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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chapter 16

Positive thoughts for the Pens tonight people. Nothing but good vibrations!

Mon ami, when are you coming back to the land of the living?” Sid watched Cody roll the dice and then move her game piece down a snake. Becky clapped and then reached for the dice. Snakes and ladders, he hadn’t played since he was a kid and only then maybe once or twice. All his games had been out on the ice, or down in the basement. He’d never had much time for board games.

“You wouldn’t be saying that if you could see what I’m looking at,” Sid smiled to himself as he leaned against the wall, watching his little family.

Well we are all excited to meet what you’re looking at,” Max replied and Sid could hear Jordy and Duper in the background agreeing and adding their two cents worth. None of which was worth repeating and all of which was word.

“Yeah, about that,” Sid sighed and turned and headed out onto the terrace. “I’m wondering if you...well maybe Duper, cuz let’s face it, what do you know about kids, could do some uh...kid proofing at my place.”

Kid proofing?” There was no ignoring the incredulity in Max’s voice.

“Yeah, she’s coming home with me...fuck, I don’t have to explain myself to you. Just...I kind of need to have that done before I...before we get home.” He couldn’t help but smile when he said it.

So, this is the same chick that had the whole CSI thing going on in her house?” Max asked.

“Yeah, did you hear anything more about that?” he asked, wondering if he was going to get home to a pile of messages from his agent and from Mario.

There was nothing in the press if that’s what you’re worried about, which is kind of funny when you think about it considering how many cops were crawling all over that place.” Sid felt a lead weight lift from his shoulders. “So a kid, huh? Boy, when you jump....”

“Hey, I don’t tell you what to do with your stage five clingers, so do me a favour Talbo, don’t tell me what to do with my life, deal? Just put Dupes on, okay?” He’d have to answer to them when he got back to the rink but he wasn’t going to do it over the phone.

She tried to hide it behind both of her little hands but it was the third yawn that Becky had tried to stifle in the last few minutes. Cody had let her stay up long past her bedtime only because of what had happened, because of her own guilt and because Becky had seemed like she was never going to run out of steam. But this time, as she rolled the dice, they practically dropped out of her fingers and barely rolled an inch.

“I think we’ll finish up this game and then you, little missy, are going to bed,” Cody reached across the board and ruffled her niece’s blonde hair. Becky made a face, but didn’t argue, which was only more evidence of how tired she was.

“I’ll read you a story.” Cody turned to see Sidney returning to the room with phone in hand. He looked worried. She sent him a concerned look but he shook his head, just once, but enough to know that whatever it was, it didn’t concern them right now.

“I don’t have any of my books here,” Becky pointed out as she sent her game piece up another ladder.

“Ah but I’ve got books in my head,” Sidney told her, scooping her up off of the floor and into his arms. “Have you ever heard a story about a hockey sweater?” he asked her as he carried her, uncomplaining through the open door that joined their rooms. Cody watched them go, her heart swelling at the sight, even with that little voice whispering in her ear that it wouldn’t, couldn’t last. She acknowledged the voice and then told it, summarily, to fuck off, at least for now.

She scooped up the dice and the game pieces and then folded the board and put all of it in the box and put the box back in the cupboard by the television. She thought about turning it on, looking for some cheesy dance or music show to distract her, and then thought better of it.

Instead she headed to the bathroom, washed her face, brushed her teeth and then leaned in and turned on the shower. She could still feel sand between her toes but that wasn’t really why she wanted to stand beneath scalding hot water. She’d been doing her best to convince herself all of this wasn’t somehow her fault, but even having Sidney punish her hadn’t managed to erase the feeling that seemed to stick to her skin, the creepy crawling sensation that she had somehow been tainted by each and every selfish action she’d committed since she was a teenager that had lead to her sister’s death, to Becky being an orphan and to her almost being kidnapped.

She’d failed to check the identities of the so called agents who had offered to protect them. ‘I should have known’ she criticized herself, ‘they did some stupid shit. I knew better.

Stepping beneath the scorching hot water she grabbed the loofah from its hook on the tiled wall and began to scrub at her skin until it began to turn a sort of cooked lobster red as she thought about all of the times that she’d put her niece into jeopardy. ‘I should have just let her go into foster care’ she berated herself, ‘she probably would have been better off’.

The first good decision she’d made was letting Sidney into their life, she thought with a half smile, her skin tingling at the thought of him. But even he had his downsides and not just that he’d tempted her into joining him out on the beach and leaving Becky alone, although she was still angry at herself and at him for that. The worst part about Sidney, Cody decided, was that eventually he was going to leave them. It had to happen. It was as probable as day following night. He was...well, he was Sidney Crosby, which was pretty damn close to Superman but he wasn’t Mother Theresa. Eventually they would have to go their own way, or, if the FBI chose, she and Becky would end up somewhere else under assumed names or....Or she would go back to Vancouver, to streets and neighbourhoods she knew, around people who knew her, where she might have a better chance at seeing danger coming. Either way Sidney was just going to be another person that disappeared from Becky’s life and that too would be her fault Cody rebuked herself silently as she peeled away layers of skin from her legs and arms.

“She went out like a light.” The shower door opened and Sid stood in its frame with a big, fluffy white towel held open in his arms. One glance at the way his gaze swept over her and despite his ability to school his features it was evident to Cody that her red, raw skin shocked and worried him. Turning off the water, she stepped down onto the bath mat and let him wrap her up like a human burrito. “It’s not your fault. You need to stop blaming yourself,” he whispered as he held her in his arms, as if he was reading her mind. She remained very still, considering whether or not to ask how he knew or if she should refute his claim. “I play with a bunch of perfectionists and I’m probably the worst for blaming myself for a loss,” he added, turning her to face him. “This is gonna be a little pot calling kettle black’ve got to let it go Dakota. You can’t change the past, no matter how much you want to. I know, there’s been plenty of times I’ve wanted to time machine, unfortunately,” he smirked, though the expression in his eyes told her he didn’t consider this any laughing matter.

“I just keep thinking...,” she began but he reached up and pressed two fingers to her lips to silence her.

“There’s your problem. You need to just stop thinking,” he whispered and then pressed his lips to hers’.

He slipped the towel from around her shoulders and let it fall and when she started to raise her arms to cover herself, he pushed those away too. He kissed her and ran his hands over her soft, warm skin.

“I can help with that,” he told her and meant it, but this time it was going to be on his terms. Not like it had been this afternoon. Scooping her up in his arms, he carried her out to the bed and laid her down on the white sheets. Her eyes glimmered with tears that he could see she was doing her best not to let them escape. “Don’t think,” he reminded her again, and then tugged his t-shirt over his head.

Her gaze blazed a trail across his shoulders and then down his chest. He usually didn’t like it when women looked at him like he was nothing more than a side of beef but in this moment he didn’t mind, as long as it meant she wasn’t thinking about being the worst Aunt ever.

“You’re beautiful,” he told her, his own gaze roaming over her curves. She started to shake her head but he just smiled. “You are. Every time I look at you I think damn, she is so hot.”

“You are so full of shit,” she grinned back at him. It wasn’t a lie, far from it, but he’d been fairly certain that it would make her smile.

“Do you think I’d sleep with someone who was ugly?” he asked, crawling up onto the bed beside her.

“I think that bump on the head you took has seriously affected your judgement.” Her giggle turned into a sigh as he ran his fingertips over the curve of her hip and down into the valley of her waist and then across her stomach.

“I think you’re still thinking,” he whispered before pressing his mouth down over hers and sliding his hand down into her pussy.

She gasped as his fingers slid over her clit. She moaned when he slid two fingers inside of her and then dragged them back up and over her clit again. He felt her fingernails dig into his shoulders and smiled. He was pretty sure she was well on her way to being unable to think.

Sidney kissed his way down her neck and over her collarbone and finally slid his lips over her nipple and sucked it into his mouth. Her nipple hardened under his tongue and he heard her suck in a ragged breath as he pressed the flat of his tongue over the hard little ridges around the pebble of her nipple and then tugged her nipple between his teeth. Her juices began to flow faster as he slid his mouth over her other breast and repeated the process. Sliding his fingers out of her pussy, he licked her gleaming juices from them and grinned.

“I’ve been wondering if you taste as sweet as you look,” he told her, licking his fingers clean and then sliding slowly down the bed, placing gentle kisses along her belly and then on the insides of her thighs before spreading the lips of her pussy with his fingers. He heard her whimper and looked up to find her stuffing the corner of one of the pillows in her mouth. Chuckling, he pressed the flat of his tongue over her clit and slowly dragged it upwards until he heard her moan and felt the muscles beneath his fingers relax.

He’d wanted to do this the first night they’d been together, had thought about it long before that, but he’d been so eager to get inside of her. Now they had the time to explore, to try things they hadn’t before and he had all night to make her cum and cum again.

Max had demonstrated it, but as Sidney tried to make his tongue do a wave motion against her clit, his tongue didn’t seem to have the dexterity that Max’s did and he ended up lapping at her clit like a kitten would a bowl of milk. It had the same effect and soon Dakota was writhing on the bed, digging her heels into the sheets and he could clearly hear her cries, even though they were stifled by the pillow.

Her juices were really flowing now and Sidney got bolder, trying out the alphabet game he’d heard Tanger talk about in the dressing room. He spelled his full name out, all three names and was promptly rewarded by her heels drumming against the mattress and her nails digging into his scalp as she urged him on.

Coming up for air, Sidney blew out a long, slow breath across her clit and slid two fingers up inside of her, searching for that spot he’d found before that made her go off like a roman candle. He pressed his fingers upwards and, as he watched, her eyes rolled back and her mouth fell open and she let out a long, high pitched wail.

He glanced back towards the door that led to Becky’s room but it remained closed and, as he listened for any stirrings on the other side of the wall, he heard none. He sincerely hoped that Cody was right, that Becky could sleep through an earthquake, because he wasn’t planning on that one being the only orgasm her Aunt had tonight.

Cody lay, gasping like a carp out of water, on her back as Sidney kissed his way back up her body, paying particular attention to her breasts, licking and suckling at her nipples until she thought she was going to cum just from the feeling of his tongue brushing over them. Finally, however, the solid length of his body was pressed along hers and he reached for her lips with his.

If her entire body had not already been on fire, that kiss was like tossing a lit match into a vat of gasoline. His tongue curling around hers’ and the hard length of him pressed against her stomach, she felt almost deranged, clawing at his shorts, wanting to rip them just to get at him. She wanted him inside of her and she wanted it now.

Chuckling, he helped her pull the zipper down and pushed the shorts down over his hips, but when she reached for him, when she tried to slide her hand down the waistband of his boxer briefs, he shook his head.

“I want you on top,” he urged her quietly, rolling on to his back and kicking his shorts off so that he was lying there, in front of her, his sizeable member hard against his stomach. She reached to touch it, barely stroking it and he moaned. Reaching into the bedside table, she dug for the box of condoms. “Don’t you think it’s a bit late for that?” he asked sincerely. Cody blinked but continued to stare at where her hand had just closed on the box. She hadn’t wanted to admit it to herself, but he was right, of course. They’d already had sex, twice, unprotected. “I love you Dakota, whatever happens, I’m here.” For what seemed like the tenth time that day, she turned and faced him with tears in her eyes. “I mean it Cody. I love you,” he repeated and reached for her, pulling her down until their lips met and he kissed her, and kept on kissing her, even while she reached between them and guided him inside.

If she’d thought it had felt good before, with her prone over him, with her clit pressed to his pelvic bone, Cody was already gasping, her head reeling, pulse jumping. Gently, Sidney urged her up onto her knees and, grasping her hips in his big hands, pressed his full length up inside of her.

With her hands pressed flat against the middle of his chest, Cody began to move, slow up and down movements, each of which set of a series of fireworks in her brain. He was touching things inside of her, filling her in ways she’d never imagined and each down stroke stole her breath away.

She was close, sure the next up stroke would send her sailing over the edge and then she felt his hands slide slowly up her ribcage until his meaty paws were covering her breasts, her nipples stroking over the calluses in his palms. Cody threw back her head and let out what sounded like primitive howl.

“Oh sooo fuuuuucking goooood!” she cursed, letting his hands hold her up as she reached back and arched her back, changing the angle as she dug her fingers into his muscular thighs, or tried to, which was next to impossible considering they were like cement pillars. She panted as he rolled her nipples between his fingers and her brain fizzled and popped like an old radio as she came again with the sensation of being ripped open from her clit up to the back of her eyes. “Siiidnnneeeeee!” she howled and fell forward against his hands. Their gazes locked as she slid her hands up to his wrists, curled her fingers around them and held on.

“That’s it baby, don’t think, just feel,” he growled as he raised his hips, pushing himself up into her until she thought there was no way to take anymore of him.

“Harder,” she panted, pulling his hands harder against her breasts, leaning into his hands and pressing down on him at the same time. She raised herself up, until she could just feel the head of his cock inside and then slammed her hips down, pressing the breath form her lungs and tearing a groan from his. The next time he met her half way down and as their bodies met she shuddered and moaned his name. The next time it was his turn to lay there, almost inert as he gathered his breath.

The moment he’d gained control, however, he rolled her over onto her back, pinned her to the bed and spread her legs, wide.

“I’m gonna fuck you,” he whispered, pressing her knees as far back as she could bear, “just as soon as you tell me that you love me.” She stared up at him, that little voice in the back of her mind warring with every emotion she was feeling in that moment. “Feel Dakota, just feel,” he whispered, holding himself just inside of her, teasing her, knowing she couldn’t do anything about it.

“I want you,” she whimpered, her nails scratching uselessly at his chest and arms. “Please Sidney,” she added pathetically.

“Tell me Cody, tell me, but mean it,” he growled hoarsely and let her see how much it cost him to stay like this, not to give in, not to shove his cock home where she knew he wanted to be as much as she wanted him there. “Please Cody,” he added, his plea clear in her eyes.

“You know it,” she whispered, biting back the words.

“No, I don’t or I wouldn’t ask,” he sighed and then turned his face away. Suddenly he felt like he was going to cry and he hated that he felt as helpless as a mewling kitten. How had this happened, he wondered as he drew back, pulling in on himself and away from her. How had he become so needy?

“Sidney?” Her voice was small and held a note of surprise as he turned entirely away from her. He felt the bed move, felt her hands on his shoulders. He tried to shrug them off but she held on, wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her body to his back. “This is hard for me,” she whispered. He nodded. He knew it, or he knew part of it and guessed at the rest. She didn’t trust him or anyone else and she had plenty of reason not to. He wanted her to though. He needed her to. “If you left...,” her voice trailed off and he could hear the words in his head that she wouldn’t say. ‘If you left it would be awful’. It was good, but it wasn’t the same thing as love. “I’d be hurt but Becky...she’d be devastated,” she added quietly, her cheek pressed to his shoulder. “I’m scared of that more than anything.”

“You think I don’t want her?” he asked, turning his head to look at her.

“I don’t see why you should but no...I guess I don’t know that,” she sighed and pressed her forehead to his. “You’’re fucking Sidney Crosby. You don’t need this chaos in your life. The thing is I wouldn’t even be mad at you if I woke up in the morning and you were gone. In fact, I’d totally understand but Becks...,” her voice trailed off as she thought about the shut down expression in the little girl’s eyes the day she’d picked her up from the social worker’s office. “I have to protect her too.”

He nodded and then dropped his head into his hands. He knew things were complicated. He knew she had every reason to withhold her feelings from him. In fact, he knew she had every right to hide her heart from him. It hurt though. It hurt a lot more than he wanted to admit.

“I didn’t expect to fall for you, both of you,” he told her honestly, his head still in his hands, “but I think you should know that the other day, when Becky was gone...just...I would catch a bullet for either of you.” He held his breath. He almost expected her to laugh. He certainly expected her to argue, to tell him he was insane. She did neither, well...not exactly.

“You’re crazy.” He could hear the smile in her voice but it none of the sarcasm he was waiting for.

“No,” he sighed, lifting his head, “but I think this bump on my head and all this time away from hockey has made me see straight for the first time in my life. You two have made me smile and made me relax and made me think about stuff other than hockey for the first time in my life and...and I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to lose you.” He turned and looked into her eyes and everything he wanted was there as her eyes filled with tears and then she kissed him and he felt his heart swell in his chest.

“I love you,” she whispered, against his mouth.

“Thank fucking god for that,” he whispered back and then kissed her back onto the bed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chapter 15

Happy bunnies and egg shaped chocolates everyone

“You have to trust someone sometime,” he said gently, his hands on her shoulders, her back pressed to his chest as they watched Becky, her bear and her spade and pail following the Consular’s children and nanny down the path towards the beach.

“And what if someone takes off with her again?” Cody hissed. Sidney felt the tension in her shoulders and dug his fingers into her tanned skin, trying to loosen the knots that had formed there. She hadn’t slept. She’d kept vigil over Becky the entire night, which was the reason for the nanny and the armed guards.

“They have guns. I’m pretty sure they’ll do a better job protecting her than we could,” he told her sincerely. He wasn’t the kind of guy that thought guns where fun, that wanted to take a rifle out on the back porch and shoot at cans. Still, he had to admit, as he watched the two men in uniform with the semi automatics following the kids down to the white sand, that he felt relieved. “You need to sleep Dakota,” he reiterated, trying to turn her back into the house. She refused to move.

“She’s my responsibility,” she insisted. Sidney sighed and closed his eyes, leaning his forehead against the back of her head.

“Just for a little while, just let go and….”

“That’s what I did last night. Look how well that turned out,” she grumbled. It hurt. Not that he blamed her for once again sticking the knife and reminding him of the result of their sneaking out onto the beach, but now that Becky was back with them and safe, he’d hoped she’d remember the more positive features of the evening.

“And what good will you be to her if you just crash because you haven’t eaten, haven’t slept?” he asked her, his grip tightening on her upper arms. He felt her shoulders sag and softened his tone as he bargained with her. “Just sleep, just for a little while, then we’ll go down to the beach and join them, okay?” He could tell she was going to give in right before she said anything, just by the way that she finally leaned back into him. “Come on,” he whispered and turned her back into the compound.

The consular’s villa had an open courtyard and at its heart a tall fountain made up of frolicking dolphins spitting water high into the air. The music created by the water bubbling was meant to be both soothing and cooling. As Sid guided her past the fountain, up the stairs and into the rooms that Gordon had insisted they stay in, he hoped the fountain would have its desired effect on Dakota.
That and the fact that the house was far safer than their remaining at a hotel and besides, Gordon and his wife had children Becky’s age. More importantly, Sid thought, the FBI wanted them to be somewhere they could keep an eye on them, now that the agency was really having them watched.

He glanced across the villa’s courtyard to the man in the dark suit, so conspicuous in the mid morning heat. The visible bulge of the man’s side arm under his jacket was meant as a deterrent to intruders but it was just another reminder that though they were guests, they were also under guard which was just another reason to get Cody inside where she didn’t have to be reminded that they were being protected from forces that seemed intent on taking her niece.

The room was cool and dark, the big California king sized bed made up as if he hadn’t slept in it last night, ‘or was that this morning?’ Sidney yawned as he closed the door behind them. He’d slept, yes, but fitfully, knowing that Dakota was next door in the adjoining room, sitting on the corner of Becky’s bed, watching over her like an avenging angel.

Sid smiled to himself. ‘There might be guys with guns outside’ he thought as he watched her run her fingers along the edge of the rattan foot board of the massive bed, ‘but I’d hate to cross her right now’.

“Will you stay with me?” she asked quietly but with no emotion in her voice. Her back was to him, rigid and erect. Her body language told him she didn’t want to ask, didn’t want to admit that she wanted him to stay, that she felt afraid or weak. He almost felt bad knowing that despite her outward show of stoic calm, she was probably terrified. He felt worse that he was almost glad about it.

“I keep telling you,” he whispered as he came up behind her and slid his arms around her waist, “I’m not going anywhere.” 


She didn’t want to want him. Didn’t want the first thought upon seeing that big bed with the invitingly soft down quilt and plump pillows to be his now tanned body, naked on top of all of that white and raspberry French provincial damask.

It’s just my brain telling me to take a break’ she reasoned with herself as she ran her fingertips along the woven bamboo footboard. He was right about the guards and right that she needed sleep. She could barely keep her eyes open as it was. Had she been sitting out in the warm sand she knew herself well enough to know that she’d probably already have been wandering aimlessly in the Land of Nod.

What she didn’t want was to be alone. She hadn’t wanted to watch Becky, no matter how happy and untainted by her ordeal she seemed, wandering off with strangers, but neither did she want to be left with no one but strangers to call if she needed help. She could feel Sidney watching her, knew that he was probably waiting to be, no, expecting to be summarily dismissed.

“Will you stay with me?” She hated being the weak woman, hated that she felt like she needed him here to feel safe, but she knew as she felt the press of his massive chest against her back that even one of those big brawny military types with their dangerous looking guns wouldn’t make her feel as safe as she did with his arms around her.

“I keep telling you,” he whispered into her ear, pulling her back against him, “I’m not going anywhere.” It was what she wanted, maybe even needed to hear but she knew that wasn’t why he was saying it. They were in this together, that’s what he was trying to let her know, that she wasn’t going through this ordeal on her own. She ought to be grateful, she knew that, but she was too tired to be courteous.

She also knew he wasn’t after sex. To some guys a girl in a room with a bed meant sex. She knew Sidney wasn’t that kind of a guy. She wanted sex though. Not to be close to him, although that had its charms of course, but just to take her mind off of what they’d been through, off of what her life had become.

She reached back, snaked her arm around his thick neck and encouraged his lips lower. He resisted but only as long as it took her to reach back with her other hand and cup his manhood in her hand. She had to ask, but only once.

Cody shut her eyes and did her best to shut out everything but the feeling of his lips on her neck, on her shoulders and his hands moving up her rib cage until he was cupping her breasts. She didn’t want to talk, didn’t even want to hear him utter a single sweet nothing and she was relieved that he seemed to sense it or at least he was keeping his mouth shut for now. She wanted oblivion.

As soon as she felt him harden against her hand, heard him moan into the curve of her neck as she stroked his thickening erection through the fabric of his shorts, she let go and curled her hands around the footboard of the bed and spread her legs. They could get naked later, for now she just wanted to feel him up inside of her.

This hadn’t been the reason she’d chosen the light weight sundress from the consular’s wife’s closet but it served its purpose well as Sidney dragged the material up over her hips with one hand and tugged her panties down with the other. She wasn’t ready, far from it, as he began to push his way into her but that was sort of the point. The discomfort that made her draw a ragged breath through her teeth and dig her nails into the braided bamboo made her forget why they were here, that there were bad people coming after them, that she’d maybe met the man of her dreams, who, the minute he wised up, would run as far and as fast as he could from them both.

Going up on tip toes seemed to help, or at least helped enough for him to slide completely inside of her until she could feel his powerful thighs against her ass. She felt him pause and knew, before he said it, that he was going to ask something sweet like was she alright. The only answer she could give to that at the moment would either end in a fight or in tears and both of those was what she was trying to avoid right now, so before he could utter a single syllable, Cody pressed her ass back against him and begged, no, demanded to be fucked like a whore.

“Just fuck me Sidney,” she hissed, pressing back against him, “fuck me like I’m no one, like I’m just one of those sluts that you fuck to get your rocks off. Please.”  She didn’t need to see the expression on his face to know that he probably didn’t like it but she didn’t care if it went against everything he stood for. This wasn’t about him. This was what she needed. “Do it,” she growled and heard his answering snarl as he withdrew almost entirely and then stuffed his cock balls deep inside of her, making her wince. “Yesss,” she gasped and pressed her forehead to the back of her hands and pressed back against his next thrust, “harder, harder.”

It hurt, but only for a few more thrusts and then her body turned traitor and she felt her own juices running down the insides of her thighs. Despite his considerable length and width and how tight she was from this angle, it started to feel good, started to feel like was making love to her boyfriend and that wasn’t what she wanted.

“Hit me, call me a whore,” she demanded. She felt him pause and sent an angry glare over her shoulder. His eyes were big and round and she knew that the sweet boy from a small town in Nova Scotia was unlikely to have ever called a woman names in his life. “I’ve heard you swear a blue streak you fucking son of a bitch. Use me, please, just do it.” She watched him open his full, soft lips to argue but as Cody felt a tear escape the corner of her lips she saw him square his shoulders and a sort of uneasy resolve cloud his gaze.

“Shut your mouth bitch,” he hissed and as she watched he raised one hand off of her hip and brought it down on to her ass with a stinging slap. Just for a moment she saw the sweet boy inside asking if he’d done alright and she shot him a grateful smile. “Do you like that whore?” he asked, smiling back at her and raising his hand again, “do you want more?”

“Yesss,” she begged and turned her face away as he brought his hand down with the resounding sound of flesh meeting flesh. “Yes, fuck me, yes please.” 

He awoke hours later to sun streaming through the shutters, his body drenched in sweat, alone in the big empty bed. Sidney rubbed at his eyes and then looked around the room again, at the rumpled sheets next to him. He felt the pillow next to him. It was still warm with a little slime trail of drool she’d left behind.

He listened, closing his eyes as he tried to sense her, but there was no sound from the adjoining room or the en-suite. Tossing the thin sheets aside, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed, got up and crossed the room. He didn’t really expect to find her in the bathroom, but he checked anyway, just to be sure.

Picking up his shorts and t-shirt from the floor, he pulled them both on and then slipped his feet into the flip flops by the door. He knew where he’d find her. He didn’t bother to stop until he was halfway down the bath to the private beach, until he could see her standing watch from a spot at the end of the walkway, the wind lifting her dress and wrapping it around her legs as if it was caressing them.

She didn’t startle when his hands circled her upper arms and pressed his lips to the nape of her neck. She’d tied her hair up, understandable in the warm wind but his hands itched to pull it down, to run his fingers through it.

“Did you sleep?” he asked gently as he felt her lean back into his arms.

“Yes, some, thank you,” she replied without taking her gaze off of the group of children working industriously at a sandcastle under the watchful eye of both the nanny as well as the guards. “You wouldn’t think anything had happened to her,” she added as they watched Becky turn over a pail and pat it with her plastic shovel, a big grin on her face.

“Kids are pretty resilient,” he told her, pressing his lips to her cheek. “She’s a pretty happy kid and she’s strong, like you,” he added, trying to be encouraging. Cody didn’t answer but she did lean her cheek against his hand on her shoulder which was a good sign, he thought. “A few more days of building sand castles in the sunshine should go a long way to making things better.”

“We can’t stay here forever though,” she sighed and then turned to look up at him with a weary expression that Sid immediately wished he could erase, but he knew it was only a matter of days, if that long, before he’d have to go back to dealing with reality, with his injury and to watching his team play without him.

“We don’t have to go yet though,” he said, as much to himself as to her. He kissed her cheek and then let his hand drop down to seek hers. She looked up at him, gratitude mixed with the threat of tears in her eyes. “That castle looks like it needs a little work. Think we should go and help?” he asked. She nodded, the beginning of a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. Giving her hand a squeeze he lead her down the path and onto the white sand.