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Part 10

20th December 1990

"You haven't been to a Christmas service in so long. Mickey. Are you sure I can't persuade you?" Mickey could hear the hopeful note in his brother's voice even over the phone.

"I'm sorry, Nick, I'm going to be away for the holiday. I'll be in Europe for a week or so." Mickey smiled to himself, he still hadn't brought himself to tell Nick about Sam or that they planned to spend Christmas together this year. He knew it wasn't because they hadn't seen much of each other since August, when they had been dragged apart because Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Being honest with himself, he knew that telling Nick about Sam would mean their relationship was something more permanent. All he had to do was mention her name and Nick would have them paired for life. Also, his priestly brother had a problem with him enjoying a sex life – not that he'd had much of one just lately. Two days and one night was all the time he and Sam had managed together in the past four months and his self-enforced celibacy was beginning to get to him.

It wasn't as though they had agreed to be monogamous, but somehow he no longer found other women interesting. It was more than Sam's looks – there was something else, something indefinable, that made the time they spent together so special.

"Will you be working? You know I worry about you."

"No, Nick. It's nothing like that. I'll be fine." As long as Sam doesn't try to kill me with her demands, he thought half-hopefully.

Mickey was wondering how to bring the slightly uncomfortable phone conversation to a close – he still wanted to find a special Christmas gift for Sam – when there was a knock at the door.

Relieved he said, "Look, there's someone at the door, I've got to go. I'll call you when I get back."

"God bless you, Mickey."

"See ya, Nick."

He hung up the phone as the knock came again but louder this time. "Hold your horses, I'm coming."

He pulled open the door and was more than a little surprised to be confronted by Control standing there. His boss was carrying an envelope in one hand and a suitcase in the other. His heart sank.

"No chance, Control. I'm due at least fourteen days down time and I've made plans," he snapped, determined to make his point first.

The agency chief spoke mildly, "Can I come in? I'd rather not talk on the doorstep."

"Okay. But I'm not changing my mind. I'm outta here on the twenty-third." They went into the living room and Mickey nodded towards the couch, "Have a seat."

"Thank you." Control sat down. "I know you have plans, but I need you for a Sandstar operation. I have an agent, new to the organisation, who I want you to work with and there’s only a very narrow window of opportunity."

Mickey groaned, he'd signed up for the non-political organisation because he agreed with its aims. But he never dreamed that it would affect his plans to spend time with the woman who meant more to him now than just about anything else. Oh hell, but Sandstar was important. It helped political prisoners get to freedom. "What do I need to do and can I be back in time to catch my plane?"

"You might be a day late but your vacations plans will not be ruined. I can promise that."

Mickey had the distinct feeling that Control wasn't telling him the whole truth. He was leaving out something important.

"Okay. What do I have to do?"

Control looked around, out of habit Mickey guessed. "As you know Sandstar is apolitical and has no allegiance to any government or national espionage organisation, and we have members from all over the world."

Mickey nodded, beginning to feel impatient. He knew all this!

"An agent in the KGB has reported that Alexi Putin, the author and long time critic of the Moscow regime, is due to be released from the gulag where he’s been imprisoned for the past eight years. His family’s already in the West – that was one of the reasons for his imprisonment. He’s an embarrassment and those in power want him gone. The remnants of the KGB have arranged for him to be taken to the Finnish border and handed over to certain groups. They believe that this way they can hold up their hands and say honestly that they set him free and have no idea what has happened to the man."

"How does Sandstar come into this?" Mickey asked.

"Sandstar, under the guise of an independent section of the Russian Mob, has already made a deal to be the one to dispose of Putin. The KGB has accepted and is expecting two people to meet them in northern Finland to take delivery of their dissident writer."

"Just like that?"

Control nodded, "You and the other agent both speak fluent Russian so just like that. Of course when you get Putin back here Sandstar will ensure that he does disappear but into something akin to the Witness Protection Program, where he will join his family."

Mickey nodded wearily. "When do I leave?"

"I've booked you out on a Finnair flight from JFK to Helsinki from there you'll connect to a flight to Ivalo in Finnish Lapland. You'll be there by late tomorrow."

"What's the cover story?"

Control smiled and Mickey grew even more suspicious. "A couple taking a quick vacation to celebrate their first wedding anniversary."

Control handed him the envelope, "Your new wallet, passport and driver's licence, in the name of Michael Neill, and all your travel documents are inside." Then he passed over the suitcase. "You have been in the US on business and have arranged to meet Mrs. Neill in Finland. You have cold weather clothing in the case. I've made you reservations at a very nice hotel in Ivalo, the handover should take place on the twenty-fourth. You'll be home by Christmas Day and it should be completely straightforward."

"That's what you said about me going into Saudi Arabia and I ended up with a concussion and stitches." Mickey muttered in disgust.

Control stood and headed towards the door, "Now then, Mickey, it wasn't my fault you fell out of that jeep."

Mickey didn't bother to respond, he had learned a long time ago that it was a waste of effort. But he hadn't planted the landmine either.

"I'll expect you back here in a few days." Control began to open the front door.

"Wait a minute. How will I know the other agent? I’m supposed to be married to her. It’s going to look funny if we act like strangers." The thought crossed his mind that his boss might be playing some distorted sort of game with him.

Control pulled open the door and glanced back over his shoulder at him, "Don't worry she's been briefed and will recognise you. But, just in case, there's a picture of her in your wallet."

The door banged shut.

With more than a little trepidation, Mickey walked over to the table and tipped out the contents of the brown envelope. The passport was the same as his own one, with its dark blue cover. He flicked through the pages and saw from the stamps there that Michael Neill was a frequent traveller and that he had a visa giving him the right to live and work in the UK. Live in the UK? Did that mean that Mrs. Neill was British? An idea began to take root in Mickey's head and he picked up the wallet eagerly. Searching through the usual litter that collected in a wallet he hunted for the photo Control had mentioned. Suddenly he found it. Turning it over he saw a very welcome and familiar face smiling back at him and he couldn't stop the widest grin in weeks from spreading over his face. He hadn't known that Control had recruited Sam to Sandstar. Though when he thought about it, he shouldn't have been surprised.

As happy as he was about the chance to be with Sam sooner, he began to wonder just how much Control knew about them. McCall wouldn't have said anything about her being up at his cabin. Control knew they had spent at least one night together back in March after Sam had helped in Control’s rescue when he was kidnapped. Was that why he had picked them to work together? Because the cover story was as a couple?

Whichever, he needed to get moving. He would have a long time to think about the possibilities on the flight to Finland.

21st December 1990

At the Finnish airport, Mickey turned away from the small kiosk. With an English newspaper in one hand covering his movements, Mickey slipped the car key that had been passed to him into his pocket. The person behind the counter was one of Control's people and the car would be equipped with everything they would need for the operation: weapons, survival gear and food.

Sam's flight was on time and should be landing within the hour. In the small airport coffee shop, he sat at the table near the window where he could see the snow and ice covered runway. He kept one eye on the arrivals information board while flicking through the paper and a fishing magazine he had picked up at Kennedy.

He had felt pretty conspicuous on the plane. Most of the other passengers were couples or family groups and all the kids had been talking excitedly about going to see Santa.

He yawned and looked around again, no one was paying any attention to him at all. The small terminal building was emptying out as the groups on organised trips were shepherded onto their coaches to take them to their hotels. The constantly opening doors made the building chilly and he pulled his thick, padded jacket more closely around him.

Being so far north, it was already dark even though it was only 2:30 in the afternoon. Through the darkness he could see the blue lights marking the runway and in the distance the headlamps of the next plane lining up to land.

The plane, with its big red sticker proclaiming Finnair to be the airline of Santa Claus on the side, landed in a flurry of blowing snow and braked sharply before turning towards the terminal building. Almost at once the arrivals board changed and the flight from London was shown as having landed.

The last of his coffee downed, he gathered up his possessions and headed back down the stairs to the small arrivals hall. Activity at one end of the building showed him where the passengers would be coming out from customs and immigration.

It must have taken only ten or fifteen minutes before Sam walked through the automatic doors, a suitcase in one hand and her handbag in the other. She was so beautiful. A thick coat with a white fur lined hood softly framed her face. Her dark hair shone in the lights of the terminal and her eyes were sparkling. He felt a jolt of pleasure head straight to his groin.

He saw her smile and hurry to reach the end of the barrier separating the new arrivals from those already in the building. He met her there, dropping his bags so that he could wrap his arms around her, lifting her into the air. Her weight in his arms felt so right.

God, he loved this woman.

In Mickey’s arms again, all Sam’s doubts disappeared.

After their kiss, Mickey released her. She was still breathless when she finally spoke. "Hi."

"I've missed you." His look of surprise made Sam think that he hadn't meant to say that out loud.

She smiled at him and touched his cheek, "Me too."

He picked up both cases in his gloved hands and pointed with his head, "The car's this way. I picked up the keys while I was waiting. It's only six miles or so to the hotel."

There were other people milling around them and, in case they were overheard, Sam answered in character. "Great. The pictures in the brochure I saw made it look lovely, really romantic. Just right for our anniversary."

He guided her towards the exit. "One of the reasons I picked this place was because I've heard that the chef is really good. I thought we could eat in the hotel tonight."

"Sounds good to me, love." She put out a gloved hand and squeezed his arm. It had happened again, as soon as she came anywhere near him she was instantly reduced to a quivering mess of hormones.

Mickey put their bags in the Range Rover and they got inside quickly. The car started easily and they headed out of the airport parking garage.

They didn’t speak much on the short trip to the hotel but as Mickey drove through its gateway Sam couldn't stop herself from exclaiming, "Doesn't it look beautiful!" The small hotel, hidden within a forest of fir trees was surrounded by deep drifts of snow, and looked like something out of a fairy tale. There were traditional Christmas lights in the all the windows and their reflection off the snow gave everything a dreamlike appearance.

"Sure does." Mickey parked the car and plugged in the heater that would keep the vehicle from freezing solid over night. When she opened the door, Sam felt her whole body start shivering in the cold. Giddiness came over her as they gathered their bags and headed for the doors to the hotel.

Warm air greeted them as soon as they stepped inside. Sam decided to act the dutiful wife and let Mickey do all the talking when they got to the desk.

"Hi, I'm Michael Neill, we have a reservation."

The girl behind the counter, radiating efficiency, checked her records, "Yes, Mr. Neill, I have the information here." She spoke with hardly any accent. "You and your wife are booked for three nights, leaving on the twenty-fourth." The girl passed him a card to sign, "If I could have your passports, I will get someone to show you up to your room. Dinner is served from six this evening. The dining room is through that way, to your left."

Sam passed over her passport and Mickey put it on the desk with his own. At once a bellboy appeared and, picking up their luggage, he said, "If you could follow me please." Like the girl at reception, he too spoke perfect English.

The hotel was old and the walls were all wood panelled, age had darkened them giving them a warmth and character that appealed to Sam. Acting the part she held onto Mickey's arm and squealed in delight when the bellboy opened the door to their room.

"Oh this looks lovely. It's so cosy!"

The room was high up under the roof of the hotel and the ceiling sloped to one side. The double bed, with its crisp white bed linen, had a wooden headboard and took up two thirds of the floor space. Across the room Sam saw glass paned doors which led out onto a lit balcony. She walked over and outside, in the darkness, she could see trees and snow in the faint reflection of the light from the hotel windows.

Sam waited until Mickey had slipped some change into the bellboy's hand and the door had closed behind him before she slipped off her jacket and sat down on the bed, reaching for her handbag. Mickey started to look around the room, checking the wardrobes and the light fittings.

"Oh isn't this just wonderful. I love it already." She kept up a steady stream of inane chatter. "You are so good to me, Mickey. Have you ever been anywhere this cold before? They said that it was more than minus twenty Celsius when the plane landed." The contents of her handbag rolled out onto the bed when she tipped it over. "What's that in Fahrenheit?" Opening her make-up bag she picked out a small electronic detector made to look like a lady's electric razor.

He continued to look around the room, poking his head into the bathroom and looking into an air vent, while Sam started to move around the room with the detector. "Mmm…" Mickey said, "I think minus thirty is around minus twenty Fahrenheit. Did you remember to bring enough warm clothes?"

"Of course I did, silly. I packed all my ski clothes with extra thermal underwear and my fleece jacket. I might not travel as much as you do love, but I know what to pack."

"Good, only I wouldn't want you to get cold. You know how easily you catch the sniffles."

The bug detector showed negative even after thrusting it in the shower stall. "All clear here." Sam sat back down on the bed and began to repack her handbag.

Mickey came and sat beside her, "Yep. Me too. We'll need to check each time we get back in the room – unless we stay in character."

Now they were alone and the formalities had been taken care of, Sam felt tongue-tied. She wasn't sure what to do or how she felt for that matter. Mickey was quiet too, looking at her intently. It was almost as though he was waiting for her to make the first move.

Though 'The Powers That Be' frowned on personal involvement between agents working together, they were supposed to be a couple celebrating an anniversary, and if anyone were to check up, then they would expect to find signs of sexual activity.

Which was fine in theory – but this was personal!

She turned to face Mickey and saw him smile. He knew exactly what she was thinking. He always did! This was ridiculous. It wasn’t as though she didn't know him intimately already.

Making her decision, she smiled back. "Come here." Putting her hands on his shoulders, she drew him closer, stroking the muscles in his back through his shirt and sweater. She could feel her heart start to pound and dampness spread between her thighs as he pushed her down onto her back. When he rolled on top of her, his weight pressed her into the softness of the mattress.

He spoke softly, his voice no more than a caressing murmur. "What here and now? I kinda thought you would want me to wait a while."

Sam was still considering her reply when he kissed her and made further speech impossible.

22nd December 1990

The following morning Sam was roused by the sound of someone knocking on their door. Mickey woke too and called out, "Who is it?"

"Room service, Mr. Neill. I have your breakfast."

Sam glanced at the bedside clock. "When you ordered breakfast last night, did you have to tell them to bring it so early?"

"Just a second." Mickey called out. Still under the covers, he turned to her and grinned. "It's not that early. Do you want to wait in the bathroom while I let him in?"

Suddenly feeling mischievous, Sam nodded, "Okay." But before she got out of bed, she allowed herself to lean against Mickey. She knew what the sensation of her body next to his would do to his self-control and wondered what the chances were of him getting into his trousers to open the door. He would probably have to wrap himself in his robe and hope that the bulge didn't show. She kissed his shoulder, "Mmmmm, I'm starving."

"Jeez, Sam!"

She climbed out of bed giggling, and saw the appreciative way his eyes swept over her naked body.

While she saw to the necessities, she heard Mickey open the door. Her reflection in the bathroom mirror showed her someone who looked a little tired, but at the same time happier than she had in ages. There was also an aura of satisfaction that Sam had never noticed before. She smiled at herself in the mirror.

As she waited for Mickey to deal with the room service waiter she saw the shoes she had worn the night before lying on the floor. They were black and had higher heels than she normally wore but they had both dressed up for dinner last night. The shoes gave her a wicked idea.

At last she heard the bedroom door close and peeked out to see that the waiter had gone. Mickey was standing by the table.

"The food's here–" he didn't finish and his mouth sagged open when she stood there in nothing but her high-heeled shoes.

Sam pretended to ignore his surprise and, making sure to walk with her shoulders back and her chest out, she moved as seductively as possible and sat at the table, crossing her legs demurely. "Great. Like I said just now, I'm starving." She saw a smile appear on his face for just a moment before he made his expression matter of fact, as though they ate breakfast with her looking like this everyday.

All her senses were alive as she began to eat, and she noticed the different textures and distinctive flavours of the bacon and scrambled eggs. She picked up her glass of orange juice, felt the chill of the moisture beaded glass against her palm, and had another idea. Mickey was watching her so she leaned back in her chair and let the glass rest against her nipple, it hardened immediately.

"Sam…" Mickey's voice was hoarse.

"Mmm?" She transferred the glass to the other nipple and felt the sensitive tissue react, radiating a sharp pleasure straight to her groin.

"Come here." He reached across the table and took her hand. She set the orange juice down and strolled over to him, taking her time with each step, praying that she wouldn't fall despite the way her knees were shaking.

When she was standing in front of him, she leant down and untied his robe, letting it fall open. He looked achingly hard. Her excitement was at such a pitch that Sam had to exert all her of self-control not to fall on her knees and take him in her mouth or to force herself down onto his cock right away. Having initiated it she wanted this bout of lovemaking to last a long time.

She stood between his knees, welcoming his hands as they grasped her hips and pulled her a step closer. He lifted his head and began to nuzzle at the underside of her breast, licking and nibbling the skin there. Keeping her legs together, and as far away from his rigid member as she could, she bent her knees slightly and fed one of her chilled nipples into his mouth. The contrast between the ice-cold glass and warmth of his mouth was so exciting, Sam felt a powerful heat suffuse her body.

He slid one of his hands between her knees and his fingertips explored the back of her leg and then her inner thigh. As his fingers moved higher, Sam couldn’t help but slide one leg around his knee to separate her thighs and encourage him to continue.

His first deft touch against her clitoris sent her senses reeling and she almost fell. But she steadied herself by resting her hands on his shoulders, permitting her a great view of his erection and almost sending herself mad with the desire to touch it. Slowly, oh so slowly, he penetrated her with his fingers, stroking her in exactly the right place as his thumb rubbed her clit. In a mind-numbing haze of pleasure, he took her over the edge, supporting her when her legs finally gave way.

Sam gasped, shaking with sensations as she regained her footing. She needed more of him, so she moved her other leg and was soon straddling his lap. Mickey was panting and, with satisfaction, she noted that he was staring at the place where her legs met.

He placed hot hands on her hips and eased her down until she felt him brushing against the lips of her labia. Using one hand she reached down to guide him until he had slipped inside the first inch. Then, resting her hands on his shoulders, she let herself sink lower, controlling the pace and rolling her hips as she felt him slip deeper within.

At last he was fully inside, completely filling her. Her legs tightened their grip on the chair. She could feel his every movement like an electric current along her nerve endings.

Without releasing his hold on her hips, he sat back a little and looked at her, "You're as crazy as me – you know that?"

"What's crazy about–?" Sam felt him twitch inside her. "Ooooohhhhhhhh! That feels wonderful."

He smiled, "Good."

Sam leaned forward and kissed him. The sleeves of his robe felt strange against the bare skin of her back as he curled his arms around her waist, holding her tightly.

She didn't want to move and Mickey seemed content to wait. Closing her eyes, Sam concentrated on the feeling of warmth inside her. She'd read something of the tantric teachings from the east and found that now it was possible to visualise the energy that joined and surged between them.

They sat motionless for a minute or two until Mickey released her and slipped his arms out of the sleeves of the robe. Then, with his hands once more resting on her hips he began to move inside her, slowly at first then, with increasing power. Their movements soon grew so fierce that the chair under them began creaking.

The world fell away as waves of pleasure surged through her body. She felt her heart beating faster as perspiration misted her body. Mickey’s unique musk filled her head as she felt his sweat moisten her hands and legs. She wanted the moment to last forever as the sensations of their love saturated her existence. Nothing in her life had ever felt so good and so right.

From a distance she heard Mickey cry out as he came. Sam felt him jerk spasmodically as his semen filled her. That was all she needed to push her over the edge and make her come. Gasping for breath, she dug her nails into his shoulders, enjoying the mix of pleasure and pain as he, in turn, tightened his grip on her hips.

Her orgasm rushed through her. Before it ended, everything bubbled up inside and, unable to stop herself, she began to sob.

"Hey, Shug… It's okay…" Mickey was whispering but Sam couldn't control the feelings rushing through her enough to answer.

After a few minutes, finally, she was able to catch her breath. The emotions churning through her body and mind left her feeling drained.

"I'm sorry." She looked into Mickey's eyes and she saw the familiar, passionate fire burning there.

"Don't ever be sorry for having feelings, Shug." He gave her a gentle shake. "You can trust me – you've done it before."

She let her head drop onto his shoulder, breathing in his scent. "I know, Mickey love. I know. It's just that you make me feel things I've never felt before and it scares me."

He gave her a half smile. "It scares the hell out of me too, Sam."

Chapter 11 coming soon...

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