Thanks to everyone for the feedback-I hope you enjoy the conclusion!

(Guideline number Four: Once you grab hold deciding when and where to let go is the tricky part.)

Mac wriggled and flailed and kicked all the way out of the ballroom.

"Put me down, Harm." She beat her fists against his back and continued to struggle.

"Be still, for Pete's sake." He clamped his arm more tightly across the back of her legs. His other hand was firmly on her rear end which only seemed to make her squirm more. People cleared a path and cheered as he made his way through the tables, out the door, and into the hotel lobby.

"You are in so much trouble." Her voice was low and dangerous.

"I know," he said agreeably as he pushed open the hotel door and walked out into the cold night air.

"I'm going to kick your six up one side and down the other. You know that, don't you?" She was fuming but the wiggling had subsided somewhat.

"I know," he said again with a laugh. He felt happy and carefree for the first time in months.

She bounced along in silence for awhile, and then she tried a different tactic. "Harm?" Her voice was soft and inviting. "You can put me down now. I'm not mad anymore. I promise."

"Do I look like I just fell off the turnip truck? I'm not putting you down and that's that." He tightened his grip and kept walking.

"Fine, but I hope you throw out your back and can't straighten up for a month." She started wriggling again in earnest and his hold on her was starting to slip when they finally reached his car.

He let her slide down his body and onto her feet, but kept a firm hand on her arm while he unlocked the door. Then he turned to her and made a sincere plea. "Could you just work with me a little on this, Mac?"

"Give me one good reason why I should?" She eyed him curiously, even though she was still obviously annoyed.

"Cause I've sort of climbed out on a limb here, and I could use your cooperation while I figure out what my next move should be." He opened the car door and released her arm making it clear that it was her choice to stay or go.

She closed her eyes and let out a deep sigh. "Okay," she said before climbing into the passenger seat. "But I've waited a long time to experience one of your moves, so you better make it good."

Her answer shocked him but he recovered quickly and with a cocky, "Yes, ma'am," closed her door, sprinted around the car and jumped into the driver's seat.

"And just for the record," she told him as he pulled out into traffic, "I'm still mad at you."

He looked over and grabbed her hand and gave it a quick squeeze. "I know."

"So, are we going back to your place?" she asked.

"No, I don't think that's a good idea." He really hadn't thought this through when he threw her over his shoulder.

"I guess Mattie is there?"

"Actually, she's babysitting for Bud and Harriet and spending the night at their house. I just think it would be better if we find a neutral site. My place and your place both have too many ghosts." He drove out of town and entered a highway leading away from the city. They didn't talk but the unasked questions, unspoken thoughts and unrevealed feelings flying around inside the car made the silence almost deafening.

He was driving along looking out the window as if he had something in mind and after they had driven for several miles he suddenly declared, "This will work!"

He exited the freeway and pulled into a parking lot before risking a glance at Mac to gauge her reaction.

"You've got to be kidding," she protested as she looked at the shabby rundown motel. "The Shangri-la Lodge?" The old neon sign was glowing bright pink and a vacancy sign flickered promisingly right below it.

"What? It's private and we won't be disturbed." He pulled up in front of the office and parked. Before he got out he winked and said. "I'll be right back."

"I feel disturbed just looking at it." Mac shouted after him as he disappeared into the motel office.

He had to ring the bell on the desk several times before a middle aged woman with an orange beehive hairdo came out of the back room. "Hello, handsome. Welcome to the Shangri-la Lodge. Ya need a room?"

"Yes I do, Molly." He read her name tag and softened her up with a smile.

"For the night or by the hour?" Before he could answer she glanced out to the car and gave Mac the once over. "She looks like a pretty classy broad. I'm guessing this will be an all-nighter. The classier they look, the kinkier they are. Am I right?" She reached across the desk and slapped him on the back.

"Absolutely," he agreed and laughed along with her.

He filled out the registration form and paid with cash. She read over the form. "Mr. and Mrs. Harmon Rabb. We get some funny made up names in here, but that's a good one. I'm putting you in the special Xanadu honeymoon suite and as a special bonus for New Year's Eve I'll throw in a party bag at no extra cost." She winked and handed him the room key and a brown paper bag decorated with glitter. "Enjoy yourself, Harmon."

"Thanks, Molly." He left the office with a wave and went back out to the car. He climbed inside and started the engine with only a glance in Mac's direction. She hadn't seemed to grow any fonder of the place while he'd been gone.

"Prepare to be impressed, Mac. Thanks to my charming personality, Molly gave us the honeymoon suite." He drove around to the back of the establishment looking for room 115.

"So, you're on a first name basis with the desk clerk. Do you come here often?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Mac. I would never bring anybody but you to a place like this."

"You are too good to me."

He pulled into the parking spot in front of their room, turned off the car and threw the glittery paper bag into her lap. "We aim to please."

They both got out of the car, and he unlocked the door to the room and they went inside.

Everything was pink and covered in satin-including the round bed. But it looked clean and Mac giggled as she took in the angels that held up the canopy overhead. Harm took off his suit jacket and sat down on the bed watching as she dumped the contents of the party bag out onto the table. It contained a couple of pointed cardboard New Year's hats. She put on one and made Harm put on the other, but he took it right back off. She gave him a party horn and blew hers so that the paper unfurled and hit him in the face before she went back to the other stuff on the table. She picked up a package of condoms and waggled her eyebrows at Harm, and then picked up a little pouch with some printed instructions glued to the front.

Suddenly she yelped with delight and rushed over to the headboard waving the pouch in the air. "Magic Fingers! They gave us quarters for the Magic Fingers. Come on, Harm, let's try it."

"Molly said you'd be into the weird stuff." Harm laughed and took off his shoes while she kicked off hers and they both climbed onto the bed. He put a quarter in the slot and turned the handle. They vibrated in silence for a few minutes, stealing glances at one another and then slowly turned to face each other until they were only a few inches apart.

"Ha-a-arm?" Mac asked bravely.

"Y-e -es." Harm answered quietly.

"Wh-y d-id yo-u pi-ick me up and c-ar-ry me-e out of the ho-o-o-o-tel?"

The Magic Fingers timer dinged and the bed stopped moving. Time stood still as he gazed into her eyes. "I think you know the reason."

She couldn't hide her disappointment as she sat up, took off her hat, and scooted to the edge of the bed.

He grabbed her and pulled her back to him and said softly, "But I'll tell you anyway."

She relaxed back this time settling into his arms and once again they were face to face. "Okay, but no more funny stuff."

"Well the simple answer is that I wanted you to be kissing me at midnight instead of Ian." He grinned in a self conscious manner.

"And what's the complicated answer?" she whispered.

"This has been a hell of a year, Mac. A lot of things have changed and some things may never be the same, but one thing has been constant-and that's the way I feel about you."


"Let me finish, okay? I was so mad after Paraguay that I wanted to forget I ever knew you, but I couldn't. Do you know how many nights I spent dreaming of you while I was off in some God forsaken country? And I vowed that if I ever had you back in my life I would be happy to settle for friendship and not push for more. But I can't do it, not when I have to be around you every day. So I'm asking you to consider giving us a chance. You can't deny this 'thing' between us anymore, and I'm not afraid to call it what it is. I love you, Mac."

"I'm an idiot." She looked like she was about to cry.

"Does that help or hurt my chances?" He grabbed her hand and brought it to his lips.

"You love me?" Her lower lip quivered and her eyes were bright with unshed tears.

He nodded still not sure of what she was feeling.

"And you loved me in Paraguay?" She had tears running down her cheeks now.

He nodded again not seeing the need to hide it from her any longer. "I should have told you then."

"Do you know how long I've been in love with you?" Her voice was squeaky from trying not to cry.

"No, but I rented the honeymoon suite for the whole night instead of by the hour-it's a cheaper rate-so we'll have plenty of time to talk about it. I bet it was since the first time you saw me, wasn't it?" His heart was about to bust apart with fresh hope and open ended love.

Mac ignored him and asked, "What kind of honeymoon only takes a couple of hours?"

"Not ours. I can tell you that. Not that I am pressuring you into marrying me or anything. I'm just saying if we ever do have a honeymoon, I'll spring for the whole night again." He was babbling and she stopped him with a finger to his lips.

"It's almost midnight. Only thirty seconds, Harm."

"You know they say that whatever you're doing at midnight on New Year's Eve then that's what you'll be doing for the rest of the year." He pulled her up against him and raked his fingers gently through her hair.

"Twenty seconds."

"So I guess that means we'll be spending lots of time in no tell motels this year." He tangled his legs with hers and tried to erase any space that separated them.

"Ten seconds."

"I love you, Mac." His mouth hovered impatiently above hers.

"I love you, too, Harm. Five, four, three, two, on-"


"What the he-" Harm cursed and they both jumped apart when the pink princess phone on the night stand started ringing.

"You better answer it. This place might be on fire." Mac sat up and listened as Harm grabbed the phone off the cradle.

"This better be good-oh hi Molly. Oh, I see. Yes well, Happy New Year's to you too. No you didn't interrupt anything. You were right though. Yes. Thanks for the warning. Yes. She's pretty wild. Yes well, same to you. Goodbye."

He hung up the phone and settled back down on the bed and pulled Mac back down with him. "Now where were we?" He tried to kiss her but she held him back.

"Never mind where we were. What was that?"

"Oh, that was Molly, the desk clerk. She said since they can't afford fireworks, and they try to discourage the clientele from shooting their guns, she just calls all the rooms at midnight as a sort of celebration bonus. She said it makes her all teary eyed to hear the phones ringing in the rooms all at the same time."

They settled back into their side by side, face to face position.

"That's either the sweetest thing or the most pathetic thing I've ever heard." Mac traced his eyebrow with her fingertip.

"She said the regulars know not to answer, and they just enjoy letting it ring in the New Year."

"I guess we'll know next year not to answer." She loosened his necktie and started unbuttoning his shirt.

Harm grinned. "I'm going to write it on my calendar. Date with Mac at the Shangri-la Lodge. Try saying that ten times fast. Shangri-la Lodge, Shangri-la Lodge-"

"Are you ever going to kiss me?" Her eyes were wide with longing. Her lips were wet and tempting and his mouth crashed down on hers before she even finished asking the question. He swallowed her in his arms and was knocked off balance by the desire that surged through him. She may have been pinned beneath him, but he was entirely at her mercy.

The night was all theirs, the new year beckoned, and a shared lifetime was a whispered promise in the dark.

So he let go.

He laid down his heart, carried away the prize, and landed on his feet.

The End