Good morning! TGIF and all that.
I have here the last of the June 50. ….Wow. I really do need a title. It is tentatively titled “Soul Timer” but I’m not sure I like it. The opening page of the document has this written on it.
A soulmate is the person with whom your soul connects; the person in whom you find a home. It is not easily explained.
It is the person you love unconditionally; the person with whom you find a deep connection. It is a meeting of minds, hearts and bodies. It is the unconditional love of self, yours and theirs. It is where communication is easiest, where total acceptance is found, with no judgements.
A soulmate is the perfect love of an imperfect person.
It’s something I saw on Facebook and tweaked just a little. It works with both the story and my own beliefs. It’s lovely, no?
Next week’s Fiction Friday will be about HW4, I’m sure. I will be editing HW2 for the third time too and prepping it for publishing so you may get bits and pieces of that I like.
Oh damn. That’s where the pregnancy starts. More thinking about that is required, I can tell.
I may also begin the editing for Rolf’s story. Then I can work on book 2 – the background, settings and puzzles.
Enjoy the ending to this June 50. I certainly did. And have a great weekend!
2102, Savannah, 38 years old, 2 hours, 13 minutes left on timer
Savannah steps aboard the ship belonging to one Jack Hill, Sr. and greets the Captain and Jack Hill, Jr. “Where is she?” She’s stressed, worried about Delilah. She’s tried to stay away, keep her distance, but she, Ghost and Reaper have kept tabs on her. She knows where she’s been and she knows that she hasn’t had a man in her life since, though she briefly had a girlfriend. And then another and another after that. All blondes, a fact Ghost found most interesting.
None of the relationships lasted more than a few weeks. Her timer tingles, as it has for the last week, ever since she got to Arizona on the last assignment. This time it’s like electric shocks and she rubs it absently.
The Captain catches the motion. “Is it tingling? Has it been?” At Savannah’s nod he smiles. “It’s almost run down, hasn’t it? The tingling means you’re close to your intended.”
“Where’s Delilah?” she asks impatiently. She doesn’t give a damn about her timer. It took her too long to get here. Far too long. She’d sent Janus officers to remove that jackass Tom from the ship but hadn’t been able to come herself until her business in Arizona was settled.
Jack surveys the woman. Very strong, very capable looking. He’d bet she was Black Ops. She had that look. She is also starting to get a murderous glint in her eye. “I need to talk to you first. Come with me.” He makes it an order.
Savannah finds herself following him and shakes her head. She assumes that he has good reason and she should know what she’s walking into. This is the second time Delilah’s been attacked in as many years and it’s bound to have taken a toll. Delilah was strong, in her way, but being beaten up twice, once by someone she’d trusted, was bound to take a toll.
Jack sits her down and gets her a drink. He pours himself a Scotch and holds up a hand as Savannah opens her mouth. “You know what happened, I’m assuming. The senior Janus officer that was here said that the crime had been reported by a friend of Delilah’s, a Sam MacTavish. She insisted on having the injuries on Delilah documented and recorded her version of the events. It’s the only time Delilah has opened that door since I moved her to a clean cabin. She hasn’t had anything to eat or drink in eighteen hours.”
He rubs his face. “She may be drinking water from the bathroom but I have no idea. I have no idea what state she’s in, to be honest.”
“Let me see her.” Savannah is confident that Delilah will let her in.
Jack nods and takes her to Delilah’s cabin. He knocks lightly on the door. “Delilah, honey, you have a guest.” He leaves, hoping this woman will get through to Delilah. He’d grown to like the funny, bright woman who was helping him with his project.
“Sam?” Delilah’s quiet voice is tremulous.
“Delilah, darling, it’s me.” Savannah speaks just loud enough to be heard.
There’s a long pause then Delilah’s voice comes again, this time a lot closer. On the other side of the door, Savannah judges. “Savannah?”
“Yes. Please let me in.” Savannah puts her hand on the door, trying to ignore the fierce tingling in her arm. It’s a long moment before the lock clicks and the door starts to swing open. Savannah braces herself for what she might see.
Delilah peers around the edge of the door and, once she sees for herself that it’s really Savannah, she darts around it and flings herself into the other woman’s arms.
“Savannah!” Delilah bursts into tears, burying her face in Savannah’s neck.
Savannah wraps her arms around Delilah and gently eases her into the room. She closes the door and sets Delilah away from her just enough to be able to look at her. She frowns at the yellowing bruise that has crept into Delilah’s temple and down almost to her jaw. She almost touched it but she doesn’t want to hurt her. She rubs her thumb over lips that were no longer swollen. “Dear Goddess. I never imagined he could do this.”
Delilah’s lip trembles and she shakes her head. “I didn’t either. He’s asked me out a few times but always accepted my answer.”
“He only seemed to accept your answer, Lily.” Savannah hugs Delilah tightly again, partly surprised at how good it feels, how right, and partly afraid of it. She glances at her timer then gently sets Delilah from her. “Mr. Hill tells me you haven’t had anything to eat or drink since you had dinner with him.”
“I can’t,” Delilah whispers. “I just… Why? What is it about me that made those two men want to hurt me?” Her voice rises and she stomps around the room. “What the hell did I ever do to them?” She throws the blankets from her like some over-acted Dracula flinging his cape from his shoulders. Why the hell am I letting them control my life?”
Savannah is relieved to see the fury. The depressed, timid Delilah was freaking her out. After the Harris event, Delilah had done her physio and then taken self-defense classes, determined never to be a victim again. “You didn’t do anything to them.”
“Damn right I didn’t! All I did was be myself!” She stops and scrubs her face as Savannah answers a discrete knock on the door. “Maybe they’ll leave me alone if I stop taking pictures. Maybe I should just go into seclusion.”
Savannah sets the tray the purser had just given her on the small table under the surprisingly large windows. She takes the moment to look around the suite. She’s impressed. It’s easily one hundred and eighty square feet. Large bed, small two person table, dressing area and a large vid screen on a swivel attached to the wall across from the bed that can be seen from the bed or the wing chair just off to the side. “Well, if you do that, this is a great place to do it.”
“Oh, I could never do that to Jack. He’s a nice guy and he needs to finish his project.” Delilah finally really looks at Savannah. “What took you so long?” Her voice is plaintive.
“I’m sorry, Lily. I was in a situation I couldn’t get out of. We’ll talk about it later.” Savannah sits down at the table, hoping that Delilah will follow her. She sighs to herself as Delilah paces instead.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. It’s all my fault. I must have done something. Now Dennis is dead and Tom is going to prison. There must be something about me. And it’s my fault you had to come here, away from work.”
Savannah watches Delilah. Guilt and depression in one. Good, she thinks. “It’s not your fault, Delilah,” she says fiercely. “There is nothing you could possibly have changed.” She refrains from adding that Tom should have been fired months ago. She suspects that it would not have helped, that Tom would have turned into his own version of Tom. She wishes now that she’d taken Reapers dark suggestion and ensured Tom had an ‘accident’ some time ago.
Savannah shakes the thought off and picks up a small appetizer. It’s a slice of baguette with what looks like a smear of cheese and, she sniffs it, a pear chutney. “This looks interesting. Why don’t you try it with me?” She gives Delilah a pretty look. “I never did like trying new foods by myself.”
Delilah looks at the tray and her tummy rumbles loudly. She shakes her head. “I don’t deserve such niceties. But…” She looks at the crystal decanter of fresh juice. She would place money on it being mango and passion fruit. Her mouth waters. “…I could have a sip of juice maybe.”
Immediately, Savannah sets the food down and pours a half inch of juice into a glass. She holds it out to Delilah. She watches Delilah take a hesitant sip then sighs with relief when Delilah downs the juice and holds the glass out again. A little more drink and maybe a bit of food and Savannah would talk about a bath. Perhaps then she could get Delilah to move beyond depression.
2102, Savannah and Delilah, 1 hour, 45 minutes left on timer
Savannah picks up the bread and fruit again and studies it with a critical eye. She sniffs it again. “Do you know what kind of cheese this is?” She holds it out to Delilah.
Delilah takes it. She likes Savannah and she can’t help but be helpful. She looks at the appetizer then copies Savannah and sniffs it. “It’s Brie. It’s a very good appetizer.” Somehow, Delilah can’t bring herself to give it back. She turns away and starts pacing the room again, the bit of bread in the palm of her hand.
She feels like ass. Her head hurts. Hell, her entire body hurts. Her face is a special kind of pain though, the kind reserved for cracked bones. She doesn’t care, she doesn’t want to do anything about it. It will remind her not to trust anyone again. The thought makes her shoulders sag. She sits abruptly on the edge of the bed and stares absently at the food. Automatically, she eats it.
Suddenly, Delilah is starving. She moves to the table and sits down. Savannah hands her a plate with one more of the appetizers on it and a few slices of apple.
“Eat slowly; you don’t want to upset your stomach.” She ladles some soup into a bowl and pushes it towards Delilah. She watches as Delilah devours the bread, cheese and fruit, barely chewing, then pours herself a glass of juice. She sucks it back and reaches to pour another. Savannah takes everything but the soup out of Delilah’s reach. “Slowly, Lily. Slowly.”
Delilah tries to force herself to calm down but it’s hard. She’s so hungry suddenly. She slurps down the soup, embarrassing herself, but she can’t seem to stop. When she’s finished, she just sits there, breathing hard through her nose as emotion overwhelms her. Fear, anger, guilt, gratitude.
Abruptly, there’s an ominous rumbling in her stomach.
Savannah sees the alarmed look that crosses Delilah’s face and steels herself. Sure enough, a moment later, Delilah bolts for the head. Savannah follows and gets there just in time for Delilah to heave up the contents of her stomach. She kneels beside her and gently scoops her hair back from her face. And then holds it back as Delilah pukes once again. She sighs softly but refrains from saying anything.
Delilah props her head up with her elbow on the toilet rim then reaches up and flushes the toilet. She slaps a hand around on the counter, looking for one of the clean, rolled up cloths the maid insists on leaving. She gives up and lays her head on the edge of the toilet bowl. It’s cool against her heated flesh. She hears Savannah get up and dampen a cloth. In a moment, the cool material is laid in one of her hands and she lifts her head to give Savannah a ghost of a smile. Her throat burns so she doesn’t say anything but simply wipes at her face, scrubbing her mouth, as Savannah runs the water once more.
Savannah takes the cloth once Delilah is done with it presses the small glass into her hand instead. “Small sips, please honey.”
Delilah nods. Her sides and stomach hurt. She takes a sip, swishes it around inside her mouth and spits it into the toilet. She does it once more then takes a cautious swallow. The cool water soothes her throat and she sighs. “I’m sorry,” she says quietly. “I should have listened.”
“It’s alright, Lily. These things happen. You’ve had a rough go this week.”
Delilah coughs as a short, hard laugh tickles her throat. “You might say.” She pushes back from the toilet. “I think I’m done.”
Savannah helps her to her feet then leans against the doorjamb as Delilah brushes her teeth. “Would you like to try again? Just some soup this time?”
Delilah nods as she rinses her mouth and they leave the room together, leaving the fan on to rid the room of the smell. They sit down and Savannah gives Delilah a fresh bowl, watching as Delilah takes a slow mouthful.
“The soup is really quite good,” Delilah says. “You should have some.”
With a chuckle, Savannah helps herself to Delilah’s first bowl, warming it first with another ladle full of soup. She tastes it and nods. “For a simple chicken soup it is very tasty.”
“Chef Shaun is one of the best.”
Savannah nods. “I can see that. The appetizers were outstanding.” She knows that Delilah needs to talk about Tom but she lets her get to it in her own time. They make small talk as Delilah slowly finishes the soup.
Then they sit for a while, sometimes in silence, sometimes sharing their favourite things – books, vids, places in the world. They talk about more than they did when they were together the first time and discover they have a lot in common. Finally, Savannah suggests a shower.
Delilah shoves a self-conscious hand through her hair. It’s lank and greasy and she realizes she must stink as well. “Good idea.” She rises and heads for the bathroom.
“I’ll find you something to wear and put it on the counter. You just go on and get under the water. A good, warm soak will do wonders for you.” Savannah watches Delilah nod and disappear behind a closed door. She rubs her arm; her timer is on fire. She looks down. Less than an hour to go. She is loathe to leave Delilah until she can be sure the woman will be okay.
Savannah gets up and rummages through Delilah’s clothes. She picks out a set of matching, soft, cotton bra and panties, amused at the tiny red hearts scattered over the pink fabric, and equally soft pants in purple and an oversized, black t-shirt she suspects was once Sam’s. Jealousy and possessiveness flare up in a bright haze of light, startling her into dropping the clothes. She gives her timer a considering look then picks up the clothes and knocks on the door.
2102, Savannah and Delilah, 43 minutes left on timer
Delilah turns the water on and waits for it to warm up. Her arm is raging mass of electric tingles, burning. They’re taught at a young age that it means that your time is just about up and your soulmate is close. She remembers what they were taught at the beginning of high school.
Delilah is sitting in the end middle row of desks in the class. She is smart, talented, but she has a chip on her shoulder. She doesn’t want the teacher to notice her and she doesn’t want to get to know any of the people in her class. She fiddles with the fabric she’s tied around her wrist, over her timer. She knows it sets her apart at a time when girls are just starting to pay attention to the countdown. She doesn’t want anything to do with it.
The teacher takes roll call then starts on the first lesson of the day. “Your timer, ladies and gentleman. That is the topic for this hour. What do you know about it?”
Hands shoot up all over the room and the teacher starts pointing. People talk about the obvious – it’s a countdown to meeting your soulmate; you get drawn to the person as your timer comes to the end; it’s a happily ever after.
Delilah snorts at that one, much louder than she intends to. The teacher tries to draw her into a discussion but she stares stubbornly at the desk and just shakes her head to every question the teacher asks. Eventually, he gives up.
He holds up his wrist and displays his timer. It’s counting down days and hours, rather than years and months, like his students’ timers. “As you get closer and closer to the time, it’s true, you are drawn to where your soulmate is. For some reason, usually it’s the alpha of the pair that seeks out the beta.”
He smiles at the confused looks on their faces. “In any relationship, you are one half of a relatively equal partnership. It is your job to hold up your side – to communicate openly, be honest and faithful. It is your job to love and care for the other person, to accept them unconditionally. They have all the same tasks. However, there is always one person who is slightly more dominant. Usually, it’s the man.
“I know,” he says as the girls in the class bristle with indignation, “we have gender equality in all things. However, it’s a genetic code – men are the caregivers. In same sex relationships, there is a dominant one, the alpha, and the one who is dominated, the beta.”
“Oooh, kinky,” says someone from the back of the class. Delilah doesn’t bother to look to see who it is.
“Not at all,” the teacher says with a chuckle. “In your friendships, there is always a leader and a follower. Sometimes you take turns, sometimes you don’t. With your timer, if you’re the alpha of the two, you will be driven to find your soulmate. Sometimes, they will move closer to you. I moved here because I could feel her.” He rubs his arm. “You will feel changes in yourself as the time gets closer. You will start preparing for a relationship. Maybe you’ll set up your home. Find a better job. Change cities. Whatever. You’ll know when you’re in the right place, you’ll feel anchored. Settled.”
He smiles. “What most teachers forget to tell you is what it feels like physically. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know. I know. Right now, my arm is tingling. It’s a mild tingle. Sometimes it gets stronger, sometimes it doesn’t. Today, and every day I’m in the school, my arm feels like pins and needle.”
A redhead shoots her hand up. “Doesn’t that hurt? Doesn’t it get annoying?”
“Maybe for some people,” he says. “But for me, it’s just a sign that a grand adventure is coming. I will let you know what it feels like as the time gets closer.”
Delilah shakes out of her musing and rinses the shampoo from her hair. It’s her first act in the shower, every time, and it amazes her how much it changes how she feels just to have her hair clean. She looks at her arm, at the timer. Thirty-nine minutes. Her arm is on fire. It’s uncomfortable but oddly not painful. It’s almost… comforting.
As she washes and shaves, she considers her teachers words, “it’s just a sign that a grand adventure is coming.” Eventually, she smiles. “All this time,” she says softly, “I’ve been afraid of being my parents. I’m not my parents. I’m stronger, wiser, better than they are. I love me, I like me, and I know that my soulmate will too. And I will love them with all that I am and make it work.” She frowns suddenly at the thought that maybe she won’t like them. Then she brushes her fingers over her timer and the tingles shoot up to her shoulders. She looks through the wall into the other room. Could it be Savannah?
She laughs aloud at the thought, pleased.
Savannah calls through the door. “Are you alright?”
Delilah turns off the water and checks her timer. Twenty-two minutes. “I’m fine.” She dries herself off and smiles at the clothes as she rubs lotion into her skin. Comfort clothes. Savannah knew exactly what she needed. Of course she did. She pulls the soft pants on and tugs the t-shirt over her head, hugging herself as she sends a hug to Sam. She suspects he sent Savannah to her and she’s grateful. One last glance at her timer. Eight minutes. She frowns at herself; didn’t know she could take so long.
She shrugs at herself then almost wrenches the door open and beams at Savannah.
The other woman smiles back. “Feeling better?”
“I am, thank you. Do you mind if we go out on deck?”
Savannah tilts her head at the turn around in Delilah’s attitude but nods. “Sure. I think the sun is about to set.”
“I think so too. It’d be nice to see it.” Delilah hurries into a pair of slip-on flats and tugs Savannah out the door by the hand.
2102, Savannah and Delilah, two minutes left on timer
“Do you think there’s such a thing as love at first sight?” Delilah asks.
“Well, isn’t that what the timer thing is? Soulmates meeting and falling in love at the first sight of things?” Savannah looks curious.
“Sure, but what if they stumble on each other long before the timer is due to go off?” The burn in Delilah’s arm begins to change. It’s becoming more sensual, more arousing. She looks up at Savannah.
Savannah looks down at Delilah, getting lost in her sea green eyes. “I suppose that could happen.”
There’s almost an audible click as both timers go from counting minutes and seconds to just counting the seconds.
“Good,” says Delilah as she tips her face up.
Savannah slides her hands up Delilah’s arms as Delilah brings them around her waist. “I agree.” They stare at each other while the seconds counted down. They want to see what would happen.
Jack and the entire crew had gathered by then and they all stand there silently, waiting too. Most of them still had time on their timers. Only one member of the crew knew what it would feel like and she can’t wait to see it happen to someone else. One other had seen it happen, to people who had become best friends first. This, he felt, was more than that and he wanted to see.
Delilah presses closer to Savannah.
Savannah slips one hand into Delilah’s hair and threads her fingers through it, tangling them there.
Delilah tips her face up just slightly more, in invitation.
Savannah dips her head down. Her mouth is a scant inch away from Delilah’s.
Both women whimper as their timers burn fiercely for about half a second.
The timers go dead. For another second nothing happens and then just as Savannah’s lips touch Delilah’s both women jerk as if electrocuted. They hold each other tightly through the spasms. The world seems to spin around them and they can feel something happening inside them. It’s like each of them is being taken apart and woven back together as a whole.
Delilah could see swirls of light behind her eyes. It’s a galaxy in her mind. Everything she’s ever felt, every iota of pleasure, is nothing compared to this. She gasps as ecstasy shoots through her and only Savannah’s grip in her hair and her grip on Savannah keeps her on her feet. The light show in her mind finally starts to settle and she starts to figure out how she feels now.
Savannah can’t believe what she feels, what she sees. The light show in her mind doesn’t matter as much as what’s going on with Delilah’s face. The looks of awe, surprise and intense pleasure are amazing to Savannah and they’re looks she wants to keep putting on her woman’s face. Ecstasy shoots through her, too, half a second after Delilah and only Delilah’s grip on her keeps her on her feet. Everything in her mind and heart settles and she knows. She knows that this is what is meant to be. She can feel Delilah’s wonder and curiousity.
Delilah’s examination of herself takes a second, maybe two. She smiles at Savannah.
Savannah anxiously scans Delilah’s eyes and is relieved to see nothing but peace. There’s no fear, no anxiety, nothing but peace and acceptance. Complete acceptance. Savannah sighs in relief then yanks Delilah that short distance between them and crushes her to her chest. She drops her mouth to Delilah’s. The kiss starts out feather light as she brushes her mouth back and forth but Delilah’s almost inaudible sound of pleasure changes the kiss.
The kiss becomes savage with need and Delilah welcomes, even relishes, the bruising that will come from this kiss. It wipes the lingering effects of Tom’s attack from her mind and she slides her hands up Savannah’s back, pressing closer to her. She strokes and caresses as Savannah grips her hair and changes the angle of the kiss in order to taste Delilah better.
It’s getting hot and heavy when Savannah clues into a rhythmic noise. The crew is clapping. Jack pops the cork on a bottle of champagne as the new lovers break apart. He grins at them when Delilah’s face turns bright red. “I had brought this bottle on board, one from Father’s own cellar, when I learned how little time was left on Delilah’s timer.”
The purser, whose name is Paul, produces a tray of glasses and Jack pours. Then he watches as Paul takes glasses to Savannah and Delilah. Paul hurries back to get his own glass as Jack raises his. “Congratulations to you both! I wish you a long life full of love, joy and happiness. A life that will be the envy of all who are witness to it.”
Cries of “here, here!” follow his toast and everyone drinks.
The maid, Julie, rushes over to them, followed by the Captain. “Oh my!” Julie presses her hand to her heart. “That was amazing! It was more impressive than when I met my Abdul. We had never met before, didn’t know each other at all. We’re very happy, have been together eighteen years, but we didn’t start out as people who cared about each other.”
Delilah, giddy with joy and the champagne she’d almost chugged, asks, “What did you see?”
“There was this…I don’t know…” Julie waves her hand around. “A glow. It was swirly and bright.”
“It was like the world slowed down just for the two of you,” the Captain added. “You outshone the sunset with the beauty of your joining.” All three women stared at the man in astonishment. He stared blandly back at them. “What? I can’t have a romantic side?”
Julie, in a complete breach of etiquette, hugged him for a moment. He allowed it because it wasn’t every day they got to watch two souls join together.
Savannah’s phone beeps. She takes it out, frowning. “Excuse me,” she says to Julie and the Captain. “I’m sorry, darling,” she adds to Delilah. “I’m sure I turned this thing off,” she says as she checks it. It’s Reaper so she thumbs the phone open and glowers at the camera. She can’t hold the look too long and ends up giggling. She straightens her look out again. “What’s up, Reaper?”
“Let me see her!” Reaper demands.
Savannah obligingly turns the camera to Delilah who grins and waves at Reaper.
He’s joined by Ghost and then Peanut and Taco and Josh. “Put both of you on camera, Loup.” Ghost makes his own demand.
The Captain and Julie and then the others withdraw as Savannah angles the phone so they’re both in the camera’s range.
Her team grins broadly. “Look at you,” Peanut gushes. “You’re all aglow. We just knew it would be you, Delilah! I wanted to place bets on it but no one disagreed.”
“Yes, indeed,” Reaper says. “She had this thing all set up but everyone just knew it would be Delilah for you, Loup.”
“I didn’t!” Delilah laughs.
“Doesn’t matter what you thought, honey,” Ghost says with a wink. “The Gods knew what was good for you.”
“So did Sam,” Savannah adds.
“Sam?” Delilah looks surprised.
The group all nod. “Sam is the one who sent us to you in the first place, when you were having all that trouble with Harris. He wanted the best and, darling, Loup is the best,” Reaper says.
Delilah hugs her soulmate. “Yes she is.”
Savannah cuts the call off and kisses Delilah again. “We have much to talk about.”
“We do. I know very little about you, my love, but first… touch me.”
2102 Savannah and Delilah, 15 minutes post-timer
Savannah, who is more than willing to touch the woman she fell in love with the first time she saw her, leads her below decks to her cabin. They open the door and find that the room has been transformed into a bower meant for lovers. Drinks chill inside thermal ice buckets, platters of finger food sit on electric cold trays, and warm entrees sit in heated chafing dishes. The bed has been turned down, the lights dimmed.
As soon as they’re through the door and it’s latched tight behind them, Savannah has Delilah pinned against it. She kisses her forehead, her eyes, her cheeks then, finally, her lips. The kisses are tender, loving. “I knew it would be you. I’d hoped it would be you,” she says raggedly. Emotions rush through her like a fast moving stream. They bubble up and tumble over one another.
Delilah, who is having the same rush of emotions, strokes Savannah’s face. “I didn’t. I had no idea. I think I hoped it would be someone like you. I knew our timers were the same but it never occurred to me it could be you.” She slips away from Savannah and paces the room a little. When she turns back, her smile is brittle. “My parents fought and fought. They hated each other. I tried so hard to escape my fate, to stay away from my soulmate. I didn’t want to have anything to do with him,” she says. “I got myself into one relationship after another knowing that they’d never last.”
She looks up and meets Savannah’s eyes. “Then I met you. Something about you drew me in. I wanted to spend time with you, to make you smile, to watch you do everything.” She shrugs. “After you left, after I didn’t need you anymore, I still needed you. I found myself rejecting men and seeking out women. Blondes.” A grin flashes for a brief moment. “Not one of them could hold a candle to you. But I tried.”
Savannah smiles back. She knows most of this, the dating. She wants the intimacy of holding Delilah, flesh to flesh, but she knows Delilah needs to say it.
Delilah turns again, pacing. “None of them were you. They didn’t make me laugh like you. They were clingy and greedy. Or all surface and no depth. Not a single one was as strong as you. They didn’t make me feel safe like you.” She frowns as guilt swamps her. “Then I got angry with you. I thought you had spoiled me for anyone. I stopped dating. I figured that it didn’t matter what I did; I’d end up with someone. I could only pray they were like you.”
Savannah opens her mouth then closes it again as Delilah slashes a hand through the air. “Oh, I was so mad! Tom was driving me crazy. He was jealous of everyone. He got in the way, sabotaged dates, kept touching me, kept asking me out. And all I could think was, Where is Savannah? She’d make this stop and I’d be safe and warm. It was maddening. And then Tom attacked me.”
Shuddering, Delilah sits on the bed. “And all I could think was, Where is Savannah? I want Savannah. I hid in this room and prayed you’d come.”
Savannah crosses the room swiftly and kneels at Delilah’s feet. “I came, baby. I could do no other. I’m sorry I couldn’t be here sooner. I’m here now and I’m never letting you go again.”
“You couldn’t if you tried.” Delilah’s smile is bitter. “I know how it is. Soulmates are tied to each other, whether they like it or not.”
Scowling, Savannah pushes up to her full height on her knees and grips Delilah’s chin, forcing her to look at her. “Let me tell you something you had better never forget. Are you listening?” Delilah tries to nod, her eyes wide, and Savannah continues. “I fell in love with you the moment I saw you, distracted and irritated that I was there interrupting your work. You knew you needed me, needed someone, but you didn’t want anyone getting in the way.”
Savannah releases Delilah and reconsiders. “Actually, the first moment I saw you, you were white with fear. Pink splotches on your cheeks told me you were furious too. Furious about being scared – both because you felt scared and because someone was doing it. In that moment, I knew I had to protect you. And then you showed me the rest of you. Dedicated to your people, determined to continue your work no matter what.” She gives Delilah the Look. “That, by the way, was annoying and inconvenient in trying to protect you. It turned into an interesting experience and a lot of fun, until you were attacked.”
Delilah opens her mouth but Savannah shakes her head and picks up the silver star that lies against Delilah’s skin and studies it. “I sent you this. I wanted you to have a piece of me. The seal, that was from the others, but this… I needed to give you a symbol of everything I saw when I looked at you.” She looks into Delilah’s eyes. “I see the universe in your eyes. Everything that could be, everything that will be. The past, the present, the future. It’s all you and it always has been.”
Tears well up in Delilah’s eyes and she opens her mouth again. Savannah presses a kiss to her open mouth then gets up. “I need to tell you something, something that cannot go beyond these walls. I’m about to trust you with not only my life but those of my team.”
Delilah nods. “You can tell me anything. I would never do anything to harm you.”
Savannah nods. “We are a special black ops team working off the books for Janus. We do what they cannot. My personal security firm is a front. The protection we gave you was a favour for Sam. We were in boot camp together. He opted out of serving with me, wanting a career as an officer. He saved my life once and I owed him. When he asked, I showed up at your office. I couldn’t come sooner this time because I was on a mission I had to complete.” She stops talking and waits.
There’s a long moment of silence while Delilah studies the floor, thinking. Finally, she looks up and says, “I guess if we’re going to have children I’d better carry them.”
Savannah’s mind goes blank. She doesn’t know what to say to that. She has never thought about having children, she could never carrying a child and do what she loves to do. She waits so long to say something that Delilah starts chewing her lip. Another moment passes and then she bursts out laughing. “Children! I’d never even thought about it. I didn’t expect you had.”
Delilah chuckles and shrugs. “I am a girl. It’s crossed my mind.” She rises and goes to Savannah. “You had some very pretty things to say,” she says. “Normally, I would count it all as flattery but from you… I can feel your sincerity.” She taps her chest. “I can actually feel it like it was my own.” She wraps her arms around Savannah’s waist and, when Savannah’s arms come around her, she sighs and lays her head on Savannah’s shoulder. “I have absolute faith in you and I swear to you I will do my best to make you happy.”
Savannah lays her cheek on Delilah’s head. “I swear I’ll make you happy too. I will do my best to communicate better than your parents did with each other.” She leans back and looks in Delilah’s eyes. “We are not your parents. You are not them, you are nothing like them. I looked into them when I was researching you before I took your case. They are bad people. People who can treat each other that way and treat a child the way they did you are bad. We will not be them.”
“I know,” Delilah says softly as she slides one arm up to hook it around Savannah’s neck. She uses it to nudge Savannah’s face to hers. “Now, kiss me.” She wants to add become my lover but the words stick in her throat. It’s not that she doesn’t want Savannah as her lover. It just seems like a corny thing to say.
Savannah’s mouth ravages Delilah and she takes a fierce pleasure in what is first a sound of surprise that quickly becomes a sound of pleasure. The first soft moan is followed by a gasp as Delilah begins to melt against Savannah.
Savannah cups Delilah’s face in both hands in order to better direct the kiss. She strokes her thumbs across Delilah’s cheekbones as she nibbles on Delilah’s lower lip then slides her tongue across the abused flesh. Again, she kisses Delilah’s cheeks then softly slides her cheek across one of Delilah’s before sucking lightly on her earlobe.
Delilah whimpers softly with need as she tugs Savannah’s shirt up, seeking the soft, supple skin she’s sure is beneath the clothing. She lays her hands on Savannah’s back and slides them up. She unhooks the bra that gets in her way and is pleased to feel Savannah shudder in response. Emboldened, she struggles against the need to fall limp and surrender everything to Savannah and fights to give as good as she gets. She strokes her fingertips up Savannah’s back and down again with her fingernails, very lightly.
Savannah shudders again and groans. The sound vibrates against Delilah’s throat just before Savannah pulls away. Savannah reaches forward and tugs Delilah’s shirt up over her head. As soon as her arms are released, Delilah reaches behind herself to undo her bra strap. She tugs her bra down her arms and watches as Savannah yanks her own shirt over her head, taking the bra over it.
After the last bit of fabric hits the ground they stand there, staring each other in the eyes. Then, as one, their eyes drop. Delilah moves her eyes over the curve of Savannah’s shoulder then down over her chest. Savannah’s breasts are small, perky and high, tipped with pale pink nipples. Savannah is slender and muscular. Her abs are well defined and she has a subtle hourglass shape.
Savannah takes in Delilah’s curvier form, loving the softness of it, knowing Delilah’s physical strength and endurance. The curve of her body hides Delilah’s inner strength as much as the curve of her smile does. Finally, Savannah turns her eyes to Delilah’s breasts. They’re larger than her own, tipped with dusky pink nipples.
With no small amount of reverence, Savannah reaches for Delilah again. She strokes the fingers of one hand over Delilah’s face, down her throat and over her collarbone. She skims both hands over Delilah’s ribs and down to her waist. She brings them back up over Delilah’s belly to cup the heavy looking breasts in her hands.
Delilah’s breath catches in her throat. In the next second she lets it out on a soft moan as Savannah brushes her thumbs over her nipples. Delilah watches Savannah’s reaction
It’s that soft moan that galvanizes Savannah into action. She practically lunges forward, her need written all over her face. Delilah shrieks a little, part fear, part glee, part arousal, and tumbles backward towards the bed. She lands on her ass then her back as Savannah follows her down to capture a nipple in her mouth.
Eventually, they get to eating and talking more.
And later, people on board tried hard to sleep and not be affected, or maybe infected, by the joy the newly mated couple were sharing.
2102 Savannah and Delilah, 8 months, 21 days post-timer
“Oh hell no! I’m not calling Loup.” Reaper stares at Ghost in horror. “You want me to interrupt their honeymoon?”
Ghost taps the tablet where the orders are blinking at them. “It comes from the highest of the high. It’s a favour but we gotta do it.”
Reaper shakes his head hard. “No. I’m not calling her.”
“Then I will.”
“No! You can’t do it!” Reaper yanks the tablet out of Ghost’s hand. He reads quickly. “Forty-eight hours. We can give her another twenty-four. And look, the job is in Scotland. It’s not far from where they are in Glasgow. Let them be.”
“Trust me,” Ghost says, “Lily will still be there for Loup.” They’d been trying to find a nick for Delilah but the one she already had was the only one that suited her. She’d truly bloomed with Savannah at her side.
Reaper rubs his face. “Twenty-two hours and we’ll get mobile, get the research started.”
“You know she likes her own.”
“I’m not letting you call her now, Ghost. Come on, man, you remember what it’s like.”
“And you don’t know yet.” Ghost glowered at him but relented. “Fine. But let’s get moving.”
Twenty-four hours later, Savannah answers her phone. She glares at Reaper as Delilah snuggles close, draping one thigh over Savannah’s and wrapping an arm around her possessively. “What do you want, Reaper.” It’s not a question, it’s a dare to interrupt the honeymoon. They had plans to visit the castle and Castle Row.
“You can’t have her, Reaper.” Delilah smiles tiredly, an edge of smug satisfaction making it seem silky.
“I’m afraid I have no choice, Lily. This one comes from the Board.”
The two women could hear the capital B and they both knew that it meant the top brass of Janus. They disentangled themselves from each other and sat up. “What’s up?” Savannah asked.
“Search and rescue. Number Three’s daughter was kidnapped.”
Savannah groans and presses mute on the phone, muting both her mic and Reaper’s voice.
Delilah indicates the phone. “Reaper’s pretty cute when you can’t hear his voice.” Her joke is out of place but she can’t help it. When she’s tense, she becomes a smartass.
“Lily, I’m sorry but I have to take this. I can’t say no to these orders.” Savannah’s face is full of regret. “Please understand. Don’t be mad.”
“Oh, Sav, you should know that I do understand. This is your career. You are my hero, baby. Go be someone else’s. I have my cameras.” Delilah grins. “I brought my work on our honeymoon, why shouldn’t you?”
Savannah chuckles. “That’s true, very true. Thank you, my darling Lily.” Delilah’s camera had gone everywhere with them. Two usually, a digital and the 35mm. They have some very lovely photos of the places they’ve seen, and some totally touristy pictures, but so far, Savannah’s favourite pictures were the ones Delilah had taken in their hotel room. Not to mention the shoot on a picnic blanket at the top of 164 high Titan Crane at sunrise. They’d climbed in the darkest part of the night, right before dawn, hiding from the security that patrols the grounds. The security had never even thought to look up.
Then, Savannah remembers, they’d made love and Delilah had taken pictures of the blush of pleasure on Savannah’s skin as the blush of sunrise brightened the sky. It was a measure of Delilah’s faith in her that she’d allowed Savannah to use the camera to take pictures of her. Her Lily was a firecracker of sensuality, sexual creativity and need. Climbing back down and getting back to the walking trails along the River Clyde – and looking like that’s where they’d been all along – had been trickier.
They’d had a blast and were planning another daring pre-dawn photo shoot somewhere else for their first wedding anniversary.
“Are you going to be alright without me?” Savannah asks.
Delilah frowns. “No. I’m going to wither away without your touch. I’ll fade to black without your beauty in my eyes. I shall crumble to dust without your taste to nourish me.” She chuckles at the expression on Savannah’s face. “Yes, I’ll be fine without you for a few days. I will miss you fiercely but I will be alright.”
Savannah is still laughing as she unmutes the now annoyed Reaper. “Where are you?”
Both women jumped when the door shook with the assault of a very large fist on it. Delilah scrambles from the bed, grabs a robe on the way to the door and is still belting it when she wrenches the door open. “Listen here, you buffoons! This is a very nice hotel and it is the ass crack of dawn! If you wake up our neighbours I’ll spank you!” she hisses she words at them like an angry cat.
Reaper and Ghost duck their head, chastised, and Peanut quietly cheers from behind them. “I told them to be quiet,” she says as she pushes past them and drops a heavy case onto the nearest chair. She picks it up again as Delilah opens the bedroom’s other door, the one to the rest of the suite. “At least they listened to me well enough that they called before we barged in here. We were in the elevator.” She hugs Delilah then turns to her boss. “Hey Loup. I’m real sorry about this.”
“Nah. It’s our lot in life.” Savannah pulls her clothes on, half listening as Delilah calls room service. “No, baby, I want the full breakfast today,” she says as Delilah orders fruit, juice and coffee. “Make sure there’s enough for them to.”
Delilah nods and squeezes Savannah’s hand and changes the order. She also asks for another table to be brought up. “No, no. What’s the largest table you have that will fit in here?” She listens for a moment then turns and eyes the room. “That will work, thank you.”
“What have we got?” Savannah asks as she’s handed a tablet. She likes to hear the report.
“Number Three’s daughter, Alyssa, was taken outside the club she runs. The security cameras seemed to see nothing. No witnesses that can report anything unusual. A long black car stopped and she got in. She hasn’t been seen since.” Ghost’s voice is a rumble.
“So, if a car picked her up, as usual, how did anyone know she’s missing?” Savannah looks up from the tablet.
“Because she is, despite her clubbing, a good girl. She calls her mother every morning and they share a conversation over a cup of coffee. She didn’t call her mother on Tuesday. It is now Thursday,” Reaper says.
“Has someone checked out her place?” Savannah watches Delilah come back into the room and notices that her mate has dressed in worn jeans and a pink ombre sweater. Savannah thinks Delilah looks hot.
“Yeah, Loup. Josh went. He said the place didn’t appear disturbed on the surface but he went over it with a fine toothed comb with the help of the girl’s bodyguard and maid. Nothing is quite in the right spot, they say. It looks like someone tossed it then tried to make it look like it they were never there.”
Savannah frowns as Delilah goes to the door and cracks it open a little. “Where was Alyssa’s bodyguard?” She raises a hand to forestall an answer as Delilah signals from the door that three people are about to enter.
It doesn’t take long for the extra table to be put in place and all the food Delilah ordered to be set out. The servers are tipped generously and encouraged to keep their mouths shut about the equipment in the room. The door is closed and locked behind them and Savannah is graciously accepting a cup of coffee from Delilah before she repeats her question to Reaper.
“Alyssa owns the clubs she goes to. The bodyguard is a woman, goes with her and acts like her best friend. She says she came to in a bathroom stall with a hangover to beat all hangovers. She was concerned about her charge but didn’t say anything until after the breakfast call was missed because she didn’t want to worry the family if the only thing that happened was that Alyssa went and got laid.”
“Did you check her blood?”
Peanut nods as she taps on another tablet. She shows Savannah the results. “Yeah and there was nothing in it. She did, however, have a puncture wound on the back of her neck, just under her hairline. She says she never felt it. Looks like a dart wound.”
“Hmm…” Savannah frowns in thought.
“Number Three’s security force found some news of her kidnapping on the dark net. There are some videos that have been posted. They traced the origin to Scotland but that’s as close as they got. We took another look and Josh got it pinned to Bathgate.”
Savannah sighs. Bathgate is a small city better called a large town. It started as a bedroom community for Glasgow and Edinburgh and has a large train station. It may be small but there are still thousands of people there. She rubs her face. “How the hell are we going to find her?”
Reaper clears his throat. “Well, uh… It seems that Number Three has a habit of implanting tracking devices in his family members when they are tiny.”
“What?” Savannah narrows her eyes at Reaper. “She has a tracking device? What the hell do they need us for then?”
“It went dead about eight hours after she should have called her mother. The last location was Stirling. Three hours after that the video was posted to the dark net.”
“Narrow it down! You’re better than ‘somewhere in Bathgate’, Reaper.” Savannah snarls, getting pissed off about random pieces of information and wasted time on top of the intrusion into her honeymoon.
Delilah sits on the arm of Savannah’s chair and strokes Savannah’s shoulder with one hand as she holds her other hand out for the tablet. “May I see the video?”
The team look at one another before looking at Savannah. She nods. “Sure. Peanut, fire it up for her.”
Peanut takes the tablet from Savannah and finds the video. She hands it to Delilah and watches her, wondering what the woman thought she could do that they hadn’t.
Delilah smiles at Peanut. “Thank you. I’ve been all over Scotland, maybe I can recognize where this is.”
“I don’t know. It looks pretty ambiguous. Like everywhere else with trees.”
Delilah taps the play button.
A large, seemingly empty room is at the beginning. A chair sits in front of a curved wall. The wall has a moldering wall covering clinging to it in tenacious but tattered strips. Paint that looks like it used to be bright red but is now the colour of dried blood in most places covers the door frame on the right side of the screen. A filthy, dusty, rusted steel ceiling is overhead.
Two masked men escort a woman into view. She is dressed for clubbing, though the outfit is torn. Her makeup is running down her face and her hair as lost most of its pins. She wrenches herself from their grip and sits in the chair. “I know the damn drill,” she snarls.
“My name is Alyssa Damon. These assholes think they can wheedle money from my family, or the Corporation. They can try but,” her voice cracks and she clears her throat. “They can try but I know my father. He doesn’t negotiate with terrorist types. Ever.” She glares at someone off camera. “These twelve want a hundred million credits and control of the Middle East division. They all think they’re going to survive this.” She’s cut off further by a backhand from the man closest to her. Tears well in her eyes but still, she holds the defiant look on her face.
The two men lash her to the chair with ropes at her wrists and ankles. They show a noose to the camera then drop the rope over her head and tie it to the back of the chair. Then they cut her clothes off and start to touch her.
Delilah stops the video, shaken. “I know where she is.”
Instantly, everyone turns to her. Savannah wraps an arm around Delilah’s waist. “You do? Where is she?”
2102 Savannah and Delilah, 8 months, 21 days post-timer
“Where is she, baby?” Savannah asks Delilah.
“The video was shot in the old West Lothian College. They closed the college about seventy years ago because almost no one was attending. A new school had been built in Stirling, upgraded everything and that’s where people were going. Anyway, I was there a few years ago photographing it for a personal project.” Delilah rubs her face. “I think that’s Pavilion B. I’d have to look at my photos to be sure.”
“Do you want me to send you a screenshot of the room?” Peanut asks.
“Yes please. Somewhere in the opening ten seconds.” Delilah takes Savannah’s hand and kisses her fingertips before getting up and finding her computer bag. In the bag is a small zippered binder. Inside the binder, in sheets of plastic with little pouches all over them, are small flash drives containing Delilah’s photo shoots.
Savannah frowns. “I don’t want you getting involved, Lily.”
Delilah shakes her head. “I’m not going to go anywhere with you; I will stay right here. However, if I can help pinpoint where she is, you’ll find her faster. Hopefully before she’s truly hurt.”
Peanut wonders how having your clothes cut off and then being fondled against your will isn’t being hurt but keeps her mouth shut. “Knowing where in the complex she is will help, Loup.” Peanut holds up her own tablet for inspection. On it is an old map of the campus. There are ten buildings plus two parking lots and an open courtyard.
Savannah rubs her face. “Okay, fine. Do it quickly please.”
Delilah gets the file from Peanut and finds the appropriate drive. She plugs the drive into her computer and opens her recognition software. She puts the video still into one part of the software and opens the drive with another part. The software starts sorting the images. It doesn’t take long for the software to spit out options.
“Yep, just what I thought. It’s the old restaurant the culinary school used to run for staff and students. It’s in Pavilion B.” Delilah turns her computer around and displays almost identical images.
“Thank you, baby,” Savannah says. Her mind turns immediately to how best to get in and get out without causing any more damage than strictly necessary.
Delilah nods with a smile. “I’m going to sit on the balcony and read.”
Savannah, Reaper, Ghost and Peanut were already planning and didn’t notice.
It took them two hours to make a plan. When it is complete and they’re sure of the details Savannah first calls her team in Edinburgh for tools and weapons, then she calls Number Three’s private line. To her surprise, he answered himself. She instantly goes to attention and gives him a salute. “Mr. Damon, Sir. Savannah Lopez, at your service. We have a plan to retrieve your daughter. We should have her out of terrorist hands within three hours with no loss of life.”
“And what if your plan fails, Captain?”
“They won’t, Sir.”
“What if they do?” Daniel Damon, grandson to actor Matt Damon, scowls at Savannah.
Her back goes up and she gives him a cold smile. “They won’t, Sir.” She holds up a hand to forestall his next repetition. “In the event that we cannot capture the kidnappers, we will decimate them. And your daughter will be returned to you.”
“She’d better be in one piece.” The man’s voice was a snarl. It broke a little on the end and it told Savannah that he’d seen the video.
She softens a little. “Sir, we cannot bring her home in any other shape than that which we find her in. We will do our best to repair any injuries she may or may not have received and then we will bring her home to you.”
“I want you, personally, to return her.”
Savannah’s mouth opens to object. She closes it again, takes a deep breath then merely nods. “Yes, Sir.” He hangs up and Savannah rubs her face. “Okay, let’s move out.”
As the others gather their things together, Savannah goes out to the small balcony, where Delilah is reading the paper. “We’re getting ready to go, Lily.”
Delilah smiles. “Alright, Sav. Be safe.” She puts her eReader down and stands as Savannah digs her fingers into her hair and tugs her to her feet.
Savannah takes possession of Delilah’s mouth in a punishing kiss that makes fires ignite low in both their bellies. Delilah whimpers when Savannah breaks the kiss. “You’d better come back to me in one piece,” Delilah says fiercely.
“I cannot promise that, Lily.”
“I know.” Delilah walks back into the room with Savannah and gives Ghost, Reaper and Peanut the Look. “You’d better look after my woman as well as she’ll look after you.”
“No worries, Chérie,” Reaper says. “We all know you’ll skin us with our own knives if anything should happen to her.”
Savannah chuckles. “What will you do today, Lily?”
“I think I will go to Tinto Hill, maybe take the ferry to Ailsa Craig. See what I can see there.”
“Alright. Be safe, darling.”
And that, Delilah thinks as she watches them leave, is how it feels to be a military wife. This rescue shouldn’t be too bad, she hopes.
Savannah looks over the map again as they pull into Bathgate. “There’s a road that runs around the college, car parks on the east and west sides of the compound. Pavilion B, where they are holding her, is the second of four buildings, from west to east, across the courtyard from the main administration building.”
Reaper nods. It hasn’t been a school in close to sixty years, after a bomb gutted that admin center. “They’ll probably have men in the courtyard, around back and in buildings eight and ten.”
“Only if they have enough men.”
“Alyssa said there were twelve,” Ghost points out. “If it were me, I’d have three guarding her, two on each side of the building and one roaming whatever floor they don’t have her on.”
“Delilah says the building only has the one floor.” Savannah taps the tablet. “We stick to the plan.” The car comes to a stop at the train station, pulling up beside a black van. They pile out as the van doors open.
Taco and Josh step out. “We got everything you wanted, Loup. We ready?”
“Yep, let’s go.”
2102 Savannah and Delilah, 8 months, 21 days post-timer
The team comes to the intersection that leads into the college grounds. There are several large bushes screening the college from the main highway and that’s where they leave the van. Now dressed to conceal themselves and wrapped in body arm, each team member makes sure they are armed well before heading out.
Savannah has her favourite gun, plus several mags of extra ammunition, a knife tucked into a sheath on her belt and another strapped to her calf. She goes over the plans one more time. “Taco, you and Josh will take Pavilion A, Reaper and Ghost, C and Peanut and I will go into B. The plan is to subdue and capture. Killing is a last resort. Transport will be here in ninety minutes.”
“Aye, Loup.” One after another they acknowledge her orders.
The team slips through the bushes and across the overgrown fields. They split up as they reached the pavilions and Savanah and Peanut survey the building, trying to find the best way in. A broken door along one side gets them in.
Immediately, Peanut leaps on to the back of the guard that happens to cross their path. She jabs him with one of the tranquilizer darts she carries. She prefers the dart gun to one with bullets and she carries a few extra darts on her belt. She rides the guard to the ground then trusses him up and lets Savannah drags him to the shadows. Together, the pair of women, one tall and lithe, one short and curvy, both strong, talented and determined, creep through the building.
Savannah holds up a hand. “Voices,” she whispers. She opens the small tablet in her pocket and checks the floor plan again. There are two blue dots, marking Savannah and Peanut’s locations and four red dots, marking the other people in the building. “They’re in the center.” Savannah’s voice is so soft Peanut has to strain to hear her. “Go around this way. I’ll give you three minutes then I’m going in.”
Peanut nods then darts off. Savannah watches her go until she can’t see her anymore then begins counting in her head. When she reaches one hundred and twenty seconds she begins walking and at one eighty she steps into the light.
Two guns are immediately pointed at her. One is pointed at Alyssa’s head. The man holding that gun smiles. “Why, it’s Savanah Lopez.” He takes the gun from Alyssa’s head. He knows Savannah well enough to know that she knows the threat is empty – there’s no money if there’s a dead body.
“Jeremiah Presley. Why am I not surprised?” Savannah strides toward him, ignoring the guns that followed her. She stops only when the two men impede her forward progress. She lets them frisk her and remove her weapons. She smiles at them when they’re done touching her. “I promise that I will pay you back for that, children.”
They smirk but step aside to let her go talk to Jeremiah. He appraises her. “You look happy. Last time we were together you were frustrated with the way time was passing. Have you met your soulmate?”
Savannah ignores the way Alyssa is whimpering at her and lunging and chuckles at Jeremiah. “Yes I have. She’s a delightful woman. Gorgeous, talented. You’d hate her; she’s much too smart for the likes of you.”
Jeremiah growls, his eyes darkening with anger. He quickly gains control of himself. “I thought that you wanted her out of here.”
“Oh,” Savannah says consideringly, drawing out the sound. “I did but now, all I want is you.” She can hear Peanut talking to the others and knows they’re on their way in. She saunters closer to Jeremiah, getting in his space.
He backs up a little bit. “You can’t have either of us. You can have her after I get my money and my helicopter.”
“Oh dear, Jeremiah,” Savannah says, getting close again, “who said you were getting either.” She gives him a sunny smile. “You should know I get what I want.”
“Grab her,” he says to his goons.
She lets them. She lets Jeremiah slap her. Then she spits in his face. She needs him distracted. “You really think you could defeat me? The only reason you managed to get a hand on me is because these two asshats are holding me in place.”
It takes a moment but then Jeremiah’s lip curls in a snarl. “Release her,” he tells the asshats. “Let’s go, Savannah. You and me. Winner take all.”
“Let me get this straight. When I win, I get the girl and you and the asshats.” Savannah cocks a brow at him.
Jeremiah laughs. “When I win, I get to leave with the money, my country, my men and my chopper.”
Savannah shrugs. “Sure. If you win, I’ll let you go.”
“Boss…” Asshat Number One says.
“What!” Jeremiah snaps the word out like a whip as he sinks into a fighting stance.
“I don’t think this is such a good idea.”
“Good thing I don’t pay you to think.” Jeremiah dismisses the man and focuses on Savannah.
She is in her own fighting pose – one foot back, weight resting on the back foot, her body is twisted slightly to the side, her arms are bent, hands in loose fists – and she’s waiting for him to take the first move. She doesn’t have to wait long.
Jeremy rushes her, pushing his weight from his back foot to his front as he brings his back leg around, aiming for a vicious kick to her middle.
Savannah flows forward into his space and slaps his foot out of the air with her front hand. She twists slightly and gives him a slap in the face. As he stumbles she moves back into resting pose, grinning. There’s a cough from one of the men watching and she can hear a snicker in her ear.
Jeremiah regains his footing and growls, bright red with fury. The handprint on his face stands out as a stark white mark for a moment before the blood rushes back in. He forgets finesse and takes a run at her.
There’s a series of exchanged punches then Savannah gets an elbow in his nose. At the crunch and subsequent rush of blood, she says, “Peanut.”
It doesn’t take long for the asshat twins to hit the floor with a thud.
Jeremiah is bent over, screaming at her. “You bitch! You broke my nose!”
“Don’t worry,” she says, “there’s a lovely medical ward where you’re going. They’ll fix you up.”
“I’m not going anywhere with –” he slaps at his neck and pulls away a tiny dart. He falls a second later, unconscious.
Savannah tugs him into a sitting position so he doesn’t drown in his own blood before the squad gets there to take them away. Then she unties Alyssa.
Alyssa removes the gag and rushes over to Jeremiah. She kicks him hard in the leg then runs to the other two and kicks them in the ribs. Savannah finally catches her and holds her still. Alyssa starts sobbing.
“It’s alright now. You’re safe.” Savannah keeps Alyssa, who is nearly nude, turned to her body and waits as Reaper pulls a jumpsuit from the pack on his back and hands it to her. “Here, let’s get you covered up. Then we’ll call your father.”
It’s an exhausted Savannah that returns to Delilah a few hours later. She had handed over Jeremiah and his goons to a Janus cleanup crew and taken Alyssa home to her parents. Her face was swollen in places and she knew her ribs had a few bruises.
None of it matters though, not in this moment, not with Delilah holding her and loving her. This is where she wants to be for the rest of her life. She wants to be where she can be on a mission and know, without a doubt, that there is something worth living for, worth surviving for.
Delilah strokes Savannah’s back. She finds it hard to believe she’d ever doubted the wisdom of the timer, that she’d ever wanted anything other than this. She was whole and blissfully happy. There was nowhere else she wanted to be than right here, in this moment, loving and being oved by this woman.
2104 Savannah and Delilah, 30 months, 23 days post-timer
Savannah props Delilah up in her arms, trying not to hurt her. Delilah’s feet are in stirrups and the doctor sits between her legs. Savannah and the doctor both say, “Push!”
“I can’t!” Delilah wails. It’s been thirty-two hours of labour. The last ten have been with her at nine centimeters dilated and eighty per cent effaced. She’d stopped there and nothing they did could encourage the baby to be born. Her contractions had been ninety seconds apart at most. She was exhausted.
“You can, baby. I know you can. I know you’re tired but you have to. I want to see our baby.” Savannah lowers her voice and whispers in Delilah’s ear. “The sooner you have her the sooner you will heal and the sooner I can make love to you.”
Delilah goes still. She hadn’t been able to stand being touched for the last few weeks, even her clothing had bugged her. She had insisted that her doctor change hospitals too. She couldn’t tell anyone why, just that they needed to be here, in this hospital. The baby was eight days late too. She carried guilt inside her along with all the frustration of not being able to love on Savannah. Tears roll down her face as she bears down, pushing as hard as she can.
“…five…four…three….two…one! Okay, relax,” the doctor says. He gets up to check the monitors and confer with one of the nurses. The baby’s heart beat is high, like she anxious about something, and still she doesn’t want to come out.
Savannah eases Delilah back on to the pillows then picks up a cool damp cloth and wipes her brow. She feels guilty too. A year ago they decided to have a baby. They couldn’t think of any better donors than Reaper and Ghost. The clinic had mixed the sperm so there was no way to know, unless the baby comes out dark skinned, who the father is. That’s the way Savannah and Delilah wanted it.
They had decided that they would use Delilah’s egg and that Delilah would carry the baby to term. Savannah’s career did not lend itself to pregnancy. She was in constant danger and neither woman wanted to risk their child. But Delilah encountered problems late in the pregnancy. She began retaining fluid, her hips and lower back had started to ache. She’d had to stop working almost entirely because she couldn’t be on her feet for longer than a few minutes, never mind bending over or crouching to get particular shots.
She’d been relegated to her office with occasional forays into the studio to do portraits. Delilah had spent much of the last month with her feet up. She’d hated almost every minute of it. The only saving grace had been Savannah. She’d taken care of her, pampered her, catered to almost every whim. And when she couldn’t be there, she’d left Betty had been there instead.
The couple had lain together at night with Delilah curled against Savannah while Savannah talked to the baby and stroked her belly. The baby had calmed under Savannah’s touch and it was only then that Delilah could sleep.
Now, the doctor rolls his stool back in place between Delilah’s feet and watches the contraction monitor. “Get ready,” he says.
Savannah helps Delilah sit up and Delilah grabs her knees. “Let’s go,” Delilah says.
The doctor nods. “Now! Push, Delilah.”
Delilah pushes, straining to help her daughter come into this world. She listens to the doctor and Savannah count down then just before they get to eight, the doctor exclaims, “She’s crowning! Come on, Delilah, you can do it. Take another breath and push!” He picks up a scalpel and makes a quick incision in Delilah just below the baby’s head.
Savannah peers between Delilah’s knees. “Oh wow! How are you doing this?” she asks, like so many millions of birthing partners in the past. She returns her attention to Delilah and kisses her temple. “Come on, baby, she’s almost here. Push!”
With a deep breath, Delilah pushes again. “The head is almost out. Just a little more and then you can rest for a second.” The doctor is encouraging.
Delilah makes another effort and is rewarded when the baby screams her fury. “Oh my Gods,” Delilah cries. “Listen to her!”
The doctor and nurses are amused. “Opinionated already,” says the head nurse.
“Let’s see if we can get those shoulders out.” The doctor puts gently but firm hands on the baby’s head. “Come on now. Push! Push!”
Savannah leans into Delilah. “Come on, honey, one more. Push!”
Delilah takes a deep breath and pushes again. She yells wordlessly as the shoulders pass from her, first the left then the right. She collapses against Savannah as the rest of their baby girl slides from her.
Savannah guides Delilah back to the pillows, crying and laughing at the same time. “You did it! Oh my Gods, you really did it.”
“We did it,” Delilah corrects. “We have a baby!”
“Do you want to cut the cord?” the doctor asks Savannah as he lays the baby on Delilah’s belly.
“Absolutely.” Savannah cuts the cord, wincing a little, afraid it will hurt their baby. She knows it won’t, knows all the birthing information she could get her hands on but she can’t help but worry.
Delilah strokes the black hair on the baby’s head then looks lost when the nurse apologetically takes her away. “Bring her back, quickly!” Delilah demands.
“We’re just going to clean her up, weigh her and make sure she’s as perfect as she looks,” the nurse says.
The doctor is stitching up the episiotomy as Savannah wraps her arms around Delilah. “Gods, I love you. Thank Hera it went so smoothly.”
“She’s beautiful, just like you.” Delilah smiles at her soulmate.
“More beautiful than me. But then, so are you, so it’s not a surprise.” Savannah turns as the nurse approaches.
“Hold your daughter, Mamma,” the nurse says as she carefully lays the tiny baby girl in Savannah’s arms. “What is her name? Do you have one yet?”
“Rosalynn,” Delilah says, pronouncing it Rose-a-lynn. “Rosalynn Savannah Lopez.”
“That’s beautiful,” the nurse says. She smiles at the new mothers as Savannah turns to Delilah and they begin to coo. She’s seen hundreds of new parents in her twenty years as a nurse in obstetrics and she feels a tug on her heart every single time. The day she doesn’t is the day she’ll switch careers.
Two days later.
Edinburgh’s psychic is in the nursery, along with the ones who create and attach the timers. She comes to Rosalyn and smiles at the parents standing on the other side of the small crib. “You two are very happy. Everyone can see that. This child is a lucky girl to have such loving parents.”
“Thank you,” Savannah says, speaking for both of them. “What do you see for her?”
The psychic looks down in the crib and strokes Rosalyn’s cheek. “Rosalyn Savannah. Darling girl you have such a name to grow into. It is beautiful but also strong, as you will need to be.” Rosalyn shouts at her and the psychic chuckles. She rubs her thumb over Rosalyn’s right inner wrist. “I know, darling girl but it will be over soon.”
Delilah and Savannah look at each other uneasily. “What? What will be over soon? We haven’t been able to get her to settle down,” says Delilah. “She always seems so uncomfortable.”
“Of course,” answers the psychic with a smile. “Her arm hurts.” She looks back at the timer person. “There is no need to put a timer on this one.” She looks back at Savannah and Delilah. “Wait here, I won’t be but a moment.”
The couple look at each other, worried. “What’s g oing on?” Savannah demands of the timer creator.
He shrugs. “I don’t know. She’s never left the nursery before.”
It’s a few tense moments before the psychic returns. She is accompanied by a pair of confused, concerned parents carrying a bundle of crying baby boy. She indicates Rosalyn’s crib. “Set him down in here with her.”
The mother holds her baby just a little closer as she moves towards Delilah, Savannah and Rosalyn. “I…I don’t know.”
“Trust me, dear. Please put Tomas with Rosalyn.” The psychic’s voice is firm.
With a deep breath, the mother lays Tomas next to Rosalyn. Immediately, both babies go quiet. They wriggle, trying to get closer to each other and Delilah, who is catching on, moves Rosalyn over a little bit. She puts the babies’ right hands together.
The affect is immediate. Light swirls around both children as their souls blend together.
The timer maker’s jaw drops. “That never happens. It’s incredible. How is this possible?”
“Yes. How is this possible?” Savannah asks. “I thought people had to go through trials, grown and mature into the person they need to be for the other.”
The psychic nods as Tomas’s parents come to stand by the crib and stare down at the babies. “It is true, a person must become the one their soulmate needs them to be. However, rarely, very rarely, souls are born nearly perfect. It is that person who meets their soulmate early, because it is then that their soulmate needs them.” She smiles down at the babies and strokes Rosalyn’s head. “Rosalyn is such a soul. Born again after a life of hardship and pain into a life of pure love and light, she is whole and pure already.”
She looks from the babies to the parents. “Tomas and Rosalyn will need all of you for the trials they must endure. Tomas needs Rosalyn most of all. Be prepared for you will need to parent them together.” She looks at Tomas’s parents. “Do not worry, the new home will be good for all of you. Take the job Savannah will offer you, Paulo. You will enjoy it.” With those words, the psychic wanders off to the other babies.
The four new parents look at one another then Savannah holds her hand out to Paulo. “My name is Savannah Lopez and I work for Janus. This is my mate and wife, Delilah. She is a photographer. The one known to the world as D.D.”
Paulo shakes Savannah’s hand as his wife gasps. “I am Paulo Vallespin and this is my wife Sophia. I am with the local peacekeeping force. Sophia is an amateur photographer trying to improve her skills.”
Delilah smiles. “I am sure we will work very well together at raising our children.”
In the crib, as their parents talk, the two newly mated babies smile at each other.