Sammy shivered from the wind blasting off the water. Even shielded behind the slick pilings holding up the pier, he found no escape. His hair was still wet from his interrupted shower. Every so often it dripped icy kisses onto his neck.
So much for sleeping in his own bed tonight. He hadn't wanted to sleep there anyway since she...He swallowed and slipped back into focus for the task at hand.
The Puget Sound water was black, except for the dots of light reflecting from the Seattle skyline. No sounds but the gentle lapping of the water and his own accelerated heartbeat.
Meet us at the shore by Trudy's Baithouse, the woman on the phone had whispered to him. That was it. No further information, nor any explanation about how she had gotten Orin Burke's cell phone to call him with.
Sammy crouched down to relieve the stiffness in his right knee and inhaled the briny smells of the beach. It had been an hour already. He'd spent most of that time scouring the perimeters for a setup.
A buzzing sound floated to him on the wind. Like a motor.
Sammy remained crouched and watched as a tiny motorboat skimmed its way towards the shoreline. The driver cut the engine and let the boat drift. Two shadows plunged into the water, swam until they could wade to the shore, and then immediately ran left to take refuge behind a series of beach logs.
Sam slid through the shadows to come around behind them.
"...I want to hold the gun. You're too weak-"
"Paulie, I swear to God I will plug this thing up your ass if you don't shut up." It was a woman. The woman from the phone. She sounded like...Sammy's gut flipped over.
"Moira." Sam's voice went hoarse. He stepped out into the lighted area of the beach. A careless move for someone trying to be discreet. But it was her...
He told himself his steps were uneven from trudging through sand. That it had nothing to do with seeing her again. Alive.
But, oh Jesus, so very harmed.
Moira's battered, pale face went from annoyed, to panicked, to something Sammy could only call drained. Like all the fight she'd had to pack around with her had melted away. She was here. She was safe.
And then she was in his arms. Her wet, frozen body stung his hands and neck where they made contact. But the hot tears she cried stung even more. Sammy found himself holding back his own.
He forced himself to pull his cheek from her damp curls and looked up at Paulie. Little Bro now knew Sammy and Moira's secret. But it didn't matter. Not with the all that had gone down. Nothing mattered anymore.
Sammy had only kept quiet about their relationship to keep them both safe. At first because there was no telling what Bud would do. Then because he didn't want it to be exploited by the kidnappers - used as leverage to make Sammy squirm. If that had happened, Bud would have definitely thought Sammy weak and expendable.
But she was safe now.
"Paulie, what-" Sammy cleared a lump from his throat "-what happened? Where's Orin?"
Paulie's mouth hung agape, like someone had slugged him in the chest.
"Where's Orin?" Sam repeated.
Moira wiped her hands over her cheeks and turned to look at the younger Templeton. Paulie's face turned red. He shoved his hands in his pocket and looked at her. "You probably thought it was real funny, me asking you out."
Sam frowned. This was not the conversation to be having, partly because it made no sense. But mostly because they were vulnerable targets out here.
She stepped out of Sammy's hold. "Paulie, listen - it wasn't safe to-"
"It's cool." He cut her off. "I haven't proven to be a badass yet. I get it."
"Just calm down." Sam said "Whatever baggage you guys have going on, here and now is not the place for it."
"Sure thing, Alpha Male." Paulie shrugged. "You two go do your thing, I've got work to do. You know - like rescue Martin." He turned and trotted up the embankment.
"How does he know about Martin?" Sam murmured to Moira.
"I told him." She answered. "He deserves to know. Don't let him wander off like this."
"Christ." Sam went after his brother, stopping at the edge of the logs and calling out. "Paul, come back. What do you think you're gonna do, charge after him alone? Don't be stupid."
Paul turned and spread his arms open. "That's right," he yelled. "Stupid little brother is gonna do something really stupid now. Can't trust me to do anything right, can you? I'm just gonna go and fuc-"
Paulie's words cut off suddenly. His body jerked forward. He touched a spot on his right shoulder. In the wayward dock lighting, his hand came away covered in something dark. Something red.
"Paulie!" Moira screamed and tore past Sammy.
Sam blinked, unable to register what he was seeing. Paul collapsed, rolling halfway down the embankment.
The next bullet splintered the log at Sam's feet.