By Maureen Thayer
Rollie pulled the van into the garage of the loft and got out, the Shelley Award that he’d won years ago for his work on Jungle Fever in his hand.  The award had fallen from its shelf a couple of weeks ago, causing the golden bust to break free from its base.  He dropped the award off to have it fixed a week ago, but hadn’t had the time to pick it up.  He hadn’t been intending to get it today, but decided at the last minute to go ahead and pick it up.

He and Angie had just wrapped up their work on Red Storm.  It had been a great shoot, and everyone was hoping that the movie would go far.  It had the potential to do so.

“Lights, Blue!” Rollie called as he ascended the steps.  A frown came to the Aussie’s face when the lights stayed off.  “Blue?  Where are you, Blue Boy?”  Getting no reply from the electronic dog, Rollie moved further into the darkened loft, heading toward the front door, where the light switch was.  Suddenly, he felt a sharp stinging sensation in his neck.  His hand went to his neck.  Dumbly, Rollie stared at the tiny dart that he’d just pulled from his flesh.  A few seconds later, a wave of dizziness washed over him, and his vision greyed out.  Staggering, Rollie grabbed for one of the stair supports and missed.  He fell to his knees.  Fighting to maintain consciousness, he looked up at the sound of footsteps and saw someone approaching him.  His eyes lifted to the man’s face . . . and saw himself.

“Hello, Tyler.  So, we meet again,” said a voice that tugged at Rollie’s memory.

‘Loubar!’ he thought in panic.

“Don’t bother fighting the drug, Tyler.  You are going to pay for the trouble you caused me, you and your little friend, Angela.”

Panic lanced through Rollie at the mention of Angie’s name.  No!

Terrified by the thought of what the assassin might do to Angie, Rollie looked up into the man’s face as he gradually lost the battle to remain conscious.  The arms dealer was looming over him, his face close to Rollie’s, an expression of triumph in his cold, merciless eyes.  ‘Oh, God.  I can’t let him hurt her!’

The thought of protecting Angie sent a last surge of strength through Rollie.  With all of his might, he lifted the award in his hand and swung it upward and around.  The award struck Victor Loubar on the side of the head, and he went down.  The force of the swing sent Rollie crashing to the floor.

With the last of his consciousness, Rollie turned his head to see the assassin lying senseless a few feet away.  Then the blackness closed in on him, and he knew no more.

Angie pulled up to the loft and got out.  She was more than a little ticked off at Rollie.  He was supposed to have picked her up over an hour ago for a private celebration dinner.  Repeated calls to the loft had gone unanswered.  Wondering what was going on, Angie had decided to come over.  She didn’t want to admit that she was also a little worried.  It wasn’t like Rollie to do something like this.

The presence of the Acura and the truck out front showed that Rollie had not gone off somewhere, but that still didn’t mean that he was home.  He’d been driving the F/X van and might have been delayed getting back.  Angie noticed that no light was shining through the loft’s windows.

Trying the doorknob, Angie found it to be unlocked.  That fact sent a chill through her.  There was no way that Rollie would have left the door unlocked if he wasn’t here.

Cautiously swinging the door open, Angie stepped inside.  “Rollie?”  Her voice echoed hollowly through the loft.  “Blue, lights.”  The loft stayed dark.  Okay, something was really wrong here.  Why wasn’t Blue responding?

Flicking on the light switch, Angie headed for the steps.  Her gaze moved to the left.  A gasp escaped her lips as she saw Rollie’s unmoving form lying on the other side of the metal staircase leading to the VR chamber and living quarters.

“Rollie!”  Angie dashed up the steps.  As she came around the staircase, she froze in shock.  A second figure was lying on the floor . . . someone who also looked like Rollie.

Her mind whirling with questions, Angie slowly approached the men.  The body lying further away had a head wound, blood trickling over his face.  Angie prayed that wasn’t the real Rollie.  The injury looked serious.  Her eyes went to the other man.  There were no visible signs of injury on him.  Angie noticed that this man was holding in his lax hand the broken remains of Rollie’s Shelley Award.  There was blood on the award, making it obvious that it’s what was responsible for the other man’s head wound.  Angie knew that Rollie had been considering picking up the award from the shop that had repaired it.  Did that mean that this was the real Rollie?

Angie knelt beside the still figure.  The man’s face was pale, his chest barely moving.  Angie felt for his pulse and found it to be disturbingly slow.

“Rollie?” Angie inquired hesitantly.  Not sure what to do, she rose to her feet and went to the other man.  Studying his face, she noticed something odd.  There was what almost looked like a ragged piece of flesh near the man’s temple, close to where the wound was.  But it looked strange.  Kneeling beside the man, Angie cautiously touched the ragged edge.  She pulled at it.  All of a sudden, the man’s face came off.  Gasping in shock, she stared at what lay beneath.

“Oh my God.”

Angie scrambled to her feet and ran to the phone.  Quickly, she dialed the number for Mira’s cell phone.

“Mira!” she cried when the detective answered.  “It’s Angie.  You need to get to the loft, fast!  Victor Loubar is here, and he’s done something to Rollie!  We need an ambulance!”

Angie quickly explained to the detective what was going on.  Mira said that she’d be right over and would call for a couple of ambulances, one for Rollie and one for Loubar.

After hanging up the phone, Angie dashed over to Rollie.  She gently lifted his head into her lap.  “Hang on, Rollie.  You’re going to be okay.  Help is on the way,” she murmured as she stroked his hair and face.  She was terrified that Loubar had poisoned her friend, that Rollie was dying right here in her arms.  “Don’t you even think about leaving me, you hear me?  You promised, Rollie.  You promised that I wouldn’t lose you.  I’m going to be really, really pissed if you don’t keep your promise.  I’m already ticked off that you stood me up for dinner.  So, you have to be okay, otherwise I’m going to kick your butt.”  The sternness of Angie’s words was made a lie by the tremor and fear in her voice.

It seemed to take forever for Mira to arrive.  During every minute that passed, Angie lived in fear that the warm touch of Rollie’s breath on her skin would stop.  At last, the cops came rushing in, Mira in the lead.  The detective quickly assessed the situation and gave orders to the uniformed men to keep an eye on Loubar.  Then she knelt at Rollie’s side.

“How is he?” she asked.

“I don’t know.  I don’t know what Loubar did to him.  Rollie could just be drugged or . . . or Loubar might have poisoned him.  He doesn’t seem to be getting any worse.”

Just then, the sound of an approaching siren heralded the arrival of one of the ambulances.  A short while later, a team of EMT’s hurried in.

“Take care of him first,” Mira instructed, pointing to Rollie.  She didn’t care if Loubar was badly hurt and needed immediate medical assistance.  Rollie was more important.

Angie had to leave Rollie’s side to let the EMT’s do their job.  She and Mira watched as they worked on him, checking his vitals and looking for injuries.  The second ambulance arrived shortly after the first, its team of EMT’s heading straight over to Loubar.

One of the EMT’s treating Rollie rose to his feet and turned to the two women.  “We can’t be sure, but it looks like he’s been given a heavy-duty tranquilizer or sedative of some kind.  His vitals are good, and he appears to be stable.”

“Then he’s going to be okay?” Angie asked, feeling weak with relief.

“I think so.  But, like I said, we can’t be a hundred percent sure that that’s what’s wrong.  We’re going to transport him to the hospital for tests.”

The next few minutes were a flurry of activity as both Rollie and Loubar were prepared for transport.  Angie was allowed to come along in the ambulance with her friend.  She spent the trip holding onto Rollie’s hand, which felt cold to her.

Once they got to the hospital, Angie was forced to wait in the ER waiting room for news.  Finally, a doctor came out to talk to her.

“Mister Tyler is going to be fine,” he announced.  “He was injected with a powerful, fast-acting tranquilizer.  We found the injection site on his neck.”

Angie breathed a sigh of relief.  “How long will it be before he wakes up?”

“It’s hard to say.  Recovery time is different for different people.  My guess would be from six to eight hours from the time of injection.  We’re going to put him in a room and keep him overnight.  If there’s no sign of any adverse reactions to the drug, he’ll be allowed to leave in the morning.”

“Thank you.  Can I stay with him?”

“Hospital policy is that only family members can stay with a patient after hours.”

“I am family.  Rollie’s the only family I have.”

Thankfully, the doctor didn’t question her on what her relationship with Rollie was.  A little while later, she was in a hospital room, sitting in a chair beside her best friend’s bed.

“You really gave me a scare, Rol,” she said.  “For a while there, I was afraid that I was going to lose you.  Don’t you ever do that to me again.”

Angie had been sitting there for around half an hour when Mira came in.

“Hi.  He’s still out, I see,” she said.

“Yeah.  It’ll be a while before he wakes up.”

Mira nodded.  “We found the tranquilizer gun that Loubar used.  We also found the dart.  It looks like he was waiting there in the loft when Rollie got home.”

“Did you find Bluey?  Loubar must have done something to him.”

“Yeah.  He was over in a corner.  It looks like he was turned off.  I don’t know how to turn him back on, so I left him like he was.”

Angie’s face hardened.  “What about Loubar?”

“A nasty concussion, but he’ll be all right.  He’s here at the hospital, handcuffed to a bed and under constant guard.  He’s not going to get away this time.”

“Good.  I don’t even what to think about what he was planning on doing to Rollie.”

“I’m certain he was out for revenge, Angie.  From what I know about the first two times Rollie tangled with him, it doesn’t surprise me that Loubar would try to get even.  We’ll probably never know what Loubar’s plans were.”

“He was wearing Rollie’s face, Mira.  That can only mean that he planned on impersonating him again.”

“Yes, but to do what?  We did a search of the area, looking for Loubar’s vehicle, and found a large black van at the other end of Brewery Lane.  There was a computer in the van, complete with a lot of surveillance equipment.  We’re going to do a sweep of the loft, and you can bet that we’ll find bugs in there, and probably cameras, too.  From what we know of Loubar’s M.O., it definitely looks like he was going to impersonate Rollie.”

A chilling thought hit Angie.  “Mira, Rollie told me that Loubar usually kills the people he impersonates.”

“I know.  It’s a good thing that Rollie was able to knock Loubar out with that award and that you came by when you did.  We’re going to get to the bottom of this, Angie.  We need to find out what Loubar’s plans were.”

Mira left a little while later.  Alone again with Rollie, Angie got a pillow and blanket from a nurse and curled up in the chair.  A few minutes later, she was asleep.

A faint sound coming from the bed awakened Angie.  She sat upright and stared at Rollie, seeing him move slightly.  She glanced at the clock and saw that three hours had passed.  Based on the time that Rollie had left the studio, it must be getting close to six hours from the time that Loubar drugged him.

A faint moan came from the Aussie, and, slowly, his eyes opened.  There was a look of confusion in the hazy brown depths.  Then, suddenly, the eyes flew open wide.

“Angie!” Rollie cried, trying to sit up.

Angie leapt from her chair and held him down.  “Rollie!  It’s okay!  I’m here!  You’re safe.”

Rollie’s eyes latched onto hers.  “Ange?  You okay?  He didn’t hurt you?” he asked anxiously.

“I’m fine, Rol.  Loubar never touched me.”

Rollie’s eyes closed in immense relief.  “He said he was going to hurt you, that he was going to get even with us for causing him so much trouble.”

“Shhh.  Everything’s all right, Rol.  Loubar is in custody.  You clocked him good with your Shelley.”  She smiled.  “I’m afraid it’s a little worse for wear, though.  Looks like you’ll be taking it back to get it repaired again.”

Rollie smiled sleepily.  “Well, at least I got some use out of it other than as a dust collector.”

“Yeah.”  Angie watched the Aussie’s eyelids droop to half-mast.  “Get some sleep, Rol.  Everything is all right.  You’re safe.  We’re both safe.  Loubar will never be able to hurt us again.”

The next morning, Rollie was released from the hospital.

“I want to see him,” the Aussie told Mira after he’d finished gathering his personal belongings.

“Rol, are you sure that’s a good idea?” Angie asked.

“Yeah.  I want to see that bastard.”

“All right, I’ll make the arrangements,” Mira said.

A few minutes later, the three of them were standing outside Loubar’s hospital room.

“He’s going to be transferred to the prison infirmary this afternoon,” Mira told Rollie and Angie.  “Loubar is wanted in so many countries on so many counts of murder and illegal arms sales that it’s probably going to take weeks for the fighting over who gets him to end.  It’ll be interesting to see who comes out the winner.”

“Well, whoever does, I hope it’s someplace that has the death penalty,” Rollie responded, his voice cold with hatred.  “I won’t rest easy until that son of a bitch is dead.”

“I know what you mean,” Mira said.  “So, you ready?”


The cop on guard duty opened the door, and the three of them went inside.  Victor Loubar was sitting up in bed.  A large bandage adorned the left side of his head.  His cold, pale eyes met Rollie’s.

“It’s finished, Loubar,” the Aussie said.  “You’re finished.  If you don’t get the death penalty, you’ll be in prison for the rest of your life.”

Loubar glared at him.  “I should have killed you that first time, Tyler.  You’ve been a thorn in my side ever since then.”

“Yeah, well, you’ll never get the chance now, Loubar, and you’ll never get the chance to do anything to hurt Angie, ever.”

Having nothing more to say to the man, Rollie turned on his heels and left, Angie and Mira behind him.

Angie drove Rollie home.  As they entered the loft, they were greeted by Bluey’s bark.

“Hey, Bluey!” Rollie greeted happily.  “How my Blue Boy?”  He had been worried about his little robot pal until Angie assured him in the hospital that Blue was okay, just having been turned off by the arms dealer.  After Rollie went back to sleep early this morning, she had gone to the loft to check up on the electronic dog and to get some more sleep herself.

Rollie and Angie did some work on a few projects, neither one of them wanting to be alone, even though the plan had been to take the day off.

Later that afternoon, Rollie answered the phone to find Mira on the other end.

“Rollie, Loubar is dead.”

“What?!  How?  What happened?”

“He attempted to escape while being transferred to the prison.  I guess he must have thought that would be his only chance.  One of the cops transferring him shot him.”

Rollie sat down heavily.  “Then it’s really over now.”

“Yes, it’s over, Rollie.  Loubar isn’t a threat anymore.”

Over the next two days, Rollie, Angie, Mira and the feds investigated what Loubar had been up to.  They found a house that the assassin had been renting.  After disabling the bomb that was wired to the place, they entered it to find a computer.  The data on the computer enabled them to find out what the assassin’s plans were.  He had apparently been intending to kill the Chinese Trade Minister and frame Rollie for the murder.  Not only that, but it also appeared that Loubar had planned on making it look like Rollie was an international assassin working under the assumed name of Richard Blaine.  If he had succeeded, Rollie would have been on the run for the rest of his life, that is if he wasn’t arrested or killed by the cops.  It sent a chill through the Aussie to think about what might have happened.  They were unable to learn what Loubar’s plans for Angie had been, and Rollie was almost grateful for that.  He didn’t think he wanted to know.

Learning the identity of the man who hired Loubar, the feds arrested him.  Except for a few minor details, the case was solved.

Entering the loft Sunday afternoon, Rollie and Angie headed for the lounge, where the Aussie started fixing some tea.  “Want some, Ange?”


A few minutes later, they were both sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea.  Angie looked over at Rollie, who was lost in thought.

“Nickle for them,” she said.

The Aussie looked at her.  “Hmm?”

“Your thoughts.”

“Oh.  I was just thinking about how differently things might have gone.  If I hadn’t decided to stop by and pick up the Shelley, I wouldn’t have had a weapon to use against Loubar, and his plans might have succeeded.  Just that one little thing made all the difference.  If it hadn’t been for that, I might have ended up on the run from the cops, and you. . . .”  Rollie stopped, not wanting to think about what might have happened to Angie.

Angie was quiet for a moment.  “I’ve been thinking about that, Rol, and I have to believe that, some way or another, we would have stopped Loubar and proven that you were innocent.  The first two times, you beat him, and I think you would have again this time.”

“I hope so, though I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you, Ange.”

Smiling at the compliment, Angie took a sip of her tea.  “So, are we going to the wrap party tonight?”

“I don’t know.  I almost forgot about it.”

“I think we should go.  It’ll be fun.”

Rollie smiled and nodded.  “Okay.”

“Do we have a hit movie on our hands, or what?”  The applause of the audience rose in volume, accompanied by cheers.  “Ladies and Gents, Hair and Makeup!” Shawn continued, handing a bronzed hair dryer to a dark-haired woman.  The applause drifted away as she left the stage.

“Okay, and last but not least, Rollie and Angie.”  Again, the audience cheered.

Rollie and Angie smiled and looked at each other.  They rose from their seats and went to the stage.  Shawn was holding a bronzed toilet plunger.

“They saved our lives on the day of the big backup,” he said.

Angie grabbed the ‘award’ from Shawn’s hands, a sarcastic smile on her lips.  “Thank you, thank you very much,” she said into the microphone, her tone matching her expression.

The smile on Rollie’s face was full and happy.  Taking the plunger from Angie, he held it upside down, squinting at it, then turned it right side up, still squinting.  “Well, if I try really hard, it almost looks like an Oscar,” he said.  The audience erupted with laughter.  The smile faded from the Aussie’s face.  He glanced at Angie.  “Over the last few days, actually, over the last few weeks, I’ve come to realize how truly important some things in my life are and that, sometimes, we take things for granted that we shouldn’t.  My friends, my family and my work are all very important to me, and I’m sure that everyone else here feels the same.  We all did a great job with this movie, and I hope that the story it tells will do some good.  It may not help free Zhang Chow from his Chinese prison, but it will tell the world about him and his plight, and just maybe it will help prevent something like that from ever happening again.”  The smile returned.  “And I just know that, when Red Storm hits the theaters, it’s gonna knock ‘em dead!”  The audience roared, rising to their feet as they clapped enthusiastically.

Three hours later, Rollie and Angie were back at the loft.

“Blue, lights!” Angie called.  Bluey barked, and the lights came on.

Rollie threw off his coat and headed into the kitchen area for some water.

“So, what time tomorrow?” Angie asked.

Rollie looked over at her, and, for a moment, Angie saw disappointment in his eyes.  “Oh . . . uh, eight is fine,” he said, then turned away.

Angie stared at his back.  She would have to be blind not to see that Rollie wanted her to stay for a while.  Well, why not?  What was another half hour less sleep?  After all, tonight was kind of special, especially considering how very different things would have been if Loubar had succeeded in capturing Rollie and posing as him.  She slid off her coat and laid it over the staircase railing.

“So, you have any champagne in that fridge?” she asked, smiling.

Rollie turned around.  A surprised and pleased smile curved his lips.  “As a matter of fact I do.”  He got the bottle out, popped the cork, and poured two glasses.  The Aussie handed her one and sipped from the other.  Setting his glass down, he studied her face for a moment.  “We did good with this one, didn’t we, Ange.”

“Yes, we did.  It’s a great movie.”  Angie placed her own glass on one of the steps.

Rollie kept looking at her for a while, then suddenly gave her a hug.  Surprised, Angie returned it.  “Thanks, Ange,” he murmured.

“Don’t mention it.”

The Aussie drew away slightly.  “I know that I don’t say this as much as I should, and I’m sorry about that.  But . . . I’m really glad you’re here, Angie.  I wouldn’t be able to do it without you.”

“You bet you wouldn’t,” Angie replied emphatically.

Rollie’s gaze dropped from hers.  There was no smile on his face.

‘Okay, we’re being serious tonight, aren’t we,’ Angie thought.  ‘It’s probably the booze.’  She reached up and touched his cheek, bringing his eyes back to hers.  “I couldn’t do it without you either, Rol,” she murmured.

Rollie’s eyes smiled into hers.  He drew her close, placing a gentle kiss on her cheek.  After a moment, they drew back again, their arms still encircling one another.

“You mean a lot to me, Angie.  I want you to know that,” he murmured.

Rollie’s words made this warm, happy feeling fill Angie’s heart.  “You mean a lot to me, too, Rollie,” she said quietly.

Rollie continued gazing deeply into Angie’s eyes, something within them making her heart speed up.  His hand cupped her cheek, and his thumb began stroking her bottom lip gently, caressingly, the touch sending a thrill through her body.  He dipped his head and placed a kiss on the corner of her mouth.  Her pulse now skyrocketing, Angie stared into Rollie’s eyes, seeing something there that she’d never seen before, something deep, warm and very powerful.

Their eyes locked on each other, only a few inches separating their faces, Angie felt the warmth of his breath touching her skin.  The smell of his aftershave filled her senses.  Of their own volition, her eyes broke from Rollie’s and went to his lips, lips that she so desperately wanted on hers.

And then, suddenly, they were.

Angie’s thoughts shuddered to a halt as Rollie’s mouth descended upon hers.  Her senses exploded into bright, burning bits, catching her body on fire.  With a soft moan, she drew Rollie closer, pressing herself against him.  She felt Rollie’s arms wrap tightly around her waist, bringing her even closer.

Rollie’s mind was whirling chaotically, helpless against the unbelievable emotions that were ripping through his body.  Angie’s lips parted beneath his, and he plunged into her mouth, her tongue mimicking his in the frenzied search.

Having no idea how they got there, Rollie and Angie soon found themselves on the couch, the Aussie’s body pressing hers down into the cushions.  His lips left hers to travel down her neck to the swell of her breasts, the tip of his tongue sliding across her flesh.  His hand came up under her top to stroke her skin.  Impatiently, Angie’s own hands pulled Rollie’s top out from his pants, then kept pulling until it was a pile on the floor.  Her lips moved down his neck to his shoulders and chest.

“Angie,” Rollie murmured, his voice thick and heavy.

Their heads lifted, and they gazed at each other for a breathless moment.  Then Rollie got to his feet, scooped Angie up in his arms and carried her upstairs.

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He set her down beside the bed, his lips once again on hers.  With one smooth motion, he pulled her top up over her head.  His hands caressed her back and shoulders, eventually coming to the clasp of her bra.  There, they paused.  Angie’s hands came up behind and guided his fingers through the process of unfastening it.  The material fell to the floor.  Rollie’s hands cupped her breasts, stroking, caressing, making Angie moan from the sheer pleasure of his touch.  Moments later, they were lying on the bed, the remainder of their clothing gone.

With hands and mouths desperate for the touch and taste of each other, they kissed and caressed.  Angie groaned as Rollie’s mouth found her breasts, closing over a nipple to suckle like a starving baby.  Breathing heavily, she held his head to her, trembling with the ecstasy that was building within her.  Rollie lavished her breasts with his attention while his hands sought out the places that made her cry out from the pleasure, bringing her almost to the peak of rapture.

Wanting to give him the same pleasure that he was giving her, Angie rolled over on top of Rollie and began to plunder his body with her mouth and hands.  Her lips found a nipple and suckled upon it just as he had on hers.  Rollie gasped and bucked beneath her.  The gasp turned into a deep-throated moan as she lightly bit down on him at the same time as her hand found the most intimate part of him.

“Angie!” he cried, his need for her rushing out of control.  Grasping her, he rolled back over on top of her, feeling her legs part and wrap around him.

Their eyes lost in each others, Rollie joined his body with hers, both of them groaning from the overwhelming joy and ecstasy of it.  Rollie pressed his face into the crook of Angie’s neck, trembling with emotion.  Nothing had ever been so exquisite, so perfect as feeling her body and soul surrounding him.

Angie closed her eyes, awed by the sensation of Rollie’s body within hers.  Nothing could have prepared her for the perfection, the unparalleled pleasure of it.  And then, he began to move, and she almost fell over the edge immediately.  Grasping tightly to him, her legs high about his back, she rocked with him, their bodies moving in complete synchronicity.  Rollie lifted his head, and their eyes met again as the pace sped up.  Soon, they were moving wildly, calling out each other’s names as their rapture shot higher and higher.

Then, suddenly, their climax was upon them, ripping through them like a nuclear explosion.  With a cry they succumbed to the indescribable ecstasy, the world vanishing in a bright flash around them.  Shuddering, Rollie gave all of himself to Angie, his hopes, his dreams, and his seed.  Eagerly, Angie accepted his gift, surrendering her heart to him.

Gasping deeply, they lay still for long minutes as the power of their climax slowly faded to a warm, joyful feeling of fulfillment and completion.  There was wetness on both of their faces as they finally looked at each other.  Rolling onto his side, Rollie gathered Angie up into his arms and held onto her tightly, his body trembling.  Slowly, he relaxed.  His breathing calmed and deepened.  Feeling a contentment that she had never known before, Angie followed him into sleep.

The nothingness of sleep lifted gradually.  A moment of confusion hit Angie as she realized that she was not in her own bed.  Then all the memories of the night flooded into her.  One part of her could not believe that it had happened.  She and Rollie had made love, wildly, passionately.  Then the other part of her remembered the joy of it, how unbelievably perfect it had been, how she had never known a night more filled with love.

Slowly, Angie turned over, only to find that Rollie was not beside her.  Then she saw him.  He stood near the wall.  He was dressed only in pajama bottoms, his arms wrapped around his bare chest.  He was gazing through one of the glass panels out into the loft, the light of early morning revealing his expression.  He looked a million miles away.

Does he regret it?  Is he sorry it happened?  Angie examined her own feelings and found no regret.  Just the opposite.  It felt like she had finally found something that she had been searching all her adult life for.  But what if Rollie didn’t feel the same?

Angie slid out of the bed.  She slipped on the robe that she had seen Rollie wear so many times in the past.  Silently, she padded over to the Aussie.  For a moment he did not move, as if unaware of her presence.  Then he turned around, and their eyes met, searching, questioning.

“So . . . how do you feel?” Angie asked hesitantly.

Rollie continued to gaze at her for a long moment, then his hand came out and softly touched her cheek.  “I . . . I feel good, Ange.”  He smiled shyly.  “I feel like . . . like I’ve come home.”  The smile disappeared, and his search of her eyes deepened.  “How do you feel?”

Angie stepped closer to him.  “Wonderful.  I feel wonderful.”

The smile returned.  Rollie pulled her into his embrace, and their lips came together in a long, tender kiss.  Angie wrapped her arms around his neck, deepening the kiss.  At last, they drew apart, a dazed look in both of their eyes.

“What is this going to mean for us, Ange?”

“I don’t know.  I never thought that it would be this way with us.”

“Me neither.  But . . . Angie, there’s something I need to tell you.  When Loubar attacked me and said that he was going to get revenge on you, I was so scared.  I was more terrified at the thought of what he was going to do to you than what his plans were for me.  I think it was that fear that gave me the strength to do what I did.”  He bracketed her face with his hands.  “Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about you, about us.  It really started when Craymore put you in that cryogenic unit, and you almost died.  I have never been so scared in my life.  Just the thought of losing you. . . .  God, it hurt.  I was just about falling apart as I did the CPR on you.”  Gazing into her eyes, Rollie stroked Angie’s cheeks with his thumbs.  “It was then that I really began to realize how very, very much you mean to me, that . . . that I’m in love with you.”  The last words were spoken in a whisper.

Rollie’s last five words shot through her, stilling her breath.  Her throat seized up, trapping her voice.  ‘He loves me,’ her mind said.  ‘And I love him.’  The sudden revelation drove every last thought of speech from her.

Misunderstanding her silence, Rollie arms fell away from her.  She felt him draw away, emotionally as well as physically.  ‘Do something, Angie!’ her mind cried.  Listening to it, she grabbed hold of him and brought her lips hard against his.  He stiffened for an instant, then melted against her.  He drew her up off the floor, his arms crushing her against him.  The kiss deepened, grew passionate.  Angie buried her fingers in Rollie’s soft hair, pressing his mouth even more tightly against hers.

Finally, their lips separated.  Gazing deeply into Rollie’s eyes, Angie whispered, “I love you.”

A smile lit his face, making his eyes glow.  He buried his face into the crook of her neck, holding her to him for a long, silent moment.  Then he slowly let her feet drop back to the floor.

“When you were lying there on the floor, so still, I was so afraid that you were dying,” Angie whispered against his neck.  “I realized how horribly empty my life would be without you.  I couldn’t take it.  I’ve . . . I’ve been attracted to you for a really long time, but I thought that it was just a . . . a physical thing.”

“Me too,” Rollie admitted.  “It was bloody hard to ignore it sometimes.  But I thought it would be a really bad idea to do something about it, so I tried not to think about it.”

“And I was too scared to say anything.”

Rollie lifted his head and looked at her.  “We’re a couple of idiots, aren’t we, Ange.”


His eyes traveled over her face, coming to a halt at her lips, the desire to kiss them returning.

“We should get to work,” he murmured.

“Yes, we should,” Angie agreed, equally softly.

“We have lots of work to do.”

“Lots of work.”

They looked at each other and felt the passion rise again.

“Work can wait,” Rollie said, his voice deep.

“Work can wait,” Angie agreed with a smile as she led Rollie back to the bed.


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