DUSK fell slowly.
Truth to tell, we were, neither of us, in much of a hurry to leave. Our loft was cozy, if not exactly palatial - warm, and fairly comfortable. We even managed to grab a little sleep, and I for one, awoke feeling refreshed (if a little sore) and ready to face whatever the coming night was likely to throw at us.
Beside me, Tanith stretched slowly, lithe muscles shifting easily as she came to wakefulness. I studied her willowy lines beneath the coat and didn't realize that I was grinning like the cat that got the cream, until her eyes opened, and her emerald gaze settled upon mine.
'A good eve, my love.' She stretched again, making no attempt to keep the coat in place. Her movements had the desired effect upon me, and she smiled provocatively, reaching for me.
Eventually, we parted, spent and sweaty, and I reached for my clothes. I glanced at my watch; it was just after six-thirty. 'Hungry?' I asked, over my shoulder. Tanith's nails traced a slow path down my back, and I shivered.
'Indeed.' She purred. 'But, mayhap, we should partake of some food, first.'
It took me a moment, to absorb her meaning. 'Insatiable minx.' I muttered, pulling my shirt over my head. 'That wasn't the appetite I meant. I meant..,' I shook my head, and laughed. 'Doesn't matter. I'll fetch some water.' I scrambled into trousers and walking boots, while Tanith looked on languidly from the dubious shelter of her coat. I glanced at her provocatively naked lines, and shivered. The woman seemed immune to the coolness of the evening, whereas I was a mass of goosebumps. But maybe, I told myself, that wasn't just the chill. Resolutely, I turned my back upon temptation, and finished dressing, to the accompaniment of Tanith's throaty chuckle.
By the time I'd splashed water over my face, and collected some in our bottles, Tanith had dressed and was making way down the ladder as I entered. I caught her by the waist, and lowered her the last few centimeters, turning her slightly, in order to reach her lips.
'I am the luckiest man alive.' I told her softly. 'Meeting you was the best thing that ever happened to me.'
'I feel also, most fortunate to have found you.' She whispered, sliding her arm around my waist. 'I am complete, in my love for thee, my Champion.' She looked towards the dilapidated doors. 'Darkness falls,' she whispered. 'We must soon be on our way.' Her green gaze found mine, and I fell, dissolving, into those limitless depths. 'But this day, and this place, shall forever remain with me, in mine own heart.'
'And in mine, my Lady.' I told her, and she smiled her special slow smile; that melted my soul all over again.
We re-built and re-lit, our fire. Dinner consisted of crackers, and slices of compressed, tinned meat, with more coffee and tea. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a meal more, as we sat across from each other, the dancing flames warming our words.
Darkness was fully upon us, by the time we doused the flames for a final time, and bid our temporary home farewell.
'As fine a place as any,' Tanith turned and gave the old barn a final scrutiny, 'in which to.., honeymoon?' She looked at me, and I nodded.
'Maybe, we can visit it again, someday.' I told her, shifting my backpack into a more comfortable position, and sliding Albion's scabbard over a shoulder. 'After all this is over, and we have time to be together. If you want to, that is.' I added quickly.
Tanith nodded. 'I would like that; very much.' She said wistfully. Then she turned, setting her face resolutely towards the east. 'Let us get this thing done.'
'By your command, my Lady.' I smiled, and led the way out of the small valley.
The journey was an easy, if chilly, trek across yet more fields, and a couple of hours or so later, I called for a stop. I'd begun to recognize parts of my surroundings. We were approaching the boundaries of Poulton, one of the outlying rural villages that ringed Blackpool, and the Fylde Coast. Beside me, Tanith's posture was one of tense anticipation, her keen gaze searching the nearby area, dimly illuminated by a couple of morose looking street-lamps on the other side of the far hedgerow.
'Anything?' I didn't know why I was whispering. We hadn't seen as much as a somnambulistic cow throughout the entire journey. I told myself that it was just nerves; after all, we were by now, in all probability, being hunted by the military, and, if they had any sense, they would guess that the hospital and Rebecca, was a prime place to stake out. Granted, it was another twenty minute walk to the hospital but hey; tell my nerves that.
'Nothing.' Tanith pronounced, after a minute. 'All is quiescent. Yet, I sense that this stillness is somewhat unnatural.'
'Everything about this is unnatural.' I replied. 'Okay; we'll chance it. We're a little way from the hospital yet, and I think I'd like to wait awhile, before we try and get to Rebecca.' I glanced at my watch. 'It's almost ten o'clock. Let's have a quiet look around, see if there's anywhere we can eat, and we'll aim to be at the hospital after midnight.'
'I am, mayhap, a little hungry.' Tanith admitted. So was I; we hadn't eaten all that much recently, and all this cold and shivering wasn't good for a body. Not to mention other, recent exertions.
Together, we moved cautiously towards the hedgerow; senses alert for any movement or noise. About five meters down, towards the village proper, we found a stile. I went over first, and watched as many directions as I could, as Tanith followed. Moments later, she was beside me and, together, acting like a normal couple, out for an evening stroll, we followed the upward curve of the road, towards the better illuminated buildings ahead.
Now I knew where we were. This was Hardhorn, a small cluster of houses that sat between Blackpool and Poulton. At the top of the rise, the road we were following terminated in a t-junction, running towards Poulton on our right, and Blackpool in the other direction. That way, I knew, lay Newton Drive, one of the larger arteries into the town. That way also led to our intended destination.
At the top of the small hill, directly in front of us, a large building dominated the panorama before us. Smoke drifted from several chimney's and warm light from several picture windows splashed across the small car park that surrounded it. As we watched, a side door opened, and several people exited, talking happily amongst themselves. They moved down the steps, and faded into the gloom of the surrounding shadows. I felt a grin stretching across my face, and turned to Tanith.
'I'll tell you what,' I said to her. 'I'll buy you dinner, and a drink.'