28...Islands In The Sun...
Snow was falling heavily outside the window. Charlie set aside the waxing cloth and skis and went to watch it. The mountain was coated and all she could see was white. Nausea pinched at her stomach but it wasn't as bad as when she woke up that morning. It had been hitting her every morning for the past few days. She kept telling herself it was just the stomach flu, but no one else was sick. A little voice in her head tried to make her face reality but she had yet to stop and really listen. This wasn't how it was supposed to happen.
She traced her fingertip across the surface of the cool window, drawing in the condensation that had settled on the glass. She stared at the window and the name she had written on it. Her throat tightened and she bit her lower lip. For the first few days after he left her there at the motel, she'd kept expecting him to show up at the ski lodge. She knew it wasn't a realistic expectation, but one she couldn't resist. Not at first. But it had been nearly two weeks now and she knew he wasn't coming back. But then, he'd told her he wasn't.
A breeze swirled through the falling snow outside and flicked it against the glass. Charlie felt the icy air whirl through the hole in her heart as well. Tears stung her eyes but she blinked them back. Crying wouldn't change anything. It wouldn't bring him back. It was way past time for her to face reality; she was on her own, and soon there would be another who looked to her for love and care.
Her hand flattened on her stomach and she closed her eyes. Though she fought them, a tear managed to escape and slide down her cheek. She didn't feel anything bad towards Bob. He had wanted to stay, it was in his eyes when he'd left her. Perhaps that was why she'd clung to the hope that he would come back. But that hope was gone now, buried deep beneath the Colorado snow and put to its final rest at the base of the majestic Rocky Mountains.
I love you, Bob...please don't forget me. The words fluttered from her heart on delicate wings and she prayed they had the strength to seek him out wherever he was in this vast, cold world. That they would somehow bring him a sense of love and belonging. She had sensed he needed a little of that in his life the moment she had looked into his eyes. Such captivating eyes. The way he had left her, the things he had implied...it possessed all the signs of a bad guy. But she would let nothing and no one depict him as a bad guy to their child. For Charlie, he would always be the White Knight of her story...and the Hero of their child's fantasies.
"God speed." She whispered, her throat tight with tears. "Please be safe."
Behind her, a coin rattled down into the jukebox, and then...
'Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya to Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama...'
Charlie stiffened as the words to the Beach Boys' song Kokomo drifted across the room like a warm, tropical breeze. Her heart shuddered as she slowly turned around.
Leaning casually on the jukebox, Bob flashed her the smile that had made her fall in love with him at first sight. She couldn't move. Surely she was imagining him there. But then he was moving, walking towards her, casually and with that powerful confidence that assured him he was the one person in all the world she wanted to see most.
Her pulse quavered erratically when his hands touched her, drew her into the embrace she thought she would never feel again. When his lips brushed hers, she couldn't respond, still in shock. But as the heat of his mouth began to warm her from the heart out...a low moaning sob shuddered up her throat and she accepted his presence there as sweet reality.
Charlie clung to him as his arms tightened fiercely and their kiss deepened. When he finally drew back, Charlie gasped softly then pressed her face to his throat and finally let the tears flow. He stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head.
The wipers swished rapidly as the fierce downpour beat relentlessly at the windshield of the white Sedan. Emmy Harris turned the wipers up to the last notch but it still did very little to help clear her view of the road ahead. She wasn't exactly sure where she was now. Somewhere along the line she'd taken a wrong turn and now she was lost along a Michigan back road.
The Sedan's headlights stabbed into the darkness but all she could see in the beams was more rain. She slowed the car a bit more, barely able to make out the white line to her right. She was so intent on keeping it in sight, she almost rolled upon the man walking on the shoulder of the road.
"Shit!" She gasped and swerved out a hair away from the edge and towards the center of the road. She passed him by and glanced in her rear view mirror as she touched the brakes. The rain glimmered red and reminded Emmy of blood. The thought chilled her. She tried to get a closer look at the man. He walked with his head down against the driving rain and wore a heavy military jacket. She wondered what kinds of weapons he had concealed beneath that jacket, then instantly felt guilty. She was stereotyping, a result of watching too many movies.
She started to press on the gas and leave him behind when the storm outside surged more violently. It was like the ocean itself was being dumped down on them. She glanced in the rear view mirror again. She could barely even see the man. "Dammit." She groaned and anxiously tapped the steering wheel with her fingertips. She pulled the Sedan to the shoulder and pressed on the brake, bringing it to a full stop.
The man approached the rear of the car, his head ducked low. He didn't seem to realize the car was even there till he was about to walk into the bumper. He stopped and stood motionless, his head still down. Clarice frowned. She knew the smart money was on getting the hell out of there, but for reasons she had yet to figure out, she popped open her door and stepped out. She was instantly drenched and didn't bother with grabbing her jacket as she moved to the rear of the car.
"Hey!" She yelled through the downpour. "Get in! I'll give you a ride!" She thought he hadn't heard her because he just stood there, unresponsive. When she started to holler again, he slowly looked up. She pointed towards the car. "Come on, man! You'll drown out here! Let me give you a lift!"
He just looked at her. She wondered what had made her get out of the car in the first place to offer a stranger on a dark highway a ride. But whatever it was, she couldn't force him to accept. She turned and hurried back to the driver door, slipping inside and out of the downpour. "You want to drown." She whispered as she started the car. "Then drown. I was just trying to be nice."
The passenger door opened suddenly, making her jump. The man got in and closed the door. He looked like a drowned rat. Probably much the way she herself looked, she mused. She held out her hand tentatively, "I'm Emmy."
He didn't acknowledge, just stared out the front windshield.
She raised her eyebrows and cocked her head. "Okay then." She murmured as she withdrew her hand and put the Sedan into gear.
"Stefan." He said low, his voice deep and course, but not in an unattractive way. In fact, it raked her skin in that pleasing way a man's beard stubble feels when he's kissing all over a woman's body.
Emmy flinched inwardly. Where the hell had that come from? She looked at the man and her previous thoughts resurfaced as her eyes moved over his beard stubbled face. Despite his drowned rat persona, he was rather attractive. He stared at her with piercing eyes, much more intense and clear than she had expected.
"It's nice to meet you." She offered her hand again. "Stefan."
Stefan looked at the woman's outstretched hand. He shouldn't touch her. Not at all. But the quiet invitation in her eyes, an invitation he was sure she wasn't even aware was there, pulled at him like a flint of steel to a magnet.
He reached out slowly and slid his strong masculine hand into her soft slender feminine grasp. His hand closed around hers as an instant wave of heat rushed through him. He held her eyes as the fire raged inside him. So much hotter than ever before. It startled him, even frightened him. He drew his hand back quickly.
"It's nice...to meet you, too." He swallowed tightly. "Emmy." He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. He shouldn't have gotten in the car. He shouldn't be here with this woman now. She had a gentle innocence about her that he didn't want to damage...and yet was the very thing he craved.
He turned his face away from her as the Sedan pulled back onto the road and picked up speed. He stared at her reflection in the passenger window.
Do you know what you just let into your car?
Just a note for clarity - "Stefan" is one of the Hybrid experiments that Jonathon and Clarice were speaking of.
To My Readers: I want to thank all of you so much for taking the time to read this story. It is my first "complete" novel and my "baby" :) This story was actually developed over many years, beginning as a novella and going through many transformations before finally coming to rest in the novel you just read. I love my characters and may some day continue their stories. I've considered writing a story based on Hunter (Bob) and Charlie. For a character who sort of inserted himself into my story, I got a bit attached to "Bob" :) And of course, Jonathon and Clarice. Their love and relationship is too unique and beautiful to just "end" right here :)
I wrote the epilogue as an opening to possibly continue the larger aspect of the story based on new characters with the same link to the lab Jonathon and Alec were associated with. I'll just have to wait and see if that develops.
If you liked this story, I would suggest you check out my other novel (a work in progress) "Safe Haven". It isn't listed under erotica but it is filled with much of the same level of passion between the characters, as well as suspense. I find it much easier to stay interested in a story when there are others wanting to read what happens next :) So, if you check it out, great! If not, that's okay too.
So again - Thank you so much for reading and finding this story worth reading all the way through to the end. I hope there was nothing that left any reader feeling cheated or unfulfilled by the end of it all. But if there was, please let me know. Thank you for your all your wonderful and encouraging comments - they were greatly appreciated! And I hope to see you all around the "neighborhood" of my other stories :) You guys are great! God bless.