It was as hazy as a Scottish moor outside when Sam peeked through the blinds of his motel room window. He yawned, scratched his chest, and tried to figure out what time it was while scoping the quiet room for any signs that an invasion had taken place over the night hours. When that produced no new sights, his left hand reached across the chilly, cheap motel sheets and groped in search of his discarded Rolex.
Instead, he met soft, feminine flesh and the odor of freshly-smoked Marlboros. “Jesus!” the lump in the blankets beside him leapt awake, pulling his arm hard, wrenching it enough to make Sam holler and yank her across the mattress in the desperate hope of getting loose.
Her eyes met his when he shouted her name. “Sam?” she let go of his flesh with a huff. “What are you trying to do?”
“Find out the time,” he said lamely. He remembered instantly what they were doing in the same bed, and why they were in the middle of the Okeefenokee hiding out in a fleabag motel that barely had decent cable. Columbian drug runners were on their tales, and with Mike, Fi and Jesse on a mercy mission to Venezuela it was up to Sam to keep Maddy safe.
And she naturally wasn’t going to make it easy for him. Grabbing her own watch from the nightstand with an expression of pure disdain, she said, “it’s four o’clock…” Her eyes widened and she lept out of bed with surprising spryness. “It’s four o’clock! Why did you let me sleep so late?”
“Woah, cool it, Mad,” he said, reaching over the side of the bed for his jeans. “It’s not like we can go anywhere. Carmelo’s got trackers out there looking for us everywhere, the best thing to do is stay put.”
“Like a couple of sitting ducks?”
Sam held up the scanner he’d fallen asleep listening to. “More like ducks with supersonic hearing.”
Madeline had already lit her first cigarette of the evening, and she took a long, satisfying drag of it while Sam replaced the batteries in his little secret weapon. He watched her, sitting there in her ‘welcome to Florida’ sleep shirt, as she glanced around the room and scooted herself back up against the headboard.
“It’s one hell of a place, Sam,” she said dryly.
“Thanks. The rat shit in the corner adds a nice touch.” Maddie snickered as she got up and turned on the TV. She found a talk show and Sam spent a few minutes scanning the airwaves.
Nothing. After a couple of tries, he gave up and reached for his cell. “Want dinner?”
She nodded. “Chinese – a number six from Mister Wong’s.”
“Like we had last night?”
She turned back toward the screen. “It’s amazing how many of these shows are just the same damn thing over and over again,” she said, apparently to no one.
They sat down on the bed with their dinners, Sam having popped in and out of the package store across the street to pick up some beer for the two of them. The TV buzzed in the background, along with the low murmur of conversation pouring in from Sam’s scanner.
He held up the beer and a dixie cup and shot glass and smirked. “Hey Maddie, want to…”
She read his mind. “I’m not doing quarters with you, Sam.”
He frowned. “But…”
“No,” she said firmly. “We can’t get drunk. I can’t believe you are.”
“Isn’t that a good sign?” he teased her, leaning closer.
“Oh God,” she huffed, waving a hand in front of his mouth. “How much did you have while I was in the bathroom?”
“Just a half a glass,” he grinned. “You look great, Mad.”
She wrinkled her nose at him. “I’m wearing dirty clothes.”
“You make ‘em look brand-new,” he declared warmly, then smirked and leaned in for a liplock. But Maddie’s palm shot up between their faces and Sam found himself kissing her warm skin. She stared at him gravely. “No,” she said flatly.
His brow furrowed. “No?”
She crossed her arms protectively against her chest and sat back against the mound of pillows she’d used to prop herself up. “How many women have you tried this stuff on?”
He laughed and shrugged. “I’m not trying anything on you,” he said. “You just looked kissable.”
She rolled her eyes. “And that’s an even worse one.” She shook her head. “When was the last time you did this for free?”
“Hey, I’ve had plenty of girlfriends who didn’t pay for my talents! There was….” Sam paused, trying to scratch up a name – but the last one he could remember was that brief fling he’d had with his CO’s wife that had led to the Columbian disaster. He squared his shoulders and declared, scratching the back of his neck, “what does love have anything to do with us? All I wanted was one little kiss.”
She shrugged, tapped the end of her cigarette and rested it against the empty container of G. “I’ve been around enough to know what I want,” she declared. “And I don’t want to go through life pretending to be happy.”
While he chewed on that notion, Madeline spoke up again. “You can’t do it,” she said suddenly.
“I can’t what?” Sam wondered, stabbing his fork through a bamboo shoot.
“Let yourself go.”
He raised an eyebrow but didn’t make a further remark about her assessment. He’d let himself go in so many ways, but he knew the one she meant. “Gotta be more accurate there, Mad.”
“When,” Madeline asked him, quite evenly, “was the last time you let yourself fall in love?”
“Easy,” he said. “Last week I saw this incredible plate of fried cheese curds...”
She rolled her eyes. “You know what I meant.”
“I need a break,” he said, abandoning his glazed ribs with a grunt. He crouched down and pulled a gun out of his ankle holster, handing it to her. “The safety’s on,” he informed her.
He heard a distinctive clicking noise as Madeline tested the mechanism. “Not anymore.”
He left the room to clear his head. Alone at last, Sam inhaled the acrid, tar-scented air and glanced at the thick clouds rolling overhead. Madeline’s words echoed in his mind as he sat back on the stoop. When was the last time he’d fallen in love? Sam tried to wrack his brain for an answer but it all went back to the same face, the same base in Virginia and the same disappointed face. God knew how badly he’d fucked up with Amanda, given her all the room she needed to turn around and climb into bed with Mack. He refused to castigate himself over it. But….
…What was he missing out on? A lifetime of bouncing from woman to woman, building a life on selfish sands instead of one of mutual pleasure? What kind of path was that for a man his age?
One he’d had a lot of fun with. And yet Maddie was worth turning his back on it.
Sam had made his choice before the door to the room opened. Something had changed, and it showed in the way they beheld one another.
It was like walking naked into a lioness’ den.
She watched him with a wariness that was new to them both, yet she made way for him. “Are you ready to talk?”
Sam took a deep breath and nodded as he locked the door behind him.