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The Best of 2013
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7 PM At Mickey...
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The Night the Stars..
The Long Ride Home
Leah And The Eagle
The Shades of Gray
The Nice Guy
The Love Song of...
Its Been Going Around
Dancing with the Banshee
The Last Thing You ...
Leah And The Eagle
Leah lifted the tiny triangles of fabric from the bag that Mark's sister had helped her pack. She bit her lower lip and grinned. Had Margie really expected her to wear this on the beach? It couldn't even correctly be called a bikini; maybe a micro bikini. Just a bit of incentive for Mark, she figured. The in-laws were pulling out all the stops to make this trip a success.
She took a break from unpacking to gaze out on the turquoise bay beneath the balcony. Palms danced in the embrace of the same gentle trades that also teased Leah's thighs with playful, phantom fingers.
She sighed, then frowned. This trip was another chance, but she couldn't shake the nagging fear that it was a last chance. The doctor had assured her after the miscarriage that she was healthy, and all her baby-making plumbing was in fine working order. There was no reason to doubt she and Mark would have the baby they both wanted. Still, the doubt remained, quietly gnawing at her heart.
Dr. Hemmings recognized that doubt and prescribed a second honeymoon. "Leah, I want you and your husband to go someplace warm. Put work and everything else out of your heads. Have fun, and screw yourselves silly and often."
It took some effort to arrange time off for both of them, but at last they had landed on this gorgeous, gracious island at the edge of the Caribbean. It was a half-day's boat ride from the main island, and felt like a place out of time. There was very little motor transportation, with most of the conveyances drawn either by horse or donkey. Leah felt herself relax the moment she stepped ashore.
The hotel was all pink and pastel and set against the sea. Their room was bright and breezy. The trade winds served as air conditioning.
She took a deep breath of those fragrant trades and closed her eyes. She hadn't heard Mark come up behind her and jumped when his strong arms closed around her waist. She settled against him and let him hold her. The doubt evaporated.
"Honey, you gotta see the beach. You won't believe the sand. It's not even like sand. It's as soft as talcum powder."
"Baby powder?" She smiled.
He held her tighter. "Yeah."
They stood silently for a moment, then he kissed her shoulder and whispered. "You really ought to see the beach."
"Okay. Wait'll you see what Margie packed for me."
They broke their embrace and Leah retrieved the bikini. "God, look at this—this—scrap of cloth. I might just as well wear a couple of Band-aids.
"Wow! Honey, you're going to wear it, aren't you?" Mark affected that eager puppy look.
"Mark. Gosh, I'd be a scandal."
"Baby, we've landed in the Garden of Eden. Why, there are women on the beach topless, and a couple had nothing on at all."
"Is that so? And how long were you scouting out this beach?"
"They couldn't begin to compare to you. C'mon, try it on for me."
Leah couldn't resist that smile, not with those big brown eyes and his dark brown hair falling over them. Leah's husband was handsome, but she had known handsome guys. It was that smile that riveted her in place the first day she laid eyes on him. That it belonged to a tall, lean guy with strong arms and magical hands was a bonus. The smile told her he was the only one in this world who could complete her life.
Mark had been similarly smitten. It was in their last year of college. How they had managed to miss each other through almost four years puzzled him. But, he thanked God for that miserable New England winter day when biting sleet forced them into the off-campus coffee shop. There was something about the way she moved, this small girl who was barely five feet-three. Her face, framed by a knit hat and a bulky scarf, was a delicate setting for bright gray-blue eyes. It broadcast innocence, offset by full sensual lips that turned up into a smile to meet his. He hadn't believed in love at first sight, but thereafter, there wasn't another woman in the world for him.
Leah retreated to the bathroom and emerged a few minutes later. She tossed her dark blonde hair over one shoulder and asked, "Well, what do you think?"
Mark could barely speak. Leah's breasts were small, but full and more than enough of a handful for him. But the top of the bikini accentuated their sweet outside curves. She turned slowly and patted her behind on both cheeks.
"It doesn't cover much," she said, sliding her fingers beneath the fabric. "It might as well be a thong; my whole ass is exposed."
Mark took her all in. His crotch tightened around his cock, which urgently protested its confines. Silently he stepped toward her, allowing his hands to roam over her hips and up her back. She gasped when he lifted her up and carried her to the bed.
"But—what about—the beach?"
Mark pulled his polo shirt over his head and let his hands fall to his belt. He unbuckled it and unzipped his slacks in a flurry. Leah helped him push them off, then he was on her, kissing her shoulders, down over her chest. He tugged a strap and the top unfastened baring her small, perfect breasts. He kissed them, licking her nipples, all the while letting his hands squeeze all the other soft places from her waist to her thighs.
Leah melted underneath him, giving herself up. Her body was awash in warm, tingling sensations. Syrup flowed from her pussy, an urgent invitation to fill her. He did.
They held each other tightly as they rocked together. Each thrust seeking the deepest part of her. They moaned together, complete, and connected—two bodies melded into one being.
Mark cried, "I—I'm—Honey—I have to ..."
She felt his spasm, and his seed pour into her. She wrapped her legs around him as tightly as she could. In a moment, her own, low frequency orgasm rolled up her body like a wave. They fell asleep in each other's arms.
Leah looked around the room for the parts of her bikini. The bottom rested on the floor, while the top she found under a pillow. She hadn't even remembered Mark taking them off her.
Considering the bikini, she looked again at Mark.
"Oh, c'mon, Honey. Wear it."
"Okay, but I'm taking my wrap too, the long one."
The hotel fronted the beach. A patio with an outdoor bar edged the pure white sand. Leah warily removed her wrap and placed it on a chair by an empty table. She grabbed Mark's hand and ran for the water.
It was Eden, Leah decided as she submerged herself in clear warm waters. As she and Mark frolicked a pair of dolphins cruised just out of reach and regarded them with curious eyes. A naked woman lazily swam past, rolled over onto her back and smiled at Mark.
Okay, so there's a snake or two in Eden, Leah thought. She took Mark's hand and they walked back over the soft talcum sand to their table.
Leah dried herself with a towel, no longer self-conscious about her own near nudity. "That broad had some nerve giving you the eye."
Mark laughed. "Oh, yeah? Well you've got an admirer of your own."
"Right behind you. But don't get him too excited, he might have a stroke."
Leah turned and her eyes met those of an elderly man dressed entirely in white, shirt and trousers. He sat at a nearby table but leaned forward on a cane. His eyes deliberately scanned Leah from toes to top, but she did not sense leering on the old man's part. Still, those old eyes conveyed something—a question, perhaps.
After a few seconds, the old man smiled, and turned away as if he had embarrassed himself.
A waiter, all smiles and speaking in that lilting accent of the islands, approached Leah and Mark. "Good evening, folks. Can I get you something to drink? Have you had your dinner?"
Mark nodded. "Yes, please. Maybe something light?" he said, nodding toward Leah.
"Yes, a Daiquiri? Maybe a salad?"
"Rum Collins," Mark added. "And a couple of seafood salads."
"Done and done. My name's Elroy—like the boy in the Jetsons," the waiter laughed.
Mark and Leah enjoyed the sunset while they waited for their drinks. But every so often, Leah would look back at the old man, and catch him smiling at her. She smiled back.
Elroy arrived with the drinks. "This is all taken care of, folks. Compliments of Major Caz." Elroy nodded toward the old man, who stood and offered a courtly bow.
Leah and Mark raised their glasses in response. Mark asked Elroy, "Major Caz?"
"That's right, Mon. He's a bonafide war hero. Shot down about a thousand of Hitler's airplanes, he did."
When Elroy brought their salads, Leah asked, "Could you ask the gentleman to join us?"
Mark glanced at her. "It seems like the polite thing to do, " she said to his unspoken question.
"Maybe we should join him," Mark said. "I don't know if he can make it over to our table."
"Don't you worry about Major Caz," Elroy said. "He's spry as can be."
Elroy strode to the old man's table and leaned down. The old man nodded then stood. He walked stiffly, but with a tall, confident bearing until he stood beside Leah.
"Thank you so much for your invitation," he said and bowed. His accent was British, but with an odd inflection. He pronounced some syllables with a heavy thud.
"Thanks for the drinks, Sir. I'm Mark Granger. This is my wife, Leah."
The old man bowed once more toward Leah, lifted her hand and kissed it. "My very great pleasure, young lady. I am Casimir Wengeliewski. But, that is quite impossible for most people to pronounce. You may call me Caz."
He straightened himself but held Leah's hand for a few seconds longer. "The drinks were sent as my way of apology."
"Apology?" Leah asked. "For what?"
"Rudeness, my lady. For staring—earlier."
"Oh, well, it's quite all right ..."
"No, no excuse for bad manners. It was just—you see, you reminded me of someone. Or, more precisely, something about you reminded me."
The old man sat with a grimace then eased back into his seat and relaxed. "You see, my lady, you were standing with your back to me, and the way you moved, and your hair, the way it fell over your shoulder reminded me ..." His eyes resumed their sweet, sad faraway vigil that Leah had noticed earlier. She smiled and touched his hand.
He continued, "But, especially—well, how can I put this delicately? Yes, perhaps in French. There is a language incapable of sounding—vulgar. You see, my dear, it was your derriere."
Leah glanced at Mark, whose eyebrow arched into a perfect Groucho. She could feel her blush spread over her cheeks.
"I'm so sorry," the old man said. There was such urgent sincerity in his voice that Leah hastened to reassure him.
"No, it's okay, really. I'm flattered."
"You're very gracious."
Mark cleared his throat. "Well, Mr.—um, I mean, Caz? Elroy was extolling your exploits. Said something about you shooting down the whole German air force."
The old gentleman laughed. "Of course, Elroy embellishes. He's a funny lad."
"But, you were a flyer?" Leah asked.
"Yes. Royal Air Force. I was barely 20 when we reached London in 1940. There were quite a few of us free Poles. The British were at first reluctant to use us, but desperation has a way of expediting things. My squadron, the Kosciusko Squadron, accounted for more kills than all the other allied squadrons in the RAF. Yes, I was an Eagle."
"Hmm," Mark said. "I read about the Battle of Britain. I thought the American flyers formed the Eagle Squadron."
"Quite so. The Polish flyers were known as White Eagles, for the Polish eagle. We wore it as an insignia."
"Did you really shoot down the whole German air force?" Leah asked, and grinned.
He laughed, "No, no, not nearly that many. I was credited with seven kills. They even counted the unfortunate fellow I collided with in a cloud. It was all an accident, really. Much like one would have on the motorway. But my Hurricane was built sturdier than his Messerschmitt. My plane held together long enough for me to crash land."
"My gosh." Leah's eyes widened.
"I wonder, are you from Chicago?"
"No," Mark replied. "We live just outside of Boston."
"Ah, Boston. I liked that city very much too. But Chicago—there are more Poles in Chicago than in most of Poland, I think. After I crashed, I hid out in the French countryside waiting for the Allies to reach my position. One night I heard Polish spoken. I'm overjoyed and I leave my cover to find five American GIs, all from Chicago, and speaking Polish. So, here we are, I in a British uniform, they in American uniforms, standing in the middle of France, and we're all getting along splendidly in Polish. After the war I visited two of them in Chicago. The others did not survive the war. They were all good boys."
They talked long past midnight until the old man apologized for keeping them up. Before they retired, Leah invited him to join them for dinner.
As Mark and Leah slipped into bed and cozied into each other's arms, Mark said, "You were quite taken with Major Caz."
"He's awfully nice, didn't you think so?"
"Yeah, I suppose. But, I think he might be a bit of an old letch."
"Why, because he liked my ass? I wonder whose ass mine reminds him of."
Mark gave her ass a proprietary squeeze. He kissed her and they fell asleep.
Leah's eyes widened. "Oh, Jeeeesus! Stop!"
"Yeah, fuck me now—quick-quick!"
Mark obliged, sliding his cock into her buttery slit, gaining a rhythm immediately as his bride moaned beneath him, "God, what you do to me."
"Are you a bad girl?" he leered.
"Huh? Yes! I'm a bad girl ... fuck me faster!"
His hips swiveled with each thrust and he gently bit her shoulder. Leah's orgasm hit her like a thump and roared up her body. Her toes curled.
Mark was still thrusting as she came down. Then he shuddered, let his weight settle a moment, and rolled off her.
"Good morning," he sighed.
It was late morning before they could rouse themselves. They had a light breakfast and decided to explore the island. Below the steps of the hotel a horse carriage rolled to a stop. Major Caz waved from the carriage.
"Please, join me for a ride."
Leah and Mark nodded and clambered aboard. The driver flicked the reins and the horse began a trot.
The Major delighted in giving his young friends a custom tour, entrancing Leah with tales of pirates and legends of buried treasure among the tiny island's lagoons and coves. His affection for the island people was evident.
"They don't need the tourism," he said. "Not like many of the islands. They support themselves quite nicely. They are genuinely friendly."
The tour ended by late afternoon. Leah reminded the Major about dinner.
Elroy brought after-dinner drinks and they moved to a bench that offered an even better view of the celestial light show above them.
Leah's drink and the setting were making her mellow. She curled up in Mark's arms and affected a coy voice. "Major, you never told me ... whose ass does mine remind you of?"
The Major's smile didn't disappear, but it changed somehow. Leah instantly regretted asking the question. "I—I'm sorry. If you'd rather not ..."
"No, no ... not at all, my dear."
Leah pulled Mark's arms tighter around her as the Major sighed then smiled before he began.
"In 1940, I was alone, except for my comrades, and a few months short of 20. I had no idea about the fate of my family. Before Poland fell to the Nazis, our commander told us to make our way to France. After France fell we made it to England. All we thought about was killing Nazis.
"The RAF kept us in reserve for a long time, forbidding us to engage in combat. That changed as the Nazi beast ravaged the island. I remember my first kill. I had no fear, just a cold rage. It was an Me109. The engine burst into flame. I squeezed off another short burst just as the pilot jettisoned his canopy. He was half out of the cockpit when the bullets caught him. I followed his plane all the way down as he hung half-in half-out of the cockpit. Today I can think of the horror of it, but then I was triumphant—a righteous killer.
"That was how things were. We fed off our rage. It honed us, made us clear in our mission. But, among us, there was also the understanding that hate could not be our only companion. We consciously sought out the softer things, the beauty where we could find it. It was important that we remain human."
He sat quietly for a moment then smiled. "My redemption, my salvation, my love was Tesia."
His smile widened and his eyes brightened. "She was a student. She had come to London from Warsaw before the war. She was stranded, alone. Like me, she had lost contact with her family. She continued at university. That was her anchor.
"We met at a dance for the Polish pilots. Love on sight? Yes, absolutely. From that time on, every chance I could get leave, I'd spend it with her. She had a flat in London. A damp, dingy place, but heaven on earth for us. The landlady was a saint. Tesia had no support from home, so she could not pay rent. But the woman cared for her like a daughter. I remember, I had to pass inspection for Mrs. Mulroy."
The Major chuckled at the memory.
"What became of Tesia?" Leah asked.
"We remained together, lovers and so much more, but after the Normandy invasion my squadron flew cover for the ground troops who were trying for a breakout that summer of '44. That is where I bumped into the fellow from the rival firm. I came down behind the German lines and hid for weeks.
"I had no idea at the time that Tesia and I had already spent our last night together. We had spent that day making love. A long day of continuous lovemaking," he grinned. "By evening we were spent. Tesia lay naked in bed, on her stomach, reading. Yes, reading. She had exams for which to prepare.
"That's when I noticed her arse." He laughed again. "Oh, I don't mean I hadn't noticed it before. But then it struck me, how lovely it was, this special part of her. I nuzzled my face into the hollow of her cheek, kissed the dimples below her spine. The touch of her wonderfully curved globes, her silken skin. I hugged her arse; kissed it, let my hands revel in the feel of her.
"All the time I was in France, that was the memory that sustained me, the goal that ensured I would return alive, Tesia's arse. I decided I'd touch it again, hold it again, taste it again. It's what I dreamt about when I was hiding in the woods after my crash. What I saw each time I closed my eyes.
"I was rescued by the Americans, but it was more weeks before I returned to England. I made right for Tesia's flat. It was there that Mrs. Mulroy told me. Tesia had died. A fever had come on suddenly and ravaged her for a week. In all the chaos and confusion of the time, no one had noted where she was buried. I did not even have a grave I could visit."
Mark held Leah tighter. No one said anything until Leah offered, "I'm so sorry."
The Major nodded. "Time went on, and so did I. Eventually I met a woman. A proper English lady. She was a good girl. We married, but she did not want children. I didn't insist. She died 11 years ago.
"I couldn't go back to Poland after the war, the communists and the Soviets wielded control. But, England had been good to me. I remained in the RAF, and eventually became a subject of the Queen."
"Did you ever go home to Poland?" Mark asked.
"Ah, yes, in 1990. It was all very different, a foreign country to me now. But, I found an old friend, Leskow. It was he who told me that when Tesia died, she was carrying our child. Mrs. Mulroy had thought to spare me. But after so many years, it hurt that much more."
Leah wiped her eye. The Major raised his glass and smiled. "It's very late, my young friends. And I fear I've dampened your lovely evening. I will say goodnight now."
Leah and Mark returned to their room in silence. They slid into bed and mumbled their goodnights.
In her dream, Leah's body was on fire, but around her the air was cold and clammy. Someone was wiping her forehead with a wet cloth. The pain raged deep inside her belly. She awoke crying.
Mark held his sobbing wife. "Honey, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," she said, even as her shoulders convulsed. "A dream. Just a bad dream."
She walked back toward the patio where Major Caz sat alone.
"Good morning, Leah. Mark is not with you?"
"No. I got up early. Needed to walk off a bad dream."
"Ah, yes, dreams. Relentless memories. I too dreamt last night, sad, vivid dreams."
"I shouldn't have asked you to tell us about Tesia. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to open old wounds."
"Leah, the wound is always there, always open. To deny it is to pretend it isn't precious."
He leaned forward and scanned the horizon, his face grave and contemplative. "Leah, I have something to ask you. But, I must ask you in the presence of your husband. And, afterward, I pray that we are still friends."
Leah's heartbeat quickened as she sensed an ominous, but inevitable turn in her life. She didn't ask the Major to explain further. She nodded and said she and Mark would meet him early in the evening.
Mark was worried. A shadow had fallen over his wife and he didn't understand it, or how to deal with it. He knew it had something to do with the Major. He followed Leah to the patio and joined the Major at a table remote from the other guests.
The Major stood and bowed. Elroy approached, but the old man waved him away.
"Thank you my young friends. I feel that we have been friends for a long time, not just a few days. I would like to continue as friends, but I have something to ask you—need to ask you."
Mark glanced at Leah, but said nothing.
"I have a request," the Major resumed, "a favor to ask of Leah. It is not something a gentleman ought to ask of a lady, much less in the presence of her husband, but it is the only honorable course. Please, hear me out."
"Okay," Mark replied warily. "What is it?"
The Major looked directly at Leah. "When I saw you the first time, it was like a dream, a dream you desperately want to continue, but which evaporates as you awake and leaves you with such a terrible longing. It's the hurt that comes of reaching for something precious, but your arms close around emptiness."
Leah nodded, and in a near whisper asked, "What do you want?"
The Major glanced quickly at Mark, then looked directly at Leah again. "Would you allow me to—touch you?"
Leah's chin dropped as Mark said, "Excuse me?"
"I mean no dishonor to Leah, nothing prurient at all. But I can understand how this must sound. I wish I could explain myself more precisely, but it is impossible, it is like trying to fathom a vague premonition. I can only say that since I saw Leah, I've sensed a chance to make something right and whole."
"How do you want to touch me?" Leah asked. Mark shot her a look as if he couldn't believe she had asked the question.
"I told you about Tesia. I wish—would you allow me ... Oh, dear. Would you allow me to touch your—backside?"
"I don't believe this," Mark huffed.
"Shhh," Leah admonished him.
"Huh? Leah, you're not really considering ..."
"Please," the Major interrupted, "I couldn't stand to cause consternation between you two. Leah, don't do this, if it will cause trouble with you and Mark. I only ask because—well, I haven't much time ..."
"Time? What do you mean?"
"Oh, nothing. I—uh—simply meant I'll return to England tomorrow. My friends, I'll be in my room for the rest of the night. I do desperately hope I haven't offended you, and if I have, please forgive me. Whatever you decide, I shall cherish our time together, and I would hope you recall me fondly. Goodnight."
As the Major walked away Leah reached over and squeezed Mark's hand.
"Leah, for crying out loud ..."
"Mark, what he said, about some feeling, some premonition; I've felt it too. Maybe I've felt it even before we came here, ever since we lost our baby."
"Honey, you've been depressed. You're vulnerable to—well—to some old lecher who concocts wild stories to sucker some poor girl into helping him get his jollies."
"I'm not crazy, Mark. I never felt so strongly. I need to do this. Please, let me."
"Let some old bastard feel up my wife's ass?"
"Mark, do you trust me?"
"What kind of a question is that?"
"Please, Mark, trust me. Just trust me. He's in his 80s, what could he do?"
Mark didn't answer.
"Honey, remember what he said, about second chances? If I don't do this, I'm afraid I'll have some awful emptiness in me, like I was given an opportunity to do something—almost holy, and tossed it away."
Mark exhaled a long sigh. "Do what you have to do."
Leah smiled and squeezed his hand. As she stood to leave, he said. "Leah, I love you."
He showed her in and doused the lights, leaving only moonlight to illuminate the room.
"There, over by the window, by the bed," he gently directed her. She stepped to the window where she was bathed in moonbeams. She stood with her back to the Major, who sat on the edge of the bed. Neither said anything.
At last, Leah slid her thumbs into the waistband of her shorts and pushed them down over her hips. She repeated the maneuver with her panties, but more slowly.
She heard a quick intake of breath from the Major, and stood perfectly still. Several seconds elapsed before she sensed the heat from his hands, as they must have hovered a hair's breadth from her skin.
His breathing was the only sound in the room. A soft breeze fluttered the curtains. Then his hands settled on each of her cheeks. Leah had anticipated the dry, papery touch of ancient hands, but they felt strong and solid.
He pressed them slightly into her flesh. His touch was gentle, and reverent. Leah was reminded of the first time she had been naked for Mark. He had touched her with that same sense of reverence and respect.
The Major's hands moved slowly in arcs over her hips and back, and traced the split beneath her tailbone. Then she felt a tender kiss on one side and then the other. She closed her eyes.
The Major was saying something, barely audible. Perhaps it was a prayer. He nuzzled his face into the hollow of her right buttock. Leah felt the wetness on his cheeks.
"JA jestem zalujace. Tesia, kocham was."
He sobbed as he held her hips. Leah reached down and stroked her fingers through his thin, white hair.
"It's okay," she said. "She knows you tried to get back to her, that you didn't abandon her. Casimir, she knows."
The Major's sob nearly broke her heart. But he lifted his head and gathered himself. Hands still on her hips, he gently turned her around. He looked up at her, his cheeks stained with tears.
"Thank you, Leah."
Gently, he forced her back a step. Now his hands coursed over her hips and across her belly. Leah froze. This was not part of the deal. He pressed his hands to her soft flesh for a moment, leaned forward and kissed her below her navel.
He looked up at her again. "Life."
Leah shook her head, afraid to believe what he was saying. He smiled and nodded. "Life!"
Tears spilled from Leah's eyes. "But—how ..."
He shook his head. "Don't question—accept."
She bent to kiss his forehead.
The major picked up her shorts and panties. "Dress now. Go to Mark. God bless you."
Leah stepped into her shorts without bothering with her panties. Joy was expanding inside her like a bubble yearning to burst. She kissed the Major again. He said, "Go."
She left him in the darkened room and sprinted along the hallways, her panties still clutched in her fist.
Mark was startled as she entered the room. Her cheeks still glistened.
"Oh, God, Honey, what happened? What did he ..."
She ran into his arms. "Nothing, Darling. It's okay, it's okay. It's wonderful!"
Mark held her tightly. He understood the shadow had lifted.
"Mark, take me to bed."
"You look like you had a tough day," Leah said, as she adjusted her position on the couch.
"Yeah, but who cares?" He leaned down to kiss them both. "Wow, she's really going to town. Hungry, huh?"
"She's always hungry. I feel like Elsie the cow."
The knock at the door startled them both.
"We expecting anybody?" Mark asked. Leah shrugged.
She wrapped a shawl around her and the baby as he stepped to the door and opened it. She did not see the caller on the other side, who inquired, "Hi, are you Mark Granger?"
"Yes, can I help you?"
"Mark Granger, whose wife is Leah Granger?"
"You want to tell me what this is about?"
"I'm sorry, I'm George Fortunato. I'm a paralegal for Anderson and Cummins—the law firm?"
"What? Is someone suing us?"
"No, no," he laughed. "Not at all, but I do have a matter I need to discuss with you and Leah Granger. Do I have the right house?"
"Thank, God. Could you wait a minute? I have some kinda heavy items in my car for you. I didn't want to lug them up here until I was sure I had the right folks."
"Uh, sure." Mark turned to look back at Leah, who shrugged again. A moment later a long rectangular package wrapped in plain brown paper was handed to Mark. The man then followed him into the house with a similar package.
"What are these?" Mark asked.
"Um, let's see," the man said, nodding and smiling at Leah. He unfolded a paper and said, "The inventory says they are 'military decorations and war memorabilia.'"
The man's face split into a wide smile and he nodded again at Leah. "You have a little one. My wife and I had a boy four weeks ago. They sure do change your life, don't they? Girl or boy?"
Leah smiled. "Yes, they do. This is our daughter, three months. She's kinda busy now."
"That's quite all right."
Mark tapped him. "Mr. Fortunato, would you tell us what this is all about?"
"Oh, sorry. May I sit down?"
He lifted more papers from a valise. "We had a time tracking you down. See, we're affiliated with a firm in London, Wickham & Stebbins. And this is, ah yes, says right here, 'Relative to the disposition of the estate of ...' I'm sorry, they told me how to pronounce this name seven times before I left the office. Cashmere Weglooski? Here, you can read it."
He lifted the document so Mark could read. "Casimir Wengeliewski? Major Caz?"
"Ah, good. You know him. Things are falling into place."
Leah asked, "Estate? He's dead?"
"Yes, passed away about three months ago. Quite a hero, I understand. Here's a copy of an obituary that ran in The Times of London," he said, handing the paper to Leah.
Fortunato shuffled through the documents on his lap. "The gentleman has left a sizable amount of money in trust, let's see, 'for the maintenance and education of the children of Mark and Leah Granger.'"
He handed the document to Mark. "Holy shit! Leah, there are three sets of triple-zeros behind this number."
Fortunato added, "That figure is in pounds. I'm sorry, I'm not sure what the exchange is, but I think you increase the amount by a third to get the dollar amount."
Leah's mouth opened into a wide 'O'. The shawl slipped from her shoulder unnoticed, except by Fortunato.
"I can fill in the little girl's name right now, and then I'll need you both to sign a copy for me." His pen hovered over the document.
"Our daughter's name is Tesia," Leah said, and covered herself again.
"My, what a lovely name," Fortunato said. "Well, just sign these. Some more documents will be sent to you by express."
When he'd left, Mark tore the paper off one of the packages. It was a glass case containing an array of medals. A flag with horizontal white and red bars served as backing. A fierce white heraldic eagle, crowned and rampant straddled the bars. In the upper left corner was a red and white checkerboard insignia.
He removed the paper from the second case, revealing more medals and a photograph.
He took the obituary from Leah and read, " 'Major Casmir Wengeliewski, Royal Air Force (ret.), a hero of the Battle of Britain, who died in his sleep at his London home, was honored with a procession and full military rites at the Church of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Islington. Tributes were spoken by the Prime Minister and His Royal Highness ...' Wow!"
"Honey, the next five whole paragraphs just list his medals," he said, glancing at the cases.
Leah stood, and handed the baby to Mark as she took the obituary and continued to read. "It says, 'Major Wengeliewski was honored with a flyover by squadrons of the RAF and Polish Air Force NATO contingent. Major Wengeliewski left no survivors. His ashes are to be transported to the Caribbean where they will be scattered in the sea off his winter home...'" Her eyes brimmed.
She and Mark lifted the photograph from the case and placed it on the mantel. It showed a couple standing in front of an RAF Hurricane. The same checkerboard insignia on the flag was painted on the warplane's tail. Mark counted a row of black German crosses below the cockpit.
"Five—he had two more to go."
The pilot in the photo was tall, with a boyish grin that exuded pride and confidence. The girl was petite, with wide hips and light hair. She leaned into him as he held her in a protective embrace.
"She doesn't really look that much like you," Mark said.
"We're not seeing her from behind," Leah winked.
They continued to study the photo.
"Mark," Leah said, "Do you think two people—two souls—could be meant to be together—forever and always?"
He answered her with a kiss.
© 2003 R.E. Buckley. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.
Hot, sexy, sensual to the core - A Bit of the Apple by Robert Buckley is available from Venus Book Club
Copyright © 1996 and on, Erotica Readers Association, Inc.
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