He tried to breathe, but could only open and close his mouth helplessly as his lungs obnoxiously refused to operate. While he waited, somewhat desperately, for his automatic functions to become automatic again, he took the time to ponder a few things. One of the most immediate was what happened to his shirt. He was certain he'd arrived here wearing one. As the invisible coils around his chest finally started to loosen, he pulled in a painful breath. Coughing roughly, he pondered the second thing on his mind. Why did every girl he meet lately, and show an interest in, end up wanting him dead? He pushed that question away for later consideration when he was forced to swiftly roll to the side. Just in time too, that stiletto looked sharp! Holding his midsection, he gathered his feet beneath himself and lunged to the side to avoid the tire iron swinging towards his head. Regretfully, that lined him up perfectly for the pipe. The thick metal connected with his jaw, sending him right back to his previous attacker. This time, when the tire iron swung his way, he couldn't dodge. It struck him just to the left of his temple. Mercifully, that meant he didn't have to be awake for the rest of it.


His arm felt wet.

Curling his fingers, Shawn felt small pebbles moving beneath his hand. He shivered as the wind kicked up spray, peppering him with cold water. He could hear the ocean, the sound of the waves as they hit the shore was almost deafening. And it was cold.

As he carefully moved his arms back, he felt the drag of wet sand beneath them. Okay, definitely established he was by the ocean. Though, considering how many miles of beaches there were in California alone, where he was, was a relative answer.

Finally, he opened his eyes… barely. His whole face ached. It even hurt just looking around. Not even that trip to Mexico had been this bad. Not even the second one. The sun wasn't up yet, and he shivered in the night air. The glow from the moon and stars was the only illumination he had. Searching around himself, he groaned. The patch of sand he occupied had obviously started life as a landfill. In his immediate line of sight he could see spent cigarettes, beer cans, a dirty shoe, and…. ew… a used condom. Crispy brown grass grew in tufts nearby, and the closest thing resembling intelligent life was a small blue crab that seemed to be eyeing him hungrily. He tried to bare his teeth at the tiny creature, but ended up wincing instead. Amazingly, it appeared his jaw wasn't broken… and even better, he thought, probing with his tongue, he seemed to have all his teeth. Apparently realizing its prey wasn't quite dead yet, the little crab scurried through the scrub grass and back towards the ocean. Shawn watched it vanish from sight, then slowly pushed himself into a sitting position… and swore. His head pounded even worse, but what made him curse was the heavy metal chain. It was attached to a thick cuff around his right ankle. The other end, from what he could see, ran across the six or seven feet of beach that separated him from the ocean and disappeared in the waves. He wasn't sure what it was attached to, but when he tried pulling the chain, there wasn't even a fraction of give. Looking behind himself, he cursed again. A wall of rock met his eyes. As a slap of icy wind struck him, Shawn shivered violently. Had he thought it was cold? Cold was an afternoon sitting by the fireplace wearing a knitted sweater and eating chowder. This was something else entirely. Cold didn't drive blades of ice through your skin, leaving you shuddering in their wake. Cold didn't make you wish you'd stayed a little longer in that argument with your dad, just because his house was warm. Cold didn't make you bargain with whatever deity was listening to just get on with the whole global warming business already.

Shawn curled into himself, tucking his hands under his bare arms as he faced away from the water. Another crash of waves and another rain of frozen spray left him gasping in quick breaths. Okay, if he lived, he was swearing off women for good.

Okay, maybe not Jules… she had yet to try to kill him.

And maybe not that cute little barista at the coffee shop.

For that matter, was he really ready for celibacy? Maybe just a background check… Something struck his shoulder and Shawn lurched back, half-stumbling, to land on his butt. A figure was standing above him. The person was in shadow, so he couldn't make out any features. But who cared anyway! With luck, he had a cup of coffee and an extra parka.

"Who are you… I need some help…"

The figure stepped down the rocks lightly, finally stopping amidst the litter of beer cans.

"I see you made it through the last two hours okay."

Shawn swallowed, staring up at the face. "I see you missed me, Erin." He replied jovially, while feeling around himself for any kind of weapon. He'd even take the crab if he could find it.

Erin dropped to her haunches, rolling a couple of small stones in her fingers. "You know, seeing you chained an shirtless makes me wish I'd carried our relationship just a little further… but then, that would only have been satisfying for me. And I really hate leaving Andrew out of my recreation."

Shawn saw her eyes flick to a point just beyond him. The implication came seconds too late as something smashed into his left shoulder. He yelped as his face hit the sand. Before he could even start to move, two gorilla-like hands had latched around his throat. He grasped the two meaty wrists, trying to dig his fingers into the soft flesh below the palms. Kicking out wildly, he connected with a shin that felt like a bar of iron. In response, he was dragged by his neck until he felt his head plunged under the water.

It was agonizing! He clamped his lips and eyes shut, fighting the urge to scream as his lungs demanded air. He struggled more fiercely, forgetting, in his panic, what his father had taught him about self-defense. The fingers on his neck didn't tighten, but merely held him in place as he fought back fiercely… and quickly started to weaken. The chill had numbed his fingers to the point he couldn't even feel them any more. The lack of oxygen left him lightheaded, and sapped the strength from his body. He had to breathe… NOW! With the last of his reserves, he released the wrists holding his throat, and clawed at the face above him. The result was instantaneous. The hold on his throat vanished, and he quickly rolled back to the sand, choking harshly as he wrapped his hands around his chest. The relief was short-lived, though, as a pointed toe drove into his side.

"Little bastard!" Screamed an outraged voice. Shawn grunted as fell, trying to crawl away from the repeated kicks. He only managed a short distance before he was stopped by the chain. And then it was over. He squinted up at Erin, trying to read past the fury that was surging behind her eyes. He was sickened by what he saw. She was… aroused! He jerked back as she knelt by him, reaching out to trace a finger down his cheek.

"Hey, y-y-you two p-probably want to be al-alone… I c-c-could just go if-if you w-w-want the r-room…"

His attempted humor probably would have been more convincing if his teeth weren't chattering so badly. Erin chuckled, leaning in closer. "Oh, I wouldn't dream of it!"

Okay, he'd never been afraid of a little kinkiness… he did own a pair of handcuffs after all. But getting the crap kicked out of him didn't qualify as foreplay as far as he was concerned. And the sight of her bull-like partner in the background certainly didn't add to the romance either. Apparently she noticed the look of disgust in his eyes because she suddenly drew back and slapped him across his already aching jaw. Shawn groaned as he caressed his aching face. For her part, Erin stood and walked slowly back to her companion. Andrew greeted her with a heated kiss. Then, to Shawn's utter revulsion, he

began removing his clothes. Turning away quickly, Shawn admitted that having a photographic memory, at times, could be very, very unpleasant.