Disclaimers: Mine.

Sex: Um, yep.

Note: There is mention and/or insinuation of child abuse in this story, however nothing graphic.

WARNING: I do NOT give my permission for anyone to take this story and change it in any way: a.k.a. changing title or character names to appear on a different website, even if credit of story origin is given. I WILL take legal action for plagiarism, so be warned.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com .



The Cross I Bear


Kim Pritekel


The clock ticked incessantly, and had been for more than two hours. After awhile, it seemed it was all Elise Mckenna could hear. She rested her head back against the wall behind the hard plastic chair she'd been sitting in the entire time. Her butt felt numb, and she worried if it would still be attached when she stood.

She glanced at the black hands on the white face, seeing it had only been seven minutes since the last time she'd looked. With a heavy sigh, she continued her study of the water-spotted ceiling of the lobby of the Baskerville Police Station. Somewhere in her bored mind, she could hear the large policewoman at the counter talking on the phone.

“He's on his way now for sure, Elise,” Officer Terri Martin assured.

“Thanks,” Elise muttered, letting out a heavy sigh. She'd been hearing that since one in the morning. With a heavy sigh, she closed her eyes.

It seemed like moments had passed, but was actually forty-five minutes later, she was being lightly shaken. Blinking several times, her father's face finally came into focus. He looked worse than she felt.

“Jesus, Dad,” she muttered, pushing up from the chair.

“Yeah, looks bad,” Clay McKenna grinned. “Come on, girl. Let's get both our carcasses home.” He helped Elise to her feet. “'Night, Terri, and thanks.”

“See ya, Clay,” the officer said absently, reading the paper from the previous day.

The ride home in Elise's dad's old beat up Chevy was quiet for a few moments until finally Elise turned to look at her father. “Who hit you?” she asked, eyeing the nasty gash over her father's eye. It was obvious he'd been trying to stem the blood flow earlier, as blood was smeared across his forehead.

“Eh, Sherry's old man.” He glanced over at his daughter. “You?”

“Marcy's brother.” Elise gave her father a wicked grin, trying to ignore the pain from the shiner that was already beginning to form.

“I'm thinkin' we both oughtta leave women alone for a bit,” Clay said with a jaw-splitting yawn.

“Yeah,” Elise said, non-committal as she looked out over the darkness of pre-dawn.

Once home, Elise instructed her father to have a seat at the dinner table, and joined him there with the first-aid kit.

“This one may need stitches,” she remarked, getting all the blood – dry and new – cleaned off the wound.

“Nah. A butterfly band-aid should work just fine.”


Elise loved her father, even with all his became-a-father-way-too-young bad habits. Sometimes she wasn't entirely sure who was the child and who was the parent. She supposed they took care of each other, when it came down to it.

Clay Chance McKenna had gotten Sue Ellen Alvarez pregnant when he was 16 and she was just barely 15. Clay had quit high school to go work for his father down at the junk yard, wanting to do the right thing by Sue Ellen, and his new baby girl, Elise. After five years of not-so-wedded bliss, Sue Ellen had taken off, leaving her daughter and husband behind, never even legally divorcing. Clay had never bothered, as the costs would be much higher than what he'd get out of the deal.

The problem was, Clay McKenna was still essentially a child, himself. He was 33 years old with a 17 year old daughter, and not a clue how to raise her. He loved her, that much Elise had never doubted. He just wasn't the most responsible man in town.

“Okay, I think you'll live,” Elise said, closing up the first-aid kit, her father's brand new bandage expertly put in place.

“You should be a nurse, Elise,” Clay said, walking over to the stove and looking at her handy work in the mirrored hood.

“No thanks,” Elise said, heading towards the stairs that would lead down to her basement bedroom. “'Night.”

“'Night, honey.”

Once she hit the door to her bedroom, Elise began to strip out of her clothing, a trail of black following her across the room. In bra and panties, she headed into her bathroom and flipped on the light switch. When nothing happened, she sighed, irritated. She was tired. She padded to her closet and grabbed the half-empty box of light bulbs, taking one in hand and padding back to the bathroom. There was a short somewhere, and her father hadn't taken the time yet to find it. The bathroom light blew at least once a week.

Light bulb changed, she looked at her reflection in the old, stained mirror above the even older and more stained sink. Her black hair was a mess, all over her head. Blue eyes – exactly like those of her father – were bloodshot, the dark eye makeup she'd had on earlier had pretty much run all over her face. She leaned forward, taking in the deep bruise setting in.

“That bitch is going to hurt later,” she muttered, still able to see Taylor 's fist coming at her. “Asshole.”

She'd been seeing a woman named Marcy off and on for more than three months; a personal record for Elise. Well, they'd needed a place to go, as Marcy's roommate was home, so they'd snuck into Marcy's brother's house. He came home, found them having sex in his bed, and hadn't taken too lightly to it. Elise felt lucky that all she'd ended up with was a shiner and what boiled down to blue balls.

With a heavy sigh, she brushed her teeth and padded back into the bedroom area. She shut off all the lights and crawled into bed.



Elise faced the afternoon on the dirt bike that she and her dad had built three years before out of old Suzuki motorcycle parts. The house Elise shared with her father was on three hundred acres of old junk yard land. The junk yard was long ago closed down, but much of the old car and appliance parts were still scattered, creating an obstacle course for Elise to play.

Over the years she'd build forts and hiding places out of the junk. She rode towards one of those now, the dirt flying out behind her back tire, the wind blowing her hair wildly behind her. Elise gave the bike some gas, roaring up over the hill that would lead down into a strange, glittering valley of stacked cars and refrigerators. She was nearing the edge of the fenced-off property, where her prized hiding place stood high above anything else.

When Elise was five, her and her father had turned the one tree on the property into a tree house that any kid would die to have. It was a two-story behemoth built of wood, metal from car doors, and even had a wrap-around porch with two chairs.

Elise pulled the bike up to the base of the huge tree and cut the engine, her ears still ringing from the whining of the bike's engine. She jumped up to catch the end of the sliding ladder – once that of a fire escape – and pulling on the rungs until the metal tips hit the dirt at her feet. Once upon a time the ladder was connected to a rope pulley system, but now that Elise was tall enough to be able to rech the bottom rung with a jump, she no longer used it.

The ladder secured, she climbed up to the first level, pulling the ladder up behind her, more out of habit than any need for privacy. The first floor comprised of a “living' area: a couch – which had been a bitch to get up there – a large cooler, which Elise replenished often, and a box filled with all of Elise's most prized possessions. Well, what had been her prized possessions when she was 12. The upper floor was a small area with a sleeping bag, radio-powered radio and light. Elise had slept up there more often than in her own bed since she was 5.

Elise pulled the folded up trash bags out of the back of her waistband, intending to do a bit of house cleaning. She glanced out the window, tossing the trash bags to the floor as she grabbed the pair of binoculars that had been swiped from her father's room years before. He had no idea his daughter had them the whole time. She never said a word, even after he bought himself a new pair.

The McKenna's closest neighbors were the Roberts' family. Mark Roberts was the town minister, and well-liked and respected. His wife, Martha was a housewife, proper in all aspects in her raising of their two children, Matthew and Magdalene, or Ma wasggie for short. They were known as the Misters, as every family member had M.R. as their initials. Matthew was a few years older than his sister, who was just shy of 18.

Maggie was outside, and that was what had caught Elise's eye. She sat on the carpeted floor of the tree house and watched. The Roberts' place was a rambling old two-story Tudor-style house. It was said ol' pious Mark Roberts did better than just about anyone else in a town with a population of 13, 419 souls. The land around the house was expansive, the family having raised horses every since Elise could remember. Maggie Roberts especially loved the horses.

The part of the Roberts' land that backed up to the McKenna place was the family's “back yard”: neatly manicured grass, a swimming pool and covered patio. The rest of the property spread out in the other direction. Elise watched as Maggie padded out to the pool in flip flops, a sarong and beach towel folded over her arm. Her long, blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail, which she tugged free, whipping her head back and forth to free the strands, which reached past the strap of her modest bikini top.

Elise positioned herself so she could have a better look. Maggie unwrapped the sarong and kicked off her flip flops. Now in a pale yellow and blue bikini, she dove into the clear, blue water of the swimming pool.

The last time Elise and Maggie had spoken was more than ten years before. Maggie, unbeknownst to her parents, was up in Elise's tree house with her playing, when Maggie fell out and broke her arm. Reverend Roberts had blamed Elise for the incident, and had banned Magdalene from ever playing with or speaking to, Elise again.

Elise had been heartbroken, as Magdalene Roberts was the only child her age within ten miles of her house! She couldn't even play with Maggie at school, as both Maggie and Matthew had been driven to the neighboring county everyday to attend a private, Christian school.

So, Elise had begun to watch Maggie years before, starting out of curiosity: what does a fellow girl her age do for fun? What was her bedroom like? Elise had realized that she could actually see into Maggie's bedroom from the tree house. The bedroom window was large and the blinds usually open, as Maggie's bedroom was on the third floor of the large, old house, and likely she had no clue it could be visibly breached.

Over time, Elise had watched Maggie grow into an absolutely stunning young woman, and couldn't drag herself away from watching her. She would watch as Maggie worked at night, likely on homework. She watched as she cleaned her room, dressed and undressed. And, she watched as Maggie would sit on her bed and cry. Elise had no idea why, but it always tugged at her heart strings, and it happened all too often.

Elise was pulled from her reverie when Maggie popped up out of the water on the other end of the pool from where she'd dove in. She held onto the tiled edge with one hand while rubbing water out of her eyes with the other. She swept back and began to do the backstroke across the pool when the sliding glass door opened and Martha Roberts stepped out, in all her June Cleaver glory. Maggie swam over to the side of the pool where Martha stood, looking down at her daughter and speaking. Elise had no idea what was being said, but it got Maggie from the pool.

Martha headed back inside while Maggie pulled herself from the water. Her back to Elise, she grabbed the towel from the lounger she'd dropped it onto, and began to dry herself. Elise noticed something on Maggie's back, down just above her waistline. She adjusted the binoculars to get a clearer focus, and was finally able to see that it was a nasty cluster of bruises that were various shades of purple and brown.

“Jesus,” she whispered.

Maggie wrapped the towel around her hair, grabbing her sarong and slipping her feet into the flip flops. She stopped for a moment, turning and facing Elise's direction. The tree house was more than thirty yards from where Maggie stood, and Elise knew there was no way the blonde could actually see her, but as Maggie stared, Elise got the chills. She lowered the binoculars and pushed herself back further into the tree house, unable to take her eyes off her query. Maggie stood there for a moment, bringing a hand up to shade her eyes. After a moment, she turned and walked into the house, closing the sliding glass door behind her.



Elise glanced down at the screen of her cell phone, trying to hide a smirk as she read the text message she'd received. She quickly responded, sending the text zooming to the other side of the church, where her friend, Ross was seated with his parents. Long ago, Reverend Roberts had forbidden Elise's group of friends to sit together, sighting far too many disruptions during services.

Clay eyed his daughter, shaking his head in disapproval. She stuck her tongue out at him, which made hide a smile. Clay McKenna insisted they go to church every Sunday, claiming that if he didn't know how to raise his daughter, then God certainly had to know how to.

Elise waited for the next text to come in, which wouldn't take long; there were four of them all texting each other during Reverend Roberts' impassioned sermon.

“We have to decide, people,” Roberts said, looking out at the faces of all the faithful. “We have to decide right now if we will let God into our hearts, bodies and town, or if Satan will take over. Satan!” he bellowed, slamming his fist into the pulpit, startling all present. “Satan will get a finger hold and never let go!”

Elise glanced down the row to where her friend, Abby sat at the end. Abby brought up to fingers, wiggling them obscenely, mouthing the words: finger hold . The quiet of Reverend Roberts' words was shattered by first Elise burst of laughter, then the slap of her own hand over her mouth.

Reverend Roberts stood just outside the open door of his church, his wife, son and daughter standing beside him, greeting parishioners as they left the building. Elise followed her father, slowly making their way in the flow of humanity.

The summer sun was hot as Elise stepped onto the front stoop of the church. She slipped her sunglasses on and looked up into the clear, blue sky. It was the perfect day to go riding. Maybe Marcy would want to go.

Elise was bumped out of her plans by the person behind her. She glared, then realized she was standing right in front of Maggie Roberts. Maggie looked beautiful in an incredibly respectful summer dress, nearly cut to a nun's standards. Her golden hair was pulled back, revealing the clear, tanned skin of her face. Her green eyes were kind as she looked at Elise.

“Hello, Elise,” Maggie said softly.

“Hi,” Elise responded, feeling like she would swallow her tongue as suddenly she remembered the image of Maggie in her bikini two days before. She could still see the spectacular body that was hidden beneath Maggie's loose, “respectful” clothes. She wanted to say more, but saw Reverend Roberts' glare out of the corner of her eye.

“Reverend, a wonderful sermon, as always,” Elise's dad remarked, his hand out in greeting.

Mark Roberts took Clay's hand in a very brief and weak shake. “Thank you, Clay. I hope you were able to take something from it,” he said, his gaze turning to Elise.

Elise smiled at him but said nothing.

“I think you get prettier every time I see you, Miss Maggie,” Clay said to the beautiful blonde, a fatherly smile on his face.

“Thank you, Mr. McKenna,” Maggie said shyly.

“Magdalene graduated first in her class at Maranatha Christian Academy last weekend,” Martha Roberts added, putting an arm around her daughter's shoulders. Maggie was a mixture of pride and embarrassment at her mother's bragging.

“Well, that's wonderful!” Clay exclaimed. “This one made it by the skin of her teeth!” he continued, wrapping his own arm around Elise's shoulders.

“Dad!” Elise cried, glaring at her father.

Clay realized what he'd just said. “Uh, but hey, ya made it, right?”

Elise rolled her eyes and hurried down the steps towards the parking lot. Maggie watched her go, amused.

“I'm sorry!” Clay exclaimed, climbing into the passenger side of the truck, as Elise was already at the wheel with the engine idling. They got settled, Clay buckling himself in as Elise got the truck headed towards home. “Man, that man is sure a pompous ass.”

“No kidding,” Elise agreed. “This is the last summer you're making go to that church, right?”

Clay sighed, knowing full well what he'd promised. “Yeah, Elise. I wish you'd consider going somewhere else, then. I just want you to get some sort of wholesome in your life.”

“Listening to some ‘pompous ass' calling the kettle black isn't my idea of wholesome, Dad,” Elise said, feeling her anger rise as she recalled the way Roberts had glared at her. “All I was doing was saying hello to his precious daughter when that dickhead glared at me like I was some fucking bug or something.”

“I know, honey, and I'm sorry. He's the only preacher in town, I guess.”

“I guess.”

An uneasy silence fell until finally Clay spoke. “What're your plans for the rest of the day?”

Elise shrugged. “Not sure. Thought about going to ride for a bit. See if maybe Marcy wants to come.”

“Well, make sure her brother don't call the cops on you again. I ain't got the money to bail you out this time.”

Elise glanced over at her father, who refused to look at her. “Dad!” she exclaimed, smacking the steering wheel with the heel of her hand. “Again?”

“I didn't mean to,” Clay tried to defend himself. “Larry never liked me none, anyway. Can't say I'm surprised her finally fired me.”

“Do you think maybe he fired you because you came in drunk one too many times?” Elise countered, her anger now aimed right at her father. “Dad, this is what, number six? Seven? And that's just since Christmas!”

“I know, I know,” Clay muttered, feeling like he was being chastised by his mother. “I'll find something, though. Don't you worry.” He grinned at his daughter, smacking her on the thigh.

“Hey, and how the hell do you get away with making comments like that to Maggie, anyway? If I said something like that, Roberts would have me drawn and quartered.”

Clay chuckled. “Maybe ‘cuz I don't look at her like I'm eyeing an '84 trans am.”

“Yeah, that must be it.”

Elise ended up hanging out with her friends that night. Marcy said she refused to see Elise again, and Elise didn't particularly feel like being alone, so she borrowed her dad's truck and picked everyone up. It was only ten o'clock, but everyone was plastered, except Elise, who agreed to drive everyone's sorry asses home. Besides, she had a headache and drinking always made those worse.

Elise's crowd was as much on the fringes of society as she was, except for they were on the fringes of society because they chose to be. They all came from “good” families, with “good” jobs and “respectable” parentage, unlike Elise. The story of her mother was well-known throughout the town, and even though Elise had been a child of six when her mother went “whoring” off with another man, she was made to pay for her parents' sins. Clay McKenna was a joke around Baskerville. His people were the junkyard people. Everyone knew it, and everyone loved to judge themselves based on that. In short, the McKenna's were the official “wrong side of the tracks” people in the county.

As Elise sat outside the Tasty Freeze with her inebriated friends, she allowed a moment of anger wash through her. Yes, she got along fine with her friends, and they'd all been friends since grade school. Even so, many of them hung around because to hang out with Elise McKenna, not only was she a McKenna, but a rumored lesbian on top of it! Oh my, go run and tell the good Reverend!

Elise rolled her eyes at her own thoughts. Her rebellious friends were heightening their rebellious status that much more by being seen with her. She knew it, and they knew she knew it. She certainly wasn't invited to any of their graduation parties last weekend.

Elise decided to try and rip herself from her current train of thought or she knew she'd start up the engine in the old Chevy and run down each and every one of her friends who were oblivious to her thoughts. They were laughing and talking, hollering insults to people who walked by, their alcohol “hidden” in bottles of water. Everclear was real easy to mask as Aquafina.

“Hey, check it out! Reverend's daughter on a hot date!” one of Elise's friends called out, followed by a symphony of cat calls.

This got Elise's attention away from bitter thoughts. She glanced over towards the Tasty Freeze, and sure enough, standing in the shadows near a parked sedan, Maggie stood talking to a good-looking kid, who looked to be in his 20s somewhere. The light above where they stood had burned out, leaving them in relative privacy.

Elise, who had been lounging against the windshield of her truck, sat up, peering into the darkness. The couple were standing relatively close together, though it looked to Elise like Maggie was somewhat uncomfortable. The guy took a small step closer to her, his hand finding its way to her hip. Elise was shocked; she'd never seen Maggie in town, let alone with a guy.

Maggie removed the guy's hand, but within a few moments, the hand found its way back. Maggie looked like she was getting annoyed as she removed it again. This time, the guy grabbed both of Maggie's hips, pulling her into him and kissing her.

Elise hopped down from the hood of her truck, never losing visual contact with the couple. She stayed rooted where she was, not wanting to walk in on something she had no business walking in on. But, she was also getting ready for a fight, should it turn into that.

“Hey man, slip it to her!” one of Elise's friends yelled.

“Shut the fuck up, Jack!” she hissed, turning on him.

Laughter rang out, breaking Maggie and the guy out of what they were doing. Maggie ran off into the shadows, her cry heard. The guy turned to Elise and her friends.

“You guys think you're funny?” he demanded, removing his expensive wrist watch, setting it and his iPhone on the hood of his car. “Come on, punk!” he said, shoving the closest guy to him.

Elise felt torn between pummeling this asshole senseless and going to find Maggie. Her decision was made for her when she was tapped on the shoulder from behind. Turning, she saw a very upset Magdalene standing there.

“Can you please give me a ride home, Elise?” the girl whispered.

Without a word, Elise shoved her friends away from her truck, opening the passenger side for Maggie, then hurrying to the driver's side and sliding in behind the wheel. Moments later, they were on the road, silence filling the cab. Elise glanced over at her passenger several times, not sure what to say.

Maggie wiped at her eyes and nose, sniffling quietly in the dark across the large cab of the old truck. A couple miles away from her house, she spoke. “I'm sorry to take you from your friends, Elise.”

“Psst, don't you dare apologize. They caused that, and I'm so sorry.”

Maggie shook her head, fresh tears filling her eyes. “No, they didn't that.” There was no more forthcoming until Elise pulled up a quarter mile away from the front of Maggie's house.

“Um, I can pull in if you want, but…”

“No,” Maggie shook her head, taking a deep breath. She pulled down the visor and the little flap on the underside that revealed a lighted mirror. “I can walk.” She wiped at her eye makeup with a wadded up tissue, then looked at Elise. “Do I look really bad?”

Elise smiled softly, shaking her head. She didn't think it was possible for Maggie to ever look bad. “No.”

“Okay.” Maggie sniffled once more then blew out a breath. She looked out the window towards her house, seeming to steel herself. Finally, she turned to Elise. “Thank you so much. I really appreciate this.”

“It's not a problem. Who was that guy, anyway? Seemed like a real asshole.”

“Yeah, well my father seems to think he's perfect,” Maggie said absently, then climbed out of the truck, slamming the door. She looked at Elise through the window for a long moment, then hurried off into the darkness.

As Elise drove home – no desire to return to her friends, even if she were their ride – she realized she'd never felt so helpless in all her life. She and Maggie had exchanged more words in the past day then they had in the past twelve years, and she'd seen such unhappiness in those brilliant green eyes. She could have sworn that Maggie's shoulders were actually bowed under some sort of tremendous weight. Being the daughter of Mark Roberts, that was undoubtedly true.

She pulled into the drive and headed into the house. Her father was sitting on the old, worn couch they'd had since Elise was 2, drinking a beer and watching TV.

“Hey,” he called as his daughter entered the house.

“I'm going to bed,” Elise said in lieu of a greeting, clunking down the basement stairs. She threw her keys and wallet onto the bed and tugged her t-shirt over her head. She heard her father's footsteps heading down the stairs. Annoyed, she pulled her shirt back on and waited for him to appear.

“What's up?” Clay asked, standing at the open door. He was concerned, as he hadn't seen Elise in such low spirits in months. Not since she wasn't sure if she was going to graduate or not. “Something happen tonight?”

“That guy is such an asshole!” Elise exploded, pointing in the general direction of the Roberts' house. “So are all my friends! Every fucking one of them!”

Clay was taken aback by both the vehemence in his daughter's voice, but also by her language. She didn't often use such strong language around him. “Uh, okay.” He entered the room, plopping down in the armchair in the corner. “What happened to bring this on?”

Elise sat on her bed, blowing out a frustrated breath. She told him the events of the night, ending with dropping Maggie off down from her house. “I mean, come on, Dad. I couldn't even take her to her own goddamn house!”

“Do you honestly think Reverend Roberts would have gotten that upset?”

“She certainly did. I kinda had that feeling, but she confirmed it. What kind of man is he, Dad? How can he treat his daughter that way? Does he not see what an amazing person she is?!”

Clay was again surprised. He hadn't been aware that Elise knew Maggie that well. When he said as much, Elise sighed.

“I don't.” She looked defeated for a moment, before jumping to her feet again and exploding on a whole new rant. “I feel like I'm not going anywhere, Dad! I barely graduated from high school. I mean, come on, how hard is it to pass at Baskerville High?! I mean, jeez! Our damn mascot was a hornet. A freaking bug !”

Clay tried not to smile, instead he paid rapt attention.

Elise slapped her hands against her thighs. “I just feel so lost right now, Dad.” She turned to him, her steam vented, shoulders falling. “I looked into Maggie's eyes tonight, and all I saw was absolute desolation. This is a girl who has it all: a really nice house, one hell of an education, which she graduated at the top of her class, no less. She's got the whole world in front of her with beauty and brains to boot, yet even she feels friggin' lost!”

Clay stood and walked over to his daughter, taking her into a hug. She sagged against him. “Hey, where is this coming from, huh?” he asked, trying to sooth her. “You were fine yesterday.” He pulled back from her a bit, very serious as he said, “It isn't uh, that time of the month, is it?”

Elise laughed, falling back into the hug. “No, it's not PMS, you big dope. I guess I just feel how lost Maggie was tonight, and I wish there was something I could do to help.” She pulled away, wiping at the tears that had gathered in her eyes. “It's too late for me, but it's not too late for her.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on a sec.” Clay held her by the shoulders, forcing her to look him in the eye. “Why did you say that? Why on earth would you think it's too late for you to do anything?”

“Dad, face reality. We're hated here,” she said softly. “No one takes us seriously, and they never will. The only way to really start over is to leave this shithole, and I certainly don't have the money for that.” She blew out a rueful snort. “And now, neither do you.”

Clay looked away, ashamed. “I know I ain't always done the right things, Elise. I admit that. But one thing you gotta admit is that we always, always make it through tough times. We've been here before, we'll be here again. That's just life, honey. But, you've got your whole life ahead of you, Elise. You ain't stuck here, honey!” he said, shaking her lightly for emphasis. “Leave this hole. I don't blame you if you did.”

Elise nodded, feeling terrible as she looked away from her father. She knew he always tried to do his best for her, even when he screwed up monumentally. “I'm sorry, Dad. You didn't deserve all that.”

Clay pulled her into another hug. “Don't sweat it, kid. We all need to vent.” He placed a kiss on the top of her head then walked away from her. He stopped at the door. “ Terminator 2 is on cable tonight. I know how hot you think that Linda Hamilton is.”

Elise smiled. “Thanks.”

With a wink, Clay was gone.

An hour later, Elise sat up in her tree house, a bottle of vodka in one hand, a blueberry bagel in her other. As she munched, she glanced out from time to time towards Maggie's house, wondering what she was doing, where was she, and was she okay? As though God, himself answered her prayers, a light flickered on in Maggie's bedroom.

Dropping the bagel, Elise picked up her binoculars and held them up to her eyes. She was a bit unstable from the alcohol, but was able to make out Maggie. She was standing at her closet door, pulling it open when she looked towards her bedroom door, taking an immediate step back as Mark Roberts came into view. Maggie looked terrified, and Elise wasn't entirely sure why. Mark's back was to her, but it didn't matter; she wouldn't have been able to hear what was being said, anyway.

As she watched, she became horrified when Mark Roberts grabbed his daughter by the hair and pulled her to the ground. Maggie now out of sight, Mark seemed to be yelling at her, and, Elise assumed, hitting her. In all the years they'd been neighbors, it was not the first time Elise had seen the dark side of Mark Roberts, but she'd never seen it to this extreme. Typically there was a slap, maybe two, but that was it.

“Mother fucker,” she growled, grabbing her cell phone and flipping it open. She'd hit the number 9 when Mark disappeared, the bedroom going dark. Elise wasn't sure what to do. Should she call the cops, anyway? “Fuckers wouldn't believe me,” she muttered, flipping her phone shut.

Deciding she'd had enough and not wanting to chance seeing anymore, she stumbled her drunken way down the ladder, falling off the last four rungs and landing hard on her back. She looked up at the dark night sky, amused as a shooting star raced across the sky.


“Ouch,” she muttered, instantly shattering into drunken giggles.

Getting herself to her feet, Elise decides against riding her motorcycle back towards the house, figuring she'd get herself killed. Instead, she walked it, singing quietly to herself as she went. She knew their land like the back of her hand, every single obstacle, every single bump and swoop.

Finally, Elise made it to the house, locking the back door behind her and staggering her way toward the stairs that would take her to the basement. She noticed that the light was still on in the living room, the TV murmuring in the background.

Clay McKenna was passed out on the couch, drool falling out of the corner of his mouth. Elise made her way over to him, bending over him. “Yo, Dad.” No reply. “Dad!”

Clay started, looking up at his daughter, with her very unfocused gaze. “Hey,” he slurred, lifting a hand to wave.

“Aww, Dad,” Elise groaned, grabbing him by the hand and tugging. “Not again.”

Clay giggled as he was pulled up into a sitting position. The mirth quickly faded to shame as tears filled his eyes. “I'm sorry, Elise,” he slurred, his daughter helping him to his feet. “I'm sorry.”

“Don't be sorry, Dad, just help me get you to bed.”

Together they made their way down the hallway and into Clay's bedroom. He landed on the bed, nearly bouncing off from the old worn springs and mattress. Elise almost fell on top of him, saving herself the fall by grabbing onto the headboard.

“Gimme your leg, Dad,” she said, having gone through this a thousand times, though usually sober, herself. She grabbed hold of Clay's pant leg and held on, managing to get his shoe untied and off before moving to the next leg.

Clay's tears had dried up, moving to more giggles before the tears began again. He looked up at his daughter, who was untying his second shoe. “I have done you so wrong, Elise,” he whispered. “You would've been better off with your momma.”

“I disagree,” Elise growled through gritted teeth as she tugged at the second shoe. She nearly went flying with it once it came off. “You at least stuck around.”

Clay allowed himself to be pulled to a sitting position and readjusted, so his head lay on a pillow, and not at the other side of the bed. “I'm sorry.”

“Don't be sorry, Dad, just get sleep.”

Seemingly on command, Clay passed out again, his snores filling the room. Elise watched him sleep for a moment, leaning back against the wall of his bedroom. She ran a hand through her hair, trying to get the long strands out of her face.

“What have we done, Dad?” she whispered, sighing heavily, then leaving to go to bed.



Elise started, unsure what had woken her. As far as she knew, she'd only gone to bed twenty minutes ago. Once she was somewhat in the world of the living, she realized that sunlight was shining in through the high basement windows of her bedroom, and right into her eyes. She also realized that someone was knocking on her bedroom door.

“What!?” she shouted. “I just went to bed! Leave me alone!”

“Come on, Elise! I need your help!” Clay called from the other side of the closed door. “I gotta job, but I need your help!”

Elise growled, throwing the covers off her.

Fifteen minutes later, Elise squinted at her father, then at the open hood in front of her. “You want me to what?”

“Come on, kiddo. We can do this.” Clay hurried over to the truck, resting his hands on either side of the truck frame and looking in at the engine. “All we gotta do is transfer this baby from this to this,” he pointed to the muscle car frame next to it.

“And you decided to do this at stupid a.m., why?”

“Stupid a.m.?” Clay laughed. “Elise, it's after three.”

“Whatever,” Elise muttered. “Let's do it.”

After about three gallons of coffee, Elise was completely into the project. She always loved working on cars with her dad; they made a hell of a team, and both were ridiculously mechanically inclined. She was, however, surprised to see Mark Roberts pull up in their driveway just as the sun was hitting the hay for the day.

“What the hell is he doing here?” Clay asked, wiping his sweat rag across his forehead.

“Dunno,” Elise muttered, her mind immediately racing to what she may have done wrong recently. She instantly thought of the night before, and Maggie and the guy out front of the Tasty Freeze.

“Good evening,” the reverend said, stepping out of his Buick.

“'Evenin', Reverend,” Clay said, shaking the man's hand. “What can we do for ya?”

“Well, actually I need to speak with Elise.” Mark looked at her, his dark eyes shark-like.

“Sure,” she said nonchalant, walking towards the house. Once they were standing just inside, she turned to him, arms crossed over her chest. “What's up?”

“I have a little problem, Elise, and I'd sure like your help,” Roberts said, surreptitiously taking in the old, worn interior of the McKenna house. “This is an intensely personal matter, so I'd appreciate a bit of decorum from you.”

“I see,” Elise said, moving her weight to the other hip. She was trying her best to keep her cool, but it was fading fast. All she could see was the monster in Maggie's room the night before.

“It seems my daughter, Magdalene has decided on a bit of a venture away from home. I want your help in finding her.”

Elise was quiet for a long moment, surprised at the request, and even more surprised to hear that Maggie had split. “Why me?”

“That's easy: I know that you and your… brood were at the Tasty Freeze last night, and felt the need to interrupt a private moment between Maggie and her fiancé.”

“Oh, you mean when the guy was mauling her?” Elise asked, a brow raised in deadly challenge.

Mark Roberts chose to ignore it. “After she mysteriously returned home, she was quite unhappy.” He eyed her, his suspicion of Maggie's sudden appearance at the family home obviously turned towards her.

“Cut to the chase, Reverend. What do you want from me?”

“I want you to find her. “ He took a small step towards her, but enough for his meaning to be simply read. “I know that you and your friends have connections to the filth in this town, and I fear that Maggie has either come into contact with such filth, or has been taken by them.”

Elise had to clench her fists against her arms to not reach out and punch out the son-of-a-bitch. Her tongue was near bursting as she bit down on it.

“The officers in this town are very familiar with you and your friends, Elise. I'd hate to think they'd suspect you in such a disappearance.”

Elise stared at him, stunned. “You're threatening me, Reverend Roberts?”

Mark Roberts laughed at such crazy talk. “Of course not!' But his eyes said differently. “I'm merely saying that I'd hate for you to come up against anything unfortunate or needless. It's simple, Elise. Find my daughter, and nothing will happen. I have no doubt she just got angry and decided to take a break. She's been so easy to upset lately.” He headed towards the front door, but stopped, hand on the latch to the screen door. “I understand your father is looking for work again.”

Elise only stared at him, understanding his game.

“Pity.” He pushed open the door. “Good luck, Elise.”

Left alone, Elise ran a hand through her hair, her heart pounding. She was both furious and extremely concerned for Maggie Roberts. She pounded down the stairs to her bedroom, grabbing her keys and cell phone then pounded back up, pushing past her father.

“What was that about?” Clay asked, following his daughter out the door. “Where you goin'?”

Elise looked at her father from opened driver's side door of the truck. “You keep that son-of-a-bitch Roberts away from me, Dad. I'll be back. If you hear from or see Maggie Roberts, call me.”

“Okay,” Clay said, utterly baffled as his daughter screeched out of the driveway.

The tail of the truck swung dangerously onto Mills Road , a plume of dust raising into the early evening. Elise flipped open her phone, dialing quickly. Called friend after friend, asking if anyone had seen Magdalene Roberts, not entirely surprised when none had. What she wanted to do was ask that asshole who'd been molesting Maggie at the Tasty Freeze! The problem was, she had no idea what his name was or where he lived. Her gut told her he wasn't from around here: some out of towner from some high and mighty private school, likely. Or a college kid, even more likely.

Not sure where else to go, Elise pulled off the to the side of the road and called her dad. “Hey,” she said as soon as he answered. “Yeah, I'm not sure where else to go. I've been everywhere in this damn town, and no sign of Maggie anywhere. Huh? Yeah, Roberts essentially threatened me if I didn't go hunt down his wayward daughter. Why me? Hell, I really don't know.” She let out a heavy sigh and watched in the rearview mirror as the headlights of an approaching car got closer, then passed. “Okay. I'm heading home now. Maybe we can get some of your boys together to help us. Okay, bye.”

Elise tossed the cell phone to the bench seat next to her and got the truck on the road again. She took a shortcut through a residential area, the streets quiet as the sun had set. As she made a right turn from the street she'd been on, she passed the house on the corner, whose backyard was surrounded by chainlink. She noticed a simple tree house in the large oak out back.

“Son of a bitch!” she cried out, putting her foot to the gas and hurrying home.

The truck was barely stopped before Elise jumped out and hurried over to her bike. The engine whined to life and she was off, headlight beam bouncing off uneven terrain and discarded car parts.

Up ahead the tree house loomed, big and beautiful. Elise pulled the bike to a stop at the base and cut the engine, looking up at her and her father's creation. It was dark and all was quiet, but that didn't mean anything, especially when she saw that the ladder was down.

“There you are,” she whispered, quickly climbing.

Once standing on the outer porch, she stopped, listening, making sure it wasn't actually someone else she didn't want to see. Still nothing, until a small noise inside got her attention. Elise made her way in, her eyes adjusting to the dark.

“I'm over here,” came a tiny whisper from the darkness.

Elise used the small LED light on her key chain and found Maggie tucked in a ball near the window. Elise released the button on the light and all went dark again as she made her way over to her.

“What are you doing here?” Elise asked, squatting down next to Maggie. “Your dad's worried about you. He sent me out looking.” A sob broke through the darkness, startling Elise. “Hey, what's up?” She placed a hand on Maggie's back, the blonde crying out and scaring the hell out of Elise. She jumped back from her.

“I'm sorry,” Maggie sniffled, getting to her feet. “I shouldn't have come here. I don't want you to get into trouble-“

“Whoa, whoa, stop.” Elise stood and pulled the hurricane shutters down over the window, which she knew were completely air tight against anyone seeing any light from the outside. “Stay here for a sec.” She hurried up the small ladder that led to the upper floor and shut those windows, as well, and grabbed a battery-powered lantern.

Maggie was sitting with her legs pulled up and arms folded around them. She looked like a little girl. Her eyes were swollen and red; obviously a lot of crying had been done.

Elise was careful as she approached, feeling like she was with a wild animal that might spook at any moment. “Tell me what's going on.”

Maggie used her hand to wipe at her eyes and nose. “I had to get away. I needed to think.” She let out a heavy breath, her voice thick with tears. “I didn't know where else to go.”

“You're welcome here anytime, Maggie. I told you that when you were 6.” They both smiled at that. Elise sat down cross-legged. “Please just be straight with me. What happened?”

Maggie met her concerned gaze for a long moment, then looked away, a small nod. She unfolded herself and turned her back to Elise, carefully lifting her shirt.

Elise gasped. “Jesus,” she whispered, unable to believe her eyes. Maggie's back was striped with angry red welts, some caked with dried blood. “Oh, Maggie.”

Maggie quickly let her shirt drop, her shoulders heaving as fresh tears overtook her. Acting purely on instinct, Elise crawled over to her, turning her around and taking her in her arms. She was mindful of the painful wounds on Maggie's back as she held her.

“It's gonna be okay,” she promised, without having a clue how that was possible, but she'd find a way. She'd taken care of her father for 17 years, she could sure as hell take care of Magdalene Roberts.

Tears spent, Maggie allowed herself the momentary of true comfort within Elise's embrace. She rested her head on the other woman's shoulders and closed her eyes. She somehow knew there would be no judgment, certainly no physical pain. Just… comfort.

“Why did he do this?” Elise whispered after a long moment.

“It's a long story,” Maggie sighed, reluctantly pulling away. She used her shirttail to dry her face.

“Yeah, well I got time. It's not like your parents are expecting you home before curfew.” Elise gave Maggie a small smile. “Right?”

“Right.” Maggie ran her hands through her hair, brushing it away from her face. “Okay. My father promised me that I could go to college out of state if I kept my grades up. I graduated top of my class, Elise.” She laughed bitterly, new tears springing to life. “I did it all so I could get the hell away from him. Now, he's trying to tell me that, not only can I not go to school out of state, but can't go to school at all. He wants me to marry this guy-“

“The one from last night?”

Maggie nodded. “Yes. I don't want to marry him, Elise!” Maggie exclaimed. “My god, what is this, 1749? My father has to marry me off with a dowry?” She was getting angry now, her hands wiping at tears as quickly as they came. “It turned into a huge fight. Aaron told my father what happened at the Tasty Freeze, and that I abandoned him there, making him feel stupid.”

Elise looked at her, stunned. “Are you shitting me?”

Maggie shook her head. “Nope. My father knew before I even got home, which caused an even bigger deal of how I got home!” She sniffled. “I didn't tell him you gave me a ride, but I think he knows that. I'm sorry, Elise. I tried to protect you.”

Elise shook her head and waved her off. “Don't worry about it. I'm not afraid of your father, Maggie. Never have been.”

“You should be. He's a very powerful man in town and can ruin things for your dad.”

Elise smirked. “He does that just fine all on his own, trust me.” She stood, holding her hand down to Maggie. “Let me clean you up.”

“No, Elise. I should just go home.”

“No, he'll kill you.” Elise reached down and grabbed Maggie's hand, tugging her to her feet. “Come on, trust me. I've put my dad's face back together many times. I can help you.”



Elise had gone upstairs to get the first-aid kit, so Maggie sat on Elise's bed, hands tucked into her lap as she looked around the room. The walls were cement, the floor covered in a thin, worn carpeting. Various types of posters were taped up everywhere: bands, cars, women and amusing quotes. She noticed one thing in particular that caught her interest. Walking over to the taped up newspaper article, she saw that it was, in fact a picture of herself when she'd won the national level brain bowl two years before.

She wondered where she fit in in the eclectic collection that Elise had in her bedroom.

Elise grabbed the first-aid kit then hurried into her father's room, where he sat on the floor on a spread out sheet, working on a car part. “Does Grandpa Ronald's old hunting cabin still stand?”

Clay looked up at his daughter, confused by the sudden appearance, and odd question, of his daughter. “Huh?”

“Grandpa Ronald, do you have the keys to his cabin anymore, and is it still standing?”

“Uh,” Clay thought for a minute, “Yeah and yeah. Why?”

“I need the keys.” Elise looked into her father's eyes, begging him not to ask too many questions. Clay seemed to get the message.

He wiped his grease-covered hands on the thighs of his jeans and pushed to his feet. “I sure hoe you know what you're doin', Elise,” he muttered, walking over to an old jewelry box and digging through it, hooting out a victory as he found what he was looking for. “Reverend Roberts is a tough customer.”

Elise took the key her father offered her and grinned. “So am I.”

“That you are.” He rubbed his chin, face drawn in concern. “She okay?”

“Not really. I've gotta help her, Dad. She can't stay in that situation.”

Clay nodded. “I trust your judgment, kid. Just be careful, ‘k?”

“I will.”

Elise pounded down the stairs, key tucked safely in the pocket of her black cargo pants. When she returned to her room, she found Maggie sitting quietly on her bed, flipping through an old hot rod magazine Elise had left on her nightstand.

“Hey,” she said, not wanting to startle the blonde.

Maggie glanced up at her. “Hi.” She set the magazine down. “There are some cool cars in there.”

“Yeah. Me and my dad like to build them.” Elise put the first-aid kit on the bed. “Um, I'm gonna need you to…” she indicated Maggie's shirt, a slight blush coloring her cheeks.

Maggie hid her smile. Without a word, she grabbed the hem of her cap-sleeved tee and tugged it over her head, She quicky held the shirt in front of her naked chest, as she wore no bra. “It hurt to much to wear it,” she said softly.

Elise nodded in understanding, biting back fresh anger. She sat on the bed, Maggie's back to her. “This is probably not going to feel too good.” She hopped off the bed and dug out an old t-shirt from a dresser drawer, handing it to Maggie. “Here. You can rip it apart if you need to. It always helps me.”

“Know about this pain stuff, huh?”

Elise grinned. “I've had my share of bumps and bruises.”

Maggie couldn't speak for a moment, her mind and body filled with the pain of Elise cleaning out her wounds with water. She took a deep breath. “What happened to your face?” she managed after a moment.

“Oh.” Elise grinned shyly, even though Maggie couldn't see it. “I uh, I got caught with my pants down, so to speak.”

Maggie was silent for a moment, trying to figure out what exactly Elise was saying. “I don't understand. What were you doing?”

“Something with someone where I shouldn't have been doing it.”

“Oh!” Light dawned, and Maggie blushed deeply. “Oops. I saw the cut on your dad's forehead, too and thought…”

Elise knew where Maggie's train of thought was leading her. “No. My dad may be a lot of things, but a child abuser isn't one of them.” There was an uneasy silence between them as Elise's words fall over them. “Wow. I'm sorry, Maggie,” she said softly, gently wiping away any traces of dried blood. “I'm really sorry.”

“It's not your fault,” Maggie said, reaching over her shoulder and squeezing one of Elise's hands for a moment. Then, “Do you know somewhere I can go? Maybe I can check into a hotel in another town for a few days or something.”

“Actually, yes, I do know somewhere you can go. I got the keys to my grandpa's old hunting cabin. Can't promise it'll be a hotel suite, but it'll get you out of here, and nobody knows it exists, let alone your dad.”

Maggie was quiet for a long time, trying to decide what to do. “I can't do that to you, Elise. My father has already brought you into this when you don't deserve it. I appreciate what you've done so far, and are doing, but I can't get you any deeper into this.”

“Too bad, sistah, ‘cuz dis bitch ain't goin' nowhere.”

Maggie chuckled, turning slightly to face Elise as much as she could. She looked into the kind blue eyes. “You know, that's one of the things I remember about you most from when we were kids: you were always so sweet and protective. Tough as nails.”

Elise looked away, feeling uncomfortable under the intense up close and personal scrutiny of Maggie, as well as under the weight of such a wonderful compliment. “Yeah, well you better become tough as nails, because woman, this is gonna hurt like a bitch,” she said, holding up a cotton ball that had been doused in peroxide.



Elise glanced over at her passenger who'd fallen asleep with the pain killer she'd been given, which acted as a mild sedative. Elise wondered if Maggie had slept much at all in the past two days; likely not.

Her headlights cut a wide swath in the deep darkness of the winding roads in the woods. She saw the demonic-like glint of the eyes of various wild animals: deer, coyote and wild dog. She grabbed the page off the dashboard where her father had drawn her a map to make sure she was still on the right path. According to her father's bold lines, they only had a couple more turns to go, and they'd be there.

The cabin came into view and all Elise could do was sit there behind the wheel and stare at it. That cabin was the last place she'd ever seen her mother. They'd all gathered there for Easter dinner when she was six years old. She remembered her mother being quiet and sullen, a rarity for the gregarious woman. After dinner, they'd gone to pack up the car and head back home when her mother stopped her father and had taken him aside.

“Your momma's decided to catch a ride with her daddy,” Clay had explained to a crying daughter. “We'll see her a little later, ‘k?”

They'd never seen her again. A week later, a letter had come in the mail, explaining that Sue Ellen had enough and wanted her own life, no longer wanting the responsibility of a daughter and husband. Devestating for the young girl that Elise had been. She didn't let herself think about it much anymore.

“Are we here?” Maggie asked groggily, unknowingly knocking Elise out of painful memories.

“Yeah. How are you feeling?” Elsie aked, turning to her passenger.

“Tired,” Maggie murmured, barely able to keep her eyes open.

Elise smiled. “You wait here and rest. I'm going to go in and make sure everything's okay-“ before she'd even finished her sentence, Maggie was sawing logs once more.

Amused, Elise got out of the truck and headed inside the cabin. Her mother's father, Ronald had died six months after that Easter dinner, and the cabin had essentially been abandoned every since. The inside was dark and musty, covered with dust and years of neglect. The furniture was still there, well some of it. It looked as though the cabin had been picked over, leaving only a single dining chair – no table – a ratty old recliner and a coffee table. The cabin was a one-room affair with a closet-sized bathroom. Amazingly, the plumbing still worked, even if the water coming through the faucet was tinted brown.

Elise carried in the cooler of food, drink and ice she'd gathered from her house, as well as the sleeping bag, blankets and pillows. Making Maggie a nice resting place, she headed back out to get her most precious cargo.

“Hey,” she whispered, pulling open the passenger door. Maggie was sound asleep. Elise eyed the blonde, wondering if she could actually carry her.

Deciding to give it a go, she very carefully gathered Maggie in her arms and headed towards the cabin. Maggie's head rested against her shoulder, an arm weakly reaching up to wrap around Elise's neck.

“Here we go,” she grunted, carefully lying Maggie down in the bed she'd created on the floor. Maggie moaned a little in her sleep, her face registering the stab of pain her body had felt.

Elise took a step back, looking down at her neighbor. She couldn't believe she was actually at the cabin again, and more importantly, Magdalene Roberts was there with her. She'd been watching Maggie for so many years, fantasizing about her and wondering what she was like as a person, it seemed like a dream to maybe actually find out. Certainly to help her.

Deciding to stay the night so Maggie wouldn't find herself alone in the morning, Elise brushed off the old recliner as best she could and tried her best to drift off to sleep.

Maggie's eyes blinked open, the intense light coming in through the dirty window making her squint as she looked around. The last thing she remembered was being in Elise's truck. Now, she found herself wrapped in a nest of blankets and a sleeping bag and nearly eye to eye with a really ugly spider. It took only a second for Maggie to register what she was seeing before she was up with a scream.

Elise popped up, groggy as hell, ready to fight. “What?! What?!”

“That is the biggest, ugliest spider I've ever seen!” Maggie cried from her position standing on the dining chair.

Getting her bearings, Elise looked to where Maggie's eyes were fixed. “Ew.” She stomped the spider with her booted foot. “All better.”

Maggie's heart rate began to come back into the stratosphere, along with the feeling of being a complete dork. “I'm sorry,” she said sheepishly as she stepped down from the chiar. “God, what a girl.”

Elise grinned, flopping back into the chair she'd slept in. Her back was killing her. She tried to adjust herself to get comfortable, but finally gave up.

Maggie sank down onto her “bed”, hands in her lap as she looked around. “Is this your grandfather's cabin?”

Elise nodded. “Yes, ma'am. Not exactly the height of hospitality, but it'll do for now.”

“Where is he?”

“Oh, he's dead. Been dead since I was a kid.”

“Oh.” Maggie scrubbed her face with the heels of her hands. “God, I still feel so groggy. What on earth did you give me?”

Elise gave her a shit-eating grin. “Pain killers my dad got once when he lost a tooth after getting caught sleeping with the bartender's wife.”

Maggie's eyes widened. “Oh.”

“Yeah, my dad has a problem hooking up with married women for some reason.”

“What about you?” Maggie asked quietly. She'd heard all the rumors and was dying to see if they were true.

Elise's grin grew. “Not married ones.”

Maggie was left speechless for a moment, her groggy brain sifting through Elise's words to get the meaning. “Oh. So, the rumors are true, then?”

“They usually are,” Elise sighed. She glanced over at the cooler, dying for some water. She pulled her screaming body out of the chair. “Hungry? Thirsty?”


Elise pulled off the top of the cooler and dug through the partially melted ice. “We got water, we got soda, a few bottles of iced tea…?” she glanced over her shoulder at Maggie to get her order.

“Um, just water, please.”

“Water, it is.” Elise pulled out two bottles of water and a bag of bagels. “Like these?” she asked, holding up them up. With Maggie's nod, Elise decided that would start breakfast. She doled out the food and drink and sank back into her chair.

“You're brave, Elise,” Maggie said, twisting off the top of her water.

Elise snorted. “Why on earth would you say something like that?”

“Because you are. It takes guts to be true to yourself. Especially in a place like Baskerville.”

“You know, Maggie, it's probably easier for me, actually. Just the mere fact who my bloodline is made up of, I didn't stand a chance in this piece of shit town. I could end up the next Mayor – I'd kill myself first, by the way – and I still wouldn't measure up in the eyes of Baskerville.”

Maggie shrugged. “That is likely true, but not everyone sees you like that.”

“No?” Elise challenged, sipping from her water.

“No,” Maggie said meeting the challenge and Elise's gaze. “It always made me angry that we weren't allowed to talk or hang out, or whatever. I mean, come on! You're the only person my age within ten miles of my house!”

“I always thought it was stupid, too,” Elise said, tearing off a piece of bagel. “But, your dad's the boss. I guess.”

Maggie said nothing for a long moment. That simple comment brought her back to her current dilemma. “What am I going to do, Elise?” she blew out, setting her water bottle aside. “God, I am in so much trouble.”

“What do you want to do?”


“Not an option.”

Maggie smiled weakly. “I know.” She blew out a heavy breath. “I want away from him! I want my own life. I want to be able to do what I want, go where I want, with whom I want.” She hopped up and began to pace, agitated. “My whole life he's had me under his thumb, beaten into submission: literally and figuratively. Just like my mother. I know that's what he wants for me, too, Elise. He wants me to marry that asshole, just so I can be just like my mamma.”

Elise said nothing, surprised by the sudden outburst, thought she was glad Maggie was finally letting some of it go. It wasn't good to bottle up so many years of anger and frustration.

Maggie whirled around, pinning Elise to the spot with the intensity of her gaze. “Do you want to hear something awful, Elise?” she whispered.

“Tell me,” Elise said softly.

“I don't even believe in God anymore,” Maggie said, starting almost as though she were shocked to hear the words from her own mouth. Within moments, she shattered.

Elise was on her feet in record time, grabbing Maggie before she could collapse to the floor. “It's okay. I've got you,” she whispered, holding the sobbing woman. She felt the sting of her own tears, which she desperately tried to hold back.

“He's ruined me!” Maggie cried, clinging to Elise, for what felt like dear life.

“No, he hasn't,” Elise said, pulling back from Maggie just enough to be able to look at her face. “He hasn't, Maggie. Only you can do that.”

“I feel so weak, Elise,” Maggie whispered.

“But you're not. Don't you see? Honey, you ran away! That took a lot of guts and a hell of a lot of strength. Esepcially in a town like Baskerville. I mean, this place is like one of those creepy movies they play late on a Friday night. You know, like zombies crawling out of the broken down cars parked in people's yards, crawling and moaning, ‘Brains! I need brains!'”

Maggie was laughing, shaking her head at a grinning Elise. “You're so goofy.” She took several deep breaths, getting her emotions under control. “What I truly want is to be free. I want the freedom to be who I really am.”

“Which is what? Or who?” Elise rolled her eyes. “You're the smart one, what's correct to say?”

Maggie grinned. “Who,” she corrected. “And, I have no idea. I've never been allowed to be me, Elise. I've always had to be who, do what, and agree with what my father said. You joke about zombies, shoot, in my house that's not far from the truth. You should see: when me and Matt were younger, just before my dad got home, me, my brother and my mom would hurry around the house and make sure everything was just perfect.”


“To stop him from getting mad at something. Somebody always had to pay when my father was angry. When Matt and I were younger, it was my mom who had to pay. But, as we got older…”

“You paid.”

“Pretty much, as indicated by new and colorful accessories,” Maggie indicated her back.

“Okay, well let's reason this out for a minute. In a perfect world, what would happen now?”

“My father would let me go and I could have my own life.,” Maggie said simply.

“And, what's the likelihood of that happening?”Elise asked doubtfully.

“Hell would freeze over first.” Maggie sighed, pushing to her feet and walking over to her ‘bed'. She began to fold blankets and stack them. “Thank you so much for all that you've done, Elise. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.”

“But?” Elise asked, getting to her feet.

“But, the party is over and it's time for me to go back home.” The absolute and total defeat in Maggie's voice spurred Elise into action.

She hurried over to Maggie and whirled her around by the arm, making her look into angry eyes. “Are you shitting me? Are you fucking shitting me, Maggie?”

Maggie looked frightened. “Let go of me, Elise.”

Elise let her arm go, but wouldn't move out of her personal space. “You're going to throw away all that you did last night, just like that,” she snapped her fingers to emphasize her point. “Do these mean nothing to you?” she asked, lightly touching Maggie's back. “Nothing at all?”

“They're battle scars, just like the rest of them. I hate it, but I'll live with it and live another day.”

“Live?” Elise spit the word out like it was a bug. “You're not living, Maggie! All you're doing is existing in the world that Mark Roberts has created for you.” She took hold of both Maggie's arms, her passion for the subject coming out in every word. “Fight! Fight against him, fight for your right to live your life, be who you want to be and not have to live in that monster's shadow anymore!”

Fresh tears welled in Maggie's eyes. “I can't,” she whispered, “don't you see that? I'm not that strong, Elise.” She pulled away, wiping angrily at her tears. “I'm not strong like you! I can't just fight against everything that I know and hope it will all be okay. I can't do this!” she screamed, her frustration reaching a boiling point.

Elise folded her arms over her chest, her anger turning her cold. “So you're just gonna go home and let him kill you, huh?” she drawled.

Magige turned on her, frustration turning to rage. “You don't know! You've never had to live with that kind of judgment day in and day out!”

“No?” Elise fired back, her own rage bubbling to the surface. “I know nothing about judgment, huh? How about your father glaring at me every time he sees me? How about the entire fucking town laughing at my father because he's a drunk who can't keep a job? How about the fact that the entire fucking town knows my mother was a whore who ran off with some guy, leaving her six year old daughter?! I don't know judgment? Fuck you!”

Maggie was stunned by Elise's outburst, but immediately felt terrible. Her own fears and anger fizzled as she walked over to where Elise was slamming their breakfast trash into a trash bag.

“Hey,” she said softly, placing a tentative hand on Elise's shoulder. “Hey, stop for a minute.”

Elise froze where she was, trying to calm her racing heart and emotions.

Maggie gently turned Elise around to face her, then took her in a tight hug. “I'm sorry,” she whispered. “So sorry.”

Elise held onto Maggie, pushing her emotions down. “I am, too.”

“We're a really messed up pair, aren't we?” Maggie asked, head resting against Elise's shoulder. She was amazed at just how safe she felt in the strong, warm embrace. She felt like she could do anything.

“That's no lie.”

Maggie was silent for a long moment, then took a deep breath, decision made. “Will you help me?” She pulled back enough to look up into Elise's eyes.

“Help you do what?”

“I want out. Will you help me?”

A slow smile spread across Elise's face. “Yes.”



Elise stabbed her piece of fish with far more vehemence than was necessary. She could feel her father's eyes on her, but didn't care.

“I think it's dead, hun,” Clay chuckled, sipping from his beer to wash his dinner down.

“I gotta do something, Dad,” Elise growled, finally giving up on her fish and pushing her plate away.

“What you got in mind?” Clay asked, sitting back in his chair, appetite sated.

“Homicide,” Elise muttered.

Clay chuckled. “And, plan B?”

Elise sighed, staring out into the dark night beyond the window in the kitchen. “I don't know.”

“Well, you got some problems. I mean, you can bring Maggie back into town and have her go to a doctor to prove abuse. But,” Clay held up a finger to emphasize his coming point. “he's the big man in town, and you're gonna have lots of people who won't believe it. You kids will get blamed, or some boyfriend or what not.”

“So then she has nowhere she can go?” Elise asked, feeling hopeless. She knew how powerful a man Mark Roberts was.

“I didn't say that.” Clay sat forward in his chair, his features creepily shadowed under the intense spot light-like quality of the hanging light fixture over the table. “Get him where it hurts, Elise. Look at that house he lives in. Look at them cars he drives. I tell you, if I'd known working for God paid so damn much, I'd'a done that long ago.”

Elise thought about what her father had just said. “You think he's taking from the church?”

Clay shrugged his shoulders and got up. “You want ice cream?”

“Yeah,” Elise muttered absently, the wheels beginning to turn.

Elise grabbed a bottle of Pantene, the kind with combined shampoo and conditioner, tossing it into her buggy when someone approached her. She looked up to find Martha Roberts standing next to her. She did her best to remain calm and look innocent.

“Hello, Mrs. Roberts,” Elise said politely.

“Good morning, Elise.” Martha looked like she wanted to say more, but started to walk away, only to stop and turn back. “Is she okay?” she whispered, her face drawn and eyes puffy from sleepless nights.

Elise's mind whirled, unsure what to say. She wanted to yell and scream at Martha Roberts, to tell her to get away from Mark, but instead she simply looked at the woman. “She's not at my house,” she said kindly.

Martha Roberts nodded with a weak smile. “Okay. Thank you.”

As the preacher's wife walked away, her shoulders slumped, compassion filled Elise's heart. “Mrs. Roberts?”

Martha turned around. “Yes, Elise?”

“I'm sure she's fine. And that she loves you.”

Martha met Elise's gaze for a long moment, silent communication passing between the two. Finally Martha's face broke into a smile, looking so much like her daughter in that moment. “Thank you,” she whispered. “If you happen to see her, tell her I love her, too. I want her safe, no matter what.”

Elise nodded. “I'll do that. If I see her, that is.”

Martha gave her a small nod then hurried off down the aisle.

Elise turned back to her buggy. “Shit. I hope to god I didn't just get myself in trouble.” She hurried off to find her dad, so they could get the heck out of there.



Maggie closed her eyes as she raised her face up to the sun. The heat felt good on her skin, the fresh air around her definitely medicinal. Regardless of how badly her back may be hurting, she hadn't felt so good in such a long time, she couldn't remember. It was a beautiful morning after her first night alone in the cabin. Elise had promised to be back that day, and Maggie looked forward to it.

As if on cue, she the calm of morning was interrupted by the sound of car engines. Maggie walked up to the road, just barely able to make out Elise's old orange and white truck, and a van behind it. She stepped back, allowing the two large trucks to turn into the drive. Elise grinned and waved as she passed.

“Brought reinforcements!” Elise exclaimed, jumping down from the truck and slamming the truck closed.

“Uh, reinforcements?” Maggie asked, noting all the building materials in the back of the truck, as well as the people climbing out of the van.

“Yep. You know my dad, but this is my Uncle Travis and Aunt Laura,” Elise introduced as the mentioned three climbed out of the van and over to the two teens.

“Hi,” Maggie said, unsure what was going on.

“Hi there, Miss Maggie,” Travis McKenna said, holding out a large, callused hand.

“Nice to see you,” Laura said kindly.

“Um, you, too.” Maggie turned to Elise for clarification.

“We've come to make some seriously needed repairs on that thing,” Elise said, nodding towards the old cabin.

It wasn't long before Laura and Maggie were busy carrying everything out of the cabin and cleaning it all while Elise and the two men stood in a tight clump, looking over plans Travis had just drawn up.

Maggie glanced over at Elise, surprised to see her over with the men. The brunette wore her signature black cargo pants with chains hanging off of them, but this time no black shirt to go with it. Today she wore a tight, white tank top, her long hair pulled back in a ponytail. Maggie couldn't remember ever seeing so much skin on her before.

“Maggie?” Laura said, getting the blonde's attention. “Help me?”

“Oh! Sorry.” Maggie grabbed one end of the heavy recliner and helped Laura carry it to the edge of the nearby stream, where everything was being taken for cleaning.

Elise helped her father and uncle carry supplies from the back of the truck and van, stacking it all near the side of the cabin. She often would look for Maggie, curious to see what Laura – who was a known slave driver – had her doing. She was happy to see that the two women seemed to get along great, Maggie often talking or laughing at something Laura had said.

“Come on, kid! Gawk later!” Clay exclaimed, having to counter-balance the heavy load he and Elise were carrying, as Elise's attention went elsewhere, her load began to falter.

“Shit! Sorry.”

Maggie stood back with Laura and watched in amazement as one entire wall of the cabin was pulled down by chain and truck. The ruined wall fell to the ground with a loud crash, dust and splintered wood flying. The window had already been taken out and leaned against the tire of the van.

Elise stood, hands on hips watching. Maggie noticed that Travis was quietly removing the top off of a small cooler, now only filled with ice as all the beverages from inside had been consumed. He saw Maggie watching him and put a finger up to his lips, nodding at Elise. Knowing what was coming next, Maggie bit her bottom lip to stop herself from laughing.

Travis snuck up behind Elise, pouring the icy water within over her head. Elise cried out, her back arching as the ice and water flew down her back. Everyone burst out into laughter, Elise whipping around to see who the culprit was.

“You asshole!' she cried out in fun.

Travis was trying to get away from her, and in his haste, fell back over his own feet, sending a new wave of laughter into the air.

Elise looked over at Maggie, seeing that the blonde was laughing so hard, tears were coming out. “You think this is funny?” she called, reaching down and grabbing two handfuls of ice from the dumped cooler and running towards her.

“No!” Maggie yelled, not moving fast enough before Elise reached her, shoving both handfuls of ice down the front of her shirt, most of which falling harmlessly to the ground, but some ending up in her bra, making her gasp.

Elise smooshed it all harder into Maggie's skin, a chill racing down her spine when she accidentally brushed against one of Maggie's cold-raised nipples. They both stopped for a moment, looking at each other in mutual surprise. Elise backed away, still laughing at the situation to keep it from getting tense.

“You're gonna pay for that,” Maggie promised as she reached up her shirt to try and fish out the half-melted ice cubes.

“For which one?” Elise taunted, grinning when Maggie blushed fiercely.

The rest of the day went like clockwork: Elise and the two guys worked on getting the cabin structurally sound and rebuilding the wall they'd torn down, and the other two women cleaned and then began working on lunch. Laura had brought enough food to feed an army. At first, Maggie was surprised that Elise wasn't over helping them get the meal ready, but as she watched Elise work – her white tank top stuck to her skin with sweat and grime, well-muscled and tanned arms hammering, hanging, gripping and building – somehow, she just couldn't see Elise doing anything else.

“Come an' get it!” Laura called, spreading out a plastic table cloth over the wobbly picnic table that was situated behind the cabin. She and Maggie quickly loaded the table down with food, plates and drinks, as a very hungry bunch of workers made their way over.

Elise sat down across from Maggie, grabbing the bottle of water sitting in her place setting and guzzled half of it in one go. Panting to catch her breath, she threw the bottle back and finished the rest. Maggie watched, wide-eyed.


Elise nodded vigorously, tossing the empty bottle aside and grabbing another. She looked at the fried chicken, baked beans, potato salad and buttered corn on the cob on her plate and salivated. “You guys are the best,” she murmured, grabbing a chicken drumstick and began to devour it.

Maggie watched for a long moment, never seeing anyone with such a massive appetite in her life. Amused, she turned to her own lunch and began to eat, albeit at a much slower pace. She watched the family talk amongst themselves, especially the two brothers and Laura, feeling somewhat envious at the obvious love and camaraderie. The family seemed completely at ease with each other and joked around freely.

Elise watched Maggie watching everyone else. She wondered what was going through that beautiful head. The incredibly expressive green eyes gave some of it away. “You okay?” she asked softly.

Maggie met her gaze. “Yeah. It's kind of fun to watch you guys.” She gave Elise a brave smile, but then turned to her food.

“Every family has its good times and bad. This just happens to be a good time, and you're totally invited into that. You're family here, Maggie,” Elise explained.

Maggie smiled. “Thank you.”

“Speaking of family, I ran into your mom at Wal-Mart today. Why is everyone convinced that you're with me?” she asked, truly baffled.

“Maybe because I am?” Maggie offered, a twinkle in her eyes.

“Uh huh, cute. No, seriously! Your dad was convinced I knew where you'd gone, and your mom thinks so, too.”

Maggie chewed thoughtfully on her food for a moment before responding. “Maybe because, believe it or not, you're the closest friend I have.”

Elise looked at her. “Huh? We haven't spoken since we were six.”

Maggie grinned, sipping from her water. “That may be, but you always know what's going on with me, don't you?”

Elise felt a trickle of fear finger-walking down her spine. “Say again?”

Maggie knew she had her. She set her piece of chicken down, taking her time to wipe her fingers before continuing. “I always suspected that you watched me, but then I saw the binoculars by the window in your tree house.”

Elise looked down at her plate, hoping she'd looked away before Maggie was able to see the deep-set blush that was settling in. Busted.

“So, I say again: you always know what's going on with me, don't you?” Maggie was hugely interested in Elise's response.

Elise wiped her mouth then tossed her napkin aside. She finally garnered the courage to face Maggie. “All I can say is I'm sorry.”

“For what?” That hadn't been what she'd expected.

“Because that's a major breach in trust and privacy. I'm an asshole, and I admit it.”

Maggie smiled, shaking her head. “I never said that. In fact, it was kind of…” she searched for the word, “nice, I guess.”

“Nice?” Elise hissed, not wanting to get the attention of the others. “Maggie, I've been spying on you with binoculars for like, eight years, and you say it's nice ?”

“I don't see it as spying, though,” Maggie countered, piling her trash onto her empty plate. “I always saw it as looking out for me, protecting.” She shrugged. “Whatever you want to call it.”

All Elise could think about was how often she'd watched Maggie dress and undress. The immediate blush gave her away.

Maggie's eyebrows shot up. “So, you did watch that, huh?”

Elise couldn't take it anymore. She grabbed her lunch trash and hurried over to the trash bag, shoving it inside then hurrying off back towards the building site. Clay glanced over at Maggie with a question in his eyes. Maggie shrugged with a polite smile.

The day had been a complete success. The wall had been rebuilt and the new windows installed, but it hadn't been painted or sealed. Elise would stay behind to finish.

Clay and Travis had loaded the van as Laura got the food situated. Hugs were exchanged, and Elise was allowed to keep the truck with the understanding that Clay needed it by Monday for a job.

Left alone again, Elise wasn't entirely sure what to say, as she still felt really stupid. She and Maggie hadn't exchanged two words since lunch, mainly because Elise was avoiding the blonde like the plague. She decided, however, that if they were going to be sharing a one-room cabin, she needed to break the tense silence.

“So, I was thinking of something that we both would thoroughly enjoy after today,” she said, turning to Maggie, who stood in the middle of the newly refurbished cabin.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yep. Follow me.”

Elise led them out the door and back towards the stream, which was plenty big enough for swimming. Elise untied her boots and tugged off her socks and pants, leaving her in panties and tank top. With a whoop of victory, she ran and splashed into the water, crying out a welcome as she surfaced to Maggie, who stood laughing on the shore.

“Come on! It feels awesome!” Elise slicked her hair back from her face, then dove back in for more.

“This is nuts,” Maggie muttered, untying her shoes and stripping down to t-shirt and underwear. She toed her way in until finally she was submerged, allowing the cool water to relieve the hot, busy day.

Elise surfaced again, grinning when she saw that she had company. “Feels great, right?”

“Yeah, it does!” Maggie agreed, diving under the surface, then popping back up ten feet away.

Elise stood to her full height, the water reaching just under her breasts, which were essentially completely visible as the water had rendered her white tank top useless. Her nipples stood at attention, which caught Maggie's eye. She stared at them for a moment before quickly looking away.

Something occurred to Maggie, and soon she was underwater again, followed by a surprised yelp from Elise, and then her seemingly pulled under. A few moments later, Maggie surfaced, flailing something overhead, excited in her victory.

Elise surfaced, coughing and sputtering water. “What the hell did you just do?” she asked, trying to get her footing. After a moment, she stopped, feeling under the water. “Magdalene Roberts! Give me my underwear back!”

Maggie threw them at Elise, laughing as they slapped her in the face before plopping into the water. “I told you!” she hooted. “You'd pay!” Not wanting to risk retaliation when she had so few clothes on, Maggie swam for shore, leaving a stunned Elise behind.

“I can't believe you just pantsed me!” she yelled out, slipping under the water to put her underwear back on.



“I can't believe you guys made this,” Maggie said for the fourth time, marveling at the simple, but beautiful bed frame. It was made of cut logs and a few metal rods that fit in cut grooves to hold the mattress up.

Elise grinned, cleaning up her mess, as she'd just finished with the dry wall. “I'm glad you like it.”

“I love it.” She smiled at Elise. “Thank you so much, Elise. You have been an absolute life saver.”

“You're welcome.” Elise wiped her hands on her thighs, glad to be finished for the day. “Again, I'm just glad to help you.” She walked over to the bed and began to help Maggie put clean sheets on it. “Speaking of, what do you want to do about your dad?”

Maggie blew out a breath. “Stay here forever and forget he exists?”

“Good plan.”

“God, I don't know.” Maggie flopped down on the freshly-made bed and lay across it, starting up at the ceiling. The bed moved as Elise lay across the other way.

“The thing is, and you may not like this by the way, the only way to escape your dad is to bring his shit to the public eye.”

Maggie turned her head to look at Elise. “Meaning?”

“Meaning that maybe his abuse of you guys should be made public.”

“You know the town would never believe that, right?”

“”My dad said the same thing. How are your dad's business dealings?”

“Elise, are you suggesting that I try and dig up dirt on my father to ruin him?”

Elise looked up at the ceiling. “God, that sounds so bad. I don't know, Maggie.” She turned to the blonde again. “All I do know is that he won't stop and he won't leave you alone as things stand now. Can your mom help you, maybe? Today she seemed really sincere.”

“She'd never go against him, Elise. She's so brainwashed, it's not even funny.”

Elise turned onto her side, facing Maggie. “But you're her daughter, Maggie. That's gotta count for something.”

Maggie mirrored her position. “Maybe I could see if she'd talk to me on the phone.”

“I don't think it could hurt. I mean, she still has no clue where you are, so even if it goes bad, you're still safe.”

“Good point.” Maggie buried her face with her hands. “This sucks!” was muffled behind them.

“I know.” Elise reached over and removed one of Maggie's hands, a green eye peeking out at her. “You can do this, Maggie. Truly your life depends on it.”

“You're right.” Maggie sat up, running her hands through her hair. “But not tonight. I'm exhausted, and besides, he's home. Tomorrow's Saturday. He'll be off playing golf with Matt all afternoon. I'll call then.” She turned to Elise. “I left my cell phone at home.”

Elise raised her own phone with a little grin.

“They'll see your number, Elise.”

“Not if you block it, they won't.”

“You know how to do that?” Maggie asked, snatching the cell phone and looking at it.

“What kind of rebel would I be if I didn't know how to make crank calls correctly?”

Maggie smiled, handing the phone back. “Okay.”

“Good. I'm tired, so I'm going to bed,” Elise said, standing from the bed, her back screaming at her.

“Hey, you worked hard today. You sleep here; I'll sleep on the floor.” Maggie tossed one of the two pillows onto the bed, tucking the other one under her arm and heading towards the recliner.

“Not a chance,” Elise said, hurrying after. She snatched the pillow from Maggie and playfully shoved the blonde towards the bed.



Maggie got away from Elise and grabbed the pillow, heading back towards the recliner. “You did hard, manual labor today. I will take the floor, and you'll friggin' like it!”

Elise could only stare, amused and surprised all at once. She had the distinct impression that arguing would be a bad idea. She sighed in defeat and headed towards the bed. “By the way, I got you some shampoo and clothes. There's a facility a couple miles away where we can shower tomorrow.”

“Oh, thank god!” Maggie praised as she readied her bed.

Elise stared down at the bed, then over at where Maggie was laying blankets out. “No! Damn it, woman! Come here and sleep with me, then.”

Maggie was startled by Elise's outburst. “What?”

“It'll be a little tight, but this bed is a full, and there's no reason in hell why we can't both sleep here. I cannot, and will not let you sleep on the floor, Maggie.”

Like Elise before, Maggie could tell arguing would be futile. She sighed and nodded. “Okay. But if you kick me…”



Randy Killbourne sat across from Mark Roberts in the Reverend's church office. Randy had been a deacon at the church for seventeen years, and a close friend of Mark Roberts for more than twenty. Today, however, he wasn't entirely sure who he was talking to.

“I'm telling you, Randy,” Mark said, his voice dangerously low. “these kids know something, and I'm going to find out just what.”

“Mark, there is absolutely no evidence that any of those-“

“No? What about them starting a fight at the Tasty Freeze? What about them throwing insults and threats at my daughter and her fiancé?”

Randy shifted in his chair, trying to hide his impatience with his old friend. “Mark, I know Aaron Chambers well, and so do you. The boy has a temper, and likely goaded-“

Mark slammed his hands down on top of the desk. “Are you trying to suggest that Aaron started all that? Do you honestly think a good, Christian boy like Aaron Chambers is going to pick a fight with a bunch of hooligans dressed in black clothing and Satanic makeup?”

Randy sighed, sitting back in his chair. “I've seen him do it before.”

“Well, I don't buy it.” Mark took his keys out of his pocket and sorted through them until he found a small, gold key. Inserting it into a locked drawer of his desk, he removed a paper, tossing it onto the desk and relocking the drawer. “This McKenna girl is involved,” he said, tapping a finger on the page, which was a computer printout of a snapshot of Elise riding her motorcycle on the McKenna property. “She's involved somehow: I feel it in my bones.” He slid the page across the desk. “I want you to find out everything you can about her, Randy.”

Randy took the page, looked at it then placed it back on the desk. “Alright.”

“Good.” Mark stood, making it clear the meeting was over. “I've got golf with Matthew in fifteen minutes.”

Randy stood, page in hand. He received a friendly slap on the back by Mark as the two men exited the office, Mark pulling the door shut and locking it. Randy watched him leave, rubbing his chin. Something wasn't sitting right in his gut.

Making sure Mark Roberts had indeed left, Randy returned to Mark's office door and stared at it for a long time. Making a decision that he knew intuitively would change the rest of his life, he went in search of something that would work as a lock pick.



Maggie was fascinated as she watched Elise work. When she'd awoken that morning, Elise was already up and getting things ready to finish the wall. She worked with such efficiency and skill.

“How do you know how to do this?” Maggie finally asked from where she'd camped out in the recliner.

“I've done this kind of stuff with my dad since I was little,” Elise explained, never faltering in her work. “I've always been good with my hands, so it just works out.”

  “I'm so impressed. I'm lucky if I can air my bike tires correctly.”

Elise grinned. “Unfortunately that's true with most women.” She took a step back, admiring her handiwork. “This just needs to dry and then I can paint.” She brushed a forearm across her forehead, wiping sweat and hair away. “That's one thing that I think sucks about our society: girls aren't taught this stuff.”

“And boys certainly aren't taught to do housework,” Maggie grumbled.

“That is also very true.” Elise took a seat on the brick hearth of the pot bellied stove. She looked around the cabin, feeling a sense of accomplishment. “This place is slowly coming together.”

“Why didn't you guys use it before?” Maggie asked, handing Elise a bottle of water, which Elise happily accepted.

“I don't know. Well, I know for me this place held sad memories.” She took a long drink, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. “But I'm not sure why my dad never used it.”

“Same reason, maybe.”

Elise nodded. “Probably.”

“Well, hopefully you've got better memories here now.”

Elise grinned down at her water bottle. “That I do.”



Mark Roberts looked Sheriff Frank Landis like he had three heads. “What do you mean, you haven't arrested anyone? Why not?”

Landis sat behind his desk, clasped hands resting on a large, round belly. “We ain't got no probably cause, Reverend,” he explained, chewing on his ever-present gum.

“I don't give a good God damn!” Roberts exploded, slamming his fist on the desk. He leaned over it, hands flat on the wood. “I recall helping you into this position, Franklin , and I sure as hell can help you get out of it. I'm asking you to do your job.”

“What makes you think it's these kids, Mark? I ain't never seen ‘em hurt nobody.”

“There's always a first, and God only know what they've done to her in the process. My daughter has been missing for four days! I haven't seen the McKenna girl in a couple days, either. Can you cont, Sheriff? Can you see that two and two equal four, here?”

Sheriff Landis sighed. “What do you want me to do, Reverend?”

“I want round the clock surveillance on the McKenna house. If the so much as blow their noses, I want to know. Understand?” With that, Mark stormed out of the office, leaving a rattled Frank Landis behind.

“Shit,” Landis muttered, picking up his phone and dialing. “Sergeant, get your ass in here now!”



Maggie lay in the darkness, staring up at the ceiling, barely able to see the supports. Her mind wouldn't stop working, her attempt at sleep restless and in vain. She glanced over at Elise, who slept to her right. Elise was sleeping on her left side, her hands tucked up under her chin. It reminded Maggie of a little girl, so peaceful.

Maggie turned to her right side, resting her head on her raised palm, staring down at the beautiful creature that was Elise McKenna. She never thought she'd see anything more beautiful than Elise's face, but she had: Elise's heart. There was such kindness, such gentleness within her. Maggie couldn't see why the rest of the world refused to see it; it certainly wasn't hard to see.

Elise's eyes blinked open, though it took her a moment to focus them. She glanced up at Maggie, who was looking down at her. “What are you doing awake?” she asked.

“Couldn't sleep,” Maggie said softly. “Did I wake you?”

Elise shook her head. “What are you doing?”

“Returning the favor, and watching you.”

Elise chuckled. “I see.” She reached out a hand and quickly squeezed Maggie's hand, which rested along her hip. “You okay?”

“This has to end, Elise,” Maggie said quietly. “I'm going back with you tomorrow.”

Elise was awake now. “You're going home, then?”

Maggie shook her head. “No. I don't have a home anymore. He'd never let this go. I'm going to go to the cops and show them what he's done.”

Elise looked into Maggie's eyes for a long moment. “You might ruin him, you know. You're 18, Maggie. You're free to do what you want.”

Maggie shook her head again. “Not while he rules that town. Besides, Elise, I have nowhere to go. I have no money and no prospect of getting any anytime soon. I can get a job, which I will, but that'll take time. Where do I go in the mean time?” Maggie rushed on before Elise could speak. “I have to do this, Elise. For me. No matter what happens, I have to do this.”

Elise gaze her one of her brilliant smiles. “And I support you all the way. I'll be there every step of the way, if you want me to be.”

Maggie gave Elise such a sweet, tender smile that it nearly brought Elise to tears. “How did I ever live my life without you in it before?” Maggie reached a hand out, fingertips brushing across Elise's cheek. “You've become so special to me, Elise.”

“You're special to me, too, Magdalene. I hope we're never staring at each other over a fence again.”

Maggie shook her head. “No. Not anymore. I finally got to know you, and there's no way I'm letting you go now.”

Elise was knocked to her back at the force as Maggie threw herself at her, giving her a soft, lingering kiss. Getting her bearings back, Elise cupped Maggie's face, holding her there. The kiss slowly continued, lips caressing lips.

Maggie was gently pulled until she lay on top of Elise, the kiss never breaking. The kiss never gained any speed, the meaning behind it that of exploration and new-found feelings. Elise ran her hands down Maggie's back, stopping just before she reached her backend, then made their way back up, tangling in long, blonde hair, which Maggie scooped to the side.

Maggie had never felt anything so wonderful in all her life. She felt like she could kiss Elise forever; Elise was so gentle, her expertise easy to see, which made Maggie blush down to her toes. Soon, however, she could feel Elise's excitement grow. Elise's hands wandered back down her back and up her sides, dangerously close to the sides of Maggie's breasts. She had the distinct feeling that a couple more passes and Elise's hands would be where Maggie wasn't ready for them to be, yet.

Maggie slowly broke away from the kiss. “No,” she said softly, placing a soft kiss on Elise's cheek. “I can't go there yet, Elise.”

“I'm sorry.”

“Don't be sorry.” Maggie rested her head on Elise's shoulder, “just hold me.”

Elise immediately responded, her arms wrapping around the smaller body, which still lay atop her own.

“I feel so safe with you,” Maggie whispered. “I've never felt anything like it.”

Elise didn't respond with words, instead she placed a loving kiss atop Maggie's head and gently stroked her back, mindful of Maggie's healing wounds. “Let's get some sleep,” she said at length. “Tomorrow will be a long day.”

Maggie nodded, already drifting off.



Maggie was quiet during the entire ride back to Baskerville. Elise glanced over at her often, worried. She reached out and took Maggie's clammy hand within her own. “It'll be okay,” she said softly. A small squeeze from Maggie's hand was her only reply. Elise didn't let go of her hand the entire drive home.

The midday sun was high as Elise pulled onto the long, dirt road that led to both her and Maggie's homes. As she neared her own house, her heart began to race. Two sheriff's cars were parked in her driveway. She slowed the truck, unsure what to think.

“What's going on?” Maggie asked quietly, her own heart pounding a mile a minute.

“I don't know,” Elise said, creeping the truck forward.

Suddenly, two men popped out of the cars, guns drawn. They hid behind the open doors of their respective squad cars. “Freeze!” one of the deputies yelled out. “Turn your engine off, now!”

Elise stopped the truck, eyes wide.

The two deputies inched their way towards the truck, guns aimed solely on Elise. One of the deputies scurried over to the passenger side, pulling open the door and grabbing Maggie.

“You're safe now, miss,” he said, pulling her to what he thought was safety.

The other deputy hurried over to Elise's side, pulling open the door and pointing the gun in her face. “Get outta the car, now!” he yelled, pulling on her.

Elise fell to the ground, the gravel tearing into her hands and knees.

“Elise!” Maggie yelled, struggling against the deputy. “Leave her alone!'

In the struggle, one of her healing wounds broke open, blood beginning to spot her shirt. “This one's hurt!” the deputy called out, pulling Elise over to his car, meanwhile grabbing his shoulder radio and calling in for an ambulance.

“Elise!” Maggie screamed.

Elise could say nothing as her arms were pulled roughly behind her back, a knee at the base of her spine to keep her immobile. She could vaguely hear the deputy reciting her rights, but it was all a blur.

Clay slapped his cell phone shut, murder on his mind as he strode over to his motorcycle and jumped it started. A cloud of dust burst to life as he peeled off the lot. When he got home, he saw his truck still sitting parked off the side of the road in front of the house, the driver's side door still open.

“Son of a bitch!” Clay yelled, parking the bike in the dirt drive and storming over to the truck, about to climb in when a sedan parked in front of him. Randy Killbourne climbed out. “Outta my way, Randy.”

“Don't do anything stupid, Clay,” Randy begged, putting a hand on Clay's chest to try and halt him.

Clay pushed past him, nearly knocking Randy to the ground. “That fucker had my daughter arrested!” he yelled.

“I know!” Randy yelled back. “That's why I called you.” He calmed himself, holding up an envelope. “I brought something I want you to see before you go off and do something stupid, like kill Mark Roberts.”

Clay looked at Randy. They'd gone to school together and he knew Randy well, but still Randy worked for the enemy. He wasn't sure what to think.

“Please, Clay. I'm begging you, here,” Randy said, his eyes filled with nothing but genuine concern.

“You got five minutes and then Mark Roberts dies.”

“Fair enough.”



Maggie paced in the Emergency Room cubical she'd been deposited. She was furious and extremely worried about Elise. She had no phone and no one was giving her any information. To make it worse, she could hear her mother and father's voice in the distance.

“Where is she?” Mark Roberts demanded. “I want to see my daughter right now!”

“Calm down, Mark,” Martha said softly.

“Don't tell me to calm down, woman! My daughter has been kidnapped by that trash, and I want to see her!”

The curtain swept open and Mark and Martha burst into Maggie's cubicle. Martha fell into instant tears, rushing to her daughter and taking her into a crushing hug. Maggie gasped at the pain that blossomed on her back, her reopened wounds screaming.

“Thank God you're safe!” Martha wept.

Mark stood back, looking his daughter over. He noticed the blood seeping through her shirt. “Who hurt you?” he demanded. “It was that girl, wasn't it?” What did she do?!”

Maggie pulled away from her mother, glaring at her father. “Are you really asking me that question?” she said, her voice a low growl. Inside she was trembling with fear, but her fury at what she knew in her heart her father had orchestrated, gave her strength.

Mark studied his daughter, his mind spinning with the perfect angle to nip this in the bud early. “I know you've been through a lot,” He said softly, his eyes hard and full of warning. “You can tell us all about it at home.”

“I'm not going home with you,” Maggie said.

“Honey, of course you are!” Martha said, completely confused by the battle of wills happening between her daughter and husband. She'd never seen anything like it. It made her very nervous.

“We'll get a doctor to fix up your back, then you'll come. Where you belong,” Mark said, his voice that same soft, soothing tone, which was anything but.


“Magdalene Roberts!” Mark exploded. “You will not disobey me!”

The slap came before Maggie could move. She brought a hand up to her stinging cheek, glaring at him. “Nurse!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “Nurse!”

Mark didn't know what to do, hardly expecting that from her. He knew he couldn't quiet her down, and he couldn't leave without being seen and questioned. He gave his daughter his best death stare, warnings flashing flame-red.

A nurse ran in, panicked. “What's the matter?” she asked, looking at everyone.

“I want you to bring a policeman in here and arrest that man,” Maggie said, never taking her eyes off her father's hate-filled face. “He just slapped me and he's the one responsible for my back.”

The nurse looked from Maggie to Mark Roberts, not sure what to do. “Alright,” she finally said, hurrying from the cubicle.

“What are you doing, Magdalene?” Mark said, his voice deadly calm.

“I'm reclaiming myself from you, you sick bastard.”



Elise was beyond furious as she paced the holding cell she'd been thrown into. She was dressed in jailhouse orange, everything taken from her in intake. She wasn't entirely sure how long she'd been there, but it felt like forever. She glanced at her hands, which were skinned all to hell and stung like crazy.

She stopped her pacing when she heard the lock in her door being released, the door buzzing open. A uniformed officer waited for her. “Come with me, McKenna.”

Elise was led to a small room with a mirror on one wall, the other walls painted a dull brown. A square table for four sat in the middle, two medal chairs on either side. She was instructed to sit down and wait, which she did. A moment later, the door opened and a woman dressed in a well-cut suit entered. She was attractive, and likely in her mid to late thirties with brown hair, piled up on top of her head. Dark-rimmed glasses finished off the look.

“Hello, Elise. My name is Courtney Stoltz, and I'm the District Attorney of Buxton County .”

Elise looked at her, confused. “Aren't you the attorney for the other side?” she asked, watching as the woman sat across from her.

Courtney smiled. “Typically, yes, but I've received some very interesting information today, and I need your side of things.”

“What information is that? And, uh, shouldn't I have an attorney here or something?”

“You won't need one; the case against you has been dropped, and you'll be released as soon as we finish our interview.”

Elise walked down the hall, making sure all her things were in the envelope she'd been given once she'd been released. She glanced up, seeing her father stepping into the hall at the other end.

“Dad!” She'd never been so glad to see him in her life. She ran to him, holding on as she was gathered up in a massive hug.

“I thought I'd lost you,” Clay exclaimed, holding on for dear life. “God, that could'a been so bad.”

Elise nodded, unable to speak, her relief intense. Finally she pulled away, looking up into his face, moved to see tears in his eyes. “Aww,” she gushed, wiping them away.

Clay grinned, feeling foolish. “Good to see you.”

“I hear I have an unlikely ally,” Elise said, as she and her father began to walk down the hall, which would lead out of the police station.

“You mean him?” Clay asked, nodding towards Randy Killbourne who walked towards them, speaking with Courtney Stoltz. Clay looked at the attractive attorney, looking her up and down before pulling himself out of man mode.

“How are you, Elise?” Randy asked, the two pairs standing together.

“I'll live,” Elise said. “What's gonna happen to that son-of-a-bitch, though?”

“We've got Roberts in custody now,” Courtney Stoltz responded. “Now we build a case for embezzlement and the abuse charges that Magdalene Roberts filed about an hour ago.”

Elise's heart swelled at the mentioned of Maggie's name. “Hot damn,” she whispered, “she did it.”

“She did,” Courtney agreed. “If we take this all the way, Mark Roberts will be ruined and in prison for a long time.”

Randy ran a hand through his hair. “I'm real sorry, Elise. I knew Mark was going overboard with all this Maggie business, but I had no idea what he'd done to her. I had no idea about the money he was stealing from the church, either.”

Elise shrugged. “Karma's a bitch.”

Clay chuckled then turned to Courtney Stoltz. “You got my baby girl outta this mess, Miss Stoltz. Let me at least buy ya a beer.”

“I don't drink, Mr. McKenna,” Courtney said, her voice strong and hard. “I do, however, drink coffee.” Her smile melted the ice immediately, leaving behind a radiant beauty.

“Coffee it is,” Clay grinned.



It had been six months, and the town of Baskerville had finally started to quiet down. For weeks and weeks, all that was on the TV were images of Mark Roberts being escorted from this court or that court in jailhouse orange and handcuffs on his wrists. He had finally been convicted of fraud and embezzlement, defrauding the church – his own church – of more than three million dollars over a period of fifteen years, as well as he was convicted of his assault on Maggie. Mark Roberts wouldn't be seeing the outside world for a very long time, and Elise couldn't be happier.

She rode her dirt bike over the mounds of earth and junk, the bright beam of her single headlight cutting through the inky blackness. She hadn't been out to her tree house in weeks, having spent most of the summer and fall at the cabin, finishing the rebuild. She thought it best – after her time to testify in court, that is – to lay low and out of Maggie's life while everything was happening.

She saw the big tree coming into view and pulled up to the base, cutting her engine. She was climbing off the bike when she saw the sliding glass door at the back of the Roberts' place slide open, and the silhouette of a figure lurch into the darkness.

Hopeful, Elise walked over to the tall fence that separated the two properties. Soon, she was able to make out the figure of Maggie running towards her, coming to a quick stop at the chain link barrier.

“Hey,” Maggie gasped, out of breath from her sudden run.

“Hi,” Elise said, folding her fingers within the octagons formed by the chain link. “How are you?”

“I'm good. I saw your headlight, so decided to come out and meet you. It was time to take a break from packing, anyway.”

“I heard the house sold,” Elise said softly, the night so quiet and still around them.

“Yeah,” Maggie said just as softly. “It's for the best. There are so many bad memories in that house.” A moment of silence sat between them before Maggie spoke again. “I haven't seen you around in forever.”

“Yeah, I kinda disappeared for awhile. I finished the cabin. You should see it, it's incredible.”

“I really want to see it, Elise.”

“I'll take you up there.”

“Yes!' Maggie's grin was huge, her teeth white in the dark. Suddenly the fence was wobbling violently as Maggie began to climb it.

“What are you doing?” Elise asked, taking a step back to see that, sure enough, Maggie had turned into a monkey.

Maggie straddled the top, holding on for dear life as she swung her leg over the top bar. “You better not let me fall!” she warned.

“I won't,” Elise laughed, reaching up to help her down.

Finally, Maggie's feet hit the ground, her arms wrapped around Elise's neck and their bodies pressed together in a tight hug. “No more fences, remember?” she said into the hug, feeling as though her entire world had just righted itself.

Elise could only nod, so overwhelmed with the feelings of holding Maggie again. Nothing else mattered in that moment, only the precious woman held against her.

“Can we go inside your tree house?” Maggie asked softly, already taking Elise by the hand and leading her towards the tree.

The ladder was pulled down and both women climbed it, Elise tugging it back up. When she joined Maggie on the first floor, she stopped, looking at Maggie, who was looking at her.

“Can I look around? I haven't been in here in so many years, and I hardly count that night six months ago.”

“Of course you can.” Elise flicked on the battery-powered lantern, the first floor flaring to life.

Maggie walked around in the small space, looking at this and that, getting a feel for Elise's very personal place. She nodded towards the stairs with questioning eyes. At Elise's nod, she climbed them, looking around the upper floor, as well.

“I can really see why you'd spend so much time here,” she said, walking over to the window and looking out, seeing her house. Elise said nothing, just watched. “It's very peaceful in here.” Maggie turned to her. “You and your dad built this, right?”

“Yes. I was five years old, I'll never forget it.”

“You guys have such a special relationship,” Maggie observed, walking over to Elise. “It's so wonderful, yet makes me so sad.” She placed her hands on Elise's arms, soft palms running up them until they were clasped behind Elise's neck. “You're lucky.”

“We all have our pros in cons in life, Maggie,” Elise said softly, wrapping her arms loosely around Maggie's waist.

“I'm starting school in January,” Maggie said, gently running her fingers through Elise's hair.

Elise's eyes grew heavy at the pleasurable sensation, chills running down her spine. “That's wonderful news,” she said as her eyes closed, “And you can stop that in exactly three years.”

Maggie smiled.

“What are you going to study?” Elise asked, looking at Maggie again.

“I honestly have no idea,” Maggie laughed. “I need to figure out what I'm into, so I'm starting out a la carte. “


Maggie pulled Elise's head down, surprising her with a fiery kiss, which she immediately responded to. The kiss was deep and passionate in mere seconds, leaving both breathless. Maggie began to pull at Elise's clothing, almost as though possessed.

“Whoa, whoa!” Elise exclaimed, grabbing Maggie's hands to stop her. “What are you doing?”

Maggie looked up at Elise, passion in her eyes. “I haven't seen you in so long, Elise. Five months! It's felt like a lifetime, and I feel like I've got so much to make up for. God, I've got almost 19 years to make up for.”

“Hey, no you don't,” Elise said, cupping Maggie's cheek. She smiled with understanding. “Baby, I'm not going anywhere. I'm here, you're here, and we've got nowhere to be. No one calling you home, no one telling you where to be.” She kissed Maggie softly on the lips. “Okay?” she whispered.

Maggie nodded, her hands snaking back into Elise's hair, pulling her closer as the kiss once again deepened, though this time it was slow and deep, her body igniting. “God, I've missed you,” she whimpered. “Please don't leave my life again.”

Elise nodded, pulling away from the kiss. “I promise.” She took a step back from Maggie, finishing the unbuttoning of her shirt that Maggie had started. Once unbuttoned, she let the shirt fall off her shoulders and arms, and to the floor.

Maggie watched with hungry eyes, doing the same. Her shirt was pushed over her head and tossed to the carpet. It was chilly in the tree house, but she didn't care.

As though reading Maggie's mind, Elise walked over to the wall where a small heater sat. She switched it on. ‘It'll get warm in a few moments.”

Maggie walked over to her, pulling Elise into a tight hug, their bare torsos pressed together. Maggie was almost clingy in her need to touch Elise and to be touched by her. “I'm not lying when I said I missed you.”

“I believe you, because I missed you so much,” Elise said, caressing Maggie's bare back, other than the strap of her bra. “I thought about you constantly. It was so hard to stay away.”

“Why did you?” Maggie looked up into her face. “I wanted you with me so much through all of it.”

“I'm sorry, Maggie. I truly thought it would be better for you if I wasn't. The eye of the world, practically, was on you. I figured it would make things so much more complicated with me there.”

Maggie sighed, nodding. “You're probably right. But I don't care about that anymore. All I care about is being with you.”

Elise smiled, brushing her knuckles against a soft cheek. “I'm here.”

Elise kissed Maggie again, reaching around Maggie's petite frame to unhook her bra. Maggie shivered a bit as the silky material slid from her body, followed by Elise's. Elise left Maggie's lips and kissed her way to her jaw and neck, her hands caressing the creamy skin of Maggie's naked back, a few puckered scars remaining.

Maggie loved the feel of, not only Elise's mouth on her skin, but also the feel of Elise's skin under her fingers. She ran her fingers in lazy patterns and paths over Elise's back and shoulders, and up into her hair, urging Elise's kisses to continue.

The coils of the heater began to glow a bright red as Elise lowered Maggie to the sleeping bag she rolled out. They removed the rest of their clothing, left naked and completely bare to each other, body and soul.

Maggie looked up into Elise's face, seeing so much love in her eyes. “Bet you never thought you'd be doing this in your tree house, huh?” she grinned.

“Well, certainly not with you,” Elise agreed. “Doesn't mean I didn't fantasize about it, though.”

Maggie laughed. “Fantasy come true for us both, then.”

Elise kissed her, one of her hands running down the length of Maggie's side, dragging her nails back up, causing goosebumps to erupt all over Maggie's body. She grinned, moving her kiss to one of Maggie's breasts.

Maggie gasped, her back arching involuntarily as her hands flew to Elise's head. Wet warmth encompassed the nipple, sending pulsating pleasure through her body.

“I used to love watching you swim,” Elise murmured against Maggie's breast. “You looked so good in that bikini of yours.”

Maggie smiled. “Why do you think I wore it?” She gasped again as her other nipple was suckled. “Oh god,” she groaned. “Do you honestly think my dad would have let me wear that? My mom would make me take it off before he got home,” her last few words were mere whimpers as Elise suckled harder. Maggie hissed between her teeth as her other breast was messaged by knowing fingers.

Elise kissed her way back up to Maggie's mouth, her hand still taunting a hard nipple. “I'd pretend you were swimming naked,” she said into the kiss. “Used to get me all hot and bothered.” She chuckled at the memory.

“Kind of like you are now?” Maggie asked, running her hands down Elise's back until she reached firm cheeks.

“I am definitely hot,” Elise moaned, pressing her hips into Maggie's. “But I am in no way bothered.”

“I'm so glad,” Maggie said, her breath nearly stolen at the feel of Elise's body. Her fingers continued to squeeze Elise's behind, suddenly feeling wetness graze her fingers. The long, languid groan that escaped Elise's throat told her she'd done something right. She reached a bit further, as far as she could, and realized that her fingers were playing in a very dangerous area.

Elise's forehead rested on the floor next to Maggie's as she began to move her hips, rubbing herself on Maggie's fingers as much as she could. “Fuck, where did you learn to do that?” she whimpered.

“It just kinda happened,” Maggie panted, her excitement making her heart pound.

Elise pushed herself up, spreading her legs until she was straddling Maggie's hips. Maggie began to pull her hand away, not sure what was happening, but Elise grabbed it, bringing it around front. “Easier for you.”

Maggie got the idea, though she wasn't entire sure what she was supposed to do. She looked at Elise with pleading eyes.

Getting the picture, Elise took hold of her hand again, and placed it where she needed it, rubbing her hardened clit against it a few times before taking three of Maggie's fingers and positioning them so she could lower herself down onto them, which she did with a deep groan.

“Oh wow,” Maggie whispered, in awe as she watched her fingers disappear inside Elise's body, only to reappear moments later. Her own hips began to move of their own accord.

Figuring Maggie had it, Elise let go of her hand and supported her weight with her hands on the floor. She rocked her hips, losing herself in the feel of having Maggie inside of her. “Oh, Maggie,” she breathed, her speed beginning to quicken as the pleasure grew.

Maggie's eyes feasted on the glory that was Elise, her body beautiful as it found its pleasure. Her gaze focused on the small, firm breasts, which she wanted to feel. Removing her free hand from where it had rested on Elise's hip, she cupped a breast, feeling the hard nipple against her palm.

“Oh, fuck!” Elise cried out through gritted teeth, her pleasure intensifying with the added stimulation.

Maggie's breathing was quickening right along with Elise's, as she was witnessing the most beautiful and downright sexy, thing she'd ever seen!

Suddenly, Elise's back arched, her hair falling back to slap her own back as her hips thrust hard against Maggie. Her eyes squeezed shut, her mouth opened in a silent scream as she climaxed. Heart racing, she fell forward, taking Maggie in a tight hug, her chest heaving with every labored breath.

Maggie held on for dear life, her hand pinned between their bodies, but she didn't care. “That was amazing,” she whispered. “I've never seen anything like it.”

Elise chuckled as she came back to herself. She kissed Maggie long and deep then looked at her. “You haven't seen nothin' yet, baby.” She leaned down and whispered in Maggie's ear, as she slowly slid Maggie's fingers out of her. “'Cause, you're next.”

A shiver passed through Maggie at the prospect, no clue what was coming next. She didn't have to wait long to find out.

Elise moved her body so she was lying between Maggie's legs, their bodies pressed together. But, before she laid her body fully down, she took hold of Maggie's legs under the knees, gently nudging them far apart and up a bit, fitting herself perfectly between them.

Maggie gasped at the feeling. She was so wet and ready from watching Elise, and everything else that had happened.

Elise moved her hips in a slow grind as she held herself up on her hands. She looked down at Maggie, never seeing anything so beautiful before. “Have you ever had an orgasm before, baby?” she asked softly.

“Once,” Maggie admitted, a bit breathless. “And it was by accident.”

Elise smiled, thrusting slowly into Maggie, whose eyes slipped closed as the pleasure caressed her from the inside. “Open your eyes, baby.”

Maggie did as asked, staring up into Elise's. In that moment she realized that she had been wrong all those months ago: God did exist, and he existed in the love she saw there. She reached up and caressed the side of Elise's face, needing the tangible side of such a deep connection.

Elise wasn't sure what had just happened within Maggie, but the change on her face, and the gentleness in her touch told her she'd just found a love that nothing could ever tear apart again.. It was solid, it was real, and it was hers. She leaned down and kissed Maggie, slow and sensuous, trying to convey all that she felt in that kiss.

Maggie broke the kiss, her breathing too heavy to sustain it. Her hands found their way to Elise's back, fingers clenching and unclenching as her body's need for release announced itself more and more. Elise kept her slow, lazy rhythm, which was driving her crazy, as her was desperate for more.

Elise could feel Maggie's dilemma, but still kept her pace slow. She wanted Maggie to feel every single agonizing moment of pleasure before she released her. It was getting harder and harder for her, however, as her own body was responding to the pleasurable pressure against her pubic bone. She closed her eyes, letting her head fall for a moment as she relished the moment, which she knew she had to give up.

Maggie cried out in frustration as Elise pushed off of her, almost feeling like she'd been left to hang over an abyss. Her frustration turned to surprised bliss as a hot tongue sluiced through the abundant wetness.

Elise knew she had to work fast in order for Maggie not to lose the momentum towards her orgasm that had been built. She grabbed a strong hold of her thighs, holding them in place as she allowed her mouth to work.

Maggie was lost in a haze of pleasure, her body becoming numb to anything else. It was so intense, she could no longer tell which direction the pleasure was coming from. Suddenly, her world burst wide open, air leaving her lungs as her orgasm seemed to be pulled out of her by the very hand of god. Her hips left the floor, every muscle in her body straining as the pleasure washed through her in a violent flood.

Elise held on for dear life as Maggie came once, twice, and finally a third time. Only then did she pull her mouth away to allow Maggie some reprieve.

Maggie's body fell limply back to the sleeping bag, her mind void of any remotely rational thought or logical plan. She felt like a giant bowl of Jell-O, every limp lying limply on the floor. She could barely respond to Elise's kiss.

Elise grinned as she gathered the nearly lifeless body into her arms, holding Maggie tight. It took several minutes before Maggie was able to move, but finally she curled up even closer into Elise.

“What did you do to me?” she asked, her vision beginning to clear.

“Gave you an orgasm,” Elise said simply, amused at the situation.

“Yeah, then I must have done it wrong that one time.”

Elise laughed, kissing the top of Maggie's head. “Well, it was accidental.”



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