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Summary: If you took my dare and read the first one, this one will blow you away. Summary: Six months after returning from Seattle, Horatio's life has descended into chaos and turmoil...

Categories: CSI: Miami - Ship Ahoy! > Horatio/other female
Characters: Alexx Woods, Calleigh Duquesne, Eric Delko, Horatio Caine, Original Character, Ryan Wolfe
Genres: Action/Adventure, Case, Drama, Romance, Series
Warnings: Adult themes
Chapters: 33 [Table of Contents]
Series: None

Word count: 70421; Completed: Yes
Updated: 11 Jul 2006; Published: 08 Jul 2006

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Miami, Florida

Schell Demereau sat back from her easel, very carefully lifting a thin-edged metal ruler and a palette knife up and away from her canvas, casting a critical eye over the results. Crucial rigging for a Spanish galleon had been coming to life for the better part of a day under her meticulous, careful work and as she pursed her lips, frowning in thought, she wondered for the umpteenth time if she had it right.

Letting out a sigh, she sat forward, dipping the brush in a can of water and tapping it rapidly against the side before pulling it out to wipe it and the ruler on a rag draped over her left knee. The ship in question --the Nuestra Senora de Atocha-- (with a gaping hole in her bow and a broken main mast dragging her over) was being swamped by hurricane-fed waves before she would slip under the surface of the waters and sink with today's equivalent of 400 million dollars worth of Spanish treasure.

The Atocha promptly became Florida's most famous shipwreck.

Schell gave the painting another look, squinting and turning her gaze before becoming captivated by the view outside the bank of windows before her. The view never failed to leave a smile on her face. The public beach at Lummus Park stretched in magnificent whiteness north to south and the deep sea blue waters of the Atlantic went as far east as the eye could see. It was a stunning view and worth every penny she was paying for it. The huge 4th floor apartment, in a converted warehouse, had a three-quarter wrap around porch and was placed two blocks from the beach proper. The layout of the place capitalized on all the views facing north, south, and east. It was bright and sunny and the two level floor space had been converted by a previous artist tenant into a studio / apartment combo. Schell, finding herself in an extraordinary circumstance, had snapped it up as soon as she was able.

One slight drawback was the desire to open the sliding glass doors. She had quickly found out, in her move to a hot humid state, that she was nowhere near prepared for the humidity and had quickly become an A/C junkie. Yet new acquaintances had reassured her that once hurricane season was over, the temperatures became more tolerable and she could enjoy the porch to its fullest extent. She longed to be able to listen to the surf, again.

She was contemplating the propane grill she had set up out there when an electronic chirping dragged her from her thoughts. Scowling, she looked over at the desk to where her computer sat, chirping away. With a sigh, she rose, setting the rag and tools on a nearby table and walked up the two steps to the main floor, heading for the computer. A jiggle of the mouse cleared the screen and revealed a message from her calendar program and organizer that she needed to check it for an important event.

A sinking dread hit her and she glanced at the clock, announcing it was approaching 6:00pm. She clicked on the button for her message and saw to her dismay that it was the night for the formal dedication of Miami's newest and most expensive civic and convention center. Starting at 8 o'clock, to be exact, and it was a very formal affair.

"Oh, damn!" she hissed, staring at the clock again, before turning around and snatching up her phone. Hitting the redial, she paused, then groaned again as the answering machine on the other line picked up.

"Lionel!" she cried in despair. "I'm running late! Wait for me," she implored before hanging up and dashing for the shower. As she started the water running, she silently damned the need to be a representative for the Florida Maritime Heritage Trust on top of being their current artist on commission. Twenty minutes later, wrapped in a towel, she headed for her bedroom, walked into the closet and pulled out a long black garment bag.

Since she had to dress the part, she at least had the gown to do it in. Unzipping the case, she pulled it out and began fussing with it. A Darius Cordell design; the gown was totally sleeveless with a high choker collar. The front bodice was all concealing but it swept around and down to a fully exposed back where the fabric fell in sensuous convex curves at the lower waist before the gown's skirt dropped to ankle length. The dress was in a deep royal blue silk charmeuse and liberally sprinkled with a myriad of tiny clear glass and silver beads.

Turning, she returned to the bathroom, where she bent over and furiously towel dried her hair. Nimble fingers quickly worked her hair into a French braid, the tail of which she tucked up and away before she began teasing lose wisps of hair to form a frame around her face. Her hair was by far her most outstanding feature, she thought to herself, and after all the years of fighting against it, she had finally discovered what an asset it was.

Prematurely grey, her hair was almost pure white, with just a touch of silver at the temples.

Returning, she put on a half-slip before putting the dress on, then turned towards the wall opposite her bed and looked in dismay at the stack of neatly arranged moving boxes still sitting there. She heaved a sigh; she hadn't even come close to finishing unpacking from her move to Miami. Reaching for the top box, she set it on the bed, then took the lid off the second one, where she rummaged around in some clothes before pulling out a slim black jewelry box.

She set it on the bed to put the other box away and then picked up the jewelry case. As she headed for the bathroom again, she opened the jewelry box, revealing a pair of stunning diamond and sapphire earrings. A small white card also slipped out, fluttering like an autumn leaf to the floor. She paused, holding the jewelry box in one hand and stooped to pick up the card.

As she flipped it over she felt as if someone had dumped a bucket of cold water all over her.

On one side of the card was the badge of the Miami-Dade County Sheriff's department. Printed on the other lower corner was the name Lieutenant Horatio Caine, Miami-Dade County Crime Lab, followed by two numbers and a penned-in third.

Schell stared at it, suddenly remembering that in her final days of packing she had decided to put the card in a safe place. So safe she promptly forgot where she had put it. Memories flooded her thoughts as she stared at the card, events that had occurred what seemed another lifetime ago, yet in reality had been just a little over six months.

Six months...

She could still see him clearly in her mind's eye; almost 6 feet tall, he was lean and deceptively built, actually rather muscular, but that was all well concealed by his excellent taste in clothes. Yet he had three outstanding features which had haunted her for days on end after he had left Seattle. He had incredible blue eyes, which often were vividly contrasted by his beautiful red-gold hair and a gentleness, especially where she was concerned, that had left her feeling bereft for days after he had gone.

Even now, she was feeling that utter sense of loss on top of disgust with herself for having put the card in the jewelry box and forgetting that that was where she had hidden it.

"Call me..." he had said when she was settled into Miami, and all she could do was search a phone book for the Miami-Dade number. She had called him, and had gotten the receptionist, some three weeks previous, and he had never returned the call.

Six months...

Schell sighed, silently damning defense lawyers hired by wealthy clients. The team representing Randall Thorpe in his attempted murder trial had pulled every legal trick in the book to prevent her from making her contractual move to Miami and had damn near succeeded in the attempt. However, the prosecution team and the civil suit lawyers had stepped up to the plate, along with several others representing the Maritime Trust folks she had signed on commission for, and she was finally able to get out of Seattle.

But so much time had passed, so many things had happened.

As she stared at the card, she wondered if she should try the cell phone number he had written down. Would he respond? Surely he'd gotten the message that she had called and he hadn't responded then. She looked at the card sadly... after all this time he had probably moved on with his life. Who was she kidding? What would he want with someone more than 15 years younger then himself? Not to mention being her rescuer? Or the fact that she certainly didn't mingle in the social circles he was accustomed to? They were in totally different spheres of life. Sighing again, she felt a keen sense of despair as she lowered her hand and looked about the half-furnished apartment.

An electronic buzz, not belonging to her computer, jerked her out of her melancholy. With alarm, she looked into her huge open kitchen at the large, ornate, wrought -iron gate to a cargo elevator. Next to it (on the left) was an intercom connecting to the first floor parking garage.

"Oh, damn!" She hissed again, searching around a moment before locating a matching handbag to her gown. In it went the business card, then she fumbled the earrings out of the jewelry box and dashed to the intercom as it buzzed again.

"Yeah?!" she called out, after jabbing the button.

"You're late, Demereau." A man's voice, heavy with a Southern accent, joked.

"Lionel! Give me two more minutes," she pleaded.

"We're gonna be late, darlin'" he warned jovially.

"It's fashionable, right?" she shot back, trying to put on an earring.

His chuckle came through the intercom, "That right, that's what they say, anyway, hurry up, then."

"I'll be right down," she promised and promptly headed for the bathroom, still trying to put in the earrings.

Five minutes later, she watched the elevator door open, reaching up to pulled the gate back when she spotted the limousine waiting there. Next to it was a tall, white haired man looking dashing in a tuxedo. Pulling the gate back, she stared at him and the car.

"A limo?" she asked him as he stared at her.

"Have mercy, Demereau! It's gonna be an honour having you on my arm tonight," he drawled, smiling in approval. "Turn around, darlin', let's take a look see."

"You better hope I last, these shoes are killers..." she said, doing a slow pirouette. Wearing stiletto heels that matched the gown put her height up to the man's shoulder. She had an intricately knitted white shawl draped about her arms and clutched the little handbag to her.

Lionel Harrison, the Florida Maritime Heritage representative, gave Schell a warm approving smile and shook his head. "You look superb, Schell. You are gonna do us proud, tonight, especially now that we got that exhibit set up for your paintings."

"A very welcome and timely exhibit, I might add. The moving expenses down here were hideous," she said, approaching the limousine.

"Well if those damn Yankees up north hadn't have tried to prevent you coming, we wouldn't have had to pay for the shipping costs of our painting!"

"Westerners, Lionel!" Schell joked, "We're Westerners."

"Darlin' I've told you time and again, once you get above the Kentucky-West Virginia line, you are a Yankee, and because you moved down here to live, you are a..."

"Damn Yankee," they echoed together and Schell laughed.

"And so the 'War Between The States' rages on to this day."

"Never say die, darlin'" he drawled. "And I am certainly wishing I was thirty years younger then I am tonight. You look truly beautiful, my dear."

"Thank you, Lionel." Schell blushed and smiled at the older man. "You certainly don't look bad yourself. Yet I do envy your wife being able to say no to coming to these events."

"We're employees, as she is so fond of pointing out, whereas she is not." he joked, opening the limousine door for her. "Shall we?"

"Do I have to go to work?" She asked, climbing in. Lionel chuckled as he followed her inside.

"Realities of life, darlin', it sucks don't it?"