A runabout arrived shortly thereafter, and the two were whisked with surprising efficiency to the Law Enforcement facility. The moment the Captain's identity was verified, the still-disabled ship had been impounded and its crew detained for questioning.

Beverly clutched a shiny silver survival blanket around her. They could have at least let her back to her room to dress… They sat on a cool stone bench in a clean, modern building, waiting for their statements to be taken. A medic checked them both over, healing Jean-Luc's wound, and handing her an old-fashioned ice pack for her jaw. When she shivered from the cold and exhaustion, the Captain wrapped an arm around her and brought her close to his side.

They were separated to give statements, but it was brief. They were released and told they would be contacted at the resort for follow up.

The hotel clerk did a double take when he looked up and saw his bruised and battered guests. "Oh, no! Captain Picard… Doctor Crusher!" He was horrified. He had done his research after sending the Captain off after the redhead. The two were mentioned equally in Federation News, from one end of the galaxy to the other.

"We're fine, thank you," Beverly blushed with embarrassment at the glances they were receiving from other guests. Jean-Luc had not let go of her since they were reunited at the precinct. "Could I just have my key?"

The clerk handed her the key-card to her room, his eyes widening discernibly at the bruises wringing her wrist. "I'll have your bag sent right up, Sir. Ma'am. Can I get you anything else? A meal perhaps?"

"Yes, that would be a marvelous idea," the Captain agreed. "Whatever the specialty is tonight." With that he whisked the Doctor to the lift. When the doors closed, she leaned against him for a moment, weary beyond belief.

"Your bag is being sent to my room?" Her eyebrow rose.

"Ah, it seems Will was unable to pull off two favors in a row… " He had the grace to look embarrassed. "I can sleep on the yacht, of course."

"Don't be ridiculous Jean-Luc," she said softly. It's a suite. There is plenty of room. The lift arrived and they went to the door. There was indeed plenty of room.

"You shower first," she ordered, "Then I want to take a look at that arm myself."

He obeyed her orders, but when he was done with a brief shower, he started a bath for her in the huge tub. He added the fragrant bubbles the resort provided. Slipping on the complimentary robe, he padded into the living area of the suite. "Your bath awaits, my lady." His voice was warm, as were his eyes.

He heard her delighted "Oh!" when she went into the bathroom; and her subsequent groan as she slid into the warm water. His bag had arrived. He took it and retreated into the bedroom, dressing in loose, dark slacks and a clean collarless white shirt. He left his feet bare, making him wonder how Beverly's feet were.

A soft chime at the door and dinner arrived. A bottle of wine accompanied plates of fruits, cheeses and meats. A separate cart held what looked to be sumptuous desserts. Jean-Luc poured the wine then knocked lightly on the bathroom door.

"Are you decent?" he asked.

"Come in," Beverly offered shyly.

She was beneath the bubbles when he handed her the glass of wine. Bubbles drifted down her arm when she raised it to accept the glass from him. She saw the darkness cross his features at the bruises circling her wrist. She sipped the wine. It was light, crisp and fruity, and very slightly sweet.

"Dinner…" He had to clear his throat before continuing. "Dinner is here when you are done."

She sunk back down in the decadent tub, sipping at the wine. He had not said why he had left Ba'ku. Why he had come to Navaal. Hope bubbled inside her. She finished up, washing all the salt out of her hair, and conditioning it. She dressed in dark blue silk pajamas with a matching robe. Hardly romantic, she scoffed inwardly. But it was all she had.

The Captain had pulled the meal cart over in front of the couch, which faced the sun, getting ready to set once again. Had it been just a day since she stood alone on the beach?

She gratefully lowered herself to the soft cushions, and accepted the new glass of wine he poured for her. She loaded a plate with fruit and cheese and bits of meat from the platter, suddenly discovering she was ravenous. They ate in comfortable silence, watching the brilliant show of sunset.

"The constabulary called," Jean-Luc said, when he had assuaged his own hunger somewhat. "It seems we've broken up a lucrative kidnapping ring."

"Oh?" Beverly remembered the discomfort of the three watching her from the night of her arrival.

"Yes, those three have been targeting single females. Most of them have been a deliberate type, to fill an 'order.'" Beverly shuddered delicately. His voice lowered to almost a growl. "It seems a Cardassian Gul had put in a 'request' for a redheaded human."

Her appetite abruptly departed. She never would have been able to escape them had she been alone. Her self-defense skills were good, but it took the teamwork of the two of them to get off that ship. She felt Jean-Luc's hand massaging the back of her neck. She put her plate down on the serving cart, he followed suit. When she leaned back into the couch, she found herself gently drawn to his side. His hand returned to the back of her neck, gently squeezing the tense muscles, up to the base of her scalp.

"I should not have left you Beverly." His voice was so soft, she thought she might have imagined it. She looked at him.

"I was wrong to go back to Ba'ku." His green eyes were cloudy and dark with pain.

"But… Anij… " Beverly shook her head helplessly. She could not find the words.

"Anij is a lovely person, but she is not what I want." He paused, his fingers doing sinful things to her scalp, under her fall of damp hair. "I am sorry it took going to her to figure that out."

Beverly stared at him, her exhausted mind trying to decipher if he meant what she wanted him to mean. His next words removed all doubt. "Are you still afraid, Beverly?"

Her heart stopped in her chest, turned over once, and began thudding against her ribcage. "No." She meant the word to be confident and sure, it came out like a plea.

"Last chance," he said, the hand on the back of her head drawing her to him gently, but relentlessly. "Should we be afraid?"

His voice was a warm whisper against her lips. Her own answer was lost, her breath mingling with his. "No." Their lips met.

And a lifetime of longing and denial finally, finally radiated in a passion brighter than the jeweled sunset beyond the balcony.