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Fanfiction: The Ex Factor - Part III

For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

 

Part 6


Caitlin put her coffee cup down and smiled at Tom across the table. ‘That was lovely.’

‘I’m sorry for bending your ear all night.’ Tom said with a rueful smile. ‘You always were easy to talk to.’

She waved his gratitude away. ‘It was my pleasure.’

‘So have you decided on a wedding date?’ Tom gestured at the ring.

Caitlin touched it a little embarrassed and nodded. ‘February. I’m sorry I didn’t know how to broach it…’

‘Your folks told me.’ Tom said. ‘Actually it’s why I’m here in LA. I wanted to…tell you how I felt before you married Hawke.’

‘Tom…’ Caitlin said uncertainly.

‘I love you.’ Tom sat back. ‘There I said it.’

‘Tom, you don’t love me.’ Caitlin said. ‘You don’t even know me.’

‘And he does?’ Tom asked. ‘I’d be good to you, Caitlin. You know that.’

‘You’re a good man, Tom, but this…’ she gestured at the two of them, ‘is never going to happen. I love Hawke.’ Even when we’re having problems, she silently added.

Tom nodded reluctantly. ‘It was worth a try.’

She glanced at her watch. ‘I should be getting back to the airfield.’

‘It’s pretty late. You’re not working at this time surely?’ Tom said gesturing for the waiter to bring the bill.

‘No,’ Caitlin said laughing, ‘but I do have an early start. I’ll bunk in the hangar.’ Hawke had called her earlier; she was heading to Vegas first thing in the morning with the Lady.

‘You’re kidding.’ Tom handed the waiter his credit card and refused Caitlin’s offer of a contribution. ‘This was my treat.’

‘Thank you.’

‘You’re really sleeping in the hangar?’ Tom asked incredulous.

‘We often have early calls particularly for the movies so there’s no point in going all the way out to the cabin.’

‘Movies.’ Tom repeated. ‘It all sounds so glamorous.’

‘Yeah.’ Caitlin said her fingers brushing against her bruise self-consciously.

‘Well let me escort you back at least.’

‘There’s no need.’ Caitlin said. ‘I have my car.’ She paused whilst Tom signed the credit card slip and took back possession of his card. ‘I can drop you at your hotel?’

‘No. I’m only up the road. I think I might walk, get some fresh air and clear my head.’ Tom said. He got to his feet and helped her with her chair.

Caitlin rose to her feet and took the arm he offered her to walk out to the front of the restaurant. She handed the valet her ticket before turning back to Tom. ‘It was a lovely evening.’

‘Would it be too much to ask for one kiss?’

Caitlin leaned forward and kissed his cheek. She forced a smile and told herself not to let Tom’s announcement and a small, insignificant kiss ruin the evening. She saw her car with relief. ‘Enjoy your travels, Tom.’ He escorted her into her car and she waved him goodbye as she pulled away.

Caitlin was glad to get back to the airfield and she parked the car in front of the hangar. She unlocked the side door to the hangar and made her way in darkness back through to the office. She switched the small desk lamp on and reached for the post. She hadn’t had a chance to check it yet and Hawke’s plan depended on the small book Rowan had posted to him being there. She hunted through the stack of envelopes and her hands settled on a small package addressed to Hawke. She tore it open and reached inside. She felt the smooth lines of the small black leather booklet and pulled it out. She flicked through the pages seeing row on row of numbers. She shook her head as she added the figures up; it looked like Gough had taken a lot more than ten million. Her eyes caught on a sheet of paper still stuck in the envelope. She hesitated before she pulled it out. She held the single white sheet of folded paper for a long moment debating whether to open it or not. She put it down on the desk. Really, it was a private note from Rowan to Hawke; she had no right to read it. Her head shot up at a clattering sound from the hangar.

Caitlin frowned. She’d forgotten to lock the hangar door after her…she reached into her handbag and brought out her gun. She removed the safety and silently moved out of the office and into the dark hangar. The darkness gave her an advantage and moved swiftly to the source of the sound. A wrench had fallen from a worktable near one of the choppers that was in for maintenance. She crouched beside the chopper and scanned the shadows. Her eyes caught a faint movement and she moved to intercept the intruder without conscious thought.

She rounded the corner with her gun pointed; there was nothing there. She frowned and in that instant a body tackled her from the side, sending her sprawling to the ground. The gun was flung from her grasp and she struggled breathless against the weight pinning her in place. Her assailant whacked her head against the ground but even dazed some inner urgency kept her resisting as his arm fell across her shoulders. She struggled wildly, trying to get leverage, trying to dislodge her attacker as he splayed her legs with a purposeful intent. She bucked and twisted as he grabbed at her skirt shoving it upwards. Just as she felt the touch of his fingers and she managed somehow to thrust her knee up hard between their bodies.

There was a muffled cry and she shoved him hard to get him off her. She lurched across the hangar floor and grabbed her gun. She was turning and aiming even as he came after her…

There was a shot and the body jerked and fell to the floor. Caitlin’s eyes shot to the doorway. Marella stood there with her gun firmly held, her dark eyes glittered dangerously. ‘Meryl!’

The other agent came running from the limo.

‘Get a clean up crew.’ Marella ordered.

Caitlin felt her legs wobble and she lowered herself to the ground as the hangar lights were snapped on. She blinked against the sudden glare and suddenly found Marella was beside her.

‘Are you OK?’ Marella asked. She’d put the gun away and knelt beside Caitlin tentatively noting the ripped blouse and torn skirt.

Caitlin nodded.

‘Caitlin, did he…?’ Marella found she couldn’t complete the sentence.

Caitlin hastily shook her head. ‘No, he only managed to paw at me a little. I’m OK. Really.’ She still shuddered in reaction; she knew exactly how close the intruder had come to raping her.

Marella nodded. She rose and headed over to the body. She grabbed the ski mask the man wore and pulled it up to reveal his face. ‘Harold Gayling.’ She looked over at Caitlin. ‘When you sent me the names earlier, I did some checking. There were a number of calls from SecOp to Santini Air; all short in duration. He started Friday; does that mean anything to you?’

Caitlin’s eyes widened. ‘The phone creep.’

Marella nodded. ‘He has a history of violence against women. I think he figured he’d grab this book of Rowan’s and have a little fun when he realised there was a woman here.’

‘How did they track the book here so fast?’ Caitlin asked.

‘It has to be Rowan.’ Marella said. ‘Either they must have watched her post the package and had somebody close enough to her to read the label or she told them.’ She gestured. ‘Do you have the book?’

Caitlin nodded. ‘It’s in the office.’ She rose slowly to her feet and led the way. She handed the book to Marella.

The agent flipped through the pages. ‘Swiss bank account, one in the Cayman Islands, another in the Caribbean and details of all the transactions. Gough was one busy man.’ She looked at Caitlin. ‘We can’t hand this back to him. It’s too valuable.’

‘But Allie…’

‘We can make a copy.’ Marella said.

‘By tomorrow morning?’

Marella nodded.

‘Good because Hawke’s plan kinda depends on having it.’ Caitlin rubbed her forehead tiredly.

‘You stay in here.’ Marella gestured at the hangar. ‘I’ll deal with everything out there.’

‘Thanks, Marella.’ Caitlin smiled at the other woman gratefully and sank into her chair.

Part 7

Hawke sat back in the driver’s seat and took the turning to the abandoned airfield on the outskirts of Vegas where they had decided to meet for the rendezvous. Caitlin had called him that morning and told him that Gayling had made a play for the book the night before. His gut tightened. He had a feeling she’d underplayed what had happened; thank God Marella had turned up. The agent was accompanying Caitlin to Vegas. She’d help them and liaise with the FBI and State Treasury Department once they got the girl back safely. He drew up next to the helicopter where Caitlin and Marella stood ready to greet them; Caitlin in the usual Airwolf uniform; Marella was dressed for undercover work in a dark pant suit rather than the all white dress traditional of Michael’s division of the FIRM.

Hawke walked swiftly over to Caitlin. He pulled her into a hug and ran his eyes over her. ‘You OK?’

‘Better now.’ She confirmed and hugged him back.

‘Did he hurt you?’

Caitlin shook her head. She’d sworn Marella to secrecy on the attempted rape and she trusted the other woman would keep her word. ‘I’m just bruised.’

Hawke nodded and turned to Marella. ‘Thank you.’

Marella nodded in acknowledgement and Hawke made the introductions as Dom and Rowan joined them.

‘So still no Michael?’ Hawke asked the FIRM agent.

‘Still in Washington.’ Marella explained. ‘Hopefully I will suffice.’

‘Always.’ Dom said with a laugh. ‘In fact, an improvement!’

‘Let’s get you both filled in on the situation.’ Hawke said and proceeded to tell them the information they had gathered.

‘So you think Allie is in this building downtown?’ Caitlin verified.

‘We need to confirm that.’ Hawke said. ‘We can do a quick surveillance check in Airwolf and see what kind of security they have.’

‘Do we know when the exchange is to be made?’ Marella asked.

Rowan rubbed her arms. ‘He wanted me to give the book to him at the air show at ten pm once it closes for the night. He said he’d take the book and once he checked it out, then he’d call me and tell me where to get my sister.’ She sighed. ‘He’s going to kill us both isn’t he?’

‘He’s going to be disappointed.’ Hawke assured her.

Marella pulled a small black book from her handbag and handed it to Hawke. It looked identical to the one Rowan had sent to the airfield.

‘We can’t use this now.’ Rowan said. ‘Gough is going to check the information out before he gives me Allie.’

‘It could still come in useful but we’re not waiting for that.’ Hawke said. ‘With Gough and probably one of his men at the air show ready to take the book from you, we’ll have an opportunity to grab Allie. There’ll probably be two men left behind to guard her.’

‘So,’ Caitlin continued, ‘we need one team at the air show to take down Gough and an accomplice; one team at the office to spring Allie.’

Hawke nodded. ‘Domino sequence; team A will confirm Gough is at the show…’

‘Team B swoops and grabs Allie; confirms success to team A.’ Caitlin continued.

‘Who take out Gough.’ Marella concluded.

‘Works for me.’ Dom noted.

Hawke looked at Caitlin. ‘We need to split into teams.’

‘Pretty obvious who goes with who.’ She said. ‘Airwolf needs to cover Gough and his sidekick at the air show; that would be you and Dom.’ Caitlin shrugged. ‘Marella and I both have training in hostage recovery. We’ll be team B.’ She didn’t mention her fear that given her own experience with Gayling, the kidnapped girl might have been raped and that a female team would be better able to comfort her.

‘What about me?’ Rowan asked.

Hawke sighed. ‘You stay here.’

‘No way. I’m not staying here. She’s my sister.’ Rowan’s eyes flashed at him angrily. ‘I’m not staying out of it this time. You said I would get my chance to help.’

‘You can’t be at the building,’ Marella pointed out, ‘if Gough spots you it would blow the plan.’

Rowan gave Hawke a beseeching look.

‘Fine.’ Hawke said. ‘You’ll come with Dom and me.’ He glanced over at Caitlin who avoided his gaze. He sighed again. ‘Let’s go over this plan in detail.’

Part 8


Caitlin checked her watch again and took a sip of coffee from a cardboard cup. She peered out of the windshield at the entrance of the office building. She and Marella had parked a bit further down the street in the other woman’s rental car. Marella sat in the driver’s seat with a similar cup of coffee in her hands. The FIRM satellite phone sat between them ready to be used for the check-ins with Airwolf. Caitlin sighed and rolled her shoulders trying to get past her unease of Hawke spending even more time with his ex.

‘You know I’m not sure I could be as understanding as you.’ Marella commented. She was a little concerned at how quiet Caitlin was.

Caitlin glanced over at Marella to find her looking at her sympathetically. Caitlin smiled tightly and returned her gaze to the building. ‘To be honest I’m not sure my understanding is going to last much longer.’

‘I know I wouldn’t have lasted as long as you.’ Marella murmured.

Caitlin sighed. ‘You know Dom teased Hawke for a whole month about what happened with Rowan last year. I always wanted to see what she was like, why she had got his attention.’ She bit her lip. ‘And now I know.’

‘She reminds me of you.’

Caitlin’s head swivelled round to meet Marella’s dark eyes in shock. ‘You’re not serious.’ She shifted in the seat and looked back at the building.

‘I am.’ Marella said. ‘Personally I think he was attracted to her because of her similarity to you.’

Caitlin laughed. ‘Thank you for the idea but you and I both know that’s not true. I mean she’s very pretty and I’m…’

‘Selling yourself short.’ Marella interrupted. ‘Hawke found you attractive from the moment you guys met just as you found him attractive. It just took you both an age to admit it to one another.’

Caitlin chewed on her bottom lip. ‘There was a letter with the book when she sent it to Hawke. It kinda freaked me out.’

‘Why?’

‘It was all about how she’d made a mistake walking away from him, how she’d realised that she was in love with him and how she needed his help.’

‘Oh.’ Marella frowned.

‘I mean I might not have minded too much about helping her although I can’t say I was exactly thrilled that my fiancé was spending so much time alone with one of his exes before I read the letter…’

‘But she wrote the letter before she knew about you.’ Marella gestured. ‘Now she knows she probably isn’t going to tell Hawke about her feelings if that’s the real truth of them.’

‘You don’t think it is?’

‘I think she was scared and she needed someone. Hawke rescued her once before so it was natural for her to turn to him.’ Marella took a gulp of coffee. ‘She walked away for a reason.’

‘I think that’s the other thing bothering me.’ Caitlin admitted. ‘It was her who originally walked away not him.’

‘That was then. You have to know Hawke would never cheat on you.’ Marella was incredulous that Caitlin could think otherwise.

‘I know.’ Caitlin said defensively. She sighed. ‘I guess I’m just a little freaked out by it all.’

‘It’s not surprising.’ Marella said comfortingly. ‘It’s one thing to check an ex out, quite another to have your fiancé spend a couple of days with her alone.’

‘Yeah.’

‘He loves you. That’s the important thing.’

Caitlin fingered her engagement ring and smiled at Marella. She appreciated the other woman’s attempt to comfort her. Although their relationship was pretty much defined by their connection through Michael and Hawke, it was nice, she realised, to feel like she had a female friend to turn to.

‘I seem to be thanking you a lot lately.’ Caitlin said.

‘No problem.’ Marella smiled back before her eyes jerked forward, caught by a movement at the building entrance. ‘Hey, here we go.’ Gough was leaving along with Binn.

‘I’ll call it in,’ confirmed Caitlin reaching for the satellite phone. It only took a few moments to connect to Airwolf and confirm the game was afoot. They left the car as soon as the call was made and walked quickly over to the office building. They entered through the front entrance. They drew their guns as soon as they were inside. The SecOp office was on the third floor; they took the stairs. They flattened themselves along the poorly lit corridor and took positions on either side of the door marked ‘SecOp’. Marella gave the count on her hand. They went in together; one high, one low. Caitlin shot one guard before he could bring his own gun to bear. He fell to the floor clutching his arm. The other guard had been positioned behind the door and he tackled Marella before she could aim. They rolled over the floor. She karate chopped his arm and he cried out. She threw him off her and stamped down on his groin. He shrieked and doubled over, moaning.

‘That’s a move that never grows old.’ Caitlin said.

Marella nodded. ‘I’ve got these covered.’

Caitlin made her way into the inner office. Allie’s eyes opened wide at the sight of her. Caitlin made her way quickly over and undid the gag.

‘Don’t worry. We’re here to get you out.’ She said.

‘Are you the police?’ Allie asked as Caitlin untied her hands and feet.

‘We’re friends of your sister.’ Caitlin said. She helped the young girl to her feet. ‘Come on. Let’s get out of here.’

Part 9

‘You really think Caitlin and Marella can get Allie out?’ Rowan asked worriedly.

‘Those two?’ Dom laughed from his position at the engineer’s console. ‘I tell you there’s nothing that’ll stop those two once they’ve got their minds set on something.’

‘Caitlin used to a cop. Marella’s an experienced agent.’ Hawke said ignoring his own worry about the fact that the two women would be going into save Allie without any back-up.

Rowan sighed. ‘I hope this works.’

‘It’ll work.’ Hawke glanced across the cockpit at her.

She smiled a little at the confidence gleaming in his blue eyes.

They waited in silence for a few minutes before Dom picked up on an approaching vehicle. It stopped in the car park. Hawke checked the time. Gough and his man were early. Hopefully, it would give them the time to get Allie.

They waited anxiously for the confirmation from Caitlin that they had rescued the young girl.

‘They’re getting restless down there, String.’ Dom noted.

‘Yeah.’ Hawke peered out at the two men pacing around the car. He considered their options. ‘I’m going to put down and get out. Stall them with the fake book.’

‘String…’ Dom started to protest but Hawke was already landing behind the food tent. ‘This is a bad idea…’

‘As soon as you get the call from Caitlin, you can fly in and rescue me.’

‘Us.’ Rowan took her helmet off too.

‘No. Me.’ Hawke said. ‘You’re staying here.’

‘Like hell.’

‘Neither of you should be going.’ Dom said. He sighed. They were already gone, running towards the car park. He moved to the front and took Airwolf back up.

Hawke pulled Rowan to a stop just before the car park. ‘Follow my lead.’ He ordered. She nodded. They started forward again.

The two men were about to get back into their car.

Gough, a bald well built man in his forties, turned as they approached. He motioned to Binn and the two of them took position in front of the car. The headlights cast two white beams across the empty lot.

‘Rowan,’ Gough folded his arms and stared at her, ‘you’re cutting it awfully close.’

‘Traffic,’ answered Hawke.

‘And you would be?’ Gough asked his eyes moving to meet Hawke’s.

‘The man with something you want.’ Hawke reached into the leg pocket of his flight suit and brought out the imitation book. He held it up.

Gough smiled. ‘Binn, get the book.’

‘Not so fast.’ Hawke reached behind him and took his gun from where he’d stowed it at the small of his back. He levelled it on Gough.

Gough looked at Rowan who was watching Hawke nervously. ‘What the hell is going on here Rowan? You want to get your sister killed.’

‘Actually she’s not bothered.’ Hawke said before Rowan could answer. ‘She hasn’t seen her sister in years. She means nothing to her.’

‘Then why is she here?’ Gough spread his arms expansively.

‘There’s a lot of money in this little black book.’ Hawke waved it. ‘We want some.’

Gough laughed falsely. ‘No deal.’

There was a scream of engines and Airwolf descended out of the night sky. Both Gough and Binn took off, drawing weapons. Gough got a couple of shots off at Rowan who screamed as they hit the ground in front of her feet.

Hawke pulled her to the ground and returned fire. ‘Stay here. Stay down.’ He yelled at her. He ran after Gough who was making for the air show.

Binn ran for the car. Dom hit the chain guns and the man sensibly changed directions but went instead after Hawke. Dom brought Airwolf back down in front of him. Binn tried shooting at the helicopter and was hit by a ricochet off her armour. He fell to the ground. Dom lifted up and went looking for Hawke.

Airwolf was leaving the parking lot when Caitlin swung the car into the entrance. She slammed the brakes on and jumped out. Marella and Allie got out of the car; the agent caught the younger girl before she could run forward.

Caitlin ran over to Rowan and helped her up, supporting her with an arm around her shoulder. ‘You OK?’ She asked the other woman who was very pale.

Rowan nodded.

‘Which direction did they go in?’ Caitlin asked.

Rowan pointed. ‘Over there.’

Caitlin gestured at Allie and Marella. ‘Go and join your sister. Marella will protect you both.’ She took off before Rowan answered. Rowan watched her go in disbelief and took a deep breath. She ran over to her sister and the two hugged.

Hawke had chased Gough into a display of old WWII planes. The place was almost in complete darkness with wings and struts casting creepy shadows in the minimal neon light from the nearby Las Vegas strip. Hawke was moving slowly, keeping low, his eyes and ears scanning for Gough. A bullet struck the plane beside him and he went straight down into a crouch, staring in the direction of the shot. He couldn’t make out a shape and moved backward.

He heard the whine of the Airwolf engines circling overhead.

‘Dom, I hope you’re scanning on audio,’ he said in a low voice getting into a position behind a wheel hoping it would cover him, ‘if you can hear me, I need some lights here.’

The display was flooded with light as Dom followed Hawke’s instructions. He scanned the area and froze. Gough smiled and pointed the gun directly at him. The other man had a clear shot and Hawke would never be able to bring his gun to aim in time. A shot rang out and hit the plane where Gough stood, the other man ducked and took off. Hawke’s eyes flew to the shooter who was running up to him and didn’t know whether to be furious or grateful. Caitlin grabbed his arm and helped him to his feet.

‘He went in that direction.’ She said. They started to follow Gough out of the display. He was heading for a light plane at the far end of the air show. It was open space between them and him.

Hawke grabbed Caitlin. ‘Let him get in the air. We can take him there.’

She nodded, breathless.

Dom was already landing Airwolf in front of them. They climbed in as Dom moved back to the engineer console. Hawke took Airwolf up fast.

‘Gough is in the plane that has just taken off directly ahead.’ Dom said.

Hawke called for the turbos and flew ahead of the plane. He turned around to face the oncoming aircraft; hovering, waiting. He slipped the visor down on his helmet. He almost didn’t need the target lock. He shot the plane out of the sky over the open air show runway where the wreckage could fall harmlessly.

Hawke brought Airwolf down to land in the parking lot. Rowan and Allie were stood arm in arm; Marella stood by the boot of her car, the satellite phone pressed to her ear. Two white sedans were pulling into the parking lot and Marella went to meet the agents as they got out.

Hawke yanked the helmet off. His eyes snapped to Caitlin.

‘You OK?’ He asked.

‘OK.’ Caitlin said smiling at him and removing her own helmet. ‘Although, would you mind if we just went home now?’

‘I think that’s a great idea.’ Hawke sighed seeing Allie and Rowan approaching. They all clambered out of Airwolf.

‘Thank you!’ Allie exclaimed and threw herself at Caitlin who staggered back and hugged her.

‘My pleasure!’ Caitlin assured her laughing.

Rowan used the distraction to throw her own arms around Hawke. ‘Thank you.’ She murmured into his ear.

Hawke gave her the briefest of hugs before he stepped back from her and almost into Airwolf in his eagerness to be out of her reach. Caitlin and Allie separated. Hawke hooked his arm around his fiancé and pulled her against him.

Rowan saw the move and met Hawke’s eyes ruefully. She put her own arm around her sister.

Hawke pointed at Marella walking towards them. ‘Marella is going to help you get everything put right with the authorities. Help you get to wherever you need to go next.’

Rowan nodded and glanced at her sister. ‘I think maybe we have a lot of catching up to do.’

Allie smiled up at her in response.

Marella joined them. ‘You three,’ she said indicating the Airwolf team, ‘had better leave. The FIRM has taken everyone into custody at the SecOp office and the local police will be here shortly. The FIRM will see to everything. Just get her home.’ Her head jerked towards Airwolf.

‘Thanks for your help Marella.’ Hawke said with a smile.

Marella smiled back and nodded a farewell. She put a hand on Rowan’s arm. ‘Shall we?’

‘Well, I guess this is it.’ Rowan said to Hawke.

‘Take care, Rowan.’ He didn’t move towards her and she nodded sharply, disappointed. Allie tugged her hand and she allowed her to pull her after Marella.

Dom got back into Airwolf. Hawke sighed and hugged Caitlin closer. She framed his face in her hands and kissed him.

‘What was that for?’ Hawke murmured.

She shrugged, not wanting to reveal that she’d been pleased at his low key farewell to Rowan.

He smiled and kissed her. Neither noticed Rowan’s glance back over her shoulder or her look of regret.

‘Are you kids coming or what?’ Dom yelled sounding thoroughly disgruntled.

Hawke and Caitlin broke apart; they both started smiling as they climbed back aboard and took off.

It was late by the time Hawke landed the chopper on the landing pier. The cabin was shrouded in darkness. He took off the headset and ran a hand through his hair, rubbing over his face trying to dispel the fatigue weighing his eyes down. He nudged Caitlin who was asleep in the seat next to him. She opened her eyes and looked around her.

‘We’re home?’ She asked.

‘We’re home.’ He confirmed wearily.

They staggered out of the helicopter and into the cabin where Tet greeted them with a happy bark. Caitlin set a fire blazing in the bedroom hearth whilst Hawke headed for the bathroom. She reached into her jeans and took out Rowan’s letter to Hawke. She set the folded paper on top of the flames and watched it burn.

Hawke wandered in and kicked off his shoes. He was beginning to wonder at Caitlin’s fascination with the fire when she got to her feet and went out to the bathroom. He was in bed when she came back into the room. She climbed under the covers and switched off the lights.

Hawke closed the distance between them and slid his arms around her. She flinched and he stopped. ‘Cait?’

‘Your hands are cold.’ Caitlin explained quickly pushing her instinctive reaction away; she wasn’t going to let what had happened with Gayling come between them. She reached up and cupped his cheek before she kissed him. They settled into the pillows, their arms around each other, content to simply hold each other.

‘You never told me how your dinner with Tom went.’ Hawke said after a while.

‘Oh you know, the usual.’ Caitlin murmured. ‘We caught up on family, friends. He told me about his trip around the world. He kinda announced that he loved me.’

‘He what?’ Hawke shifted to look at her again.

‘He told me he loved me.’

‘And what did you say?’ Hawke wondered at the nerves that sharpened his voice and knotted his stomach.

‘I told him it wasn’t ever going to happen.’ Caitlin smiled at him. ‘You see I’m getting married…’

His fingers stroked her arm lightly. ‘I’m not sure I would have been able to let you help Tom the same way you let me help Rowan.’ He admitted.

Her fingers tangled with his. ‘I have to admit,’ she said, ‘seeing you with her so much…it wasn’t an easy experience. I kinda got the impression she regretted walking away from you last year.’

Hawke didn’t know what to say; his fingers rubbed hers.

Caitlin looked down at their linked hands. ‘Do you regret it?’

‘How can you even ask me that?’ Hawke said and nudged her chin up so she was looking at him.

‘I know you were disappointed last year…’ Caitlin began.

‘Yeah last year.’ Hawke said. He sighed. He knew it was his fault she had doubted him. ‘I’m sorry. I know I’ve been acting like a jerk.’

Caitlin’s fingers brushed the fringe from his eyes. ‘The stunt?’

‘Yeah.’ Hawke looked at the understanding in her eyes and wondered at it. ‘Everything was going so great and then you were hurt…’ He tightened his hold on her.

‘You have to stop pushing me away every time I have a close call.’ Caitlin said. She stroked a hand down his cheek. ‘I can’t stand the thought of losing you either.’

‘You won’t lose me.’ Hawke said quietly.

Caitlin smiled. ‘I was beginning to wonder.’

His eyes searched hers. ‘You know spending the time with Rowan didn’t make me wonder about what might have been but I will admit that seeing so much of her made me realise something else…’

‘What?’ Caitlin asked trying to sound unconcerned and ignoring the worry that fluttered in her belly.

His eyes gazed into hers seriously. ‘How incredibly lucky I am to have you,’ he kissed her softly, ‘and how much I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ He kissed her deeply and raised his head briefly. ‘Are we done talking about this?’

‘We’re done.’ Her lips were curving when he kissed her again.

fin.

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