MERRILY, MERRILY, MERRILEE©2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 Martha S. Robinson
"So, what did you find?" asked Merrilee as Bran closed the door behind them.
She turned to face him, still flushed from the sparring match with Eleanor,
and Bran took a long look at her. He pursed his lips under the thick
mustache, pulled off his glasses, and then shook his head in mock despair.
"I have never, in my entire life, heard such a lot of bull," he told her at
last. "You acted like a..."He cast about for words to describe Merrileeís
"Like they expected me to act. If Iíd acted any other way, theyíd have
figured that I wasnít me. That is, that Iím not Marilyn. Look, Bran--isnít
that what you wanted me to do? Weíre in, and Drake has already invited me
into his bedroom. The computer is supposed to be in there. So, tell me, what
did you find?"
"Nothing," Bran said disgustedly. "Drakeís got so damned many buttons and
switches that I didnít have time to try them all before I figured Iíd get
"Youíd better hope that you didnít activate his candid camera."
Bran looked up suddenly. "Come again?"
"I donít mean a security camera, though one wouldnít surprise me. Iím
talking about the one that records his more memorable bedtime activities."
"That filthy..." Bran looked at her with questions in his dark green eyes,
eyes with lashes so long that Merrilee had to force herself to attend to the
conversation. She nodded
"Home movies. Heís invited me to appear in one with him. I even get to
write the script."
Bran stared darkly around the room, and then turned to face her. "You will
not go back into his room with him unless Iím with you."
"Heíd probably like that. Bran, that man has more than a few screws loose."
"I got that idea, too. In your room, everything is elevated, crystal clear,
and in his, everything is sunken and dark. Itís like he puts the woman of
his choice on a pedestal, until he gets her into his room. Then, itís as
though he drags her down into his lair."
"I had the same feeling. I wonder if heís into S&M or bondage." Sheíd
heard of people like that.
"You wonít be finding out." Branís tone left her no doubt as to the way he
felt about their strange host.
"Bran, weíre in this together. Unless you can locate the computer, or I can
access it from my machine, Iíve got to go back. I can only tease the man so
"Damnit, Merrilee!" Bran exploded. "Youíre not going to sleep with that
"I know that, but he doesnít. He thinks that Iím fairly chomping at the
bit to give his waterbed a test run."
At that, Bran sank down in one of the gold satin Louis XIV chairs and
loosened his tie. What was he going to do with Merrilee? He knew what heíd
like to do, but things were a long way from settled with them. And, to have
her getting into this role so effectively worried him. She may have been an
excellent agent, but he didnít like the idea of Drake having fantasies
about her. Bran wanted exclusive rights to the woman, fantasies and all. The
idea was mind boggling, but since it had presented itself, it was clearly
the course to take. It was right, and his job to take care of her. That
alone should be a full time occupation, he thought with dismay.
With interest, Merrilee watched Bran remove his tie. Conscious of the desire
to remove all his clothes, she turned her back to him and pretended to study
the painting of a reclining nude on the wall. She was stunned at the
explicit nature of the oil, her eyes widening, though had she been watching
Bran, she would have been more interested.
"I canít let you out of my sight," Bran muttered, finally.
"Donít worry," she smiled cheerfully, turning back to him. "He thinks that
youíre very jealous, and worried about your job. Heíll expect you to turn
up at odd moments."
"Worried about my job? Exactly what did you tell the man?"
Merrilee grinned mischievously and admitted, "I told him that you were
afraid that your, ugh, services might no longer be required."
"You didnít! You did!" He gave her a glare and shook his head hopelessly.
"This is turning into a very bad farce. We set up this situation, and you
end up being chased by an extremely kinky pervert."
Merrilee eyed him curiously for a moment. "Extremely kinky? Just what did
you find in his room?"
"You really donít want to know."
"But I do."
Bran looked at her, wide-eyed with frank curiosity, and wondered how this
woman-child could continue to amaze him. "Let me put it this way. Donít
open any drawers or closets in there. I thought I knew a good bit, but I
could only guess at what youíd do with some of it." He caught her
speculative glance. "Trust me about this. If you go in there, youíd be
exposed in more ways than one."
"You mean Iíd reveal my..."
"Ignorance," he finished bluntly. "If I donít know what to do with it, you
sure as hell wouldnít."
"Ah, yes," she told him, the imp of perversity perched atop her shoulder
again. "But I could play the innocent maiden ravished by the Savannah Satyr.
Drake would love it." She assumed what she considered an innocent pose, and
fluttered her eyelashes.
"You are disgusting," Bran told her, before dissolving into laughter. "And
here I was worried that you wouldnít be able to carry this off."
"Are you kidding? A few more of Ravenscraftís historical books and I could
probably give lessons. I mean, Aunt Emmaís stuff is romantic, but now and
then her friend, Julia, dabbles in some fairly exotic stuff." Merrilee
yawned and stretched. "I wish I could access his computer tonight."
"I wish we could find the damned thing," Bran grumbled. "It seems that
everything in his room is sunken or concealed in some other way. He has
control panels all over the room, some inside others."
"I know. Did you find the hottub in front of the fireplace?"
"No, but I found his home movie collection."
"Really?" Merrilee was curious to know if she was right.
"Really. I told you, no more forays into his room."
Bran walked into her bedroom and started to unbutton his shirt. Merrilee
followed him, and stood staring at him. He gave a slight smile, and she
pointed out. "This is my room."
"And Iím your roommate."
"I thought you were on the third floor."
"I was before I found out what a pervert Drake really is." Bran turned to
Merrilee and told her. "None of the information we had on him even came
close to an accurate description of the swine he is. I got you into this,
and I intend to see that youíre safe from that jerk."
"Youíre concerned for my virtue?" She gave a short almost bitter laugh.
"That is funny." Shaking her head, she told him. "Iím not afraid of Drake.
He may be a little off the wall in his sexual preferences, but I doubt if heíd force himself on me."
"If the man is into the other things I think heís into, rape wouldnít
bother him at all." Bran was growing more and more certain that they were in
a position that would bear close watching, and wanted Merrilee to take it as
seriously as he did.
"Why do I get the feeling that you arenít telling me everything?" Merrilee
sat on the edge of the bed, and questioned him. "Iíve been around for a
while, and Iíve seen a lot. I know that Iím not all that experienced,
personally, but Iím not dumb. And, I know that you know more than youíre
"I do," he admitted. "While I was upstairs a little while ago, I got a
message from back-up. It may not be only equipment that weíre looking for."
"No? Exactly what the hell are we looking for?" This was taking a decidedly
"People. Minds. In the last few weeks, several top programmers and systems
analysts have disappeared. People capable of extremely sophisticated system
design work who have worked on fairly sensitive projects."
"You mean that man may be exporting brainpower?" Sheíd heard of that, but
considered it unlikely.
"Itís possible. Back-up has also discovered a ring of headhunters--a phony
employment agency securing computer people for an outfit in the South paying
big bucks. This firm is paying all relocation costs and moving them on very
"When did you find out about this?"
"Part of it I already suspected. I knew a systems analyst who took a job
recently and just dropped out of sight. I went to check on him and it was as
though heíd disappeared off the face of the earth."
"If that was the case, then why the song and dance about the information
that might be going over to the enemy?" Merrilee stood up and continued
staring at him. Had he deceived her?
"Because that is the truth. The other was unsubstantiated and it all came
together just a little while ago. Besides, that man I mentioned is a
veritable storehouse of information. Heís a genius, has a photographic
memory, and has recently expressed the opinion that the only way there will
ever be peace on earth is for all countries to have access to the same
weapon power and technology. He has the idealistic belief that if all
countries are equal, there will be nothing to fight over."
Merrilee was disgusted by the manís naivetť. "Thatís an insane idea. Hasnít
he ever heard the old saying about the grass being greener on the other
side of the fence? Even if we were equal, somebody would want to be more
equal than somebody else."
"Exactly. And this man is gone, but as far as we can tell, he hasnít left
the country, at least not through any legitimate exits." Bran sat down on
the bed, sensing that he was going to have to tell her more.
"You mentioned that there are others missing?"
"Ten that we know of." He loosened his belt, unzipped his pants and stepped
out of them. Merrilee watched, fascinated. "There may be more."
"Names?" Merrilee looked at Bran who was down to his under shorts, a skimpy
pair of red silk, chosen, doubtless for the role. She caught her breath in
appreciation. He paused, watching her watch him, and finding it incredibly
erotic. He paused, and smiled. "Names?" she repeated, trying to force her
mind to the job rather than her growing awareness of the way his body
reacted to her gaze.
"Clinical, or colloquial?" Bran gave her a lecherous leer, and she snorted
in disgust, her face reddening as she realized that sheíd been staring
while he removed his shorts. He wrapped a towel around his hips, giving her
a suggestive smirk.
"Names of programmers. And, watch who youíre calling a pervert. From what I
can see, Drake has nothing on you."
"Glad to hear that," Bran smiled, twisting her words. "Though Iím wondering
just how you know that."
"You know very well what Iím talking about," she protested, indignantly.
"Tell me the names of the people who are missing."
"All in good time," Bran promised. "Join me in the bath?"
"You wouldnít." She thought of the crystal tub.
"I would, and I will. If you want to know anything else, come on in."
"Not until youíve checked for cameras." She thought of Drakeís room and
"You have a point there," Bran conceded. "I donít mind sharing my beautiful
body with you, but the rest of the world will just have to get along without
"A conceited pervert, at that," Merrilee muttered as she walked into the
huge bathroom. Bran was walking around the room, a small piece of equipment
in his hand, and a towel wrapped around his person. "Nothing."
"Iím glad to hear that. Just how would you have explained it if youíd
found something? Donít you think that Drake might find it peculiar that my
secretary snoops around strange bathrooms with electronic sensing devices?"
"Not to worry," Bran told her, returning the device to his suitcase. "Iíd
have said that due to your reclusive tendencies, you insist on it. Iíd tell
him that any number of menís magazines have offered huge sums for, shall we
say, revealing pictures of Miss MacKenzie."
"Youíre kidding," Merrilee said, intrigued at the idea. "Iíd have never
thought of that."
"Itís true, anyhow," he grinned. "You know, Iíve often wondered whether or
not Aunt Emma wouldíve taken them up on it if she was fifty years younger."
He recalled a photo of her when she was much younger, and sheíd been a
strikingly lovely young woman.
"That lady might have done it," Merrilee smiled, imagining Aunt Emma in her
twenties. "But, not this one." She followed Bran back into the bathroom
where, totally unselfconsciously, he dropped the towel and turned on the
bath water. Splendidly naked, Branís body held her eyes as she studied him
with frank interest. He was magnificent, she thought, noticing the well
muscled shoulders, and the firm, powerful thighs.....Her thoughts were
taking some decidedly MacKenzian turns when Bran spoke up.
"How about roses?" he asked, turning to look at a vaguely bemused Merrilee.
He smiled, feeling pleased that she liked his body, that she wasnít turned
off by the way she was turning him on.
"In the bath water. Itís either that or musk, and while I donít mind
sleeping in what looks like a gilded cathouse, I donít want to smell that
way." With that pronouncement, he added a measure of the rose oil, and
stepped into the tub. "Join me?"
Merrilee stood motionless for a moment, watching as Bran eased his long body
into the deep crystal tub. It isnít as though youíve never seen him bare.
And itís really a little late to feel modest with him. Besides that, he
knows what you look like, and if he wasnít here, youíd probably be
fighting off Drake. Of course, her inner self pointed out as Merrilee began
fumbling with the zipper, youíve been fantasizing about this all evening.
With that, she stepped out of her shoes and began to remove her nylons.
Merrilee looked up to catch Branís eyes as she unfastened her bra. He was
looking at her with undisguised interest, and the crystal tub only served to
reveal the extent of his arousal. Merrilee tossed the lacy garment aside,
then slowly slid down the tiny beige panties that were the last impediment
to the bath. Walking forward, she stepped up the two transparent stairs to
the tub, and went into it, gliding into the scented water. "Ahhhh," she
sighed, drawing a breath. The water slapped gently at her breasts, and she
slid down deeper into the tub until the fragrant liquid touched her chin.
From across the tub, Bran watched, achingly aware of her. With a great deal
of effort, she assumed a serious pose. "Now, the names of the programmers?"
"Programmers?" Bran managed, hoarsely. Merrileeís body gleamed in the
water, and his thoughts were filled with anything but programmers.
"As in computers and missing." Merrilee was taking a distinct pleasure in
the knowledge that Bran wanted her, and the side of her that had recently
awakened to sensuality was enjoying it immensely. She slid up in the tub,
allowing him a glimpse of her rosy nipples, and then realized that she was
taking as much pleasure in stimulating him as she was giving. "Hoist on my
own petard," she muttered as Bran caught her legs and pulled her over to
him. Seconds later, she found herself straddling his hips, her breasts close
to his mouth. She could feel a greater warmth than the water, and the ache
Bran had felt transferred itself to her. His hands were running up and down
her body, tracing its contours. She was trembling in his arms, needing his
touch, waiting for him to assuage the throbbing emptiness between her
"Please," she whispered, finally closing her eyes. If she never loved again,
if she could never again be held in his arms, surely she had to have him
now. Her love for him was such that she thought nothing could possibly alter
the way she felt.
"Please what?" he asked, softly, reaching up to bring her lips to his. He
forced her to meet his eyes and looked long and questioningly. "Tell me what
you want." His voice was low and ragged, as if it took an effort to speak.
Trapped in his arms, his eyes peering into the depths of her being, she felt
the words pulled from her. "You," she breathed. "I want only you."
Instantly, he caught her lips with his, taking them as a starving man,
kissing deeply and urgently. She was his, wanting only him as he wanted only
her. With his hands, he pulled her hips down to meet his thrust, taking her
"Ahhhh, Merrilee," he murmured into her mouth. Guiding her to match his
movements, he brought her to a level of arousal she hadnít before known,
then sent her into an area of pure sensation before following her himself.
"I could get used to this," she said finally, her body nearly floating in
the warm water. If this was decadence, she was all for it, she mused idly.
She had definitely discovered previously unplumbed depths of herself. That
sounded a bit awkward, but she knew what she meant. With Bran, she could
learn everything there was to learn about making love, learn to please him.
She could be the woman she was born to be. "I could definitely get used to
"One of the perks of the job," Bran smiled lazily. He couldnít ever
remember feeling so good with a woman, so pleased that she was pleased.
Oddly, he thought that much of his pleasure was in seeing her so gratified.
He liked pleasing her, watching her as she reached her own satisfaction
before taking his.
Perks? Her loving mood dampened, she returned, "The job. Yes, the job."
"What were we talking about?" he asked as she turned on the hot water. The
steam from the faucet rose, and she leaned back against the slanted edge of
the tub, determined to act totally casual about the last several minutes. If
he could be so callous about it, so could she. What was it Jake had said
about this business? Donít let them know how you feel. Okay, Jake, she
promised her former mentor. Iíll be cool.
"Programmers," she told him. "Names of the missing programmers."
"Oh yeah. Tom Landaus, Jennifer Logan, Adam OíNeil, Pete Sawyer, Larry
Samuel, and Norman Yates. Waldemar Jaegar is the systems analyst I referred
to earlier. He was also responsible for some hardware designs, as well."
"I know six of them," she told him. "I worked with them at Chandler
Electronics, and Iíve hard of Jaeger. Youíre right about him. He has a
reputation of being an idealistic genius. The others Iíve never met. You
say that theyíre all missing? Youíre positive of this?"
"Yeah. An employment agency sent a recruiter there and from what we heard,
offered them tremendous jobs."
"Didnít Chandler counter offer?"
"Not at double their salary. Theyíd been paid very competitive salaries by
all nationwide standards, and very well in Silicon Valley. But, Chandler was
curious to know who wanted them when the company walked off with some of his
"I should say so. What made him contact your agency?"
"B.E. Chandler is Mike Jacobís step-brother. He told Mike what had
happened, and asked him if heíd ever heard of this company. Mike was
intrigued, to say the least. Interestingly enough, one of their agents was
investigating a similar disappearance--Jaegar--when he heard about these
people. Had the agency been happy with only one programmer from Chandlerís,
it might have gone unnoticed, or if Chandler himself wasnít connected with
Mike." That was true, anyway, more or less.
"Greed was the tip-off?" Merrilee heard about unscrupulous recruiters, and
had even been approached by some, though she preferred to freelance. Sheíd
been offered some impressive money, but after having spent years in the
wild, and then time with Jake, she needed her freedom. Her time at the
university and then at Chandlerís had only served to underline that need.
"In a sense, yes. It also would make the situation look urgent, as if
something was coming down, soon." He slid down a little deeper in the water,
his arms draped loosely over the edge of the tub, savoring the warmth, and
the frankly erotic thought that Merrilee was still naked in the tub with
"What tied Drake to this?"
"Itís taken several days to unravel the chain of command, but after careful
investigation, the trail led to a company owned by a company which is owned
Merrilee sat still, wondering whether or not to be angry with Bran. The
water grew warmer, the steam rose higher, and the more she thought about it,
the more uncertain she became. "Then there never was any stolen
"We believe that there has been, and we still believe that there is
equipment being shipped to potentially hostile countries. Besides, Jaegar
has a photographic memory. The man is incredibly valuable."
"Why the hell didnít you tell me about your suspicions in the first place?"
she demanded. She wanted to know everything and now. If he was hiding
something, she wanted to know. Damn, she needed to know.
"Merrilee, this whole situation is tricky. The less you know, the better off
you are. If something goes wrong, you have very little to tie you to me."
"Oh no? Sleeping in the same bed, bathing together--Iíd say that ties up
pretty well together."
"Thatís our cover. Itís also our protection. Weíre expected to be
together. Besides, if anybody figures out that you arenít Marilyn, you can
always say that you were hired by her to protect her identity. That is the
truth, and it gives you an out."
"Lucky for you that Iím so accommodating," she commented, not the least bit
"Merrilee, donít get angry. I still need access to the computer. The man is
making some use of the programmers, or he may be exporting them. Either way,
there will be a suspicious cash flow to note."
"And if this enterprise is legitimate? Do you have any idea how much trouble
we may be in? There are laws against breaking into computers."
"What about Ďexpanding the legal parameters?í" He reminded her of what sheíd said when theyíd first met. It seemed like ages ago.
"Thatís different. What if those people are happy doing whatever they were
hired to do? What if this is a wild goose chase?"
"If they were happy, why havenít they contacted their families? None of the
relatives of the programmers from Chandlerís have heard from them, and
Maria Jaeger Trane, Waldemarís sister, personally asked Chandler to find
"So Chandler pulled himself away from his other activities long enough to
"Why do I get the feeling that you donít like Chandler."
"Probably because I donít."
"Have you ever met him?"
"No, but he was too busy to go to Melissa and Mikeís wedding and only came
back to Chandlerís several months after Bart, his father, died. From what I
heard, he was busy chasing women in Europe, Africa, South America and the
"Thatís dangerous work," Bran chuckled, noting her disapproval. "Especially
in the Middle East."
"What do you mean?" asked Merrilee, standing up to climb out of the tub. She
drew an indignant breath, causing Bran to catch his. Dripping water from her
naked body, breasts heaving with anger, she presented him a magnificent
picture. "How can chasing women be dangerous?"
"What if one of them had caught him?"