By Ann McMan



Disclaimers: See Part 1

Violence/Sex: Some (brief) violence. This story does involve a consensual loving and sexual relationship between two adult women. It is not explicit, but if it offends you, is illegal where you live, or if you are underage-please consider another story selection.

Warning: This story contains profanity—lots of it. In fact, Evan Reed should will her mouth to science. For those of you who are brave enough to persevere—my heartfelt thanks in advance.

Dust is complete, but will be posted in installments.I can be reached at ann.mcman@gmail.com.

Copyright Ann McMan, May 2011. All rights reserved. This story, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any format without the prior express permission of the author.




Ten days later, Evan was still at home, recovering from her shoulder wound.

Julia stayed with her for the two days she was in the hospital, and then accompanied her back to Chadds Ford. She had only returned to the apartment on Madison Avenue long enough to gather some clothes and her toiletries. Immediately after learning about Andy's death, she declared that she would never return there to live. It would be up to her parents to decide what they wanted to do with the coveted, now infamous, property.

Evan didn't doubt her assertion—she was already well acquainted with the core of determination that ran through her character like a vein of iron.

Predictably, a circus of media coverage followed the shocking news of Senator Townsend's accidental shooting death during a robbery attempt at his wife's Manhattan apartment. But within a week, the news frenzy had started to taper off. Already the story had dropped from its prominent position above the fold, and listed toward the inside pages of the nation's leading newspapers.

TV outlets were the first to move on. With no shooting suspect in custody, there was no allure of a prime-time perp walk—and, thanks to Marcus, there was an appalling dearth of salacious detail.

Internet coverage, with the exception of a few chat-room zanies who were hot on the trail of the latest government conspiracy, had all but abated, too. Although Evan had to hand it to a few of the more prolific wing nuts: this time they were closer to the truth than even they realized.

But Marcus did his job very well. And to the causal observer, Senator Townsend's untimely death was simply a tragic accident. There was even an opportunity for the party to make some political hay by touting its agenda to impose tighter restrictions on the regulation of handguns. This reignited the national pissing contest on gun control, and both sides poured millions of fresh dollars into ad campaigns. No matter which side of the second amendment you came down on, guns were big business, and lots of people were cleaning-up on the rhetoric that fueled the debate.

So it appeared that Andy managed to hang on to his poster-boy status, after all. Even in death, he remained a hot commodity that paid dividends to special interests.

Fortunately for Julia, his funeral was a private affair—carried out quickly and quietly in Delaware , with no members of the press in attendance.

Marcus managed that, too.

And now? Now it would just take as long as it would take for these events to completely fade from the national memory.

She shook her head. About five minutes —t hat's how long it would take. Another scandal would spool right up to fill the limelight. The mainstream media hated a vacuum even more than Mother Nature did.

From inside the house, she heard the clatter of what sounded like a pan lid hitting the floor—followed by the muffled, but distinct, sounds of cursing. Julia was in the kitchen—and it was anybody's guess what kind of unrecognizable food creation would be likely to emerge.

Evan sighed and looked out across the pasture. She loved having Julia here—but she knew that this idyllic respite they were enjoying wouldn't last forever. Right now, they were like bugs in amber—frozen in the moment. But real life would intrude soon enough. Julia would have decisions to make—and so would Evan.

They hadn't talked much about the future. For her part, Evan was just starting to get used to the idea that they might have a future. For now, that was enough. The rest would sort itself out in time.

She shifted her weight on the chaise, and watched a couple of cows make unhurried progress toward the stream that bisected her property. They moved as if they had all the time in the world.

Vacuums. It was incredible. One way or another, the holes in your life got filled.

And it was impossible to predict who would end up wielding the shovel.





Thirty-six thousand feet above Chadds Ford, Evan's “shovel” ordered another dirty martini.

The Townsend mess had been one hell of a sticky wicket. But all the loose ends had finally been tied off, and he was on his way to Brussels. The U.S. Envoy to NATO was going rogue with some badly timed public comments about one of the administration's Middle East initiatives—again. And Marcus was being dispatched to “discuss” the wisdom of adjusting his viewpoints.

But first, he'd have a well-deserved week in Paris.

It wasn't like him to take time off—but these could hardly be considered “normal” circumstances. None of the events leading up to Townsend's neutralization had unfolded according to plan. Too many players had too many ideas about how it should go—and none of them seemed to give a flying fuck about the effort it would take to contain the damage.

Evan Reed, in particular, had been like a bull in a china shop.

Not, he reflected, that this was any kind of behavioral departure for her . She was fractious and impossible to manage on her best day. That made her— liaison —with Julia Donne even more of a curiosity. On the night of the shootings, Marcus had been stunned to see Donne's implacable veneer of indifference shatter like cheap windshield glass. And it didn't occur when he told her about Andy's death—it happened when she learned that Evan Reed was unconscious, and being taken by ambulance to Mount Sinai with a gunshot wound. He had a hard time restraining her until the car arrived to take her there.

He shook his head and sipped from his drink.

What fools they were—behaving like dogs in heat.

He'd had to shift gears midstream and have Andy's body transported to Sinai, too—just so Julia's presence there would make sense once the story of the “break-in” hit the news wires.

Fortunately, the mainstream media already regarded Townsend's wife as a recluse. So her unwillingness to appear publicly in the aftermath of her husband's shooting death just seemed like consistent behavior.

Dan Cohen had been almost as difficult to manage. That little stunt he pulled with Ben Rush nearly ruined everything. If Reed hadn't still been conscious when the fat gumshoe blundered his way into the middle of everything, Margo would now be in the hands of the Feds—and he'd be on his way to Paris with a shit-load more baggage in the cargo hold.

Fortunately, Ben Rush was a “reasonable” man, and $25,000 in cash bought a lot of cheap gin—and silence.

And as far as Evan Reed was concerned? He didn't have to worry about her. They had an agreement—and she got what she wanted. All things considered, his arrangement with her was the least expensive part of the clean-up process. She and her “reward” were down there right now—hiding from the media in the middle of that field of cow shit she called home.

He drained his glass.

Stupid. And shortsighted. It would never last. But that wasn't his problem.

Not any more.

The plane jolted and dipped when it hit a pocket of unstable air. He had a hard time keeping his drink from sloshing over the rim of the glass.

The woman on the seat next to him stirred and opened her eyes.

“Where are we?” she asked, stretching out her legs. Her voice was husky from sleep.

It was mostly dark in the first class compartment, but he could still see her eyes.

“Someplace over the Atlantic,” he answered.

“How long was I asleep?”

He glanced at his watch. “About an hour.” He held up his glass. “Want one of these?”

She shook her head. “I hate martinis.”

“You hate a lot of things,” he reminded her. “But you've been known to change your mind.” He ran a long finger across the exposed skin of her forearm. She didn't flinch.

“You know I have to go back to Pakistan.”

Have to? ” He smiled at her. “Someone with your unique skill set could work anyplace.”

She looked at him without emotion. “I know this is a paradigm that doesn't exactly resonate for you, Marcus—but some of us do what we do for reasons that transcend personal gain.”

He laughed. “Nice speech. Is that what you're going to tell your friends in Lahore?”

She was unfazed. “I don't regret what I did—and neither do you.”

“Still—it begs the question about your motivation, doesn't it?”

She shrugged—then reached out a hand to push the call button above her seat.

“Maybe I'll have that drink, after all.”

He chuckled. “I don't know which one of them you thought you were saving.”

She met his gaze. “What do you care? You got the result you wanted.”

He rested his open palm on her knee. “True.”

The flight attendant appeared, and took Margo's drink order. He decided to join her.

Why not?

They had another six hours to kill—and when they got to Paris, they'd have a week to take care of other business.

He looked at her. She was cold and indifferent. He didn't trust her. And he was fairly certain that she despised him.

They had a lot in common.

He smiled. He could live with that.





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