Yay, new chapter! This one is a lot longer, for those of you who requested that. I really liked this chapter, so hopefully you all will too! Please review!

Chapter 19: Desperate Love


The wedding happened only two months later. For a little while there, CeeCee wasn't sure what she wanted to do. She said she was on the fence between having the baby or the wedding first. In the end, she picked the wedding. When I asked her what made her decide, she said, "Suze, do you honestly think I'm going to be looking my best after I have the baby? I'd rather be glowing like I am now, then looking like a vampire crack addict at my wedding."

So that pretty much decided it.

The wedding was supposed to be a small, quaint gathering of close friends and family. But when I, squealing, told her that Jesse was going to be able to make it, she decided to expand the guest list a little to include Jesse and, of course, his five sisters. I didn't even ask her; she insisted that they all come to her wedding. Then, of course, we had to fight back the paparazzi that wanted to crash the wedding, but kicking butt is what I do best.

Planning for the wedding was fun at first. CeeCee seemed to love it, and my mother, having been asked to help by Cee and her mother, was having a blast. My dear mother kept telling me to get engaged already, so she could plan my wedding. Yeah, Mom, don't know if that's going to happen. Because, really, if Jesse and I ever get married, I want it to be completely the opposite of what my mother wants: small and peaceful.

After a bit, though, the planning got a little redundant and annoying, so I decided to quit while I was ahead. Not that anyone really noticed. My mother and Cee's mother had it covered. Apparently I was more of a hindrance than a help, anyway. Especially when, after being relegated to filling out invitations, I had messed up on one envelope. My mother quickly put me on stuffing envelopes instead. That got boring pretty quickly.

I spent those last couple weeks before the wedding helping out Father Dominic at the Mission. Most of it was mediator business, but sometimes he needed help with the summer camp, which was new that year. It was more of a bible camp, really. But the kids didn't seem to care. It was fun sometimes, actually; the kids were so carefree and innocent (well, most of them anyway) and it was better to be around them than the constantly-worrying adults in my life. Father Dom liked having me around, since he claimed I had a background in childcare. Not really, since I only worked two summers at the Pebble Beach Resort as a babysitter.

I didn't really liked to be reminded of that, since that was where I had originally met Paul: babysitting for his dear little brother, Jack. That poor little boy whose older brother wouldn't even tell him why he was seeing ghosts; Paul didn't even help Jack with his ability when he had the same one. Not once did he reassure him that he wasn't crazy. That was, of course, where I came in. After one summer with me, dear Jacky turned into a spry little eight-year-old. His parents thought of me as a godsend, when really I only told the kid that he wasn't the only one that could see dead people.

Unlike Father Dom, though, Sister Ernestine had her doubts about me. Doubts that she voiced at every chance she got. After attending the Mission for two years with her breathing down my neck, I learned to ignore her. Or at least to be condescending in a polite sort of way.

I soon realized why Father Dom really wanted me to help out with the summer camp. Two of the kids attending were mediators. It surprised me, actually. I mean, one was enough, but two? What, was Carmel becoming a breeding ground for ghost whisperers? Apparently so.

While the counselors were busy playing with the kids, I watched the ones that were suspected mediators. Sure, I played with the other kids too, but this was actually my first priority. Tommy and Frankie were their names. No, they were not both boys. Tommy was a boy and Frankie, short for Francine (which she was vehemently opposed to being called), was a girl. Tommy was a golden-haired, hazel-eyed, tan boy with a smile that could even melt the heart of…well, me. Frankie, on the other hand, was a dark-haired, dark-eyed little girl with ivory skin. Though she hated being pale now, as she kept telling me, she would be envied for her lustrous skin in a few years. Needless to say, I took a great liking to both of them and, after asking CeeCee if it was okay, invited them to the wedding.

Tommy and Frankie were great kids, though Frankie was a bit of a troublemaker. When I brought this up to Father Dom, he only smiled, stating that it took one to know one. I just scowled at him and went back out to help the kids. Frankie, who was eleven, was a year older than Tommy was, though they both seemed to hit it off right away.

After confirming that Frankie and Tommy were, indeed, mediators, Father Dom talked to their parents individually when they came to pick up their kids, telling them that their children had special gifts from God that needed special attention. The parents completely gobbled it up. When Frankie and Tommy came back on that first Saturday for lessons, Father Dom and I told them about us and explained to them what they were. Frankie, just like me, as Father Dominic kept reminding me, immediately hated it. Tommy, though, loved it. He thought it was cool that, out of only a handful of people, he got picked to see dead people. His words, not mine.

Even after only working with them for a few weeks, I grew to really care about those kids. I felt like it was my responsibility to look after them, considering my expertise (ha!) in the field. They really grew on me, though. Even Frankie's incessant commentary on my appearance ("could your jeans be any tighter?"). I was with the kids as much as I could be, telling them stories of my various ghostly escapades.

And when Jesse arrived a few days before the wedding, I brought him over that Saturday to meet Father Dom and the kids. Before I led him into Father Dom's office, where the children's 'lessons' were, I told him that Father Dominic and the kids were like me, that they could see ghosts. Jesse, who had learned months ago what I was, seemed excited to meet more people like me. It made me happy, and extremely grateful, that he took all of it in stride.

Father Dominic and the kids, of course, took an instant liking to him. Not that I was really worried about that, actually. After learning that Jesse knew about us mediators (but was not one himself, much to Father Dominic's disappointment), Father Dominic took it as his sole responsibility to tell Jesse some extremely embarrassing stories of my high school career. And not all of them were ghost-related.

But anyway, back to the wedding.

CeeCee, of course, looked amazing. Having only been two months along, her bump wasn't even showing yet, so she was able to get a normal wedding gown. She went with black, actually, telling me that the white would only make her looked 'washed out.' That girl has quite the sense of humor, I'm telling you. Of course, the black only made her look whiter, which was quite a feat. But, despite her not wanting to look like a vampire bride, she totally did. I should have insisted on the glow-in-the-dark plastic fangs and blood makeup.

The bridesmaids, including me, wore lavender off-the-shoulder gowns, as to complement CeeCee's eyes (this was, and I take pride in it, my idea). The dresses, contrary to what most bridesmaids dresses are like, were beautiful. I, for one, would like to use mine again. And not just because it cost a fortune. The shoes were another story. Adam's bow-tie even matched our dresses.

The ceremony kicked ass, mostly because Father Dom was doing the marrying. It most-assuredly would not have been the same without him. The married couple's kiss definitely heated up the room a little, too. I even saw a lady in the front row closest to where I was standing cover her son's eyes. It was quite comical.

After the ceremony, the bride and groom did typical wedding stuff, such as cutting the cake and shoving it in each other's faces. Which, I noticed, CeeCee did with extreme relish. Adam didn't even look surprised.

I decided to take a time-out when CeeCee threw the bouquet. I could hear all the girls squealing, "Throw it to me!" I saw Cee chuck it behind her. I knew she was never good at sports or anything, but seriously. So I shouldn't really have been surprised when it landed right in my lap (and now that I think about it, she probably has pretty good aim). Jesse, who was standing a few feet away talking to my step-brother, Jake, started chuckling. I scowled at him, throwing the bouquet back into the crowd of females who were staring at me dejectedly, and even some, hostilely.

Not long after that I got pulled into a circle of people talking about politics. Jesse was by my side, with his arm wrapped around my waist, so it wasn't too bad. But still, I hated talking about politics. Jesse, on the other hand, was talking animatedly with the rest of the group. Well, I shouldn't have been surprised. It was only a few months ago that he was the king of his own country. The people in our little circle knew this as well, so they were listening to Jesse with rapt attention. I, on the other hand, was trying, and failing miserably, to not look bored. When the conversation was handed over to someone else, Jesse gave me a reassuring smile - one that promised me I would definitely not be bored later. I shivered in expectation, which only made Jesse's smile wider. I admit it, I was grinning like a fool.

At least until I heard someone's shrill voice saying, "Trish! What are you doing? Can't you see he's evil? I know he's hot, but come on!"

I looked at Jesse and the people next to me, who were all still talking as if they hadn't heard this ridiculously high shriek. Then I inwardly groaned. Of course, some ghost just had to crash the wedding. Meanwhile, Trish's glowing companion was still shrieking high enough that, if she were still alive, there would not be one piece of glass left intact within a mile radius.

With a smile pasted to my face, I politely excused myself from the circle of people. They gave me smiles in return, CeeCee's mother telling me, "Don't be gone too long! Pictures soon!" To which I gave another fake smile. Don't get me wrong, having pictures of Cee and myself on her wedding day would be awesome, but…actually getting the pictures taken? Not so awesome. I'm not exactly the most photogenic person out there. Jesse gave me a confused look and gestured to go with me, but I just shook my head and smiled.

As calmly as I could, I walked toward where I could see the glowing figure. She was standing next to Trish, who was standing in front of the fountain and, of course, talking on her cell phone. What did Cee ever see (ha-ha, I'm so hilarious) in this woman? I mean, Cee and I always didn't get along with the phone-attached-to-the-ear types with platinum blonde hair. But maybe there was something about her that I just didn't see. Could be. But probably not.

The ghost was a girl around the age of sixteen, with strawberry blonde locks and the clearest blue eyes I've ever seen. Without looking at her too closely, I realized that this must be Trish's sister. Trish's dead sister. The resemblance - the hair, the eyes, just the face in general - was striking. Even though I didn't like Trish too much, I still felt bad. Losing someone you love, such as a sister, is never easy. So maybe there was a reason for her bitchiness, after all. Not that it exactly excuses her behavior, but it made me understand her a little more.

"He took me away!" the girl shrieked again, still trying, and failing, to get her sister's attention. "He took me to this creepy place and left me there!" The ghost girl threw herself into the fountain, probably hoping that she'd make a splash or something. She didn't. "And then this weird dude in a gladiator outfit told me I wasn't supposed to be there and I just sorta ended up back here… He kinda looked like Russell Crowe, actually. A much cuter version, I must say…" Obviously this particular ghost had the attention span of a three year old.

The thing was, I knew exactly what this teenage ghost was talking about. Shadowland. Someone had taken her there. But who, besides me, could do that?

Oh, who am I kidding? I already knew who it was; and if I didn't, it wouldn't be that hard to figure out, since the person in question had come up behind me, whispering in my ear, "Hello, Susie. Fancy seeing you here."

I whirled around, which, in retrospect, was not the greatest idea. All it did, besides me getting to see Paul Slater's smirk, was put me flush up against him, where I so did not want to be at that moment. Especially since my royal boyfriend was only about a few yards behind me. I briefly wondered how I hadn't noticed him at all before this. Well, I suppose it wasn't that difficult to hide from me at a wedding where I was the maid of honor - the first time I had really gotten to be with Jesse the whole day was in that political circle.

I took a few steps back before hissing, "What are you doing here, Paul?"

Which only served to deepen his smirk. "You haven't met my girlfriend, Suze? She's over there," he said, pointing at, of course, Trish, whose spectral bodyguard was still going on about Russell Crowe, though Trish still couldn't hear a word of it.

"Oh yeah? And where does her sister's ghost come in, Paul?" I asked, annoyed. I think I already knew at that point. Or, at least, something along the lines.

Paul's ice-blue eyes twinkled, like he thought something was funny. "Cute little thing, isn't she? She's actually Trish's older sister. Died when Trish was only thirteen. Poor girl."

It didn't sound like he was too sympathetic, though.

I felt my face heating up, but from anger instead of embarrassment. "So you took her to Shadowland to make her feel better, huh?" I spat.

He just shrugged, like he had not a care in the word. "She got on my nerves," he said simply, examining his fingernails.

I crossed my arms over my chest in the infamous pissed-off pose. "She did, did she? Mind telling me how she got back here?"

He raised an eyebrow at me, his eyes turning icy. "I don't really think it's any of your business, Suze."

I narrowed my eyes at him, unconsciously taking a step closer. "What are you doing here, really?"

He just grinned, stepping closer to me as well. "What, you think I came just for you?" I did, actually, but I wasn't going to confirm it. "I was surprised, actually, to find you here. And the maid of honor, no less! By the way," he said, giving me a lingering once-over, "that dress is quite fetching."

I'll give you fetching. Of course, I didn't say this aloud. I didn't believe him for a minute, either. He had known I was going to be here, because of Trish. But what I couldn't figure out is how he knew Trish to begin with. Couldn't have been a stroke of luck on his part, could it? Although I wouldn't really be surprised. The universe seems to always conspire against me, and this situation shouldn't be any different.

My eyes slid over to Trish's sister, who finally stopped talking about Russell Crowe and remembered what she was saying before. But it was no different this time. Trish was obviously still oblivious to her. I'd definitely have to try and talk to that girl later. Obviously Paul hadn't told the poor girl anything about being dead. I sighed, focusing back on the evil guy in question.

Arms still crossed over my chest, I asked pointedly, "So what did you want, Paul? Other than annoying me, I mean."

He threw his hand over his heart in mock-surprise. "Oh, Susie, I would never want to do that."

I started tapping my foot impatiently. "You didn't answer my question."

He shrugged. Then he glanced over his shoulder to where he could see Jesse plainly. Jesse was still conversing with the group, so I didn't have to worry about him seeing Paul and I talking together. "That's him, isn't it? It'd be a shame if something were to ever happen to him."

I blinked in shock. That quickly turned to anger, though. "Are you threatening him?"

"Of course not," he replied sweetly. "Why on Earth would I do that?"

Gee, why ever?

"You leave him alone, Paul," I said angrily, stabbing his chest for extra emphasis.

He grabbed my finger, pulling me in closer to him. "You know you can't stop me."

Then he let me go and sauntered over to Trish. She gave him a very seductive smile, along with a very inappropriate kiss, so I looked away. But not before I saw the evil glint in Paul's icy blue eyes.

I was still in shock over what just happened. Paul just threatened Jesse. My chest tightened and my throat constricted, tears threatening. I was scared, but I managed to push the tears back and pull myself together. What the hell was I going to do?

It was as I was pondering this that Jesse came over to me, wrapping his arm around my waist affectionately. He seemed to realize something was wrong, since he said, "Querida, what happened? Are you alright?"

I cleared my throat before saying, "Yeah. I, um…I'm fine."

Well, gee, that was convincing. Jesse obviously didn't believe me, but since I looked fine physically, he didn't press it. But he whispered into my hair, after kissing my forehead, "You will tell me later," to which I couldn't really disagree.

Then he steered me over to where a bunch of people were gathering around for photos. "Mrs. Webb asked me to come get you. She didn't want the maid of honor to be absent from the photos."

I nodded, regaining my composure. So for the next hour or so, I was moved around constantly, being forced into this position and that. So, needless to say, when the photographer was happy with the photos he had gotten, I was over the moon. I suppose the few glasses of champagne in between didn't hurt either. Plus, I was trying to put the whole business with Paul out of my mind. I didn't feel like worrying about what he might do to Jesse.

When the bride and groom finally left for their honeymoon, Jesse and I stayed with the rest of the guests. We took pictures with his sisters and Gina and Jake. I snuck away for a little bit to find ghost girl. Hopefully she wouldn't be near Trish and Paul. I really didn't feel like dealing with him again.

Luck seemed to be on my side, since I found her in the restroom. She was sitting on top of one of the many fancy sinks, sobbing. My heart clenched. This poor girl must have been through hell. As if dying wasn't enough, she had some psycho boyfriend of her (alive) sister's hauling her into limbo.

After checking to make sure that the stalls were empty, I turned to the sobbing girl. She didn't seem to pay any attention to me, probably thinking that I was just like any other human and could not see her.

So, with my astounding tact, I said, "Are you Trish's sister?"

She looked up quickly, her eyes darting across the room to see if I was talking to someone else. And then she looked back at me and screamed. I was totally not prepared for that reaction. I didn't understand it, either. Okay, so I wasn't the most attractive human being on the planet, but was my face enough to cause a girl to scream?

"Hey, hey!" I tried to calm her down. She just kept looking at me and screaming and then sobbing some more. And then I could tell she was about to dematerialize. I shot a hand out and stopped her. "I need to talk to you," I said, in the least threatening voice I could muster.

She looked at me again, and this time she did not scream. "Please don't hurt me," she whimpered. "Please don't take me to that place again."

And then I understood. She thought that I was like Paul. That I was going to take her to Shadowland.

I dropped my hand from her arm and shook my head. "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm not like Paul."

She didn't say anything, so I continued. "I saw you earlier with Trish by the fountain. I heard what you said about him taking you to that creepy place. I need you to tell me what happened."

She nodded, but still didn't say anything. "Your name?" I prompted.

"Mandy," she answered.

I nodded. "Okay, Mandy. I'm Suze. Now, can you tell me what happened?" I asked in my best clinical psychologist voice.

She nodded again, still not saying a word. I waited a few minutes and then she said, "I was with Trish, watching a movie. She was waiting for Paul to come over. It was the first time he had come over to take her on a date. I had seen him with her before, but that was before he asked her out. I thought he would be good for her, you know?" She laughed hollowly, not a sound I ever like to hear. "Boy was I wrong. You know, I never even suspected he could see me. He didn't even give me one clue. He just ignored me. Until that day that he came over to her apartment for their date. He ignored me as usual. Then Mrs. Plotner next door came knocking on the door frantically asking if we'd seen her dog. He always gets out and hides in the laundry room downstairs. So Trish went to go help Mrs. Plotner find her dog. Paul stayed in the apartment. That's when he first talked to me."

She took a deep breath and kept talking. "At first I didn't realize he was talking to me. But then he started saying my name and I realized he must be talking to me, though I was still shocked. He asked me a couple questions, about how I died, how old I was, why I was still with Trish. And then…then he just grabbed me. And before I could form my next thought, I was standing in this foggy hallway with doors that went on forever. Paul was standing next to me, grinning, as I was taking everything in. Then I said, 'I don't like this place. Can you take me back?' He just shook his head, telling me that he couldn't have his girlfriend's sister's ghost hanging around. It would ruin everything. And then…he just left me there. I don't think I had ever been so scared in my life, even when I had died."

She stopped, and that was the end of her story. But I still needed to know something. "How did you get back, Mandy?"

She shrugged. "The gladiator guy told me I didn't belong there. But that was it. He just walked away. And then, the next thing I knew, I was sitting on the couch with Trish again, like nothing had ever happened. Except, she still couldn't see me."

"And what happened when Paul saw you again?"

She sighed. "He seemed shocked at first, but then that was it. He didn't take me there again."

I nodded. I figured as much. Paul was never one to make the same mistake twice.

Now its time for some good old-fashioned mediation.

"Listen, Mandy. You don't belong here. I'm not going to take you away like Paul, but you really need to think about why you're still hanging around. You're not destined to be your sister's shadow for the rest of her life."

"You think I can leave her now, with that creep hanging around her?" she asked angrily.

I shook my head, amazed at how much she obviously cared for her sister. "No, Mandy. I'm not going to make you leave. I'm going to sort this thing out with Paul, and when that's done, you need to let your sister live her life."

"But," she said, her blue eyes going wide, filling with tears, "what if she needs me? How will I be able to help her?"

I shook my head, laying my hand on her shoulder. "Mandy," I said gently, "I'm sorry, but you are no help to your sister right now. Being dead…doesn't really help you help those you love."

She nodded. She was a quick learner. "Will you help her, then?"

I smiled at her, then nodded. "Of course I will." I had been in the restroom to long already. I was surprised no one had come in yet. "Now, Mandy, I have to go. But listen, if you see Paul, or even your sister, doing anything suspicious, come find me, alright? I need to know."

She nodded, smiling. "Thank you, Suze." I smiled at her and then headed out the door to find Jesse. I found him talking to Father Dominic by the refreshments.

Father Dom was just who I needed to talk to. I pulled him and Jesse aside, away from prying ears, and told them what happened. Well, I left out the bit where Paul had threatened Jesse. That didn't need to become public news yet. Or at all.

"He's here?" Jesse exclaimed. "Susannah, why didn't you tell me?"

I ignored this and said to Father Dom, "I don't know what he's planning, but I have a feeling its not going to be good."

Father Dominic nodded. His hand was stroking his chin as he thought. "Susannah," he said, a little wearily, "the only thing we can do is wait for Mandy to bring us some news."

I nodded, turning to Jesse. "Can you get me something to drink?" I asked with a smile.

Jesse looked at me suspiciously, knowing full well that I'm all about doing things for myself, that I don't need a man to be at my every beck-and-call. But he just nodded, clearly seeing that there were some things I wanted to say to Father Dominic without him around.

So when Jesse was out of earshot, I laid it on Father Dom. "Paul threatened Jesse, Father D."

Father Dominic, for his part, did not look surprised. Although he didn't seem too happy about it. Nodding, he said to me, "Then we will have to come up with a plan." He looked around the room, at all of the drunken, dancing guests and said, "However, a wedding reception is hardly the place to discuss such things."

And that's how Jesse and I ended up in Father Dom's office at one o'clock, after my best friends' wedding. In my freaking maid of honor dress.

- § -

We finally trudged back to Jesse's hotel at three in the morning. I was beat. I had been up for almost twenty-four hours at that point. I was expecting to fall into bed and sleep like the dead (pun intended). But, alas, that did not happen.

As soon as I got through the door, I took my dress off and hung it on the back of the bathroom door. I had nothing on under it except for a pair of sheer boy-shorts (the miracle ones that show no panty-lines!). So, being a little modest, and not wanting to entice Jesse that night, I slipped the robe on. Although, it doesn't really take much to entice Jesse.

But to my surprise, when I walked into the bedroom, he was still sitting on the bed with his clothes on. I would have thought that he'd be stripped down to his boxers (yes, ladies, boxers) and lying in bed waiting for me.

He looked up when I came out of the bathroom and gave me a small smile. I know it was to reassure me, but it kind of worried me. What was wrong with him? Did Paul already do something, and while I was in the bathroom, no less?

"Jesse?" My voice was uncertain. I didn't really know what to say to make whatever he was feeling go away.

He patted the bed next to him, indicating that I should go sit there. I did, and he wrapped his arm around me, pulling me into his side.

I was about to ask him what was wrong, but before I could, he said, "Susannah, what are you hiding from me?"

I jerked away from him in surprise. "What?"

He just shook his head, then brought his eyes to my face, studying me. "I know he said something to you to really upset you, and it has nothing to do with Mandy. What is it?"

God, he really does know me well. Usually I would take that as a good thing, but right then, it wasn't. Its not that I didn't want him to know what Paul said, but…I didn't want him to have to worry. Though, I knew he wouldn't worry for himself, even though he would have every cause to.

Instead of lying, like I would usually do, I admitted defeat. Besides, I knew he wouldn't believe me if I denied it, anyway. So I told him exactly what happened, Paul's exact words.

Jesse was looking at me with concern. He was concerned about me when someone had threatened him. I wasn't surprised, though. "Susannah," he whispered, bringing his hand up to caress my cheek. "Please don't worry about me. I can take care of myself."

I leaned into his hand, keeping my eyes on his. "With any normal guy, you could, Jesse. But Paul…he's different. He can do things…things that I still can't do. And it scares me. He could…shit. He could do anything he wanted to you and I would be powerless to stop it."

Jesse pulled his hand away from my face, only to wrap his arms around me and pull me into him. He kissed the top of my head, one arm still wrapped around me, his other hand gliding up and down my side reassuringly. Only, it didn't really help. I was still crazy paranoid and afraid for him. But he would have none of it.

After a few minutes of that, he put me at arms length and said determinedly, "I can take care of myself, Susannah. You need to do what you have to do without worrying about me. So don't."

I nodded, but of course I still would. I just didn't want to disagree with him right then. Because it would lead to an argument, that much I knew. I wanted to say, "And what if the situation was reversed? You wouldn't listen to me if I told you not to worry." But I knew it wasn't necessary. I knew he was already thinking about that. That would be the argument instigator, so I kept it shoved inside my mouth.

Instead, I just leaned back into him, kissing him desperately, telling him that I loved him so, so much. The fact that I didn't want to lose him remained unsaid, but it didn't go unnoticed. Jesse deepened the kiss, pushing me back on the bed and sliding over me. His knee came up between my legs, the fabric of his dress pants rubbing against the apex of my thighs. I moaned into his mouth , which was still ravishing mine. His face was rough from not shaving for a day; instead of the sandpapery feel bothering me, it only increased my sexual awareness. It seemed as if the roughness of his face and pants against me were moving in a certain, erotic rhythm.

Jesse's mouth moved to my throat, trailing hot kisses all the way down to the V in the robe. I clung to him, finally realizing that he still had most of his clothes on. I needed to rectify the situation immediately. I tugged at his dress shirt, untucking it from his pants and proceeded to unbutton it. My movements were fast and jerky, because I wanted it off of him as soon as possible. As soon as that was off, I reached for his belt buckle. Soon his pants, along with his boxers, were thrown somewhere in the room. And Jesse was completely naked. Cue the choir angels.

Jesse looked down at me with a wolfish grin. "This robe," he said, his voice husky, "needs to go." So it did. Then he realized I still had underwear on. "What's this?" he asked, fingering the seamless panties. "I can see right through them!" he said with a laugh. "Not much coverage there, huh?"

I grinned back at him. "For insatiable devils such as yourself."

His answer was to pull them off of me. I'm surprised he didn't rip them. Or maybe he did and I just didn't notice, since, as soon as they were off, he dipped one long finger inside of me. I gasped his name as he stroked me gently, slowly at first and then quickening. Before I had realized what he was doing, his hot mouth replaced his finger. My legs, of their own volition, wrapped themselves around Jesse, pulling his head and amazing mouth closer to me. I felt Jesse laugh and it traveled all the way up through my body. And that's what pushed me over the edge, that chuckle. I came, hands clawing the sheets, calling Jesse's name as my body shattered and pulsated.

My body was still shuddering when Jesse drove himself in me. He made love to me hard and fast; it was unusual, since he's usually so careful and tender. I couldn't think much during, but after, when he finally collapsed on top of me, sweating and breathing heavily, I figured out what was so strange about it.

It wasn't really his lack of control that surprised me; he's lost it many times before. It was the fact that it reminded me of that night we spent in the Hollandaise Inn, when we both thought it was the last time we'd be together. The lovemaking was so…desperate, is the only word that comes to mind. It was as if all of our fears poured out of us and into that one act.

Shaking my head slightly, I decided to push it out of my mind right then. It was too much for me to think about. My body was spent and my brain was quickly catching up.

Jesse seemed to recover a little, and he moved himself off of me, rolling over onto his side so he could look at me. I positioned myself on my side so I could face him. His hand came to my cheek, where he caressed it lovingly, all the while giving me an adorable smile.

"Te amo, querida," he whispered. The words felt like another loving caress as they wound themselves around my heart.

I moved in closer, wrapping my arms around him and snuggling into his chest. He rolled over onto his back, so I was lying on him. My arms squeezed him tighter as I whispered back, "I love you, too, Jesse. I don't ever want to lose you."

His hand came up, stroking my hair. "I swear to you that I will never leave you forever, Susannah. I will always be here for you." He dropped a kiss on the top of my head.

And I fell asleep in his strong arms, thinking about the future, wondering what troubles lay ahead for us, hoping that everything would turn out alright in the end.