This story is getting cumbersomely long. Keeping that in mind, this is the last chapter. If you are enjoying the story, take heart, it will continue but under a different title, A Time to Run for Cover. Saying this chapter ends with a pivotal event, is probably over dramatic but its ending is a turning point. The first chapter of Book Two will be posted within hours of this concluding chapter because I'm dying to know what happens, too. I'm waiting to hear what you think.

A Time to Grow Up, or Not
Chapter 37-The Beginning in the End

"You look tired, Sweetheart." He turned his attention to getting the truck started as he suggested, "Let's stop on the way home and let someone else cook for us." When she made no comment in response to his suggestion he turned back to face her. Her arched brows above wide eyes, the tilt of her head and the smirk on her face asked how he could misread her priorities so completely. "I take it food's not your first choice?"

"You could say that."

"Do I need to ask?" Their voices softened as the mood heated up.

"I don't know. Do you?"

Sam's voice woke her. He wasn't in the bedroom. He wasn't speaking to her. As she came more fully awake she heard the strumming of the guitar and the song. She knew Sam's voice: the normal speaking voice, the commanding voice backed up with a gun and this voice, the one she heard when they were in the throes of passion. This voice was throaty with a raspy edge. This voice, she associated with intense pleasure, was delivering an entirely different message. The song was folksy and sad, lamenting lost love, and his voice conveyed all of that sadness and pain. If Andy hadn't fallen asleep in his arms not over an hour ago, she would have believed the sadness. He was that good. Lying still she could hear him clearly even though he was singing softly, and if she stayed in bed she didn't have to worry about disturbing him.

The memories of their first date came flooding back; that was the first and only time she had heard him play. Tonight was so much better. She was the only member of his audience and he wasn't aware of her listening. The music tonight was folk and country, not at all his style according to him, but very much her favorite. The music stopped and the refrigerator door opened. Andy hopped out of bed, slipped on a robe and went to the kitchen. Sheet music was in stacks across the table, his acoustic guitar sat up in the chair he probably sat in as he played, and he stood, beer in hand, studying the top sheet of the nearest stack. "You are very good." He looked up as she approached. His beer went on the table and he pulled her to him.

"You told me that earlier."

The look of confusion was clear on her face. "What?"

"If you're trying to get me back in bed by complimenting my performance, like you did earlier? You can forget it. I gotta practice. I don't have time to get all hot and bothered right now." The adoring look on his face was unmistakable. She pushed him the two steps back, necessary to wedge his body between hers and the sink.

"Did I compliment your performance? I really don't remember. You sure you can't spare a little time to refresh my memory?" Andy began kissing his neck, moved up his jaw line and finally settled on his mouth. She was not trying to entice him back in bed but kissing him was always a pleasure. She enjoyed him until they were both breathing heavy. "I do love you so." The look they exchanged said it all. "I didn't mean to disturb your playing. I stayed in bed and listened until I heard the refrigerator."

"I was trying to be quiet but I really need to give this set some attention. I hope you aren't too bored but I'm planning on playing with David and the guys two nights while we're on holiday."

"But they don't play this kind of music." She had heard them, they were a rock band, old, new, and in between, but still rock.

"We were only there for a set and a half. They play lots of kinds of music. We only heard the rock. They actually play some pretty good stuff my Country Queen would like."

"Your County Queen, indeed."

"But I love her just the way she is."

"In that case, how about I fix us some dinner while you get back to your practicing? You got any Willie or Brad in there?

"I'll look just for you."

Andy fixed dinner. Sam stopped playing long enough to eat. After he offered to help clean up and she declined, he went back to his guitar. She would have felt neglected if she wasn't enjoying the music so much.

She settled on the couch and let the serenade surround her. She didn't know exactly when she had fallen asleep, but when she awoke her neck was screaming. She stood, stretched and massaged her stiff neck. Sam spoke, "Sweetheart, you need to go to bed, I'll be there shortly. I have a couple more songs I want to work through tonight."

She kissed him good night. Showed all the concern her sleepy state would muster, "Don't stay up to late," and went down the hall to bed.

The alarm woke Andy. It didn't seem to disturb Sam. "Sam, it's time to get up." Absolutely nothing…"Honey, we have to go to work."

"Huh…."

Gentle shakes aren't very effective, but if you only want to disturb someone's sleep, not slam them into consciousness; they can be just the ticket. "Someone stayed up too late. Does this mean I might get to drive tonight?" She thought planting the idea in his semiconscious mind might work.

When he grabbed her, pulled her back down to the bed and rolled on top of her, she was shocked. He hadn't seemed that awake. "Trying to wrestle the car keys away from a semiconscious men, shame on you. Especially since I was giving you that private concert and you fell asleep. All along, you have me thinking I'm your number one man. How can you treat me that way?" He teased.

"I can make it up to you, if… you don't mind being a little late for work."

They weren't very late and they were both satisfied that it had been well worth it. Andy did get to drive, at least, until they switched to a marked car. Whether her desire, to not find another young woman unconscious in an alley, had any effect on reality or not: she did manage to have an uneventful early morning. When they came in to attend parade and switch cars Andy ran into Traci. "Hey you, this new shift makes seeing you a real treat. How you doing with the weird hours?"

"The first couple of days were a pain, but with both of us on the same schedule, it's not bad. How's Leo?"

"He's fine, asks about you and Sam more than I would expect. You need to come visit."

"We should be on a regular schedule when we get back from our long weekend. Let's plan something, sometime next week. I can visit with your son and catch up on your love life."

"That gives me a whole week to get one, huh?" Sam walked up as Traci was complaining.

"Hey, Traci, how you doing?"

"I'm fine, Sam. You sure look happy."

"Have you met my roommate? Speaking of…, Sweetheart, you about ready to get back to work?" He put his hand on her back as they walked out of the station.

"I suppose you're driving."

"Of course! Andy, I can't have you disturbing the natural order of things. What are you thinking?" He gave her that questioning look. She stepped away from him, pulled her hand across her forehead as though she felt faint.

"I must have lost my mind for a moment. Now I remember... you Tarzan, me Jane, right?" Pointing first to him and then back toward herself.

"Absolutely." The partners laughed their way across the parking lot to the cruiser.

The patrol car portion of the shift had just begun when they were called to a reported dead body in a vacant lot. The EMS unit confirmed the man in the field was definitely dead and probably had been so for many hours. Detective Callahan was dispatched to the scene. This was the first time the partners had worked a scene with Callahan since Andy had moved in with Sam. Andy found the situation uncomfortable. Luke appeared to feel the same. Sam gave the appearance of being unfazed by Callahan's presence; after all he was the victor. However, a neutral observer would have noticed what a close watch he kept on Andy and Luke's interactions with each other. Sam might be the victor, but he was still jealous of any man who had ever been an important part of Andy's life.

The partners were dispatched to canvas anyone living near the vacant lot who might have knowledge of the dead man or the events surrounding his getting that way. When noon approached, Luke called Sam to release him and Andy to return to quarters. Luke was no more comfortable around the lovers than Andy was around him.

They were leaving the scene when Sam broke the news, "Sweetheart, I have a little errand I need to run when we get off work. Do you want to go visit your dad or go shopping while I'm out?"

"Is that a secret errand?" She didn't think she was jealous or suspicious but…

"Sort of," There was not a chance in hell he was going to tell her about this errand.

"I have to warn you, if it involves a blond, I do carry a concealed weapon and would not be above using it." She was only kidding a little bit. He laughed at her.

"I already have the woman I want."

"And she loves you."

"I know she does and her love is my greatest treasure. Don't ever forget that."

Andy bit her lip to keep from crying.

Their last three shifts went by rather rapidly. Luke did ask Sam to do some more canvassing in the area around the vacant lot where the body had been found. Luke seemed a little less uncomfortable working with them, on Monday morning, than he had been the previous morning. The case would probably give him an opportunity to really accept the reality of Sam and Andy as a couple.

Sam had filled Andy in on the undercover operation at the Broken Spoke as he envisioned it. She still had lots of questions and right now it was just an idea in Sam's head. If it came to pass she would do what was required of her. As long as she wasn't separated from Sam, she would fill whatever role was assigned to her. She knew Sam had met with Sgt. Best after shift on Monday and with the detectives from burglary and narcotics after shift on Tuesday. He only told her they were talking about the possibility of some undercover operation in the future if it seemed warranted. He gave her no other information. He hadn't being giving her a lot of detail, which was just as well with her. She was going to meet Sam's family this weekend. That filled her thoughts. Any undercover was a problem for later. Making a good impression on his sister was the most pressing thing she had on her mind.

At the end of shift on Wednesday, Sam helped Andy with their paper work so they could get out of quarters and on the way for their holiday. Sam was as nervous and jumpy as Andy had ever seen him. He never had given any indication of being apprehensive about seeing his sister or having Andy meet her but he sure was worried about something. She considered teasing him about it but the way he was acting was making her nervous as well. Whatever was going on, it would be a done deal in about twenty-four hours one way or the other.

When they had the truck packed, finally got in their seats, shut the doors, and Sam started the truck he asked, "You ready?"

"No. Turn the truck off." She began unbuckling her seat belt.

'What did you forget?"

She made no effort to get out of the truck; rather she turned toward him as she moved to him. By the time she got to the steering wheel it was to her back and she was facing him directly. He began smiling. "You're worrying about something. I don't know just why but you always have your reasons and I respect that but I have something I really need to tell you. I love you. Together we can do anything, absolutely anything." She never lost eye contact the whole time she was speaking, but her hands had their own agenda. She put them on his chest as she began to speak and simply rubbed, up and down and back and forth. When she finished speaking, her hands went up to his shoulders and around his neck; she leaned in to kiss him.

As Sam drove through the afternoon, Andy rested her head on his shoulder. They talked about work, about his sister and her family, the scenery, the inn they were going to, about the plans he had made for the two evenings they were to be with David and the band, and naturally Andy had a nap.

Their inn was a working farm sometime in the past. The main house had two stories with a single story open porch across the front. There was a big red barn in the back and a couple of quaint cottages. They probably had been workshops or storage in the past but had been insulated and finished inside. Each was furnished with an efficiency kitchen, luxurious bath, sitting area and big four poster bed. Their cottage was lovely with an almost magical quality.

When checking in, the hostess informed Sam dinner would be served in the main house and would begin promptly in one hour. Cocktails were served thirty minutes before dinner if they were interested. That really didn't give them an opportunity to try out the big bed before dinner but they knew sleeping in tomorrow morning was part of their schedule. They had plenty of time. Andy's dress was simple but lovely. Sam went for a tie and sport coat. They made a particularly handsome couple. There were three other couples at dinner. The dining room featured a big harvest table set with fine china and crystal. The chandelier was turned off when the candles were lit. Additional light filtered in from the parlor. Their hosts, a charming older couple, started the introductions and then moved around the room. Andy had expected a quiet table for two but the other couples around the big table and the personable hosts made the dinner a warm and enjoyable experience, and the food was good. When Sam and Andy bid the group a good night and headed outside one of the other couples followed suit. They were staying in the other detached cabin. There were more good nights before the two couples entered their cabins. "This cabin is wonderful but why didn't we stay in the main house?"

"You're a little loud, Sweetheart."

Andy studied him for a moment, considered what he had said and finally asked. "Just exactly what do you mean?"

"Well, I don't mean you talk loud." He was sure she knew what he was referring too.

"I didn't know. I'm sorry. I'll try to hold it down."

"Don't you dare. I'm a born performer. I love the applause and adoration; the louder the reviews the better."

"You're terrible. Are you about ready to see what kind of response that big bed and my big man can get out of me tonight?" She asked enticingly.

"Come sit. I have something I want to ask you." he motioned toward the sofa and extended his hand to her.

She looked at him suspiciously, but gave him her hand. She sat next to him but the worry was written on her face. "Andy, you do know that I love you, don't you?"

"Are you leaving me?" She bit her lip. That damn undercover. "Sam, please…I don't think I can get by without you. Please."

"Andy, you need to quit this. I am not ever going to leave you. That's what I'm trying to tell you." He put his hand in his pocket, pulled out the ring he had been carrying since Sunday, and held it out to her. "It isn't too flashy. You can wear it all the time. You said you didn't want any rings you couldn't wear all the time."

She studied the ring he was holding. It was a wide yellow gold band with two rows of small emerald cut diamonds. The ring looked heavy and the stones were mounded flush with the gold band. "I could wear it all the time." She was confused and approaching speechless.

"So, put it on." Sam knew he wasn't handling this very well but he was afraid of her reaction. He took her left hand in his and slipped the ring on her finger. He held her hand in his while she stared at her hand and said nothing. She looked up at him; back down at the ring and back up to him.

"Sam, that's where wedding rings go. It even looks like a wedding ring with diamonds."

"That's the general idea."

"What are we saying?"

"We're saying I love you. I can't see a time or a circumstance in the future when I'm not going to be in love with you. The ring is my saying, marry me, Andy McNally, I love you. I want you to be my wife." He sat with her hand…that hand with his ring on it, in his hand and waited for her response.

"I love you so much just thinking about it makes my chest ache. I respect you and the way you do your job. I love working with you. I love just being with you even when we aren't talking and when I can't touch you. You're the sexiest man I've ever known. You've awaken desire in me I never knew existed. I'm never too tired even when I am tired. I can't even remember what a headache is. I'm happy deep down inside. The tragedies we see make me sad for others but I'm still happy. I love you without reservations. My love for you has a life time guarantee but…no…I can't marry you. Don't you understand…that would ruin everything.

-0-

Thus ends Book One, a Time to Grow Up, or Not: Andy's rebellion against the settled life offered by Luke Callahan has taken her, strangely enough, to a far greater commitment. She's fallen in love, so deeply in love, the merest hint she might lose her love makes her physically sick. She needn't worry; Sam has the woman he wants. He's old enough to have known many women. The right one has finally come to his bed; he will do whatever is necessary to keep her there.

Whether Sam is just a law and order kind of guy, or if he simply loves the rush he gets defending the law, we may only suspect. What we do know is, he's adventurous and his brand of law enforcing involves taking a risk. Andy is a different personality but she doesn't shy away from danger and she wants only to be with Sam.

Book Two, A Time to Run for Cover, will chronicle those adventures….after we resolve the issue of the ring.

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