Two days later, Nancy found herself sitting on the shore of the Florida Keys, looking out at the Gulf of Mexico. It was warm outside, a light breeze coming in from the east, blowing her hair all around her. She felt at peace here. She never thought she could find any peace, considering what she had gone through during the last week.
As soon as Max and Daniel had freed her, they'd escaped into the woods, leaving the cabin and Krieger's body behind them. Nancy felt a little bad about doing that, knowing they were leaving a dead man without reporting it to the authorities, but Max had assured her it would be taken care of. All he cared about was getting her out of there and taken care of.
Nancy found that she couldn't argue with that. Not that she really could in the first place. Max was having no arguments from her, even when she protested against being checked out at the hospital. He'd been stubborn in that respect, not even allowing her to get into the car until she agreed.
She'd had to stay overnight, the doctors wanting to observe her and make sure that she didn't have a concussion, thanks to the knock on the head from Krieger. Aside from that, they'd treated the abrasions around her wrists and neck, not the mention the numerous burn marks she had from the Taser that Krieger had used on her. The most serious injury had been the stab wound to her left thigh, requiring several stitches, not to mention a few pints of blood.
The doctors had mentioned that she had been lucky—if she hadn't tied the tourniquet around her leg, she never would have made it out of the woods, succumbing to blood loss. Nancy wasn't stupid—she knew she was lucky.
Lucky on so many counts.
The only luck she lacked was the fact that Randy had somehow managed to get away. When they had arrived at the tree that Max and Daniel had left him, they'd found it bare, the zip ties discarded to the side. The only other evidence that Randy had been there was the puddle of blood at the base of the tree.
Nancy couldn't help but shiver at that revelation, but Max had promised her that he couldn't have made it far with the stab wound she'd inflicted upon Randy. And while Nancy had reluctantly agreed with him, she knew better.
She knew better than to underestimate Randy Wolfe. He was out there somewhere, just lying in wait until he could strike again.
There was no doubt in her mind that he would be back. It may not be for a while, but there was no way he was going to just tuck his tail between his legs and walk away. It just wasn't who he was.
But Nancy did know one thing for sure—she would be ready for him next time.
"How long have you been out here?" Max asked, his voice startling her out of her thoughts.
Nancy glanced up, shading her eyes against the sunlight. "A few minutes. Sorry I didn't say anything. I just needed to get out and clear my head."
Max frowned. "You're not a prisoner here, Nancy. I want you to feel as if you're home here."
Nancy nodded. "I appreciate that. I really like it here…" Turning away from Max, Nancy glanced out over the water, watching as seagulls flew in the distance. The crashing of the waves against the shore calmed her rattled nerves, almost as if it was a soothing lullaby.
"Did you finally talk to your father?" Max asked, sitting down beside her. Nancy noticed he was dressed in linen lounge pants with a white button down shirt. The sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, showing off the taut muscles there.
"Yeah. He was out of the country and just got back this morning." Nancy chuckled. "He actually had no idea what was going on."
"Is that really such a bad thing?"
Nancy shook her head. "No. He would have just worried about me."
"I'm sure he worries about you all of the time."
"And you would be correct. The downside of being an only child—all the worrying falls on me."
Max reached out and tucked a bit of her hair behind her ear, letting his hand linger on her cheek. Nancy closed her eyes and leaned into his touch, enjoying the burst of warmth that radiated throughout her body that had nothing to do with the heat. "Any man would be foolish not to want to worry about you, Nancy. You're worth every bit of it."
Nancy smiled softly as she looked into his eyes, seeing a tenderness there that she never would have expected from him when she first met him. It amazed her that he was nothing like the cold-blooded killer she had encountered a week ago.
"He wants me to come back home."
Max swallowed hard. "Are you going to?"
"Eventually," Nancy answered. "Unless you're ready for me to go home now."
"I'm not ready to let you go just yet, Nancy."
Nancy smiled. "Good."
"If I had my way, I would never let you out of my sight again, Nancy." Max sighed as he turned away from her, staring out into the open water. "But I also know that I don't have the right to ask anything of you. If it wasn't for me, you never would have been in this mess to begin with."
"That's not true, Max. You can't blame yourself for anything that happened."
"No." Nancy reached out and put her hand against his cheek, forcing him to look back at her. "If it wasn't you, they would have just found some other way to get me. Yes, at first I was extremely angry with you."
"And you had every right to be."
Nancy ignored him. "But after I got to know you, I saw something in you that you never wanted to admit to yourself."
"And what's that?"
"You're a good man, Max. You're not the damaged kid that you used to be—you don't have to put a wall around yourself anymore." Nancy smiled softly. "It's okay to allow people to see the real you."
Max shook his head as he closed his eyes, pressing a kiss against Nancy's palm. "You're the only one I've ever wanted to share myself with, Nancy."
Nancy stared at him, speechless. What exactly could she say to that kind of admission? Max was putting everything out on the table for her, letting her see how he truly felt. And if she really wanted to be honest with herself, she felt just as strongly about him. She never thought she would feel that way about another man after Ned, especially not with Max.
"And I can see that I've just made you uncomfortable by admitting that," Max said with a slight chuckle.
"No, it's not that, Max." Nancy took a deep breath as she prepared herself for what she wanted to say next. "Was he telling the truth?"
"Krieger…when he said you're in love with me."
"Is that such a bad thing?"
Nancy shook her head. "No…"
Max nodded, turning his body so that he was facing her. He took her hands in his, squeezing them gently. "He was right. I am in love with you, Nancy Drew."
It was now or never—Nancy knew what he wanted to hear and without a doubt, she knew she could reciprocate the feelings. She was in love with Max Grey. She wasn't sure how they could make it work, but that didn't matter right at that moment. They were together now.
And she was tired of being alone. She deserved to be happy, even if it didn't last.
Throwing caution to the wind, Nancy leaned forward until her lips brushed against his. "I love you, Max."
The most beautiful smile spread across Max's face as he took her in his arms and lowered her to the ground, his body hovering over hers. "I could listen to you say that every day of my life and it still wouldn't be enough."
Smiling, Nancy pulled Max down on top of her. The crashing of the waves provided the perfect background noise as they became lost in each other, giving in to their passion.
Nancy couldn't think of a better place she would rather be.
So, I was going to wait until my birthday on Saturday to post the last chapter, but I just couldn't do that to you guys. And alas, we have come to the end of another story. All I can hope is that you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It was a nice change for me to write a solo Nancy Drew story and I had a blast with it.
Especially Max…I love me some Max. (And yes, eventually, he is going to have to make another appearance in my universe.)
That being said, I would love to thank the following people for their wonderful reviews: Michelle Gallichio, catlover1033, Angelvie S, raven678, SC15, Ealasaid Una, and PearlsAndBlackRoses. You guys rock and I am so happy you stuck around with me!
And now to answer the question that a lot of you have been asking me about. Yes, I am writing a sequel to The Spider and the Fly. And believe me when I say that it will be dark and scary, making The Spider and the Fly look like a kids movie.
The title of the new story will be Absolution.
In celebration of the new story, I have started a blog where I will be posting teasers and exclusive content related to the story, along with my other writing endeavors. If you head on over now, you will find a teaser summary along with one other goodie for Absolution. You can leave comments for me there and even ask questions!
You can find my blog address on my bio page! (I tried to post it here for you, but the site won't let me...)