The conspiracy

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					The conspiracy

Thunder rolled and echoed through the culvert and rain pelted
harder outside the opening. Cinnamon Carter quickly wrapped a
foldable rain bonnet she‘d kept in her purse around the tiny
radio transceiver. It was her only link to help and she was
desperate to keep it dry. She couldn‘t hear the footsteps for
the rain and thunder, but spotted the boots outside the drainage
pipe. She held her breath and plastered herself against the
wall of the culvert. Her expensive high heels were already
soaked and ruined; her silk dress was also covered with grime
and algae and would never be clean again.   That was the least
of her worries. If the man outside the culvert spotted her she
wouldn‘t live long enough to throw out the dress.

She could see his knees flexing to bend down when another flash
of lightening occurred followed immediately by the din of
thunder. She could smell the ozone in the air and feel the
static electricity on her skin. The strike had been close and
the man outside the culvert must have decided a dry car was a
better place during a thunderstorm than a wet ditch. Cinnamon
wished she had that option. Time was running out and she hoped
the storm would clear enough for her to contact the others.

The mission had gone well. The trap had been set for their
target. Everything had fallen into place with ease. The only
thing left was for her to distract a minor official of this
Eastern European country for an hour or so while Barney made a
certain broadcast on the State‘s television station. The others
were scheduled to leave the country during that hour. Her own
airline tickets were on the floor of the limousine she had just
exited abruptly when an hour of distraction and innocent
flirtation became a nightmare. The previously charming public
figure began spewing his hatred of Western women and their
decadent ways. When he pulled out a knife she did what was
necessary to get out of the car, grateful that his hatred of the
western world extended to cars. She would have had little
chance of escaping a Rolls or Cadillac Limo if the owner didn‘t
want her to go, but this Soviet model was designed to keep
people out, not in.

She had found herself providing a different sort of diversion on
a deserted road on the opposite side of the city from the
airport, with an early winter storm adding rain and thunder.
She clutched her transmitter and made an attempt to send a
signal. If Barney had left, she was in real trouble, in an
Eastern European country without passport, papers, or funds.
―Barney?‖ she spoke into the small transmitter hopefully.
―Barney, it‘s Cinnamon. I‘m in trouble.‖ She waited for a
response then tried again. ―Barney? Barney, do you copy?‖

There was a good deal of interference. A crackle of static
echoed a flash of lightening then she received a response.

Amid hisses and static she heard   ―—Cinnamon--   are you?‖

―Barney, I‘m in a drain culvert under the north road about six
miles from the hotel. I‘m okay right now, but don‘t know when
it will be safe to leave or how to get back.‖

―—There – get you soon.‖   The static was so bad she could hardly
make it out.

She transmitted again. ―I can hardly hear you, but I hope
you‘re telling me you‘re coming for me.‖ A close hit
illuminated the culvert and she saw the booted feet of the limo
driver pass by again. She quickly shut down the transmitter and
slid further into the culvert. Any further and she‘d be nearer
the other side. She curled up, trying not to shiver, and
waited.



When Rollin Hand had reached the airport he had found that one
of his travel cases had been left behind. He knew without a
doubt that it was still in the hotel room that Barney would be
using for the rest of the day. Since Rollin‘s cover had
combined his profession of acting, a travel case full of makeup
would not be questioned by the customs agents. Barney would not
be so fortunate. Rollin had changed his airline tickets for a
later flight, wandered casually past Jim Phelps to inform him of
the delay and returned to the hotel. He had just picked the
lock on the hotel door and entered when the transmitter had
blinked for attention. Barney had not been in the room and
Rollin had answered Cinnamon‘s distress call.

His heart beat faster and he felt the thrill of the adrenalin
rush that attracted him to this dangerous profession. But this
time there was something more. Cinnamon was more to him than a
teammate in trouble. He had never told her, but his attraction
to her was more than that of a friend. Beneath the flirting and
playful banter they frequently exchanged he had grown to love
the intelligent, resourceful woman, and was not about to let her
come to harm. He opened his travel case and drew out a few
selected vials. He checked the closet and selected a pair of
workmen‘s coveralls, then closed the case and locked the door.
In the hotel lobby he handed the case to the clerk at the desk,
giving instructions for the case to be sent to the airport and
checked on his flight. Then he took a piece of paper and left a
note for Barney. The note was a string of numbers—a prearranged
code that an agent was in trouble and he was going to help.
That accomplished he walked out into the thunderstorm.

There was no traffic on the road. In the western world, a hotel
of this caliber would have a doorman eager to flag down a cab.
No so here. At the corner a motorbike was parked. The
policeman it belonged to was taking refuge from the storm in a
nearby café. Rollin walked briskly to the bike, mounted, kicked
it into action and was away at top speed before the policeman
had time to turn from the counter and look out the window.

He rounded a block, heading south first to throw off the bike‘s
owner, then circled back and headed out of town on the north
road, checking his odometer as he went. If Cinnamon was in
trouble she might not have gotten a good sense of her location,
but he trusted her to be as accurate as possible. At 5.8 miles
he noticed a small creek that meandered down the hill and
underneath the road. The rain had increased the amount the
amount of water running through the culvert. He stopped the
bike without turning it off and walked down into the ditch.

Rain was still falling, and the water was rushing through the
ditch. He bent down and peered into the culvert. ―Cinnamon,‖
he called as loud as he dared. ―It‘s Rollin. Come on out.‖

He detected movement and a soaked and muddy Cinnamon crawled
out. ―Rollin! I thought you were gone. You should have been
on a plane when I called.‖

―My good luck,‖ he said with a smile. He took her hand and led
her back to the road. ―I decided to take a later flight. Gives
me time to rescue a damsel in distress. Care to join me on a
flight back to the States?‖

―I‘d love to,‖ she replied, staying close to be heard over the
rain. ―But there‘s a problem. I‘ve mislaid my passport and
airline ticket.‖

He looked at her sharply, and she nodded. ―It‘s on the floor of
the limo I vacated rather abruptly. It‘s a long story.‖
He pulled the coveralls from under his jacket and handed them to
her. ―Put this on. We‘ll go to plan B.‖

―Which is--?‖

―I‘ll tell you when I‘ve thought it up,‖ he replied with a
smile.

She drew the coveralls on over her wet clothing. The rain was
beginning to slack off, but she would be wet again from the
ride. She thought they would head toward the city, but once she
settled behind him on the back of the motorbike he gunned it and
headed north. Wet and cold, Cinnamon huddled behind Rollin, her
head against his back and arms around his waist. The road wound
through the mountains, vaguely in the direction of the Austrian
border. The sun was setting when the motor began to sputter.
They had driven through only a few small villages, but Rollin
hadn‘t slowed down for any of them.

He turned off the cycle and they coasted down a hill off the
main road and into a small farmyard. The house wasn‘t much more
than a shack and the barn was only slightly more sturdy looking,
but the yard was swept clean and two hay stacks stood like
sentinels on either side of the barn. Rollin guided the cycle
behind one of the stacks and helped Cinnamon off the bike. She
was stiff from the cold and the long ride.

―Would you believe we‘re out of gas?‖ Rollin said lightly.

She held onto his arms for a few moments to get her balance.
She smiled, ―That‘s a very old line. Can‘t you do better than
that?‖

―It‘s also true.‖

―That‘s too bad. Now what?‖ She was beginning to shiver and
the occasional snowflake was beginning to fall in place of rain.

Rollin pushed some of the hay aside and made a hole in the hay
stack. ―Wait here,‖ he said. ―I‘ve got to hide the bike.‖

She curled up in the hole he‘d made and he replaced the hay.
Out of the wind was warmer, but not by much. She could barely
hear Rollin walk away with the bike. The hay muffled all sounds
and the farmyard was quiet to begin with as darkness fell. When
she did hear voices they were not speaking English—or French,
Spanish, German or Russian, the languages she was conversant in.
By the tone, there were two people, speaking quietly with
caution, but not animosity. The voices stopped beside the
haystack and Cinnamon held very still, trying not to shiver.

There was a long pause, then a rustling in the hay. Cinnamon
prepared herself to use every form of unarmed defense she knew,
which was considerable. She nearly struck out when she heard
Rollin‘s low whisper in German, ―Cinnamon, ich bin mir.‖ He
crawled into the cramped hollow beside her, holding a blanket
and a bundle of faded cloth. She relaxed and following his cue
whispered in German, ―What have you brought?‖

―A change of clothes for you, not as glamorous, but not
conspicuous, and definitely drier.‖

Without hesitating Cinnamon began peeling out of her wet
clothes. She accepted Rollin‘s help in the cramped quarters and
pulled on a shapeless top and skirt, both well-worn but clean
smelling. Rollin‘s clothing had also changed, she could tell by
both touch and scent in the cramped dark quarters. He pulled
the blanket around them both and curled around her to provide
extra warmth. He rubbed her bare feet and tucked them against
his calf. Lying womb-like among the hay she relaxed against
him, soaking up his warmth. Her shivering finally stopped.

With his lips against her ear he quietly whispered in German,
―I‘ve given the farmer an edited version of your story. We‘re a
German couple on holiday. You attracted the unwanted attention
of a minor government official who was unhappy at being spurned.
I managed to get you away from him, but we fled on a stolen
police cycle without our passports or money. He‘s going to help
us get to Austria.‖

―How do you know the language?‖

He chuckled softly, ―My grandmother was born about fifteen miles
from here. You picked a good spot to find trouble. The farmer
turns out to be distantly related to her family by marriage.‖

She started to ask another question, but he placed finger on her
lips. ―We‘re not out of danger yet. Stay quiet and try to get
some sleep. We‘ll be up early.‖

She nodded and laid her head against his shoulder. He held her
close had stroked her hair. Their shared warmth finally lulled
her into an exhausted sleep.
Voices woke her. Again, she could not understand them, but they
did not sound friendly this time. Rollin‘s arms around her kept
her from moving. They held as still as possible. The voices
came nearer, then moved off. The tapping of wood against wood
told of a thorough search of the barn. The house must have been
searched before she woke. Then they heard the sound of an
engine turning over, something large, like a truck. The noise
of the motor retreated, gears grinding as it pulled itself up
the hill out of the hollow the farm occupied and onto the road.

Rollin let out a sigh and relaxed. Cinnamon shifted slightly
and put her arms around him. He returned her embrace whispering
quietly in her ear. ―They were looking for a woman, travelling
alone, on foot. We‘ll make it out of this yet.‖

Cinnamon lightly touched her lips to his with a smile of relief.
Rollin pressed his lips more firmly against hers, and felt her
body respond to him. Her lips parted slightly, and her tongue
touched his lips hesitantly. It was all the encouragement he
needed. The kiss deepened, threatening to consume them both.
She shifted to a more comfortable position, and his hands moved
down her body, finding their way back up underneath her skirt.
Her own hands eagerly explored him and he knew she was every bit
as eager to bring their explorations to their logical
conclusion. Then she hesitated. He stopped immediately and
asked, ―What is it?‖

Her breathing was rapid.    She was sitting astride him, their
chests pressed together,   their hands underneath each other‘s
clothing. She moved her    lips against his ear. It was almost a
caress as she spoke. ―I    want this, Rollin, very much.‖ She
hesitated. ―But I don‘t    want my first time to be in a hay
stack.‖

He felt her long lashes against his cheek, and her breath hot
against his earlobe.

He digested her words. Her first time, not ours, but hers. She
was so worldly. He had seen her flirt with scientists and
seduce political leaders. She had played his loving wife on
several occasions and had played Jim Phelps‘ wife as well. In
fact, it had occurred to him at some of those times that her
relationship with Jim might be more close than professional.
―You‘re—―
―A virgin,‖ she whispered reluctantly, and a bit apologetically.

His hear beat faster. ―You‘re right. It should be somewhere
beautiful, wonderful, as you are.‖ He pulled his hands away
from thigh and breast.

―I—I want to—―

―I know, but you‘re right. We‘ll just postpone this, until a
more appropriate time.‖ He shifted his position to remove her
from his lap.

She was trembling, and he was not much better off, but he
managed to soothe her back to sleep. The sound of a creaking
cart brought them both awake, although Rollin would have sworn
that he couldn‘t possibly sleep. The hay stirred as the farmer
hissed for them to come out.

It was not yet dawn. The ox cart was a pathetic two-wheeled
contraption that looked as if it would barely hold the load of
beets. With a steady whispered stream of the odd and musical
language the farmer motioned to the front of the cart. As
Cinnamon climbed on board she realized that there was a false
bottom and a dark little coffin-like space beneath the seat.
Her heart pounded. She looked back at Rollin.

Even in the dark he could feel her fear. He stepped up behind
her. Still speaking in German, he rubbed her shoulders. ―He
usually smuggles in a little bit of contraband. The border
guard is a cousin and takes a cut. He won‘t think about any
outgoing smuggling. It‘s the only way.‖

Cinnamon swallowed hard and allowed Rollin to help her into the
cart. Rollin crawled under the seat first then held her tight
as she joined him. She was sweating despite the cold and he
murmured encouragingly to her, his lips against her ear. The
farmer sealed them into this small space and Rollin pointed out
the cracks between the boards in the floor. He promised she
would be able to see light as the sun came up. The oxen began
to move, jerking the cart forward. She suppressed a scream and
spent her time concentrating on not screaming. Rollin was doing
everything he could to keep them both alive, and she knew Rollin
understood how difficult this was for her. She was determined
not to let him down. The trip was long, stuffy and bumpy;
uncomfortable in the best of circumstances. Her claustrophobia
made it interminable. Her breath came in gulps that sounded too
loud.
The stop at the border was brief and perfunctory. The farmer
shouted a short phrase, there was a reply muffled by the
surrounding cart. Cinnamon could almost see lights in the
cracks in the floorboard. The sun was coming up. They began to
move again, and soon found another discomfort: going downhill.
They continued slowly, steadily in the brightening day.
Finally, the cart halted again. The farmer removed the front
wall and Cinnamon rolled out into the sweet-smelling air of
Austria. Rollin crawled out behind her, and handed her down to
the farmer.

She got her first looked at their benefactor. He was short and
bald, a smiling elderly man with chipped teeth. He nodded to
her politely and turned to Rollin to make a comment in short
clipped sentences. Rollin put his arm around Cinnamon‘s waist
and responded in kind. The old man reached into the cart and
handed Cinnamon a well-worn pair of wooden clogs. She took them
gratefully and slipped her feet into them. Rollin steered her
away from the cart as the old man climbed aboard and continued
on his way.

They stood by the side of the road while the cart disappeared
around the corner. Rollin explained, ―He‘s a regular in the
market ahead and word might get back that he was with us, if we
ride in with him.‖

Cinnamon nodded. The mountain air was cool, but preferable to
the box she had been in. It was a relief to see it leave.

―We‘re about two kilometers away from the village.   Do you think
you can make it?‖

She looked at the odd wooden shoes which were pinching her toes
already and surveyed the gravel roadway ahead of them. It would
not be pleasant, but she could handle it. In answer, she took
his hand and started walking.


Chapter 2
Bubble Bath

Two days later Cinnamon was enjoying the luxury of a bubble bath
in a Swiss hotel. Her feet were blistered and the hot water was
stinging in a comforting, healing sort of way. She leaned back,
closed her eyes and relaxed. They had walked to the nearest
train station, sent a wire for funds and taken the first
available train to Switzerland. Rollin had secured them a
private car and she almost immediately fell sound asleep tucked
safely in Rollin‘s arms.

Jim met them at the train station and brought them to the hotel.
They were scheduled for a debriefing the following morning.

The door opened but Cinnamon remained still.    She had a good
idea who it was.

―Want some wine?    I thought it might help you relax.‖

―My door was locked, sir.‖

―Yes, it took me nearly ten seconds to get in here.‖      He dangled
a full glass of wine in front of her.

He settled on the floor next to the claw-footed tub, their eyes
met and she leaned her glass toward his. They sipped the
champagne together without talking.

―You okay?‖   he asked.

―Yes, I‘m fine.    A little stiff.   My feet are a little sore.‖

―Sorry about those clogs.‖

―They were better than the alternative.     Rollin, thank you.    For
being there, and taking care of me.‖

Rollin reached for her hand and brought it to his lips.     ―I did
what I could. You deserve the best.‖

She smiled at him then leaned back with a sigh. ―And now what?‖
She looked at him with regret. After admitting her feelings,
her vulnerability, she wasn‘t sure they could put things back
the way they‘d been before. How could they possibly put things
back the way they had been? She no longer wanted to be just his
pal and his co-worker.

He kissed her hand again, and massaged her palm.     ―I have an
idea.‖

―Oh?‖

―Of course, fraternization among team members is frowned upon.‖
―Of course.‖

―But we both have other lives—public lives.‖

―Yes—―

―If you just happened to attend a party given by a friend. And
that friend just happened to introduce you to a charming young
actor…‖

Cinnamon‘s eyes went wide.   ―Well, a charming young actor.   I
might be interested.‖

―Well I would hope so,‖ Rollin said indignantly. ―He‘s quite
eligible. Women are always throwing themselves at him.‖

Cinnamon lay back again, but did not let go of his hand. She
continued to tease him. ―I hear he‘s modest too. I like that
in a man.‖

Rollin shrugged. ―Upon occasion, he can be.‖ He grinned. ―In
any event, if a beautiful young model and an up and coming actor
met at a party and had a very public whirlwind romance, what
could the Secretary say?‖

―A whirlwind romance?‖

―Very public.   And culminating quickly in a nice simple wedding
ceremony.‖

―A wedding?‖

―Marry me, Cinnamon, as quickly as we can arrange it. I want to
spend my life with you. I want to be your partner, forever.‖

She moved to sit up.

―No, don‘t. We‘ve waited this long.     I want everything to be
perfect on our wedding night.‖

He squeezed her hand. ―If our public lives mesh, it doesn‘t
mean we need to give up our ‗private‘ career, of course.‖

―They may have some thoughts on that.   Jim, and the Secretary.‖
―We‘ll convince them that we can still play the game. But on
our terms. We play husband and wife often enough. Why can‘t we
be husband and wife? Are you willing to play the part?‖

―It‘s the part I‘ve always wanted to play,‖ she told him with a
smile.

―You‘ll be a natural.‖ He leaned forward and kissed her then
slipped out of the room. ―Be ready!‖

―I will,‖ she called with a laugh. She settled back into her
bath and sipped the rest of the champagne. She was now very
anxious to get home.



Chapter 3
The Party

The night was perfect for a party. The stars were sparkling
overhead as Cinnamon drove through the Hollywood hills. The
engraved invitation lay on the seat beside her. The party was a
benefit for a hospital charity. She didn‘t remember when she
had ever been more excited about attending a benefit.

Cinnamon had been back in the States for two weeks. Two days
after her return she had received the invitation and that
evening she had gotten a telephone call from an acquaintance who
was hosting the party. Sophia Terrell‘s husband was a doctor at
the Children‘s Hospital. Cinnamon had met her the year before
when she had attended a banquet with the publisher of one of the
magazines she modeled for. Sophia described the gala to her and
insisted she come. She also said there was a young man that she
wanted Cinnamon to meet. Cinnamon had not wasted much time
protesting.

She drove through the gates and up the drive to the mansion
where the party was being held. The grounds were brightly lit
and a valet was quickly at her side. Upon surrendering her keys
she made her way up the steps to the door. A butler let her in
and led her through the foyer to the rear of the house. French
doors were opened onto a large terrace. Steps led down to the
lanai and pool area. A large tent was set up on the grounds
behind the pool with a dance floor. A band was playing the
Frank Sinatra song ―Night and Day‖ and a few people were already
dancing. She stood on the terrace and looked around, using her
‗model‘ face. If she spotted Rollin she certainly didn‘t want
to give away what she was feeling.

―Cinnamon!‖ Sophia Terrell called from her left. A wet bar was
set up at the corner of the terrace, and there was quite a crowd
next to it. Sohpia hurried up to her, formal blue gown
rustling, diamonds sparkling.

―Hello Sophia.   You have such a lovely home.‖

―It‘s a monster, darling. Trey and I escape to a tiny cabin in
the mountains just about every weekend,‖ the matron confided.
She looked out over the garden. ―But it does throw a nice
party,‖ she added with satisfaction.

She tucked Cinnamon‘s arm under hers. ―Come, dear.   There‘s
someone I want you to meet. He‘s an actor, and dreamily
handsome. Incredible eyes, and those lips of his!‖

―Sophia,‖ Cinnamon laughed.   ―You sound like a matchmaker.‖

―Oh, but I am, darling. I absolutely love introducing the right
people to each other. And I‘ve tried to fix him up with several
eligible young women, but he‘s always shied away. When he saw
your picture on the cover of Vogue last month, he actually
called me and asked me to arrange to meet you!‖

―He reads Vogue?‖ Cinnamon asked doubtfully. She doubted that
Rollin had ever seen the magazine. She had a moment of extreme
doubt. What if Sophia was setting her up with someone else?

―He saw it in a newsstand, I think. Brought the magazine over
here and asked me about you. He‘s such a dear.‖

―How do you know him?‖

―Oh, he‘s quite legit, darling.‖ Sophia led her down the steps
and toward the tent and dance floor. ―He was entertaining some
of the children in the cancer ward last December, doing magic
tricks for them. But he does a lot of theatre work, real
acting.‖

Cinnamon smiled at Sophia‘s enthusiasm.   Rollin had certainly
found the right matchmaker.

―There he is, just over there, by the band.‖
A thousand small light bulbs lit the inside of the tent, like
white Christmas lights. Rollin stood in black tie and tails,
cigarette in hand, enjoying the music and watching the couples
on the dance floor. He looked wonderful, and Cinnamon‘s heart
beat faster. Sophia waived gaily to him and he looked toward
them. He smiled that lopsided smile that always made Cinnamon‘s
heart beat faster, flicked his cigarette stub away and moved
through the crowd toward them.

―Miss Cinnamon Carter, may I present Mr. Rollin Hand. Rollin,
Miss Carter.‖ Sophia made the formal introductions and Rollin
took her hand, his eyes meeting Cinnamon‘s.

―My pleasure, Miss Carter.‖

―Mr. Hand.‖

―Now, you two have a wonderful time, I have other guests to
greet!‖ Sophia beat a fast retreat and Cinnamon and Rollin
stood looking at each other, as if they had just met.

For a moment, it felt like that as well. They were on the
outside of the caution and danger that generally surrounded
their work together. Everything seemed brand new. A new song
started up. It was ―Too Young‖, a song made famous by Nat King
Cole.

―Would you like to dance, Miss Carter?‖ Rollin asked, with just
the right tone for a first dance with a stranger, not too eager,
but not too diffidently either.

―I‘d love to, Mr. Hand,‖ Cinnamon replied.

Rollin took her hand and led her to the dance floor. She flowed
into his arms as if she belonged there. ―Please, call me
Rollin.‖

―And I‘m Cinnamon,‖ she replied with a smile.

He steered her through the dance with ease. She    loved dancing
with him. They stayed on the floor for two more    sets, one a
faster number and the next a tango. They smiled    at each other
as they finished the tango, Cinnamon draped over   Rollin‘s arm,
relaxed and poised.

―Thank you, Rollin. I don‘t know when I‘ve enjoyed dancing so
much.‖ Her hair was swept up off her neck and brow, but a stray
curl had fallen to the corner of her forehead and it was damp
with sweat.

―You‘re a terrific dancer, Cinnamon.    It was my pleasure.     Would
you like a drink?‖

―Yes please, that would be nice.‖

It was cooler outside the tent and away from the lights. Rollin
put his arm around her back. ―Did you see the woman in the ugly
green dress in the back of the tent?‖

―I wasn‘t watching,‖ Cinnamon said, almost startled to admit it.
For the last three songs nothing had existed for her but Rollin
and their movement together. Usually she made a quick check of
the room and could give descriptions of everyone, their hair
color, clothing choices, everything. It had become habit, but
not something she normally shared with her dates.

―Gossip columnist. She was keeping a close eye on the two of
us. I chatted her up just before you got there.‖

―Why Mr. Hand, you‘re a very thorough and smooth operator.‖

―We danced so well together, you can still call me Rollin,‖ he
said with that charming smile as they climbed the steps to the
terrace.

―All right, Rollin, a white wine, please.‖

―Whatever milady wants,‖ he responded with a small bow.    He
disappeared into the crowd.

She couldn‘t help but smile after him.

―Well?   Isn‘t he just delicious?‖   Sophia was at her elbow
again.

Cinnamon smiled.   ―He‘s certainly a good dancer,‖ she admitted
cautiously.

Sophia laughed and whirled away.

They sipped wine by the pool and watched the other party goers,
then returned to the dance floor. They both enjoyed dancing
together, flirting with each other, and sparred verbally with
each other, something they had perfected on missions together.
The evening passed quickly and at nearly midnight Cinnamon
admitted that she needed to go. She had a modeling assignment
the next day.

Rollin walked with her to say good night to her hostess. Sophia
accompanied them both to the front hall and waited while the
valet went to retrieve her car. They chatted together easily
until the valet returned without the car.

―I‘m sorry miss,‖ the young man said, his ears going red.      ―I
can‘t get the car to start.‖

―It won‘t start?‖    Cinnamon said, surprised.    ―I just had it
tuned up!‖

―I‘m really sorry.    It just won‘t turn over.‖

Cinnamon sighed and turned to Sophia. ―Can I leave it here and
send a mechanic out to look at it tomorrow? I suppose I‘ll have
to get a cab to take me home.‖

Rollin handed his ticket to the embarrassed young man.      ―Get my
car please,‖ he requested softly.

―Miss Carter, allow me to drive you home.‖

―Oh, but you weren‘t ready to leave the party yet,‖ Cinnamon
protested, suddenly realizing that this had been carefully
planned.

―I‘d be happy to do it.    And Sophia here can vouch for my
character.‖

Sophia laughed. ―Yes, Rollin, you‘re quite a character.
Really, Cinnamon, I‘m certain he‘ll be a perfect gentleman, and
it will take at least a half hour to get a cab out here.‖

Cinnamon acquiesced slowly. ―In that case, I‘ll accept.       I do
need to get my sleep before the shoot tomorrow.‖

A black Lincoln convertible pulled up to the door. The same
young man stepped out of it and handed Rollin the keys. He then
moved around the car to open the door for Cinnamon. She said
her final goodbyes to Sophia and allowed Rollin to hand her in
to the car. Rollin slid quickly behind the wheel and they were
off. Cinnamon felt like laughing out loud. As they pulled out
onto the road she cut her eyes over at Rollin. His eyes were on
the road, but he seemed to sense her mood because he grinned and
reached a hand out for her. She slid across the seat and
settled against him. He gently kissed the top of her head.

―Excellent performance, Miss Carter.‖

―And for you, Mr. Hand,‖ she said lacing the fingers of her
right hand with his and enjoying the scent of him.

―Do you really have a shoot in the morning?‖

―Yes, I do.    And what did you do to my car?‖

―The battery cables may have disappeared. I‘ll have a mechanic
out first thing in the morning to check it out.‖

―Some magic act, you were with me the entire evening.‖

They pulled up to a stop light. He turned to her. ―Yes, I
was,‖ he leaned closer. ―And I don‘t know when I‘ve had a
better time.‖

―Me either.‖    She moved closer and he kissed her deeply.

All too soon the light changed and Rollin had to concentrate on
the road again.

―How am I supposed to get to work in the morning?‖ Cinnamon
asked. ―Are you planning to spend the night?‖

―It wouldn‘t look good if I took you to work. How about calling
a cab to get to work? Let me know when and where I can pick you
up and take you back to your car.‖

―It‘s a morning shoot. We should be finished by noon.     I‘ll get
you the address when we get to my place.‖

―That‘s great, I‘ll make reservations for lunch.‖

―You didn‘t answer my question.    Are you staying the night?‖

The pulled up to another stop light.    He turned and looked into
her eyes. ―Are you inviting me?‖

She smiled flirtatiously.    ―If you‘d like.‖
He reached over and caressed her cheek.   ―I‘d like very much.‖
He kissed her softly.

A car pulled up behind them and honked its horn. The light had
changed again. ―But our courtship isn‘t over yet.‖ He pulled
away form her and concentrated on driving again.


Chapter 4
Courtship

Rollin picked her up at the appointed time and place and their
courtship began in earnest. She certainly hoped it was a brief
courtship, but she found she was enjoying herself.

Lunch was at a trendy and popular restaurant where people went
to be seen. Rollin knew the waiters by name and they knew him.
They stopped and said hello to several acquaintances on the way
to their table. The service was excellent and they enjoyed a
wonderful meal.

Cinnamon and Rollin had been attracted to each other as long as
they had worked together, and they had played a number of roles
together from adversaries to lovers. They knew about each
other‘s secret lives, and that gave them an intimacy that they
could never share with anyone else. But now they had a chance to
get to know each other as themselves, not some other persona.

They chatted through lunch, lingering over a glass of wine and
learning about each other‘s lives. Rollin was rehearsing a play
that was scheduled to open in another month. They talked about
the theatre in general and he invited her to go to rehearsal
with him the next day. She didn‘t have anything scheduled so
she agreed. He also suggested they take in a play the next
evening, and have a late dinner afterwards. She liked that idea
too, and he promised to have the details by the time he picked
her up for the rehearsal. She asked if he would like help with
his lines, and he accepted. She had frequently assisted him in
similar ways in their secret lives.

By the time they left the restaurant, they had been seen
together by quite a few acquaintances. Cinnamon took Rollin‘s
arm as they left, continuing their discussion about the play.

In the privacy of the car, Cinnamon asked, ―How long before Jim
finds out?‖
―By the end of the week, I expect.   What‘s your schedule like
for Friday?‖

―I have an early appointment to look at the proofs for today‘s
shoot. Why?‖

―I was thinking we should elope that day.‖

Cinnamon turned and put her arm on the back of the seat. She
faced him, while he drove. ―Rollin, are you serious about
this?‖

He glanced at her and smiled that smile. ―This isn‘t something
I‘d joke about.‖ He turned and met her eyes for a brief moment.
―Let‘s go somewhere and talk. My place okay?‖

She nodded and settled back in the seat.

Rollin‘s place was a small bungalow on the beach in Malibu.
Cinnamon had his phone number, and Rollin had been to her place
before on business, but Cinnamon had never seen Rollin‘s place.

It was small, a one car carport let into a tiny laundry room and
then into an equally tiny kitchen. It was neat and utilitarian.
There were no personal touches on the counters or windowsill,
but it was clean and well organized.

They walked through the kitchen to the living room. A wall of
glass let in the light and the view. A doorway to the left led
to a bedroom that also had a view of the ocean. There was a
wooden deck that ran the length of the house looking out over
the ocean.

Rollin walked to the bar and poured two glasses of wine.
Cinnamon settled on the sofa and accepted the glass from him.
He sat beside her, but turned on the sofa to face her.

―Lunch was nice.‖   He said with a smile.

―Yes, it was. There was something very… relaxing about just
visiting with each other.‖

He nodded.   ―Cinnamon, I‘m completely serious about this.‖

―Rollin, you don‘t have to be.   When I get married, I want it to
be forever and always.‖
He looked down at his glass, then back up at her.    ―And you
don‘t think I would qualify for that?‖

She leaned forward and took his hand.   ―Oh, I think you‘re
eminently qualified.‖

―But?‖

―But, we hardly know each other.    We know the roles we‘ve played
together…‖

―We know we work well together, improvise together in sticky
situations. We know we‘re attracted to each other no matter
what rolls we play. We know each other‘s weaknesses, we know
what each is capable of under fire.‖

―Well that‘s useful in a marriage.‖

―It would be in ours.‖

―You planning to do much shooting?‖

Rollin had to laugh.   ―I hope not.‖

―Rollin, we know almost nothing about how we live our lives
everyday when we‘re not ‗working‘, nothing about each other‘s
families or backgrounds—―

―OK, tell me about your family.    I‘ll tell you about mine.‖

―Be serious.‖

―I am! Completely! Look, Cinnamon. We enjoyed last night, and
today, as ourselves. Let‘s spend the week together and elope on
Friday.‖

He leaned closer and touched his lips to hers. She moved toward
him and the kiss deepened. He pulled her into his arms and they
didn‘t think about talking for a while. After a while they
shifted position and Cinnamon settled comfortably into his arms.

―I just want you to know that all I was saying was I didn‘t want
to be in a haystack. I wasn‘t asking for a wedding ring.‖

―I know you weren‘t. And I think I love you all the more for
that.‖ He kissed the top of her head. ―Can I ask you
something?‖
―Anything.‖ She laced her fingers with his.

―Why have you waited then?‖

She was quiet for a while and he didn‘t press the issue. She
had said anything, but he hadn‘t been sure she really meant it.

―When I was younger—much younger, I really was waiting for ‗Mr.
Right‘. I still thought I‘d marry and settle down and have
children. Then the Company recruited me, and I found I liked
this life. I liked the excitement, the risk, and the chance to
make a difference. It‘s not something many women get to do.‖

She paused again, but he kept quiet. He knew she wasn‘t
finished yet. ―I almost thought I had found Mr. Right a couple
of times. One was a photographer and I found out in time that
he was a cad. The other… was someone I met on a mission. It
was before you joined the team. I was… very tempted.‖

―Another team member?‖ He wondered briefly if she meant Jim.
The two of them had quite a rapport. But he didn‘t think she
had met Jim before he took control of the team.

She shook her head and leaned forward to take her purse from the
coffee table. She searched for a cigarette and he picked up a
lighter and lit it for her, then lit one for himself.

She sat back against the sofa and gave a long pull on the
cigarette before she continued. ―He was my target. He was
charming and handsome and very much the gentleman. I had never
been so attracted to anyone before, not even that photographer,‖
she smiled, remembering. ―He was also a gentleman, and we both
knew we were involved in the Game. We talked until the small
hours of the morning, then he took the sofa. I had the choice
of betraying him, or betraying my country. He gave me the
chance to choose before we did anything we might regret…‖

―Why do I think you still have regrets?‖ Rollin asked softly.
He sat shoulder to shoulder with her, his feet propped on the
coffee table.

―No, I made the only choice I could. It wasn‘t just my country.
I would have betrayed myself, lost myself to the Game. I
couldn‘t do it.‖

They were both quiet for a while.
―You‘re a strong and special woman, Cinnamon Carter.‖

―Sometimes I think I‘m a cold hearted bitch with no feelings
left whatsoever,‖ she answered bleakly.

―No, you‘re not,‖ Rollin put his cigarette in the ashtray and
pulled her into his arms. She moved into his arms and let him
hold her.

For a while they enjoyed holding each other close and kissing,
but Cinnamon pulled back with a smile. ―I thought I was
supposed to help you with your lines.‖

―This is much more fun,‖ he said, leaning toward her again.

―Go get your script,‖ she laughed.

―Yes, ma‘am.‖   He replied and headed to the bedroom.

Cinnamon spent the rest of the evening feeding him lines.
Rollin paced around the room, responding, making his marks as
best he could in the small area. Around ten p.m. he took her
home.



The following day, Rollin took her with him to rehearsal and
introduced her to the rest of the cast as ‗my girl, Cinnamon.‘
One of the cast members recognized her as a model, they welcomed
her, and she settled into a seat in the theatre and watched the
rehearsal. After rehearsal they joined some of the other cast
members for lunch at a nearby bar. The cast was relaxed and
optimistic about their play and they had an enjoyable lunch.
Rollin had obviously known several of the other actors for a
long time and they enjoyed teasing him about his new girlfriend,
but it was all in fun.

After lunch Rollin took her home. Cinnamon invited him in, but
he declined and they made arrangements for him to pick her up in
time to be at the theatre.

Cinnamon spent the afternoon at the hairdresser‘s, and looked
spectacularly glamorous in a black dress with a wide white satin
off the shoulder collar. She wore diamond pendant earrings and
a matching necklace. Her hair was swept up with two delicate
combs.
The play was a black comedy with odd plot twists. It was the
‗in‘ play to see this season, and as with lunch the previous
day, they were seen by plenty of people, including the publisher
of one of the fashion magazines that Cinnamon frequently worked
for and one of the world‘s most prominent fashion designers.
She introduced them to Rollin during intermission.

After the play they went to a nearby nightclub where Rollin had
made reservations for a late supper. Their table was in a quiet
corner of the room, secluded, but in a spot where you could see
everything, and be seen by everyone. The maitre d‘ greeted
Rollin by name and settled them at the table. Cinnamon
exchanged a secret smile with Rollin and silently congratulated
him on the strategic value of this particular table.

As they settled in with two glasses of wine, Rollin said, ―tell
me about your family.‖

―My family?‖ she asked, surprised.

―Yes, we‘re supposed to be getting to know each other, remember?
And I do want to know all about you. Where you were born, and
where you grew up. Do you have sisters or brothers? Parents?
Grandparents? Is there someone we should call this weekend, to
tell them about the wedding?‖

Cinnamon smiled and pulled her cigarette case out of her evening
bag. Rollin found a lighter. ―My father, I suppose.‖

―You‘ve never mentioned your parents.   Do they know about your—
various career pursuits?‖

She looked out at the dance floor, knowing she would have had to
tell him this sooner or later. ―My mother died while I was in
high school, of cancer. My father knows everything.‖

―A security breech?‖   He asked teasingly.

―No,‖ she said with a smile.   ―He has the proper clearance.‖

―Oh, really?‖ Rollin raised an eyebrow as he lit his own
cigarette.

―I was born in Paris,‖ she started at the beginning of his
questions. ―My parents were both students there. My mother was
American. She was studying foreign languages at the Universite
de Paris. My father‘s family fled Russia during the Bolshevik
Revolution, when he was little, and he was studying political
science at the Sorbonne. They married and intended to make
their home in Paris. But the war came when I was just a few
months old. My father got Mother and I to Nice, and from there
to Morocco where she found us passage to the States. My father
remained in France, fighting as a maquis. Because of his own
command of languages, General Koenig assigned him to work with
the Allied Intelligence agencies when Paris was liberated.

―My mother was working in D.C. in the war department, teaching
foreign languages at Georgetown University. When the war was
over, my father joined us in the States. Mother stayed on the
faculty at Georgetown while my father worked for the War
Department, and then the intelligence agencies spawned by them.
He now works training agents.‖

―Did he recruit you?‖

She shook her head. A waltz was beginning on the dance floor
and she looked at Rollin. He smiled, already knowing what she
wanted and took her hand. They both enjoyed moving together in
each other‘s arms. He led her to the floor and they fell into
the familiar steps with ease.

At the end of the dance they returned to their table. Two bowls
of soup were immediately served by the attentive waiter and she
tasted the vichyssoise cautiously, and then with more eagerness.
The food was excellent.

―After high school, I went to Vassar,‖ she continued her life
story. ―I considered foreign languages, like my mother, but was
fluent in French, German and Russian already, and the classes
bored me. Since we had always had a house filled with grad
students and teaching assistants, I had picked up a good deal of
foreign culture and foreign language just from my surroundings.
With my father‘s own interests in political science, I also had
a good grounding in the happenings around the world. So I began
studying world history, and moved on to more current matters,
political science. For a while I considered working for some of
the political candidates, but the conservative ones were too
isolationist for me, I was already a citizen of the world, and
the liberal ones were just too unrealistically idealistic. They
seemed to have no sense of the way the world really worked.

―I was considering the Peace Corps, even though I really didn‘t
feel I had many talents that could be useful. I‘d be better at
instigating a revolution than teaching people how to plant
enough corn or rice to keep them alive.‖

Their main course arrived. Roast beef with gravy, mashed
potatoes and green beans. She had let Rollin order, and it was
a heavier supper than she would have chosen this late at night,
but it looked and smelled delicious.

―My father sent me to Europe for the summer while I thought
about what I wanted to do. I was supposed to make a ‗Grand
Tour‘, but my first stop was Paris, and while I was visiting
with one of my mother‘s former students, she took me to work
with her. She was working in the fashion industry and one of
their models didn‘t show up. I happened to be the same size and
she put me in the outfit and pushed me out on the runway. I
spent the entire summer and fall on the runways. The money was
good, the clothes were good, and it was fun, but I wasn‘t making
a difference.‖

―How did you end up with the Company then?‖ Rollin asked. He‘d
barely spoken through dinner, and had wolfed down his own roast
beef, but he was obviously interested in her story. It felt
good to talk about this. There really was no one in her life
who was interested in her this way. And the list of people she
could talk to like this was extremely limited.

―My college roommate had been recruited, and when I went back to
the states, I was telling her that I was having fun, but didn‘t
feel I was contributing, the way we had talked about in college.
She called me a couple of days later and told me she knew of a
way I could still model, and contribute too.‖ Cinnamon
shrugged. ―The rest is history.‖

―You said your dad works in... a similar area?‖ The waiter
refilled their wine glasses. Rollin asked for coffee for them
and the waiter nodded and moved off.

Cinnamon nodded. ―You‘ve probably met him. He conducts
briefings at Langley for new agents. We were both very
surprised when I showed up in his class.‖

Rollin frowned.   ―I had the usual training, but I don‘t recall…‖

―His name isn‘t Carter. When my mother and I returned to the
States when I was little, we used her passport to get here from
Morocco. We just continued using her maiden name. I guess she
was one of the early breed of independent women.‖
―Like her daughter.‖

―I suppose so,‖ she said with a shrug. The coffee arrived while
they were on the dance floor. They sat and sipped the coffee
together in companionable silence.

―Rollin? One thing Dad has always told me, is that our—job—is a
young person‘s profession. He has no real concerns about what I
do. After all, he was the one who raised me to want to
contribute in some way. But I know it won‘t last forever…‖

―Are you asking me about my plans for the future?‖   He asked,
amused.

―I guess so,‖ she said, feeling almost shy. ―I need… Rollin, I
told you before, I need a forever kind of relationship. If
you‘re not interested, I understand, but I really need to know
before we make plans for Friday.‖

He lit a cigarette for her and then one for himself. ―That
sounds only fair. OK, tell me how this sounds. Short term
first: We fly to Vegas on Friday and get married. Then I have
tickets to fly on to Acapulco for the weekend. When we come
back we can send out public announcements. I guess I just
assumed you‘d want to keep your own name because of your
profession. And you are certainly welcome to share my name in
any way you wish. Also, your place is bigger, but mine would
make a nice retreat for weekend getaways, so I thought we should
move into your place, even though I‘m not ready to get rid of my
place. Sound okay?‖

Cinnamon nodded with a fond smile. He did appear to have given
this some thought. Acapulco sounded lovely, with or without the
trip to Las Vegas first.

―Long term. All other professions aside, I‘m still an actor.
But I also like the creative side of show business. I‘d like to
direct, and write. Both of which would keep me at home more. I
would be involved in projects for a longer period of time. I
have some ideas that I‘ve been cultivating and I‘d love to have
the time to develop them properly. Our travels give me plenty
of experience and things to write about. I might even try
writing some novels once I have the funds to support myself—and
my family—while I take the time to do it right.‖ She could see
his enthusiasm, something he didn‘t let show very often.
―Your family?‖ she smiled.

―You, and the kids.    You like kids?‖ he asked.

This made her laugh.   ―If I say no, are you going to cancel our
date on Friday?‖

He was taken aback for a moment before he realized that she was
teasing him. ―Well, I—no, of course not. But I just thought…‖

―I like children, Rollin.‖ She put a reassuring hand on his
knee. ―The subject has just never come up before.‖

―Well, no it hasn‘t. Do you want children?    I shouldn‘t have
assumed that you do.‖

―Yes, I would like children, but when that happens, I won‘t
continue with the Company. And, how would you feel if I told
you I wouldn‘t want you to continue either?‖

He looked into her eyes. ―That would make sense. There‘s too
much danger there. I‘m good, and I know you are too, but I
don‘t want either of us to have to explain why mommy or daddy
isn‘t coming home to our children.‖

She leaned forward and kissed him. He moved his hand to her
neck, both of them nearly forgetting that they were in a very
public place.

―Cinnamon, I want you so much,‖ he murmured into her ear. ―I
want you forever. I want to touch you and give you pleasure
every day for the rest of our lives. I want us to grow old
together.‖

Cinnamon trembled. Nothing had ever prepared her for the way
she felt at this moment. All the flirtation and romancing and
role playing paled in comparison to her emotions right now. She
kissed him again, deeply and hungrily. ―Take me home, Rollin.
Right now. I want you too.‖

―Friday, my love.   Wait until Friday,‖ he whispered.

―I don‘t want to wait!‖   She whispered frantically.

―It‘s not long. Just two more days. Let‘s dance.‖       He pulled
her to her feet and led her to the dance floor.
Everything was suddenly different. She was no longer playing
the part of a young model swept off her feet by a dashing young
actor. It was real and she was living it.

She felt as if she were glowing, alive for the very first time.
Every dance was special. Every song had new meaning. Every
smile Rollin gave her was like an intimate caress. She was in
love. She realized it with a great deal of surprise. The last
song of the evening was ―Kiss me tonight‖. Rollin held her
close and sang softly into her ear. She shivered from the
excitement.

He led her from the dance floor and their car was waiting for
them when they left. She settled next to him in the car as they
drove off. ―Stay with me tonight?‖

―I have rehearsal early in the morning. But why don‘t you meet
me at my place about six tomorrow night? I‘ll cook dinner.‖

―You can cook?‖

―Well, it‘s a limited repertoire, but I get by. We‘ll go for a
walk on the beach, then I‘ll grill steaks for us. How does that
sound?‖

―Very nice.   Want me to bring something?‖

―The wine, perhaps?   Whatever you like.‖

―Done.   How long are we going to be in Mexico?‖

―I wish I could stay for a month, but I‘ll need to be back here
by Monday afternoon. I just can‘t get away longer right now.
I‘ve even told Jim that I can‘t take on any missions for the run
of the play. I enjoy the thrills of the missions, but need to
concentrate on my career right now.‖

Cinnamon nodded. They drove up to her apartment building and
parked. ―Come in for a little while?‖ she asked.

He turned and put his arms around her. ―Don‘t tempt me. It‘s
hard enough to leave you now.‖ He brushed her lips gently then
pressed harder, more insistently. The kiss was long and hot and
she wanted more, much more, but she finally pulled back.

She caressed his cheek.   ―You taste so good.   It‘s never felt
like this before.‖
―We were meant to be together.    I know we were.‖

She was beginning to believe it.    ―I‘ll see you tomorrow night?‖

―I‘ll be home around five-thirty.    Do you want me to pick you
up?‖

―No, I‘ll drive over.    What time do we fly out on Friday?‖

―I‘ve got us tickets on the 10 a.m. shuttle.    Is that okay?‖

―That‘ll be fine.   I‘ll pack and be ready to leave as soon as my
meeting is over.‖

―I can‘t wait.‖

―Me either.‖ She kissed him again, softly, not trusting herself
to go any further. She slid across the seat and out the door.
She leaned back in and gave her best flirting smile. ―Good
night, handsome.‖

―Goodnight beautiful.‖

He watched until she entered the apartment building and got on
the elevator. Then he drove across the street and waited,
watching her balcony. She hadn‘t said anything, but he wasn‘t
surprised when the light came on and she walked out onto the
balcony. She blew him a kiss and he drove away.


Chapter 5
Rollin

Rollin felt as if he were flying home instead of driving. The
girl of his dreams was about to become his wife! Cinnamon had
occupied his dreams almost from the moment they met. She was
beautiful, elegant and sophisticated. As he got to know her
better he found out she had an impressive intellect as well as a
beautiful body. It had become obvious, if unspoken between
them, that they were mutually attracted to each other, almost
from the moment they met. He had been with plenty of women
before, but none ever felt so right as Cinnamon Carter did.

He wondered what he would have done if she had said she didn‘t
want children. Her teasing had surprised him. They always
seemed to be on the same wavelength, and he had somehow taken it
for granted that being in love,   and feeling so right with each
other logically led to marriage   and family. He thought
fleetingly that perhaps she was   right to urge caution to go
slow. He quickly dismissed the    thought. They were made for
each other.

He lit a cigarette at a red light and puffed thoughtfully,
wondering just how she would get along with his family. His own
family certainly couldn‘t be any different from hers. They
sounded intellectual, elite, cosmopolitan. These were
characteristics he had spent much time and effort cultivating in
himself, but were certainly the antithesis of his family.

His brothers would be in awe of her. Their wives might be
jealous if things were not handled carefully. His parents would
simply be happy to see their wayward middle son settle down
some. His dad still had doubts about him being an actor. About
the only positive thing his father had ever said was that at
least Rollin had joined a good strong union. None of the family
had any inkling of his other profession. His mother still
worried that he didn‘t eat properly. She would be frantic to
know he had ever ridden a motorcycle, much less through a
thunderstorm being chased by an armed security patrol.

He arrived home too keyed up to sleep so he changed into shorts
and an old t-shirt and set off down the beach to walk out some
of his energy. It was late and the moon was already dipping
toward the horizon illuminating the beach and the darkened
houses above. It would be full this weekend. How perfect.

His thoughts returned to his childhood, so different from
Cinnamon‘s. He had grown up in a crowded apartment in Chicago
sharing the small space with his parents, grandmother and two
brothers. There had never been much money, but his father
worked steady in the machinist shop eight blocks away and there
was always plenty of food and plenty of other children to play
with. He had been in junior high when he first learned the term
ghetto and realized he lived in one. Nearly everyone in his
building spoke the old language. Most of the fathers had worked
at various machine shops or as truck drivers for the nearby
shipyards. Many of them didn‘t even need English to do their
jobs. And many spoke English poorly or not at all, despite the
fact they were born in America.

Most of the neighborhood also attended the orthodox church just
down the street. Rollin had never thought much about God. He
thought of the church as more like a social club. He had sat
and wriggled with his brothers and cousins in the pews as a
little boy until they were sent out. He had smoked his first
cigarette in the basement of the church, kissed his first girl
there, even taken his first drink there at a cousin‘s wedding
reception.

They had grown up talking the old language but listening to the
radio that played constantly in the apartment all day and late
into the evening. He and his brothers had first started singing
to the radio. Both of them still sang with a barbershop
quartet. Rollin loved listening to the adventure stories. He
and his brothers also made their way to the movie cinema every
Saturday afternoon. That became his religion. To miss the
Saturday matinee was the greatest torture that could be
inflicted on young Rollin. He wanted to live just like those
movie stars.

He probably still would have ended up a machinist like his
father and brothers if not for the fact that he‘d drawn study
hall with the head of the English Department who also happened
to be the drama club sponsor. It was his sophomore year and he
was sitting by the window daydreaming while the teacher coached
two of her drama students. They were rehearsing an Oscar Wilde
play and the male lead, a senior who was going to be the
valedictorian was flubbing his lines over and over again.
Rolling began muttering the lines under his breath. The young
actor was attempting to sound sophisticated and British and
coming across tense and unknowledgeable. When he stammered
through a line for the fifth time he noticed Rollin chuckle.

―I‘d like to see you do it better, Hand.‖

―That wouldn‘t take much,‖ Rollin replied, knowing with all the
self-assurance of a teenager that he could do it much better.

The other boy threw the script at him, angrily, ―Prove it.‖

Rollin met the teacher‘s eye and she nodded cautiously.

―The same scene?‖ he asked.

She nodded.

Rollin glanced down at the script and left it behind. He‘d been
hearing it all week. Two days before he‘d gone to the library,
found a copy, and read the entire play just so he knew what
happened beyond this scene that was giving the young thespian so
much trouble. As he walked to the front of the room he became
the character. His walk changed. His look changed. The woman
in front was no longer a dumpy old woman in a faded cotton
dress, but a beautiful ingénue dripping with diamonds and
smoking with a long cigarette holder. She played her part with
feeling but he commanded the stage. When they finished the
scene, he held her hand to his lips, kissing it as he had seen
movie stars on the screen. She was blushing and the room burst
into applause. It felt wonderful. Then suddenly he was just a
tall skinny kid again.

The teacher didn‘t give him the part, but she had him coach the
senior, then insisted Rollin try out for the lead in the next
play. She also helped him get involved in a community theatre
group and Rollin knew he had found what he wanted to do with his
life. He hung around the community theatre during all his spare
time doing anything he could; building sets, sewing costumes,
helping with makeup, cleaning up. When his father told him to
get a job, Rollin applied for a janitor‘s job at the theatre.
His brothers made much more money as machinists but Rollin was
doing what he loved. His teacher wanted him to go to college
and began pushing him to study harder and apply for
scholarships.

At first He didn‘t take her seriously, but the community theatre
group got behind her and encouraged their young protégée. When
his teacher urged him to apply to Columbia University in New
York he thought she was mad, but armed with recommendations and
financed by his friends in the theatre group he headed to New
York to audition.

His father was furious. The family couldn‘t afford nonsense
like college. His mother was fearful, she didn‘t want her
little boy so far away. His grandmother stopped the commotion
by handing him a battered passbook to her savings account and
telling him to do his very best. No one in the family would
argue with her.

He threw himself into the pursuit of his chosen profession
taking any job available that was even remotely associated with
the theatre. He honed his talent for voices, stepping
completely into any part he was given. He met an old
vaudevillian who took an interest in him and taught him amazing
things about showmanship and sleight of hand. He applied
himself to his studies as it was the only way to keep his
scholarships, but he reveled in the excitement of the theatre.
It was shortly after he graduated from Columbia—major in
theatre, minor in history, magna cum laude—that his agent set
him up for an appointment with someone who purported himself as
a Broadway producer. The man was actually a representative of
IMF who explained the country‘s occasional need for someone with
Rollin‘s talents. The pay was lucrative, the travel alluring
and the element of danger added an incredible spice to the
thrill of performing. Rollin was hooked.

Rollin stood silently, staring out at the silver ribbon of
moonlight. He lit a cigarette and watched the sparkling pattern
of the waves. He was a long way from Chicago, but oddly, he
felt a homecoming in the air—not physically, but on some
emotional level.

His brothers still lived in the same neighborhood and attended
the same church. His parents had moved to a retirement
community in Florida. They spent their days playing cards and
shuffle board with other retirees who had migrated from the same
small community up north.

Rollin‘s homecoming would be to a new home, however; the home he
would build with Cinnamon. He wasn‘t yet certain how they would
consolidate their hectic lives, both public and secret, but he
looked forward to the trying.

He tossed the cigarette butt into the foam at his feet and
headed back to his place, anticipating the events of the next
few days with great pleasure.


Chapter 6
Confrontation

The weather was perfect Thursday night for Rollin to cook on the
grill. He carefully set the patio table for two with candles in
globes for lighting. Cinnamon had called the theatre and said
she wouldn‘t be there until nearly eight. The next night they
would be dining in Mexico; the new Mr. & Mrs. Rollin Hand.
Rollin smiled at the thought as he prepared the two salmon
steaks and the salad. He put the coffee pot on and enjoyed the
sound of its domesticated rhythm in the background as he made
certain everything was ready.

He heard the back door open and Cinnamon‘s voice calling hello.
She sounded just a bit timid and uncertain. Rollin had a flash
of insecurity. They would be married tomorrow. Would she feel
uncomfortable in his house? Or he in hers? Were they rushing
things? Then he saw her and his doubts melted.

―Sorry I‘m late,‖ she smiled and set her purse and keys on the
counter.

―Not a problem. It gave me a chance to get dinner ready.‖ He
kissed her quickly on the lips, but she put her arms around his
waist and held him. He leaned down and gave her a more
leisurely kiss.

―This is giving me a chance to see your domestic side,‖ Cinnamon
joked. She looked past him into the kitchen at the food on the
counter.

―Hungry?‖ he asked.

―Starved.‖

―How about a glass of wine?‖

―Sounds great.‖

He ushered her into the living room where he‘d left a bottle of
wine in a cooler. Two glasses waited next to the cooler on the
coffee table and a small tray of vegetables and dip accompanied
the wine.

―I‘ll put the fish on in a few minutes,‖ Rollin said as he
poured the wine. ―All ready for tomorrow?‖ He watched her
carefully.

She nodded and relaxed onto the sofa, wine glass in hand. ―All
packed.‖ Her eyes twinkled. ―Not getting cold feet are you?‖

―Not me,‖ he said stoutly. All his doubts were about her, but
he didn‘t intend to admit that.

Cinnamon eyed the cigarette case on the coffee table and Rollin
took the hint. He lit one for each of them and they settled
back on the sofa.

―What time does our flight leave?‖ she asked.

―A little after ten.   I‘ll pick you up at eight-thirty.‖
―I‘ll be waiting,‖ her voice was husky and seductive. He was
tempted to invite her to stay the night, but put the thought
aside. They only had twenty-four hours to go now. Surely he
could wait that long.

He moved toward her, covering her lips with his. Her hand crept
to his chest and the kiss deepened. It was a long time before
they came up for air. ―I should put the fish on,‖ he murmured
softly, placing his forehead against hers.

―I am still hungry,‖ she said softly.

He pulled himself reluctantly away from her and headed for the
kitchen. She slipped out of her pumps and followed him to help.
They talked about her photo shoot and his rehearsal and relaxed
while he moved out to the patio.

The salmon was perfect. She seemed amused when he fussed over
getting the brown criss-cross stripes from the grill just right.
They lingered at the table, enjoying the wine, the moonlight,
and most especially the kisses.

It was after ten and Rollin poured them each a brandy. She told
him she would need to leave soon and he nodded reluctantly.
Neither made a move to leave the balcony. They sat hand in hand,
enjoying the view, the liquor and each other. The scuff of a
shoe on the steps by the side of the house drew their attention.
Rollin tensed and felt Cinnamon do the same. Agency trained
defensive reactions set in.

Jim‘s white-blond hair gave him away instantly and Rollin
relaxed slightly.

―Jim,‖ Rollin greeted him casually, as if he had been expecting
him.

―Rollin, Cinnamon,‖ Jim Phelps responded just as casually.

Rollin played the perfect host, waving Jim to a chair almost
before their agency boss could hesitate. ―I just poured us some
brandy. Would you like a glass?‖

―I think I‘ll pass,‖ Jim said, folding himself gracefully into a
chair across the table from the pair. He pulled a cigarette
case and lighter from the coat of his dark suit and spent a
moment lighting the cigarette and returning case and lighter to
his pocket.
Cinnamon took a sip of her brandy, remaining her ever-collected
self. Rollin knew it was an act since he was holding her hand
which had gone clammy almost as soon as Jim appeared.

―I was wondering what the two of you were up to,‖ Jim said
quietly.

Rollin smiled easily and gave Cinnamon a reassuring squeeze of
the hand. ―I was introduced to this lovely lady at a party last
week.‖

―So I read in the paper.   Did you think it would go unnoticed?‖
Jim asked.

―No. In fact, we were hoping everyone would notice,‖ Rollin
responded.

―How are we doing so far, Jim?‖ Cinnamon asked. Her tone held
just the right touch of amusement and rebellion. She was such a
good actress. Rollin wondered if he could persuade her to try
out for a part in a play with him sometime. His heart beat
faster thinking of playing beside her to an audience. That
would be more thrilling that the parts they played on the team.

―You have my undivided attention,‖ Jim said softly.   ―What‘s the
plan?‖

―I was immediately smitten,‖ Rollin said, exchanging a smile
with Cinnamon. ―And was delighted to find that the feeling is
mutual. In fact, we‘ve decided to elope. Tomorrow.‖

Cinnamon added, ―It‘s been one of those whirlwind Hollywood
romances.‖

―Very funny. I didn‘t know the two of you had such a flare for
comedy. You are aware that there are people who will not find
this amusing.‖

Rollin dropped Cinnamon‘s hand and leaned forward. He gave Jim
an intense look. ―This has nothing to do with our mutual
employer,‖ he said softly but earnestly. ―We met in our
‗public‘ personas, and have taken great pains to make sure our
behavior has been open and above-board.‖

―I think it has been very carefully staged to look like that.‖
―Planning is frequently the key to success,‖ Rollin countered
with a shrug. ―You should know that.‖

―Have you considered how this might effect your future?‖

―Jim,‖ Cinnamon said. ―That‘s exactly what we are thinking of.‖
Very softly she continued, ―We won‘t be spies forever you know.
We both want a family, a future together.‖

―You plan to resign?‖

―We were hoping this would allow us to continue working,‖ Rollin
said. ―Our careers still allow us to travel when needed.
Whether we‘re working together or separately, we won‘t have to
make up excuses any more than we do now. And we‘ve made sure we
haven‘t compromised any security by suddenly being together.‖

―Yes, I noticed. Very well done, by the way,‖ Jim said dryly.
He turned to Cinnamon. ―Have you told your father yet?‖

―It‘s not exactly customary to inform everyone beforehand when
you plan to elope,‖ she replied, amused.

―Perhaps not. Rollin, how will you feel about her playing
someone else‘s wife, or seducing someone during a mission?‖

―Jim, she‘ll be playing a part.   Actors do these things all the
time.‖

―And you‘re completely comfortable with it?‖

Rollin turned and looked into Cinnamon‘s eyes.   He lifted her
hand to his lips and said, ―I know her heart.‖   He turned to
Jim. ―I understand the risks.‖

Jim looked at the two of them for a long moment. Finally he
nodded and stood. ―You are aware that this may effect my
decision about using you on occasion.‖

Cinnamon answered after glancing at Rollin. ―You have a talent
for choosing the right person for the job. We‘ll trust your
judgment.‖

Rollin stood and held out his hand. Jim shook it briefly,
nodded to Cinnamon and left without another word. They sat
quietly together and listened as Jim‘s car started up and pulled
away.   Rollin let out a sigh of relief and squeezed Cinnamon‘s
hand.

―That went better than I thought it would,‖ he said.    ―More
brandy?‖

Cinnamon shook her head. ―I wish I could, but I really do need
to leave. I have to finish packing.‖

They stood and Rollin walked her to the car. They lingered over
good night kisses until Cinnamon finally pushed Rollin back and
stepped into the car.

―I‘ll see you tomorrow,‖ she said.

He kissed her hand again and stood back as she started the car.
―Good night Mrs. Rollin Hand.‖

She smiled and winked at him.    ―Tomorrow,‖ she promised, and
drove away.


Chapter 7
Going to the Chapel

The noonday desert heat was like a physical presence as Cinnamon
stepped off the plane. Rollin placed his hand on her back as
they walked down the steps together. He carried her overnight
bag. The rest of their luggage was already checked to Acapulco.
They would meet up with it tonight.

The air-conditioned terminal building was a welcome respite but
it wouldn‘t last long. They walked quickly through the terminal
headed for the cabstand. The noise of slot machines followed
them through the building.

―Hey Mon, you and de lady need a ride?‖ A familiar voice using a
Jamaican accent called out from behind them.

Both stopped and turned, amazed.

―Barney?!‖ Cinnamon exclaimed.

―You didn‘t think you could sneak off and have a wedding on your
own did you?‖ Barney accepted her hug and ushered them toward a
waiting Chrysler limo.
―How did you know?‖ Rollin said, laughing.

Willy got out of the back of the limo and opened the door for
them. ―We‘ve already made reservations at the Little Chapel of
Love. We should have time for the wedding and lunch before your
flight.‖

―And a toast to the bride and groom,‖ Jim said with a smile from
inside the limo, holding the champagne bottle up.

Rollin helped Cinnamon into the limo. Cinnamon leaned over and
kissed Jim on the cheek, then Willy as he slid into one of the
jump seats. ―It‘s good to have family at the wedding,‖ she
said. ―This just feels right.‖

Although the tiny adobe building with the faux steeple looked
tacky on the outside, it was actually well appointed on the
inside, with mahogany benches and red velvet curtains. The
flowers inside were silk, but they were arranged in elegant
bouquets of roses and carnations. When Rollin approached the
receptionist and identified himself, she handed over a box with
boutonnieres for each of the men and an exquisite bouquet of
white roses for Cinnamon. They had a very short wait and were
ushered into the tiny chapel. An elderly man shook hands all
around and asked who was standing for whom. Barney took the
place next to Cinnamon, joking that he‘d always wanted to be a
bridesmaid. Willy stood beside Rollin, and Jim took a subtly
paternal position behind Cinnamon.

The ceremony was short and simple. Rollin paid little attention
to the words, responding at the proper spots, but most of his
thoughts were marveling that this beautiful woman was to become
his wife. Her eyes met his throughout the ceremony and he knew
that she was every bit as confident about this as he was. There
may have been butterflies last night on both their parts, but
not now. This was the perfect thing to do.

Willy had to nudge him to kiss the bride at the clergyman in
front of them came to a conclusion. Cinnamon smiled impishly at
him and waited for him to lean toward her. As his lips met hers
she gently put her arms around his shoulders and all the rest of
the world slipped away from them.


Chapter 8
Honeymoon
Cinnamon walked out onto the balcony of the mansion Rollin had
taken her to. The house stood on the side of a cliff and all of
Acapulco Bay spread before them. The sun was low on the
horizon, a bright orange ball with a topping of purple clouds
above it. The clouds seemed to be rimmed in brilliant glowing
gold, and above the sky was turning an ever deepening blue.

The house was lovely. On the first floor was a beautiful tiled
living area, formal dining room, kitchen area and a wing of
servants‘ quarters. You entered the foyer from a clay-tiled
courtyard complete with circular drive and a fountain in the
middle. The courtyard was lush with tropical vegetation, and
everything seemed to be blooming. Flowers were everywhere. She
had recognized a profusion of bougainvillea in various pinks and
purples, brilliant red hibiscus, and orange tiger lilies. The
living room and dining room were furnished with massive dark
wood furniture, befitting the abode of a Spanish Don. A light
supper was laid out for them on the patio by the pool, with a
heart of palm salad, and a bottle of white wine. A smiling
young man had taken their bags upstairs. A young woman had
silently served grilled chicken and rice as they finished their
salad, and later brought them coffee and fruit. As they
finished their coffee, Rollin pointed out the rounded staircase
that led to the second floor balcony and the master bedroom. He
excused himself, saying he would meet her upstairs shortly and
headed for the kitchen with instructions for breakfast and to
dismiss the staff for the rest of the evening.

Cinnamon had climbed the stairs, expecting to see more massive
Spanish furniture. Through the French doors on the landing, she
was pleased to see a lighter, more modernly furnished bedroom.
The walls were white stucco. The king sized bed was placed to
provide a private view of the ocean, with more French doors that
could be opened wide to welcome a breeze and sheer curtains
hanging to provide a bit of privacy. The sheers were blowing
softly in the evening breeze. Lush beige carpet cushioned her
feet. On top of the carpet were several handwoven rugs in
bright colors with Indian designs that brightened the room. To
the right of the entrance there was a sitting area, with a small
love seat and two chairs. The railing of the balcony was low
enough that the view from this area would not be blocked.

To the left was the sleeping area. Instead of a headboard,
there was an alcove in the thick wall behind the bed. A large
clay vase held a fragrant bouquet of white calla lilies. There
were two ornate iron lamps painted white suspended from the
wall, each with amber glass globes that provided a soft yellow
light to the room almost like candlelight.

On the other side of the room from the balcony, Cinnamon found
two louvered doors. One led to a hallway with tiled floors.
She could see the landing for the stairs in the interior of the
house. The other door led to a large double walk-in closet and
a well-appointed bathroom beyond. She found her bags carefully
placed on a stand in the right-hand closet. She opened them and
found the attire she had carefully chosen for her wedding night.

The garden tub in the bathroom sat in a corner with thick glass
blocks forming a pattern in the wall and allowing both light and
privacy.   Baskets of hanging plants hung from the ceiling, and
there was a planter dividing the tub from the double sink.
Bougainvillea bloomed from both, giving the bathroom an accent
of rich greens and purples. There was a small closet for the
toilet, and a glass enclosed shower stall. Thick towels hung
from the towel racks on the wall, handy to both shower and tub.
Cinnamon was becoming sorry that they could only stay a few
days. She could be quite comfortable here.

She changed and freshened up, checking herself in the full-
length mirror in her closet. The white satin negligee fit her
elegantly. It was floor length, but split up one side to high
on her hip, allowing a generous amount of leg to show. She
smiled, knowing that Rollin had always enjoyed looking at her
legs. The spaghetti straps at her shoulder tended to slip
provocatively. She liked the effect. She touched up her hair,
making sure everything was in place, then returned to the
bedroom to wait for her husband.

The sunset had drawn her back onto the balcony. The colors were
spectacular. She thought with amazement how odd it felt to be
here, on her honeymoon. She wondered, and hoped, that this was
the right thing to do, and experienced a moment of serious
doubt. All this spontaneity was not her way. It was so very
Rollin, and it pointed out just how very different the two of
them were.

Marriage was such a big step for them. For her, and she was
fairly certain for Rollin too, it was a commitment for life.
She thought about her parents, who had also firmly believed in
the lifetime bond of marriage. Still, their separation during
the war had caused a rift that had never quite healed in all the
years they had together. She hadn‘t quite realized it as she
grew up, although she and her father had never been very close.
By the time he had come to America to join them, he was a
stranger to her; just a man who came to live with them. In some
ways, her mother had seemed to treat him that way too. They had
never been particularly affectionate to each other in her
presence, and had seemed to work hard to fill the house with
others in an effort to create a buffer between the two of them.
It was hard to imagine them young and in love and demonstrative
in the manner Rollin was with her.

Because Rollin was a passionate and emotional man. It was one
of the things that drew her to him, and it was also something
that shocked and frightened her at times. Even before they had
admitted their feelings for each other, Rollin had always found
ways to touch her; sharing a cigarette, seating her at dinner,
opening a door for her and placing a hand on her elbow. It had
never, ever felt invasive. It was always very proper, but very
personal. She had never experienced that kind of intimacy with
anyone before and she knew it came to Rollin as naturally as he
breathed. It wasn‘t necessarily sexual. It was his way of
connecting with everyone around him; acquiring their attention,
making his point, showing his attention to them. Playing his
spouse or lover on various occasions had been a sensual
experience, and his physical attention had always stepped up as
he played the part. And beyond the touching, one look from him
with those gorgeous eyes of his was worth ten passionate kisses
from anyone else she had ever known.

A part of her feared this ultimate act of intimacy with Rollin.
She was too different and so afraid of being consumed by him,
his passion, his lifestyle. However, deep in her heart, she
felt that he understood her as no one else ever had, and he
respected her, differences and all, and cherished her just as
she was. He could have had her in that haystack, or any number
of times since then. His level of commitment to her dazzled and
pleased her as nothing ever had before. She only hoped that he
wouldn‘t be disappointed in her.

Her eye caught movement on the patio below, then Rollin was
bounding up the steps to her. He had obviously done more than
simply talk to the staff. His hair was still damp from the
shower. He now had the look of a beachcomber, white slacks,
white buttondown shirt and bare feet. He moved with an almost
catlike grace, powerful and ready to move quickly in any
direction.   He stopped at the top of the stairs and grinned,
taking in her attire. She struck her best model‘s pose,
unconsciously accentuating the best features of both the gown
and her own body.
―Well?   What do you think?‖   she asked softly.

He walked slowly toward her. ―I think that I‘m the luckiest
groom in the history of the world.‖

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her softly. Her arms
crept around his neck and his hands moved up and down her back,
feeling every curve through the soft, thin fabric. ―You are, so
beautiful,‖ he murmured softly into her ear. His lips moved to
kiss her, just below the ear and she shivered with desire for
him.

He had removed his coat and tie. She drew her hand around his
collar and began to unbutton his shirt. ―Rollin, I want to see
you. All of you,‖ she whispered.

Rollin kissed her again, more hungrily this time.   She welcomed
his kiss and encouraged him to probe deeper within her. They
had kissed before, mostly as other people, other characters,
this time they held nothing back, and she was so glad that they
could simply be themselves. Her hand caressed his cheek, smooth
and freshly shaven, then moved down his chest to his open shirt.
She liked the rough feel of his chest hair against her skin.
His hand moved around to gently touch her breast through the
nightgown. She felt as if she were on fire.

An arm around her, he drew her into the bedroom. She could hear
soft guitar music playing and looked around. She noticed two
small speakers in the corners of the room.

―The stereo is downstairs,‖ he explained.   ―I asked them to find
something like this.‖

―It sounds beautiful.‖

―Not half as beautiful as you.‖

Her shoulder strap had again fallen to one side, and Rollin
caressed her bare shoulder, and with one finger, gently followed
the low neckline of the gown. ―Champagne?‖ he asked, nodding to
the sitting area. She had not noticed until now the cooler
sitting beside the loveseat.

She shook her head. ―Later.‖ She glanced at the bed with a
smile, letting him know exactly what she wanted. She pulled the
shirt from his shoulders and ran her hands down his chest.   ―I
feel as if I have waited for this moment forever.‖

His kisses were light against her cheek, her lips, her jaw, and
oh, her ear. She tingled down to her toes. His hands gently
touched her nipples through the fabric of her gown, then his
fingers found their way inside the gown to her skin. He
continued to kiss her, moving down her neck, and pushing the
fabric down so he could kiss her breasts, her nipples. His
tongue moved across her and she gasped with pleasure. Nothing
had ever made her feel quite like this. He seemed to read her
mind, and moved to attend to her other nipple as well. She
placed her hand against the back of his head and kissed the top
of his dark hair. ―Oh, Rollin.‖

His hands were on her hips. They moved to caress her bottom and
she moved to unbuckle his belt. He stood, and their eyes met as
she unfastened the pants and drew the zipper down. She could
feel him behind the pants, large and waiting to be set free. He
stood with his hands gently on her shoulder as she slowly placed
her hands inside his shorts, and moved her hands gently around
his waistband. Palms against his flesh, she pushed his shorts
and pants down together.

Her palms moved down his thighs and she looked down between
them, eager to see him. His size was impressive, and perhaps,
an indication of how impressed he was with her. She touched him
with her fingertips. The smooth skin invited her to stroke him.
He was a body of contradictions, his chest hair rough and
stimulating, his engorged shaft warm and smooth as the satin of
her gown. It moved beneath her, responding to her touch.

Rollin kissed the top of her head, then stepped out of his pants
and shorts. ―Come,‖ he said softly, taking her elbow and
inviting her to the bed. She drew back the covers. He sat and
took her hand to draw her in front of him. One hand touched her
thigh gently then moved up the slit in the side of her gown,
caressing the bare skin. Then he gently tugged at her gown,
pulling it down from her breasts and over her hips to lie on the
floor at her feet. He reached up to touch her breasts, then
moved his fingertips lightly down her abdomen to the triangle of
her pubic hair. He touched her lightly, then lay back on the
bed, drawing her down next to him with her hand in his.

She sat beside him, still curious, still wanting to explore and
touch. He seemed to understand completely without words. He
lay on his back, his hands touching her, and she touched him.
He gently caressed her breast, rubbing her nipple with his
thumb. She leaned down and kissed him in the middle of his
chest, then moved her kisses down across his abdomen. She
looked up at his face, hoping that he didn‘t mind letting her
explore this new territory some. He lay completely relaxed, a
look of contentment on his face. As she hesitated, he opened
his eyes and smiled gently at her. She continued her kisses,
tongue tasting lightly as she went. She rubbed her cheek
against the silky smoothness of his shaft. A spot of liquid
appeared and she touched it with a fingertip. He was breathing
deeply now, fully aroused beneath her.

She stretched out beside him and he turned to her. They lay
side by side, green eyes greeting blue. His hand moved down her
side to her thigh and they exchanged a smile. She raised her
thigh and his hand moved to her inner thigh, moving lightly over
her pubic hair again as he had done as she stood in front of
him. He moved toward her and their lips touched. She opened
her mouth, welcoming his taste, his probing tongue. His fingers
moved surely between her legs, caressing the wet folds. One
finger moved up and she moaned with pleasure as he gently found
her most sensitive spot. His fingers continued their
exploration, moving deep inside her, first one finger, then two.
She clung to him, his kiss still deep.

He pulled back slightly.   ―Okay?‖

―Oh, yes,‖ she gasped. His fingers continued to move and
stimulate. ―Rollin, please. I want you inside of me.‖

He rolled on top of her and her legs grasped him tightly. He
propped himself on his elbows and she leaned up, eager for his
lips again. He entered her slowly, gently, watching her face
for her reaction. She pressed herself to him, wanting all of
him inside her. When he filled her, he paused for a moment and
kissed her. She touched his smooth cheek and moved her hand
down to his shoulder. Then he began to move against her, in and
out, in a slow easy rhythm. He was still watching for her
reaction. She smiled, enjoying the feel of his body and hers
together. He increased the tempo and she moaned with delight as
he rubbed against her sensitive area, sending waves of pleasure
that seemed to match the rhythm he set. Her hands grasped his
shoulder and he shifted just slightly, so that his chest rubbed
gently against her nipples, increasing her stimulation.

―Oh, Rollin!‖ Her imagination had never quite prepared her for
this reality, and she had the feeling that he was holding
himself back, waiting for something. The waves of sensation
continued to crash against her and she gripped his shoulders
harder. She arched her back, pushing as he pushed, and her
orgasm overtook her completely. Then she felt him releasing
inside her. It thrilled her as nothing else had and his thrusts
continued as she called his name again and again.

Her breath came in gasps. She didn‘t want this to ever end. He
pressed tightly against her, holding her close, whispering how
much he loved her, and wanted her, and would always cherish her.
Somehow these intimate promises made her feel much more married
than any ceremony could ever do.

He pulled out of her slowly and rolled onto his side, continuing
to hold her to him. She felt as if she had lost a piece of
herself. She was eager to have it back—back where it belonged.

―Rollin?‖ She whispered as her breathing returned to normal.
―Is it always like that?‖

His eyes met hers, and he smiled that lopsided smile of his.
―Only with your one true love. Then it‘s like that every time.‖

She laughed softly, not sure if he were teasing her or not. He
held her and caressed her and encouraged her explorations. He
brought the champagne to bed and they toasted each other and
touched each other. The full moon hung low in the west, turning
the bay below them to silver when he finally turned out the
amber lamps above them. Bathed in silver moonlight they held
each other close and slipped into dreamless sleep, knowing they
could wake to begin again later in the morning.

The next morning Cinnamon awoke and found herself alone in the
bed. She rolled onto her back and looked around the room,
remembering the night before. She smiled and stretched, and
felt a bit of an ache between her legs. She sat up.

Rollin was just coming up the steps from the pool. There was a
towel draped over his shoulder, and he wore a swimsuit of royal
blue with white stripes down the side. ―Good morning,
sleepyhead. How are you feeling?‖

She smiled at him. ―Good morning.   I‘m feeling just slightly
sore, and very hungry.‖
Rollin turned and picked up the phone. ―Hello. Mrs. Hand and I
will have breakfast on the patio in fifteen minutes. Gracias.‖
He put the phone down and held out his hand.

She stood and gave him a quick kiss.   ―I need a shower first.‖

Rollin nodded.   ―Then how about a walk on the beach?‖

―That sounds lovely.‖ She turned toward the bathroom.

He held onto her hand.   ―You‘re not too sore, are you?‖ Rollin
asked with concern.

Cinnamon gave him one of her best flirty looks. ―I hope it‘s a
very short walk,‖ she said with a wink. She slipped her hand
out of his and disappeared into the bathroom.


Chapter 9

As she opened the door to the apartment Rollin swept her into
his arms and carried her across the threshold.

Cinnamon laughed.   ―Are you always this traditional and
romantic?‖

He swung her around and kissed her.    ―When it comes to my family
I am.‖

The word family evoked an emotional response in her like no
other. This was the second time he had used it to describe
their relationship. The first time he had used it was this
morning. She felt a knot of emotion deep in the pit of her
stomach. Part fear, part elation, his use of the word lead to a
long walk on the beach and a long discussion. She had been
relieved to discover that he wanted a family of two right now.
Someday, in the not too distant future, he wanted – they wanted
— more. But for right now, they needed time to be together and
learn how to be a couple. They needed to learn to mesh their
complex careers, their busy personal lives, their families and
their friends.

She realized he was heading for the bedroom and kicked her feet.
―Rollin? Where are you going?‖

His grip on her was firm.   He kissed her on the cheek.    ―Where
do you think?‖
―I know where. But the door is standing wide open and our bags
are in the hall!‖

―Are you always this practical?‖

―Yes,‖ she answered quickly, but with a smile.

He let her down to stand on her own, but kept her within the
circle of his arms.

―Well, that‘s probably for the best. Someone should be.‖ He
tilted his head and smiled that smile she loved so much and she
couldn‘t resist reaching up to kiss him.

The kiss threatened to consume them both. Cinnamon relaxed into
the kiss, still aware that the apartment door was standing open,
but she found she could simply accept that. The phone
interrupted them. She glanced over at it as they broke apart.
Rollin gave her a reassuring nod and headed for the door to
retrieve the bags.

―Perhaps it‘s for the best,‖ Rollin said with a grin. ―I‘ll
need to call my mother right away. She‘ll forgive me for
eloping, but not for waiting after I get back from the
honeymoon.

Cinnamon stared after him. She would have to meet his family.
She had a mother-in-law. That scared her. The phone rang again
and she picked it up.

―Welcome home.‖   It was Jim.

―Thank you,‖ Cinnamon said with a smile. ―So, did you have my
apartment bugged so you‘d know when we get home?‖

Jim protested in his best voice of innocence.    ―You know I would
never do anything like that.‖

―Of course not,‖ she responded drily.

―How was your trip?‖

―Too short.‖ She turned to Rollin who had just stepped back
into the room and closed the door. ―It‘s Jim,‖ she explained.
Turning back to the phone she said, ―You can get all the lurid
details from Rollin later.‖
―Cinnamon!‖ Jim protested his innocence again.   ―Can you stop by
the apartment later today? Around six?‖

Cinnamon frowned. That would mean a new mission. After their
conversation with Jim last week she didn‘t think he would be
tapping her for a job so soon. She wasn‘t sure she was ready
yet. She glanced at Rollin but he was heading for the bedroom
with their luggage. She made a quick decision. They had to get
used to this sort of thing sometime. ―I‘ll be there. Rollin
can‘t join us this time, though.‖

―He said as much before you left. I understand. See you then.‖
The receiver clicked. Jim hadn‘t waited for her to say goodbye.
She knew how he was once he began focusing on a mission. Until
she met him tonight at the apartment they used to plan and
practice their assignments she wouldn‘t know anything else about
the mission, destination or duration.

She replaced the phone in the receiver, checked to make sure the
door was locked and headed to the bedroom. Their life was
returning to normal… such as it was. She wondered what the
future held for them.

				
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