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I'll have to get out!"
Beth threw herself into his arms, the ever ready tears welling in her
eyes. "No, Nick," she pleaded. "Whatever it is, we'll fight it. We'll
make out, but darling, don't leave me again!"
He held her tightly against him, his hands stroking the warm softness of
her back and spine. The perfume of her hair filled him with a heady
thought of summer fields of flowers, of sweetness and tenderness, of ...
love. Love. Nick Danson, he told himself, you _are_ mixed up. You're
falling in love with your own wife.
"... and we'll go away," Beth was whispering in his ear. "We'll pack
everything and go far away, where we'll never see these men again. Nick.
Please. Oh, please keep me with you."
"Going away won't settle anything, sweetheart. They'll always be there,
just outside the door. I've got to do something..."
He broke off suddenly and it flicked into his mind like a film of the
past, like a memory. The soft face of the girl, her hair a golden color
against the backdrop of the ochre mountains ... the softness of the pale
blue-green tree... She spun away from him, the loose, filmy blue dress
whirling about her trim ankles ... then she was coming back to him, arms
outstretched ... kissing him lovingly...
He shut it off, clamped it from his mind. A memory! A memory that made
no sense at all. A tremor of fear ran along his spine and trembled in
his flesh. What did it mean? What was happening to him?
"Nick?" It was Beth. "What is it, Nick? You look pale and frightened."
"Nothing. We'll go away."
She beamed. "I know just the place. The cabin. Far up in the mountains.
No one will know we're there. We'll learn to love each other again."
"You have to work," he pointed out.
She nodded. "That's true, still _you_ could go up there and try to
puzzle this all out. I can come up in the evenings, and on weekends."
"Might be a good idea," he admitted, thinking that at least, he'd be
safe from prying eyes.
"Then it's settled. You go sit somewhere and I'll get things packed."
She whisked away, almost running up the stairs to pack some things for
him. He walked to the kitchen, without turning on a light, and poured
himself a glass of water. Outside, through the window, he could see the
twilight fading into evening, the heavy purple clouds of night sweeping
steadily across the sky. A star winked later and he knew it. Venus. He
stood there in the darkness and picked out many of them as they
flickered into being. Mars. Sirius, Vega and others. There were...
* * * * *
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