This writer would like to thank her beta reader Jacqueline, thank you! You're the best beta reader anyone could ask! Also I would like to thank all of those people who left their reviews or email me. Your words are an inspiration!
Now onto the last chapter of the story...
As the raucous thunder echoed throughout the plateau, a bright amber flash of light descended on the two motionless bodies. Surging power emanated from them, giving life to one and death to another.
Witnessing this last event, and ignoring the fact that the cave was now unstable and on the brink of collapsing, John Roxton dashed through the falling debris without giving a moment of thought to his life. Kneeling down next to his beloved, his trembling hands lifted her body close to his chest.
Remembrance of her comatose state that she had not long ago endured racked his innermost thoughts. But this time was different; this time he had contributed to her current state. She was dead! Death plagued him everywhere he went. He also had a hand in his brother's fatal accident, not to mention his father's sudden heart failure. His eyes, trying to deny the sight in front of him, blinked through the tears that threatened to spill over onto his dust-covered face. Cradling her warm limp body, he held onto to her for dear life; uncontrollable sobs of anger emanated from him, racking his body with terrible tremors of loss, pain and anger.
A tingling electrifying sensation forced him to drop her body to the ground. His handsome features twisted in pain as he watched her lifeless body tremble with violent convulsions. Agonising seconds passed before her convulsions finally ceased and once again her body became inert. Acting as a frame his lunged his body over her, instantly shielding her from the descending debris that began showering them. As if on cue, Marguerite's eyes opened. Her grey-green eyes were frightfully alert; her hands flung wildly around as her suffocated lungs urged her for oxygen.
"Marguerite!" Total shock was apparent in the hunter's shaken features. "BREATHE!" He pleaded as he struggled with an alarmed heiress that now clutched tightly onto his shirt. A startling rumbling noise brought the heiress out of her trance. She had been in so much shock that the most essential thing, breathing, had been forgotten. Like a wild animal her eyes darted around the room as she gasped air into her strained lungs.
Across the room, the rest of the explorers had watched the events unfold; they too were aghast at the strange occurrence. No doubt the ritual had taken place. Behind Veronica and Assai, the moonlight rays illuminated an opening that, thanks to Marguerite's powers, Challenger had managed pry open.
"Roxton! Marguerite!" George Challenger urged his friends to follow him. The tremors told him that the cave couldn't possibly hold on much longer.
In one swoop, Roxton lifted Marguerite off the ground, and with long strides he made a run for the exit. Not sooner had he made it halfway towards the others when Challenger yelled a warning. Stopping dead in his tracks, he could only stare in horror at the large boulder that was about to hit them. Closing his eyes, he prayed to the almighty.
Prying his eyes open, he couldn't believe his luck. To his amazement the whole cave had stopped shaking. Large pieces of rocks stood frozen in mid air. As fast as he could Roxton raced for the exit.
Concentrating as hard as he could, Professor Challenger stood at the cave entrance, eyes closed. A serious expression drained his face of any emotion. Using Marguerite's power he had managed to buy them more time, but he didn't know how long it would last.
Once safely out of the cave, they all watched as the cave crumpled to the ground. Around them were at least half of the Zanga warriors. A very distraught Assai rushed to her husband's side; tears of happiness ran freely down her cheeks. Embracing her husband brought some relief from the horror of those torturous weeks she had spent under Orak's control.
After explaining the events to the perplexed yet vengeful Zanga warriors, they silently headed back to the Zanga village.
Marguerite's abused body held onto Roxton tightly; her arms were wrapped around him, and her hair fell around her, covering her tear-stained face. Ashamed of anyone seeing her in that state, she burrowed even deeper into his chest. Feeling Marguerite try to shrink in on herself, Roxton became rigid and tense. He walked as carefully as possible. It pained him to feel her body trembling with every step, as silent sobs shook her delicate form. Tightening his grip, he bent his head ever so slightly. His lips met the top of her head, and he dropped a feather-light kiss on her dark curls. His green eyes sparkled in the moonlight, but the light came from unshed tears of defeat and rage. He, too, felt the pain and agony of not being able to do anything. All the time he had been controlled by that madman, he had been unable to do anything. He had hurt his friends, hunted them down like prey. Visions of Veronica and Malone running for their lives invaded his mind.
Behind them, Veronica and Malone walked side by side in complete and utter silence. The day's event had finally taken its toll on them; their faces were now drained of whatever energy they had possessed. Their appearance, pale and silent, was quite ghostly. Tired and exhausted, they wanted to just collapse anywhere.
Arriving at the Zanga village, they were greeted by the chief and the rest of the Zanga, who expectantly awaited the news of the capture or death of the madman. Approaching his father-in-law, Jarl related the events and the destruction of Orak. Assai, too, joined in, filling in her husband's story with intricate details. She explained how Orak had been killed, freeing them of his reign. At hearing these, the Zanga warriors rejoiced with relief and thanks.
Promptly afterwards, the explorers were shown to their sleeping quarters. Entering the small hut, Roxton laid Marguerite gently on the mattress. Exhaustion had forced her body into a peaceful slumber.
"How is she?" Roxton asked in a whisper as he gently stroked Marguerite's hand.
"She's fine, her wounds are healing nicely. By tomorrow morning she'll be as good a new," Challenger replied as he rested his hand on the distressed hunter's tense shoulder.
Bidding him goodnight with a slight peck on the cheek and a warm smile, Veronica reassured the hunter of Marguerite's sure recovery. Malone too offered his assurance, but they felt it was best if they left. Veronica knew there was more to Roxton's staying than just concern for Marguerite, though she knew that was a driving force. She remembered how stupid and ashamed she felt when she had been completely been controlled by that maniac claiming to be her father. Leaving the two alone, Malone and Veronica headed out to their respective huts. They had agreed to share for the night; they were complying with the hunter's wishes, as he was set on staying the night with Marguerite. As Challenger was also sharing a hut they had been left with no other choice.
Beside the sleeping heiress, her other half watched her attentively; guilt on her current state consumed his now tired body.
Underneath the thick cotton covers, the stirring of the now wide-awake hunter was all that could be heard. As he carefully shifted positions, his face expressed a happiness that wasn't there the night before.
Waking up in the lovely arms of the heiress was not what he had expected when he woke up that morning. Not that, he didn't welcomed it, far from it; he always treasured the small moments of intimacy that they shared every so often. He had simply not thought she would have recovered enough. Unaware that she had awakened, he continued playing with her beautiful curls. Carefully twisting one lock around his fingers, his roguish grin widened at the though of her ever finding out. Much to his shock, Marguerite's face turned to meet his astonished face. Her big beautiful eyes had been staring at him all the time!
Propping herself up the heiress whispered against his ear. "Good morning." Her tone was blissful.
His green eyes echoed in her joy. Sitting up on the mattress, he took in the view. Her dark hair was tousled and her clothes rumpled, but her lovely face was free of pain or fear. "You had a nice sleep?" he asked her with a gentle smile.
"I guess so, I feel so alive, so..." She trailed off as she deep in a deep breath and collapsed back on the pillows with a sigh of contentment. Her spirit rejoiced with the beauty of life.
He didn't remember quite fully what had happened the night before, but this beautiful woman at his side was enough to lift up his feelings. The fact that he was fully dressed indicated that nothing more than a bit of cuddling had happened.
He stretched out next to her and traced the contours of her face. He cupped her cheek in his large hand and drew her closer to him. Their faces were inches apart; lips about to touch and hungry for more, when Marguerite heard a noise.
"John!" She pulled away as two familiar faces peered through the entrance.
"Didn't mean to interrupt," Veronica said, trying to conceal the big smile that threatened to erupt from her now pursed lips.
"Not to rush you or anything, but we are getting ready to leave." An impish grin grazed Malone's face before he hastily retreated, fearing the wrath of the couple inside.
The view was superb from up here,Challenger thought. Leaning on the cane for support, he took a minute to admire the vast view from the valley he had just climbed out of. Stroking his beard in a detached manner, he examined his surrounding. He could see the treehouse, a few of the familiar landmarks and most of all his fellow explorers. From this distance he could still see that the couples were holding hands. Smiling approvingly at this sudden demonstration of affection, nonetheless a deep sigh accompanied by a weak smile crossed his now wistful features.
Glancing back for one final look he continued the trek that would eventually take him to his current home of the past three years. A home that nonetheless he had come to love. His adopted family gave him the full family feeling that he had long been searching for. He missed Jessie; that was the hard truth. Back in London, where he once though he had it all, he had often spent too much time in his laboratory, working for that ephemeral hint of glory. Not once had he given a thought on the effects his work would have on his marriage. His wife, for the most part, put up with a lot of his temper and neglect. Too much time in that bloody lab! Expressing his sentiments had been long over due, and he only hoped that he would one day be able to relate these new revelations to his wife.
A mile away, the youngest couple held a steady loving gaze, a gaze that could be described as pure devotion. Since departing from the Zanga Village, both of the couples had found some way to continually touch, holding hands, sharing a kiss or two, whispering lover's things. Behind the younger couple, Marguerite and Roxton walked casually. However, their hands were locked together and resounding pleasured echoed in their faces.
Breaking away from his Marguerite, but not before giving her a quick peck on the cheek. Lord Roxton sped up to catch with the young couple. Startling Malone, he rustled his hair in that brotherly way he always did. He ran toward the bushes, calling over his shoulder, "Neddy boy, race you to the pond."
The younger man shrugged his shoulders, kissed Veronica soundly on the lips and ran after his competition.
"Men!" In unison the two women rolled their eyes.
Around midday, Marguerite, Veronica and Challenger set foot inside the treehouse. Almost immediately Marguerite headed straight for the closest chair she could find. She was exhausted; all she wanted to do was sit there and rest for the remainder of the day. Not sleep, but rest. She didn't feel sleepy at all. She only wanted to rest her aching muscles and allow her mind to wrestle with the events that had happened over the last couple of months. She didn't know where the men got their strength. She had felt so alive and happy this morning, but now she felt like she was ready to collapse. Powers and all!
She had observed that the Professor was the only one in good form. She supposed it had something to do with him possessing her newfound powers. Slightly closing her heavy eyelids, she continued to examine her thoughts.
In the kitchen Veronica retrieved a basket of fruit. The jungle beauty was still using her crutches to go around. Her ankle didn't hurt or bother her anymore, but the professor had insisted on her wearing them to make sure she didn't inadvertently re-injure herself. He had been speculating on Marguerite having some healing abilities, as her injuries were nearly healed, even though she had been hurt worse than Veronica.
"Marguerite? George?" Veronica offered them an assortment of fruits from the basket.
The heiress grimaced at the sight of them. "No thanks," she said as she pushed them away.
"Thank you." Challenger retrieved an apple which he began cutting into pieces with a knife.
Marguerite was once again beginning to get in a comfortable position when her rest was suddenly cut short by the arrival of the men who were returning from their bath. Ned was the first to step out of the lift, followed closely by Roxton. Both of the men left their guns on the rack and joined the others in the living room.
Taking a seat next to Challenger, Roxton still couldn't remember all of what had happened. Malone and Challenger had filled him in on the details. He still couldn't believe it; but then again he had seen how George had stopped the cave from collapsing on top of them. They all became quiet, remembering the events of the past few days.
"I've got something to tell you," Malone said, breaking the silence. "When Veronica and I disappeared, we didn't get lost as we told Challenger. We found ourselves somewhere in Peru."
"Peru?" Roxton asked in shock.
"We must have gone through some kind of portal," Malone said, trying to explain.
"A portal you said...is that how you came back?" an intrigued Challenger asked.
Malone shook his head. "At first we couldn't find our way back, as the first portal we went through closed, but then another one opened."
"Two portals! This I have to see," Challenger exclaimed with the zeal of a scientist discovering something new.
"What are we waiting for?" Marguerite asked as her fatigue suddenly fled. "It may be our last chance to go home."
An hour later, all of the explorers peered down the slope.
"Well! Where is it?" Marguerite asked as she examined her surroundings.
"There's only on way to find out." Roxton began taking a long rope out of his rucksack, and with Malone's help, they tied it to the trunk of a tree.
Roxton was the first one to descend, and the rest followed.
Malone turned around, clearly disappointed. " It's not here." He continued checking behind the tall trees. It had to be here!
"We have to consider the possibilities that the portal wasn't stable enough to hold through," George Challenger warned them as they all gave up looking for it.
Squeezing Malone's arm softly, Veronica nodded her head in disappointment. They were too late; the portal had already close.
Marguerite, Challenger and Roxton stood opposite them; their faces saddened in disappointment. They weren't to give hope up that easily, assuring Malone there be other opportunities. They were all too grateful to be alive! They had gone through quite an ordeal.
On their way back no one spoke a word. Malone, Challenger and Veronica walked side by side, while Marguerite and Roxton dragged way behind. Veronica understood her friends; they wanted to get back, just as much as she wanted to find her parents. On her stay at the Hacienda, she hadn't exactly seen the luxuries of the civilised world that she had often heard Marguerite talk about, but then she had been informed South America was just am undeveloped continent. Undeveloped or not, she had liked it there.
Silently walking beside Roxton, Marguerite pondered the uneventful trip. How much had she wanted it to be there? She missed her London life, even with all its perils. The portal had disappeared. Something about them being unstable, Challenger had said. Gazing at the man beside her, she remembered. "Veronica!" she called as she ran towards her blonde friend.
Roxton watched her as she begged Veronica for something, pulling her to the side out of earshot of the others. What was she up to? Roxton stepped up his pace and joined Challenger and Malone.
"Marguerite! I'm tired," Roxton heard Veronica try to dissuade her friend from whatever favour she had just asked. "Can't it wait until tomorrow?"
"What do you think she wants?" Malone turned to Roxton and asked him.
"When it comes to woman? Who knows, but when it comes to Marguerite, I find its better not to ask."
After convincing Veronica in joining her in her little excursion, both of the women began walking in the opposite direction. "Hey boys, we'll be back in an hour...no need to ask... we are going down to the watering hole."
"The watering hole is that way."
It had been an hour since they had parted. Challenger, Malone and Roxton sat around the living room, discussing the possibilities of the portal reappearing again.
"We could set up a camp," suggested Malone.
"It could work, but we don't know if it'll open in the same place."
"But is worth a try, I suppose if..." Stopping short, George announced, "The girls are back."
"I don't hear the lift."
"They are just entering the perimeter."
Passing behind him, Roxton gave him a small pat on his shoulder. "Enjoy those powers while you have them; that's all I can say. You don't know how long they're going to last."
The rumbling sound of the lift announced the arrival of the two women. Laughter erupted as the lift came to a stop. Inside, Veronica and Marguerite both had huge grins on their faces.
Before retiring to her bedroom, the brunette turned to Veronica to thank her for accompanying her.
"What was that all about?" Roxton and Malone asked in unison.
"A secret," Veronica said as she left, her girlish giggles echoing throughout the treehouse.
Yawning all the way to his bedroom, Malone walked clumsily as he could barely keep his eyes open. Three of his house companion remained in the living room.
Challenger had had no desire to sleep; instead, he chose to join Roxton in smoking one of the many cigars they had traded for in one of the villages.
Marguerite sat in a chair on the balcony, her whole body basking in the last crimson rays of the sun. She held her legs to her chest; arms wrapped around them. She seemed far away, her eyes transfixed on the horizon.
Delighting in the flavour of his cigar, Roxton's face expressed his satisfaction. His sensuous lips curled into a satisfying smile; he found the aroma of the cigar soothing, and it helped him relax. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Challenger. Roxton could tell that he was enjoying his cigar as much as Roxton himself was.
All of the sudden, the peace and quite he had been relishing was rudely interrupted by a certain brunette's singing; if he could even call it that! "Marguerite! Do you have to?" He turned to her and immediately felt sorry for disturbing her; she'd looked so serene. But now her delicate features turned into an irritated scowl.
"Lord Roxton! If it annoys you so much, why don't you leave the room?" She hadn't even noticed she had been doing it, but that bird song had been once again brought out, and now the nostalgic lyrics escaped her lips. Leaving her seat, she walked toward the Professor. "George doesn't seem to mind."
"Not at all my dear, it reminds me of my wife," he said as he tried to appease the situation.
"Why, thank you." A smug look crossed her beautiful features. Giving Roxton an "I don't give a damn about your opinion" look, she proceeded to her room.
Once she was out of earshot, Challenger leaned closer to Roxton. "She really does remind me of my wife. She wasn't much of a singer, either." Both of the men chuckled.
"I heard that!" Marguerite shouted as she came back out. Arms akimbo, she stared back at the two men, who apparently didn't think she had any vocal talent.
The two men straightened themselves up. Could they ever escape the heiress's acute hearing?
"I'll have you know I was quite sought after in Paris." Leaning closer to Roxton, she continued. "And not only for my singing," she murmured, her voice dropping into a throaty purr that made Roxton aware that it was very hot in the treehouse. His eyes widened as her tongue darted out to touch her lower lip, and he couldn't tear himself away from contemplating her soft mouth.
"I'll be in the lab if someone needs me," Challenger said hastily to excuse himself. It was obvious where this was going, and he did not want to be in the middle of it. He had heard enough of their complaints about the privacy that they lacked.
"I guess there is not accounting for taste," Marguerite sighed as she watched his departure.
Sensing her playful manner, Roxton stood up and slowly approached her, even as she noticed and took a step backward for every one of his steps forward, her tiny grin nearly driving him to distraction.
"Something you want?" Arching her eyebrows in a questionable, yet teasing manner, she moved backwards until she hit the wall and waited there, watching him approach her with determination in his step.
"Depends on what..."
"You are offering," she said, finishing his sentence. She remembered clearly the little flirting game they had occupied themselves with after the druids had captured them.
"About what I said earlier..." Brushing her index finger against his lips, she stopped him speaking by planting a smouldering kiss on his welcoming mouth. Responding fervently by pulling her closer and burying one hand in her thick hair, John Roxton asked himself what he had done to deserve this.
Pulling apart reluctantly, they stared deeply into each other's eyes. "I could get use to this," he remarked, pulled her closer. She, however, put her hands to his chest to push him away from her.
"Um...John, I'm kind of tired. You don't mind if we continue this later?" Wiggling out of his embrace, she started for her room.
"Later?" He looked at her in a quizzical way, almost not sure if he had heard her right.
"Later," she promised, throwing him a sultry glance from beneath her lashes. Just as he started towards her again, she gave him a little laugh and blew him a kiss before retreating to her bedroom.
There's no way she's going to get out of this one,the rugged hunter thought. He could hardly wait until later. The question was, how much later?
But later did come, and to his surprise, so did something else. As he recalled the last few happiest hours of his life, his face took a new life and a contented expression spread across his features.
It had been quite funny, too. Here he had been, in his bedroom, all hot and bothered. Much like most nights, when the thought of Marguerite made sleep impossible. At the memory he chuckled ever so slightly. Shifting in the bed, he continued remembering.
After his little saucy flirting match with the quite lustrous Miss Krux, he had gone to his bedroom in search of some sleep. But sleep was far from what his body and soul had in mind. He had spent a fair bit of time tossing and turning in his bed, when all of the sudden he had felt it.
He had lost it, he was sure of that. The blasted ring had fallen in that pit. But now the ring was sitting snugly around his finger. Moving his hand from underneath his pillow, he stared at the ring he thought he had lost. Marguerite! So that's what the little minx had been doing. Reaching for his pants and shirt, he left for her room. He had found her in her bed, not asleep. She seemed to be contemplating the events of the day. Her face was expressionless, and her large eyes were fixed on the ceiling. Approaching her, he cleared his throat, letting her know of his presence.
"John! What is it?" She quickly raised herself on her elbows, her brow furrowed with concern.
"I'm fine, I just came to thank you." Shaking his pinkie, he sat next to her.
"Oh, it was nothing!" Grinning, she sat straight up. "These powers had to be useful for something."
"What I can't figure out is how you slipped the ring on without me noticing."
"Lord Roxton, perhaps you think you are the only one with talent?" She raised on elegant eyebrow as she moved closer to him.
"And which talents might that be?" His face was mere inches away from her.
"Would you like me to demonstrate?"
He cocked an eyebrow and responded, "Allow me."
His gentle hands cradled her face as he softly touched his lips to hers. However, it wasn't enough, and his breath grew hotter as every kiss sent her deeper into the abyss of pure ecstasy. Soon her breath became as shallow and ragged as her companion's was. More! More! Her body screamed with anticipation. His parted lips explored a little place behind her ear. Moist kisses showered her naked nape, and a soft sound escaped her as his lips sent shivers down her spine. Brushing off the strand of hair that hung loosely over her face, he whispered in her ear his profession of love. Her face lit up with happiness, and her smile grew wider as her fingers combed his soft short hair. She threw her head back as he trailed tiny kisses down her neck and nuzzled into the delicate skin at the hollow of her throat.
This was it; there was no going back. She pulled his head up and looked into his eyes, whispering her love to him. "John, I love you. Please don't stop." His smile nearly blinded her with its brilliance, and her mouth found his, savouring his ardent kisses.
Looking down at her now, nestled securely in his arms, he smiled and dropped a light kiss on her head, savouring the fragrance of her hair. He drew her closer to him, and she sighed in her sleep and snuggled into his chest.
"I promise, Marguerite, I will never stop loving you."
I thought I never finish this thanks to all the people who review this, your words were encouraging. Now to finish Father, where art thou? Which is coming slowly but I'll get there. So if you bear with me, I'll soon have it finish. And to all those people who email me regarding The Quest, that too is coming slowly but I'm getting there. I know it was about time.
Now Evil Irish Eyes, you guess right. Marguerite did indeed use her new-found powers to get back Roxton's precious ring. And Steffi and Lin remember our little chat, you did indeed guess a couple of the things. And sorry for teasing you for the story, I couldn't help it. But now that is finished, I hope it lived up to your expectations. For any one that is asking, there will be a sequel, focusing on a certain man's struggle to fund a rescue expedition, the clue is in the last chapter.
Thanks for reading it and for the last time hit that review button.