Here I was living another new life. I was up in the hills overlooking a beautiful snow filled valley far from any touch of civilization. This was my third winter since I disappeared.
I'd better explain a bit. My name is John Martin (this time). My name has changed so many times that I almost forgot what my mother named me when I was born.
I was the usual clueless spouse. My wife of 15 years had been in love with another man, Louie Amico, for longer than we had been married. She had married me to provide the things Louie couldn't, like a home, steady income, and a cover so she could continue to see him.
He was already married to the local crime boss's daughter. The father-in-law didn't care if my wife's lover got "some on the side", but Louie could never hurt his daughter.
I found out about the affair when my daughters were injured in an auto accident. The hospital called me, informed me of the accident. They asked if I could donate one of my organs to help save my younger daughter's life.
After the hospital tested me, they informed me that I couldn't donate. There was no tissue match. I wasn't related to my daughter.
My other daughter was also injured in the accident and was not well enough to stand the stress of donation so we needed to contact my wife.
They tried to reach my wife who was out of town at a two week long conference. They found out that there was no conference, no hotel reservations, and her cell phone was turned off.
My daughter Kim died that weekend.
We were not able to find a donor fast enough.
I had the necessary DNA tests done on my other daughter while she was in the hospital, and as I expected, she was not my child either.
I shared this information with "my" daughter, Angie. She realized that her mother had lied to her for her entire life, and by doing so had caused her sister's death. She asked me to make sure that her mother never saw her again.
She also asked if she could live with me.
Let me back up a bit and tell you about my job.
When I was in the Army, they discovered I had a knack for analyzing data. So I was assigned to the Intelligence section of that branch of service. That was where my real abilities came to the surface. And with those abilities came a visit from the CIA. They offered me a contract job at mega bucks, with the requirement that I not tell anyone what I did.
Well I'd be a fool to pass the offer up, and I became a "spook".
They set it up that I was working for a front company and trained me how to hack into computers. I took to it like a duck to water.
So here I was, 10 years later, one of the best in my field.
My "loving" wife had no idea what I did for a living. All she knew was that I worked in an office and joint checking account never went dry.
I called my CIA boss and explained about the accident, the DNA test results, "my" daughter's subsequent death, and that I needed to disappear or I'd kill my wife when she got home.
I never realized how fast the CIA could work. Three days later my living daughter and I were on a private "Company" jet heading west toward a new life.
My old life was over. The bank accounts, credit cards, 401k just disappeared. There was never an indication my daughter and I ever existed.
One night the home I had lived in and raised my family in also burnt to the ground. These guys eliminated everything. Too bad my cheating wife wasn't home when it burnt.
I can just imagine the expression on my wife's face when she came home. Her cell phone wouldn't work, no one was at the airport to pick her up, and when she finally arrived home, all she found was what was left of the basement.
She was left with exactly what she entered our marriage with, nothing.
My daughter and I were given new identities (John and Julie Martin) and were settled on a ranch in Montana. The house was almost 3000 sq. ft. on 350 acres of some of the most beautiful land I had ever seen.
The house was set up for me to continue my work for the CIA. They kept up the maintenance on it so I could continue with my work.
My cover said I was a writer and needed the peace and quiet to write my novels. My cover also said I was very successful and had money to burn.
My daughter enrolled at a state college and loved it. I missed her company, but my work kept me busy.
Remember I said I was a very good computer hacker? Well somehow all the financial records for Louie's father-in-law, the crime boss, started printing out on all the printers in the FBI's Organized Crime Division. The FBI now knew where to look and went right to work.
One month later all crime organization's assets were seized, a bunch of people were arrested, and a divorce was started. That's right, a divorce between the son-in-law and his wife. It seems that she got a report of all her husband's little affairs over the years along with all his financial records. She even got all the hidden and off shore account numbers too. Her attorney had a field day.
Louie's body was later found in a ditch. My wife was never seen again. I always wondered if she got away in time before the mob found her and killed her.
My daughter never knew what happened to her mother, and she never asked. Her hatred for her mother ran that deep.
My second winter on the ranch was a bear. I was snowed in for weeks at a time. One night I had the outside spotlights on to watch it snow when I noticed a movement at the edge of the light and started to watch it to see what it was. I was nervous that somehow somebody with revenge on their mind had found me.
Well you can imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a very large Timber Wolf. This guy must have weighed at least 150 lbs, and stood 48" tall at the shoulders.
He was big!
But he looked as if he was in trouble.
As I watched I realized that he was in bad need of food. The hard winter was taking its toll on him.
Yesterday I had dragged a "road killed" deer up to my barn to see if there was any meat I might salvage. I made a hasty decision to share the deer with him.
He looked as if he needed it more that I did.
I wasn't exactly stupid. I first turned every outside light that was controlled from the house on. Next I grabbed one of my rifles, and my .50 cal Desert Eagle pistol. I didn't want to be part of the wolf's next meal.
I dragged the dead deer out from the barn and put it where I had last seen the wolf. I then went back into the house, turned off the lights and went to bed.
The next morning the deer was gone.
A couple of weeks later he was back. This time he wasn't pacing back and forth, but just sitting there watching my house.
I had another deer in the meat locker that wasn't very tasty. It was old and tough.
I thought, "What the hell."
I armed myself and went out to the meat locker and grabbed the venison.
When I came out of the meat locker, there he was just sitting about 20 feet from me, watching.
With one hand on my gun, I relocked the meat locker and started dragging the deer away from the house.
He walked with me out to the spot I had left the road kill. He never got closer than about 20 ft to me and always kept the carcass between us. He wasn't aggressive toward me, nor did he appear afraid of me.
It was more like two old friends talking a walk together.
After I dropped the deer, I started backing away, when he just barked at something behind me. I spun my head and found myself eyeball to eyeball with another wolf. The newcomer was standing dead still looking at the other wolf.
My "friend" started making "wolf" noises toward the newcomer. The newcomer suddenly backed away and circled to the large wolf's side. As I watched I realized that the newcomer was a female and probably the mate of my alpha male.
I did what any brave human would do when confronted by two wolves; I got the hell out of there!
As I was backing up, I noticed that they didn't start eating, but working as a team, dragged the deer into the woods.
I emailed my daughter, at school, later that day and explained about the wolf. I told her to call me before coming home so I could make sure the wolves were gone before she arrived.
The wolf visited me a couple of more times that winter. While never really friendly, we reached an understanding. I let him have some meat when he visited and he left me alone.
When he was sitting outside my meat locker, he wanted a hand out. He left me alone the rest of the time.
In all fairness to him, he never came looking for handouts except when the weather was really bad and he couldn't hunt.
And he never asked for more than he could carry.
I was out walking one afternoon, just enjoying the spring air and all the wonders that happened every spring, when I saw my friendly wolf, just watching me.
I was a long way from the house, but I still had my Desert Eagle with me. He sort of "greeted" me in wolf talk.
Not aggressively, but almost friendly.
Then he looked at me and started walking away. When I didn't follow, he came back and did the same ritual.
After he did this a few times, the light went on; he wanted me to follow him.
So off we went, him leading and me following.
About 10 minutes into the woods we stopped at a small clearing, and there was his mate feeding his young. There were two wolf pups with their mother. My alpha male walked over to her and nuzzled and licked her.
It was as if he were showing me his family.
I slowly sat on the ground and just watched. So this is what I was feeding all last winter. I was glad I helped them survive.
Soon the pups were done nursing and started exploring their surroundings. One of them noticed me and wanted to explore what I was.
I remembered the old saying, "Never get between a mother and her offspring."
Let's just say I was more than a little nervous. I figured if I lived through this, I'd still need to change my underwear when I got home.
Then the strangest thing happened. The alpha male came over to me, just lie down and put his head on my leg. The pup walked right over, climbed up on my leg, and went to sleep.
After a few minutes, I started scratching the pup's head very softly. His dad watched every move I made, but never interfered.
An hour later the pup awoke and walked back to his mother, but his dad just stayed with me. My Alpha male put his head back down on my legs and closed his eyes.
He trusted me. I was both honored and scared shitless.
For the rest of the summer, I visited the little family and they visited me. I had new friends.
It was my third year here when a really nasty January blizzard snowed us in. It started one afternoon and kept snowing for the next week. There was at least 4 feet on snow on the ground, and everything was shut down. The wind had made drifts on the road of over 8 feet high.
My house is completely self sufficient. I have generators for electric, in ground oil tanks, propane tanks, satellite phones, and at least a month's food. So I wasn't worried about the storm.
I was watching the storm out one of my windows. There's something about the fury of Mother Nature that just fascinated me.
Then there was my "friend" the alpha male and he was upset. He was banging on my front door. He never came within 50 feet of the house before.
He would walk out of the woods every once in a while. It always appeared as if he was checking on me from time to time. But this time it was different.
He acted as if he needed me in a hurry.
I went to my front door to open it to see if I could figure out what was bothering him. When I opened the door, he just walked in and pushed the door closed. You must realize that he had never come into my house. He was just too nervous around the house.
The first thing he did was start carrying my coat, hat, and gloves to me, all the time he was barking at me as if to say hurry. So I quickly dressed and opened the door.
I took my gun, just in case.
We both went outside.
He led me to the barn and just sat there expecting me to open the door. When I did he grabbed my arm in his mouth and led me to my snowmobiles. He led me to the one machine that had the trailer attached. When I tried to unhitch the trailer, he wouldn't let me.
While I was starting up the snowmobile, he pulled a couple of horse blankets to the trailer and put them in. I sat there and just watched in amazement.
He then ran out in the yard and started his "follow me" dance.
Something was very important to him. So I followed him.
He led me across the fields toward the highway. He picked a path that was always big enough for the snowmobile and trailer. He knew exactly where he was going and wanted to make sure I got there too.
Suddenly I saw where he was headed. There were two dark spots in the snow ahead. They looked like bodies.
He ran right up to them and started barking and pulling at them.
I pulled the snowmobile trailer up next to them. They were a couple of women. They were still alive, but just barely.
I picked up the larger one and put her in the trailer. The other one was a smaller version, I assumed a daughter. I looked around and saw no sign of transportation to explain how they got here.
The wolf climbed in the trailer with the women and wrapped his body around them as if trying to keep them warm.
I climbed on the snowmobile and headed for home as fast as I could safely go. When we reached my front porch, I jumped off and open the front door.
I went straight to the gas fireplace and lit it, and placed some of the couch pillows on the floor in front of it to put the women on.
I brought both the women in and placed them in front of the fire. The wolf pulled my wall hung bear skin rug off the wall and dragged it over to me while I was pealing the frozen clothing off the girls.
After I got them wrapped in a couple of blankets and the rug, the wolf curled up next to them, both as their source of warmth and as their protector.
I had never seen him act this way before.
I grabbed my satellite phone and called my CIA contact. I explained the situation and asked for help. He responded that someone would be there in 30 minutes.
True to his word, a large military helicopter landed in my yard 30 minutes later.
There were some very large guys knocking at my door. I opened the door and grabbed the first one in a huge bear hug and whispered in his ear, "Don't make any fast moves."
He thought I was nuts until he saw the wolf. I explained that this was the only way I could show the wolf that he was a friend.
You should have seen the look on his face when the wolf stuck his nose in the man's rear and sniffed. But to his credit, he didn't flinch.
I completed the same routine for the other three guys with him.
Once the wolf was satisfied, he let the medics near the girls. The wolf was very nervous and the examinations went very slowly. It was determined that the women need to be in the hospital.
The girls were loaded on the helicopter and off to a military hospital they were flown.
The wolf watched them leave and then left me standing in the snow and cold. He appeared to be going back to his den.
A few days later, some guys from another branch of the CIA paid me a visit. They explained the women were indeed mother and daughter. It seemed that the husband/father was a mob guy. He was caught trying to steal from his boss. He was killed in front of his wife and daughter. The wife and daughter were driven into the wilds and left to freeze to death. I was told that the girls were lucky I found them.
I didn't explain to them about the wolf.
It seemed that the government wanted them to stay with me until it could be determined if they were needed to provide court testimony. After that, they would be provided new id's and put in Witness Protection.
A couple of days later my peace and quiet was again disturbed by a military helicopter. The two women and all their new belongings were soon set up in two of my spare bedrooms.
After they got settled in, I called for a "conference" in my living room. After introductions, they started asking me questions. The daughter, Amanda (Mandy) was your typical outspoken teenager. She asked all the questions and demanded all answers.
Her mother (Maria) was quiet and shy. She did not initiate any conversation. She only responded when I directly asked her a question. She looked like a "deer in the headlights" before the car struck.
Mandy asked all about their rescue. It seems there were rumors around the hospital, but she didn't believe any of them and wanted the "truth".
So I told the story of the blizzard, the wolf, the rescue, and of course she didn't believe me.
To be exact, I believe, "Bull shit," was her answer.
As I sat there trying to decide what to say next, I noticed their eyes got very large as they looked out my sliding glass door onto the deck.
I knew the wolf decided to pick this time to make an appearance. I quickly told the women not to make any sudden movements or any loud noises. I explained that the wolf only wanted to make sure they were alright. After all, he had saved them that night and felt a little protective toward them.
Actually it was all bull shit. I didn't have any idea what he wanted, but I decided to go through the "welcome routine" for his benefit and the girl's safety.
And let's face it, I liked hugging pretty women.
Mandy accepted my hugs with grace and returned them back to me.
Maria was scared. When I took her in my arms she was shaking like a leaf. I spent a lot of time holding her, and rubbing her back. I wanted her to calm down.
I asked Mandy to slowly open the sliding glass door and let Alpha (my name for the wolf) in. And once she had the door open, to stand perfectly still, so that the wolf was not panicked.
She did what I asked. Her mother tightened her grip on me until I could have sworn she was trying to merge with me and become one individual.
The wolf circled the statue called Mandy once, smelling her as he went around. I saw the fear in her eyes. I spoke softly to her and kept the panic from rising in her.
When he was done he walked over to Maria and me.
I started whispering every calming thing I could think of, but she still fainted in my arms. I picked her up and moved her to the couch. After I got her down and covered, I looked at the wolf and pointed outside.
He went out the door with his head hung down.
Mandy commented, "He looked embarrassed when he left, like he really didn't want to hurt Mom."
Mandy and I sat with Maria for the next hour until she could get herself back under control.
For the next couple of weeks, Maria stayed by my side every time she was out of her room. I felt as if she was using me as her protector. Every time we entered a room, her eyes quickly search the area. I knew what she was looking for, but couldn't figure out a way to reduce her fear of the wolf.
One spring afternoon, the three of us were sitting on my deck when I saw the wolf walk out of the woods and sit on my grass about 50' away. He just sat there and watched.
Mandy noticed him right away, but her mother didn't.
I reached over and took Maria's hand and pointed out on the lawn.
She looked and spotted the wolf. My hand was suddenly caught in a death grip. I never knew she was that strong!
The wolf suddenly stood and walked to the edge of the lawn were the woods started. He barked a couple of times and then returned to the spot where he had been sitting.
After a couple of minutes another wolf appeared and walked over to him. I recognized the second wolf as Alpha's mate. I identified her to the girls.
Then to my surprise two smaller versions of the wolves appeared from the woods, they ran right over to the adult pair and curled up on my lawn.
I looked at the girls and said, "He's showing us his family. Do you want to meet them?"
Mandy said, "Yes!"
Maria kept quiet.
I walked over to Mandy and took her hand, leading her to the edge of the deck and sitting down at the edge.
Maria just stood at the entrance to the house, just hugging herself.
Alpha slowly walked up on the deck and sat next to me. His mate soon followed and joined Mandy. The mate just curled up and put her head on Mandy's leg.
I had to remind Mandy to close her mouth because she was catching flies.
Our little family gathering lasted about an hour. The Alpha stood up and gave both Mandy and I a big wet lick on our faces and left with his family.
Mandy and I went back into the house to find her mother. Maria was sitting in a chair with a view of the deck. She stood up when we entered and hugged both of us. She was still shaking when she said, "He really likes you two."
I whispered in her ear, "He likes you too." I then kissed her forehead.
I felt a little funny. It was a nice forehead.
It had been years since I had felt "those" feelings toward another woman.
When the weather warmed, I started taking evening walks with Maria and Mandy. Mandy loved the walks. We talked about nature, animals, and just about anything that entered her teenage head.
Maria kept quiet during these walks, but she held my hand the entire time. It wasn't a romantic style hand holding, but more of her holding onto her protector.
During many of these walks, I noticed the Alpha pacing up at a distance. He never approached when Maria was with us. But if it was just Mandy and I, he'd join us.
The more time I spent with Alpha, the more impressed I was. I was raised with dogs, and even had an Old English sheepdog for a pet when I was living back east. She was a great dog, smart as a tack and as gentle as could be. She was born deaf so I never could let her run in the suburban neighborhood because of the fear of traffic. She's never hear a warning horn.
When she was about one year old, I enrolled her and I in obedience school. She took to the training as a duck to water. She learned the hand commands for deaf animals faster that I did.
I still miss her. When she was about 15 years old, my ex got up one morning, called the vet, and had her put down.
I was never consulted. I found my dog gone when I got home that evening.
I never trusted my ex after that.
The wolf was a lot smarter than any of the dogs I had ever seen. He was more like a friend than anything else I could think of.
I was a little worried about Maria's mental health. She was just too withdrawn and quiet. I also worried about her fear of the wolf. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't crack the shell she had built around herself. I decided that it was time to get her professional help.
I got on my satellite phone and started the ball rolling.
About a week later, a car pulled in the driveway. A Mexican woman stepped out and introduced herself as Camellia, my new housekeeper and cook.
Since I hadn't asked for a cook/housekeeper, I assumed she was the mental health professional.
That proved to be the fact when we finally got a chance to talk privately.
The next time I saw Alpha, I called Camellia over to start the introduction routine. Boy was I surprised! When they saw each other, she dropped to her knees and held out her arms. My great big Alpha Wolf just about turned inside out. He was wiggling, and making friendly wolf noises as he walked up to her, got between her arms, and they started licking and hugging, him doing the licking and her, the hugging.
From that point on, they were the best of friends.
Camellia started bonding with Maria and her daughter. I started feeling like a fifth wheel. There was nothing left for me to do but go back to my "spook" work.
Camellia never left her cook/housekeeper persona. But I could see the difference in Maria in less than two weeks. And actually I didn't mind.
The quality of the meals around my house really improved.
Julie (my daughter) was now a junior in college. She was all wound up with her friends and got a summer job on campus. She wouldn't be coming home this summer. I'd miss her, but I had Mandy to take her place. She still called and e-mailed every time she got a chance. But it still wasn't like she was here.
She knew all about Maria and Mandy living with me. She felt that they were good for me. She also wanted to meet Mandy, just in case Mandy ended up being her step sister.
"Fat chance," I told her. (Meaning the "step-sister" part, not the meeting part)
One day after about a month of Camellia's stay, I noticed that she had Maria with her and they had a bunch of meat scraps in a bowl. They were heading into the woods. Camellia saw me heading for them and shook her head, "No."
They were gone about the longest hour I had ever lived through. At dinner that night, Maria talked nonstop to her daughter, telling her story of feeding the wolf's babies.
Camellia jabbed me very hard in the ribs every time I started to interrupt.
That night after the house settled down, Camellia told me in no uncertain terms to let her do her job and to keep my mouth shut as far as any interactions between Maria and anyone else including the wolf.
Camellia said she was making great progress with both mother and daughter. Any interaction with me just set the healing process back.
Boy, did I feel useless.
Summer came to a close and Camellia felt that Mandy was secure enough in her new personality that I could enroll her in the local high school. So my "niece" and I drove the 40 miles into town to get her enrolled.
Because my ranch was so far away and the winter roads were not the best, it was decided that Mandy would live at the school and come home on the weekends, weather permitting.
She was the happiest sophomore you ever saw.
To make matters even better, I took her shopping at the local mall. I kept my lips buttoned and let her purchase anything she wanted. $2000.00 later I was wondering if I was starting to regret it. I drive a Hummer H2. You should have seen how much "stuff" she packed in it!
On the drive back to the ranch, she leaned across the seat and kissed me on the cheek. She said, "My real father never treated me as well as you do. I love you."
My eyes filled up. It was the best money I could have spent.
As it turned out, when I explained it to Camellia, all I got was a big hug and kiss. All she said was," One down and one to go."
I guess I did well.
Fall started and school began. Camellia worked very hard on Maria and finally got her to agree to go with me one Friday to pick up Mandy from school. Maria was very quiet for the hour it took us to get there.
Mandy was waiting for us outside her dorm. She grabbed her mom and pulled her in to show her mom her room. No guys allow, so I just sat in the truck. About 30 minutes went by when mother and daughter popped out the door dragging a very full laundry bag between them. (Now I knew what my own mother felt when I came home for a visit from college.)
For the next hour, Mandy took her mother and I around the school, showing us all the "great stuff" that was there. Maria was smiling from ear to ear the entire time.
On the way back we stopped at a local diner to grab a bite to eat. We sat in a booth. Mandy was across from Maria and me. Mandy never shut up while we were there.
Maria sat next to me touching my arm, my hand, and even my leg the entire time we were there. For the first time since I had met her, she wasn't hanging on to me as if I was her protector, but as her friend.
When we got back to the ranch, Camellia shooed me out of the kitchen to do the "chores" and sat down with coffee to talk to the "girls".
Later that evening Camellia patted me on the butt and said, "Good job."
We had a great weekend and the ride back Sunday night was as upbeat as possible. Maria and Mandy made all sorts of plans for the next weekend.
On the way back to the ranch, Maria talked my ear off. She laughed and smiled, and even held my hand all the way back.
Camellia couldn't have been happier when I told her that night.
During the week, Maria asked me to take a walk with her while we were having lunch. A quick glance at Camellia revealed she had heard the whole thing and couldn't have been happier.
Maria and I walked and talked (actually she talked and I listened). We held hands like a couple of teenagers. Toward the end of our walk, I spotted Alpha. I pulled her to the side of me that was the farthest for him. When she realized what I was doing, she told me to stop. She and Alpha were friends now and she owed him for saving her life.
With that said she dropped to her knees and spread her arms to him. I couldn't believe it. Alpha came up to her exactly like he did so long ago to Camellia. This time they played like a couple of puppies.
I admit it, I was jealous, except I wasn't sure if it was of her affection for the wolf, or the wolf's affection for her.
I was going to need to talk to Camellia about my feelings tonight.
The three of us walked back to the house together, Maria between the wolf and I. She held my hand and the wolf's ear. She was as calm as I ever saw her.
Camellia was watching from the deck and grinning from ear to ear when we got back.
That night Camellia told me that her work here was just about done. She was going to make a pretend trip to visit her relatives for a long weekend. She wanted me to assess Maria's actions while she was gone. There was one word of warning, "You need to let Maria make every decision. Make none of them for her."
Camellia announced her little trip at dinner the next day. Maria went to bed early that night. She was back to her old quiet self.
I don't know what went on but Camellia and Maria were joined at the hip all week. By Friday, Camellia winked at me and whispered, "Here goes nothing." She announced at breakfast that she'd be riding into town with Maria and me to catch the bus to her relatives.
Camellia had it all mapped out. We first picked up Mandy at school, and then dropped Camellia at the bus station. Maria had no down time. Camellia kept her talking the whole trip into town, and Mandy talked the entire way back to the ranch.
When we got back to the ranch, Maria was all wound up. It was like she never had a chance to let her feelings down.
The next morning was her first day on her own. When she asked Mandy and I what we wanted for breakfast, we both replied it was her choice. I saw a bit of panic in her eyes. It was the first decision she had to make in a long time.
She walked to the kitchen counter and picked up a typed list. After looking at it a minute, she said we'd be having ham and cheese omelets.
Mandy looked at me and said it sounded good to both of us.
I hated ham and cheese omelets, but I just smiled and agreed.
Later that night I looked at the list. It contained lists of meals. The omelet was about half way down the breakfast selections.
The three of us had a very busy weekend, Maria wasn't given a chance to let down. Camellia had briefed Maria's daughter very well. Mandy kept her mother running all weekend long.
We were supposed to pick up Camellia at the bus station when we dropped Mandy off at school. My cell phone rang as we were headed into town. It was Camellia needing extra time at her "relatives". I gave the call to Maria. Maria and Camellia talked until I thought the battery on the phone might give out. Camellia worked her magic and Maria was in a better mood when they hung up.
Maria and I stopped at the same diner we always did and had dinner. We sat in a booth. She sat next to me instead of across from me. She had a little trouble deciding what to eat. She picked the first dinner item on the menu.
When we arrived back at the ranch, she went to her room. She did not return downstairs that night.
The next morning I awoke to the smell of bacon. When I got downstairs I found she had made pancakes and bacon for breakfast. I complemented her on the great choice.
And so it began, Maria was rejoining the human race. She was back to becoming a productive member.
One afternoon, I sat her in front of one of my PCs and showed her one of "my" stories. I said I needed her opinion on how my story was going because my editor was on vacation and needed a second opinion.
I said, "I trust and respect your judgment, please read and comment on this for me."
"I'd love to," was her reply.
After explaining how the word processor worked, I left her alone.
Maria stayed glued to the story for the next six hours. When she finely came out of my office, she was grinning from ear to ear.
"I loved it," she said. And with that she gave me a very tentative little kiss, and left to start dinner.
After she went to bed that night, I fired up the PC and checked her editing. There were the usual spelling and punctuation corrections. They were interspersed with some very insightful suggestions and comments.
I knew at that point, she had recovered and I would soon be losing her company. My friends at the CIA would be moving her and her daughter into Witness Protection.
I knew I would miss them when the time arrived.
Later that week a really nasty thunder storm came through in the middle of the night. One lighting strike took out a tree on the side yard. I got up to inspect the house for any damage. When I got back to my room, I found Maria cowering in a coroner. She was crying from fright.
I took her in my arms and led her to my bed. We climbed in together and just cuddled. Soon she stopped crying and went to sleep. I held her the rest of the night.
As much as I didn't want to, I was the perfect gentleman. I finally fell asleep around dawn.
I awoke to the smell of bacon. I opened my eyes and saw Maria standing there with a bed tray and breakfast on it. She smiled as she said, "Please sit up. I made up breakfast in bed for us."
We sat side by side and ate in silence.
After finishing, she put her head on my shoulder, "Thank you. You are the first man I ever slept with who didn't try to have sex with me."
"My husband used to share me with his mob friends to keep them happy," she confessed.
She broke down and sobbed her heart out. I spent the next hour just holding her.
Toward the end, I told her I'd never let anyone use or hurt her again.
She hugged me even closer and said, "Thank you." She punctuated that with a kiss, a kiss with more feeling in it, than I have ever felt before.
I knew I'd need to telephone Camellia tonight. I needed direction. My own feelings were just too confused to trust my judgment.
Maria and I spent the rest of the day together. We were like a couple of teenagers experiencing "Puppy Love" for the first time. We washed and dried the dishes from breakfast, we did the laundry, we made the beds, and we cooked dinner. All these things were done together, never more than a foot or so away from each other. I don't know about Maria, but the time with her rated right up with the birth of my daughters, as one of the happiest times of my life.
The worst time of my life occurred that night when I called Camellia. I got hell!.
Camellia yelled at me that I was messing Maria up big time and to keep my hand, lips, and other body parts away from her.
Camellia said she would be calling Maria in the morning to try and repair the damage I'd done.
The next day when I returned from my outside chores, Maria said that Camellia had called and we needed to pick her up at bus station at 6:00 pm. Maria was very happy to soon be seeing her friend, I on the other hand wasn't.
At 6:00 we were outside the bus station. Camellia jumped off the bus hugging both Maria and myself, demanding to be fed because she was starved.
All through our meal at the diner and all the way home Camellia and Maria sat together in the rear seat and talked very softly among themselves, I could not hear what was being said, but I suspected I was the subject of the conversation. When we reached home the only thing I was asked was to bring Camellia's bags to her room.
The next morning at breakfast, I felt that I was being ignored. Maybe I felt that way because neither of them said a word to me.
They disappeared into Camellia's room until dinner that night. As we sat around the table, Maria dropped the bomb, "I'm leaving with Camellia in the morning. Would you take care of Mandy until I'm well enough to take over? I know she loves you like a father and I feel you can be trusted with her."
I started to protest, but a look from Camellia stopped me, I said, "Of course. I love her like my own daughter. She can stay as long as she wants," my heart being torn from my chest as I agreed.
Later that night, Camellia visited me in my room after I had gone to bed. We had a long talk. We discussed my feelings toward Maria and her feelings toward me. Camellia explained that Maria had a long way to go before she was able to maintain a real relationship.
Camellia explained that Maria had never disclosed being shared sexually before. That revelation while it was an important event required a different course of therapy. Everything Camellia discussed with me made since, but it didn't heal my heart break.
On the way out my bedroom door, Camellia said, "Call me any time and we'll talk. I know this is breaking your heart."
"How'd she know? ", I thought
When I picked up Mandy from school that Friday afternoon, I had a lot of questions to answer. Maria had called Mandy and said she was leaving with Camellia and I'd be picking Mandy up. But no further explanation was given.
So I had a lot to explain.
Mandy and I talked all through dinner at the diner and on the rest of the ride home. I started out by telling Camellia was a doctor not a housekeeper. She was hired to help Maria with her mental health issues. We discussed how well her mother had become since I hired Camellia and how much she was drawn to her mother.
Mandy also exclaimed, "No wonder Camellia was so easy to talk to, I wonder if I can still discuss girl things with her?"
I gave her Camellia's phone number and exclaimed, "Of course, she loves you like a daughter." I made a mental note to warn Camellia that there might be some phone calls coming.