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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Thomas Lord: Cloaked Chapter 8 (adult)





     They arrived back at his hotel room. Todd closed the door and turned to embrace his wife. Blair suddenly backed out of his embrace. "Hold it. Before we go another round, I have a bone to pick with you."

      Todd dropped his hands and walked toward the bed. " Okay, I guess I've got it coming. Let's hear it," he sat down on the bed.

       Blair had been holding in all the emotions she felt; the anger, the frustration, and the fear she had been feeling all these weeks. Now that he was here, safe and in front of her, they all came rushing back with a vengeance. "How could you just go off like that and leave me?  What happened to all of your promises? I came down to help you that morning and you turned away from me, do you have any idea how I felt? I knew you were in trouble, but you wouldn't stay and talk it out. Then you just disappeared, no word, no nothing." she looked at him, but he just sat there saying nothing. She wanted to scream. "I was frantic, I thought you were so distraught you might take your life. Why did you do that to me?"

       Todd didn't know how to answer her. He hadn't been thinking clear that morning, the fog had descended over him and all could think of at the time was to take his filthy self away from her. "Blair, I know sorry won't cut it. I'm not sure I can talk to you about it even now. You don't know what I did that night. I couldn't look myself in the eyes, how could I look at you?"

       "I know what you did," she said. He looked at her astonished. "Did you really think after all these years I wouldn't know you or what you were, and are, capable of. Todd, when you left as Pete, I knew you were going to undertake something pretty awful. Pete has only come out when your anger reached a fever pitch and you weren't angry that night so I knew you let him out on purpose. I didn't find out just exactly what you had done until after you left. But it didn't take me too long to read between the lines after John told me the state that Hesser and Kipling were found in. You tortured them, you let Pete exact your revenge didn't you? That's what drove you away from me that morning. You hated yourself because you gave into your anger and allowed it."

      "Blair you're partially right. I hated myself for giving into my anger, but I despised myself more because, at one point in the middle of it all, I actually found myself reveling in it. Do you understand what I'm saying? I had turned into the very man I hated. I was no better than he was. I was laughing at their misery the same way he laughed at mine." Todd got up and strolled to the mirror. "I could hear his laughter the whole time Pete was doing it. I didn't stop it and something in me came out and relished every bit of it. When it was all over and I came home to you, Pete was still in charge and his feelings of excitement and exhilaration were churning with my own and then it hit me, what I had become. Pete was laughing and I couldn't stand that laughter any longer. I silenced Pete and took back over, but it was too late. 'His' laughter, Peter's laughter was still echoing in me, the harder I tried to shut him out the louder it became, rolling over me, telling me I could no longer deny what I really was. I was the same Monster I had been denying all those years ago. I hadn't changed, and if I stuck around I would hurt you because that was what I did. I hurt people." Todd slammed his fist into the mirror shattering it, the coldness held at bay all night, now seeping into him as he collapsed to his knees clutching his mangled hand, drowning in his own personal hell as Peter's laughter crashed over him in waves.

      Blair had listened horrified by what she was hearing. He was wrong, so wrong, but in his mind, he only saw the monster. She had been frozen to one spot as he had talked, her anger evaporating as she listened to him describe what had happened that morning. Time had seemed to slow down; as in her mind, she pictured him standing over Hesser and Kipling and getting a perverse pleasure out of hurting them. At the sound of the shattered mirror, Blair snapped back to reality taking in her husband shattered on the floor. She ran and got a washcloth and went to him, "Oh God, Todd it's not true. You'll never be him." she was crying and trying to wrap his hand. "Peter would never have helped those children or placed himself in harm's way for anyone. I won't let you think that anymore. I could never love a man like Peter, but you I love to distraction."

       She raised his head and looked into his eyes. They weren't focused on her and she knew he was lost hearing things only he could imagine. "You're not evil or sick, you love with a passion because you've missed it all your life. Because of your father you've been tainted, so yes you're capable of committing wrongs but you are so much more than the wrongs you've committed." She had to get through to him, she kissed him trying desperately to let him know he could never frighten her away. She prayed for some sign to tell her was making progress. "Please Todd, this is what's real. You do deserve this come take it. Come take it, come take me." she deepened her kiss, crying and hoping she was making a difference.

       Todd clung to her for survival, she had come to him this time for real not just a dream and the waves receded as he came up gasping for air, responding to her kiss and returning it. He was shaking and the cold began to ebb away as she held him. She was crying and he realized it was for him. He hated that, hated when she cried. This time it was his fault. A certain calm came over him as he gathered himself and gently stroked her hair. "Hey, shush, don't worry about me. I won't go again, I need you. I know that now. As long as you're next to me, I'll stay afloat. You're my lifeline I don't ever want to be cut off from you again."

      Blair peered at him through watery eyes and saw him looking back at her. He was back, the man she had fallen in love with years before. The man who had surprised her at every turn. She had seen him first, long before anyone else had seen the real him. The connection between them had started with that first conversation in Rodi's and even though she had been alarmed when she realized who she was talking to, she had been drawn to him. Everyone had warned her about him, but none of them knew the real Todd. She did and she was never going to let him get away again. She smiled tremulously and said. "Don't worry about that, from now on we're joined at the hip."

     Todd got up off his knees and helped Blair off the floor. The motion of pulling Blair up caused his ribs to twinge and he couldn't help the slight moan that escaped as his muscles protested. Todd walked over to the sink to see the damage he had done to his hand once more. This time it was necessary to pull some glass pieces out of his knuckles. "I've really got to stop doing this," he said to no one in particular. He put his hand under the water and hissed as the pain radiated up his arm.

      Blair grabbed the hand towel and wrapped his hand up. "Yes you should, I'm surprised you can still use it."

       He smiled at her. "It's like the rest of me takes a lick but keeps on ticking."

         Blair chuckled, only Todd could find humor where moments before he had had a meltdown. "You do need to stop beating yourself up. I accept you just the way you are with all your flaws, I didn't come into this marriage with my eyes closed, Todd. After all these years, you need to give me a little bit of credit." She took a moment to take a hard look at his hand. "I hate to say this, but I think you're going to need stitches this time."

       "Nah, a couple of band-aids, a little superglue, I'll be good as new. We can probably get both down at the front desk. I don't know about you, but I'm hungry all of sudden, Let's go get some early breakfast before the paper comes out. " He went to get another shirt out of his bag when she stopped him.

        "I think we should call room service," said Blair taking the ruined shirt off his shoulders. She took the next moment to start kissing his gorgeous shoulders and working her way around in front of him. "I don't really feel like going out, do you?" her hands were rubbing across his chest and the look on her face told Todd what she fancied eating.

        "I guess room service could work. Do you have anything you want to order?" Todd couldn't stop what he was thinking, Blair was in her siren mode and he felt himself falling under her spell.

       "I've got my eye on what I want," she stopped, and undid her zipper and let the dress fall to the ground. "How about you, do you see anything that whets your appetite." She held out her hand.

        That was his undoing. He took her hand, "As a matter of fact, there is something very tasty that comes to mind." he led her to the bed stopping long enough to shed his slacks, then he joined her, meeting her eager mouth with his own. It was almost dawn when Todd fell into an exhausted sleep, his body finally giving into fatigue from his lack of sleep over the last few days.

       Blair lay next to him frowning at the bruises beginning to show around his ribcage. She noticed the bullet wound from Christian had been at the center of one of the blows, and the blow had been severe enough to cause the wound to partially reopen, seeping a little. He hadn't been taking proper care of it and the wound had gotten infected. He was probably going to need some antibiotics for it. She carefully removed the towel from his hand. It had stopped bleeding. He had been right about the hand at least. She leaned over and kissed his forehead and slipped out of bed, going back to the bathroom to get a wet cloth to clean his wound and his hand. He had been reckless and almost gotten killed trying to save the girls. But after listening to him explain why he had left, she had a better idea what had driven him to do it.

         He had also surprised her, it had never occurred to her that he had done more than gallivanting around the world after leaving Tea. She had been sure that he left to get away from the recriminations of the whole town after everyone believed he had faked DID to escape jail time. That he had actually gone and gotten a job during that time was a bit of a shock. Of course, now that she knew he hadn't faked his alters, it made more sense. He couldn't face the truth that Tom had exposed, so he had departed, willing to let everyone believe the worst about him. He had gotten the job because he had needed to stay attached to something he was good at, it had given him a purpose to live at that time.

       When he had disappeared on her, he was once again driven to find some purpose to stay alive so he had returned to Savannah. It had helped him back in 1998, so he had taken the chance it might help him again. She was grateful he had chosen work over suicide. Even though she realized he still had taken on a dangerous story that could have gotten him killed. Blair sat down and very gently cleaned his side, taking great care not to wake him. He looked so exhausted. His nights must have been filled with nightmares and knowing Todd that meant he had avoided sleep at every turn. She then turned her attention to his hand, carefully cleaning away the encrusted blood and laying it down at his side.

        The sun was beginning to shed its light into the room. Blair got up and closed the curtains so the room would stay darker for a little longer. She picked up the phone and called room service and ordered some fruit, coffee, and some pastries along with some bandages. Although a strange request, the person on the other end took the order in stride and a short time later breakfast and bandages arrived, no questions asked. Blair quickly bandaged both the side wound and his hand and covered him. He hadn't even stirred. She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down in the chair next to the bed content to just sit there and watch him. He would wake when he was ready and she would be there when he did.

****

      Todd came awake slowly reaching beside himself but not finding Blair. He lay there trying to figure out if what he remembered had happened, or if he had just been dreaming. The answer was obvious. He had been dreaming. He was losing it, he wanted Blair back with him so bad, he was now dreaming whole scenarios. It had all seemed so real; taking down the guys on the pier, saving the girls, even Blair finding him. Todd wondered if he was ever going to get over this need to be with her.

       The room was dark so it was probably still early morning. He knew he should get up, but he just wanted to go back to the dream. He couldn't make himself open his eyes. If he just laid there maybe he would drift back off and dream about her some more. She had seemed so real. He was losing it. "Tom are you around?"

       "Heck yeah, Todd, how you doing? Pretty good day huh?"

       "I don't know about that, I think I'm losing it. All I can think about is Blair. Am I crazy?"

       "Sheesh, Todd, why would you think that? What's wrong with thinking about Blair? She's great. I love to think about her and so do the rest of the guys. I mean, well you know, she gets us. So, you made Lily happy, it was great. Man, the way you took down that Sid guy, Wow!"

        "Wait a minute. What are you talking about, Tom?" Todd was puzzled.  Tom was talking about his dream. That had never happened before.

        "You know! Yesterday! I thought we'd had it when those guys got you. Boy, we couldn't see, we were going nuts in here. Then that guy began hitting you.."

       Todd's eyes flew open. It hadn't been a dream. If all that was true then so was Blair. The room was dark, just what time was it. He rolled over to look at the time but hissed as pain shot through his ribcage.

       "Hey, it about time you woke up." said Blair.

        Todd's head whipped around at her first words. She really was there. He raised a hand, rubbing his eyes to make sure he wasn't just seeing things.

        Blair moved to the bed and sat next to him. "I was getting a little worried. If you had slept too much longer I was going to call a doctor," she leaned down and gave him a kiss.

        Todd closed his eyes at the feel of those lips on his. His arm went out and snagged her, and pulled her down onto him. All the events of the previous night came flooding back with clarity. All he wanted to do at that moment was savor the feel of her. She wasn't a dream any longer she was here beside him on the bed. Her touch was igniting him and he rejoiced in it. Every caress made him feel more alive. He had been nothing but a walking dead man without her.

        Blair was overwhelmed. She had been startled when he had grabbed her because it was so unlike him, but she went with the flow, eager to continue where they had left off when he had fallen asleep. His hands moved over her body slipping beneath the dress and moving up her body skin against skin. His fingers played across her hips snagging the wisp of panties she was wearing and plunged underneath where she was so ready for him. Her body responded to his quest and she moaned in delight.

      She arched ever closer as he continued his search. Her moans exciting him, his head dipped down as he pushed her dress up and away from her beautiful body his mouth seeking to taste her. He traveled slowly caressing her with his tongue as he made his way to her sweet center.

        Blair could do nothing but squirm as the pleasure mounted inside her with every lick and caress. God, he was marvelous. The world exploded, her body going up like a torch as his lips and tongue caressed her, the sensations rolled through her wave after wave one topping the other. She collapsed on the bed exclaiming his name as he slowly made his way back up.

       Todd smiled at the look of absolute satisfaction on his wife's face as he gently caressed her body, kissing her here and there and listening to her moan his name. He gazed down at her, as she lay there almost in a fugue state still wrapped in the sensations of his lovemaking. She was real, and she wasn't going anywhere. She had promised him last night, that she loved him no matter what, and he was going to hold onto that lifeline. He reached up to move her hair from her face and she gazed up at him. "I thought you were a dream, and that everything that had happened was all in my imagination, you have no idea what it means to me, to realize you're here. I know I said it to you yesterday, but I have to say it again. Thank you for finding me."

       Blair gently reached up to touch his cheek. "Don't worry, I'm here where I belong, and if you have to reassure yourself every day that I'm real, you go right ahead. I'll be here to give you that reassurance," he took her hand and gently kissed it. Blair opened her arms and welcomed him home.

      Todd started to roll out of bed and again found his side protesting. he looked down and saw the bruising and the bandage. Looking at Blair he said. "Why the bandage?"

      "Oh, that. Your wound from Christian reopened a little bit because of the blows. I think it was becoming infected, but I knew you wouldn't let me take you to a doctor so I cleaned it the best I could. Really, Todd, the last thing you need is an infection running through your system."

      " Okay, "mom". I promise I'll take better care of my wounds the next time I run away from home," he grinned and Blair grabbed a pillow and swiped at him.

       "Hey injured here, remember," he laughed grabbing the pillow and hitting her with it. She squealed and soon they were both roaring as they beat each other with the pillows.

       They were wrestling on the bed when Blair's fist accidentally hit his wound and Todd hissed suddenly at the pain. "Oh God Todd I'm so sorry." Her hand quickly reached the spot feeling the area just to be sure she hadn't done more damage. The area was warm to the touch and was looking inflamed. "That does it, we're getting you checked out. Besides C.J. called while you were sleeping and said that Chase and his grandfather were going to be visiting Lily. We can take care of your side and you can see Chase." she could tell he was getting ready to protest. "No arguments Todd. Now go get cleaned up. I'll bring you some fruit, you must be starved." She hauled him off the bed and pushed him toward the bathroom. He started to turn back to her, the look on his face reminding her so much of Tom at that moment. "Go on," she ordered and he did. She couldn't help but smile. He was so endearing at times.
   
        Blair walked over and opened the curtains letting in the late afternoon light. She really had been worried when he hadn't awakened. His body was trying to tell him something and he obviously wasn't listening. That wound should have been healed, it had been over three weeks since the shooting. He had been pushing himself ever since he left her. She walked to the door and opened it and saw the Savannah Herald sitting on the Floor. She picked it up and tucked it under her arm then she grabbed a couple of pieces of fruit and headed into the bathroom. Todd was just stepping from the shower and she took a moment to appreciate the view.

       He grinned his shy grin and grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his waist, then walked over and took an apple out of her hand. Biting into it, he noticed the Paper under her arm. "Is that the Herald?"

      "Yep," she said, still enjoying the view. She took a bite of her own apple and was surprised as some juice ran down her chin.

      Todd took advantage of the moment, his lips quickly tasted the juice and found their way to her lips, after a tender kiss, he pulled the paper from under her arm and went to sit on the bed. Todd opened the paper and read the headline. White Slavery a Reality, America's Shame. Amos had done right by him and had left the story intact. He sat and read it, and thought he had done a fair job of telling the story. In his head he could hear, his bastard of a father thinking it could have been more sensational if they had captured pictures of the children and he thanked heaven there had been no photographers there.

      Todd set the paper down and reached for his pants and then picked out a shirt. He thought about Lily and Chase and how close they had come to being shipped out to a foreign country, forever kept away from their family because of greed. They had been lucky, but there were probably hundreds more like them still captive. He picked up the apple and then tossed it, unable to take another bite. His heart was sick because he had only managed to put a small dent into what was a huge operation. Todd walked over to his file next to his computer and opened it to look at the picture of the CEO of the Daimler corporation. He looked like a very shrewd businessman, Todd was sure he knew exactly what his ship's cargo was, but Daimler was so far up the food chain it would be hard to connect him to the operation. Blair had come up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. his injured hand covered hers and he closed the file with the other. He prayed she hadn't been paying any attention to what he had been looking at.

       "Who was that?" she inquired, she had just caught a glimpse of the man, but he was obviously a person of interest to Todd.

       "Someone I'm looking into, it's nothing you need to worry about," he took her hand and walked back to the paper. Handing it to her he asked. "So give me the truth. Is it alright?" he walked to the window letting her read. He realized he was watching the sun go down and marveled that he had slept so long. After a few minutes, he turned around so he could see her face. A tear was glistening on her cheek as the light hit her. "What, it was that bad?"

      Blair dashed the tear away and went to him. "It was excellent, Todd.  You captured the plight of those children and the callousness of the men keeping them captive. The reporting of the rescue was riveting. You should be proud. Vicki will love it." she flipped through the paper to see if there was anything else she had missed and spotted the Editorial, Amos had printed it also and then added his own to complement Todd's. She handed the paper back Todd, "Someone else agrees with me."

       Between Blair's high praise and Amos's Todd felt relief and was glad that he had chosen to come to Savannah. Perhaps in some small way, he had made a difference after all.

****

      Todd had been wearing his ring nonstop because he couldn't stand to lose sight of Blair. But as they stepped out at the hospital, he took it off and put it away. There had been no time to replace his cane so he took Blair's arm and they headed to Lily's room. They could hear a great deal of chatter coming from inside the room so Blair knocked and waited for the come in.

      Suddenly a young boy barreled into Todd, "Wow it's really you. You're my daddy's genie. Golly!" Chase grabbed his hand and pulled him into the room. "Grandpa this is the man who helped me, and you know what, he did it even though he can't see. He's magic you know."

      Todd felt his hand being taken and pumped. "Mister I'm right glad to meet you. I'm so grateful you helped my grandchildren. C.J. tells me you diverted four men away from that damn warehouse the night you and he rescued Lily. That's some trick for a blind man to undertake. I must admit I would have to agree with the children, that's a right special talent you have."

      Todd usually had an aversion to handshakes, but the old man's was strong and heartfelt. The man's hands were calloused hard working hands. "You must be Joshua, I'm glad to meet you. I didn't really do all that much. Chase had already gotten himself out of the warehouse. I just moved some boxes to hide him for a short time. As for helping Lily, we did have some help from inside too."

      "Now you're being modest Uncle. You drew those men away from the warehouse and completely sucked them into looking for you. Then you kept them busy somehow. All I had to do was meet Kym at the door. There's no way a normal man would have been able to accomplish what you did that night so although you don't want the title. I'm afraid you'll always be 'Ali' the genie and superhero to my kids. Joshua, I'd liked to introduce my Aunt Blair to you also. She was at the docks last night when the big rescue was undertaken." After Blair was greeted, the talk turned to the big rescue and the article in the paper.
  
       "That Thomas Lord wrote a pretty in-depth article. He must have been in the thick of things yesterday," said Joshua.

        "You could say that." said Blair looking with pride at Todd.

        C.J. hadn't paid any attention to the by-line but now realized who Thomas Lord was. "You're a hell of a reporter Uncle Todd. but how did you know about the warehouse in Wilmington?"

       "That was easy C.J., I just followed up a hunch on the Ship and it panned out. This organization is making billions off the backs of young children and young girls. It's unfortunate that I couldn't make a bigger dent in their business. I'm going to continue to follow up and see what else I can do to stop this."

       Joshua had been listening and he knew a man with a purpose when he saw one. C.J.'s uncle was a man driven by something deep inside himself. That was why he had helped Chase and Lily and then gone back into the thick of things last night. He had little regard for his own safety as long as those he helped were safe. Joshua recognized the trait, he had seen it in some of the men he fought alongside during the Vietnam War. They too had pushed through battles like they were trying to exorcise demons. This man was doing the same. Joshua frowned, for some of those same men, the demons had finally won. The only thing going for C.J.'s uncle was his wife. She just might end up being his saving grace.

       Todd felt the urge to turn the talk away from his part in the whole rescue thing so he headed toward the bed. He knew approximately where it was located in the room because he had counted his steps the night before. "Lily, how are you doing. You're awfully quiet."

       Her young voice spoke up. "I mustn't speak until I'm spoken to. It'll get me in a lot of trouble, just like when I got in trouble earlier," her voice had lost some of its joy from the previous night.

      "Why Lily, you won't get into trouble. Why would you think that?" Todd was alarmed at the matter of fact way she had answered. It was like she was repeating some of her training. What had happened since they saw her last? "C.J., what's she talking about?"

      C.J. too had been alarmed at Lily's comment. It had come out of left field. "I don't know.  Lily, when did you get in trouble?" He walked to the bed and was further alarmed when Lily shrank back from him. "Whoa Lily, I'm not mad just tell me why you think that way?"

      "Because I made him mad when he came in earlier," Lily said.

       "When who came in, Lily?" asked Joshua.

       "The nurse.  I was getting thirsty and Daddy had left to go get breakfast.  I had pushed the button hoping someone would come help me and he came in and asked what I wanted.  I was scared because he wasn't the nurse who had been helping me before, he seemed mad because I had rung the help button.  All I did was ask for some more water and he got all mad. Kym said they yell because we don't know our place. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make him mad. I know my place, I'll be good." she was staring down at the bed afraid to even look at anyone.

        Blair walked over and gathered the girl into her arms. She was shaking with fear. "Honey, you didn't do anything wrong. Shh. I'm sure the nurse wasn't really mad at you. He was probably upset about something else entirely. Your dad can find out and make sure he doesn't come in here again, though." She looked with concern at C.J. and Joshua and then she saw Todd's face. She saw the pain behind his eyes and his frown and knew he was feeling like he had let Lily down somehow. Even Chase was looking sadly at his sister.

       Chase decided quickly to do something about his feelings. He walked up to his big sister and patted her hand and said. "Don't worry sis. If he tries to make you upset again, I'll kick him in the shins. That'll teach him to be mad at my sis." he was rewarded by Lily squeezing his hand and Blair smiled at him gratefully.

        Blair continued to hold Lily and whispered encouragement into her ears about how strong she was and how brave she had been all the while she had been held. C.J. and Lily's grandpa had both gone in search of the nurse or an explanation as to why a male nurse had ever been allowed anywhere near Lily. As she held Lily, Blair glanced over at Todd. He had gotten so quiet after Lily had told them about the nurse. "Todd are you okay." He didn't answer, he was looking a little pale and Blair wished he would say something to let her know he was okay. He obviously was worried about Lily and she feared he would think himself responsible because he didn't get her out sooner. She felt Lily stirring in her arms and released her looking to make sure the girl was alright.

        Lily pulled out of Blair's embrace and squared her shoulders and lifted her head. She had heard Blair's question to her great uncle and she looked over at him. Lily sensed something was wrong. He was worried about her so much and she could tell he was hurting for her. She didn't know him but he had come to mean a great deal to him during the time she had been held. she had imagined him her protector and he had shown up. she couldn't let him think he had let her down. Suddenly she kneeled on the bed and grabbed Todd's hand. "Don't worry about me, you did everything you could, I've got Chase and Dad and Grandpa to help me, thanks to you. I know it's not going to be easy to forget what's happened and what they did to me. But I'm going to fight it and win. You did that for me. You gave me hope when I was trapped and you got me free." She was crying for him as well as herself. He was her superhero and she didn't want him sad.

       Todd grasped her hand amazed that she was trying to comfort him. He put his arm around her slight shoulders and gave her a simple hug. "I'm alright Lily." his voice caught as he choked back his tears. "I just want this nightmare over for you." he kissed the top of her head running his hand soothingly down her hair.

        Blair reached over and got the girl to lay down and began singing her a song she had used to lull Starr to sleep. Lily was mesmerized and slowly drifted off to sleep. Chase had climbed into bed with his sister and had fallen asleep next to her, his little arm protectively around her. Blair and Todd watched over them until C.J. and Joshua arrived back in the room then they departed promising to see them at least one more time before heading back to Llanview.



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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chasing the Monsters: 61 (adult language)

Tea was screeching, "Stop it!  Stop it, Todd!" and Blair, seeing Todd getting the upper hand on Zeus, saw him turning deep red in the face.  

She said, "No, My Love, stop, please.  The children need both of us."  She put her hand on his arm, and he flinched her off.  In response to this, she shouted, "Todd, let go of him!"


Zeus was now on his knees, and his eyes were starting to roll back in his head.  Both women pulled at Todd to try and loosen his grip, but Blair saw that he was gone.  She said, "No, Todd!  Todd, stop.  He's not Peter, you're not Peter!"


Just then, in the midst of the turmoil, a small, broken voice said, "Mr. Genie?  Are you going to kill my Daddy?"


Todd, still holding his hand around Zeus' neck, turned slightly, and caught sight of Isabella, who had wandered into the room.  Tea, sobbing, yelled at her daughter to get back upstairs.


Todd watched as the little girl ran out, and then let go, sending Zeus plummeting to the floor.  He was unconscious, and Blair and a shell-shocked Tea ran to his side and checked his pulse.  "Zeus?  Mi amor, can you hear me?"


He didn't stir.


Tea was crying and laughing all at once: "You did it.  You bastard, you did it.  You've taken everything from me, again!  Zeus!  Zeus, mi amor, por favor!  I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!  You're my life, my love.  Please don't leave me," she cried, cradling Zeus' head in her lap, and Blair stepped away from him, and turned in time to see her man crumbling before her.  


Todd had stumbled back and hit the wall, and sliding down, covered his head with both hands and pulled his knees up toward himself.  Blair crouched in front of him, trying to get his hands free so she could make eye contact with him.  She whispered, "He's not dead, Todd.  Please, it's all right," and she waited for him to shout, yell at her, push her away, anything to show he was there, with her, for she feared he would go inside himself and never come out.


Tea cried, "Oh my God, Zeus?  Please, be all right?" as he opened his eyes, and slowly pushed himself to sitting, rubbing at his neck.  She looked across the room, as Zeus did, and both of them witnessed Blair, now cross-legged in front of Todd, and Todd, still holding his head with both hands, his face hidden behind his arms.  


Tea shouted, "You monster!" and Zeus unexpectedly snapped at her.


"Quiet, Tea, now!" and got to his feet.  He walked to them, with Tea watching in disbelief.  "Blair," he said softly, "Blair, what can I do?"


She looked up.  Her face was tear-stained and mascara was bleeding onto her cheeks.  "Nothing.  He's just . . . you can't do anything right now."


"Tea, let's go," Zeus said.  "Let them be."


Tea didn't move at first; Zeus barked again, "Tea!"


She jumped and went to him, and both of them left the room.  Blair wondered for a minute if Zeus intended to call the police, and then she suddenly was calm, knowing somehow he wouldn't.  She turned her attention back to Todd.  "Todd?  He's not dead.  He's all right.  Everyone's all right."  She looked to the ceiling, "Hasn't he had enough?"


Todd said, "The little girl?  Is she . . . is she all right?"


Zeus appeared back in the doorway, alone.  "She's fine.  That was my daughter, Isabella.  She's okay."


Todd looked up from the floor at Zeus, who said, "Blair, give us a minute, will you?"


She said, "You fucking serious?  No, I'm not."


Todd said, "Blair."


"I'm not leaving you in here with him!"


"Blair, I'm not out to hurt Todd.  Just give us a minute,"  Zeus repeated.


Todd looked at her and reached his hand out to touch her hair.  He brushed the mascara out from under her eyes with his thumbs, and said, "Babe, go, please?"


She stood.  "All right, but I'm not talking to that bitch, Tea, and I'm not going far.  I'll be outside the door," she picked up the butter knife.  "Don't cross me!" she said, shaking it at Zeus, who watched her go, and then half-smiled.


"Hmf.  She's a she-wolf about you and her kids,"  Zeus said.


Todd ignored it.  "Cops on their way?"  he said, still sitting.


"Nope," Zeus said, sitting next to him.


"Why?"


"Because."


"Not a reason.  Your wife won't have that."


"Oh, she'll have that and more.  This all was started by me, and the timing was shit.  I wanted to please her, you know, be the man she wanted, do what she asked.  She put me up to it, and I was a sucker for her.  Believe me, she can get me to do almost anything.   This was all about ruining you, payback for her.  But, in my heart, I started to think maybe I could really get my son back."  Todd's head whipped quickly to look at Zeus, who said, "But he doesn't want to be here.  I know that now.  She wanted me to get him . . . away from you.  Meanwhile, you were dealing with all this crazy shit, from your past, the resurrection of the real monster, and more.  Sam was, too.  It was the worst timing in the world, and I was wrong.  So, I take responsibility for today."


"You call Peter 'The Real Monster?'"


"Yeah.  I have some of your memories, don't forget.  Maybe not everything, but I know what he was.  And now Sam has some, too."


"I don't know what to say to this, except I love that boy, and I'd never let anyone hurt him."


He rubbed his neck, "I'd say you wouldn't.  And I deserved this too," he gestured to his neck, "pushing Blair like that.  So, I hope you accept my apology," he put out his hand.


Todd shook it, hardly remembering Blair being pushed or much else, and said, "Sure.  But you can't have Sam."


"I know.  Sam made that clear before you even got here.  Loves you.  Calls you Dad."


"Yeah.  I know."


Zeus' face was pained.  "He's . . . a special kid.  Weird, I guess, that he's a product of some kind of rape, eh?"  He seemed embarrassed.


Todd didn't answer, he just looked straight ahead.  Then he said, "I . . . uh . . . when you had me pinned against the wall that way, I . . . I lost control.  I'm sorry about that," and looked down.


Zeus swallowed, "Oh Hell, what's a little bruised neck?  I deserved it, I told you.  Now get it together and get your woman home."  Zeus had stood up while talking, and left Todd alone on the floor in the study.


A few minutes later, Blair came in and slid down the wall next to him.  "How you doing?"


"Tired.  I feel like I just ran for miles."


"Thanks for defending me," she said.


"Thanks for defending me," he said, "I loved what you said to Tea.  Meow!"  he created a claw with his hand.  "It's all true."


"Todd . . ."


He gulped, "Don't, Blair.  It's better left this way, for now."  


"You lost control.  When he pinned you that way."


"Yep," he nodded.


"Peter?"


"Yep," he nodded again.


"Okay," she looked forward.


"Okay," he said.


*** 


"They're gone," Zeus said, coming into the bedroom.  Tea was sitting on the bed, still crying.  

He sat next to her and put his arms around her and she sobbed on to his chest.  "I . . . thought . . . I . . . "


"I'm fine."


"I thought I'd lost you."


"Eh, close.  But not quite."


"I would have died," she said.  "I don't know what I was thinking putting you up to this."


"No more of that, I'm taking charge," he said, smiling.


"Oh yeah?  That's what you think," she smiled back, through tears.


"No more of this.  You either want me, or you don't.  You're either willing to let go of Todd Manning, or you're not.  But I'm not him.  I never was, and it took therapy for me to accept it.  I'm not going to pretend I'm him, or try and be what you imagine him to be.  I'm just me, and this is what you get or nothing."


She looked to her hands, "I'm okay with that, and I'm so sorry.  I was . . . foolish.  Muy loca."


"Hmm, si," he said.  "Are you willing to let go and really move on?"


"Does it include you?"


"Yeah, but if you can't then I have to go, Tea,"  he became serious.  "I can't live in that shadow anymore."


"If it means having you, I'd do anything," she said.


He whisked her onto her back and pinned her hands to the bed.  He said, "So then, what do you say?"


"I'd say fuck me, the way you know I want you to."


He moved on top of her and kissed her, pinning her hands over her head with one hand, ripping the waistband of her slacks down enough to get his hand inside.  He slid his fingers against her wetness, and she moaned.


***


Todd was silent, sitting against the door in the cab, with Blair in his arm.  She was quiet as well, and they watched Greece move by them, in white and blue and green, all painted with sunlight.  He looked at her, and she turned to face him.  Their eyes met, and neither one spoke.  Her heart was heavy; she'd watched him in utter despair enough and had shouldered enough of his pain to understand where he was that very moment, so talking wasn't needed.  


After a short while more of looking out the window together, she moved her hand across his chest and snuggled closer.  He looked out of the corner of his eye at her, and half-smiled, the left side of his mouth slightly lifting.  He finally broke the silence and said, "Driver, there's been a change.  Melian Hotel, please."


She gazed up into his eyes and, again, said nothing.  She waited for his lead.  He said, "Mrs. Manning, would you stay here with me, a day or so?"


"Yes, Mr. Manning.  I'd be anywhere with you."


"No one has to know.  But, I'll just call home later and tell Momma.  I . . . want to just hold you.  It's been a tough day," he said, sighing.


"And I want you to hold me," she said.  "I want to make you feel good, whatever it takes."


"It doesn't take much when you're with me," he said, turning back to the window.  The drive drfited them both toward sleep, until the cab parked in front of the hotel, and let them out.  He tossed the driver a fifty.  "Keep the change," he said, still keeping his arm around his wife.  He was beginning to show light bruising on his neck, where Zeus had gotten him in a strangle hold and pushed him, face-first, against the wall.  He knew what had happened; his mind snapped that very moment, and he'd lost track of where he was and who was there.  Everything became dark, even though the light was pouring in the windows and skylights. . .


"Mr. and Mrs. Manning," he heard her say.  They were already at the desk.  "The penthouse please, with the rooftop outdoor tub?"


"Certainly, Mrs. Manning.  Mr. Manning, I do remember you, when you were both here before.  Glad to have you back," the manager said.  Of course, he was remembering the amount of cash they had put out during their previous stay.  


"Uh, thanks," he said and swallowed uncomfortably.


She took his hand, "Let's go," she said, sweetly, and smiled into his face.


Though his expression was less than joyful, her smile soon spread to his, and they walked off to the elevator.


*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thomas Lord: Cloaked Chapter 7 (adult)





Todd had spent the afternoon watching the activity build up around the docks. It was nearing the docking time for the Daimler Odyssey. Todd began to make his way to the dock area. He wanted to be close enough to slip in and try and get Kym out of the warehouse before the police hit the place. He took his ring off and put it away, put his sunglasses on and took out his cane, then he started his walk. With any luck, Frank and Mario would leave him alone since they would have their hands full getting their charges ready for delivery.

He wandered down closer to the edge of the pier because he could make out the shape of the ship coming in. He wondered if any of the higher-ups might be around for the delivery. He would give anything to know if Gregor Daimler had any idea what his ship was being used for. He began to walk back away from where the ship was going to land, he really wanted to get fairly close to the warehouse. He was just starting to enter the general dock area when he found his path blocked.

"Pretty dangerous area for a blind man to be walking. Been keeping an eye on you since you entered the area mister. You move around real good for someone who's blind. I think you should come with us, my boss sent us to get you."

Todd didn't have much of a chance to protest when they grabbed both of his arms and took his cane. He could tell there were three of them, but that was all he could make out. The man's voice sounded vaguely familiar, but Todd couldn't place it. He allowed them to take him closer to the warehouse, all the time wondering what had made them suspicious of him.

"Here he is, Boss.  You know I think your right, but this is a real blind man's cane, seems strange he would have one if he can see."

They had brought him into the warehouse. The only light currently in the building was the sunset streaming through the warehouse windows. The lights and shadows made vision almost impossible for him. Everything meshed together so he couldn't even make out forms.

"I told you it was him. I never forget a face and his, I would remember. I don't know what game you're playing at mister, but it stops now. Hank take off the sunglasses I want to see his eyes when he realizes the mistake he made."

Todd remembered where he had heard the first voice. It had been the bar in North Carolina. He felt someone rip his glasses off and knew he was in trouble. This was one day he should have stayed sighted. These were the guys he had hoped would be rounded up in North Carolina, instead, they were here. Naturally, as always his plans had backfired. He had made Frank and company look so inept the bosses had sent in the trained mercenaries.

Well, they only thought he was the guy from the bar if he could make them realize he was truly blind they might not kill him. "I'm not sure what you thought to accomplish by removing my glasses. I assure you I'm just as blind without them as I am with them. I really don't understand what this is about I was just taking a stroll on the dock." Suddenly he was doubled over by a blow to his midsection. Of course, he hadn't seen it coming and that made it all the more a surprise. Todd would have collapsed to his knees except he was still being held by the two men who had brought him into the warehouse.

"Does that jar your memory mister? I don't know why you're pretending to be blind, but you might as well cut the act, I know differently."

Todd knew he had just been suckered punched by the guy he had kicked in Wilmington. He couldn't really blame the guy for wanting to get his own back especially if they thought he was there to spy on them. Since they recognized him from Wilmington the leader must have figured he was trying to find out something about their organization. He had no idea, that Todd already knew everything he needed to know. " Look I don't know who you think I am but I'm not pretending anything." he gasped trying to get his breath back after the blow. Before he could get another word out the guy connected again only this time he hit the side Todd had been wounded on when Christian shot him. Although healed it was still a tender area and pain ripped through him, Todd almost blacked out and knew another blow would knock him out for sure.

"Can it, mister. You're working for someone and if I didn't have an appointment to keep right now I'd take the time to find out who. Hank tie him up for now and make sure he stays quiet while the bosses are here. We'll get rid of him after they leave." The leader walked away and after a few more hits they bound him up and gagged him. The sensation of gag going into his mouth and being bound was a trigger to memories Todd hated and it sent his mind tumbling backward as he lost consciousness.

****

John was watching the second warehouse when he spotted Todd being ushered into the warehouse by several men. They were standing just inside and it appeared Todd had been taken for a specific purpose. John tried to move in a little closer to see if he could overhear what they were talking about. All he could gather from the quick conversation was that Todd had met these guys somewhere and they weren't buying his blind act as they called it. John heard the blows strike Todd and winced. Todd was taking the hits like a champ and still claiming his blindness, but it didn't sound like they were believing him. John was so intent on the conversation inside he didn't hear the man behind him until it was too late.

Blair had been hiding several crates behind John, she saw the ship coming in to dock and suddenly there was a great deal of activity in the warehouse. The men moving around the front of the warehouse looked pretty tough and then she saw Todd. She covered her mouth to keep from crying out. Todd was being taken into the warehouse by several men, but she was too far back to hear what was truly going on. Blair saw John move in closer to the warehouse, he was obviously trying to hear the conversation inside.  Suddenly she saw John collapse and then a man appeared from behind him. He began to drag John around to the entrance where he was joined by several others who took John inside.

From her position, she suddenly noticed men moving carefully through the crates. They were police from their gear, but their attention was all on the ship. The ship was safely in port now and more men were exiting the warehouse and making their way down to the ship. The men leaving the warehouse were dressed in suits, there were several Asian gentlemen and a couple of other distinguished men. They certainly weren't dockworkers. Behind them walked a young woman, she reminded Blair of the women you would see in old movies who were servants following their masters. She had that same look about her. They all ignored her but expected her to follow because it was her place. Blair looked at her closely, she was a small thing, obviously afraid of the men she followed, she looked like a puff of wind would knock her over. That had to be Kym. The group of men from the warehouse stood at the bottom of the gangplank and waited for the crews to finish with the docking procedures then they boarded the ship.

All eyes seemed centered on the ship and it's occupants, this might be the perfect time to sneak in and see if she could find Todd and John.  Blair hugged the crates as she moved closer to the warehouse. Several times she had almost run into one of the cops getting ready for the assault.  Finally, she got to the warehouse and began moving slowly in the dark to the entrance. All she needed was a moment to get in the door. Then Blair noticed the young woman making her way back to the warehouse.

Kym arrived back at the back at the entrance. She was heart sick, it looked like Tom and his help were going to be too late. "Sid, move your guys outside away from the entrance. I don't want you scaring the girls. The boss said he wants you just to provide an escort down to the ship, so no guns. We want the girls on their best behavior for the buyers. I'll be bringing them out shortly."

Blair couldn't believe what she was hearing. She had seen C..'s daughter, the girl couldn't have been any older than thirteen. C.J. said Todd was going to save the other girls, were they all that young. Blair peeked into a window watching to see where Kym headed and saw her enter a door halfway back in the warehouse. Then she watched as Kym led a small group of young girls out the door. They were all dressed up like they were going to some fancy dinner and they looked like eight excited girls going on their first dates. Kym shepherded them out the front entrance and began to walk her charges down toward the pier. Blair watched as Sid and his men moved in around the girls giving them very little chance for escape. Blair took her chance and slipped in unnoticed as the men left the warehouse.

Blair looked around trying to figure out where they might have stashed Todd and John. She saw a door being guarded by one man. It was a different one then the door the girls had exited from. She picked up an ax lying on the floor and worked her way over to the door. Suddenly there were shouts from outside and the guard took off running to the see what the noise was about. Blair ran to the door. Great, it was locked, luckily the door had a window. Blair smashed the window and looked in. John was on the floor and struggling with his bonds and Todd was next to him but not moving.

Blair was beside herself. "God Todd, hold on," she reached inside and unlocked the door and ran to Todd. He was unresponsive and clammy, she looked around for something to untie him. Running over to the desk she found some scissors and went to cut John free. "John, they took several girls out of here and then I heard shouts. What's happening? What did they do to Todd?"

"Blair, the assault's underway. You stay here with Todd, see if you can bring him around. I've got to see if I can help." John got to his feet and began to leave. "Blair whatever you do, don't engage with these people. You and Todd need to get out of here."

John left and Blair went back to Todd. She removed his gag and began to remove his bonds. She checked him out, but he didn't appear to be injured, he just appeared to be in shock. Then it hit her. Of course, the gag and bonds had brought up memories of the tomb. Todd was reliving his worst nightmare. "Todd, you need to hear me. It's me, Blair, come on now. you need to come back. You're not trapped any longer," she cut off his bonds and began rubbing his hands and arms to restore circulation. She cradled his head on her lap and continued talking to him. "Todd, it's over, you need to wake up. You promised C.J.'s daughter you would save the rest of the girls. You don't want to break that promise." She bent over to kiss him, she couldn't help herself it had been too long and she missed him so terribly. She felt him respond and she laughed and continued kissing him. She felt his hand on her cheek and look down into his opened eyes.

"Blair, what are you doing here?" he said. Todd had heard her calling him but had thought he was still dreaming. Then she had kissed him. She was here, but how?

"I'm saving you, you dolt. Are you okay? We really need to get out of here." She began helping him sit up and looked around for his cane." Boy, I wish you had your implant with you. What were you thinking coming down to the Docks like that? What if you had walked off the pier? I don't see your cane anywhere."

Todd reached over and found her mouth with his hand. "Shush, I'm fine." he reached into his shirt and pulled out the pouch and dumped the ring into his hand. Putting it on, his vision cleared and he found himself looking into her beautiful green eyes. It was foolish considering where they were and everything but he couldn't help himself. He reached over and grabbed her face and began devouring her lips, tasting her and relishing the feel of them. They were interrupted by the sound of gunfire. Todd came back to reality fast and got to his feet pulling Blair up with him. "I've got to find the girls."

"You can't, they were already taken away toward the ship by Kym. The assault team probably already has them safe." Just then they heard some footsteps rushing into the warehouse.

"You did this. You told us to leave the guns here. Well, you're going to get us out of here." Sid had his hand roughly around Kym's neck and was dragging her farther into the warehouse. "Hank, you watch the door. Kym and I are going to get the rest of the girls."

Blair looked at Todd and saw a shadow cross his face. She had seen that look the night he had accused her of sleeping with Cord, the night he had almost lost it and raped her. He was mad and he was a force to be reckoned with when he got mad. He turned to her and pointed to the desk and told her to hide. Blair knew better than to argue. Todd was all business as he grabbed the ax she had used to break into the office. He quietly opened the door and slipped out. Blair moved from the desk to the door, so she could watch Todd and make sure he wasn't going to get shot or anything.

Todd moved in a stealthy manner up behind Sid and swung the ax at his right knee. The crack was audible as Sid's leg crumpled beneath him. Sid lost his grip on Kym's throat when his leg went out and she moved quickly to one side and turned to see her savior. It was Tom, but he was different somehow.

Sid found himself with an ax at his throat and stopped moving. He looked up and saw who had taken him out. "You! I should have killed you the minute you were brought to me. When you didn't fight back earlier I thought maybe I was wrong, maybe you were blind and there were two of you. My mistake."

"You're right, your mistake. I don't like guys that treat women the way you and your men do. I thought you guys would be taken down in Wilmington, but I guess it's my lucky day. You're going to get it right here. Hank, you take another step closer and Sid here will lose his head. Kym are you alright." Todd didn't take his eyes off Sid, he just waited for her answer.

"Yes Tom, I'm fine." said Kym

"Good, you go round up the rest of the girls. Tell them they're going home."

"Alright, Tom. Thank you." Kim turned and entered the room with her charges.

Out of the corner of his eyes, Todd saw Hank move a little closer and then he saw a figure move up behind Hank. Hank froze in his steps. "Thanks whoever you are." Said Todd to his unknown helper. He had been watching Sid and could see the gears working in his mind. "Don't even think about it, Sid. I'm still a little shook up by the beating you gave me and this ax is getting a little heavy, " To show he meant business Todd allowed the ax to rest against Sid's jugular. "You wouldn't want it to go any deeper would you." he pushed a little bit and the ax head drew blood.

Sid knew a real threat when faced with one and held his hands up in surrender. Suddenly the room was filled with police. Todd backed off and dropped the ax and held his hands up in surrender too. The police started to arrest him when he heard a familiar voice. "Not him, he's with me." Todd looked over and saw John handing Hank over to the police.

Blair came rushing out of the office and threw herself into Todd's arms and began smothering him with kisses. John watched in amusement and shook his head as the police started to go get Blair. "She's with me too."

Kym opened the door and stopped seeing all the men, in front of her. "Tom, there are too many of them."

Todd held Blair and looked at Kym and then turned to the officers and said." Gentlemen we need to back off. These young girls are in need of aid but they are severely traumatized. We need to get ambulances and some female cops down here. " The officers looked at him and realized what he was hinting at and they immediately fell back. Todd walked over to Kym. " You stay with them, these men won't come any further. There will be some women here shortly to help you. You'll probably have to go in with the police, but I'll get you the best defense I can find. I promise you, you'll be free too."

Kym reached up a hand to his face. She looked into his eyes and knew he saw her. It didn't make sense but it didn't matter. Tom had said he'd save her and he had. She had noticed the woman who had been holding him when she came out of the room. She had seen the look on Tom's face and had known the woman was the one Tom loved. She looked over at her and envied her. Kym stood on tiptoe and pressed her lips to his cheek, then she turned and went back to her charges.

Todd glanced around and found John talking to several gentlemen. They were probably the Feds. He moved closer hoping to find out if everyone had been apprehended and more importantly he wanted to know how the children in the other warehouse and those in Wilmington had fared. John saw him and left the men and met Todd before he could go talk to them. "You need to keep your distance, Todd. They wanted to know your part in all this and so do I. How the hell did you get messed up in this anyway?"

"John, I'm just doing my job. A friend of mine gave me a lead on a story and this is what I found. Give me some answers.  Did they get the children free in Wilmington? Were they able to apprehend any of the top guys on the ship?" Todd looked him in the eye. John knew it had been his information that had netted this group, he deserved to know if the raids had been successful.

John nodded, "The raid on Wilmington went off without a hitch, but this one was a little messier. There was trouble on the ship and some of the guys seen boarding the ship appear to have disappeared. There are three people unaccounted for. I suspect two might be members of the Yakuza you mentioned. They always seem to have a way of slipping through our hands. The third gentlemen we weren't able to get an ID on before the raid, but he too has vanished. They've impounded the ship and are going to search it thoroughly. The Feds just informed me the girls delivered to the ship are being taken to a safe facility, it seems they were terrified of the uniformed cops and then they tried to offer themselves to the suits. Most of the men were extremely uncomfortable with the situation. When the men tried to say no, the girls got hysterical. Luckily there were a few women on the police force who were part of the assault group and they took charge of the girls. You made a good call, but be careful what you report. We only put a small chink in this ring.  These are heavy hitters, don't add a second target to your back. You need to come home. Your family is worried about you."

Todd looked at John. He shook his head. "Can't just yet, but let my Sister know I'm okay."

"You sure about that Todd. I saw your exchange with Sid. What was that all about?" John watched as Todd's eyes lost focus for a moment, then he found himself staring into the coldest pair of eyes he had ever seen.

"You need to forget what you saw, John, let it go. He's dealing with it," said Pete.

John felt very uncomfortable staring into those eyes. He knew he had probably just met Pete, but he was troubled by his words.

Todd's eyes lost focus again and Todd looked at John bleakly. "Sorry, touchy subject, John," he rubbed his eyes and walked back over to his wife.

John stared at him, a little alarmed by what had just transpired. He knew about Pete and what he was capable of, but something told him Pete was not the one who had taken down Sid. That had been all Todd. That was a Todd who was dangerous as well as smart. Todd had indeed changed, something was driving him and it wasn't all good.

Blair had watched the exchange with John and had seen Todd's demeanor change for an instant. Someone else had made a brief appearance to John and from John's face, she was guessing it hadn't been Tom, whoever had appeared had left John upset. Then she saw Todd's face and saw the weariness as he moved toward her. She held out her hand and he took it and brought it up to his lips.

"I knew you would find me, I just never expected it to be here." Todd smiled at his wife ruefully.

"You know me, a regular bloodhound. Hey, I found you in Key West, this was no different." Blair smiled gently. "Don't leave again, please."

"You found me fair and square. I won't leave. Come on I have a story that needs finishing. Amos is holding the presses. See you later John." he wrapped her arm around his and left the warehouse. The moon had come out and was casting its light on the dock as they walked out. Todd pulled her into the shadows and they walked away unseen.

****

They got to the curb and a taxi came up quickly, to Blair's surprise it was Emil. She turned to Todd, "Where are we going?"

"The Herald first, I need to sign and deliver my final draft to Amos, then we need to make a stop at the hospital. Lily is waiting for word." He looked at her and knew she wanted nothing more than to return to his hotel room, but he had to complete the night. Besides he had promised Lily and he couldn't let her down. Todd helped Blair into the taxi and got in after her. She snuggled closer and he leaned back and just held her. It had only been months ago when Samuel had held her close, but it felt like a lifetime. They had both been through so much since that night.

There had been a time there this evening when he had gotten lost again and she had once more rescued him. Todd shook his head, he didn't want to dwell on that moment.

Blair looked at him and noticed how quiet he had gotten. She decided it was time to get him out of his head, she reached up, turned his head and kissed him ever so gently. Todd's arms enclosed around her and the kiss deepened. They had been interrupted in the warehouse but now they were free to give into their passion.

In the front seat, Emil looked in the rear view mirror and smiled. He had been so relieved to see the good lady safe and sound and with the gentleman from the previous night. He decided to give them a slightly longer drive as he headed to the Herald.

Blair could hardly breathe, Todd was all but devouring her and she couldn't get enough. Her hands moved through his shorter hair loving the feel and silky texture of it beneath her fingertips. He paused and raised his head and she loved the smoldering look gazing down at her. She felt the warmth spread through her and couldn't help but moan as he took her lips again.

Things were getting very hot and heavy and Todd suddenly came to a realization that they were in a public taxi. He slowly back out of the kiss and gently held her face in his hands, he murmured thank you against her lips and sat back trying to once again gain his composure. Blair nestled comfortably back into his shoulder and they finished the ride in silence. The taxi pulled up to the entrance to the paper and Blair and he exited. Blair paid Emil and asked him to wait, then they entered the building.

Amos looked up as Thomas walked in with his wife alongside. "You got the story?"

"You bet, got a desk. It's a doozy. By the way, this is my wife Blair.  Blair, regale him with your tale while I finish writing the outcome tonight." Todd sat down and went to work.

Blair smiled at Amos and said. "I thought you said Samuel Toddman didn't work here."

Amos looked at her all wide-eyed "He doesn't but Thomas Lord does."

Blair looked over at Todd. She had never even thought of him using the Lord name. In essence, he had used his real name. She wondered how long he had that name in his arsenal of names. Amos seemed very familiar with him like they had worked together before. "I have to ask. How long have you known my husband?"

"I met Thomas back in 1998 when he came to work for me as a reporter. He had a raw fresh approach and he wasn't afraid to tackle the tough issues. Let me show you something." Amos led her over to a wall displaying top stories and there in print was Thomas Lord's expose' of the corrupt judge and sheriff.

Blair took a moment to read his story and was impressed at the grittiness of the articles Todd had written. She had known all along he had inherited a talent for good reporting but as editor and publisher of the Sun he had always let his hired reporters handle the stories. She glanced over at her husband wishing he would hurry up and finish his story so they could get out of there.

Amos had wandered over and was reading a little of what Thomas was writing, The story had it all. The pathos of the plight of the children set against the callousness of the men behind the slave ring was inspired. He saw Blair watching her husband closely and wondered just how long they had been apart. He still hadn't heard Lord's story and now he wondered if he ever would. Something told him he was going to lose Thomas as a reporter again.

Thomas put the finishing touches on his story winding up with the assault and rescue of the children. He hit the key that would send the story over to Amos's desk and brought up the editorial he had written the night before sending it also to Amos's desk. As he started to rise from the chair his side protested the movement and he winced. Damn, Sid must have done a little damage and in the excitement of the rescue and taking down Sid it hadn't registered. Now he was feeling it.

Blair noticed the wince and moved to Todd's side. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine Blair just a little bruised it's nothing. Amos, there's your story I'll let you take it from here. I'm sure your police reporter will be able to give you the nitty gritty concerning the arrests made. I'm leaving now but I haven't forgotten I promised you an explanation. We'll talk later." Todd took Blair's arm and ushered her out of the newsroom. They were almost to the elevator when Todd pulled her into an empty office.
He closed the door and locked it, stood looking at her. Moving closer to her his hand went up to her hair and pushed it away from her face, "I've been dreaming of this moment for days, ever since I called you the other night. God, I missed you." Blair's eyes sparkled with tears her lips parted expectantly and her little tongue licked seductively. Todd drank the image in and pulled her into his arms. He started his kiss at her lips then descended to her graceful neck, all of his thoughts on her and her gorgeous body within his arms. Blair was molding herself to him like she wanted to crawl inside him and he soon found her zipper, turning her to undo the dress as he continued to kiss her shoulders.

Blair was beginning to moan and the sound began driving him crazy with desire. She turned back toward him as he removed her bra, her hands ripping off his shirt so she could run her hands over his beautiful chest. They worked their way down to his belt loosening his slacks so she could caress all of him. He was so ready and she could feel his hands finding her sweet center, bringing her that much closer to ecstasy. Todd pulled her down to the floor and began to caress and kiss every inch of her moving his tongue ever closer to her center. Blair was beginning to squirm with delight, she grasped him and kneaded, hearing him moan with pleasure at the sensations she was bringing forth, he pushed her legs apart and entered as she arched begging him for release. The feel of her around him was slick and tight as they began moving in rhythm to a song only they could hear. She cried out as she came, grinding her body ever closer working her magic on him until he found his release. Together they collapsed satiated and flush with the pleasures still swirling through them.

Todd rolled up on his elbow and stared down at his beautiful wife. he looked at her, his gaze taking in her lovely eyes, then his gaze moved downward admiring her lips and firm breasts. Blair felt her ardour begin to wake up again as his gaze moved slowly down her body. It was almost tangible like he was caressing her with it and soon she felt herself blushing from the heat of his look. She reached up and caressed his forehead and allowed her fingers to linger at his scars until they finally moved to his lips. At her touch, he lowered his mouth and took hers and they kissed slowly and sensually just savoring the moment.

When they, at last, came up for air, Todd remarked. "Oh God, I was a fool. I hope you forgive me. This is where I belong and I don't ever want to leave your side again. Blair I know I'm a mess and I'm not sure why you're still here but I'm grateful." he kissed her and waited for her to say something.

"I told you a long time ago, I would love you forever if you would just let me. We vowed recently that no matter what, this time was it. I meant that Todd, no matter what you're going through. I was hurt when you left but I understand what made you leave. I'm just so happy you finally came to your senses and realized you needed me. One thing you should know, the only way you're ever leaving me again is if I shoot you myself." she smiled at him.

He grinned back at her, "Well I wouldn't want to be the cause of my children's mother going to jail. So I guess you're stuck with me. We probably should get dressed. I still need to stop in at the hospital and see Lily, then we can go somewhere and finish this properly." he rolled away from her and got up, still moving somewhat gingerly from the bruising.

Blair saw the bruises and exclaimed. "My God Todd, why didn't you say something." she got up, her hand going to touch them.

Todd took her hand, "Like I said before, it's nothing. It'll heal and I'm alive and with you. That's all that matters." he reached down and grabbed his shirt, making note of the number of buttons missing. He slipped it on, tucking it into his slacks and watched as Blair got dressed. She saw his chest showing through the open shirt and took a quick stroke before she turned her back to him and waited for him to zip her up. Todd couldn't help himself, he caressed the nape of her neck while he finished pulling up the zipper then turned her and took a quick kiss, "We should go." Taking her hand, they left the office and headed down to a waiting Emil.

Emil dropped them off at the hospital and was asked to wait one more time. Todd and Blair entered and headed toward Lily's room. Todd stopped and removed his ring, putting it away. Although C.J. had seen him sighted, he didn't want to scare Lily. Taking Blair's elbow, they entered her room.

C.J. and Lily had been talking when she suddenly exclaimed "Ali!" He looked around and saw Blair with Todd. "Ali, did you do it?"

Blair led Todd to the bed and he looked toward his great niece. "Yes, Lily everyone is safe."

"Even Ms. Kym?"

"Even Ms. Kym." Todd reached out and Lily grabbed his hand and pulled him closer then she knelt on the bed and gave him a hug. He hugged her back feeling how frail she was again. "Are you doing okay Lily?" She let go and sat back on the bed. Todd was relieved after hearing the story of the eight girls on the ship. He wasn't sure what he would have done if she had reacted to him like the other girls had reacted to their rescuers.

"I'm doing much better today than I was last night. Grandpa and Chase came by. Chase told me all about his adventure with you. Daddy told him who you were and he got all excited. Thank you again for getting me free and helping all those other girls. Ms. Kym really did try and make things as easy as she could for us. The instructors were the real scary ones. I can't believe you came and helped us. Daddy says you just have a special way of knowing things.  I'm really glad you knew about us."

Todd felt a hand on his shoulder and realized C.J. was standing close. He turned to face his nephew and said. "You don't know how happy I am that I knew about you also, Lily," he gripped C.J.s arm letting him know just how relieved he was that they had gotten Lily free. "Lily, I'd like you to meet my wife and your aunt. This is Blair. She was a big help to me tonight."

Blair moved to stand on the other side of Todd opposite C.J. and said."Hello, Lily, I'm very glad to meet you and I can tell you for sure that your uncle was magnificent tonight. I'm so sorry you and those other young girls went through so much, but I'm very happy you're home with your family and to find out you're a member of my family too." She solemnly shook hands with the young girl and smiled over at C.J. "I hope I'll get to meet your brother Chase soon."

C.J. looked at them both and said. "I guess that will depend on how much longer you're going to be in town."

Blair looked at Todd and said. "That depends on your uncle, C.J., we'll go home when he's ready," she reached and squeezed his hand, letting him know she wasn't going to pressure him into returning home until he wanted to.

"We'll see all of you before we leave, Lily. I promise you. For now, we're going to go and let you get some more rest. C.J., you know where I'm staying. Give me a call when Chase comes back to visit. I would like to see him one last time before we go." Todd started to turn away from the bed when a small hand caught his, holding him up and then he felt her simple kiss on his cheek. It was so gentle reminding him of Hope's little kisses. "Thank you Lily." he turned and took Blair's arm. Blair saw his eyes water up and she smiled at Lily and C.J. and led him from the room.

As they walked down the hallway she said. "Yep, that's us, Steel on the outside but on the inside..."

"Not steel." he finished.



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