A/N Hmm, second favorite, I take it? :) I can't blame all of you. Two weeks alone with Auggie in a beach resort. Just a heads up, that this is M-rated! Chapter 6 contains the action, and you can easily skip over and enjoy the story just as well.
Any other requests, just PM me. I'll be putting up the two sequels to The Apartment soon. I was thinking of cleaning them up a bit, first.
"You want to tell me what happened in there, Auggie?" Joan asked, keeping her voice as even as possible, although her anger toward the man right now was simmering below the surface.
"Joan, you know as well as I do what happened. I made a mistake. It's inexcusable. It'll never happen again," Auggie replied, wondering how many more times he could apologize before his tongue fell out from sheer repetition. He knew what happened. He'd missed a key piece of evidence, one that Stu thankfully caught. The intel was relayed, disaster averted, and the mission was successful. He wasn't sure what else Joan expected him to say.
Joan frowned across her desk at him, taking in his haggard appearance. She was truthfully worried about him, had been for several weeks now, as he'd pushed himself harder than normal. She'd asked around the office, and knew there was no outside reason for him doing so. It just seemed her hard-working head of Tech Ops had turned into a workaholic, thinking and proving himself to be indispensable. He'd volunteered to handle nearly every mission, and the only time she didn't see him hunched over his computer was during the handul of hours a day when he'd go home to sleep.
"You're working too hard, and it's affecting your ability to think clearly," Joan summarized her thoughts.
"Right, so I'll go home and get some sleep," Auggie said, moving to stand up.
"I haven't dismissed you yet," Joan said harshly, her anger rising slightly. When he sat back down in his chair, she continued, "You are going home, but you're not coming back for two weeks. You've got enough vacation time saved up for a month's leave, but I'm giving you two weeks."
"Joan, I don't need a vacation. I just need a solid eight hours, and –"
"Don't interrupt me, Auggie. This isn't a request. I don't want to see you in here tomorrow."
Auggie's mouth dropped open at her words. She was seriously kicking him out? "Joan, come on, you can't be serious."
"The matter is closed, Auggie. I'll fill out the paperwork and inform your team."
Surprise, anger and frustration lit up in Auggie. "So what, you expect me to sit at home for two weeks and do what, twiddle my thumbs?"
"Just relax, Auggie. That's what vacations are for. Relax, de-stress, get back on your game. Visit family or something."
Auggie scoffed, "Thought you said you wanted me to relax."
Joan bit back a laugh at the thought. He was right, though. Depressing as it sounded, Auggie's estrangement from his family was one of the reasons she felt so protective of him. "Have to agree with you there. How about getting away, a resort or something? Someplace warm and quiet?"
"Kind of last minute to put something together like that, Joan," Auggie said. Which is why he usually didn't bother taking vacations like others did. Spontaneity didn't exactly fit into his lifestyle, at least not in the last few years. Carefully planned and orchestrated events and destinations now filled his life.
Joan smiled as an idea came to her. Arthur had surprised her two years ago with a vacation destination to a resort in the Bahamas for their anniversary. The place was beautiful, and though guests were afforded privacy with their own hut-like accommodations right on the beach, a full staff catered to their every whim.
"Not if you have the right connections," Joan said, turning toward her computer. Soon her fingers were flying over the keyboard. "I'll set everything up for you. Go home, pack for a warm destination. I'll send someone over with all the particulars tomorrow morning."
Auggie opened his mouth to protest once again, but quickly shut it. Joan was right about one thing, and his exhausted mind hadn't the energy left to form any kind of a protest right now. Nodding, he stood and walked out of her office.
He shuffled back to his office, silently wishing Annie were there to talk to about this. He could always count on her to provide a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen to his problems. He'd done the same for her over the past year, and he'd come to almost take their friendship for granted. But she had left two days ago, citing exhaustion of her own.
The one thing he hadn't liked was the fact that she refused to tell anyone, not even Joan, where she planned on going. He wasn't even sure she was on vacation, given the tight-lipped responses he'd gotten from her when he questioned her reasons for leaving. For all he knew, it was a "need to know" mission Joan or Arthur had set up, and she was currently deep undercover in Belarus or somewhere.
Tech Ops was empty when he walked back in, and so he set about shutting down his station and clearing his personal effects, locking up all the items in his desk drawer. Before shutting down his computer, he sent a quick e-mail to Stu explaining his sudden two-week absence, and an additional note that he counted on him to run things smoothly while he was gone.
While waiting for his car service to arrive, a sudden thought occurred to him. Joan had said someplace warm, but what did she expect him to pack? He hadn't been to a beach since he was a teenager; the deserts of the Middle East didn't count. Shrugging, he decided to pack light. If he was going to be there alone, he figured what he wore wasn't going to matter much. A handful of t-shirts and shorts would have to suffice. And, fingers crossed, the place had wi-fi, and he'd be able to bring his headphones, laptop and audiobooks with him.
He began to feel slightly better as the prospect of not having any responsibilities for the next fortnight sunk into his mind. He still wasn't on board with the forced nature of the whole setup, but, he figured, two weeks wasn't that long a period of time, and he'd soon be back in top form.
Flipping her beach towel a few times, Annie spread it on the sand, smoothing out the fabric before plopping down rather unladylike on it. She laughed out loud at herself and laid flat on her back, throwing her arms out to the side.
She breathed in the salty, fresh air and took a moment to listen intently to – nothing. Quiet. She took it in, through her ears, through her nose and mouth, and opening her eyes toward the brilliant blue sky, stared at it.
It'd taken nearly two days of being here by herself to finally relax her mind, and now she had done it. Two weeks to decompress from over a year of stress and hell seemed a short amount of time, so she put everything into doing it quickly. She planned on building enough sense memory of this peaceful, beautiful place to offset the life she was returning to in 12 days.
And now, as the mid-afternoon sun warmed her skin, she slid on her sunglasses and settled into a few hours of sunbathing. Her mind wandered, thinking back over the past month and the events that led her to be here. She smiled with self-satisfaction as the memory of her standing up to Joan played across her mind.
She'd filled out the vacation request form and dutifully submitted it to Joan and was summarily called into her office a half an hour later. Joan had handed it back to her, pointing out the fact that it wasn't complete, and she'd needed to list her destination.
Annie had just as quickly handed it back to Joan, saying she'd have her cellphone on her, and they could contact her if needed. The shocked look on Joan's face made Annie smile again at the memory. And before Joan could start berating her for insubordination, Annie had started talking, dictating the well-rehearsed speech she'd composed that started with the fact that she hadn't had any completely free time off since she joined the DPD. It ended with the reminder that the last time she went on vacation, with her sister to Niagara Falls, she'd gotten roped into a mission.
Joan had stared at her for a full minute, and Annie had held her gaze, her resolve set in stone. Then Annie got the shock of her life when Joan said, "Very well, but remember this, Annie. We are a spy agency, and there's nowhere on earth you could go where we couldn't find you."
The threat had sent a small shiver up Annie's spine, but she pretended not to be affected, instead standing still until Joan signed the document and handed it back to her. Then she let the joyous smile she'd been biting down slowly emerge as she thanked the woman and left.
She'd fairly bounced out of the building the night before she left. She hadn't spoken a word to anyone about her upcoming vacation, and thankfully, Joan kept her mouth shut, as well. The one person she nearly came close to spilling the beans to was Auggie, and she still felt a twinge of guilt regarding that aspect.
But a clean break – if temporary – was still a clean break, and if she wasn't going to tell Danielle, her own sister, where she was going, it wouldn't be fair to confide in Auggie, either. Hopefully, he'd take her absence in stride, perhaps thinking she was on an undercover op, and she'd be able to slip back into the office in two weeks with him none the wiser.
But that was days away. There were more important things to do now, such as hours of sunbathing, sleeping, long walks and runs on the stretch of beach, and reading. Smiling at the thought, Annie felt herself start to doze and welcomed the feeling.
"Is there anything else I can get you, Mr. Anderson, before I leave?"
"No, Brad, I think you've shown me everything. Again, thank you," Auggie said, stretching his hand out to him. He felt a strong hand grasp his, and shook it.
"You're welcome. And remember, though we generally leave our guests to their own devices, should you need anything, a member of staff is always on call, and we can be here in five minutes."
"Good to know. Tell me, do you do this for all of your guests? I mean, I was hoping for wi-fi access and a personal service, but –"
"The wi-fi access is standard for all the huts on the island, yes. But we do provide whatever is needed to whoever is here. Simply ask, and we will do our best to accommodate you."
Auggie nodded and gave the man a grateful smile. As he heard the door close behind him, Auggie made a mental note to purchase a giant box of chocolates for Joan when he got back to DC. He'd bristled at her high-handed order that he go away, and stay there, for two weeks. But when the information, tickets and details had arrived the next morning, he quickly changed his mind.
Joan included a personal note saying she knew about the place because her and Arthur had stayed there a few years back, and the resort's high level of personal attention would suit Auggie's needs. That, plus the fact that it was far away, quiet, but with a high level of computer access, covered both her want for him to relax, and Auggie's need to stay connected with the world.
Which he planned on doing as soon as he possible, he thought. Though the place had wi-fi, affording him computer access, there was no other entertainment. No tv, no radio, no dvds. Auggie knew that from the information packet, and took extra effort while packing to load into his laptop as much music, audiobooks, and video as his hard drive would handle.
Sliding his fingers to his watch, he checked the time. 5:00 p.m. He'd arrived a few hours ago, but it'd taken that much time for him to unpack and Brad to show him the layout of the place. It wasn't as open-planned as he liked, but thankfully, there were only three rooms to navigate. The bedroom was relegated to a bed, a dresser, and an open closet. A complete bathroom led off it. The main room, though, was the best. Brad had explained they'd moved the furniture to clear the center space and placed the couch and tables to line the walls.
The outside was what had worried Auggie the most when he arrived, but Brad had led him around the deck, clear but for a chaise and a bench, and also down the few steps to the beachfront.
He'd marked out the steps from the deck down to the water, and out to the sides as far as his personal beachfront was marked. Thankfully, the water had a bit of movement to it, and he was able to gain his bearings listening to the waves. Even after Brad had cautioned him against swimming, Auggie thought there'd be little chance of him diving into the water. He knew how to swim, but ever since Tikrit, he'd kept his love for the water restricted to swimming pools.
But now, as his stomach grumbled at him for not eating since he got off the plane this morning, he needed to eat. Brad had spent quite a bit of time explaining everything the cupboards and refrigerator had been stocked with, and he saw a sandwich and beer in his near future.
Annie ran along the sand, her bare feet digging into the warm, soft grains as she padded along. She'd figured that the entire stretch from her hut down to the end where the beach stopped into sharp rocks and trees was about a mile, and from the first night, she'd taken to running it as the sun set.
After a warm-up stretch on her deck, she set out at a flat run all the way down, and turning at the end, slowed down to a jog. The sun set along the water, and if she timed her run correctly, she could enjoy the magnificent sight as she ran along.
The last ray of sun had slid away, and the water sparkled with the orange of the sky as she neared her hut. She glanced up at the few huts she passed on the way, and wondered if its occupants, though hidden from her view with well-placed trees and other flora and fauna, minded her using their personal stretch of beach as her run track.
So far, she hadn't seen anyone giving her a death glare, though. In fact, she hadn't seen anyone. It didn't matter to her, however, 'cause the more people around meant more noise, and she needed and craved some peace and quiet.
Her hut came into view, and she slowed her jog down to a walk as she passed the hut immediately beside hers. A good 50 yards separated their residences, but given the terrain and abundance of palm trees and bushes, you'd never even guess that you weren't alone on your own desert island.
A door shutting at her neighbor's hut caused her to glance that way. When she'd checked in, she was told only a few of the huts were inhabited, and the one next to hers was empty. Had it been occupied in the past few days?
The glance turned into a downright stare as she watched the person, a man, walk out onto the deck. She wasn't too close, just a few feet away from the water's edge, but even from that distance, she'd recognize the wavy brown hair and muscular, rangy build. The slower than normal movements and white cane extending in front of him affirmed the fact that her neighbor was none other than Auggie Anderson.
Surprise, bewilderment and shock flashed through her mind as she stopped walking and stared, open-mouthed, at him. The final emotion, though, was anger as she figured that Joan had broken her promise to leave her alone save an absolute emergency for these two weeks.
Damn it, she didn't need a baby sitter, and the world definitely didn't need saving, else he'd be at her hut, knocking on her door. No, Joan obviously didn't trust her enough and had her followed. And, on top of everything, Auggie had gone along with the idea, and planted himself within shouting distance.
She was nearly shaking with anger as she stalked across the sand to the wooden deck Auggie was standing on, drinking a beer. He wore a t-shirt and shorts, and leather sandals covered his feet. Had the circumstances been different, she'd tease him about finally getting out of his dark-grey-sweater-and-slacks wardrobe. But she didn't feel in a teasing mood now. Right now she was angry, and as her bottom foot hit the wooden step of Auggie's deck, she was ready to let it go with both barrels.
Auggie was about to raise the beer bottle to his lips when he heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps. As they got louder, and came from the direction of the waves, he figured he'd be getting company in about five, four, three, two, one.
A bare foot hit a wooden step, and he tensed. "Hello?"
Several more footsteps up the wooden stairs, and he took a preemptive step back. "Excuse me, can I help you?"
"Yes, you can tell me what the hell you're doing here!" Annie shouted at him, coming to a stop two feet in front of him.
Auggie froze, not sure he believed his ears. He automatically took a quick inhale, but given all the unfamiliar smells in the area, he couldn't ascertain for certain what his ears were telling him.
"Annie?" he choked out.
"Yes, Auggie, it's Annie. Now, are you going to answer my question or not? What the hell are you doing here?" she shouted, though not quite as loudly. He seemed genuinely shocked at her presence.
"I'm on vacation, Annie. The question should be, what are you doing here? I thought you were on a mission or something."
"No, I'm not on a mission. I'm not supposed to be anywhere," Annie said, lowering her voice to a more normal level. Sighing loudly, she turned away from him, walking the length of his deck. She ran her fingers through her hair, the adrenaline from her run coupled with the shock of seeing him pumped through her body, and she tried to calm down before she hit something.
Even though Auggie looked shocked to see her, she still couldn't believe the coincidence of her and Auggie both taking vacations at the same time, and winding up in the same small bit of space in the entire world.
"I didn't tell anyone – not Joan, not even Danielle - where I was going for a reason, Auggie. It's not very fair of you to follow me."
Auggie opened his mouth to answer, then shut it again, not quite sure what was happening. He tried to process the information like any good CIA operative would, but he was so shaken, he found it difficult. Annie was on vacation, not on a mission. Check. Annie hadn't told anyone where she was going on said vacation. Check. Annie thought she was following him?
"I didn't follow you, Annie. I didn't even know you were here. Why would you think that?"
Rounding on him, Annie shook her head. She wanted to believe him, but it still didn't explain how, or why he was here in the first place. "Then why are you here? Right here, 50 yards away from my vacation rental."
"Joan's idea. I'd been –" Auggie hesitated at telling her that he'd screwed up on the job, but given how angry she was now, he knew she'd settle for nothing other than the truth. "I screwed up. I made a mistake, a big one, on the job, and Joan forced me to take two weeks off."
"And that explains your being here how?"
"I told her sitting in my apartment for two weeks wasn't my idea of relaxation, so she set this up for me. Said her and Arthur had visited here for an anniversary or something years ago, and the full-service staff would cater to people – well, to people who needed help," Auggie explained.
Annie walked over to the bench by the stairs and sat down. The adrenaline high the run had given her was starting to wear off, and she suddenly felt very tired. Very tired and slightly pissed off. The two days she'd been here had been so very quiet, so peaceful. The past five minutes completely erased that, and once again she was thrown, without her knowledge or consent, back into the real world.
"Joan promised me she wouldn't try to find me unless it was absolutely necessary, but I guess her promises don't mean much, huh?" she asked to nobody in particular. "So I guess she had me followed or something, and got my destination."
Standing suddenly, she began to pace the deck again. "And then, of course, when the opportunity arose, and you needed to go on vacation, she picked here. Why wouldn't she? I mean, kill two birds with one stone. She gets you to relax for two weeks, and she also gets to keep tabs on me."
Auggie listened to her ranting and pacing, and when she came close to him, he reached out an arm and grabbed her. She sounded like she was getting hysterical, and he needed to calm her down. When she tried to pull her arm out of grasp, he tightened his grip. "Annie, calm down and listen to me. I didn't know you were here. And I'm pretty sure Joan doesn't know you're here. You're getting paranoid."
Annie tried to shake off his hand, but his grip was tight. Not quite bruising, but strong enough to stop her from pacing. So she stood, staring up at him. "Paranoid? You do know who we work for, right, Auggie? I think I have a right to be paranoid. I was recruited under false pretenses, sent out on extremely dangerous missions, lied to – to my face, and used as bait to draw in a rogue agent. Oh, and yeah, sent out with that rogue agent months later only to have him die in my arms! I have a right to be paranoid!"
Annie jerked her arm again, and Auggie let go this time. She turned away, trying to gather her thoughts. After a few seconds, she looked back at him. He stood there, not saying a word, his face imperceptible. She wanted to believe him, she really did. But the odds were too great that this was nothing but a coincidence.
Disappointment washed over her, and coupled with the exhaustion and shock, it didn't surprise her to find tears smarting her eyes. She wasn't sure what else she could say, so she took the easiest way out. She walked away.
Auggie heard her footsteps down the wooden stairs, and opened his mouth to call out to her. But he didn't. She was obviously very upset, and though the cause of it all lay in misunderstandings, he knew from experience that it was best to let her ride it out.
He just hoped she didn't lay the blame at his feet and walk away from him. What he could do is allay her fears that Joan sent him here on purpose. One phone call back to the States should do it, but to do that without giving away Annie's vacation destination would be a bit of a challenge.
It took a few minutes for Auggie to dig his cellphone and Bluetooth out of his luggage. He hadn't planned on using it for a while, if at all, for the next two weeks, but he was still glad he packed it, just in case. After a few minutes of punching in numbers and waiting, he soon heard a familiar voice.
"Joan, good to hear your voice."
"Auggie, it's only been 24 hours. You were given two weeks."
"Don't worry, Joan. I'm not calling to beg for my release. Just wanted to check in."
"Good. I take it the accommodations are acceptable?"
"More than, believe me. Very quiet, too."
"A lot of people there?"
"Not at all. Practically deserted, in fact."
"Great news, Arthur and I were inundated by spring breakers our last time there."
Auggie chuckled at this. "Nope, no spring breakers here. With the exception of the staff, seems like I'm the only one here right now," Auggie said, and listened carefully to the tone of Joan's voice as she answered. He'd love to just come out and ask, Hey, Joan, did you send me down to here to spy on Annie, but if the answer was in the negative, he'd be betraying Annie's trust.
"Good. As for the staff, did they make the place suitable for you? I left explicit instructions."
As he listed for Joan all the changes Brad had made to the hut, Auggie felt a bit relieved. Partly for himself, but more so for Annie. She was right in her summation that she had every right to be paranoid when it came to the CIA's motivations. But, as he continued to talk with Joan about the resort, he soon found that she had absolutely no idea that Annie was here.
After a few more minutes, Auggie thanked Joan again for setting up this vacation for him, and promised not to contact her again until he was at the airport on his way home. He slid the phone and Bluetooth back into his luggage and stepped back out onto his deck. He listened intently, but heard nothingexcept for the waves crashing and a soft wind blowing through the trees. He thought of calling out to Annie, but he wasn't sure how far away her hut was, or even if she was awake.
He'd have to wait until tomorrow to give her the good news. He only hoped she had calmed down and was willing to listen to him. He'd seen her that upset only a couple of times in the past, and though the first time it startled him, by the third time, he realized what calmed her down the most was time. She'd get upset, she'd yell, get it all out, but he knew after a few hours, she'd calm down enough to be able to talk.
Annie sat on the wooden steps of her deck, watching the nearly full moon's reflection dance off the water. Its brightness lit up the beach in an eerie silver glow. She'd plopped down there three hours ago, ever since she'd left Auggie, watching as the last glows of the sun disappeared from the sky and the stars blinked into existence, one by one. Then the moon began to rise, and the beach lit up again.
She would have enjoyed the magnificent view as she did the past few days, but her mind was reeling, and she spent the past few hours thinking. By the time the moon rose several degrees off the horizon, she'd come a few decisions. One major one was that her initial summation that Auggie had been sent to keep tabs on her didn't make any sense. If the CIA wanted to keep an eye on her, they'd probably send someone she didn't know and plant them amongst the staff members.
Or they'd simply plant some surveillance in her hut. Neither of which has happened. Annie wasn't one to believe too much in fate or coincidence, but maybe this once, she'd have to take her current circumstances as such.
She really wanted to be by herself for these two weeks, but, she asked herself, was it really that bad that Auggie was here, too? Shaking her head at the rhetorical question, she was hit by a wave of regret and remorse over what she said to him. She as much as accused him of conspiring with Joan against her. Him, Auggie, the one true friend she had in the world. The only one that'd been there for her through, well, everything.
Standing up, she checked her watch. It was late, but she hoped he was still awake. She couldn't imagine going to sleep tonight with the guilt she felt weighing so heavily on her.
She was almost off the deck when she turned and went inside her hut, grabbing two beers out of her refrigerator. It was a poor apology, but as the resort's gift shop was several miles away, it'd have to do. She also grabbed a flashlight off the bookshelf and set out.
The moonlight lit the sand as she walked along, so she kept the flashlight turned off. As she cleared the bushes, and his hut came into view, she smiled as she saw he was still awake, though it was nearly 11:00. He lay in his chaise lounge, still in the same tee and shorts, but his feet were bare. His head lay back, and his ever-present headphones lay over his ears.
As she walked up the wooden steps, he didn't move. She saw the headphones were connected to his iPod, and his fingers tapped against his thighs in time with the music.
She stood there for a few seconds, but as he didn't acknowledge her presence, she realized, without her regular scent and in such a new atmosphere, his normal way of knowing where she was was severely limited.
She tried clearing her throat, to no avail. Then, taking a few more steps toward him, she placed one of the ice cold beers against his foot. The effect was instantaneous as he jumped and jerked. His hands reached up and jerked his headphones off, and he was close to swearing.
"Auggie, it's me."
"Annie? What the hell?"
"You had your headphones on."
"I know I had –" Auggie took a deep breath and was about to ask her what kind of game she was playing when he heard her giggling. "Funny, really. Next time, a hand on my arm will do."
"But not nearly as humorous," Annie said, sitting down on the foot of the chaise. She held the bottle out to him, tapping it on the outside of his hand. "It's a beer. Poor excuse for an apology, but it's all I had."
Auggie removed his headphones completely and shut off his music, laying both on the floor beside the chaise. He wasn't surprised to see her here, but the fact her mood had switched 180 degrees made him wonder what happened in the past three hours.
Taking the "apology" out of her hand, he took a hefty swig. "So, guess you don't think I'm here to spy on you anymore?"
"No," Annie said.
"I called Joan."
"You didn't tell her I was here, did you?"
"Of course I didn't, Annie. I asked a few leading questions, and as far as I can tell, your secret is safe with me," he said, lifting his bottle to her. He heard a clink as she tapped hers against his, and they both took a drink.
"So," Annie said, turning on the foot of the chaise and pulling her legs up to her chin, "We're both here."
"For two weeks."
"About that, yep."
"Some coincidence, huh?"
Auggie knew where she was going with this, and he smiled. "I don't believe in them, either, but there's no other explanation."
When she didn't reply, Auggie wondered if she regretted the situation they found themselves in. Her rant a few hours ago, though full of accusations and untruths, held one nugget of truth. She had essentially ran away to be by herself for two weeks.
"If you want, I could get a hold of Brad and have him move me to another place, Annie. I know you said you wanted to be alone, and –"
Annie's quick refusal startled the both of them, and before he could say anything else, she quickly added, "I mean, I was expecting to be here alone, but really, I don't mind staying with you. Or, I mean, staying here, on this island, with you."
"Okay," Auggie said slowly, trying not to grin at her Freudian slip. "I was kind of hoping you'd say that, 'cause, well, Brad showed me around and everything, and I'm comfortable with being here, but –"
"It's a new place," Annie supplied.
"Yeah," Auggie said. He shook his head and continued, "Maybe I should have taken Joan's advice and went to my parents' house or stayed home."
Annie watched as the normally self-controlled and self-sufficient exterior Auggie held crumble just a bit. Reaching out, she placed her hand on his calf. "Auggie."
"I mean, how exactly does she expect me to relax when I can't even take a few steps without stumbling into something?" Auggie asked. "I'm at a beach resort, but all I can do is sit on the sand and listen to the waves. I could have done that at home with a relaxation tape."
Annie chuckled. "She probably thought the staff here would be able to help you."
Auggie tilted his head at her, rolling his eyes a bit. "They're strangers, Annie."
"I'm not a stranger," Annie repeated. "If you need help, just give a shout across, and I'll be here. My place is just 50 yards to your left."
"Come on, Annie, that's not fair to you. You're here to relax," Auggie said, sighing heavily.
"And you think I'm going to relax knowing you're over here stumbling around?" Annie asked. She saw him shaking his head, but before he could turn her down, she continued, "No, it'll be fun. You could go running with me."
Auggie wasn't sure he heard her right. "Running?"
"Yeah, along the beach at sunset. That's what I was doing when I saw you."
"Well, I was thinking of asking them to get me a treadmill, but –"
"This'll be much better. I promise not to run you off a cliff," Annie said.
Auggie laughed, "Are there any cliffs here?"
"No, but a lot of large boulders down at the end," Annie said, smiling. She saw him mulling the idea over, and she opened her mouth to talk him into it when he acquiesced.
"Okay, sounds like fun."
Annie could have jumped for joy at his words, but instead clapped her hands. "Perfect." Standing up, she was halfway off the deck and headed back to her hut when a sudden thought came to her.
"Auggie, what time did you plan on waking up?"
Auggie had gathered his headphones and iPod and was extricating himself from the chaise when she stopped on her way down the stairs. "Why do you ask?"
"Umm, breakfast? No use us cooking for ourselves when we could share."
Annie wondered to herself where all this was coming from as the words spilled from her mouth. Just a few hours ago, she was so mad at him being there, she could rip her hair out. And now, she was inviting him to have breakfast with her.
"Sounds good. I usually wake early, so whenever you get up, come over."
Annie smiled wide, "Okay." Then, acting on a sudden urge, she walked up to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. The sudden action stilled him for a second, but soon his arms reciprocated and wound around her shoulders.
Annie's sudden embrace startled Auggie, not only for its impetuousness, but also the fact that, as he returned her hug, he found that she'd been wearing next to nothing. His hands encountered not cloth, but rather smooth, warm skin. His fingers, almost of their own accord, ran down her back and encountered a strip of cloth below her shoulder blades that he took to be a bikini top.
Annie felt his hands slide down her back, and her cheeks flushed as she realized how unclothed she was. She'd taken her run after sunbathing, and only slipped on a pair of shorts over her bikini bottoms before she headed out.
And, as she felt his fingers dance along her bare skin, her eyes fluttered shut. An unbidden warmth emanated from his touch, and she sighed softly into it.
His voice broke her burgeoning thoughts, and her eyes flew back open. She pulled back, looking up at his face. Clouds had partially covered the moon's glow, and his features weren't as clear as they had been when they were talking just a few moments ago. She did see, though, the same uncertain look in his eyes that she was feeling.
Standing on tiptoe, she brushed her lips against his cheek and whispered good night. Before she moved away, though, she felt his head tilt just slightly as he returned her token of affection, brushing his lips against her cheek, as well.
"See you tomorrow?" Auggie asked as she stepped back.
"Tomorrow," Annie said, picking up her flashlight off the chaise as she walked away.
Auggie was busying himself peeling an orange when he heard footsteps on his deck. He'd left the door open, hoping to hear Annie if she did, in fact, plan to come over to have breakfast with him. And, as he heard her soft voice calling for him, he grinned and called out, "Come in, Annie."
"Hey, I was hoping you were up," Annie said, walking over to him. He stood at the island in the small kitchen, deftly arranging orange slices on a plate already overflowing with strawberries, pineapples and mango. "Fruit for breakfast? I always pictured you as a steak and eggs kind of man."
"Never understood the idea of steak for breakfast, but you're right. Usually I just have a coffee, but all this stuff was provided by the staff, and I thought we could enjoy it."
"Do you have coffee?" Annie asked, reaching over and snatching an orange slice out of his fingers.
"Behind me on the counter. Not sure what brand it is, but it smelled strong enough," Auggie said, pointing over his shoulder. "Why don't you grab a couple mugs, and we can eat this out on the deck?"
By the time Annie had found two mugs and prepared coffee for them both, Auggie had already disappeared with the fruit plate outside. Balancing them both in her hands, she walked out to find him in the chaise lounge again, the platter settled on his lap.
"Umm, Auggie? Where am I going to sit?"
"Oh, right," Auggie said, "Forgot there's only one of these here. Here, you take it, I'll sit on the deck."
"Uh-uh," Annie said, walking over to him. "Just pull your legs up. I'll sit on the end."
She handed him his mug of coffee and moved the fruit between them as they sat, cross-legged and facing each other. "This is comfortable enough. Though if we do this again, I may have to drag my chaise over."
Auggie raised an eyebrow at her, "Do this again? I take it you plan on spending every morning over here?"
Annie's fingers froze before the strawberry could touch her lips. She wasn't quite sure if he knew how flirtatious his comment had sounded, but she took her time eating the sweet fruit before answering. She wasn't sure if he was teasing her or not, but she decided to play his game. "Only if you want me to. We could always do it over on my deck."
Auggie, unfortunately, was taking a drink of his coffee when she replied, and the hot liquid slid down his throat quicker than he meant it to. He choked a bit, and felt his eyes water at the slight sting of pain.
Annie bit back a giggle at his reaction. Guess he wasn't used to receiving as well as he took. "Just saying, I've got two chairs on my deck."
Auggie nodded, blinking furiously and swallowing a couple times. He reached out to the plate for a piece of fruit to cool his throat and felt Annie's fingers placing an orange slice in them. "Thanks."
"So, what's your plans for today?" Annie asked.
"Hadn't really thought of it."
"Same here," Annie said, sipping her coffee. "The only thing I had planned on doing for two weeks was relaxing, running and reading."
"Well, I did bring my computer."
"Knew there was no tv here, so I brought some music, audiobooks, videos."
"Uh-huh," Annie said, popping another strawberry in her mouth. "Auggie, you do know you're on a beautiful island resort and not at home, right?"
Auggie heard her teasing tone and shot her a mock look of hurt. "Well, what do you propose I do?"
"Did you pack a swimsuit?"
"Yeah, but didn't think a blind guy going swimming alone in an ocean was very safe, so I haven't unpacked it."
"Hmm, you're right, but I'm here now. You're not alone."
Before Auggie could answer that she didn't have to take him out swimming like he was a 5-year-old, she continued.
"Got a large beach towel?"
"Didn't bring one, but I think there's a couple in the bathroom," Auggie said. "You don't have to take me out swimming, Annie. I'd be much more comfortable in a pool, if they've got one here."
"Okay," Annie said, settling back. She was bound and determined to get him out of the hut, but how to do so without physically dragging him? A sudden thought came to her, and she quickly finished her coffee.
"Thanks for the breakfast. I'm going to go take a shower. See you later?"
"I'm not going anywhere," Auggie said.
An hour later, Auggie had finished his shower and was pulling a t-shirt over his head when he remembered Annie's words as they ate breakfast. She was right, he knew. Relegating himself to doing the same activities here as he did at home didn't make much sense. He refused, absolutely, to try to go swimming, but he did have quite an expanse of beach out there.
He'd never really gone sunbathing before, but hell, there was a first time for everything, he thought. He quickly removed the t-shirt again, and in his sandals and shorts – he refused to change into his swim trunks – he grabbed his cane and a large towel and headed out to the sand.
He'd been laying on his towel in the sand, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his skin when he heard the unmistakable approach of Annie's footsteps. He smiled to himself, as he noted that, even without the heels, her walk was undeniably light and feminine.
"Hey, come to join me?"
Annie couldn't quite believe it when she'd seen him lying out on the sand as she walked back to his place. She had spent the past hour showering and gathering all the essentials she deemed necessary to pull him out of the building, but it now seemed completely unnecessary.
"Guess you decided to come down off the deck, huh?"
Auggie shrugged his shoulders, "Just trying to relax on my vacation."
"Uh-huh," Annie said, dropping her beach bag on the sand next to him. Flipping her towel out on the sand next to him, she sat down, kicking her sandals off her feet. "How long you been out here?" she asked, glancing over at him. She saw that he still had the shorts on, but he'd opted to forego the t-shirt. Though she'd seen him dressed in casual clothes before, outside of work, it was the first time she'd seen him go without a shirt, and she couldn't help but stare.
Every so often, he'd wear a fitted sweater or shirt, and she knew his build was more muscular than a techno geek should have. But now, having it on display in front of her, she felt her heart rate speed up a bit.
"Don't know, didn't bring my watch. About a half hour, maybe?"
"That's what I thought," Annie remarked, pulling a tube out of her bag. "You didn't bring any suntan lotion with you, did you?"
"Uhh, no, why do you ask?"
"Well, unless you're planning on auditioning to be a PowderPuff Girl, I'd put some on."
"What?" Auggie asked, leaning up on one elbow to face her.
"You're pink," Annie remarked, laughing. "Want to borrow some of mine? I don't think you've done any damage yet, so you should be all right."
Annie watched as he sat up and held his hand out to her. She slapped the tube onto his palm, and lay back on her towel, slipping her sunglasses on. "Don't use all of that. I'm going to need some."
"This was your idea, remember," Auggie said, squeezing some of the cold liquid onto his hand. Starting with his chest, he smeared it over his skin and began rubbing it in.
Annie had closed her eyes as she lay down, but opened them as she heard him grunting a bit. She watched as his hands slid over his shoulders, trying to reach his back. Sitting back up, she noticed his efforts were hit-and-miss at best. "You missed a spot on your arm."
"Uhh, this is impossible," Auggie said, lowering his hands and wiping the remaining lotion on his legs. "I'm going in to get a t-shirt." He went to stand up, but felt Annie's hand on his shoulder, sitting him back down.
"No, you won't," Annie said. "Give me the tube."
Auggie handed the tube back to her, and in a few moments, felt her hand begin to move over his shoulder. He tried to pretend her touch wasn't affecting him, but he'd be lying to himself. Ever since last night, when she'd wrapped her arms around him, he'd been craving her touch again. He'd spent the night wondering how much of that hug and caress of her lips on his cheek was innocent, and how much of it was actual affection.
Now, as her fingers moved across his chest fixing his sporadic attempts at suntan lotion application , he secretly hoped it was the latter. Two weeks alone with Annie on a resort island seemed like something close to a bizarre dream.
"There, that looks better," Annie said, applying the last of the lotion from her fingers along his forehead and cheek. "I shouldn't have laughed before. You just seemed so out of your element, lying here."
"There's a first time for everything," Auggie said, throwing her a wink.
"Never laid out in the sun before?"
"Not like this. If my Army buddies saw me now, I'd never hear the end of it."
Annie smiled and brushed a lock of hair off his forehead, "Your buddies aren't here, you know. You can do what you want."
Sitting there next to her, Auggie fought the urge to grasp her hand and place it on his cheek. He could do what he wanted, huh, he thought. She's right. And, if his instincts were right, what he wanted to do, right then, right there, shouldn't come as a surprise.
Annie's eyes grew wide as she saw him lean towards her. She'd edged close to him to apply the suntan lotion and hadn't moved away, so there was very little empty space between them. And, though his eyes focused somewhere close to her left ear, his lips were moving unerringly towards hers.
She didn't move a muscle, but only let her eyes flutter closed when his lips touched hers. She didn't know why she expected only a slight brush, but was happy to be wrong as the insistent warmth pressed against hers. He didn't touch her save for her mouth, and she sighed a bit as his lips parted, moving over hers in such a way that hers reciprocated.
She felt his breath escape into her mouth as he murmured her name, and the hesitant touch of his tongue against hers sent a cool thrill down her sun-heated skin. Too soon, he pulled back, and an unbidden, unhappy moan escaped her throat.
Auggie felt an unapologetic surge of masculine pride at the sound and grinned. "You said I should do what I want," he murmured, laying back down on his towel.
Annie was trying to regain a steady heart rate and opened her eyes at his words. "Auggie, what – why – I mean, I didn't think –"
Turning his head toward her, Auggie reached out a hand to her, settling it on her arm. "Do you really have to ask?"
Annie placed her hand on his, turning it and wrapping her fingers with his. No, she thought to herself. She really didn't have to ask why he did it. She knew, maybe ever since she'd first seen him on his deck the day before. She was angry at first at his intrusion into her fantasy world, but fate had thrown them together, and she'd be damned if she let this opportunity pass her by.
Pulling their entwined hands up to her lips, she pressed a kiss on his palm before releasing it. Then, pulling her hair over to the side, she leaned over him and returned his caress. She felt him smile beneath her lips and pulled back, placing one more kiss on his nose before laying back down on her towel.
She slid her sunglasses onto her face, and stretching out on her towel, felt his hand reach across to her, his fingers entwining with hers.
"Hey, Auggie?" Annie said quietly, squeezing his fingers in their still-clasped hands between them.
"You up for a swim? Sun's kind of hot, don't you think?"
"Not now," Auggie replied somewhat sleepily. "You can go ahead, if you want."
Auggie felt her fingers slip from his, and he instantly missed their softness. Maybe he should have said yes. His body had relaxed so much, he wasn't sure if moving at all was in his near future. He heard splashing, and in his mind, he pictured Annie in a swimsuit – a bikini, similar to the one he'd felt when she hugged him the night before. Her long, blonde hair glowing in the sunshine as she dove through the water.
He groaned as the lower portion of his body reacted to the mental image. His impetuous act of kissing her a little while ago had lit a small flame throughout his body, which flickered and burned a little brighter as she'd leaned over him and kissed him back.
Back home, he knew he'd never have even thought of Annie being with him, but pulled so far away from anyone else and their responsibilities, it seemed almost inevitable.
"Excuse me, Mr. Anderson?"
Auggie jerked a bit as he was pulled out of his thoughts. "Yes? Brad, is it?"
"Yes, sir. I'm glad to see you're taking advantage of our beautiful beaches."
Auggie sat up and turned toward the man standing to his right. "Well, can't sit in the hut for two weeks, now, can I?"
Brad noted the towel, bag and sandals lying beside his guest on the sand. "I just came by to see if you needed anything else, but I see that you have company?"
"My neighbor, actually, in the next hut, Annie Walker. She arrived a few days ago."
"Ahh, yes, Miss Walker. You just met, or –"
"We're friends, back in the States, actually."
"And ran into each other down here. What a wonderful stroke of fortune."
Auggie smiled at the turn of phrase. "Exactly what I thought. She's swimming now."
Brad looked out to where Auggie pointed and saw Miss Walker floating on the waves. "She is a beautiful woman."
"Yeah, I know," Auggie said thoughtfully.
Brad turned his head toward his guest, whose face had softened at his statement. He smiled knowingly. "Should you need different accommodations, we offer larger huts that are more conducive to couples, including a hot tub and sauna."
Auggie blinked and tried to swallow a sudden intake of breath at the man's words. "No – no, you see, we're not really together. It's just, well, we've been friends for over a year, and –"
"Understood, sir. I apologize if I've overstepped my bounds."
"You haven't, really. It's just –" Auggie sighed. "Listen, Brad, I was wondering if you could do me a favor."
"The staff here are available for any request our guests have. Do you have something in mind?"
Annie took a deep breath and dipped her head under the water, coming up face first to allow her hair to stream down her back. Treading water, she glanced toward the shore. Auggie was sitting up on his blanket, talking with one of the uniformed staff members. She couldn't remember the man's name, but they seemed to be deep in conversation.
As she was far away enough that he couldn't tell she was staring, Annie let herself look at him. The suntan lotion had done its job, and his skin glowed a bit in the sunshine. Those well-defined muscles now seemed a bit more precise, and she longed to feel them under her fingertips again. She'd never let herself indulge in the mini-crush she'd developed for him over the past year, as his penchant for flirtatious behavior and being a magnet for women caused a bit of jealous feelings to arise in her.
So she'd settled for the tight bond of friendship that had grew between them, and right now, she was glad she'd done so. He'd both surprised and thrilled her with that impromptu kiss, and his words after cemented the unspoken question that had hung between them since the night before. Did they have a chance breaking the friends boundary?
As she watched the staff member walk away, Annie took a couple of strokes toward shore and let the waves carry her in to the sand. She pulled her hair over her shoulder and squeezed out the excess water. Walking up to him, Annie reached down and grasped his hands, tugging lightly.
"Did you want something, Annie?" Auggie asked innocently as he was pulled to his feet. He stood and let himself be led with her. When he realized she was pulling him towards the water, he stopped.
"Come on, Auggie. It's hot out here. You need to cool off in the water," Annie said, as he halted their progress.
"I've only got shorts on, you know. These aren't my swim trunks."
"Excuses, excuses," Annie said, giving another tug on his hands. They'd reached the very edge of the shoreline, and the water lapped at their toes as it rose up. "Please, Auggie?"
Auggie's insides melted a bit as another portion of his body tightened at her soft, pleading voice. He had a sudden thought that, if she begged him to jump into an active volcano with that same thought, he'd do so without another thought. Damn, he was falling in deep here. And falling fast, as she began pulling his arms again, and he let her lead him into the water.
As the water passed their waists, Annie let go of his hands and did a stroke backwards, lightly slapping at the water and causing a bit of a spray to hit Auggie. He looked surprised at first by her teasing act, but it quickly turned into a wolfish smile as he smoothly dove into the water, disappearing beneath the surface.
Annie laughed and took a couple of strokes out on her back, treading water and enjoying the warm water. If only she could stay here forever, she thought. She'd traveled around the world, but the tropics had always been her first choice as a place to completely relax.
She floated above the swell of the waves as they passed her for a few seconds longer when she began looking around, wondering where Auggie had gone. Her answer came soon enough, as she felt strong hands encircle her waist, and his dripping, shaggy head emerged inches away from her.
"Auggie! You startled me. I thought you said you couldn't swim."
"I never said that," Auggie said, pulling Annie's body closer to him. Their legs brushed as they both treaded water, and he settled his hands on either side of her waist. "I said I didn't want to go swimming alone in the big, blue ocean. On the other hand, having a swim buddy does have its advantages."
"Oh, really?" Annie asked, small shivers racing up her legs every time they brushed with his. "Tell me, Mr. Anderson, what are these miraculous advantages you speak of that would allow you to swim in the beautiful ocean?"
"I'd rather show you," Auggie said, clenching his fingers slightly to bring her closer to him. "That is, if you're willing to."
The movement of the water brushed Annie up closer to him with every swell, and the effect wasn't lost on either of them. Auggie felt her arms move up his and hook around his neck. He slid his hands around her smooth back, and as her body brushed up against his, he groaned at the exquisite contact. Another wave rode over their shoulders, and with it came Annie's lips as they brushed against his.
Their legs were near tangled together as they continued to tread water while grasping onto each other. Auggie felt her head tip to the side, and he allowed his to do the same, her tentative kiss deepening a bit as her lips parted slightly. He let her take the lead, opening his mouth to the insistent tip of her tongue as it slid along his lower lip, tasting him, allowing him to taste her.
Her hands slid up his neck, fingers running through his hair, gripping and pulling his mouth closer to hers. Auggie, in return, splayed his fingers along her back, one along the lower dip above her bikini bottom, the other between her shoulder blades. He realized with a groan of satisfaction how well their bodies fit together. Perhaps it was the seductive movement of the water as it moved over them, between them. But more than likely, it was the electric attraction that flared up once they'd given in and reached for each other.
Auggie opted for the attraction theory as he felt a wave of desire course through his body. Suddenly, his legs wanted nothing more to do with trying to keeping them afloat, and he wrapped one around hers as it brushed against his thigh.
The lack of movement, though, caused gravity to take over, and they began to sink into the water. As a wave swept over both their heads, Annie broke her kiss and released her tight grip on his shoulders and neck as they both pushed back up to the surface.
"Wow," she sighed, as she took ashaky breath.
Auggie's arms had released her back, and they settled once more on her waist, as both their legs resumed the treading motion. He felt her arms slide once more down his shoulders to his hands as they held onto her. "Think we should get out of the water before we drown?"
"It is close to lunchtime," Annie said, running her hands along his forearms beneath the water. "Got anymore of that fruit left? Maybe we can find some chocolate and have some dipped strawberries."
"Uh-uh, lunch is taken care of," Auggie said, moving backwards, taking her with him toward the shore. "Why don't you go dry off, and I'll meet you in my hut."
A/N Warning, M-rated chapter ahead. Hot, yes. Pornographic? not at all. Enjoy.
Annie skipped down the steps of her hut, the skirt of her white sundress flowing around her calves. The changeable weather this time of year now started kicking up gusts of wind, that now were trying their best to whip at her legs.
She headed across the sand to meet Auggie who, after dinner in his hut and a good night kiss that still left her toes curling in her sandals, asked her to join him as soon as she could in the morning. It'd only been three days since they met up here, yet she couldn't hope but wish they'd never leave.
Rounding the stand of trees, she headed out onto the sand. Auggie said to meet her on the beach, but wouldn't say why. Now, as he came into view, she gasped and smiled. Auggie was carrying a bucket from the shoreline back to a mound of sand he had heaped up. By the shape of it, it looked as though he were attempting to build something.
Auggie sat down the bucket of seawater by the mound of sand at the sound of Annie's voice. "Hey, beautiful," he said, reaching a hand out to her. As her fingers entwined with his, he gave them a tug and smiled as her body brushed up against him. He used the moment of her being off-balance to dip his head down and kiss her. Auggie much preferred this version of Annie to the one he'd worked with all these months now. Her hair was down and naturally curly. From the brush of fabric against his bare legs, she was wearing a cotton dress. And, most of all, he preferred how she wore flat sandals, which dropped her height down at least four inches. Her head now rested more near his shoulder, and he could fit her frame directly in his arms.
"So, what do you think?" he asked, stepping back and sweeping his arm toward the sand.
Annie was still slightly dazed from his kiss and dragged her eyes from his smile to the mound of sand he had created at their feet. "That depends. What am I looking at?"
"Ha ha. Haven't you ever built a sand castle before?"
"Once. When I was 10."
"Good, then you can help me out. I've never done it," Auggie said, kneeling down. "It doesn't seem to be holding much shape, so I got some water," he said, pulling the plastic bucket towards him.
Annie looked down at him, the joy and calmness radiating from his face as he looked up at her expectantly. A little nugget of what felt like hope and forever sprouted in her chest, and she had to swallow quickly and blink a few times before she found her voice.
"You know, if you think your Army buddies would laugh at you sunbathing, I'm not sure what they'd say about you building sandcastles," she remarked, pulling her dress up above her knees as she knelt in the sand.
"They're not here, Annie. Nobody's here but you and me."
Annie sat still, pondering her words as he threw them back at her. He was right. No one else on earth knew she was here. And no one else, save the smiling man next to her, had to know. For a short time, she was truly free, and the thought both scared and thrilled her.
"I know. We can do what we want, right?" she asked. And before she got lost in those beautiful brown eyes, she reached across him and picked up the bucket of water he'd sat beside him. "So, a sandcastle, huh? Well, the first thing you need to do is wet the sand so it'll stick together."
Annie closed her eyes, relishing the feel of Auggie's fingertips as they ran through her hair, mindlessly tucking the strands behind her ear. They'd finished the sandcastle a half hour ago, despite Auggie's attempts to make it as precise as possible. She'd tried explaining to him that the beauty of sandcastles were their unpreciseness, but once he'd said he wanted to make it perfect for her, she'd relented.
And now, as she lay beside him, her head tucked into his lap, she was glad she did so. She only hoped it lasted a while so she could take a picture of it in a little bit. For now, she didn't want to move. She felt exhausted from their efforts, and the soft touch of his fingers as they ran through her hair and down her neck was slowly lulling her to sleep.
She didn't even notice when the wind started to pick up a bit. She'd only nestled deeper into his lap and tucked her hands under his thigh.
Her eyes had only just fluttered shut when she heard the unmistakable roll of distant thunder. Snapping her eyes open, she looked quickly around, sitting up off of Auggie's lap.
"Annie, what is it?"
"Didn't you hear that?" Annie said, looking up to the sky. Looking out towards the horizon, she saw an ominous roll of white and dark clouds moving towards them. "Storm's coming. We have to get inside."
"Of course," Auggie said, quickly standing up and holding out his hand for her to grab. Once she was on her feet, he walked quickly up the sand toward his hut. He'd become much more comfortable with his surroundings over the past few days, and they were soon across the sand, up the stairs, and indoors.
A minute later, the unmistakable sound of fat raindrops began pattering on the rooftop. It was followed by the ringing of the hut's landline telephone.
"Mr. Anderson, Brad here. I'm sure you know by now that it's raining outside. I just wanted to let you know that though storms are infrequent here, we do experience them. According to the weather report, it's a large storm, but should clear by morning."
"Thank you, Brad."
Auggie hung up the phone and turned to the room. "Annie?"
"Over here, by the window."
Auggie walked toward her voice, and stepped up behind her. "Brad said it doesn't rain here often, but we're in for a long one."
"Mm," Annie said, watching the rapidly darkening sky and raindrops hitting the sand. The sea churned a bit more, and the crests of the waves were larger and white. "Your sandcastle is melting."
Auggie heard the sadness in her voice and slid his hands around her waist. "It's just sand, Annie. It wasn't meant to be permanent."
"But I'd wanted to take a picture of it as a reminder of –"
"We can build another one, I promise," Auggie whispered, pulling her back towards him.
Annie nodded and leaned back into his embrace, his body warm against her back. His hands slid around her middle, and she laid her own hands on them. "So Brad said it's going to rain a while, huh?"
"Mm-hmm," Auggie said, breathing in the scent of her wind-tossed hair. Though she hadn't been wearing her signature citrus perfume this entire time, he still relished the now unmistakable scent of pure Annie. He wasn't sure if it was the scent of her shampoo or body wash, or perhaps what she had for breakfast that morning, but something about her at that moment was slowly yet insistently making the entire world drift away until he was aware of nothing but the feel of her in his arms and the sound of rain beating over their heads.
As he explored her hair with his nose and lips, working his way from the crown of her head down to a seemingly sensitive part of her neck, a very small part of him wondered if he were moving too fast, if she felt the same magnetic pull he did. If she pulled away now, he would, no doubt, allow her to leave his arms without the slightest bit of hesitation, but he smiled with a sense of masculine satisfaction when he felt her head tilt back, allowing him better access to her neck.
A groan emanated from his throat at her subtle action, and he tightened his arms, pulling her even closer to him.
That one word, full of longing and almost a question, erased all questions in his mind, and he loosened his grip on her, turning her body around to face him. He felt her hands slid up his chest, lighting a fire along their wake even through the thinness of his t-shirt. They came to a rest along his jaw and pulled. His mouth was soon on hers, and they drank on his lips.
Auggie's fingers gripped her waist tighter, the fabric of her dress bunching beneath his hands. As her kiss grew more insistent, slanting, opening, tasting, he moaned into her mouth, grasping frantically at her.
Her dress soon slipped up her legs with his actions, and he felt her pull away and lift her hands off his chest. With one sweeping move, Auggie tugged the sleeveless length of fabric up and over her head. As he dropped it to the floor beside them, he reached back for her, his fingers brushing against bare skin. She stepped back against him, her arms around his waist as she glided up against him.
Even through the material of his shirt, he could feel her bare breasts as they rubbed against his chest. His abdomen tightened at the exqusiite feeling, and he wrapped his arms around her, pressing her against him so he could prolong the feeling, the initial contact of her bare skin against him. It still wasn't enough, and he yearned for more. Annie obviously felt the same way, as he felt her fingers pulling his t-shirt out of the waistband of his shorts. She lifted it up, pressing herself against his skin and her lips against him.
Soon it was dropped on the floor along with her dress, and Auggie reached for her once again, wrapping one arm around her back, and the other behind her head, holding it still while he kissed her. He hadn't even realized they were moving until Annie broke their kiss to sit on his bed.
He felt her fingers graze against his stomach, and he grasped them as they touched the waistband of his shorts. "Annie, are you sure?"
"Auggie, please, we couldn't stop now if we tried," he heard her whisper.
Nodding, Auggie stepped away to the dresser, sliding his hand over the suitcase sitting on the top to an interior pocket. Packing condoms was just an afterthought, as he didn't really hold out any hopes of using them during his vacation, but now he sent a silent prayer and thank you that he had.
Walking back to his bed, he set the packets on his night stand before sitting down, holding out his arm to Annie. She soon entwined her fingers with his, and he leaned back on the bed, lying down, feeling her crawl up beside him. Her lips found his once again, and as they plundered each other's mouths, his hands explored her body.
Down her chest to her soft, warm breasts that leapt to life with his touch, her nipples hardening under his palm. As he pressed against them, he felt her groan into his mouth, and he repeated the action again and again, squeezing a bit each time until she practically purred and melted against him.
Her hands were working magic on his body, as well, her nails raking down his chest, then her soft fingertips soothing the marked skin. They both seemed to have the same thoughts as both their hands' exploratiosn moved down the other's body until he reached the cloth covering her ass, and her fingers the waistband of his shorts.
It was nearly a race to see who could get the other naked first, but Auggie didn't care. She had lit a fire in him, and he walked directly toward the flame, wanting, urging her to burn him. His fingers gripped at her waist, sliding down the smooth swell of her ass as she writhed beside him.
With one quick move, he twisted, moving her onto her back and laying completely atop her. From lips to calf, they touched, and Auggie stilled his actions, taking in the beauty and wonder of the moment. He felt his breath hitch in his throat at the feeling, and he dropped his head to her neck.
He'd never felt anything so amazing as he did then, and he allowed himself a second to breathe in and commit the feeling the memory. Soon, though, he felt her moving beneath him, her legs stretching out and wrapping around his. The movement caused the rapidly hardening portion of him to sink even further onto her soft, hot core.
He needed her, needed her now, needed more. With a hot, deep kiss to her lips, Auggie grabbed the packet off his nightstand and quickly had it opened and himself sheathed.
Once again, he resumed his position atop her, their mouths enjoined, her hands on his back, her legs wrapping around his hips. He'd wanted to take this slower, tasting her, making sure she was ready, but her frantic actions pushed all these thoughts away.
Though pressed beneath him into the mattress, Annie had angled her body with her hips and her legs until he'd found himself poised at her entrance. The next move was his, and he stilled for another moment, raising his hands to her face, balancing himself on his elbows by her head. As his fingers explored her skin, her eyes, her mouth, he felt her nod. That one instance of acquiescence was all he needed as he moved and slid into her with one hard thrust.
He heard and felt her breath escape, and he stayed there, allowing them both to get used to the movement. Him buried deep within her throbbing, hot center; her filled with his sheathed hardness.
As their breaths came back, Auggie found her mouth again and began moving within her. Her tongue stroked into his mouth, mimicking his movements, and he shuddered. Her legs locked around his hips, and Auggie lost all thought of control.
He whispered words of beauty and love and god, what was she doing to him as he sped up, and she kept up with him. He felt her starting to shudder, and he latched his mouth onto her breasts, licking and tasting and teasing. Sweat soon sheened both their skins, and as he felt her starting to come apart at the seams, her hands grabbed his head and pulled his face up to hers.
A glorious, hot and molten ache had gripped Auggie, as well, and he teetered on the precipice of control and letting go. Soon Annie came with a groan and a scream of his name, and he tumbled over, as well, losing all control as his orgasm hit. She writhed beneath him, her legs squeezing him, and he bucked uncontrollably over her.
When their bodies finally stopped shaking, Auggie lifted his weight off of her, but still held her in his arms, pressing kisses along her jawline. He turned away from her for a second to dispose of the condom, but she clung onto him, laying her head on his chest.
As his world righted itself again, he once again became aware of other sounds, the rain beating upon the roof for one. The sound was soothing and helped the staccato of his heart slow back down to normal.
And though he wanted to stay there forever in Annie's embrace, they were both hot and sweaty, and their time building the sandcastle had left him, at least, with sand between his toes.
"Annie?" he asked, pulling her hair off her face.
"Again? Too soon, gotta give me a minute."
Auggie gulped at the teasing implication. "N-No, just wanted to know if you wanted to shower."
Annie lifted her head off his chest and looked up at him. "Only if you joined me."
"I think I can manage that," Auggie said with a smile, laying a hot, searing kiss on her lips before standing up off the bed, holding his hand out to her.
A loud knocking woke Auggie. Its harsh staccato beating in on the cocoon of warmth and serenity he was experiencing. He slowly tried to get up, but the task proved difficult as he tried to extricate himself from the tangle of sheets and limbs.
After the most erotic shower he'd ever experienced, during which the water eventually ran cold, Annie made them both lunch, and they'd spent the rainy afternoon lounging on the couch and listening to music and talking.
Auggie had teased Annie over her initial comments about him bringing his laptop, but he was glad he had, though its use now served as a backdrop to a romantic and soothing day. They'd made love again before going to sleep, slower and less frantically than their initial frenzied coupling.
And for the first time in his life, when Auggie fell asleep, he did so in the soft, loving arms of a woman he never wanted to let go.
But now he had to as the knocking ceased to stop. He heard Annie rouse a bit as he pulled out from beneath her arm and leg that were wrapped around him, but he hushed her and promised he'd return.
He found his shorts on the floor and hastily pulled them on and walked through the bedroom and into the living room. The knocking at the door hadn't ceased, and he soon heard a voice accompanying it.
Auggie groaned at the sound of Brad's voice. Though more than welcome in the past few days, his personal staff member had chosen one of the worst times to perform a wellness check.
He opened the door quickly. "Yes, Brad, what's up?" he asked, trying not to let the annoyance he was feeling be heard in his voice.
"Oh, Mr. Anderson, I'm so glad to see you're well after the storm. It was worse than we expected, and I'm checking on all of the guests."
"I'm fine," Auggie said with a smile. "Spent the day yesterday listening to music." Well, it wasn't a lie, he thought.
"Great. Listen, you wouldn't know where Miss Walker is? Her hut sustained some wind damage, and I'm afraid a corner of the roof has torn completely loose," Brad said, a bit of the worry he was feeling becoming evident in his voice. "She didn't answer her door, and I'm afraid she's gone out in the storm."
"Ohh, well –" Auggie stammered. He knew well where Annie was, but wasn't too comfortable with announcing to the world – even the small part of it that was Brad – their newly found relationship.
"I'm here," he heard behind him.
Annie shuffled out of the bedroom, doing her best to look dignified and nonchalant, although all she was wearing was a white sheet wrapped around her body. "I'm here, Brad."
Mouth dropping open at the sight of her, Brad looked quickly between the sheet-clad blonde and bare-chested, blind man standing before him. His eyes looked around the room and saw items of clothing strewn on the floor. He'd known of customers in the past hooking up, but Mr. Anderson had only arrived two days ago. True, he had said they'd known each other for a year now, but he found it hard to believe that their meeting up here was completely a coincidence.
"You said my hut got damaged?" Annie asked, walking up beside Auggie.
Brad hurriedly pasted his professsional face back on and looked at her. "Yes, Miss Walker, and I'm happy to see that you weren't in it. I let myself in when you didn't answer for ten minutes, and it is partially flooded in the living room."
"Oh, no," Annie exclaimed, leaning into Auggie as his arm came around her shoulder.
"No need to worry, though," Brad continued. "We are more than willing to transfer you to another hut, with a generous partial refund of your payment."
"I need to move?" Annie asked. "Where to?"
"A hut several lots down is ready for accommodations," Brad said.
Annie nodded, though Brad's words sent a bit of a chill of disappointment through her. She'd have to move that far away from Auggie, just when –
"Would it be all right if Annie stayed here?"
Annie's thoughts froze, and her heart skipped a few beats at Auggie's words. His arm, warm across her back, clenched a bit more, and she looked up at his face. A smile crept onto her lips as his face mirrored her own emotions.
Brad took in the embraced couple with a calculating eye. "Of course, that would not be a problem. Mr. Anderson, if you'll recall our conversation a couple of days ago, the offer still stands of a larger hut, more conducive to couple, with a larger bed and hot tub?"
Annie tore her eyes away from Auggie's hopeful features to look at Brad, then looked back at Auggie again. "Two – two days ago? You talked about this? Auggie, what –"
"Brad, could you give us a second, please?" Auggie said, interrupting her.
"Of course. I'll just be on the deck," Brad said, closing the door behind him.
"Auggie, what –"
"Shh," Auggie said, turning toward her and placing his hands on her shoulders. He dipped his head down and gave her lips a soft brush. "Brad saw us on the beach, when we were sunbathing, and assumed we were a couple. He made the offer, but I said we were just friends, and the offer wasn't necessary."
"Oh," Annie said softly, a slight wave of disappointment washing over her. He thought they were just friends? Even after all that had happened over the past 24 hours? True, it was sudden and unexpected, and professions of love hadn't exactly been whispered to the other, but surely everything else that had been said more than made up for that, hadn't it?
Auggie heard the small sound, and coupled with how her shoulders slumped a bit at his words, he pulled her to him, wrapping her sheet-clad body to him. "Annie, that's how I felt then. After yesterday, you have to believe all that's changed."
He felt her nod against his chest and smiled. "I meant what I said, both yesterday and just a few seconds ago. You can stay here as long as you want, unless you want to take Brad's offer for the upgrade."
Annie felt her heart swell at his words. She chuckled to herself a little, wondering why she ever thought Auggie would be treating it like a one night stand. A whole future of possibilities flashed in her mind, widening her smile and her heart, and ending with the more immediate future of her and Auggie relaxing in a hot tub.
"Why, Mr. Anderson, are you asking me to move in with you? This is a bit sudden, don't you think?" she teased.
Auggie laughed and clutched her to him, the apprehension he'd been feeling during the time before she answered melting away. "Well, when I know what I want, I do have a tendency to to go after it with all that I have."
Annie nodded, pulling away a bit to look up at him. "So, you're saying what you want is –"
The simple answer erased all teasing from Annie's face, and she gasped. "Auggie, I –"
Her answer was cut off as his lips descended onto hers. Everything that had occurred in the last 48 hours came through in that kiss, and Annie melted against him, her arms wrapping around his neck. The move caused the sheet to slip down her body, and she broke away, her eyes darting toward the door. It was closed, but the window beside it had opened curtains, and she saw Brad standing there, his back thankfully turned toward her.
Spotting her discarded dress still laying in a heap beside the couch, Annie quickly slipped it back over her head. Once she was suitably attired, she walked to the door and opened it.
"Yes, Miss Walker?"
"We've decided to take the upgrade."
Brad nodded, "Very well. I will send a few members of our staff down this afternoon to help with the move."
As he was stepping off the deck, Brad looked back at the smiling blonde standing in the door. "Oh, and Miss Walker?"
"May I offer my congratulations and wishes for every happiness to you and Mr. Anderson?"
"Thanks, Brad," Annie said.
Shutting the door behind her, Annie leaned against it, looking at Auggie who still stood in the middle of the living room. With a laugh, she ran at him, launching herself into his arms. He thankfully heard her approach and had opened his arms, catching her and swinging her around.
"So what do you say, Auggie? Want to go hot tubbing with me?"
"Annie? Sweetheart? This is all very romantic and everything, but I imagined you being in the hot tub with me, you know."
Annie giggled at Auggie's teasing shout from the deck. "Just one more minute, honey. Brad left a bottle of champagne for us, and I'm pouring it now. I don't know why he did. I didn't ask for it, did you?"
"Nope," Auggie laughed. "He's probably just afraid you'll sue the resort, and they're offering all this to make sure you don't."
Annie pondered his words as she picked up both glass flutes and walked carefully in her bare feet to the darkened deck. The only light came from the bulbs embedded under the hot tub's water, and she headed towards its glow. Auggie had, indeed, already climbed in.
Annie's feet moved slowly across the deck toward him, the champagne flutes gripped tightly in her fingers. Auggie's body glowed with the light tan he'd already accumulated in their few days in the sun. It caused every well-defined muscle of his arms, shoulders and chest to look even more defined as he placed his hands on the edges of the tub.
His had leaned back, but at the sound of her steps across the wooden planks, he raised his head toward her. An easy smile crossed his face, and Annie thought, he looked impossibly happy and pleased with himself.
"Here," Annie said, pressing the glass into his fingers. Stepping carefully, she lowered herself into the bubbling, warm water. She stretched her legs out in front of her as she settled on the submerged seat, her calves brushing up against Auggie's bare legs. She made him unpack his swim trunks, instead of just jumping in with his shorts, and now she was glad he agreed. She felt his muscles clench at her soft touch, and she repeated the gesture.
"As much as I'm enjoying that, Annie, is there any reason you're not beside me?" Auggie asked, a touch huskily.
Sipping at her champagne, Annie sighed overly dramatic and moved beside him. "No, there was no reason, except for one little one. I just wanted to stare a bit."
Auggie slid his arm down around her shoulders, pulling her up against his side. "You already know what I look like, and how is that fair to me?"
"Who said life's fair?" Annie teased, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder.
"No one, but I deserve some type of recipricity, don't you think?"
Annie thought for a moment, "You're right." Shifting her hips a bit, Annie let the buoyant water lift her legs, and she twined the one closest to Auggie around his, letting her toes hook into his ankle. "Better?"
"Getting there," Auggie whispered against her hair.
"The sky's clear," Annie said, looking out into the night. "Stars are winking on, and the moon's low in the sky, refelcting off the water."
Auggie let the scene settle in his mind and his fingers trail along her upper arm. "A far cry from yesterday, huh? Hope we don't get anymore of that again."
"Oh, I don't know," Annie replied. "All this wouldn't have happened if that storm hadn't have come through."
"You're right, the hot tub was a nice consolation prize."
"I don't mean the hot tub, Auggie," Annie said quietly, leaning forward. "I mean this." At the last word, Annie brushed her lips against his, tasting the champagne he'd just drunk.
"Are you so sure of that?" he whispered, their lips still a scant inch from each other's.
"We were forced together, indoors, with nowhere to go."
Auggie pulled back a few inches, trying to read where the hesitancy in her voice was coming from. "What are you talking about, Annie?"
Though she tried to slide back into the carefree and innocent frame of mind that had engulfed the both of them yesterday, Annie felt a familiar niggle of fear rise up her spine. "You have to admit, Auggie, this has happened so fast. I don't want to just think beyond the moment here, but what if – what's going to happen when –"
With a cold drop of reality, Auggie felt a shiver run through his body. She's referring to Ben, he thought. He hadn't even realized the fact at how similar their situation is to what she said happened years ago. A whirlwind romance, in the tropics, on the beach, no one else around.
With a hard swallow, Auggie clenched his fist against Annie's shoulder. "Please, Annie, you have to believe that I'm nothing like Ben Mercer."
The man's name on Auggie's lips startled Annie, and she nearly dropped her champagne glass. With shaky fingers, she set it on the tub's wooden shelf. She felt Auggie's arm move away from her, and saw that he was moving to stand up.
"Auggie, stop," she said, only to see him nearly standing. With a panic, she moved quickly, pressing back down on his shoulders and using all of her strength to keep him there. Seeing the determined look on his face, she stood and sat on his thighs, pinning him to his seat. That and her hands on his shoulders stilled him.
Her movement seemed to surprise Auggie, and she saw a flash of disbelief, and to her dismay, hurt in his soft brown eyes. She wanted more than anything to lean in and kiss it away, but she knew that right now, words were the only thing to mend them.
"Please listen to me."
Auggie felt a tug through his chest at her words. He, a former Special Forces soldier, always melted when she spoke that way. And instinctively he knew she didn't do it to manipulate him. Her plea was filled with honesty, if anything else.
He settled himself back down and nodded.
"Until you mentioned his name a few seconds ago, I haven't thought about Ben for months," Annie said deliberately and slowly. She sees a bit of skepticism cross his face, but she continued on.
"Remember last summer when I came back from Sri Lanka, and Joan gave me all that time off, and then all that desk work? I didn't go back out in the field for three months."
"I remember, Annie," Auggie sighed. "I was there. I tried to be there for you, to comfort you, but –"
"Shh," Annie said, leaning forward to ghost a kiss across his lips. "Joan gave me all that time off, and I agreed with it, and all the other provisions, because I spent a lot of that time on a therapist's couch. It was one of the most intense experiences of my life, and one of the most difficult. I didn't want to do it, to talk about what happened. God knows I didn't, but I also didn't want to wallow in misery for the rest of my life. I had a job, friends, family. I didn't want to give that up, but I knew if I didn't let go of Ben, I could never love –"
At this, Annie's voice hitched, and she took a deep breath before continuing. "I couldn't move forward. Do you know what I'm talking about?"
Auggie nodded, "I wish you would have told me all this then. I'd wanted to help"
"You did," Annie said, pleading gently. "You were there when I came back and have been there ever since. And you were here, on this beach, when all I wanted was to be alone. I think fate was trying to tell us something, don't you?"
By the end of her speech, Annie found that her grip on Auggie's shoulders wasn't needed, and she slid her hands down his arms. Auggie slid his legs a bit up, and she leaned into him, her bikini-covered body coming into contact with his bare chest. The ghosts of his hurt and skepticism had fled his face, to be replaced with adoration and lust.
His arms came up around her back, one hand stretching between her shoulder blades, the other tight around her waist. His mouth unerringly found hers, and Annie gasped into it as he poured everything he could into that kiss. Annie had a fleeting thought that he was trying to kiss away all previous mentions of her former love, but that, too, was swept away by the rising need flaring up her spine and down her thighs, causing them to clench against his torso.
His tongue was hot and insistent in her mouth, and the combined taste of the champagne and all that was Auggie caused Annie to moan deep in her throat. She couldn't get close enough to him, though she tried, her arms wrapped around his neck, and her fingers clenched into the hair on the back of his head, pulling him closer.
When he pulled his mouth away, they were both panting, and Annie threw her head back, gasping for air. Auggie grabbed the opportunity to press his lips against the elongated column of her neck, licking and kissing his way down to her collarbone.
The heat rising in her combined with the churning water had Annie feeling as if she were on fire, and she wondered, if they continued on, would she burst into flames with the excitement?
Auggie apparently had the same thought, and Annie felt him begin to shift. He whispered into her ear, "Hang on," and before she could wonder what he had in mind, Annie felt herself being lifted, his strong arms tight across her back and waist. Automatically, when he was standing, Annie wrapped her legs around his hips, groaning audibly as the movement caused her to grind against his hardness, evident even through their wet clothes.
With slow, careful steps, Auggie stepped out of the hot tub. A few whispers from Annie had him moving across the deck toward the hut's door. Once inside, he gained his bearings and headed straight for the bedroom.
"Auggie, you really didn't have to, you know," Annie said, wrapping her arms around his waist as they stood together on the sand. A perfectly formed sandcastle gleamed in the morning light before her, complete with moat and a little flag out of one of the sand parapets. "Where'd you get the flag?"
"Room service, actually. It was on my sandwich yesterday. Clever, huh?" Auggie asked, squeezing Annie closer and dropping a kiss on her lips. "Remember last week when you were sad that the rain had washed away the other one?"
Annie nodded, her cheek brushing against his. "That's one of the memories of that day, yeah."
"Stop trying to change the subject," Auggie said, turning her in his arms until his arms wrapped around her waist, his hands clasped on her midriff. "You were sad because we'd created something beautiful together, and the rain washed it away before you could take a picture of it."
"So you made me another one?"
"Well, I wanted to stay in your arms this morning, and for the rest of the day, but you're leaving tomorrow."
"Mm, don't remind me," Auggie whispered. "But thank you for the sandcastle. It's beautiful."
"So, why don't you go get your camera and take a picture?"
"Only if you pose next to it," Annie said, peeling his arms from around her middle. "I'll be right back."
Running quickly and lightly up the steps of their hut, Annie sprinted through the living room to her suitcase. Her smartphone was still tucked in its place, forgotten largely the entire time she'd been there. She hoped it still had power.
Well, she thought to herself as she pulled it out of the bag. It would have power, since it's been turned off for two weeks.
She turned it on as she walked back through the hut, smiling as it began beeping steadily with new messages and notifications. She'd get to them in a minute, but right now, what she wanted to do was pull up the camera app and capture the scene in front of her.
As she stepped off the deck steps and onto the sand, she saw Auggie on his knees, running his fingers over the sandcastle's walls. Framing the scene perfectly, she took a couple of pictures before covering the distance between them.
"Okay, it's perfect now," Auggie said, standing up and brushing the sand off his knees.
"It was perfect before, you know," Annie said, but upon seeing the half-pout on his face, she took another few pictures. "Now, pose beside it. I need to get the artist with his work of art."
Auggie crouched beside the sandcastle and put on his best "serious artist" face. "Well? Did you get it?"
"Are you seriously going to pose like that?" Annie asked, laughing. "Okay, okay, do it again."
After a few more clicks, during which Auggie posed more and more ridiculously, Annie was nearly in tears from laughter and had a hard time holding the smartphone still. Dropping in the sand beside him, Annie leaned into his shoulder and held the device out at arm's length. "Smile, Auggie."
"I thought you already took enough pictures," he replied, nuzzling against her ear.
"Of just you. I wanted a picture of us. Now, come on, smile."
A minute later, they were sitting in the sand, Annie leaning back into Auggie's embrace. "I'd left this off when I got here. I've got about a dozen messages and texts," Annie said.
"Why would anyone text you if they knew you were on vacation?" Auggie asked.
"Don't know," Annie said, pressing a few buttons. Scrolling down through, she saw a couple from Danielle, one from Jai, and a handful from Joan. A coldness gripped her in the middle as she saw Joan's were all from the past 12 hours. "Oh, no."
"What? What is it?" Auggie asked.
"Joan. I'd promised her that I'd keep the phone on in exchange for her not knowing where I went."
"And I take it she tried to contact you?"
"Yep. That's all the texts say, but they're all sent within the past 12 hours. Let me check the phone messages."
Within seconds, an automated voice announced two missed messages, both time stamped the same as the texts, within the past 12 hours. "Well, should we listen to them?" Annie asked.
"Yeah, but make it quick. You and me got a date with a hot tub."
Annie smiled and snuggled back into his embrace, listening to their boss' voice as it came across the phone.
"Annie? It's Joan. Please give me a call back when you receive this. Your last day of vacation is tomorrow, and I wanted you to know that something has come up, and you will be needed when you return."
The second message was the same as the first, with a more pronounced order for Annie to call her back when she received the message.
"Well, I guess I should return this," Annie said, moving to stand up.
"Don't go, you can return it here," Auggie said, tightening his grip around her. "I promise, I'll keep quiet."
"You better not. I'm not sure what our boss would say if she knew you were here with me," Annie said, pressing a few buttons on the phone. Within a few rings, Joan answered.
"Joan, hey, It's Annie."
"Annie, good to hear from you. Any reason why it took you nearly a half a day to return my call?"
"Sleeping in," Annie fibbed. "Wanted to get as much rest as I could before heading back." Well, it wasn't exactly a lie, she thought. She and Auggie had spent a good deal of the time since last week's thunderstorm between the sheets, and even if her phone had been on, she'd be hard-pressed to want to answer it.
"Good idea. You leave tomorrow?"
"Yes, in the morning," Annie answered, leaning back further into the strength of Auggie's arms and chest. "I should be back in the office day after tomorrow."
"Then I'll give you the details of the mission then. Good-bye, Annie."
Annie sighed loudly as she ended the call and slipped the phone into her pocket.
"Let's see, by the tone, length and annoyance evident in that sigh, Joan wants you back?" Auggie asked.
"Got it in one. I had half a thought to ask her to extend my vacation by two days so we could leave together, but there's a mission waiting for me," Annie said. "I don't want to leave."
"I don't want you to, either, but we always knew this wasn't forever," Auggie said, lowering his head to her neck and brushing his lips across the soft skin. "But we don't have to think about that until tomorrow. Right now, it's only you and me and the sandcastle."
"You're right," Annie breathed, shivering with the feel of Auggie's loving ministration. "We've already went swimming and hot tubbing and running and sunbathing. Is there anything else we could do before I leave?"
"All I want to do is what I'm doing right now," Auggie said. "Enjoying each and every second in your arms."
"Your car should be there within 15 minutes, Miss Walker."
"Thank you, Brad," Annie said, hanging up the hut's landline. Picking up her suitcase, she walked out to the deck, where Auggie sat on the steps. Sitting down beside him, she snuggled into his arm that automatically lifted to her shoulders.
Annie still couldn't believe the time had gone by so quickly. Glancing up at Auggie's face, she saw a bit of the sadness she felt reflected in his eyes. Though they'd never been apart all these days, neither one of them had brought up what would happen once the time came for them to part.
A shiver went through her as her nerves overtook her.
Auggie felt the movement and pulled her closer to him. "Don't worry, Annie. I'll be back in the office in a few days. You won't even have time to miss me."
Her lips pressed against his insistently, and he gathered her in his arms, laying her across his lap. "Hey, I was thinking. I know my apartment building would never allow the installation of a hot tub, but do you think you could talk Danielle into putting one in your house?"
When she didn't answer, Auggie pulled back a bit from her. "Annie?"
A sob caught his ears, he raised his hands to her face, shocked to find her cheeks wet. "You didn't think this was it, did you? Annie, I thought you knew me better than that," he said, wiping the moisture from her face with his thumbs.
"I don't take anything for granted, Auggie," Annie whispered, leaning forward until their foreheads touched. "Not anymore."
Auggie tilted his face until her lips hovered close to hers. Their breaths mingled as he placed both hands fully on her cheeks. "I don't take you for granted, Annie. I never have, and I don't take this for granted, either. I love you."
Another sob hitched in Annie's throat at his words, and before he could take them back, she sealed them on his lips with her own, wrapping her arms around his neck. Unlike any other kiss they'd shared, this one was truer and purer than any other.
Pulling back a fraction of an inch, so much so that their lips still touched, Annie whispered, "I love you."
"Yeah," Auggie whispered back huskily, his lips moving against hers. "I kinda figured that, but it's nice to hear, all the same."
Annie giggled a bit, which Auggie stifled as he pulled her back to him.
A car horn blared, and Annie groaned. "I have to go. Promise me this isn't the end?"
Auggie smiled, "Annie, this never was the end. And there will never be an end as long as I have anything to say about it."
Auggie strode through the hallway toward the DPD, smiling to himself at what he perceived as the slowed walks of those he passed by and the "Hi, Auggies" he received from a few of the female staff. Guess they've never seen a man with a tan before, he chuckled to himself.
At least he hoped it was just a tan and not sunburn, as he found his shoulders were peeling a bit. Maybe he'd get Annie to check on it for him, he thought, with a smile. Annie. The two days he spent alone after she'd left were somewhat dimmed and lacked sparkle, but they did prove one thing. He missed her in his life. Their professions of love during the final seconds together were both joyous and heart-rending, as he wished to say those words again and again to her, preferably as they lay in bed.
With that image at the forefront of his mind, he swung open the glass door and walked through the DPD bullpen, ears taking in the familiar buzz and hum of the scurrying various officers and support staff. Not much seems to have changed in the last two weeks, he thought.
That summation quickly disappeared, though, as he opened the doors to tech ops and found the room full of people.
"Auggie!" Joan exclaimed, jumping up from her chair. "So glad to see you back. We could use your help with this. I trust your vacation was successful?"
Auggie choked down a scoff at her words, but placed a well-trained smile on his face. "Very restful, Joan, thank you. It's good to be back, but may I ask what everyone is doing here, and why Barber is sitting at my desk?"
"How did you –" Barber choked out, before feeling the chair was sitting in getting pulled back. "Okay, okay, geez. Give a guy a minute, why don't you?"
Auggie listened as a soda can scraped across his desk and Barber lurched out of his chair. Turning it towards him, he took a seat. "Now, want to fill me in on what's going on?"
"We've lost Walker," Barber said, downing the last of his soda before tossing it into the trash can, where it clanked loudly. A deathly silence filled the room at his words, as all eyes turned from the crassness of Barber's statement to Auggie, who froze in his actions of pulling his equipment from his desk drawer.
"Would you care to repeat that, Barber?" Auggie said icily.
"Uhh –" Barber stammered, taking a step back from the eyes of Joan and Stu and the words of Auggie. "Guess I could have said that better. We haven't lost her. She got sent to Germany on a mission, and we've lost contact with her."
Joan looked from Barber, whom she promised herself to have a word with later, to Auggie, who still sat in his chair, his hand in the drawer that held his headphones. His face had gone from joy to panic within a few seconds. "Auggie? Are you okay?"
At first, Auggie didn't hear Joan's question, only the words of Barber, "We've lost Walker. We've lost contact with her." He'd only left her a few days ago, a smile on her face, his kiss on her lips, and their words of undying love hanging between them. What the hell happened?
Turning his head to his boss' voice, Auggie began to breathe again and found his voice. "What happened?" he asked, trying like hell to force his heart back out of his throat.
"You just got back, Auggie. We have this mission in hand, but if you'd like to –"
"In hand?" Auggie asked, keeping his voice as level as possible. "How can it be in hand if Annie's out of contact with us?"
"It's only been about 16 hours, and we haven't 'lost her,' as Barber has said," Joan said. "The full details are on your computer, if you'd like to go over the, but in a nutshell, these are the facts."
Taking a deep breath, Joan continued, "A US citizen, for a reason we have yet to ascertain, has been taken hostage abroad. His kidnappers demanded a ransom, but also issued a terroristic threat that was believable enough for us to be called in."
Auggie nodded, motioning for her to continue.
"When Annie returned from vacation, we had pinpointed where the kidnappers were holed up, a remote area of Germany, and sent her to infiltrate it."
"Alone?" Auggie asked, his voice disbelieving.
Joan continued, choosing to ignore Auggie's rebuke. "She was given the coordinates and instructions to make sure the man, Stephen Michaels, was still alive, and who exactly the kidnappers were. She was in contact with us by cellphone up until yesterday, when the signal went dead."
Auggie took a few deep breaths, calling on his military and CIA training both to calm his nerves and concentrate on the mission at hand. "Okay. Okay. You said the details are in here?" he asked, pulling himself up to his computer. Thankfully, Barber had done nothing to his Braille monitor, and, headphones placed over his ears, and fingers flying, he quickly read and listened to the mission details.
Joan watched as her most dedicated case handler went into "Auggie-mode" as she called it, and nodded to Stu and Barber, who took her cue and left the room. Auggie would take over, she knew, and get her most promising CIA officer back to them.
"Come on, Steven, you've got to keep up, or we'll never make it to Gengenbach by nightfall," Annie said, slowing down her steps through the dense woods of the Black Forest so the man could catch up. She so wished she'd taken a car repair class or two in her lifetime, else she'd be driving a perfectly functioning car back to the city with her charge, rather than hoofing it through trees.
"Sorry, Annie, I know I'm holding you back," Steven Michaels grunted, breathing hard. His arm wrapped around his chest, the bruising he'd taken from his captors was making it painful to breathe and move. "Why don't you leave me here, and come back later?"
"No, I've already screwed up by breaking my cellphone and having my car break down. The last thing I need is for you to go missing again," Annie said, walking back to him. She leaned against a tree trunk. "We'll break for five minutes, but we have to get going. The city's right through there, I can see lights."
Steven followed where she was pointing through the darkened horizon and, indeed, saw a flicker of light. "Okay, great. Light at the end of the tunnel, eh?" he laughed, but then grunted and grasped his side again. "How the hell did I get in this mess?"
"Don't know myself," Annie said, pulling out her cellphone. It fell out of her pocket extricating Steven from the deserted cabin the kidnappers had left him in and refused to turn on ever since. "Damn, Auggie's going to kill me."
"My handler," Annie said, then smiled as the memories of the previous days popped up in her mind again.
"By the look on your face, he's more than your handler," Steven said.
"Yeah, well, we'll see once we get back to the States, won't we?" Annie sighed. "It's complicated."
"Ha! That's what I used to think, too," Steven scoffed. "The day I was taken, that morning, my wife and I weren't talking. We had gotten in an argument the night before about whose turn it was to take out the trash. I – I never kissed her good-bye before I left for work, never told her how much I –"
"It's okay, Steven. I'll get you back to your wife, and you can tell her how much you love her every single day of your life," Annie said, walking up to the man and placing her hand on his shoulder. "But we need to get out of here first."
Steven nodded and pushed off from the tree he was leaning against. "Lead the way."
"Smithsonian Institution, how may I direct your call?"
Annie breathed a sigh of relief into the pay phone's receiver. "This is Helvetica needing to speak to someone from customer service, please."
Auggie jerked out of his reverie when his phone beeped, and he automatically pressed the receive button, speaking into the Bluetooth headset that he never removed from his ear since he sat behind his desk hours ago. "Yes?"
"Helvetica is requesting to speak to customer service, I'll put her through."
"Oh, thank god," Auggie whispered, his head dropping to his chest. A few beeps and a crackle of static came across the line, then he heard her voice. The few words she was allowed to speak on an unsecured line sounded like heaven to him.
"What can I do for you today?" Auggie asked.
He could swear he heard her voice break a little in her answer, "I need to return some goods that were damaged. Can you arrange a pick up for me?"
"That shouldn't be a problem. Can I have the pick up point?"
"Hotel Sonne in Gengenbach," Annie said, devouring every word she heard over the static-y line. She caught Steven's eyes, and he walked over to her. Nodding her head, she mouthed, "They're coming for us."
"If you'll leave the package with the desk clerk, I'll make sure it's picked up within the day," Auggie replied, his fingers flying over his keyboard typing in the coordinates for Annie's retrieval.
"Is there anything else I can do for you today?"
Annie was about to reply when Steven started waving at her. "Just a moment, please."
"Steven, what is it?" she whispered, her hand over the receiver.
"That your handler?" he asked.
"Yes, it's Auggie."
Steven smiled, "I could tell by the look on your face. Tell him you love him. Before you hang up, tell him you love him."
Annie's mouth dropped open at Steven's words. "Are you serious? This is an unsecured line, it's probably being recorded, and –"
"Before I left that morning, I was going to tell my wife I loved her, but I didn't," Steven said quickly. "Don't take anything for granted."
Tears burned behind Annie's eyes as she remembered the last thing she said to Auggie that morning on the island. "I don't. I don't take him for granted."
"Don't tell me, tell him," Steven said, smiling at her.
"Is there anything else I can do for you?" Auggie repeated. What was going on there, he thought. He heard muffled talking, but couldn't make out what Annie was saying.
"No, nothing else I need," Annie said, her eyes closing at his voice. "Just wanted to say thank you, and I love you."
Auggie's fingers stilled on his keyboard at her soft words. There was no mistaking them, and he nearly felt his heart burst as it beat a staccato in his chest. "You're welcome, Helvetica. I love you, too."
Auggie disconnected the call and stood, walking quickly out to the bullpen. "Annie's checked in," he said to the assembled officers and techies. "I've got an extradition team headed to her. She's made it, with the hostage, to Gengerbach."
A mix of cheers and clapping echoed through the room, and Auggie heard Joan walk up to him. "Good work, Auggie. Looks back you're back on your game."
A full 24 hours later, Annie was working on fumes. It'd been a good two days since she got any sleep. Between the hike through the woods and the long, uncomfortable flight back to the states, she was dying for a shower and her bed, but she still had to debrief.
When Joan finally released her, she headed straight to the bullpen, walking through the maze of desks and opening the door to tech ops. Auggie's chair, however, was empty. It was late at night, but she was so sure he'd wait for her.
Turning around, she saw Stu smiling up at her. "Auggie's left for the day, but he said to give you this when you're done debriefing."
Annie took the sheet of paper out of Stu's hands. In Auggie's looping script, she read, "Meet me back at my apartment." Nodding, she quickly gathered her things and ran out of the building.
Auggie was carefully lighting the last of the tea lights when he heard the light knock on his door. Right on time, he thought, as he grabbed his stereo's remote and pressed a button. Soon the sound of waves crashing and seagulls cawing wafted through his speaker system, and he smiled.
Walking over to the door barefoot, he slid it open. A witty remark welcoming Annie home died on his lips as he heard a quick step, and suddenly felt her arms around his neck. He slammed the door shut and reciprocated, pulling her close and dropping his head into the crook of her neck.
Annie never felt more at home than in his arms, and for a moment, she believed they were back on the island in each other's embrace, as the salty breeze wafted over them, and the waves crashed in the distance. Opening her eyes, she first noticed that Auggie was shirtless, and looking over his shoulder, she noticed the candles lit along his kitchen counter, and then the aroma of coconuts and ocean breezes.
"Auggie, what –"
"Welcome home, Annie," he whispered against her temple. "Thought I'd set the mood and remind you of happier times."
Annie pulled back a little out of his embrace to look at his face. "Any time spent with you I count as happy, Auggie. I love you."
Auggie dipped his head and before claiming her lips, whispered, "I love you, too."
Later that night, as they lay in bed, Auggie wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her back into his body. "Now that I've officially and formally welcomed you back home, want to tell me what caused you to break protocol on that phone call?" he said, nuzzling his face into her hair.
"Mm," Annie moaned, as his body curled around hers. "Protocol? What protocol? I can't think of anything when you're doing that."
"You were on an unsecured line, you know. Thankfully, nobody else was listening, and I was able to delete that part off the recording."
Annie turned in his arms, running her hands up his chest. "The guy I was pulling out of that forest, Steven? He never got to tell his wife he loved her before he was kidnapped. He regretted it ever since, and he made me realize that –"
Auggie placed his hand on Annie's jaw, his thumb caressing her cheek. "What, Annie?"
"That we should never take this for granted," she whispered.
"I love you, Annie."
"I know, and I love you, too, but should ever have to be apart, promise me that you'll always say it before I leave."
"I promise," Auggie whispered, before pulling her closer to him, their mouths finding each other, arms and legs entwining.