Part 4

Mickey watched as the Essex countryside raced past. Lulled by the movement of the vehicle and Sam humming in tune to the music on the radio, he let his mind wander. McCall had once mentioned going to the coastal town of Southend with his mother when he was a small boy. Sam had also said that it was somewhere she had been a lot with her parents, when she was younger. It sounded like the trips to Coney Island he and Nick had made with their parents after they moved to New York.

There was little traffic and in less than an hour Sam had stopped in a small car park right by the beach. As soon as he got out of the car the cries of the seagulls, the salty smell of the sea and the aroma of fast food hit him Ė it was all tantalisingly familiar, even if he was three and a half thousand miles from home.

While Sam put on her padded jacket and fussed over locking the car securely, he looked around, enjoying the chance to play tourist. When she had first mentioned the Ďfamous Southend pierí he had thought it sounded something like the Coney Island boardwalk, but now he saw that the steel and wood structure pointed out to sea rather than running along the shoreline. She said she thought that, at over a mile in length, it had once been the longest in the world. The part at the far end where all the big liners had docked had been destroyed in a fire about ten years before.

They stopped to buy hotdogs from a vendor and Sam spread ketchup on hers, starting to eat as they began to walk again. Mickey looked at her and then at his hot dog suspiciously, it smelled okay but the colour was different, a sort of grey/pink colour rather than the meaty red he was accustomed to. He shrugged and muttered, "Only one way to find out," under his breath.

Watching his face, Sam laughed, "Itís not going to bite you."

"I know." He took a bite and chewed slowly. It tasted terrible. "I think I ate something this bad in Vietnam once." He stopped walking and looked at her accusingly, "They told me it was rat."

"It canít be that bad." She smiled at him to take the sting from her words, "Jeez! Youíre a fussy bugger, Kostmayer. Anyway itís against the law here to sell rat for human consumption!" She started laughing so hard at her joke that she nearly choked on her hotdog.

He pounded her on the back until she recovered. "Nope, Iím not fussy, Iíll eat anything if Iím hungry enough. Iím just used to the best franks in the world from Nathanís, so this is a disappointment. Tell you what, when you come to New York Iíll buy you a real hotdog." He waved the offending snack in front of her and then dumped it in a trashcan, "Not a bad copy."

There was a moment of silence and Mickey realised what he had said. He had almost come right out and invited her to visit. The knowledge that he really meant what he said surprised him. When he looked at Sam she seemed to be weighing up her options.

"Okay, youíve got yourself a deal." Wiping her hands on a napkin, Sam put her arm around his waist and tugged him along.

Mickey moved his arm over her shoulder, pulling her closer. Despite the cold wind, he was enjoying himself. "This is great," he took a deep breath of the salty sea air, "I havenít had a chance to relax in ages."

"Me too." She let her hand slide lower hooking two fingers into the pocket on the back of his jeans. "Iím only here because I damaged my ankle last time out."

He didnít bother asking what had happened as he knew she couldnít tell him. "I didnít notice you limping at all so I guess itís okay now?"

"Yeah, I just need to do a bit more exercise then I can get back to active ops."

They walked a little way in silence, looking at the fishermen sitting hunched at the sides of the pier, their fishing rods angling out over the calm water.

Keeping her voice low so that she wasnít overheard she said, "I donít think I have seen any of them catch anything apart from crabs."

He took a breath intending to say something about lice when she turned and put her fingers firmly against his lips, "Donít even think it, Mickey. Iíve had to be deloused a couple of times and it isnít funny!"

Once again it struck him how similar their experience and sense of humour were. Holding the hand that was still on his mouth he kissed her fingers. "Shit! You donít need to tell me Ė Iíve been there. Leeches are worse though."

"Ugh! I know, I must taste nice or something, whenever I go to Belize I get covered in the bloody things."

"The leeches are right, you do taste nice. Very nice."

"Yeah?" She winked at him, "Well I think I prefer to have you sucking on parts of me!"

"Patience woman, weíll have time later." He tried to leer suggestively but ended up laughing. "Anyway, you canít make up for five months of abstinence in five days!"

"Says who?" she stuck her hand inside his back pocket and pinched his butt.

Mickey shook his head in disbelief. "God Ė I think youíre gonna be the death of me!"

As Mickey had already discovered, Sam had to have the last word, "Yeah but what a way to go!"

At the far end of the pier, having looked around at the lifeboat station and the few tacky gift shops, they found an empty wooden bench and sat down. It was warm in the sun and Mickey noticed how the red highlights in Sam's dark hair reflected the sun's rays. From time to time a gust of wind would whip her hair into a frenzy, covering her face and eyes and getting into her mouth

"You want to use this?" He produced his black watch cap from his pocket and offered it to her.

"Thanks." She stuck both hands into the hat and pulled it over her hair and ears, leaving a fringe of hair curling around the edges. Like him, she was dressed casually in jeans and a sweater and her cheeks were reddened by the wind. To Mickey she had never looked more alluring.

She leaned towards him, until their shoulders were touching and Mickey admitted to himself that he liked the sensation. He put out his hand and stroked her cheek before leaning forward to kiss her gently. It all felt familiar and comfortable, like they were old friends and not just temporary lovers.

Curious, he asked, "How did you get into this business?" He saw a variety of emotions cross her face and he guessed that she had been asked this question a lot. She thought for a while and when she answered it didnít sound like the usual brush off of a familiar pick-up line.

"Coincidence I think Ė that and wanting to travel and see the world." She spoke softly, still looking as though she wasnít completely comfortable talking about herself. "Iíve got a sister, Jen, who is four years older than me. When I was sixteen our parents were killed in a car accident."

She turned her head away for a moment and he thought he saw tears in her eyes. Losing her parents so young must have been hard on her. She was lucky, it sounded like her and her sister were close. It had been a lot different for him and Nick when their mom died. Even as kids they had never been that close Ė he guessed that they were just too different.

Confused and grieving, his dad had cut himself off from them, not wanting anyone to see how much he was hurting too Ė thinking it would make him appear weak. Older and wiser now, Mickey could understand how bad his dad had suffered, but at the time he was just seventeen and had rebelled, getting into trouble, first at school and then with the police. His fatherís only reaction had been to lash out with his fists and beat the crap out of him. He hadnít even tried to understand what he and Nick were suffering.

Just after his eighteenth birthday heíd gone out drinking with some of the guys and got very drunk. When he eventually made it home the next morning, the old man flew into a rage, called him names and knocked him on his ass. Finally, all his anger, frustration and grief boiled up inside and he got up and, for the first and last time, fought back.

It had been over very quickly. Heíd never forget his feeling of shame when he saw his father bleeding on the ground and recognised that he was a frail and lonely old man.

Two days later Mickey joined the Navy. He and his dad hadnít spoken again. Nick wrote and told him when he died, less than a year later. Yeah, it would have been good if he and Nick had been closer. Mickey shrugged, there were things he regretted, but he wasnít sure that he would want to change the direction his life had taken.

Lost in his memories, it took Mickey a time to realise that Sam had stopped talking and was watching him with a puzzled look on her face. "Are you sure you want to hear the rest of this? Itís so boring."

It was the first time she had really spoken about herself in the days they had been together and he wanted to hear more, "Yeah I do, Iím really interested."

"Okay, if youíre sure." She thought for a moment, "Jen was at university but she gave up her studies and worked really hard so that I could stay at school until I was eighteen. There wasnít the money for me to go to university; besides, I could hardly go when Jen had had to stop her degree to look after me. So, even though I had the exam grades I needed, I chose to look around for something to do that would be exciting."

"Did you find it?" He smiled, it was stupid question, he knew she had.

Sam nodded, her eyes never leaving his. He recognised that they both wanted the same things and were both addicted to the buzz you got from taking risks.

Her smile brightened, "The good thing was that once I was self sufficient, Jen went back to college to finish her degree and while she was there she met Pete, her husband. She wouldn't have met him if she hadn't taken a couple of years out. They are really happy and have three beautiful kids now."

"Iíve got a younger brother, Nick. Heís a priest."

Samís look of amazement made him laugh out loud and her fingers moved slowly up his thigh as she spoke, "Please donít tell me you ever contemplated being a priest too."

Aware of the sudden tingling in certain parts of his anatomy, Mickey shook his head, "No way! I could never have kept the vow of celibacy. Iíd have been excommunicated for sure. Anyway I ruined any chance of that when I was sixteen. I was caught naked with my girlfriend in the crypt of the church. I donít think Nick has forgiven me for that yet. He keeps saying something about remorseÖ"

She laughed and hugged him quickly, "Now why doesnít that surprise me?" Then she sighed, "I was awful to Jen for a while. I was always getting into trouble at school, I was the daredevil of the class, the one that would try all the stupid stunts. I abseiled off the roof of the school once as a dare. The excuse was that it was for charity, but really I just liked the high I got from it." She snorted, "My teachers didnít have a clue what to do with me, they advised me to go into the civil service; itís ironic really that Iím a sort of a civil servant now, though possibly not the sort they had in mind."

Watching Sam, Mickey could make out the coiled spring inside her. Her grey eyes were alight with laughter and her whole body moved as she talked. He recognised the feeling that you should always be up and moving.

"Anyway, Jen and I talked it over and I decided to give the WRAF a try. They wanted women officer recruits and I had this idea that being a test pilot would give me the adrenaline rush I needed. Jen hated the idea of me doing anything dangerous but knew I would do it anyway. I signed up for six years and really loved the eighteen weeks initial training. I passed easily but didnít have the perfect eyesight they needed for a pilot so I ended up spending two years in photo reconnaissance. That pleased Jen, she thought it was safer.

"I got to fly in the planes taking pictures Ė and that was great Ė but still not exactly what I had in mind. I transferred to the intelligence branch after that, but spent my time analysing information and making recommendations instead of being where the action was. My C.O. knew that I was getting restless so, unofficially, he told me about a fairly new, undercover unit that was stationed in Northern Ireland. They had just started accepting applications from women and he suggested that I apply to join them."

Her laugh was self-deprecating, "He thought that I was just the sort of nutcase that 14 Intelligence Company was on the look out for."

"Compared to me and my reputation, youíre one of the sanest people on the planet. But maybe thatís why we get along so well. In my SEAL team I was known as Ďthat crazy kid, Kostmayerí."

"You were a SEAL?"

"Yeah, for a while, before I joined the Company."

Sam leaned closer, resting her head against his shoulder, "Iíve heard the training is really tough."

He slipped his arm around her shoulder and tipped his head to rest on top of hers, feeling the wool of his hat against his cheek, "No more so than the SAS, I guess."

"I trained with the SAS. I spent six months up in Hereford with them and it seemed like the hardest thing I could ever do. After that I got shipped over to Ulster to work undercover and that was even harder. I actually met Johnny Stevens there once. Of course he didnít let on who he was or what he was up to. My name or face must have stuck though, because he offered me a job a few years later."

Feeling suddenly chilled, Mickey looked up at the sky. The sun had disappeared and there were dark rain clouds gathering overhead.

Samís gaze followed his, "Looks like rain. Race you back to the car?"

"Yeah, why not." Mickey smiled wickedly at her, "Last one back buys dinner."

Mickey felt the rain begin to fall when they were a little over half way back and by the time they reached the car they were soaked. Mickey got there first a step or two in front of Sam. She unlocked the doors and they climbed in quickly, steaming up the windows almost at once.

"Any preference for dinner?" Sam asked as she started the engine and waited for windows to clear.

"Nah, if youíre buying, Iíll let you chose."

She poked her tongue out at him. "How does home-made minestrone with fresh baked Italian bread sound?"

"Great." A thought struck him and he looked at her, "You offering to cook?"

"No, not today. Itís okay, I know this great restaurant."

He honestly hadnít expected her to be that domesticated. "Is it far?"

Sam fastened her seat belt, "Nope, a couple of miles and it is on the way back to the hotel." She looked at him as though she felt that she had to explain, "But I can cook you know. I worked undercover, cooking in a maximum security prison for three months."

"Was the food good there?" He hoped she would tell him more, he had wondered what sort of jobs she did for Stevens.

She replied enigmatically, "No, mostly it was cabbage soup."

Mickey settled back into his seat, his mind racing. Cabbage soup? That sounded like something from Eastern Europe. Then a report he had read, just about the time that McCall resigned from the Company, came back to him.

A well-known political dissident had been smuggled out of a gulag in Siberia. The Russians were yelling and blaming the Company, but they hadnít done it. The internal report had given British Intelligence the credit for the scam. Mickey looked at Sam again, wondering if she had been responsible. She could never tell him of course.

The road they turned into was full and Mickey squinted out of the rain-spattered windshield to try to look for somewhere to park. Eventually he spotted a gap and pointed it out. Sam parked and together they sprinted for the entrance of the restaurant. Mickey opened the door and stood back to let her lead the way into a small, intimate bistro. There were around eight or ten tables with candles and chequered table clothes, all occupied. It was warm and cosy inside and given the driving rain outside, he guessed that most of the diners would be staying for a long time.

Suddenly there was a bustle from the kitchen and a young woman of around twenty came over to them. She had an apologetic look on her face and Mickey was sure they were about to be sent away without any dinner, but her expression changed into a beaming smile when she recognised Sam. "Nonna Rosa!" she shouted, "Samantha is here."

At once the kitchen door flew open and a small, round, grey haired lady, dressed in black. practically ran over to them. She grabbed Sam in a fierce hug and kissed her cheeks with typical Italian abandon.

"Samantha, bella, it is wonderful to see you again. Why didnít you tell me you were coming today?" With her arm tightly around Sam, she looked Mickey over. "And who is this that I donít know nothing about?" She poked Sam in the ribs, "I saw Jen and her beautiful family a few weeks ago. She didnít tell me you had such a good-looking boyfriend."

"Heís just a friend, Rosa, visiting from New York," Sam answered quickly.

Waving her hand in a gesture that told Mickey that she didnít believe Sam at all. The old woman yelled at the waitress. "Loretta! Why you not seat Samantha and her boyfriend already?"

The young woman smiled and yelled back, "I was just gonna do that Grandma!" After patting Samís cheek again, Rosa went bustling back into the kitchen. In less than a minute the girl had seated them at a small table a little away from the rest of the diners.

Mickey relaxed back into his chair, the restaurant was warm and comfortable, and the cooking smells were enticing. Loretta returned to take their order a few moments later, placing bread sticks and small bowls of black and green olives on the table. They ordered minestrone and a bottle of red wine.

Mickey bit into a bread stick, "They know you here." It was a statement rather than a question.

Sam picked up an olive and nodded, "My parents found the place first, years before the accident and we used to come as a family. Then after they were gone, Jen and I would come sometimes. A couple of years back one of the local crooks decided that he would try a little protection racket. Rosa told me about it and I got it taken care of."

Loretta came back to the table with their wine and Mickey waited until sheíd gone before he asked, "So you can always get a table?"

"Sure. Mind you, I have waited tables for Rosa as well when they have been really busy. The regulars keep this place a well-kept secret and itís always hectic

When Loretta returned, she placed a large loaf of freshly baked bread and two huge, steaming bowls in front of them. Mickey picked up his spoon eagerly and stirred the thick soup.

Sam tasted it and then put her spoon down quickly, "Damn! Itís hot," she reached for her glass of wine and took a sip, "It never fails. Rosaís soup always smells so good I canít help but dig right in and I burn my tongue every bloody time!"

Mickey chuckled to himself. So Sam was as reckless as he was when it came to certain pleasures. That was good to know. He made a deliberate effort to slow down then but the smell of tomato and garlic from the bowl was making his mouth water and he was hungry. He blew on his soup to cool it and then tried not to react when he burned his tongue too. But, my oh my, the soup was good!

He pushed the empty bowl away at last, feeling decidedly mellow. He had no idea how long they had been eating, but he knew he had never enjoyed any dish more. They had talked easily, sharing stories and a bottle of wine as they filled up on the thick, delicious soup and chunks of the fresh bread.

Loretta returned to take away their plates, "Would you like any desert?" She looked at Sam, "Nonna has made crème caramel today, I know you like that."

Sam nodded, "Oh yes, Iíd love some." She turned, grinning at him. "Mickey, Rosa makes the best crème caramel Iíve ever tasted."

Mickey shook his head, he felt pleasantly full and very contented. "Iím just fine. The soup hit the spot Ė bullís eye!"

After Loretta left, a long, comfortable silence stretched between them. It had been a very long time since he had felt so relaxed in a womanís company. Without thinking he put his hand over Samís, where it rested on the table, and squeezed it gently.

"What was that for?" Her look was curious.

"Nothiní, I just wanted you to know that Iím having a good time."

Sam smiled in understanding then, "Me too."

In a moment of clarity, Mickey saw that they were both lonely people. Maybe it was inevitable in their line of work Ė unless they met someone who understood what drove them.

Loretta returned before he got too introspective, with a brandy for Mickey, compliments of the house she said, and Samís desert.

Without thinking Mickey warmed the brandy between his hands, as McCall had shown him a long time ago. He sipped the liquor slowly and watched Sam eat the sweet, creamy pudding. He found the way she savoured every mouthful and licked her spoon wonderfully erotic and, as his body reacted, he hoped that it wouldnít take them too long to get back to the hotel.

The next morning, Sam sat alone in the hotel dining room. Mickey had gone back upstairs to find a map so that they could plan their last day together. Waiting for him to return, she was idly looking through some flyers she had picked up at the reception, but her mind was more on the events of last night than the content of the leaflets.

Whether it had been the fresh air or the wine, she had no idea, but Mickey had been inspired. In fact, just thinking over the things they had done in the hotel bed was enough to get her aroused all over again. She looked out the window and sighed, it was a shame the weather wasnít warmer, because the idea of a picnic of strawberries and champagne somewhere in the countryside, followed by alfresco sex for desert, had a lot of appeal.

Someone sat down opposite her and she looked up expecting it to be Mickey. Her happy mood evaporated when she recognised the man there. Gordon Davis was the last person Sam wanted to see this morning. Correction, she told herself, he was probably the last person she wanted to see, ever.

It hadnít occurred to her that she needed to hide her movements from her own colleagues. Sam wanted to kick herself. They must have tracked her down from the couple of phone calls she made to the office from her hotel room.

She stood but before she could walk away, he said, "Hey, Brown, so this is where you have been hiding the past week. We were worried when we hadnít seen you around the office."

Sam swallowed her sarcastic retort. She knew that he wasnít overly concerned about her well being. He just wanted to know what she had been doing and, undoubtedly more important to him, who she had been doing it with.

She leant forward, threatening him, "Are you checking up on me?" She didnít try to keep the annoyance out of her voice.

"Of course not, itís just that we had got used to you hanging around even though you werenít fit. Some of the guys wondered what," he looked around again, his pale blue eyes taking in every detail of the people in the room, and smirked, "or who, you'd been doing."

Sam caught the nasty meaning behind his words. "What I do and who I do it with is none of your business." She was losing her cool with the small-minded prick and she wondered how long she would be able to resist the temptation to wipe the smirk off his face. Davis had always been a coward and probably thought that she wouldnít make a scene in public.

Her main worry now was how Mickey would react to Gordon Davis; she decided she would walk away and not to risk a confrontation between the two men. Standing, Sam strode out of the room, groaning to herself when he got up to follow her.

Great he wanted to push his luck!

She had reached the foot of the stairs when Davis made the mistake of putting his hand on her arm. He whispered something that was barely intelligible but sounded like Ďan all pussy diet not being healthyí. It took a couple of seconds for the meaning of his words to sink in and then her self control snapped. She turned quickly, intending to deck the bastard, and caught sight of Mickey standing at the top of the stairs.

Mickey refolded the map as he walked along the hallway and hoped that today would be as much fun as yesterday. He had really enjoyed their sightseeing trip. When he reached the top of the stairs, he was surprised to see Sam standing at the bottom with another man. The guy reminded him a little of Harley Gage, except that he was wearing a fancy suit and tie. From the tension apparent in her body, Sam wasnít very happy about whatever the newcomer was whispering to her.

She glanced up, saw him and shot him a warning look that said stay out of this. Then, in a quick move, she whirled and kicked out at the guy. The blow landed on the side of his kneecap. He gave a shrill cry of pain and went down in a heap with both hands clutched around his leg.

"Youíve broken my bloody leg, you bitch." To Mickey, he sounded totally amazed that Sam had dared lay a finger on him.

Mickey couldnít stop himself from smiling. From where he stood, it looked like she had judged exactly how much force to put into the kick. The leg wasnít broken Ė he would have heard the bone snap Ė the suit would just have problems trying to walk for a few days.

Moving slowly down the stairs, Mickey saw Sam crouch down and when she spoke her voice was an angry hiss, "No I havenít broken your bloody leg you pathetic wanker. But the next time you take it into your head to bother me when I am on vacation, I will break both your legs and then rip your useless balls off and stuff them down your throat. Is that clear?" Without waiting for his answer she turned and started back up the stairs.

When she passed him, Mickey murmured, "You okay?"

She nodded and kept on going.

He couldnít help but feel a sense of pride in the way she could take care of herself. She was one awesome woman.

Not knowing exactly what was going on or who this guy was, Mickey felt surprised by the urge to clobber him too; but he resisted the temptation. Instead he went downstairs to help the shaking man climb to his feet

"Thanks mate." The manís voice was full of embarrassment, "She can be a real mean bitch, you know. Iím not sure if she is all there sometimes. I mean, sheís got to be a dyke to react like that to what I said."

Mickey moved in closer, deliberately getting in the guyís face as he brushed imaginary specks of dust off his shoulders. Then he treated him to the infamous Kostmayer empty-eyed psychopath smile. "You don't know me," Mickey spoke softly, "people call me a loose cannon." He looked straight into the manís eyes making sure he knew he was looking at his death if he screwed up again. "I'd be careful if I was you, buddy Ė sheís a friend of mine. If you piss her off again, I might have to come looking for you."

Mickey did his best not to laugh as the remaining colour drained rapidly from the suitís face. It looked like the guy was all set to pee in his pants as he backed away. With a last evil grin, Mickey watched as the guy hobbled off, looking behind him from time to time to make sure he wasnít being followed.

Once he was sure that the suit had left the hotel, Mickey climbed the stairs back to their room. He couldnít believe what the guy had said. Sam a dyke? No fucking way! Mickey chuckled to himself, she could have that stupid bastard for breakfast and still be hungry Ė assuming the putz could get it up in the first place.

Not sure of her mood, he opened the door to their room carefully. As he had expected, she was still pissed, prowling around the room and muttering to herself. Trying to be light-hearted, he said, "Is it safe to come in?"

She turned to face him and nodded, "Sure." Her tone was anything but reassuring.

He came and stood to the side, almost afraid to touch her, "You okay?"

"No!" Her words exploded out. "They're stupid tossers. I told you they said I was gay when I wouldnít sleep with any of them. They just wonít leave it alone."

Mickey wasnít sure what a tosser was, but he could guess. "So that guy is one of your colleagues? Shit Sam donít worry about it, he isnít worth the energy. Youíre twice the agent he is, look how easy you took him down."

"Yeah right. So Iím lethal." Her voice cracked, "Is that normal for a woman?" She turned away from him and smacked her hand against the wall. "Sometimes I feel like a bloody freak."

Not sure how to reply, Mickey waited. Then he spotted her duffel bag on the table, now half full of clothes. It looked like his vacation was going to end right away he thought with regret.

Sam started stalking around the room, picking up her things and putting them back down, as though she was in two minds about what she wanted to do. She started muttering again, but she was talking to herself, "I knew I couldnít trust Gilly. I should have known the stupid bitch would tell him everything."

Mickey didnít have a clue what she was talking about, but it had to be important for Sam, so he kept quiet.

Suddenly she whirled on him, "Men like seeing women together donít they?"

"Together?" Mickey wasnít sure what she meant but he didnít want to anger her further and get into a fight.

"Yes together! Having sex! Putting on live sex shows!"

Mickey decided on a tactical retreat as he sat on the end of the bed a few feet away from her, "I guess so." He still wasnít sure where her questions were leading, but he had the feeling he ought to tell her the truth about how he felt. "Iíve seen some stuff that I found exciting, but a lot of it was just sad, for the girls and the customers."

Calmer now, Sam sat down on a wooden, straight backed chair, "Have you ever been screwed by another man as part of the job?"

Wondering about the reason behind her question, he hesitated a second and then shrugged. "Nope. It never came up." He winced, "Shit! Sorry. The pun was unintentional. In any case, there were always enough gay agents to do that stuff. It would be damn obvious that youíd never had anyoneís cock up your ass before if you tried to fake it."

"True." Sam rubbed her hands along the wooden arms of the chair and smiled ruefully, "How about women? Have you ever had to screw a woman as part of a job?"

She kept her gaze steady on him and he could see that this wasnít a one-way street. She was letting him see something personal about herself as well as wanting to know about him. He still felt a little uncomfortable. "Come on, Sam, you know what itís like. There are some things that you have to do when youíre working undercover."

She smiled then and nodded at him. "I know that and thatís why I donít understand that prick DavisÖ"

"Davis? Oh the guy downstairs."

"Yeah him." She looked up at the ceiling of the room for a moment as though collecting her thoughts. "Seven years ago, I had a job. The department was watching a man suspected of running drugs and white slave rings in the Middle East. He would have women kidnapped or lured overseas and the next time anyone saw them they were hooked on dope and working in his houses. We didnít pay too much attention until he started a profitable sideline blackmailing the staff of various western embassies. Johnny needed to lure him somewhere to talk business. To get him relaxed and alone we had to lay on some entertainment. He liked watching women have sex, and then joining in threesomes with them. Gilly and I worked together and wellÖ" She hesitated just a little, "You get the picture?"

Mickey nodded. He knew stuff like that was necessary, and the good agents, the ones you wanted on your team, did what they had to without any histrionics.

"It wasnít supposed to get too serious, the team was going to move in and grab him before Gilly and I had to do much more than take our clothes off. But it didnít work out like that. There was a foul-up and we had to keep him occupied for longer. Gilly is bisexual so what happened didnít bother her but I hated every single moment. I went through with it and pretended to get off on what she was doing because I had to. I must have done a bloody good job because he got really excited." She looked him in the eye, clearly challenging him to try and make her feel ashamed of anything sheíd done, "It seems that Gilly told Gordon Davis all about it. And because he doesnít understand about working deep cover and because I wonít date anyone in the department, itís all the proof he needs to confirm that I like women and kinky sex. I just know that one of the reasons he turned up here was to see if I was with a woman."

Sam walked over to stand in front of him and Mickey leaned back on his elbows so that he could still see her face. Heíd never had any hang ups about sex in the line of duty as long as everyone was willing. "The guy has gotta be a jerk if he hasnít figured out that there is a difference between screwing someone because you have to and because you want to."

She smiled at that and crouched down between his legs so that their faces were level. When she rested her hands on his thighs he felt a jolt go straight to his groin.

"They are all the same. They call me gay because I wonít sleep with them but none of them could stand to have a woman tell them what she wanted."

Mickey thought about that, he had never really considered it a problem. If the sex was good, he didnít mind who made the moves.

Sam spoke again and it was as though she had read his mind. "It doesnít bother you Ė does it."

"Nah. The way I see it, is if I do what she wants and she has a good time, Iím gonna have one too."

She rested her hands on his shoulders and he let her push him all the way back down onto the bed. "I have a good time with you, Mickey."

He let the tone of his voice drop to a seductive whisper, "So, what did you say to him?"

"Nothing." She straddled him then, her knees either side of his hips, while his legs were still hanging off the end of the bed. Leaning forward until their lips were almost touching she said, "I shouldíve told him I liked men and that there were other things I would much rather be doing then bothering with a cretin like him."

Happily, Mickey kicked off his shoes and pulled himself into the middle of the bed as Sam pursued him on her hands and knees, "Yeah? What were they? You wanna tell me about them? Maybe I can make some suggestions?"

Sam stroked his cheek, "Shut up, Kostmayer Ė you talk too much. I can think of something much more interesting to do with your mouth right now." Then she kissed him, her tongue darting between his lips.

During the kiss, Mickey felt her hands tugging urgently at his t-shirt, pulling it out from the waistband of his jeans. He lay there passively as she pushed the t-shirt higher stopping when it was bunched up around his upper chest. At the same time, she rubbed her crotch against the now obvious bulge in his jeans. She leaned forward and Mickey felt her hair slide silkily over his chest as she licked and sucked at each of his nipples in turn.

He was gasping by the time she finally pulled his t-shirt off over his head. Slowly she worked her way down over his chest. He almost groaned in relief when she reached his navel, undid his belt and began to ease off his jeans.

Naked while she was still fully clothed, he held his breath as her head moved lower still. When, at last, she held his engorged cock in her hand and sucked him into her hot, wet mouth, taking him deep into her throat, he was certain he had died and gone to heaven.

Time ceased to exist for Mickey until much later when Sam finally sprawled on top of him naked, breathless and sweaty. She had wanted to be in control and he had let her Ė and enjoyed every damn moment.

"Mickey." She propped herself up on her elbows to look at him, their faces almost touching.

He opened his eyes and looked at her, "Yeah?"

"It doesnít feel the same here any longer." Sam dropped a kiss on his chest and looked around the room thoughtfully, "Iíve had a lot of fun the past few days, but now that they know weíre here, it feels off somehow."

Mickey pushed her damp hair away from her face. She wanted to leave! Disappointment surged through him along with other conflicting emotions and he wasnít sure why. He had thought that they were getting on just fine.

He stopped for a minute, trying to rationalise his feelings. He supposed it might be good to get home early. He had another week before he would be sent out again and he could look forward to doing some fishing and just chilling out for a few more days. So what was his problem? "Iíll see if I can get a flight out today, if you want."

"No! I donít mean that!" She seemed alarmed, as if he had misunderstood her.

He felt an unexpected sense of relief.

"I wondered if you wanted to stay at my place tonight instead? I could cook dinner for us."

Looking into her grey eyes, Mickey tried to understand what he saw there before he answered. Finally, trusting his instincts he said, "Iíd like that."

It was still early in the afternoon when Sam pulled the car into the driveway in front of her home. Once they had decided to leave the hotel, it hadnít taken long to pack Ė they both were long accustomed to travelling light.

She only lived a thirty-minute drive from the hotel and on the way they had stopped and picked up some groceries. Sam had suggested cooking a chicken dish and Mickey had agreed easily, telling her that he couldnít cook much other than to grill a steak or open a box of Wheaties. Laughing, Sam had offered to show him how to cook the meal they were going to have and he had accepted.

Samís home was small and secluded in the middle of a forest a little way north of the city. Mickey looked around her house and property and whistled; with England being so crowded, he could guess what property prices must be like around London. "This place must have cost you a fortune."

"It did, but I fell in love with the house the moment I saw it. It needed a lot of work. I borrowed as much as I could and used all my savings but I figured it was worth it. That was ten years ago and now, with the way that property prices have gone up, Iíve got a really good investment."

After she had unlocked the door and turned off the alarm, she picked up their bags and carried them inside. Mickey got the box of groceries out of the trunk. Once inside Sam pointed to another doorway at the end of a short hallway, "The kitchen is through there; just put the box down somewhere and Iíll unpack it in a minute."

He heard her put the bags down in the hallway and go back outside. Depositing the box, Mickey went and stood at the front door and watched Sam close the gate to the driveway. He listened Ė it was very quiet. All he could see around him, apart from the road, were trees and a pub a few hundred yards away on the other side of the road.

Sam walked back across the grass in front of the house, "Iíll show you around." She seemed a little subdued and he wondered if she was regretting her invitation.

Carrying their bags, they started upstairs; Sam pushed open the first door they came to and showed him a large bathroom dominated by a corner bath. A small gym machine took up space in another corner. "This was the second bedroom, but I wanted a Jacuzzi bath as well as room for my exercise equipment."

The only other room on the upper floor of the house was her bedroom. There was an antique pine dresser in front of a small window overlooking the front of the house and pine wardrobes stood on either side of a small fireplace. Sam pointed to another doorway, "That was the original bathroom but I had it turned into a shower room.

He peeked inside and saw a shower stall, john and washbasin.

Mickey felt Samís eyes on him when he looked at the iron framed double bed and he became a little uncomfortable. Being in this room with her gave him a greater sense of intimacy than anything they had shared so far. This was the real Sam, there was no pretence here.

She dropped her bags on the floor and when she spoke he was dragged back to the present. "Iíll sort my laundry out later. Do you want some coffee?"

Placing his bag on the floor Mickey nodded. "Great."

They went back downstairs and into the kitchen. It was a well-lit, square room with windows along two walls, the rest of the walls were covered with wooden cabinets. There was a big solid table under one of the windows and it all had a rustic feel to it. "Why donít you go through into the living room and put on some music while I finish this?"

"Sure." He walked back into the hallway and into the living room. The room wasnít big but it was neat with a brick fireplace against one wall. The couch and armchairs were old and looked comfortable and a small table with four chairs stood in front of some doors with glass panes in them that led out to a small, well-kept garden.

Mickey felt at home. The peace and quiet, instead of grating on his nerves, was soothing. He knew instinctively that this was Samís refuge against the outside world. Here she could relax and be herself, maybe that was why she seemed so distant suddenly; she wasnít used to letting anyone see the real person inside. Idly he wondered if any other men had spent the night here.

Mickey looked over the stereo system, it was fairly new and good quality and there was a big collection of CDís. Looking through them, Mickey saw that Samís taste was varied, ranging from jazz and blues to classical and rock music. Selecting an Al Jarreau album he set the CD player to play softly and looked around. Next to the glass doors, on a wooden shelf, there was a collection of photographs. Mickey looked at them with interest, some were obviously Sam when she was younger. There were black and white photos of an older couple and of two little girls, her parents and, Sam and her sister he assumed. Other pictures showed her sister getting married with Sam as an attendant. Dressed in a deep blue gown, with flowers in her hair, she looked stunning.

Then there were other smaller pictures, of her sisterís children he guessed. Hidden at the back of the shelf was a picture of Sam and an older man both in army fatigues. They were on a hillside somewhere and were both laughing at something. A shared joke maybe?

Standing over the counter in the kitchen, Sam was wondering what on earth had possessed her to invite him to stay over. She had never done it before, preferring to keep any complications away from her home. Her hand shook as she spooned instant coffee into a mug and she spilled the granules all over the worktop. Wiping up the mess, she carefully added more coffee and filled the mugs with boiling water. She told herself it was going to be okay, it was only for one night and while Mickey Kostmayer had been an interesting and exciting diversion Ė that was all he was. She found she had to repeat that fact to herself.

Really. That was all he was! After all, his flight was tomorrow afternoon and then she would probably never see him again. Hell, they had both been in the business for more than ten years and their paths had never crossed before so they were unlikely to do so again. She decided to ignore the feeling of remorse that welled up inside as she thought about his disappearing from her life.

Putting on a cheerful face, she carried their coffee into the other room; he was standing engrossed, looking out into the garden. She stopped in the doorway enjoying the view. He had his hands in his pockets, pulling his jeans tight. Damn, he had a great butt.

The strangeness of having a man in her home stuck her, but somehow Mickey looked right standing there, as though he belonged. She shook her head; she should leave the analysis to the shrinks and simply make the most of their remaining time together.

She came over to stand next to him. There was a fox outside in the garden, paying no attention to them whatsoever. Passing him the coffee she said, "We could go and get some lunch from Stan down at the Duke, and then go for a walk."

He turned to face her, "Duke?"

"The Duke of York, the pub across the road. I can recommend their steak and kidney pie."

He studied her for a few moments, with an intensity that Sam found a little disturbing, "I like the sound of that, Iím feeling hungry again."

Sam felt herself flush, his innocent words had put images in her head and she found herself hoping that his hunger wasnít solely confined to food.

"Do you like living in such a quiet place?" Mickey wondered as he walked next to Sam along a path through the forest. As she had promised, the steak and kidney pie had been very good. He had even enjoyed the British beer that Stan, the bar owner, had recommended. The ground was soft underfoot and the late afternoon sun shone through the bare branches of the trees.

"I love it. The only problem is that it isnít so quiet at weekends, especially during the summer. The place is full of people and cars then. Last year I even had someone try to park in my driveway because the car park at the pub was full."

"What happened?" That she felt secure enough to tell him things from her personal life, flattered and worried him at the same time. She was fast becoming more than a diversion to him.

"I told him if he didnít move his car I would call the police. The local bobby is a friend of mine."

"You didnít threaten to shoot his tyres out or rip his balls off?" He kept his voice serious as if he believed that she would have done it.

"No! He was a little guy with glasses and, a wife and kids." She protested.

From the sincere way she spoke, he saw that, for a fraction of a second, she had thought that he was serious!

"Anyway it wouldnít have been a fair fight."

He remembered the greeting they had received in the restaurant last night and the pub just now, "Is there anyone you donít know?"

Sam stepped up onto a fallen log and started walking along it, her arms outstretched to the sides for balance before she replied. "Sure, I donít know lots of people. I just know the useful ones." She reached the end of the log and without thinking Mickey put his hands round her waist and lifted her down. They stood facing each other for a moment, his hands resting softly on her waist, before he clasped her fingers loosely in his and they continued their walk.

It was almost dark when Sam led him around to the backdoor of the house so that they could leave their muddy shoes outside. She unlocked the door and then, after flicking on the light, hurried inside to turn off the alarm system.

Mickey met her as she came back into the kitchen, "This place is kind of isolated. You ever have any problems?" She could take care of herself, he knew he shouldnít worry about her but somehow he did.

Sam switched the kettle on as she answered, "Only once. Someone broke in one night." She grinned wickedly, "Unlucky for him I was at home!"

Mickey didnít need her to draw him a diagram, the thief had probably been relieved when the police showed up to arrest him.

Mickey stretched his legs out in front of him and took another sip of the deep red wine they had started drinking while preparing dinner. They had laughed a lot when Sam tried to explain the basics of cooking to him but in the end, even with his lack of talent in the kitchen, the meal had tasted great.

The living room was almost dark, with only the dying glow from the fireplace and several candles lighting the room. They were sitting on the floor in front of the fire and had been there since they finished eating. They were now halfway down a second bottle of wine.

Mickey looked over at Sam. She was sitting with her arms wrapped around her knees and her almost full glass on the floor at her side. They had spoken about a lot of things including family and friends. He had found himself telling Sam how Nick hated what he did, and it had surprised him that he had opened up as much as he had. Maybe the fact that he could barely see her face made it easier; instinctively, he knew that she wouldnít judge him. She would understand.

She was stroking a mark on her wrist absent-mindedly. He had seen it earlier in the kitchen when they were cooking and she had explained that she had broken her wrist when she was a kid and it had needed surgery. She had other scars too and was self conscious about them. He had barely noticed, to him they were simply part of her. Recognising the new openness between them Mickey asked, "Iíve noticed the scar on your side. Howíd you get it?"

The logs in the fireplace shifted, sending up a shower of sparks. Sam looked at them quickly and took a large gulp of her wine. To Mickey it seemed that she was deciding whether to tell him or not. When she did, her voice was so soft he had to move closer to hear.

"I told you I was in the Falklands during the war. Well, eight of us from 14, seven blokes and me, were sent in undercover in February 1982, two months before the Argentinean invasion. We split up, going to different locations. I had it easy, I was working in the Upland Goose hotel in Stanley, as a cook. A couple of the blokes had jobs working outside with the sheep." She shook her head remembering, "Boy we really took the piss out of them for that Ė sheep shaggers were the least of the names we called them. Some others worked in other local businesses. One of the guys had been in the Navy before he joined 14, he worked on the ferry between East and West Falkland."

She drank some more wine and rested her chin on her knees for a moment, "We had to be careful to appear like natives because at that time the only way into the islands was by plane or boat via Argentina. We also found out that the Argentinean officials there to run the airline and shipping were making dossiers on all the islanders. To make it seem like we belonged, we had voice training so that we sounded like the locals." Her voice changed to take on a soft burring accent to demonstrate.

"We arrived, a couple of us at a time. A guy called Terry, who was the local police chief, knew all about us and he arranged to get us put in position quietly. In a month it was as though we had always been there. The local people were great, they helped us all blend into the community really well. If any locals had questions we let them think it was a top secret training exercise. But I think some of them had an idea it was more than that."

She stopped talking and Mickey could see that she was getting to the difficult part of the story, and as gently as he could he said, "Sam. Sorry, I didnít mean to push you. You donít have to tell me any of it."

She smiled at him and he saw a flash of reflected firelight in her moist eyes, "Itís okay, Iíve not spoken about it much since I finished counselling. It isnít easy to find someone you trust who knows what our kind of life is like."

Sam stared into the fire, "Because there was no certainty that the invasion would even take place, we had no specific orders, we were just told to keep our eyes open, gather intelligence and be ready to do whatever needed doing to help. The invasion happened finally at the beginning of April and I spent the first two months of the occupation just working in the hotel and listening. All the Argie senior army officers gathered there in the evenings, before they went home to the houses they had commandeered. I overheard a lot of stuff, including some of the plans for the defence of Port Stanley.

"It was also obvious that the morale among the majority of the Argie troops was appalling. They were mostly nineteen-year-old conscripts and were cold, wet and hungry all the time. It was wintertime there and dozens of them were dying from exposure every night.

"When the Paras landed at San Carlos on May 21st things began to get interesting. There was a gap of over a week before they began to move inland and it got very tense. It looked like all the civilians might get interned so I started planning ways to get out and meet up with our people. The good thing was that as soon as the outlying settlements were freed, more information got through to us.

"On May 27th I heard from Dave, he was a sergeant in the Paras before he joined 14, that a big team from the SAS had landed on Mount Kent. We had some vital intelligence by now, details of minefields that had been laid, communications networks Ė stuff like that. Dave was in contact with Steve, another of our guys, by radio. Steve had already joined up with an SAS patrol and, as it looked like a major advance was imminent, we didnít want to get stuck in Stanley with our info so he arranged that we would meet up with him and his patrol late on the 29th.

"I was wearing civilian clothes and managed to get out of town easily enough, but when I got into the countryside, and before I found Dave, I stumbled across a four man Argie patrol. The trouble was that they werenít the young inexperienced troops Ė I might have been able to talk my way out with them Ė they were the commandos, the Buzos Tácticos. Those bastards were a law unto themselves. They werenít sure what I was doing and I think, because of the orders not to hurt civilians, they might have sent me home, but one of them frisked me and found my gun, so the shit hit the fan. I tried to get away and managed to take out two of them, but the others grabbed me."

Mickey nodded encouragingly. She was trying to keep her story matter of fact but he could read between the lines and see just how much she had been affected by what happened.

"They called me a spy and since I had just killed their comrades they didnít like me much. It looked at first as though they would kill me out of hand." She shook her head, "Some comrades! They forgot about their dead friends pretty quickly once theyíd dragged me into one of the huts used by the shepherds because theyíd decided to have some fun."

There was a catch in her voice and Mickey saw her shiver and take another long sip of her wine. "By the time theyíd each finished with me, I was too out of it to remember much clearly but I know I got torn up inside pretty badly when one of them used his pistol on me."

Mickey tried to stay calm. When women agents he had known had been raped or assaulted he had always been able to write it off as an occupational hazard. He had never really thought about what going through something like that would mean to the woman. Sitting here now, he had some insight into the feelings of powerlessness and violation that Sam must have felt.

She took another drink, and looked at him. He was amazed to see no trace of anger in her gaze. He wanted to kill the bastards Ė and if he had been a member of the team to find her, he knew he would have.

She sighed and stretched her legs out in from of her. "I was lucky. When I didnít show up Dave found Steve and his SAS patrol and they all came looking for me. They told me later that when they burst in, one of the Argies had me pinned on the ground with his hand over my mouth and the other had just stuck a knife in me and was about to slit me open and gut me like I was a fish." She rubbed the scar unconsciously. "I canít remember much, only that I wanted the pain to go away. I know I wondered what it would be like to dieÖ"

Sam was quiet for a moment and to Mickey it looked like she might have forgotten that he was there. After a few seconds, she shook herself again and went on with her story.

"SAS teams always have one member who has specialised medical training, so I was lucky. They managed to keep me alive until we reached the first aid station. I had a fractured skull, broken ribs, a broken wrist, dislocated jaw and a ruptured spleen from the beating, and injuries from the rape as well as peritonitis where the knife nicked my large intestine. After the local medics stabilised me I was airlifted back to one of the hospital ships for surgery and then back to the UK. I spent a long time in hospital and months in counselling. When I got out, Johnny looked me up and offered me a job with him, so I resigned my commission and never went back."

Mickey looked at her with even more respect. In this business you either survived whatever was thrown at you when you worked undercover or you didnít. Sam was without question a survivor.

She stretched suddenly, "Letís change the subject now please Mickey. I have a question for you then. How did you meet Robert?" The boot was on the other foot now Ė she wanted an exchange of information. Grateful that she had been as open as she had, he was happy to share information about himself.

Mickey smiled, "I was in prison for something I didnít do."

"I know about Leavenworth, I looked up the file we have on you." She looked smug.

Not at all annoyed he said, "You checked me out?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

She toyed with the wine glass before answering, "It was the day you and Robert arrived. I was attracted to you at once but you had a reputation. So I checked you out because I didnít want to find myself sharing a bed with an axe murderer."

Mickey grinned at her to show that he didnít mind. "It was probably one of the luckiest days of my life when McCall decided to go to Leavenworth to investigate my case, and he wasnít even equalising the odds then."

She interrupted him, "Equalising the odds?"

"Yeah. When McCall left the Company in Ď84 he decided to go into business helping out people that couldnít help themselves, people with no one to turn to. Calls himself The Equalizer in his ad. He looked into my conviction way back in í78 and found that I hadnít killed my partner and got me an honourable discharge from the Navy. I think he got me out just in the nick of time. I would have gotten into serious shit if Iíd been in Leavenworth much longer."

"Why was that?"

"I was twenty five when I was convicted and still looked like I couldnít grow a beard. From the offers I got from some of the other cons on the first day there, I knew I was in for a tough ride. I spent more time in solitary for fighting than anyone else. The guards thought it was funny to see this kid taking on guys bigger than him and beating them senseless. It was getting so bad that I was planning to kill one of them the next time they tried anything. I figured it would keep the rest of them scared of me for a while." Mickey swallowed hard, that would have sealed his fate and he would have been trapped in prison for a lot more than ten years.

They sat in silence for a time while they drank more wine and the firelight began to fade. Sam said, "Do you want to go to bed now?"

Mickey looked at her, she seemed different, softer and more feminine Ė for a moment he wasnít sure he should say yes. Then he told himself not to be stupid. What could possibly be different? They had spent the past five days and nights together Ė what could have changed now?

Finishing his wine, he leaned forward and kissed her lightly. "Yeah."

Standing, Sam took his hand and he climbed to his feet, "Youíll be the first man to spend a night here, Iíve never wanted to invite anyone home before." Without waiting a moment more, she blew out the candles and led him upstairs.

The house was warm and Mickey didnít bother to dress after he had taken a quick shower. Sam had showered first and when he came back into her bedroom, he saw she had her back to him, lighting some candles that stood on the nightstands on either side of the bed. Glancing behind her, she smiled at him, her gaze moving over his body with familiarity. She must have wanted to make tonight very special because instead of her robe she was wearing the most sensuous apricot coloured lingerie he had ever seen.

When she turned off the lamp her skin instantly took on the warmer hues of the candlesí glow and red highlights shone in her hair. He moved to stand behind her just as she took some condoms from the drawer of one nightstand. Putting his hands on her shoulders he pulled her closer until she rested against his chest, her skin soft and warm under his fingers. Already aroused, he enjoyed the sensation of silk against his skin. Her heady perfume was intoxicating.

He fingered the strap of the top, "This is nice."

Her voice was low and husky when she replied, "I love sexy lingerie; it makes me feel feminine."

Knowing her answer, whatever it was, would excite him further Mickey asked, "When we attacked the mansion to rescue Control what were you wearing then?"

She laughed quietly, "Black lace bra and bikinis."

He sighed, "Really?"

"Really."

"Probably just as well that I didnít know, I wouldnít have been able to concentrate, the body armour was enough of a distraction."

Sam giggled then, and it was a special sound, something he had never heard from her before. She leaned back against him and he curled one arm around her waist, "I didnít know you were kinky, Mickey. Your file didnít say anything about that."

"Well not everything goes in your file. You know that." He kept his voice low deliberately.

Slipping the strap off one shoulder, he lowered his head until his lips touched her flesh. With a sigh of pleasure, Sam reached up and stroked his cheek. When he moved her hair so that he could kiss her neck, she let her head fall back against his shoulder, rubbing her cheek against him. Dropping his hands to her hips he pulled her more firmly against him, kneading with his fingers as she moved her ass slightly, exciting him still more.

Turning within his arms, Sam slid her hands around his neck and pulled his head down until she could reach his lips. Her kiss was gentle, tasting of toothpaste and the promise of things to come.

He let his hands slide over the silky fabric, feeling her curves and the heat from her body through the material. The next kiss was deeper and she opened her mouth, welcoming his tongue as he explored her mouth and stroked the sensitive tissue of her lips.

He rubbed his painfully hard erection against her stomach and groaned as he felt her hand slip between his legs and cup his balls, squeezing them gently.

"What isnít in your file?" Again, she squeezed slightly, "I think you have to tell me now."

"Are you going to interrogate me?" He found that idea very interesting.

Clasping her hand around his cock, she ran her fingers up and down it, "Maybe not Ė youíd enjoy it too much. But we could always have a bet to see who can make the other come first." She laughed and tightened her grip.

He looked down at her, "Iíll take your bet."

Then he slipped his fingers up, into the leg of her panties, finding her hot, wet core.

After a couple of minutes of enjoyable mutual stroking, he manoeuvred them over to the bed and together they fell onto it. Pulling her over to lie on top of him, he let his hands slip over the rounded mounds of her buttocks and down the backs of her thighs, stroking the soft skin with his fingertips. He caressed her inner thighs and when he moved his hand higher dipping his fingers just inside her vagina she moaned softly. Sam was a beautiful and enthusiastic bed partner but Mickey had started learning ways to please women a long time ago. He smiled to himself. She didnít stand a chance.

He undressed her, kissing and stroking until Sam thought she would go crazy. She had never had such feelings of desire before; her need for him was like a physical pain. Overwhelmed by sensation, she forgot everything about their bet or about even trying to compete.

For a moment, Sam found enough control to open her eyes and look down at him. The sight of his head between her thighs and the rhythm of his fingers and tongue was so exciting that she knew she was going to come any second.

"Ahhhh!" The cry was torn from her as she shuddered with the force of her release. He moved up to lie beside her, kissing her, letting her taste herself on his lips.

Not caring that she had lost the bet she burrowed into his arms and let him hold her. At this moment, she wanted nothing more than to feel his arms around her. And maybe later, sheíd ask for a re-match Ė after all, in this game no one really lost.

Sam woke. Rolling onto her side, she propped her head on her hand and looked at the man asleep beside her. In the dim light that crept around the curtains, she could see darker blemishes that marred his skin. She chided herself, she had put some of those marks there yesterday after her meeting with Gordon Davis. Mickey was laying on his back, with one hand on the pillow, the other across his chest. She looked at his closed lids amazed once more by the length of his lashes. He didnít look anything like thirty-seven she decided. Remembering something he had said earlier about his time in prison, Sam agreed, at twenty-five he would have easily passed for eighteen. Someone that young would have looked a natural victim to the thugs in a military prison.

She lay back against the pillows and stretched, luxuriating in the sensation. Some muscles pulled from their unaccustomed usage over the past few days, but she felt good Ė very good. She was very glad that she had given in to her impulse and invited Mickey to stay with her. He was everything she wanted in a bed partner, considerate to her desires but aggressive too at times Ė in a way that she liked very much.

He woke then, stretching before turning to face her. The chemistry between them sparked once more and Sam reached for him. She pushed back the bedclothes as Mickey passed her a condom from the collection on the bedside table.

Sam lifted herself on her knees and knelt over him, then, with deliberate slowness, she lowered herself, allowing him to fill her inch by delicious inch. Mickey tensed himself and she felt his cock twitch inside her. He continued that sensuous movement as he took one of her breasts into each hand. Sam moaned when he began rolling her nipples between his fingers and thumbs, squeezing harder as she began to move over him.

Dropping his hands to her hips, Mickey held on and increased the pace, thrusting up into her. Sam closed her eyes. God! It felt so good. She leaned forward a little and rested her hands on his chest, balancing herself, as their movements grew even more frenzied.

Faster and faster she rode him until, holding her breath, she let her orgasm take her on a wild, roller coaster ride of pleasure. Mickey thrust once, twice more then he came too, jerking and twisting inside her.

Sam sank forward, resting against his chest. She could feel his heart racing as he sucked in air, trying to satisfy his bodyís craving for oxygen. Silently, she lay there until he softened and slipped away from her.

As she drifted back to sleep she felt his arms tighten around her.

Early the next morning they were standing beside the green Range Rover in Loughton station car park, his bag at his feet, Mickey wasnít sure what to say. Sam had insisted on giving him a lift but he usually preferred quick goodbyes. She had been quiet and thoughtful this morning; maybe she was feeling as strange as he did. The feeling of something momentous having begun hovered at the back of his mind, but whenever he made a move to try to examine the feeling more closely, it slipped back out of reach. They had eaten breakfast together almost in silence as though they were both taking time to figure out last night. It had been a lot more than just great sex.

To end the awkwardness, Mickey ducked his head and kissed Sam quickly. It was a quick peck on the cheek, nothing like the passion filled kisses they had shared earlier that morning. "Thanks for everything, I had a really good time."

She smiled faintly, "Me too. Remember, if youíre ever back this way, look me up."

"You too, if youíre ever in New York I mean."

He hugged her, feeling her body melt against his for an instant before she pulled away, a professional again. Mickey turned and headed into the station, determined not to look back.

It had been fun but now it was over.

He bought a ticket and walked slowly up the steps of the footbridge over the railway line. From the top, he caught a last fleeting glimpse of her car as it pulled out of the parking lot.

The house felt strangely empty when she got back from the station and when Mary, her cleaner, arrived for her weekly visit, Sam used that as an excuse to get outside into the fresh air. She hadnít run much for the past few weeks and she knew that she needed to get back to peak fitness before she could start to work again.

She increased her pace; she was running almost flat out now, sprinting along the path through the forest. She forced herself to go faster, making herself watch the path so that she didnít trip and hoping that concentrating hard would stop her thinking about the past few days.

When she got home again, sweaty and muddy, the house was spotless. Mary and every trace that Mickey had ever been there were gone. Standing in the shower, letting the warm water play over her, Sam tried to put their time together in perspective.

It had been fun but now itís over, she told herself.

Getting out of the shower, she dried herself with a large towel. She let the towel fall on the floor and walked into her bedroom to stare at herself in the full-length mirror. Unconsciously, she rubbed her fingers over the scar on her left side Ė it hadnít bothered him at all. He had accepted it, and all the other blemishes, as part of her.

She remembered that he had kissed the scar as they made love that morning. It had been the most beautiful and exciting thing she could ever recall. Sam stopped herself then and tried to remember just when she had stopped thinking of them having sex and had begun to think of them making loveÖ

"Watch it, Sam," she told herself out loud, "Itís over! You need to forget about him and get on with your life."

The truth hit her then. She knew that she could never forget, and maybe even worse, that she didnít want to forget Mickey Kostmayer.

Chapter 5