Matthew Anderson opened his eyes and groaned. He rolled over onto his back and felt between his legs.
"Yep, still there," he mumbled. He had been convinced Rhianna had ripped his dick off the night before, so powerful was their love making.
This was now the morning of the fifth day since her father took his own life. Up until last night, Matthew had just hovered in the background while his wife and her family sorted out their grief and their business. He provided comfort to Rhianna whenever she sought it, but those times were few and far between. It seemed to him that Rhianna held herself in check, not allowing herself to feel much of anything.
He knew that she felt more than she showed, though; she couldn't fool him, they were too close. But he was worried about her; her lack of emotional release wasn't healthy in his opinion.
Through all this, the family dealt first with the Coast Guard, who maintained their search for the body for two days before giving up, and with the local police. It was only because the family was very well known that there wasn't a more serious investigation into the elder Summer's death. The town Police Chief knew Geoff Summer, was one of his poker buddies, and half suspected before that dreadful day that his dying friend might do something like that. He spent the last few days wishing that he had acted on his suspicions. The Chief didn't know Rhianna very well though, although he had listened as Geoff Summer bragged about his daughter the FBI agent (something he would never do in front of his family), but being a naturally suspicious sort, he recognized the possibility that Rhianna still might have gotten rid of her father. But a quick talk on the phone with James Vessor, Rhianna's former FBI boss, allayed his fears. The young woman would NOT have done such a thing.
So the family moved on, and Geoff junior, now the head of the family, made arrangements for a memorial service. Without a body, they had nothing to bury, a fact that made things worse for many members of the family.
Geoff Junior announced when the service would be, and that night Rhianna initiated contact with Matthew in bed for the first time since the death.
It had just been a hug at first, and silently Matthew held onto his wife as she slowly let loose the emotional blocks. She didn't say a word to him, but at times she would either cry or laugh, and Matthew was quite puzzled. But there was no denying that he was enjoying the feel of her naked body against his, and quite unconsciously he let his hands drift all over her.
Rather than object, Rhianna soon began to respond in kind. She felt emotionally wrung out, totally surprised at how much her father's death had affected her. She needed Matthew, though; he was her anchor, and to hold him gave her stability. Yet his familiar body also stirred other things in her, and instead of thinking them inopportune, she grasped for those familiar feelings.
Matthew and Rhianna had always been good in bed together; never an awkward moment, never a miscommunication in their timing. A friend of Matthew's would have recognized the connection between the man and woman, even though the couple didn't feel it the same way, but there was no denying that each of them fitted exactly into the other, and that wasn't just physically.
Right now a mutual passion was building, one fired by the need to comfort his mate, the other in an attempt to find comfort strong enough to push back grief.
It was an epic undertaking.
Matthew, just by chance, had been the one lying on his back while Rhianna lay on top of him, and while he had no objections to making love this way, it was rare that Rhianna didn't submit to his attempts to turn them both over. It seemed to him that she had a strong need to take charge this time, so instead of fighting it, he let her have her head.
Have her head she did. Passion risen, she tore into him sexually, becoming rough in her actions as she tried to pull what she needed from him. Her well-practiced pussy enveloped him and clamped down tight, pulling hard at his manhood as if to steal it away. Her hands pinched and slapped and gripped with a fierceness that left bruises, and her mouth would not stay still, biting and sucking him here and there, but not saying a word.
Several times as Rhianna attempted to suck the life out of him, Matthew had to tell her to slow down, which she would for just a few minutes before picking up her pace again. Matthew had never had to ask that of her before, usually he controlled the pace; but as she wrung a second orgasm from HIM, he felt as if he was on a runaway train. He seriously considered tying her down for his own protection, but he had put away all their bondage stuff the day after her father's death out of respect for her mourning.
But he felt her need, and understood what was going on with her, and rode out her passions to the end.
In the end, she just collapsed on him, sobbing aloud, letting her grief out, and taking comfort in the man below her.
Matthew just held on to her until the two of them fell asleep, still coupled together.
Now Matthew was awake and alone in the bed; Rhianna had gone...somewhere. He climbed out slowly and examined his body, noting several bruises on his arms and chest, plus a few scratches and bite marks. Nothing a long sleeved shirt wouldn't hide. He had just the one, a simple shirt to go with the dark pants and black suit jacket he had bought the day before. He would wear that outfit, because today was the funeral.
The memory made him frown, and he wondered where Rhianna was. He thought she might be out running, something she started doing a couple of days before. It helped her work out her anger she told him once.
Matthew was surprised she had any energy left after the marathon session they had the night before, and that gave him pause for thought.
He had a friend on the east coast, a man he had done a few special jobs for over the years in his former life as a smuggler. Getting this guy in and out of one or two unfriendly countries had been Matthew's job. Unfriendly that is to anything connected with western governments, but not to a trader whose reputation was solid and who knew how to pay for certain services under the counter.
This friend had often used Matthew's business as a cover for his own, and while they hadn't really actually spent much time together, time under these conditions forged friendships faster than most anything else.
Matthew had called him the first day they got here, just to chew the fat a little, and the guy had told him that he was now semi-retired, living with a new wife and daughter. This had opened up the topic of wives in general, and he and Matthew shared a few jokes about how demanding they could be. It was Matthew who broached the topic of their sexual behavior; relating Rhianna's passion of the night before, and it was his friend that told him about something that he knew kept his own wives happy. At the time Matthew had been intrigued, but was more interested in his friend's slip of the tongue to ask further questions. His friend never did elaborate on what he meant by "wives," and the other subject never came back up.
Now Matthew remembered what little had been said, and thought it might be something he and Rhianna could both enjoy.
It was worth a try at least.
Doing the knot in his tie, Matthew decided to find a phone and give his friend Larry a call.
Rhianna had been out running, not quite out of energy after making love to her husband the night before. She smiled at him as he came down the stairs in his suit; she was going up to take a quick shower before dressing for the funeral herself. As they passed on the stairs, they exchanged a quick kiss, and Rhianna fondled his butt. Matthew smiled and gazed into her eyes. He could still see the pain of her mourning, but there was also that spark of life he had missed the last few days. His Rhianna was coming back to him, and he was happy. The call he planned to make was probably a good idea after all, then.
He didn't say anything to her though, wanting instead for it to be a surprise. So he watched her spandex encased butt disappear up the stairs, and then he descended to the phone.
The memorial service was held at a local church; the one Rhianna's family had been going to for years. Rhianna hadn't been there since she was a teenager, but the familiar sights and smells brought it all back to her.
Surrounding her was her family, Matthew at her side looking very handsome, and at the same time out of place in his suit. She was too used to looking at him in his leathers, she guessed. She had no idea that Matthew was thinking exactly the same thing about her.
Surrounding the family was practically the whole town. Geoff Summer senior had met everyone in town during his long life, and was friends of a sort with most of them. He also had something that New Englander's considered very important in a man, a good reputation. He was a man other fishermen went to for help or advice, his fishing company brought wealth to the town, and the Summer family had a long history there. Almost everyone there had been helped by Rhianna's father at some point in time, a fact brought forth by the many people who stood up to say a few words for the deceased. It was a side of the old man that Rhianna had barely been aware of, and once more she regretted having kept her distance from him as much as she had.
Standing on her other side was Geoff junior, and from time to time she held his hand and squeezed it, the two of them supporting the other in this, their time of need. It was an emotional service.
As the group exited the church afterwards, a man standing out in the graveyard with the other townsfolk caught her eye. It took her a moment to recognize him, and she saw it was Nigel March, the man she had met while at the grocery store the other day. He was alone, his wife Rose apparently not attending, and he was staring at her.
Something about his stare made Rhianna nervous; her cop's instinct that warned of danger was flashing red. But she didn't know why. She watched him until he turned away and melted into the crowd.
"You okay?" Matthew asked her, jostling for space in the crowd of mourners.
"What? Yes, yes, I'm fine," Rhianna said quietly, then she got another surprise.
"Mrs. Anderson!" boomed a low voice, and a large man in a thick dark coat appeared as if by magic in the crowd.
"Director Vessor?" Rhianna said, amazed to see her old boss.
"James, please. You don't work for me any more, Rhianna," said the imposing figure. He smiled and held out a hand, which she took gingerly.
"I'm just surprised to see you...James," she said.
"When I heard, I felt I had to come."
Rhianna thanked him, and he moved on to Matthew; the two men knew each other as well. Rhianna didn't notice that as Matthew and Vessor shook hands, Matthew suddenly paused as if finally remembering something he had forgotten. Rhianna knew nothing of the nagging thoughts Matthew had been having concerning a picture of three sisters, and the name Amanda. As Rhianna moved on, Matthew moved close to Vessor and asked him something. The FBI Agent gave Matthew a startled look before nodding slightly.
Rhianna wondered why her ex-boss had really come, but it wasn't at the top of her mind at the moment. She searched the area with her eyes for Nigel March, but he was long gone.
The service moved to the local community hall, where events were taking on an Irish flavor. Never a group to harp on death longer than they had to, the local fishermen instead preferred to celebrate life. Theirs was a dangerous job at best, and it didn't do to get too morbid about things you couldn't control. So a rather lively party began, with plenty of food supplied by the wives of the town and plenty of drink by Geoff's regular bar.
The party looked to go on for most of the day and into the night.
But Rhianna wasn't going to be a part of it for long. She and Matthew had already decided that they were leaving the next day, and informed the new head of the family.
"I wish you could stay longer, Rhianna," her brother said, "I could use your support."
"I need to get going, this place isn't my home any longer," Rhianna replied.
Geoff junior looked at her sadly. "This place is always your home, Rhianna. You're welcome here any time!"
Rhianna smiled and gave him a hug. She moved to each family member in turn, saying goodbye and hugging each of them. Matthew watched her go through this ritual, as if she really didn't expect to come back here again. He let her have her way, knowing it was how she was healing herself.
He did notice that when she held the baby Summer, her expression changed again to one of longing, and he thought uncomfortably that it wouldn't be long before her subtle hints became not so subtle.
They eventually left the party, and made their way to their last night in the Summer house. Rhianna surprised Matthew again by taking him upstairs and practically raping him once more. He let her get her demons out, and then took charge, digging out their bondage stuff and fastening her to the bed where he 'tortured' her slowly and lovingly for the rest of the night before they both fell into an exhausted sleep.
Rhianna was surprised when she saw the rented car outside the house the next morning.
"I thought my brother was driving us," she said.
"I want to drive," was all Matthew would reply.
When they passed the airport in Bangor and turned south on I-95, Rhianna was once again confused. "You missed the airport," she said.
"I want to drive," Matthew replied.
"Why?" Rhianna asked.
"To give us a little more time to ourselves before we head back. Some time alone." He looked over at her and flashed her a smile.
Rhianna considered his answer and found she liked it. She resumed her position tucked up next to him.
They drove all day, stopping for the night in a small motel in Pennsylvania, where they made quiet love for a few hours in front of a ratty TV they never turned on.
The next day they resumed their trip, and Rhianna noticed that they continued south rather than heading west. "Home is that way!" she told him at one point, pointing due west out her window as they passed the turn off to I-76 and an easy way home.
"I know, but there is a place I want to go to first."
"Ah," she said in that knowing way women all over the world master at an early age. "Your REAL reason for this drive."
Matthew couldn't argue against it. "It's not the only reason; this is for us as well."
"I bet," she answered, teasing him.
Matthew smiled. Her humor returning, which was also a good sign.
They continued to drive, stopping only for meals, until in the early evening they came to a large town with a sizable business district.
Rhianna looked around as they entered the city center, and was surprised to recognize the place. "This is "The Guild," isn't it?" she asked. "I've seen articles on this place. It's got some of the best craftsmen in the nation. Is this where we're going?"
Matthew nodded, a smile breaking out on his face.
"Matthew Anderson, what are you planning? You know we can't really take anything back with us to the Compound, so if you're planning on buying anything here, it will be a waste of money!"
"I don't think so," Matthew replied.
"So you ARE planning to get something." Rhianna wondered what, especially since with the quality of the merchandise here, the prices were sky high too. Once more she wondered just how much money her husband had socked away in various places.
"You'll see," he said. Matthew had memorized a set of directions, and in no time at all he drove them past an unassuming building just off the main center of the merchant district called "The Guild". He pulled into a nearby parking lot and the couple got out and stretched their legs, it had been a long run.
"What are you getting?" Rhianna asked him, her curiosity aroused.
Matthew walked around the car and took her in both hands. He kissed her, long and hard and let her go. He was surprised to see her face had a frown.
"What?" he asked.
"From that kiss, whatever it is you're getting, I'm not going to like it. You're trying to butter me up!" she said with mock seriousness.
Matthew sighed and kissed her again; this time it had the desired affect and Rhianna began to melt in his arms.
"That's better, Pet," he said. "Now come along and let me surprise you."
"Is it going to be a good surprise?" she asked, taking his hand.
"Of course it is. This is more for you than for me, but it will be something we can both enjoy."
"Okay," Rhianna said. She trusted her husband; he had saved her life at one point and WAS her life in many other ways. She was also getting a little giddy at the thought of receiving a present bought here at "The Guild" of all places. Few women could feel any other way when the man they loved said he was getting them something expensive. Few men could either. Rhianna wondered how they would get whatever it was back to the Compound, but Matthew didn't seem all that concerned about it. Maybe he had already figured it out.
They crossed the street and entered an unmarked door. The hallway inside was long and empty, and Rhianna wondered just what sort of high priced store they were going to. After a couple more doors, they found themselves in a small lobby with a smell of fresh paint.
Immediately upon their entry, a tall, older woman entered and smiled at them. "Hello, are you Mr. and Mrs. Anderson?" she asked.
"Yes we are," Matthew answered, taking the initiative and moving forward to take the woman's hand.
Rhianna was a little shocked. They knew her name, which meant that they were expected. She gave her husband a sharp look of suspicion, but it didn't dampen her expectation any.
"You made good time, Mr. Anderson. I was told to expect you a little later," said the woman.
"It was good of you to be open at all; I understand this is beyond your regular hours?"
"It was the only way to fit you in on such short notice; we have a waiting list a month long. But then Larry is a special friend, and we like to accommodate him."
"He is that," Matthew agreed.
Two more women entered the small lobby, and Rhianna noticed a resemblance to the older woman.
"Are you all related?" Rhianna asked.
Raised eyebrows from the women. "She doesn't know?" asked the older woman.
"It's a surprise, but I guess she can find out now."
The woman smiled, she had been in this position many times before. "I see. Well, I suppose I should introduce us. My name is Dr. Rosen, and these are my daughters, Dr. Rosen and Dr. Rosen."
"Excuse me?" Rhianna said, expectation giving way to puzzlement.
"Welcome to the Rosen Clinic."
"Rosen Clinic!" Now Rhianna was getting a little mad. The last place she expected to be taken was a clinic. But then a thought occurred to her and she looked over at Matthew, wondering if he had caught the hints she had been throwing at him lately. "What kind of clinic is this?"
Matthew inclined his head to the elder Rosen.
"Let's go in my office while my daughters get ready, shall we?"
They left the lobby and entered a plush office. Rhianna could still smell paint, and figured that the place had just been remodeled.
"Mrs. Anderson, what we do here is very simple and at the same time rather cutting edge," said Dr. Helga Rosen, and she began to explain the work her clinic did to enrich the sexual experiences of people through the use of devices permanently inserted under the skin, and through other removable devices tailored especially for each individual.
To give Rhianna credit, she did manage to sit still while the doctor explained their discovery of the chemical stimulant in the blood specifically coded to enhance the sexual response of a subject, safely and with no side affects. Rhianna even held her tongue while she was told how the hair-thin devices inserted under her skin could collect that chemical and return it to the blood stream in large doses on command, usually through pressure on the skin above.
Dr. Rosen could see however that the more she explained, the less well received this information was to Rhianna Anderson. In the end she just stopped, waiting for the fireworks.
Quite often men would bring their wives here, hoping for a quick fix to their marriages by fixing their sex lives. And quite often, those marriages were already beyond such fixes, with the couple in question leaving the clinic more apart than ever before. Yet Helga Rosen didn't see that with this couple. There was a strong connection between these people.
But there was still going to be an argument.
The good doctor got out of her chair. "If you need a moment or two to discuss this, I need to check on my daughters anyway. I'll leave you two alone to talk." She made what she thought was a diplomatic exit.
Matthew had also caught the mood of his wife, and he too knew there was going to be a discussion over this. He wasn't wrong.
Rhianna stood up, walked over to him, and slapped him hard across the face.
Matthew took the blow without responding, although his cheek stung like the dickens.
"You bastard!" she said to him. "Who do you think you are? Are you stupid or something? Do you really expect me to lie back and let these people stick their...things...in me?" Rhianna thought back to the last set of 'Implants' she had been forced to endure. Tiny metal objects in her buttocks and feet that prevented her from sitting down or standing with her heels on the floor. All for the amusement of a rather mad pervert on her last case with the FBI. The thought of having something else inserted in her body for the amusement of others repulsed her. "You can't imagine I'd do that again, can you? My GOD, Matthew, you know what I've been through, and yet you still bring me here! How could you be so dumb as to think I would agree to this? Especially just after my father has died! Matthew, how could you?"
"You done now?" Matthew asked.
"No, I'm not done, but maybe we are. You're not the man I thought you were if you expected me to just roll over and do this for you. OH yes, this is for YOU, not me! This is so you can keep me as your fun little sex toy, somebody willing to screw you whenever you want, at your beck and call 24/7. OH yes! You know? This is just like that vial we got on our wedding day, that stuff you used on me every chance you got, to keep me horny and wanting you for days at a time! Well, lookee here, you appear to have found a more permanent solution. Now all you have to do is slap my ass or something, and I'm your obedient little slut! Is that what this is about, Matthew? Is it because sometimes I'm my own person, and not the sex slave you wanted? When we met, you were in the market for a slave, a woman to respond to your every need and not care at all about her own! Is that what you want? We play these games, Matthew, these bondage games that you get off on, and yes, I like them too, but that isn't all I want out of life, Matthew! There is more to life than Masters and sex slaves!"
Rhianna was breathing heavily and she was forcing herself to keep her voice down, although she really wanted to yell in frustration.
Matthew sat, head low for a moment, then he stood up.
Rhianna resented that he had now taken the high ground, forcing her to look up at his face.
"This," he said after a moment, "is for you. For us..."
"For us! Yeah right!" Rhianna said jumping in.
"DON'T INTERRUPT!" Matthew yelled, not caring about his raised voice.
Rhianna froze in surprise.
"This is for us," he went on, "a way for us to connect further, a way for us to be happier together. We are a sexual couple, Rhianna. Sex between us has always been a strong and vital component. And yes, I prefer to include the domination and bondage side of it, because it is how we BOTH get the most enjoyment out of it. Don't shake your head; you know I'm telling the truth.
"Ever since I first met you, I knew that deep down we had this connection, that we were meant to be together and that we were meant to play these roles. Sex slave, submissive, call it what you will, but you naturally defer to me!
"But this isn't about that. I brought you to the clinic on the advice of a friend, with the hopes that the increased pleasures we can get out of our physical relationship would help you recover faster from the death of your father! Yes, I know it sounds screwed up, but believe me when I say that I think it's the best solution for you."
"You're crazy," Rhianna whispered, but she couldn't deny all he said.
"Am I? Tell me you didn't enjoy being my slave in New York. Tell me that you find pleasure in our lovemaking when I take charge. TELL me if there was ONE time when you didn't enjoy the things I did to you, the things we shared!"
Rhianna couldn't, not honestly. "I can't, but what you're planning right now is a bit much, isn't it?"
"Is it? I'm told that this clinic has served hundreds of happy couples; why can't we be one of them?"
Rhianna turned from him. She needed to think. "What if I don't agree?"
"Then we go; we leave and hopefully mend this rift between us some other way."
"So you won't force me? You won't order me to do it?"
"How can I order you?" Matthew asked.
"Because...because there are times when I AM your slave girl, deep down..." Rhianna shuddered, admitting something aloud she hadn't dared to, even to herself.
"I know you are, Pet," Matthew said gently. He came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. He considered it a good sign she didn't shrug them off. "But I also know that you're a strong-minded, independent woman who ultimately makes up her own mind about things. Though even as you say, sometimes I would like very much to have that obedient slave girl, I would much rather have the Rhianna I met and fell in love with, the one I married, the one I hope to grow old with."
"The one you hope to have children with?" Rhianna said without thinking.
Rhianna took a breath, confusion in her mind suddenly settling into clarity. "Children, I want children. At least I would like the chance to be a mother."
"But you can't, can you?" Matthew said stupidly.
"Yes, I can. There is a way despite what...they did to me." She turned to face him. "I want a baby, Matthew; I want us to have a child. My eggs, your sperm, a part of US growing to be a brand new human being. You want this thing the Rosens have; I want a baby!"
Matthew was stunned. He had half expected this would happen at some point, but hadn't expected it so soon.
"Are you sure?" was all he could think to say.
Rhianna stepped forward, her hands on his chest. Her beautiful face looked up at him, her eyes wide, her lips moist and quivering. "Don't you want us to have a child together?" she asked.
How the hell was he to answer THAT one!
Ten minutes later they were talking once more with Helga Rosen, who assured them that the implants they were getting would in no way impede a pregnancy. "If it did, we would be out of business in a flash, because with our help, pregnancies are almost guaranteed!" she quipped.
Rhianna and Matthew looked at each other, and a decision was made.
"You really didn't have to do this, you know," said Matthew Anderson, climbing off the back of the snowmobile that had brought him close to the main gate of the Compound. He was once again dressed in leather and furs, his modern clothing in a dumpster next to the bus station where he and his wife had changed clothes.
"My pleasure, Matthew," replied the driver, Sheriff Kinkade, buttoned up tight in his uniform snowsuit.
Matthew glanced over at the other snowmobile, and he watched Rhianna climb a little gingerly off the machine. He wasn't surprised she was moving carefully; she had several sore spots on some rather tender pieces of her anatomy.
Back at the Rosen Clinic, after final decisions had been made, she had been stripped and given a very thorough examination by the Rosen sisters, both of whom were very good doctors and researchers. In addition to checking out her health, which was good, they also mapped out in exquisite detail Rhianna's erogenous zones, a process that Rhianna found both humiliating and extremely arousing. Some of the areas they marked out on her body interested Matthew immensely, places he hadn't yet tried. He took care to remember those spots.
Then, under local anesthetic, the subcutaneous devices were inserted. All were placed according to the map they had developed, although two additional ones were placed at spots of Matthew's choosing. All were of the pressure sensitive kind, as Matthew and Rhianna could not take a remote back with them, but that was fine by them. These devices, when given the right stimuli, would work just fine, giving Rhianna an extra jolt of sexual bliss.
But it would take a week for them to work; apparently it took that long for them all to get charged up with the chemical they were built to store up for future use.
Again that was fine by Rhianna; it would give her a chance to heal up from all the minor cuts the doctors had to make. Getting off the snowmobile, she felt like she had paper cuts all over her body.
There had been one more stop for them though, before they left "The Guild" and flew home. Rhianna's surgery had required her to have her wedding bands removed from her wrists, for that was where the extra devices had been planted. Matthew wanted to see if the mere act of tying her wrists would make the devices work and make her horny. But the bands needed to be replaced before they went home, so they stopped at the shop of another Guild merchant, a leather worker from the look of his place, and the owner, a nice man named Amud, sewed the leather wrists bands back on Rhianna with such skill that it looked like they had never been taken off.
Now they were home, and the Sheriff and his son Sean had volunteered to bring them up the mountain. Sean had been at the station when the Andersons stopped in. He and his father had talked quite a bit over the last few days since their time on the mountain. It was time well spent, because both had found a way to strengthen their connection to each other. Sean no longer thought his father to be out of touch about the way things were. What Sean had seen had convinced him that the world was not a place that owed him anything just because he was alive. An arrogant attitude that Sean had carried with him for several years was now gone, tempered by reality.
His father saw a boy changed for the better, but didn't know how. Gone was the condescending attitude toward the people of the Compound, and gone was his son's careless approach to life. It was as if he had seen something up there that shocked him into the 'here and now' rather than the dream world Sean usually appeared to be in. Before, Sean's only plan for life was to ride an athletic scholarship to college and into pro-sports. He wouldn't listen to Kinkade's pleas that he learn other things as a back up. But since he got back, the boy had actually been opening some of the textbooks scattered about his room.
Kinkade wondered if it was too late for his oldest son, but was determined to help him try. He was also surprised to find out that Sean was willing to let him help!
One more big change though, was Sean's admission of guilt for the photographs he had taken. Not only had he expressed remorse over taking them, but he also voluntarily turned over more hidden prints plus all the negatives, and in front of his father had destroyed them.
Kinkade put THIS down to spending the night with Paul Anderson's daughter and her boyfriend. Apparently he had learned what was true and what wasn't about this special community, and finally saw them as people. Kinkade wished he could get the rest of the town to see them that way as well!
What Sean didn't do however, was reveal who else was involved. Given his son's newfound sense of responsibility to others, Kinkade didn't press too hard on Sean's refusal to part with that information. 'One step at a time', he thought.
Kinkade didn't want to make anything official out of it, but he did want his son punished for the pictures, no matter how sorry the boy was about them. So Kinkade set him to community service several hours a week, cleaning up around the station house. Hours that the boy used to use to go running off with his friends.
Sean took the punishment well, and seemed glad for the penance.
That's why he happened to be at the Sheriff's office when Matthew and Rhianna showed up, and the Sheriff used the opportunity as an excuse to go up to the Compound. He wanted to ask Carlo and Lilly what had happened up there.
Sean wasn't quite so happy about making the trip, not because of the Compound, but because of whom he was taking.
He hoped the woman hadn't recognized him, but he had been one of the kids tormenting her by the lake a few months back, and had narrowly missed being one of the guys she kicked in the crotch. Having her sit behind him, her arms around him on the long ride up here, had been nerve-wracking!
Rhianna climbed off the sled and thanked the teenager for the ride. She thought him a handsome young man, but not a cheerful one. He looked to her like he had recently gone through something traumatic, but she had no idea what. He also looked somewhat familiar, but Rhianna put it down to his close resemblance to his father.
The boy nodded at her thanks but otherwise kept his eyes on his dad; he seemed to want to avoid looking directly at Rhianna. She shrugged and went over to her husband.
"We could have walked in from the road," Matthew was saying to the Sheriff.
"Not in this weather; besides, I owe you people one."
"You do?" asked Matthew puzzled.
"Matthew!" yelled a voice from the gate. It was Paul. He had come out to meet the Sheriff, and was surprised to see his younger brother.
"Hey Paul!" Matthew replied, "Did we miss anything?"
Paul walked over and the men shook hands. He had a few answers he could have given his brother, but instead he gave the only one he felt prepared to. Paul knew a lot about what had been going on over those critical days, but even he didn't know all that had gone on in the grotto. Neither Lilly nor Carlo would talk about it, although they did confirm what Robert Klink had told him when he pressed them. Whatever it was, it had affected them both deeply; deep enough that in Paul's eyes it forged a link between them as strong as he had ever seen. It wasn't a surprise then when the next time he saw the two of them together, it was under much more formal conditions.
"Lilly and Carlo decided to get married," Paul said with a smile, "the boy brought her to me, and made a formal proposal and everything!"
"They're a little young, aren't they?" Matthew asked.
"I know, but they both take their test next summer, and if they both pass, they have my blessing. They have it now for all intents and purposes, but another year won't kill them."
For the Compound, the age of consent was linked to passing the test.
"Well, congratulations, I guess we missed a lot!"
Then Rhianna came up and Paul greeted her with a hug.
"You okay?" Paul asked her. "You could have stayed home longer; how's your father?"
"He...passed on, while we were there," Rhianna replied.
"I'm sorry," Paul said with genuine concern, "you'll have to tell me stories about him. I'd like to have known the man who raised my favorite sister in law!"
Rhianna smiled softly.
Kinkade and Sean had both joined the group by this time, and Paul invited the two town men in for supper, as it was mealtime in the Compound. Kinkade accepted, and he and Sean followed Paul inside.
Rhianna held Matthew back, stopping outside in the cold night air until they were alone. Matthew turned to look at her, searching her face under her cloak's hood.
"You okay?" he asked tenderly.
In reply, she embraced him, her head against his chest.
Matthew held her for a little while, wondering what was going on in her head. He could feel her crying softly, her sobs echoing against his chest. He could feel the tip of his nose going numb in the cold, but patiently waited for her to be done.
Eventually Rhianna stopped and stood back, wiping her face with her gloved hands. "I'm sorry," she said.
"Hey, it's okay. You can cry on me anytime. Do you want to talk about it?"
"It's just...well, thinking of the future, you know?" she said, none too clearly.
"Having a baby?" Matthew asked, understanding her all the same.
Rhianna nodded. "I want to talk to Gabe about it soon, tomorrow."
Matthew smiled. "Okay, now let's go in before we freeze."
Rhianna smiled, and her husband took her hand. As they opened the nearest hut entrance, they heard the howl of a wolf echoing against the mountainsides.
Matthew stopped to listen for a moment. "A lonely sound, isn't it?" he said.
"With you, I'm never lonely," Rhianna replied. And she took his
hand and led him inside.
The End of This Story.
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