He dropped her on the bed and was on top of her in an instant. He peeled her clothes away like he was peeling a fresh sweet, ripe piece of fruit.
Hunter shed his clothes and pulled her to him, her hot naked body scalding against his skin. His hunger for her put him in literal pain. The urgency in him was uncharacteristic for him, but he couldn't resist it. His mouth was on her breasts as he took her with a desperation that both shocked and excited him. The urgency within her equaled his own. She gasped and cried out and clawed his skin as he brought her to orgasm almost instantly.
The willingness of her body to give him what he craved excited him even more. When he suddenly released, it was powerful and fierce, wrenching a deep, guttural cry from his core. Even before he could begin to calm, the movement of her hot, damp body reignited the fire inside him. This wasn't uncommon for him. He had often conducted all night sessions, the woman passing out from exhaustion before him. He repositioned and took her from behind.
Feeling the heat of her body engulfing him, the willing way she accepted him, how just touching her skin affected him on a level he'd never experienced with a woman before...all of it combined together convinced him he could spend the rest of his life having sex with just this one woman.
Outside, a big rig sped by on the two lane road, reminding Hunter where his duty lay. He groaned and closed his eyes. Her skin was hot and damp beneath his hands as he gripped her tightly, pulling her back to him again and again until he felt himself peaking once more. He brought her to climax multiple times before finally emptying himself inside her.
Even then, he knew he could go on. But he couldn't stay, as bad as he wanted to. He felt like he was cheapening this amazing experience when he drew back from her and immediately began to dress - when what he really wanted was to just lay with her for awhile, feel her body beside him as they allowed themselves to calm down before then taking their time to really explore one another.
She laid on the bed, her beautiful naked body glistening with sweat and flushed with the heat of their intense love making. And that's what it had been, he realized. Love making. Not just sex. With other women, it had been just sex. But not with her.
There was a look in her eyes as she watched him dress. A look that sliced at his heart and mind. Did she think this was all he'd wanted from the start? He had to go, but he refused to leave her with that suspicion to poison this memory for her. He rested one knee on the bed and leaned down, kissing her soft lips. "I can't stay." He groaned low against her lips. "I want to, more than you know. But there's something I have to do." He kissed her again, feeling her need for him to stay with her.
"Will you come back?" She whispered through their kiss, her breath sweet and tantalizing in his mouth. "When you're finished?"
He pressed his forehead to hers and closed his eyes. "No." He murmured. "I can't be with you...and still do the things I do."
She didn't ask what it was he did. She didn't beg him to stay. She just kissed his lips one more time and whispered, "If you ever decide you don't want to do those things anymore..." She stroked his face with her fingertips. "You know where to find me. We could run away to some tropical island..."
When Hunter walked out of that motel room, he wondered at her words. And for the first time in his professional career, he pondered the possibility of being something other than a hired killer.
The tracer device was blinking and beeping when he reached the Cobra and, like a magic wand, vanquished his thoughts of a possible career change. He slid in behind the wheel and turned the key in the ignition. The Shelby Cobra purred to life. Hunter shifted into gear then cast one more look at the motel door, behind which a most exquisite woman lay naked and alone, longing for his presence.
"Goodbye, Charlie." He murmured as his body, mind and heart tingled with the memory of her recent touch. "It was wonderful to meet you."
The 1964 Shelby Cobra backed away from the motel and rolled up to the edge of the two lane road then idled motionless for a moment. The tracer indicated that the current target was close. Much closer than Hunter had expected. He guided the car out onto the road and sped away without looking back, knowing full well that to look back would be to turn around and never leave.
"What happened to me and my family...the first time?" Clarice asked quietly, her voice still thick with tears.
He shook his head. How could he tell her? "Trust me." He whispered. "You don't want to know."
She stood up and went to him. "Tell me."
"Clarice..." Tears burned in his eyes at the memory that he couldn't vanquish. She had been spared, she didn't have the memory to haunt her dreams, but he'd experienced it as surely as if he'd been right there.
She touched his arm. "I used to have nightmares about that night." She said in a near whisper. "About what would've happened if you hadn't saved us. They were so real...like memories rather than just dreams." Her eyes turned glossy with tears as she looked at Jonathon. "Were they somehow...memories?"
"No." Jonathon whispered. "That isn't possible. For you...it never happened. They're just dreams." He closed his eyes briefly. "Just really bad dreams."
"Is that the nightmare you were having when I woke you?" She asked quietly. "Is that why you grabbed me like that and held onto me so tight?" She slid her arms around him and pressed her lips to the base of his throat. "There was only one other time that someone grabbed me and held me like that." Tears slid down her face. "Just after you...disappeared from our home twenty years ago. I found my mom laying on the bed, crying. When she opened her eyes and saw I was okay, she grabbed hold of me, just like you did, and held me as tight." She kissed his throat. "It's the way you hold someone when you thought they were lost to you...and you suddenly realize they're still there, still within arm's reach." She kissed him again. "Safe."
18...The Perfect Shot...
The 1964 Shelby Cobra sat silently in the heavy shadows of the thick evergreens. Hunter watched with narrowed eyes as his target paced back and forth along the gravel walk in front of the guide station. He didn't approach him or make his presence known. His objective was to merely observe and follow until the target let him to Lancaster and the woman. Orlando wanted the woman dead, she was of no consequence to him, but he wanted Lancaster neutralized and retrieved alive.
Hunter reached beneath the seat and withdrew a Beretta 9mm. He held the handgun lightly and rested it on his thigh. As with all his other possessions, the Beretta was unique in that it was gold plated and intricately engraved. It had been designed to honor fallen soldiers and law officers by being shot in the 21-gun salute. He'd purchased it for a pretty penny but found it well worth its price.
He thought about his female target. He preferred it when his targets were men, but when the job called for it, he'd put down women as quickly and efficiently as he had the men. He tried to picture the female target's face, imagine what she looked like. Not that it mattered. It would have no hearing on his ability to take her out. It wasn't easier for him to eliminate an unattractive woman than a beautiful woman. It was all the same to him. A target was a target.
Charlie's face rose unbidden when he tried again to picture what the woman target looked like. He tried to force away Charlie's image but it lingered relentlessly. His eyes remained on the target as he continued to pace back and forth, but his mind began to wander. Which wasn't custom for him at all. His mind was always focused one hundred percent on the job at hand. Except now, it did wander. Back to the motel. Was Charlie still there, perhaps still laying naked on the bed, hoping he would change his mind and return?
The sudden throbbing in his crotch snapped him back to attention. His moment with Charlie had been mind blowing, but it was over. Even as he sat there, she was already a part of his past. Fate hadn't meant her to be anything more. A mere interlude in the theater of life. He straightened in his seat and forced himself to focus on what was before him, rather than on what he'd left behind.
The target stopped pacing, stood motionless for a moment then walked to one of the trucks parked in the parking lot. It was an old red Ford pickup with a gun rack in the rear window. He punched his fist through the driver door window, unlocked the door and pulled it open. Once inside, he hot wired the truck and backed out of the parking lot.
Hunter was moderately impressed. He wasn't just a mindless lab rat. He knew how to think. Hunter wasn't sure if that was a good thing, all things considered, but a thinking killer was much more efficient at his job than one who killed irrationally. He should know.
When the Ford pickup pulled out on the two lane road and headed further up the mountain, Hunter started the Cobra and followed.
The late afternoon sun was slowly dropping behind the treetops. A heavy, biting chill crept onto the air the moment the sunlight began to fade. The shadows beneath the trees darkened and seemed to creep forward with the stealth of a deadly predator. Clarice shuddered beneath her thick jacket as Jonathon stood at the bottom of the back porch steps and loaded his arms with firewood.
"What is it?" He asked.
She flinched and looked away from the darkening trees. "Nothing." He eyed her doubtfully then packed on a couple more logs. She watched him weigh down his arms. "I could carry an armload too."
"I can get it." He walked back up the steps with ease, the huge load of firewood filling his arms. "No need for you to over exert yourself."
"Over exert myself?" Clarice smiled and frowned at the same time. She followed him back inside. "You don't seem too concerned about me over exerting myself when we're in bed."
Jonathon dumped the load of firewood into a wooden crate next to the fireplace, dusted himself off then smiled at Clarice. "That's different." he said. "You're not really straining yourself."
Clarice raised an eyebrow skeptically. "Says you."
He chuckled and grabbed the front of her jacket and pulled her to him, kissing her warmly on the mouth. "You telling me that it's too much work making love to me?" He murmured against her lips.
"Not at all." She whispered back. "Physical exertion can be quite good and healthy. So why are you treating me like I'm made of glass all the sudden?"
He pulled her closer and unfastened the front of her jacket, slipping his hands inside and around her waist. "I consider it my job to look out for you."
"You were looking out for me just fine before." She said. "Nothing's changed."
Jonathon gazed down into her dark eyes. Something had changed, she just didn't know it yet. He didn't just have one person to look out for. There were two now. And he had no intention of losing either of them.
"Just being cautious." He kissed her again.
She drew back from his kiss and eyed him suspiciously. "What're you not telling me?"
"We're not supposed to be keeping secrets." She pressed.
"No secrets." He assured. Was it his fault he knew the things he knew? He hadn't set out to discover them just so he could keep them from her. Still, it was on the tip of his tongue to tell her. He knew she would be so happy. But under the circumstances it might also put too much pressure on her. Trying to keep one another alive was stress enough, she didn't need to know just yet that she had another life in her hands as well.
"If you say so." She relented doubtfully.
"I do." He murmured as he lowered his mouth and nuzzled her ear. He peeled off her jacket as he began to kiss the curve of her jaw with purpose.
A low sighing moan rose in Clarice's throat. "Sometimes, boy." She whispered a bit breathless. "I think you're more machine than man. You never turn off."
"Haven't heard you complain before." He nibbled her earlobe.
Her pulse was already quickening. "I'm not complaining now." She moaned. "Just stating a fact."
He scooped her up in his arms. "Well state your facts upstairs." He said as he carried her up the thick log stairs to the master bedroom.
The cross hairs were dead centered on the woman's temple as Hunter's finger rested gently against the trigger. He'd followed the target to the locked gate, finding the Ford pickup abandoned outside the gate. Hunter had been forced to leave the Shelby Cobra there as well. He'd grabbed the Harris M89 rifle from the case in the trunk of the car and followed on foot. He hadn't caught site of the target again, but knew he was out there somewhere, concealed in the trees and the thickening shadows.
Hunter had picked a spot amidst the shadows of the trees that gave him a clear view of the large cabin. He'd caught movement inside, but couldn't get a solid line of sight. A moment before he was about to change position, Lancaster and the woman entered the bedroom upstairs. The large side window gave him a perfect unobstructed view of the two targets. Lancaster had been carrying the woman in his arms and laid her on the bed.
Unbidden images of Charlie had broken his focus, but he had it back now as he watched the couple through his scope, drawing them in close. They were naked on top of the bed, the woman straddling Lancaster, their bodies moving together in a gentle urgency. He slowly moved the scope site down the woman's body then back up, centering the cross hairs once again on her temple. It would be so easy to take her out right then and there. The shot was perfect. But still, his finger hovered, unmoving, on the trigger.
Lancaster leaned forward and wrapped his arms around the woman, pulling her tight against him as their love making intensified. She clung to him as they kissed long and deep.
Please stay. Charlie's soft, pleading voice swirled through his mind. Hunter blinked, looked away from the scope and rubbed his eye then refocused. The woman's back was arched as Lancaster held her upright. Her eyes were closed and her mouth slightly open as a tension gripped her face.
Images of his session with Charlie began to snap through his head. His groin began to ache as his crotch throbbed fiercely. His pulse quickened as he watched through the sites as the woman climaxed then clung to Lancaster in ecstasy. He centered the cross hairs on her face but all he could see was Charlie's face as she had given herself to him over and over again.
"Shit." Hunter lowered the weapon and rubbed his eyes. His face was tight with both anger and confusion. Why the hell hadn't he just pulled the trigger? She was right there, in his site. The shot couldn't be more perfect. His jaw tight with determination, he brought the rifle up fast and aimed, bringing the woman's head into the cross hairs once again. He still had the shot. But his finger refused to pull the trigger. For the first time in his professional killing career, he took a moment to consider how him doing his job would affect others.
As he watched Lancaster hold onto the woman in a protective, desperate embrace and release inside her, Hunter could feel Charlie in his arms once more. What would it do to him to have Charlie die in his arms, her blood all over him, no way to save her as she slipped away from him forever?
Hunter lowered the rifle. He would complete this job, but not like this. He would take her out later and she would be just as dead. But he wasn't a cold blooded killer. He wouldn't curse Lancaster with the memory of the woman he loved dying violently in his arms.