could look into her eyes. "Hey, I can't promise you that I won't buy the farm tomorrow... but neither could a doctor, or an accountant, or a banker. All I know for sure is that my heart has belonged to you for a very long time. Now I've finally figured out how to say it out loud. I love you, Margo."


The binoculars brought the scene into fine focus. The watcher observed as the two figures melded into one. Long moments later, when the passionate kiss was finally over, Margo and her companion started back towards the Silver Star, their arms still entwined. He hoped they'd enjoy the little surprise he'd left for them.


Margo leaned her head against Matt's shoulder as they walked. It felt so right to have his arms wrapped around her. It was as if she'd been on a long, long journey, and had finally come home.

Matt realized that her necklace still dangled from his fingers and stopped abruptly. He turned Margo gently around so he could replace the delicate bauble, taking the opportunity to press a kiss to the side of her neck.

"Why don't we continue this discussion someplace more private?" Margo murmured suggestively.

"Because I want the whole world to know that I love you," Matt answered. He allowed her to steer them back towards the Silver Star anyway – they really did have a lot to talk about... not that he'd object too strenuously if things proceeded beyond talk.

As they neared the parking lot for the hotel, Margo suddenly stopped short, gasping in revulsion. Matt glanced quickly at her, then followed her gaze. He understood her distress immediately. It seemed that a large seabird had met a rather untimely – and messy – end - all over the front of her Jag. There were sticky splatters of blood and matted feathers everywhere. It looked as if the windshield was cracked, too.

"How the hell did that happen?" he muttered, turning so that his body blocked Margo's view of the ghastly mess. It wasn't all that unusual to find a dead gull – they were right on the beach, after all – but this made him uneasy. There was something about it... all the blood... that made him think someone might have done this deliberately.

He scanned the area with a professional eye, looking for potential vandals. He didn't see anyone around. There were some homeless people camped out under the pier, but they'd never troubled anyone before. Still... "I'm gonna call the cops" he decided.

"Is that really necessary?" Margo asked.

"Your windshield looks damaged. You'll need a police report for the insurance company." Which was the truth, as far as it went. She didn't need to know that he planned on asking if there had been any other incidents like this one.


The watcher smiled unpleasantly. Things were proceeding exactly as he'd planned. He'd spent the early hours of the morning doing considerable research on Margo's companion, Shepherd. He was a straight arrow, by-the-book type, so the watcher knew when Shepherd pulled out his cell phone that the police were being called. That would keep them occupied here long enough for him to assemble his next little surprise.


Benny Ray Riddle entered the Silver Star, his curiosity piqued by the scene he'd just passed. "What's goin' on out there?" he asked inquisitively. "Was that Margo's Jag?"

"Yeah," Matt replied tiredly. "We found a very dead seagull splattered all over it."

Margo winced over her coffee cup.

"Dead how?" Benny Ray wanted to know.

"We don't know," Matt replied with more than a little frustration in his voice.

"The M.E. does not do autopsies on dead birds," Margo responded with the air of someone quoting something she'd heard too many times for her liking.

"You OK?" Benny Ray inquired, laying a gentle hand on her shoulder.

Margo mustered a weak smile for him. "Yeah...we were... walking... the beach. We found it when we came back."

"Y'all got reason to think it wasn't an accident?" he asked seriously.

Margo shook her head negatively.

Matt sighed, frustrated at something he couldn't quite express. "I guess not."

Benny Ray grinned then. "Well, folks, this is a helluva way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Why don't you two vamoose?"

"Because we have to wait for the glass man that the insurance company is sending," Margo explained.

"And for DPW to come and get that dead bird out of my parking lot," Matt added.

"Any reason I can't do that for you?" Benny Ray asked.

"You're sure you don't mind?" Margo wanted to know.

"Nah... I tell you what – I'll even clean off your car for you. Call it a late birthday present."

Margo gave him a quick hug. "Thank you."

"No sweat, darlin'." He'd seen the looks those two had been exchanging last night and figured they had much better uses for their time than hanging around a parking lot waiting for a glass man.

"Thanks," Matt added.

"Go on – get out of here!" Benny Ray admonished cheerfully. 'Be happy,' he added silently.


Matt ushered Margo into his 'vette, shielding her as much as possible from the sight of her car. "Where would you like to go?" he asked as he pulled out of the lot.

Margo tried to swallow a yawn... the day was seeming very long right about now, from the emotional roller coaster of this morning's scene with Matt, to the hours spent dealing with the police and the insurance company. "Would you mind just going to my place?" she asked hesitantly.

"Anything you want," Matt assured her.

"Thanks," she said with a weary little smile.


Margo opened the door to her apartment and stopped dead in her tracks. She vaguely felt Matt's hands on her shoulders as she gaped in disbelief. Furniture was overturned, the upholstery shredded. Pictures had been torn down from the walls and loose items scattered over the floors. Without conscious thought, her hand dipped into her purse, coming up with her weapon.

Matt's ceramic knife had materialized in his hand. He silently pushed the door shut, then gestured for her to take the kitchen. It was only partially enclosed and he was reasonably sure it was empty. He headed for the bedroom himself.

Margo nodded, the professional in her trying to push aside her shock. The kitchen was empty, as was the coat closet.

"Clear," Matt called from the bedroom.

"Bathroom?" Margo demanded.

"Empty. Wrecked, like everything else, but there's no one in there. Before I call the cops, did you have any other weapons here, or anything else you don't want them to know about?"

Margo shook her head. "All the sensitive stuff is locked up in the vault at the Silver Star."

Matt nodded as he pulled out his cell phone. He wrapped his free arm around Margo's waist, gathering her in close as she surveyed the wreck of her home.

She pulled away from him and took the three steps into her bedroom. If anything, the destruction was worse in here. Clothes were ripped and strewn all over. Margo's feet crunched on broken glass and she bent down to see what was there. It was a photograph of herself with her brother John. The frame was bent and twisted and the picture had been ripped to pieces. Tears stung her eyes, and she felt gentle hands lifting her to her feet.

"C'mere... it's OK... I've got you." Matt gently pressed her head to his shoulder as he murmured words of comfort into her hair. He was feeling a powerful urge to hurt someone. Today he and Margo had finally admitted their feelings for one another... it should have been one of the happiest days of their lives.

"Why?" Margo whispered tearfully.

Matt only wished he had an answer.


Matt stood next to Margo, leaning against the kitchen counter. He held her hand clasped tightly in his own as she tried to answer the officers' questions. Yes, she'd locked the door when she went out. No, she had no idea who might be behind this. No, definitely not an ex-boyfriend. Yes, they had reported vandalism to her car this morning. Finally Matt lost patience. "Gentlemen. Ms. Vincent is the victim here, not the suspect," he snapped.

"It's all right, Matt... they're just trying to do their jobs," Margo responded quietly.

"I apologize, ma'am," the detective said. "I realize that you've been through a lot, but these are all routine questions and I do need to ask them. We'll be questioning the building staff about any suspicious vehicles or intruders as well. I would suggest that you stay somewhere else for a few days, preferably not alone."

"She'll be staying with me," Matt stated in a tone that brooked no argument.

The detective nodded, expecting as much. He eyed Matt professionally. "You military?" he asked.

"Yeah." There really was no point denying it – it was a matter of public record, and the fact that the officer had spotted it made Matt think better of him.

"All right. I'm guessing that you can handle yourself if this creep comes calling, but if you find him before we do, you call us – and he better be alive when we get there, you hear me?"

"I hear you."

The officer nodded. There was something these people weren't telling him, but as the man said, they were the victims, not the suspects. "When you get where you're going, check out the locks on the windows and doors, and if you've got a security system, use it. And if you get so much as a whiff of this guy, you call us."

"We will," Matt promised, taking Margo's arm and leading her to the door.


Debbie was preparing to leave for the night when Matt and Margo returned. He glanced at his watch. Yes, it really was closing time. Somewhere in the midst of two sets of police reports, two sets of insurance claims, and all the attendant chaos, he'd lost track of several hours.

"What happened to you guys?" Debbie asked, wide-eyed.

"My apartment was broken into," Margo answered wearily.

"Oh, my God! And your car this morning... that's terrible!"

"I completely forgot about the car," Margo admitted.

"Oh, well Benny Ray took care of all that," Debbie replied. "Your keys are behind the bar."

"Thanks," Margo managed with a weak smile.

"Will you be OK for a minute while I walk Debbie to her car?" Matt asked.

Margo's smile was more genuine this time. "I'm a big girl, Matt."

He leaned in close to whisper in her ear, "Yeah, but you're my girl." He brushed his lips briefly against her temple. "I'll be right back."

True to his word, Matt was back scant moments later. "C'mon, let's get you settled for the night," he invited, slinging an arm around her shoulders.

"That's fine with me," Margo acquiesced, "I'd like nothing better than for this day to be over."

Matt ushered her into a room that was obviously his own. "I, ah, never really got around to furnishing the rest of the rooms up here," he explained in response to her raised eyebrow. "You take the bed... somehow, I don't think I'm going to get too much sleep tonight."

Margo laughed bitterly as she sank down onto the bed. "This isn't the way I expected to spend the night of the day that Mister Right told me that he loved me."

"Yeah, I know what you mean... but I want... that... to be perfect. I don't want to take advantage of the fact that you're feeling hurt and vulnerable right now. Anyway, we've waited this long, haven't we?"

"Well, you know what they say about good things coming to those who wait," Margo answered, blushing slightly.

"I'm just gonna grab some fresh towels and sheets, OK?"

"I'm not going anywhere."


XAVIER TROUT'S RESIDENCE

The phone rang, waking Trout from a deep sleep. "Trout," he mumbled sleepily into the phone. The caller's words had him instantly wide-awake. "That's crazy... he's dead. Did you double-check... yes, you're right, you wouldn't call at this hour unless you were absolutely sure. Thanks for the tip."

Trout sat up and turned on the bedside light. He hit the speed dial that he'd programmed for the Silver Star. Concern etched his features as he heard a telephone company error message.


THE SILVER STAR

Margo set her cell phone on the nightstand, then checked the clip on her P232 and placed that on the table within easy reach. She was certain that Matt had a back-up weapon of some sort within reach, but her own came easily to her hand and she could utilize it without a second thought. She lay back, resting her aching head. Matt's aftershave clung faintly to the bedlinens, and she turned her face into the pillow, inhaling the comforting scent.

There was a heavy thump from the corridor and Margo bolted upright. "Matt?" No answer. "Matt, are you all right?" Her senses on full alert, Margo grabbed her gun and slipped out into the hallway.

Matt was lying face down on the floor. Margo dropped to her knees beside him, checking for a pulse and feeling light-headed with relief when she found it. She set down her weapon and used both hands to roll him over carefully. Her eyes widened in shock as she saw a dart protruding from his shoulder and then she froze as she felt the brush of cold metal just behind her ear.

"Clasp your hands behind your head," a strange voice instructed. The accent was Germanic, but the words were slurred somehow, as if the speaker formed the words with difficulty.

Margo hesitated, weighing her options. There was something vaguely familiar about that strange voice.

"From this range, I can kill you both with a single shot. Now do as I say!" her assailant commanded.

Moving cautiously, Margo complied. She felt her arms twisted behind her back with brutal force and handcuffed. The intruder shoved her roughly and she fell forward onto Matt's prone form.

Margo twisted around to face her attacker. At first, she couldn't make out any details, but then the man moved closer and she gasped in horror. His face and hands were a twisted mass of scar tissue, shiny and livid. The scars covered his entire head, giving her no clue as to what the man's hair color might have been. The eyes were pale and cruel, and she had a nagging suspicion that she should know this person.

"Come now, Margo, don't you like your handiwork?" he mocked.

"Who are you?"

He continued as if she hadn't spoken. "You must tell me all about it sometime. You see, I don't remember anything. The doctors say it is because there was too much pain for my mind to process, so it simply shut down for a while... months, as it happened. While I was in the hospital recovering, I had time to conceive of an interesting experiment. I would like to know how much pain a human being can endure before their mind induces a coma to keep it at bay."

Margo felt a cold, sick knot form in her gut.

"No – do not look so frightened, my dear. You are not my test subject... he is. I think perhaps he is even more handsome than Noah Perry," the stranger considered. "What do you think?"

"You're dead," Margo whispered through lips that had paled to white.

"Really, Margo, you must learn to confirm your kills. I'm very much alive – much as I may at times have wished otherwise."

"What do you want, Kepper?"

"Why, to kill you, of course," he replied pleasantly. "But first, I will make your friend here suffer as I did... while you watch."

Margo stared up into the eyes of a nightmare she'd thought long dead. His eyes were as empty and remorseless as she'd remembered – devoid of all human emotion, just as they'd been when he murdered Noah. A storm of emotions flooded through her soul – grief, at recalling how Noah had been taken from her – fear of losing Matt the same way – a great burning rage. She tamped them all down mercilessly. Emotions could kill her now – kill them both. She needed to stay calm and focussed if they were to have any chance at all.

Moving as little as possible, she slid her fingers into her back pocket and grasped a hairpin that would serve as an adequate lock pick. Willing the rest of her body to remain still, she inserted it into the lock of the handcuffs and set about freeing herself.

Kepper was advancing on them now, but Margo blocked him out of her mind, willing all of her concentration into the tiny bit of wire in her hands. And then, with an almost imperceptible click, the lock on the left cuff gave way. She kept her face impassive and her hands clasped behind her back as Kepper approached. She noted that he seemed to drag his right leg slightly, as if an injury hadn't healed properly, but he was still larger then she was and Margo knew she'd need any advantage she could get.

Kepper stooped swiftly and made a grab for Margo's arm. She kicked out with both legs, contacting violently with his right kneecap. Kepper staggered but didn't fall - however, it was enough of an opening for Margo to roll out of the way and gain her feet. Unfortunately, Kepper was between her and her weapon. She could see her P232 on the floor next to Matt, where she'd set it down so she could check him.

Kepper saw it, too and raised his own weapon, attempting to force her farther back. Margo struck his gun hand and the shot went wild. A second blow caused him to drop the gun. She aimed a left-handed punch at Kepper's face – he dodged the brunt of the blow, but the dangling handcuff sliced across his cheek, eliciting a howl of pain. Enraged, Kepper launched himself at Margo, bearing her to the floor beneath his greater weight. Margo found herself hard-pressed to keep him from establishing a chokehold on her throat.

Behind them, Matt stirred. He tried to raise his head, but the world tilted crazily and he sank back to the floor. He saw the two figures struggling and heard Margo cry out in pain. Every fiber of his being screamed that he should go help her, but his body refused to obey his mind's commands. Gritting his teeth, Matt forced himself up on one elbow, trying to fight though the waves of dizziness that threatened to overcome him. He recognized Margo's birthday gun laying discarded on the floor and reached out for it. His fingers closed around the weapon, but he couldn't seem to lift it. "Margo!" he yelled, sliding the gun across the floor in her direction, then collapsing again.

Margo saw the weapon heading her way and strained to reach it, twisting and writhing in Kepper's grasp. He caught her wrist just shy of the gun and slammed her hand hard against the floor. She choked back an exclamation of pain, trying to stay focussed on her goal.

Matt clawed his way painfully across the carpet until he could grab one of Kepper's legs. That caused just enough distraction for Margo to free her hand and grasp her prize. Kepper kicked Matt viciously in the face, but the action shifted his weight enough for Margo to free her arm and smash the gun into the side of his head.

Kepper howled in agony, forgetting Matt in his pain. Margo heaved him off of her, aiming the P232 as she stood.


Benny Ray Riddle was on the steps leading to the upper reaches of the hotel when two shots rang out. Abandoning subtlety, he took the rest of the steps two at a time, and kicked in the door when it didn't open immediately. He burst into the hallway, rifle leveled to fire.

Benny Ray's quick eyes took in the fallen man on the floor, and two figures huddled in the corner. He winced as he kicked a pistol away from the body. Kepper – if that's who it was – had a gaping chest wound. His face was a bloody mask from a head shot. He bent quickly to perform a perfunctory – and useless - check for vitals, then went to check on his friends.

Margo was sitting in the corner of the hallway. Her arms were wrapped around a semi-conscious Matt in a fierce embrace. Her face was deathly pale and she stared fixedly at the body of the man who'd caused her so much grief.

"Margo?" Benny Ray asked cautiously. When he received no response, the sniper gingerly reached out and took the P232 from her slack fingers and slipped it into his pocket. "Margo?"

"Is he dead?" she asked in a strange, high-pitched voice.

"Kepper? Yes, darlin', he's dead. He can't hurt nobody no more." He carefully checked Matt's pulse. "Major?"

Matt mumbled something incoherent.

"Say again, sir?"

"Trank... dart," Matt repeated painfully.

"Either of you hit?" Benny Ray asked.

"Don't think so," Matt muttered groggily.

The sniper laid a gentle hand on Margo's shoulder. "Margo? Honey, are you hit?"

Finally she shook her head and tears began to seep from her eyes, escalating to wracking sobs.

Benny Ray moved closer and folded his arms around her. "Just let it go, darlin'... it's all over..." he whispered. "Let it go..."


Margo lay on Matt's bed held securely in his arms. She was half-listening to the activity that Benny Ray was directing out in the hallway, but mostly she was reveling in the feel of his heart beating against her cheek and the warmth of his embrace.

There was a polite knock, and then Rico poked his head around the door. He grinned when he saw that they were both more or less awake. "They're just about finished up out there," he announced. "Trout arranged everything. He bypassed the local police, so you shouldn't have any repercussions."

"Thanks," Matt said quietly.

Rico came over to the bed and checked his pulse, then shone a small light in his eyes.

"What's the prognosis?" Margo asked.

"I think he's coming out of it just fine."

"I guess I should feel flattered that Kepper thought I was a big enough threat to have to be taken out from a distance," Matt quipped.

"I still wish you'd let me take you both to the E.R.," Rico prompted once more as he gently examined a bruise on Margo's cheek.

Margo shook her head slightly, burrowing a little closer to Matt, who instinctively tightened his hold on her.

"We're OK," Matt assured his friend.

Rico rolled his eyes heavenward, muttering in Spanish. "All right, but I want you two to take it easy for a few days. When's the last time either of you took a vacation?"

The door opened once more, sans knock, admitting Benny Ray. "'Scuse me, folks, but we're all set out here."

Matt reached out a hand to his friend. "Thanks... I owe you one."

"Ain't no one keepin' score, Major."

"How did you know?" Margo asked.

"I got a call from Trout."

"How did he know?" Rico inquired.

"Well, after that op in Iran, we all thought Kepper was dead and most of his assets were confiscated. In cases like that, though, Trout makes a habit of leaving a couple of accounts in place, monitoring them."

"To see what crawls out of the woodwork?" Margo guessed.

"Yes, ma'am," Benny Ray affirmed. "Anyway, he got a call that someone had accessed one of Kepper's accounts. He tried to call you right away, but the phones were out."

"Why didn't he use the cell phones?" Matt wanted to know.

"Near as we can figure, Kepper hacked into your accounts and disabled them," Benny Ray explained. "When he couldn't get a hold of either one of you, Trout called me. I got over here as soon as I could. Just wish I'd been a little faster," he added apologetically.

"You did just fine," Matt assured him.

Benny Ray nodded slightly in acknowledgement. "Well, you folks need some rest, so I'm gonna get on out of here."

Rico moved to follow, pausing at the door. "You two think about that vacation, OK?"

"We will," Matt promised.

The door closed quietly and they were alone once more.

Matt stroked his hand lovingly through Margo's hair. "A vacation, huh? What do you think of that idea? Just you and me... alone, together..."

"Some place warm?" Margo prompted.

Matt nodded. "With a beach," he said firmly, "So I can see you in a bikini."

Margo giggled, the joyous sound bubbling up and filling the room. "When can we leave?"

"How fast can you pack?" he countered.

"I don't imagine I'll be needing to take very much," she suggested slyly.

"Well, then, what are we waiting for? We have a lot to celebrate!"

Finis.

Copyright © 2000 Kathleen Klatte All Rights Reserved

Kathleen A. Klatte kat@gsidigital.com Kath725@xoommail.com kawklatte@aol.com http://www.homestead.com/Kath725/

Feedback and commentary are most welcome.

Disclaimer: SOF is the property of Rysher, et al; this is a recreational endeavor, no profit is being made and no copyright infringement is intended. Thank you to: Grace (as always!) for proofing and editing.

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