by Karen May (Maydock)- NIghthawk Commando

 Thursday, noontime...my gosh! Would the end of the week EVER arrive? Aislynn
 Edwards didn't think so. These past couple of weeks had been so hectic for
 her, trying to finish up some of her last minute shopping before heading
 east from the city to the small town community where she was raised, to
 spend the Christmas holidays with her family and friends. She was beginning
 to tire of this city life and of the prestigious legal secretary's job she
 had held these past five years. It was time to seriously consider
 downgrading her lifestyle, if such a thing would be possible, and try to
 enjoy life at a more leisurely pace. Several months had gone by since the
 dissolution of a long term relationship she had been involved in, and she
 had managed just fine on her own. Many of her nights and weekends were now
 filled with loneliness,  but she preferred that to the way she had been
 treated by her cheating boyfriend. 

 Christmas just wouldn't be the same this year without her Aunt Ramona. The
 family had had to suffer through the grueling ordeal of losing their beloved
 relation to cancer just this past summer. Aislynn  had been particularly
 close to her father's youngest sister, sharing her innermost thoughts and
 dreams, driving away their summer weekends in search of bargains at local
 yard sales, and just the fact that her aunt had been there for her most
 times when her parents could not offer any assistance to some of Aislynn's
 personal problems, especially with the recent break up of her relationship. 

 Aislynn was glad for the fact that her aunt had not suffered long. Within
 three months of her diagnosis, she was gone. There had been no need for the
 horrid radiation and chemotherapy treatments. The cancer had not  been
 detected in its early stages, and had progressed so suddenly that there was
 no time for treatment. Aislynn made the most that she could of the last few
 precious months she had spent with her aunt. When speaking with her mother a
 week ago, she was devastated to learn that her aunt's house had been rented
 already. To a bunch of strangers! How could they? Her mother had used the
 excuse that the extra income would certainly come in handy for them. They
 had inherited the modest but comfortable twenty-five acre country estate
 that included a guest house, after Ramona's death. Actually, it was Aislynn
 who had inherited the property. She had left it in the hands of her family
 to be cared for in her absence. It was her intention to return to live at
 this property when she had decided to move back to her hometown roots. This
 is why it came as such a shock to her when she had spoken with her mother. 

 "Oh mother! How could you? Please, I don't understand! Aunt Mona has been
 gone barely five months and already you have moved strangers into her house!
 If it's because of the money, why didn't you say so? I could help you out.
 You know that! Besides, I trusted you to look after the property for me
 while I was here in the city, busy working. I was planning on using the
 estate for myself someday in the near future," Aislynn cried as she tried to
 reason with her mother.

 "Aislynn, please! You are making such a big deal out of this. We felt it
 best to have the house occupied for awhile. You know what things have been
 like around here with all the burglaries and vandalism that have been going
 on. We were approached by this very nice handsome young man wanting to know
 if we might be interested in possibly renting to him and his friends for a
 period of about six months or so. He seemed so...so personable that I
 couldn't see any reason not to. You did sign the property over to us, you
 know, to look after as we see fit. He made us an offer that we simply could
 not refuse, and within days he and his friends had moved in. The guest house
 is still available. They said they have no need for it as there is plenty of
 room in the main house. Really Aislynn, he was such a nice man. Wait until
 you meet him! His name is Templeton Peck. Now, isn't that just something
 right out of one of your romance novels?" Aislynn's mother continued on
 about what a nice bunch of guys they were, how handsome AND available this
 ladies' man Templeton Peck had appeared to be, and so on. Aislynn still
 found it difficult to accept. Four men? Hmmph, they were no doubt gay. What
 kind of a name was 'Templeton' anyway? And what did her mother say the other
 names were? Bosco Baracus, John Smith [now there's a believable moniker],
 and H.M. Murdock. 

 According to her mother, these guys were some sort of former military types
 who were on an extended vacation in Canada to do a little fishing and
 hunting, as they put it. True enough, this certainly was a great area for
 the fishing. Even in the wintertime it was becoming a popular sport to go
 ice fishing. Now the hunting part she didn't understand as that was usually
 seasonal only during the late autumn months. Whatever their reasons for
 being here, it didn't matter much to Aislynn. Her mother had told her that
 she would still have use of the guest house when she came down to stay for
 the holidays. Her parents knew that she just was not comfortable being
 around them for any length of time and that she preferred her own private
 space, as Aislynn referred to it. Thank goodness the guest cabin was private
 enough from the main house on the estate that Aislynn wouldn't have to put
 up with these guys in any way. With the tree-lined lane way leading the
 quarter mile from the main house, it was barely visible to anyone. At least
 she would be able to come and go as she pleased without the people in the
 main house knowing any different. Well, time would tell as Aislynn once
 again studied the clock that seemed to be operating in slow motion only.


 Friday at last! Aislynn had managed to get away from work early as everyone
 began winding down their operations at the law firm until after the New
 Year. Only the most serious cases would be consulted upon during the holiday
 season, and Aislynn had already been informed that her services probably
 would not be needed anytime before the end of the holidays. This suited her
 just fine and, with coat and gloves in hand, she made her way to the parking
 garage and began mentally preparing herself for the busy drive home. She had
 packed her Jimmy the night before and wasn't even going to take the time to
 change out of her business suit before she left the office. She couldn't get
 out of the city limits fast enough!

 Sure enough, traffic was backed up nearly a mile just at the get-on ramp to
 the main highway that would get her home. Trying to relax as best as she
 could, Aislynn popped in a tape of some of her favorite Christmas Carols as
 the traffic barely inched its way along. What would normally be a ninety
 minute drive eventually turned out to be twice as long when Aislynn finally
 pulled into her parents' driveway. Their car was gone, which meant they were
 no doubt out finalizing some of their own shopping. Christmas Eve was still
 several days away, and most of the stores would be open right up until that
 final moment to take advantage of all the last minute shoppers that they
 possibly could. Popping the back hatch of her truck, Aislynn gave a sigh of
 relief as she rubbed the tense muscles in the back of her neck, making her
 way around her truck to retrieve her parcels. Her parents'  isolated country
 property was adjoining to that of her aunt's place, so Aislynn was
 immediately startled to hear a man's voice behind her. With a small gasp she
 turned quickly to face who had spoken to her, and in the process had dropped
 one of her parcels.

 "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you. Here, let me help you with that,"
 the kind and handsome face assured her. "You must be Aislynn. Your mother
 has told me quite a bit about you. My name is Templeton Peck, but my friends
 call me Faceman," he said as he pulled off his gloves and extended his hand.
 Aislynn began to calm down somewhat at the recognition of his name. It had
 been unusual enough to remember, and her mother did say that he was quite a
 gentleman. She shook his outstretched hand as she looked around behind him
 for some sort of vehicle.

 "I...I'm sorry, but I was so lost in my own thoughts that...that I just
 didn't hear any other vehicle approaching," she said as she observed the
 dark red-trimmed van parked at the end of the driveway. There was some
 movement at the wheel of the parked vehicle, but it was too dark for Aislynn
 to be able to see any other faces. The nice looking man graciously accepted
 some of Aislynn's parcels as she reached for her suitcases and fumbled for
 her key she had to her parents' house. Once inside she instructed Templeton
 to just drop the parcels on the sofa and then proceeded to thank him for his

 "I was supposed to stop by this evening with the remainder of our payment
 for renting the property next door. It was our agreement that we would pay
 in advance and I managed to get more of our funds transferred here today
 through one of your local bank outlets. If you would be so kind as to
 present your parents with this check, we would appreciate it," Face said as
 he handed Aislynn an envelope. "Oh, and as I understand it, you yourself
 might be staying in that cabin that is located on the property, is that right?"

 "I, uh, well yes, that might be the case. I...I just haven't really decided
 for sure yet. I am home from the city for the holidays now, and I do
 appreciate my privacy and my time to myself. My aunt's house, the place that
 you are renting, has been my solitude up until now, but I'm sure I can make
 myself comfortable at the cabin as well. I will no doubt be spending the
 night here with my parents, then I will be around first thing in the morning
 to check the cabin over," Aislynn stated as she kept sliding the envelope
 through her fingers. 

 "I'll be looking forward to seeing you again and will gladly introduce you
 to my friends. Maybe we could sort of get together one evening soon and get
 to know each other a little better," Face commented as he put his gloves
 back on. With a nod and a smile he exited the house, leaving Aislynn to
 stare after him. Well, her mother had certainly been right about his good
 looks and his impeccable charm. Aislynn thought for a few minutes as she
 considered what he might have in mind as far as "getting to know each other"
 was concerned. He was a nice enough man, but she really wasn't ready for
 another relationship just now, and from her first impression of this guy,
 she didn't think that he was even her type. She began to carefully remove
 her parcels from the bags they had been in to place them under the tree. She
 was hoping that nothing had broken when she had been startled outside.


 Aislynn's parents got home about an hour later. When her mother saw the
 envelope on the dining room table, she picked it up & smiled at Aislynn.
 "Well, what did I tell you? Isn't he a handsome and charming man? Did he ask
 you out?" she inquired as she opened the envelope to study the contents.

 "Mother, really. We only just met. He did suggest that we get together some
 evening, and I took that as a dinner invitation, but I really don't want any
 sort of relationship right now. You know what a hard time I had when I broke
 up with Gary. Faceman is a nice guy and all, but he just doesn't seem like
 my type, you know? Now, let's have some hot chocolate & visit for awhile
 before supper, shall we? I had such a hectic drive home from the city that I
 think I will just spend the night here in the guest room, if that's alright
 with you guys. I'll feel more like getting the cabin organized in the
 morning when I've had a good night's sleep," Aislynn was saying as she
 headed for the kitchen to start the hot drinks.

 "What did you call him? Faceman? Well, it sounds to me like you already know
 something that I don't know about him. What is that, some sort of nickname?"
 Aislynn's mother commented as she fetched some mugs from the cupboard. "It
 was my understanding that these guys were some sort of military type as they
 all seem to have titles with their names, as well. Let's see...I think they
 refer to the head one as a colonel, then I might have heard a captain and a
 lieutenant mentioned as well. 'Faceman' sounds somewhat, uh, effeminate if
 you ask me," she said as she placed the mugs on the countertop.

 "Well what did you expect, mother, when you rented the house to four MEN?
 Does that sound like a normal situation to you?" Aislynn was beginning to
 lose patience now. She didn't have just the closest relationship with her
 parents and she was looking forward to spending some quiet time at the cabin
 with some of the many books she had brought with her to catch up on her
 reading. Taking a deep breath as she poured the water in with the hot
 chocolate mix, she thought she would be doing well to be able to spend the
 night here. She preferred her own hot chocolate made with milk & proceeded
 to place a mug of it in the microwave to heat up. 

 Aislynn's mother just wouldn't let up. "Well, don't you agree what a nice
 looking and friendly man he is? They are all friendly. One of them really
 frightened us the first time we laid eyes on him - the big black body
 builder type - but he really is quite nice like the rest of them. The one
 who seems to be in charge is a handsome, older white-haired  gentleman. And
 to top that off, the fourth one of them is a tall skinny sort who wears a
 brown leather jacket with some sort of animal on the back of it, along with
 a blue baseball cap he always seems to be wearing. He seems friendly,
 although somewhat aloof, as if he's not sure what is going on," she finished
 as she took a sip of her drink.

 "Yes, well, I can hardly wait to meet them," Aislynn commented callously as
 she stirred her hot chocolate, "just as long as we all come to an
 understanding that I won't get in 'their' way so long as they don't get in
 mine. Is that understood?" Aislynn sipped her drink as she sat at the table
 across from her mother. The men her mother was describing sounded like quite
 a mixture. Fine with her. She would try & be friendly first thing when she
 had to meet them, then after that she would much prefer to be left alone.


 Aislynn awoke to some new fallen snow outside. It was still snowing lightly,
 but coming down steady. According to the newscast that morning, it wasn't
 due to let up anytime soon. That was fine with Aislynn. She much preferred a
 white Christmas, and there was nothing prettier overlooking her newly
 acquired property than the snow-capped evergreen trees which consisted of
 much of the land. Digging through her suitcase she managed to find her
 favorite jeans, leg warmers, a turtleneck and warm pullover sweatshirt. Her
 father had agreed to load up his small trailer with some of his own split
 wood for Aislynn's use at the cabin during her stay. The cabin was very cozy
 with a large bedroom, although Aislynn thought she might spend her nights on
 the pull-out couch in the living room in front of the fireplace. She loved
 to read in bed, then just lay and watch the flames as they crackled amongst
 the burning logs. She thought back to the few romantic nights she had spent
 with her boyfriend of two years and of all the dreams and plans she thought
 they had for the future. She had forgiven him the first time she found out
 that he had been seeing someone else besides her, but the second time she
 caught him at being unfaithful was just too much. He had begged and pleaded
 with her for forgiveness, but this time she had had enough and wouldn't
 budge. He was history. She had experienced a couple of unwanted drunken
 scenes with him in the city, but he finally began to leave her alone when
 she had threatened to take legal action against him. This last month or so
 had seemed pretty quiet and free of his presence, so she felt she was free
 of him at last. She finished getting dressed and headed down the stairs for
 some breakfast with her parents.

 Once outside Aislynn was delighted to see that her father had already turned
 her truck around and had the trailer hooked on behind and partially loaded
 already. She pitched in to help load some extra wood and was soon on her way
 to her cabin retreat which was about a mile up the road. Her mother had even
 included a few odds and ends for some Christmas decorations, although
 Aislynn couldn't figure out for the life of her why  her mother would
 include any mistletoe. She didn't think she would have to bother with it.
 What purpose would it serve with just her at the cabin?

 Within five minutes Aislynn turned into the long lane way that lead to the
 house. Her truck handled superbly as she maneuvered it in its 4WD
 capability, especially with the amount of snow that had fallen and with the
 load of wood she had on behind. She saw the van parked at the house but it
 didn't appear as though anyone was out and about yet. There were no tracks
 in the snow leading from the front verandah. She turned along to her left
 and headed in the direction of the cabin. Aislynn managed to pull her truck
 up alongside the cabin so that the trailer was as near the door as she could
 get. She was hoping that the tools would still be available in the small
 utility shed beside the cabin as it appeared as though she would have to do
 some shoveling before attempting to carry any of the wood inside. A lot of
 the wood could be stored in the small lean-to at the back of the cabin. For
 now she would just take in enough to last her for the day while she got the
 place organized and comfortable. She would unhitch the trailer and head into
 town later on to pick up a few groceries and supplies. As she climbed out of
 her truck and put on her toque and gloves, she saw the three men approaching

 "Good morning! We were awaiting your arrival at the house where we had some
 fresh coffee brewing," Face stated as he made his way over to her. Aislynn
 smiled a greeting in return and noticed the two men who had walked down with
 Templeton. The sturdy black man was the first to speak as he stuck out his
 hand to her. "Hi Aislynn. Is it o.k. if I call you that? My name is B.A.
 Baracus, but you just call me B.A. All these other guys do. We appreciate
 what you and your folks have done for us by letting us stay here for awhile.
 And if you should have any problems at any time while you are here, don't
 you hesitate to call on ol' B.A., you hear?" B.A. said with a heartwarming
 smile as he released Aislynn's hand. He turned around to address the other
 guy who was with them. "Come here, fool! Quit messin' around with whatever
 that is you're playin' with now and say hi to the lady!" he growled as the
 other guy, who was apparently playing with...a yo-yo...then proceeded to put
 it back in his pocket as he stared wide-eyed at B.A. With a little bit of
 fumbling to free his hand from his pocket again, he took a couple of steps
 towards Aislynn and flashed a crooked but dazzling smile in her direction as
 he reached for her hand. 

 "Hi Aislynn. Captain H.M. Murdock, at your service, ma'am," he said with
 that hypnotizing smile. Even with the cooler temperature outside, Aislynn
 was sure she felt her temperature rise a couple of notches as she shook
 hands with this attractive brown-eyed stranger. Was it just her imagination,
 or did his hand actually linger just a little bit longer as he held hers in
 greeting? At this moment in time, Aislynn was in no hurry to let go of his
 grip. She managed to get out a hi as she looked up at the incredibly
 handsome, broad-shouldered man who stood before her. Her mother might have
 thought that Templeton Peck was the catch of the bunch, but Aislynn begged
 to differ. She and her mother had never agreed upon much when it came to
 Aislynn's beaus anyway. Her parents had never really cared for this last
 boyfriend she had. Aislynn managed to snap back to reality as Face's voice
 finally broke the spell that seemed to be cast between her and Murdock.

 "Ah, yes, so tell me, Aislynn. Have you thought anymore about perhaps
 sharing a night on the town with me? I thought that maybe we could begin
 with a nice candlelit dinner in some nearby establishment, and...well, you
 know...swap stories about our past, and maybe what the future might hold in
 store...whaddya say?" Face smiled as he attempted to address Aislynn in his
 smoother-than-silk sounding voice. Aislynn had turned her face towards him
 as he spoke, but her body was still next to, and facing, Murdock. This can't
 be what it appears to be, he thought, as he studied the body language
 between Aislynn and Murdock. What appeal could Murdock possibly have on such
 a lovely young thing as her? Besides, how many women would really go for a
 guy who carries a yo-yo around in his pocket for entertainment and...and
 plays arcade games like they were going out of style? And...and what would
 she think if she ever found out about his invisible animal friends? No, he
 didn't think he would have any worry about having to compete with Murdock
 for Aislynn's attention. After all, he was the main attraction of the team,
 the irresistible 'Face'. Who could resist his charms? 

 "It is a busy time of year right now, Face. I have much to do to clean and
 organize the cabin here, and besides, I have this wood to look after now
 which will no doubt take me most of the morning," Aislynn said to Face, then
 turned her attention back to Murdock. 

 With slow and deliberate motion, Murdock stood with his feet slightly apart
 and slid his hands into his back pockets. He stared down into Aislynn's
 brown eyes and began to speak. "I'm free all day, and I'd be more than happy
 to give you a hand to unload this wood here. Why don't you get the cabin
 open and...oh, where can I find a shovel? I'll start by clearing off the
 walkway here to make it easier for unloading the wood," he said as he
 reached into his jacket pocket to pull out his gloves. He gave Aislynn a
 crooked, closed mouth smile as he put the gloves on, then stood to await
 further instruction.

 Aislynn could have sworn that she had melted two inches  lower into the snow
 as she felt hot and flushed all over her body, including her feet. Looking
 up at Murdock from her 5'4" stance, she figured he had to have been about
 six feet tall, probably more if he was standing up straight. He was standing
 in front of her with his head slightly stooped towards her as he spoke. From
 beside her, Aislynn thought she heard Face moan about something, but wasn't
 listening fully to what he had been saying. She continued to stare into
 Murdock's enormous brown eyes as she smiled back at him. "Yes, that would be
 really nice of you. I would most certainly appreciate your help. Oh, you
 should find a shovel in a small utility shed around to the side of the
 cabin," Aislynn told Murdock as she gestured with her hand.

 "Uh, no problem! We'll all pitch in and help, right B.A.?" Face remarked as
 he took a step towards Aislynn and Murdock. He still couldn't quite come to
 terms with what was seemingly going on between these two. Murdock with sex
 appeal? Nah, couldn't be! Just the same, he began to think that maybe he had
 better start working on a new strategy here. He began to help B.A. unfasten
 the back of the trailer as Murdock had begun to shovel a path from the
 trailer to the door of the cabin. In less than an hour, the four of them had
 the trailer unloaded, had Aislynn's bags inside, and had stacked the
 remaining wood in the lean-to behind the cabin. Aislynn was checking out the
 fireplace as she stuck her head inside to peer up towards the sky, just in
 case some unwelcomed bird or other small animal had decided to build its
 nest there. When all appeared to be in order, she began to build a fire.
 Murdock knelt beside her and helped crumple some newspaper as Aislynn
 gathered together a few pieces of kindling.

 Face watched with bemoaning interest as Murdock made the move to help with
 the fire. Was he finally losing his touch with women? Well, he most
 certainly didn't think so, and he wasn't about to give up yet, especially if
 it meant losing a woman to Murdock! "Um, Murdock," he began, "may...maybe
 you & B.A. should head on back up to the house, you know, to check in with
 Hannibal and, uh, to make sure he's not wanting us around for anything, you
 know? I'll spend a few more minutes here with Aislynn and make sure the fire
 is going to burn properly," Face smiled smugly to himself as he directed his
 speech towards Murdock. The captain looked at Aislynn and smiled as he
 tossed the last piece of newspaper into the fire pit. 

 Aislynn reached out and placed her hand on Murdock's arm. "Thank you for all
 that you've done here. You really have saved me a lot of time and energy,"
 she said as their gazes met. "Once I get a few things unpacked and arranged
 here, I, uh...I'll be heading into town for a few things. Would...would you
 be able to accompany me? I'm a bit nervous with these wintry road conditions
 and I'd feel a lot safer knowing you were along, just in case I run into any
 problems," Aislynn lied, knowing quite well that she was most independent,
 especially when it came to winter driving and using her 4WD truck. She
 didn't 'need' a man in her life, not for winter driving, not for anything.
 But for some strange reason beyond her control, she found herself willing to
 stoop to any level to remain in the company of this fascinating man beside her.

 Murdock continued to smile as he placed his hand on top of hers. "When
 you're ready to leave, honk the horn at the house and I'll be there," he
 assured her. They stood together, and looking over at B.A., he said, "C'mon
 big guy, let's go see what's happenin' at the house. I didn't put enough
 food out for Billy before we left, and the little guy might be gettin'
 hungry, ya know?" he said as he flashed a sly smile in Aislynn's direction. 

 B.A., who had been standing back and taking in all that was going on between
 Face and Murdock, looked at the captain and growled. "What? What's that you
 talkin' 'bout, foo'? I told you I don't wanna hear no more 'bout you and
 your stupid pets that ain't there, you hear?" was all he said before he
 stomped towards the door. 

 Murdock watched as B.A. left, then he turned towards Aislynn once again. "I
 love it when I get him riled. It don't take much, you know. I'll see ya in a
 little while, o.k.?" he quipped as he reached out and touched Aislynn's
 cheek. He turned and glanced quickly at Face, then headed out the door.

 Face let out a sigh as he watched Aislynn's gaze follow Murdock out of the
 cabin. She had then turned her attention back to the fireplace as she placed
 some wood on the fire and struck a match. Without saying anything to Face,
 she leaned over and touched the match to the paper, watching as the hungry
 flames ate their way through the paper, into the kindling and began on the
 wood. Face stood there a few minutes while Aislynn stoked the wood, then he
 decided he should break the silence. "I, uh, well...it doesn't look as
 though my chances for an evening out with you are looking very good, are
 they?" he asked sullenly.

 "I'm sorry, Face. I really am. You are a nice man, and a very attractive one
 at that. But...well, I don't know what it is, but there's just...something
 about Murdock that has sparked my interest, you know?" Aislynn responded as
 sincerely as she could. She was certain that Face wouldn't be the type of
 guy who would ever experience many women problems. He just wasn't her type.
 Of course, she didn't think for a moment that ANY man in her near future
 would be her type, that is, until she met and became mesmerized by the
 handsome H.M. Murdock. Aislynn stood up and turned towards Face. "I think I
 have everything quite under control here now, so if you'll excuse me, I have
 to get ready to leave for town."

 Face smiled and nodded his head. "Sure, no problem. Ah, well, maybe some
 other time then. If you should need anything, don't hesitate to call us,
 o.k.?" he said as he pulled on his gloves and headed for the door.

 "Thank you, and I'll remember that. You've been very kind," Aislynn
 commented just before Face made his retreat from the cabin. With a bit of
 excitement and her adrenaline working overtime, Aislynn made her way over to
 her largest suitcase & rummaged through it for her best knit wool sweater
 with matching scarf and hat. She hesitated to pack this before she left her
 apartment in the city, then at the last minute figured she just might get
 the opportunity to dress nice and be able to get out and mingle some. She
 was so glad she had decided to bring it. 

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