(See chapter 1 for disclaimers)
"Wine and women will make men of understanding to fall away." -- The Apocrypha XIX 2
Several turns later, Amanda's head was spinning. Just when it seemed she'd answered everything he could possibly want to know, he came up with more. She couldn't believe he had actually climbed that palm tree for a coconut that last dare. Spying the half-empty bottle of rum lying between them, it was obvious where they were getting their courage. Lee was telling her more about himself in one night than he had over the entire course of their nearly three-year relationship.
"So whose turn is it? I think I lost track." He scratched his head.
She couldn't help but laugh at the look on his face. He was clearly feeling no pain. The lids of his eyes were lowered as the glow of the fire illuminated his face in the moonless night.
"Unfortunately, I think it's mine." She croaked. Her voice sounded hollow in her ears, the alcohol had obviously made its way into her system as well. She wondered if either of them would remember the events of this evening in the morning light.
"Truth or dare?"
"Truth or dare?"
"Oh, um . . . truth."
"Amanda, would you . . ."
"Would I what?" Her stomach lurched and her mind was going a mile a minute trying to figure out what it was he wanted her to do.
He guzzled more rum and pressed on. "Would you and Alan Chamberlain still be . . . seeing each other if he had stayed in D.C.?" He nervously rubbed his bearded chin, waiting for her reply.
Gazing into her partner's eyes, she could see he was waiting for a very specific answer. An answer, perhaps that would direct their ever-confusing relationship. She was tired of playing games. She wanted him to know how she felt about him—about them—together. By the look in his eyes, she was certain that's what he wanted too. Taking a deep breath, she summoned up her courage. "Lee, even if Alan had moved to D.C., I wouldn't be interested in seeing him as anything more than friends. He was a nice enough man, but he wasn't . . . the one." She peered longingly into his eyes, trying to communicate the words she couldn't bring herself to say. "Do you know what I mean?"
"Yeah, I think I do."
She shivered and rubbed her arms as the cool night breeze made its way up the beach.
"Cold? Let me throw on another log. Why don't you look through my pack—there's a long sleeve shirt in there, I think. It's not much but it should help a little."
"Thanks." After a bit of searching she was wrapped in his shirt. The distinct smell of her partner wafted thru her senses and she hugged her arms in delight. Reaching for the bottle on the other side of him, she brushed up against his thigh. "Sorry, I . . ." She held up her hand, indicating the bottle and then sat back down. Taking a sip for strength she plunged ahead. "Truth or dare?"
"Remember the Sallee case a couple weeks ago?" At his nod she continued. "What would you have done if my family hadn't come home early?"
"You mean, when we—."
"Yeah." She smiled shyly.
"I would have kissed you soundly." His lopsided grin tugged at her heart.
"Really? Well, I dare you to finish what you started." Her hand covered her mouth as soon as the words escaped. "Oh my gosh! It's the rum! I can't believe I said that!"
"Well, even though you're out of turn, Mrs. King . . . I'll take that dare." He winked at her and smiled as he reached over and pulled her closer. His right hand was warm on the back of her neck as he pulled her closer and his left hand caressed her jaw line. His lips were mere millimeters from hers. They've played this scene before—would it finally happen?
The feel of his fingers caressing her cheek and neck were almost overwhelming. Here they were, on a tropical island, not another soul for miles and they were really going to kiss. Finally! She reached up and traced his lower lip with her finger. It was softer than she ever imagined. Licking her lips, she was ready as his mouth moved to cover hers.
A branch snapped in the shadows and they rolled apart. Lee caught her eye and brought his finger to his lips as they stared into the darkness. She nodded and watched as he grabbed the end of a thick log from the fire.
Amanda looked at Lee in shock. "The rescue team?" She whispered. What they'd been waiting on for two long days had finally come. Their rescue team was here. So why didn't either of them look pleased to see them?
Lee grumbled something incoherent and then jabbed the log back into the fire. "Over here!"
"Time flies, death urges, knells call, Heaven invites, Hell threatens." – Edward Young
Lee groaned at the sight of their rescue team. Trudging through the sand behind them was none other than Billy and Francine.
Francine's mischievous expression said it all. He braced himself for what he was sure to be typical Francine Desmond. Her lips pursed together as she studied their surroundings. "Well, well, well. Isn't this cozy. Nice shirt, Amanda." She was consistent if nothing else!
"Knock it off, Francine. It gets cold out here at night." Lee gave Amanda a reassuring look and then rolled his eyes.
"I don't know, it seems pretty warm to me." She continued.
"Are you two ok? Any injuries?" Billy's quelling glare stifled Francine, at least for the time being. Lee was thankful for any reprieve.
"Yes—" Lee began only to be cut off by a slightly intoxicated Amanda.
"No, sir." She hiccupped and brought her fingers to her mouth in embarrassment.
"Yes." Cocking his head he glared at her, daring her to argue with him. "Amanda has a big goose egg on her head. Something gave her a good whack in the crash. She needed stitches but it's a little late for that now."
"Ok. We'll have Dr. McJohn take a look when we get back. We saw the wreckage on our way in. You two really are lucky. We weren't sure what we were going to find once we found you. I'll go let the pilot know we'll be leaving soon. We're clear on the other side of the island."
Lee rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. The memory of the crash bombarding his senses but he quickly squelched them. Now was not the time to relive those moments. They needed to get off this island and get back to the comforts of home where he could better hide his feelings.
Francine eyed their camp suspiciously. Lifting up the half-empty bottle of liquor she cleared her throat—making sure to get everyone's attention before continuing. "Another way of fighting off that nip in the air, Scarecrow?" Before Lee could respond Amanda reached up and snatched the bottle from the blonde agent's hand.
"Thank you, I was looking for that." She stuffed the bottle into her pack. Whirling around, she marched in the direction of the helicopter.
Lee stared at her retreating form before turning his gaze to Francine who stood dumbfounded, and he nudged her in the ribs. "It's good stuff!" He winked and then scooped up his pack before following Amanda.
Billy and Amanda had already reached the helicopter and were loading up as he approached, so he stayed back a bit and listened in. "Sir, when Lee and I were exploring the island we came across a downed plane that had obviously been there for a while. Lee thought maybe a few years but with the heat he wasn't sure. There were drugs and money on the plane, Sir."
"Well, then maybe the mission wasn't a total bust after all. We'll call in a search team to take care of it, Amanda."
"Sir, the pilot . . . will the Agency notify his family?"
"We'll do what we can, Amanda."
"Yes, sir." Her shoulders slumped forward and she grasped the handle on the helicopter to pull herself in the back. Lee reached for her hand to help her in and she turned to face him. Each giving a smile but never saying a word, they settled themselves in the back, preparing for the long ride to the airport.
Reaching for her hand, Lee whispered in her ear. "We'll find his family, Partner. I promise." She smiled and squeezed his hand.
A few moments later he felt her hand go limp. Her head rested against the window--she was asleep and they hadn't even taken off yet. He was surprised she had lasted as long as she had with the amount of rum she'd consumed. "Sweet dreams, Amanda." he whispered.
"Turbulence is life force. It is opportunity. Let's love turbulence and use it for change." -- Ramsay Clark
Lee lay sprawled out on his couch reading the Sunday paper. It had been nearly twenty-four hours since they'd returned home from the island and he hadn't talked to Amanda since their debriefing the day before. She had looked as exhausted as he felt. He hoped she'd have a chance to sleep but knowing how teenage boys were he doubted it.
Drinking the rum hadn't been the best idea but at the time it seemed logical. They had failed in their mission to bring down the large weapons dealer, Brenes, and had just gone through a traumatic experience that they were lucky enough to walk away from. On top of that, they were stranded on a deserted island not knowing when they would be rescued. Images of Amanda trying to sing the national anthem without messing up the words came to mind and he couldn't help but laugh. "Well worth the hangover!" He'd barely gotten the words out when he heard a knock at the door.
Opening it, he found his lovely partner on the other side--a bandage covering her right temple. There she stood--smiling—holding the half-empty bottle of rum. "We have a game to finish, Stetson!" She whizzed past him and plopped down on the couch.
"We wh . . .? Yeah, I guess you're right. But I don't think we need this anymore." He moved the bottle to the table behind her and sat down next to her. Looking into her sparkling eyes he realized he could easily get lost in them if he wasn't careful. This was it. There was no going back now. They had crossed that fuzzy line they'd been tiptoeing around for months--the line between friendship and passion.
"Amanda, about what happened on the island . . ."
She groaned. "You aren't going to bring out that tired old speech again, are you?"
"Speech?" He really wasn't sure what she was talking about.
"Yes, the speech. 'Amanda, it was just two people seeking a little warmth. The alcohol lowered our inhibitions—'"
"Wait! I wasn't going to . . . Do I really sound like that?" He held his head in his hands. This was not going the way he had hoped. This called for different tactics. Slowly turning toward her, he wrapped a lock of her hair around his finger and then slid his other hand around the back of her neck to pull her closer. Lightly, his lips kissed her closed eyelids, then her nose and forehead before finding their home on her mouth. Tentative at first, when he felt her respond his lips demanded entrance into her warm cavern and she obliged.
Her lips were like spun silk. Why had he waited so long to kiss her? Really kiss her! Why hadn't he realized what a wonderful woman she truly was? She was beautiful, smart, funny, and most of all she was incredibly patient—thank God! After a few moments they were forced to break for air. She ran her finger and thumb over his clean-shaven face and pulled him into another kiss. "It wasn't your turn, Stetson!"