Mara's Men
Faith Talbot
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2011 Faith Talbot

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The glare from the blue-blue water of the ocean nearly blinded Mara as she looked out the window of the airplane. She blinked, trying to let her eyes adjust. Spots rose in her vision, echoes of the brilliant shards of sunlight. She didn't want to look away, but finally had to. It felt like a failure, or a betrayal.

She looked at her watch. The plane would land soon. Her stomach shook with the uncertainty of what would happen next.

Would they come to her?

* * *

"Something happened to you," Cor had said to her two weeks before.

Mara jumped a little, startled. She was sitting in her favorite coffee shop with her best friend, and they had been enjoying a companionable silence for the last few minutes. The sudden sound of Cor's voice had caught her off guard. "What? When? Nothing happened to me."

Cor gave her a knowing look. "In Cancun. Something happened. You never really talked about it."

"I told you about it."

"Not in detail." At Mara's exasperated look, Cor clarified.

"Not that kind of detail. I mean about them. Whether you really liked them or not."

"I liked them."

"How much?"

Mara shrugged. She'd asked herself the same question several times since that vacation getaway to Cancun. "I didn't have much chance to get to know them." Only in the carnal sense.

"You know" -- Cor leaned forward and laid a hand on Mara's -- "sometimes it doesn't matter."

"Yeah." Mara said nothing else. There wasn't anything else to say. Aaron and Chris had been the strangest, most wonderful men she'd ever met, and she'd let them go.

* * *

In the dark depths of the Caribbean, even in the tropical waters that surrounded Cancun, it was cold. The dark, chilled water pressed down on Chris and Aaron where they lay curled together in sand under a ledge that thrust out from the seawall, offering them some camouflage from sharks and other sea creatures. They were on good terms with most of the fish and ocean mammals that frequented this area, but occasionally someone got cranky.

Aaron shifted a bit, not quite waking from the sleep that held him. Chris lay with his face in the sand, the water fingering through his hair, making it wave and sway like seaweed.

Something changed.

Aaron opened his eyes, unsure what just happened, what had awakened him. All around him, the water was dark and quiet. Then Chris awakened, as well, and looked at him.

"You felt it?" Chris asked. The means of communication they used when they were under the water wasn't really speech, but it wasn't telepathy either. Neither of them could have explained it. It just was.

"I did," Aaron answered.

"Is it...?" Chris ventured.

"It is," said Aaron, and then he smiled. "She's coming."

* * *

Mara stepped out of the shower, scrubbing her skin dry with the hotel towel, advertised as Egyptian cotton. It felt rough at first, then seemed to soften as it grew damp. She closed her eyes, letting herself sink into the sensations. She was in Cancun, after all. She could at least do her best to enjoy herself, even if things weren't going quite the way she'd hoped.

When she was finished, she slid into a lightweight cotton nightgown. It was brief, but not overly revealing. As it settled over her curves, she realized she'd even packed for the possibility that things might not go well. That they might not come.

She tried not to think about it, smoothing the cotton over her breasts and belly. The memories remained; she'd never lose those. She could enjoy her vacation, then go home and start again, this time without the haunting question hanging over her of whether she'd abandoned the one thing that could make her life complete when she'd turned away from Chris and Aaron.

Maybe she'd even find someone else who gave her that same sense of wholeness.

A nagging voice in the back of her mind told her it would never happen. She pushed her hands through her hair as if to shove the thought back. She didn't want it. Her life could be good again. She'd find it somehow.

Fighting the sense of melancholy, she stepped out onto the hotel room's balcony. It gave a wide, lovely view of the beach, and the portion of the hotel grounds that sat adjacent. A huge, silver moon, nearly full, had risen in the east, casting silvery light across the tips of the waves. It was bright enough to cast shadows, even where the light from the hotel facilities didn't reach. It was beautiful. How could she hold on to her melancholy, looking out over beauty like this? It seemed sacrilegious, or at best ungrateful. Leaning against the balcony rail, she let a soft breeze play with her hair, caress her face.

Mara.

She froze. She thought she had heard the word, the whisper against the sound of the waves, but it had been so soft she couldn't have truly heard it. Where had it come from, then?

She peered through the moonshadows, trying to pick out details in the silvery dark. There were still a few people on the beach, enjoying the sound of the waves and the slightly cooler temperatures that had settled in with the sunset. One couple in particular seemed to be making their way up the beach to the hotel. They were a bit unsteady on their feet, as if they'd had a few too many mai tais.

Two men, she realized as they made their way a bit closer. One taller than the other, both broad-shouldered, their bodies lean but wide through the shoulders, like swimmers...

Oh, my God.

She ran back into the hotel room, ran out into the hallway and, heedless of her state of relative undress, ran in barefoot abandon out onto the moonlit beach.

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