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Protecting an Angel

Chapter 1

SHE SAT SILENTLY IN the living room, on the sofa, her eyes turned to a view of leafless trees through the large double windows, her mind abstractly absorbing sounds reaching her. Discordant noises floated at her; crass canned laughter from a sitcom playing on the TV in the corner, floorboards creaking as a man walked along the hall upstairs, quiet murmurs of two men talking in the kitchen behind her almost unheard, and faint muffled sounds of cars passing in front of the townhouse. She heard her heart beating.

Staring out the window she registered nothing, her mind shut down; a natural protective measure. Don't think - don't hurt. She sat, lost in the large sofa, a ham and wilting lettuce sandwich with an accompanying glass of milk ignored on the glass-topped mahogany coffee table. She sat mute. She hadn't uttered a word for fourteen days; not one word as the grey-haired psychologist had talked to her with a kind and gentle voice, not one word as polite men offered her food, food she sometimes ate without tasting.

Melissa sat in silence, lost in her own protective cocoon, unwanted ugly memories flitting at the edge of her mind, assaulting her defenses, threatening to break through. She resisted. She resisted because she had to, her psyche unable to handle what her brain wanted her to process.

Melissa sat in lonely silence, lost, time standing still, a deep sadness like an oppressive lead blanket laying over her muting life.

Three hundred miles north, Jack Raspin felt his body tugged to the left against the seatbelt, his shoulder pushing against the door as he urgently powered the large GMC Suburban around a tight right-hand bend. The long serpentine two lane road climbed steeply up the high wooded mountain, leaving Burnwood, New York behind. Late afternoon winter sun cast a slanting light through the thick pines lining either side of the road, weak sunlight flickering against his left cheek like an old black and white silent movie. Snow was a month away, if not longer thanks to global warming, but the air was still cold, brisk. He felt it on his face as it streamed through the one inch crack in the window. Jack, his mind preoccupied, inhaled his Marlboro deeply, nicotine flooding his system and helping manage his worries.

The big V8 growled, churning out three hundred plus horse-power from a tuned-up engine to haul all three tons of Detroit metal up the steep road. Jack didn't hear the strain, his right foot pressing harder against the accelerator urging the hunk of steel on faster. His mind was churning. Cass had hung up on him without saying a word, refusing to talk to him. It wasn't a surprise given the hostility between them. In Jack's mind it was Cass' fault he'd been forced out of the service. Casper McFadden was a maverick. He'd do whatever it took to get the job done and, far too often, he'd stepped over the line. He carried far too much care and emotional attachment to his assignments. Jack didn't like that. The rules were there to define the scope of action; set limits on what was legally acceptable and provide order. To Jack, a life without rules was unimaginable; the potential chaos frightening. But not to Cass. The final straw came when he'd knocked another agent unconscious with a vicious right and almost beat him to death for revealing the location of a witness. Cass had been injured trying, unsuccessfully, to protect the witness and his family. A bullet in his side and a broken left arm hadn't stopped him from decking a six foot six agent and putting him in hospital for three weeks. That assault of a fellow agent had been the last straw, Cass' career over at thirty-five.

Unfortunately, now he needed Cass badly; a little girl needed Cass badly and, when it came right down to it, there was absolutely no one else Jack could trust. It unsettled him deeply. He'd always been able to trust his colleagues, but now he found himself in the untenable position of fear and suspicion.

Spotting the drive, a narrow paved drive with no number or marking, he slowed, turning the Suburban beast in. Pine branches scraped loudly down the pristine sides of the black SUV as he followed the tarmac, rising at an ever steeper angle. He turned a sharp corner going far too fast and slammed on the brakes, the heavy Suburban shaking and shimmering, its front end dipping as it slowed suddenly, the seatbelt cutting into Jack's shoulder sharply.

The SUV came to a screeching halt three feet from Casper.

Jack saw him standing in the middle of the drive, a scowl on his face and a shotgun casually hanging from one hand. With the engine ticking over, they stared at each other, Jack somehow knowing Cass wouldn't hesitate to lift the shotgun and let loose at the SUV. He'd never cared for government property before, why would he now?

A quiet whirr sounded as the electric driver-side window descended. Jack flicked his cigarette butt out and stuck his head out.

"We need to talk."

Cass gave no sign he'd heard him, staring with an unwelcome scowl. Jack absentmindedly noticed how his jet-black hair had grown out from the usual buzz-cut, now falling over his shirt collar and a fringe across his forehead. At five ten, he wasn't tall. He wasn't big either, his body lithe. But there was a physical solidness to him. You knew, looking at him, he'd be a hard man. Perhaps it was the eyes that gave the impression, they were very hard, an ice-cold steel-grey. Yet he saw shadows under those penetrating eyes.

"Please, Cass," he asked, hating the pleading note in his voice. Cass remained mute, staring, assessing.

The scowl deepened, hard piercing eyes narrowing. Without a word he watched Cass turn and walk away. Jack followed in the Suburban slowly, a funeral pace, turning the last corner to pull up in front of Cass' home. It was solid, suiting Cass, he thought. The one floor ranch-style home was made of what appeared to be large grey boulders haphazardly yet carefully fit together, sort of Mayan in construction, he thought. A large veranda surrounded the home with a dark grey tile-clad roof overhang supported by thick knotty wooden posts. The house appeared as if it could withstand a missile attack except for unusually large windows.

It was fronted by a well tended, small flowerbed filled with dying and dead flowers, two evergreen shrubs, one on either side. The drive led to a separate garage on the left, itself built of the same large rocks and wide enough to hold two vehicles.

Turning the engine off, he climbed out, absolute silence rushing in at him as the echoing thunk of the heavy door closing faded away. The Suburban's overheated engine block pinged and ticked as it cooled. He saw Cass pause at the front door, turn and look at him.

I STARED AT JACK as he climbed out of the SUV. He hadn't changed in the last nine months. Still portly, he looked like a successful, if overweight, businessman with his dark blue suit, white buttoned-down shirt and burgundy tie; very corporate. More hair had fled, his hairline now firmly past the crown of his head. He looked uncomfortable. No, not uncomfortable; Jack looked worried.

"You'd better come in," I said reluctantly, opening the heavy wood front door, entering without waiting for him. Just what the fuck did Jack want? I might not like him but, as one of the top officials of the U.S. Marshals, he deserved respect. He'd achieved his position through pure hard work. "Drink? Coffee? Tea?"

"No thanks."

"The answer's no," I said, nodding at the couch. "You could have saved yourself the trip, Jack." It must have taken him six hours or more to get here from D.C.

Jack looked at me. He sat slowly, ponderously settling his bulk into the cushions, the couch complaining at the stress. He leaned forward, legs spreading to accommodate his expansive belly. I noticed the sheen of perspiration on his balding head, light from the window behind him making his head appear greasy.

"You wouldn't talk to me when I called," he said, eyes accusing.

"I might not now, either," I responded.

Jack reached into his suit jacket, pulled out a medium-sized manila envelope and, opening the flap, pulled out a photograph. He glanced at it for a moment, an unfamiliar expression flitting across his face before he tossed it face up on the distressed light-wood coffee table without saying a word.

Still standing, I glanced down at it. Even upside down I recognized Giancarlo Benetti, his thick face and heavy eyebrows filling the photograph. He had a square jaw that carried a heavy, dark shadow of a day-old beard typical of Sicilians. His eyes were small and closely spaced giving him a pinched look, his mouth too small, lips too effeminate. If I didn't know better I'd have thought he looked simian and stupid. I knew better. He was a very smart and very dangerous man. A flush of anger assaulted me. Mr. Giancarlo Benetti was suspected of ordering the death of the last witness I'd been charged with protecting. I looked at Jack. What the fuck was this?

He reached into the manila envelope again, tossing another picture onto the coffee table, his eyes on me. I glanced down again. The photo showed a family of three. The dark-haired man, husband I assumed, smiling proudly into the camera with an arm around what must have been his wife, a lovely dark-haired, willowy beauty with a radiant smile, the type that made you want to smile with her. I felt my lips twitch in response to her. She had her hands on both shoulders of a small child standing in front of her.

Clearly it was their daughter. I could see the family resemblance, the father's dark intense eyes and thick eyebrows, the mother's raven hair, straight narrow nose and the same radiant smile revealing two missing incisors and forming two dimples. She was a very pretty, happy little girl.

Glancing up at Jack I waited.

His face darkened. "Tony and Marie Peterson. That photograph was taken two years ago. Melissa's eight years old now. Tony and Marie are dead."

"I'm sorry to hear that. She's a cute kid. Go back to the office, Jack. I'm retired. Remember?"

"Cass, give me ten minutes. Just listen and then I'll leave."

I knew deep inside I shouldn't listen to Jack. I knew it would lead to something I would regret. I just felt it deep in my bones.

Chapter 2

Sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I casually looked to my right and studied the sparse traffic crossing Arlington Memorial Bridge. There was a light mist or fog, a sudden warm front hitting the cool air of winter. It made everything slightly ghostly, softening the edges and making space seem smaller, more intimate. Streetlamps had yellow haloes around their lights as if the lamps were out of focus. It was five-thirty in the morning, still relatively dark, and I was swearing at myself.

I knew I shouldn't have let Jack open his mouth. The conversation, if one could call it that, was annoying in the extreme.

"He was an informant," Jack had told me. "Tony Peterson was an investment advisor, a high net worth investment advisor. He came to us after he was approached by Giancarlo Benetti. It turned out Tony's uncle was a friend of Giancarlo and had recommended Tony. Nothing would have happened except that Tony was accidently given some financial records as part of a file. Those records pointed to the flow of money, accounts, off-shore banks. It wasn't definitive but, with a lot of legwork, we thought we'd be able to uncover Benetti's organization and take it down."

Jack's face had clouded. I'd seen pain in his eyes. "Tony was my friend, Cass. He came to me. He trusted me. Jesus, Cass, I was at their wedding." He'd paused and breathed deeply to tamp down the emotion before continuing.

"Tony agreed to hand over the files to me and I was to pass them on to the FBI. Somehow, I still don't know how, Benetti found out. Tony and Marie were gunned down in their home the morning he was supposed to turn them over. We're pretty sure Melissa saw it all," he added with pain in his voice. "Can you imagine . . ."

"I'm sorry to hear that," I had said. "Now go away."

Jack had frowned at me. "Two things, Cass.

"First," he said holding up one finger, "From surveillance videos in the Peterson's neighborhood we managed to get a glimpse of the killers. It seems one of them was in all likelihood Giancarlo himself. It's not enough to convict him, but if Melissa saw him, we can incarcerate the bastard for life. Second," he added holding up another finger, "The only people who knew about Tony's plan to hand us the files were people in my own organization. Someone leaked it to Benetti.

"Now I have two problems. Why do they always come in twos? Fuck.

"One, I have a little girl that won't talk. Maybe it's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, maybe something else. Our psychologist has been unable to get a word out of her. Until she's ready to talk, I have to protect her.

"Two, I can't trust anyone in the U.S. Marshal Service. There's a leak. Just who the hell can I trust to protect Melissa? Right now I have six agents on duty, paired up so they cannot be alone with her at any time. I can't keep this going. Melissa's in danger.

"That's why I need you. I need you to take Melissa off the grid; disappear until she's ready to testify. The doctors tell me she'll eventually come out of her shell, a protective reaction they say. I can't keep her safe until that happens."

Glancing down Independence Avenue I saw a black Suburban approach. It neared and turned into Lincoln Memorial Circle in front of me. I casually studied the surroundings. The driver-side door opened, Jack sliding out with effort and slamming the door closed. I thought he looked nervous, his head swiveling as he, too, studied the surrounding area.

Walking around the front of the SUV, he opened the passenger door, reaching in. I saw him talk but was too far away to hear anything.

Getting up, I started down the steps towards them. A small girl emerged holding Jack's hand. Melissa. She was lost in a thick red parka, her raven hair and pale face visible. As I approached I noted how pretty she was, her dark eyes wide open as she stared at me. Traffic was still sparse but beginning to build, exhaust vapors adding to the ghostly mist.

With Melissa's hand in his left, Jack reached out to shake my hand as I approached. I reached out to take it.

"Cass, this is . . ."

I heard a thunk, a wet slap. In slow-motion I saw Jack arch his back, a large spray of dark red blood explode from his chest. His eyes widened in shock. The bullet penetrated the right arm of my down jacket, passing through with a light tug. Thunder rolled across the landscape, the echo of a high-powered rifle shot chasing the bullet. Jack's body folded, his hand losing its grip on Melissa as he collapsed to the ground face down.

MELISSA WONDERED WHY MR. RASPIN fell. She heard the rolling echo of thunder. Suddenly there was a flurry of movement, the slender dark-haired man bending and scooping her up effortlessly. He ran across to a blue car, opening the door and tossing her in, slamming the car door behind her. As she scrambled to sit up in the front seat, he threw himself into the driver's seat and, with a twist of a key, started the car. She heard him swearing. Glass suddenly shattered, a cold breeze invading the car. As the engine roared to life, the sound of a gunshot echoed.

The acrid smell of burnt rubber filled the air when tires screeched, desperately seeking grip. He shoved her head down just as a hole appeared in the windscreen, glass cracking in a spider web pattern. The sound of a gunshot rolled in, sharp, almost a crack, echoing and fading away.

Melissa was thrown against the door as he turned sharply, tires squealing as they tried to grip the slippery pavement. She was flung back against the seat as he accelerated, the rear-view mirror exploding, glass raining down into her lap, another sharp crack chasing after them. What was happening?

REACHING ACROSS TO THE passenger seat I bent Melissa forward. "Get down," I urged her, turning left onto Arlington Memorial Bridge and accelerating fast. The rifle fire had come from behind Jack, across Independence Avenue. Driving west put my body between the shooter and Melissa. The bridge's solid stone abutment provided additional protection. Melissa was being thrown around from the maneuvers but there was nothing I could do to help. I needed distance desperately and immediately.

A hard right at the end of the bridge, tires squealing from the strain of turning too fast, and we were heading north along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Fuck! Jack was dead. Fuck!

"You okay?" I asked glancing across at Melissa. Two dark eyes stared at me, her face serious with no trace of fear. That worried me. She didn't respond. "Put your seat belt on please," I asked. She stared for a moment then glanced away, pulling the belt across, hooking it in.

MELISSA WONDERED WHO HE was. Mr. Raspin had told her she could trust the man who would protect her, Cass something, she'd forgotten the last name. She was fascinated by his eyes. When he'd approached her back at the statue they'd seemed soft and almost greenish. But now, as she looked at him, they seemed to be steel-grey and hard. She'd never seen anyone with eyes like that before. With those steel eyes it felt like he was looking inside her. She wondered what he saw. What was inside her? A shiver shook her despite the thick down jacket. Ice cold air was streaming through the car, the back window shattered, the windscreen sporting two bullet holes. Where was he taking her? Would they go back for her backpack?

I PEELED RIGHT ONTO the Capitol Beltway somewhat bemused. When Jack had said Melissa hadn't spoken a word, I'd assumed he meant she'd said nothing about what had happened, perhaps a mental blank spot or something similar. But Melissa appeared not to speak at all. This was a completely different problem. I knew she heard me; she reacted. And the way she studied me with those large dark eyes told me something was going on inside her head. But what?

Fifteen minutes later I pulled off the Beltway onto Connecticut Avenue heading south. As soon as I saw a Starbucks I pulled in.

"Come on," I ordered Melissa, slipping from the car as quickly as possible. With bullet holes front and back I'd never get anywhere before being stopped. I assumed whoever was after Melissa hadn't given up, but the last thing they'd expect was for me to head right back into D.C.

"We'll take a bus," I told her with a smile, reaching for her hand to lead her away. "So, Melissa . . . nice name. Do people call you Mel? Or Lissa? Or Elissa? Maybe Issa?" I led her to the bus stop, the wind now crisp with a sharp knife-like edge to it. "Or do they call you Melissima or Mellicious?" I added trying to elicit a reaction. Her hand was surprisingly small in my hand. Then again, I had never had children, so what did I know?

Her dark eyes seemed to study me. I grinned at her. "I think I'll call you Mel? Okay? Speak up if you don't want me to." She said nothing, her small hand still in mine, bundled up in a thick red winter parka.

The bus ride downtown was without incident, thank goodness. We passed the Washington Zoo on the left and hopped off just before Dupont Circle. I needed transportation that wouldn't be traced back to me. In the underground parking garage at the Hilton I found a Ford Taurus with the parking ticket on the dash. A quick inspection in the area and I spotted another car with Alabama plates. Within five minutes the Alabama car was sporting New York plates. It should keep things sufficiently confused. Melissa had watched me quietly and intently as I worked.

We headed out of Washington, the Taurus feeling soft and wishy-washy on worn springs. I dwelled on Melissa. I wanted to ask her if she was okay, ask her what she'd seen, how she felt about what had just happened. I wanted to make sure she was all right, not traumatized even more. But I knew it would do more harm than good. She'd retreat further into her shell. I also had a lot to do, my plans now needing to be changed. Jack had made a partial payment for my services that would keep us going for a while, but I needed to figure out where to take her, somewhere she'd be safe. My plan had been to keep her at my house, assuming no one but Jack and I knew she was with me. Clearly that was not an option now. I still needed to go back, though. Some critical supplies were there.

"So Mel," I started as I drove, "How old are you really? Someone said you're eight but that can't be right. You look older than eight. Are you really nine? No? Ten, then. You're ten, right? Yes? No? Did you know that Mel is really a boy's name? How do you feel about that? Oh, look," I said pointing to the right, "trees. They're green."

I saw a curl of a lip. Progress.

MELISSA SAT QUIETLY WATCHING the scenery flow past. There was something comforting about Cass. He seemed to prattle on about nothing. Some of the things he was saying were so stupid she felt like laughing for the first time in ages. When she glanced at him she saw a kind face, youngish. Somehow his eyes seemed more green than steel-grey now, and he had a really nice smile, white teeth showing. She could feel it tug at her, as if he was inviting her to smile with him. It felt good that he didn't push and probe, his chatter calming.

". . . and Mr. McDonald told Ronald in a severe voice, "That's not the way to slice onions," and thus chopped onions were introduced to the Big Mac. Now you might think everyone was happy about that. But the Sliced Onion Union, who swore to uphold the fine art of slicing and hated the Diced Onion Union, immediately lodged a complaint with the President of the United Stated. Now he . . ."

Melissa giggled to herself quietly. He was a bit of a goof. If she hadn't seen how fast he reacted back at the statue, she'd have assumed he was nuts. But he wasn't. He'd reacted before she realized what had happened. Maybe she'd be safe with him. Why was he called Cass? What sort of name was that?

MELISSA WAS ASLEEP WHEN I pulled into my drive eight hours later. She'd uttered a grand total of no words despite my best efforts. Yet I was positive there was a remarkably intelligent person hiding inside. It was in her eyes, deep, liquid, dark brown eyes that were far too observant. At one point I thought she smiled, about the time I was telling her about the advantages of bow ties in attracting the attention of pretty girls, "Especially when the bow tie has polka-dots," I'd added, "Yellow. Girls like yellow, Mel."

Leaving her in the car, I made a quick survey of the house. My pulse spiked when I found a tell had been moved, a small hair I'd left crossing the back door and frame had been dislodged.

"Mel, Mel," I gently whispered, lightly shaking her shoulder, hoping she was not a screamer.

MELISSA WOKE UP WHEN Cass shook her. She glanced at him. A cold shudder passed through her body. His eyes were steel-grey, his face expressionless, hard. She saw him put a finger to his lips and a cold smile flit across his face.

"Come on, Mel. We have visitors. I need to get you somewhere safe," he whispered, reaching for her hand. "Shhh," he urged as she got out. Suddenly he picked her up, carrying her in absolute silence. She heard a breeze rustle the trees around her, but not Cass. He slipped through the trees like a Leopard, putting her down next to a tree trunk.

WHEN SHE TURNED THOSE remarkable eyes on me I whispered, "Mel, you stay here, no matter what you hear, okay? I promise I'll be back for you." I stared intently, hoping she'd see the truth of my words. "I promise, Honey."

When she nodded I smiled and slipped away.

Eighty feet to my right, safely away from Melissa, I started forward, moving quietly, soundlessly, a skill taught to me by a Cree way back in my early days, a toe - heel movement using the edge of my feet, awareness of everything around you, breath hushed, stillness.

The shuffle, conifer needles rustling, came from twenty-odd feet to my right. Moving slowly I approached from the rear, spotting the outline of shoulders and head. I was almost on him, could hear him breathing, could smell him, stale garlic and something else, when my arm snapped around his neck, curling and tightening as I dragged him back slightly. I grabbed his head, holding it firmly as he struggled for air, his feet kicking and scrabbling in the dirt of the forest floor.

Gradually his struggles weakened. I knew he would be experiencing blackness in his vision, the darkness of death stealing towards him. He shook, his body rattling with death's arrival, the air stinking from released bowels.

Laying him down, I frisked his body finding a silenced pistol and a flick-knife. I took them.

Now armed, I circled my home, ears seeking. I found no one. Moving to the back door, I eased it open a crack and listened. Nothing. Surely there was more than one, I thought, silently stepping inside. I had two advantages. First, I was armed. That made me dangerous. Second, I knew my own home. I knew every creaky or squeaky floorboard. Silently I hunted.

He was in the living room. I heard him breathing. Glancing around the door jamb I saw him staring out at the Taurus. Why hadn't he fired from there when we arrived? I could see the silenced gun in his hand.

Backing away, I checked the rest of the house. So, just two; one outside, one inside. I returned to the living room.

"Hey, Asshole," I said quietly. Startled, he twisted, his arm rising. A single shot sounded loud, his head flying back, body collapsing lifelessly to the floor.

I waited for the sound to fade from my ears. Contrary to popular opinion, and Hollywood, silenced handguns are still loud if they haven't been modified to be subsonic. Your ears will still ring for a second or two after firing and I needed my ears. They were my best early warning system.

I was pleased he hadn't bled all over my living room. Somewhere in his head a twenty-two caliber bullet was rattling around. I carried him in a fireman's lift and dumped him with his cousin, wiping the pistol and dropping it on him. I did not want him stinking up my house.

After another sweep of the house, reassured I was finally alone, I grabbed a ready bag with essentials in it, and a duffle bag with other, more lethal essentials, before returning to the borrowed Taurus. Given the unexpected welcome, I shucked my jacket, put a worn leather shoulder holster on, fished through the duffle and extracted a Beretta 92FS. Checking the magazine and pulling the slide back to confirm there was a round in the barrel, I slipped it into the well used shoulder holster and put my jacket back on, closing the trunk before going back for Melissa.

She was exactly where I'd left her, huddled into a small ball, hugging her knees.

"Good girl," I said, pleased she'd followed my instructions. "Come on. Let's go."

Early evening was approaching as I drove down the winding mountain road. We passed through the forested section onto a steep rocky drop-off part of the road. My mind turned to planning. I knew where I could take her and be safe. It was a long trip, though. How long would she remain mute about what happened? A week? A month? Glancing across, I smiled at her, a reassuring smile, I hoped. She was sitting quietly, eyes following the winding road ahead. I started estimating supplies. Assuming two months for safety sake I'd need to . . .

My head slammed back into the headrest as we were hit hard from behind, the aged Taurus slewing almost sideways towards the steep edge of the road. In the rear view mirror I saw a dark blue Chrysler 300 with one broken headlight surge toward us. FUCK! I should have remembered they had a car somewhere. FUCK! Wrenching the steering wheel to the right I slammed my foot down on the accelerator, the Taurus surging forward like a beached whale, but safely away from the steep drop-off at the edge of the road. My head hit the headrest again as the car was shoved forward. Melissa grasped the door and seat to steady herself, her eyes huge with fear.

"Hold tight, Mel," I said calmly. "Things are going to get a bit rough for a moment."

I studied the Chrysler in the rear view mirror and saw it fall back in preparation for another surge. Clearly the driver thought he could shunt us off the road and over the steep mountainside into the hundred plus foot drop. He had another think coming. I'd see how competent he was.

The under-powered Taurus four-cylinder engine screamed as I accelerated, approaching a bend in the road. Briefly a gap grew between us. Then the Chrysler roared back, its 5.7 liter Hemi far more powerful. As it rushed at us I slammed on the brakes. The Chrysler slammed into us, the sound of tearing metal loud as I was flung forward, my arm outstretched to hold Melissa in her seat. Damage to the rear end of a Taurus was nothing but bodywork. Damage to the front-end of the Chrysler was terminal. I knew his radiator was probably crushed which would sooner or later prove fatal.

Wrestling the Taurus around the corner with a squeal of rubber, we raced down the road, the Chrysler pacing us. I knew what he'd probably do. Odds were he knew his car was damaged severely so he'd try to shunt us off at the next curve by driving up beside us and forcing us over. Sure enough, as our engine complained from abuse, he accelerated, charging forward. I relied on human nature. A flash of red would automatically induce an evasion reaction. Pressing the brake hard, the Chrysler reacted, swerving to avoid us, passing to our right and travelling too fast. He passed us. Accelerating quickly I gave the Chrysler a gentle nudge at the rear right-side wheel, something he'd tried to do to us, I thought with a grim smile.

The effect was immediate. The Chrysler slewed sideways. The driver attempted to compensate by wrenching the wheel to the left. Laws of physics kicked in, lateral forces at that speed exceeding the adhesion factor of rubber. Not a particularly stable car to start with, the Chrysler twisted and suddenly flipped, the car rolling over and over spilling broken glass and bits of trim on the road before crashing through the metal barrier. There was a screech of tearing metal and the Chrysler disappeared over the edge.

I decelerated to the legal speed limit, testing the car. It seemed fine, if dented somewhat; maybe a slight alignment problem too, the rear shimmering slightly.

"You okay?" I asked with a grin.

Melissa stared at me, eyes wide. She nodded, her hands still gripping the door and seat.

"I think we should get off this mountain. What do you think?"

We hit Route 85 heading west towards Binghamton. As night fell I pulled into a Days Inn five miles from the Tri-Cities Airport, my ultimate destination. Melissa let me lead her to the room without complaint or resistance; without a word, actually.

"Which bed do you want?" I asked, pointing at one, then the other. She walked over to the window side bed and sat, still in her parka. "Hungry?" I asked.

Halleluiah! Melissa nodded yes. "McDonalds?" I suggested. Didn't all kids like McD's? With her nod of acceptance at my fine choice, we headed out. "Did you know Mr. McDonald was in reality Ray Kroc, as in a crock of sh . . . Oops. Sorry. Where was I?" I asked as we left the hotel.

From what I could tell, dinner was well received. With Melissa not talking, I rattled on about nothing, quite fascinated by her face. Her eyes were really quite stunningly pretty; large, deep dark brown, framed by long thick eyelashes. She looked Italian and, in a few years, she was going to grow into a stunningly pretty young lady, assuming she lived that long.

As we settled down for the night, my mind started worrying, as it had a habit of doing. How did they, whoever they were, find us, find me? I was absolutely sure we hadn't been followed. I'd taken precautionary side trips, random turns that would expose a tail and added a couple of hours to our car ride. I wasn't a novice at this. No. Somehow they found us. They were there before we arrived. How?

Rising from the bed, I found my cell phone, opening it and removing the battery. Perhaps it was the GPS that they tracked? But, if so, that meant they knew my number. How? Shit. I mentally kicked myself.

Moving across the dark hotel room I collected Melissa's clothes, taking them to the bathroom. With the light on I inspected her clothes, feeling along the lining and edges. Nothing. I knew the U.S. Marshals sometimes used a tracking bug with witnesses; I had used them myself many times. It was generally an insurance policy when we had a reluctant witness. But I found nothing in Melissa's clothes. Then I remembered. Returning to the bedroom I grabbed Melissa's parka from the closet. Back in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet, I inspected it, feeling along the hems.

It was in the lining of the hood; a small cylinder less than half an inch long. Fuck. Nine months out of the Marshals and I'd lost all my senses. My first reaction was to crush it or drown it and deactivate it permanently. Then I grinned.

By the time I returned to the room, that tiny tracking bug was sitting in the pocket of an unaware travelling businessman who happened to be checking out.

I was feeling quite pleased with myself. A bit of misdirection gave me some breathing space. Tomorrow we'd be off again. Yes, I could feel the old excitement returning.

It was the moon casting a pale light over Melissa's bed that caught my attention. She was shaking slightly. Bending closer I studied her face. Her eyes were closed. On her side, she'd curled her knees up. I saw the glisten of tears. My heart ached. I'd forgotten the trauma she'd been through; preoccupied with the rush I was beginning to feel being active again.

MELISSA WAS TIRED AND scared. Too much was happening, too much to hold back. When she went to bed, as she tried to relax, her protective wall sagged under the strain. An unbearable sadness descended, a feeling of loss. Tears came, confusion, scary darkness hovering. She knew something bad lurked in that darkness, something painful, and felt the tentacles of bad trying to worm into her brain. Laying in the hotel bed, curled up into a protective ball, Melissa cried, alone and so scared.

She felt the bed dip behind her as her body shook. She felt Cass gently roll her and pull her to his side. She felt his hug, safe, warm and caring. She remembered his gentle smile. Exhausted from emotional stress, cuddled to his side and the reassuring scent of him surrounding her, she calmed. Sleep arrived to the sounds of gentle murmurs and a rumbling in his chest against her ear, "Shhh. Don't worry. I'll protect you." A dark blanket descended, peace descended, peace.

IT WAS A LONG, LONG sleepless night as I planned our journey. I sighed with relief when Melissa fell asleep, her small body casting off heat. My hand caressing her back slowed and eventually stopped. I felt her back rise and fall as she breathed quietly. Without the parka Melissa was so surprisingly small, petite and delicate. I felt for her, my heart constricting as I tried to imagine the pain and suffering she must be going through.

It had to be monumentally difficult to deal with the loss of both parents and suddenly be left in the care of strangers, uprooted from your home, removed from familiar relatives. Then add to the trauma by witnessing another death, suffering through an attempt on your life, and all at eight years old? I was quite sure I'd never be able to handle it had I been in the same situation. I hugged her a little closer, a little tighter, wishing I could relieve her of the pain. She didn't deserve it.

At around three a.m. I felt Melissa move a bit then settle. Even though I was tired I didn't want to sleep, afraid carefully restrained memories would return. Instead, I plotted our flight path.

CONSCIOUSNESS RETURNED TO HER slowly. Melissa smelled Cass first. She was pressed to his side, her face nestled into him. She felt his big hand on her back. It felt good. Cass felt safe. She inhaled deeply drawing his scent into her lungs, sighed quietly, her body relaxing as if a roller was squeezing all tension away. As sleep returned, she cuddled closer to security, a small smile curling her lips.

Chapter 3

When she woke again it was at the call of a full bladder. Her eyes popped open, Cass gone. Her heart spiked with fear before she heard the sound of a shower. Crawling out of bed, needing to pee badly, she knocked on the bathroom door.

WHEN I HEARD A knock on the bathroom door, my hair full of lather, I yelled out, "What?" and almost fell out of the shower when I heard an answer.

"I need to go."

My first reaction was shock; Melissa talked! My second reaction was to notice how light and delicate her voice was. Amazed, and somewhat relieved, I stood, hands on my head, water pouring down my body.

"I need to go!"

Grinning at how I'd frozen in surprise, I yelled, "Come on in then."

A wash of cool air flowed through the shower.

"But you're here!"

I grinned again. "I won't watch," I promised. "If you're desperate, you'll have to go while I'm showering."

"Kay. Don't look!"

MELISSA SAT ON THE toilet, too embarrassed to pee. She tried to relax by studying the floral wallpaper, then the towel rack, the tile floor, the air vent in the ceiling and, finally, she looked over at the shower curtain, a translucent plastic thing. She watched Cass washing his hair, only seeing his outline. She studied the shape of his body, grinning when she spotted the swell of his bum. Pee started flowing. She sighed with relief and wondered what the front of him would look like, grinning to herself as she imagined waiting for him to step out. Her grin broadened as she wiped herself.

She couldn't hold back a quiet giggle when Cass started singing in a terrible out-of-tune voice. She went to wash her hands.

I STARTED SINGING AS soon as I heard the sound of Melissa peeing, feeling surprisingly embarrassed and trying to give her some privacy. I liked my voice, full and melodious. I was quite certain I had been a singer in another life. I must have been, what with my natural ear for tunes and my impressive baritone voice. Eventually I finished, turned the shower off and tugged the shower curtain aside, my mind going through the next twenty-four hours. A giggle startled me.

"Hey!" I exclaimed, hands automatically covering my crotch. Melissa was drying her face on a towel, her eyes wide and staring at my hands, a completely charming grin on her pretty face. "Out!" I nodded towards the door, grinning at her giggle.

I didn't appreciate her smile or her apparent lack of alacrity in obeying me. In fact, she seemed to move with the speed of cooling tar, drying her hands slowly, dark impish eyes staring at me. I tried a frown. "Out!" I yelled.

Her giggle was remarkably charming as she scooted through the door. It wasn't until the bathroom door closed with a slam that I realized she'd been standing in a t-shirt and cotton panties, white with blue edgings and small blue dolphins cavorting across her little bum. Why did I notice that? Hmmm.

Driving to the Tri-Cities Airport and smiling, I began to wistfully remember Melissa's silence. Whatever had happened, those first words, "I need to go", seemed to have opened a spigot, an inquisitor emerging. I briefly thought about offering her to Guantanamo. I felt sure they would appreciate her persistence and inquisitiveness.

"Why are you called Cass? What sort of name is that?" she asked, sitting in the passenger seat, staring out the side window. "I'm hungry. Can we go to McDonald's?"

"It's short for Casper," I said.

"There!" Melissa exclaimed, her little finger pointing. "There's a McDonalds!"

I pulled into the drive-thru, grinning at her enthusiasm. She really was a charming little thing.

"Egg McMuffin, please. I can have orange juice, too?"

With her finally quiet, occupied by breakfast, I sipped my coffee and enjoyed the peace and relative silence, automatically turning towards the municipal airport.

"Like the ghost, huh?" Melissa asked after swallowing the last bite.

"What?"

"Casper the ghost. Your name. Don't you know Casper?" she asked seemingly surprised at my ignorance.

Chapter 4

I could feel fatigue pulling at me, tendrils of exhaustion tugging at my eyelids, muscles tight and needing to melt, my concentration drifting. Twelve hours of flying and two refueling stops was too much. For a moment I thought I fell asleep. Shaking myself I consulted the map, found the nearest municipal airport and, watching the compass, turned the Cessna.

It was my plane, a hobby really. There had to be a gene in my DNA that was labeled 'Pilot' because I loved flying. This Cessna, the 172Q Cutlass, was twenty-eight years old. Fitted with the Lycomming engine it had a cruise speed of one hundred and twenty-two knots, one hundred and thirty-five miles per hour. It was loud and uncomfortable and beautiful. It was my little toy. Unfortunately, it did not sport long distance fuel tanks. Having made two stops to refuel, with nightfall approaching and not having slept the night before, I was entering the dangerous pilot phase where critical concentration fades without being aware it has.

Melissa was asleep. She'd tried to talk but, after being beaten-back by the howl of the engine, she finally gave up. It seemed like she pouted for a while, which made me smile.

We were on our way across the States to a very, very private piece of property I happened to own. I was absolutely sure no one would find us there, the property registered to a Cayman Islands shell company I also happened to own.

I landed as dusk was arriving.

A taxi took us to the local town motel once I had arranged for overnight parking and refueling. Darkness was just settling. As we approached Mitchell Motel, the neon sign flickered on, garish orange and blue. A flashing pink 'Vacancy' light looked lost in the radiance of all the neon magnificence.

Marty, an elderly gentleman behind the well-worn registration desk, gladly took my forty dollars in exchange for a key attached to a laminated tag, number eleven etched on it.

Melissa and I started hunting for food.

"Do you think they have a McDonald's here?" she asked with hopeful enthusiasm, her hand slipping into mine as we walked out of the motel parking lot.

I glanced around quickly, planning on heading away from one if it was near. There was only so much of Mr. Ray Krok I could take and we'd exceeded that yesterday. I sighed with relief when I spotted 'Mel and Amy's, F ne Down H me Fo d' a short way down the road. Gettysburg, South Dakota, was not the prettiest place I'd ever visited, although to be fair, we weren't really in the town proper. Mel and Amy's was a perfect throwback to the sixties; heavy dark wood wainscoting, booths sporting genuine red leatherette, artificial wood laminate tables with stylish chrome trim, and a busty platinum blond past her prime by a couple of decades smiling as she seated us at one of the empty booths. I counted three people in the restaurant; the barman, the waitress, and one lone male nursing a beer at the bar, head drooping from a life barren of interest and ambition.

"Do you have hamburgers?" Melissa asked the blonde waitress.

The waitress smiled, her wrinkles magically multiplying. "Of course we do, Honey," she said in a rich, throaty voice.

I liked her. There was no artifice or pretense with her. She was a waitress, past her prime and, judging by how she ordered the barman around, was in all likelihood the proprietor of the establishment. Amy? Maybe it was Mel behind the bar.

Dinner was surprisingly good. In fact, it was miraculous. All the ingredients were fresh, Melissa's burger big and juicy. My steak was melt-in-my-mouth tender, the fry I stole from Melissa's plate made from real potatoes, not frozen fries. I left an unusually large tip, my way of encouraging fine cuisine in this otherwise wasteland called Gettysburg.

Exhausted from twelve hours of flying, I fell asleep quickly. Melissa was settled in her bed. I heard a "Night Cass," before sliding into darkness.

The gunfire came out of nowhere as it always did, a shocking hail of bullets tearing into us as I escorted Jim, Mary, and Elizabeth Evans from the Suburban. I felt a bullet smack me in my back, a surge of pain radiating from my side. "Get down!" I yelled trying to push Mary down. In slow motion I saw Jim collapse, folding forward. Mary screamed, diving towards her husband. A bullet smashed into my arm, bone breaking, my arm numb and useless hanging at my side. Stupefied, panic began when Elizabeth was flung backwards, her head bursting like a watermelon hitting concrete, Mary screaming. Hell arrived in the form of a hail of bullets sowing death, in the form of helplessness. I heard my scream of frustration, NOOOO!

MELISSA WOKE TO THE sound of thrashing. Twisting around in her bed she saw Cass moving, moaning as if he was in pain. She recognized a nightmare. She'd had so many. Remembering how comforting he was to her the night before, she crawled out of bed, slipped into his, moving to his side, cuddling. "Don't be scared, Cass. It's just a bad dream," she whispered.

She felt him calm, his body quieting. He rolled onto his side. Scooting back to him, Melissa pulled his arms around her, cuddled back and let sleep steal in.

MORNING LIGHT BROUGHT ME out of my sleep. I woke to a strange sensation. I felt almost rested. I hadn't felt rested in over nine months. It was so weird I had to think for a while. Was I really rested? Was it a dream? Movement at my side brought me fully awake. I glanced down to see Melissa curled up next to me, small, radiating heat and an aroma of something indefinable. What was she doing in my bed?

Two dark eyes opened and looked at me. A smile grew.

"What . . ."

"You had bad dreams," she answered before I could finish. "Cuddling helps make them go away."

I watched her yawn and stretch and scramble out of bed making a dash for the bathroom. Why did I smile at the familiar sight of little white cotton panties with blue edgings and blue dolphins, her tiny bum jiggling?

As I lay waiting for my turn at the bathroom, I realized Melissa had no clothes. Huh. How could I have missed that? I imagined the pickings might be a tad sparse here in Gettysburg. We had another eight hours of flying ahead. Maybe I should alter the plan slightly and refuel in a larger urban center.

Chapter 5

I could swear there's a shopping gene in females because, regardless of age, they seem to take to it like a duck to water. Melissa was no exception, gleefully planning a wardrobe of summer clothes despite my insistence she needed winter clothes. Her enthusiasm was hard to resist, though. Thus, by the time we took off from our final fuel stop, Melissa was the proud owner of clothes suitable to Florida in mid-summer. I managed to sneak in a couple of sweaters, some thick socks and long underwear in what I thought was her size.

But our stop hadn't been all roses. No. I displayed remarkable insensitivity. Sitting in a restaurant for an early lunch after shopping, misled by her bright mood and talkativeness, I opened my big trap and vomited words before thinking. "What happened to your mom and dad, Mel? Do you remember anything?"

I knew I'd made a mistake before the last words were out of my mouth.

I felt like a shit. Her bright smile faded away, darkness arriving, tears welling. I felt like a shit, my heart constricting at her pain. I was a shit; a complete and utter shit.

"No, no," I said, standing and going to her, sweeping her up in my arms. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Honey."

She was so light, so petite as I picked her up. She trembled in my arms, her face buried into my neck. We may have appeared ridiculous in the middle of the restaurant and I didn't give a shit. I shushed her, held her tight, and let her cry. She didn't bawl, just shook, her tears wetting my neck, her small arms holding me tight as if her life depended on it.

Our waitress came up, questions, kindness, and concern in her expression. I smiled in reassurance, holding Melissa tight. "We'll be right back," I told her, taking Melissa outside. I let her cry, felt her pain slow and pass, the cool winter air helping.

It took a lot of work to bring back a smile, and I worked hard driven by guilt, eventually rewarded with a curl of her lips. Unreasonable relief flooded me.

We took off at one o'clock into a cloudless crisp blue sky, snow-capped Rockies looking small far off in the distance. Over the next hour we approached the mountains. They grew ever larger and larger, an impressive display of the might of nature, capable of thrusting millions of tons of rock into the heavens by pressure alone.

Melissa started showing concern as we neared them. I'd been gaining altitude gradually, ears popping with the change in air pressure, yet it seemed we were heading directly towards the snow-covered slope, several hundred feet below the peak.

"Cass?" Melissa yelled, gripping the seat, eyes opening wider with our approach. Snow dusted Conifers began to gain detail, individual branches now discernable.

"Cass!" Melissa yelled with more urgency.

It seemed like we were headed for destruction when I pulled back on the yoke and thrust the throttle forward, the Cessna's engine turning from a loud drone into a growling roar. G-forces pulled me into my seat as the nose lifted, blinding white snow and white-dusted conifers rushing under the belly of the plane. Hauling back on the yoke, the Cessna started a long struggling climb, thin air at the high altitude making it gasp and gulp, power fading from the lack of oxygen needed for the fuel to combust fully. For just a moment I felt a twinge of fear. We weren't going to make it, the Cessna at the ragged edge of its limits. It was the same every time I flew here.

As deep green conifers rushed in a blur below the belly of the plane, we flew almost vertically, the crested ridge appearing above us. Wind streaming across it blew snow off the crest in a crystalline sheet like the train of a wedding gown. Sunshine made snow crystals sparkle and wink like flashing diamonds. The strained, echoing growl of the engine suddenly hushed as we blasted through the blowing curtain, the Cessna leveling off, a vast white valley appearing below us. It was long, perhaps eight miles long, steep sides rising to mountain crests on all sides. Far below, a harsh white streak wended its way like a snake, the frozen surface of a spring stream reflecting back at us.

I pushed the yoke forward and weightlessness took over for a brief moment, my stomach in free-fall. I felt myself rise from the seat, held tight by the seatbelt. Suddenly we were plunging down into the valley, sun sparkling on the white expanse, the Cessna's engine echoing off the walls of the valley.

"Hold on, Mel," I said, bringing us level fifty feet from the snow.

Melissa was clutching the seat as if her life depended on it, her eyes tightly shut.

Snow swirled as I buzzed just above the snow-cover checking the familiar ground. A large log cabin flashed by on my left. Satisfied the ground was still clear, I hauled the Cessna up into a steep turn, plunged down again, playing the rudder pedals like a church organ, aligning the small plane as I adjusted the ailerons. The snow was as soft as cotton, ski-runners settling gently. Pulling back on the throttles, the plane started jittering as it crossed the ground, a sound of rattling filling the cabin from loose equipment behind me. As speed bled away we slowly came to a stop, the engine falling quiet. Silence roared in loudly, my ears ringing. God it was spectacular.

"You can open your eyes, Mel," I said, and grinned as she peeked questioningly through slits before opening them.

"We almost crashed," she exclaimed in an accusing voice. If I liked her smile, I loved her frown. There was no way such a cute face could be taken seriously.

Her gaze turned to the scenery outside the cabin. "It's all snow," she said with surprise. "It looks cold."

Opening my door, I said, "Come on."

The snow was about two and a half feet deep. When I lifted Melissa from the plane and plunked her down, she sank, snow up to her waist. At just under four foot, half her body was buried. I started laughing as I walked away, heading towards the log cabin.

"Hey!" echoed after me. "Cass?"

Turning, Melissa hadn't moved. In fact, I didn't think she could.

"Well, come on," I urged with a sneaky grin. Laughter escaped as she made an attempt to move. Nope. Stuck. Just hilarious.

Tears of laughter started when her face scrunched up in a disapproving frown, two horizontal lines forming between dark eyebrows. She was stuck, cute and angry.

"I can't," she exclaimed.

I saw her try again. Nothing. Too funny for words. She had me splitting my sides when she called out again as I turned away.

"It's not funny! Stop laughing at me!"

But it was. I turned back towards her. Slowly a smile appeared on her pretty face. She scooped up some snow and ate it. I watched, fascinated as mischief stole into those dark chocolate eyes. I was enthralled as a sneaky grin appeared, as she formed a snowball. Despite being under four feet tall and a stick of a girl, she had heft behind her throw and, unexpectedly, remarkable accuracy. The snowball hit me smack in the face, soft snow exploding up my nose, into my laughing mouth and down my neck making me shiver.

A burst of giggles followed. I was sorely tempted to reciprocate. I settled for a hug as I picked her up, her body still shaking with giggles. I was finding this little girl to be totally charming.

MELISSA EXPLORED THE CABIN while Cass unpacked the plane. It was simple; to the left a bedroom, a study, and a store room, to the right a kitchen and bathroom. But it was large, the living room huge, ceiling towering up in an inverted vee, the roof supported by large, thick logs.

The living room had a huge stone fireplace taller than her, its chimney all stonework disappearing up through the roof. Large windows gave her a view of the valley, a spectacular expanse dipping down and rising on the opposite side to peaks several hundred feet high, the whole scene covered in pristine white snow.

The furniture was plain, all wood and cushions, the bedroom the same. The study was mostly empty, just a desk and chair, and on the wall a couple of empty shelves. She pulled a desk drawer open.

"Find anything?"

Melissa screeched and jumped, Cass surprising her. "Don't sneak up on me like that."

"I didn't."

"Yes you did!"

"Didn't."

"Did too."

She smiled when she heard him mutter "Didn't" as he headed out again. He had. Actually, thinking about it, Cass made almost no noise when he moved. Fascinated, she kept an eye on him as she inspected the big eat-in kitchen. He walked oddly, with unusual grace, she saw. He made no noise when he moved, his footsteps silent. Checking, Melissa decided it wasn't the shoes. He was wearing boots. How did he do it?

Now intrigued, she followed him around as he brought in an armful of wood for the fireplace, and started a fire in the big iron stove in the kitchen, studying how he moved.

I FELT LIKE I had a little lamb, Melissa following me around. What made it slightly creepy was her silence. She didn't talk at all, just stared at me with those big eyes.

Finally, as I lit the stove, I asked, "What's up, Mel?"

She grinned. "You're really Casper, aren't you?"

Somewhat confused, I checked the fire. Satisfied with its progress, I closed the access door on the stove. "That is my name."

"No," she insisted. "You're a ghost, like Casper. You make no sounds, just like him."

The cabin warmed just as the sun set, shadows flitting across the valley to finally consume us. Melissa seemed convinced, much to my amusement, that I was her friendly ghost. She proceeded to attribute me with qualities of friendliness and fun, sitting at the kitchen table, her legs swinging back and forth several inches off the floor, a delightfully serious expression on her face as I prepared dinner.

I let her ramble on, quite captivated by her marvelously expressive dark chocolate eyes, her remarkably pretty face, and thick raven hair that refused to be tamed; sort of like her personality. I imagined, if I ever had a daughter, I'd like her to be like Melissa, cute, bright, and a fighter. Yet there was a hint of vulnerability in her, of delicateness. Maybe it was her stature that gave me that impression; she was very slight.

That first night, Melissa changed into her summery long t-shirt, a sun, beach and ocean print. She brushed her teeth for the first time in three days, pulled her thick hair into a ponytail, strolled out of the bathroom and expressed surprise when I explained she'd be sleeping in the bedroom, I'd take the couch in front of the fireplace.

She gave me such a sweet kiss on my cheek, "Night, Cass," followed by a tight hug. I felt the residual heat of her lips for quite a while.

Hunting around the kitchen, I found a bottle of twenty-five year old Scotch and poured a dram. Settled, with my shoeless feet pointing to the fireplace, yellow light flickering in the room, the calming sound of a crackling fire and the sweet scent of burning wood in the air and the lodge toasty warm, I finally relaxed.

This valley was my personal paradise. I'd acquired it from the government twelve years ago. The Department of the Interior had gone through a rationalization, selling off land under strict land-use limitations. This particular valley, all eight thousand acres of it, was inaccessible by foot with no paths or roads leading in. Access was from air or climbing the mountain. My piece of paradise was completely secure. No one but me and my proxy in the Cayman Islands knew I owned it, not even the government. I'd brought supplies that would keep us comfortable for two months, plenty of time for Melissa to heal. But if it took longer I could go and get more supplies at any time. In the valley we received no radio or cell signal, had no electricity. This was rustic living at its perfection. It felt very good to be back.

Weariness and Scotch eventually tugged at my eyes.

The gunfire came out of nowhere as it always did, a shocking hail of bullets tearing into us as I escorted Jim, Mary, and ten year old Elizabeth Evans from the Suburban. I felt a bullet smack me in my back, a surge of pain radiating from my side. "Get down!" I yelled trying to push Mary down, my other hand reaching for Elizabeth. In slow motion I saw Jim collapse, folding forward. Mary screamed, diving towards her husband. A bullet smashed into my arm, bone breaking, my arm numb and useless hanging at my side. Stupefied, panic began when Elizabeth was flung backwards like a rag doll, her head bursting like a watermelon hitting concrete, Mary screaming. Hell arrived in the form of a hail of bullets sowing death, in the form of helplessness, in the form of failure. I heard my scream of frustration, Noooo!

IN THE COMPLETE SILENCE of the valley, Melissa was startled awake by Cass crying out "Noooo." Jumping out of bed, remembering his nightmare the night before, she ran to the living room, Cass tossing on the couch, the blanket half off. She tried shaking his shoulder, "Cass, Cass," she called, worried at the sweat coating his face. Remembering how he calmed when she cuddled, Melissa sneaked under the blanket and cuddled to him, tugging his arms around her, "I'm here," she whispered, wondering what scared her ghost so much.

Chapter 6

Giancarlo leaned back in his chair, casually glancing around the social club. This was his domain, his kingdom; little Italy in New York. He relished the fact that he had authority over every man in the club, all members of his famiglia.

Business was good. Revenue was far outstripping the modest expenses needed to operate the family business. In fact, profits were so strong he was having difficulty managing the money. Holding onto cash was such a waste of earning power. The cash needed to be invested. With careful off-shore laundering he could increase his holdings of Apple, IMB, Coca-Cola, Amex, and others. He was a big fan of Warren Buffet and, like Warren, he invested for the long term, although he was particularly pleased with his decision not to invest in Goldman Sachs, feeling a bit superior every time he checked their declining stock price.

However, today he was feeling anger. Luciano Bravi was supposed to be the best, imported from Sicily to rid him of a small child, a potential devastating threat to his freedom.

He almost regretted having to deal with that investment advisor himself, but he handled his own problems and was proud of it. It wasn't his fault he didn't know there was a kid in the house.

"Don Benetti," a small balding man said with a quiver in his voice.

Giancarlo glanced across at his accountant, the shit who had accidentally given the wrong files to Tom Peterson. If he wasn't his brother-in-law he'd take out his Beretta right here and now and put a bullet between those watery eyes.

"Are you absolutely sure all the papers were there?"

"Yes. I checked three times, Don."

Giancarlo snarled, "You should have done that the first time, you stupid fuck." He waved his hand dismissing Julio, his mind already on other management issues.

Luciano Bravi had been discovered in a wrecked Chrysler 300 at the bottom of a steep cliff in upstate New York, his skull crushed. Failure infuriated Giancarlo. Incompetence surrounded him. At least he'd only lost his one hundred thousand deposit, not the half-million fee due on completion of the hit. Nevertheless, somewhere out there was a ticking time-bomb; a fucking little girl who could identify him. He knew she was being protected by some ex-Marshal by the unlikely name of Casper McFadden.

He knew a lot about McFadden. It had been McFadden protecting that rat Jim Evans. McFadden had been injured in the machine gun fire laid down by his guys. Pity he didn't die, the lucky shit.

Giancarlo's contact in the U.S. Marshals was unable to locate McFadden and the girl. No cell calls. No contact. They'd disappeared completely. Mulling the thorny problem over, Giancarlo grinned. With his small mouth, it was a distinctly ugly smile.

"Nick," he called to his driver, "We need to find a phone. Let's go." He trusted no phone, cell or landline in the neighborhood. You never knew who was listening, and this time he did not want anyone to hear his call to a NSA employee with a gambling problem.

Chapter 7

IN THE FIRST WEEK, I felt myself changing. It started with waking up on the uncomfortable couch with a small, warm bundle in my arms, that indefinable aroma floating up at me. I woke feeling refreshed, such a strange feeling. I woke with Melissa in my arms, a cuddly, trusting little girl, and realized she was giving me so much. This tiny girl was giving me peace, and a second chance.

The second day I woke up with her in my arms again. "You sleep better when I'm with you, Cass," she said with complete, beautifully innocent sincerity. It just seemed expedient that I sleep in the bed the next night when she urged me to. If she was going to cuddle to me, we might as well both be comfortable.

But a strange thing happened that third night. I slept. I slept without a nightmare that had plagued me for nine long months, the nightmare that robbed me of rest and left me exhausted when rising in the morning. I felt unbelievably good when I stirred awake, hugging Melissa to me. I realized what that incredible aroma was, too. It was Melissa's sleepy scent, a deeply, deeply pleasing aroma. Despite a bursting bladder, I stayed in bed holding her, listening to her soft breathing, feeling the warmth radiating from her small body.

When she woke up, turning her head, her liquid dark eyes looking at me, when she smiled a radiant smile, and spoke so gently, "Morning, Cass," something inside my chest snapped, heat flushing through my body. She was so sweet.

Other little things happened, all seemingly way too charming. Melissa kept adding layers of summer clothes as she tried to stay warm, several summery t-shirts layered on her small frame, jeans and a skirt, two pairs of socks. She looked so cute. When I reminded her of the sweaters and long-johns I'd bought, she grinned and disappeared back into the bedroom.

A giggle preceded her emergence. Glancing at the doorway, Melissa appeared looking like a drowned rat in a sweater that hung to her knees, the bottom half of the sleeves empty, and a big grin on her face. I really didn't know how to buy clothes it seemed.

"It's too big," she said. "Wanna see the long-johns?"

Something snapped inside me again. Melissa looked adorable. And then it hit me. I loved this little girl. I loved her as if she was my own daughter, the type of love that's involuntary. She demanded it, took it and I had no control over it. I knew I'd do anything for her, lay down my life for her.

As she stood, arms outstretched, drowning in the sweater and smiling at me with amusement glistening in her beautiful eyes, I wanted to grab her and hug her tight, bury my nose in her thick raven hair and inhale the scent of Melissa. Instead I grinned. "Looks good on you," I said.

She walked over to me, held out her arm, the sweater's arm draping off the end. "Can you fold it up?"

"I like it, Cass," she said quite seriously as she inspected my efforts, her arms outstretched again. "It's warm."

For the next two weeks we entertained each other, took long hikes in the valley with Melissa on my back, her arms wrapped around my neck, legs around my middle. She'd point her authoritarian little finger, "Over there," steering me and I'd dutifully walk in the direction she indicated. Snow fell occasionally, adding another six inches to the blanket covering the valley and the log cabin became our cozy refuge from a harsh world. I fell under the spell of a small, utterly charming eight year old girl.

But, in the middle of the third week, I took to the couch again. At least I tried to.

Melissa had decided she liked to sleep in my t-shirts. "They smell good," she'd declared. With one bathroom and one bedroom it was impossible for me not to see her in a state of undress at some point. But I'd never seen her completely naked. The most I'd seen was as she slipped a t-shirt over her head, wearing one of her many pairs of cotton panties. Melissa had seen me in my boxers, too. There was nothing said, no comments; it just seemed natural. I had to admit, though, that she looked incredibly cute in my t-shirt, all little girl lost in a big tee.

Then one morning I dreamed, not a nightmare, a dream. In the unrestrained world of a subconscious liberated by sleep, where everything's possible, where rules don't exist and there is no wrong, I dreamed of Melissa. I dreamed of holding her in bed, her t-shirt riding up, my hand on her bare back as I hugged her little body to me. I dreamed of her scent, an aroma that was so, so attractive. I dreamed of her wiggling in my arms and her whisper, "I love you, Cass," as she snuggled closer.

In my dream I held this beautiful little girl so full of love, my hand slipping down to cup a perfect petite, cotton-covered young bum. It was small and curvaceous, bubbly and firm, my hand almost spanning both little buttocks. In my dream, this little girl wiggled and purred, sighed and pressed herself against me. I felt two sweet buttocks flex, felt a valley between them. In my dream, the erection that formed seemed okay, acceptable, a natural reaction to the attraction and love I felt.

In my dream, a loving little girl pressed herself to me, my erection trapped between us, her soft tummy conforming to my shaft as I held her little bottom. In my unrestrained dream the sexual attraction I felt seemed normal, seemed loving, felt right. I basked in the erotic sensation of my painful erection pressed to Melissa, enjoying how it throbbed, loving how petite she felt against me. It seemed right that I caressed her little bum, feeling the soft cotton and tracing the seductive valley formed by little buttocks. It seemed normal for me to pull her tight, hunch my hips to rub my erection against her. It seemed okay to want to kiss her beautiful lips and to want to slip my hand under those soft cotton panties to feel the silkiness of her buttocks. In my dream, Melissa's little bum under those cotton panties felt seductively soft, slightly cool, beautifully rounded. I adored her quiet "Mmmm" as I fondled her gently. She was so alluring, so attractive, so desirable.

And then I woke up. The unrestrained world of a liberated subconscious evaporated in a flash, dissipated by awareness, by adult restraint. I woke up to horror. I wasn't dreaming. I had Melissa in my arms. I had a hard erection pressed to her tummy. I had one hand inside her cotton panties holding two bare buttocks.

I disentangled myself as gently as possible, slipped from the bed and hit the bathroom, shame chasing me. My shame intensified as a hard erection refused to subside, the memory of her small body pressing against it so strong. My palm burned with the memory of two seductive little bare buttocks, the back of my hand burning with the memory of cotton against it.

I felt heat in my face, embarrassment flooding me. Jesus Christ, I'd fondled a child and found it arousing! Confused, I washed with a washcloth and cold water, brushed my teeth, shaved, and through it all, I had a hard erection. It took several minutes and concentration on air fuel consumption calculations before I could pee.

Melissa was still curled up and asleep when I selected clothes and sneaked out to the living room to dress. She finally made an appearance as bacon was sizzling in the frying pan.

"Morning, Cass," she said sleepily.

I glanced at her and turned away. What the fuck was wrong with me? Melissa looked so dam sexy in my tee, her thick dark hair wonderfully messy, her smile so innocently attractive.

MELISSA WONDERED WHAT WAS wrong with Cass. As the day passed he seemed to be avoiding her, nodding or grunting in response to her questions. For some reason he was constantly busy, chopping and splitting wood as if the world was about to end and fixing little things around the cabin. He didn't even eat lunch, telling her he wasn't hungry.

She wondered if it had anything to do with the stiffie he got that morning. Why would that bother him? He got one every morning. But this morning she'd woken up to being held differently, so lovingly, Cass' nice scent strong. His hand inside her panties had felt good too, warm, caressing her bum gently and sending little shivers of pleasure through her. She'd felt his stiffie pressed to her tummy, long, hard and big. It felt exciting and she'd pressed herself against it. A quiet moan had escaped when she felt it swell or throb. Being in Cass' arms, being held so close, she felt love for him. He cared so much, and he must like her, he was holding her bare bum. But then he'd slipped away just when she was feeling nice tingles, like a buzz inside. Was that what was wrong?

"Is everything okay, Cass?" she asked as she watched him pile logs next to the fireplace.

"Yes. Everything's fine."

But it wasn't. He was distant, away somewhere. That night she went to bed, Cass sitting up and having a drink. Sometimes he did that and eventually he'd slip into bed, wrap his arms around her and pull her close; her favorite time of the day. She'd feel her body melt, his scent surrounding her, strong arms holding her, and peace would descend wrapping her in safety and love. She adored how he'd kiss her cheek, "Night, Melissima," he'd whisper.

She woke alone, in the dark, no Cass. Slipping out of bed she found him sitting staring at the dying embers of the fire. For a second, when he glanced up, his greenish eyes shining, she thought he looked lost and sad. Then he smiled.

"What are you doing up?" he asked.

Melissa crawled into his lap, snuggling close. "I missed you," she said. "How come you're not in bed?"

UNWILLING TO RISK A repeat of this morning, I said, "I think I'll sleep out here, Mel."

Then she turned that pretty face up to me, worry in her spectacular eyes, "Don't be angry at me, Casper. I don't like it."

I felt that something in my chest break, my heart aching. God, she thought I was angry at her? I could never be angry at her.

"Mel," I said softly, "I'm not angry at you." I hugged her tighter. "I'm angry at me."

She rested her cheek against my chest, the top of her head under my chin.

"Are you angry because of your stiffie, or because you liked my bum?" she asked quietly.

She scared me with her insight, an awareness she shouldn't have at eight years old. I was mute, struck dumb. How did . . .?

"I liked it," she added quietly, snuggling close. "It felt nice. I thought you liked it, too." Her face turned up to me, so pretty. "I'm glad you're not angry at me. But you shouldn't be angry at yourself, either." She paused, eyes staring at me. It was as if she was peering into my mind with those big liquid eyes, such trust.

"You're gonna have bad dreams again if you sleep here," she stated with conviction, her face turning attractively serious as she scrambled off my lap.

Melissa grabbed my hand and tugged, almost leaning back with effort. "Come on, Cass. Come to bed."

It was difficult not to smile at her willfulness, at how she refused to let my hand go as I stood. She held tight, tugging, guiding me as if I was a puppy on a leash, ready to run off if she let go.

I was still in a state of confusion, an uncomfortable condition for me. Day by day Melissa had wormed herself into my heart, slipped through my defenses. I knew I loved the little imp, helplessly loved her, in fact. But I was struggling with the bodily reaction she was causing. All day long I'd physically reacted when thinking of her despite my self-condemnation. I found Melissa intensely attractive sexually and didn't know how to handle it.

Perhaps it was the physical contact at night, perhaps something as yet unidentified. But I couldn't deny how the feeling of her small bottom, her silky soft skin, the slight coolness of her buttocks, and their round, perky shape in my hand stirred a response in my groin. It was disconcerting in the extreme.

As Melissa scrambled onto the bed, diving under the covers, her watchful eyes keeping track of me, no doubt to make sure I didn't bolt, I undressed, sliding under the covers quickly.

Melissa scooted to my side, her arm thrown across my chest, her leg hooking over mine as if to anchor me into the bed. I lay perfectly still, afraid of a threatening bodily reaction if I touched her in any way. Two dark trusting eyes peered up at me from the crook of my shoulder, her arm fishing behind her to grab my hand. She tugged, pulling my hand to her little hip, sighed and snuggled closer.

"That's better," she declared. "Night, Casper."

I bent and kissed her forehead gently. "Good night, Melissima." It took a long time for me to fall asleep with the unconscionable erection that had formed.

Chapter 8

Little shivers of pleasure pulsed gently through my body, wakefulness slowly arriving. Before my eyes even opened I felt Melissa carefully exploring my erection. Somehow she'd fished it out of the flies of my boxers, her small hand touching, carefully caressing, pausing to wrap her fingers around it and squeeze gently, and then caressing again as she moved lower.

I was rigid, the crown pulsing an inch off my stomach. And even worse, no, even better was the perfect little cotton-clad buttock I held in one hand, so sexy. I wanted to moan as Mel explored. Through my tightly closed eyes I knew it was morning, a glorious morning, a wonderful morning.

I knew I needed to stop her, yet wanted her to continue. It felt incredible to have her touching me intimately. I wondered if she understood what she was doing. Did she know about sex? Did she understand the pleasure she was giving me? Or was this innocent exploration? When her little fingers wrapped partly around my aching shaft again, giving me an agonizingly pleasurable little squeeze, I felt how close I was to cumming, in fact, too close for comfort.

Reaching down, I gently removed her hand. "Don't Sweetheart," I said softly, opening my eyes.

"Good. You're finally awake." Bright eyes glanced up at me, a radiant smile assaulting me, my heart skipping a few beats. I was in serious trouble with this little girl. For the first time I contemplated breaking the law, she was that attractive.

Before I could say a word, Melissa scrambled up to rest her crossed arms on my chest, chin resting on her arms, her face peering at me, impish eyes glistening with excitement. "Why does it get big like that?" she asked, continuing without waiting for my response, "How does it get big? Does it hurt or feel good? And why do I feel nice tingles when I play with it?"

Her eyes grew, voice dropping almost to a whisper, "I feel really nice tingles, Cass, right between my legs. That little button tingles like when I play with it. How come?"

With a groan, I pulled her up and kissed her gently, a lingering kiss on her silky soft, warm cheek. "I need to go to the bathroom, Mel."

She stared at me intently, her smile fading. Suddenly she threw herself at me, her small mouth hitting mine. Melissa gave me the sweetest kiss on my lips, her mouth pressed hard to mine, lips closed. She ended the kiss and rested her face on my chest. "I love you, Casper," she stated softly.

Something snapped inside me. I was permanently broken. In a husky voice I told her I loved her, too. I did; ferociously. I'd never felt love like it in my life. I hugged her tight and let her know I really, really needed to go to the bathroom. My bladder was at the point of bursting despite the erection.

At breakfast Melissa sat at the kitchen table in my t-shirt, gorgeously thick raven hair unkempt, bare legs swinging back and forth, a bowl of cereal in front of her, milk dripping down her chin, and a spoon hovering in the air. "An erection?" she asked.

"Yes." I took a sip of coffee, my eyes captivated by the expressiveness of her face.

"And it goes in a vagina, right?" She asked, her eyes dipping to look at her lap before staring in wonder at me.

"When you're eighteen or so," I said. I hadn't planned on a birds and bees conversation, but Melissa's constant questions about my erection evolved into it.

"Why?"

"To make babies, or to show love. I already told you that," I answered.

"No. Not that. Why eighteen?" she asked.

I smiled. "Because you have to be an adult, Mel. That's the law."

"Why?" she asked, taking a slurping spoonful of Frosted Flakes, her enchanting eyes full of inquisitiveness.

I grinned at her. "You tell me. You're the one that was feeling me this morning. Didn't you notice it was a bit big?"

She nodded, "Uh-huh." Before I could follow up, she put her spoon down and slipped off the chair. "I'll be right back."

I sipped my coffee, somewhat bemused at the conversation. I'd never imagined I'd be having this sort of discussion, certainly not with an eight year old. But Melissa's curiosity knew no bounds and I was discovering she had no bashfulness, either. She didn't hesitate in asking me intimate details or telling me she could make herself feel good by playing with her little button, which I was quite sure was her clitoris. "Sometimes I rub it on teddy, or scrunch up my pillow and rub it on that," she advised me dead seriously. I actually found her openness quite an attractive trait.

"Ooow!" echoed loudly into the kitchen. "Cass, I'm bleeding!" her panicky voice yelled.

Fuck. What had she gone and done?

Charging into the bathroom I saw Melissa on the toilet, legs spread to either side, white cotton panties hanging off one little ankle, thick raven hair hanging like a curtain shielding her face as she bent over, clearly inspecting her pussy. From my position, I could only see her side-on.

"What happened?" I asked.

Melissa's head popped up, a look of surprise on her face. She held out her index finger. "Look, blood, Cass. I'm bleeding," she exclaimed indignantly.

"Jesus Christ, Mel. What did you do now?"

A sheepish look appeared. "I wanted to see how big I was. It hurt," she added with a frown. "Look, blood. Why?"

I grabbed a handful of toilet paper and handed it to her. "Wipe yourself gently."

"You do it," she said, parting her legs more.

"No. You wipe yourself. Just be gentle."

"Nuh-uh. You do it. Please?" She saw my hesitation. "It's okay. I don't mind if you see."

She might not, but I did. I hadn't seen her completely naked and still I'd reacted inappropriately, twice now. I wasn't going to exacerbate the problem. I could already feel a response in my crotch. What did an eight year olds pussy look like? With a mental shake I put the bunch of toilet paper in her hand and backed away. "No. I can't, Mel. Just clean yourself gently," I said, backing out of the bathroom.

A few minutes later, as I was filling my mug with coffee, Melissa entered the kitchen walking tenderly, still smiling sheepishly. I saw her wince slightly as she sat at the table and pick up her spoon.

"Well?" I asked.

"Well what?" She gave me an innocent little expression.

Didn't she understand she'd just broken her hymen? "Why did you do that?"

At least she had the grace to blush, rather attractively, I thought.

"I wanted to see how big I was, my vagina, you know?"

I opened my mouth and she carried on before I could get a word out. "It's really small, Cass. How come? And why did I bleed?"

I wondered if it was my fault for not mentioning her hymen. I opened my mouth and she carried on again. "And how come you didn't want to see? Were you embarrassed? I wasn't. Does it always hurt when you put a finger in it? Does that mean sex hurts? Why do people do sex if it hurts?"

I opened my mouth to answer and she continued before I said a word. "Can I have another glass of milk, please?"

I gave up. Chuckling at her irrepressible spirit, I poured a glass of milk for her, wondering what I had done to deserve the company of such a charming angel.

Chapter 9

PHILLIP WITHDREW THE ENVELOPE from inside his overcoat. "Here it is. We're all square now, aren't we? My debt's paid?"

Nick Costa took the large manila envelope, glancing around Central Park to see if they were being observed. A damp winter chill had settled on New York, the bone chilling cold chasing residents inside and commuters rushing to get out of the city as evening approached. They were quite alone.

He looked at Phillip Barstow, Senior Analyst, NSA, a tall, slender man who stooped like many tall men did. His long, jowly face seemed desperately worried. He should be, Nick thought. Phillip was into Mr. Benetti to the tune of two hundred thousand dollars thanks to an uncontrollable affinity for the dogs.

Nick weighed the envelope in his hand. It was perhaps an inch thick and heavy. "Mr. Benetti asked me to tell you that, if all the needed information is here, you may consider your debt paid."

Phillip exhaled shakily, his breath forming a mist in the growing gloom of the evening. "It's all there. Everything that's available."

"Good. In that case, have a pleasant trip back to D.C." Turning, Nick strolled away, slipping the envelope into the top of his pants and drawing his jacket over it.

Two hours later, he pulled through the iron gates of a large mansion on Long Island Sound, Giancarlo Benetti's residence, a massive, ostentatious, white marble home facing Glen Cove. He pulled the black Mercedes around a large, outrageously ornate fountain and stopped at the front double doors. Three minutes later he stood in Mr. Benetti's study, his eyes passing over the classic brass-studded leather armchairs, an expansive mahogany desk, and tall bookshelves laden with unread leather-bound books. One day he'd have all this, he thought.

When the door opened, he straightened slightly, as if at attention.

"Give," Giancarlo said curtly, hand extending. He took the manila envelope, hefted it a couple of times, grunted and dropped it on his desk. "Good. I'll see you tomorrow, Nick. Nine a.m."

"Yes sir."

Giancarlo settled his hard thick body into the deep leather chair as the study door clicked shut. Excitement grew. With a long silver letter-opener, a gift from his wife, he slit the envelope open and slid the contents out.

One hour later Giancarlo leaned back in his chair, grunting with satisfaction. You're mine McFadden, he thought. The smile that grew held no pleasure or warmth. It was cold and quite vicious.

Leaning forward, he picked up his phone, one he had swept for bugs on a daily basis. Arrangements needed to be made. He was going to personally handle this particular management problem, but, given past performance, he was going to bring plenty of back up.

Chapter 10

SNOW WAS FALLING HEAVILY bringing a feeling of muteness with it, a silence as if a blanket was covering the world. The view was spectacular, a pristine white layer of fluffy snow, and big, lazy flakes drifting down in a Christmas-like show.

The absolute silence was broken by a giggle, a heart-warming sound. It was followed by a scream of excited pleasure that echoed back from the opposite side of the valley. Suddenly a flurry of giggles erupted. They tore at my heart.

Melissa was writhing on the ground, legs desperately kicking at me, small arms thumping me as I shoved more snow down her neck.

"Stoooop! It's cold, Cass," Melissa gasped between giggles, regretting putting snow down the waist of his pants when he wasn't looking.

I stopped and stood, Melissa flat on the ground. She grinned at me, eyes twinkling with happiness. It made me ache.

"Look, snow angel!" she said, moving her arms and legs.

Yes. Angel indeed, I thought.

Heat inside the cabin had both of us shivering. Why did it happen that way? I wondered. Why was the cold okay when outside, yet you'd feel freezing, shivering cold when entering a warm room? I was shivering. Melissa was shivering, her teeth chattering as she shucked her parka.

"B-b-b-bath, Cass. I want a-a-a-a b-b-bath. Can I?" She looked at me expectantly, shivering. "A h-h-h-hot one?"

We didn't do baths often, it used up all the hot water. But looking at her shivering, her lips slightly blue, I smiled and nodded. As she scrambled away towards the bathroom, I checked on the stove, stoking it, and adding some more wood. The stove, a huge cast iron piece, had a dual purpose. The fire provided heat to cook with, like an Aga stove, and heat to keep a tank of water hot. The tank fed the kitchen and bathroom.

Satisfied, I went to the bathroom to find Melissa sitting on the toilet tugging off her socks. I started the water in the bathtub, adjusted the temperature, and stood, turning to leave. I wasn't quite prepared, which might account for why I played the statue, unmoving, unacceptably ogling. How she got from pulling socks off to shucking cotton panties in such a short time I'll never figure out. But there she stood, tossing panties onto the floor, buck naked. I hadn't seen her naked so it was a surprise. But it was a shock when Melissa grinned, struck a pose with one hip cocked out. "Ta-da! Naked!"

A furious giggle followed, "C-c-c-cold!" she exclaimed and I watched a bare bubbly bum as she climbed into the tub. She looked completely lost in the old claw-foot bathtub. She looked completely naked, too. I guess I was supposed to back out of the bathroom and give her some privacy. In fact, it would have been the safe thing to do. But I couldn't. I couldn't pull my gaze from her naked glory. I just couldn't.

Melissa was quite stunningly attractive. She was all female . . . well most of her was. Her chest was flat and androgynous. She slipped down in the water dunking her hair, her little body completely, unashamedly on display and I'm afraid my reaction was inappropriate, my penis thickening in response to her youthful nakedness.

God help me, but I thought she was the sexiest little thing I'd ever set eyes on. Her raven hair floated around her pretty face, liquid dark eyes shining up at me with pleasure, a smile curling her small, attractive mouth. She oozed personality and sweet sexiness. She had tiny pink areolae with miniscule nipples in the center on a perfectly flat chest. She had absolutely no shape in her upper half, a skinny little bean pole.

Yet, below the waist was a different story. Her bottom flared out a bit as it pressed to the tub giving her curves; sexy curves. My heart was beating heavily as I studied a perfectly hairless pussy; tiny yet seemingly large on her small body, a prominent mound at her groin, a mound sensually sweeping up from a flat stomach, rising majestically, curving in an erotic v-shape, bisected by the start of a beautiful tiny hairless cleft. From my view, Melissa had three bumps, two prominent hip bones and a magnificent, prepubescent pussy. I don't think I'd ever seen something so beautiful.

And I was shocked at the strength of my reaction. Nothing in my life gave me any indication. But Melissa, only eight years old, was a naked Goddess, a startlingly attractive angel. She exposed a desire in me I never knew existed; a lust I never knew I had.

"It's warm, Cass. Wanna come in? Look, its big enough for both of us!"

She grinned and demonstrated how large the old tub was by repeating her snow angel move, arms and legs parting and closing. Breath caught in my throat as a plump little vulva was revealed between her legs, a seductive, tightly closed hairless little cleft blending seamlessly with the crease of her buttocks.

"Cass? . . . Casper! Wanna come in?"

"Um . . ." God yes I wanted to.

My restraint collapsed when she grinned, "You can wash me. Do ya wanna?"

I tried to recover the lost restraint, the adult behavior that seemed to have evaporated. I couldn't. There was no trace of it, the pure attractiveness of Melissa just too strong. I knew it was wrong. I knew it. I knew I shouldn't. But I did anyway.

By the time I dropped my boxers, Melissa's eyes were focused on my hard, aching erection. She glanced up at me, grinned, "It's really big," and went back to studying it. I didn't blame her. If it was anything like the glory of her hairless little pussy, I understood the fascination.

She sat up as I slipped into hot water; goose-bumps forming as water slowly rose over me. She then rolled on top of me, trapping my erection between us. She wiggled. "Wait. Hold on," she instructed. Reaching down between us, she grasped my erection, raised herself and pushed it down. It slapped up between her thighs and against her bottom. I had a hard time not groaning when her thighs closed around it, gripping my shaft in a soft vise.

"Much better. Huh?" she asked with a smile.

Oh, yes. Much better. I gave her a strained smile, hugged her glorious naked little body to me, and gently splashed warm water up over her back as water continued to fill the tub. Steam filled the bathroom. For a few minutes we let heat penetrate our bodies, muscles that had been tight with cold relaxed. My erection pulsed gently, deliciously, and every so often, Melissa squeezed it with her thighs as if testing how it felt between her slender legs.

Eventually she moved, slipping from my embrace and sliding down to kneel at the foot of the tub. "You need to sit up, Cass. It's time to wash."

I didn't want to. I didn't want to move. I wanted her back. I think I might have grumbled just a bit because Melissa giggled and ordered me to sit up again, all the while staring at my erection.

What followed was one of the most erotic experiences I'd ever had. And it was with an eight year old!

I sat up. Melissa rose to her knees and grabbed the bar of soap. She handed it to me as she stood. "You have to wash me now," she said with a gorgeous smile.

I didn't. Not right away. I had something else I needed to do first, something that had popped into my brain, something completely unacceptable and intensely exciting. Gently I held her hips, my fingers feeling the swell of her sexy little bottom. I drew her close, leaned in and kissed her navel. Oh man it felt good; erotic and exciting. Melissa's hands held my head to steady herself as I kissed her soft tummy below her navel and, feeling dizziness overcome me, I kissed the remarkable small mound of her pussy, pressing my mouth in, feeling how it yielded, a seductive pad against my lips. My heart raced. I definitely moaned. I heard myself. "Mmmm, perfectly Melicious," I said, quite inappropriately. My erection was pulsing and bobbing in the water. She was so, so sexy.

That done, I backed off, reaching for the soap. Melissa had a look in her eyes, soft and warm. She smiled shyly, a slight flush appearing in her cheeks. "I liked that, Cass," she said. "Made me tingle. . . Right here," she added pointing to her tightly closed, plump cleft.

My heart was pounding as I lathered up my hands. I discovered a truly amazing experience like none other. It was washing Melissa with soapy hands, worshiping every curve of her body, the slenderness of her arms, her small neck, her bony spine and shoulder blades, her flat chest. I let myself enjoy the slender taper of her thighs, her calves and petite feet. She was exquisite; an angel.

"You forgot my bum . . . And my pussy!" she informed me with a grin as I rinsed my hands.

I hadn't. I just wasn't sure I could survive touching her there. My erection was aching with intense arousal and I was afraid I might do something, take a step too far and hurt her without knowing it. I was on fire with desire for her.

"C'mon, Cass," she urged. "Start with my bum," she said turning away, sticking her gorgeous little bottom out at me. I was beginning to suspect she knew what she was doing to me. It might have been how she looked over her shoulder at me, grinned and wiggled her posterior that gave me the idea.

But, my God it was fabulous to touch, two sexy little buttocks swelling out from her back, gorgeously rounded and sweeping back into her slender thighs. My hands covered each perfect butt cheek as though they were made for me to hold, the soap letting me caress them, feel their sensuous shape, the tip of my fingers dipping into a tight butt crack. A groan echoed through the bathroom when she bent slightly at the waist, pushing that sweet bum out, her succulent, hairless little pussy squeezing out between her legs.

My erection pulsed and bobbed at the sight of two succulent labia forming a tight sexy cleft.

She straightened, turned and grinned at me. Damn. She really knew what effect she was having on me! "Now my front," she exclaimed, thrusting her pelvis out. I groaned quietly again. An inappropriate thought popped into mind and refused to depart. In a weakened state of arousal, I succumbed.

"Turn," I instructed her, slipping myself into the water and laying back. My erection popped up to my stomach as I drew Melissa backward, guiding her back to me, laying her on me, her sweet little buttocks sandwiching my erection. I soaped my hands. Melissa giggling as she squeezed her bum. "Please don't," I begged. "Just close your eyes."

Holding her sexy small body with one arm across her chest, my thumb helplessly caressing a tiny nipple, I let a soapy hand rest on her tummy, my erection throbbing. In small circular motions I washed her sexy tummy, moving down gradually, my erection throbbing when I felt the beginning rise of her pubis. Melissa clenched her little buttocks in response. I almost lost it. Slowly, I washed her, slipping my hand down, tracing the deep alluring creases on each side of her mons before gently cupping her little pussy. Melissa moaned, letting her legs fall apart. I cupped her hairless pussy, caressing and washing, soap making her so enticingly slippery. I traced her short little cleft down to where it merged into her bum crack and back up, feeling her hips twitch slightly causing a stunningly arousing sensation on my shaft buried between her buttocks. I held her entire pussy in my hand, pressing and massaging, my middle finger aligned with her beautiful little cleft. Gently, ever so gently, I curled my middle finger, the soapy tip slipping between silky soft, plump labia.

My erection swelled when I touched her eight year old clitoris with the pad of my finger. Melissa twitched and sighed, her arms holding mine on her chest. With a soapy fingertip I caressed and stimulated her, her soft labia caressing the sides of my finger.

"Mmmm," she murmured, her little hips moving. "That feels so good, Cass," she whispered, humping gently against my finger.

I held her small body firmly, slowly fondling her, just the tip of my middle finger rubbing her clit, my hand still holding her gorgeous plump pussy. It was intensely exciting, intensely arousing. I'd never have suspected touching and caressing a little girl could be so damn sexy, but it was, incredibly so. An ache developed in my groin, my erection flexing.

"Cass," she sighed. I could feel her little heart beating. "Uh," she grunted lightly, more like air expelling from her lungs. Her hips twitched under my caress. "Uh," she grunted slightly louder. Her hips jerked. "Oh. It's . ."

Melissa inhaled suddenly, deeply. Her body arched and froze. Breath exploded in a grunt as her body writhed, jerked and twisted. She climaxed, surprising me with the strength of her orgasm. She climaxed hard, her arms clutching at mine, gasping beautifully.

When she gasped and arched in another spasm of ecstasy, my finger accidentally slipped from her little clit, sliding down through a silky warm slit. Melissa jerked again, her buttocks two seductive little pillows clenching around my aching erection. Her hips thrust up. Suddenly the tip of my finger was ensconced in a hot velvet grip. Jesus, I had my finger in her tiny vagina. I was penetrating her little pussy.

My climax was spontaneous and uncontrollable. Holding Mel tight, her buttocks sensuously squeezing my penis as she climaxed, and my fingertip snug in her tiny eight year old pussy, semen surged up my shaft. I held my breath, erection swelling impossibly big. Pleasure exploded, hot semen spurting between her little bum cheeks and up her back, my hips hunching. Oh God it felt good! Pleasure slammed into me. I held her tight against my erection, hunched, and another huge wave of pure bliss crashed into me as I swelled again, cum bursting in a powerful, intensely pleasurable spurt. I humped Melissa's little bum as she writhed and climaxed on top of me, fucking between her sexy little buttocks, cumming intensely, holding her pussy, semen spurting, pleasure punishing my straining body. I came hard, achingly hard, my heart pounding as my orgasm crested. Relief flooded me, calm and peace arriving, a post-orgasmic glow settling as my climax passed, Melissa laying still, her little heart beating fast, my hot semen slippery between our bodies. Nothing had ever felt so exciting or erotic. Nothing.

There was silence in the bathroom. For a moment I thought Melissa had fallen asleep. I gently withdrew my fingertip from her tight little vagina, planning on holding this angel for a long while and basking in the relaxation only achieved with a massive climax. But Melissa hadn't fallen asleep, announcing her wakefulness by wiggling and turning, her enchanting eyes wide, a big, big smile on her face.

"Wow. That was . . . Like, wow, Cass. I've never had such a big one." She wiggled on me, a puzzled expression emerging. "Where'd it go?" she asked, reaching down between us, fishing around, lifting her body. Unsuccessful, she slipped back off me onto her knees, staring at my groin. "It's small! What happened? Is that white stuff the semen you were telling me about?"

Chapter 11

GIANCARLO TOOK A FINAL look through the papers Nick had brought to him. The hushed drone of the luxurious Learjet-60 changed pitch. He felt it begin to lose altitude through a lessening of pressure against his rear.

The file was a fascinating read. In many ways Giancarlo felt admiration for Casper McFadden. He admired how McFadden had managed his income so well, making a killing on Wall Street in the heydays of the Internet bubble. Through a serpentine transfer procedure that reached to Lichtenstein and beyond to the Caribbean Islands he'd managed to retain much of his capital gains as offshore investments. While Phillip Barstow's position at the NSA had allowed for a remarkable level of detail, it hadn't given Giancarlo access to details of McFadden's Cayman Island bank accounts. However, following the transfers of funds was enough. It led to a Department of the Interior payment which caught Giancarlo's attention. It had caught Phillip Barstow's as well. On the following page was a copy of a land transfer document reflecting McFadden's purchase of eight thousand four hundred and seventy-three acres in the Rockies.

It was a logical assumption that he'd gone to ground there with the pesky child in tow. The logic was strengthened when, later in the report, it listed, amongst McFadden's assets, one Cessna 172Q Cutlass, kept at Binghamton's Tri-Cities Airport. One phone call confirmed it was no longer there. In the space of two days, Giancarlo had McFadden's flight plan, confirming he had headed for the hills.

"We'll be landing in five minutes, Mr. Benetti," the pilot announced over the intercom.

Giancarlo straightened the papers, replacing them back in the manila envelope. He secured his seat belt, his mind replaying all the preparations made. He had fifteen men, a bit of overkill perhaps, but given what he'd read about McFadden, he decided to be prudent. Besides, he didn't need to capture them or to talk them. No, he wanted them dead, stone cold dead. He wanted to look into their eyes as he shot them. Three helicopters waited with his men at the municipal airport in Whitefish, the one they were approaching. It was a one and a half hour flight from there to McFadden's property.

Wheels screeched as the Lear touched down, engines roaring from reverse thrust, the seatbelt pulling tight across Giancarlo's waist when air braked were deployed. The Learjet taxied for a few minutes and came to a halt, the engines shutting down. He felt a spike of excitement, a rush of blood through his veins. Another killing was in the wind. His adrenalin kicked in. A cruel smile appeared.

Chapter 12

LIFE IN MY PRIVATE paradise took a weird turn. I could no longer deny what Melissa and I were doing was anything less than sex, even if it didn't include intercourse. I was perfectly aware of how beyond the pale it was to be sexually involved with an eight year old. Yet it felt different. It might have been due to a rather intense affection I'd developed for the little scamp, or the relative isolation of the valley making it feel as if we were in a world populated by two, me and an angel. Whatever it was, I found myself enjoying our relationship, a guilt-free enjoyment. It was an intensely exciting time.

If Melissa wanted to have a little sexy play, she initiated it and I loved succumbing to her. It was hard not to. She was a totally charming, impish angel who had captured my heart. She was delightfully silly, had an amazingly attractive grin, and eyes that flowed like liquid dark chocolate, swirling and enchanting me.

After our bathtub incident, Melissa became fascinated by my penis, demanding to see how it grew. She giggled with joy that night when her careful inspection achieved the desired event. And yet, we didn't play that night; Melissa quite content once she'd made it grow, to snuggle against me and, exhausted from a hard orgasm earlier, fall asleep.

But this time it was different. She was buck naked. So was I.

Thus, new sleeping arrangements became standard. I didn't mind in the least, holding her firm little bum in my hand was one of the true pleasures in life. Her petite stature excited me. I didn't question why, it just did. I rapidly grew to love waking up with a naked little angel in my arms, or curled at my side, or playfully teasing my morning erection to wake me up, always with a "Good, you're awake," and a magnificent smile.

In-between doing all the things needed to live, Melissa and I played in the snow, played card games or old board games. She was competitive and had no shame in gloating when she won; totally charming. I started letting her win deliberately just to see her cute gloating.

We'd been at the valley for four and a half weeks when two things happened. No, three.

First, our sexual interaction intensified. It started that morning after the bathtub incident.

"Good, you're awake," she'd said. "Can I see it come out? The white stuff. Your semen. Can I?" her eyes bright with excitement.

Was I going to refuse? Sure, as soon as man invented time travel, or good tasting fast food. "Okay."

"Yippee!" she exclaimed rising to kneel at my side. "Well? Go on. I'm waiting," she said concentrating on my penis.

"Mel, you need to stroke it."

"I do? Okay!"

She reached out and curled her little hand around the shaft, not able to encompass it fully. I suggested a different approach and Melissa gladly ended up straddling my thighs, two small hands gently stroking my thick shaft.

God it was a sight to remember. Her knees were stretched to my sides, the position forcing her little cleft to part. Before she bent forward to hold my erection I saw her small clitoris, and a glistening reddishness below, the inside of her slit. The incredible sight vanished when she bent.

With a look of concentration on her pretty face, Melissa started to stroke my aching morning erection.

"Look! What is it?" she asked as a bead of precum appeared.

"Touch it," I suggested, "It's slippery."

She tentatively touched it, rubbing her fingertips together to test it, glanced up at me with a big grin, and spread my precum down my shaft. "It's much better like this," she announced. God yes, much better, I agreed with a nod.

Having her stroking me was becoming too much. Seeing her stroke my erection was too much, the size difference, my thick adult erection, her small childish hands, my large body, and her petite immature one straddling me was all too exciting, too arousing. Having a small girl masturbating me was unbelievably sexy. I felt pressure in my groin build, the sign of an imminent climax and wondered if I should warn her.

I couldn't. My climax was explosive and spontaneous, brought on when Melissa bent and kissed the tip of my erection. Her little tongue emerged to lick her lips, a grin appearing, sexy eyes twinkling at her adventurousness. And then she squeezed my shaft. That was it.

I swelled to the point of bursting, my hips twitched, and semen was released to burn up my shaft. My body cramped and hot cum jetted out in a long spurt to land on my chest. Melissa's hands stopped, her eyes growing wide. I reached down and moved her hands, another hard wave of pleasure crashing into me, my hips twitching, semen exploding, a thick white rope landing up my body. She grinned, actually grinned at me! Then she started enthusiastically milking my erection. I groaned, body cramping, erection swelling and semen erupting. I came holding on to her slender thighs, humping and spurting, cumming in a wave of pure, utter pleasure until the spurts weakened, my orgasm passing, semen oozing. Melissa's hands were covered in cum, my heart thumping.

I finally collapsed, satiated with the sweet release of post orgasmic bliss flooding my body.

Melissa climbed off me, kneeling at my side. "Wow. Did you see that, Cass? Look, it went all the way up there," she said, her finger touching the base of my neck. "And there's a lot. It's all over your tummy."

She glanced at my face and grinned. "Did it feel good? It looked like you were hurting for a bit."

I laughed, grabbed her and rolled her onto her back. Gathering up my semen, I spread it on her sexy little mons. Her eyes stared at me, dark liquid eyes. Without breaking the eye contact, she smiled a sexy, sexy little smile and spread her legs. My cum-covered hand glided across her plump mound and down to cup her little pussy. Damn it felt good. I bent and, for the first time, kissed her gently on her lips.

It was an experience. Melissa's eyes briefly grew wider, then her eyelids closed slowly as her arms circled my neck. She murmured, "Mmmm," into my mouth, curling her pussy up against my hand. My middle finger, slick with semen, slid effortlessly into her short cleft, gliding down to find the snug embrace of her labia and the tiny, tight opening to her eight year old vagina.

She murmured into my mouth again, her small lips warm against mine and her arms hugging my neck tighter. She undulated her pussy and the most amazing thing happened. The tip of my middle finger slipped into her, a tight, tiny embrace that felt like molten velvet. I'd penetrated her little pussy and it was thrilling.

I reluctantly withdrew my finger from the astoundingly warm, tight embrace and caressed her little clit. Our lips parted when she gasped. On my side, I reached around her and turned her towards me, hugging her gorgeous little body, semen covering us. Lifting her leg, I hooked it over my thigh and slipped my hand across a beautifully firm, rounded little buttock, slipping down, my fingers seeking and finding her small pussy. It was slippery and exciting, her cleft tightly closed, yet yielding to my probing finger. I slid the pad of my middle finger over her little rosebud and into her little cleft, pressing gently to find her vagina.

Melissa shuddered and sighed, whispering, "Casper," as I slipped the tip once again into her tiny vagina. Mel started humping, curling her pelvis to push my finger deeper, then reversing, slowly, slowly working my finger deeper until I was in to my second knuckle.

I kissed her sexy little mouth again, gently pressing my lips to her. She shuddered, her hug tightening, and her little bum started moving rhythmically. It was amazing, incredible. Melissa started fucking my finger, her tight vagina gripping it, sliding up and down, moist, velvety, tiny and tight. She moaned then grunted, her body twitching. I knew she was almost there.

Breaking the kiss, I held her petite body in my arm, "This is so beautiful, Melissima," I whispered, "Let yourself go. Cum, Sweetheart."

Melissa cried out, a sweet little cry, her body shaking as I gently fucked her with my finger. I felt a flush of dampness and she climaxed, shaking and gasping, arms clutching, her tiny vagina gripping my finger. She writhed in my arms, squeaking and gasping, her hips hunching fast, fucking my finger, climaxing hard. It was sensational. It renewed my erection it was so arousing.

For the rest of the day, between chores and playing, Melissa would come up to me, hug me around the waist, and smile at me, "I love you, Cass." Then, as if she was embarrassed at her emotion, she'd giggle and scamper away after groping my crotch. I was quite smitten myself.

But it was a kiss that changed things yet again.

It had been a long and tiring day. Intense sun had made looking at the valley painful, the reflective brightness too much to bear. I had a lot of wood to chop and split. I asked Melissa to help by taking each split log of green wood into the storage shed for curing. Aside from the occasional grumping comment about slave driver, she was a trooper. I truly enjoyed her company, even when she'd plunk her bum down and declare, "I'm tired. Are we done yet?"

Dinner, a well received Mac and Cheese concoction, was dispatched with enthusiasm and many compliments, "Mmmm, goooood. More milk please."

When I asked for help in cleaning the dinner dishes, she grinned at me. Mischief flitted through her remarkable eyes. "I'm too sore, Cass. I need to rest." She then proceeded to expend more energy by tossing playing cards into a waste basket from a distance while jumping on the couch, a game I'd taught her; not the jumping part. Each success came with a delighted yell, a run into the kitchen, "I got one, Cass!" a grin and then back to her game. Too sore my ass.

Night fell as we cuddled on the couch, a roaring fire crackling and casting off sleepy warmth and the scent of pine. We read quietly and Melissa fell asleep at my side. An hour later I felt fatigue set in. Melissa had changed into one of those too big sweaters and, as I picked her up, I discovered she had nothing on underneath except for cotton panties. She murmured and wrapped her legs around me, nuzzling her face into my neck as I carried her. She smelled sleepy and delicious, her cotton-clad little bottom felt good in my palm, her murmurs making my heart ache. She was a complete bundle of pure love.

When I bent to put her on the bed, she giggled and held on for dear life, her arms wrapped tightly around my neck, legs gripping my waist.

"Let go, Mel," I instructed, shaking slightly to dislodge her. She giggled and held on. Charming. I debated tickling her then grinned as another idea took hold.

"Jeez, I forgot to brush my teeth," I said, turning and heading to the bathroom. At that point I wasn't even supporting her. She was attached to me like a limpet mine to a ship's hull.

Brushing my teeth was a struggle, not the least because of her constant giggling. Then, as I wiped my mouth having done a terrible job of brushing, she raised her head and grinned. Leaning in, she kissed me and, with a giggle, stuck her tongue out. When she did it again, I was ready, opening my mouth slightly and, when her tongue pushed, I sucked it.

She pulled back, eyes wide. "Wow. Do it again," she said with a suddenly serious expression of intrigue. Before I knew it, I was French kissing an eight year old, holding a delightfully small cotton-clad bum and sporting a hard erection. There was something so sexy about French kissing a small girl, so illicit, so arousing.

Carrying her back to the bedroom and kissing the entire way, I dumped her on the bed. As I undressed Melissa did too. But her undressing involved jumping up and down in an admirable display of renewed energy, shucking her sweater onto the floor, grinning, hair dancing about as she yanked her panties off, tossing them into the air. With a storm of giggles and the flash of a bare bum, Melissa disappeared under the covers.

She peeked out as I finished undressing, her dark eyes watching my erection bob around. When I slid into bed, grinning, looking forward to some touching and feeling, thinking I might just taste my lovely little imp, Melissa took control.

She scrambled over me. "You first," she declared straddling me, moving down. I knew she was going to stroke me and that was fine too. I still intended to taste the little bundle of energy.

But, as she slithered down astride me, her eyes went wide when her little pussy slipped over my shaft. She paused, looking off into her mind and reversed, dragging her pussy up my shaft. A look of wonder appeared, her eyes dipping to my face, a grin emerging. I think my eyes were crossed at the stunning sensation of her little pussy stroking my shaft.

"That's niiiiice!" she exclaimed with pleasure, slipping her pussy down my shaft.

I glanced down, almost cumming as I saw her plump, hairless little labia spread around my rigid shaft, the crown almost purple, a bead of precum at the tip squeezed out when she slipped back up my erection. I watched, mesmerized as she slid that sexy little pussy down, her little clitoris appearing. Then she reversed, scrubbing her pussy up, almost milking another bead of precum out. I'd never seen anything so outrageous. A hairless, immature pubis massaging an adult erection was astoundingly erotic.

"Wow, Cass," she said breathlessly, "This is goooood." A sigh escaped when she moved again, gently, rubbing herself, stimulating herself.

I had visions of cumming with her little pussy pressed on my erection and reached out to hold her tiny hips, preparing to help guide her movement. But she slipped up further, her little pussy bulging as it pressed down on my crown.

Her gentle gliding stopped. A faraway look grew in her eyes. She wiggled her bum slightly from side to side. "Oh," escaped in a soft exclamation.

Precum leaked from my pulsing erection, Melissa's little cleft becoming slippery. I could feel the heat of her pussy at the tip of my erection. Her hands dropped to my stomach supporting herself, head bending down. She wiggled side to side again. "Oh," she sighed quietly.

I felt her tilt her pelvis slightly and press back against my crown, a moist heat on the tip. Her eyes closed and she started wiggling her bum again, her breathing deepening. "Oh yes. That's good."

Melissa was now pressing her tiny cleft against the tip of my rigid erection and I did nothing to stop her. The sensation threatened to induce a climax and, I reasoned, as long as she wasn't hurting, where was the harm?

It was intensely arousing to see Melissa, such a small child, rise slightly and reach between her thighs. I felt her hand gently grip my shaft, my eyes crossing as she moved my erection around, swiping the tip up and down her little cleft. She found a spot, nestling my erection against her pussy. I felt pressure as she wiggled her bum again.

"Oh. Reeaaally gooood, Cass," she sighed, pressing back.

I knew if she continued I was going to be penetrating her, actually fucking an eight year old as impossible as that sounded, and I did nothing to stop her, too aroused by far. I wanted to. I wanted her. She was such a sexy and attractive little girl. I lay quietly, absorbed by the sight of a naked eight year old trying to work my erection into her, drowning in the sensation of a tiny, resistant opening pressing against my rigid erection. It was becoming increasingly hard not to grab her and shove myself into her, an urge that pounded at me with increasing strength.

Melissa seemed to be in a world of her own, though, her head bent, bottom pushing, easing, and pushing again, accompanied by thrilling little mewls of frustration, and I did nothing to help her, afraid that if I made one move a wall would crumble and I'd roll us over and thrust into her, hurting her as I penetrated her, which I now desperately wanted to do.

"Mel," I whispered, preparing to tell her to stop.

Too late.

As if driven by a primal need deep inside, Melissa pushed back hard. Her tiny vagina stretched and slipped over my crown. We both moaned when the crown popped into her. Jesus, I was penetrating an eight year old, I was in Melissa! How could she have stretched so much? Surely she had to be in pain.

Melissa moaned, "Casper," and collapsed on me, her legs spread to my sides, the tip of my erection gripped in a velvet vise.

I held her gently without moving, although I couldn't stop my erection from swelling and pulsing, the sensation of penetrating her too much for me. For the next two minutes we lay quietly. I could feel her little heart beating hard, Melissa so petite her head only reached my chin. I held her gently, one hand gently caressing her bony little back, another cupping her incredibly sexy little bum. Despite not moving, I was in heaven. Nothing in my life had prepared me for the eroticism of an eight year olds vagina gripping my crown, or of the sensual feel of such a petite girl on top of me.

A chill overcame me, the air giving me goose-bumps. Reaching down using one knee to help, I grabbed the covers and drew them up over us. As I did, I felt my erection slip into Melissa slightly. She reacted, moaning quietly, her arms hugging my chest. She pushed down slightly.

At first nothing happened; just pressure against my crown. She pushed a little harder and, as if I hit a slippery part inside her, my erection slid in an inch, a gloriously exciting inch. Melissa groaned and pulled off slightly. This was agony and I loved it.

Melissa was making all the moves. She pushed down a little and pulled up as if testing the sensation of having an adult erection penetrating her. When she repeated the move I realized Melissa was actually fucking me, fucking herself on just two inches of my thick erection stretching her little pussy. In my hand I felt her buttocks flex, felt the amazing sensation of my erection caressed by a tight, tight grip, hot and slippery, incredible. I let her fuck me, let her move, her little pussy caressing my erection. Nothing in this world felt as good. I loved the sensation.

Suddenly, Melissa whimpered and jerked. My first thought was she'd hurt herself. But when her tiny vagina cramped down on me, I realized she was climaxing, Mel was cumming! So fast? I held her gently, enthralled by her little body jerking and humping my erection, squeezing it tightly with every wave of her climax. I held the desire to shove into her at bay, my penis swelling and pulsing.

Before I was anywhere close to an orgasm, Melissa went limp, her chest heaving, her arms relaxing. She'd finished and I hadn't even started. Yet, after laying quietly for a couple of minutes, despite knowing I should now pull out, I pushed gently. With extreme care, I held her gently and started fucking her slowly, just an inch, but an incredible inch, her vagina tight and velvety and warm.

Melissa surprised me. "Mmmm," she murmured and started undulating, pushing down, forcing me a bit deeper. She hugged me tighter, her sweet bottom humping. The sensation was too much for me. Holding a gorgeous little girl with my erection lodged inside her small, moist and slippery pussy was too arousing by far.

I couldn't help myself. I started fucking her slowly, each thrust forcing a little more of my pulsing erection into her tiny vagina. We moved together, fucking gently but insistently. I used my hand on her sexy bottom to set the pace, pulling her to me as I thrust carefully.

Slowly Melissa's little body accepted more and more of my erection until three quarters of it was being erotically caressed by her tight grip. I could feel my orgasm nearing, my testicles pulling up, feeling heavy, a pressure inside that was building for release. The idea that I was going to actually cum in her was driving my climax closer. But it was Mel who induced my climax.

"Casper!" she whimpered heatedly, her legs suddenly straightening, her body going rigid as she climaxed again. She cried out in pleasure, her little body twitching and jerking and twisting, legs kicking. My climax stormed in. I held her tight and shoved into her, groaned, my erection swelling in her tight little vagina. Pleasure erupted, my erection straining as semen tore up the shaft to explode deep in her. Glorious release! I had time to inhale and another hard, hard surge tore at me, hot, thick semen jetting out into her tiny pussy, wet warmth flooding my erection. "Mel," I gasped, holding her jerking body as I fucked and spurted again, painfully hard. My stomach cramped. There was a slight pause then I was released, the full rage of an orgasm taking over. A rush of pleasure stormed in. I held her gorgeous little body tight, thrusting, spurting, fucking her, thrusting, spurting, fucking her, coming gloriously. I drowned in the feeling of cumming in her, loving every intense spurt, every jerk of her little body. I came hard fucking an angel, my semen flooding her. I came endlessly, reaching paradise, my erection spitting into my little lover.

Chapter 13

MORNING SUN WAS HIDDEN behind heavy clouds. Giancarlo listened to the three helicopter pilots as they urgently recommended he hold off for another day.

"Mr. Benetti, there is going to be snowfall. We don't know how intense the precipitation will be. At that altitude there might also be high winds. The combination will essentially have us flying blind," one of the young pilots advised, the other two nodding in agreement.

It was eight-thirty in the morning. Giancarlo looked out of the open hanger doors. The air was crisp, cold, not one fleck of snow in evidence. He turned to the three hired pilots.

"I don't give a fuck what you think," he snarled. "You've taken my money. You'll take me and my men up there."

"But Mr. Benetti . . ."

Giacarlo grabbed the front of the pilot's jump suit, yanking him close, eyes narrowing, his voice dipping into a quiet growl. "You'll take us there now or I'll personally put a bullet between your eyes. Do you understand?"

The pilot blinked twice, swallowed and nodded.

"Good." With that little management problem dealt with, Giancarlo dismissed the pilots, turning to his men. "Get on board," he roared, pissed that they had stood around watching. Mentally he checked their weapons, each armed with a compact Uzi submachine gun, spare ammunition hanging off belts or carried in pockets.

The whine of rotors starting filled the air. With a final glance around the hanger, Giancarlo climbed into the S-70 Sikorsky, the commercial version of the Black Hawk, pulling the door closed behind him.

FAR AWAY, HIGH UP in the Rockies, bacon was sizzling in a frying pan. Atrocious singing was filling the large kitchen. Melissa didn't know if it was Cass' terrible out-of-tune singing or the delicious smell of bacon that woke her from a deep, deep sleep. But now awake, she grinned at Cass singing. God he was bad. But she liked it anyway. He was happy. She was happy.

A little shiver of pleasure passed through her remembering the previous night. She'd had sex with Cass! And it had taken her breath away, literally made her breathless, gasping with such intense pleasure. Still under the covers, her hand slipped down, testing for any soreness. She found a mess, Cass' semen, but no soreness. Grinning, she hopped from bed, grabbed a t-shirt and panties and hit the bathroom, giggling as Cass hit a high note that made her teeth ache.

Washed, teeth brushed, hair quickly brushed back into a ponytail, she ran to the kitchen, pausing at the door to stare at him. He was barefoot, wearing jeans and no shirt. She liked his body, slender, yet she could see muscles outlined. He hadn't shaved and his shadow looked sorta good on him. He moved like flowing water, no hard or jerky movements, just flowing from one position to another. Yup, he was her ghost, she decided.

When he turned and saw her, his sexy eyes greenish, a warm welcoming smile appearing, white teeth and all, she felt her heart skip. Smiling, she ran to him, leaping up, giving a sigh of pure delight when he swept her into his arms and hugged her.

WITH MY HEART THUMPING, I said softly, "Morning, Melicious." She'd been spectacularly gorgeous standing in the doorway, slender, petite, bare legs and wearing my t-shirt. With her thick raven hair pulled into a ponytail high on the back of her head, her pretty face and dark chocolate eyes took my breath away. God, I'd made love with that angel. I must be the luckiest man on earth, I thought.

And then she smiled. Light intensified in the kitchen. Love poured from her eyes and I thought I might be having a heart attack, the pain in my chest suddenly so sharp. She smelled wonderful as I hugged her. She felt wonderful, too. I knew I was head-over-heels in love with a damn eight year old and didn't feel bad about it in the least.

"Can you set the table?" I asked as I set her down.

"Kay. What's for breakfast?"

"Bacon," I answered, charmed again by her giggles.

"No you doofus. What else?" she asked, pulling cutlery from a drawer.

"Orange juice."

"No. To eat. Jeez Cass."

I grinned. "Oatmeal."

She stopped. "Yuck. Really? With bacon?" When she looked at me, she burst into laughter. "What a doofus. What's really for breakfast?"

We ate French toast and bacon, Melissa stuffing her face as if she hadn't eaten in months, her little legs swinging back and forth, fingers sticky with syrup and busy wiggling around when she talked between bites. A successful breakfast, I thought. I nibbled, too distracted by her charm.

As I cleaned breakfast dishes, with Melissa back in the bathroom cleaning herself, I noticed clouds blotting out the morning sun. We were in for more snow today. That was fine by me. I loved snow. It made the world pristine, hiding the horrors of modern man's ugly imprint on the environment in a blanket of white purity, allowing us to imagine, if just for a while, that everything was going to be fine. Of course it wasn't. But the brief respite brought hope eternal.

I was collecting more wood for the day's needs from the shed when the second of three things that changed everything happened. I recognized it immediately.

I heard the whump, whump of rotors. A helicopter was up there somewhere. My heart skipped. There was absolutely no reason in the world for a helicopter to be this high in the Rockies. I paused and listened more intently. A Sikorsky. Then I heard another, and another. Three helicopters!

Dropping the armful of wood, I raced to the cabin. Melissa was sitting on the couch, playing cards spread on the coffee table in front of her. "Mel, get your coat and boots on. NOW!" I said urgently.

Melissa looked up. She felt a stab of fear cut through her. Cass' eyes were hard, steel-grey. Without hesitation, she scrambled up, racing for her parka and boots, her heart pounding. What was it? What was wrong? Then she heard the echo of helicopters through the open front door. Suddenly she was scared, terrified. Memories stormed back, Mr. Raspin collapsing, gunfire, car racing away, windows shattering. Her hands shook as she pulled her boots on.

I raced into the study, grabbing my ready bag. Tearing a duffle bag open, I grabbed a SIG Sauer, shoving it into my waist band. I scrabbled around in the duffle bag pulling out several spare magazines and shoved them into my coat pockets. Fishing deeper, I pulled out an Al Mar Sere 2000 folding tactical knife, slipping it into my pocket as well.

Racing into the living room, the sound of approaching helicopters growing louder, I grabbed Melissa's hand. "Come on," I said with what I hoped was a reassuring smile. She looked terrified. "Don't worry, Mel."

We slipped out the front door and followed the wall to the back of the cabin, rotor beats growing closer. I started forward and lost my hold on Melissa's hand, the snow too deep for her. Turning back, I lifted her into my arms. "Hold on tight," I told her, plunging through the snow towards a copse of conifer trees. High up behind them, perhaps half a mile away, there was a small cave I could put her in. If you didn't know the valley it would take a month of Sunday's to find it.

I knew I was leaving a track in the snow that pointed directly to us, but there was nothing I could do about it. As we entered the thick copse of trees, there was less snow on the ground. Even though Melissa could probably walk in it, I carried her, racing deeper.

Then I pulled to a stop. A helicopter landed behind me. But what sent chills down my spine was hearing a helicopter land in front of us. We were being surrounded. FUCK! I wracked my brain, thinking fast.

Turning, I ran to the left. Two hundred yards further I found a dead tree lying on the ground.

"Mel," I said gently but urgently, placing her down in the hollow formed by the tree trunk and a dip in the ground, "Stay right here. Keep absolutely quiet, okay?"

Her face was white with fear. I bent, kissed her cheek. Staring intently into her dark, scared eyes I continued. "Mel, I will be back for you. I promise. Just keep quiet for a little while and you'll be safe."

Her voice trembled, "What about you?"

I grinned. "Don't worry about me, Melissima. Now stay down." I shoveled some snow over her little body to hide her red parka. Satisfied, I drew the SIG Sauer P220 Match Elite. It was a powerful forty-five caliber pistol carrying eight rounds plus one in the slide. Turning away from Melissa, I headed towards the helicopter that was cutting us off from our route to the cave.

The echoing whine of turbine engines faded away as I slipped through the conifers, replaced with shouts, voices calling out, directing, fanning. They knew we were here.

I knew the first shot fired would give away my position and bring on a hailstorm of return fire. Deciding for stealth, I pulled the Al Mar folding tactical knife out, flicking the blade open. It was menacing; matte black with a ceramic coating, small and light and lethal if you knew how to use it. I did. Very well.

Relying on my best defense, hearing, I settled behind a trunk, ears probing outward to distinguish sounds and assess what I was up against. I thought I could distinguish six men ahead from the helicopter. From the sounds they were making I knew they were American, untrained, non-military. Their accent, slightly thick New Yorker, told me I was probably facing Benetti's men. They were in unfamiliar territory; I wasn't. How did they find me?

Their ineptness was clear from the loud noise each of them made working their way through the trees. I waited. Grunts, swearing, branches brushed and the occasional call-out to each other helped me track their progress.

One came near. With my back pressed to the tree trunk, I let him pass, holding my breath. When he was two feet past, I slipped up behind him, one hand covering his mouth, the other slitting his throat, cutting through his trachea. Air rushed out as his lungs emptied. He started to flail, panic setting in. I slipped the blade into his back between his ribs, twisting and tearing his heart. He slumped to the ground.

I silently moved to the right. Two minutes later another man lay on the ground. I was breathing hard by the time the last of them was dispatched, sweat trickling down my back. Now for the other helicopter. I crept forward, intent, listening for more men.

A scream echoed, followed by a yell suddenly cut off, "Casp . . ."

Fear paralyzed me. Melissa! I felt the icy coldness of terror for the first time in my life. It was happening again. I was failing to protect and this time it was Melissa who was going to die!

Rage surged through me. NO! NEVER! Rage released me from my paralysis. Plunging down the slope, I headed for a spot where I could intercept whoever had her, pocketing the knife and drawing the SIG Sauer. I plunged through the stand of conifers mindless to the noise I was making, racing to get ahead of them. Then, when close enough, I went silent, slipping through, moving from trunk to truck, edging towards an intercept point.

I heard them long before they appeared; heavy footsteps, two men. They appeared holding Melissa between them, one with a hand over her mouth. Relief flooded me. She was alive. Anger burned me.

Stepping out, I raised the SIG Sauer. Two thunderous shots followed in quick succession, their surprise the last electrical impulse their brains ever felt, both collapsing with a single bullet hole between their eyebrows and gaping holes in the back of their heads. Snow was painted pink from the spray of blood and brains.

Melissa ran towards me, struggling to make it through the deep snow. I raced to her, grabbing her, hugging her tight, way too tight. In the distance I heard yelling; the gunshots had given us away.

"We've gotta get out of here Mel," I said with urgency, "There are too many of them." I couldn't leave her to fight them and, assuming there were six per helicopter, I was faced with another twelve men to deal with; too many.

As I carried Melissa and raced through the copse, I thought hard. How could we disappear? Tracks would inevitably lead them to us. Could we climb out of the valley? No. Too steep and I had no supplies. We'd never make it. FUCK! Could we . . .

"What's that?" Melissa asked as I ran. Glancing up, I followed her arm. She pointed, her other arm wrapped tight around my neck.

"Jesus, Mel! You're amazing!" I said, giving her a hard kiss on her cold cheek. She'd spotted the helicopter. I'd completely forgotten about it.

"Wait right here," I said, moving to put her down. She clung to me. "Mel, you'll be able to see me," I told her.

Melissa stood, her body shaking with fear, eyes following Cass as he slipped up to the helicopter from behind. Her ghost made no sound. She saw him calmly place his gun at the pilot's head, heard soft talking. Then he waved for her. She raced towards him.

The third thing that changed everything for us happened.

AS THE HELICOPTER PULLED up into the air, Melissa looked down through the small window. Men were swarming all over the cabin, one or two looking up. There were two more helicopters on the ground. But what shook her was a face; one man, thick-set, his face broad with heavy eyebrows clearly seen even at a distance. He had a square jaw darkened with the shadow of a day-old beard. His eyes were small and closely spaced giving him a pinched look, his mouth too small, lips too girlish. She cried out as memories came crashing in at her. Mom! Dad! Anguish tore through her. She wasn't aware of Cass suddenly holding her and hugging her tight. Her sight blurred from tears streaming down. Agonizing pain gripped her, hard to breathe, hard to breathe, chest hurting. She cried out her anguish, her small body shaking, hearing shots in her head, seeing that man shooting Mom, shooting Dad. The world dissolved, her defenses collapsing, the last thing remembered was calming murmurs in her ears like a gentle waterfall.

Chapter 14

IT WAS DAMP AND cold, the wind bringing moisture off the Atlantic Ocean. It seemed to pierce clothing and, despite not being sub zero temperature, it cut to the bone. From a perch fifteen feet off the ground in an old oak on the edge of a sprawling water-front property in Glenn Cove, two liquid dark chocolate eyes peered through high-powered Zeiss binoculars.

"That's him, Cass." Melissa whispered, her body shaking, not from the bone-chilling cold wind, but from a memory that had taken her four long months to come to terms with.

"Okay. Let's go."

She handed the binoculars to me. We climbed down and I led her away from the estate.

One hour later we pulled into the drive of a rented bungalow in Jamesport. Melissa visibly shivered as she climbed out of the secondhand Ford. Running, she reached out and took my hand as we approached the front door.

Inside, she shivered harder from the warmth, shucking her thick down jacket. "I've gotta take a shower and warm up, Cass," she declared. "Wanna join me?" she added with a grin, dark eyebrows moving suggestively.

My heart skipped. It always did when Melissa became playful. It had been a long hard recovery for her. She'd broken my heart with the anguish that had wracked her at the sight of Giancarlo Benetti.

"Okay. You go ahead. I'll be there in a minute."

I thought back to our helicopter escape from the valley while making a fire in the hearth.

I'd forced the plot to take us out of the valley at gunpoint. His initial hesitation evaporated when he saw the lethal fury in my eyes.

We acquired a secondhand car as soon as we landed and traveled long, heading south, paying in cash as we went, and sleeping in flea-bitten motels. For two weeks Melissa was silent again, not speaking one word, lost inside her head. I feared for her, worried she'd regressed. I didn't probe, didn't ask. I held her close at night, calmed her when she had her nightmares, soothed her when she cried, and ached for her when she sobbed. I fed her, forcing her to eat.

But, like Mother Nature, spring always arrives regardless of the severity of winter. And, with Melissa, spring eventually arrived with a small, "Thanks," when I handed her a simple napkin in Denny's. The relief I felt from that one word shook me. I'd never been more relieved to hear anything in my life.

The road to recovery had started, Melissa letting out the occasional detail, crying, hugging me with a desperation that spoke to her trauma. Recovery progressed as we found a small cottage to hide in, in Silver City, New Mexico.

While Melissa would never be without her painful memories, recovery was complete when, four long months later, I woke to Melissa's big bright smile and a small hand on my erection, squeezing gently, pure impishness flitting through beautiful dark eyes. "Good, you're awake," she gleefully declared. Yes indeed, I was.

I almost lost my erection from the relief that stormed into me, my heart pounding with excitement. My Melissa was back, my angel had returned to me. I growled at her. Melissa let loose with a storm of giggles at my growl. She scrambled from the bed, buck naked, and waving the cotton panties she'd been wearing in bed at me. "Look! No panties!" She tossed them at me, turned and ran out of the bedroom towards the bathroom. "I'm hungry, Cass. Let's have breakfast. Gonna pee first."

We didn't. I pounced when she came out of the bathroom, grabbing her and hoisting her over my shoulder to loud giggles.

"Hey! Ouch!" she yelled when I lightly pinched and fondled her sexy bare bum. But less than a minute later, she was all murmurs and soft and wiggling against me as I pulled the covers up. She was a little dynamo throwing off heat, an imp trying to grab my erection, her addictive giggles echoing in the room when I gave her a raspberry on my oral journey down her small body.

When I kissed a seductive mound resting at her groin, she calmed, her hands reaching down to comb though my hair. She murmured when I kissed the top of her sexy little cleft. I grinned when she pushed on my head, her legs parting further.

Melissa had a perfect pussy, hairless, silky and soft, with an aroma that made my erection strain. It was firm yet yielding with plump, rounded labia that clung together hiding her clitoris from my eyes. Her little pussy tapered and met the gentle swell of her beautiful buttocks. I kissed her gently, relishing the touch of softness. I kissed her harder, pressing my mouth against her sensual pussy. Then I opened my mouth, taking as much of her pubis as I could. She murmured then inhaled sharply when I probed with my tongue, slipping it between her little labia, pressing into her small cleft and touching a little nub, finding her clit. My angel tasted like pure ambrosia to me.

She curled her bum up to push against my mouth, her hands pulling my head in close. I tasted her again. She had a light, delicate musky flavor, intensely attractive. Sucking gently, I was rewarded with a quiet moan. My tongue slid down, hugged by sexy labia, pressing in and following the slippery inner channel. It was my turn to sigh when I felt her tiny vaginal opening against the tip of my tongue, hot and moist, my nose rubbing her little clit. My erection ached. It had been so long.

Melissa jerked gently. "That feels really nice, Cass," she whispered, her legs rising to hook over my shoulders. She started humping my mouth, very slowly, small shudders shaking her body. "Don't stop. More," she whispered, her hands gripping my hair.

I felt my angel build towards a climax, her thighs tightening around my head, her hips moving up and down with greater urgency, little sighs, "Yes, right there," whispered breathlessly. My little love became moist, arousal flushing through her, sweet moisture on my tongue. I moved up to her clit, now a hard tiny bead, caressing and sucking gently, my hands cupping her flexing sexy buttocks. I sucked.

She exploded, gasping, hips surging up. She climaxed crying out, her hands gripping my hair. Her legs kicked up then fell hard on my back as she writhed, her orgasm pulsing through her small body, hips jerking. I sucked.

"Stop! Stop!" she cried out, pushing my head away.

I gathered her trembling body in my arms and relished the irregular convulsions that continued to shake her, remnants of her orgasm gradually fading away. I was very happy. I was also very horny. Eventually she stirred in my arms, bright eyes opening, a smile burning me. "That was fantastic, Cass," she said, adding, "Do it again. I want another one."

I knew then that her recovery was complete. I could finally relax.

I was pulled out of my reverie by Melissa's yell from the shower.

"Aren't you going to come? I'm waiting, Cass! Hurry up, you doofus!"

I shivered from residual chill. We'd spent too much time at Giancarlo's estate. Long Island was far too cold for my liking. I'd begun to adapt to New Mexico weather. Undressing, I headed towards the bungalow's shower, shivering. Steam was already filling the bathroom with blessed warmth.

Pulling the shower curtain aside, I slipped in. Melissa, now nine years old, looked the same as she had at eight, with the exception that she seemed to be starting a growth spurt. She was becoming even more slender, all legs, knees and elbows, pubescence still to come. In the shower she looked like a drowned rat, her hair plastered to her head. And it took her less than ten seconds to have me laughing.

Melissa took one look at my groin, glanced up at me, and insulted my manhood. "Jeez, Cass. It's really small. Look, it's shrunk!" She poked my pride and joy with a finger, adding, "What happened?"

Then, with a sneaky grin, she asked, "Is it shy? Poor thing."

I was about to growl out my displeasure at having my magnificence denigrated when she bent forward and kissed it.

"Ooo, look. It's coming out to play," she said with an impish giggle. She kissed it again. "Look!" she exclaimed as my erection grew, "It likes me kissing it!"

God help me, I thought. I loved this child so, so much.

As she lathered up her hands and set about washing my pride, I debated just carrying her out of the shower and tossing her on the bed. Maybe I'd bend her over the bed and pay tribute to her remarkably gorgeous little bum. Either way, I was rapidly losing interest in taking a shower; heat no longer needed. I was quite warm, thank you very much. Then she rinsed my erection off.

With an almost clinical approach, Melissa inspected my erection, gently lifting it to check underneath, checking the crown, giving the shaft a testing squeeze before cupping my balls..

She looked up at me, smiled such a sweet innocent smile, and proceeded to kiss the tip, holding the shaft with both hands. "Do you like it when I kiss it?" she asked with a smile.

Fuck me.

She studied it again. Then, in what felt like slow motion, I watched her open her small mouth and slowly slip my crown in. My eyes crossed when she sucked, her cheeks indenting. She made a popping sound when she pulled off, her face turning up to me, an angel of destruction smiling at me. "How does that feel?"

Fuck me. I may have grunted. I don't know; my memory a bit hazy.

With a pleased smile of achievement when my erection jerked in her hands, Melissa bent slightly, opened her sweet mouth and proceeded to suck on my erection, her little hands gently squeezing and stroking my shaft. When she added her tongue to the mix, probing the pee hole then caressing my crown, I felt an orgasm charge towards me.

Desperate not to scare her, though God knows why, I gently pulled her head off.

"What?" she declared with a frown of disapproval, "I was going to . . ."

And that was that. I shook, semen exploded, a long rope jetting into her mouth. I expected her to pull away in shock. She didn't. As a second huge pulse of pleasure tore through me, semen charging up my straining erection, Melissa sealed her lips around the tip of my swelling crown. Her cheeks puffed out as I exploded, what felt like a huge load of semen erupting into her mouth in an intense burst of utter pleasure. She choked and pulled back, thick white cum flowing out of her mouth. I heaved uncontrollably at the sight, cum spurting to hit her cheek and nose.

She grinned, grinned! Opening her mouth, Melissa directed my next hard spurt into it, cum landing on her tongue. I came hard, my body twitching with each spurt, slowly waning in intensity until only weak pulses were left, my heart pounding. I felt quite dizzy all of a sudden and had to reach out to the wall to support myself.

Melissa still had my softening erection in both hands. She closed her mouth, grinned and swallowed. "Yuck!" she stated with a frown. "I don't think I like the taste."

I grabbed her, lifting her into my arms and smiling. "You twit. What did you do that for?" I asked.

She grinned at me. "You did me. It's only fair." Then she added, "Besides, I wanted to see what it was like. Next time I'm not swallowing it, Cass. It tastes salty and weird."

Chapter 15

The night was quiet. Even the wind had died down. I was uncomfortably aware of how exposed I was, on my back under Giancarlo's Mercedes, inside his eight-car garage.

I had pondered how to bring closure for Melissa. In the year we'd been in hiding I became convinced that, no matter that she was surprisingly resilient, testifying against Giancarlo would be traumatic, too traumatic. I loved her too much to put her through that.

While I was in almost every way a law-abiding citizen, my relationship with Melissa the one exception . . . and that transfer of capital gains to the Cayman Islands come to think of it, I had no hesitation in killing Giancarlo. It wouldn't be hard, despite his protection. I had an indelible memory of a gun being held to Melissa's head as she was dragged through the snow.

Yet I came to realize me killing Giancarlo wouldn't give Melissa closure. No matter how gruesome, she needed to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was dead and would never hurt her again. It had taken me a while, but I finally figured out how to do it.

I let the adhesive set; a fast acting cement. After two minutes I let it go. The small Semtex package, a perfect blend of RDX and PETN, was secure. I checked the cell phone, grunted with satisfaction and slowly eased myself out from under the car. I had decided a car bomb would suit me perfectly. Melissa would see the destruction but not the bodies of Giancarlo and his driver-bodyguard, Nick Costa.

An hour later, with the moon casting a flat light over the bungalow, I let myself in quietly. I'd sneaked out earlier as Melissa slept. She usually slept like a block of concrete; but apparently not tonight.

"Where were you!" she yelled, charging and throwing herself at me. "I thought you'd left me," she snuffled, a precursor to tears, her face buried in my neck.

"Never, Mel. I love you. I'll never, ever leave you."

Somewhat mollified, she tried to hold down a giggle when I kissed her neck. "Stop. I'm angry with you."

In her usual way, she grilled me as I undressed. Where was I? What was I doing? Why did I sneak out? Why didn't I tell her? Why couldn't I wake her up? Why couldn't she come with me? And, as I slipped into bed, "So when are we going to do it? Tomorrow?"

I shut her up with a kiss, light, loving not sexual. She disagreed, her little tongue teasing me. Apparently I was forgiven.

"Wait," she said suddenly, pulling away from me. She wiggled and struggled for a moment then, like a magician, pulled her, no, my t-shirt out along with a pair of white cotton panties. "Tada! Your turn."

She tossed her clothes aside as I wrestled my boxers off and scooted back to me, all cuddles, all naked little girl; very nice indeed. Our kiss resumed as I caressed her slender, exciting body, stroking her chest, rubbing her tiny nipples. She moaned and wiggled, all sexy little kitten, exciting me, my arousal very evident.

When I slipped my hand down over her succulent pussy, loving how she parted her legs for me, I discovered moist arousal, her little cleft already slippery, so damn sexy. Stroking her gently, I probed between her luscious labia, touching her clit and slipping lower, pressing against her tiny vaginal opening. It still amazed and excited me that such a tiny opening could expand enough to take my erection. Memories of how tight she was excited me even more.

Rising, I moved over her delectable petite body. Melissa parted her legs, smiling up at me. I bent and sucked her lower lip, caressing her pussy at the same time.

"I'm really ready, Cass," she urged. Like me she was horny, her pussy slippery.

I glanced down. Holding my shaft, the helmet swollen and red, Melissa's pubis looked beautifully small, still perfectly hairless and immature. Her short cleft was stunningly arousing. In the past year, the tip of her clitoris had started appearing, peeking out from between her labia when she was aroused, and there it was. I moved forward, letting the very tip of my erection nudge against her little clit, thrilled with how large I appeared, thick compared to her little pussy. A shudder of excitement hit me when I pulled back leaving a glistening smear of precum on her labia.

I moved forward again, watching as her little pussy bulged, my crown pressing and demanding entry. She seemed so, so small, so excitingly small. I swiped the tip along her cleft and pulled back, a string of precum joining us.

Melissa moved. "Jeez, Cass, stop teasing," she complained her head raised and staring at my erection. Glancing up at me she frowned at the grin on my face. "Not funny. I'm horny. Hurry up!"

"Yes, maam," I answered, ever the obedient one, my heart aching in my chest..

I pressed forward, moving my crown up and down, gently working it into her little cleft. Melissa's labia resisted, bulging slightly. Then, in a slow, intensely erotic movement, plump labia yielded, spreading seductively as if welcoming my crown. Her little labia hugged me, slippery and silky. My crown filled her cleft. I probed lower, the crown bumping over her pelvic bone and suddenly sliding deeper between slippery soft lips.

Melissa was clearly not impressed with my progress. She shoved her pussy at me. Labia slid over my flared crown and, after a brief pause, my erection slipped into a tiny, tight vagina.

"There," she huffed.

I loved the sight. My erection filled her cleft, seemingly huge. It amazed me she could stretch so much, my thickness almost filling the gap between her thighs. I might have stayed like that, mesmerized by the sight, but Melissa tugged at my arms, pulling me down between her slender thighs and onto her small body.

I used elbows to lessen my weight, bent and kissed her, our tongues playing as her arms reached around my chest. She moaned into my mouth, tugged me, curled her pussy up and, breaking the kiss, in a gloriously smooth stroke, I sank into a tight velvet heaven; a moist and warm embrace.

I slipped deeper, three quarters of my erection held tight in her young vagina.

Melissa broke the kiss. "More," she whispered. "Try to go deeper."

"I can't," I responded, her little pussy so tight.

She growled, "Yes you can. Try!" and tugged at me, her legs curling around my thighs to pull.

I lost it, unable to hold back the laughter. She growled!!! I laughed, my erection straining with each guffaw, God she was tight. Looking down, my angel grinned, eyes sparkled, and she tugged. Suddenly laughter died away. I sank deeper into her, the tip of my erection nudging against her cervix, a hard rubbery feeling. But, unbelievably, I was completely sheathed in her tiny nine year old vagina, held by a tight velvet sheath.

"See? I told you it could go deeper," she whispered.

She clenched. I groaned. She clenched again. A fog of arousal settled over me. Groaning, I lay down on her small body, so excitingly petite under me. I withdrew and thrust, shuddering at the sensation of fucking such a little girl. I withdrew and thrust, the tip hitting her cervix, her vagina gripping me tight.

Melissa moaned, tugged, "Do it harder," she urged.

I withdrew almost completely and thrust again, harder, her little body pushed up underneath me, my erection thumping against the entrance of her little womb.

"Uh-huh. Like that," she urged, arms hugging me tight, little legs pulling.

Groaning, deeply gone, I reached down and gripped her little bottom. We started fucking, long, deep strokes, pulling her gorgeous little bottom to me, my erection thumping into her cervix. To her moans of encouragement, I fucked Melissa hard with gloriously pleasurable, long strokes, her tiny vagina gripping my erection tightly.

We started moving together, Melissa hunching up at me as we fucked, breathing harder, hearts racing, fucking faster, fucking with growing desperation, pressure building.

The world exploded. With a deep, deep groan my orgasm hit me like a ton of bricks. I yanked her delectable little bottom to me and buried myself in her tiny vagina, as far as it could possibly go, my erection swelling, God she was tight.

"God, Mel," I gasped as a massive surge hit, semen burning up and exploding into my little lover, pleasure slamming into me. I pulled out and shoved hard, banging my erection against her cervix, froze, groaned in pain as my penis swelled and fired an endless pulse of semen into her womb.

Melissa cried out under me, her pussy clamping painfully. She climaxed, writhing and clutching me, driving me insane with need. In a fury of passion, I fucked my little angel with short, exquisite strokes, tugging her bum to me, spurting, semen flooding her little pussy, so good, so damn good. We writhed, her vagina gripping and milking as I spurted into her, filling her, cumming in my angel, cumming, God cumming.

Chapter 16

Melissa sat quietly next to me. We had positioned ourselves just inside the edge of a pine forest, the long, straight road stretching out before us. It was eight-thirty in the morning, the road empty except for an occasional car, this road dedicated to servicing a few large estates in Glenn Cove.

I held the prepaid cell phone in my hand.

"There," she said, pointing down the road. A black Mercedes appeared around the bend half a mile away.

Flipping the phone open, I offered it to her. "Do you want to?"

She nodded no, her eyes locked on the approaching Mercedes.

I pressed the speed dial.

The phone accessed its memory after determining the button press wasn't part of a longer number. Within a microsecond it found a pre-programmed speed-dial number associated with that particular button. Electrical energy was drawn from the nickel metal hydride battery and a boosted pulse was emitted from the internal antenna.

The signal pulsed out, picked up by a nearby tower. The tower relayed it to another which boosted and retransmitted the signal to a switching station. Massive computers searched the grid to locate the targeted cell phone, sending out a signal through a series of relay towers that ended up back at the original tower.

Under the Mercedes a cell phone woke from the tickle of a signal. It automatically generated an electrical pulse that should have set off the ring tone. This time no sound was heard, the electrical pulse speeding down two wires to a blasting cap.

Three seconds after the originating cell phone speed dial button was pressed, a resounding blast shattered the morning calm on Long Island.

Five hundred yards down the empty road we watched as a Mercedes was violently tossed into the air, the car flipping lengthwise to land on its roof. A fireball engulfed the car setting off a secondary explosion, gasoline spewing from the torn gas tank.

As the shattered hulk burned, a nine year old girl slipped her hand into mine. She glanced up at me and smiled, love and peace shining in her dark, liquid eyes as I led her away.

Epilogue

Sitting on the veranda, absorbing the warm rays of sunlight, and a beer in one hand, I smiled at the sight of Melissa in a skimpy yellow bikini, cavorting in the meadow in front of our cabin.

"Pasha! Come here!" she laughed, chasing after a black Labrador who pranced around in that inept gait of a puppy, all legs and paws, tumbling over nothing.

Summer had arrived, melting all snow away to reveal an Eden; lush meadows, a stream bisecting the valley with crystal clear and refreshingly cold water. Yellow wild flowers had bloomed and so had Melissa. Pubescence had arrived at ten years old, announced by firm, sensitive lumps developing on her chest, discovered by me, I might add. Now eleven years old, her body was beginning the journey of reshaping itself, her slender hips flaring slightly, thighs gaining some sensual curves. She had beautiful little breasts that defied gravity and responded so well to loving attention.

I'd recently discovered several black pubic hairs dusting her sexy labia, kissing each one, and one stray hair in her armpit, also kissed to a storm of giggles. Melissa Peterson McFadden was the light of my life. She was my soul mate, my lover, and, for the next seven years, my charge. There was no question that, in seven years, Melissa was going to be my wife.

Security consulting had proved to be lucrative and provide me with the ability to look after her. Occasionally, on very rare occasions, I succumbed to protection jobs, ones with low risk, ones Melissa could be with me. I was happy, intensely happy.

"Casper!" she yelled, waving at me. "Come on. Help me catch Pasha. He's too fast!"

I put the beer down and stood, smiling at her enthusiasm, energy, and relentless pursuit of a puppy that had more energy than both of us put together. Yes indeed, I was very happy.

 
 

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