Disclaimers: These characters aren't mine; I'm not making a profit; yadayadayada.
Time: In the second year.
Spoilers: None

The Edges of the Day
By Colorado
Marguerite ran faster and faster. The jungle was a confused kaleidoscope of dark browns and vibrant greens, dancing and jumping around her. Palm fronds whipped her legs and face; thorny vines reached down and grabbed at her arms. The only sound she heard was her own gasping breaths echoing in her head.
A shaft of light seared an opening in the underbrush, and she blindly scrambled through it. She faced a steep hill littered with stones and boulders that pointed to the satin-smooth sky. She climbed upward, her hands grabbing at roots and bushes as her boots found footholds in the dusty terrain. Near the summit, she dove behind a T-Rex-sized boulder at the same time her pursuers broke through the wall of jungle growth below.
"She's here somewhere!" the larger one exclaimed gripping a large, serrated knife.
"I can smell her," his partner said in low, dangerous voice. He silently gestured for the other man to go straight up the hill; he would circle around it.
Marguerite hunkered down as small as she could in the shadow of the rock and tried not to move. In spite of her choking fear, she angrily cursed herself. If only she had waited for Veronica, if only she hadn't dropped her rifle... She held her breath as footsteps drew closer.
He was on the other side of the rock-she could hear him grunt and spit. After a few seconds, he walked away. Marguerite sat, frozen. A bird cried for its mate, and the wind whispered hoarsely. Slowly she lifted her chin off her chest.
Suddenly the second man jumped from her blind side. Marguerite screamed and swung at him with a closed fist. She hit her mark with sharp smack, sending the little man flailing backwards. With a cry, she turned to run down into the jungle when the larger man appeared in front of her with an evil grin.
He struck her so hard she actually saw stars as she fell.

Lord John Roxton cast his line into the peaceful river, stuck his bamboo fishing rod in the muddy bank, and walked to where Ned Malone lay on his back in the grass.
"There's nothing quite like fishing," Roxton said contentedly. Malone mumbled something in agreement.
"Old Jeffers, our groundskeeper, taught me how to fish when I was just a lad," Roxton remembered. "After chopping wood, this is the perfect end for a day."
He gazed out at the narrow river snaking its way through the grassy valley. The setting sun showered white sparkles onto the twilight-blue water as the edges of the day faded. He lay down and put his well-worn hat over his face.
The band of adventurers had been stranded in this strange world for two years-and yet, he could still enjoy the everyday pleasure of fishing. Roxton often wondered what would have happened to them if they hadn't met Veronica, the young woman who had grown up on the plateau and shared her family's tree house with them. They had learned so much from her, in spite of her youth. Her warnings about peoples and places to avoid had saved their lives many times.
Malone raised himself up on his elbows. "I visited my Uncle Cleve out in Colorado one summer. We fished on the river. Didn't catch much, but those are some of my favorite memories."
"Colorado?" Roxton asked with interest. "Cowboys and Indians?"
Malone chuckled. "Not exactly. But the mountains there take your breath away. They go on for miles and miles and still have snow on them in the summer."
"We'll have to visit there when we get home," Roxton said.
"We?" Malone asked with a sophomoric grin.
"Yes, Malone, we. As in Marguerite and me," he said. The raven-haired heiress who had funded Professor George Challenger's successful-but-stranded expedition to find the Lost World had captured his heart from the beginning. It was only now they had begun to explore their feelings for one another. He loved her, heart and soul. He knew she loved him, even though her protective barriers sometimes prevented her from showing him.
Malone sat straight up with a start. "Did you hear that?"
Ever cautious, Roxton grabbed his rifle in readiness.
"Roxton!" A woman's shout echoed in the valley. "Malone!"
"That's Veronica!" Malone exclaimed in alarm. The two men jumped up and ran towards the approaching voice. At the crest of a green hill, Malone saw Veronica rushing towards them. Roxton led the way down the slope as she began climbing up it.
"What's wrong?" he shouted. They met half way.
She evidently had been running at top speed for some time. She was breathing hard, stray blades of grass stuck in her disheveled blonde hair. But there was something terrible in her deep blue eyes.
"Veronica," Malone grabbed her arms. "What is it?"
"Marguerite!" was her pained cry. Cold terror seized Roxton. Without waiting to hear more, he tore down the hill towards the tree house, closely followed by his friends.

Three months later...
Roxton sat at the makeshift bar in the dirty tavern, absently holding what was passing for a glass of ale. He didn't make eye contact but knew where every person sat in the small room and what each one was doing.
"Another one?" the fat man behind the bar asked him. Roxton shook his head. The barkeeper shrugged and walked away.
Roxton now made his home in this stinking little hamlet worlds away from the safety of the tree house. He stroked his rough beard with a wry grin that slowly faded. How Marguerite would have hated this, he thought.
Conenso-a small, wiry fellow with a pungent odor-observed Roxton from the doorway. The hunter had been in every night for a full month, but didn't say much to anyone. Conenso knew fellows like him well-quiet but needy. He sat down next to Roxton.
"I've seen you in here before, friend," he commented. "Are you in need of some company tonight?"
Roxton looked over at the man's toothless leer. "No," he replied rudely.
"Let's not be hasty. I might have something that would interest you," he snickered, knocking a cockroach off his sleeve.
Roxton's face remained stony. The little man left and returned a few minutes later with five women, all poorly dressed with faces downcast.
"This one is new. Isn't she a beauty? No? Then how about this little morsel-she's a proven favorite. I see you're particular, friend. I wouldn't offer this girl to just any man-she's my daughter!"
Roxton swallowed his disgust and gestured to the last one in line, a slim brunette. Her coloring was darker than Marguerite's, but still...
"Ah, a fine choice, friend. She's also a recent addition. Step forward!" he barked. The girl walked to Roxton and slowly looked up. His heart fell when he saw her brown eyes.
"No," he said and turned back to his drink. The little man sighed with disappointment and hustled his girls out the door. Maybe tomorrow night.
Another time Roxton would have been outraged at the treatment of the women and leapt into action to save them. Not tonight. He tossed a few coins he had traded for onto the bar and left.
The evening was cool and dark. A mixture of unpleasant odors assaulted his nose-rotting vegetables, manure, stagnant water. The town square, if it could be called that, was a small pasture between the tavern and the prostitute houses. It was still filled with merchants singing out about the excellent quality of their dry goods, their fruit, their women. Roxton didn't look up. He had visited each one in the past month with no luck. He trudged to his home at the end of a dark lane.
"Can I interest you in these fine pots?" a man pulled at Roxton's arm.
"No," he said without looking.
"But they're valuable, my lord."
Roxton whirled around to see, under layers of dirt and a hooded cloak, the piercing blue eyes of Ned Malone.
"Yes...I'd like to see them," he said and kept walking. He entered his one-room shack and quickly lit a lantern. Minutes later Malone came in and set down his wares next to Roxton's cot.
"Lap of luxury," he said softly, looking about the spartan room.
"Nothing but the best," Roxton shook his friend's hand.
"Anything?" Malone whispered anxiously.
"No," he said, pouring two glasses of water. "But the people here have accepted me as Rashan, a rich hunter. I'm gaining their confidence."
Malone threw his filthy cloak on the floor and looked at the friend he hadn't seen in months. Roxton's beard was long and unkempt; his pants and tunic, bought at a local merchant, were shabby; and a new scar inched up his arm.
"How are Challenger, Veronica, and Summerlee?" Roxton gestured for Ned to sit on the one chair in the room. He hadn't seen Veronica since he left the tree house, nor Summerlee, who had been too ill to even say good-bye.
"They send their greetings. Summerlee is doing better. Challenger's trying to keep busy. And Veronica," Ned paused. "Let's just say it took all three of us to convince her not to come with me to meet you. A woman in a place like this would be in danger-even Veronica. She's camped at the outskirts of town."
"Were you waiting for me very long?" Roxton asked.
Malone grinned broadly. "Just long enough to get hit on by some of your more charming local women, threatened with death by a drunk warrior, and nearly dragged into some kind of night-long card game."
He opened his bag and handed Roxton several loaves of homemade bread and small packets of herbs. Roxton smiled in appreciation and bit into the bread.
"The supplies Challenger brought me last time went quickly," he said ruefully.
"The packets are labeled-Summerlee explained what each one does," Malone said.
"I have a good feeling about this ugly place," Roxton declared. "From what I've learned, this is the hub of the slave trade on the plateau. She either has come through here or will be brought here eventually." Even saying the word "she" brought a swift jab of pain.
Malone said nothing. Since that awful afternoon three months ago, they had found no trace of Marguerite's whereabouts. They didn't even know if she was still alive. "Roxton, there might come a time..."
"No," the older man said matter-of-factly. His face was set resolutely, and Malone dropped the subject.
"Well, I'd better be on my way, before I draw suspicion," Malone said, slipping the cloak back on.
"Be careful on your way home."
"We will. One of us will be here in two weeks," Malone said with an encouraging smile.
"Tell everyone..." Roxton began but faltered.
Malone nodded and quietly slipped out.
Roxton sat down slowly. He hadn't realized how much he missed his friends' company. He tore off another wedge of bread, then wrapped the rest up for later.

"Roxton, you're nothing but a scoundrel!" Marguerite yelled laughingly. The other adventurers sat on the rocks surrounding the watering hole, enjoying the cool of the evening, but Roxton had dove in and was splashing everyone.
"Why don't you stop me?" he challenged and pulled her into the water. She came up sputtering.
"You're completely uncouth," she said heading to shore.
"This is my favorite time of day," Veronica said to Malone. He looked back at her. "Mine, too," he replied.
"Aren't you two precious?" Marguerite smiled, drying her long, dark hair.
"Just like you and Roxton," Veronica smiled knowingly.
"You're quite mistaken, Veronica. Roxton is nothing but a little boy," she said. "I prefer my men to be mature."
A large splash of water struck her directly in the face. The others laughed heartily as she glared at the handsome hunter. "John Roxton, you are...you...!" she stammered in anger and stalked off to the tree house.
He rested his elbows on a rock and watched her beautiful form walk away, partially to enjoy the view and partially to look for any predators that might harm her.

Roxton blew out the lantern and hoped sleep would come quickly.

"Would you like some fresh grang?" the old woman thrusted the brown, squash-like vegetable under his nose. "Freshly grown, nothing quite like it."
He walked past her without comment, shifting his rifle to his other shoulder.
"Rashan, where are you off to?" Benial called. He looked over to see the striking redhead running up to him. She had befriended him his first night at the tavern, offering to sleep with him for a small fee. After he declined, they had struck up a friendship of sorts.
"I'm going to see about a raptor," he replied as they walked down the muddy street. "I heard the warlord in the next town has an interest in one."
She nodded. "His name is Slinc. He's my cousin."
Roxton raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Might he be willing to trade something for raptor meat?"
Benial shrugged. "I can ask him. Stop by the tavern tonight, and I'll let you know."
Roxton nodded. Benial watched him walk away. What a sad man, still so obviously in love. She adjusted her thin, cotton top to show more of her ample cleavage and sauntered back into town.

"Roxton, you're so self-centered!" Marguerite stamped her foot like an angry child.
He looked up at her with a mischievous grin. "You would think so, since I'm not bending to your will."
Marguerite glared at him. "I told you about this vein of gold weeks ago. You agreed to help me mine it!"
He continued to read. "Yes, I did. But I'm going to chop wood and then Malone and I are going fishing. I'll take you tomorrow."
"Fine, I'll go by myself," she declared.
He met her defiant gaze evenly. "No, you won't. It's too dangerous. Perhaps Veronica would go with you?"
The attractive blonde looked their direction. "I'll go, Marguerite. Wait until I'm done helping Summerlee identify these plants. It won't take long."
Summerlee pushed his glasses up his nose. "Yes, Marguerite. Maybe an hour more."
Marguerite considered her options. "Alright," she leaned over the table at Roxton. "But I won't forget this!"

Roxton sat at the corner table with Benial. The sun had just set and a steady stream of patrons filed into the dark, dank room. Benial appraised each with one look. Not a good-looking fellow in the bunch. She turned her soft green eyes to Roxton.
"No luck on the hunt today?" she asked.
"I saw several dinosaurs, but no raptors."
"I talked to Slinc. He'll trade for raptor meat."
They sat in companionable silence as a rat darted by their feet.
"Tell me about her," she said suddenly.
"Tell me about your woman. You told me you lost her not long ago. What was she like?"
Roxton leaned back in his chair and let himself have the rare indulgence of memory. "Beautiful. Spirited. Stubborn. But compassionate. She had long, dark hair-almost as long as yours. She was slim and strong. Her eyes were the most unusual shade of gray and so large you'd think you could just dive into them."
He stopped abruptly. Benial took his hand.
"I can see you still hurt for her. Wouldn't taking another woman help ease your pain?"
Roxton smiled. "Benial, we've had this conversation before."
"No, Rashan, not me. A woman who looks like your wife! She could provide some comfort. That's how my people handle grief."
Roxton looked at her seriously. "A woman who looks like her? I might be interested in that."
Benial stared at a new group of men entering the bar. "I need to go to work. But I have an idea. Meet me in the morning."
Roxton nodded as she left the table. For the first time in weeks, he felt some hope enter the void in his heart.

"Marguerite!" Roxton shouted, wildly looking around the hillside. The stones were eerily spaced apart like headstones. The sun had disappeared between large, black clouds and a smattering of rain began to fall.
"Marguerite!" he yelled harshly as he peered under outcroppings. Blast that woman! She had run off on her own.
Veronica had led him and Malone to the clearing where she, Challenger, and Summerlee had discovered Marguerite's abandoned rifle. The area showed signs of a violent struggle. They then tracked her and her pursuers to this hilltop.
"Look!" Malone exclaimed. Roxton rushed over to where Ned stood. The soft dirt surrounding the boulder was patterned with footprints and speckles of blood. Veronica sat on her haunches as the rain beat a steady tattoo.
"Two men, one woman. They carried her off," she reported with tears rising. It looked bad, very bad. "Slave traders."
"How long ago?" Roxton demanded.
"Two hours, maybe three" was the dismal answer. The three stood in silence as a clap of thunder shook the ground and rain poured.
Marguerite, in the brutal hands of slavers. Roxton had to remind himself to breathe.
"This storm is wiping away any tracks we might find!" Malone shouted above the rushing wind. Without a word, the three followed the tracks the best they could until the trail disappeared into the head of the peaceful river Roxton and Malone had been fishing in earlier.
Veronica waded through the angry current to the other side and searched for signs, but the coursing rainwater already had erased what might have been there. Roxton stood silently, soaked to the bone.
Malone put his hand on the hunter's shoulder. "We're not going to find anything else tonight. We'll start again in the morning."
Veronica crossed back over to them, shivering uncontrollably. "He's right. We need to tell Challenger and Summerlee what's happened."
A flash of lightning illuminated the valley, and Roxton hung his head.

Roxton walked up to Benial and touched the gold chain around her neck.
"New?" he asked. She bit her lip and fingered the necklace.
"My gentleman didn't notice it was gone this morning," she replied with a smile.
"Benial, what you said last night about being able to find a woman who looked like... Is that true?" he asked.
"My cousin Olin has a large collection of women. When I saw him last week, he mentioned having a fiery new slave with dark hair and large gray eyes."
"You have a lot of cousins," Roxton made his voice remain even. She let out a raucous laugh.
"Yes, the men in our family get around!"
"So, would Olin let me see this woman? Would he trade for her?"
"I don't know, but I've arranged for us to go to his lodgings tonight."
Roxton impulsively hugged the woman. "Benial, you're a good friend."
"If only..."
"If only your wife had been a redhead!" she exclaimed.

Olin's home was large in comparison to his neighbors'. It sat on a ridge above the town, surrounded by fully-grown trees. Several rooms made up the main part of the house. A cooking kitchen was a separate building to the right, the stables and slave quarters to the left.
Olin wore the expression of a man who had drunk too much too often. He was as tall as Roxton but weighed a good 100 pounds more. His egg-shaped head still boasted several strands of reddish hair that he had combed over most unattractively.
As Benial introduced Roxton, Olin eyed him cautiously.
"Rashan. I've heard of you. Come, sit at my table," he said and clapped his hands. Three women rushed in with drinks. Roxton carefully looked at each one.
"Olin, my friend Rashan has come to me in need," Benial began.
"You're the best one to meet a man's needs, eh Rashan?" Olin interrupted with a loud laugh, slapping Benial on the rump.
She frowned. "Rashan comes looking for a woman who resembles his dead wife. I thought of the slave you recently told me about."
Olin snorted in anger. "That one? She's a hellcat. Look at what she did last time I bedded her!"
He pulled his coarsely woven shirt off his shoulder and showed them fresh bite marks. It took every ounce of strength for Roxton not to tear the man's head off. Instead, he smiled.
"A real vixen," he commented.
Olin laughed heartily, his eyes bleary and red. "She's one in a million. I only bought her two weeks ago." He stopped to take a drink. "I couldn't let her go cheaply."
"I don't even know if I want her," Roxton countered.
Olin clapped his hands again. A guard brandishing a sword rushed in. "Bring the new woman to me," he ordered. "And put away that sword, you fool!"
Roxton stood and went to the window. He lightly drummed the windowsill with his fingertips until he heard the guard return with someone else. This was the first solid prospect he had found in three months, and he was terrified to face failure. With his heart pounding a wild rhythm, he turned and saw Marguerite.
"She's a beauty," he managed to say as overwhelming relief and joy filled his soul. She wore a simple white sheath, slit open from throat to navel. Her dark hair wildly surrounded her face, which showed fresh bruises and older cuts. But something was wrong. Marguerite didn't even look at him.
"Yes, she is at that," Olin stood and roughly grabbed her. She didn't resist as he kissed her or when he slid his hand inside her dress. Blinding fury boiled inside Roxton like a steam kettle ready to go off, but he willed his face to remain impassive.
"You said she had spirit. And yet she acts like she's asleep," he said.
Olin laughed. "I have found an elixir that quiets even a wild one like this. It only lasts a few hours, or so I was told."
Roxton quickly assessed the situation. The guard with the sword stood near Olin who had a dagger strapped to his thigh. There would be no way of grabbing Marguerite without risking injury to her.
Benial, who had been studying him closely, stepped forward. "What do you think Rashan?"
"I would like to buy her from you," Roxton said to Olin.
"First, let us drink!" He forcefully pushed Marguerite to the floor and lifted his mug, splashing its contents on the table. Marguerite stood and walked woodenly out the door she had come through. Roxton followed her a few steps and stopped.
Olin gestured for his cousin to come to him.
"He's interested, no?" Olin whispered. "And he's very rich?"
"Very rich."
"Well done, cousin," he said and handed her a small vial. "Pour this in his drink. He'll enter a trance like that wench. Then I'll send that idiot guard to rob his house!"
Benial gave Olin a conspiratorial smile. "You're a genius!"

A few hours and many drinks later, Roxton stumbled behind Benial to a bedroom at the end of a hall. She opened the door and he fell in.
"Why are you doing this?" she whispered, shutting the door behind her.
"Whaa?" he slurred, falling onto a bed.
"Pretending to be drunk. I've seen you drink more at the tavern on any given night!" she hissed. "What are you up to?"
Roxton was on his feet in a second, twisting her arm behind her back. "What am I up to? I saw Olin slip you a drug. What is it? Poison? What's your game, Benial?"
"You have it all wrong, Rashan. I'm on your side!"
He tightened his grip. "Tell me everything."
"Olin wanted me to drug you. Your pretending to be drunk just now convinced him I had. He's sent his guard to rob your house!"
Roxton let her go. "Why didn't you drug me?"
Benial threw her hands up in exasperation. "I'm your friend! I saw the way you looked at that woman. Do you think I, of all people, don't know how a man in love looks at his woman? That's her, isn't it? That slave is your wife. She never died-she was taken by slavers!"
Roxton considered her with icy determination. "If you stand in my way, Benial, I swear..."
A lovely smile lit up her face. "Then it's true! You're the first man I've ever met who treated me like I matter. Rashan, I want to help you!"
Roxton relaxed. "How can I get her?"
Benial gave him a Marguerite-like look. "I'm one step ahead of you. I slipped the elixir in Olin's drink. He'll be out for hours."
Roxton wrapped a bear hug around her. "Come with us. When Olin discovers what you've done, you won't be safe."
She shook her head. "I'll stay at Slinc's for a while. He hates Olin and will protect me. Now let's go get her!"

They hurried along the dirt path to the slave quarters. Roxton entered with gun raised. Crudely built wooden bunks lined the walls. Once his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he rushed to Marguerite's side.
"Marguerite? Do you hear me?" he ran his hand over her battered cheek. "I'm taking you home."
She moaned and looked at him but showed no sign of recognition. He scooped her up and hurried out of the building.
"This way!" Benial called from behind a clump of trees. She held the reins of a sad-looking horse that was attached to a rickety wooden cart. "This is Olin's cart. Take it down this road, but turn right, not left. You'll end up at a river. Abandon the cart there. Follow the river south for a day. That will take you out of this valley."
Roxton laid Marguerite down in the back of the cart and turned to Benial. Gently, he kissed her forehead. "Take care of yourself, my friend."
Her eyes growing misty, Benial said sincerely, "She's a lucky woman."
Roxton climbed up on the seat and set the horse off at a good clip.

They reached the river by moonlight. Roxton tied the poor animal close to water's edge so it could drink. Carefully, he gathered an unconscious Marguerite in his arms and began walking. She was so light to carry, even at dead weight. He stared down at her serene face, noting every mark and mentally vowing revenge against every man who may have touched her. He was tempted to turn around and pay Olin back for his treatment of her, but Marguerite's soft moans reminded him she needed to get home quickly.
At dawn he stopped to rest. Marguerite's eyes fluttered open and she stared at him vacantly. He lowered her down on her unsteady feet. He wanted to fold her into his arms forever, but her dazed expression warned him off. She sat down on a log and watched him gather wood and start a fire.
"There now, love," he said gently. "Let me find something for you to eat."
Soon he brought back a small rabbit and prepared it for cooking. He stole glances at her silent form and felt an unimaginable rage at what she must have been through. And yet an overpowering happiness also filled him. He could almost forget the past three months just to have her back. Almost. He cooked the meat, then handed her a piece.
"That's it," he said approvingly as she slowly ate. "Marguerite, don't you recognize me? It's John!"
Her gaze fell on his face for several minutes. "You aren't Roxton," she finally said.
"And why aren't I?"
"Roxton would never come to me unshaven," she said simply. "Besides, I know I was drugged. I heard and saw things that weren't real. You aren't real."
Roxton rubbed his coarse beard. "I may not know how to help you right now, but we'll be back at the tree house in a day, and Summerlee will fix you up. The important thing is you're with me. I love you, remember?"
Marguerite furrowed her brow. "I've dreamt of Roxton coming for me for months. But you aren't him," she said.
"I am him, and you don't know what I...what we've been through trying to find you. That day you went looking for gold...it was the worst day of my life. I tracked you as long as I could, but then the trail was cold. Summerlee became ill with worry, Veronica was wracked with guilt for not noticing you slip out of the tree house, and I..."
Suddenly Roxton stood and threw a large rock into the river with a strangled yell. "I was fishing! For God's sake, you were fighting for your life, and I was fishing! You asked me to come with you, but I refused!"
"It wasn't your fault," she said softly.
Roxton continued, unaware: "All these months, living in one town, then the next, hoping to hear word of you, some sign, some clue. Imagining what horrors you were living through, but not knowing if you were dead or alive. Praying that the next woman's face I saw would be yours! And it was all my fault."
He slumped down on his knees near the water's edge and, for the first time in three months, allowed his feelings to surface. Marguerite's arms wrapped around him.
"It wasn't your fault. I left the tree house because I was impatient. I didn't hear them until it was too late."
He wiped his eyes with the back of his hands and turned to face her. "I should've protected you."
"I should've listened to you," she said simply. Suddenly her mask-like composure disintegrated. "You... You're real, aren't you? Is this a dream? Roxton? Am I really here with you? Oh God! Oh Roxton!"
She threw her arms around him and cried hysterically. He rocked her and kissed her hair as she poured out what she had endured.

Veronica leaned over the balcony railing, not believing her eyes. "Malone! Professor! Summerlee! They're here! Roxton found Marguerite!"
She raced to the elevator, reached ground level, and ran as they entered the clearing. She threw her arms around one, then the other, and was soon joined by the three men.
"Oh my dear Marguerite," Summerlee said over and over again. He held her so tightly she thought she would burst-but it was a nice feeling.
"How did you find her?" Challenger asked, thumping Roxton on the back.
"I'll tell you, but first I'd like to bathe. And shave," Roxton said, winking at Marguerite.
"And I'd like to put on my own clothes," she said, gazing up at the tree house. "I never thought I'd say it, but I have never ever seen a more beautiful sight than this house and all of you."
Malone hugged her in relief. "I wasn't sure we'd see you again."
"Well, here I am, a little worse for wear," she managed a slight smile. Her friends looked at her sadly.
They went to the tree house. Marguerite walked into the main living area, then the kitchen, and finally stood at the doorway of her bedroom. Sobs shook her slim shoulders. The others stepped back as Roxton consoled her.
"You're home now," he said.
"You don't understand. I couldn't say no! I couldn't fight back!" she cried.
He wrapped his arms around her protectively. "You're safe now. I would kill every single one of them, if I could."
"But what must you think of me?" she whispered. The baffled look on Roxton's face was followed by one of shock, then tenderness. He pulled her to him. The others had faded from view; they were together at last. His mouth hungrily found hers; she responded in kind.
"You are the most beautiful, desirable woman I've ever met!" he declared. "What happened to you wasn't your fault-it wasn't your fault! How could it be? I don't think any less of you, Marguerite. I just thank God I have another chance with you!"
Tears streamed unheeded down her cheeks. "John, I love you!"
"Marguerite Krux," he exclaimed, "Marry me!"