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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 6:40 pm 
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Chapter 6

Jason awoke, his chest pounding from a nightmare. Not again, he thought. He looked at the rumpled bed sheet beside him and thought how much he'd love to wake up to Connie's face instead of the lingering afterimage of the horrors he re-lived almost nightly.

He looked at the clock. 5:20. Maybe I should just get up, he thought. Better than going back into that torture chamber.

He crawled out of bed and made his way to the kitchen. Turned on the tea kettle and leaned his arms against the counter, his head in his hands. I'm already exhausted, and the day hasn't started yet.

The teapot whistled, and Jason whisked it off of the burner and poured some hot water into his mug. Then he sat down on the couch and set the tea on the coffee table to let it steep.

He was just about to take a sip when his phone rang. He jumped, and snatched it off of the counter. The screen said "Restricted".

"This is Jason," he said.

"Jason? It's Tasha."

"Tasha! It's been…a long time."

"More than a year."

"Wow."

"Yeah. I—was on a deep cover assignment during most of that time. I only recently got back. I…I'm sorry to hear what happened. How that madman escaped—I can't help but wish I'd have been there. If not to stop him, then to be there for you."

"It…wasn't easy. But Connie helped me through it."

"I know how much she helped you the first time."

"Tasha, I—I need to tell you this. Connie and I—well—I love her. I just asked her to marry me last night." Joy surged through him at this; saying it made it more real somehow.

"That's wonderful, Jason." Years of unspoken words hung between them, of space and diverging experiences and roads not taken. "I'll always love you, but I've come to terms with what's happened. Last year, I came over to Connie's cast party. I was about to come in, say hi, when I saw you and Connie in the theater, in each other's arms, and I knew that door was closed to me forever. I threw myself into my work after that. But then, I gradually came to accept it, and move on."

"Do you mean you're…with someone?"

"No, no, nothing like that. In fact, I think I'll always be married to my work, and I like it that way. I could never subject someone else to be bound to me, unless they were a part of this too, and even then…well, you know how little we agents end up with lasting happiness. I'm just glad you found yours.

"She's an amazing girl, Jason. You two complement each other, I think.

"But this wasn't exactly my reason for calling. I have a favor to ask."

"What is it?"

"You don't have to take me up on it. It'd be strictly off the books. But I'm trying to piece together a case. We have scant evidence, just a few overheard lines on a phone conversation of a plot to blow up the US Embassy in Brazil. One of our leads is a man named Khalid Ramon."

"Interesting name."

"Seems he's a product of a Lebanese mother and a Paraguayan father. Anyway, his name's come up before, but we've never been able to pin anything on him. It's suspected he operates a tri-border drug operation, along with possible weapons and human trafficking.

"If that wasn't enough, he's been suspected in possible terrorist plots. On the surface, he seems perfectly above board—he owns a lot of real estate and is cozy with a few Paraguayan and Brazilian politicians. He's got a way of slipping out of the way of the law—probably by corrupting a few officials along the way. I've got someone on him, a man who worked for him once. What I want from you is…I know this is a lot to ask—but you had a few contacts when you lived in Ciudad del Este during that weapons smuggling op. I was wondering if you could…get in touch with them, see what's going on on the streets."

"Tasha, it's been years. And even if my contacts were still viable, I'd have to draw them out of the woodwork. To do that, I'd have to go there."

"I know I have no right to ask this of you. It's totally optional. But we're especially slim on leads, and short on manpower in the region. No one's been stationed in Ciudad del Este for a while, and as you know, it takes time to cultivate contacts."

"So it'd be off-the-books?"

"Just a quick in-and-out op. Find out what the word on the street is, and whatever insider info you can find."

"I see. It's just that…I'm not sure if this is the best time."

"With your engagement. I understand."

"On the other hand, I haven't taken a trip in a while."

"It doesn't involve a lot of risk. That's my inside man's job."

I used to jump at anything that involved risk, thought Jason. But Tasha's right—I don't want danger. Especially now.

"I'd have to think about it."

"That's all I'm asking."

A pause.

"Well—" said Jason.

"Well—" said Tasha, at the same time.

"It's been good to hear from you."

"Have you set a date yet?"

"Not yet. It kind of happened on a whim."

She laughed softly. "I wouldn't expect anything less from you, Jason. Connie doesn't know what she's getting into."

"Oh, she does. Somehow, she still said yes."

"I'll talk to you later."

"Bye."

Jason sat back against the couch. Grabbed his tea, sipped it absently. Hot peppermint bit his tongue.

If it were anyone else, he'd say no. But for Tasha—not that he owed her anything—but he still considered her a friend. They'd been through too much together to ignore their history. And there was the US embassy to consider. Lives at stake. If he could make a small difference in the outcome, how could he be selfish enough to ignore it? Especially when it was a routine mission. Just reestablish contact with some old agents, "repurpose" them for this op… And he had to admit, the potential for adventure sent a thrill through him—

But how can I leave now? he thought. How can I just leave Connie here and dash down to South America?

Well, there is one way….

A thought struck him, but it was so crazy he hardly dared entertain it.

Dear God, what would you have me to do? Should I take on this mission? But I don't see how I can just leave her like that. We are going to be together no matter what, so why not now?

He waited for an answer, but God usually worked through circumstances rather than directly, in Jason's experience.

I'll have to see what Connie thinks, he thought, and stuck his mug in the dishwasher. Then he headed over to Connie's house.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 8:11 pm 
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I know I've talked about this on FFN, but I really do like the way this is going. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I kind of like the fact that it's not just a romance—there's intrigue and mystery, as there so often is with Jason.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 11:33 pm 
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I wouldn't have it any other way. Jason and adventure go hand in hand. :jason I like to mix it together--it's been an interesting, fun challenge writing this series. I didn't intend it to be a series in the beginning, or Jason/Connie, but somehow, it turned out that way. ;)

Chapter 7


Connie looked in the mirror, brushing her half-damp hair. Green eyes peered out from beneath her bangs, her brown hair curling over her shoulders. Jason had said he loved her new haircut—thought it was cute. "But then, you're always cute," he'd said.

Thrills shivered through her when she thought of Jason. Of the fleeting touches—and the lingering ones—of his beautiful smile—Oh, how she longed for him to be here! Why couldn't she be with him all the time?

The doorbell rang.

She looked at her watch. 6:30. Jason coming to propose again? That wasn't such a bad possibility.

She dashed through the living room to the foyer. Peeked past the curtain through the window. Sure enough, it was Jason.

She flung open the door. "Good morning!"

"Good morning, my love!"

He wrapped her in an embrace. Kissed her forehead.

"You're early," she said. "I'm not even finished getting ready."

"I couldn't stay away. Plus, I have something to ask you."

"What is it?"

Jason leaned against the wall. "I got a call this morning. From Tasha."

"Tasha?"

"It wasn't a personal call. She wanted me to go on a mission."

Her heart dropped. "A mission?"

"Nothing dangerous. No more than it ever is in Ciudad del Este."

"Doesn't that mean 'city of the east' in Spanish?"

"That's right. I did an op there a long time ago. Lived there for two months. There's a plot brewing against the US embassy in Brazil, and Tasha seems to think I can find out things that she couldn't."

"Do you mean—you'd be an agent again?"

"Well, more of a consultant, kind of like Dad. And it would just be a one-time thing."

An unpleasant feeling crept over her. Would Tasha take him away from her after all, in a different way? "Are you sure?"

He took her hand. "I won't go if you don't want me to."

"But do you think…this is what God wants you to do?"

"I'm not sure. There's a lot at stake. But—I don't want to leave you.

"Will you come with me?"

"Come with you—how can I—?"

"We'd have to get married first."

A sense of déjà vu swept over her. She recalled the whirlwind wedding plans before Mitch went to Budapest—and a sick feeling settled in her stomach when she recalled how that ended up. She didn't want the same thing to happen with Jason.

I won't lose him. I can't.

"How long would you be gone?"

"Probably just a week or so. Tasha said it'd be quick."

"Oh." Relief swept over her. It wasn't like the situation with Mitch after all—she hadn't been thinking clearly, with all the information Jason had been bombarding her with.

"It could be like a honeymoon. It's a beautiful area—there's a waterfall made of over a hundred individual falls. And you could go shopping, and we could go on excursions during the day when I wasn't working."

"That…sounds like fun." A wave of dizziness clutched her. She leaned her hand against the wall to steady herself.

"Are you okay?"

She nodded. "It's just that this is all so fast! I can hardly believe this—" she held up her hand with the ring, and it glittered in the light—"is real, and now you spring this on me—"

"We almost got married last night."

She laughed. "Yeah. That was pretty crazy."

"This is even crazier. But I know what I want."

She looked up at him. Brushed back a lock of hair from his forehead. "I know what I want, too."

"There's no reason not to be together."

"We should pray about it." She laced her fingers in his and led him to the living room. They sat down, their foreheads almost touching. And they prayed. Connie, though still in a daze, began to fall in love with the idea of going. She trembled with excitement of the prospect of marrying Jason and going on a honeymoon in South America. South America!

Dear God, she prayed silently, after they'd both prayed out loud. You know my heart. I love Jason so much. Is this your plan for us? It seems so crazy, but it doesn't mean you don't want it. Maybe that's what our life will be like—crazy and fun and full of adventure. Just—not the scary kind. Please, protect Jason from that—he's had enough of the wrong kind of adventures for a lifetime.

She looked up into his blue eyes, their wild spark softened a little. "I'm glad we did this. I need to be able to see this objectively, so we don't end up rushing into something we'll regret."

She sighed. "So…do you think we should wait? I don't mind staying here, you know. It would be fun, but it's just a week, and then you'll be back."

He nodded. "Tasha could get someone else, though—it would just make her job a little harder."

"So will you go if I don't go with you?"

"I can't say anything for sure yet. It's hard for me to think clearly when you're beside me and all I want to do is be married to you, Connie Kendall."

"Me too." She ran her fingers over his hand. "Maybe we need an outside opinion."

"Dad."

She nodded. "He'll be able to tell us something we might not see ourselves."

Connie finished getting ready, and in a few minutes they headed over to Whit's End.

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My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 12:23 am 
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Chapter 8

Jason used the key to open the back door since Whit's End wasn't open yet. Connie crept in beside him. The windows cast squares of golden morning light onto the checkered floor, the rest of the soda shop suffused in shadow.

They headed upstairs, the only sounds the hum of the air vent system and the echo of their footsteps in the stairwell.

The door to the office was open. Jason peeked inside. At first he didn't see his father, then he saw his shoes behind the desk on the floor.

"Dad!" He rushed forward, shook his father's shoulder. Whit stirred, looked up, his white hair disheveled.

"Jason?"

"Dad, what are you doing?"

His father cleared his throat. Sat up. "Well, it was late, so I dragged this cot out to sleep on. I do that sometimes, you know."

"How late was it?"

"Oh, four, five. I couldn't tear myself away from the new Imagination Station program."

"You should've gotten some rest."

"I did."

"What was it, like two hours?" He looked at his watch. 7:30. "I should let you get back to sleep."

"No, no, I needed to get up. Get the shop ready."

"You could go home and rest and I'll stay here and take care of the shop, if you want."

"No, I'm fine. I've gone on this much sleep before." He grabbed the edge of the desk and pushed himself to his feet.

"You're not as young as you used to be."

"Thanks for reminding me." He laughed, his eyes twinkling, making him look younger than he was.

Jason surrendered, even though it had given a shock, thinking for a few seconds something might've happened to his father. Maybe that's one reason I want to get married so quickly—so nothing gets a chance to take away everything I love. It's kind of what I expect now, after everything that's happened. Happiness can't last.

But no, I'm not going to expect the worst. God has a plan for us, and I can't believe it only includes suffering. Going to South America is an opportunity. To move forward with our lives—and maybe, to get things back to normal.

"So," said his father, "You didn't come here early just to wake me up, did you?"

"We have some news to tell you," said Connie. She grasped Jason's hand. Looked up at him. She was so beautiful, her eyes alight, her hair slightly tousled. He didn't trust himself to speak. He just gave her a smile, full of love.

She lifted her hand, the ring sparkling on her finger.

"Oh, Connie!" Whit threw his arms around her. "It looks perfect. Just like it was meant to be." Connie pulled Jason into the hug too.

Whit stepped back and held both of their hands. "This is the best surprise I could've had."

"We've got another one," said Jason. "I was wondering if you could give us some advice, since I don't know how clearly I'm thinking right now."

Whit laughed. "I can't tell you if I'm thinking all that clearly either."

"But you're my dad, and the wisest man I know.

"I have an opportunity. Tasha called this morning. She has a new case, and wondered if I could do a little…unofficial work for them."

"I've done my share of that."

"It all sounds pretty routine. Just reestablishing some old contacts, see if they know anything."

"What's the case?"

"A plot to blow up the US embassy in Brazil. They don't have a lot of agents ready to go, and since I've been there—"

"Would you need to go to Brazil?"

"Actually it would be Paraguay."

"Ciudad del Este?"

Jason nodded.

"The place you got shot?"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," said Connie. "You didn't tell me about this. You got shot there?"

"Just a graze." He brushed his upper arm where the faded bullet scar was. It really hadn't been that big of a deal, not compared to other missions.

"That's not the point! People were shooting at you! I might have to reconsider my opinion about going."

"I just got a little too close to some gunrunners. They took shots at me, and I ran through the jungle back to the city. This time, my mission would be just to find some people and talk to them."

"Dangerous people."

"No—petty criminals, mainly. People who live in the shadows, overhear things. If this were dangerous, I would never even consider bringing you along."

"Bring her along?" said Whit, an eyebrow raised. "How would that work?"

"The best way that I can think of is…get married."

"Jason!"

"Yeah. I know it sounds a little fast—but we love each other. I never want to be further from her than this." He pressed his hand to hers. "It sounds crazy—but I will pretty much go crazy without her."

"I have felt the same way. But sometimes, it's best to wait. Waiting produces perseverance, faith, self-discipline."

"I know. But sometimes, events fall into place. It all comes down to whether or not it's God's will for us, doesn't it?"

Whit nodded, his face serious. "I could pray with you, if you want."

They knelt in Whit's office in a small circle. Jason prayed fervently for God's will, knowing the answer might be indistinct and sooner or later, he'd have to make a choice.

Jason opened his eyes, and got to his feet. "Tasha will probably call soon," said Jason, walking out into the hallway.

"She'll need an answer right away, too, won't she," said Whit.

"Probably. I can see us flying out within the week."

Whit stopped at the top of the stairs, turned to Jason. "You're sure you want to do this?"

"It's what I know, Dad. Something I can do. As soon as Tasha called, there was something that sparked in me—something I didn't know I still wanted. I thought all that was behind me. It is; I want to move forward, Connie by my side. So I'm not going to court danger. But at the same time, I want adventure, even if it's a tamer kind than I sought out in the past. There's no reason not to do it, if it's going to help save lives."

"That life is still a part of you. That passion to use your gifts to help others."

"I'll never be a real agent again. But I need to feel…normal, if that makes sense. Move forward, get out of town for a little bit. To leave Connie here doesn't seem right. Bringing her does feel right. I know I can't rely on feelings—but if that's all I have to go on, I might have to."

"Well, if everything's falling into place, and if there are no obstacles, God might be telling you that this is the right thing to do. I can't give an answer for him, though."

As they walked downstairs, Jason turned to Connie beside him. "What do you think about going?"

"As long as it's not dangerous. For me or for you."

"I know which neighborhoods are safe and which aren't. We'd stay in the best hotel I could find. And I could show you around—it really is a beautiful place. I can just see you there, upstaging the waterfalls." He kissed her cheek.

"You make it sound heavenly." She leaned her forehead close to his, the top of his hair touching hers. "When you're not talking about people shooting you, that is."

"Well, if there's any danger to you at all, we're packing up and leaving."

"What about if you're in danger?"

"I'll play it by ear. If it gets too hot, I'll get out. I don't want that sort of danger any more than you do. We've had enough."

She nodded. "If you got hurt again, I'd never forgive you."

"I'm not going to risk leaving you before I've had a chance to build a life with you."

"You'd better not."

"This won't be much different than our adventures here—except there will be so much to explore. When I go looking for contacts, I could drop you off at one of the giant shopping malls."

"Wow. Now I have to go."

"Shopping's one thing I think I'll let you do by yourself."

They walked into the soda shop and helped Whit get ready for the day. At 8:30, Connie put on her apron and stationed herself behind the counter. Whit went in the back room to do inventory, and Jason bought a raspberry ripple cone.

"You ever gonna tell me the recipe for raspberry ripple?" she asked.

"It's a Whittaker family secret," he said. "So I can't tell you until we get married."

"Oh. Well, that's extra incentive for me to marry you then." She leaned over the counter, and gave him a gentle kiss.

Just then, Jason's phone rang in his pocket. He picked it up. "Hi. This is Jason."

"Hello, Jason," said Tasha. "Have you thought any more about my proposal?"

"I've prayed about it."

"And?"

"Do you need an answer now?"

"It'd be nice. I'm under a lot of pressure here."

"Well—" Jason looked at Connie, looking perfect, her hair dangling over her shoulders, her arms resting on the counter. "Yes. You can count on me."

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Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2014 10:48 pm 
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Chapter 9

Connie sat on a bench in a room of the church, leaning her head in her hands. She realized she wasn't breathing, and took a deep breath.

Penny put a hand on Connie's shoulder. "It'll be okay. You're not having second thoughts, are you?"

"No--not about marrying Jason. But is this the right time?" She looked up at Penny, who wore a lavender dress. "It's all so fast."

"Well, Jason would understand if you didn't want to get married now."

"Would he? What if this is our only chance to get married? What if something comes up and—and we don't ever get married?"

"Why would that happen?"

"Jason could go on the mission and there could be a plane crash! Or Gray could come back—you never know when he'll show up. Or Jason could start going on missions and get taken away from me and—"

"Connie."

"What?"

"Breathe."

"Okay." She took a breath. This time it helped a little more.

"Besides, I don't think that will happen."

"What?"

"Any of those things. You're just having pre-wedding nerves. I've got it too but I'm only a maid of honor so I can't imagine what you're feeling."

"I know. I hardly know what to do or think. But I know one thing: I want to be with Jason for the rest of my life."

"Well, that's all that matters. You love him. And so you're getting married."

"I'm getting married! I think I just realized it. It's not really how I imagined it—especially since Mom can't be here." Her breath caught.

"She is here, Connie."

"I know." She hugged Penny, hot tears streaming down her cheeks. "Oh! I'd better not do this." She wiped the tears away, gently so she didn't ruin the makeup.

"I don't think a little mascara smudge will matter to Jason."

"I don't want to look like a witch though."

"You look stunning." Penny tucked a piece of hair behind Connie's ear.

"I can't wait to see Jason!"

"Just a little longer."

Connie stood in front of the mirror. She wore a white, ankle-length dress and a white flower in her hair. Silver sparkles glittered across her eyelids, and coral pink lipstick shimmered on her lips. She dabbed beneath her eyes with a handkerchief Penny offered, and stepped back. Took another breath. "I think I'm ready. I wish Dad could've made it though."

"Hopefully he'll be here for the second wedding."

They'd opted for a simple, rehearsal-like wedding because of the short notice. Connie hadn't wanted to just step into an office, say their vows, and be done with it, especially since she wasn't sure if she wanted a big wedding or not; she at least wanted a little ceremony. And this way, they'd be married no matter what they decided later on.

Married.

To Jason.

She could hardly get her mind around it. Excitement raced through her veins as she turned toward the door.

The piano played the first notes of the bridal chorus.

Her heart leaped. "Oh!" she said, and sought Penny's hand. Penny put her arm around Connie's and led her out into the foyer. Whit was waiting for her there in a dark suit. He smiled and took her arm. "You look beautiful, Connie."

"Thanks, Whit."

"Ready?"

She nodded. Hoping she wouldn't start crying during the ceremony, though there was no guarantee.

The church doors opened, Eugene opening one and Wooton opening the other. Katrina met her inside the doorway, and she and Penny walked slowly up the aisle.

Connie walked behind them, Whit beside her, feeling as if she might float up through the ceiling. She wobbled a little on her high heels and stopped for a moment, her head spinning. I should've eaten breakfast this morning, she thought, but I was too excited to eat! I hope I don't faint.

She ventured another step. Another. Halfway there. Ahead stood the pastor, and beside him—

Jason.

She drew in a breath.

He was—stunning. He was always amazingly good looking, but now—in his black suit and tie—one lock of hair falling over his forehead, as if rebelling from any attempt at control—his eyes—oh, his eyes drew her in, blue, mesmerizing—she walked forward, as if hypnotized. Faster until soon she was standing beside him.

She could hardly hear when the pastor began—"We are gathered here today, in the sight of God, to join Jason Whittaker and Connie Kendall in holy matrimony—"

He spoke on the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13; Connie tried to concentrate—this was her wedding, she wanted to make every moment count—but Jason kept distracting her. She wanted to take his hands, draw him to her. How could I possibly think I could wait months for this, when I can't even wait for a few minutes?

Somewhere in the distance, she heard the words, "Do you, Jason Whittaker, take Connie Kendall to be your wife, to love and to cherish her, as long as you both shall live?"

"I do."

"Do you, Connie Kendall, take Jason Whittaker to be your husband, to love and to cherish him, as long as you both shall live?"

She stood there, frozen. The pastor cleared his throat. She gasped, hoping no one had taken her not answering for hesitation.

"I do."

Jason slipped the ring onto her finger.

Penny handed her Jason's ring, and with trembling hands, she slipped it onto his finger.

"I now pronounce you husband and wife."

Jason stepped forward. Leaned down, and took Connie's chin in his hand, as gently as if holding a flower. He caught her eyes, lingering for a moment, before bringing his lips to hers.

The world faded.

He was near her, and that was all that mattered.

They embraced, and then, reluctantly, she pulled back. Holding his hand, she descended the steps with him, still in a daze.

We are married now, she thought.

I am his.

He is mine.

And nothing can ever tear us apart.

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My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2014 6:09 pm 
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They're married. \:D/

Chapter 10

Connie leaned her head on Jason's shoulder. He slipped a strand of hair gently back from her face. She looked up at him, so beautiful he could hardly restrain himself from kissing her right then. They were on an airplane, though, and if he started, he didn't know if he could stop.

We're married,
he thought, trying to let the idea sink in; he had just gotten used to being engaged. He couldn't stop thinking of her coming toward him in her white dress, a white rose in her hair. And she was right beside him now, just as beautiful, just as real.

He took her hand, and she ran her fingers up and down his, stopping at his wedding ring, rubbing its golden surface. "You're mine now, Jason Whittaker."

"You're mine too, Connie Kendall. I mean, Connie Whittaker."

"I forgot that's my name! It seems like this is all just a dream. This is real, isn't it?"

"It better be. If I wake up, I'll just go back to sleep, and find you again."

He longed to take her in his arms, smother her in kisses….ignore the rest of the passengers. He couldn't help but wish that the plane was deserted, and that they had it all to themselves. Or that there was a faster way to get to Paraguay, so that he could be alone with her….

Although he couldn't exactly complain. He was with her, and that was all that mattered.

"How much longer?" she asked. After the reception at noon, they'd flown from Odyssey to Chicago, Chicago to Miami, and were now headed from Miami to Asunción.

"About eight hours. Then we still have to take a flight from Asunción to Ciudad del Este."

"Wow."

"I'm sorry we had to go overnight, but this was the only flight I could get at such short notice."

"That's okay. I don't feel tired at all."

"Well, we've got—" he looked at his watch—"about nine more hours to go."

"Now you're making me feel tired."

"Sorry!"

"You've got nothing to be sorry about." She kissed his cheek. "I'm loving every minute of this, Jason."

"When we get there, we'll have the first day to ourselves. I'll take you to the waterfall if you want. Or else we could just stay at the hotel—we'll be really tired unless we get some sleep on the plane."

"Well, maybe I should try to sleep, then."

"Good idea."

She leaned her seat back, and Jason took some airline pillows out of the overhead compartment. She laid her head on the pillow and closed her eyes.

He lay back, trying to sleep. He couldn't stop thinking of her; even when sleep almost seduced him with its benign darkness, her presence dragged him back out again.

He was just about to go to sleep for the hundredth time when she stirred, and slid her seat back up. He opened his eyes.

"Oh—sorry!" she said. "Did I wake you up?"

"Not really."

"I couldn't sleep. I'm too excited."

"I couldn't sleep either."

"Oh. You were so still, I thought—What time is it?"

He sat back up, looked at his watch. "Ten o'clock. Eight more hours to go."

She leaned forward, clasping her hands over her knees. "Shall we make a night of it?"

"I'm game if you are. We'll be up for more than twenty-four hours, though. Plus jetlag. Plus the wedding."

"I know. I just—don't feel like sleeping right now."

They both ordered some coffee, then they played some games on Jason's iPad. They got so involved in them at one point that the man in front of them looked over the seat told them to keep it down.

After that, Jason turned on a movie—Pride and Prejudice. The long miniseries version. If anything will put me to sleep, this will, he thought. With one earbud apiece, they watched it and Connie provided commentary. He did enjoy the commentary, and he enjoyed the movie more than he thought he would.

By the time the movie ended, they'd burned up six hours. Connie yawned. "I think I am tired now…" she said. "Even one hour's better than nothing." She huddled into her pillow. He stayed awake and fiddled on his iPad.

After about half an hour, the plane shook, bumping up and down. For a sickening moment, it freefell. Connie shot up. "What was that?"

"It's probably just turbulence," he said, fear leaping inside him even though he knew the chances were small that it was serious.

The captain told them, in Spanish and then English, that they were skirting a minor thunderstorm. "It should be over in a few minutes, ladies and gentlemen."

Just then, the plane trembled again, as if a massive hand had grabbed it. Jason put his arm around Connie.

And a moment later, the plane leveled out. Out of the window, clouds appeared, the morning sun glowing through them. They flew through a wonderland of white, smaller gray clouds floating among the mountainous curls and curves, like huge pieces of fluffy popcorn.

Connie leaned toward the window, morning light caressing her face. She looked like an angel.

Soon, the plane descended through a misty veil of white. A vast green land spread out beneath them, bathed in sunlight. Miles and miles of fields, dotted with houses and small towns. Then, the glittering city appeared, and the plane angled down for a landing, the runway coming up beneath it.

The plane rumbled to a stop, the terminal visible just outside the window.

"We're here!" said Connie.

"Not quite."

"We're in Paraguay, right?"

He nodded. "Asunción. Ciudad del Este is just a forty-five minute flight from here."

"It'll be nice to have a hotel to rest in."

In a few minutes, they got off the plane, went through customs, got their passports stamped, and then waited for the connecting flight.

Connie read her book, Redeeming Love, and Jason read the news on his iPad, though he could hardly concentrate with her so close to him. After about an hour, an announcement came through in Spanish that their plane would be delayed.

"Connie," he said.

"What?" She looked up from her book.

"Our flight's going to be delayed."

"How long?"

"They didn't say. Maybe we should get some breakfast."

"I am hungry, now that you mention it. And I need some coffee."

They had breakfast in one of the airport cafes. Then they wandered around, looking through the souvenir shops.

It was almost noon by the time their flight was announced. "We probably could've driven there by now," said Jason. He was used to delays when traveling, but he wanted everything to go smoothly, for Connie's sake. It was their honeymoon after all.

They took a small plane from Asunción to Ciudad del Este. Connie looked out the window, exclaiming about things that she saw below. "I wish we were down there right now," she said. "It seems like forever since we were in Odyssey. I don't think I've ever been on such a long flight!"

"It won't be long now," he said.

Soon, they landed at Guarani International Airport. They waited for their luggage, but it didn't come around on the carousel. Jason asked the attendant, who said that the flight their luggage was on had been delayed. "It should arrive by the end of the day," said the attendant.

"Well, at least I have my carryon," said Connie. "I've been in these clothes since yesterday morning! As much as I love my wedding dress, it's no fun to wear it for two days in a row. I'm probably a mess right now."

"You're beautiful as ever." He took her hand. "I think what we should do is go back to the hotel, get settled in. We can arrange for a call when our luggage arrives. Then I can come and pick it up."

"Sounds good." She leaned her head on his shoulder. "I'm starting to feel pretty tired now."

His heart went out to her—this had been a long trip, even for him. He was used to it—then again, he'd just gotten married.

Jason called a taxi and they piled into it. The driver drove through the heavy mid-afternoon traffic, until it came to the residential area, and the large elegant houses of the Parana country club. Finally, the taxi pulled up at Hotel Casa Blanca. Jason paid the driver in guaranis and they went inside, Jason carrying Connie's bag for her. The man at the front desk gave him a key—after the delays of the morning, Jason half-expected the room not to be available—and they went up to the second floor.

At the door, he said, "Wait."

"What?"

"This!"

He lifted her up off the ground, and carried her through the door. Laid her down onto the bed, where she collapsed into the pillows.

"I can order room service, if you want," he said.

"That would be nice…." She stretched out on the white bedspread in her wedding dress.

A light lunch came in a half an hour later, and Connie sat up to eat a sandwich and some fruit. Jason sat on the bed beside her. Just as he finished, his phone rang. The luggage had arrived.

"I'll go get it," he said.

"Okay." She lay back down.

Jason went to get it. It was about 4:00 when he returned and wheeled their two suitcases inside.

Connie was lying on the bed, fast asleep. He lay down beside her. He couldn't believe she was here next to him. He was dead tired, but he didn't know how he'd be able to go to sleep.

Before he knew it, though, darkness swept him in its arms.

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My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 10:32 pm 
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I went and read ahead in your story on fanfiction.com because I have no self-control. You are an excellent writer (I've probably said this already, but it's worth saying again) and I am really getting absorbed in this saga.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2014 9:46 pm 
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Thanks Gratia! Your encouragement means a lot to me.

I've run into some...difficulties, especially in the middle of this one. But now we're heading toward the climax.

This series kind of has taken on life of its own. :) Writing each one sparks more ideas. I already have several ideas for new stories....

Chapter 11

Connie stood on deck beside him, the wind whipping her hair back. He put his arm around her, and she pressed close to him. Her eyes reflected the river, the sky—there was so much depth to them, depths he might never discover in a lifetime. He would savor every moment of getting to know every dimension of who she was. He would never let anything get in the way; in fact, he wished that he didn't have the mission at all. All he wanted was to spend time with her.

"Is that Brazil over there?" she asked, pointing to the tree-lined bank.

"Yes. And over there's Argentina." He pointed to the right.

"So when you were here before, did you go to all three of the countries?"

"I did. I was hopping from one country to another, trying to keep a step ahead of the smuggling organization."

"And then they shot you."

He showed her the scar on his arm where the bullet had grazed. "It's just a scratch compared to…the others."

"You're sure there won't be any danger this time?"

"Well, there's always some danger. But I'm not going to go looking for it, that's for sure. I don't want to risk anything taking me away from you."

"You'd better not," she said, her eyes serious despite her smile.

-------
Connie leaned over the railing, mist rising from below. Across the river, waterfalls cascaded over the rocky ledge, framed by jungle trees. A toucan flew across the river and landed in a branch near them. It tipped its head sideways, looking down at her.

"It's all so perfect!" she said. "Like a fairytale. I'm glad you dragged me down here."

"I didn't exactly drag you."

"But you convinced me. It was a crazy idea."

"But a good one."

"Yeah. I can't imagine being back in Odyssey, going about my old life, not being married to you. I don't want to imagine it, in case I break the spell." She wondered if she closed her eyes, this beautiful dream would all fade away….

She took his hand, as if to make sure he was real, and they walked along the wooden walkway. They wound their way down to the boat tours. Connie buckled her orange life jacket on and sat beside Jason. The boat sped off down the river, slowing as they neared the waterfall. Before she knew it, they were beneath it, and water splashed onto her, soaking her completely. She swiped wet hair out of her eyes, and looked at Jason, just as wet as she was. She laughed, and screamed as the boat took them under the waterfall again.

After the boat brought them back to shore, Jason took her to one of the islands and they lay on the beach, drying off in the sun. She put her head on a tuft of grass, the clouds floating by in the brilliant blue of the sky, the static-like sound of the waterfalls filling the air. Orange butterflies fluttered past; one of them landed on her chin. She wanted to laugh—it tickled—but she didn't want to scare it. It opened and closed its wings, and looked at her with its multifaceted eyes. Then it flew away, higher into the sky until she couldn't see it anymore.

Jason took her wrist and softly kissed her hand. His eyes were the color of the sky—his hair falling across his forehead, still a little damp. It was as if she possessed a precious secret that she never had to share with anyone, only with him. It filled her with an incomparable joy such as she had never known. She didn't know how she could love him more—it filled her completely, humming through every cell in her body, through the core of her soul. She leaned over and kissed him, gazing into his eyes, knowing he loved her just as she loved him.

Reluctantly, she got up again, shaking sand off of her clothes. They hiked back up the hill and took the train through the jungle. Monkeys swung through the trees, looking down at them curiously. The train stopped and they followed a boardwalk along the waterfalls, until it jutted out over the edge. A sign said Garganta del Diablo—Devil's Throat. Connie gripped the edge of the railing; the river poured toward its broad mouth, turning white as it cascaded into the mists below. Cold droplets sprayed onto her face and arms. A rainbow appeared in the mists of the falls.

Jason stood beside her, his arm leaning on the railing, just touching hers, and they watched the waterfall together, absorbing its power and majesty. Alone, together, in paradise.


The sun set in the west by the time they climbed back into the taxi. An ache pierced Connie's heart; she wanted to capture this day and stay inside it forever.

But of course there would be more wonderful times that they'd share together. Every moment with him had its own version of magic. She just dreaded the time when he'd have to leave her side.

After the ferry dropped them back off at Paraguay, they took a bus back to the city. The bus drove through the streets for over an hour; their stop was one of the last. Darkness filled the sky; taxis and motorcycles and cars zipped through the streets, the tall buildings coming alive with lights.

The bus jerked to a stop. Jason stiffened. His body seemed locked in complete tension. Connie sat up.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

He didn't answer. He lifted his hand, and pointed out the window.

The bus rumbled to a start again. Jason sighed, leaned back, a shudder running through him.

"I'm sorry, Connie. I—it's just instinct. I thought I saw—but it couldn't be him."

Dread struck her. She hated the fear in his voice. She hated to find out what he'd seen, but she asked anyway.

"Who, Jason?"

"It must be my imagination. It has to be. Nothing else makes sense." He looked at her. "I thought I saw—Gray."

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Thu Oct 23, 2014 3:37 pm 
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Nice! It's a very good story.


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2014 10:09 pm 
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Sameriazx wrote:
Nice! It's a very good story.

Thank you!

I am not sure how much I will post on here, as I am not entirely happy with it....on the other hand, maybe I will, in order to get feedback (if possible). Either way, it could probably use some revising.

"How could it be Gray?" asked Connie.

Fear shivered through Jason as the bus lurched around the corner. Along with generous doses of shame. He shouldn't let this get to him. Even if it was Gray, he had forgiven him. Fought an uphill battle to shed his fear. And Connie had erased so much of the residual fear in his memory—but now it was back again, full force. The man who had tortured him, here, in Paraguay, in front of his eyes.

Unless I am going crazy—no. I can't do this to her. I have to stay rational. I can't let anything ruin our honeymoon.

The phone buzzed at his hip. He took it out, his hand shaking. Restricted. He had a feeling who it would be.

"Hello, Tasha," he said.

"Jason. How'd you know it was me?"

"How do you think?"

"Where are you? I can hardly hear you."

"We're on a bus."

"Connie's with you?"

"Yes."

"You're married?"

"Yes. We are."

"Congratulations."

"Thank you. I take it it's time to start my mission?"

"I hate to interrupt your honeymoon."

"Well, if it weren't for you, we wouldn't be down here, so—I owe you, I guess."

"All right. Perhaps we should wait until we're in a secure location."

"Good idea. I need to drop Connie off at the hotel."

"I'll call in half an hour."

"Okay."

Jason put the phone back in his pocket. His hands were still shaking. It was a wonder that he'd been able to speak to Tasha without his voice betraying him.

Connie took his hand. Wrapped it in both of hers, comforting him. He closed his eyes. Against the backdrop of his memory, he could see the man's outline, clothed in a white shirt and gray pants, with blond hair catching the light as he moved through the crowd and disappeared. Jason froze the image in his mind, daring to examine it to see if he could be mistaken.

The man was thinner than Gray, and walked with a limp, but at the same time, Jason could never forget the man who had been in intimate quarters with him for endless hours, every motion, every look, a prelude to pain.

Was there a chance he could be wrong? Yes. And he clung to that chance. At the same time, he couldn't take the risk that Gray could be out there. He'd escaped once. It was unlikely, but he could escape again. And if he ever got near Connie….

Fear ripped through his heart. How could he leave her alone now?

"It could be someone who looks like him, couldn't it?" said Connie.

"Probably," said Jason. "I know him, though, more than I know almost anyone. It might just be my fear filling in the blanks after seeing someone that looked similar. At the same time, I thought I was over this.
"But your love—knowing you deeper than I ever have before—changed me. Made me better. I thought the fear had disappeared too. But I guess the scars are so deep that I'll always have to live with them."

"I'm sorry."

"You, my love, have nothing to be sorry about. If you can't erase it, no one can. It's not like I'm special, anyway. Many others have gone through far worse and have to live with it every day. If it was Gray, I can hardly believe it's just a coincidence that we're both here at the same time."

"He might come after us," she said, her eyes large and shimmering with fear that broke his heart.

Phantom or not,
thought Jason, I'm not going to let him ruin our time together. I may have forgiven him, but that doesn't mean I'll let him hurt us again.

I will let him take me, do anything with me, if it means saving her from him
.

The bus rumbled to a stop. Jason got out, Connie's arm in his. The darkness among the bushes around the building seemed a little too dark. Anything could hide there. He walked faster, almost running into the hotel.

Up in their room, somehow he felt safer. As if Gray could not invade the sacred space they shared. He breathed a sigh of relief, and sat on the bed. She wrapped her arm around his shoulders, and they sat there silently for a while.

"I wish you didn't have to go," she said.

"Me too. Just one more kiss."

A scream woke him. His own.

He could still feel the pain slashing his chest as Gray cut into him—just like hundreds of nightmares before. Tears fell onto his cheeks; he sat up, sweat cooling on his skin.

"Jason!" said Connie. She knelt beside him, grasped his shoulders. "Gray?"

He nodded, breathing hard.

"It'll be okay."

He felt ashamed of showing this side of himself; she'd already had to deal with so much. Gray's appearance yesterday had probably triggered the nightmares. What he dreaded most was if he became startled at sudden movements behind him again, like that time he'd hurt Connie. And what if he hurt her during his nightmares? Perhaps it would be better if he slept on the floor, where he wouldn't bother her.

He pulled away, and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"I…don't want to hurt you."

"You didn't! Jason, it's fine. I'm here for you no matter what. I don't care how many times you wake me up; I want to be here for you when you do."

"It's not just that. What if…what if I thought you were someone attacking me? What if—"

"You won't."

"What if I did?"

"You're worth the risk. Besides, it didn't happen. If it did, we'd find a better solution than you sleeping somewhere else. Come here." She patted the bed beside her.

He slid back into bed. The nightmare had skewed his perceptions—he'd never actually acted out his dreams before; there was no reason to believe he'd start now. But if he did, he wasn't going to risk hurting her. If he began to have panic attacks again, one way or another he was going to make sure he didn't hurt her, either physically or emotionally.

She wrapped her arm tightly around him, so that no nightmares could get through. And then, sleep came, washing over him like a gentle wave.


He woke up to see Connie sitting in a chair by the table. Sunlight splashed through the cracks in the curtains; he felt heavy, but good, as if he'd slept for a long time.

"What time is it?" he said.

"Nine o'clock," said Connie, looking up from her book. "Good morning."

"'Morning." He slid to a sitting position. Just then, his phone buzzed on the table. He vaguely remembered throwing it on the floor last night.

"It rang earlier," she said, "but I just couldn't wake you up."

"I suppose I should answer it," said Jason. Though he dreaded what Tasha would say after he had forgotten to check in last night.

"Hello?"

"Jason! Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"What happened?"

"I forgot to answer last night."

"What was I supposed to think? Something could have happened to you. You may not be an agent anymore, but you agreed to help, and if I can't expect that—"

"I'm sorry. It's just that…I wasn't all that reliable as an agent either, if you remember."

"I do. But you always came through eventually."

"More or less."

"It can't be easy, balancing this and your honeymoon. But there are lives at stake."

"I know." For that reason alone, he had to dismiss his fear. Now that it was morning, Gray's appearance last night seemed not more than a bad dream. He'd treat it that way, and ignore it.

Except where Connie's safety was concerned. He couldn't take any chances.

"Now, due to my inside man, I have learned more about Ramon that will help you in your investigation. The information is encrypted on a flash drive in the Parque Lago de la Republica, under the trash can next to Avenida del Lago."

"Got it."

"I'll call within two days to see what you've learned. I'm counting on you."

"I won't let you down."

He set the phone back on the table.

"So…you have to leave," she said.

He nodded. "As much as I'd like to keep doing what we've been doing, it's time to get to work."

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2016 11:58 pm 
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Hm, it's been a while since I've been here! Didn't realize it was that long. I was still doing this story! I missed like over a year. Absorbed in other things I guess.
Should I post more? I've got like 2 other stories after this--well, one's in progress.....

Collision Chapter 13

Quote:
Connie walked beside Jason along the tree-lined sidewalk, her arm in his. They'd decided she should come with him while he met his contacts, because neither of them liked the idea of being separate while Gray was out there, somewhere in the city. She couldn't shake the horrible feeling that Gray might be watching them, waiting to attack. Last night, Jason's screams had ripped through her heart. All she'd wanted to do was hold him until the nightmares dissolved and never returned.

If it was Gray—Connie could hardly bear to think about it. She wanted to ignore it. She didn't want to let him intrude on their honeymoon, and cast a shadow over their happiness.

I will not let him ruin our time together, she thought. And if there's anything I can possibly do, I'll protect Jason from him.

They stopped near a bench with a trash can beside it. Jason sat on the bench, Connie beside him. He reached beneath the trash can and drew out a small magnetic case. Beneath his hand, he slid it open, showing her the flash drive. Then it disappeared, as if by magic; she wasn't sure where he'd hidden it.

"So this is secret-agenting," she said.

"Actually this is what a lot of it is. Picking up packages, sitting around and waiting. That was never my favorite part—I always wanted to get to the action. But it wouldn't have been so hard to wait with you with me."

"I wouldn't mind going on missions like this."

"So you want to be a secret agent?"

She shrugged, and smiled teasingly. "Maybe."

"We could be a team."

"We'd have to have a cover, though, right?"

"Well, we're already married, so we don't have to have an excuse to be close to each other." He kissed her cheek. She snuggled close to him, slid her arm around his back. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder, and gently slipped his fingers into her hair.

"See?" he said. "We already make a good team." He gave her a kiss on her lips. They sat there for a while, the gentle breeze cooling her skin, the lake sparkling in the sun.

At about noon, they walked a few blocks to a restaurant, where Jason would meet his first contact. They sat down at a table, and Jason ordered a pizza. Connie marveled at his Spanish—and had to admit, she liked hearing him speak in a different language. He made anything sound ten times better when he said it.

"Your Spanish is beautiful," she said.

He laughed. "I get by."

"Well, you know a lot more than I do. I only know like hola and bien and pizza—wait, pizza's Italian, isn't it?"

"I think it's just as Spanish as it is American."

"Oh. Everyone calls it pizza, I suppose."

"I can teach you some Spanish, if you want."

"Sure!"

He leaned forward, his blue eyes looking into hers. "What words do you want to know?"

She thought for a moment. But looking at him, there was only one phrase she could think of. "I love you."

"Te amo."

"Te amo?"

He nodded. "Connie?"

"What?"

He took her hand. "Te amo con todo mi corazon."

She didn't need a translation this time. She squeezed his hand to let him know she understood, and let his eyes speak without words.

"When Juan comes," said Jason, "we'll have to speak in Spanish. See if you can pick up some of what we say."

"Okay."

"I don't know why we didn't think of this before."

"What?"

"You coming with me. I guess I just thought it might be more exciting for you to do something else."

"I'd rather be with you no matter what, and it's kind of fun, seeing what you do. And pretending to be a secret agent myself even though I'm really not secret agent material."

"A lot of it I bet you'd be good at. Like talking with contacts. They'd just naturally trust you enough to open up."

"But I wouldn't be good at keeping secrets. Or any of the dangerous stuff. A lot of the things you did—I can't even imagine."

"Some of those things I wish I could erase from my memory. I'm glad you don't have to deal with it. Some of those things—you don't want to have in your mind." He looked away, as if not wanting to transmit to her what he'd seen—his capture by Gray had just been the culmination of a long dangerous career, only part of which he'd confided to her. She didn't want those kinds of memories—at the same time, she wished he'd tell her, so she could share his burden.

"It's a good thing this mission is a safe one," she said.

"Yeah. Except—"

"Gray."

"I wish I knew one way or the other—but until we do, I'd feel better if we were together at all times."

"I like this—being with you at every moment of the day. I just wish…it didn't have to be for this reason. We've had enough."

The waiter brought the pizza on a wooden board, sizzling hot. He cut it into square slices, and steam rose off of the crust, cheese, tomatoes, and pepperoni.

"Looks good," said Connie. She looked at the waiter. "Gracias."

"De nada," said the waiter, smiling, and left.

"Should we eat?" asked Connie. "Or should we wait for—Juan?"

Jason looked at his watch. "He was supposed to be here half an hour ago. I'd say we could start eating. We'll just save some for him."

They bowed their heads and Jason prayed, asking God to keep them safe. Then they began to eat. It was very good pizza, some of the best she'd ever tasted.

They had eaten almost half the pizza when the door opened. A man walked in, tall, dark-haired, wearing tan pants and a red shirt. He sat down beside Jason.

"Hola, Jason."

"Juan! Es bueno verte." They shook hands.

"It's good to see you too."

"You speak English?"

"I learned English after you left. I went to college and now I have my own business."

"Juan, that's great!"

"Well, I never would have gotten off the streets if you hadn't given me a chance.

"And who is this lovely young woman?"

Connie cleared her throat. "I'm Connie."

He took her hand. "Estoy encantado."

"Careful, there, Juan. She's taken."

"Oh! I should have known. She is your—fiancée?"

"My wife."

"You made a good choice, Connie. He is a good man." He looked at Jason. "But you, I think, made a better choice."

Jason laughed. "I think so too. We are actually here on our honeymoon."

"Do you have plans for today?"

"You know me," said Jason. "I don't exactly plan things. They just happen. Even this trip was pretty much on the spur of the moment."

"And you took time to meet with me? I can hardly think that you'd remember me."

"You saved my life when you hid me from the gunrunners. You were a good friend to me back then, and I will never forget that."

For a moment, Juan didn't speak. Then he said, "You saved my life too. If I was still with the gang—I would probably not be here now. So, we are even."

"Except now I have a favor to ask you."

"Anything."

Jason's voice lowered. "I am here on unofficial business."

"Like last time?"

"Yes."

"Oh. So you are not really on your honeymoon?"

"We are. It's just that…while I'm here, I need to…find out some things."

"I'm not exactly in the same crowd I was with before."

"I would just like you to keep an ear out for anything…unusual."

"I see. I'm not sure if I've heard anything yet—but I haven't been looking. Except—"

"Except?"

"There's a new warehouse on the edge of town—I know about it because I go past it on the way to work every day. One day I was driving by, and I saw a group of heavily armed men going inside. That's not exactly strange around here—but it means that there are probably more than the normal smuggled goods inside. They were either highly paid guards, or they were making a deal for something that's very valuable."

"I wonder…maybe I could stake out the place. See what kind of patterns there are, the kind of people that go in and out."

A twinge of fear struck Connie. "That sounds dangerous, Jason."

"Stakeouts aren't usually dangerous."

"Usually?"

"It's basically just watching from the background—as long as you're careful, no one will notice you're there."

"Well, I'll come with you, then."

"I don't know…."

"You said it wasn't dangerous."

"I suppose…with Gray out there, maybe you're right."

"Who is Gray?" asked Juan.

Jason stopped for a moment. Then he said, "Someone you never want to meet." He lifted his left hand, the one with the scars. He closed it, showing how the nerve damage made it almost impossible to make a fist.

"He did that to you?" said Juan.

"And a lot more."

Anger flashed across Juan's eyes. "How dare he do that. You do not deserve such things."

"He is a sociopath, with no moral feelings to argue with. Only the cold purpose of getting whatever he wants." Jason swallowed, as if the words had choked in his throat. He looked away, toward the window.

"And he is here, in the city?"

"I thought I saw him. Now I'm not sure."

"I will keep a lookout for him."

"Thanks, Juan. Just—don't get in his way."

"I won't. I will call if I see him."

Jason nodded. "Now, I suppose we'd better get going. But contact me if you find out anything else."

"I will."

They stood, the pizza gone except for a few stray crusts.

"It has been good to see you, Jason," said Juan. He shook his hand. "And good to meet you, Connie."

"You too," she said. "I hope we meet again."

Juan smiled at them both, and strode out the door.

"Up for some shopping?" said Jason.

"Sure!" They walked out onto the sidewalk, the pavement shimmering in the midday heat.

"Then, after I take a look at the flash drive, we'll go on the stakeout. You're sure you're up for this, Connie? Stakeouts can get pretty boring."

"I don't mind."

"You could go back to the hotel, relax by the pool."

"What about Gray?"

"I don't even know if I saw him. If he'd escaped from the detention center, Tasha would have known. And she'd have told us."

"You're probably right." She sighed, feeling like a weight had lifted off of her heart. "That makes me feel a lot better. But I'm still going with you."

"Are you sure?"

"It won't be half as fun at the hotel without you. Besides, I don't care if it's boring—just being with you will make it exciting."

He took her hand. "I want you with me, if that's what you want."

"It is. It is our honeymoon, after all." She kissed his cheek, and they walked down the sidewalk, hand in hand.

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Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 6:51 pm 
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Collision Chapter 15

Jason walked down the sidewalk, hyper-aware of the environment around him. Though thousands of people thronged through the streets, there was always the possibility Gray could be among them.

After the first two days without leaving Connie's side, to not be within touching distance was agony. But if being apart meant that Gray would not discover her, he would make that sacrifice. As long as she stayed in a place with lots of people, she'd probably be safe. Today she'd decided to just stay at the hotel and relax by the pool. He couldn't help but wish he was with her, lying beside her in the sun.

Sights, sounds and smells of the city bombarded him. Salesmen yelled at him from their booths to come try a product. A cacophony of Spanish, blending into a river of sound. He tried to filter it, focus on anything that could be relevant. Fear blurred things. He needed to be alert in order to avoid danger.

The smell of baked bread sidetracked him; he followed it to a booth selling sopa parguaya cakes. He bought one from the young girl behind the counter and ate it as he headed toward Puente de la Amistad, the Bridge of Friendship that spanned two countries. Twelve years ago, his contact, Marcos, had just been starting his business of smuggling goods across the bridge from Paraguay to Brazil. He knew about the trends in the criminal world, and he could have an idea of how terrorism intersected with the normal black market.

Jason neared the bridge, which was crowded with people walking on the footpath.

The thought flashed across his mind: Gray could be one of them.

I can't panic again, he told himself. Last night—I never would have let that happen a few years ago; I'd have dashed away without a second thought, and if they caught me, I'd have thought of a way out. It's true, Gray took something from me. It's the fear of being captured again—I can't deal with any mission or situation that could lead to…more torture. I might not be able to withstand it—and that fact will keep me from ever being an agent again.

As much as he'd healed, he could never go back to that life. He hadn't realized how much he'd wanted it until this mission—to have adventure again, to face danger and stare it down. It was in his blood, and to have that torn away—to not even have that option—made his heart ache.

But there was so much more to his life now. If he had to choose between being a spy again, and being with Connie—well, that was no choice at all. Somehow, the most beautiful, amazing, wonderful woman in the world loved him, and he was going to cherish that incomparable gift for the rest of his life. He wished he had more to give her, so he could always keep giving her more, a continuous outpouring of his love.

He stopped in the middle of the bridge where they'd agreed to meet, a yellow line dividing Paraguay from Brazil. People passed him, some of them lugging boxes of goods across the border.

He didn't see Marcos yet, so he looked out over the Parana River, glittering in the sunlight. He wished he could've taken Connie over this bridge. There was so much more they could have shown her, shared with her.

Perhaps they could still do those things. It was just that, after last night, Jason didn't want the slightest chance that he could put her in danger. At least he was trained as an agent; she had no resources for that kind of thing.

Of course, she was the one who'd rescued him….She'd thought quickly and driven in there when he could barely move.

My hero, he thought, and longed for her presence. To traverse five miles in an instant—to be back at the hotel, and close the last millimeter of distance between them….

A touch on his arm. He jumped, his imagination peeling away to reveal the real world. A man stood beside him with a beard and sunglasses

"What's wrong, Jason?" he said in Spanish. "Don't you recognize me?"

"Marcos—of course!" Jason grasped his hand and the man pulled him into an embrace, slapping him on the back. Jason stifled a gasp as pain shot through his shoulder, hoping Marcos hadn't noticed.

"I don't blame you for not recognizing me, though," he said, rubbing his beard. "It's good to see you, Jason. Been what, ten years?"

"More than that."

"So how are you? Not settled down yet, I see."

"Well, actually—" Jason hesitated. He trusted Marcos—to a degree—but he wanted to be more cautious now, especially where Connie was concerned. "I'm married."

"Ah! Good for you! Is she that agent you told me about?"

"Tasha? No. Her name's Connie."

"She's a spy, too, I take it?"

Jason shook his head.

"So she lets you go gallivanting around the world, then? Makes it hard on a marriage, doesn't it? If it weren't for all the jewelry my wife gets, she'd've left me a long time ago." He laughed.

"This is just a…one time mission."

"I see. Then you're hanging up your hat?"

"You could say I have already. I just…well, it's a long story."

Marcos raised an eyebrow. "One I'd like to hear sometime. I can't see you as anything other than an agent, personally, but I know what a woman can do to a man. Me, I'd choose my business over Rosana any day, and she knows it too. Doesn't matter, 'cause it's not going to happen—I've got both as long as the money keeps pouring in."

"So, in your business, have you run into anything…terrorist related?"

"Oh, there are rumors all the time. Rumors about Hamas and Hezbollah, funding, all that. Training camps. I don't know any of it—you know how closed the cells are. And in my business, you don't ask questions, you just deliver the product."

"Any strange orders recently? Bomb making materials?"

"No, nothing specific comes to mind….but then, I'm the boss, so I don't know the details of every order. I could take you to my place, and you could ask my employees."

"I kind of want to keep this between us."

"I don't know what I can tell you, then. I've got my business—I don't pay much attention to anyone else's, unless it affects mine."

"Do you have any rivals?"

"Rivals? No, I've pretty much climbed to the top."

"What about Ramon?"

"Ramon! He's a class all to himself. He owns the town."

"I heard he got to his position through legitimate means."

"Legit? No—he's just good at keeping clean. Staying above it all. He could run for office and they'd elect him in a heartbeat."

"Why doesn't he?"

"Likes it where he is. Why all these questions about Ramon? You think he might be mixed up in this terrorism business?"

"Do you?"

Marcos smiled. "If there's money in it, he's got a hand in it. The thing is, you can't prove anything. Everyone loves him here. He makes the town almost seem…respectable."

A thought struck Jason. If Ramon owned the town, then Gray would probably be involved with him, perhaps employed by him.

"Have you heard of Ramon hiring any new employees?"

Marcos scratched his beard. "As a matter of fact, I have. I've seen him around. Pale, blond, looks German. Not totally sure where he fits in with the organization. My guess is that he'd be an enforcer."

"Do you know anything else about him?"

"He's got that whole ruthless vibe going. He walks with a limp—but it only makes him seem tougher. War wound or something."

When Jason had first seen Gray in the city, he'd been walking with a limp…it made sense. The question was, how was he out of the detention center? Tasha was due to call soon. When she did, he would tell her about Gray. His presence might have bearing on the case.

"Do you know what he calls himself?" asked Jason.

Marcos narrowed his eyes. "His name is Dominic Stone. Why—do you know him by another name?"

"I do…but it's an alias. I doubt Stone is his real name either."

"I see. Someone you're after?"

Jason swallowed. "Something like that."

"I have something else for you. There's a restaurant I deliver to downtown. Karam's. They're good people; they don't ask questions, either, about where I get my supplies. The girl there, Jamila, was involved with a pretty radical young man, and she's been working there ever since she got free of him. Now he's over in the Middle East somewhere, but I don't doubt she knows a bit about the people he used to hang around with."

"I'll check that out. Thanks, Marcos."

"What are friends for? I'll see you around, Jason. Keep up the good work."

Marcos stepped off the curb and into a limo that was waiting for him; it sped off into the traffic toward Brazil. Jason stood by the bridge for a moment, his arms resting on the railing. He felt better now that he had some leads, and now he knew—probably—that Gray worked for Ramon. That made things a little less complicated, at least.

His phone rang. "Hello?"

"Hello, Jason," said Tasha. "How are your investigations going?"

"Good—I've spoken with several contacts, and I just learned something that I think you should know."

"What is it?"

"It's Gray. He's here, Tasha—and I think that he's working for Ramon."

Silence. Then, "Oh. I was hoping you wouldn't—I'm so sorry, Jason."

A horrible feeling twisted in his stomach. "What do you mean?"

"I already knew about Gray."

For a moment he couldn't speak. Then, he forced himself to form words. "How did he escape?"

"He didn't escape, Jason. I brought him to Paraguay."

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Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 9:40 am 
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I'll just post the rest of Collision so I can catch up with the one I'm writing now. :)

Chapter 16

"You—what?" He could hardly comprehend what she was saying.

"I'm the one holding his leash."

"So he's working for you?"

"He's working under my supervision, yes. Here's what happened, Jason. We were thin on leads—the only thing we had was fragments of a phone conversation, and that wasn't solid enough to build a case on. Then I found out that Gray had information about Ramon. He was tortured horrifically in the detention center, and had spilled facts from missions they didn't even ask him about, just to make it stop. When I pulled him out of there, I asked him about Ramon's ties to terrorists, but he didn't have much more than hearsay either. The CIA was about to take him back when I came up with the idea to put him undercover. It worked, even more smoothly than I'd hoped. He's good, Jason. I've caught glimpses of him at work—and you'd never guess that he's hanging on by a thread."

"What do you mean?"

"The things they did to that man—I can't even bring myself to say. He's got a cover story that explains his injuries for his employer—mainly the truth, that he was captured and tortured. But the deeper injuries are inside his mind."

Jason knew how much deeper than broken skin and bone that pain from torture went.

"I don't know how he's doing it—we did our best to patch him up, but some injuries will never heal. We'll keep him in there as long as he can hold himself together. We're on borrowed time as it is—we don't know when they plan to set the bomb, and though Gray has learned a lot, he doesn't have anything specific enough to act on. We figured that you would be able to fill in missing pieces, and—you'd never have to know about each other. I'm sorry, Jason. Perhaps I should've told you, it's just—"

"Need to know."

"That, and…I didn't want to tell you about him if I didn't have to. I didn't want you to have to deal with him. I shouldn't have assumed that you'd stay in separate circles, but I hoped that a week would be short enough to avoid you meeting in a city of two hundred thousand.

"So you just saw him—did he see you?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Good. The more that these two operations stay separate, the better. That was my intention in the beginning…along with keeping you from hearing about Gray ever again, if you didn't have to. I sometimes wish I didn't have to work with him. Still, it's hard to see him as the sociopath that hurt you—he's able to wear that persona, but when he's alone, he's afraid and broken."

Jason was still in a state of shock from what Tasha had told him, but despite himself, his heart went out to Gray. Compared to months of torture, Jason's experience had been negligible. Jason didn't want to imagine what that much abuse did to a person.

Still, he wasn't sure that he wanted to run into Gray any time soon….At least if he did, he probably wouldn't go after him or Connie.

Relief flooded him. They could go places together again—although he wasn't about to take Connie on any more missions. As soon as he was done here, he'd go back to her, smother her in kisses. He didn't know how he could stand not being with her for this long.

He told Tasha about what he'd learned, and that he'd found a new potential contact.

After saying goodbye, he called Connie.

"Hi, Jason!" said Connie. "What's up?"

"I have some good news."

"Really?"

"I just talked to Tasha. She already knew Gray was here."

"What?"

"That's because she brought him here to go on a mission, parallel to mine. He's not about to come after us—he's on our side."

"Wow." She was silent for a moment. "I can hardly…this is good news! I wish I could hug you."

"I want to too. I just have one more thing to check out, and then I think I can call it a day."

"I like the pool and everything, but it'd be twice as fun with you. Hey, maybe when you come back, we can go swimming."

"Sounds wonderful."

"Just thinking about you coming back here is driving me crazy! I wish you were here, right now."

"I'll be there as soon as I can." He wished he could give her a kiss through the phone. "Bye, my love."

"Bye, my Jason."

Jason hailed a taxi, and climbed inside. He took a deep breath. Gray wasn't here for him; Tasha had him under her control. All that trauma was in the past. Maybe he could leave it there. At last.

The taxi stopped at the curb. The words Restaurante Karam was emblazoned in gold letters across the top of the building.

Inside, Lebanese music played softly, and red carpet beneath white arches gave it a Mediterranean feel. The host came to seat him, and gave him the menu. Looking over the food, he hadn't realized how much he'd missed Middle Eastern cuisine. A few minutes later, a young woman came to take his order. She had long, dark hair and beneath the friendly spark in her large eyes, sadness haunted them. Her name tag said "Jamila." His heart leaped; she was the woman Marcos had spoken of.

"Buenos tardes," she said. "What would you like today?"

"Marhaba," said Jason, and spoke in Arabic. "I would like the falafel, and the eran to drink."

"Very good, sir. And may I say your pronunciation is excellent."

"Thank you—Jamila."

She smiled, and walked away with his menu.

A little while later, the door to the kitchen opened. Jamila held a tray of food in one hand, and a little girl clung to her other hand. As Jamila walked forward, the little girl followed.

"Mommy! Mommy!"

"Stay there, Ester," said Jamila. A man emerged from the kitchen, grabbed Ester, and swung her up in the air, kissing her cheek, and taking her back behind the door.

"I'm sorry for that," said Jamila.

"That's okay. Her father looks like he has it under control."

"Oh—that's not her father. That's my brother Farid. Her father…does not even know about her."

"I'm sorry."

"No—I want to keep it that way." She left the food with him. When she returned with his bill, Jason put his credit card on the tray and on the receipt he wrote, I'm here to ask you about her father.

Her eyes fell to the note. Fear flashed across her eyes. She leaned forward, whispered, "Are you with Yousef?"

"No—I just need to know some things."

"Are you with the government?"

Jason nodded, watching out of the corner of his eye to see if anyone else seemed interested in their conversation. The other customers seemed occupied in eating or conversing.

"I want to help you—only—"

"You're afraid of him."

She nodded, swept back a stray strand of hair, revealing a scar across her forehead. Tears of fear glistened in her eyes. "He might be coming back. I don't want him to hurt my family."

"We'd keep it strictly between ourselves."

"I want to help—I just—can't involve anyone else."

"Do you know of a safe place—?"

A waiter walked past and she froze, and then took his credit card to the front.

When she returned, she handed him a note. It said, Meet me at the city cemetery at 6:30 tonight.

Jason had about five hours, then, to spend with Connie. He'd better make it count.

He took a taxi back to the hotel, and went up to their room. She wasn't there; she must still be out by the pool. He changed into his swimming trunks but left his shirt on, just in case there were a lot of people out there. He knew he shouldn't feel this way, but he didn't want people staring at his scars, asking questions.

He walked down to the pool, the carpet soft on his bare feet. Just outside the door, beneath the shadow of the arches, he stopped, looking for Connie among the people lounging by the pool and swimming. Then he spotted her. She was lying on one of the chairs in her yellow swimsuit, sunglasses on, a drink in one hand. She took his breath away.

How can she possibly be mine? he wondered. Someone as beautiful as that—chose me.

He walked up behind her, put a hand on her shoulder. She jumped, whipped around. "Oh! Jason. You scared me."

"Sorry."

"That's okay—I'm glad you're here. How did your meeting go?"

"I got a potential lead. I'm meeting her again later today."

"Her? Should I be jealous?" Her eyebrow arched.

"You know you will always be the only one for me."

She smiled. "I know." She gestured to the empty chair beside her. "Come, sit by me."

He slid his chair closer, and sat down beside her. He lay back and closed his eyes, the sun soaking into him. Her hand pressed gently over his. He laced his fingers through hers, reveling in the fact that they were this close again.

"I love you," he said, barely realizing he was saying it until the words had left his lips.

She smiled. "I love you, too."

After a moment, she said, "I'm glad that Gray's on our side—though I can hardly believe it."

"Me either—but I trust Tasha. And she said that he's not really the ruthless agent that I saw last night. He was…tortured in the detention center. I can't imagine how he's dealing with it; with all that I've gone through, it's nothing in comparison."

"I wouldn't say nothing, Jason."

"I don't know how I'd cope if I were in his place. But somehow he's holding it together enough to work undercover."

"Maybe he's changed. I mean—for the better."

"I don't know. I wouldn't have gotten through without you, Dad, and God. Who does Gray have? He might not become who he was again, but he won't necessarily become better just because he's broken. He'll need someone to help put him back together."

"Do you think we'll run into Gray again?"

"The missions are supposed to stay separate, so I doubt it."

"All the better, then. So…do you want to go swimming? I think I might brave the pool again." She stood, adjusting her left shoulder strap.

"Uh, sure." He stood.

She walked over to the pool's edge; he followed. She stopped, touched his shirt. "You're not going in like that, are you?"

"I thought that—"

"No, no, no. That makes no sense."

"But—Connie—there are so many people—"

"It's okay, Jason. You can do this." She put a hand on his arm.

He carefully, slowly, peeled his shirt off, and tossed it in the chair. Then he followed her to the pool. Behind him, he heard low voices murmuring—he didn't stop to listen if they were talking about the horrific number of whip-scars on his back. He was probably just being paranoid.

He slid down into the shallow end. They stood there, the water lapping around them. She lifted her lips to his, and he savored the slow, lingering kiss. Then she dove under, and he dove after her, splashing down into the cool wavering blue.


The shadows shifted in the cemetery, dark against the sunlit grass. Jason walked among the headstones; so far, he couldn't see anyone. Then, movement ahead, behind a tree. He tensed, wishing he'd brought a gun. He hadn't thought he'd need one on this mission, but now—

The figure stepped out, tall, slim, wearing a long dress—Jamila. She walked toward him. "Hello," she said.

"Thank you for meeting me."

"This place—it's open enough, but people are few and far between." She gestured to a bench along the gravel road, and he sat down. She sat down beside him.

For a moment, she didn't speak. Then, looking off into the distance, she said, "The first time I met Yousef, it was at the restaurant. He used to come there just to see me, he said. He was so polite, charming…I felt myself falling for him. He'd give me things…nice little presents. He seemed to truly care about me. After six months, we got married. I was so happy. Then, almost that same night, he changed. Became distant. He'd say things—I didn't know what I was doing wrong, but I'd always try to please him. He'd go out all night, only be back in the morning….

"One day I asked him where he went, and—he hit me. It only got worse. The last night, I woke up to feel him strangling me. I scratched him across the face, and went to my father's house. He told me to stay with him, he'd protect me. Dad is well-respected in our community, and he helped me get a divorce.

"I haven't seen Yousef since; I think he's in the Middle East now. I'm afraid he'll come back, claim Ester as his own. He is involved in some terrible things, I know that much. I was with him enough to see the huge amounts of cash he hid—and the men he met with. One of them, Ziyad Hayek, I think is important. He's tall, and has a scar— here." She touched her cheek. His eyes were drawn to the scar across her forehead, revealing her abuse at the hands of her ex-husband. Anger boiled in him. Even if Yousef wasn't a terrorist, he deserved to be in prison, not free to do what he wanted, while she was still bound by fear for herself and her daughter.

"I would not be telling you this, except I'm afraid he might return. Anyone who will keep him from me and my daughter, I will help. I've hidden from him long enough." He hoped against hope that none of this would endanger her. He felt it was now his responsibility to keep her safe, as he'd gotten her involved in his mission.

"I have an address, too." She handed him a slip of paper. "This is where he used to go sometimes—I followed him one day, and he didn't see me."

"Thank you, Jamila. If he comes back, contact me." He gave her his cell phone number.

She looked up at him, a crease in her brow. "You have someone like Yousef, I think. One that hurt you." She lifted her hand toward his face, almost, not quite, touching the scar that ran down across his cheekbone like a banner.

"I do. But I have forgiven him."

A spark shot through her dark eyes. "How—?"

"I realized I was doing more damage to myself than to him—and the rest was God. But just because I've forgiven—that doesn't mean I've forgotten."

She nodded, looked away, across the cemetery. Sunlight slanted across the gravestones in the haze. "I'd better get going. My Abi will miss me. And I have to tuck Ester into bed. She is the one who saved me, after all this."

"Love tends to do that. Save you, when all that seems to be left is darkness."

She looked at him, pain and hope warring in her eyes. She rose. Headed toward her car. He wanted to escort her there, but he knew that the less they were seen together, the better.

He sat on the bench as she walked away, a silhouette in the golden sunlight.

Just as she reached the car, a gunshot shattered the silence.

Jamila collapsed to the ground.

Another gunshot. A bullet slammed into the tree beside Jason.

He threw himself to the ground, just as another bullet pierced the air where his head had been a second before.

Chapter 17: Chapter 17

Connie sat on the balcony, looking out over the river. She'd been reading her book, but she hardly realized what the last chapter was about. What she really wanted was Jason. As much as she loved her honeymoon so far, it would be even better if the mission didn't take him away from her. She wanted him all to herself, no competition.

At least he was safe now. Gray was out there, but knowing Tasha had him under control made her feel a lot better.

Jason had said he'd be back as soon as his meeting was over, if he could. Then they'd go out to a restaurant of her choosing.

It was 7:30; he'd probably be back any minute. She was getting hungry though. Perhaps she'd go inside and get a snack.

In the hallway, she slid some coins into the vending machine. Took out a bar of chocolate, and then went back outside to read her book.

The leaves of the trees rustled in the breeze. Sunlight shone on their leaves, brushing them with burnished gold.

A pang struck her heart, burning a horrible ache into it. Am I having a heart attack? she wondered. Or is Jason in trouble? She'd felt this before, the second time Jason was captured.

Dear God, please let this be nothing—I'd rather it be a heart attack. I wouldn't be able to bear it if something happened to Jason. Please, please God, don't take him away from me. Protect him.

She sat back. Her heart still ached, but a soothing presence assuaged it.

God was with him. No matter what happened.

Most of all, she hoped that this painful flash of intuition was wrong, and that Jason would soon be home…

I could call him, she thought. But if he's in danger—that could only make matters worse. I'll just have to wait for him.

She left the balcony, went inside, and sat on the bed. She couldn't read, couldn't concentrate. So she paced the room, waiting for Jason. Longing more than anything to hear his voice, know that he was okay.


Shots flew over his head, pinning him down. Terror raced through him. Terror—not so much of death—but of being captured. He'd almost do anything to avoid being captured alive.

The gunshots were coming from the direction of the road. If he crawled the other way, perhaps he could reach the riverbank.

What about Jamila? Maybe she's dead, he thought. But what if she's still alive? If there's even a chance…I can't just leave her.

Under the hail of bullets, he crawled toward her, inching forward as flat as he could make himself. Bullets slammed the dirt in front of him.

He pressed his fingers to Jamila's wrist. A pulse throbbed beneath his fingertips, weak, but there.

Jason scooped Jamila up into his arms. More bullets slammed into the car. He yanked open the door and laid her in the seat, as carefully as he could. Just as he jumped inside, a searing pain ripped through his shoulder. He pushed through it, grabbed the steering wheel, and pulled himself into the driver's seat.

The windshield shattered into a million puzzle-pieces of glass.

Capture is not an option.

He floored the accelerator, and dared them to shoot him as he sped toward the spray of bullets.

He glimpsed an angry face in the bushes on the side of the road, rifle raised—gunshots rang out behind him, shattering the rear windshield, but he was already at 50 miles an hour, and sped out onto the highway.

In a daze, he steered the car down random streets, shaking. He pulled over in a residential district, and leaned his forehead on the steering wheel, his heart thumping against his chest.

Thoughts spun through his mind, barely formed before dissipating into oblivion.

Then, a thought pierced through the haze—Jamila.

He leaned over and pressed his hand to her throat. She was still alive.

Blood soaked her shirt on her left side. There was a tear in his own shirt where a bullet had gone through, somehow without piercing his skin. He ripped through the tear, and pressed the ragged cloth to her wound. Then he gathered up his strength, wishing his hands would stop shaking, and drove toward the hospital.

He parked the bullet-ridden car in the parking lot. Then lifted Jamila as carefully as he could, and walked into the emergency room.

"She's been shot," he said to the nurse at the front desk.

"Looks like you need attention, too," said the nurse.

"No, I—" He looked at his shoulder. Blood spread across the blue fabric. He'd forgotten about it with escaping and looking after Jamila. "Not as bad as she does."

The nurse nodded, and called some paramedics in. They laid her on a stretcher and rushed her off to surgery.

He sat down and looked at his wound. It wasn't very deep, and there was an exit wound, so the bullet wasn't still inside. He was tempted just to leave—he'd taken care of worse injuries in the field—but he wanted to see if Jamila was all right.

Though most of the bleeding had already stopped, he tore off another piece of his shirt and wrapped it around his shoulder. Then he filled out some paperwork for himself and Jamila. He didn't know what her last name was, so he wrote down "Karam", her maiden name. His hand shook as he wrote; he tried to calm himself, although he knew that the danger wasn't past. The terrorists could assume they'd come to this hospital, and wait for them to come out…or come inside and finish the job. If he stayed inside, it'd be harder for them to kidnap him, if that's what they wanted. He at least needed to stay here until he found out Jamila was okay—but what then?

He had to get back to Connie somehow. And—he realized—he had to leave the country. Danger wasn't part of his job description anymore. And if there was danger to him, there was danger to Connie. They needed to go home to Odyssey and start their lives together. He longed for that normal, everyday life—no threat of being shot or captured. His taste for an agent's life of the other day had dissipated—he only felt drained, exhausted, inadequate.

His phone rang.

"Connie?"

"It's me, Tasha."

"Tasha!"

"Are you all right?"

"I ran into some…trouble."

"What kind of trouble?"

"I was shot. My contact too."

"What happened?"

He told her about meeting with Jamila at the restaurant, then the meeting at the cemetery.

"It sounds like it's safe to assume that her ex has returned from the Middle East," said Tasha. "I wonder if he had an agent already at the restaurant who overheard your conversation and followed her."

"Makes sense. It was a risk to meet at all—but a risk she wanted to take."

"I think maybe it's time for you to come home, let others take over. You've gotten good leads—but now you've gotten a little too close to their operation. I can't ask you to do any more. I almost have my team together—I will be able to send them down within the week."

"We can go home?"

"I think you've more than earned it. Besides, I can't stand the thought of putting you in danger."

"I've been in danger before."

"This is different. I put you there. And it's different after…everything that happened to you. I don't want the possibility of you going through something like that again. You've gone beyond the mission parameters; I can't reasonably ask any more of you. You are an unofficial agent, anyway; I can decide when you can leave and when you can't."

"I can't argue with that. It's been fun—part of it anyway. But I'm ready to go home."

"I don't blame you, Jason. Thanks for all that you've done."

"What about Jamila?"

"She's an essential witness. I'll send someone to take care of her and her family."

"How soon can they arrive?"

"Tomorrow at the earliest—they'll have to hop on a flight right away."

"In case something happens before that—I'll need some way to contact you."

"Yes—we weren't expecting it to escalate into a direct threat to you. I'd better give you a contact number. Here's a secure one." She gave him a number to call, and then she hung up.

Jason longed to be with Connie, but he had to stay at the hospital for now. He at least needed to let her know what had happened, that he was okay, and that they were going home soon.

"Connie?"

"Jason! Are you okay?"

"More or less."

"What does that mean?"

"I—" He dreaded telling her this. Smashing any illusion of safety they had. "I was shot."

"What!"

"At the meeting. Someone found out about it."

"Jason—this is what I was afraid would happen."

"I thought this mission would be a safe one. Tasha did too…but no mission is really safe, if you're dealing with terrorists. I tricked myself into believing that this one could be. Maybe partly because I forgot what it was like to be an agent. I certainly wasn't prepared to be one again. Another reason to get out now."

"So, we're going?"

"As soon as we can get a flight."

"You can come back to the hotel, right? Or should I come to the hospital?"

"No—don't come. The terrorists could return—just stay as far away from this as you can."

"But—I need you. I need to see you right now, Jason. When are you coming back?"

"I can't yet—not until I know Jamila's okay. She risked her life to get me the information—I can't just leave her."

"She was shot too?"

"A lot worse than I was. It just grazed my shoulder.

"I'll be there as soon as I can. Then we'll go home."

"I've liked it—the waterfalls, staying at this hotel. But now—I can't go home fast enough. Back in Odyssey, where it's safe."

"We won't have to end our honeymoon, either. We can celebrate at home too."

"I never want it to stop."

"As long as we love each other, it won't."

"Well, that'll be forever, then. Oh, Jason—please—don't stay out any longer than you have to."

"I won't. I just…can't leave yet."

"I understand. I…had a feeling that something was wrong, you know. And now you're shot—and I can't be with you."

"You are always with me. You're a part of my heart."

"You're a part of mine. That's why…it hurts so much when you're gone, especially when you're hurt too."

"Didn't know what you were getting into when you got mixed up with me, did you?"

"I wouldn't trade it for anything, Jason. The pain and the joy—it's all more than I could ever want, and I never could have imagined something so glorious. You—being with you—is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. I love being a part of your heart—and I'm never going to regret one minute of being yours."

A tear streaked down his cheek. "I love you, Connie," he said. "I just wish…there was a way to stay here, and be with you at the same time. The only thing I don't like about being with you is any pain I cause you. That's not worth it."

"I'll probably give you some trouble of my own one of these days."

"I doubt it. You're perfect, my love."

She gave a small laugh. "Far from perfect."

"That's all I see when I look at you. The most beautiful thing in all Creation. Everything else fades away in your presence."

"You're not bad yourself. But seriously—you're the most beautiful man I've ever seen."

"I don't know if I'd use that term."

She laughed again. "You know what I mean. It's not just your looks—your soul shines through."

"I can't imagine that you'd give me near the amount of trouble that I've already given you."

"It's worth it. You don't have to worry about me. I'm here for you, no matter what."

"I just wish I could be there for you! And just forget all about this."

"We will soon. Just—be safe, Jason."

"I don't want to risk the possibility of not getting back to you. We need to get some plane tickets and get home."

"I'll look online for some."

"I wish I could kiss you right now."

"I'd kiss your shoulder, to make it better."

"It'd probably do more than anything a doctor can."

The nurse at the desk called, "Jason Whittaker!"

"That's my cue," he said. "I need to get my shoulder looked at."

"Okay."

"I want to keep talking to you as long as I can."

"Me too. But it wouldn't be practical."

"I guess not. Bye, Connie. I love you."

"Love you too." He turned off the phone; his shoulder already felt a little better.

He went back into a small examination room and waited about twenty more minutes for the doctor. He was tempted to call Connie again, but he didn't want to give her any undue distress, and the faster he got this done with, the faster he could be back with her.

The doctor examined his shoulder, put some stinging disinfectant on it, and bandaged it up. He looked curiously at Jason's other scars, on his shoulder and just visible beneath his torn shirt, but only asked about them once, and when Jason declined to reply, he left the matter alone. Then Jason went back out and read a magazine while he waited.

Finally, at about 10:00, the nurse called him to the front desk. She told him that Jamila was out of surgery. "She's conscious," said the nurse. "She's still in serious condition, but we have gotten the bleeding under control. She is asking for you. We think she's stable enough that you can talk to her, at least for a few minutes."

He followed the nurse through hallways back to Jamila's room. A heart monitor beeped beside her bed. Her face was etched with pain, but she looked up when Jason came in.

He sat down in the chair beside her bed.

"Jason—" she said. "They tell me if I'd been left out there just a little longer, I…wouldn't be here."

"I couldn't just leave you."

"You were shot!"

He shrugged; pain shot through his shoulder. "It's nothing. Nothing compared to yours. How do you feel?"

"It hurts…but it would hurt a lot more without the medicine. It was Yousef, I know it. He must've already been back, and watching me…Ester. He might go after her if he can't get to me. I know him. He'll think he owns her….And my father. He and my brothers will protect her, but…Yousef is capable of anything."

"Do you want to talk to them, see if they're okay?"

"You wouldn't mind?"

He shook his head.

She told him her father's number. Jason dialed it for her. The phone rang, and rang. Finally it went to voicemail.

"He didn't answer," said Jason. "Should I leave a message?"

She shook her head. "Just call my brother."

He dialed Ali Karam, her brother. No answer either. He handed her the phone so she could leave a message.

"I hope everything's all right," said Jamila when she finished. "I need to talk to Ester."

"I could…I could go over to the restaurant, see if everything's okay."

"I couldn't ask you to do that!"

"I'd just check in—and if it seemed there was trouble, I'd call the police."

"Your arm's injured."

"I've had worse."

"Thank you." She reached out a hand. Grasped his, pressed it softly. "My little Ester…please, let her be all right…." She laid her head back, exhausted.

Jason rose and slipped out the door.

Out of the hospital, he left the bullet-ridden car in the parking lot, and walked a few blocks to a car rental. He didn't want to get a taxi driver mixed up in this. Then he drove, pangs shooting through his shoulder every time he turned a corner.

He stopped in front of the restaurant. It was dark, closed down for the night. Didn't look like there was any reason to call the police. Only—

Movement. Someone was moving inside—weaving rapidly around white-clothed tables—A burst of red fire. A bang. Two men—no, three. One of them carrying something in a bundle, all of them with large guns—

The front door burst open and the men ran out, piled into the car two spaces ahead of Jason's.

In the arms of one, a little girl's head peeked out, dark eyes wide and frightened.

Ester.

Their car rumbled to life.

Should I go after them? How can I? They'll find out about me and—

No. I have to find out where they take her, and call the police. If I let them go, they could be gone forever.

As soon as their car moved out on the street, he started his, and followed them.

Chapter 18: Chapter 18

Jason wove his car through the streets, careful not to bring attention to himself. He kept the terrorists' car just visible ahead of him.

Should I even be doing this? he wondered. I need to get back to Connie and get out of this country-not get even more involved.

But Ester's frightened little face drew him forward—nothing in his heart would let him slow down.

I'm sorry, Connie, he thought. But he was sure she'd understand he had no choice where a little girl's safety was concerned.

Something shot through his mind—the impression of children, a beautiful future—what he could have with Connie. He felt a deep longing, not just for children of his own, but to be with them—his and Connie's—and already felt a deep love for them, even though they were yet unborn—

That is why I cannot abandon her, he thought. Her mother needs her, loves her with all her heart—like I love my own.

The terrorists' car turned out onto the highway, toward the outskirts of town. Jason's heart leaped. They were getting farther out—and soon, they'd be away from any kind of help—

Jason needed to call the police now—which would be difficult while trying to keep the terrorists in sight, with an injured arm.

He dialed one of his old contacts in the police force; because Jason knew him, he could cut through any preliminaries and get straight to the point.

"Manuel? This is Jason."

"Who? I don't—" His voice trailed off. "Oh! That Jason. It's been a long time. What are you up to these days?"

"I'm following some terrorists—at least, I believe that's what they are. They've kidnapped a little girl."

"Terrorists? Where are you?"

"Just passed Lago Acaray, out toward Hernandarias. Not far from the dam. As soon as they stop, I'll tell you where they are, and you can send someone out here."

"Without concrete proof, it might be hard to convince anyone we need to act."

"If you go to the Restaurante Karam, the owner will tell you what happened. And there may be injured there."

"I will check it out. Get back to me as soon as you find out something."

The phone clicked off.

Ahead, the car had disappeared. Jason panicked—then saw it zooming to the right, taking an off-ramp. He swerved to follow it, almost screeching into another car, and it honked at him.

So much for subtle. He hoped they were too far ahead to notice it.

They took the road to the wildlife refuge, then veered off onto a narrow dirt road, its entrance nearly obscured by bushes. Jason turned his lights off, driving deep into thick trees that obscured the sky, so dark he could barely see the road. The taillights disappeared in a tangle of shadowy branches.

The car bumped over ruts, jarring his injured shoulder. Pinpoints of lights glimmered ahead. He slowed; lights illuminated a clearing, spreading out to a small valley. Ahead, the terrorists were jumping out of their car. Jason didn't see a sign of the little girl. He hoped she was all right—he couldn't imagine how scared she must be. He wished he could charge in there and get her, but getting captured would help neither of them.

He knew where they were now, anyway. As much as he hated to leave the little girl, it was time to call the police and get out.

He backed his car up a little further into the trees. Come to think of it, he wasn't sure if he could turn around without going into the clearing. He might have to back up all the way down the dirt road.

He dialed Manuel. "Hello," he said. "I've found it. It's off of the road that leads to the wildlife refuge."

"It's not easy to see, I take it?"

"No, you could easily miss it."

"I've got a good eye. But just in case, why don't you hide on the side of the road, and when we get there, you can come out, show us the way, and we'll storm the place."

"Just—make sure that the little girl is safe."

"Of course. She's our priority."

"Thank you."

"Don't mention it."

Jason tucked the phone back into his pocket, and shifted the car into reverse.

Just then, something tapped against his window. The butt of a rifle, a man holding it. More men converged on him.

He froze, unable to think.

Then, he realized that if he didn't do something, he'd be captured.

I'll die first, he thought.

He floored the accelerator, backing up at 40 miles an hour. Bullets pierced his windshield.

He had to slow around the curve. The car jerked and swerved—a bullet must've hit the front tire. He kept his foot on the pedal but the car slowed, bumping to a crawl.

I won't get anywhere like this, he thought.

He opened the door. Leaped out into the dark tangle of forest.

He ran toward the main road. Rough bark of vines scraped his arms, crashing into his injured shoulder. But he ignored it. It was nothing compared to what they'd do if they captured him.

Dark shapes sped past. A thin sliver of moon peeked between the branches.

The trees thickened, overgrown with brambles. He grabbed them, pushing through them so that they pricked through his jeans, slashing his arms and hands.

There. Ahead. A soft gleam on pavement.

He ran forward, dodging trees.

A log caught his foot. He fell headlong onto the leaves and branches and dirt.

The wind knocked out of him, he struggled to his feet. Barely able to catch his breath, he ran the last ten yards to the road. No sign of the terrorists.

He crouched beside the side of the road, waiting in the bushes like Manuel had instructed, hoping the terrorists wouldn't get to him first.

A few minutes later, headlights lanced down the road. Soon, the markings of a police car became visible. It had to be Manuel—though he'd have thought he'd have brought backup with him.

Jason ran out of the trees; the police car slowed at the edge of the road. Sure enough, it was Manuel. Gray in his hair, but the same sharp gleam in his eye, as if he were constantly thinking over a conundrum. He leaned out the window. "Jason! Are you all right?"

"Lost the rental car back there, but I'm fine."

He looked Jason up and down. "If you say so. Where's the entrance?"

"Just a little ways down. They're after me—we'd better get out of here."

"I suppose we'd better. Get in."

Jason slid into the passenger's seat. Just being in a police car made him feel more secure.

"I've messed up your operation now," said Jason, as the car pulled forward.

"Oh, I wouldn't say that."

"They might even pull out of this encampment, and take Ester with them."

Manuel glanced at him. "That would be a problem."

"If you send someone in now, it might not be too late."

"Now that I've thought about it, it's a little out of our league. It's more a matter for the army."

"Have you called them?"

The police car sped out onto the highway. Back toward the city, a halo of light glowing against the blackness.

"Not yet. But now that I know where it is, I can call them, tell them its location."

"We can't leave little Ester to get caught in the crossfire."

"There's not much I can do; it's out of my control."

The car sped off of the highway to a back street, along the Parana Country Club; soon they'd be near Casablanca Hotel, where Connie was waiting for him.

"How did you know we're—?" said Jason. He stopped. The car pulled up to the curb. A huge mansion loomed over the landscape. Illuminated by lights, palm trees decorating its walled estate.

"How did I know what?"

"Why are we stopping here?"

"I've got a quick errand to run." Manuel drove up to the front gate. Security personnel sat in booths on either side.

"Whose place is this?"

"You'll see."

A strange feeling crept over him. Something wasn't right here. "I think it's time I leave," said Jason. It's just a few blocks to our hotel, anyway, he thought. He reached for the door. It was locked.

He tried to unlock it—but as he did, a pistol swung toward his face, its muzzle a few inches from Jason's head. "I wouldn't do that if I were you."

"Why-?"

"I'm not the person you knew, Jason. There's so much more to gain than being a cop who refused to be corrupted. Those ideals were the dreams of a naïve rookie." He turned to face the security guard in the booth, keeping the gun trained on Jason. "I'm here to deliver the package."

"Very good, sir."

Jason took his chance while Manuel's attention was focused elsewhere, and grabbed for Manuel's wrist.

Manuel twisted, his wrist slipping out of Jason's grip. Jason punched him in the ribs, and grabbed the gun, the smooth surface familiar beneath his fingers.

He unlocked the door, yanked it open, stepped out—

Only to find two rifles aimed at him.

"Don't move," said the guard on the left.

Maybe I should shoot at them, he thought, take my chances—

But then, that would be committing suicide, and I don't want to do that to Connie. Any amount of hope left—I'll take it.

His heart sinking, he surrendered his gun. Knelt on the pavement, hands above his head, and Manuel clicked handcuffs around his wrists.

Then, the guards yanked him to his feet and shoved him toward the gate. Jason walked toward the mansion, consumed with dread at what lay in store for him inside.

Chapter 19: Chapter 19

Marble floors. Gold engravings lining the doorposts. A crystal chandelier, shimmering with iridescent sparkles. A grand spiral staircase, with a delicately carved railing of dark wood.

He was still reeling from the shock of being captured. If he'd been captured by the terrorists, he'd expect torture. But here, he hardly knew what to expect. Why had Manuel brought him here? Who had ordered it?

He had a feeling he already knew….

The enormous doors opened. A man breezed through.

"Hello," he said in English, striding up to Jason. "Welcome." He gestured to the guard on his left. "Please, take the handcuffs off. We don't need them here."

The guard unlocked the handcuffs, and Jason brought his arms forward, his shoulder stiff.

The man held out a hand. "I'm Khalid Ramon. You can call me Ramon. Most people do."

Jason didn't grasp the man's hand. He wasn't about to trust someone who had kidnapped him.

Ramon laughed. He was a handsome young man, no more than thirty-three, with dark hair, expressive, deep brown eyes, and golden-brown skin. He wore a silver-toned suit without a tie, tailored to a T.

"I don't blame you for not trusting me. Manuel can get a little carried away at times—but he's a good man. Very loyal. There was really no need for such measures; I believe you would have come on your own volition if asked. But now that you are here, I hope you can join me on the veranda for some refreshments."

"Why am I here?"

Ramon waved a hand. "We'll get to that. Come with me, if you would."

"What if I don't?"

"You will miss out on some of the best food and drink this side of the Parana, and I dare say some of the best conversation." A smile tugged his mouth sideways. He laid a hand on Jason's shoulder.

Ramon guided him down the hallway, guards following them, past opulent rooms decorated with gold and mahogany and crystal. Jason had never seen a place so rich, and he'd been inside palaces of fallen dictators and kings. It was strange being here—the refinement of the place a sharp contrast to the wildness of the jungle, Ramon's personable manner contrasting with the violence of the terrorists. He wished he'd been able to rescue little Ester somehow—and that he could get word to Tasha that he'd found the terrorists' camp….

Jason would just take this one step at a time, looking for any opportunities to escape. Ramon seemed amiable enough, but if rumors were true, he was ruthless. And if he knew that Jason had been investigating him, which was probably the reason he'd had him brought here….

He didn't want to think about what lay beneath Ramon's welcoming demeanor. And didn't want to think of how close, and yet far away, he was from Connie. She'd be wondering where he was by now, wondering why he hadn't checked in yet….

So close, he'd been. So close to the end of the mission—and now—He could have not taken those risks. Not met with Jamila. Not gone to rescue Ester. But the only guarantee of staying out of danger would be to avoid the mission altogether. He could have married Connie without coming here at all, and they could have been in Odyssey, and he could have been lying in her arms right now—

The French doors opened onto the veranda. It was broad, brick, with a white railing. A large estate spread out beneath them, gently rolling hills gleaming softly in the dark, rimmed by a dark fringe of trees.

There were two chairs around a table, laid out with plates of hors d'oeuvres. A tiered tray sat in the middle, filled with cookies and cream puffs and little cakes.

Ramon gestured to a chair. "Please, sit."

I could refuse, thought Jason. And the hors d'oeuvres could be poisoned. I'll see if he eats them.

Jason stayed standing for a moment to show that he would do nothing not of his own volition. He wasn't going to make this easy, whatever they wanted from him. He sat down slowly, leaning back, not giving Ramon the satisfaction of eye contact. He looked out over the estate, then picked up a little sandwich, fiddling with it, not lifting it to his mouth.

"So, Jason, is it?"

Jason nodded.

"I make it my business to know everything that goes on in this town. I'm a businessman—and the best don't let any detail slip past them."

"I take it you're the best."

Ramon smiled. "I like to think I have a pretty good grasp of the Tri-Border area."

"So nothing gets past you. Not even more…shady dealings."

Ramon gave a short laugh. "Well, we are a border town. It would be impossible for my business not to touch a little lawlessness."

"What about terrorism?"

"What about it?"

"Do you know about the camp northwest of here?"

"Ah. Terrorism is one thing I try to know as little about as I can. It can be profitable….But it can also be messy. I cannot be connected with terrorists….Because, you see, most people here may look the other way when it comes to commercial criminal dealings. But terrorists are not very popular. We don't want them in our backyard. And then there's the problem of international scrutiny. If the terrorists take a US target, for example, the US will start sending its agents down here to collect intelligence." He sent a pointed look toward Jason.

"Then you are not affiliated in any way with terrorists."

Ramon shrugged. "Things down here are interconnected. You never know when your dealings will touch another's, especially with someone as well-connected as I am."

"If you didn't let on….you could still profit from selling them weapons, as long as you kept it secret."

"I could. Theoretically." Ramon gestured to the tiered tray. "Help yourself, if you'd like."

"I'm not very hungry."

"Perhaps you are worried about poison." He took a dessert from the tray. "Your choice. But you are missing out. My cook is unparalleled."

Jason was actually quite hungry, now that he thought about it; he hadn't had any supper, since he'd been planning to go out with Connie. But to eat what Ramon offered would to acknowledge that he was here legitimately. He could pretend…but that could only go on for so long.

"So what brings you down to our beautiful region? Business or pleasure?"

Jason didn't answer.

"Manuel said that you are an NSA agent."

Jason shook his head.

"A former one, then. So, since you were here before, you wanted to visit again? See the natural wonders around you, the bustling city life. But then, what were you doing in a terrorist camp?"

"I was helping someone."

"So you were using your skills as a former agent to help out a friend. Commendable. You are a man of honor, then."

"I try to do what's right." And don't always succeed, he thought….even with the best intentions. At least I'm not in the labyrinth anymore….I'm kind of in limbo. No—I have Connie—she's all I need. And I have been doing this mission—with mixed success. Still, there is something that's missing—somehow I feel it now more than ever. And this is definitely not where I want to be, though I'd rather be here than captured by the terrorists—so far, anyway.

"I try to do what's right as well. To a certain extent. But to get where I am, I have had to be…pragmatic. For example, to build the Sirena Center, I had to bulldoze a burial ground. Of course, I let archaeologists excavate the bones and artifacts first."

"You have probably had to compromise a lot to get where you are."

"It's true, I have probably had to compromise more than most to get to my position. Not just my values, not just disrupting others' lives, but legitimate personal sacrifices. It hasn't been easy to get here." He spread his arm, indicating the veranda, the estate.

"So does your position now justify what you've had to do?"

"Oh, I'd say that it has. It pretty much has to. If this was not worth it all, there would be no point. I love my life now; my sacrifices have made it that much sweeter. The fact that I could lose it— after all I've done to gain it—makes me love it all the more. If I lost it, my sacrifices would be for nothing."

"But to constantly fear losing it—I wouldn't want to live like that."

"Fear is a part of life. Managed correctly, it keeps you moving forward, never complacent, seizing life, tasting its spice. Sitting still means going backwards. Becoming stagnant would be a deathblow, both to me personally, and to my business. I can't afford it."

"I also don't like a life that's too…calm." I haven't minded it for a while, until recently —perhaps that's part of what I felt that's missing. I wanted the danger—but to have it means the fear, the terror—something I can never get over enough to face real danger again, without falling apart.

Ramon smiled. "I can see how someone who was an agent would not be the type to totally settle down. That is why you came here, is it not? For the adventure of it."

Jason nodded. He didn't want to reveal the other reason—marrying Connie. He had to keep her out of it. He was thankful that, except for the first meeting with Juan and the stakeout, he and Connie had stayed separate in public. Ramon seemed to know a lot—but hopefully he hadn't a clue that Jason had brought his new wife down here as well.

"Where have you been so far?"

"Iguazu Falls."

"Beautiful. Although it's not on our soil, so it technically doesn't even belong to us. We just appropriate it, because we need something spectacular to call our own. Our Monday falls is amazing too. Anywhere else?"

"Mostly around the city. The parks, restaurants..."

"My store, Sirena, has something for everyone. Have you been there?"

"Not yet."

"There are products I can recommend. Perhaps I will give you a discount. Do you have a significant other to buy a gift for?"

The one thing that Jason would never reveal—that Connie was here with him. He looked into the distance. Wishing he was sharing a table with her, and they were having a normal conversation….That somehow he'd declined Tasha's offer and instead taken Connie here on his own, no strings attached—no Agency to shadow him at every turn, even now….There were lives at stake, yes. But it didn't always have to be him, rushing to the rescue. He could have let someone else take the case. He was retired. If he ever got out of this, it would be for good.

"No one in particular, then? What about family? They are all north of the border?"

"I'm down here on my own." Jason looked at Ramon directly.

"But you have friends here. The one you were helping out, for instance. And I believe you spoke with one of my affiliates, Marcos."

"He's with you?"

"Everyone's with me. Manuel told me about the last time you were here. It was quite an adventure you and he had. And now, you have come back to reminisce about old times. Perhaps take down some terrorists together.

"If I were you, I'd harbor no ill will toward Manuel. He simply gets overzealous at times, as you probably know. He says he has no ideals—but he does. He believes in me. And the money I provide him, of course. I'm very generous with my friends.

"You would have probably come without the coercion, but I told Manuel to bring you to me, and he took the initiative. I do not like to be rough on my guests, unless I have to be. You and I could become friends. We could benefit mutually. Anything you could want, I could provide." Ramon took a cream puff, and bit into it.

"And I would come to work for you?"

"If you'd like. I have other Americans working for me, including another former agent. But if you'd like to head back to the US, that's fine too. I'd only ask that you not take any detrimental information with you."

"Such as?"

"Anything that could connect me to wrongdoing of any sort, true or not. I can survive a lot, but there are certain rumors my image will not weather. I'd also ask that you give me any names of those who know the same information you do."

"I don't really know anything."

"You have been asking questions. Marcos admitted as much when I spoke to him, although he had no idea that I'd even asked anything. If your mission is me, I'm flattered—I'd just like to be let in on it." He leaned forward, resting his arm on the table.

"It's the terrorists I'm interested in." Technically, that was true. Ramon was just the name that had sparked the whole operation.

"Ah. Well, then. I should let you get back to your investigation. As soon as you tell me about what you have found on your mission here. And who else knows the information you do."

"You said you want to know as little about the terrorists as possible."

"That's true. But it seems they have become my concern. I want to make sure no one can tie me to them."

"Are you tied to them?"

"If I were, it would only be by the most tenuous of connections. I cannot have rumors leaking out. And I am prepared to pay well to keep my image intact."

He withdrew his wallet, opened it. A ruffle of hundred-dollar American bills spilled out onto the table, scattered by wind across the little sandwiches and crackers laden with caviar. Ramon picked up a handful of it, smoothed it out, and held it out to Jason.

"I can't take it."

"One friend to another."

"You would want something in return."

"A friend, of course, would feel a need to reciprocate a generous gift. By something of equal or greater value."

"Information, then."

"Your complete cooperation. This is just the tip of the iceberg." He rubbed the bills, making them rustle.

Looking at all that money made Jason's stomach turn. To be offered a bribe…to be considered able to take it—

"I'm sorry. I can't."

"Then I'll have to resort to something less pleasant to the both of us. I have to say, I've been enjoying our conversation." He spoke into his phone. "You can come up now. I've got a new project for you."

Jason's chest tightened, his heart thudding hard against it. He'd been able to keep the fear down as long as the civilized façade kept going, but now that the mask was about to come off….

A few minutes later, the French doors opened onto the veranda. A man strode through.

Blond—tall—his eyes caught Jason's.

Gray.

Of course. The enforcer.

Gray's face blanched with shock. Jason registered this somehow, beneath his own shock of being face-to-face with Gray again.

"Is something wrong, Dominic?" asked Ramon. "Do you know this man?"

Gray cleared his throat, seemed to recover somewhat. "No. I thought I did, but it's not the same man."

"Then you're okay with this?"

"Of course."

Gray stepped forward, grabbed Jason's arm. Jason yanked it away, and stepped back toward the balcony.

"Fighting will only make it harder," said Ramon, sitting back, a slight smile on his face as if he were watching a movie.

Jason looked over the edge. Two stories. He could jump—and break his leg, as Connie had….Swinging over the balcony, however, and dropping would give him a chance—

A thought sparked across his mind: If only it were higher. Then there would be no chance of survival to be dragged back and tortured….But I can't leave Connie. Not yet. Even if it means…He swallowed, banishing vivid images of agony. He sprang for the railing—but just as his hand touched cold marble, two guards grabbed for him. One punched his injured arm, sending pain shooting through it. He collapsed to his knees.

Gray came toward him with a needle. Jabbed him in the arm with it. Before consciousness faded, Jason thought he caught a hint of apology in Gray's eyes….then, all thought disappeared beneath a surge of darkness.

_________________
Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 9:40 am 
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Location: In the Village
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Chapters 20-23

Chapter 20

He came to, strapped to a bed. The room was white, sterile; it smelled like disinfectant. Stainless steel cupboards lined the walls. Beside a counter, a man stood, his back to him, washing something in the sink.

Then he turned. It was Gray, a needle in his hand.

Jason tried to move, but the straps pressed against his arms and legs.

Gray looked down at him, head tipped slightly sideways. Then he lowered the needle to Jason's arm.

"Please—don't do this," said Jason.

Gray stopped, the needle poised above Jason's skin. "He'll find out if I don't, and those who betray him will—"

The door swung open. Gray jumped, dropping the needle on the floor.

Ramon strode in. "I've never known you to be a klutz, Dominic." He patted Gray on the back. Gray lifted the syringe from the floor, his hands trembling. Ramon raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps I'll do the honors." He took the syringe from Gray. Jabbed it into Jason's vein.

"Now you'll have a view of how this thing works. It doesn't hurt the subject—he won't even know what's happening till it's over. And the beauty of it is, it's from an obscure Guarani herb, so he can't have built up a tolerance."

Fog smeared the edge of Jason's vision. He fought against it—fought to stay clear. He couldn't give away any secrets...no…Tasha….Connie…. The world faded into a benign blankness.

Then, gradually, clarity returned. Along with sickness knotting his stomach.

"It does have some unpleasant side effects," said a faraway voice. Ramon…. "Get him off the bed. We don't want a mess."

Next thing Jason knew, he was throwing up over a drain in the floor, and someone was holding his head up—Gray.

Gray helped him back to the bed, half-dragging him. As he did, he whispered, "Before Ramon comes back, I want to know—why?"

"Why…what?"

"Why did you release me? In the prison, I kept wondering, but never came to an answer. How could you forgive what I did to you?"

"Love."

"Love—?"

"God's. Helped me….show love to you."

"Hm. I could never—" Gray lifted him up onto the bed. Jason lay back, sickness still in him, but dissipating. Mostly he felt weak and exhausted.

"What…happened?" he said when he could manage it.

"You told them everything."

He felt like he'd been punched in the stomach, and it had nothing to do with the sickness. "Everything?"

"The mission. What Ramon asked of you."

Part of Jason was relieved it had been so easy…and part of him was horrified. How much had he given up? Most importantly, had he told them of Connie? Had he betrayed her?

Gray lifted a straw to Jason's lips. "Drink this."

Jason sipped it. Cool water flooded over his tongue. He lay back, hoping this would all fade away….he brought up the image of Connie—her face, so beautiful—he reached out to touch her, but she faded into a million sparks of dying light. As he opened his eyes, to be in this place, so far from her, wrenched his heart with an unbearable ache.

The door opened, and Ramon walked in. "Now that we've gotten what we want from him, it's time we get rid of him. You know what that means."

"He doesn't know that much. Just that there was a leak somewhere—"

"And I'm glad I know about it. I can narrow it down to the one who was careless. But now that we've interrogated him, he knows too much. He'll keep digging, he won't rest—I've gauged his type. He's an honorable man, and an NSA agent—a unique combination. No, special treatment is the only option.

"You'd better get him prepped. I invited Marisa and Dorian over—they'll want to see this one personally, take special care with him, since he's higher-profile."

"Are you sure that's the best course of action?"

"Why wouldn't it be? I give all my liabilities to the Sterns, why would he be any different?"

"It's just that—"

Ramon stepped closer to Gray, a hint of danger in his eyes. "That what?"

"Nothing."

"Good. Have him ready in an hour."

Ramon turned and left.

"What is he going to do with me?" asked Jason.

Gray's eyes shadowed. "To get rid of enemies he's captured, Ramon sells them to the Sterns' human trafficking network. Once they sell you, it will be like you've disappeared into a black hole."

"He's going to sell me?"

"Yes, and then the Sterns will sell you, probably to a place with hard labor where you won't last two years. They have methods of training men to be obedient, of—breaking them. I've seen it with others I've brought in. They—" Gray turned away, looking sick.

It was strange to see him affected by brutality; the old Gray would have no sympathy for his victims. As Tasha had said, he seemed to be barely hanging on. Ironically, Jason's only ally here was Gray; he doubted Gray had changed enough to risk himself for Jason's sake.

Jason had to find some way to escape, or perhaps die in the attempt. To become a slave—he didn't even want to think about it, couldn't face the possibility. While there was life, there was hope—and he didn't want to leave Connie—but the best way would be to escape now. If he was…sold, he would have little hope of any kind, much less hope for escape.

I have to risk my life to get back to her.

Though he didn't know how he'd do it, still weak from the drug, bound, surrounded by guards—

But perhaps Gray could get word to the outside. He could call Tasha, once he was someplace secure.

"Gray," said Jason. "I know you're working with Tasha undercover. You can get word to her that I'm here."

"My phone is monitored."

"Mine is secure."

Gray looked down at him for a moment. Then he said, "I will try to get to it."

"Thank you."

"Meanwhile, I have to do my job. This won't be pleasant for you."

Gray strode to the door, limping slightly. He opened it, and welcomed two guards inside. They lifted Jason up off the bed. Jason tried steadying his legs—they wobbled, but he was able to stand.

"Get him cleaned up," said Gray.

The guards nodded, and guided Jason to the door. As he was walking out, his legs faltered and he fell toward the concrete—only to have the guards grab him by the arms, and drag him out.

They took him down the hallway to a huge bathroom. It was more the size of a living room than a bathroom, complete with chairs along the wall and a large hot-tub/bath/shower. Roses sat in a vase on the sink, and roses climbed up the wallpaper. Rose scent suffused the room.

They set him down on one of the chairs, and while one of the guards turned on the faucet of the bathtub, the other guard leaned down, tugging at Jason's shirt. Jason grasped the man's arm—but he shook it away easily. Jason felt so weak—he needed his strength back. But this was one thing he was not going to let them do to him if he could help it.

"Please," he said. "I can do this myself."

"About as well as you could walk?" said the guard.

"This isn't as hard."

"If you're sure." He looked at the other guard, who was standing by the door. "I'd rather not have to do babysitting. Or hospice care, whatever this is. The more he can do himself, the better."

The other guard shrugged.

The first one stepped back, and, grateful for this break at least, Jason slid off his shirt, his hands trembling.

Just that much made him exhausted. And he really didn't want to get "cleaned up" for Ramon's guests. But he wasn't in fighting condition yet. And he had to give Gray a chance to tell Tasha where he was…perhaps he was calling her even now…. He'd endure this until the first chance he got to escape.

He walked carefully over to the bathtub and stepped behind it, where the curtain concealed him. Tugged off the rest of his clothes, and lowered himself into the water.

It was hot—hotter than he was used to. But he didn't have the energy to draw some cold. He just lay there for a little while, trying to forget….

"Hurry it up," said the bearded guard. "You don't want me to help, do you?"

Jason picked up a bar of soap. Forced himself to lather his skin with it, and then wash it off, submerging beneath the water….

Murky with swirls of soap….warm…pleasant…it would be nice to just stay here….

A muffled voice. Jason shot above the waterline to see the bearded guard coming toward him. He stopped. "Just checking. You were under there a bit long."

"Sorry."

The other guard came back in, some folded clothes in his hands.

Jason took a towel, dried off behind the curtain, and put on the clothes. Both the shirt and pants were red silk. By this time, he was so exhausted he could barely stand. He wavered on his feet as he walked back toward the guards.

They took Jason's arms, dragging him down the hallway to a room that looked like a hotel suite, complete with its own bed and small living room. After setting Jason on the bed, they injected him with some clear liquid. Then they brought in some food, set it on a tray beside the bed, and left.

Whatever they'd given him made him feel better right away. He wondered if it would last….It was probably best to eat something, too. The food could be drugged, but what was in it couldn't be any worse than what they'd already given him. They wanted him to be presentable, after all.

He ate the chicken and vegetable soup, the lunchmeat and cheese sandwich, and the apple. Then he lay back on the bed, conserving his energy for whatever was to come….

He was just drifting off to sleep, Connie waiting for him beside a river, when the door creaked open and two guards walked in. Followed by Ramon, and two other people, a man and a woman.

"This is him, is it?" said the woman. She had short brown hair, sharp dark eyes. "Let's see him. Stand up, will you?"

Jason stayed sitting, partly because he was still half-asleep, and partly because he didn't want to act like a slave. He'd never let himself be one, even if worse came to worst—

She shook her head. "Get him up."

The guards came forward, and wrested him to his feet. The woman came forward, while the man waited in the background. She touched his face. "You weren't kidding when you said he's good looking. Better than most of what you've given me lately. I think my client will be very happy." She touched Jason's arm. "Good muscling—seems like he could do a fair bit of work.

"What else can you do?"

Jason declined to answer. She turned to Ramon. "He'll need breaking, that's for sure. Or at least, bending. My client likes a little defiance, so we don't want to sap the fire from him completely.

"I'd like to see a little more of him." She fingered the button on his shirt. Jason kicked out, hitting a guard in the leg. But the guard punched him in the face, and they both laid him over the bed, his arm bent behind his back. They pulled off the shirt, exposing his back.

"My, but he's scarred. What happened to him?"

Ramon stepped closer. "Only whips could make such marks."

"Good thing my client doesn't mind a bit of scarring." She pressed a cool finger to Jason's back. Heat spread across his skin, shame flooding him. Dear God, please—please don't let me head into this nightmare. You are with me….your rod and your staff, they comfort me….you prepare a table before me, in the presence of my enemies….

They turned him around, lifting him into a standing position. The woman—Marisa, Ramon had called her—touched the knife-scar on his shoulder. "He certainly is a map of scars…it's almost too much, although his physique makes up for it…." She turned to the man. "So, Dorian, what are you thinking? You can work with this?"

Dorian stepped forward. He was tall, thin, with brown hair, green eyes. "Oh, definitely. I already have some things in mind." He looked Jason up and down; he forced himself not to look away—to show defiance, even through the overwhelming shame of being examined like he was a piece of property—

Dorian touched near the wound on Jason's shoulder. "What happened here?"

"I believe it was terrorists who gave him that," said Ramon. "He is a former NSA agent after all."

"That's why we'll have to be careful to make sure he's disappeared. We'll have to fake his death."

"Maybe," said Marisa. "Then again, people disappear down here all the time. And his is a dangerous profession…." She looked up at Jason. "I think I'll try something." She lifted her hand to his face. He jerked his head away from her touch. She laughed—and grasped the back of his neck. Stood on tiptoes, and kissed him on the mouth. Her lips were soft, and cool, her movements almost mechanical—no passion, just testing him out as if he were an object—

No one was allowed to put their lips on his, except one.

He thrashed about, yanking against the arms that held him—his arm broke free—he threw a wild punch and hit a guard, who yelped—he punched the other guard, who let go of him—Jason ran for the door. For freedom.

Before he got there, a guard tackled him from behind, slamming him to the floor. The breath knocked out of him, he lay on the floor—but no—I have to run, can't let them take me—He struggled, trying to crawl out from under the guard, but the other guard kicked him in the side. They picked him up—one guard held him, while the other threw a punch toward his face, slamming white-hot pain across it.

Wham! Another punch crashed into his stomach. He doubled over—a fist swung toward him, this time hitting his injured shoulder. It felt like he'd been shot again—

"That's enough," said Marisa. "I think he's subdued, for now. But you see, Dor, how much of a challenge you'll have."

Dorian walked up, grasped Jason's chin. "He'll give me a run for my money. I'll have to leave a little spark in him because that's what the client wants. It's too bad there's not another like him; she did so want a pair."

"I think he's one of a kind," said Marisa. "That kiss—even though he didn't exactly respond—was quite good."

"I couldn't say the same in return," said Jason. Blood trickled down his chin—his lip must've been split, judging from its sting.

A cold smile touched her lips. "You don't really have a say in what you want. The ones that you've loved—your life before—it means nothing. Only how you please your owner. If you don't, you'll be punished. One thing's for sure, the more you disobey, the more…unpleasant life will be for you. I don't expect you to comply right away—that's not what we want, after all. But eventually, you will learn." She shared a glance with Dorian. For the first time, a smile tugged at his lips.

"All right, he's satisfactory," said Marisa. "Give him the money."

Dorian pulled out some cash from his wallet, and handed the bills to Ramon.

Just then, someone knocked on the door. "What is it?" said Ramon. "I'm in the middle of a transaction."

"It's just that—I've found a traitor in our midst."

"What?" Ramon stepped toward the door. Opened it.

A guard walked in, dragging a limp form.

"What happened?"

"I found him calling someone. With this man's confiscated phone."

Ramon lifted the man's face, revealing Gray, barely conscious. "I'll need an explanation. We'll take him to the interrogation room."

"Wait," said Marisa. "Let me see." She walked over to him, touched his face. "Hm. He's not bad looking either. Another agent type I'd guess."

"A double agent, it would seem."

"So you will want to get rid of him as well?"

"Yes, after I know all he knows."

"Good. I will take him."

"You'll have to wait a few hours."

"We've got time." She looked at Jason. "Looks like you'll have some company." They all swept out of the room, leaving Jason alone.

Through the pain throbbing across his face and stomach, he thought, Strange, how it came to be….we are on the same side, and now, we will be side by side in a living death.

In his mind, the open door to freedom, Connie on the other side, began to close—and he knelt, his forehead pressed on the bed, and wept.

Chapter 21: Chapter 21

Connie opened her eyes, meeting Jason's blue ones. She touched his cheek, delicately sliding her fingers down it. He leaned in closer—almost, not quite—touching her lips with his. Then he kissed her and she leaned into it, her hand grasping the back of his neck, pulling him closer.

A moment later, he pulled away, sorrow in his eyes. "I'm sorry," he said.

"For what?"

"For leaving you."

"What do you mean, leaving me?"

And then, he was gone, as if someone had blown him out like a candle.

She searched for him, but the dark room went further back into a tunnel, and she followed it into an endless black hole, calling for him—screaming for him—

She shot awake. Her heart pounding. Just a dream, she thought.

And then she looked at the bed beside her. Empty, still tucked in on the other side. He hadn't come home last night.

She'd been hoping to awake to his face….but the nightmare was real.

She climbed out of bed, and fumbled for her phone in her purse. Pulled it out, and called the police.

After waiting for half an hour, she got a policeman that spoke English, but he just brushed her off. She called again—and they'd made her run through hoops to finally get to a dead end. "No Jason Whittaker or person matching his description has contacted us," they said. "But we will keep any eye out for him."

"Of course you will," she said, and she slammed the phone down on the bed. It bounced off to clatter onto the floor. She hoped it wasn't broken but at the same time she hardly cared.

Jason was in trouble. She could feel it deep inside her heart, where he was a part of her. He was in danger, in pain. Someone needed to rescue him—and if it wouldn't be anyone else, it'd have to be her.

The problem was, she didn't know where to start. She could go to the police station, demand their help….

She picked up her purse, walked out the door without so much as glancing in the mirror, though she knew she must look terrible. She tried to smooth her hair out as she walked out of the hotel, down the street to get a taxi.

But then she remembered her phone. What if he called? She dashed back in, picked it up, and went out again. The sky was a delicate rose-pink and sunrays pierced the clouds. Her heart throbbed with an unbearable ache, wishing Jason was with her.

The phone rang. She picked it up, nearly dropping it. "Hello?"

"Hello," said a familiar voice. Tasha!

"I have something to tell you, about Jason."

Her heart dropped in her chest, knowing by Tasha's tone that the news was not good. "What is it?"

"He's been captured."

Pain struck her heart. The thing she'd been dreading—the thing he could not endure again—had happened. "By the terrorists?" She could barely get the words out.

"No—by Ramon."

"So—he's a businessman, right? Would he go through the law?" She grasped for any possibility of hope.

"Not if he knows he's a spy. He'll interrogate him—and then—"

"Then what?"

"People that Ramon catches…they…tend to disappear."

"We have to get him back!"

"I'm sending a team down now. They took an overnight flight—they should arrive soon."

"And they'll rescue him."

"They will try."

"Is there anything I can do?"

"It's probably best that you stay out of the way. He'd want you safe."

She knew she probably could do nothing to help. But she couldn't stand the thought of Jason being in there, alone, while she did nothing to save him. She would go up and demand his return, if she had to. And be captured with him, die if need be. To be apart from him…would be infinitely worse.


They dragged Gray into the room, laid him on the bed. He lay there, unmoving. Jason crept closer.

"Gray," he said.

No response. Blood seeped onto the covers, beneath his head and arm. Jason touched Gray's shoulder. Gray flinched, and turned his head away.

So he was awake. But he needed attention.

Jason walked into the bathroom and found a washrag, which he dampened with some water from the faucet. Then he asked Gray if he could sit up. Gray didn't respond.

"Would you let me help you?"

"Nn mm."

"What?"

Gray lifted his head slightly. "Doesn't matter."

Jason sat down beside Gray on the bed. Helped him into a sitting position, and gently pressed the washcloth to the wound, dabbing away the blood. "Here. Hold this against your head." He gave the cloth to Gray.

"I need to see where your other injury is." He reached toward the top of the gold-tan silk shirt.

Gray's hand shot up, grasping Jason's arm. "No."

"You've lost a lot of blood."

"It would be better that I die now than…be taken by them." A shudder trembled through Gray's body.

"There is always hope." Jason felt little of that hope—but he had to cling to it, and to transmit it to Gray.

"I can't take it. Not again. I've seen the things they do to slaves—" He swallowed.

As much as Jason knew about pain, it was nothing to the prolonged agony and terror that Gray had experienced in the secret prison. To go back into that—no wonder he had lost hope. Jason had only the slightest idea of what he was heading into—and didn't want to go any further; he'd had enough of a taste of it. It had taken him months to recover from the last time—and if…He didn't want to imagine it.

"Gray, we have to escape."

Gray looked at him, doubt in his light blue eyes. "I don't see how."

"We'll look for a way. But you have to keep as much strength as possible. To do that, I've got to see to your wound."

Gray sighed. "Very well." He lifted his shirt, showing a slash across his side. Jason pressed the cloth to it; Gray flinched, gasping a little through clenched teeth.

"Sorry," Jason said.

"I've had worse."

Jason's eyes fell to the scars winding their way across Gray's skin, and a twinge of sympathy ran through him. He made himself concentrate on the wound; it did look shallow, but blood was still welling up from it.

"What happened?" he asked.

"Ramon wasn't happy that I'd betrayed him."

"Ramon did this to you?" Jason rolled the covers back, and tore a long, broad strip of the sheet.

"He can be vindictive when he wants to be. I fooled him for a long time. He didn't like that." A smile twitched on Gray's lips.

Jason wrapped the strip of cloth around Gray's ribs twice, and then tied it tight enough that it would staunch the blood but not so tight it would hurt him.

"Thank you." Gray's brow furrowed. "I still don't see why you're helping me. After what I did to you. I…if it were me, I'd want revenge. Not—whatever this is."

"I did want revenge. But I realized that God would rather I show his love to you than to…hurt you."

"If there is a God—I don't see how he could love someone who has done the things I have done."

"He made you. We're all broken in one way or another. He loved you so much that he sent his son to die for you."

Gray nodded. "I've heard all this before. I don't know if I can believe in God. I don't know if I can feel enough, in the right way…. I do know one thing—when I was in the cell, your forgiveness was the one thing I could cling to. That there was something good, somewhere. I couldn't understand it—I still don't. But there might be something to your way of thinking after all, if not to your religion specifically."

"I'll pray for you. I have been, you know."

Gray smiled wryly. "Thanks."

They sat in silence for a few moments. Voices, footsteps walked through the hallway….and faded.

"You called Tasha, right?" asked Jason. "How much were you able to tell her?"

"Not much. They were monitoring the room where your confiscated items were held, apparently. I did tell Tasha you were captured—she'll assume it's by Ramon."

Hope sprang up in Jason's heart. "Then—maybe she'll get to us in time."

"Maybe."

More footsteps. Closer. The door swung open.

Men poured through, toward Jason and Gray. Several grasped Jason's arms. He struggled, but about four of them held him. They pressed him down over the bed, and yanked his arms behind his back. Cold bands snapped around his wrists. They pulled him to his feet, and forced him to walk, Gray beside him, among the throng of guards.

I've picked handcuff locks before, he thought. If I get a moment alone—

They marched him down the hallway. Then through a door to a huge storage room. The garage-like door slid open, sending bright morning sunlight flooding inside. Jason, blinded for a moment, walked out into the humid warmth of a Paraguay summer morning.

A truck waited, idling. Marisa and Dorian waited beside it. Marisa smiled. "Ah, here they are. I'm excited to see Selena's reaction when she sees them." She slid her finger along Gray's jawline. Gray looked up, fire in his eyes.

They pulled Jason forward.

A chill spread through him. If that truck swallowed him, he'd never get out. He'd never see Connie again.

No. He couldn't let them.

He yanked against their vice grip—but they held him firm. Dragged Gray up, into the truck, snapping his handcuffs to a ring along the side—

Jason struggled, kicking—he yelled, pulling with all his strength—one arm broke free, but then he stumbled, and they kicked him to the ground, pressing their boots to his back, his face grinding into the pavement.

"My, but this one's got spirit. Get him up." Strong hands pulled him up, scraping his stomach on the edge of the truck. They pulled his arms above his head, and locked his handcuffs to a ring. Then, the door clanged shut.

Darkness devoured him.

A moment later, small cracks of light became visible, in the back doors, and cracks between the front windows to the cab. Muffled voices from outside. Then, the truck jerked forward, and rumbled out onto the road.

Chapter 22: Chapter 22

I have to escape, Jason thought, the handcuffs biting into his wrists.I can't let fear overtake me, or I will be lost to this.

"Gray—"

"Mm?"

"See if you can work your handcuffs loose."

"It won't work."

"Just try."

He pulled at the chain, hoping it had a weak point. Knowing at the same time it was unlikely. But the alternative was unthinkable.

The truck sped onto the highway. Jason struggled with the handcuffs, ignoring the pain. He resorted to yanking on them with all his strength, pulling against the ring on the wall. The truck swerved, and Jason lost his balance, falling onto his side, hanging from his wrists. The truck slowed, bouncing onto a road that sounded like it was made of gravel, land-mined with ruts. He sat back against the wall, blood trickling down his arm.

Horrific images assaulted his mind. Of being whipped—beaten—helpless. Bound, humiliated—forced to work, to do things he would never consent to—

Things far worse than what Gray had done to him.

No, he thought. That is not my future.

He leaned back, touching the wall, feeling along it to see if there was any loose piece—Aha! Part of it had rusted, leaving a sharp edge—Jason grasped the edge, working it back and forth, until it snapped off. Holding it carefully, he turned it so the point pricked into the handcuff lock, his wrists nearly twisting off in the process. The truck jolted—the makeshift pick fell—Jason slapped his hands together, just managing to catch it between his palms. Then he worked it back up again, back and forth, hoping to hear a click…It was hard to do with the truck bumping so much, but he managed to hold on this time. His arms shook, and rings of fire smoldered around his wrists.

Click!

His heart leaped.

Freedom.

He yanked the handcuffs free, and they clanged against the side of the truck. Jason hoped the driver hadn't heard.

"You're free?" said Gray.

He'd forgotten about Gray in his elation. He took the lock pick, and found Gray's handcuffs. All the while hyper-aware that any moment they could stop, and he could lose his chance to escape.

The lock broke free, and Jason helped Gray to his feet. They walked to the back of the truck, just keeping balance as it jolted over ruts.

Jason grasped the handle at the bottom of the door. To his surprise, it sprang open, and rose, light flooding in, revealing a forest, a dirt road—and a white car following them.

I'll just have to take my chances, he thought. He looked at Gray, who nodded.

Jason jumped, throwing himself off the side, tucking himself into a roll that only partially succeeded. Gravel hit his head, scraping his cheek. A blur of weeds slashed at his face and arms and then he came to a stop. The sky, blue, above the trees….Something cold soaked the lower half of his legs.

His head throbbing, his vision wavering, he climbed onto his knees. A few feet away, Gray lay, also partly in the ditch. Jason crawled over to him. "Are you okay?"

Gray nodded. Pushed himself up onto his hands and knees. He gasped, his hand jerking to his side.

"You are hurt."

"It's just the same injury from before."

The car neared, gliding to a stop. Guards jumped out. Then, from the front, Marisa.

"We have to go, now!" Jason pulled Gray to his feet.

The guards aimed their rifles at them.

I will die before I go with them, he thought.

"Put them to sleep," said Marisa.

They were tranquilizer guns.

He would wake up in a cell….

He held out his hands, as if in surrender. Then, he leaped toward the nearest guard, and grabbed his rifle. Slammed it across the man's head. He collapsed to the gravel.

Jason swung the rifle around to face the other guard.

"What's wrong with you?" said Marisa. "Shoot him!"

Jason pulled the trigger first. The guard dropped to the ground.

Jason turned the rifle to Marisa.

"Go ahead," she said. "I called the truck, told them they'd lost some cargo. They're turning around and will be here momentarily."

Sure enough, the truck was in view, racing back toward them.

"We should hold her hostage," said Gray, walking up, and grabbing the rifle from the unconscious guard. "She doesn't have to be conscious for that." Gray aimed the rifle, and shot her in the chest with a dart.

They dragged her into the back seat. Jason turned the car around, and sped toward freedom.

The truck neared in the rear view mirror. Jason floored the accelerator—the car swerved, and spun on the loose gravel. It stopped, the front hanging over the edge of the ditch. The wheels spun, spitting gravel. The truck squealed to a stop behind them.

Jason leaped out of the car, knee-deep in water. Gray followed. Guards jumped out of the truck, aiming more rifles at them.

Jason ducked behind the car just as a dart zipped toward him, clanging off the car's door. Gray opened the door on the side opposite the truck, and dragged Marisa's limp form out. He snatched the pistol from her hip, and pressed it to her head. "I've got Marisa," he called out to the guards. "Let us go and we won't hurt her."

"Gray—" said Jason.

Gray shot him a disdainful look. "You want to escape, don't you?"

"She's defenseless."

"If they listen, I won't have to shoot." Gray dragged Marisa backwards, toward the forest. He dropped her as soon as they reached the trees, and they ran.

Guards crashed through the trees after them. Several times, darts nearly caught him, only to slam into a tree trunk as he plunged through the vines and thickets of brambles.

"I think we've lost them," Jason said, leaning against a huge tree trunk. His head stung from his fall, along with his wounded wrists and bruises.

Gray nodded, chest heaving, sweat glistening across his brow. The forest wavered with late-morning light.

Gray stepped forward. "No time to waste."

"You're right."

Jason caught sight of movement several yards away. Behind a tree—a rifle, aimed at Gray. Jason was shielded by the tree; he doubted the guard even knew he was there.

If Gray gets shot, thought Jason, I'll have a chance to escape. I'll come back and rescue him—

But then, I can't let him get recaptured, if there's anything I can do to stop it.

"Gray, watch out!"

Gray whirled around.

Jason jumped out from behind the tree. Tackled Gray, throwing him to the ground.

The dart caught Jason in the arm as he fell.

Static pulled at the edge of his vision.

Gray reached down for him.

"No," said Jason. "Run. Save…yourself, Gray."

And then, the cloud of static consumed him.

Chapter 23: Chapter 23

He woke, his wrists chained to the side of the truck. Two guards sat beside him. Marisa sat opposite, smiling rather vaguely. His head pounded with a headache that felt like a knife embedded in his temple.

"We won't take any chances this time," said Marisa, gesturing to the guards. "You gave us a run for our money—literally." She touched a hand to her forehead, a pained furrow between her eyes. "Those darts give a nasty headache. I have your friend to thank for that. And for losing us forty thousand. But we'll find him. And at least we have the other forty." She rose onto her knees. Shuffled over to him. "You are a magnificent creature. Well worth what we paid for, despite the trouble." She slid her fingers into his hair. "I almost wish I could keep you. Ah, well. That's not part of my business model. You're all transient, even the ones I like." She touched his cheek, running her hand down his scar. He pulled away, but he could barely move, his vision still blurred, thoughts slurring heavily through his mind. She touched his lips, tracing them with her fingers.

There was no way to escape. Exhaustion and sickness clutched him. Perhaps he should just pretend it wasn't happening….retreat somewhere into his mind…

Marisa knelt in front of him, caressing his face. Her fingers slowly mapped each feature and scar—she kissed his cheek, then went lower, along his jawline— pressed her lips to his neck—

Shock seized him.

By not resisting, he was betraying the one he loved.

He turned away, pulled against the handcuffs. They cut into him—he welcomed the pain. Anything but calm passivity.

Another might possess his body—nominally, at least—but the one he loved possessed him, body, heart, and soul.

Wham! A hand slammed across his cheek, sending waves of pain across it. "You don't have a say in what you like! You will sit still, and you will let me do anything to you that I want."

"You do not own me."

"I do, though." She looked at her watch. "Until about five o'clock today, when we'll hand you over to your new owner. She'll have her work cut out for her, that's for sure." She sat back against the side of the truck. "I don't have the time to wrest that wonderful defiance from you. Dorian will be staying with Selena, working with her to tame you. But I've got to keep up the business end of things. Dorian is very good. Men, women, children, it doesn't matter. By the end—you'll be a good worker, and do whatever Selena asks of you."

The truck jolted along, down the road….and Jason shut it all out, even the pain, as he brought up Connie's face… as she stood beside the waterfall, wind whipping her hair back, showered with a rainbow of mist—she laughed, and leaned against the railing, one foot lifted off the ground—

Connie, as she lay beside him, her green eyes soaking into his…the sun shining on her bare arm, a smile on her lips…

Her kisses against his scars…washing away the deep horror of them, dissolving the barbs that cut into his soul…only their love remained.

His heart ached with the distance between them but he knew that they would always be together—bound as one, even if they never touched again….

Muffled voices. The truck had stopped.

The guards unlocked his cuffs from the wall, and dragged him out into the sunlight. A metal shed stood in a small clearing, half covered with vines.

"Selena's people should be here any minute," said Marisa. She sat down on the back of the truck.

Jason stood there in the sunlight, half in a daze. His wrists burned. His head pounded, slowing his thoughts to a crawl.

There has to be a way…I can still escape…he thought. I have to do it before the others get here…

To be owned by someone else repulsed him like nothing ever had. It was hard to believe only yesterday he'd been investigating the terrorists…now he was here, about to be taken into slavery.

I could have kept hidden—let Gray get shot instead. I could be with Connie now…

Was it the right thing to do? How is it right to leave her, just when we are starting our lives together? We barely began—and now our future is taken away from us. She will be alone, and I will be…somewhere I would never choose to be.

But then, I have to believe it will work out for good… Doing the right thing does not always mean avoiding darkness. Sometimes it means going straight through it—and trusting God to be with me, even until the end.

I just wish that I could hear her voice one last time….my beautiful Connie. I love you….I love you so much…

And Dad, I'm so, so sorry…I won't be coming home….

The sound of a helicopter cut off his thoughts.

Marisa jumped off the tailgate. "I thought they'd be arriving in cars. Oh, well, Selena can do what she wants with her millions."

The helicopter neared, flying lower toward them.

A figure aimed a gun out the side.

"Let him go," said a voice through a megaphone.

"Get him inside! Now!" yelled Marisa. The guards grabbed Jason—but a shot sliced into the ground near their feet. Jason took his chances and ran toward the helicopter. He didn't know if the guards were aiming at him with dart guns, but he didn't care. He'd be caught in the crossfire if he had to.

More shots cut the air; the helicopter lowered toward him, the wind it manufactured nearly blowing him back. A man reached for him, grabbed his arm—he jumped inside, and the helicopter rose, up and up, leaving the traffickers behind, in chaos.

He lay back on the floor, shutting them out. Forever.

"Are you all right?" said the man beside him, holding a sniper rifle.

"I am now." He sat up against the side of the helicopter. "You're with Tasha, I take it?"

The man nodded. "Jesse Morgan, NSA. It's good to meet you, sir. I've heard stories."

"I bet you have."

Morgan knelt beside Jason, and worked at the handcuffs. He had them off in ten seconds. Jason brought his arms forward, relief flooding his tingling arms. "We'll need to get you medical attention," Morgan said. "Anything serious?"

Jason shook his head. "Just want to see my wife."

"I don't blame you, sir. We'll get you back as soon as possible."

Morgan cleaned his wounds as best he could in the helicopter, bandaging his damaged wrists and face.

And Jason sat back, exhausted—and desperate to see Connie. The helicopter seemed to take forever until it touched down.

It landed on top of the hospital. Morgan and his companion, a young agent named Asia, helped Jason gently out.

The door to the hospital opened—and a blue blur rushed toward him.

Connie.

She threw her arms around him, and they crushed together in an embrace.

He held her close, her cheek, damp with tears, pressed to his.

-[

A day later….

Jason sat on the plane, Connie by his side. She was looking out the window at the terrain below, rapidly disappearing beneath a swirl of clouds.

"I can't say I'm sorry to leave," she said softly.

"We had some good times there, you have to admit," he said, laying his hand over hers. She laced her fingers between his. The diamond of her ring pressed into his palm.

She looked at him, eyes full of pain she'd had to endure. "I know. I just wish it could have been cut off after that first night and day. It was so perfect…I wanted to catch it, like a bubble, but it popped….and—" She shook her head. "You were almost—I can't even think about it. It makes me—angry isn't a harsh enough word."

"Yesterday I thought I would never see you again, and now, we're going home."

"Home…." She leaned her head back. "It seems like forever….I need to be there. See everybody, know everything's normal again. One thing's for sure, I'm never letting you out of my sight."

"I'm not planning on going anywhere."

"You better not. We step out of Odyssey, and this is what happens."

"Gray came to Odyssey, though."

"But now, he's on our side. I still can't believe he actually helped you this time."

Gray had called Tasha, and told her about an outpost where he'd taken slaves once before. Now Tasha was taking him back to Washington for a trial. Getting the intel to stop the terrorists who were going to bomb the embassy would probably work in his favor.

Tasha's agents had attacked the terrorists, and rescued little Ester. They planned to go after Ramon, too, and investigate the traffickers, with help of the Paraguayan government.

"We don't really have any enemies left, right?" she asked, looking at him earnestly. He hated the fear in her eyes.

"Not that I can think of."

She sat back. "So we can get back to normal?"

He nodded. "Sort of. Nothing will ever be the same again. I…don't think I'll ever get rid of the fear. But I'm not going to let it control me, tell me how to live my life—or do the right thing."

"I don't want to think about any of it—not after what almost happened to you."

"I don't either. I just want to get down to business—getting our house in order, all that fun stuff."

"That does sound like fun."

"And then, maybe…"

"Maybe?"

He touched her cheek, tucked back her hair. "We can think about an addition."

"An addition?"

"To the family."

"Jason! Do you think we should? So soon?"

"Well, things do seem like they will be settling down. I'm not about to jump right into another adventure, if I can help it."

"I think…that's a wonderful idea." Her eyes sparkled.

"But first—" He put his hand behind her head, and drew her gently to him.

And pressed his lips to hers, giving her a slow, savoring kiss, blotting out the memories of the horrors of the past, looking forward to a bright new future, together.

_________________
Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:56 pm 
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Location: In the Village
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A New Life

Jason and Connie start their new life together. \:D/

But its beautiful beginning is ruined with darkness.

Chapter 1

Jason and Connie walked up to her house, hand in hand. "This is our house now," said Connie. "Not just mine anymore."

"I've never really had a home since I left Dad's—just places I lived. Apartments."

"It was fun coming over to yours. Watching movies, eating popcorn…."

"I could keep it. We could go over there for a night out or something. Like the old days."

She laughed. "I like the new days better." She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, and led him into the house. He was stepping into his new home with her for the first time. The home they could live in for the rest of their lives.

For some reason, the thought of being settled down didn't scare him. He didn't feel trapped into commitment with her—on the contrary, he felt like he was starting out on a new adventure, new wonders each day, getting to know her deeper, love her, care for her. She was the adventure now, and he wouldn't trade the life he was stepping into for anything else in the world.

"So, shall I give you a tour?" said Connie.

Jason nodded. Even the familiar house seemed new, now that it was his too. There were, of course, places he had never been—and places he'd just peeked into, like her bed room.

"You're not too tired?" he said.

"I slept on the flight. I'm a little too hyper now to settle down yet."

"It doesn't matter how long we sleep in in the morning, because we're still on our honeymoon. We can do whatever we want."

"We need that."

She swept through the house with him, showing him the living room in a mock-tour-guide voice.

Then she led him to the attic, where he'd never been before. He barely squeezed through the doorway into the dusty room filled with toy boxes and Christmas decorations. Christmas—another time he looked forward to sharing with her.

He crept forward, having to lean over because of the low slanted ceiling, the dim light from the murky window shining in. Connie turned on the light, but it hardly brightened the room much more than it already was. He knelt beside her.

"I found this when I was looking through Mom's things after she died." She took a key from on top of the box beside it, and twisted it in the lock. "See this?" she said, pointing to the paper taped beneath the lid. "It says, 'For Connie. When she has kids."

"We don't have any kids yet."

"We're going to soon, aren't we?" She looked at him, guarded excitement in her eyes.

"I hope so. I'm really looking forward to starting a family with you, Connie Kendall Whittaker."

"Me too! I can just imagine little Jasons running around."

"And Connies. How many do you want?"

"I don't know. Three always seemed perfect to me—but more would be okay too. Maybe I'll just see if I can handle one first."

"I wonder what a combination of you and me will look like."

"I can't wait to see our baby! Hold him in my arms."

"Him?"

She shrugged. "I kind of think of it as a boy already, don't ask why. I really don't care what it is though."

"He could have your nose."

"And your eyes."

"And your lips." He kissed her softly. "I can't wait to see him, hold him."

"I just had a crazy idea," she said. "What if it's twins?"

"Things would be pretty wild—but that would be fun, going from just the two of us, to four."

"It might not be so fun for me, with-you know."

"Oh, that's true. Maybe not then. I wish you didn't have to bear all the inconvenience and pain—if I could, I'd take some of it for you."

"Yeah, it really isn't fair, is it?" She smiled. "But you can help me in lots of ways. Like getting ice cream at two in the morning. Anyway, you've had enough pain for two lifetimes. It's my turn."

"Except we both bear the responsibility for bringing a child into the world—you just get the hardest part."

She shrugged. "That's what being a mom is like. Besides, I gave my mom my share of trouble. I deserve a little bit in return."

"I will try to bear my share of the burden of parenting."

She smiled a little sadly. "I don't really know what that's like—at least, not firsthand. My dad was barely at home when I was little, and then when they got a divorce….

"I know you won't leave me. You'll be an amazing father."

"I will try. I haven't always been the best role model in the past—but with kids around, it'll have to be different. I love you—and I already love them, even though they haven't been born yet."

She smiled, a tear in her eye. It slipped onto her cheek. "I love them too."

He brushed back her tear, and wrapped his arm around her. She leaned her head against his shoulder. He laid his hand gently over her stomach. "They could be here, right now."

She pressed her hand over his. "A baby," she said. "Wow, just thinking about it…it's amazing. Then again…we might not have one for a while. Or we might adopt, like Eugene and Katrina."

"Or it could even stay just the two of us…."

"That would be okay, too. I mean, you're enough for me. And we have a lot of kids in our lives as it is.

"But I do want kids. I always did, in the back of my mind. And I really want to see what our babies will look like. To watch them grow up together—for us to be parents together—I want that so much, Jason."

"He or she will probably be a mixture of both of us—but she'll be her own person, too. There's no way to know what she'll be like till she gets here."

She smiled. "Maybe it will be a girl. Do you have any ideas for names?"

"What about June?"

"Oh, Jason…." A tear sparkled in her eye. "After Mom…. Or that could be her middle name. I don't want to settle on anything too soon—It's only just our honeymoon after all….It seems like we've been married for a long time. I mean—you know what I mean."

He nodded. "Paraguay. Even that feels kind of distant for some reason. Probably because of the relief that nothing came of it. I got rescued before the worst could happen."

"I can't get over how I almost lost you."

"I would have never given up, though. I'd always try to find a way back to you. And even if I didn't—I wouldn't betray you. I'd always be yours no matter what they did."

"I would never stop looking for you, either, Jason. I'd risk my life and my freedom if I had to."

A twinge of fear tingled through him at the prospect. "I'm glad you didn't have to. God worked everything together."

"Do you think we should have gone there at all?"

"The part that was our honeymoon was perfect. And besides my mistakes—yes, I think God wanted us to go there. It's brought some closure in a way. I found out Gray is more receptive to God now, partly because of how I forgave him. I hope that he keeps seeking the truth."

"As much as I don't see how you could forgive him—I'm glad you did. I hope you never have to go through something like that again. If so, I'll do anything I can to stop it."

"But if God wants me to—"

"He has to know you need a break, at least."

"So we can start our family. We still have a honeymoon for the rest of the week. What do you want to do?"

"I don't know. Just take it as it comes, I guess. I'm getting tired now…."

"Want to go to bed?"

"Let me show you a couple of these pictures first." She brought out some of her old pictures from grade school, and he immersed in her past. He couldn't get enough of knowing more about her, who she'd been, and how it made her who she was.

After they were done, they walked down the attic stairs. It was about 11:00. Jason picked her up in his arms, and carried her to their room.

He laid her down on the bed. He had hardly been in her bed room before. It was decorated, Connie-style, without any of his things moved in yet. There wasn't much he needed to bring over anyway. Soon he'd go get boxes of some of his stuff at the apartment….sell the rest. Tomorrow or the next day….whenever he got around to it.

Exhaustion swept over him. But he still had to go downstairs and get his pajamas. He went downstairs and carried up both of their suitcases. By the time he got back upstairs, she was dressed in a silky blue nightgown, and was tucked in bed, propped up on the pillows.

She patted the bed beside her. "This is the first time you're sleeping in here with me."

For some reason, he still felt a little out of place here…it was her room, and he was a guest. It was different when they were at the hotel—they were both travelers. This was her house. Even though he'd been here before, even though they'd been married for over a week, it felt like he was traversing new territory, and didn't want to overstep his bounds in any way.

He sat down beside her. She crept up behind him, and pressed her fingers into his shoulder. A new ache sprang into being, but at the same time it tingled, as if un-knotting….She massaged both shoulders just below his neck—every muscle ached, but he leaned into her touch—

She went lower, and a sharp pain shot through his back—he gasped.

"I'm sorry! Should I stop?"

"No—feels good. Just— a lot of tension."

She continued, pressing to his ribs—he cried out, and flinched away.

"Jason—what is it?"

"Not your fault."

"This is more than just tension. Let me see."

She helped him lift his shirt off. She gasped. Her fingertips brushed his back ever so lightly. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you what?"

"You're all black and blue back here." She crawled over the bed to face him. "And—" She shook her head, her face flushed. He looked down; his stomach and ribs blossomed with bruises. Come to think of it, the guards had punched and kicked him a few times—then there was the time he jumped out of the moving truck….it was just that, nowadays, any time he was able to walk away from something, it was a win.

She touched the edge of the worst bruise, so delicately she couldn't possibly hurt him. "I thought they didn't torture you."

"They didn't. Just beat me up a little bit when I was trying to escape."

"And you didn't think you should tell me?"

"It didn't seem important."

"Jason—"

"Nothing's broken. I just need some rest—and the bruises will be gone after a month or so. I hardly noticed them—partly because of the painkillers, and partly because this is nothing compared to what I've experienced before."

She laid a hand on his arm. "This isn't nothing. Even though it's been a lot worse—it's still too much. I just don't want you to get hurt ever again. I just wish I could take some of it myself, so you didn't have to feel it."

"I never want you to have to go through what I have. I'd put myself through it a hundred times before I let it happen to you."

"I'd protect you, too. At the cost of my own life."

"I'm not worth your life."

"You are to me. You can't stop me from loving you that much, so you might as well get used to it."

He touched her cheek, running his fingers softly down its smooth surface. "I just hope it never comes to that."

She nodded. "Meanwhile, you have to get better. Is there anything I can do?"

"Just being with you is enough."

"At least it's not like the other times, when I could barely touch you at all." She crawled back behind him and continued the massage, telling him of the time when he'd been unconscious in the hospital, and she'd given him her first kiss—on his forehead, one place where there weren't any injuries.

He wanted to start fresh—begin his new life. Do new things that weren't tainted with the past. That would take some time…but then, they were beginning already. He'd just moved in with her. And he now knew he could never totally escape the past—but he didn't have to dwell in it. He could let it inform his decisions, but he could move forward to an ever brighter future. Any future with Connie was going to be wonderful beyond his imagining.

He just had to go along with it, and see what happened.

She finished, and, relaxed, his muscles aching and tingling, he lay down beside her. She wrapped her arm around him, pressed close, snuggling against him so her cheek lay on his chest. He wrapped his arm around her, and, her warm body pressed up next to him, sleep crept up on him and enveloped him.

He woke up, Connie next to him. Sunlight from the window played over her face. Her arm was under his now, and his arm had somehow snuck beneath her, wrapped around her back.

She was so beautiful….The flawless sculpture of her temple, her cheekbone—Her lips, slightly parted, enticed him. A stunning work of art, untainted by the world. A sleeping angel that he dared not awake.

He could still not believe that someone so perfect existed, much less chose him. It made him fear to touch her—his touch could only bring her shame in some way. How could she accept the touch of someone so—earthly….but she did. In return, he had to please her with his entire being.

She stirred. Her eyes opened, entrancing him, pulling him toward her. She kissed his forehead.

"'Morning," he said.

A smile spread across her lips. "'Morning, Jason." She lay back on the pillow, the sunlight shimmering on her blue silk top, creating highlights and shadows.

She slipped her fingers into his hair, twirling it absently. "This is so nice," she said. "I want to stay here all day."

"There's nowhere we have to be. Except we might eventually want breakfast."

"Right now, you're all I need." She sat up, the covers swirled around her legs. She leaned down, kissed his cheek. Then his lips. The kiss grew, and built—he couldn't get enough of her. He needed more of her, always.

She ran her hand down over the scar on his cheek. There was still the impulse to flinch—but he resisted it. He knew she loved him, all his scars, even though he couldn't comprehend it.

"I'll get make you some breakfast," he said. "More like brunch."

"You don't have to do that."

"I want to. You just stay in bed. I'll make what you like best."

"I like you best." She yawned and stretched, cuddling into him. "You're so warm….I want to stay like this. Don't leave."

"I could order out. But then I'd still have to go down and get it. I really want to make you something."

"Okay. Don't stay away long. If you do, I'll have to come down and see if you got kidnapped."

"That's not going to happen."

"It's not worth letting you out of my sight to have breakfast if you might be kidnapped…."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"Yes it does. You're beautiful, my Jason."

Heat rose to his cheeks. "I still don't know how you can see that."

"I don't know how you cannot see it, every time you look in the mirror. But I don't want a conceited husband, so it's all good." She waved an arm. "Go, so you can get back faster."

He laughed. "Okay." And he hurried down the stairs. Whipped up a breakfast of pancakes and bacon and eggs and toast and orange juice. Then carried them upstairs on a tray, steaming hot. He laid it down on the bed between them, and lay down, half-reclining, Roman-style. She sat up against the pillows, and picked up a piece of bacon. Bit into it. "This is good! It's especially wonderful since you made it. I can taste your love."

He laughed and took a bite of toast. "You're right; I did pour all my love into this. I'll always do that, with everything I do for you."

"I know." She sat back, crunching on toast. "This is so nice. I could lie here all day. "

"We can."

"But I might want to do something. I don't know what though." Her gaze flitted across his torso. "I hate seeing those."

"I'll put my shirt on."

"Don't, unless you're cold or something."

"Not really."

"I could look at you all day. It's just that those bruises look painful."

"Your love for me cancels out any pain."

They finished the rest of their breakfast, resulting in butter-stained and crumb-scattered sheets. Now they'd have to wash them. So they were forced to get up. Connie stood, the top quilt draped around her like the regalia of a queen. She walked downstairs while Jason went into the basement and shoved the sheets into the washing machine.

He sat down on the couch with her and they flipped on the TV. There was a movie on about an adventure in Australia, and they both got involved in watching it. Then some old TV shows like Green Acres and I Dream of Jeannie came on, and they couldn't resist watching them. By that time it was nearing 5:00 and Connie got up, insisting that she make supper. The quilt still draped around her, she traipsed into the kitchen, and soon the room was filled with a spicy aroma.

In a little while, she brought in a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. She sat down beside him, and they ate the spaghetti together, then they shared the rest of the chocolate brownie ice cream from the freezer. Then they popped some popcorn and watched the first movie of The Lord of the Rings, cuddled up together under the quilt.

When it was over, they lay together, sleepy, in the dark.

"What do you want?" he asked. "I will give you anything, even unto the half of my kingdom."

"Well, what I want is—" she kissed his cheek—"you."

"You already have me."

She laughed. "Well, then—I can't really think of anything. Just never going anywhere again."

"I don't know if that's practical."

"Well, I know, but it's what I want. Right now, anyway. I can't imagine wanting anything more than I want you, and I have you."

"It's just that—I want to do as much as I can for you. You give me so much; I want to make sure I'm giving it to you in return. Is there anything I can get for you?"

"Hm….I can't really…." Her eyebrows shot up. "Well, there is one thing."

"What is it?"

"Raspberry Ripple. I want the secret."

"Connie…" he said in mock-horror.

"I'm a Whittaker now. You can't deny me."

"Well, okay." He outlined the recipe.

"So that's it! Now you and your dad don't just have to rely on each other. I'm excited to start making some."

"We can make some together."

"There's so much I want to do with you. Just do things with you, all day. That's all I want from life right now.…There's so much we haven't done yet that it'll take all our lives. How can we just do everyday stuff like jobs that take us away from each other? I don't want to leave you. I don't want this to end."

"Let's not think about that. Maybe we should go up to bed and—"

"Okay." She led him by the hand, and they went up the steps to the room that they shared.

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Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 6:35 pm 
Cookies & Creme

Joined: Wed Feb 24, 2016 7:02 pm
Posts: 291
Location: At Von Odyssey Manor in Odyssey, Canada
Gender: Male
Haven't read the whole thing yet but so far, its really good. Awesome work, Ameraka

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"Greetings. Name's Baron Von Odyssey. My card."
(Card: [Baron von Odyssey - writer, book lover, fairytale enthusiast, and AIO fan])
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My posts are awesome! You wanna know why?

BECAUSE I'M BATMAN!!


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Thu Aug 04, 2016 10:17 pm 
Raspberry Ripple
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Joined: Mon May 16, 2016 10:16 pm
Posts: 635
Location: Probably in the green room... and if not, then with my stuffed platypus... sometimes it's both.
Gender: Female
Ya I read it a couple months ago. I think it's my favorite one of your many works. It's simply beautiful.

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"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 11:08 am 
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Joined: Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:30 am
Posts: 818
Location: In the Village
Gender: Female
Thank you!!!
Penny- do you mean "A New Life"?

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Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 5:25 pm 
Raspberry Ripple
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Joined: Mon May 16, 2016 10:16 pm
Posts: 635
Location: Probably in the green room... and if not, then with my stuffed platypus... sometimes it's both.
Gender: Female
Ya

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"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2016 10:44 pm 
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Location: In the Village
Gender: Female
I'll probably post these chapters pretty quickly to catch up to where I am now, that is, unless I forget.


Chapter 2

Connie opened her eyes. Jason lay there beside her, his chiseled features illuminated by soft light filtering through the blue curtains. Her arm was draped across his chest, but she dared not move it for fear she'd wake him.

His chest rose and fell peacefully. He seemed free of nightmares. Maybe, even in his dreams, he knew that he was with her, safe in Odyssey….

He deserved everything she could possibly give him. He didn't believe he did, but that only made him all the more deserving. She'd always known there was something special about him, even when they were just friends. And now that they were married, her love for him exploded with passion such as she'd never known. She couldn't imagine loving him more—at the same time, she always wanted to find more about him, and love each nuance she discovered.

How are you mine? she thought. She studied his face in profile-his well-defined brow descending to his nose, his lips firm yet sensitive—oh, she longed to kiss them….His strong chin—his jawline and cheekbone, this side unmarred by scars—the tan skin, lightly brushed with an overnight beard—she liked the sandpapery feel of it, but at the same time, she liked his clean-shaven look just as much, and would really rather feel that than a beard. Still, she liked this slightly unshaven look, like a secret agent who'd been out all night on a mission….Not that I want him to be a secret agent, but that's part of him, so I love that too….

His head of soft rather unruly brown hair…and his closed eyes, lashes lightly shadowing his cheek. Those eyes had looked into hers last night, blazing with love. She never thought that each time with him could surpass the last, but he always gave himself completely to her, loving her in ways only he could, and in ways that only she could be loved, as if he could instinctively know what she needed. He was tender, careful, vulnerable, yet powerful, strong, and passionate without reservation. She couldn't imagine that anyone in the world could be more amazing—but they didn't matter. He was meant for her, she for him, each movement part of a symphony that could only be created by them, all the more beautiful because of it.

She longed to wake him up, but waited, aching, for him.

He stirred. Her heart leaped. He turned onto his side and a smile lit his face as his brilliant blue eyes focused on hers. She slid close to him, against the warm skin of his chest. She kissed him on the shoulder, next to the bandage over the bullet wound.

He lifted his hand to her brow, and ran his fingers gently over her temple to her cheek, slipping back her hair. "So beautiful," he whispered, his hand trembling as it ran down her jawline to her chin. "I've woken up to some terrible things, but none of that matters every time I wake up to you. I still can't believe that we're here together—there's no reason to go any further away from each other than this." He pressed his hand gently to her cheek. "Or this." He kissed her.

She pushed back from him, her hand on his chest. "You sure you want to do this?"

"Do what?"

"Keep going. I mean, maybe you need a break."

A smile tugged at his lips. "Not from you."

They pressed together, kissing in a passionate frenzy, heat roiling over her skin. His hands were fire. She let him give her all she longed for—the utmost expression of their love.

She lay back, her skin racing as if with sheet lightning. They'd danced through the storm they'd created and come through on the other side. She lay against his strong arm, her cheek pressed against his, just breathing together, wrapped in wordless joy.

She drifted through pleasant dreams, half-awake, half-asleep. As if they were on a boat together, floating down a gentle river. She needed nothing but him. This.

He turned to her after a little while. "Maybe we should get up."

"Should!" she scoffed. "I like this."

"But we might like something else too."

"I don't know…."

He grasped her hand. "Come on."

She stepped out of bed after him, realizing, reluctantly, that maybe lying around all day wasn't the best thing to do. Even if she didn't see a reason to leave this room.

She stood in the sunbeam coming through the window, and he hugged her, his hand in her hair. "My Connie," he said. "My love."

She touched the bullet scar beneath his heart, then kissed it, thinking of how she almost lost him—more than once. It made this time with him all the sweeter.

After their shower, he shaved while she blow-dried her hair. As she turned her head to dry the left side of her hair, she found herself facing him. Water still beaded across his whip-scarred skin. Her heart broke for the pain he'd had to endure. She reached out, brushed his back with her fingers, feeling the ridges of scars, longing again to erase what happened, and only give him good memories. Like the ones they were making now.

He looked at her questioningly. She flipped her hair back up, and set the hairdryer on the bathroom sink. "You deserve happiness," she said. "You've gone through enough horrible things for two lifetimes."

He pressed his lips together. "There's no way to know what God has planned, though."

"He can't have anything but happiness planned. It's got to be over. We—you've—earned it."

"I don't know that I've earned it. Some of what happened to me was my fault."

Anger flashed through her. "You deserved none of that. I don't care what you did. You never hurt anyone innocent. You never gave anyone any more than they deserved. You've been shot, beaten up, kidnapped—" She touched near the bandage on his shoulder. "There's hardly ever a time when you aren't wounded. This has to be the end of it."

"Well, part of it was my profession. And I wanted to relive it by going to Paraguay. But now… I'm not going to jump back in it unless—"

She took a step toward him, her heart leaping with dread. "Unless-? You mean you might go back to it?"

"Part of what I learned in Paraguay was that I need adventure. It was my fear, not my desire, keeping me from it."

"For good reason."

"I know. I'm not going to be foolhardy again. But it's a part of me. I'm not going back to it, though, unless I know it's the right path for me to take. You are the most important thing in my life now, and nothing's going to drag me from you."

"Especially now that we're going to start a family."

"Are we?"

"We talked about this yesterday." She stopped. "You still want a baby, right?"

A smile spread across his face. "Of course I do. What do you think this—" he kissed her lips—"is all about?"

Heat rose to her cheeks. "Oh. Well, I kind of forget about—I mean, you're so—I can't think of anything else when we're together."

They dressed and went out to his car, then sped through the town and out onto the highway to the back side of Trickle Lake, a secluded spot they'd discovered once. A small beach no one ever came to. Forget-me-nots carpeted the ground, and moss spread beneath the willows, the branches swaying gently in the breeze. Black dragonflies, their bodies metallic green, darted among the flowers.

Jason spread a blanket on the ground, and they sat on it, the sky blue above their heads, reflecting in the lake. They brought out sandwiches and potato salad, and ate them side by side. After they finished, she leaned up against him, and laced her fingers between his, and they watched the waves lap the beach.

The sun swathed her in warmth, and she lay down on the blanket, he beside her, and they slept, wrapped up together, safe, secure, and happy.

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Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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