Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved fireworks. The colors, the sparks, the boom you feel down in your soul. And the best part about fireworks is although you can tell when they’re being launched, you never really know just when they’ll explode.
Harry shook his head and chuckled to himself. ‘Little red socks.’ John could still tell a joke like nobody he had ever known. Harry Lipschitz had just gotten off the phone with an old buddy of his from the NYPD, and they had spent a good hour and a half reminiscing about old times. Somewhere toward the middle of the conversation, John had offered Harry free reign of a cabin he owned in upstate New York, but the captain had been forced to decline, siting allergies amongst other things as the reasons he and his wife, Fran, could make no use of it. His friend told him to offer it to anyone he wanted, since he was certain he wouldn't be using it anytime soon.
Harry immediately thought of Chris and Rita. Both the young detectives had been stressed as of late, due to break-ups with their significant others. Rita’s break-up with Eric was certainly the right thing to do, but she seemed to take it hard for a while. Chris, on the other hand, didn't show much emotion after his break-up with Jillian, though both Harry and Rita knew he wasn't as unaffected as he appeared.
“Chris, Rita, can I see you in my office for a moment?” Harry requested, poking his head out the office door.
The detectives looked at each other slightly confused, before Rita shrugged and led the way to their superior’s office. Taking their seats, she was the first to speak.
“What’s up Cap?” she breached the silence.
“You two look tired,” he quickly cut to the chase. Harry wasn't usually one to beat around the bush.
“Gee, thanks, Captain,” Chris shot back, insulted.
“Seriously, Lorenzo. Ever since your break-up with Jillian,” motioning to Chris, “and your break-up with Eric,” indicating Rita, “you two haven’t been the same. You’re working too hard, burning the candle at both ends. You need a break. A vacation of sorts.”
“Is that an offer, Cap?” Rita joked, desperate to get the conversation away from her empty love life.
“Actually,” he said, pointing to a thin stack of papers on his desk, “it is. An old friend of mine from the NYPD offered me the use of his cabin in upstate New York. Since my allergies would kill me up there, I thought I would offer it to the two of you. I figured you could get away from work for a while. Relieve some stress.”
“Together, Cap?” Chris asked, surprised. Harry had always had his suspicions as to the nature of the detectives’ relationship, so his offering them a cabin in the woods together was a bit out of character.
“I trust you two, Lorenzo. You’re both adults, and you know the rules. You’re old enough to make your own decisions.” He had total faith in them. There had been a few close calls, but nothing as of yet to make Harry seriously worry.
“Jeez, I don’t know Cap. I may be busy,” Rita quickly declined, not really wanting to spend time alone with Chris in a romantic cabin.
“I haven't even told you when it is, Lance,” Harry pointed out, matter-of-factly. Rita blushed, embarrassed by her over-zealousness to decline the offer.
“I’ll bite,” Chris smiled. “When is it?”
“Well, it’ll be free for the next few weeks. I thought that maybe you two would like some time off to relax. Lord knows you could use it.”
“Um, can I think about it, Cap?” Chris requested.
“Sure, take all the time you need. It’s not like you have to report to me. The cabin will be free, so I just wanted to let you both know that you’re welcome to it.” Harry handed Chris the papers his friend had faxed him, and looked back down at the stack on his desk. He had been working all morning, yet it appeared he hadn’t even dented the wall of files.
“Thanks, Cap. We’ll take a look a them.”
“Good. Now, both of you get out of here and go to work on the Groman case. We need the paper work done by 3 this afternoon, so get your butts in gear!”
Chris briskly left the office, but Rita had to drag herself out. Harry noticed her
sluggishness and called her back for a moment. “Rita, are you feeling okay?” his
fatherly concern surfaced.
“Yeah, I’m fine, Cap,” she quickly answered, rubbing the back of her neck with
her right hand.
“Cuz if something was wrong you would talk to me, right?” he questioned.
“Yeah, Cap. I’m just tired lately. I’m fine though, really.” She smiled reassuringly at him as she walked out of his office, glad she had avoided one of the famous Lipschitz lectures.
Back in his office, Harry shook his head. Something was definitely wrong with her. She just wasn’t saying. He would have to get her to talk about it. Maybe Chris knew. Harry made a mental note to himself to talk to Lorenzo about his partner.
Rita walked over to her desk and found Chris seated on his side, flipping through the papers Harry had given him. Sitting down, she cleared her throat, signaling her presence.
Chris quickly looked up at her. Biting his finger for a moment, he jumped out of his seat and walked over to her desk. Perching himself on the edge, he dropped the papers in front of his partner, pointing toward them. “It looks like a nice place, Sam,” he said, glancing around the station.
Rita looked uninterestedly at the stack, brushing it aside. “I don’t think so, Chris,” she quietly refused.
“Why not Rita? You haven’t even looked at the papers yet.” He lifted them off her desk and held them in front of her face.
“Chris, cut it out,” she scolded, swatting his hand away, lacking the mood to play.
Chris placed the papers back on her desk and hopped off. Squatting level with her chair, he turned her to face him. Looking deep into her eyes, he placed a gentle hand on her upper arm. “Rita, what’s wrong?” he whispered.
“Nothing, Chris,” she lied. On the verge of tears, she tried to laugh them away.
“Hey, hey,” Chris comforted. He could see she was about to cry, the tears threatening to spill over. Grabbing her hand, he pulled her up from her seat and led her out of the building. Leading her over to a secluded bench, he sat her down and gently lifted her chin. “Sam, what’s wrong?” he asked concerned.
“Nothing, Chris, really,” she smiled an empty smile.
“You can’t lie to me, Rita. I know something’s wrong. What is it?”
“Chris...” she trailed off. She couldn’t tell him. It was too pathetic. She looked into his gorgeous, ocean blue eyes and saw something deep within them. She wasn’t sure what it was, but there was definitely something there. “Chris, I miss Eric,” she whispered as if it were a sin.
Chris’ eyes darkened and his handsome face hardened visibly. Rita knew how he felt about Eric. After all the pain Eric had caused her, Chris swore he would never let him hurt her again.
“You really miss him Rita?” he found his voice.
“Yes...no...I don’t know. I just feel so empty, so...alone. I miss having somebody,” she murmured, embarrassed over the whole notion.
“There’s nothing wrong with that Sam. I miss Jillian, too, if you wanna know the truth,” he confessed.
“Chris, Jillian didn’t lie to you. She didn’t hurt you like Eric hurt me. It’s okay for you to miss her; you guys had something special. But Eric and me...."
“Hey, c’mon Sam, you don’t miss Eric.” He laughed at the confusion in her eyes. “You miss being in love. It’s a wonderful feeling. This all-consuming emotion. And when it’s gone, you feel dead inside. But trust me Rita, you’ll find someone better than Eric. Someone who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated. And this guy is gonna be the luckiest guy on the planet.” He smiled brightly at her and leaned in, kissing her gently on the forehead. When he pulled back, he looked into her eyes, fixated on the bright green emeralds.
Something passed between them and Rita turned away, frightened by the feelings that hit her all of a sudden.
Chris felt it too, and he cleared his throat before standing up, offering her a hand. “So partner, whaddya say we go back inside and check out this cabin Cap was telling us about?” He smiled teasingly at her, and she couldn’t help but grin back.
Chris trudged through the heavy oak door of the cabin, dropping bags as he walked. Rita followed closely behind him, picking up the bags and various other items he left in his wake. Standing in the center of the living room and scanning the area, Chris quite unceremoniously dropped the luggage on the floor and plopped on the couch, sighing from exhaustion.
“Chris,” Rita admonished.
He looked at her wearily, well aware of what she was about to say.
“Okay,” she ceded. “We’ll leave the bags. Just take what you need to sleep in.” She bent down to open her suitcase when she felt Chris close behind her.
He leaned down and whispered in her ear, “what makes you think I wear anything Sam?”
The rough texture of his words sent a shiver down Rita’s spine and she straightened up quickly. She couldn’t understand why the simple things he did affected her so much as of late. The merest touch from him would send her senses reeling and she had to get them under control fast before she did something she would most likely regret.
“Cut it out, Chris,” she chided. Tucking a stray piece of hair behind her ear, a nervous habit she often resorted to, she surveyed their surroundings. The large room, obviously the main room of the modest cabin, was beautifully carved, the wood stained a deep chestnut color. There was a fireplace right in the center of the room, a beautiful focal point and something romantic that could not be easily ignored. As Rita stared into the fireplace, she shivered from both the frigid temperature in the cabin and the nearness of her partner. They were away from civilization, just the two of them, alone in a cozy little cabin. How they would ever get through the following four days was beyond Rita.
Chris saw her shiver and walked up behind her, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. “Cold, Sam?” he asked concerned.
“Yeah, a little,” she whispered. His touch we beginning to melt her, and it forced her to turn around, breaking the contact. Staring right into his eyes, she realized this too was an awkward position and a bad choice. Rita took a step back and found a bit more strength for her words. “I wonder if there is any heat in this place,” she questioned aloud, wandering around the room, running her hand over the smooth walls as she passed them.
Chris laughed lightly and quickly corrected her. “Sam,” he said, “I think the fireplace may be the heat.”
Rita stopped dead in her tracks, the realization hitting her. In order to stay warm, they would have to light a fire. And a blazing fire was one of the things she had always considered most romantic.
“You know,” she stammered, “it suddenly it’s not so cold in here anymore.” Anything to avoid starting a fire.
“Sam, are you crazy?! I can barely feel my hands. I’ll go check for a shed out back. Maybe there’s some wood we can use.” Chris headed for the door to the cabin.
“Chris, be careful,” Rita called out after him. He looked at her, confusion written on his face. She laughed at his expression. “It’s icy out there,” she explained.
Chris smiled at her and laughed. “Sammy, look at some of the women I’ve dated.... I think I can handle the ice.” He smiled brightly at her, the Lorenzo grin mixing with a mischievous glint.
“You,” she exclaimed before laughing as he walked out the door. Sighing deeply, Rita wandered into the kitchen, inspecting every aspect of the eatery. She turned her attention to the refrigerator, opening the double doors. Much to her surprise, it was stocked with food. Enough food to last them a month. It seemed such a waste, they had brought so much food of their own. Suddenly a door opened, shocking Rita. She gasped, not expecting anybody to be coming in to the kitchen from the outside. She hadn't even noticed the door there. Looking in the direction of the intruder, she saw Chris.
The look of fear and astonishment on her face startled him and he immediately assumed something was terribly wrong. “Sam, what’s wrong?” he asked anxiously.
“You scared me, Chris!” Rita scolded, accentuating each word with a smack on his arm. “Dammit, that wasn’t funny!”
Chris put his arms up defensively, trying to ward off the attack. “Ouch, Sam, that hurt,” he whined after she had finished her assault. He examined his arm, checking for any lasting marks.
“Oh, stop it you baby,” she laughed, finally recovered from her shock. “I did not hit you hard. You’re just looking for pity.”
“Well, am I gonna get any?” he asked defensively.
“Not from me,” she teased. “I’m not here to nurse your male ego.”
“Sam, I’m hurt,” he said, feigning insult.
“I bet you are,” she smiled coyly at him. “So, did you find a shed out back?” she changed the subject.
Chris scratched his head for a moment, a cute little habit of his from which Rita derived great amusement. “Actually, yeah, I did, Sam. There’s a ton of wood in it we can use. Some of it is rotten. It must have been out there for a while, but it's good enough to build a nice, warm, romantic fire,” he teased, knowing the mere mention of romance would annoy her.
Much to his surprise, she simply sighed and said, “sounds wonderful.” As if she suddenly heard what she had said, Rita quickly cleared her throat, correcting herself. “I mean, we’ll finally be warm. It’s getting a bit cold in here.” She embraced herself and rubbed her arms for warmth.
Without a word spoken, Chris removed his coat and placed it on her shoulders. “Better?”
“Yeah, thanks.” He was now standing right behind her, so close she could feel his breath on her neck. Rita quickly stepped away from him, dropping his coat on the floor. “Oh, I’m sorry, Chris,” she apologized, quickly bending down to pick it up.
“Sam, it’s okay,” he laughed. “It’s just a coat.” Lifting it off the ground, Chris hung it on the back of the chair standing next to him. “Why are you so jumpy, Rita? Is everything all right?” he asked, concerned.
"Yeah, I'm okay, Chris. I think it’s just the fact that we're up in the mountains or something. I'm not used to it. I mean, I lived in Palm Beach my whole life, I've never really had to deal with snow or anything." She laughed off the conversation in much the same way she had been ending most of their conversations as of late. "So, uh, what would you like for dinner?"
Chris shook his head. Something was definitely wrong. He had assumed that when their respective relationships ended, they would be close again. There had been an unexplainable distance between them during their relationships with Eric and Jillian, and Chris hadn't been able to understand why or what it was. But it seemed that their break-ups had been another wedge that was threatening to separate them. He had to do something, and fast, before he lost his best friend completely. He didn't think he could handle that. Suddenly remembering her question, he quickly answered "Whadda we got?"
"Chris, we have anything you could possibly want. So what are we gonna eat?"
"Pizza," he smiled.
"Sam, we don't have pizza," Rita pointed out, annoyance glazing her words.
"Well, you said ‘anything,’" he threw her words back at her. He saw her rigid body tighten. "Sam, c'mon, loosen up will ya’? We're stuck here for a few days, so let's make the best of it."
"STUCK?!" she yelled so loudly he flinched.
That hadn't been the reaction he'd expected from her.
"Chris, you're the one who made me crazy until I agreed to come to this stupid cabin. So if you wanna go, by all means, leave! But don't make it sound like you have to be here with me, cuz you don't!" Rita hadn't expected an emotional outburst like that. Her energy spent, she leaned on the sink for support to keep from falling. After a few moments, she turned around and slowly walked to Chris.
He hadn't spoken a word to her since her eruption because, quite frankly, he was confused. She had taken to snapping at him for the simplest comment and he didn't understand why.
"Chris," she whispered, placing a delicate hand on his shoulder, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell. I just feel so....so mixed up inside. One minute I'm in a great mood, the next minute I am ready to tear someone's head off......namely Eric’s" she added, trying to ease the tension.
"It's okay, Rita," he whispered his acceptance to her apology. "I wanna tear his head off, too," he added, trying to lighten the mood himself. He turned around to look straight into her eyes. "Sam," his voice quivered, "are you mad at me? Did I do something wrong?"
"No Chris, it's not you. I'm just going through some things right now. I'm having trouble sorting out some emotions." Rita didn't go into detail as to which emotions. The last thing she needed to do was slip up and tell Chris what she was feeling for him. She was certain he didn't feel the same way, or else he never would have started a relationship with Jillian.
"Sam, you know you can talk to me about it. Look, we came up here because the captain said we both looked like we needed a break. So, let's take the break. For the next 7 days, we are just two people in a cabin. We aren't cops dealing with the pressures of the job, and neither of us just ended long-term relationships. We are just Chris and Rita, not Sergeants Lance and Lorenzo of the Palm Beach PD, deal?" he finished with a smile.
Rita could see he was making the effort, and after blowing up at him, it was the least she could do to concede. "Sure," she smiled back.
Chris let out a sigh of relief. Maybe now they could start to rebuild their friendship. It was in desperate need of repair. "So, what to do about dinner? How would you like grilled chicken on a bed on pasta with snow peas and sliced carrots?" he suggested.
"Wow, that sounds great," Rita commented, somewhat shocked that he could cook such a culinary delight.
"Yeah, it does. So, uh, do you know how to make it?" he teased.
"Christopher!" She laughed before throwing a dishtowel at him, causing him to laugh in return.
"I was just kidding. Why don't we make it together?"
"Sounds like fun," Rita smiled.
About two and a half hours later, the kitchen was a mess. Pots filled the sink, spilling out onto the counter, the refrigerator door lay haphazardly open, and Chris and Rita sat in the midst of the havoc, enjoying a wonderful dinner.
"Wow, this came out great Sam. See, we make an awesome team," Chris congratulated.
"Yeah, we do," she smiled shyly. "But now this team has to clean up."
Chris groaned at the mere mention of such tedious work.
"C'mon, Chris, you helped make the mess, you help clean it up." She dragged him from his seat at the table to the sink. Handing him the same dishtowel she had thrown at him earlier, she instructed "I'll wash, you dry."
"I feel bad for your kids Sam. You are gonna be a slave driving mother," he joked as he reached for the first pot he was to dry.
"Yeah, well, I need a guy before I can have kids, Chris. And with my track record, that doesn't appear highly likely." There was a twinge of pain in her voice at the mere mention of kids. Her first ray of hope in the child department had not only been a false alarm, but also a bad choice of fathers.
"What would you have done if you were really pregnant, Rita?" Chris asked. His voice was so heavy with emotion it startled her for a second.
"I honestly don't know, Chris. And I'm kinda glad I didn't have to find out."
"Kinda?" Chris asked confused. Maybe he was reading too much into the simple word, but something about the way she said it nagged him.
"I mean, it would be nice to have children someday, but not until I find the right guy. A guy like Eric is not who I would have chosen to be the father of my children. He's not responsible enough. I would want a guy that I know would be there for them. He would rock them to sleep at night, go to their baseball games, teach them how to play basketball. Someone like you, Chris." The last comment slipped out before she knew what she was saying. But instead of taking back her statement, she merely added, "You would make a great father to some lucky kid and a great husband to some special woman." Little did she know that the only special woman on Chris' mind was her.
"Thanks, Sam" he said, slightly embarrassed by her quiet praise.
Rita, not certain of how to respond, merely handed him the last dish to dry. Silently completing his task, Chris followed his tired partner into the living room. Suddenly both felt awkward. Talk of marriage and children had unnerved both single people.
"This is a nice place," Chris commented.
"Yeah, it is beautiful. And so quiet. I remember once when I was about five, my dad took me to a cabin up in Michigan. It was great," Rita wistfully reminisced. She wasn't one to speak often of her father. Even after all those years, she still felt a tug at her heart whenever she mentioned Donald Fontana.
"You don't talk about him much, Sam," Chris said. There really was nothing behind the statement. He was just making an observation, an attempt at small talk.
"It's still a sore subject, Chris," she whispered. Suddenly the hands clasped in her lap had become fascinating. Blinking away tears, she looked up at her partner. "So, Chris, what about you? Do you want kids?"
He was surprised by the sudden shift in both the conversation and the mood of his partner. She was smiling brightly, her elbow resting on the back of the couch, her head propped up by a fist.
He smiled back at her, unsure of how to answer. 'Sure Rita, I would love to have kids....with you.' He could never tell her that. If she felt the same as he did, if her feelings resembled his in any way, she wouldn't have started dating Eric. "I guess so," he said warily. "Yeah, yeah I would." There was a confidence in his voice, a conviction that was comforting. "The only time I really thought about it was when Rikki showed up with Joshua. I honestly thought he was mine. In fact, I sorta wished he was."
"Don't worry, Chris. You'll have kids some day. And you'll make a great dad.” Rita clasped his leg in her hand, giving him a reassuring squeeze. She sighed deeply before surveying the room. "It's kinda late, Sam. What do you say we turn in for the night?"
Chris glanced at his watch. "Rita, it's only 10:30. You wanna go to sleep already?"
"Yeah, it’s been a long...," she yawned, "...day."
Chris smiled at the way her nose wrinkled up when she yawned. It was like a cute little button.
"What?" she asked self-consciously when she saw Chris watching her, smiling crookedly.
"Nothing. You just look cute when you yawn." Before he could stop himself, he reached out and caressed her cheek. Pulling his hand back a moment later, he quickly said, "Why don't you go get ready for bed, Sam."
"Uh, yeah, that's a good idea,” she stammered. Rita walked over to the suitcases which were still on the floor in the center of the room and opened hers, removing a long conservative flannel nightgown. Finding the bathroom, she entered, locking the door behind her.
Chris shrugged to himself, wondering what to do next. Suddenly it hit him. They hadn't checked out the bedrooms. He wasn't sure which one he would be sleeping in. Wandering around, he explored the beautifully ornate rooms. The cabin consisted of the bathroom, the kitchen, a dining room, a bedroom.
He stopped abruptly as it hit him.
They were going to have a problem.
"Rita," he called out, rapping on the bathroom door.
"Just a sec, Chris," she yelled back. A moment later the bathroom door swung open and Rita stepped out in her flannel nightgown, a pair of white slouch socks covering her feet.
"Sam, are you sure you wanna sleep in that?" he teased.
Missing the point of his joke, she looked at him curiously.
"Well, if you sleep in something like that, I may not be able to control myself." He laughed as she pursed her lips and tilted her head, the way she always did when she thought one of his jokes was stupid.
"Chris, is there a reason you're bothering me or are you just doing it for fun?" she asked sarcastically.
"No, there actually is a reason. We have a slight problem," was all he said.
He was waiting for her to ask what the problem was and she knew it, but she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of asking. They seemed to have gotten pettier with each other over the months. It was a part of their relationship she didn't enjoy. Maybe this week would give them the time they needed to talk about what was happening to them. There was this unidentifiable, unnatural tension between them, and Rita could tell Chris was just as uncomfortable with it as she was.
"There's only one bedroom," he finally informed her, no longer waiting to learn of her curiosity.
"Are you serious, Chris?!" she shrieked. "One bedroom for the entire vacation? How are we supposed to manage that?"
"Look, Rita," he sighed, "I'll sleep on the couch and you can have the bed." Walking over to the couch, he sat down, running his hands over the cushions.
"Chris," Rita sighed, "that couch looks so uncomfortable."
"Well, what other choice do we have?"
"We can..." She hesitated for a moment, wondering if she should even suggest what she was thinking. "We can share the bed," she said haltingly.
Chris' eyes flew to her face, unsure if he had really heard her suggestion correctly. "Sam...Sam, the couch is fine," he stumbled over the words.
"Christopher, don't be ridiculous. By the time we leave this place you won't be able to move. I'm sure the bed is big enough for the both of us." She prayed her nervous tone wasn't too noticeable.
"You sure, Rita?" he searched for acquiescence. He could tell she was uncomfortable with the situation. So was he. 'But a comfortable bed with a beautiful woman sounds a lot more inviting then a lumpy couch' he thought to himself. 'Wait, did I just call Rita beautiful?' he panicked. What was happening to him? He was a lot more sensitive to her lately. To the little things. The way she would sip her coffee, play with her earring, cross her legs. He was finding it harder and harder to concentrate. Desire clouding his eyes for a brief second, he shook his head and looked questioningly at her once more.
"Yes, I'm sure, Chris. Look we're both adults. We've been best friends forever. I think we can handle this. It's no big deal." She shrugged it off as if she didn't really mind, but the truth was her pulse was racing with just the mere thought of sleeping in the same bed with Christopher Lorenzo. She had never actually been lucky enough to experience that perk – except when pretending while on the job.
"Well, as long as you're okay with it, Sam" he said warily. He smiled appreciatively at her, relieved that he wouldn't have to spend the next six nights on the uncomfortable looking couch. He walked over to the bathroom and shut the door behind him.
Once the door closed on its hinges, Rita let out a deep sigh and plopped down on the couch. What was she going to do? She couldn't actually go through with this. How was she going to sleep the next six nights with Chris lying beside her? This would definitely be the most uncomfortable situation they had had to deal with yet. Looking up at the crack of the door, her heart jumped to her throat as she saw Chris standing there clad only in a pair of boxers and a tank top. Chris saw her staring at him and looked down at himself, inspecting his attire.
"What?" he asked self-consciously.
She shook her head, trying to find her voice. "Nothing," she muttered.
A smile lit his face as he teased her lightly. "Well, I thought I would put something on for bed," he joked. "I wouldn't wanna overwhelm you," he laughed. He was desperately trying to ease the tension present in the room over their current sleeping arrangements. He flexed for her, causing her to laugh lightly, her laughter earning her a dejected look.
"Oh," she cooed, "did I bruise that precious male ego?" she giggled.
"You, my friend," he accused, pointing at her, "are an evil woman."
Rita yawned in response to his accusation.
"You look beat, Rita. Whaddya say we go to bed?" She blushed furiously at his words. Realizing what he had said, he stumbled over a rephrase of his words. "Umm, I mean, umm...." but unfortunately for both him and his partner, he couldn't find the words he needed to explain.
"It's okay, Chris," she mumbled. "I understand. Yeah, I am a little tired. Are you going to go to sleep, too?" she asked curiously.
"No, I think I might stay up for a while. You go to sleep. I'll lock up and shut the lights out. Go ahead," he prompted, kissing her lightly on the forehead.
She looked up at him and stared deep into his eyes. "Thanks," she sighed before turning to find the bedroom door. Once Chris heard the door shut, he fell onto the couch.
‘How are we going do this?’ he asked himself. ‘How am I going to do this?’ He ran his hands through his thick black hair. If he had to sleep with Rita for six nights, but know he wasn't really sleeping with her, he would go out of his mind. It was getting hard enough to keep his feelings hidden while trying to keep his distance, but how would he do it after being so close to her, in such an intimate place. But instead of coming up with an answer to his many questions, Chris yawned, sleep finally winning out over confusion. The only answer he could come up with was that they would have to deal with it.
Chris trudged over to the door, ensuring that it was locked, realizing that it didn't matter much since they were miles away from civilization. He turned to the table sitting next to the couch and shut the lamp off, plunging the room into total darkness. Suddenly, a crash followed by a "DAMMIT!" resonated through the room as Chris picked the lamp up off the floor. Luckily it wasn't made of ceramic, so it hadn't broken. Glancing in the direction of the bedroom, he checked to make sure the commotion hadn't woken Rita. Satisfied that his partner was still asleep, Chris hobbled into the bedroom, careful not to make too much noise. He saw Rita laying there, sound asleep, her even breathing echoing in the silence. He quietly slipped into the bed, turning his back to her back, hoping this position would make it easier for him to ignore her presence by his side.
But Rita however, had successfully fooled Chris into thinking she was asleep, and it took every ounce of concentration she possessed to keep from shivering as Chris lay down beside her. What she wouldn't give to just reach over and massage his shoulders, kiss him softly.
Rita sighed inwardly. ‘What are you doing?’ she chided herself. ‘Get it together before you lose your best friend.’ She closed her eyes and concentrated on the inner strength that had gotten her through so many difficult situations in the past. Despite having her partner lying right beside her, Rita relaxed for the first time in a week. She drifted to sleep.
It took Chris a little longer to conquer his thoughts. He first replayed Rita's actions and outbursts throughout the week, then mentally beat Eric to a pulp – several times. Chris just couldn't fathom how anyone could be so cruel to Rita. In the safety of the darkness he was able to silently admit to himself, and to her, that no one could ever love her like he did. ‘Knock it off,’ Chris ordered himself. Against their agreement, he became Sergeant Christopher Lorenzo. Rita was his partner and best friend. They dodged bullets for a living. He could definitely handle their current situation. Finally reaching this professional mentality, Chris succumbed to exhaustion.
Unbeknownst to the slumbering Sams, the fates had them right where they wanted them. With a simple snap, the side of the snow crested mountain four miles directly in front of the cabin began to slide.
The raw, stalwart force of nature was unleashed, tumbling and crashing down on a path of destruction. The mammoth firs that blocked its path were snapped as if they were twigs. The avalanche's fury eased as the wave of snow lost momentum, and neared the cabin. The earth-shaking disturbance was now a dull roar, and the small wooden structure provided just enough resistance to halt the sea of snow. However, not before the facade and sides were completely engulfed.
Rita was first to awaken, the nagging feeling that something wasn't right invading her peaceful sleep. Opening her eyes she realized what it was: the room was too dim for it to be morning. She sat up as Chris rolled over so he was facing her. Rita watched him open his eyes and smile at her – an act which would have completely unnerved her had it not been for her cop instincts masking all other emotions.
"Good morning, Sunshine," Chris exclaimed innocently to her.
Rita cocked her head and smirked at him. "No, actually that's the problem – there is no sunshine. Oh my God, Chris, it's noon!"
Chris was about to laugh at his partner's worrying, but then a memory entered his consciousness. "S-Sam, did you happen to hear thunder last night?"
After vaguely recalling that she had Rita answered, "Yeah, I think so...why?" Her eyes widened before she even got the question out.
As if on cue, Chris and Rita sprang out of bed, ran through the bedroom doorway, and stopped dead in their tracks upon reaching the living room. The gorgeous forest and mountain range view was simply gone. It had been completely erased and replaced by a blank, white void which pressed up against the windows and blocked the light from entering.
Rita sighed rather tentatively. "Chris, please tell me you can see trees."
Chris opened and closed his mouth, but couldn't manage a response.
"Okay," Rita tried again, "then please tell me that there is frost blocking our view."
"Well, ah...there is," he replied, trying to keep from laughing. But upon making eye contact with Rita he lost it.
Rita took advantage of his weakened state to attack his ribs, "You just had to say we were ‘stuck’ up here, didn't you? Didn't you?!" She laughed as she continued her assault, and Chris backed up into the side of the couch. They landed in a heap on the cushions with Chris yelling "Mercy!"
In the process of becoming untangled, Rita once again felt something pass between them. Chris felt it too, but before they could say or do anything they fell off the couch and onto the floor. The fall temporarily jarred those thoughts from their minds.
"Remind me to never leave Florida again," Rita remarked to the ceiling, as she and Chris remained sprawled out on the floor.
Chris laughed as he stood up and offered a hand to her. "Well, I guess all we can do is eat breakfast and start another fire. Good thing I brought in plenty of wood last night."
"Sam! How can you think of eating at a time like this? We have to figure a way out of this place!" Rita said incredulously.
Chris gave her his puppy dog look and whined, "But I'm hungry, Sam."
Rita managed to smile for his sake, but inside her mind was screaming the reality of her situation. She had survived sleeping in the same bed as Chris, how would she ever hide her feelings when they were literally trapped in one of the most romantic dilemmas she could imagine? Rita desperately tried to fight the tension and anxiety that were slowly rebuilding within her. As she helped Chris make “breakfast” she tried to avoid any contact with him, and attempted to regain the mindset that had helped her fall asleep the night before.
Breakfast was thankfully uneventful, as both Chris and Rita were careful to keep the appearance that everything was normal. They joked about two of Palm Beach's finest homicide detectives being able to sleep through an avalanche – and sleep till noon at that. Their playful banter did help in calming them, because it reminded them of old times. They had spent many a meal laughing and joking with each other, and that playfulness was as essential to the two best friends as was oxygen. In the spirit of that fun, Chris volunteered to search the cabin for anything even remotely resembling a game.
"Whaddya say, Sam? You up for a little Monopoly if I can find it?"
"Monopoly, Sam? I haven't played Monopoly in years."
"Then you, my friend, will be very easy to beat," Chris teased as he sped out of the room before something could be thrown at him.
But the only thing being thrown his way was Rita's challenge, "I'd like to see you try, Sam!"
Chris whistled happily as he searched the closets in the bedroom and hallway for games. With surprisingly little concentration he could pretend this was any other day, as he and Rita loved even the smallest competitions with each other, and it was so easy to hide behind their competitive streaks. "Come on," he pleaded, "there has to be some games in here. Anything to keep my mind on track." He was only able to find Pictionary and a deck of cards, but it was better than nothing.
"Here we go," he exclaimed triumphantly. "Guess I'll have to beat you at these instead, Sam."
"Hah, bring it on, Sam."
For the next couple of hours they sprawled out in front of the fireplace, the main source of communication being shrieks of laughter that accompanied the occasional picture disagreement.
"Chris, that is not the United States."
"It is, too!"
“It is not."
"Yeah? Well, you ever heard of Florida?"
The game ended in Rita's favor after Chris stuck his tongue out at her, and was teased some more.
"All right, lil miss, let's see you try and beat me at blackjack."
"Excuse me partner, ‘try’? Who cleaned your clock and your wallet of 50G's when we busted that illegal casino gambling ring?"
Too bad they weren't playing for money because Rita proceeded to repeat that feat, as she spent a few more hours beating Chris at blackjack, five-card stud, and five-card draw.
"No fair, Sam, you worked with a card mechanic when you were in vice," Chris pouted.
"Well, since I am such a gracious winner," Rita drawled, "I'll show you a trick or two if you'd like."
She masterfully shuffled and bridged the deck in true Vegas style, never breaking eye contact with Chris. With a wicked half-grin she fanned the cards out on the floor, collapsed them back in, and set the deck down in front of her awe-struck partner.
"Sam, you made that look so easy."
"Well, it is."
Chris took the cards and pretended he was about to shuffle them. At the last possible second he brought the deck up, bent the cards, and sent a stream of them flying towards Rita. She shrieked as she tried to ward off the attack, and grab the cards Chris still held.
"Gimme those! And you wonder why you always have to take abuse from me," she laughed. "Now, do you want to learn or not?"
"Yes, ma'am, I do," Chris responded, grinning like a little kid. He picked up his mess, and handed the deck back to Rita.
"Thank you, Sam," she said, playfully exasperated with her best friend. "See? Just keep your hands in the shape of the deck."
Chris took the cards and shuffled fine, the only part eluding him was keeping his hands correctly aligned for bridging.
"Here, try this," Rita offered, maneuvering Chris' fingers around the deck. She kept her hands over his as he made the perfect bridge, although also succeeding in interlocking their fingers. This simple act sent a wave of electricity through both of them. Rita slowly withdrew her hands and placed them in her lap. "Y-You're a natural, Sam," she stammered.
"Thanks, umm...I'll practice later. You finished playing?"
Rita quickly nodded her head, but said nothing. Chris gathered up the games and booked it down the hall. Trying to clear the air, he joked, "Eat your heart out Hutch! Bet you he'd nevah think you could teach me your tricks, Sam. Huh, wonder what he'd say if he could catch a look at us now."
Again Rita did not comment. She simply moved from the floor to the fireplace ledge, staring off at nothing in particular as her mind began racing at Chris' last remark.
Chris sauntered back into the room. He was about to ask Rita a question, but immediately recognized the blank look on her face. Chris could read Rita better than anyone on this earth could, and he was curious as to what was keeping her so deep in thought. "Rita?" No answer. "Ree-ta?" he called to her again, smiling as she snapped out of her trance and looked up at him. "You were a million miles away," he continued, moving to sit beside her, "what were you thinking about?"
Suddenly feeling self-conscious, Rita blushed and stumbled over her reply. "I was, ah – I was thinking about some old cases."
Chris laughed quietly as various memories sprang to life in the forefront of his mind's eye, mapping out a collage that made up some of the most fantastic times he and Rita had shared together. His smile took a mischievous twist as he teased her, "I know, you were missing your phone-sex operator cover." A few years before, Rita had taken the place of a murdered Dream Girls operator, and Chris had posed as a customer. He knew how much she had detested that cover.
In true Rita-style, she threw him “the look,” punched him jokingly on the arm, and countered, "yeah right, I miss that as much as you miss Rocky – the long arm of the law."
Chris groaned as Rita's comment sent him back in time to the Sterling Silver Club. The male strip joint had become Chris' place of employment, as he went undercover as Rocky, a male dancer. Not only did he have to admit to the Captain and Rita that he couldn't dance, but once he learned some "tricks of the trade" from an ex-flame who had been a dancer herself, he then had to go on-stage at the Sterling Silver. Chris cringed just thinking about the huge crowd of whooping, whistling women. The case did have some perks, though. He and Rita had to pretend to make love at a mansion provided by the club.
Coming back to present time, Chris was staring at Rita, and she in turn was returning his gaze. Reading each other's thoughts, both of them remembered that particular aspect of the case. Simultaneously they realized what they were doing, and immediately pushed those images back, looking away from each other. Clearing his throat, Chris asked, "Seriously, though, what cases were you thinking about?"
After just reliving their night at the mansion, Rita couldn't stop a quick scoff from escaping her. "Actually," she began sheepishly, looking deep into Chris' eyes for a split second, then looking away again, "I was thinking about the first time we ever kissed."
"Ah, the Wellmans," Chris said, his expression a cross between a nostalgic smile and his famous Lorenzo grin.
Rita sucked her breath in unconsciously. Chris was referring to their first undercover assignment playing a married couple. It had also been the first time they were forced to put on a show for a video camera, in order to keep their cover. Rita allowed her mind to take itself back.
"There's a camera on the ceiling, I think he's watching us," she had explained, after luring her confused partner over to her, whipping the robe from his shoulders, and pushing the two of them down onto the bed. Rita remembered herself laughing at the whole "Jack and Muffin" situation. She also recalled her laughter suddenly halting, as the trail of kisses she had planted on the side of her "husband's" face led up to his mouth. In that instant their characters ceased to exist. For that brief moment, they allowed the feelings they always kept suppressed to finally come to the surface. Chris had later admitted to the intensity of their kiss, and tried to have Rita do the same. But the combination of years spent denying her true feelings and the fear of losing her best friend had prevented Rita from admitting to anything.
"No, Sam," Rita replied softly, diverting her gaze even farther from her partner's face, to the wall beside her. "I meant the very first time we kissed. We were undercover at the Cameron estate." She paused, "we were best friends even way back then." Rita shook her head slowly, as if it would give her the strength she needed to keep her voice from wavering.
"Just one case before, we were sitting on a bathtub vowing to race each other to the nearest motel if we were ever split up as partners. Then, in the very next case, the same people who would split us up if we ever came to our senses and acknowledged how we truly felt, put us in the position for our first kiss." Green eyes shimmering with the tears of mixed frustration and anger, turned to face clear, questioning, blue eyes.
“How many times has this job given us the chance to admit how we feel about each other, Chris? How many times have bullets threatened to separate us forever – each time our hearts being ripped out at the very thought of one of us not pulling through?!"
Through the dim, dusty air that surrounded them, Chris looked on in awe as the fire of Rita's spirit flashed in her eyes.
She jumped up, unable to sit still any longer. Clenching and unclenching her hands she began to pace, gathering momentum for the continuation of her explosion. Bringing her fists up to eye level and letting them drop back down in frustration, Rita whipped back around to face Chris. "And look at us now! The Captain - agh!"
Rita paused to calm down, taking a deep breath to get back in control. “The Captain,” she resumed, “wants to give us a break from work, check out his beloved New York. ‘See ya guys, you've earned this. Have fun just the two of you away from civilization. Sleep well together, just remember Rule #1, detectives!'"
Rita walked over and opened the door. "What a setup," she told the snow that completely encompassed the doorway. Satisfied with her outburst she offered a frustrated smile, their situation suddenly striking her as sarcastically funny. Still talking to the snow she exclaimed, "A romantic little cabin with just one bed. The occupants stuck due to avalanche." Dissolving into defeated laughter Rita swung the door shut, lifted her head, and mockingly yelled, "I HATE SNOW!"
For a brief moment, Chris, who had gone through the entire whirlwind of emotions right along with his partner, could only blink. Finally, his mind catching up with Rita's, Chris burst into laughter. Staggering over to Rita he attempted to speak. "Do we feel better now?" he blurted out in between laughs.
Rita responded by moving in to embrace him. "Agh! I'm sorry, Chris," she giggled into his chest. "For some reason your comment about Hutch just sparked this whole wave of times that our superiors have gotten us into messes like this. Bet you're sorry you ever asked what I was thinking, huh?" Her laughter slowly eased as Chris cupped her face with his hand, his thumb brushing away the tears. This time, as blue eyes locked with green, neither Chris nor Rita fought the trance that always threatened to form between them. All the love Chris possessed in his heart was reflected in his eyes, and it took Rita's breath away. She could only mirror his gaze with her own look of love, her heart and mind granting approval for the first time in almost five years. No words were necessary. Everything that had gone unsaid for so long was suddenly known, all fears were suddenly dispelled, and the Sams' connection was the strongest it had ever been. For Chris and Rita were soul mates, sharing a bond that no power in the universe could sever, destined to be together till the end of time.
And time, for the moment, seemed to be standing still. Not willing to break with mere words the magical spell which enraptured them, Chris kissed Rita tentatively, tasting her soft lips. She responded, wrapping her arms around his neck, enticing him, encouraging him to continue his exploration. The passion that had laid only semi-dormant for so many years took over and he deepened the kiss, urging her mouth open. Rita complied, giving herself up to him, to his gentle assault. She couldn't believe what was happening. She felt as if she were in a haze, dreaming the entire scenario. It was too perfect to be real, yet at the same time, an impossible dream. There was no denying the feelings anymore. They were there and they were very real. Suddenly Chris broke the kiss, tearing his lips away from hers.
Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he smiled shyly at her. "I'm sorry," he apologized. "Your lips just looked so tasty." He hoped the light ribbing would ease the tension their embrace had created. He was about to say something else, something most likely poetic, but Rita stopped him, silencing him with a passionate kiss, letting him know that talking was the last thing on her mind. They had spoken too much, about everything, and those conversations, while memories she would cherish forever, memories of the friendship they had forged over the years, had somehow stopped them from acting on raw emotion.
And that's exactly what this was ... raw emotion. Pure sexual attraction fueled by an all-encompassing love that had gone unexpressed for far too many years. And while that love lay simmering just below the surface, this experience was one of passion, the inevitable realization of the hunger they had for each other.
This was one time, Rita promised herself, she wouldn't over-analyze or rationalize the situation to no end. This was a moment to be seized, a precious moment they would never get back.
Deciding to just go with the flow, Chris slowly pushed her down onto the rug in front of the fireplace, not wanting to waste a second of their valuable time finding a place to carry her. If her knew Rita as well as he thought he did, he knew that every moment that went by without action was a moment Rita would use to analyze their current situation. And while her analytical skills were useful in their field, this was one instance where words were better left unsaid. Chris untangled his arms from around her waist and slowly began exploring her soft body, running his hands under her shirt. His touch was gentle yet demanding at the same time, causing Rita to moan in pleasure. She wasted no time of her own, grabbed the hem of his shirt, and wretched the material from his body, throwing it behind them somewhere, not really caring where it landed.
Chris mimicked her actions, doing the same with her shirt, tossing it with just as much disinterest as to its final destination. Clothes were the last thing on their minds. Rita smiled in appreciation as Chris moved his kisses from her mouth to her neck, burying his face in the shallow recesses of her throat.
"Chris," she sighed breathlessly, unsure of what to do or say next. This was it. Things would never be the same. But instead of that thought scaring Rita, it somehow comforted her. It gave the promise of a future filled with love and happiness. Chris came back up to her and looked into her shining green eyes, unsure of what to say, the urge to mutter something romantic nagging at his mind. "Rita," his throaty whisper began "this is so right. I've wanted this for so long, I've wanted this from the first time I saw you and I know this is – "
Rita silenced him yet again, placing delicate fingers over his lips. "Chris," she said gently, "not now. We'll have plenty of time to talk later. Right now is about you and me .... us," she quietly added. "Right now all I want you to do is make love to me. We can talk about the rest later." She ended her statement with a kiss to show him just how serious she was. Suddenly, there was no denying his passion for her, Rita felt it. He kissed her again, a little more demanding this time, starting at her lips and working his way down to the sensitive skin between her breasts. Rita leaned her head back, exposing her throat, trying desperately to catch her breath. They had just begun, yet already Chris, the man who had been her best friend for five years, had awaken feelings in her that she wasn't aware existed. This was right, they both knew it. But they both also knew this would change everything, complicate matters. However, that didn't matter to either of them as they both realized just how powerful true love actually was.
Chris awoke the next morning to the cold silence of the living room. The fire they had started the previous day had burnt out in the middle of the night, dimly glowing embers the only remaining proof of the blaze’s existence. He tightened his arms around his still sleeping partner, inhaling the scent of the room. The fresh mountain atmosphere was crisp and cool in the morning, lending a promising air to the day ahead. Rita’s back lay against Chris’ chest and his head was nestled comfortably on her shoulder as he gently nuzzled her neck. After this failed attempt to wake her, he smiled, realizing just how tired she must have been. They had made love well into the early morning hours, neither willing to leave the comfort of the other’s body. Unfortunately for the passionate couple, sleep beckoned, weariness overcoming desire.
Chris buried his head in Rita’s hair, letting the freesia scent overtake him. He had always enjoyed the scent of her hair and at least twice on the job had told her how good she smelled. Deciding it was time to wake her, he gently ran kisses from the nape of her neck to her smooth shoulders. His hands, wrapped securely around her waist, slowly began to wander over her now familiar body. “Sam,” he whispered in her ear, taking the opportunity to nibble her earlobe softly. Rita moaned quietly, the urge to keep her eyes closed too great.
“Rita, wake up,” Chris tried again. This time she stirred slightly. Chris gave it one last try. He moved his hand back to her waist, running his fingertips up and down her leg. Rita’s eyes slowly opened in response to the gentle massage, the edges of her lips curving into an unmistakably sensual grin. Deciding to tease him a bit, she brushed her slender body against a highly sensitive part of his aroused anatomy. She felt his response and giggled. Turning around to face him, she kissed him, first on the neck, then lightly on the chin, and finally fully on the lips.
“Morning, Chris,” she whispered before claiming his lips a second and third time. “How’d you sleep?” she joked, knowing full well what his answer would be.
“Sleep?!” he exclaimed, mock disbelief invading his tone. “Rita, I didn’t get much sleep last night. Some insensitive woman kept me awake,” he teased, softly kissing her neck.
“Well, that wasn’t very nice of her, now was it?” she laughed, sliding her arms around his neck, pulling his mouth closer, enticing him.
“No, it certainly wasn’t,” Chris laughed, releasing her lips. “But I really didn’t mind it all that much. She didn’t get much sleep either, so we’re even.”
Rita giggled, wrapping his arms around her, resting his hands on her abdomen, covering his hands with her own. “We should get up, Chris,” she sighed.
“God, why, Rita? We’ll most likely end up right back here anyway.”
“Well, I would hope we would use the bed next time instead of the floor, Sam,” Rita pointed out lightly.
“You mean you didn’t like where we ended up after our torrid night of passion?” he laughed.
“No, it was fine,” she sighed. Rita rested her head against his chest, slowly running her fingers across her muscular pillow.
“Wow,” Chris laughed after a few moments of silence. Rita warily lifted her head and stared at him questioningly.
“Uh, nothing,” he grinned, tightening his arms around her.
Rita straightened up a bit and asked again, “What are you thinking about?”
“Just remembering last night....and this morning,” he added, causing Rita to blush slightly. Chris took her completely by surprise with his next question.
“So…” he began nervously. He’d never asked any woman what he was about to ask Rita, but it seemed different with her. He just had to know. Clearing his throat before continuing, he quietly asked, “Sam, was it good for you?” He felt an embarrassing blush warm his cheeks as soon as the words left his mouth. It was one of those questions that you regretted asking the instant you had asked it.
Rita was about to laugh until she saw the look on his face. There was a combination of apprehension and embarrassment etched in his face and shining in his eyes.
“Oh, Chris,” she sighed, caressing his cheek lovingly. Instead of replying to his question she reached up and kissed him softly. “Do you know how much I love you?”
“I love you, too,” he echoed sincerely.
“And I am happier at this moment than I have ever been before.”
“So am I,” he agreed. Her avoidance of his question was beginning to worry him. He pulled her closer to him, caressing her back as he patiently waited for her answer.
“Chris, it was wonderful,” she finally whispered. “I haven’t felt this wonderful in a long time.”
“I know what you mean,” he quietly agreed. This was getting a bit too serious for him, considering they were both laying on the floor wearing nothing more than silly love-struck grins. “So,” he cleared his throat, pulling her closer to him, “maybe we should get up. Take a shower, and see if maybe we can get outside.” He finished the suggestion with a kiss on the side of her neck, sending chills of pleasure down her spine.
“Climb on up, Rita!”
Rita looked warily at her best friend. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Unless you want to be the one on the bottom.”
Rita gazed up at the skylight, which suddenly seemed much higher, and back down to Chris who stood ready to boost her onto his shoulders. “B&E with a twist,” she sighed. “Breaking and exiting,” she added off of Chris’ puzzled look.
Hoisted in the air, standing perilously on Chris’ shoulders, Rita strained against the weight of the snow that was pressed tight to the skylight. “It’s no use. There’s still too much snow.”
Chris moved backwards, eliciting a surprised cry from Rita.
“Not a single crack about a Flying Walinda, Lorenzo.” Rita walked her hands along the up-sloping ceiling within her reach, steadying herself. “Take a step toward that crossbeam.”
“Trust me, Chris.”
Chris did as he was instructed, and felt Rita remove her legs from his tight grasp. He stared up at his partner who was literally swinging from the rafters. He couldn’t help but to laugh at the playful giggle and impish glow that lit up her face. “Well, see ya’, Rita. I think I’ll go take a nap.”
“No, no, no!” Rita exclaimed, trying to stop laughing before her grip slipped. “Catch me?”
Chris moved to stand in position. “Ready?”
Rita released the beam, and Chris caught her by the waist. She slid the rest of the way down his muscular frame, keeping her arms around his neck and locking onto his lips as they passed. Separating from him, she remarked, “you have got to try that!”
Dressed in thick sweaters and jeans, Chris and Rita lay wrapped up in a blanket on the couch together. The fire was relatively small, as they were rationing their wood supply, but the temperature and ambiance inside the small cabin was still very cozy. Rita was awake, and perfectly content to stay entranced by the dancing orange flames, listening to Chris’ even breathing and feeling his arms wrapped around her. Chris stirred in his sleep, and Rita turned to him, lovingly raking her nails through his thick black hair as he quieted. She laughed softly and reached for the worn book that was laid out on the end table.
Love through the Ages.
The title had beckoned her wistfully the previous day, but now that she felt more in the mood to celebrate love, she could give in to her inquisitiveness.
Carefully opening the cover, she skimmed through the table of contents. Ancient Egypt, Ancient China, The Greeks… Rita’s gaze immediately leapt to a story under Greek Mythology, simply entitled Soul Mates. She flipped to starting page and began to read.
In the beginning, all people had two heads and four legs.
But then the gods threw down thunderbolts, and split everyone into two.
The separation left each half with a desperate yearning to be reunited...
For you see, they each shared the same soul.
And to this day, all people spend their lives, searching...
For the other half of their soul.
Rita brought her head up, quickly blinking away the tears beginning to pool in her eyes. Under control once more, she continued reading the beautiful explanation. A soft cry escaped her as she came to the final line:
For it was their destiny...and they were lost to it.
Rita slowly closed the book, and returned it to its spot on the table. She laid her head down on Chris’ chest, tears streaming, lost in a sea of emotions that words simply couldn’t define.
Day three began in much the same as the previous two: Chris and Rita woke up next to each other. They took their breakfast in the living room, talking quietly as they tried to wake up. Chris glanced over Rita’s head at the wall, and suddenly dropped his fork.
“Sam!” he cried. He whipped around to look behind him, staring up at the skylight. He looked back to the wall. “There’s light coming in!”
Rita, barely having time to process what Chris had said, was pulled to her feet and dragged back to the bedroom.
“Come on, gal! Get dressed! You’ve got some climbing to do!”
Freedom from the confines of the cabin began with Rita climbing out onto the roof, and Chris moving furniture around so he, too, could reach the skylight. Rita shielded her eyes from the sun, and gazed out at the snowy spread around them. Before she knew what hit her, Chris tackled her to the ground – well, roof.
“Sam!” She admonished.
“Ever wanted to make out on the roof of a cabin, Rita?” he growled playfully, nuzzling her neck and nipping her earlobe.
“Christopher,” Rita began, squirming out of his grasp, though not too much. “This would be a slightly harder fall than from off the couch.”
Chris backed away from her, his eyes gleaming mischievously. “Do you trust me, Rita?”
He pulled her up to her feet. “Do you trust me?” he asked again.
Rita narrowed her eyes at him, trying to guess what he was planning. “Y-es…”
“Then hang on!” And with that he dragged her with him to the edge of the roof. The snow had receded in back of the cabin, leaving a perfect drift – only a few feet lower than the roof – which eventually sloped down to ground level.
“Chris, wait –”
“No, I –”
Two grown adults leapt from the roof, sliding down a mound of snow, ever gaining momentum till they reached to bottom and rolled over and over.
“Hah!” Chris laughed. “That was great!” He got up and brushed himself off. He looked to Rita, and instantly regretted the motion.
All he saw was her windup and pitch – and a ball of white coming whizzing toward his face. He couldn’t duck. “Oh, this means war, lil miss!”
And back and forth they went. Who knew how useful all those Palm Beach PD qualifying obstacle courses could be as strategy in snowball fighting. When Chris and Rita eventually wound down, they collapsed into the snow that had served them so well as ammunition. A short recovery period and two snow angels later, they were off to the shed to retrieve some shovels so they could unbury their front door.
“Sam, I’m beat!” Chris exclaimed as he and Rita lugged armloads of logs over to the fireplace.
Rita trudged back over to shut the door, eyeing it warily in distrust, and chuckled at how she and her partner were feeling. “We’re getting old, Sam. We can’t even tolerate a single afternoon playing outside.”
They possessed just enough energy to build a fire and strip off each other’s wet clothing. Grabbing the blanket off the couch, they curled up on their favorite rug in front of the blaze, and drifted to sleep.
Silvery moonlight illuminated the wooded wonderland of snow and ice with brightness rivaling that of day. An uncanny stillness encompassed the crystallized world, as if time itself had also been frozen. There was no breeze to be felt, yet the trees made slight movements, heard but unseen, echoing the glasslike timbre of the ice encasing each individual pine needle or leaf-barren branch. It was an enchantment as magical to the city-dwelling, Florida natives as it was foreign.
The Sams strolled along silently, hand in hand, enjoying the new sensation of gloves that separated them from direct contact. A lone howl resounded in the distance, bringing them out of their reverie to pause in wide-eyed fascination.
Upon resuming their leisurely pace, Rita spoke up. “Chris, I want to apologize to you again for the way I’ve acted the past few weeks.”
“Rita, you don’t have to explain anything.”
“Yes, Sam, I do. My emotions have been like a rollercoaster. They’ve been out of control.” Rita took a deep breath, and continued, “I’ve been in love with you since the moment I first saw you, Chris. We had a connection I’ve never felt before, and we were instantly best friends. The more times we shared, the more I loved you…the more I relied on your friendship. To lose that friendship would have destroyed me. You’ve always been there to pick up the pieces of my life, and after this mess with Eric ended, my feelings for you had nothing to hide behind. I’d be fine one minute, then the simplest look or touch from you would set those feelings off. I'd be angry with myself for risking our friendship, so I’d push you away. But then I still had to turn to you because you’re my best friend, you know?”
“Yeah, Sammy, I know,” Chris whispered. “I thought I was in love with Jillian, but after she asked me to move with her to Boston everything changed. I realized that her asking me to start a whole new life for her didn’t bother me nearly as much as the fact that she was essentially asking me to leave you. How did she think I could do that? You’re a part of me, Rita; I could never survive without you. And I knew my rage toward Eric went beyond him hurting my best friend. I’d find myself vowing that I could be the one to treat you the way you deserve to be treated. Right then and there I knew I couldn’t lie to myself anymore...I didn’t just ‘love’ you, I was ‘in love’ with you. And I’ve been in love with you all along... You own my heart, Rita, you always have.”
As the couple shared a sweet embrace and passionate kiss, a second howl permeated the night. Chris cocked his head as he listened to the ghostly bay. “I don’t know about you, Sam, but I think I’ve had enough of nature.” At Rita’s affirmative nod and giggle he turned them around and headed back in the direction of the cabin. “Come on, Sammy, I’ll tuck you in and tell you a bedtime story about the rabbit in the moon – the real reason why coyotes howl at the moon.”
Chris and Rita stood on opposite sides of the bed, packing their respective suitcases. Well, they were actually alternating between packing and throwing things at each other. And when they weren’t throwing things at each other they were playfully arguing over the different ways men and women pack.
Rita snickered as she watched Chris rearrange the contents of his suitcase a third time. “See, Chris? I told you there was a system.” She collapsed into the chair that was up against the wall. Bringing one knee up to rest her hands and chin on, she just watched him.
Chris eventually looked up to find Rita regarding him with an amused yet somehow serious expression. For a moment he was hypnotized by her gorgeous eyes, by her sly smile, by her overall regal beauty. Chris felt his heart swell in his chest. God, he loved her.
“What?” he inquired, returning the smile.
Rita, for her part, did not reply right away. She was lost in her love for her best friend turned lover. Her smile finally widened and she exclaimed simply, “I’m just so glad you talked me into coming up here, Chris. If you hadn’t...” Rita left the sentence unfinished. She then shook her head in humble and grateful fascination. “It took an avalanche to bring us together.”
“That way we couldn’t run anymore Rita,” Chris stated softly. “And we nevah do things on a small scale anyway!”
Rita laughed. “This is true,” she agreed.
With the same volition they moved around the bed and met each other in a tender embrace, allowing a cascade of love to wash over them.
“The luggage is all packed up; I’m going to go warm up the car, Rita,” Chris called.
“Thanks, Sam. I’ll be out in a sec.” Rita zipped up her dufflebag and took one last look around the bedroom. Her eyes swept over the rest of the cabin as she headed for the front door, not only to check if she was forgetting anything, but also to memorize every last detail. Making sure the door would lock behind her, Rita slipped on the sunglasses that were hanging around her neck and stepped outside into the sunlight. She caught Chris smiling at her from the car and realized she would never feel alone again. “For it was their destiny and they were lost to it,” she whispered to herself. Rita lifted her gaze to the heavens, and whispered a heartfelt “thank you,” closing the door to the cabin .....
….. but not to her heart.
A word from the sponsors:
D of DA, here. *Coughing on dust* This is really a relic, folks! Dani and Amy F joined forces WAAAAAAY back in 1997 to become The DA’s Office. ‘The Snowball Effect,’ however, remained incomplete, missing what turned out to be only four pages before the already written, final two. With the blessing of A of DA (and the command of the Resauthor;), I have finished the production started so many years ago. Had it not been for my mahvelous partner and ‘TSE,’ I would never have become a solo author. And speaking of my partner, A of DA would love to add her own comments, but currently she locked away in our office: ready to prosecute a very strong case against the creators/writers of Classic Silk, Forever Knight, The X-Files, and JAG (to name a few). Rest assured, The DA’s Office is working very hard to protect future television favorites from suffering such outrageous, contemptible character (both person and personality) assassinations.
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