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While You Sleep

Hi Folks. This is another longer story. It is an LW story in that there is a wife cheating on her husband as the backbone of the story. But there is also much mote going on here. So those of you who just want the usual strange car in the driveway story might want to pass on this one. Those of you want the whole thing to be resolved in three pages also might want to keep it moving. Those of you who have a pacifistic nature might not like this story. Those of you who want a burn the bitch story might be a little upset because there are no bitches getting burned here. There is also not a reconciliation so those of you who want to see the couple get back together no matter what will probably have your feelings hurt. For the three people that are still here, I hope you like this one. It's a bit long so sit back and enjoy it. This one is an action movie. To get you in the mood you might want to listen to Charlie Sexton's version of "While you sleep." It was originally written by Steve Earle who never recorded it. I'm trying to get Kat into 80's music. Thanks as usual to Mikothebaby for everything. She's like a combo sister/best friend. She does so much more than just edits, she keeps me grounded and sane. SS06

* * * * * *

As I shut down my Mustang's engine, I let out a heavy sigh. I actually hated coming here. The irony of that statement wasn't lost on me, since there was a time when to me, this place, not Disney World, was the happiest place on Earth. Looking at the small grouping of detached apartments, it's hard to imagine that there was a time when all of them were well-maintained and looked nearly new. Even stranger is the fact that the current state of disarray and disrepair has occurred over a period of less than three years.

The unit I'm parked in front of is pretty bad, but the one I'm going to is far worse. I couldn't actually get my car in front of that one because there are several cars in various states of repair parked in front of it, in the driveway and there's even a truck on the lawn.

Actually, you can't really call it a lawn when there's no actual grass. I think there's a law somewhere that says that. I also think it's pretty specific. There have to be at least ten or twelve blades of actual grass present for an area to be called a lawn. An uneven, rough trod collection of dirt, mud and weeds with a dead pickup truck thrown in for decoration is not legally a lawn.

When I lived here, I was proud of my lawn. It was watered every other day and cut every weekend. My neighbors and I traded lawn care tips and always tried to one up each other in having the coolest garden equipment. Now the place looks like no one lives here. Only the thumping from the loud, raucous music coming from inside gives any indication that people actually live in the unit. The peeling paint and sagging wooden steps, help to reinforce the impression of the place being unoccupied.

The screen door swings freely in the wind. There is no screen in the door, nor is there any glass. In fact the only thing keeping the door anchored to the building is the one lone loose hinge near the top. The opposite corner on the bottom of the door seems to be planted into the rotting wood of the porch. It acts as a type of pivot and every time the wind blows the door seems to noisily swing. It's that lone, tortured hinge making the noise apparently. The corner of the door also scrapes further into the porch with every breeze.

I wonder what it would look like if I were to come back in in two years. Would the wind and the constant movement finally rip the hinge from the wall and let the door simply fall off? Or would the constant scraping simply dig the door deeper and deeper into the porch until it couldn't move?

I often wonder why none of the neighborhood's scavengers don't simply come up onto the porch in the middle of the night or the day for that matter and simply steal the door and take it to the scrapyard.

As I close the door of the Mustang, that solid, "thunk," sound as the door closes draws attention. I have no illusions that my car's security system would be a match for any of the neighborhood's cadre of professional car thieves. But if my car has drawn attention, I use that scrutiny for my own benefit. I let my black trench coat slide open until my gun is visible. I also make a show of pulling my piece as if I'm checking it over before confronting someone inside of the unit I'm visiting.

My movements suggest that I'm an undercover cop on an investigation. I walk around behind the car and open its tiny trunk. I pull out a giant stuffed animal. It isn't just any teddy bear or unicorn. It's a giant stuffed skunk. The skunk is kind of an inside joke between my daughter and I. Ever since I took her to see that movie "Over the hedge," when she was three years old, my daughter has loved skunks. I know that she'll love this one as well.

I step gingerly on the shitty wood of the porch expecting at any second for the rotted boards to give way under my weight. But they hold and I knock on the door hard and wait. After a few moments when no one has answered, I try the knob and it turns and opens.

The scene in front of me looks like something out of Caligula. Inside the room the noise of the country music station pouring out of the cheap stereo at ear splitting volume is countered by the sounds of loud moans and groans. Three naked men are all pumping one small chubby woman. All of them are covered in sweat and the woman's screams are the loudest in the room.

"Ohh...Baby...harder...fuck me...fuck me," she screams, oblivious to everything else going on around her. In one corner, a guy is smoking weed or a mixture of marijuana and God knows what else. I'm not interested in him. I'm more interested in the would-be porn star on the couch. She's flat on her back with her thin legs flailing in the air while a large greasy looking guy rams his dick in her ass. She alternately moans and then plunges another guy's dick down her throat. The third guy is currently rubbing his dick against one of her large breasts and pumping his hips in time with Lynrd Skynrd's "Sweet home Alabama."

Two other guys appear to be playing cards in the kitchenette unit in the next room. I wonder what happened to the stove we had when I lived here. One of the guys is wearing a suit and a good one. He seems to be the only guy in the room who's noticed that I'm here.

I drop the skunk and draw my piece. I don't go for the gun though. I drew my iPhone. I snapped off several still photos concentrating on Danielle's face and a few shots of the entire scene then I switch to video and march past the scene through the house talking as I go. I walk, video-taping the entire scene to a door on the second floor. I open the door and video tape my sleeping eight year old daughter.

I close the door behind me and start to pack some of her clothes into a small suitcase in her closet. Just as I get as many clothes as I can fit into the suitcase the phone rang.

"Hammond," I said, answering it.

"Rick," says my boss, Jeremy Clarkson, the agent in charge. "I've got an assignment for you. Your plane leaves for DC in an hour."

"On my way," I said ending the call. I storm back down the stairs and nothing in the room seems to be any different.

I kick the plug out of the wall and the stereo ceases abruptly. "God damn it Danielle," I yell. "Rina is upstairs asleep while you're holding an orgy with all of these fucking losers. I was about to take her out of here but my boss called me. I have another assignment, but when I get back..."

The sound of the gun clicking silenced me immediately. I should have known it would be the guy in the suit.

"Who are you?" he asked. He and the guy he was playing cards with are completely different from all of the other guys there. For one thing they're the only guys who are dressed. For another, neither of them is drunk or high. And the fact that they're both holding guns isn't lost on me either.

"He's my husband," said Danielle. "Don't worry about him...Oh I forgot who you are. You should worry about him..."

"Shut up bitch," said the guy in the suit. "Donnie, shut your bitch up."

I figured that the Donnie he was referring to had to be Donnie Simmons. He was Danielle's latest boyfriend. His father was Big Al Simmons. He owned and operated a chain of appliance stores throughout the Midwest. I could see that over the next five to ten years the big chains like Best Buy, and Good Guys Inc would slowly squeeze them out of the market. The online vendors like Amazon would also cut into his profits if he didn't find some way to either diversify or move into a different business. But for now, Big Al's Appliances was at least a regional powerhouse.

Donnie, of course, had very little to do with the actual management of the stores. He saw himself as a business genius who simply hadn't been given a chance. His dad had given him some kind of titled position in the organization that really sounded far more important than it was. Donnie probably figured that when his dad died, he'd run the stores the way he wanted. But anyone with half a brain could see that by the time Big Al died, there probably wouldn't be much left.

Donnie was about six feet tall and fat as hell with lips that looked too big to be a man's. Apparently, Donnie was a sharing individual because he was allowing his friends to fuck Danielle too.

"Oh shit, boss," said the guy next to the man in the suit. "He's got a piece and there's metal next to it. I think it's a badge."

"You a cop?" asked the guy holding the gun on me. He began to lower his gun.

"Not exactly," I said. "But I do have a gun." I held my hands up and slid my coat open. Before they even saw my badge and ID my gun and holster told them what they wanted to know.

"Look at the holster rig and the hardware," the second guy said. "He's a fed."

I nodded. "I'm not here for a job," I said. "I came because I had my daughter yesterday for a visit and she saw this in the window of a toy store. The store was closed last night so I went back and got it today. My only interest here is getting her away from here."

"I can see why any father would want his child out of here," said the man in the suit. "I assume that is why you took pictures of your wife in action." I nodded. She's been blocking and delaying our divorce for almost three years. I finally have evidence that should get not only my divorce but custody as well."

"That's why you didn't take pictures of my associate and I," said the man in the suit nodding his head. "We're only here because Mr. Simmons is a possible business associate and THIS was what he considers entertainment. Five or six guys fucking one chubby slut...No offense meant."

"None taken," I said.

"Sorry about the guns. We carry a lot of cash sometimes for our business dealings. We both have CCW permits for the guns and..."

"I believe you," I said. "As I said I'm not interested in you or your associate...Or even those guys for that matter. I just want my daughter out of this cesspool."

"We'll be leaving then," he said. "Good luck with your divorce." He and his associate backed out of the room and out of the house. I wondered where they'd parked since I was certain that they'd have decent cars and I didn't see any parked in front of the building.

"What are you doing here Richard?" screamed Danielle. As I looked at her it was hard to believe she was the same woman. Three years ago when we'd separated, it had broken my heart. Eight years years before that, when we'd gotten married, I'd been over the moon and couldn't believe that a woman that beautiful was mine.

Now as I looked at her sagging tits, bulbous beer belly and thin yet flabby legs, it was hard to reconcile the picture of her in my mind with the screaming, sweating, stinking creature shrieking at me. When I met her, it was just after she'd won the title of Miss Michigan. I'd been sure that she'd go on to become the next Miss America and use that to springboard into some kind of movie or television career.

Any guy who saw her back then instantly fell in love with her. I did and I fell hard. The funniest thing was that she fell just as hard for me. I thought we had it all.

"No one gave you permission to come inside of my house," she screeched. "Donnie, call the police. No, just throw him out!"

As Donnie moved towards me the other naked guys got up too. Being smaller than Donnie, I guess he expected me to be intimidated by his bulk. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Donnie was even stupider than I'd given him credit for. Attacking another man while you're naked is simply stupid. Donnie raised his big flabby arms as if he was going to grab me in a bear hug. I stomped down on his instep and broke his foot. Then I delivered a short chopping punch to Donnie's throat. I pulled the punch to avoid killing him and the pain in his foot was forgotten as he struggled to breathe.

My next move was as clichéd as it was un-necessary. Donnie was already out of commission and his friends after seeing how quickly I'd taken Donnie out of it had begun to retreat as swiftly as they could. There was no need for what I did, but I did it anyway.

I kicked Donnie in the clock-weights as hard as I could and left him a slobbering wheezing pile of goo on the floor.

I'm not a cruel man. I'm not a sadist. But I am a man. And the shrieking, flabby pile of trailer trash that Donnie was publicly fucking and sharing with his friends had once been my woman and legally, she was still my wife. That's why I did it. There is something primal about seeing another man fuck your woman. Something deep inside of us just wants to destroy or remove the offending organ much in the way that sperm cells destroy other men's semen. That is my only excuse for kicking Donnie in the nuts when he was already out of it.

As to why I stepped on Donnie's hand and then stepped onto his chest and then back down onto his other arm as I confronted Danielle, yep that part was probably over-kill. I wanted to show Danielle that her new man meant absolutely nothing to me.

On the floor behind me, Donnie just lay there wheezing, struggling to even take in enough oxygen to complain about his broken foot or his aching balls. His friends quickly gathered their clothes and beat feet out of there leaving Donnie where he lay.

"Danielle," I said calmly. "In the first place, I have every right to be here since I'm the one paying for this hovel. In the second place, the court gave me unlimited visitation rights as long as I am current on my child support. You have no legal recourse or reason to block me from entering the premises to see my child which was my only intention here today. I don't care what you do Danielle or whom you FUCK, since I wouldn't touch you with a syphilitic donkey's dick. You can have gang bangs on the lawn or...I guess you'd have to call it a sty now...if you want to and as long as it doesn't affect my daughter, I wouldn't care. I will be using the pictures I took today to try to get custody away from you, as soon as I get back though. Maybe we can finally get this God damned divorce over with and you can set up shop on the street corner of your choice."

She was seething as she looked at me.

"All you're going to get is out of a fucking job and thrown in jail," she hissed. "You broke in here and attacked poor Donnie."

I turned around and quickly took pictures of the two remaining guys as they tried to scamper away. "Hold it right there," I said. They both froze.

"I have both of your pictures. It will be a simple matter for me to run these pictures through the facial recognition software..." I just walked over to the first guy and took his wallet. The second guy just handed me his.

I quickly took pictures of their driver's licenses and returned them to them.

"Are we going to jail?" asked the first one. "I...I...used to have a card for that weed. I got the glaucoma and..."

"Just save it," I said. "I probably won't need your testimony and I don't care about the weed. If you do get called into court all you have to say is what really happened. I started trying to talk to Danielle and she tried to sic her fat assed boyfriend on me. Of course, you won't have to testify because Danielle may have done the world's greatest magic trick..."

They were looking at me curiously.

"What magic trick officer?" asked the second guy. "I was a little bit high so I might have missed it."

"She took a beautiful woman and turned her into a sloppy, fat, whore," I said. "Anyway Danielle isn't stupid. She's just flapping her lips to try to scare me. Even if I didn't have the right to be in here, which, I do. The door was open I just turned the knob and walked right in. So she doesn't have a case. She told Donnie to throw me out. Donnie moved towards me and I defended myself against a larger, heavier, greasier attacker. When you add to that the fact that I'm a federal agent; both Donnie and Danielle would be the ones in jail. She isn't THAT stupid. Have a good day."

I turned back to Danielle who was fuming so hard that her entire face had turned red and she was clenching her fists.

"Maybe if you stick another dick up your ass, you can let some of that steam out and your blood pressure will go down," I smirked at Danielle.

"Your video won't do much in court," she said. "The way the laws work in this country all that will happen is that they'll wonder why you're allowing your daughter to live like this and take even more money from you. Donnie's father is thinking of opening a few stores out of state. If you push this, or try to use that video, I'll move Katrina and myself out of state with him and you'll have a hard time ever seeing her."

"I'll be gone for a while," I said. "I have an assignment out of town to handle. And we'll finish discussing this then."

"You do know that's the reason I cheated on you," she said. "You were always leaving town for assignments. I got lonely. And after a while of that..."

"Save it for Oprah," I said and I left.

* * * * * *


As Donnie struggled to get up, I looked at him seriously. He kept coughing and grabbing both his throat and his nuts. All he could get out were gurgling sounds. I sat down on the couch. There was a time when I'd never let Rick sit on the couch if he'd just come back from a run. When we first moved here, I'd worked my ass off to make everything about the place look nice. I'd picked out this very same furniture as if the world depended on it being stylish and opulent, and now just look at it. Shit, just look at me.

I'm only two years older than Rick, at thirty, but I look like I'm pushing forty. Rick on the other hand still has that same boyish charm and looks younger than his twenty eight years. If you asked him he'd probably say that it's due to all of the workouts he has to do to stay fit for his job, but I think there's more to it than that. I think it's the lack of guilt and the fact that Rick is a fucking boy scout. I don't think Rick has ever done a bad thing in his life.

I don't see myself as a bad person. I'm just human. I make mistakes just like everyone else and I made a few during my life and during my marriage. The problem is that both Rick and his job put me under constant scrutiny.

Those idiots don't realize it but Rick is not a cop. Rick is also not an agent specifically. Rick works for the secret service. He isn't one of those guys who are assigned to protect the president. He doesn't have that type of seniority. But he is well thought of and is probably on the fast track to becoming one. What Rick does is he goes to places that the president or a senator or some other dignitary may soon visit and makes sure that the area around where the visit will occur is secure. He scouts routes for them to travel from place to place and arranges it so that every possible area of attack is covered or barricaded.
He and his team scout and cover areas where snipers could hit their targets from. It's a nearly impossible job but they do it to the best of their ability. No American president has ever been seriously injured on foreign soil. Most of the assassination attempts happened in US cities. So that says something about the job they do. It also says something about Rick.

He has this instinct for when something isn't right. He also tends to put all of his energy and concentration into one thing at a time. He has this sort of tunnel vision that allows him to block out everything except the prize. I guess that's how he got me, but it's also what led to our downfall.

Let me backtrack. My name is Danielle Mitner. I guess it's Danielle Hammond right now, since I'm still married to Rick legally. That, "legally," is a word that I hate.

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, I'm thirty years old and I wasn't always like this. All throughout high school and college, I was a cheerleader and I had a really nice body. There were all kinds of guys hitting on me all the time. I didn't settle for any of them though, because I'd decided at a very early age that I had to wait for someone special. I wanted a man who was going to amount to something.

Okay, I wasn't a whore. When I say amount to something I meant a man who was going to have high standards and provide for his family. We didn't necessarily have to be rich, but my husband had to love me and our kids and provide at least a comfortable life for us. I didn't think that was too much to ask for.

As pretty as I was, I could have just married one of those cheesy old rich guys who were always sniffing around me after football games. Right now I haven't convinced you yet have I? As you're listening to me, your mind is still saying whore, right?

Well, let me put it into context for you. When you look at me nine years ago you'd see Miss Michigan, a beauty pageant winner who had the chance to go on to become Miss America. You saw a beautiful twenty one year old girl with the world on a string.

What you wouldn't see and probably never heard about was the fact that the beautiful girl grew up in a fucking trailer park as one of six kids. My parents never got married and one day my mother got tired of it all and just left.

At the time I guess I couldn't blame her, we never had very much of anything. The only thing we had was each other and we didn't really have that. We couldn't stand the shit out of each other. My mother and father constantly argued about everything. They argued about not having any money and any time they got some they argued about what to do with it.

When you put that with the fact that both of my parents had roving eyes, things start to come into focus. My dad would fuck anything he saw, but then so would my mother. The difference was that my dad was good at covering his tracks. My mother was just a whore. Thinking back on it, more than one of their arguments started out with, "So what, I gave him some pussy."

It was after one of those arguments that my mother disappeared. We were too young to really understand what had happened and they didn't tell us the whole story at first. They'd had their argument about my dad finding out that my mom had slept with some guy and at the time I didn't know anything about sex. I thought that sleeping with someone; literally meant sleeping with them. So I really didn't understand what the fuss was about.

So after the argument, my mother stormed out of the trailer. Apparently, she went walking down the road and several people saw her get into a car with another man. She never came back. I do remember my dad crying his eyes out for about three days straight after she was gone. That was also when things went from bad to worse because he just stopped going to work. Whatever it was had just drained the life out of my father and he was never the same. In my own mind, I decided that he shouldn't have gotten so angry about her sleeping with people.

We ended up being evicted. All of the kids were separated and sent to live with different family members on both sides of the family. What I didn't realize was that not all of us had the same fathers. My sister Claudia, whom I'd always thought was beautiful and was the only one of my siblings that I really loved, wasn't taken by my grandfather who'd taken me. When I begged him to take Claudia too, he just shook his head.

"Grandpa, she doesn't take up much space and I'll share my food with her," I cried. "She's my sister. She's my best sister."

"Hush up girl," he'd said. "You can call her your sister if you want. But she ain't my granddaughter. There's no way I'm taking some black guy's kid home with me. My son was stupid for putting up with your mother's whoring."

The break-up of my family colored a lot of my thoughts and opinions throughout my life. I decided that when I did get married, I'd never sleep with anyone except my husband and that I would never try to raise my family in a trailer.

Until I was old enough to realize what she'd done, I never blamed any of it on my mother. I put everything on my father's shoulders. I always thought that someday she'd be back for us and she'd find all of her children scattered all over wherever we were and we'd all get back together. I thought that my daddy would find us too and he'd forgive mommy and we'd be happy again.

That fantasy was like armor for me. I wrapped myself in it as I grew older. I held onto that fantasy until I found out the truth when I was about sixteen. I had a cousin who knew the whole story and she told me during a visit.

Grandpa didn't take me to see my daddy, because my daddy had died the year before. He'd died in the nuthouse my cousin had told me. Then she told me that my daddy had gone to the nuthouse because he'd checked out when he found out that my mother had been murdered. My father wasn't coming back to get us and neither was my mother.

My cousin even told me that the whole thing wasn't my daddy's fault, it was my mother's. After the last argument, my mother had gotten into a car with a strange man. She wanted to rub it in my daddy's face. But the man had, in my cousin's words, fucked her, then killed her and left her by the side of the road. They'd never caught him. My cousin said that was God's way of punishing her.

I understood then what my daddy had been crying about and why he went crazy. Even though my mother had done what she'd done he loved her too much to try to live without her. Grandpa often said that my mother was a whore. But I told him later on that both of them had cheated. Grandpa just looked at me and shook his head. He told me that my dad had only started sleeping with other women after the third or fourth time that my mother did it. He figured that he's show her what it felt like. He told me that the real tragedy was that they got together too young and had nothing going for them. They had no jobs, no skills and no education. Even though they were never legally married they could never leave each other. It was like some weird Shakespearian tragedy.

I decided then that I needed to go to college and any man that I married had to love me as much as my daddy loved my mother but he also had to have an education. So things started out well. I was beautiful and popular but I rarely dated because my standards were too high. It was in my second year of college that a group of people I knew brought a guy I'd never seen before around. He took one look at me and sparks flew between us.

As our friends talked about us, I could see disappointment in his eyes and he looked away from me. All kinds of things went through my mind. I found out that we were both from the state of Michigan and I thought that maybe the well-crafted lies that I told everyone about my background had been detected. I also thought that maybe once he'd discovered what I was that he was no longer interested. He probably thought I'd show up soon on an episode of Jerry Springer. He was as bright and shiny as a new penny and I was sure that he didn't want anything to do with me.

He even left the cafeteria and waited for my friends to take him back to the dorms outside. I had to find out why he looked so low, so I followed him.

"Your name is Richard isn't it?" I asked him.

"Yep," he said looking down. I noticed then that he was bigger than me but he wasn't a huge guy. He was very muscular and he moved with a sort of masculine animalistic grace that just did something to me.

It sounds stupid but when I looked into his eyes I could see his soul. He wanted me badly but he didn't just want me for sex. He wanted all of me. He wanted my whole life.

"Why don't you like me?" I asked. He looked at me with the stupidest expression on his face.

"Who said I don't like YOU?" he asked. "You're a beauty queen. You're going to be in the Miss America pageant and on TV. I just didn't think you'd want to waste your time on someone like me."

"But aren't you supposed to be a big time quarterback for the football team?" I asked laughing.

"I guess," he said. "But I don't even go to school here yet. I'm eighteen years old and still in high school. I'll start here in the fall. They're just taking me around and getting me used to the place. I guess it isn't too late for me to pick a different school."

"Why would you want to do that?" I asked.

"Shit, I can play football at any school in the country," he said. "I got a lot of offers, but I just don't think I'd like to be around here and have to watch you with other guys."

"So how do you know that it wouldn't be you here with me?" I asked. "Are you going to let the fact that I'm a few years older than you get in your way?"

That was all it took. From that day we were joined at the hip. Rick was unlike any other man I'd ever known. He didn't ever lie to me. He rarely swore and he always treated me like I was a princess.

He was angrier than I was about what happened in the Miss America pageant. Everyone thought that I was a shoe in, except for some of those bitches I competed against. I looked great and I felt great. My first problem came when I had to do the world famous promenade of states. That's where all the contestants march across the stage and introduce themselves and tell which state they're from. You wear a costume that represents some of the great things about your home state.

As I was walking across the stage swinging my ass back and forth and just about to say, "My name is Danielle Mitner and I'm from the great state of Michigan," the heel on both of my shoes broke and I fell on my ass. I tried to play it off by taking my shoes off and looking at them to show that I'd had a wardrobe malfunction but the camera had zoomed in on the next contestant. The only thing the audience remembered was me falling on my ass.

I still managed to make it into the next round on my looks alone but any question about me being graceful was ruined. That fall alone had probably robbed me of the chance to be Miss America, but I kept going. I thought that I'd make up some points in the talent contest but there again, I met with disaster. I played the violin. Unfortunately someone had gotten backstage and loosed the tuning pegs on my violin. I later found out that they'd also super-glued the hairs on my bow together so it wouldn't vibrate the strings correctly either.

My violin solo sounded like a couple of cats in heat. I have to admit that I drew out emotions in the audience. Some of them cried because it sounded so awful, other laughed because the look on my face as I played was funny as hell.

After the contest was over my coach took my shoes and my violin to the promoter of the contest to show what had been done to them. He just looked at her and smiled.

"Is this her first big contest?" he asked. We nodded our heads thinking he was sympathetic.

"Okay," he said smiling. "We'll just call everyone back and have a do-over." We looked at him in shock.

"Seriously?" I asked.

"Of course not," he spat. "Listen girlie. It's like those rap guys always say, "Bitches be crazy. Next time you're in one of these things, keep an eye on all of your stuff. Every girl in these contests would do ANYTHING to win. So fucking your pretty little shoes up, or messing with your fiddle don't mean shit. The hardest part for me is keeping these whores from screwing the judges for more points. Now if you'll excuse me..."

But I was still Rick's beauty queen and he proposed to me that night. He told me that he was sorry that I lost, but he was also glad that I lost. He'd be worried about me traveling all over the world during my reign and the two of us not seeing each other.

That was also the night that we first had sex and we never looked back from then. It must have been four months later that the wheels came off of our trip through Candy land. I discovered that I was pregnant. Rick was as happy as he could be. Of course, we got married immediately. There was no way that we could wait two more years for Rick to graduate. And as I got bigger and bigger my speaking engagements as a former beauty queen dried up.

Rick's family offered to help us, but Rick thought that we should take responsibility for what we'd done. He dropped out of school and kissed his chance at pro football goodbye for me and our baby. He decided to join the military because it would give him a salary and pay for college after his tour as well.

While going through the tests for the army, Rick was contacted by a different branch of the government. Rick made a deal to start working for the secret service. They paid for the rest of his college classes and paid him a salary while he trained.

We immediately moved into our beautiful little detached apartment here and thought that we were on our way to greatness. The first few years were just that. They were great. But as the years wore on and Rick started being occasionally posted out of not only the state but the country, I started to resent it.

To me it seemed like Rick was advancing in his career and traveling all over the world. But I was stuck at home doing nothing. At the same time, some of it was my fault. Even after Katrina was old enough to go into daycare, I didn't work out or try to get myself back into shape. I'd gained some weight during the pregnancy and piled more on afterwards as well.

Rick was ecstatic with our life. He loved me, I can never say enough about that. During that time I felt more loved than any woman has a right to be. But he was just away so often. Rick was also the best father I know and he still is. We were talking about buying a house and having another baby. It was a great time until I fucked it up.

Maybe I was more like my mother than I ever suspected, but I fell for a line from a really smooth operator in our neighborhood. Rick had been out of town for a week and I was very lonely. I invited him in for a cup of coffee after he'd volunteered to cut our grass. I gave him a cup of coffee and a piece of cake. Before he left he'd also had a piece of ass. I was so stupid.

The sex wasn't very good. If I'd been curious about what being with a man other than Rick was like, I knew then. On the physical side it was pretty much the same. On the emotional side it was very lacking. I told myself that I would never do it again. But I did. And I did it again after that. And Rick caught me. It was the same old story. He came home early and beat the shit out of the guy. I realized then exactly what Rick did for a living. He put the man in the hospital and wasn't even scratched himself.

Rick actually called the police and they took the guy to the hospital. The poor man went through a couple of surgeries and a long recovery just for trying to keep me from being lonely. I guess I knew what I'd done was wrong, but I didn't see the harm in it.

The man was no threat to my marriage. I didn't love him, I just fucked him. It was no more serious to me than if we'd just played cards. Rick didn't see it that way. We got into a huge argument while I tried to explain it to him.

"So I gave him some pussy, so what?" I said. "It's not like you were here to get it. It's not like you lost anything, Honey." On some levels I think I was glad that I'd gotten caught because it allowed me to push for what I really wanted. I wanted Rick to stop traveling and just take a desk job. In my mind he made enough money and I'd be happier if he was just home all of the time. I guess as much as I thought I knew my husband, I'd forgotten about how honest he was. Rick had never lied to me even when it was unpleasant to tell the truth. So I guess I should have considered the fact that he'd be a lot less likely to accept dishonesty from anyone else either.

"Danielle," he said to me and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why he was crying. Shit if the pussy meant that much to him, he could have some right then. "That's where you got it wrong. I didn't lose ANYTHING. I lost EVERYTHING." He just left me standing there and went up to our room and started packing.

"You're an asshole," I screamed. I was glad that my daughter was still at daycare. "You come home after being gone for a week. You beat a man senseless because he decided to comfort me when you couldn't. You get into a big argument with me and then before we've settled anything you go back out of town on another fucking assignment. When you get back, there will probably be another man here." I swear to God I didn't mean it. I was just angry.

"Wrong again, Danielle," he said calmly. I think his calmness pissed me off more than anything else. But he couldn't help that. A quarterback has to be calm and assess everything around him while large, quick, brutal men are trying to throw him to the ground. Rick was just being Rick.

"I'm not fucking wrong, " I screamed. "I can give this pussy to anyone I want. I always say it's yours but if you aren't here to use it, someone else can."

"You're right about that," he said. "It was the other things that you were wrong about. You said that when I got back there'd be another man here. The first place that you were wrong is that you thought I was going on assignment; I'm not. I'm just leaving here. I won't live with a whore. And the second thing was that when I got back there'd be another man here. You were wrong there because I won't be back. I'll call you and we'll arrange for me to pick Rina up for my visits. We should probably both do the rest of our talking through lawyers. Goodbye Danielle. And congratulations, you wanted to hurt me and you did. You ripped my heart out through my throat and shit down the hole. I loved you so much and we had a good life, but I guess you deserved better." I was in shock at what he was saying. He was doing it all wrong.

"I just wanted you to know one thing though," he said. "My life away from you isn't anything like what you think. You're bored here and you want to do things. I like having it that way for you and that's why I work so hard. I want you fat and bored and...SAFE. People outside of the country don't always like us very much despite how much money we give to help support other countries. In a lot of the places we go to, we get spit upon and called names and have rocks thrown at us or we get shot at. There are times when I have to hurt people just to make sure that my team or the people we're trying to protect aren't hurt. But I do that so we can have a nice life. If I'd stuck to playing football, I'd be safer and a hell of a lot richer."

After that he was gone. I couldn't believe that I'd driven my husband away from me over some mediocre sex with a man who simply fucked me because he was as bored as I was. He also couldn't do the things he did to me to his wife. I'd realized a long time ago that I was no better than a prostitute to him. The only difference was that he'd have had to pay a hooker.
I decided then to do whatever I could to get Rick back and make it up to him. None of it worked. He wouldn't speak to me unless it had something to do with Katrina. Rick filed for divorce and asked for joint custody. That was all he wanted. He agreed to split everything with me fifty/fifty and even pay me alimony for five years. He probably could have gotten away with two years.

I fought the divorce and counter sued and delayed because the thing I wanted the most was to have him back. Every time I tried to speak to him and he refused, I took it as an insult against me and tried to hurt him right back.

I already knew how to do that, it was simple. If I asked for a meeting or for him to come to dinner at the house and he begged off, I just had sex with someone in the neighborhood that knew him so it would get back to him. Over the first six months of our divorce it happened four or five times. I guess I wasn't smart enough to see the big picture. I didn't see that every time I did it, I became a bigger whore, and each time it hurt Rick less. It finally got to the point where he didn't care anymore.

The first year of our divorce saga ended with my lawyer forcing Rick into counseling. And of course, since he could only go when he was in town it took more than six months for the counseling. A round of arguments about the alimony and more out of town assignments ended the second year of our divorce drama. And then the bottom dropped out for me. Katrina came home all excited after a visit with her dad and told me about her new mommy. Rick had brought along a woman that he was dating on a trip to the zoo and I was devastated. It took weeks for me to actually get a glimpse of her.

She was everything that I never was, pretended to be or used to be. She was English so she had that accent that just sounded classy no matter what she was saying. She too had won several beauty contests back in her college days which weren't very long ago at that time and she still looked the part. In stark contrast to my short, dark hair, she had very long, very wavy, blond hair and bright blue eyes. When she got out of Rick's Mustang, I no longer wanted to meet her, I just wanted to stare at her. I wanted to twist her fucking head off and kill her but more than that, I wanted to be her. She was so pretty that it hurt my eyes to look at her. Shit, I wanted to be her so that my husband would love me again. She waited by the car while Rick came to the door to get Katrina.

After that, I knew that he'd be gone soon. I made my demands in the divorce more outrageous to try to hold onto him. At the same time, I met Donnie and started dating him. I don't love Donnie but I need him. Donnie's family is rich. If Rick manages to divorce me, I'll need Donnie. The next few times that Rick picked Katrina up, I made sure to mention Donnie and apparently Rick never even noticed.

I finally realized what a fool I'd been when I mentioned to Rick that since we were both in relationships maybe we should double date. He and his English friend and Donnie and I could all go out together. That was when I proved how big a fool I am.

"Are you happy with Donnie?" he asked.

"Oh yes," I gushed, trying to twist the knife. "He makes me feel more loved than any man I've ever known. And it's the best sex I've ever had." He winced a bit but he smiled.

"I'm glad you're happy," he said. "I've always wanted you to be happy throughout all of this. Maybe we can get this divorce handled now so you can marry him."

"Are you happy with Anne?" I asked. I was so shocked by his words that I could barely think. He'd said he wanted me to be happy and he hadn't been lying or sarcastic. He meant it.

"Why would I be happy with Anne?" he asked. He was truly confused. "We're not together. She's just a person I work with. Our allies often send their agents here to train. I was her training officer so there were times when I'd ask her along to go to the zoo or something just to be polite. There's no way I'd ever enter into a relationship with anyone when I'm not divorced from you yet, Danielle. I thought you knew me better than that."

He looked at me curiously. "Did you really think that I was that kind of person?" he asked. As he walked away with Katrina I ran up to my room and cried again. It seemed like all of my schemes and plans to try to hurt him only ever hurt me. And when all the water was boiled out of the pot, I never really wanted to hurt him in the first place. I just wanted him back.

"Water," the gurgled words sounded awful but they drew me out of my thoughts. I looked down at Donnie's flabby, obscene, naked body where he lay curled up on the floor. I got up and got him a cup of water. He sipped it and winced as it went down his throat painfully.

He tested his voice and was able to talk again albeit painfully.

"I," he said. "My balls hurt bad. I can't walk. My foot hurts really bad too."

I snickered.

"What's so God damned funny?" he asked.

"Before we got married, Rick used to play football. I think he was playing with you. Get it, foot and balls; football."

"I should have kicked his little ass," growled Donnie. "The next time I see that asshole."

"Donnie, please," I said. "Quit while you're behind. You tried to kick his ass and he played with you. You're bigger than he is and you weigh more. You were the one who jumped at him first and you had three of your friends here. The easiest thing for him to have done would have been to have shot you. He could have gotten away with it too. You attacked a federal agent. If he had shot you, they'd have thrown your ass in jail as soon as you recovered from the surgery. But don't worry about it, baby. You won. You tried to fight for your woman. You have me and if it's any consolation, I'm pretty sure he scuffed the shit out of his shoes when he kicked you in the balls."

* * * * * *


I got to the federal building downtown and parked my Mustang in the underground parking structure. I grabbed one of our shuttles that took me to the airport. I showed my badge and credentials and was on the plane with twenty minutes to spare.

The flight to DC was uneventful. I slept through most of it. I had no idea where my assignment would take me or how long I'd be away for. The one good thing about my separation and pending divorce was that I could freely concentrate on my career. I could accept any kind of assignment anywhere in the world because there was no longer anything to hold me back.

My boss, Jeremy Clarkson and another agent James May were waiting for me as I deplaned. Jeremy was smiling at me, which either meant he had some very good news for me or very bad news and he was glad that I had to do it and not him.

"Guess where, you're going?" he said as soon as we were in the car.

"Iraq?" I asked.

"Wrong area," he said.

"Canada?" I asked.

"Pacmanistan," he said.

"Oh shit," I said. "Isn't that the place where all of the sewers in Russian, Poland and Slovakia empty?"

He just nodded his head. "But at least you'll be there doing your dream job." He beamed.

"I'm going to be protecting the president?" I gushed.

"Not exactly," he said. "But it's something like that."

By that time, we were at the White House. Once inside, we went into a briefing room and the team consisting of ten agents; eight men and two women sat waiting to be briefed for their assignment. Jeremy went up to the podium and the First Lady walked into the room. She smiled at me and I immediately stood up. "Mrs. Cameron," I said respectfully.

"Jeezus, Rick," she said, her soft southern drawl more pronounced away from the cameras.

"There's no need ta' be so formal. There aren't any reporters here. But I appreciate it just the same." She patted me on the shoulder and went up to speak to Jeremy.

He nodded several times and then shuffled his papers and started talking.

"Let's get this briefing started," he began. He pointed to the screen behind him and a map appeared there.

"This is the sovereign nation of Pacmanistan," he said. He started talking about the region and its three major cities. He also talked about the border it shared with several Eastern European countries.

"You will be in Pacmanistan for three days," he said. "Your job is to protect..."

"The president," gushed one of the older agents.

"," said Jeremy.

"The vice president," yelled another who was slightly less enthusiastic.

"No..." said Jeremy.

"The Secretary of Sate?" asked another agent.

"Nope..." said Jeremy.

"The First Lady?" asked one of the female agents.

"Uhm not exactly..."said Jeremy.

"Then who?" asked one of the agents in frustration. I think that we were all equally disappointed. As I looked around the room, I noticed that the demeanor of the agents present had changed since Jeremy stood up to begin the briefing. Most of the agents here were professionals. They would do the job they were assigned and would do it to the best of their abilities. But most of us were a little bit disappointed.

The room contained a mixture of agents with varying degrees of age and experience. Some were on their way up. Some of them, including myself, had never been on a protection detail before. Others had formerly been assigned to protect either the president or some other person. For some of them, they'd believed that they were taking another step upwards. Others realized that they were now taking a step in the other direction.

"You'll be assigned to protect Millicent Cameron," said Jeremy in a barely audible voice.

"Oh fuck, not Millie the Model," gushed one agent.

The change in Jeremy was instantaneous. His eyes snapped up and he addressed the guy who'd said it.

"Mr. Carlisle, you're off of the assignment," he snapped. "In fact, you're suspended."

Carlisle grabbed his brief case and stood up taking his belongings with him. He grumbled under his breath about how he'd rather be suspended.

"Is there anyone else here who'd rather not be on this assignment?" Jeremy asked. "Does anyone have anything they'd like to say or to get off of their chest before we resume?" No one said a word, so I raised my hand. Jeremy was clearly shocked.

"Yes Mr. Hammond," he said in syllables so crisp I thought they'd break.

"I'm honored to be assigned to protect Miss Cameron," I said. "But the assignment was supposedly designed for ten agents. My concern is for her safety. Will Agent Carlisle be replaced?"

Jeremy smiled and nodded his head. The First Lady also smiled.

"My assistant, Agent May, who is already present will go with you. He'll act as senior agent. Now let's get into the meat of the assignment."

Over the next half hour Jeremy gave us all kinds of facts about Pacmanistan and its culture. The religion in Pacmanistan was an extremely radical version of fundamentalist Christian beliefs. Their doctrine wasn't too far removed from the early Mormons or Jim Jones.

They believed a man could have multiple wives as long as he could comfortably support them. And, as in a lot of countries, men held all of the power. There were certain things that women simply couldn't do in Pacmanistan. Our female agents had to make sure that they never went out in public without a male escort. Any unescorted woman could be claimed by a man and that included foreigners. It would be up to the woman's family to arrange for her return if she was unmarried and for her husband to see to her return and punishment if she was married.

A married woman who was taken would have to prove that she was married or she could be claimed and used by the man who'd taken her. Many women who were taken were simply left by their husbands. No one wanted a woman who had been sullied back. Many of these women were simply thrown out into the streets later and had to try to make it on their own in a society where women didn't hold very much value.

"Why the hell are we going there?" asked an agent. "It seems like something out of the middle ages."

"Like most of the states in that region, the US has a very tenuous relationship with Pacmanistan. Unlike some of the other countries in the area, Pacmanistan allies more closely with the North Koreans and the Chinese than the Russians. Pacmanistan is the only manufacturer of a special type of portable power source that we're interested in..."

"I've heard of those," said one agent. "They call them power pellets, right?"

"Yes," said Jeremy. "At any rate, having an exchange of visits with Pacmanistan would do a lot to stabilize our relationship with them and as it so happens, Millicent Cameron's college roommate was a princess from the royal family in Pacmanistan. She invited Miss Cameron for a three day visit to attend one of their festivals."

We were given a few hours to prepare and told to meet back at the White House for the motorcade to the airport.

As I left the room and headed down the hall, I was stopped by the head of White House security. He ushered me towards the Oval Office and I was nervous. As far as I knew, the room should have been empty. This president only used the big office for official meetings and press conferences. He preferred smaller, less ostentatious rooms for day to day work. The agencies generally called it the "Offal Office," because whenever an agent was called there it was because he'd fucked up. The guys who'd fucked up during the Obama presidency were fired from that room. I was really nervous to be heading there. Just as we got to the room, the door opened and agent Carlisle walked out with a pissed off expression on his face. "Whatever happened to, "Free speech?" he muttered loudly.

A few minutes later, the Director of the Secret Service came out and held the door for me. He smiled at me and nodded his head. I figured he'd probably done that before talking to Carlisle as well.

That was the way things like that were done in DC. No one fired you anymore. You didn't get shit canned or terminated or laid off. What they did now was emotionless except for those God damned smiles.

They'd just smile at you and then tell you something like, "They'd recognized that you had qualities that were simply not being used in your current employment scheme. They hated to have you waste your potential and not doing all that you could be doing. Unfortunately, there was nowhere in their organization that you could utilize all of that potential so rather than hold you back any longer, they'd decided to release you so that you could reach your full potential."

They actually had the stones to smile at you while they did it too. They actually pretended that they were giving you the greatest opportunity in the world. But everyone knew that all of DC was one big club. If you were let go from one area of the club, the chances of you getting another chance in another were very God damned slim. I was actually trying to decide on whether I should try my hand at private security or use up my savings and go back to finish law school, when I noticed that HE was in the office with me.

I was standing in front of Alan Cameron the president of the God damned, United States of America.

"Rick, I was watching the briefing," he said. "You saved the meeting. You displayed the attitude and professionalism that we expect from the Secret Service. You turned the tide of what could have turned really bad. You're on your way up, son. So I need to ask a favor of you. I know this isn't dangerous assignment and you really should be doing something more important. I'll make sure that from now on you do too. But this time I want you to look out for my little girl. I know that she's wild and more than a little crazy. When she sets her mind to something, there's just no stopping her. But her mother was like that when we were young and she grew into a great lady. So Rick, you protect my little girl. Bring her back safe."

"Yes sir," I said. He reached out and just as his wife had done an hour before, he patted me on the shoulder.

Once we got onto the plane, I settled down for some alone time. There was very little chance of an incident happening on the plane. Millicent was surrounded by her personal secretary and both of the female agents who would be with her during the trip. I was invited to play cards by some of the agents on the plane that I'd worked with before but declined. I just needed some time to myself to think about what had just happened and how to get my divorce back on track.

I knew a little bit about Danielle's childhood and the way she grew up. We'd talked at length about the kind of marriage she wanted and she'd been very insistent on the parts about us being true to each other. I wondered what the hell had happened to that woman and how she became the raving slut that I was trying to get away from. I pulled out my notebook and tried to write. My notebook wasn't really a journal or a diary or anything like that. It was just a series of observations and poems I wrote that helped me to make sense of things.

At the end of each year and sometimes when I was stressed, I'd look back over my thoughts and think about how I'd felt and what was going on when I read them. The poems were sometimes pretty good, at least I thought so.

At that time, I just couldn't come up with anything. No poems or even words sprang to mind. I felt like I was in the middle of a jungle with danger all around me. I had to be very careful where I stepped because any wrong step could end up in disaster.

At the same time, although there was danger all around me, I felt alone. I felt like the only person I had in my life was my eight year old daughter and if I wasn't careful I could lose her too. I put the notebook back in my pocket and tried to grab some sleep. I had no idea how much sleep I'd get over the next few days so grabbing some while the opportunity presented itself seemed smart.

Before I closed my eyes, I scanned the plane and saw Millicent. She seemed to be happily chatting away with the other ladies. She didn't seem to have a care in the world. That meant that I was actually doing my job. I drifted off to sleep.

* * * * * *


As the plane flew towards our destination my heart was light. Actually, my old roommate, Polly's, invitation had come at just the right time. The idiot I'd been dating had been starting to put pressure on me to sleep with him and I wasn't feeling it. Derek Christian seemed to be like the other men I'd dated over the years.

They were all reasonably good looking. They all came from the right families and had the right amount of money and political standing. When I dated them, we looked good together and made it onto the right magazine covers and went to all of the right parties and events. Everything was just too fucking right.

I felt more like a prized racehorse than a woman. I had, of course, scandalized the country several times by wearing a skirt or two that the magazines and reporters thought seemed too short or too tight for the daughter of a well to do family to wear, much less the daughter of the president.

I had also supported several causes and done things that simply didn't fit in with my father's political party's views or my father's views. Things like that made the headlines far more than any stylistic faux pas ever would.

I knew what they thought of me. I also knew what they called me. "Millie the Model." and "The first family freak," were some of them that I didn't mind. The funny part was although I was supposed to be a wild party girl, at twenty six years old I'd only slept with two men in my entire life.

A lot of my press was simply based on the reporters projecting their fantasies of what they thought I'd be like, on me. If I went to a party in California and there was a suspicion of someone doing drugs there, it was automatically assumed that I'd been one of the people there who partook in the drugs. The reality was that I'd never done drugs of any kind.
If I went on a camp out while in college and it was reported in the papers that several of the campers, who were, of course, college students and well over eighteen years old, had engaged in sexual behavior; it was automatically assumed that I'd gotten fucked.

I did date a lot because I got asked out a lot. A big part of that was the way I look. I'm not stupid, I understand that my looks attract a lot of attention and if I wasn't the president's daughter and the senator's daughter before that, I probably could have been a model. Not that I would have, but I could have been. So a lot of guys ask me out.

I'd say that half of them ask me out for my looks. The other half ask me out because I'm the president's daughter. Some of them do it for political or occupational reasons, others because they're really stuck on themselves and see me as some kind of trophy or prize to enhance their own status.

I've never yet been on a date where a guy treats me like I'm just a woman. I do make a very poor trophy though. Many of them run away after finding out that I'm the kind of trophy that likes to use her brains more than just sitting on a shelf looking pretty. I'm also the kind of trophy that can end up kicking you in the nuts if you make the wrong move.

I guess that's my problem, most of the men I date aren't really men. In a lot of cases they aren't even boys, they're more like toys. They're just something to play with and I'm beginning to grow out of the stage where it's fun to play with them.

My assistant Liz said something that I'd missed as I looked across the cabin and caught a glimpse of one of the agents assigned to protect me. His name was Richard something or other and he was surprisingly attractive for what he was. One of the things you expected from your security people in general and secret service guys in particular was that they were supposed to be innocuous, anonymous looking guys who wore dark suits and didn't draw attention to themselves.

This guy was different. He was kind of cute and probably about my age or barely older. But at the same time, he didn't have the arrogance of guys my age. He had kind of an old world charm. There was something else about him that made me look at him. Separately, both my mother and father had told me that if anything out of the ordinary or anything dangerous happened; I was to get myself to Rick.

As the plane knifed its way through the sky, I wondered why. He wasn't the biggest of the agents, or the oldest, or the most aggressive. He wasn't even the most intimidating looking one by a long way. I wondered what made him special.

"I thought you were on good terms with your mother," said Liz, my personal assistant.

"What?" I asked.

"I saw you staring at Rick Hammond," she smirked. "He is kind of cute for a white boy. But the word around the White House is that he's your mom's puppy."

The two female secret service agents laughed at that and I looked at Liz in surprise. Liz and I have known each other since high school and she read my face.

"No, stupid. I didn't mean it like that," she said. "Your mother taught both of us our values. She's a lady and she loves your father more than anything I've ever seen. That kind of love is especially rare in Washington. What I meant was that Rick has the BIGGEST crush on your mother that I've ever even heard of."

"He acts more like she's the queen than the First Lady," she continued. That sent the two secret service agents into another bout of laughter.

"Off the record," I said. "Is that true?"

The two women looked at each other and one of them nodded her head vigorously. "If your mother told him to jump, he'd leap into the air and hang there until she told him he could come down," she said.

"You guys have it wrong, I think," said the other agent. "I think that Rick is just extremely respectful. And it's not just your mother. It's your family."

She looked at the other agent. "Remember what he said about her at the briefing."

"He said something about my mother at the briefing?" I asked.

"No," she said. "He said it about you."

I got warm then wondering what he'd said.

"One of the agents there made the mistake of calling you, Millie the Model. And from what we've heard, I believe a lot of the agents there were either worried or disappointed about this assignment."

"Why?" I asked.

"Well...this is off the record, right?" she asked and looked at me.

"I swear it," I said.

"Well you go to a lot of parties and places that, while they're not dangerous on the surface, can cost people their jobs and their careers. Things you don't even consider can ruin people's lives ma'am. Do you remember when you went to that party in New York and snuck off to go to another party with the guy you were dating?"

"Yes," I smiled. "That was fun."

"For you," she said. "The four agents who were assigned to watch you were fired because they couldn't keep track of you. Two of them were married with kids. Your fun left them jobless with families to support." I was shocked.

"I never knew that," I said.

"So yeah, a lot of us were worried about being assigned to your protection detail. It's a "lose-lose proposition." If nothing happens to you, it's simply business as usual. Watching you on what is supposed to be a short fun outing isn't the kind of assignment that will stand out on our records or lead to any advancement. On the other hand, if you ditch us or something does happen to you, whether it's because of happenstance or because you ditched us, then we're either fired or we have a black mark on our records that would prevent us from ever going any higher." I had trouble meeting her eyes.

"On the other hand, they put together a very good team and some of us were thinking that with our service records, we should be assigned to more prestigious duties like one of the big three," she said.

"You'd rather work for one of the car companies?" I asked.

"No, the big three are the president, the vice president or the First Lady," she said. "Anyway, after agent Carlisle was dismissed for simply saying what a lot of people felt, Rick raised his hand with a question. He started out by saying that he was happy..."

The other agent interrupted. "He didn't say happy. He said he was honored to be assigned to Miss Cameron."

"Oh, you're right," said the first agent. "He said honored and he asked who would be replacing Carlisle because the assignment was supposed to call for ten people."

I took another look at the sleeping man. No one in my life had ever said that being around me was anything other than a pain in their ass, unless they were trying to impress my parents or get into my panties. Perhaps that was the reason that my parents both liked him. They thought that he was one of those men who'd go beyond the call of duty to protect me.

* * * * * *


"They will be here in only hours," he spat. "Everything must be ready and it must be perfect. Oil those fucking hinges so they don't make a sound or replace them."

"Yes my prince," said the craftsman. "But this room will probably not be used."

"What are you babbling about idiot?" asked Gregor. He didn't like the man at all. The citizens of Pacmanistan should be more solicitous towards their future king. The Pollinscourt family had ruled Pacmanistan for centuries. With his father aging, it was only a matter of time before Gregor would be king.

"Your sister has put her in one of the rooms near her own," said the man. "Since she is, after all, her guest and she invited her. They did not consider your plan, my prince."

Gregor's face grew red with anger and he stalked off.

As soon as he was alone, he dialed a number on his cell phone and spoke into the instrument. "There has been a change in plans," he said. "We are going to have to do this the hard way. So we will go back to plan A."

There was a voice heard from the other end of the line. "No, you idiot this was plan B. The other plan was plan A. But I guess when we decided to go with this one it became plan A and plan A became plan B. But now that Plan A that was originally plan B became impossible, the plan A that became plan B, became plan A again. Just fucking do it."

Gregor hated his sister. Sanyia was always trying to upset the applecart. She wanted to modernize the country and especially the way that women were treated. The bitch was too stupid to even realize that it was Gregor who had arranged for the American delegation to even come here.

Gregor had fooled his sister into inviting them. With the spring festival coming up, Gregor had begun to put pressure on his sister to attend the festival instead of remaining in England where she was working on her doctorate. Sanyia's views on women were stupid. She didn't understand the women of Pacmanistan because she didn't know any of them. She'd been educated abroad from the time she was twelve. She thought more like a western woman than any woman from her own country. Her friends didn't even call her by her name. They called her Polly.

It was a good thing that Gregor was the older of the siblings. He'd also done what he could to allow her to stay out of the country. He didn't need her drumming up support for her stupid causes at home. There had been a couple of instances in Pacmanistan where a queen ruled the country until she married.

Gregor had too many alliances with other strong countries and men who were counting on him to rule the country. His father did tend to echo Sanyia's views on it being time to modernize. He didn't want it to come to that, but sacrifices might have to be made.

He walked to the window and looked down at his sister's compound. His sister had her own luxury bungalow built in the shadow of the huge palace. When she was home, that was where she resided. In her house, she made the rules. He should have foreseen Sanyia's choice to have her guest stay in her bungalow with her. After all, they had shared a room in college. It was an oversight that he shouldn't have made.

He made a list of everything he'd need to have done. He could still accomplish his goals. It would simply be harder on the other side.

* * * * * *


As soon as the plane landed, I was on my feet and headed towards the exit. That didn't last for long. I walked thinking about the door and found my way blocked. It was, of course, Rick. He pretended that it was an accident. He pretended that he'd just been clumsy but I'm not stupid. He simply didn't want me to be the first one to the door.

As the door opened, he nodded and a couple of agents stepped out of the plane and walked down the jet way to the ground and the limo that waited there. He looked at them through the window of the plane. They scrutinized Polly and her escort and nodded back to him.

He then apologized again for blocking my path. I smiled when I realized how concerned he was for my safety. The funny thing about it is that he never made eye contact with me. The whole time it was ma'am this and Miss Cameron that. I wasn't used to being treated like that.

My protective squad usually called me Miss Cameron out of respect, but the whole Ma'am thing was unnerving.

The agent in charge, Mr. May, seemed to be a bit perturbed that Rick had taken charge. I nodded at him and he smiled at me but I could still tell that he was pissed.

"It's not like there was any danger," he said to Rick when he thought I couldn't hear them. "I repeat we are on a purely fun, visit. There are no diplomatic or political ramifications here. Relax, we don't want your over-zealousness to cause an incident."

As soon as I got into the limo, Polly and I started chattering as if it had only been a day, not a couple of years since we'd seen each other.

We all called her Polly as a shortened form of her last name Pollinscourt. She acted just like any other girl at college. It was hard to believe that she was a princess. Her long dark hair and pale skin contrasted with my blond hair and tanned skin.

We talked about everything under the sun until the limo arrived at her compound. Once there, I met her father, the king, and her brother. They all seemed to be very polite. Her brother seemed to be the brooding artist type. I'd run into enough of them to realize that they were just shy.

He did try to get me to move myself and my staff into rooms in the palace, but I assured him that whatever Polly had set up for us was fine. Besides I WAS sure that he was only being polite.

While we talked and Mr. May introduced the agents and staff to the palace's chief of staff, I noticed that Rick and another of the agents were missing. I have no idea when he left or how long he'd been gone. He nodded at May again when he re-appeared. I figured out then that he'd checked out the bungalow for whatever he thought might possibly be wrong and had decided that the place was safe for me. Again, May was fuming.

I was sure that it was protocol for my father and my mother to have an advance team go over every inch of anyplace that they might visit. Apparently, Mr. May and Rick had differing opinions on whether or not I was important enough for that kind of treatment. I doubted very seriously that Polly would allow anything to happen to me, but it was nice that someone found me important enough to worry about my safety.

For the rest of the day it was business as usual. We spent a lot of time at Polly's bungalow reminiscing about our college days and what we were doing now. I found out that we weren't Polly's only guests. Judging from the accents there were a couple of women from England and one from Japan as well. Polly was getting to have an international cadre of friends.

One incident happened that I could have handled better. Mr. May was giving Rick a talk.

"You have to relax, Hammond. This is not that serious. It's not like the president is here. I think you're stressed out. And for heaven's sake go somewhere and shave, this isn't Miami Vice," said May.

Polly, Liz, the two female agents assigned to me and I were passing by them as he said it. I sometimes forget that I have to act in a certain way. Decorum has long been one of the things my mother has tried to drum into me.

I simply stopped, tapped Mr. May on the shoulder and when he turned to look at me in shock, I said, "Leave him alone. He's doing fine and I kind of like his scruffiness."

May's eyes bugged out and he just gave me a curt nod and walked away. Rick naturally looked down and just stood there. I just wanted that man once to look me in the eye. I never got a chance to say anything else though because there was a bunch of shocked gasps and laughter behind me.

As we walked away, one of the English girls simply stayed there and watched Rick as he finally walked away in the opposite direction.

"I've never seen that before," said Liz.

"You've never seen what?" I asked.

"You went after that man like you were a mother bear and he'd threatened one of your cubs. That is not the Millie we all know. What's going on here, Mill? Are you falling for the help?" she asked.

"Of course not," I said defensively. "You know I have a boyfriend, Liz."

"Yeah," she said. "He's a boy and you guys are definitely FRIENDS. But you haven't even kissed the guy yet after three months of dating."

"So you and the guy back there have nothing going on?" asked one of the English girls.

"Of course not, he's like her body guard," said Polly.

"That's good to know," said the English woman, smiling. "I think I need a nap," she said. "All of this excitement is too much for my delicate constitution, you know. Polly, I may go into town at some point; perhaps to get some native clothing for the party tonight. Could you arrange a suitable escort?"

As the woman walked back towards the room where we'd be sleeping, her friend just shook her head.

"She's still a slut isn't she?" asked Polly. Her friend just nodded and suddenly without knowing why I was pissed.

For the rest of the morning, I was upset. I think that Polly knew it too. Liz spent a lot of time staring at me and shaking her head. The two female secret service agents stayed silent but they had trouble keeping their faces straight a lot of the time.

The two English women just pissed me off. The slutty one was Carmella. I was angry at her companion Beth because she reminded me of Carmella.

Polly told me that we'd probably end up going into town after all. Carmella had already gone and the other women wanted native outfits as well. Pacmanistani women actually dressed like women all over the world did nowadays, but it was customary to wear the old time clothing for the festival.

I sent one of the female agents to find Mr. May. He came over a few moments later and the closer he got to me, the calmer he became. I knew he was angry but I didn't care.

"Mr. May You are in charge of my protection, right?" I asked. He nodded.

"Well, I'm going into town and..." I began.

" can't," he said. "We haven't had a chance to investigate the city and who knows what could..."

"Make it happen," I said.

His entire face turned red and he clenched his fists reflexively. But he kept his composure. I'll put a team together at once," he said.

"Will Agent Hammond be on the team?" I asked.

"No," he said. "Agent Hammond has been assigned to the team that watches you at night."

"I want him on the team," I said.

"But he's asleep," he sputtered.

"Make it happen," I said, turning towards the bungalow.

I guess I was acting every bit as much the spoiled arrogant princess that they'd all assumed I'd be. That really pissed me off because I wasn't actually like that. In fact, everything pissed me off that morning. But the thing that pissed me off the most was the thought of that bitch Carmella being alone with Rick. Why the hell would May assign him to watch me during the night when everyone was asleep?

I was also afraid that he wasn't sleeping alone. So there was no way I was going to town and leaving him here with Carmella. I started getting ready to leave. About twenty minutes later, Mr May and three other men came into the bungalow and stood in front of me. I looked at him and tilted my head. Before I opened my mouth he interrupted me.

"He's checking over the limo," he said. "He's going over the motor and everything under the car." I smiled and he sighed.

Just as we were about to leave, Carmella flounced her way into the group. "I'm so glad I caught you," she said.

"I thought you'd already gone into town," said Liz.

"I forget to get something," smiled Carmella. She scooted into the limo and somehow ended up sitting right next to Rick.

On the trip into town, Carmella was flirty and charming. I didn't appreciate her charm and her flirting wasn't directed at me. Rick kept his eyes constantly scanning for possible threats.

Apparently Carmella wasn't used to being ignored, so she struck up a conversation with him.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"My job ma'am," he said.

"Oh, you're making sure we're safe," she smiled. "That is so exciting."

"What would you do if there was more than one attacker?" she asked.

"Protect Miss Cameron and get her away from danger," he said.

"What if both of us were in danger?" she asked.

"I'd protect Miss Cameron and get her away from danger," he said.

"What about me?" she asked, leaning forward so he could look down her shirt. "What if I were in danger and she was safe?"

"If there was any danger in the area," he said. "My first priority would be to protect Miss Cameron. If you were in danger, she might still be a secondary target and my job would be to protect her."

"Would you kill someone to protect her?" she asked. He nodded.

"Would you risk your own life to protect her?" she asked.

"Of course," he said without hesitation.

"So now here's the tough question," she said leaning forward again. "What if I, her friend attacked her. You know, nothing serious, just one of those girl on girl cat fights that you guys love to watch."
"I'd put a bullet in your forehead before you got close enough to..." before he could finish the sentence Liz and Polly were laughing so loud he couldn't finish it.

"You certainly are serious about your job," laughed Carmella.

For the rest of the trip into town it was like being in a weird three-way. Carmella did everything she could to get as close to Rick as possible. I fumed at how obvious and whorish she was, getting angrier and angrier but keeping my composure. Rick, on the other hand, far more than the rest of the security detail, went out of his way to make sure I was safe.

I was also angry because he never once looked at me. He looked her right in the eyes when he spoke to her. He looked at her huge boobs when she stuck them in his face and he spoke to her. He never once looked me in the eye. If I stood directly in front of him, he looked away. It was like trees, walls and even his God damned shoes were more interesting than I was.

And it was all a game to Carmella. On the way back, she showed off a little bit. "Did you see the guy on the roof in the marketplace?" she asked.

"The one with the fishing rod or the one hanging the clothes out to dry?" he asked.

"What were they wearing?" she asked.

"Fishing rod guy wore jeans and a plaid shirt," he said. "Laundry guy wore an old whitish looking robe."

"My God, you notice everything don't you?" she smiled.

"I have to see everything that might be a danger..." he began.

"What color are my eyes?" she asked.

"Hazel with a little bit of blue on the outsides," he said without hesitation. She didn't hesitate either.

"What color is my bra?" she asked.

"Black," he said. This time it was Carmella's turn to laugh.

"I'm glad you noticed," she smirked. "And looking at my lingerie isn't part of your job like protecting Miss Cameron. So you did that on your own. If you want to see any more of my underthings, or what goes into them, you can just..."

"Carmella," hissed Beth. "Sometimes you go too far."

"And sometimes, I go just far enough," said Carmella. She tapped the flustered Rick on his hand.

"The ball is in your court," she said smiling. "You don't have to worry about your charge, she has a boyfriend. So anytime you're not protecting her...How exactly does that work? Do you have time off or are you working around the clock?"

Before Rick could answer, the limo stopped and we were back at the bungalow. I looked at him to see what his reaction was but he was already out of the car checking to make sure everything was okay. I looked towards Carmella and she was smiling and nodding her head. She wasn't paying me any attention.

Polly was already walking towards the bungalow with Beth right behind her.

"I know that look," said Liz. "You did say that you weren't interested, remember?"

"I hate that bitch," I said quietly.

"Like looking into a mirror, huh?" she said.

"I'm not like that," I hissed.

"Well maybe she is a bit more, direct about it. Maybe she's a bit more obvious, but some men like that. I think they see it as being honest. It's kind of flattering. But in the end you and Carmella are pretty much the same. Once you figure out what you want, you go right after it and you usually get it," smiled Liz.

"Then why does it feel like I'm losing?" I asked.

"It's probably because you're sitting your ass on the bench watching the game instead of playing it," said Liz. "This isn't a game that you're used to playing. You're kind of used to just showing up, batting your big pretty eyes and having the men chase after you. Doing the chasing might not be something you're good at," she said.

"So maybe I have to get him to chase me," I smiled.

"Won't happen," spat one of the female agents.

"Not in this lifetime," said the other. "Carmella probably picked up on that. It's probably why she's going in with all guns blazing."

"And she does have an advantage over you," said the first agent again.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Rick is a very good agent," she said. "He takes his job really God damned serious. He's already down on women, but he sees you as "WORK," first. Before he notices you as a woman, you're the job. So it's weird because he's already not interested, but before he even sees you as something he's not interested in, he has to protect you."

"Right," said the other woman. "Carmella only has to leap one small hurdle to get him. You have to scale a wall to even get to the hurdle."

"But cheer up, Carmella only stays with a guy for a couple of weeks before she moves on," said the first agent.

"How do you know that?" I asked.

The two agents and Liz all stared at me like I had two heads. "Honey, you have to start reading those state department briefings," said Liz. "She's Carmella Bingham. She's the British prime minister's niece. She's kind of the British version of you. She's left a trail of boyfriends all over the fucking world. She's had artists and rock stars and athletes. If you can name it, she's fucked it and left it. A U.S. Secret Service agent would be something new for her."

"Not mine," I hissed. The two female agents looked at each other and smiled.

"When did he become yours?" asked Liz.

"I don't know," I said. "And I'm pretty sure that he doesn't know it yet. Maybe it was on the plane when he was asleep and every time one of his eyes would pop open, he'd look for me. Shit, not even my dad is that concerned with making sure I'm okay."

"That's our job," said one of the agents.

"Nope, there's a connection. I'm pretty sure of it," I said. "So why does he hate women? Is it all women or are we just bitches because one woman in particular pissed him off?"

"Oh, we'd better go inside for this one," said the agent. "This is going to take a little while to tell."

Once we got inside the bungalow, the four of us gathered in my room while the two Brits napped and Polly went off to prepare for our trip into town for the festival that evening. The biggest part of the festival would be two nights from then. But Polly had to participate in the opening of the festival.

The two agents, Gail and Patty, actually got relaxed. I could tell the difference because even though they still wore their holstered guns, they'd taken off their suit jackets.

Patty started telling me everything she knew about Rick.

"Okay, the reason he hates women is...well you were right. It's all because of one woman. He's kind of...the opposite of what people think you are ma'am. He was a hot shot high school quarterback. He was so good that he got recruited by a lot of colleges. He did a lot of those college visits where the schools go out and try to spoil the shit out of you for a weekend to try to convince you to go their school."

"Anyway the U of M had something to offer that interested him right away," said Patty.

"Let me guess," I said. "They offered him the starting quarterback's job his first year, right."

"Not even close," said Patty. "He flipped over something the football team didn't even offer him."

"Are you about to tell me that he went to college for the educational benefits?" I laughed.

"No ma'am," said Patty. "He went for the benefits alright. And for an eighteen year old boy, I'm sure he got an education, but he picked that school because he went crazy over a girl. And she wasn't just any girl either. She'd just been selected as Miss Michigan and went on to compete in the Miss America pageant. It was a weird relationship."

"How so?" I asked.

"Well she's older than HE is for one thing," said Gail.

"That's not really very unusual anymore," I said.

"There's more to the story," said Patty.

"But wait you said she was Miss America and he was a football player," I said. "Did he get hurt? Why didn't he become a pro?"

"He quit," said Patty. "A few months after the Miss America pageant fiasco, she got pregnant. He quit the team."

"He what?" I asked in shock. "But there had to be a way for them to..."

"That's what he did," said Patty. "He was going to join the army, but instead he was selected by the service. They paid the rest of his college expenses and gave him a salary. He's done very well and is a great agent. Unfortunately, life at home wasn't quite as good. She cheated on him and he's been trying to divorce her."

"How long has he been trying to get away from her?" I asked.

"About three years," said Patty. "She's fighting it tooth and nail and of course, with him often being out of town on extended leaves hasn't helped."

"Okay, so he just needs better, more dedicated lawyers and a way to cut through some red tape. Half of the marriages out there end up in divorces. That shouldn't make him hate women," I said. "It should just make him hate his wife."

"Ma'am, you still don't get it. He's the kind of man who puts his all into everything he does. He loved that woman with everything he had to give and in the end, she did something he could never forgive and she keeps on doing it. Plus, there's the fact that she's the ONLY woman he's ever been with. It's kind of a mess."

"It's so sad," I said. "I can almost feel his pain."

* * * * * *


For the first time that I can remember, I really wasn't happy with an assignment. I was busting my ass but I seemed to be the only one who had a bad vibe about this place. I guess I was so used to going into a place and scouting for possible problems that I saw them everywhere. Normally, when my team came into a location, we had to cover every possible vantage point where a crazy would try to attack from. And while we couldn't secure an entire city, that's impossible, we did try to make sure that the corridors our charges would use were as secure as possible.

In this case, since we were on supposedly friendly soil and this mission wasn't political or even diplomatic in nature, everyone seemed to be relaxing. Agent May seemed to be constantly riding my ass. But he was telling me to relax on one hand and telling me I needed to shave on the other.

The message I seemed to be getting from him was that security wasn't a priority here but looking good was. That made no sense. The only good thing about the whole situation was that at least he'd allowed me to pick the shift that I wanted to work. I'd decided to work the night shift for a couple of reasons. The first was that it gave me the days to either sleep or handle personal business.

We had access to the palace and they had Wi Fi there so it gave me the ability to contact my lawyer. Even if the divorce didn't go through, I was now dead set on getting custody of my daughter. I couldn't leave her with Danielle any more.

The second reason I preferred to work nights was that it got me away from Miss Cameron. The incident with her the other day, telling May to leave me alone was embarrassing. I had the other agents making all kinds of jokes at my expense over her looking out for me. A good agent should be anonymous enough to stand right in the room and not draw any kind of attention. Somehow, she'd noticed me, which would only hinder me from doing my job. She and some of her friends had actually started talking to me, which the other agents also found noteworthy.

"Hey Rick, exactly how big are that English girls tits," I'd been asked a couple of times. "I heard she stuck them right in your face."

"Ah, don't even think about it," said another. "Rick only has eyes for the Cameron women."

The bad thing about it was that it was at least partially true. I'd seen Millicent Cameron around the White House lots of times before this assignment. Usually it was in passing and from a distance. She tended to distance herself, not only from politics, but from her parents so that anything she did didn't reflect badly on them.

She was very outspoken on several issues and her stand on things like the environment, the average person's carbon footprint and women's issues differed strongly from her father's political party's views.

The problem was that this was the first time that I'd actually been in close proximity to her and I hated to admit it, but I was very attracted to her. Pictures in the newspaper or seeing her on TV doesn't convey the nuances she has that you can only experience in person. Her hair glows it's so blond. And her breasts, while not in the same league as that insane Carmella Bingham's, were very full and very beautiful.

Millicent Cameron is probably the most beautiful woman I've ever seen and she isn't very standoffish or aloof like some women are. When I watched her conversations with both her assistant and the princess and even the two female agents, she spoke to all of them the same way; like they were all just people. A lot of people in the political arena tend to treat people as if their value came from their rank or their position.

That means that to a certain extent, they tended to talk down to anyone who wasn't a political power. Miss Cameron didn't do that at all. She had several habits that she did when she thought no one was looking that endeared her to me all the more. She had a way of biting her bottom lip when she concentrated on a problem that made me just want to...

That was the problem. I should never think about her like that. My job was to protect her; nothing more and nothing less.

I didn't like Agent May's attitude on how we did things. It was simply too lax. He'd even told me that I should go into town for a drink. I wasn't supposed to be on duty until midnight and he wanted me to, in his words, get the stick out of my ass. His theory was that my agitation and unease would spread through the others and make things unpleasant for everyone.

I also didn't like Prince Gregor one fucking bit. He'd been very open and very accommodating but I didn't trust that bastard as far as I could throw him. He seemed like the type of prince who can't wait for his father to die, to take power. He seemed like the type to seize power sooner rather than later. It just felt to me that the entire country was a powder keg and I didn't want Millicent here when it blew.

There was also a group of terrorists or something who, from time to time, staged raids or demonstrations throughout the country. The army seemed to keep them in check, but I couldn't count on them not to try something during the festival in two days. I also didn't like the idea of Millicent just wandering around town with only a couple of agents besides Gail and Patty to watch her. Gail and Patty were excellent agents but...

Okay, maybe my thoughts in that area weren't very professional. The fact of the matter was that if Gail and Patty were Stallone and Schwarzenegger, I still wouldn't trust them to protect her. I don't think I trusted anyone beside me to handle it.

Prince Gregor was politically some sort of throwback. He favored far stricter adherence to the regions religious tenets. The princess and their father were more moderate and more open to modernizing the country and its laws. It would be interesting to see how things were in this country in twenty years.

One thing that I found interesting was that the terrorists in the region seemed to have views that were very similar to Gregor's. I could foresee a day that he might reach out to them when he took over power.

While I was here, I'd made a very thorough study of the geography of the country. The city that we were in, held no strategic importance. It had simply been a very successful trade city. A large part of that importance was that the city was very close to the border. In fact, the bungalow that Millicent slept in was only five miles as the crow flies from the border with Russia.

I'd gone into the palace and used Google earth to map out my route to the Russian border. It was always a good thing to have an escape route. It seemed funny. During my father and grandfather's time in the military service, they'd fought the Russians or at least helped to maintain the status quo between us and them. But now, we had diplomatic relationships and alliances that made the Russians my best hope in the event of anything going wrong.

I did want to relax a bit though and maybe May's suggestion about going out for a drink wasn't a bad idea. I don't actually drink, but getting away and just kicking back couldn't be a bad idea. I didn't need any more sleep. Even after being awakened by May to go into town on that babysitting run, I'd come back to have a couple of more hours of sack time.

I caught a ride with some of the palace workers who told me about a quiet bar in the town. I staked out a small booth in the back of the place and took out my notebook to write. I sat there watching the locals wander in and out. They had an incredible capacity for alcohol. There was one farmer who seemed to come in about every half hour or so. And the liquor they served, I'd heard from other agents was some kind of extremely potent local whiskey. I'm not sure I'd be able to walk let alone run a tractor with that amount of liquor in me.

I'd taken several pretty good stabs at a poem, when she walked in. It was only about six thirty p.m. local time and I wasn't due to report until about eleven thirty for my midnight until eight a.m. shift.

"Would you mind it terribly if I were to sit down with you?" she asked. I don't know what it is about the British. We speak the same words except for regional slang and inflection but somehow it just seemed to sound so different. Looking at her standing there in front of me, I got the impression that she was waiting for me to tell her it was okay to sit at the table.

"It's fine," I said. "Have a seat."

"Are you busy?" she asked.

"I was just jotting down a few lines in my notebook," I said.

"Oh, well now that I'm here, you don't have to do that anymore," she said smiling.

"I actually like to write," I said. "It gives me a chance to think about and reflect on what's going on and how I feel."

"Oh," she said. "I was really hoping to get your opinion on something."

"Me? Why would you want my opinion?" I asked. I didn't trust her so I started the micro recorder in my jacket pocket just in case she accused me of something.

"Well, you're a man," she gushed. "You're an attractive young man. And sometimes there are cultural differences between us. Even though you're no longer our children and our relationship is still more like we're cousins now, there are simply... differences and I wouldn't want to miss-step."

"How are we cousins?" I asked.

"I mean America and Britain, not us specifically," she smiled. I shrugged my shoulders.

"If you're asking me about cars, I can really only tell you about American cars...wait are there any British cars left? Aston Martin and Jaguar are both..."

"I wasn't asking you about cars," she interrupted. "Next week, I'm going to a party in New York at a club. It's one of those jeans and T-shirt, dance and get funky kind of parties. What do you think of my shirt?"

She pulled her jacket open and my eyes opened wider than I thought possible. Carmella Bingham is no shrinking violet. She's a pretty English woman. Perhaps a bit thicker in the waistline than I'd prefer but her attributes were known world-wide.

Beneath her coat, Carmella had on a pair of jeans that were so tight it looked like they'd been panted on. She was wearing a T-shirt, if that was what you'd call it. Her hands held the sides of the shirt together. The shirt was very thin. It was so thin in fact that I could see the blue lines of veins in her huge pale breasts. She obviously wasn't wearing a bra. With her holding the T-shirt together I was able to read it. It read "Fuck Me." I think it was meant, not as an invitation, but the expressive way. But when she let go of the T-shirt and it opened, I was so busy staring at her huge heaving udders that I couldn't form rational thoughts. As she breathed, the thin material of the shirt sounded almost as if it was tearing even more. It was simply unable to contain her boobs.
"I didn't want you to be distracted by my bra," she said. "So I didn't wear one," she laughed. It looked like if she breathed very hard, everyone in the bar would see nipples. Luckily for us, the two men she had from the palace guard had their backs towards us. She quickly buttoned up her long coat once she was sure that I'd seen what she wanted me to see.

"So, did you see anything you liked?" she asked.

"So, what was your question again?" I asked. She laughed and I have to admit I liked the sound of her laughter. It was throaty and full with just a touch of evil in it. She seemed like the kind of woman who went after whatever she wanted with both feet.

"Let's make it an easy one," she said. "If I was your woman, would you let me go to a party dresses like this?"

"If you were someone else's woman, I'd love the view," I said. "If you were mine, I'd let you dress like that all the time when we were at home, but in public, I don't think so."

"Have you ever heard the expression, "If you've got it flaunt it?" she asked.

"Have you ever heard the expression, "One with a gun will get you two?" I asked.

She nodded and smiled. "Isn't that one of your American laws? If you're caught in the commission of a crime and you have a firearm on your person, the minimum mandatory sentence is two years, correct?" she asked.

"Very good," I said. "But in your case it's more like, "One with two guns will get done."

"What does that mean?" she smiled.

"It means that in New York you'd better be very careful at your party. Because a lot of guys seeing you like that would expect for you to do more than stand there and look sexy; whether you were willing or not."

"Oh, I'm always willing," she smiled. "Like now; your place or mine?"

"Both," I said.

"Ooh I love a man with STAMINA," she squealed. "Shall we?"

"I meant you in your place... and me in mine," I said. "The opening ceremonies of the festival are about to begin in an hour or so and I'm probably going to be there whether I'm working or not. So I need to shower and get presentable. So, can we say some other time, perhaps?"

I'd said some other time as a way of letting her save face. She took it literally. There was no way of squashing the spirit of this Valkyrie.

"Ooh, you can count on it," she said. She pulled her coat tightly around her and left the bar. I looked at the poem I'd written a couple of stanzas for and tore the sheet from my notebook. I left the crumpled ball of paper on the table. I wrote down my impressions of what had just happened. I left a ten on the table to cover the two cokes I'd just drank and headed outside to get a ride back to the palace.

* * * * * *


"Mommy is that man, your friend, going to stay in our house?" asked Katrina.

"Yes Honey, but only for a little while," I said.

"I don't like him, Mommy. He's not a nice man. If we have to have a man in our house why can't it be Daddy?"

"Katrina, your daddy travels a lot for his job. And sometimes mommies and daddies don't live together because they don't get along," I said.

"Why don't you get along with Daddy," she asked.

"Because Daddy has his head stuck up his ass..." I began. I thought about it and decided that telling her that would be a mistake.

"Daddy left you and Mommy alone while he went to work sometimes," I said. "And Mommy just...Well Mommy got bored and did a really bad thing. It hurt Daddy a lot so he doesn't want to be with Mommy any more. And that makes Mommy really angry so she does even more stupid things and Daddy gets even angrier at her."

"Why can't you just say "Sorry," and not do the bad things anymore?" she asked.

"Sometimes I wish I could, Honey," I said. "But in the grown up world, it's really not that simple."

"Danielle," screamed Donnie from the next room.

"Rina go on up to your room and play," I told her as I headed into the living room.

"My junk hurts and this couch is lumpy and it smells stinks," he bellowed. "I need another pain pill. This isn't worth it. When my foot heals, I don't care what you said he is. I'm going to take some of the boys and kick his ass. This pain I'm feeling in my nuts will be like nothing compared to what I'm going to do to him."

"Donnie, did you see the way your big time gangster friend put his gun down and left the house along with his hired muscle when they found out who Rick was?" I asked.

"Yeah, but he didn't get his foot broken and his balls stomped on," hissed Donnie. "And that's another thing I have to pay that mother fucker back for. Maranelli is rethinking his decision to work with me because of that. Do you know how much money I stand to lose?"

"The chances of me getting you out of this rat trap are significantly lower now because of your husband too," he said.

"Why can't I just move in with you?" I asked.

"Oh yeah," he smirked. "Like my wife is going to let me just move some whore into the house and..."

"You're married?" I asked.

"Of course I'm married," he spat. "What, you thought that because I'm fat I couldn't get a woman?"

"No but..." I began. "I thought that we..." I realized then that I'd made yet another mistake in the series of humungous fuck ups that I'd turned my life into.

"You called me a whore, Donnie," I spat. "I'm not a whore."

He just laughed. "Okay, what would you call yourself? What's the PC label to put on a woman who has sex with men for just the promise of personal gain? Okay, you're right a whore would need more than promises. Those bitches want to get paid and you..."

"Donnie, call one of your friends," I said. "Have one of them come and pick you up. I want you out of here."

"Why are you getting upset?" he asked. I just turned and walked up the stairs to my daughter's room.

Katrina was sitting on her bed watching her television. Katrina's room was the only nice place left in the house. Her room had murals on all four walls. The ceiling had been painted a deep dark blue with glow in the dark stars on it in the form of constellations. She had a 46" Plasma screen TV with cable and all of the channels. She had a computer in one corner of the room and her huge toy box in the other.

Rick had done all of that for her. Rick paid me far more than the state's going rate for child support. He never said no to a single thing that Rina wanted. The sad part of the whole thing was that he'd once loved both of us that way, but I'd been too jealous and too stupid to see it.

For most of my life, I'd lived in fear of becoming what my mother had been and somehow I was walking in her shoes anyway. The only thing missing was five more kids. The reason for that not happening could be explained in one word; Rick. If Rick hadn't been as smart as he was, I'd probably have continued to cheat on him. If I had gotten pregnant again, we'd never know if it was his child or not.

Rick was just different. For one thing, unlike my father, Rick cared about his daughter. And for another thing, even though Rick loved me and I'd really hurt him badly, he hadn't been willing to give up his pride and his self-respect for me the way my dad had for my mother.

I guess I'd thought that even if Rick did catch me, he'd give me another chance. I was also sure that once we'd had Katrina, that he loved his daughter enough to forgive me. What I'd really hoped was that he'd decide that he needed to watch me more closely so that it didn't happen again. I thought that he'd take a desk job and that we could all be happy together. But I could see now that Rick would never play my game. And I saw that no matter what I did to him, he would just keep plugging away at the divorce until he got it.

The most logical thing for me to do was to try to negotiate a settlement that would give me some kind of financial support. My insistence on trying to rub Rick's nose in what I was doing had made things far worse for me. Of course, for the last year, I'd always thought that I'd be marrying Donnie when all of this was over so I really didn't think I'd need alimony or any form of support.

There was also the fact of the video and pictures that Rick had just taken to consider. If he did get them to someone in CPS and they sided with him and gave him custody of Katrina, I could find myself homeless and in trouble. Part of the reason that the rest of the house looked like hell was that Rick only maintained Katrina's room. He didn't do any form of repair on anything else in the rest of the house. He'd told me enough times that I'd destroyed our marriage and the only thing he gave a damn about is his daughter. Once he got her, where the hell would that leave me?

* * * * * *


Liz, Gail and I were watching as several attendants and hairdressers prepared Polly's hair and makeup for the festival's opening ceremonies. Beth was in the shower and Patty was off doing something for me that I really appreciated. It was outside of her job description as a secret service agent but well within the guidelines of something a friend would do.

The door to the main large room opened and Carmella came into the room smiling like a shark. She wore a trench coat and if I didn't know any better I'd have sworn that she was naked under it. The things that woman did no longer surprised me.

She seemed to have turned this into some kind of game between the two of us. Perhaps it was because, as Gail had suggested, the press around the world seemed to consider and often called her, "The English version of me." It was almost as if she needed to live up to it and prove that she was the far wilder, sluttier version. If she wanted the title, it was hers as far as I was considered.

She sat down on the sofa near me. The smell of sex was coming off of her in waves. I almost gagged. I wondered why she hadn't taken a shower. "You'll probably have him in a couple of nights," she smirked. "I think he'll end up all yours."

"So you're bowing out?" I asked.

"Of course not," she smirked. "But I'll be done with him by then. There are too many men in the world to sample for me to allow myself to settle down with any one man. After I've had them a few times I get bored." All I saw was red. The temptation to grab her by the throat and throttle her was very strong.

"Are you sure it's not just that THEY get bored with YOU?" I asked. "Maybe your charm wears off after one or two nights." I'd segued from being polite to being almost catty.

"Well it was on this evening," she said. "And I didn't even need my charm. My CHARMS worked just fine. He couldn't take his eyes off of them."

She let her coat open up and I could see that she had on a T-shirt that was practically pornographic. I could see the entirety of her huge left breast.

"Did he see you like that," I hissed.

"Of course," she smiled. That was the point of doing it."

"So did you do it?" I asked.

"A lady never tells," she smiled at me.

"What the fuck does that have to do with you?" I hissed.

"Are you getting angry?" she smiled. "Or, are you just jealous that someone else played with one of your toys?"

"Neither," I said. "Just bored with you waltzing in here dangling hints of what may or may not have even happened. I have a very short attention span and I get bored really easily. You came in here obviously trying to piss me off but I don't care about what you do or whom with, especially when all you're offering me is hearsay and a bad smell."

As she bent down to retrieve something, I noticed the bites on and between her breasts. The collar of her coat moved and there was bruising on her neck as well. Then she pulled it out and I got even more pissed.

"I got a souvenir," she said. She flashed a badge that I knew could only have come from one place. It was one of the badges that only US secret servicemen were issued.

"So much for hearsay," she smirked. "But look, I don't want any bad feelings between us. We're too much alike. I just wanted to give you the heads up. The one place that you and I are different is in what you call scruples. I don't take anything seriously. If I run into a guy that I like, we fuck and that's it. I don't care who they were with before me or afterwards.

You, on the other hand, get into a lot of long relationships that ultimately go nowhere. I think the big difference between us is that I'm having more fun. So I just wanted to warn you that I've been there, so there are no bad feelings and things between us stay on the up and up. We had a contest, it's over. I'll be done with him in a day or two. And you can go after him or stay away from him. It's your choice. Of course, you could also try to take him away from me. That might be interesting and kind of fun; so few things are these days."

As Carmella flounced away humming some stupid tune, Gail and Liz came over to me. "You know that she's probably lying, right?" asked Gail. "That just doesn't sound like him."

"She had his badge," I said. "She had his fucking badge."

I got up and walked away to find a place where I could be alone to cry.

* * * * * *


As I watched the women coming out of the bungalow and getting into the limo to go to the festival something struck me as strange. Millicent wasn't with them. I went over to the agent that was assigned to protect her to find out what was going on.

"Man, I'm pissed," he said. "I really wanted a chance to go to the festival and see it. But at the last minute she decides not to go. She sent her assistant and all of the other women went but now I'm stuck here. She's probably planning on sneaking off to go someplace more dangerous. We also had to split up because May decided that Arnie should go to the festival and watch out for her assistant. If she decides to leave the premises, I'm supposed to call for another agent to support me. So I'll probably just be standing out here for another four hours until you take over."

"I'll take over now," I said. "It's not like I'm doing anything. "

"Shit, I'd have thought you'd be in town at the festival with BBBB. Everyone here knows that she's hot for you."

"Who the hell is BBBB?" I asked.

"The Big Boob British Broad," he said smiling and holding his hands out in front of his chest.

"She's not my type," I said, shaking my head. "So you go on and have fun. I've got this." I took over for him and watched the doorway outside of the bungalow. My job would be just the same. I'd watch the entrances and make sure to prevent anyone unexpected from entering the area.

If someone showed up and wanted to see Millicent, I'd walk them back to her and make sure they were expected and not a threat. Gail and Patty would be with her around the clock anyway and in the case of real trouble, they were the last line of defense. I was just the gatekeeper.

As I stood there, my mind wandered and I thought back to the poem I'd written about my job earlier. Shit, I'd thrown it away when the English woman came over to sit down.

I rewrote it as I watched over her through the night. A couple of things happened during the early evening while I watched over her. Gail came out and got her something to eat. Gail looked at me as if I'd done something wrong but we didn't have time to talk.

It was very close to midnight when the women came back from the festival. They were all smiling and talking about what they'd seen and what they'd done. The two British women were drunk and had to be led inside the building. "Hey you, don't forget our rain-check," Carmella slurred at me as she passed. Millicent's assistant glared at me. I just shook my head.

I wished that I could go into the palace and check my E-mail. But I couldn't leave my post. My iPhone didn't work here and I could get E-mail on it but only in a place that had Wi Fi and the network inside the palace didn't have the range to reach the bungalow. I was sure that by now my lawyer had some kind of information about my complaint against Danielle. For the rest of the evening, I just hung out outside of Millicent's quarters.

At eight o clock the next morning, I was replaced by another agent. I went back to my quarters and changed clothes. I wanted to get a run in before I went to sleep. I ran through the streets of the city just outside of the palace compound. The houses were tiny and old fashioned but appeared to be well maintained. Seeing them made me think about the house that my daughter lived in. Was I doing her a disservice by not doing more about the upkeep of the place? It just seemed to me that Danielle or the legion of men she paraded through the place should have been the ones taking care of it.

There was also the fact that I really didn't care one way or another about taking care of Danielle or anything she valued. Rina was the only person who mattered to me. Even as I thought about that, I realized that it wasn't true. Millicent's face flashed in front of my eyes and I laughed. I wondered why I'd even thought about her. It was probably something that if my brain had been considered a computer, would be a software glitch. Sure I cared about Millicent's well-being but only from the standpoint that her health and safety were my job. But was there more to it?

As I ran through the streets, I saw a lot of things. Some of them made me smile. Some of them made me long for home. There were lots of ancient, by our standards, vehicles here that were still apparently functional and on the road. There were also a few newer vehicles, mostly small imports that could easily cover the tiny, narrow roads here.

I did see one thing though on my way back that jarred my senses and made me stop short. There, parked in the driveway less than a half mile from the palace, was a Mustang GT. It was an older model. But only one generation down. They made that body style from 1999 until 2004. The guy who owned it obviously took care of it. As I stopped to look at the car, I noticed that he'd made a lot of modifications to the car including vented brake rotors, bigger rims and an updated exhaust system.

I stood there staring at the car and it made me think of home.

The door to the house opened and a small man with a scraggly beard came out. He too was smiling. He started talking and I didn't understand him. He switched to English.

"You like my car?" he asked.

"Yeah, it makes me think about mine back home," I said. I spent another ten or fifteen minutes there outside of the house talking about Mustangs and life in general with the man. Then I ran the rest of the way back to the bungalow. I grabbed something to eat, showered and went to sleep.

* * * * * *


As soon as I woke up, Liz came over to me. "Your eyes are all puffy," she said. It sounded more like an accusation than a statement.

"We've known each other for a long time Mill," she said. "I've never seen you get this wound up over a man before. "

"I don't know Liz," I said. "For some reason that I don't understand, this one is special. I don't even know how it started. I think that my mom and dad telling me that if anything happened, to get to Rick started it. It just put the idea that he'd protect me no matter what in my mind. Then when I saw him...He's kind of cute. He seems almost vulnerable. When that idiot Mr. May picked on him, it just seemed natural for me to try to protect him as well. And every time I think about that, it just feels like something I'm supposed to do. It almost feels like he's already mine and we've been together for a very long time. I guess that's why yesterday hurt me so bad. It feels like he cheated on me. The funny thing about it is, that I've never hurt that bad when I guy I was dating, DID cheat on me. But Rick and I have never even had a God damned conversation."

"Exactly," said Liz. "How do you even know that you'll like him if you do? You may have gotten yourself all worked up over nothing. You missed the opening of the festival last night. We had a lot of fun. Carmella sure isn't going through what you are. She looked around for him last night for a while and once she found out that he wasn't there she got drunk and partied with someone else. Prince Gregor seemed to be upset that you weren't there."
"Why would Carmella have to worry?" I asked. "She's already fucking him. She's already won."

"Mill, don't start something with the guy unless you really like him. And I mean really like him. From what Patty told us, he's already had a hard enough time with women. Like you said, he's vulnerable. Maybe that's why he throws himself so deeply into his job. And there's something else that's been eating at me. I don't have any proof, but I think Carmella lied to you. I mean we were all there. She came in with bite marks all over her big old titties and she smelled like somebody had plowed her field, but how do you know it was him?"

"She had his badge," I said.

"No she had A badge," said Liz. "Every single one of the ten secret service agents here has one. I think she's playing with your head. When we came in last night, she was drunk and talking out of the side of her head. He was standing there on guard and she spoke to him. It didn't seem important then but today it seems to be. Her exact words to him were, "Don't forget our rain-check." That doesn't sound like they did anything. And he just looked at her like he wasn't at all concerned with anything she had to say. Another thing is that I stared at him after she'd spoken to him and the look in his eyes wasn't like you'd expect from a guy who'd been caught sticking his business in her. He just looked back at her like she was crazy."

"Yeah but at least the two of them are talking," I said. "We know that for certain. So I am definitely losing this game or battle or whatever it is."

"You're only losing it because you aren't playing it," said Liz. "You said it yourself, this one is important to you. So maybe this time you're going to have to get out there and be the one doing the chasing instead of having the guy chase you."

"So what are you proposing I do?" I asked. "Do what she did?"

"Well, maybe not to that extreme," she said. "But you're known for being pretty outrageous yourself."

As I started to think about it, I felt better. I didn't know if I was going to spend the rest of life with Rick or just the rest of this trip, but at least I'd know that I'd gone after him and not gotten chased off like a rabbit.

I felt even better about it as I planned out what I'd do. Then the entire game changed when Patty came in.

"Ma'am, I need to tell you something," she said.

"Patty, I think we're past the ma'am stage," I said. "It just seems silly especially with you being older than I am."

"Okay," she smiled. "Carmella is definitely playing with your head. The two of them sat in a bar together for about fifteen minutes yesterday and then he got up and left. Until she came in, he'd just been sitting there drinking a coke and writing in that notebook of his. They did not leave together. In fact, she got up and left him sitting there. And then there's this..." she said. She placed a crumpled piece of paper on the bed next to me.

I opened it and found a few lines scrawled on it. "I hope he shoots better than his penmanship," I quipped.

As I read it, my heart melted.

"Girl, there's no moon out tonight, just your window light."

"The night holds nothing you should fear, cause I'll stand guard out here."

I looked at Patty in shock. "Is this a poem?" I asked.

"I think so," she said. I read more of it.

"Every day I look away when we meet. Every night I'm walking up and down your street."

"I'm standing here outside your window. It's driving me mad I can't let go."

"Do you think he wrote this about me?" I asked.

"Uhm Duh?" she said.

"I'm driving him mad?" I said. "Me?"

"Duh?" she repeated. I looked back at the paper.

"You'll never even see. This lonely watch I keep. While you sleep."

"You do realize that he's probably only talking about his God damned job, right?" I said.

"Did you read the part about him being driven mad?" she asked. "And that second part. Shit, if he wasn't crazy about you it would be pretty fucking creepy." I looked at the paper again to see what she meant.

"Don't even think your dreams, are private as they seem."

"Cause I, know every move you make. From midnight till you wake. While you sleep."

"Okay," I said. "That part lets me know that this is definitely about me because he does watch over me from midnight until 8 a.m. I still don't know why Mr. May assigned him to watch over me while I'm asleep. It seems like he's pissed at both of us. The only chance I have to get close to him is when I'm asleep. But that also doesn't prove that his interest in me is anything more than professional."

"Ma'am...I mean Miss Cameron," began Patty.

"Just call me Millie," I said. "But don't put, "the model," after it. People get fired for that," I laughed.

"Do you know who is always telling me that he knows everything I'm going to do? The only person I can think of who thinks he knows every thought in my head is my husband. And he thinks that because he spends so much time with me and so much time thinking about me that he thinks he's in my head. Doesn't that sound like he spends a little bit of time thinking about you? And probably not in a professional way either."

"But, what about, "him and Carmella?" I asked.

"In the first place, we don't know that there is a, "him and Carmella," she said. "Liz doesn't think anything happened between the two of them. And I don't either. And actually, that gives you a reason to ask him for an off the record conversation. You've already heard her version of what happened. So you ask him for his."

"Right," said Liz. "And even if something did happen between them, which we all doubt, take him away from the bitch. Didn't you say yesterday that he was yours? No one takes anything away from Millicent Cameron right?"

"Right," I said smiling.

"Polly, is there any place in town that I can get a T-shirt printed quickly?"

* * * * * *


I woke up and felt weird from the start. My head wasn't in the game from the time my eyes opened. I was beginning to feel like the way the other guys appeared to me. It felt more like we were on vacation than on the job.

As I dressed, I looked at each piece of clothing as if they were new. The clothes, my dark suit, seemed out of place when I had hours before I'd be on duty. I didn't wear it. I put on jeans and a loose leather jacket. Even on a day when it wasn't chilly, I needed the jacket to cover my gear.

My Sig Sauer P229, .357 caliber pistol was almost a part of me so I wore it under the jacket. I'd slept for a good eight hours and awakened on my own. I also took my ID and badge.

I checked my messages on the phone beside the bed and found out that I had the same shift I'd had the day before. I'd fallen asleep at about ten in the morning so it was barely six p.m. I could check and find out Miss Cameron's schedule and whereabouts in about four hours which would leave me plenty of time before I had to go on duty.

I decided to go back to the same little bar I'd been to the day before. I remembered that they served food there too. I was hoping that maybe the BBBB wouldn't show up but then she was probably still recovering from her hangover and getting ready to go out again. It always amazed me that women could hold that much liquor and then still party just as hard the next night. Shit, I'm only twenty eight and I couldn't do it.

But then, I guess I'm different from them. Carmella and Millicent were hard partying socialites. They were born and raised to party and raise hell. I'm more of a family type. I'll bet in her prime, Danielle could have held her own with them...

Just thinking about Danielle brought back all of the pain she'd caused me. I still didn't understand how someone who'd claimed to love me as much as she did, for as long as she did, could have hurt me that badly. It was as if the woman I'd fallen in love with had, never from the start, been what she claimed. She had just lain in wait and ripped out my heart. And while she did it, she snatched away my balls at the same time. And for the past three years, she'd been doing it again and again, every God damned time she thought about it.

The scene from a few days ago wasn't even the worst, it was just the latest. The worst had been the first time. When I'd come home and found Danielle fucking one of our neighbors. I had simply snapped and beaten him senseless. I called the cops myself. With me being a fed, they just took him in.

I'm not sure anyone understands just how stressful risking your life on a daily basis can be. Only cops, soldiers and others in the protection business or the military, really get it. When you're on the job, all you constantly think about is making it home to the ones you love. It consumes you and gives you both the motivation to make it through and the strength to execute what you have to do.

For me, all I thought about was being with my beautiful wife again. I dreamed of a day when we'd grow old together. When I opened that door and saw Danielle's leg's spread wide open while the guy next door pumped his boney ass back and forth inside of her, something snapped in my head.

I don't think I ever came out of it until it was too late. My superiors never found out about it. The guy next door made up a whole story about being robbed and beaten. He didn't want his wife to find out about it either. He called me down to the hospital as soon as he could get a phone. It was him who begged me not to say a word even after what I'd done to him.

"Okay, you beat the fuck out of me," he said. "I deserved it. But why does my wife have to suffer. Why should you suffer? Do you really want to lose your job over this?" he asked. And truthfully I didn't.

Back then I was living with a four part structure to my life. There were four things my life was built on. They were Danielle, our then, five year old daughter, my job and my Mustang. I'd already lost Danielle. My time with my daughter would probably be a lot less. Losing the job too would just be too much to handle so I agreed. He also got to keep his marriage which was good thing for him since his wife was the one who worked and she loved him like crazy.

She loved him so much that they moved away from the neighborhood within days of his recovering from the incident. Danielle had breathed a sigh of relief. I guess that in her mind, since our neighbor's marriage had survived, ours would too. I think that she really believed that it would; all the way until she saw me packing to move out.

We got into a big argument then and I left anyway. Since then, Danielle and I have never really spoken very much. We only talk about Katrina and the divorce. Nothing else that she has to say interests me. I heard from mutual friends for the first few months after I left, that she missed me and she loved me. They told me that more than anything else, she wanted to sit down and talk to me. According to them, for all of the time that we'd been together and all of the time that we'd been married, I owed her that much.

Her actions and the things that she said proved that like everything else she'd ever told me, those words were lies. I had given Danielle and our marriage everything I had to give and it simply hadn't been enough. So, Danielle wanted to talk to me; so fucking what. Did I feel like a coward for walking away from my marriage without ever trying to save it or work out our problems? No, I didn't. There are all kinds of bravery. I made my living defending important people. One of the things I learned in both training and experience is to know your enemy and know when you're outmatched. You should always know when to fight and when to run. I loved Danielle with all of my heart. That made me weak. She couldn't love me nearly as much as I loved her and still did what she had. That gave her an over whelming advantage over me. I was the weaker person in that situation. I would and had done anything and everything I could to support her and make her happy. I loved Danielle more than I loved myself. I could never cheat on her.

On the other hand, she'd gone out and fucked one of our neighbors and even told me that if I went on another assignment, she'd do it again. There is no way that she could love me even a little bit and do that to me. I could not win, so in that situation there was no cowardice in walking away. I simply had to pick my battles and that was one I could never win.

I wasn't a coward but I had been a fool. Since the first time I'd seen her, I had this impression of Danielle being some kind of fairy princess. She was all mine and mine alone, or so I thought. The reality that she was actually only mine in my mind alone changed things. From that point on, I couldn't stand to look at Danielle. Just the thought that I'd had sex and made a baby with that whore shocked me.

I refused any and all overtures towards any type of reconciliation. Every time I thought about the way Danielle had treated me, it made me angry at women in general.

I headed towards the bar and got there when it was still fairly quiet and empty. I got my usual five dollar Coke and even lightened up enough to accept the challenge from one of the locals to play against him on the bar's ancient pinball machine. I'd grown up playing pinball and video games, so I was in my element. With two balls left out of the three given by the game, I was more than halfway to the machine's high score.

I'd just shot my second ball and as it arced across the top of the machine and hit the bumpers and lit the lights, I noticed two manicured hands place themselves on the glass beside mine. I noticed the trench coat and thought at first that it was the troublesome English woman again. I never took my eyes off of the ball until I heard her voice telling someone that she'd be okay. I looked up into her eyes for the first time and then out of reflex looked away.

Unfortunately, as I did my ball dropped between the paddles. It actually landed on one of them and I simply didn't react. My opponent took over with a smile on his face.

"You shouldn't be here without your protection detail Ma'am," I said. "It's against proto..."

"I have you here," she said. "And I came here to have a talk with you."

"Why do you need to talk to me?" I asked. "Did I do something wrong?"

"You tell me?" she said. "But let's go to a table. I 'm sure the pinball wizard here doesn't care about our conversation." I dropped a five on the machine and he accepted it quickly, by smiling and showing me a mouthful of rotten teeth.

I picked a booth in the back, with my back to the wall and a view of the door, so I could see everyone who came and went.

"Did you sit in this same booth yesterday?" she asked.

"No," I said. "What does, me doing something wrong have to do with where I sat yesterday?"

"I never said that you did something wrong," she said. "Look, this is all going wrong. This shouldn't be this hard. Did you act this way with Carmella yesterday?"

I just looked at her crazily. "This shouldn't be this hard," she said again.

"Miss Cameron, what is this all about?" I asked. She looked around the bar nervously and then opened her trench coat.

"Her boobs are bigger but mine are nice too," she said.

She was wearing a T-shirt. It wasn't split like the British woman's had been and it wasn't anywhere near as thin. She also had a bra on and a very tight but relatively long skirt on. But the message on the shirt was what shocked me.

Like the English woman's shirt her had two lines printed on it. It wasn't quite as blunt but the message was equally clear.

The first line read: I came here to drink and fuck. The word fuck was bigger than the others.

The second line read: I'm almost done drinking.

I quickly leaned over the table and pulled her coat closed while looking around to make sure no one had seen her.

"Why'd you do that?" she spat. "You didn't do that to Carmella."

"How do you know what I did to Carmella?" I asked.

"Because she told me that you fucked her," she said loudly. She looked like she was on the verge of tears.

"She lied," I said quickly, trying to quiet things down.

"Bullshit," she snapped. "She showed me your badge and she still has it near her bed. Why can't you just admit you fucked her so we can move on? I don't care about what happened before now. I'll forgive you just don't do it again."

"I didn't..." I began again.

"Before you say that, I want you to know that I hate liars," she said. "More than anything else, I hate liars. It's why I sometimes don't get along with my dad when he promises one thing and then either can't get congress to pass it or he just goes back on it and says some cute political truism like, "It wasn't really in the best interest of the majority of the country."

"I hate liars too," I spat. I pulled out my pocket recorder and played back the end of the tape I still had of my conversation with Carmella the previous day. Her eyes got bigger as she heard.

"Oh, I'm always willing," she smiled. "Like now; your place or mine?"

"Both," I said.

"Ooh, I love a man with STAMINA," she squealed. "Shall we?"

"I meant you in your place... and me in mine," I said. "The opening ceremonies of the festival are about to begin in an hour or so and I'm probably going to be there whether I'm working or not. So I need to shower and get presentable. So can we say, some other time perhaps?"

"So you didn't leave here with her?" she asked. "You turned her down, big tits and all?" I nodded my head and pushed the rewind button.

"You should probably hear this too," I said. As the tape started, she heard Carmella's question.

"Let's make it an easy one," she said. "If I was your woman, would you let me go to a party dresses like this?"

"If you were someone else's woman, I'd love the view," I said. "If you were mine, I'd let you dress like that all the time when we were at home, but in public, I don't think so."

She squeezed the coat even closer around her and tears started to roll down her cheeks.

"There's one more thing that you need to know about," I said. I opened my jacket up and pulled out my ID folder and badge. "Whoever she took a badge from, it wasn't me. I don't know what's going on between the two of you. But there's nothing going on with her and me. There never has been and never will be."

She sat back in the booth. "Okay, I'm sorry I insinuated that you were lying," she said. "So can I ask you about this?" She placed a piece of paper down onto the table. It was no longer crumpled. It had been smoothed out. I recognized it as the piece of paper I'd torn from my notebook.

I looked at my watch. "Shouldn't we get you back to the bungalow so you can get ready to go out with your friends? I'm starting to see people out in the street getting ready for the festival."

She laughed and her voice sounded like music. I could see why lots of men across the country threw themselves at her.

She smiled and it was like the sun coming out after a cloudy day. "Not prepared for that question huh?" she said. "Well, I did skip out on the festival last night. I am suddenly in the mood to party, within limits. And you keep yourself within limits too. Do you have a vehicle handy or are you going to walk me home?"

We ended up walking the four blocks back to the palace.

"I'm going to give you the time you need to come up with an answer to my question," she smirked. "I'm going to make sure to get back to the bungalow early. I don't want you to have to discuss personal things while you're on duty. So at eleven thirty, maybe even eleven o clock, you should have an answer, right?" she smiled. I just nodded nervously.

We were no more than fifty yards away from the palace compound and the bungalow when I suddenly held up my arm and blocked her path. All I did was stuck out my arm horizontally, but she took it a different way.

"I don't mind you grabbing my tits," she said. "I'd much rather have you playing with mine than Carmella's but I like them handled a bit more gently; at least at first."
I pushed her down behind a car just as an armored vehicle came out of the gate to the palace compound. They went down the street in the direction we'd just come from. I pulled out my Sig and grabbed her hand. I ducked down staying behind cars on the street. The darkness of the early evening served as excellent cover for us.

"What are you doing?" she asked. "Was that a tank?"

"It was an APC," I said. "Be very quiet please."

We went around to one of the areas of the wall where there was no guard station and no gate. It was a section near the garden. The palace was mostly ceremonial. I'm sure that wars had been fought over it before, but that was before they had armored vehicles and artillery. The section of the wall that I looked for, I'd noticed on the tour we got of the palace grounds on the previous day. There was a wide opening and the section of the wall was only about nine feet tall. I ran along next to it and leaped up and grabbed the edge of it. I pulled myself up by my fingertips and looked at the scene on the other side. I could hear voices but it was dark.

"Come on," she said. "Follow me." I shrugged my shoulders and walked behind her. She stopped in front of a sewer grate.

"Pull that up," she ordered. I looked at her crazily. "Just do it," she said.

I did and she dropped down into the darkness. I quickly lowered myself over the edge and hung by my fingers. It was good that I hadn't just jumped like she did because I'd have landed on top of her.

"Polly told me about this," she whispered. "There are three of them around the walls. She learned about them from her grandfather. Even her father and brother have forgotten that they're here. She used them to sneak boys in and out of the palace. The real sewer grates are round manhole covers. This tunnel opens into a storage room in the palace. We went through the tunnel and came out as she'd sad in a storage room. We looked out through a crack in the door and could see outside of the palace into the compound surrounding the bungalow. A group of ten or twelve men in fatigues with what looked like ski masks over their faces had everyone lined up in front of the bungalow.

"Where is she?" asked a man who was obviously their leader.

"I have no idea," said Mr. May. "This isn't a political visit. It's just a case of her socializing with a friend."

The man punched May in the stomach as hard as he could and May folded up and fell down.

"Stop," screamed Polly. "He is a guest of the royal family. You will be executed."

The man walked over and slapped Polly in the face. Prince Gregor stepped up and spoke to him. "For striking my sister and our guests you have signed your death warrants. When my army gets us out of this, you will all die like dogs in the street."

"How will we die?" asked the man. "You have no idea who we are."

As I watched the interplay between the two men it seemed a bit off to me. "They want you ma'am," I said. "We have to get out of here."

"We just have to go back through the tunnel. The army of Pacmanistan will help us get out of here," she said.

"I don't think so," I said.

"Why not?" she asked.

"Because I think that Gregor is a part of this," I said. "Think about it. Over the past couple of days, we've seen hundreds of Pacmanistani soldiers around the palace. How could they have been overwhelmed or thrown out by ten or twelve guys. There's something funky going on here."

"Rick, you're just being overly protective of me," she smirked. "Only now I know why."

We went back through the tunnel and came out where we'd gone in. We ducked behind cars and went back towards the town. When we got near the bar that we'd just come from I pulled her into the shadows just as a group of men came into view. They all had the same fatigues and ski masks on that the men at the palace had worn. There were no members of the Pacmanistani army around.

The men had pulled everyone out of the bar and as we watched they questioned them all. When they got to my pinball buddy he'd smiled at them and told them that we'd vanished in a puff of smoke.

One of the men shot him in the stomach and left him to die in the street.

"We have to get out of here," I said again.

We ducked into an alley and I climbed over a wall. I grabbed some clothing that was hanging on a clothes line to dry and jumped back over the wall.

"Put these on," I told her.

"If you want to see me naked all you have to do is say so," she smirked.

"Millie, this is serious," I said.

"I know that Rick," she said. "I was with you. I saw that guy that you were playing the game with get shot. I'm really scared too. I'm just trying to keep the mood light and relaxed."

I changed into the clothes I'd grabbed for myself. I looked at us and we looked like a couple of locals. It would make it harder for them to spot us but not that much harder.

They were looking for a couple by now so they'd probably stop every couple they saw. Just as we stepped out of the alley, there was a group of people running away from the town. Millie and I jumped into the group and ran with them.

I was able to gather bits of information from them every time we stopped. "A group of men broke into the palace," said a woman. "The king is dead. They killed all of his guards."

I wondered with all of the hundreds of soldiers around the palace how a small group of men could get to the king. Shit, those guys out there couldn't have gotten to Millie. There had to be someone on the inside giving them access and information. It couldn't be Polly or any of the women because I was sure that they knew where Millie had gone and when. If they'd been in on it, they'd have sent the men to the bar first instead of the bungalow.

As we jogged down the street and then slowed to a walk, three men with guns jumped out at us. The entire crowd stopped and held up their hands. They started asking us questions in Russian and Czech, both of which were spoken in Pacmanistan. As each person in the crowd answered the questions, they moved on. I spoke a bit of Russian and had a pretty good accent but I wasn't sure I could fool them. I didn't know whether or not Millie spoke anything other than English.

The man asking the questions got to the woman next to Millie and made her take off her scarf. I shifted over in line so that Millie was between me and the man instead of her going next.

"Why did you change places dog," he asked me angrily.

I coughed nervously and then grabbed him by the shoulder pulling him between me and his two friends. I pumped two rounds into his chest and held him up to shield myself and Millie as I shot the closest of his partners through the face and into his brain. His remaining team mate was quicker on the uptake and actually got a shot off before I drilled him in the chest. I immediately grabbed Millie's hand and we were off and running, leaving the still startled group of people we'd run with gawking in our wake.

As we ran I looked around us and ducked into an alley pulling Millie with me.

"Damn that was stupid," I hissed. I slapped the sides of my head several times and Millie grabbed my hand.

"You need to stop that," she said gently. "I kind of like that face." As she looked at me I didn't see Millie's face. I saw Millie's features but the expression on that face was her mother's. It was the same calming expression and inflection to the words that her mother used on her father when he was torn over a piece of legislation or a decision. In that stressful moment in the alley, I wasn't seeing the young, wild, crazy, Millie from the newspapers and tabloids. I was seeing the woman that she might someday become.

Despite the peril that we were in, she didn't seem afraid or even nervous. That alone scared the shit out of me because I did things like this for a living. I was trained for this type of thing and I was scared shitless. The main things going through my mind were that no matter what happened to me, I had to get Millie someplace safe. Add to that the fact that I didn't want to die without seeing my daughter again or finding some way of telling her that her dad loved her.

I couldn't die in some stupid country, thousands of miles away from her and let her grow up hearing Danielle's twisted version of everything. I couldn't let her grow up being influenced by Danielle's ideas about right and wrong. I just couldn't see my daughter learning her morals from a whore and when you got right down to it, that's how I saw Danielle now.

"So what are you so angry about?" she asked me.

"I did everything wrong back there," I said.

"Hmm, there were guys who wanted to possibly kill us," she said. "You killed them. There isn't a scratch on either one of us and we got away. I think that you did really well. Let's hear this from your side."

"Right now my greatest priority is your safety and getting you out of here," I said.

"You're winning then," she said.

"After that, we need to establish some kind of communication with our side. Intel on them would be good too. We need to know exactly what they're after. Then there are supplies. I only have one spare ten round magazine. I've already used four shots in the one in my Sig. That means that we have 16 rounds of ammunition left. Doesn't that worry you?"

"Nope," she smiled. "Not at all. I'm with you."

"What exactly does that mean?" I whined. "I blew it back there. I should have checked the bodies and taken weapons and possibly even a radio or whatever they're using for communication. We'd be a lot better off. Also, the shots we fired have to have alerted someone that something happened. So we can't even risk going back there now."

"Okay," she said. And she still sat there smiling at me. "So you have a lot on your plate right now. I'll give you a little more time."

I was puzzled. "You're giving me a little more time for what?" I asked.

"To answer my question," she said. "I don't want you to think that I've forgotten about it."

I just shook my head. "Weren't you even afraid back there?" I asked.

"Truthfully," she said. "No...I knew that you wouldn't let anything happen to me. Even when the guy stepped up to the woman next to me and made her take off her scarf and I was next. I was a little bit apprehensive over what you would do, but I knew that you'd do something. But when it happened, it was so fast I barely had the time to process what had happened."

I just shook my head. "Okay we're starting the game over from right now," I said. "We need to let someone know that we're in danger."

"That might not be a good idea," she said. "Remember they have people all over the palace. And like you pointed out, Prince Gregor might be a part of this somehow."

"I meant someone on our side," I said. "I think we need to find a way to phone home. The problem is there is no cell phone reception here. And I'm thinking that they probably monitor all of the radio bands. I still have my iPhone, so if we got to a place with Wi Fi we could get an E-mail out. We also need transportation. We need something fast enough..." I smiled then.

"What?" she asked.

"I know where we're going," I said.

* * * * * *


"Where would he take her?" I asked the leader of the men who'd taken over the palace. Over the last two hours I'd had men searching the entire town. They'd gone over the palace and my stupid sister's stupid bungalow and hadn't found her anywhere. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse. I'd had years to plan this and everything seemed to be going tits up over-night.

I had dreams of how my country should be run. The power pellet technology had been discovered purely by accident. It was a completely different type of energy. One of the raw elements that we mined in the mountainous area around the outskirts of the southern part of the city was found to create a small electrical charge when immersed in a non-flammable liquid solvent. The miners had discovered it purely by accident. We'd then brought in students from an American university who'd refined the process and we now could make extremely strong flexible batteries that could be shaped to conform to any space.

The power of the batteries could be changed based on the saturation volume of the pellets or the ratio of pellets to solution. Pacmanistan now had something the world needed. Pacmanistan could go from third world backwater to world power over the course of a generation.

My father preached neutrality and patience. I didn't have time for that. I love my father and my sister but they have no vision. My sister wants only what she considers good for women. She obviously has not absorbed the concepts outlined in the good book. Women are only placed on the earth to be helpmates for men. In Pacmanistan, a man can have as many wives as he can afford. There are many men here with several wives. Some with a dozen, but very few of the men here have a clear vision for where the country needs to go.

My father, as much as I love him, isn't one of those men. By the time he got off of his ass, the rest of the world might have discovered alternatives, possibly even more powerful ones, than the element we currently use for the batteries. If that happens, our advantage would very quickly dissipate. We need to strike quickly and get rich while we have the chance. We can go from just another minor country to world power very quickly or at least become the richest and most influential country in our region. But we must act quickly. Technology changes so rapidly, that if we wait all might be lost.

Unfortunately, that meant that sacrifices had to be made. One of those sacrifices was my father. No one realized that his slow and lingering illness of the past few months had been slow and steady doses of a nearly untraceable poison that he'd been ingesting. It might ordinarily have taken another month or two for him to get sick and die. But time and fate had forced my hand.

Pacmanistan's army numbers in the thousands. But they are a very small and very outmoded army. My own secret police number in the hundreds. They masquerade as a terrorist organization that supports the most extreme version of our religious doctrine. I initially started it as a response to my father's decision to outlaw polygamy and try to allow women in the country more rights. They've staged several demonstrations in the country that I, as a loyal son, speak out against, while in actuality, I orchestrated them.

I already have two wives myself, but for a very long time I've sought a third. I wanted to have my own famous western princess. I wanted to tame one of those wild and wanton women that you see cavorting across the pages of the newspapers and magazines.

When my stupid sister decided to invite Millicent Cameron to the spring festival, I decided that she should disappear. That was the original plan. The palace is full of secret passages and hidden rooms. My grand scheme had been to have several attractive young men be seen talking to Millicent Cameron during the festival and then to have some of my men simply pluck her from her room in the middle of the night. With a reputation like hers, it would be assumed that she'd simply run off on an adventure of some sort. She'd done that before.

The problems began then. First, my stupid sister decided that instead of having her guests stay in the palace, she'd move them all into her bungalow. She turned the visit into some type of pajama party for her friends. The second problem was that Millicent Cameron brought her own security force with her. Most of them were lulled into laxity, but the two female agents were always with her and there were a couple of the male agents that were also extremely vigilant.

I decided that the best and probably only way to get her would be to use my secret police to stage another terrorist action. It would be the biggest one to date. They would protest the American incursion into sovereign Pacmanistan, whatever the fuck that meant. It had been a stroke of genius to have them also send my ailing father to his heavenly reward.

I wasn't strong enough to be there when that happened because I truly do love my father but his time has passed. I've also allowed my sister to be handled roughly to put her in her place. She needs to realize that in the grand scheme of the world, women have very little power and what power they do possess is usually given to them by men. Unlike the other women, my sister won't be raped or given away, but she does need to learn her place.

I continue the masquerade here merely as plan B, which may no longer be necessary. By being held prisoner with all of the rest, I gain sympathy and perhaps even become a hero in the eyes of the world when the news of what happened gets out. But I grow restless and frustrated over my men's inability to find Millicent Cameron.

"I have no idea, Prince Gregor," the commander says to me. "We went to the bar that the household staff insured me was the only place that he'd gone while in town. We tortured the workers there and found out that she had been there with the American agent. They left supposedly headed back to the palace but they never arrived here. We had to shoot one arrogant man who would not answer our questions. Usually, if you shoot one of them, the rest will tell you whatever you want to know. But in this case it was clear that they knew nothing."

"A good tactic," I said. "But perhaps it is wasted on the wrong group of people." I ripped up my shirt and pulled my gold buckled belt out of my pants. I smeared dirt on my face and walked towards the kitchen. The man looked at me as if I was crazy. When we got to the kitchen I opened a large bottle of Ketchup. I'd developed a taste for it while I studied abroad. I usually had it on French fries and American styled hot dogs. In this case I had neither. I dripped a little of the ketchup near my mouth and smeared some on my shirt collar.

"How do I look?" I asked. The man just looked at me.

I smiled. "See, you have beaten the shit out of me. They weren't there to see it but when I go back out there barely able to walk, they'll believe it. They'll believe it even more when you shoot one of the palace staff and if I give you the signal shoot one of the visitors. I don't care which one. No...wait...don't shoot the American black woman, I want her for myself. She will also keep Millicent Cameron happy in my harem. Don't shoot the fat English woman with the large breasts because Colonel Marmanov wants her. You can have the other British woman if you want her or either of the two female US agents but I would advise against them. They'd be hard to break and if they ever escaped...On second thought take the British woman. The two Americans will have to be put down. Don't kill the leader of the American agents; I may have a use for him. Other than that, if you kill one or two of them to make your point, so be it."

We headed back outside where the night was beginning to become a bit chilly. I knew that the exposure and discomfort would go a long way towards making the captives easier to control and more likely to go along with our demands.

As soon as the door opened, I stumbled back over to the captives and fell in the dirt in front of them. I struggled to get to my feet and my sister screamed immediately.

"Gregor," she screamed. "What have you done to him you pigs?" She tried to get to me and was slapped again by one of the masked men.

I could see the shock on most of the faces as I got to my knees and then bravely stood up. I stuck out my chest as a sign that they had beaten me but I would never be broken. The nobility came off of me in waves and they all ate it up. It was all I could do not to laugh. I probably should have been an actor.

Before I got to give my heroic speech about never giving up and never surrendering; I got that from an early Jean Claude Van Damme movie, a truck pulled up and one of the troops ran over to me babbling. The fool had almost blown the whole scheme in his excitement. Luckily, the leader of the men grabbed him by the shoulder and slapped him. "That dog no longer runs this country fool," he said. Shit, he was a pretty good actor him-self. I might have to put him in for the best supporting actor Oscar myself.
"One of our patrols ran into a group of villagers running away from town. We were told to stop anyone and everyone we encountered until we found the woman. As the patrol was questioning them, one of the men killed them," said the trooper.

"How do you know this?" asked the commander.

"We responded immediately when we heard the shots. We were able to catch two of the villagers and persuade them to tell us what they saw. We interviewed them separately and they both told the exact same story," said the trooper.

"So, one man killed all three of the men in the patrol?" asked the commander.

"Yes sir," said the trooper. "And sir, from the way they talked about the way that he did it. I think it was them. Both villagers said that the man started the confrontation, not when he himself was about to be questioned, but when the woman was. His first step was to switch places in line and put the woman behind himself. The way he handled the patrol sounds like a professional. He killed the first man with a surprise attack and then used his body to shield himself and the woman from the other two while he shot them."

"Do we have any idea of where they are now?" yelled the commander.

"No sir, they immediately fled the area and were gone before we got there."

"Well, I think that this changes things," said the commander.

Indeed it did, I thought. We'd have to change the whole situation. In a few hours if I didn't have the woman, I'd have to change things from terrorist kidnapping to a massacre. Even now, I'd have to give up on the woman. There were too many attractive women out there that I could have. If she and the man got out, or either one of them did, it could mean the end not only for my plans but for me.

I nodded my head ever so slightly at the leader of the US agents and then back at the palace. The commander, ever astute picked up on it immediately.

"Take the prince and that man into the palace at once," he barked.

"But no...please. You've already beaten me once," I screamed. I think I may have poured it on a bit thick.

Once we got inside the palace, I straightened up and started issuing orders.

"My orders up until now were to take the woman alive at all costs," I said. "From now on both she and the man with her are to be shot on sight."

The American security man looked at me in shock. "You''re behind this," he said. "God damn it Rick was right. The whole time we've been here, I've been telling him that everything was fine and he kept telling me it felt funny. I..."

"Do you want to live to see another day?" I asked. He nodded. "Good then as a reasonable man you need to do as I ask."

* * * * * *


As we made our way through the streets, our progress grew slower and slower. Earlier on, we'd been able to simply run through the streets and avoid roving patrols of soldiers. After a while, there were more of them and the size of the patrols got bigger. Now, there were trucks full of soldiers driving through the streets in what appeared to be a grid like pattern. They also seemed to be communicating with each other.

We were now moving slowly through backyards and alleys. We had to avoid yards where there were animal or dogs present because of the noise they'd make. There were several times when we had to double back to avoid detection and find another route.

Once, we had to sit and wait for nearly a half hour as a small patrol played hooky and sat smoking cigarettes instead of moving around. We hid in a burned out house that was only fifty feet from where they sat. A truck drove up and a man inside of it spoke to them in Russian. I was only able to make out some of it. But I frowned.

Millie scooted over to me and wrapped her arms around my waist. "What's wrong?" she asked.

"Their orders have changed," I said. "They've been told to shoot both of us on sight."

"Nope," she said.

"Nope, what?" I asked. "That was what he said. He also said something about prizes or rewards for catching us."

"What I meant was it's time for you to tell me what this means," she said. She stuck the piece of paper from my notebook out at me.

"Now?" I asked. She nodded her head and smiled.

"I've been waiting for this all day," she said.

"Well, it doesn't mean anything," I said. "I have this notebook and I write in it. It's just a way for me to organize my thoughts. Sometimes those thoughts come out as scribbles or doodles or notes or lists of things I could have done better. Sometimes they come out as observations and other times they come out as poetry."

"Keep going," she said. "You're doing fine."

"That's it," I said.

"No it isn't, God damn it," she whispered. "I didn't ask you about the history of your notebook or why you write in it. I very specifically asked you what this particular piece of writing means and I gave you the whole day to come up with a way to tell me."

"Uhm, I guess it was what I was thinking about at the time," I said. Even in the darkness, we were so close that I could see her eyes as they narrowed.

"Am I going to have to make you explain this to me line by line, or can you be a big boy about this?" she asked.

"Uhm, you can't always take poems literally," I said.

"This one is pretty God damned literal," she said. "And that's the way I'm taking it. "So, since we can't go anywhere until those guys move, you can start explaining it. And don't start out by saying Well...or uhm, either. Just look me in the eyes and tell me what you want to say."

"Uhm..." I began and her eyes narrowed even more. Then suddenly inspiration hit me. "It's for a book," I said. "I'm going to someday write a book about a secret service agent and..."

"You lying sack of shit," she hissed. "We both know that this isn't job related. This poem or this half of a poem is about me. You need to finish it too." She folded her arms and stared at me. "Why is my life so fucked up?"

"How is YOUR life fucked up?" I asked. "MY life is fucked up."

"Hmph, I could solve your problems in twenty minutes and two or three phone calls," she said. "But you try growing up in the eyes of the public. Every time I looked at a boy, I became a whore. I can't date without it becoming national news. Think about this, the average girl dates somewhere around fifteen or twenty guys before she finds the one she marries. Some of those guys she only dates once and immediately knows are not right for her. Others it might take two or three dates for her to say yes or no to future dates. She might even date some of those guys for a few months or a year before they break up."

"I don't have that luxury," she said. "Every time I date a guy, it's all over the papers. The majority of the guys who ask me out have ulterior motives. You know, they ask me out so they can become more famous. Or they ask me out for political reasons or some other weird shit."

"I'm twenty four years old and I think I'm good looking," she said. "But I've been asked out more times by people who want to get into my bank account or my father's good graces than by guys who wanted to get into my panties. On the other hand, if you want to count guys who simply wanted to get to know ME, not the president's daughter, or the tabloid princess, then the number goes down to only one that I can think of and it was a long time ago."

"Uhm, then maybe..." I began.

"Track him down on facebook and marry him?" she said. "I did that...he's already married and has two kids now. The good ones are always taken quickly. It's gotten to the point where I can kind of tell when somebody likes me and even why they like me. And you, you fucking liar, like me. You like me a lot. And it's not because of your fucking job either so don't try that one."

She looked at me and I couldn't match her gaze. I turned my head as if I was watching the guys we'd been hiding from.

"Why is it so hard for you to tell me?" she asked. "You constantly show it. Even the other agents can tell. I'm braver than you are. I walked into that bar practically naked in a T-shirt that invited you to do nasty things to me. If just one person there had taken a picture of me in that shirt, they'd have thrown my family out of the white house."

"Watch this," she said. "Richard Hammond I lo..."

"They're leaving," I hissed. I really just wanted to stop her from saying something that might end up embarrassing both of us later on. There were lots of times when people felt a certain way or thought they did while in danger and found out that it really wasn't true. Once the danger evaporated so did their feelings.

"To be continued," she hissed back.

We both watched as the soldiers walked away down the road at a ninety degree angle to the way we needed to go. We stepped out of the shelter and slowly crept through the darkened alley towards our destination. I'd only seen this place in the daylight and it seemed to look different in the darkness.

After a couple of blocks, we again had to stop. There were two soldiers who seemed to be going from house to house looking for us. They weren't actually knocking on doors but they were looking in yards and on porches. I was sure that a door to door search would probably be next as things ramped up.

We were, I thought, very close to where we needed to go. I could see the outline of the palace behind us and we were somewhere inside of the loop that I'd run in just this morning or actually the previous morning. I pulled on Millie's shoulder to stop her and we started to back away towards a nearby alley.

A shot rang out at almost the same time as a bullet slammed into the wall beside us. I pushed Millie away and leaped in front of her even as I found the shooter. I snapped off two shots and he fell.

"You got him, Rick," she said. "We have to get out of here. You can let me up now." I rolled over gingerly so she could get up.

"Come on let's go," she said. I got up and looked around. I was sure the shots had brought the other two men who'd been going from door to door.

"What's wrong?" she said.

"Nothing," I lied. I backed her towards the man I'd shot. I kept my eyes on the direction the two men who'd been checking the houses would be coming from. When we got to the body, I noticed that he'd dropped his radio and broken it. That was another piece of bad luck. I was able to recover his pistol. It looked like a Glock clone. I tucked it in Millie's waist band.

"Just in case," I said.

"You're going to need to reach a little lower than that," she smirked. "Just in case." She looked at me. "Rick, you're as bad as my dad," she said swiping at my shirt. "You've got this guy's blood on you."

As her hand hit my side it hurt like hell. She looked at me again and her face screwed up like she was going to cry. "It's not his blood Millie," I said.

"You got shot," she said. "It was when you jumped on top of me wasn't it?"

I pulled her away from the man just as the other two came around the corner towards him. We ducked behind a shed and circled around behind it to the other side. We crept down the alley and emerged on the next block.

"What are we going to do?" she asked.

"We're going to get you out of here," I said.

"Rick, if we just turn ourselves in they'll get you to a hospital," she said.

"Millie, I told you, they've been told to shoot on sight. If we turn ourselves in, they'll just kill us," I told her. "I don't think the bullet hit anything important or I'd be down already. I do need to get the bleeding stopped or at least covered. It hurts like hell but I haven't lost any function and not much mobility. Let's keep moving."

Tears came from the corners of her eyes but she nodded her head and followed me.

I sighed in relief when I saw it. Even in the darkness the silhouette was clear. The long hood and short rear deck could only be one car. We crept past it and over to the side of the house. I tapped only the window almost silently. I had no idea where the men following us were. My clothes on the left side were bloody but I wasn't leaving any drops of blood yet.

It took a few moments before someone tapped on the glass from the inside. A few minutes after that, he came from the side of the house. As I felt his eyes on us, he put the gun he'd been carrying down.

"Ah," he said. "The man who likes my car." I nodded.

"I need help," I said.

"You are the dangerous fugitive from the news?" he said. "I am thinking that they lie to us."

I just nodded. I kept Millie directly behind me so he couldn't see her. "I've been shot," I said. "If I'm found here they'll shoot you too. But if you help me, I'll make sure it's worth your risk."

"Quickly," he said. "Come inside. And here, you will probably need this more than I do." He handed me a battered revolver. I checked and there were only three bullets in it.

"I'm not alone," I said. Millie stuck her head out from behind me and smiled.

We went inside of the small house. The first thing I noticed was the computer.

"Do you have internet access?" I asked.

"Of course," he said. "It isn't broadband but it gets the job done."

Google Chrome in Russian is a thing to see. I got him to open an English language version and I logged on to the secret service's secure web site. I sent out an emergency email to let them know exactly who I was and what the situation was. After that, my friend brought me another shirt and a roll of bandages and some antiseptic. We cleaned and bound my wound. As much as I could tell the bullet really hadn't hit anything vital. It was inside of the fatty tissue deposits that we call love-handles. I'd been relatively lucky. It was almost pitch black outside when we got ready to move on. My new friend, whose name was Piotr, gave us food and water and let us rest for a while but we'd been hearing more and more trucks and vehicles in the distance. As we checked our supplies we also found out that Millie's Glock clone was empty. Not that it would have made much difference but it would have been better than Piotr's revolver as a second gun.

As we got ready to leave, he told us that he could hide us until someone came for us, but I told him that there weren't any places inside of his small house to hide and they'd do a house to house search soon as they got more desperate.

He turned on his small TV set and showed us the news. They had Agent May on a truck that was driving around the city. He was saying that it was all a misunderstanding and that we should turn ourselves in. We wouldn't be hurt.

"So let's turn ourselves in," said Millie. "We need to get that bullet out of you."

"Millie, he's lying," I said. "Watch his eyes as he speaks. At the end of every sentence, he blinks three times. It means he's being forced to say what he said." She watched and nodded her head.

"I would never have noticed that," she said.

"Piotr, thanks for all of your help," I said. "But I have to ask you a big one now..."

"Why should I help you after you stole my car?" he said angrily, as he handed me the keys.

"If we get out of this," I said. "I'll send you a brand new one."

"If you get out of this," he said. "Send me a visa."

We went out through the rear door and made sure that there was no one waiting for us. We listened and didn't hear anything. We were less than five miles from the Russian border and for the first time since everything started, I was sure that we were going to make it.

* * * * * *

Alan Cameron

It was eleven a.m. and I was scheduled to make an appearance at an inner city school in DC. I was going to read a story to the kids and help them understand the importance of reading. It was one of the few appearances I had scheduled for the day that I really looked forward to. The teachers and the kids had greeted me warmly although I'm not sure the kids even understood who I was. "Why do ya sound like a cowboy?" one of the kids asked before I started the story.

"Because I'm from Texas," I said. "I used to be a cowboy."

"I want to be a cowboy when I grow up too," he said.

Halfway through the first chapter of the book one of my secret service men came into the room and interrupted me. I stopped reading and got that same glazed look in my eyes that Bush got when they told him about 911.

I handed the book to the teacher and she moved right in and took over as I moved towards the hallway. The reporters in the room who sensed a story started to follow us outside but were kept in the room by the secret service.

"Mr. President, there's been an incident," said my national security advisor.

"What kind of incident?" I asked.

"Well sir, we received an E-mail a few moments ago and..."

"You pulled me out of there like my ass was on fire over an E-mail?" I said.

"Sir, the E-mail is being verified even as we speak but we have no information and so..." he continued.

"You pulled me out of there before you even verified the information?" I asked incredulously. "This had better be good. Your career may depend on it."

He gulped loudly. "Sir, the information is from a secret service agent named Richard Hammond and he..."

My heart started beating louder. "Let me see the E-mail," I said.

As I read the message, I got angry. I was far too angry to be presidential. "I want planes in the air five minutes ago," I barked.

"Sir, we have to be very careful, this could spark an international incident," he said. I stopped walking and just stared at him. He turned and looked back at me and came back to where I was.

"If I fuck this up and start some type of incident, what's the worst thing that can happen? Pacmanistan declares war on us? Maybe I'll be impeached and thrown out of office. Big fucking deal; I'm only going to be president for two more years anyway. I'm going to be Millie's father for the rest of my God damned life. It's about time I got back to the ranch anyway."

"Besides my daughter, we have eleven other people over there in harm's way, including a secret service agent who has already been shot trying to protect her from some little tin plated tyrant. As of now I am still the president and I want those God damned planes in the air."

"Mr. President," he said. "It's not just Pacmanistan, sir. The planes would have to be cleared to fly over Russia and a couple of other countries, sir. The state department is working on it already. The Russians are being very helpful. They've already told us that if she could somehow get to the border..."

"Just how the fuck is she supposed to do that?" I asked. "They have trucks full of armed soldiers patrolling the streets looking for them, Rick is bleeding his God damned life out and we have no idea how the rest of our people are doing."

* * * * * *


I've never been a believer in psychic phenomena but I swear I felt it when the bullet hit Rick. I'd just dropped Katrina off at daycare. I took her to daycare every day because it kept her away from Donnie and his friends. My life might be going to hell, but I'd never take my daughter with me.

I'd already realized that my marriage was over. I'd been too angry to seriously look at the consequences of my actions. I'd been thinking about it a lot lately. What Rick had walked in on last week had torched any chance of us EVER getting back together. I'd been trying to make him angry and hurt him the way he'd hurt me when he first left. I finally realized that I'd hurt him first and all of the things I did had hurt him so much that he truly no longer cared.

The knowledge that he was somewhere overseas injured and possibly dead hurt me far more than I wanted to contemplate. It also made me realize that I WAS my mother. All of my plans for breaking the circle were fruitless. My mother slept with a lot of men, but deep down inside she only loved my father.

I too, had pretty much become a whore but unlike my mother, I didn't do it because I enjoyed it. I did it to avoid being lonely and in the case of Donnie, I needed the financial security. But in my mind I wasn't whore. Shit, for all that I know my mother's situation might not have been any different from mine. We didn't have a lot of money, so maybe she slept with those men to get what we needed just like I do with Donnie.
I picked up the phone and called the number in Washington DC for Rick's office. The number he'd always told me to call if he went out of town on an assignment and wasn't back when he said he would be.

The woman on the other end of the line asked me who I sought information on. I gave her Rick's name and she asked me who I was. When I told her, she told me that he was out and that the assignment he was on was scheduled to end on that very day and he should be back within a day or two and to call back then.

"But he's been hurt," I said.

"We have no information on his status or whereabouts, goodbye," she said.

The bitch was absolutely no help.

The doorbell rang and I let Donnie in.

"Why do you look so upset?" he asked.

"Do you want to have sex?" I asked him. Seriously, fucking him was better than talking to him.

Even trying to explain that I had a feeling that Rick was hurt and it was depressing me, was more than I was willing to try to express to him.

"No, babe," he said. "My nuts are still swollen and painful. And I'm not sure I know uhm...perform."

"So why are you here?" I asked.

"I just came by to hang out with you and avoid my wife," he said.

I had traded away a life with a man who adored me and that I realized I'd probably always love, for a life of being bored with a guy I didn't even like, who treated me like a whore and let his friends fuck me. I was a fool.

* * * * * *


I started the Mustang and for once the roar of the powerful engine didn't comfort me. I knew that there was nothing I could do to keep up the speed we'd need and also keep the beast quiet, so I just let her rip. There was no tire shrieking burn out because I couldn't afford to let them know where we were.

Even before we'd made it the first block, Millie's bitching began.

"I'm not using this thing," she grumbled.

"Yes you are," I said.

"You can't tell me what to do," she quipped.

"Yes I can," I said back. "Now get under it." Piotr and I had removed the heavy, metal folding door that led to his storm shelter. It was a small door but it was enough that Millie could use it to deflect bullets from her. The metal was thick enough that small arms fire from a distance probably wouldn't penetrate it. And since the thing was being held at angle by the seat and the floor of the car, even larger shells to a certain point would be deflected.

My plan didn't include us getting shot at. My plan was for us to follow the wisdom of Taco Bell commercials and make a run for the border. Any time we met resistance, we'd back track and approach the border from a different direction.

"Why don't you have one of these?" she asked.

"Because Piotr didn't have two storm cellars," I said. "And even if he did, I couldn't see through it to drive. Now get under that thing and stay down."

"Or else what?" she asked.

"Or else I'll never answer your frigging question," I quipped.

"Ha," she laughed. "You never had to answer it anyway. I already knew the answers."

My plan hadn't survived the first two blocks. As we got halfway down the second block, another small group of soldiers stepped out from behind the hedges and started screaming at us. Gregor was obviously showing his hand now because this group had a mixture of the masked guys and the Pacmanistani army and they were working together.

"Millie, get under that shield," I snapped as I stepped on the gas. It was too late to try to stop and back up they'd already seen us and were leveling their guns.

The big V8 roared its most defiant note as the G-forces from the Mustang's rapid acceleration pressed me back in my seat. In a matter of seconds we were past them and even the sounds of their shots receded. I knew that I had to change direction at least twice to prevent them from getting a fix on our position or destination.

"Well, that wasn't that bad," said Millie, smiling at me from under the shield. "This thing worked. I had a couple of pings on it but nothing got through."

"I told you," I said. I smiled at her. Just then, a truck came at us at the intersection. I hit the gas again and the truck couldn't keep up with us. But they didn't have to. They had enough guys with guns in that truck to make short work of us.

"Get way down Millie," I said.

"You worry too much," she said. "You're doing fine. We didn't get shot back there and..."

"Get your fucking head down, right God damned now," I hissed. Millie's eyes opened wider and she bit her lip as the tears came out of her eyes. I was still jerking the wheel from side to side to keep them from getting a bead on us. After she got her shield up, I slowed down too. The truck barreled down on us and got pretty close. Just as they got to the point where it looked like one of the guys in the back could take a shot, I slammed on the brakes. The truck hit our rear bumper and two of the five guys in the back of the truck fell out.

I sped up and gained a little bit of distance. Then I slowed down and let the truck approach again. They caught up to us at the next corner. I jerked the wheel quickly, almost throwing the nimble pony car onto two wheels. The heavier, less maneuverable truck couldn't make the corner, but the driver really tried. He ended up flipping the truck over.

"I'm sorry," I said.

"I know you just don't want me to get hurt," she said. Her smile was back. "You may as well go ahead and tell me."

"Tell you what?" I asked.

"That your protecting me has nothing to do with your job. You love me," she said.

"Get down," I yelled, as another small patrol jumped out into the roadway. I heard the pings and saw the glass spider web as a couple of shots made it into the interior of the car.

"I might have to become the next Captain America," she said. "My mighty shield is still working."

"Yep, you might," I said. "Luck was with us. I didn't get shot that time either."

"What do you mean by, "That time," she snapped. "Did you get shot again, Rick? Why didn't you say something? You're the dumbest man ever."

"Where did they hit you?" she cried.

"The one in the shoulder isn't very bad," I said. "I can still use my left hand to stabilize the wheel and do all of the turning with my right hand. The one in my ankle is really bad. I don't think I'm going to be able to walk on it. It feels like the shot went through the bone and fractured it."

"I'll carry you," she said. "We can do this together."

"There are two more trucks flanking us to each side," I said. "One is keeping pace with us one block to our north. The other is a little bit ahead of us one block to the south. If I was them I'd move a truck full of men into position behind us and squeeze us to wherever they want us to go. So I'm thinking that's what they'll do too."

"What are we going to do?" she asked. For the first time, she looked scared.

"Normally, I'd kill all of those motherfuckers," I spat. "I've shot my way out of far worse cases than this easily," I lied.

"Well, can't you do it now?" she asked.

"Millie, I can't while I need to protect you," I said.

"I'm holding you back?" she asked. I just nodded my head.

"But if you're brave, there's a way," I said.

"What do I have to do?" she asked.

"Millie, the Russian border is one block away from us. If you look through those houses that little guard shack that's lit up by the bridge is safety. There are at least a couple of trucks full of armed men on that block. Plus the truck the other way and the one they're probably going to bring up behind us."

"Okay," she said. "What do you want me to do?"

"Millie, I'm going to turn very sharply and turn off our lights, it's going to very dark. Do you see that small shed that we just passed?"

"Yes," she said.

"When I turn, I'm going to slow down just past that shed and I want you to hide in the brush near that shed but don't go into it. Just go into the hedges or even one of the yards behind it. I'm going to take off really quickly and all of those trucks are going to follow me. I'll be able to drive faster and I'll start picking them off one at a time because I won't have to worry about you. When the trucks all follow me, I want you to go to the border and tell them who you are. The Russians are on good terms with us now. So if you tell them who you are they'll keep you safe. You have to get to a phone and call someone to send some help. Not just for me but for everyone else left at the palace. Can you do that?"

"Yes, but I want to stay with..." she began.

"Dammit Millie," I snapped. "You keep telling me about how we feel about each other. Why the hell would I want to have a relationship with a woman that I can't count on when things get shitty. If I have to keep babysitting you, I'll die."

"Okay, Rick," she said.

"Millie, it's going to be fine," I smiled. "Someday we'll laugh about this."

"Right," she said. "We'll name our first child, whether it's a girl or a boy, "Shed."

I jerked the steering wheel and the tires shrieked in protest. I could hear the sound of the trucks on the next block slamming on their brakes at the same time. The streets were so narrow that I could see the lights on the trucks and even the men in the back of them pitching forward trying to gain their balance.

Millie opened the door just a bit and rolled out into the darkness. As she got clear, I turned the Mustang's headlights on. They called attention to my position and everything in front of me, but Millie behind me may as well have been invisible. I rocketed forwards and shot a couple of rounds into the air making sure they noticed me. My change of direction hadn't taken them as much by surprise as I'd expected. The truck that had been flanking me from the south turned the corner and tried to come onto my street behind me, so I made a quick left and headed south away from the border and Millie.

I drove through the streets quickly, but not so fast that the trucks lost sight of me. For maybe five minutes we were back playing that same cat and mouse game. With all of the noise I was making and all of the sharp turns and erratic driving, I was sure that they were bringing everything they had to me. I laughed when I thought about all of the lies that I'd told Millie.

She was four years younger than I am but she may as well be a baby. How the hell did she think I'd shoot my way out of this with eleven bullets left for my Sig? I also only had one shot left in the magazine in it. And I wasn't sure if I'd be able to swap magazines while I drove with my one good hand.

She still had the beat up revolver that we gotten from Piotr. I was also leaking so much blood from the three bullets I had in me that I was having trouble staying awake.

I am not James Bond. I haven't been outfitted with any miraculous tech that's going to equalize the odds. I had simply lied to her. My only actual plan was to make a lot of noise and serve as a distraction so she could get away before they killed me.

If I was extremely lucky and they didn't catch me, I'd still bleed to death. And the way their noose was rapidly tightening in on me, I didn't see that I'd ever get close enough to the border to make it to safety myself. Those two trucks that had been flanking us had been in that area already to prevent us from going near the Russian border. We'd gotten as close as we could get to it when I'd let Millie out. The only thing that had gone well was the fact that the trucks changed direction with me when we got close to the border. Even if they would let me get close enough to try that again, there was no one left to provide the distraction for me. I was dead but I may as well take a few of them with me.

My next plan was to try to disable or wreck another truck so I could get my hands on more weapons and ammo.

Too late I pulled myself from my thoughts and noticed that there was a truck crossing in front of me about fifty yards ahead. If it turned onto the street I was on. I'd be trapped. Trapped meant dead and I hadn't given Millie enough time.

* * * * * *


As I watched the car take off and move forward, I began to think about Rick's plan. Maybe it was because for the first part since this happened, I was afraid. I couldn't really tell if I was afraid because I thought I was going to die or because, Rick had left me and I just felt alone again.

I ducked down as much as I could. I kept to the shadows like Rick told me. It took a while but the truck that Rick had shown me that had been to the south turned at the next corner and drove onto our street. He hadn't expected that but I was hidden. I think it would have been better if I'd hidden in the shed, I'd be warmer. The truck drove past the shed after Rick. But it stopped a few yards down and shot bullets all over the shed. Two guys got out of the truck and ran over to the shed. One of them noticed that the shed was locked and shot the lock off of the door. He looked inside and slammed the door back and ran back to get into the back of the truck and they took off after Rick.

I was alone again then. There was nothing but the darkness and the night. I smiled as I looked at the lights from the bridge and the border. It made me think about Rick's dumb unfinished poem. The line about, the night having nothing I should fear because he stood guard out here, made me smile.

I very slowly walked the equivalent of a city block. The thing that pissed me off the most was that he got brave at the last minute. That was just like a man. He hadn't been able to tell me how he felt the whole time. The only time he could actually be honest with me had been when he was about to kick me out of the God damned car. Well that conversation wasn't over. I could hear the sounds of car tires screaming and shrieking in the distance and lots of people looked out of the windows of their houses. But no one came towards me.

I walked towards the bridge thinking that everything was going the way Rick had planned and then I heard the sound of gunshots. Someone was going to town. I heard a lot of rapid fire shots.

"Do your thing baby," I thought. "Kill them all." I heard the sounds of the car's tires still screaming and reality suddenly hit me. Rick only had one gun. He'd only had a few bullets left when he got shot and he'd used two of them to kill the guy who shot him in the side. Rick had eleven bullets and he didn't have an automatic weapon. With a bullet in his shoulder, he only had one hand to drive with so he couldn't even drive and shoot.

The sounds were getting further and further away from me and...Suddenly the air lit up like it was the 4th of July and I heard an explosion. I looked around and I was already walking up the ramp towards the bridge. The soldiers on the Russian side of the border were actually smiling at me, but I was suddenly afraid. I'd made it to where I needed to be but fear gripped my chest. I did notice a man on the Pacmanistani side of the border look at me and then raise a phone to his ear. He pointed at me but it was too late. The Russian men escorted me into their small building.

"I'm..." I began.

"Relax, Miss Cameron," he said in heavily accented English. "You are safe."

Just as he put me into a chair a long car drove up and three men in suits got out and ran over to the building.

"Miss Cameron, I'm Ambassador Ward. I was able to get the Russians to help us. They've been excellent. They've gone above and beyond the call..."

"Get some soldiers out there and take care of this," I said. "He's still out there!"

"Miss Cameron, you need to calm down," he said. "I realize that you've been in a very stressful situation but..." Even as he spoke a sound like an earthquake coming from above the building shook it. I ignored it and spoke to the man in front of me.

"You don't realize shit," I hissed. "Right now, I don't need talk. I sure as hell don't need diplomacy. What I need right now is a bunch of men and some big God damned guns to kill all of those mother fuckers and..."

"That would be where I come in," said a man who appeared to be a soldier but was dressed all in black. "I'm your gun," he said. "Tell me where to shoot first."

"Let's go," I said.

"No ma'am," he said. "You have to stay here. But tell me where to go."

"Shit, just follow the sounds of the screaming tires and the gunshots," I said. "But I AM going with you."

"Captain, you can't just go in there guns a blazing," said the Ambassador. "We need to talk and try to avoid..."

"Watch me," said the captain.

He turned and went back out the door. I tried to follow him but he was walking quickly. As I got outside the door, I saw three jet black helicopters lift into the sky.

* * * * * *


As the truck bore down on me, heading straight at me, I waited for a moment, almost as if I was playing chicken. Another round splintered the glass right in front of me and rocked the seat next to me but didn't hit me. As more shots came through the window, I jerked the wheel to the right and plunged up onto the sidewalk and knocked down a fence. I was sure I ripped the Mustang's undercarriage out from beneath it but the little pony car just kept churning up the ground.

Suddenly the truck was behind me and I was clear. Another truck came out of nowhere and forced me to jerk the wheel in the opposite direction. A couple of bullets came into the car. My luck ran out because one of them hit me in the upper chest on the right side. It felt like I'd been hit with a red hot baseball bat and it became harder to breathe.

I tried to shoot back but my left arm was basically useless now and I needed my right arm to drive. I was glad the car was an automatic because my left leg had stopped throbbing and I couldn't feel it anymore. I was pretty sure that my body was beginning to shut down all of the useless parts from the blood loss. My chest felt hot where the bullet had struck me, but everything else felt cold and tingly.

If everything was going right, Millie should have made it to the Russians by now. I wasn't sure I had much more to give but I had to keep going to give her the best possible chance. I'm a fucking moron, I thought. While I had a few seconds, I took my right hand off of the wheel and used my nearly useless left hand to keep me going straight. I pulled out my iPhone and hit my voice recorder app.

"Millie, if you get this then I'm probably dead," I said. "It was an honor to serve you and your family and I don't regret a second of what happened. I'm sorry I was mean to you at the end but I had to make sure you got through this. I know how you think you felt about me. And I know how I felt about you but none of that matters anymore. If I did mean anything to you, there is one thing I'd like you to do. I have a daughter out there. Her name is Katrina. Please look out for her and let her know that her daddy loved her. I don't think that there are any people on earth who can't be redeemed but if there are, my ex-wife has to be one of them. My greatest nightmare is Katrina growing up and becoming the kind of woman her mother turned out to be..."

An explosion rent the air. I realized then that they'd shot something at me other than small arms fire. As I looked in my rear-view mirror, I noticed a guy in the truck with one of those Soviet rocket propelled grenades. It looked like he was reloading it.

I quickly turned the corner, drove forward a couple of yards and turned again in the opposite direction. I shut off the car and the lights and sat there in the darkness hoping they'd keep going. The first truck drove right past the street I'd turned down. The second truck slowed down and the men in the truck started pointing at me. I quickly restarted the engine and took off. Once again I drove over a lawn and flattened a fence. I squeezed the Mustang between two houses, destroying yet another fence in the process. I came out in the alley behind a garage that I'd just sideswiped leaving the Mustang's driver side rear quarter panel there. I got back onto the street and barreled down the road. I started to think that maybe I could ditch the car and try to find a house to hide in. With luck, I might find someone who had some knowledge of medicine who might be able to help me.
Then I started laughing. Nothing that I'd planned had gone right, why should that? It's always darkest before it gets totally black. The street that I'd just turned onto was blocked by something. It shouldn't have been a dead end street. None of the streets around here seemed to be. I looked behind me to try to back out of it and noticed that the three trucks that were following me had already reached the street. Men were spilling out of them already.

Then lights came on in front of me. What I'd thought was a dead end wasn't. It was the biggest APC I'd ever seen. As the lights came on, I recognized Agent May on the APC. And Prince Gregor was there as well.

"Agent Hammond, there is no escape," said May. "Prince Gregor and I are here to bring you in safely. This has all been one huge misunderstanding. Get out of the car and throw down your weapons. I swear that you will not be hurt." There were at least twenty soldiers behind me and at least half of that number ahead of me. The huge APC couldn't be moved by hitting it with the Mustang, it was simply too massive and the guys in the trucks behind me had wedged the trucks into the street. I'd also have to go through an almost impenetrable barrage of bullets to get there. This looks like the end, I thought.

I got out of the car gingerly, still holding my Sig in my good right hand and looked at them.

"Bullshit," I said loudly.

"What do you mean?" asked May. "I'm your superior. Put that gun down and come in. Prince Gregor is now the King of Pacmanistan and..."

"Prince Gregor is the asshole behind this," I said. "He did all of this because he wants Millie."

"So you know," smiled Gregor. "That means that it makes things easier. That also means that I no longer need you," he said looking at Agent May.

He quickly shot Agent May in the forehead with a gun that I hadn't seen. I shot Gregor a fraction of a second after he shot May. I caught him in the stomach. It's a painful wound but not necessarily fatal. I cursed my injuries even as I fell. I was normally a great shot even from this distance. I could only blame fatigue and the lack of blood.

"Kill him now," screamed Gregor.

I knew that was it. The men behind me started to advance towards me, shooting as they came. I couldn't even get to my feet to get away and with the wound to my left ankle I couldn't move quickly enough to escape anyway.

The men on the giant APC started to come towards me and they were closer but suddenly they all screamed at once and started to run away in the opposite direction. A huge hail of what sounded like fifty caliber machine gun rounds hit the APC even as they started to run. A missile streaked out of the sky and hit the APC destroying it. It hit the huge vehicle so hard it was momentarily lifted off of the ground. I thought I heard the sound of something beating the air but I was moving in and out of consciousness by then so I chalked it up as a hear-lucination (yeah I made that up but you know what I mean).

At least they'll go out with me I thought. I couldn't understand why the men behind me had turned on their own Prince and army but I wasn't complaining. Then I noticed that the men behind me were quickly scattering too. Two of the three trucks had been destroyed already and the men in the third truck had abandoned it and were running away.

Lights blanketed the area and I noticed what everyone else had seen. Three black Apache helicopters took up a position directly over me. One looked to the front. Another monitored the men behind me and the last one touched down only a few yards away from me.

"God damn it. This isn't good sir," I heard a voice say. "He's got at least five bullet wounds. I don't know how he lasted this long."

"I only remember three," I said. "Is Millie... the president's daughter..."

"She's fine," he snapped. "We have to take care of you."

"Don't bother," I said. "Not gonna make it..."

* * * * * *


When the helicopters landed on the roof of the Russian hospital, I was relieved at first. Then I saw Rick and I lost it. The helicopters took off again immediately and went to the palace to mop up. It took them less than fifteen minutes to rout the entire army of Pacmanistan. Two of the secret service agents had been killed besides Agent May.

Liz had been beaten but was alright. The two female agents Patty and Gail had likewise been roughed up as had the English woman Beth. Carmella fared differently. When the other women had been forced to fight to avoid being raped, she'd simply given in and the next thing she knew, they were trying to gangbang her. They had to send in more and more men. Who knows what would have happened if she hadn't been rescued. Pacmanistan really didn't have very many soldiers left.

The doctors in the Russian hospital stabilized Rick's wounds but he fell into a coma. They prepped him for the flight home where the bullets would be removed and his injuries taken care of. They sent a military jet to fly him home and I stayed with him, much to their dismay. They actually had to leave one of the medical assistants off of the plane to accommodate me.

I think she got the better end of the deal because she got to fly home first class instead of on a military flight. I got a stool once the plane took off and sat next to Rick's gurney. I held his hand and told him that everything was going to be fine.

My father called me while we were in-flight. "Millie, why the hell aren't you on the plane?" he asked. "I'm tired of this you running around like you're crazy bullshit. I know that you've been through a traumatic experience, but you need to grow up young lady. You can't run around on your own. You don't even have your secret service people with you."

"Daddy," I said. "I am grown up. And I do have my secret service man right here with me. I'll talk to you when I land."

* * * * * *


Sitting in my living room with Donnie was the most boring thing I could think of. I'd noticed that he often wandered around the house on his own. Not that I minded. It wasn't like I had anything worth stealing and I made sure he stayed away from Katrina's room whether or not she was there. Donnie occasionally gave me a little bit of money and it helped out on the occasions when I'd gone through the money that Rick sent me for Katrina.

As I thought about it, I realized that except for sex and money, Donnie was useless to me. And the sex he provided was useless because Rick seriously didn't care who I fucked anymore. If it no longer hurt him, what was the point?

I turned on the TV and Donnie looked at me.

"Why are you turning that thing on?" he asked. "Ain't I interesting enough to keep you interested? You know Maranelli is finally going to give me another shot."

"Who the hell is Maranelli and why do I care?" I asked.

"Forget it you're just too..." he began. The announcement from the TV as I scanned the channels ended any interest in what he was saying.

"...Severely injured in the incident was secret service agent Richard Hammond and..." I looked at the screen and saw Rick's photo.

"Oh my God," I screamed.

"Ha ha ha ha ha," laughed Donnie. "That bastard got what he fucking deserves. I hope he dies and..."

"Get the fuck out of my house and don't ever come back," I hissed. Donnie looked shocked.

"Baby, I'm sorry," he whined. "I didn't mean it. I was just talking."

"Get out of my house now," I repeated. "Or I'll call the cops. And Donnie, with that broken foot you can barely get around, so don't try to get macho on me. Just get out."

He limped his way to the door and walked out. I immediately got on the phone and called the number back. This time I was far more insistent and between crying, screaming and cursing at everyone I spoke to, I was finally transferred to another woman.

"Yes," she said calmly. Her voice sounded as if she was perturbed that I was calling.

"I'm trying to find out about my husband and I was transferred to..."

"Oh, you're her," she said. "In a way it's good that you called. That way I can cross you off of my list. Do you want to come here or should I come to you?"

"What are you babbling about?" I asked. "I just want to know how Rick..."

"Okay, I'll come to you," she said. "He's having another operation in the morning. This one is important but not life threatening. They have to put a pin in his leg. They say that he'll eventually be able to walk and even run again after some physical therapy. I'll be at your house by ten. And have a pen. You'll probably want to sign some papers while I'm there."

"Who the hell do you think you are?" I asked. But all I heard was the dial tone. I was pissed. I thought that it was some kind of government conspiracy. They were trying to keep me away from my own husband and I wasn't going to let them get away with it. All kinds of things went through my mind. If he was having, "another operation," it meant that there'd already been previous operations. That implied that Rick had been seriously hurt while on an assignment.

I know that it was wrong but the first thing that went through my mind was that this could be my opportunity to get my marriage back. If I nursed Rick through his injuries and was there to help bring him back to health, it could be my ticket to forgiveness. Stranger things had happened. For the rest of the day I practiced. I was sure that she'd be some tight assed little bureaucratic secret service manager who just wanted to block me out of the spotlight.

If Rick became some kind of hero, it wouldn't look good for them to have the whorish ex-wife in the spotlight. I guess they didn't want to have Trailer Trash Barbie on TV. Well fuck them. I looked through the house and tried to find the best outfit I could throw together. I wished that I had the money to buy something new and classy.

I also watched the news channels all day to get as much information on what happened and Rick's condition as possible. It pissed me off that I was legally his wife and couldn't get any more information than the average person could get.

Another thing that pissed me off was the fact that Donnie kept calling me. I really hadn't been as upset with him as I'd pretended. I'd just wanted him to get away from me so I could think. But if I was going to get my husband back, Donnie needed to go. Shit, he had a wife that he wouldn't divorce anyway. He'd already pointed out my place in his life. I was just pussy. My position with him and his money were precarious at best.

Then there was the fact that I really still loved Rick. Sure he'd pissed me off and I'd screwed some guys to get back at him but at the end of the day, Rick was the only person beside my daughter that I'd ever loved. I also realized that the best possible thing for Katrina would be to have her father in her life. I'd busted my ass trying not to be my mother and look what it had gotten me.

One bad decision had undone a lifetime of good intentions. Of course, once I'd made that mistake I'd continued down the path and even compounded the mistake many times over. But now salvation and possibly redemption were at hand and all I had to do was something that I'd do anyway.

The news was full of information about Rick. It turned out that he had held off an entire army or something and had saved the lives of ten or twelve people including the president's daughter. My brain clicked into gear and I saw it all. I saw money. I saw fame. I saw bringing my family back together. Shit, even if I couldn't get Rick back, I could still be rich and famous on my own. I could write a tell-all book. Shit, I could write a series of books.

The first book would be about how I met Rick and turned him into a football hero in college. The second book would talk about our sex life and how he got me pregnant and I'd never quite lost the baby weight from giving birth to his daughter. When you really looked at it, Rick had ruined my modeling career by pumping me full of his stuff. The third book would talk about being the wife of a secret service agent and how the stress of his job and long hours of loneliness and not knowing how he was or even where he was had contributed to the end of our marriage. Shit, if we got back together there'd be a fourth book to talk about that.

Even if the books didn't sell, Rick was going to become a celebrity so I could at least jack up the child support and maybe even increase the amount he'd have to pay me if he wanted his divorce. No matter how you sliced it, Rick's unfortunate situation and his heroism, was going to pay off big for me.

I picked Katrina up from daycare after school let out. I decided not to tell her until I had more information because I didn't want her to freak out.

Early the next morning I dropped her off at the usual time and went back to the house. At about nine o'clock, several cars pulled up. They were all black cars with the seal of the secret service on them. A group of men who dressed like Rick always dressed for work got out and went all over the yard looking at everything. I let them into the house and they went from room to room checking on everything.

I realized then that they were probably my bodyguards and wanted to make sure that no one could take me out while I waited to see Rick. Rick had often told me about how he sometimes didn't respect the people he was assigned to protect, but he did it anyway and he did the best he could because it was his job and he was a professional.

I think I got that look from some of them. Well they could suck it, because I was a celebrity now. As they looked through the rooms of the house a couple of them spoke into walkie-talkies and just stared at me. I wondered why those guys didn't just use cell phones like everyone else.

At five minutes to ten, a long black limousine pulled up in front of the house. I knew that Ms. Tight ass was here and right on time. I opened the door and went into shock. Ms. Tight ass was younger than me and prettier too. Her face was really familiar. I just couldn't place her. But she, like all of those Washington DC types was always in the paper.

A bigger shock was that she was holding my daughter's hand. She walked right past me and told Katrina to go upstairs and pick out all of the clothes she wanted to take with her because they were going on a trip to visit her daddy.

When she spoke it all came together. The slight Texas accent, the long flowing blond hair, the almost too blue eyes; she was Millicent Cameron. She had been the one the secret service people were trying to protect not me.

"Should I start packing too," I asked. "How long will we be away for? Where exactly are we going?"

At first, I thought that she was ignoring me. Her face flashed through several emotions as if she was trying to maintain her composure. She looked at one of her secret service guys and pointed at the couch. He unfolded the newspaper he held under one arm and placed it on my sofa. She sat down on the newspaper and looked at me.

"You don't need to pack," she said nicely. Both the tone of her voice and her speech pattern had changed. Her voice had become very brittle as if each syllable was chipped from crystal. She was icily polite.

"Because you're either staying here, or going away," she said. There was something about the way she said it that sent ice up and down my spine. This woman was only in her early twenties, she was younger than I am but she reminded me a lot of her father.

When you saw him on TV, if he was just making a speech or giving out an award, there was a lot of that jovial Texas cowboy charm. But when you saw him dealing with Congress or talking about going to war, all of that homespun charm fell off and he was all fucking business and he was just not a nice man. This was definitely his daughter.

"Can you try saying something that makes fucking sense?" I said. "What do you mean I'm either staying here or going away?"

"You asked me if you needed to pack," she said. "If you're staying here you don't need to pack. If you're going away, you also won't need to pack for where you're going."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" I hissed.

"I'm taking Katrina to see her father," she said. "Where's the pen I told you to have?"

"I think there's something wrong with you," I said. "You can't take my daughter anywhere without my permission."

"Actually I can," she said.

"You bitch," I said. "Just because you're the president's daughter doesn't mean that you can..."

She held up her hand. "It wasn't me," she said. "...Although I did help to speed things up a bit. You did this all on your own. Rick filed a case to get custody of Katrina before he left town for his last assignment. He even gave them this video..." she pulled out a phone that I recognized as Rick's.

She pushed a button and the video that he'd taken started to play. "They were probably going to have a custody hearing on this anyway," she said. "It was just going to take some time and who knows how it might have ended up. You are clearly not the best influence for her. Rick, on the other hand, has a job where he may be called out of the country on very short notice, so they would have probably fucked around and told you to clean up your act and given her back to you."

I smiled.

"But things have changed," she said. "Rick now has a better job or he will when this is all over. And it's more stable and doesn't involve him traveling or any danger."

"That's great," I said. "That's all I've wanted from the beginning." She looked at me like I was an alley rat swimming in the punch bowl."

"They decided to give Rick custody of Katrina," she smirked. "So I'm taking her to him."

"What about me?" I asked. "And you can't expect a little girl to go and stay in a strange city by herself. She doesn't even know anyone wherever you guys are going."

"Yes, what about you?" she said. "It seems like everything has always been about you. I do have something here for you." She reached into her pocket and brought out some folded papers. She placed them down on the sofa between us.

"You have four years to get your shit together," she said. "The alimony stops after that."

I looked and saw that the papers were divorce papers. They cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for the divorce. I would get thirty-five thousand dollars a year for four years, liberal visitation rights to my daughter, including rotating the holidays and nothing else.

"You're out of your mind," I said. "This is worse than the offers Rick's lawyers made. In his offers, I got Katrina and he got visitation. Plus he offered me the same money and for five years. I'd have to be a moron to sign this."

"You're missing something," she said smiling. "The card..."

I looked and noticed that stapled to the first page was a small orange card. I looked at it more closely and noticed that it was a "Get out of Jail free," card from a Monopoly game.

I didn't understand the relevance of the card. As I looked at her, she just smiled.

"You'll figure it out," she said. She looked at her watch. "Danielle, please excuse me for a moment. She pulled out her phone and made a call. Her face revealed nothing as she spoke but a smile that lit up her face like Christmas told me that she was happy about something.

She looked at me and tilted her head as if trying to decide whether or not to tell me something.

"The surgery went very well," she said. "He'll probably have a cast over his leg for about six weeks, but with therapy he'll have no loss of function in his leg. The pin they put in is made of carbon fiber so he'll even be able to go through metal detectors."

She got up and went up the stairs. A few minutes later, she and my daughter came down the stairs. "Mommy, I'm going to ride on a plane and visit daddy. Then I'm going to stay with him for a while. I miss my daddy."
I gave her a big hug and glared at Millicent, who just smiled sweetly at me.

"Danielle, I have to stop by Katrina's school to get her records transferred. When I was there before they started the process but it seems to take inordinately long to do these things. I asked them to have everything ready in an hour so I'll stop back and pick them up. You can, of course, come and visit Katrina any time you'd like. I'll arrange it with the airlines to make it easier for you to get on a flight whenever you want; unless of course, you're unable to travel for some reason. But even in that case, you can call her every day."

"Danielle..." the bitch kept saying my name like she was practicing it. Or like she wanted me to know that she knew me. " offer, including the card is good for twelve hours. Agent Williams will be here until eleven p.m. tonight. If he doesn't have the signed papers in his hand by then..." she smiled again. "...we play hardball."

She and my daughter walked towards the door. As I watched them get into the limo, I was angry. This hadn't gone the way I wanted at all. The bitch expected me to divorce Rick for thirty five grand a year. I could live on that. I'd actually be better off than I was now. But thirty five grand was chicken feed compared to what Rick would be getting. I sat there on the couch fuming.

It was probably less than an hour after she'd left that my front door flew off of its hinges and landed in my living room. A stream of guys in gas masks and bullet proof vests with DEA printed on them burst into the room. Two of them handcuffed me with zip ties and laid me down on the floor while they fanned out and searched the house.

In less than four minutes they came out of my bathroom and kitchen carrying several large plastic bags of white powder.

"Look what we found in your house, ma'am," smiled one of the agents. "I'm sure that you know nothing about this, right?"

"Of course I don't," I said. "Look I'm an alcoholic and probably a slut, but I don't do drugs."

"Lady, you've got enough stuff here to get half of the city high," he laughed. They picked me up and walked me outside where I got the biggest shock of my life. Donnie was standing outside. He was also handcuffed and wouldn't look at me. As I walked past him towards the waiting squad car, he hobbled around to face me. He had a smirk on his face and shrugged his shoulders.

"Why, Donnie?" I screamed.

"Let me guess," he smirked. "You really thought, I'd come down to this rat trap for the pussy?"

He laughed a couple of times. "Don't kid yourself, Honey. You ain't that damned special. I can get pussy anywhere. Let me give you one more piece of advice...Don't drop the soap."

An hour later I was in a holding cell talking to my court appointed lawyer. I told him about how I was innocent and I'd been used.

He told me that Donnie had made a deal for a lesser sentence. He'd named names including mine. He had ratted out the guy, Marinelli, that he'd been supposedly storing the drugs for. And he'd ratted me out as well. Marinelli and his group were looking to do major time for manufacturing and selling the drugs. I was up for possession of large quantities which carried a far stiffer fine than if the amounts found on my premises were considered only for personal use.

Donnie would get a very light sentence because all they had on him was transporting. He'd get time served and have to testify at the trial. After that, he'd go into witness protection and start all over again. The feds were probably going to set him up in business so he'd be able to do things the way he wanted instead of waiting thirty or forty years for his dad to die.

"Danielle, you're looking at twenty years minimum," he said.

"Nope," I said. "I've got a get out of jail free card."

* * * * * *


I already liked her. She was a smart, quiet little girl. In some ways, she reminded me of myself at that age, only...better. She isn't spoiled and she has great manners. She probably learned that from her daddy. As I sat in my usual spot by the bed holding his hand, I had to be very careful. Rick had bullet wounds to both arms. The tendon that connects the biceps muscle to the bone in the left arm had to be surgically re-attached. If I moved his arm too much, it would irritate the already inflamed muscle and cause him needless pain and prolong the healing process.

The door opened behind me and I could tell who it was by the way he walked.

"Hello Daddy," I said.

"What did you do?" he asked.

"I put a bunch of drug dealers in jail and got a lot of drugs off of the streets," I said. "I also arranged career improving busts for several DEA agents. It's a win-win situation."

"And you did all of that out of the goodness of your heart?" he asked.

"Nope," I said. "I did it for Rick. I sped up his divorce. He was going to get it eventually but..."

"Do you know why the divorce process takes so long?" he asked.

"Don't know, don't care," I said. I knew he was going to tell me anyway.

"It's so that both parties can be sure. Almost thirty percent of the time, the couple decides to stay together. Some of them, where the divorce is granted, they end up getting married all over again anyway," he said. "Did you know that your mother and I almost got divorced?"

"Yep," I said. "I was eleven. Even then I knew it wouldn't happen. The two of you loved each other too much. You didn't belong with anyone else. And there were no other people involved in your divorce. You just needed to learn to stay at home more. But this is different, Daddy. She was stretching things out just to try to hold onto him more for the money than anything else. Besides she may not even give him the divorce now."

"So if he's been waiting three years for the divorce, why is it so important that he get it now?" he asked.

"Because I have no intention of spending another day without him, Daddy," I said. He smiled and ran his fingers through my hair. I knew he'd know what I meant by that. It was the exact same line he'd told my mom's dad when he told him that he was marrying her that day.

He paused at the door. "Your friend Polly has asked for the state department to send in a group of advisers to help with the reorganization of her country's government. It seems she wasn't prepared to be a queen. She wants you to call her too. I think she's going to want you to come back and help her prepare for her coronation. She says it's going to be a huge party."

"I'll call her but I'm probably going to miss it. I've grown out of that party girl stage. I have no intention of leaving here until Rick is ready. I do have to spend some time with mom too. I'm not prepared to be a step mom yet, so I need her help. I need to learn some stuff."

"You'll do fine," he said smiling.

My phone rang. "Yes Danielle," I said. "You still have time left. You have several hours, in fact."

"The papers are signed and your Agent Williams has them," she said. "I'm out of jail and back at home. Your DEA agents knocked holes in my walls. Who's going to fix them? And when does my first check arrive. Do I get paid every week or every month? Can I still write a book about my life with Rick?"

I hung up the phone in shock. The fingers I lightly held onto had squeezed back, so I had no time for her bullshit. His eyes fluttered and then slowly opened.

"Told you to go to the bridge," he said. "Where are we?"

Rick made a full recovery from his injuries. It was a long slow process and Rina and I were there with him every step of the way. Rick was a national hero, so needless to say, things didn't go quite the way I'd thought they would. He started off making so much money doing speaking engagements that we were set for life. And speaking of engagements, I asked him to marry me as soon as his divorce was final.

Danielle came to visit Katrina a few times but was never really comfortable and simply stopped after a while. The last we heard, she'd hooked up with some guy she met and just disappeared after a while. I did have it looked into and I think Rick did too. The last anyone knew she'd gotten into a car with some guy other than the one she was living with and no one has seen her since.

Rick didn't last long on the public speaking circuit though, because daddy and the party convinced him to run for the Senate in one of our battleground states. His Senate run was a success and they see great things in his future. The more time passes, the deeper in love we discover that we are. We do have our arguments from time to time but they're more like differences of opinion from our divergent backgrounds. We both have some old habits to break but they're nothing serious. He still has that habit of watching over me while I sleep, but now he does it from the bed right beside me.

The end
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