She watched his hand move caressingly over her. Then she looked up into the eyes that watched her with love rather than lust.
"I want you, Red, you have to know that, but I don't want to hurt you." He brushed the hair from her face. "I - "
"You're still not recovered - "
"So this time, you can be on top."
"This time?" Now there was some lust in his eyes and she couldn't help the smile. "I told you we knew each other." He bent over her then, nipping her lips. She sucked his lower lip into her mouth and felt his reaction against her thigh.
He carefully slipped the t-shirt up over her injured arm and over her head. Her breasts were there, full and inviting before him. No bra. Slowly he lowered his head and took one of those lush nipples into his mouth. Her indrawn breath brought her even closer.
Her hand wove itself into his hair, anchoring him to her body. Her moan caused an even larger reaction and her eyes gleamed. He pulled back and he heard the stifled whimper. He slipped her slacks down her legs, taking the silky underwear with them.
"I want to see what I've forgotten."
"Hussy," he whispered in her ear before he rose and slipped his jeans down his legs. Commando, and impressive. He watched her eyes widen, but there was no reticence in that look.
He reclined on his side next to her, his hand trailed down to her core as his lips nipped at hers. The gasp as he slipped his finger into her moist clef caused his smile. She definitely was ready for him. A second finger followed and she writhed beneath him. He found that bundle of nerves and flicked it. She arched, and their eyes met and held.
He pressed against it and she shattered in his arms, shuddering as the world vanished and the only thing she was conscious of was his body hovering above her.
When the world righted itself again, she looked up to see a very self-satisfied smile. She couldn't help the chuckle.
"Told you we knew each other," he growled.
"You sure you're okay?"
"Any more okay and I'd spontaneously combust."
"Can't have that," and he loomed over her. Slowly he began entering her, giving her time to adjust and drawing out the anticipation for himself. Damn she was tight and so hot. She accepted his pace, watching him, knowing he would not hurt her.
When he was fully sheathed into her he paused, meeting her eyes. At her barest nod, he withdrew and her eye was drawn down to watch him enter her again. She watched mesmerized as he thrust into her. Familiar wasn't the correct word, but 'right' definitely was. She raised her eyes to his face again and he faltered in his rhythm. He loved this woman, it wasn't just the sex. She was his. His arms were shaking now from the tension of holding back. She reached up and caressed his cheek, undoing him completely and he lost control, filling her with his heat, his essence.
He rolled to the side, so as not to crush her and realized that she had come again, with him. He managed to pull her close and they returned to themselves in each other's arms. "You're mine," he whispered as her eyes closed, sated and secure.
He was nearly asleep himself when it hit him. They had used no protection. It hadn't occurred to either of them. His hand returned to her abdomen. If she were pregnant, that was fine with him.
He woke at dawn and looked down at this woman beside him. Even the tiniest doubt was erased from his mind now. He knew this woman. He knew her body, and what pleased her. Last night had blown his mind. At his age, chances were he had quite a bit of experience with women, but nothing could have been better than last night.
They’d come together twice, but he wanted her again. He had to leave, but . . . he realized her eyes were open.
“Yes. Please.” She reached for him and he didn’t hesitate.
He was later leaving than he had planned. She had insisted she pack his bag for his day while he got ready. Her goodbye kiss was a steamy promise of things to come, but he had to go.
He headed south, waiting until he was out of sight again to break into a jog. He had even more reason to hurry back this time. He kept up an easy pace, obviously he ran in his real life. Now he just had to be more careful of his terrain; nothing could keep him from returning to her.
He slowed down while he ate, but didn’t stop. She had added extra power bars, which caused a smile. She knew he’d used a lot of energy last night.
He was beginning to wonder when he should think about turning around when a sound caught his attention. He stopped, focusing on a location. After a minute he was moving again. It was an engine. His pace increased.
The jeep was moving toward him, but the ranger hit the brakes when he spotted the man running toward him. He stepped from the jeep and Ren stopped in front of him, chest heaving. A younger ranger stayed in the jeep.
“Where the hell did you come from?” the ranger asked, eyeing Ren’s clothing and especially his running shoes.
While he got his breath back Ren placed one hand on the hood of the jeep. “Back, back there; to the north. Look, I need help. My companion was injured. I have to get back to her.”
“Injured? Look, I’m Gary Bass.” He held out his hand. Ren shook it. “This is my partner, Curtis.”
“Uh, Ren. So where were you?”
“We’re staying at a cabin - “
“Cabin? What cabin?”
“Uh, it’s about four hours north on foot, near the train tracks.”
“Train tracks? Mr., uh, Ren there’s no cabin and no train tracks here. This is a national forest and you - “
“Which one? Where are we?”
“Excuse me?” Gary backed up a step, his hand resting lightly on his sidearm.
“I’m sorry, it’s . . . complicated, but I need to get back to her. She was shot - “
“Okay, this is getting weirder by the minute. You’re in Chippewa National Forest. Who’s been shot?”
Ren took in that information. A national forest, a big one obviously, and they must be in the damn center of it. “The woman with me, Red. It was an accident. The cabin was booby-trapped and when she opened the door - “
“I need to call this in.”
“Yeah, I understand, but can you get me back to her. We need to get her to a hospital.”
“Four hours - “
“That was walking and jogging. How far are we from civilization?”
“Depends on your definition,” Gary said. “There’s a ranger outpost about a mile that way.” He gestured to his left.
“Not much. We keep some gas for the jeep, a first aid kit.”
“Will you take me back; help me get her to a hospital?”
“After I call this in.”
“Sure, go ahead,” Ren agreed, “but we need to get moving. It’ll be dark before we can get her back here.” After a minute Ren straightened up and looked Gary in the eye. “I know you have no reason to trust me. Call for backup, do whatever it takes to feel safe, but we have to get to her.”
At that Gary nodded. “Let’s head for the outpost and fill the tanks. The reception’s better there. I can reach my headquarters.”
“Thank you.” Ren climbed into the backseat of the jeep. Gary started the jeep up. They reached the outpost in minutes and Gary tried for a connection on his cell phone as Ren and Curtis filled the tanks.
Gary joined them when he finished his conversation.
“Is anyone coming?”
“No, no one answered. I got the machine at our office, but I was able to get the FBI field office. I gave them your description and that you were with a red headed woman. Since you’ve been missing for days I thought they might be looking for you. ”
“They’re checking. We’re going to be out of range most of the time, but they promised to look into it.”
“So, are you coming with me?”
“Yeah, I left a message at our office with our location and direction. They’re gonna think I’m crazy; there’s no cabin or tracks out there.”
Ren didn’t bother to argue with that. “The tanks’re full and we loaded the spare container. It’s full too.”
“You know I’m insane to go off like this.”
“Yeah, and I appreciate it.”
“She your wife?” Gary asked to start a conversation.
Gary nodded. “What are you guys doing out here?”
“That’s gonna be harder to explain.”
They were back at the cabin in less than two hours.
“I don’t believe this,” Gary slowed the jeep to a halt in front. “There’s no cabin here.”
“There’s no tracks either I suppose,” Ren pointed to the right.
Gary looked over at Curtis. “Can you get pictures on that phone of yours?”
Curtis nodded and exited the jeep. Ren climbed out after him and hurried to the door. “Red!”
She hurried to the door when she heard his voice. She came into his arms instantly, relieved. “I didn’t know whether to hide or . . . “ She buried her face in his chest.
“It’s okay. We’ve got a ride back to civilization and you can get that arm looked after. They’ve notified the FBI and left a message at the ranger’s station.”
She nodded, sighing. “Can we go now?”
“Sure. Is there anything here you need?”
“Only you,” she managed to say.
He smiled and led her to the jeep. “This is Gary and Curtis, our rescuers. We can get acquainted on the way back.”
“Want a picture?” Gary grinned.
Ren smiled. “Why not? It’ll go well in our family album.”
She rolled her eyes, but dutifully posed in front of the house.
“Now let’s get the hell out of here,” Ren helped her into the back of the jeep, then joined her. Gary backed up and headed back the way they had come. They were about fifteen minutes from the house when they heard the helicopter.
“Helicopter? I wonder who sent that. We don’t have any copters.”
“It’s not marked,” Ren noted, exchanging glances with Red.
Curtis took a picture of it with his phone and Gary opened his mouth to give him some grief about it when Ren sat up and pointed toward it. “What the - “
Before he could finish, a fire ball and plume of smoke rose from where the house had stood.
“Shit! What was - “ Gary skidded to a stop.
“Don’t! Go, step on it and not back the way we came.” Ren’s orders were automatic and Gary didn’t consider not obeying. He cut left into the woods, staying under cover of trees. They watched the copter as it stayed in place over the cabin for a few minutes, then began heading back slowly, as though looking for them.
“Get deep in the trees and stop.” Ren’s voice was low and controlled.
Gary didn’t bother to respond, just pulling closer to the trees and cutting the engine.
“What the hell’s going on?” Gary asked quietly, watching the sky.
“We weren’t supposed to be found. Someone you contacted isn’t happy.”
“The FBI?” Gary met his eyes.
“I don’t know. You said you left word at the ranger’s station as well.”
“But why would we want to do that?”
“You didn’t know about the cabin or the tracks. You probably weren’t supposed to.”
“You were dumped here?”
“I don’t think we ‘fell’ off of any damn train. I’m wondering if we were supposed to survive it. Any chance you have reception on that thing?” Ren turned to Curtis, pointing at his phone.
“Not here, but it comes and goes.”
“How’s your battery?”
“Fully charged and the charger is in the glove compartment.”
“Keep an eye on it. If you get a signal, send those pictures to every number in your directory.”
Curtis nodded, grinning.
“You think that’s a good idea?”
“I think these people what anonymity. If they don’t have it, maybe they’ll go back into hiding. At least that’s what I’m hoping until we can find out what’s going on.”
“So where do we go?”
“Good question. Since we don’t know this area, we’re at your mercy. I’d think we’d want to largest population we can find.”
“Population. That’s going to take some doing. Curtis, get out the map.”
Red had kept quiet, watching for the copter to return and listening to the men.
“Are we in danger from a fire?” she finally asked quietly.
Ren looked over at her, startled, then quickly back at Gary.
“Shouldn’t be. It’s been damp, but you can’t count on it. Can we move yet?”
All four of them searched the skies then. After an involuntary look to Ren for permission, Gary started out again.
“Ren?” He looked down at her. “Are we dangerous criminals or something? Why would someone . . . bomb that cabin?”
His brow furrowed and his arm went around her. “I don’t think we’re the dangerous ones. We haven’t fired on anyone, or bombed anyone. We just want to get home. I’m wondering if we know something we shouldn’t. They didn’t want to kill us outright, so they dumped us. But we didn’t die and I don’t plan to now.”
Ren looked up at Gary who was watching them in the mirror. “How long before we reach somewhere?”
“Another couple of hours. I’m just glad you filled that spare can. We may have to get into it before we get to Bemidji. I was thinking about heading to one of the camp sites, but now I’m thinking we want more than that. Maybe a sheriff and some reliable communication.”
Ren nodded. “I didn’t mean to get you guys into anything like this.”
Gary met his eyes again. “I believe you. Just keep your eyes and ears open.”
They were all quiet after that. The helicopter did not reappear and speculation wasn’t going to help.
Still weak from her ordeal, Red finally dozed off against Ren’s shoulder. He looked down watching her until he felt Curtis’ eyes on him. He looked up and the younger man blushed. Silently Ren nodded to him. Curtis returned the nod and turned back to his phone. He’d managed to get several text messages out along with the pictures, but they didn’t know if they’d been received or viewed.
Ren looked up startled when they eased up on a paved road.
“It won’t be long now,” Gary advised him. “Curtis, try to get Sheriff Wayans on the phone. Tell him we’ve found some injured hikers and are bringing them in.”
Curtis nodded and began dialing. Red woke while he was talking to the deputy and immediately clutched at Ren’s arm. “Is it safe? Should we be talking to anyone?”
“It’s the sheriff,” he said soothingly.
“And either the Forest Service or the FBI sent a black helicopter after us.”
“We can’t be sure of that. The phones could have been tapped. If they could do that to every law enforcement around a national forest, we’re screwed either way. You need to see a doctor.”
“I know. I just . . . “
He leaned in and kissed her. “We need to know what’s going on, I agree. Let’s get some people around us. Let’s talk to the sheriff and get the information out there to everyone we can.”
After a moment she nodded. In less than half an hour they exited the forest and headed for the town. Gary drove to the sheriff’s office and parked. Ren helped her from the back of the jeep while Gary and Curtis kept watch. They herded her inside and found Sheriff Wayans waiting.
“Gary,” they shook hands. “I called Doc Moss; he’s on his way over.”
“Thank you,” Ren said quickly.
The Sheriff turned toward him. “Steve, this is Ren. He and Red were the ones staying in the cabin that was blown up,” Gary offered.
“Yeah, I’d like to hear more about that. I did call the FBI field office like you asked. I’m waiting for a call back. Didn’t you say you had pictures?”
Gary turned to Curtis, who handed him the phone. Gary pulled up the pictures and handed it to Steve.
“Geez, what’s going on? There aren’t supposed to be cabins - “
“Yeah, and black helicopters aren’t supposed to bomb them. Can we use your computer?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
“Who are you going to send the pictures to now?” Red asked quietly.
“The media,” Ren answered before Gary could.
She looked over at him worried, but didn’t contradict him.
Curtis took the seat and began surfing the web. Gary stood at his shoulder offering suggestions.
The Sheriff looked back over at Ren and Red. “You don’t remember what happened to you?”
“No, and we’re vulnerable because of it. I’m hoping Gary was right to trust you,” Ren didn’t back down.
“I’ve known Gary for years. I’m not going to let him down.”
Before he could say anything else the phone rang. Steve excused himself and moved over to answer it. Ren took a seat beside Red, not talking. She slipped her hand into his. He was back on his feet when the bell over the front door tinkled. Gary looked up as well and smiled, moving toward the older man.
“Doc, we’ve got one for you here.”
“Yeah, Steve called. What’s going on?”
Dr. Moss’s eyebrow rose and he moved over to Red. After he began speaking with Red and examining her, Ren looked over at the Sheriff. Steve motioned for him to join him and after squeezing her hand, he did.
“Those pictures, there’s one of the two of you, right?”
“Yes, in front of the cabin.”
“This is the FBI, they want me to forward that one to them. You okay with that?”
Ren looked back at her. She nodded. He sighed and turned back to Steve. “Yeah, go ahead.”
Quickly Steve was back with them, after a short conversation with someone at the FBI. “Well, I don’t know who you are, but something’s going on,” Steve poured another cup of coffee. Everyone turned to look at him. “We’ve got an Assistant Director of the FBI coming here to check things out.”
“Assistant Director?” Ren said, puzzled.
“Yep. And I’m supposed to make sure you’re safe until he gets here.”
“Are we under arrest?” Red asked, causing everyone to turn to her.
“No. You’re special guests from what I’m hearing.”
“They know who we are?”
Steve shrugged. “If so, I’m not in the loop. I’m to keep you here and away from everyone.” He settled into his office chair. “I guess you’re sleeping in the holding cell tonight.”
“Excuse me?” Red looked up quickly.
“I don’t have a lot of choice here. This is the safest place to be and you’ve got the three of us here to guard you. Why don’t you both get cleaned up and rest a little. The FBI honcho said he’d be late but he’d be here tonight.”