An Irresistible Temptation

A/N: My attempt at a realistic post-finale storyline.

Part I: Vacation

Despite her earlier protestations, Mary quickly found that she definitely was the vacation type. At least the adults-only all-inclusive kind where all you can eat and drink is delivered by sexy Mexican cabana boys while you lounge by the pool or on a hot sunny beach. Today, day nine of her fourteen day stay at the Temptations Resort & Spa in sunny Cancun, she lay on a lounge chair at the edge of one of the resorts pools, cold margarita in hand, looking out over the too-blue water of the pool on to the even bluer ocean beyond. She took a long sip of the icy drink and sighed in contentment.

This second week of vacation she was flying solo. Faber had been called back to Denver two days earlier, she was a little surprised how very little she missed him. She'd become used to dealing with sexual frustration during her off-again-more-than-on-again relationship with Raph and other than a disregard for rules and a bucket of sexual tension, she'd quickly learned she and Faber had little in common.

And so, she was looking forward to spending the last few days of vacation completely alone. As long as she never saw the bottom of her glass.

Somewhere at the bottom of the glass lived a collection of questions and a pair of wounded blue eyes she wished she could shove from her mind forever. Maybe messy is what you need. She took a huge gulp of Margarita, regretting it instantly as brain freeze shot pain from sternum to temple, and raised her hand for a cabana boy.

"Señorita?"

"Another." She said tersely, one hand attempting to rub away the pain in her chest the other holding up the half empty glass.

"Of course."

She settled back into her chair and focused on the warmth of the summer sun on her skin. In half an hour she would be too hot to stay here, but for now the warmth was perfect. It sank into her skin easing away the icy combination of brain freeze and unwanted thoughts.

Mary ate dinner alone in the Villa Wok restaurant. She requested a table by the window and spent most of the meal watching a pair of windsurfers playing in the waves. This was her favourite of the resorts four restaurants. The Asian faire was delicious and the atmosphere was less stiflingly romantic than the Italian restaurant with its candle lit interior and cascading waterfall. Still the intimate way the tables were arranged made her briefly wish she had someone across from her.

At the very least it would have been nice to have someone there to appreciate the effort it had taken to change from pool wear to something that fit the restaurant's dress code. The complicated criss-cross straps of the bright blue, backless, sundress she'd picked up at the local market last week had taken nearly ten minutes to sort out, and she'd even blown her hair straight and applied a little lipstick and mascara. It was a shame to look this good without someone there to appreciate it.

She'd only dressed up once while Faber was there, they'd dined in the Italian restaurant their first night before they learned that room service would happily bring full meals to their suite. She'd worn a red dress Brandi had picked out. She hadn't liked it much, but Faber said she looked hot and was only too happy to rip it off in their room after dinner was over.

Cell phones were not encouraged in the restaurant, but when Mary's purse vibrated she practically lunged to check the caller ID. There was one text message, from an unknown number. She opened it.

Kitten,

Crisis over. Thought I'd join you for the rest of the week. See you Friday.

F

Mary rolled her eyes. Even threats of bodily harm hadn't dissuaded Faber from using that ridiculous nickname. She couldn't help smiling at the way he'd invited himself back down for the last three nights of her vacation. She didn't really mind. He was a great distraction, the perfect let off valve for the pressure she'd been feeling since she'd been shot. Neat, clean and fun. Exactly what she needed.

You don't need to let off steam; what you need is –

She told the voice in her head to shut up. For good measure she sent Faber a return message.

Bring another bottle of that wine and I'll even let you sleep over.

Mary regretted the fish tacos almost immediately. They tasted fishy, and though she didn't understand it she remembered Marshall warning her that seafood that tasted fishy was best left uneaten. Once again her partner was right. She wondered if he had ever been wrong in his life.

Maybe instead of just anyone you should be looking for… someone.

Well, no one could be right all the time. Not even Marshall.

It wasn't until hours after she devoured four fish tacos in a row at a street market in downtown Cancun that she actually felt sick. She'd been so hungry from a day of sightseeing and picking up gifts for herself, her friends and her family that she would have eaten more if Faber hadn't made some snide comment about ten thousand calories having to go somewhere to die.

She leaned her forehead against the cool porcelain of the hotel toilet and groaned. She'd already thrown up the entire content of her stomach in the ladies room off the hotel lobby on their way in from the day trip. Since returning to the hotel she'd mostly wretched without producing anything and felt a little like she wanted to die.

Mary wondered if it was safe to return to bed. Faber's snores assured her the man had managed to sleep through her gastrointestinal gymnastics. For which she was grateful. The sex was good, and he wasn't terrible to be around, but he was still one of the last people she wanted taking care of her.

Her stomach calm for the moment, Mary rose slowly to her feet, rinsed out her mouth, ran a toothbrush over her teeth, her fifth attempt to get rid of the regurgitated fish taco taste out of her mouth and tiptoed into the bedroom. She climbed carefully into bed, lay on her side facing away from Faber and tried to sleep.

She woke up six hours later, her stomach still protesting the mistreatment from the day before, her mouth fuzzy and foul tasting. She rolled slowly to her feet, no sudden movements until she was sure vomit palooza was over. Her eyes landed on a half-eaten breakfast tray on the end of the bed and a note propped against the coffee carafe. She grabbed the note. Faber's scratchy writing took up less than half the sheet.

Kitten,

Gone to the sports pool. Meet me at the snack bar at 12 for lunch.

F

She stared incredulously at the note for a moment before crumpling it and tossing it back onto the tray. True he'd slept all through the time she spent trying to throw up last night, but he'd known she wasn't feeling hot. Was it too much to expect that he'd at least check on her before heading down for a morning pool workout?

She grabbed a piece of dry whole wheat toast off the breakfast tray and left the rest. Food did not appeal, but she needed something to quell the acidic churning in her stomach. Still munching on toast she began to fill the Jacuzzi tub with steaming hot water and gathering clothing for the day.

They were flying back to the US tomorrow morning at 11 AM so most of today would be spent packing up her things, but first she was going to enjoy a long soak in the Jacuzzi and hope the hung-over feeling of food poisoning would leave before then.

How many times did he have to say it? How many different ways?

Marshall cradled his aching head. Most of a bottle of whiskey had dulled the ache for a night, but this morning he was paying for the momentary relief this morning with a pounding skull and nausea.

Some vacation.

Mary was on a tropical beach somewhere, probably with the cowboy she thought she needed. He knew better. Or he thought he did.

She'd changed so much in the last year. Her family was finally moving on, he had hoped she was ready to do so too. He'd been wrong.

So wrong. And the ache of it was worse than any hangover.

He'd pushed, just little, and once again she'd bolted like a scared horse, right back into her burning barn. Only Mary's burning barn was filled with tequila, and the wrong sort of men. It was where she felt safe, just this side of chaos, beyond the reaches of heartache and broken promises. The place where empty lives burn hot and fast until there is nothing left.

He wanted so much to lead her out of the self destructive path she gravitated towards, blind to the dangers, but whenever he thought they were close she pushed him away with both hands.

It was almost enough to send him headlong back into the bottle. But another alcoholic was the last thing Mary needed in her life, so instead he rose unsteadily to his feet and staggered into a frigid shower.

It was time to move on. He was almost certain that if he set his mind to it he could actually do it. It was worth a shot anyway.