Perspectives Series (12)

Seeing Through Smoke

by Minerva


Disclaimer One: These characters belong to me me me! So, ask permission before you use them. It would be rude not to.

Disclaimer Two: A lot happens in this story. It goes from relationshippy to tragedy. I recently read an article in Time magazine about the corrupt system of foster care in this country. It really angered me, and I decided to broach on the subject for the readers. While the overall plot of this series does not deal with that system, it still deals with families, and there is a strong possibility that someone like Cory could come into contact with this system. I think itís time to see how Cory will hold up in the face of real tragedy. It may be hard to read so Iím warning you now.

Despite it all, there is humor, subtext, and dare I say it?! Sex!!! Yes, say it with me. SEX!! There is also the use of foul language, but Iím sure you all can handle.

Summary: Taylor confesses her feelings to Cory. They tackle dinner at Coryís parents as well as each other lol! There is more action in the field, and a caseworker impending return could possibly rocking the boat for our couple.

Dedications: As always, to Camille. I also send this one out to Sloane. Hang in there girl. I would also like to give a special howdy to Jacob and his mommie! Congrats Trouble!! To God who gave me the talent as well as other great blessings and thanks to friends and readers who stuck with me. You know who you are.

By
Minerva
Copyright © November 2000


Chapter XXXVIII: When in Love. . .


Taylor stayed parked at the same spot beside the road for what seemed like hours. Car after car passed by her despite the early morning hour, but she barely noticed the bright light illuminating the cab. Instead, she concentrated on the illumination in her soul. It felt bright and hot like some form of concentrated energy, but most of all, it felt so good. The admin waited patiently for the ethics books to drop. They hadnít in a while, but with an occasion such as this, she expected them. They never came. Taylor smirked inwardly. Donít think I would feel them anyway.

She adjusted the seat to go back a little bit and reveled in the feelings coursing through her. Love. It wasnít a big word, but it was one of the most powerful. I have that power. Now, what do I do with it?

You share it with her. Together, itís made stronger.

Taylor smiled full out. LS had been batting a thousand lately. There was no way she wasnít going to listen to her. "I love her," the admin said out loud. She said it again, weighing the words, seeing how they felt, and chewing them to make sure no choking was involved. The brunette threw her arms up in the air again before smoothing them through dark tresses. "I love Cory!" She screamed the words aloud, hoping every god would hear the benediction. The words felt right as did her feelings.

Her thoughts of the blonde turned inward. Itís the simple things really: the way she smiles, laughs, and cares. Itís everything and nothing but Cory herself. Large hands went back behind her head, and she stared up at the twinkling stars. If you could see me now, Mom. Despite it all, look what Iíve become. Look at what I have, and I deserve it. Do you know why? Because everyone deserves to be loved. Itís too bad you never realized that, but Iím so glad I did. Now that I know what it feels like, I want you to know that I can understand how you could completely get wrapped up in it. The feelings are intense and make you forget everything except them and the person causing it. Itís so easy to do, but it isnít the right thing. I forgive you for not being strong enough to see that, and I want you to know that I wonít let that happen to me.

Peace settled over her like it never had before, sprinkling a calming dust around her heart and healing it for a more important use, to give it away. The admin closed her eyes somehow knowing that there would be no more nightmares and no more self-pity. There would only be Cory. "Now, I have to figure out how to tell her."

Starting with "I" usually helps followed by "love." Iím sure sheíll get the rest. Little Shelley added.

The car was splashed once again with light, but this time it didnít go away. Swirling blue danced around the cab, bouncing off the padded surfaces. Taylor heard a car door slam and looked up to see a policeman headed her way. Shit, not tonight. Nothing can go wrong tonight. She rolled down the window and waited for him. The blinding luminance of the flashlight arrived first with the trooper not far behind.

"Can I help you, Miss?"

Taylor rolled her eyes. "Yeah, you can take that light out of my eyes."

He mumbled a "sorry." Then, "Miss, you canít stay parked here."

Trying not to let her irritation grow in the face of earlier epiphanies, Taylor added calmly, "Donít see why not. Iím not drunk or high, and all I want to do is sit here and think." The flashlight came up again making exasperation grow and come out. She held her hand up to her face and squinted through the darkness and light. "Look, dammit! I just realized tonight that Iím in love with someone. Now, are you gonna let me sit here and wallow in it for a while or not!" Taylor heard a chuckle somewhere from inside her head, and it sounded dangerously like Cory. Whoa, down kitty! The adminís eyes widened. Oh, God, youíre not gonna be in there too are you? There was another chuckle.

The cop went quiet, maybe contemplating, maybe laughing or maybe writing her a ticket. Instead, his voice was heavy with mirth. "I can relate to that. Just asked my Sharon to marry me two nights ago. Think I sat in the precinctís parking lot for hours trying to work up the nerve." He tapped on the hood with his free hand. "I tell you what. You stay as long as you want, and when youíre done, go home and tell him how you feel."

A cheek splitting grin formed on the adminís face, completely wasted in the dark and on the cop, but it was there nonetheless. Her voice lowered an octave denoting pleasure, "I will. Sheís sleeping right now, but I will."

The cop paused then walked back to his car. A few minutes later, he drove away. Taylor looked back at the dash, seeing the time blinking at her. I canít believe Iíve been out here this long. The admin scanned the sky line looking for a hint of daylight. There was a bare glimmer over a grove of trees. How am I going to explain to her where Iíve been and why I left? Taylor pursed her lips then bit the bottom one. I canít go home empty handed. Maybe if I come bearing gifts, sheíll take things easier. As if on reflex, a hand reached around to meet her forehead with a smack, knocking an idea in her head. A card, maybe? Or balloons. Isnít there something about saying it with a stuffed animal?

Taylor heard a derisive snort. Why donít you just get a blackboard and a fat piece of pink chalk?

The brunette had been expecting Coryís voice, but to her great relief it was only LS. If her conscious decided to take on Coryís attributes, even her voice, the admin knew she would never be able to concentrate again. Instead, she answered LS, "Well, what do you expect? I have no idea how to do this, and Iím trying to figure out a way where I donít look like a total flake!"

Go for it. Sheíll love you more for it.

"What?! See, now I know that Iíve lost my mind. Did you just. . .

Yes I did! There is nothing a woman loves more then for someone they care for to make a total ass out of themselves in the name of love.

"Youíre kidding?!" Taylor hissed. Her faced screwed into a look of incredulity.

Am I ever wrong?

Taylor sniffed and decided not to answer. "Ice cream. I need ice cream.

What?! You need help thatís what you need. First thing Monday weíre calling. . .well someone. Ice cream indeed!

"Oh shut up!" LS became abruptly quiet. With a triumphant grin, the admin leaned forward to flick on the radio. Then, a frown tugged her lips, and she groaned at the sound of "The Thong Song."

************

Cory turned over, expecting her body to be engulfed in heat. A green eye popped open when she was not. Her cobweb filled mine mumbled, ĎSomethingís not right here.í An arm reached over and met only the coolness of the sheets. The blonde opened the other eye only to see an undisturbed pillow. The adminís name was out of her mouth before she could stop herself. "Taylor?!" There was no answer. She sat up in bed and bellowed again, "Taylor! Are you here?" Without an answer, Cory felt herself get deceptively calm. She moved to the edge of the bed and listened. Okay, she could be working out. She could be in the kitchen. She could have left me because Iím smothering her. The blonde did a double take. Whoa, where did that come from? A little voice whispered, ĎThereís always room for self-doubt.í

"No," Cory said aloud, still groggy. "Thereís always room for Jell-O. I see it in her eyes. Sheís not going anywhere, and she cares more then she thinks." Then, why the doubts? Simple, because Iíve never been in love before, and so much has never been at stake. Cory ran her hands over her face to wake up fully. A slow smile spread her features as she replayed thoughts on the date. It couldnít gone any better if she had scripted it. No, if I had scared her away, I would have seen it before now. So, I need to get this idiotic notion out of my head. The caseworker yawned and stretched letting out a mewing sound as she raised her arms high above her head. Nature called. Scratching her belly through the t-shirt, Cory padded her way to the bathroom, frowning at the now irritating twinges of pain in her abdomen.

Now, in the kitchen, she looked through the incredibly stacked refrigerator. Damn, this woman should weigh a ton with as much goodies as she has in the fridge. Woman after my own heart. Cory took out a roll of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and searched the cupboard for the proper pan after preheating the oven. She whistled as she greased the small pan. Okay, she really isnít here. Question is did she go somewhere and get stuck? Is she in trouble? Someone walked over her grave at the thought, sending cold chills down her neck and spine. Please donít let her be in trouble. Let her be okay. I couldnít handle anything less. Sheís what has been keeping me together, and without her, especially now, Iím afraid that Iíd fly apart again. Cory swallowed hard and leaned against the counter for support. Iíd rather that she run away than be hurt. As if on automatic pilot, she stuck the pan in the oven and started the coffee maker. Numbness and apprehension swirled around her like a cloak. When she comes back, I'm going to kill her for doing this to me.

Taylor stood outside her own door, listening carefully for signs of life. She smirked at herself, knowing she could barely hear anything anyway through the heavy wooden door. Taking a deep breath, she readjusted the bag full of Haagen Dazs ice creams and opened the door with a calm that she didnít possess. The living room was clear, and Taylor took a relieved breath until she saw the light on under the kitchen door. She groaned inwardly, and squared her shoulders to take on whatever lay ahead. I wanted just a few extra minutes to get in control.

My dear, you lost control the day you met her.

"Smartass," the admin whispered, refusing to admit that LS was exactly right. She pushed the swinging door open and was greeted with the sight of the petite caseworker staring at her in surprise.

Cory swallowed. I wonít tear into her. Itís obvious that sheís been to the store. A little voice nagged her, "But, how long was she gone? Do you even know?" With the force of her will, Cory quieted the voice and tried to keep the doubts down as well. "Hey, where you been? Was worried about you," she said a little over brightly.

Oh, sheís pissed. "Um, couldnít sleep so I drove up to the store. Thought I would get some ice cream while I was there."

Oh, you are undoubtedly the biggest lying sack of poo!

Taylor almost rolled her eyes but resisted the temptation. Okay, she knows something is up. Doesnít mean I have to make her worry any more than she already has! "Uh, I got you some . . .ice cream I mean. Didnít know what kind you liked so I got several."

Cory watched the admin with wary patience shining in her eyes and a stiffness in her body. Oh God, sheís lying to me. Why?

Shit, shit, shit! She knows. . . What am I gonna do? Taylor waited a beat and frowned when LS remained quiet. At that moment, she knew that she was on her own. She sat the plastic bag on top the counter near the caseworker. Should I just take her in my arms and tell her I love her? Should I just blurt it out? Ah, bloody hell! Taylor stuck her hand in the bag to hide their shaking. Grasping for words, she decided to go with what she had in hand. "See, I got vanilla Swiss almond, butter pecan, rum raisin, chocolate, and vanilla." The admin sat them all on the counter. "Oh, I also got strawberryIloveyou." Blue eyes widened, when she realized what had spilled from her lips. Oh my God! I did not just do that! In an attempt to hide, Taylor quickly turned toward the freezer and snatched it open while she literally threw the pints of Haagen Dasz in. When the last one went in, she kept the freezer open peering into it as if looking for control and comfort.

Cory blinked then let out a whoosh of air as breathing stopped and her heart dropped. Did she just say. . . She licked her lips. "Uhm, could you repeat the last one again please?"

Taylor groaned. Dummy, dummy, dummy! "Strawberry," she murmured as she stuck her head further in the freezer.

Coryís heart rose back to its rightful place but thudded painfully. Heat rose from the inside, making her whole body feel flushed. The blonde held on to the counter feeling as though she was tumbling and unable to stop. She said it! I know she did! Cory wanted to run to the admin and wrap her in her arms, but her feet remained pasted to the floor. The only thing that seemed to work properly was her mouth, so she used it. She shook her head. "No, I mean can you repeat the extra syllable you added?"

Nervousness made the admin numb to the cold in front of her and caused humongous butterflies to flutter in her stomach. Feeling lightheaded, she swallowed down the need to throw up. Not knowing what else to do, she leaned in further and stuck an arm in the freezer as if reaching for something. Her admission, again, came out as a mumble, "Love you."

A slow smile spread over the blondeís face. I knew I heard her right. She loves me. She loves me! She is so adorable all flustered like that. Her mind screamed, and the caseworker had to control her bodyís sudden urge to jig. Happiness bubbled up with sparkling effervescent, making her feel that an explosion of emotion wasnít far off. Forgetting her concerns and doubts, her body felt like hers again, but before she moved toward the admin, she added, "You know, if you stay in there any longer your ears are gonna freeze. Then, Iíll have nothing to nibble on, and you wonít be able to hear me say I love you too."

Taylor felt incredibly small and tall at the same time. Warmth infused her face, and she turned to face the woman she loved. The emotion she saw swimming in the darkened green spoke of love, patience, and understanding. The intensity of it made her want to look away, but she didnít. She couldnít. That is for me. All for me. The brightening smile on the caseworkerís face let the admin know that her eyes reflected the same. It made her want to try again, the right way, looking into green eyes that mirrored her own. "I love you, Cory," she whispered quietly.

Cory let out a squeal and projected herself forward into Taylorís body. Wrapping her hands around the brunette, the blonde caseworker buried her face into her neck. Backing away suddenly, she glanced up into a face of undeniable beauty. "Say it again."

A smile curved up the corners of the adminís mouth. "I love you, Cory." This time it was said with confidence and conviction, and Cory watched the words leave her mouth as if they took shape or form. Awe and wonder shined in her face, and she murmured, "Again." Without hesitation, Taylor did as she was told, " I love you." Her voice didnít falter when small fingers began to trace her lips. Cory touched the words as they came out, wanting to catch them, cherish them, and remember them forever.

"I love you too," she added before covering the adminís lips with her own in the sweetest of kisses. It was a slow, languid, and needy meeting of lips, exchanging and reaffirming strong emotion. Cory moaned and sobbed at the same time as tears spilled from her eyes. Abject joy made the tears come faster. Taylor wiped them away with gentle fingers the cupped Coryís cheeks as she kissed eyelids closed. Cory covered the adminís hands with her own and let out a bark of laughter. "I didnít expect that."

Taylor smiled sweetly then placed a kiss on the blondeís forehead. "I know. I didnít mean to tell you that way. It just sorta came out, but I guess it wanted to. Iíve been up since we got back from Chicago, and I had to get out of here. I knew I wouldnít be able to keep my hands off of you otherwise, so I went driving. It hit me so hard that I had to pull over. Never felt anything like that before. I couldnít breath, couldnít think, and all I could see was you." She leaned forward until their foreheads touch. "Thatís when I knew. I think I knew for a while now but just didnít want to face it. I wanted to say it in the car, but it just wouldnít come out. Iím so sorry."

Cory wanted to cover her chest with her hand to keep her heart from bursting. Instead, she laughed again. "Itís okay. I know now, and you were so cute about it. I expected you to turn around with frost on your eyelashes or something."

Taylor sniggered, "At least it was memorable."

Told you she would love it. I didnít do that on purpose!

Cory kissed the adminís aquiline nose. "That it was." Pausing on a thought, she added, "You think anyone will notice?"

Taylor grunted, "I donít know if I care anymore, Cory."

A pale brow rose. "Well, thatís new, but I know what you mean. When you feel this, itís like nothing else matters."

"Mmm," Taylor stole a kiss.

"I would love to be able to do this to you in the office."

The admin chuckled. "Sweetie, you already do."

Cory let out a giggle. It was the cutest one the admin thought she had ever heard. It earned the blonde another kiss. Lips clung moistly as Taylorís tongue slipped out to graze the lips below hers. The resulting whimper caused the admin to gasp in return as her stomach knotted in a flash of desire.

Cory felt a different heat than before. This one was thick, syrupy and made her body hum with an inner fire. Coherent thought fled quickly, leaving only errant ones. "Uh, do you think my mother will . .notice?" Her own tongue snaked out to meet the one flicking her lips. Simultaneous husky moans filled the kitchen, and breathing turned ragged as tongues played sensuously. Large hands wound in blond silk, trying to deepen the kiss but to no avail, and smaller appendages dug into flexed biceps. Taylor wanted to groan in frustration, but she suddenly realized that a question had been asked. Her brain went on replay in an attempt to remember. "Uh, donít know."

"Forgot to tell you yesterday with all the excitement. Having dinner. . .Monday. Slow day can leave early. ..only two hours. . .God!" Cory whimpered as her bottom lip disappeared into the adminís mouth only to be bathed with a hot tongue and scraped by teeth. The heat between them was overwhelming, and Cory wanted to dive in.

Taylor released the delicious flesh with a plop, and whispered, "Kay." What is she doing to me?

As if it was the magic word, Coryís mouth opened under the adminís. Tongueís met in scorching accuracy, teasing and dancing from one mouth into the other. Lips crushed together in a kiss that was uneven, sloppy and sexual. They both moaned, loving the feel of it. Large hands had since moved from hair to the caseworkerís small waist. With a slight pull, Taylor urged the blonde up. Short, strong legs wrapped around her, and she groaned at the squeezing feel. Nipples that had hardened from the first contact of bodies scraped against each other, causing them both to whimper. Taylorís hips surged forward and a long, low moan resulted. The heat she could feel from the thighs around her dropped her a step closer to insanity. Have to feel it.

The need to run her fingers through the wetness that she knew was there was overwhelming. The admin went with the urge. Talented fingers bypassed shorts and panties to cup the blondeís sex. Cory cried out hoarsely and gyrated against the invading appendage. She grabbed the adminís wrist, wanting so much to push the hand harder against her, but something nagged from the back of her mind. The caseworker swore silently and took a firmer grip on the wrist she was holding while tearing her lips away. I wanted this so much. Itís starting to hurt. Damn nature. Her voice was broken, breathy, "Taylor, we canít, honey. At least not today."

Taylor groaned and leaned forward, hoping she didnít hear right. "You want this."

Coryís voice was full of pain and need. "Oh God, yes, but we canít. Itís that time. . .you know." She tells me she loves me, and that is whatís been holding me back. Iíve been waiting to hear those words, and now . .ugh!

"Youíre kidding!" Taylor didnít know whether to laugh or cry. She chose to laugh and let out a large bark of it.

Cory sighed and nodded her head, "Uh-huh, just for a few more days, maybe Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes I hate being a woman."

Taylor looked the blonde square in the eye. "You mean you were gonna let me. . ."

Cory smirked, "Wasnít going to let you do anything. Was going to do it with you."

The admin gave her a small smile. "You know weíre gonna have to stop this. I feel like my head is about to explode. . . all this teasing." Like I didnít love every minute of it.

"Ugh, I know. Iíve had more than one fantasy about that desk in your office." She glanced down at the hand still in her shorts. "Um, you might want to move that."

"Oh," Taylor smiled sheepishly. "Youíre not wearing. . ."

"Tampon."

"Oh, okay." She pulled out, but her smile turned saucy almost lecherous. "You know, I canít wait to get in there." The sexy banter was the only way to work her sensitized libido.

Green eyes widened then she gave her companion a slap on the arm. "You are so bad!"

"Nuh-uh, you just make me incredibly horny."

Is that so? You saying that isnít helping matters any, my friend. "Oh, really? Well, you know I can still. . ." She didnít want to deny the need that still burned in them both. She pulled the dark head back down, but the admin pulled away.

No way, I want to be able to touch you where I want. "No, it would only make it worse if I couldnít touch you like I want." Taylor watched as a shy smile of joy broke across the caseworkerís face. She shoots. She scores!

So sweet. Cory tapped the adminís nose with a finger. "Iím convinced that you take a course on the right thing to say."

Taylor shook her head, "No, I think Iím just staring to learn what you need from me." The blondeís smile widened. That was at least a three-pointer. The admin took a deep breath in relief when her nose wrinkled in disgust. "Do you smell something?"

Cory looked at the brunette confused before realization dawned. "Awww, I forgot about the cinnamon rolls!" The blonde turned and opened the drawer that held the oven mits. Pivoting again, she went to the stove and removed the smoking, black lumps from the oven. "Dammit! Now breakfast is ruined!"

Despite the blondeís tirade and her unfulfilled desire, the admin felt the warmth of contentment flow. For some reason, it elated the her that the blonde knew her way around the kitchen, her kitchen. It screamed domestication, and she realized that she didnít mind that one bit. Smiling, Taylor reached to pull open the freezer. "Nope, we got breakfast right here." She pointed to the ice cream.

Cory looked on incredulously. "Junk food? We canít have. . ." she turned to look at the cinnamon rolls. "oh, I guess we can. I want butter pecan." The blonde pulled open a drawer and got spoons. She turned back around the see the admin sporting a mysterious smile. "What?"

"Oh, nothing. I just love you."

Cory melted into a big puddle of goo on the inside. "Love you too."

Taylor took the petite caseworker by the hand and led them into the living room. "How bout we just spend the day lounging, watching movies, and stuff? Donít worry about the ice cream. We can work it off later.. .on the exercise machine." Her smile was sly, and it earned her another smack on the arm.

Taylor thought back to the cop, wondering if he had even a fraction of what she had found with Cory. I hope so.


Chapter XXXIX: A New Understanding. . .

Cory looked out amongst the sea of cubicles, but she was within her own world. After sitting the box of green tea on her desk to ward off Ray, the caseworker sat down and let her mind wander. It didnít go far. She rewound the events of the weekend in her head until they played back like it was just yesterday. She would forever associate the past weekend with walking on air. Her fear of flying had been conquered what seemed like long ago instead of a few weeks, but here she was allowing the admin to take her higher into the stratosphere. She couldnít breathe and couldnít think, and the blonde didnít mind that at all as long as she could feel.

The whole weekend they stayed joined at the hip. Hands constantly caressed supple skin, and lips met continuously in kiss after kiss. They had laughed, giggled and cuddled on the long couch until late into the night. The admin had even admitted to her a growing affinity for the cartoon Courage the Cowardly Dog, describing it as too strange to pass up. Cory introduced her companion to the X-files and watched with amusement as blue eyes rolled when the blonde tried to explain the existence of actual conspiracies. They talked about everything and nothing. Cory laid her chin in her hand as snatches of conversation brought a whispy smile to her face.

"Do you think that Iíll have to go to your parents with a bag over my head?"

Cory laughed, "Noo, but we might need to tape up your mouth before you put your foot in it again. Iím warning you though, if you bring it up, my mom will rag you on it."

Black brows raised high on the adminís forehead. "Youíre kidding, right?"

The blondeís lips pursed in a smirk. "Try it and see. My family has a very unique personality. You thought my brother was bad? I swear my mom and dad have connectors straight from their brain to their mouths."

"Oh, see youíre scaring me. Dealing with you is enough. . .oof!" The brunette chuckled at the punch to her shoulder.

"Oh plu-eeze! If I can take on Wendy, surely youíll be alright with a tiny woman in her late forties."

"Mmm, is she cute? See, I have this thing for cute blondes. . ." The admin moved out the line of fire quickly.

"No, pervert! Sheís more of a strawberry blonde."

". . .and redheads!" Taylor jumped up to avoid getting smacked again only to let out a Ďheyí as a small hand pinched her butt. "Whoís the pervert now? Be nice. Youíll see it in a few days."

Cory smiled saucily. "Keep on and Iíll see it now right after I take a bite." She snapped her teeth together for emphasis.

Taylorís expression moved from surprise to incredulous. "Cory Donovan! Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?!"

The caseworker stretched out on the couch, covering the area the admin deserted. "Yeah, I do, and what she doesnít know . . ." She moved her hand in a nonchalant circle. "yadda, yadda, yadda."

Taylor lifted the blondeís legs and sat back down, placing them in her lap. She ran deft fingers over sensitive toes and smiled wolfishly at the resulting shiver. "You know, you are down right evil? I should have listened. . .nevermind."

"What? Listened to who? Címon, címon tell me!"

Cory absently chewed on a pencil erasure then started giggling as she recalled the turn the conversation took. Each time she learned something new about the admin, the more endeared the brunette became to her.

The brunette was quiet for a minute as she stared at the caseworker with a penetrating gaze. Lifting a finger, she shook it at her companion. "If you laugh at me or tell anybody about this, I swear I wonít talk to you for at least a. . .day!"

Cory held up two fingers in a mock scout salute whispered, "I promise," with a cheeky grin.

Taylor turned away slightly then like a flash caught green eyes again. "Uh-huh. Anyway, you know how everybodyís got this inner voice?" She waited for the blonde to nod. "Well, I sorta have one that sounds like. . .uhm Shelley, and sheís usually right." The adminís voice squeaked, and she lowered her eyes.

It was quiet except for the murmur of the TV. Cory literally put her tongue in her cheek, but then a strange thought entered her mind. "Uh, did she help you with us?" She asked with a straight face.

"She did once I started listening. I probably wouldnít be here now." Taylor studied the caseworker warily, waiting for the smart retort.

Somewhat shocked, Cory replied, "Well, damn. I always said she was the eyes and ears of the place. We call her Mama Shelley because everyone comes to her for advice. I guess you got lucky, huh?"

The admin blinked, still looking wary. "I guess."

Coryís lips quirked as that damn imp started playing on her shoulder again. She couldnít resist just a little jibe. It would be un-Cory like. "So," she said in a sing song voice, "Linda Blair, your head isnít gonna twirl around or anything is it?" The blonde stared suspiciously at the adminís neck and head. Before she could say another word, a pillow hit her square in the face. "Iíll take that as a no." Blue eyes shot daggers at the petite caseworker for long minutes until she started to nibble on an ear.

Cory leaned back in her chair sporting a full fledged smile. God, the days just seem to be getting better and better. Whatever I did to deserve this, Iím going to try to find out what it is and keep on doing it. My parents arenít even going to recognize me. She groaned. I hope they behave. . .No, thatís too optimistic. I hope they arenít that bad. She smirked knowing that was still asking too much.

The caseworker glanced up on instinct and resisted a grin when she spotted Ray standing not too far away, glaring at her desk. The look on his face was priceless. She wouldnít bet money, but the blonde swore that she heard him hiss. She wanted to hold the box of tea up but thought maybe that was a bit much. Cory didnít want to turn him into stone after all, just play with him a little bit. Smirking widely as Ray strolled back to his desk, Cory peered down at the files on her desk. My second day out. I donít think I could top Friday. Well, at least no one was shooting at us or trying to beat us up. Thatís a bonus. The bigger bonus is that Taylorís coming with me. She leafed through the two files seeing that they were follow ups on dirty house complaints. CPS needed an agency to help the family with skills training and homemaker support to show them what to do and how to do it. All in all it was going to be a very light day.

**********

Taylor stared at the blinking cursor on the computer monitor as if mesmerized. She was, but it wasnít the computer that did it. The weekend brought with it a whirlwind of emotions, and just like that she faced up to them. It couldnít have been so easy. Thereís gotta be a catch here somewhere.

It can be that easy if you two are always honest with each other.

Yeah, but Iíve never had this before, so Iím waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Get a grip! What is that saying? If you look for it, it will come, or something like that. Look for happiness instead of misery, and if something threatening does happen, together youíll both be ready for it.

Taylor rubbed her chin and continued to gaze into the monitor. A crooked smile formed on her face. I know youíre right, but you know that your starting to sound like a fortune cookie?

The reply from LS was brisk.Keep it up, and all youíre going to get from me is lucky and lotto numbers.

Taylor let out a bark of laughter before looking around the room embarrassed. Peering back at the computer, she moved the cursor down fully aware that she had no idea what she had just read. The admin sighed, "How can I concentrate with her sitting within reach right outside my door?" She asked no one in particular. Itís a good thing Shelley is coming in late this morning. I think she would be able to read whatís written all over my face, and I donít think Iím ready for that yet.

The crooked smile came again. "Iím in love." She had come to accept the phrase now and had said it several times during the weekend. Each time the words came from her mouth, she wanted to say them again and again until they formed a life of their own. The sense of floating she felt every since they admitted any feelings for each other grew everyday. Now, it was at an all time high. I canít get enough of her. I just want to be with her all the time. Taylor let out a long breath. "I hope sheíll tell me if Iím smothering her. The admin thought about it for a minute then grinned. "Yeah, she most certainly would."

She twisted the chair around, and the phone sitting idle on her desk immediately caught her eye. She stared at it then back at the computer then vice versa. "Hell, thereís nothing of importance in there anyway." Without another thought, she picked up the phone and dialed the extension that held her heart.

Cory literally jumped at the sound of the ringing phone. Her thoughts had strayed again. Ugh, I have to get a hold of this. I wonder if she is any better off than I am. The blonde caseworker picked up the receiver. There was no hello. "I canít stop thinking about you. You suffering from the same disease?"

Cory grinned into the phone then chuckled. "I got it bad, real bad. Can you think of a cure?" She pulled the phone close to her ear and whispered quietly.

Taylor bit her lip and wound the cord around her finger. "Oh yeah, but it involves you being in here and steamy windows. Donít think Shelley could take that."

The blonde laughed out loud then quieted at the looks she was getting. "You can say that again."

"How about I just say this again? I love you."

Cory closed her eyes and let the beam of warmth shoot right through her. Her skin flushed and her heart paused before starting up again with full beats. Iím going to melt every time she says that I know it. "I donít think Iíll ever get tired of hearing that. Love you too," she replied breathlessly.

A bolt of lightening hit the adminís spine, singeing her nerves, tightening her belly, and making her want things she couldnít have right now. "Come in here." Her voice was just as breathless and a little hoarse.

Coryís heart beat redoubled and her breathing went slightly ragged. God, I donít think she knows what she does to me. "Taylor," she said with a voice full of need, "I canít. I wonít want to leave." The line was silent except for heavy breathing.

"Cory, I . . ."

"I know. Soon. I promise, but we need to try and control this."

Taylor pulled the cord into a white knuckled grip. I don't know how long I can take this. "I know, but itís harder now." Forever. "But, youíre right," She took a deep breath. I can do this. "Whatís on our plate for today?"

Cory took an unsteady breath of her own. We can do this. "Um, just have a couple of dirty houses to see. Two to be exact."

"Okay, doesnít sound bad. Maybe we can get out of here around 2 oíclock. Weíll have to find someway to cover this though."

"I know. Let me think on it." Maybe we need to be with other people for a while to calm this down. I feel like Iím on fire.

"Okay, and Cory? I think soon as your mother looks at us sheíll know." Or sheíll see the way I canít take my eyes off you.

"You might be right, but I think she figured out something big was going on when I ran out in the middle of the night."

"Mmm, you okay with that? With her knowing?"

"Yeah, more than okay. So, 2 oíclock it is. We can go out around ten after the team meeting. I think thatíll give us plenty of time."

"Okay, Iíll be ready."

They said quiet good-byes. Taylor hung up the phone with a click. "I hope this gets better after we make love." She paused. "But, I got a feeling itís just beginning to get intense."

**********

Taylor looked out at the yard they stood in and shook her head in disgust and confusion. It looked as though they were standing in a war zone. Torn clothes and very soiled diapers littered each side. What looked to be tons of garbage spilled from gaping bags, giving the area the aroma of a land fill. Bike, appliance parts, and furniture found a space on dead grass too. The house itself, once white, now had a gray pallor along with rotting steps and broken windows.I know Iím pre-judging, but how can someone let it get this bad?

The stink caused bile to rise in the adminís throat, and she fought down the urge to gag. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she glanced up at Cory to see her beating on the mud coated door. And they let their kids live in this. I canít even imagine what they look like or what the inside of the house look like. Taylor watched as Cory stuck a card in the door and turn around to come back toward her. "Nobody home?"

The blonde shook her head. "No, donít think so, or theyíre just not answering. The only thing we can do is leave a card and hope up and want to take part of the case plan CPS drew up with them." Cory peered up at her companion and placed a hand on her arm. Concern colored her features at the green around the gills look the admin was sporting. "You okay?"

"I guess, but I donít see how this doesnít effect you. Are you just used to it?" She looked down at the caseworker with pained eyes.

Not saying anything, Cory pulled the admin by the arm toward their car. I thought she would understand this by now. Opening the door for her, the caseworker waited until the brunette got in before going over to her own side. She sat for a minute before starting the car and pulling away. Glancing over, she finally began replying. "Thereís a difference between me and you out here. Once a caseworkerís been out here for a while, he or she picks up a few things. Number one rule is that everything bothers you, but the trick is not letting the client see that. If things donít bother you anymore, itís time to start looking for another job. Itís a trick of the trade that takes a while to master."

Taylor leaned back in the seat and took a deep breath. "Donít get me wrong here. I like being out here with you, and it is a learning experience. But, I donít know if I want to be out here long enough to develop that kind of skin."

Admiring her honesty, Cory nodded as she made a right turn. "I wouldnít blame you one bit."

"I mean part of me just doesnít understand how someone could let things get that bad. It seems like every time we go out things are worse than they were the day before."

Cory pursed her lips in thought. "Think about your logic for a minute. When you deal with the Board, you donít let them do things that would deliberately hurt people. You fight against it, if you feel itís going to hurt somebody. Still, no matter how hard you fight, they sometimes do what they want. Itís the same thing behind these households. Thereís something going on inside. Sometimes, itís single new momís knee deep in post-pardum depression. Various forms of mental illness maybe involved, or a million other circumstances. Some simply need to be taught some managing, budgeting, and cleaning skills, but with others a counselor has to get to the heart of the problem first before tackling additional issues associated with it. Things maybe getting worse. I mean, look at the world we have to live in after all."

Taylor turned in her seat to look at the caseworker as she drove. She really does know what sheís doing, and Iím glad that I get the chance to learn from her. She makes me see things in a whole new light. "I didnít think about it that way, and I bet the rest of the people in this community donít either."

"I know, and the bad thing about that is youíre absolutely right. I guess thatís why agencies like ours exist."

"Mmm, could be that youíre right." The adminís heart sunk as they stopped in front of another house that made the last one look tame.

They made their way from the agency parking lot to the building itself. "I canít believe nobody was home at both houses," Cory commented.

"Yeah, that did seem kind of odd. Should we have waited?"

"Nah, it doesnít really promote trust when the client sees someone parked in front of their house. Weíll call before the day is out and try to set up appointments."

"Ah, I see. Didnít think of that." As she held the door open, Taylor glanced at the blonde. "Did you come up with a cover story for us?"

Cory nodded and smiled. I hate that we have to sneak around like this, but Iíll do what I have to. "Yeah, simple really. Weíll just tell Shelley that weíre going to finish up work on the presentation for Thursday. You know, tweak some numbers and practice the delivery that kind of thing. She knows it was a light day, so it would make sense."

"Yeah, it does." The admin leaned closer to the caseworkerís ear as the got near the reception area. "Good girl." She grinned almost imperceptibly at the shiver that resulted. Turning, Taylor noticed the stares of Maggie and Annette as they stood around the huge reception desk. She gave them a cherry smile and chuckled inwardly at the flustered look on their faces. Sometimes my rep and a little mystery is a good thing.

Cory took a seat at her own desk and smiled at the admin as she made her way to her own office. "Hey, maybe we can leave earlier than we thought."

Taylor nodded. "Was thinking the same thing. Let me talk to Shelley. She should be in by now."

Taylor entered her office, sat behind her desk, and waited a beat. She counted to five and smiled at the knock on the adjoining door. "Itís not locked. Címon in." The admin smiled full out at her assistant, which earned her a strange look in return. "My, my arenít you chipper this morning."

Taylor chuckled, "What can I say? All is right with the world."

"Good then. I trust Cory is doing okay now that sheís back in the field?"

The brunette could feel a slow flush creeping up her neck, and she tried her best to stave it off. It came anyway. "Uhm, sheís great. I mean, sheís doing great so far." Little Shelly groaned.

íHello! That was interesting,í the older woman said to herself. She smiled brightly. "Thatís good. Iíve got some messages for you. Nothing real important except for the one from Cheryl Berry. You know, the counselor we contracted? Sheís agreed to come next week."

Taylor nodded. "Sounds good. So thereís nothing keeping me here then?" I hate lying. Letís see how well I can do this.

"No, it looks like an easy day."

"Well, then you wonít mind holding down the fort? Cory and I have some last minute things to work on with the presentation, so weíre going to cut out early and head to the library. She wants to practice on her delivery too." She peered at the other woman expectantly. Okay, not too shabby. Donít want to get used to it though.

Shelley blinked. For some reason, she felt like she was being lied to. She didnít know why, but she felt it. Instead of voicing that knowledge, she simply said, "Sure. I donít see a problem. Iíll page you if something comes up."

Smooth. Very smooth. "Okay, sounds like a plan then. Weíre going to be leaving in a few minutes, so I guess Iíll see you tomorrow?"

Shelley got up and made her way to the door. "You sure will," she replied over her shoulder.


Chapter XL: Road Trip and Gasp. .Meeting the Parents

The trip was full of laughter and charged tension, but Cory had to admit that it was much better than the last trip home. After going home to change into comfortable clothes, and stacking up on a few junk food items, they were on their way.

Cory glanced over at the admin as they moved from the highway to residential streets. The vibrant green of trees greeted them along with the passing cars. "Hey, if I havenít warned you before. Iím telling you now for real. My parents are nutty, so be prepared for the weirdness." Ugh, I hope mom doesnít break out with baby pictures or the embarrassing stories. No wait, thatís what normal momís do. Oh God, what am I in for?

Taylor chuckled. "I think I can handle it. After all look where I work and who Iím with."

Cory gave the admin a mock scowl, "Hey! Whatís that supposed to mean?"

A dark brow raised. "Oh calm down. I didnít mean it like that. Itís just that you keep me on my toes. You always have ever since I met you."

Cory blushed at the unexpected compliment. She got me again. "Oh, well. . . thanks."

"Welcome."

Cory turned the corner, and they drove down a very familiar street. "Itís the house on the corner."

Taylor scanned the house as they parked in front. "Well, it looks normal."

The blonde let out a loud bark of laughter. "Just wait and see. I wonder what theyíre doing." Feeling nervous all of a sudden, she asked, "I told you what they did for a living and stuff didnít I?

Picking up on her companionís jitters, Taylor threw an arm around her shoulders. "Yep. Retired construction worker and teacher. Donít worry. I can be charming when I want to be," she joked, bringing a smile to the petite blondeís face.

Cory tried the door, knowing it was going to be open. Sure enough it was and the sassy sound of Ella Fitzgerald floated through the wood. Oh God, theyíre dancing. Pushing the door open, the pair stopped in the doorway as they stared at the couple. Taylor watched wide eyed as the man she assumed was Coryís father dipped his wife, who squealed in delight. She looked down at Cory to see her eyes blinking rapidly. Nudging the blonde with her shoulder, she glanced down again to make sure she was out of her stupor.

The caseworker knew that there was no use trying to call them to attention over the booming music. She decided instead to turn it off. The Donovanís protested loudly at the interruption until they saw who it was. Brenda Donovan let out another squeal of delight as she ran to engulf her daughter in a hug. "Bunchee, youíre early!"

Cory returned the hug and waved at her dad before saying. "I know. It was a slow day so we decided to go ahead and come down." Her motherís grip tightened. "Is she here?"

"Yeah mom you did invite both of us," Cory replied drolly.

"Well go hug your father, and Iíll go over and say hello."

Oh God, help me now! "Kay, mom." Cory tried to watch but her father blocked the view. "Hey Bunch! You certainly look happier than you did the last time. I guess you wonít be staying the night though seeing that you have to work, and there is no way both of you would fit in that bed." His voice was full of mirth. Itís starting already. "Dad! Will you behave!"

"Why dear, when you make it so easy?"

Cory groaned and hoped Taylor was fairing better.

Taylor looked down at the smaller woman as was immediately charmed by the smile that beamed back at her. Sheís going to look like that when sheís older. My God, Iím staying around!

Brenda Donovan cocked her head to the side, gave the admin the once over, and stuck out her hand. "Soo, youíre the flat assed pencil pusher? My goodness, youíre a big girl."

Taylor took the hand and stopped mid-shake. Suddenly, she knew what swallowing oneís tongue felt like. So thatís what she used to call me?! Pale blue searched for familiar green. They found each other, and Taylor silently transmitted a message. "Iím going to get you!" Cory sent her one right back. "I told you so!"

The admin couldnít fight the blush that came, but she managed to smile through it. "I hope she speaks better of me now, Mrs. Donovan."

"Oh, she does, but she didnít tell me were so tall with such nice coloring too. How do you do that?"

This is definitely where she gets that brutal honesty from. Feeling a little more comfortable now that sheíd identified a family trait, Taylor decided to play along. "Um, I think itís the orange juice and peanut butter." The admin grinned when the reply got what she intended, a laugh.

"Well my goodness beautiful and a sense of humor too. Bunchee must be in heaven. Oh, where are my manners? Why donít you have seat?"

She glanced over at her husband. "Mike, why donít we let them sit down.

Feeling another blush, Taylor followed close behind them as they strolled into the living room. Warmth. Homey. She couldnít get the words out of her head. Still slightly looking around, the admin sat down on the loveseat. Cory plopped down next to her with a teasing smirk on her face. Unable to help herself, Taylor stuck out her tongue then yelped at the retaliatory pinch on her arm. As if suddenly remembering where they were, they both turned to the Donovanís watching them with amusement dancing in their eyes.

"Arenít they cute together?"

Mike Donovan snorted. "Donít say things like that. Youíre gonna embarrass her."

íToo late,í Cory said to herself. "Well, I guess Iíll make the formal introductions. Taylor this is my mom and dad, Brenda and Mike Donovan."

Taylor got up to shake Mike Donovanís hand, and the warmth shining in his eyes made her feel totally at home. "Nice to meet you both."

A silence lapsed between them. Brenda broke it with her announcement. "Well, Iíll go get us something to drink."

Cory jumped up too, feeling she had to throw Taylor in the deep end somehow. She squeezed the adminís shoulder. "Iím gonna go help her. Be right back."

Taylor sucked in a breath and tried not to give her the deer in headlights look, but it was hard. She watched as the blonde disappeared down the hall then glanced over at Micheal Donovan, who was reaching for a newspaper.

He swallowed hard and folded the already read paper into neat squares. Iíve never had to do this before. Always thought I would be giving one of her boyfriendís a lecture. Sheís no boy, but she has Coryís heart. I need to do whatís expected of me. He peered up into pale blue eyes that had hidden depths to them. He could clearly see the intelligence and compassion, but there was a grittiness there also, which is what his daughter needed. He leaned back and got comfortable on the couch. "So youíre what sent my little girl running?"

Taylor took a deep breath. This was totally new. She had never stuck around long enough before to meet parents, and she never wanted to then. This time it was different. I want them to see that Cory and me are good together. Good for each other. "Yes, sir, but I guess it was only fair. She had me running from the get go." She gave him a small smile that he returned.

Micheal chuckled, "She does have that effect on people. Some canít handle all that honesty." He lifted one leg and crossed it over his knee. "The good thing is that she went running back."

Taylor flashed a million watt smile. "It was a very good thing."

"Mmm-hmm, you must be really something to get a hold of her like that."

The admin offered him a hesitant laugh, "I think we both met our matches so to speak." Whatís going on here? What are you thinking?

He flashed his own charming smile. "I thought as much. She never brought anyone home, so that was a big clue right there. Yeah, our Bunch is one tough cookie. Hell, she used to run this house when she had to, but for all that toughness, sheís still a marshmallow in the middle, all squishy and soft."

Taylor blinked. She knew exactly where this was going. "Mr. Donovan, I know, and I have no intention of hurting her. Not anymore. I think weíve done enough to each other pain-wise. We really laid into each other when we first met, but that was just. . .

"Foreplay?" He finished with a familiar smirk.

Taylor laughed out loud. "Well, yeah I guess you could say that. I was just going to say it was just a precursor to something deeper between us. Sheís done a lot for me, made me see a lot of things, and Iíve learned so much from her. Sheís an extraordinary woman, and I plan on telling her that as much as possible.í

Mike Donovan stared into pale eyes alive with emotion, and thatís when he saw something familiar. It was the same look his wife had when she looked at him. "You love her?"

My God, is it that obvious? Taylor bent her head, hiding under her bangs. No use in hiding. She looked up again, meeting his eyes with conviction in her own. "Yeah, I do, very much."

Looking at this woman, he knew that his little girl was going to be taken care of and loved. It was all he wanted. "Does she know?"

The blush came over her face before words came out.

Micheal Donovan chuckled. "No need to say anything. You just answered me."

Taylor nodded and let loose her own chortle. So this is what her parents are like. This is what loving parents are like. Iím glad you have them Cory. I wouldnít want you to turn out any other way.

***********

Cory pulled glasses down out of the cupboard, and as she turned them right side up, she glanced at her mother. Come on, mom. I know you too well. "So?" Green eyes looked back at her confused, but then she saw lips quirk. "I know you have something to say, ma." The quirk on the older Donovanís mouth turned into a grin.

"Well, you certainly like the dark, mysterious types. Donít you?"

Cory rolled her eyes. "Please, thereís nothing mysterious about her."

Brenda Donovan peered at her daughter quietly for a long minute, until a blush colored her features. "Uh-huh, thought so. If there wasnít something exciting about her, she wouldnít be able to keep you interested."

Okay, okay, so mothers are always right. "True, but she has a lot more to offer."

Brenda met her daughterís gaze with a level one of her own. "I bet she does." She chuckled as the blush got darker. "My goodness, Iíve never seen you turn so many colors."

"Moóm!"

She threw up her hands. "Okay, okay." Brenda stirred the lemonade. "Get the ice out."

Cory did as she was told. She sat the trays on the counter with a thud. "So, what do you think?"

"Hold on! I was getting to that." She urged her daughter to fill the cups with ice. "Sheís very pretty with a smart sense of humor," She looked at Cory sheepishly, "and she didnít run screaming when I called her flat ass. So, Iíd say sheís right fine."

Coryís mouth dropped open. "Mom! You did not say that to her?!í

"Uh-huh."

Well, that explains the look she gave me. I think Iím in trouble later. Iím glad. A lecherous smile slowly curled her lips.

"Oooh, what are you thinking about?"

The caseworkerís blush darkened another shade.

"Aww, such pretty colors. Thatís as much as I can give you now, Bunch. Iíve havenít really gotten the chance to talk to her. As a matter of fact, why donít you send her in here. She can help me start dinner. She does know her way around a kitchen doesnít she?"

With her voice lowered an octave, she replied, "Oh yeah, she does." On that cryptic statement, Brenda watched her daughter walk out the door.

Hanging back in the hallway balancing the tray precariously, Cory stopped to listen. I hope theyíre okay. Laughter met her ears, and she said a silent prayer of thanks.

Walking in, the blonde saw her father sitting and leaning against the couch arm, looking more than a little relaxed. She met pale blue that seemed to twinkle at her, and sighed in relief at the minute wink the admin gave her. She sauntered further into the living room and sat the tray on the table. Picking up a glass, she steered toward the dark beauty sitting on the loveseat. I have to touch her and make sure sheís still real. The caseworker stopped a few inches in front of the admin, thrust out the cool glass, and gazed down into pale eyes up close. Unable to stop it, small hands wiped away too long bangs from the her forehead. Eyes smiled at each other, and lips followed. Remembering that they werenít alone, the caseworker turned to her father to see mirth filled eyes staring back at her. Cory grinned. "Uh, mom wants our guest to help in the kitchen." She heard the adminís slight groan but chose to ignore it and the giggles that beckoned. "Iíll keep you company, Dad." He smiled and patted the arm of the couch, asking her to sit.

Giving Taylor whispered instructions to the kitchen, she watched her go. The urge to kiss her for comfort had been strong, but the caseworker settled for a squeeze of a broad shoulder. Cory moved to the couch arm beside her father and wrapped an arm around him. "Hey, daddy. Whatís up?"

He caught his daughterís eyes with his own but lost the contact as his head hung. "Bunch, I . . .know I havenít always been there and said the things I needed to say. I want to say this now. Sheís a keeper. Love her hard and hold on tight, and sheíll never desert you."

Stunned, Cory looked down at the top of her fatherís head. I donít think Iíve ever heard him sound like that. Not since I came out. "Daddy, I----"

He glanced up again, not turning away. "No, no let me finish. She. .um. . .she wasnít afraid to say she loved you. Wasnít ashamed or shy about it. You need somebody like that Bunch. Sheíll stick up for you no matter what. Now, Iím not one for the sensitive chats, but I needed to say my piece. I hope you understand."

Bending down to kiss his forehead, Cory added, "Love you, daddy. Thanks. Iím gonna try my best to do right by her." Iím gonna try my damnedest.

*********

Taylor paused outside the kitchen. Okay, I can do this. I have to do this for both our sakes. Forget the Freudian slip. . .

LS snorted. Fat chance. She growled at the voice in her head and strolled into the kitchen with all the confidence she could muster. Chopping greeted her. Chopping with a very large knife. Taylor swallowed. Okay, donít even go there. Itís ridiculous. To keep herself from fidgeting, Taylor put her hands in her pockets as she walked up on Coryís mother. Green eyes met hers, and she was taken aback by the similarities. Brenda Donovan smiled mysteriously. "The resemblance is uncanny isnít it."

Licking her lips, Taylor grinned back tentatively. "Yeah, it is. Something to look forward to."

Brendaís smile got bigger. "Ah, flattery. Very good."

A sinking feeling started in the adminís stomach. Iím going to have to come completely clean for her. Wonít I? Yep. She cleared her throat. "You need any help?"

Brenda stopped chopping and glanced up again. "Not at the moment. I wanted to talk to you first."

Taylor leaned against the counter not far from the other woman, hoping to give the appearance of being calm when butterflies were assaulting her stomach. "Sure. We can do that."

The blonde wiped her hands on a towel. "Do you sleep with my daughter every night?"

The admin blinked. Well, damn that was so blunt it hurt. If itís honesty she wants then thatís what sheíll get. "Yes, I do. I donít think I could get to sleep without her." She watched as the other woman blushed. Score one for me. She wasnít expecting that.

Unwavering green continued to hold the blue gaze. "Why?"

The adminís hands clenched in her pockets. She answered quietly, "Because she chased the nightmares away. I want her there, and she wants to be there."

Brenda studied the younger woman. She didnít expect honesty. She expected false bravado. There was nothing false about this woman. She decided to switch gears. "Do you know what you did to her? How you hurt her a few weeks ago?" Brenda waited for the dark head to hang. It never did. Their gazes remained locked.

God, yes I remember the look on her face like I had ripped her heart out. I think I did. "Yes, I know, and Iíll tell you why it happened. Cory makes me feel things that I canít even begin to describe. I think I was dead before her, and it scared me to feel all of that coming back to life because it came back with a vengeance. I did the only thing I knew how to do. I hid." Blue eyes glazed with memory. "Itís funny because she wouldnít even let me do that. She blew me away, and what you see now is whatís left----what she helped to create."

Brenda looked deep into the adminís eyes and saw a fire. A fire that she guessed wasn't there before. A fire that her daughter put there. Amazing. "Sheís changed too. She used to be subdued, almost hard, but I noticed a difference the second day you arrived. She called me full of fire and more emotion than Iíd seen in a long time. I should have known then, I guess."

Taylorís mouth quirked into a grin. "Yeah, she certainly put me in my place a number of times. It was disconcerting to feel all that heat come from just a little thing."

Brenda snickered and looked at the brunette through different eyes. Somehow she knew that this woman came here to do battle if necessaryóall for Cory. "Another family trait, Iím afraid."

The admin smiled brilliantly. "I figured that out as soon as I walked in here."

The blondeís laughter was self-depreciating. "Touchť. You know, youíre not at all what I expected."

An errant eyebrow rose. "How so?"

"Well, for starters, I expected someone younger, and someone a little more bubbly."

Taylor let loose a belly laugh. "Well, bubbly Iím not, and as far as age goes, Iím only 32."

Brenda shook her head and chuckled, "Donít get me wrong. Iím not knocking you. You two fit somehow even though itís obvious that youíre opposites. Itís a darkness and light thing, I think." Warmth for this woman grew by the minute.

Oooh, did she just give me a compliment? "Thanks." This woman is more astute than I thought. Feel sorry for those students.

"So, when are we going to meet your parents?"

A sliver of sadness passed through her spine, but thankfully, that was all. "Cory didnít tell you?"

"Tell me what?" Her brow bunched in confusion.

Here goes. Letís see if I can get through this without those old feelings resurfacing. "They died in a boating accident when I was 18."

Brenda stood stock still, instantly knowing why Taylor spoke of emotional death and knowing that there was more. "Thatís not all is it?"

Very, very astute woman. "No, itís not. My parents abandoned me a long time ago by their own choice."

Brenda stared at the woman, shocked. Her admiration for this woman grew leaps and bounds. "And look at you now, all in one piece."

I didnít feel a thing. Good-bye mom, dad. She looked back at the older woman thoughtfully. "You know, your daughter said almost the same thing to me."

"Well, she was right."

"I know. Cory is right about a lot of things, and she opened my eyes to those things."

Brenda smiled at her daughterís lover. After all thatís what she was. Someone who loved Cory. "Sorry if I pried to much, but the inquisition is over for now. Cory did good, real good." She paused, "You want to hand me the onions and potatoes out of the fridge? Iím making pot roast with all the trimmings, and Cory said you were handy around the kitchen. Although, she did have this strange smile on her face. You want to tell me about that?"

Taylor felt as though the blush covered her from head to toe. "Um. . .no?" Well, that wasnít too hard. My head is still there, and she likes me. I can tell. Yeah, and you didn't need my help once. You're growing, kid.

Brenda looked the brunette up and down. "Oooh, you turn pretty colors too."

They chatted for a while longer until the admin's need to see Cory caused her to wander off. She made her way into the living room but looked around in disappointment when a short, capped blonde head didn't appear. Michael Donovan stared back at her with a knowing smile. "She's sitting out on the porch."

Taylor nodded and gave him a shy smile in return. She stopped in front of the screen door to observe the caseworker. The blonde was sitting on the second step with her back to the admin. Her form was leaning forward, and her head moved slowly from side to side as if studying all of the outdoors. Taylor scanned the caseworker's body for tale-tale signs of tension. There wasn't one. You're right at home. Aren't you, Cory?

Smiling at the sight, she stepped out on the porch. Cory turned part way around and grinned at her visitor. She moved to get up, but Taylor shook her head. "No, don't get up. I'll join you." She groaned slightly as she lowered herself to the top step right behind the caseworker. With arms that felt empty since they arrived in Evansville, Taylor pulled Cory into her, wrapping her in warmth. The brunette leaned forward and kissed an ear softly. "Hey, what are you doing out here?"

Cory hummed in contentment and snuggled more into the body behind her. Thinking that this is perfect. That you are perfect. "Just thinking that if this gets any better, I won't be able to stand it. I don't think I've ever been this happy."

Taylor squeezed the thighs lined along the inside of hers. This time a kiss landed on top of a golden head. "I know what you mean. It's like it's so good that you're just waiting for the other shoe to drop."

Cory traced the hands that lingered just under her breasts. "Yeah, that's exactly what I mean." And I pray to God that it doesn't. It would be such a cruel joke.

With more confidence than she had ever felt before, Taylor added, "It won't happen, and I'll tell you why. It's because we deserve this, and we're stronger together than apart, which gives us the edge in any battle. I think your parents know that too."

Cory lifted her head higher, letting the sun beam down on her face. She smiled into it. "They gave us the thumbs up, huh? Should have known. My father said things I thought would never come out of his mouth. Sort of like you. You don't say much, but when you do, it has a 'whoa' impact."

Taylor chuckled and nuzzled blonde hair. It smelled of sunshine and flowers. "If you say so, but yeah they gave us two thumbs up. Your mom had me going there for a while. She's pretty tough."

Cory giggled, "I know. She hides it well though."

"Well, I think that I surprised her with my honesty. You've rubbed off on me."

"You weren't too honest and didn't tell her too much, I hope?"

The admin smiled into her companion's hair. "Let's just say I told her enough to let her know that I was serious."

"Mmm, I'll just view that as a good thing." Does she have any idea how much I love her? Cory began to rub the outside of the admin's toned thighs. The skin was warm and satin smooth, and she felt arms tighten around her in response. "I'm sorry. I can't seem to stop touching you. It's hard to stop doing things that you love."

"It's okay. There's nothing to apologize for because I like your hands on me."

The caseworker swallowed. "Good. Because I don't think I could stop even if I wanted to." Cory turned and tried to bury her face into the admin's neck. "I love you so much. I can't even. . .God." Her face meshed into the admin's chest.

The burst of emotion transferred to Taylor, and she caught her breath, feeling overwhelmed and loving it. Putting a finger under the blonde's chin, Taylor lifted Cory's face to hers. Eyes searched each other, reveling in all things real and hoping for all things imagined How could I have gotten through all these years without feeling this? Simple, I didn't start to exist before I met her. She traced smooth lips with a finger. "Don't ever, EVER, apologize for that because I feel the same way." Taylor bent her head forward and brushed the caseworker's lips with her own. Cory cupped a cheek and deepened the kiss, drawing the brunette in and drowning her in the most pleasurable emotions possible. The caseworker broke the kiss, slowly then buried her head once more in the admin's chest. "We're scandalizing the neighborhood," she mumbled.

"I don't give a good damn what they think. I just want to make sure you're happy."

She always seem to say the right thing. "Was hoping you would say that."


Brenda watched them quietly from the open door. She felt strong arms engulf her from behind. She turned to her husband, kissing him on the chin. "She looks so happy. I've never seen her like this before," she whispered quietly.

"Neither have I. Taylor's good for her."

"I think that they're good for each other."

"Mmm-hmm, that too." He gave her another squeeze. "Dinner ready yet?"

"Yes, I was just coming out to get them."

"Okay, I'll leave you to it," Michael told his wife.

Brenda rapped on the screen and smiled when she saw Cory jump at the noise. The smile got bigger when she noticed the admin's arms tighten around her daughter. Taylor turned to her and grinned.

"Well, I know you two would rather stay out here and play kissy face all day." Her smile turned into smirking. "Not that I blame you, but the rest of us are about to eat. Care to join us?"

Taylor was the first to rise then help Cory up. Brenda held the door open for them and watched appreciatively when the admin's hand went directly to the small of her daughter's back. She winked at Taylor, "Now we get to see how handy you were in the kitchen, young lady."

Taylor chuckled and they all disappeared back into the house.

*********

A little while later, Cory tore into the roast appreciatively. She bumped Taylor with an errant elbow. "Mmm, this is good. See, mom I told you, but the stuff she cooks usually involves chicken. I can't believe she's eating anything else."

The admin rolled her eyes. "I do eat other things, Cory."

"Uh-huh."

Brenda and Michael Donovan watched the exchange with grins on their faces. The house was alive again with voices and laughter besides their own. They loved it when the children came home. Brenda glanced at Taylor. "Well, I have to admit. She can weld that knife with the best of them."

The admin smiled crookedly. "Just another skill I picked up in college."

It was Cory's turn to roll her eyes, thinking of Wendy.

Taylor bit into a perfect potato and decided to get in on the teasing too. I told her I would get her. "Mr. and Mrs. Donovan?" Two heads raised. "What on earth is a Bunchee?"

Cory choked and mumbled an irritating 'thanks,' when the admin tapped her on the back.

The brunette raised a brow at the Donovan's expectantly. They both looked at her with more than a little amusement dancing in their eyes. Michael Donovan urged his wife to speak with a nudge of his head. She glanced at her daughter, seeing the daggers shooting and the colors in her face changing. "Well, I'm sure you know of Cory's affinity for all things cartoon?"

Taylor nodded and smiled thinking of the caseworker's Scooby-Doo fetish.

"When she was really young, Cory had a lisp, and there was this cartoon called the "Moncheechee" or something like that. Anyway, she couldn't say it to save her life. It came out Buncheechee along with a lot of spit."

Cory could feel herself sinking in her seat. I knew she was going to do this! How could Taylor facilitate this! Ugh!

Taylor bit her lip to keep from laughing. She wanted to hear the rest of the story.

Brenda pursed her lips. It had been a long time since she got to do this with and to her daughter. She was loving it. "She liked the cartoon a lot and went around talking about it all the time. I told her she was going to turn into a Buncheechee, and I guess it stuck."

Michael Donovan snickered into his napkin and refused to meet his daughter's glare.

Taylor turned to look into Cory's now purple face. Oh, this is too good. "You okay, Bunchee?" The admin asked sweetly.

Chuckles went around the table, but Cory refused to look that way. Her gaze concentrated on Taylor. She held the fork in her hand, wondering if it would be really bad to stab her with it. Probably so. Running out of options, her psyche chose that moment to regress. Before Cory knew what was happening, she stuck her tongue out at the admin.

Taylor threw back her head and laughed heartily at the display. After a few seconds, the Donovan's joined in. Feeling embarrassed but content, Cory did the only thing she could do. She joined in too.

After the laughter wore off, Brenda Donovan was quiet for several minutes. Then, she smiled at her impending thoughts. "You know Taylor, as long as you've known Cory you must know her secret?"

Taylor put her fork down, and from the corner of her eye, she saw the young blonde blush. Ohh, interesting. A sable brow rose. "You mean the Papa Smurf doll and his friend?"

Brenda shook her head and smiled, big. "No, no she has a big soft spot that not many people know about."

Cory stiffened and turned redder.

Very, very interesting. "Oh really? Do tell."

"Well, she loves kid's movies, especially the ones with animals. Goodness, she cries like her best friend died."

Taylor glanced at the caseworker surprised. By the redness on her face, the admin could see that this was still a big thing with her. She leaned forward and whispered in the blonde's ear, feeling her discomfort and wanting to help now. "If you don't tell anyone, when we get back to my place I'll pull out that Babe tape that's been hiding in my closet forever."

Cory looked at the admin with wide eyes then burst out laughing. The Donovan's watched on, enjoying the show.

Dinner was full of laughter and warmth, leaving Taylor feeling accepted and content. When it was time to leave, her eyes widened in surprise when both Donovan's approached her for a hug. After a moment, she had returned the affection whole heartedly. It rocked her to the core, making her aware of what had been missing and letting her know that the gaps were starting to be filled. They drove back with full stomachs and satisfied smiles.


With the Babe tape forgotten, Cory burrowed under the cool covers with a sigh and watched from under lowered lids as the admin turned off the light and slinked her way to the bed. The blonde whimpered in contentment when strong arms surrounded her. "Mmm, I know I've said this umpteen times tonight, but I'm glad they liked you. Something told me they would."

Taylor buried her nose in blonde strands. "Hmm-mm, they're fun, and you were so right about them being unique. I liked it. I liked them, and I got to learn a little something new about you in the process. Not a bad day at all."

Cory snorted. "Don't you dare go calling me Bunchee around the office. I'll have to . . .pinch you really hard!"

"Not even if I whisper it like this? "Bunóchee," she extended the syllables teasingly. Taylor allowed her fingertips to caress the caseworker's sensitive sides.

Cory squealed and giggled until she was too tired to anymore.


Chapter XLI: The Office, the Field, and Love

Hoping Ray was looking, Cory changed the tea box on her desk to Red Zinger. She chuckled when she looked up and saw him shooting daggers with his eyes. That should lower my weirdness quotient for today. She sat down and wriggled in the chair until she was comfortable. Unable to help herself, she glanced over to Barb's empty desk. I miss you something awful. I hope you're okay, and I hope you come back soon, regardless of what you feel about Taylor and me. Feeling sadness tug at her, Cory refused to let it get far, not after last night, not after the weekend. Nothing would bring her down. She giggled remembering walking out of the bedroom to see Taylor sitting in a robe, eating peanut butter, and watching the cartoons she swore she detested. Some of my finer qualities are rubbing off on her. Pretty soon I'll have her singing the PowerPuff Girls theme song.

The admin had held her spoon up and grin sheepishly at getting caught. They sat cuddled together watching the always entertaining Flintstones silently, until Taylor found other uses for peanut butter. Cory rolled her eyes and groaned inward, recalling the admin trying to lick peanut butter from her cheeks, lips and neck. It had been pleasurable and damn near erotic, but she had to scrub extra hard to make the smell go away. In the bathroom, she found out that her nature imposed exile from sexual activity had been lifted also. Her grin was sly and Cheshire like as she opened the door to Taylor, allowing her to come in as she was leaving.

"What? Why the grin?"

Cory hummed, "Oh, nothing. I just love you is all." The grin got bigger as she watched the admin blush. And I'm going to show you how much tonight.

"Well, ditto to you, sweetie." Taylor leaned in for a quick kiss then swatted the blonde's but as she passed by. "Let's hurry up. We're running a little late."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Me and my ass thank you." Cory had replied drolly as she took clothes out of her overnight bag.

"Smaht ass!" Taylor called around a mouth full of toothpaste. She spit the bulk of it in the sink. "You know, you should bring some stuff over here and leave it. I'll make a couple drawers free for you!" She yelled out.

The feelings of elation grew to an all time high at hearing those words, causing Cory to chuckle and almost skip her way to the bathroom door. "I'll do the same for you. Get you some closet space too if you're nice." The caseworker wriggled her eyebrows. "But no Uhaul yet, huh?"

Taylor turned the blonde and smiled winningly. "I like Penske myself, better insurance." The admin laughed out loud at the look of shock on the blonde caseworker's face.

Cory shook her head and smirked as she twiddled a pencil between her fingers. If she makes me feel like I'm flying every morning, the day would go by in a flash of nothing, except when she's there. She sighed and looked down at her desk. No files, no new cases. They could spin by those dirty houses from yesterday, but the owners had called late yesterday setting up appointments for later in the week. Looks like another slow day. I wonder if I can get her to leave early again? The phone rung snatching her from her reverie. A slow smile spread over her features. Maybe she's thinking the same thing I am. A sliver of excitement and anticipation made its way up her spine. She picked up the phone and remained silent for a beat.

"Cory?"

The voice was familiar, but she couldn't place it. Snapping out of it, she replied, "Yeah, Cory Donovan."

"Hey, I was hoping I would catch you. It's Lynn from CPS."

Recognizing the name, Cory perked up. "Oh, hey. What's up?"

"Well, I need your opinion on a foster parent. She's asking to adopt one of her foster kids that's been in the household for about six months. I saw them last week, but my plate is full today. I was wondering if you could offer a second opinion?"

A frown tugged at the caseworker's lips. Something was going on. "That's kinda breaking the rules isn't it? I mean, my opinion won't be valid unless I've had former contact with the family. Wait, do you think there's something fishy going on there?"

"No, no," Lynn added quickly. "I mean, the boy is a little subdued, and any outward signs of trauma is consistent with just childhood antics. You know boys will be boys."

Cory's concerned deepened. "Uh-huh, did you get him examined by a doctor?"

"Um, well no. He doesn't seem to be scared of her, and he corroborated her story of his falling and getting the bruises."

Aww, geez. You've got to be kidding me. Something is definitely not right here. That kid's in trouble. "I'll tell you what. I'll check it out and get back to you as soon as I do." And if that boy is hurt anymore, I'm going to rip the hide off you because you're keeping something from me.

"Great! Let me give you the address and names. . ."

*******

Taylor scanned through the e-mail that she neglected yesterday and sipped idly at a cup of Earl Gray that Shelley brought. She glanced over at the mound of paper work that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. Pencil pushing flat ass, huh? They maybe right about the pencil pushing part. Everyone wants a paper trail. She turned away from the computer and looked over requests for time off, requisitions for new computers, complaints, and budget reports. I love my job, but I'm surprised that I don't have carpal tunnel syndrome! Ugh!

A sudden smile spread over her features. Well, at least this week couldn't get any better and nothing that could happen can make me feel worse for wear. Her parents like me, and Cory loves me. What else could I ask for? With a new outlook, Taylor whizzed through the paperwork.

A knock at her door made a dark brow raise. "Come!"

Cory sauntered in with her brow scrunched, but Taylor smiled at her despite the blonde's disturbed expression. "Was just thinking about you."

The worry lines lifted somewhat with a slight smile. "I think you're always thinking about me just like I am about you."

"Too true. What's the look for?" Something's bothering you.

Cory laid a piece of paper on the admin's desk. I wonder will you see what I do. "Read it. A colleague from CPS wants my opinion."

Taylor pursed her lips and read silently. After a couple of minutes, she looked up in confusion. "The boy has bruises, and she didn't think that was worth getting checked out?"

"Yeah, I know. Got me to thinking too. From the address, I can tell you it's mostly a middle class neighborhood and mostly white. I haven't had a case down there in a while. The woman Bessie Owens has had several foster children. They never stayed long, and from what I know Lynn never reported any problems. As you read the little boy's name is Robert, and he's nine. I think we should check it out, but we need to be on our toes. I want to make it a surprise visit. Made sure Lynn knew that."

Cory looked at the clock on the admin's wall. "It's ten now. What do you say we leave around 10:30?"

Taylor nodded. "Gives me time to finish up this paperwork. We should take cell phones just in case. . ."

Cory smiled slightly. "Was just about to suggest that." She paused. "Taylor, you sure you want to do this. You haven't seen a physically abused child up to this point. It can be hard to take."

Always looking out for me Cory. What about yourself? You just came back. "I think I need to see this. If not just for a learning experience then as knowing what you go through. Just tell me what to expect."

That's just a fancy way of saying you want to protect me, love, and I love you for it. "Expect the unexpected. I'll let you do your paperwork and verse you on the signs of physical abuse when we get in the car." Knowing it was inappropriate, Cory decided to do it anyway. She walked up to the front of the desk, leaned over and brushed the admin's surprised lips with her own. "Thanks, I love you too," the caseworker whispered. Giving Taylor a soft smile, Cory left the office.

Taylor touched fingertips to her lips. "How did she know what I was up to? And how does she do that?"

LS chuckled. Magic.

*******

Cory went down a list that had become part of her brain a long time ago. She peered at a red light, willing it to change. "Okay, well you know it's not just the obvious physical signs although those are important. If you see bruises, look for some in the shape of large hand prints or in an odd place like the neck or upper chest. Generally, a child that's abused will be subdued, shy, scared, unkept, and he won't look anybody in the face. The parent will try to speak for them instead of letting them talk." She made a left turn and glanced at the admin. "Some of those aren't by the book, but you learn to recognize all the little things. There's a lot more but most of the one's I gave you were the glaring ones." Stay with me Taylor. I'm gonna need you on this one.

Taylor swallowed. Here she is counting on me again. I won't let you down. "Okay, I think I got it. Are we going to interview them separate?"

Cory shook her head, "No, they need to be observed together first then we'll go from there." She turned another corner and pointed to a house not far away. "There, I think that's it."

They parked in front, noticing another car parked in the driveway. "Well at least somebody's home this time. Robert should be in school, but Lynn told me he had been out sick for the past few days." Cory took a deep breath and glanced at the admin. "You ready?"

Taylor nodded and stared back. "Yeah, let's go see if we can save a kid."

The house fit the customary white house with a picket fence description. The grass was cut neatly, and a colorful ball sat still on the yard. The whole area had a stillness about it, as if waiting. Taylor looked around and saw faces peering out the windows of other homes. It gave her an ominous feeling. The admin swallowed painfully as tension banded across her shoulders. She pulled Cory by the arm, stopping them midway up the walkway. "You see that, feel that?"

"Yeah, I feel likes someone's watching me. Eerie."

"Yeah, you can say that again. The little hairs are standing up on my arms."

They proceeded to the door without incident. Cory reached for the bell, but the door was snatched open before she could ring it. A smiling middle aged redheaded woman with glazed eyes greeted them. A sinking feeling started deep in the caseworker's stomach. Letting it blossom, she reached out her hand to shake Bessie's. "Bessie Owens? We're from the Family Services Agency. Your casemanager, Lynn sent us to check up on Robert and talk to you about the adoption. I'm Cory Donovan and this is Taylor Wilson."

Bessie took the blonde woman's hand in her own. 'They can't have him back,' she thought. 'He belongs to me now.' Her smile widened. "Yes, come on in. No one said you were coming, but that's okay." She moved aside to let them through.

Cory stepped in and almost gagged. She looked up at the admin to see that she was green around the gills also. The smell was acrid and rotten. It was subtle but still discernable.

Bessie noticed the looks on their faces. 'You think you know. You think you're so smart.' "Oh, you'll have to excuse the smell. The garbage pilled up, and since Robert has been sick, I haven't had the time."

Taylor kept her face impassive, but glanced down at Cory. There was a silent communication between them. That was no garbage.

The further they got in the house the more potent the smell became. Cory let her apprehension grow. God, please tell me I'm imagining things. She decided to play her hand. "Where's Robert? We need to talk to you both."

'Yellow haired bitch isn't gonna get over on me. He's mine,' Bessie's thoughts screamed. "He's at school right now. Why don't you two come back later around 3 o'clock. Don't know why you came so early in the first place." Her voice turned hard, but she tried to hide it.

Taylor heard it just fine. She looked at Cory and shook her head imperceptibly. Something is very wrong. The look said.

The caseworker could feel her heart thud hard against her chest. It was time to drop the charade. "Ms. Owens, Robert isn't at school. Now, where is he?" Cory's voice was firm with an edge.

Bessie's smile turned crooked and sinister. "He's mine now. You can't have him." She giggled slightly then covered her mouth.

The admin caught Cory's gaze, seeing the panic in it. "Taylor, keep her here and call the police. I'm going to look for him."

The brunette nodded and jumped in front of the redhead as she tried to intercept Cory. "No, no. You stay here with me."

Bessie laughed loud and long and almost screamed in a sing song voice, "He's mine. He's mine!"

How could that casemanager not see that this woman is off. When I first looked at her I knew something was wrong. Please let that kid be alright. God, please. Taylor closed her eyes for a beat then reached out a hand to stop Bessie's second attempt at flight. Holding her with one arm, Taylor rummaged through her purse with the other hand. She felt the flip phone and pulled it out. With a flick of her finger she opened the top. Giving Bessie a glare, she whispered menacingly, "You stay right here. Do you understand?"

The woman whimpered and nodded.

Taylor dialed 911 and explained the situation and her suspicions as best she could.

As Cory got closer to the back, the smell made her stomach wrench and rumble. "Oh God, please." After looking in the other two rooms, she stood outside the last door, where the smell was obviously originating. The door was ajar, and she pushed it open with a creek. The odor was heinous like a murderous criminal in the room, taking over everything. Thick heavy, dark curtains covered the windows, blocking out light. Green eyes glanced around the darkened room to see toys on the floor----a basketball and some action figures. Her eyes zeroed in on the bed where she could just make out a still form. With shaking hands and queasy stomach, she reached for the light and cried out in anguish at what she saw. Short but usually strong legs weakened dangerously, making her hold on to the door, and she swallowed down acid like bile. Her heart broke as she scanned the remains of Robert Akins.

His arms were pulled back and chained to the bed post. They stood out stiff and blue veined with fingers half clenched in a fist. Blonde hair almost the same color as hers was matted and dirty with dried, crusted blood no doubt from the huge gash on his temple that was tinged green around the edges. Blood had dripped into his face to the corner of brown eyes, which stood open and unseeing in a gaze of pain and anguish. No longer able to discern the smell, Cory just looked and sobbed. Crimson liquid spilled down his face in gory lines around his broken nose and wide opened mouth. His exposed throat sported big hand like bruises both old and new. Her heart disintegrated into pieces when she gazed upon his torso. His starvation was evident.

Each rib stood out in sharp relief against pasty, gray skin. Yellow, red, and purple bruises covered his chest as did cigarette burns. The caseworker covered her mouth as the tears fell. The rest of his form was covered in a Power Rangers comforter sprinkled with red that blended in strangely with its natural colors. Cory twisted the door knob back and forth in a white knuckled grip, and raggedly whispered the mantra, "Ohgodohgodohgod!" The sound of sirens galvanized her into action. She put her hand over her speeding heart and turned around on shaky legs. Leaving the door open and moving slowly, laboriously down the hall, she wiped angry tears from her eyes and prepared to do her job.

Taylor heard the slow footsteps as well as the oncoming sirens. She looked up to see Cory and her heart did a silent flop to her stomach. With red-rimmed eyes, the caseworker looked at her boss and shook her head in a slow painful motion. Taylor felt tears prickle the backs of her eyes, and breathing became suddenly painful. She looked down at the petite redhead with anger blazing in her eyes turning them a icy blue. With eyes still glazed, Bessie only smiled, and said, "See, told you he was mine."

Taylor had never come close to hitting a woman. Right now, she was as close as she would ever get. What a fucking waste!

She moved away from the woman to go to Cory, who was steadily making it toward the front door. Taylor put a comforting hand at the small of the caseworker's back, as they both reached the door at the same time. They opened it to see total chaos outside. Two police cars pulled up along with an ambulance. The people who were just looking before milled around in the streets dangerously close to the house. Taylor wrapped her arm completely around the blonde and felt as well as heard her sob. I know I didn't see what you just did, baby, but stay with me here.

They watched as the cops exited their vehicles. Two remained for crowd control, and the other two walked briskly toward the house with the paramedics pushing a gurney behind them.

The cops stopped when they reached the porch. "Taylor Wilson?"

The admin nodded.

"You called about an injured child?" The black man asked.

Cory shuddered and sobbed again. She spoke softly but loud enough to carry to the policemen, "Call the coroner too. He's dead."

*********

With their statements taken, they sat quietly on the porch and watched as Bessie Owens was escorted out of her house in handcuffs. There were murmurs from the forming crowd, but Taylor ignored them to continue to rub Cory's back in slow soothing circles. Taylor shook her head and closed her eyes. If I didn't know love existed, my faith in humanity would be seriously shaken right now. I know hers is. Please Cory stay here with me. Don't zone out. The admin scooted closer and began to whisper in the blonde's ear. "Don't shut off, Cory. Get mad, get angry, and take action. Allow yourself to hurt, but this isn't your fault. You've never met this woman until today."

The blonde head was bent and hanging between splayed legs. How can anyone do this? He was defenseless for Christsakes! Small hands balled into fists and the anger came again full blast. "Why do agencies like ours exist, Taylor, when all this shit is going on in the world? It's obvious that we're doing something wrong here! Look at her! She's sick, and all the sick people have changed the rules. We need to change ours because they're not working anymore." She turned green fire on the admin. "And we need to start with CPS."

Proud and shocked at the same time, Taylor wiped what seemed to be the last tear from Cory's face. "I know. I know."

I know what I have to do. I told myself this when she called. "Give me your phone."

Without a word, the admin handed it over. Cory dialed Lynn's cell number. At the sound of a hello, Cory muttered with malice. "This is Donovan. Get to the Owens' house. Now!" She hung up with a click.

They watched silently as a covered gurney was wheeled out. Cory shook her head, and the anger grew. "She knew something was wrong. I could hear it in her voice, but she didn't want to see it. Now, look at him. What a big fucking mess. What a fucking waste. Other kids have lived here, and we can't begin to fathom what she did to them before they left." Cory turned to the admin and gazed at her with a somber expression. "Remember when I told you about a caseworker that didn't feel anymore? It goes the same way if they can't see." The blonde scooted closer to her companion, and Taylor obligingly opened her arms wider. She squeezed the caseworker in an attempt to give warmth, comfort, and love. She didn't care who saw.

Cory stroked the arm that laid across her torso. "I'm here, Taylor," she said softly, "And I know this isn't my fault, but I can make sure that this doesn't happen to some other kid on Lynn's caseload. I don't think I've ever been this angry. Feels like someone lit a match and threw it inside, you know?"

Thank God. She's okay. I don't ever want to see the light go out of her eyes. "Yeah, I know. I knew when we walked into the house that he was gone. I-I just didn't. . .God." Her voice wavered. "I can't believe this. I'm sorry you had to see that."

Cory began to rock them both. "Shh, it's okay. We're okay, and we'll get through this. I promise. Let's just hang onto each other." They did exactly that for some time until another car drove up, braking with a squeak.

Cory clenched the arm around her as Lynn jumped out of the car and looked around in surprise and confusion. "Let's go," the caseworker mumbled. "I have some talking to do."

They met a harried looking Lynn half way up the walk. Taylor stood stoically behind the caseworker with her hand resting warmly in the small of the blonde's back.

"What's going on? What happened?" Lynn asked breathlessly.

Cory knew the anger glowed in her eyes and would come out in her voice. She didn't care. "Robert's dead. That's what happened, Lynn."

The casemanager shook her head vehemently, "No, no that's not possible. I just saw him last week. He was fine."

Cory let out a bark of sarcastic laughter and threw her hands up in disgust. "Fine! FINE! He was starving, Lynn. It was so obvious. The boy was skin and bones, and he had bruises all over his neck. How the hell do you fall and get those? Huh?!"

The other woman took a step backward, and her features screwed into disbelief. "N-No, that's just not. . ."

Cory took a step forward, so did Taylor. The blonde wanted to smile over her shoulder in thanks, but this seemed more important. "What? Possible. You can look at Bessie Owens and tell she's unstable! I got the vibe right off. You didn't suspect a thing?! How many kids did you put in that house, Lynn? Ten? Twenty? I can only imagine what they went through. How could you not have seen it?!"

"I-I did everything by the book. I have so many cases. I can't keep track of all of them."

Incredulous, Cory's voice raised an octave higher. "Keep track of them?! That's bullshit. That's your job, Lynn. It's you job. They're not just paper. They're living, breathing children who are counting on you. You take children away from their natural families and place them right in the middle of a shit stream! You may have done everything by the book, but you forgot one thing, Lynn! You forgot to look with your own two eyes! You forgot to follow your instincts!"

"Oh God. I didn't know. It's so hard, and there are so many of them. I can't. . . it's so hard!" Lynn sobbed, and she covered her face in her hands. "There are so many of them and so few of us, and the ones that get hired leave so quickly complaining of hardly any pay and no time off. I thought I was doing the right thing. I'm so, so s-sorry!"

Cory felt some of her anger dissipate. Lynn wasn't all the blame. The system helped. The system that pays shit and expected the casemanagers to do so much. The system helped to kill Robert Akins. Cory slipped out of Taylor's grasp and wound her arms around Lynn. She shushed and squeezed her. The woman hung on as if the blonde was a life line. "It's time, Lynn. You have to get away from this for a while. You have too, until you can see again." The woman continued to sob quietly.

The caseworker glanced up catching pale blue scanning the streets. She waited patiently for the eyes to meet hers. Without saying a word, green eyes whispered, "I'm here. I'm okay, and I've said my piece."

Taylor reached out and caressed the supple skin of the blonde's cheek with the back of her hand. Pale eyes murmured back, "I know. I love you."

The dark head turned abruptly at the sound of raised voices. The media had arrived. She glanced back at Cory, "Do you want to stay and talk to them?"

Cory nodded and smiled. "Yeah, someone needs too." She paused and peered down at Lynn. "See if you can get one of the officers to escort her home."

Taylor reached out for the shivering woman and watched, with pride in her eyes, as Cory walked toward the cameras.

******

Some time later and about ten minutes away from Taylor's apartment complex, the admin called Shelley to apprise her of the situation. She looked over at Cory, who peered out the window. "No, we won't be in for the rest of the day, and Shelley, don't beep me unless it's something you can't handle." She closed the cell with a flick of her wrist. The admin took a quick peek at the caseworker's profile and reached over to squeeze a thigh. "You did good, Cory. CPS should be so lucky to have someone like you."

Cory looked down at the appendage encircling her thigh. Shafts of heat shot from it moving up and down her spine and all points south. Her breath caught, and blonde brows drew together in confusion. What's wrong with me? Why am I feeling this now? Taylor's hand moved up slightly and squeezed again. The bolt of arousal was tremendous, taking her breath completely away. Where the admin's fingers touched fire prickled and raged. Cory's chest expanded with her effort to intake air., and her mind searched for explanations. Then, it hit her. She had read somewhere a long time ago that a couple on a crashing plane tore their clothes off and began to make love in front of the terrified passengers, even as the plane descended. It had been an affirmation of life in the face of imminent death. Is that what I'm feeling now? Love and the need to reaffirm it in the face of death and sickness? The admin's fingers scorched against the inside of the caseworker's thigh. Cory groaned at the building sensations.

Startled by the blonde's reaction, Taylor almost pulled away until a small hand clamped over hers, beckoning her to stay. She turned to the caseworker and whispered her name in concern, "Cory? Sweetie, are you okay?" What's going on? She wouldn't lie to me would she? She seemed okay. A little subdued but okay. "Cory, look at me." Green eyes turned her way and the emotion in them smacked her between the eyes and caused her stomach to twist in hard knots. Need. Desire. It was shining in green just waiting for her to see.

Taylor glanced at the road, seeing the turn into the security booth to her complex not far away, but her eyes snapped back to the blonde quickly. She watched a pink tongue snake out to moisten full lips and licked her own in sympathy. The hand grasping hers led her deeper between toned thighs, making her wish it was skin she was touching instead of the cloth of slacks. "Cory?" The name came out thick and husky as their gazes held electrifying the cab of the car. Cory led the hand further, making it cup her sex. She groaned at the feel of sensitive lips, already swollen and wet, being caressed. "Touch me. . .I need you," Cory whimpered.

Taylor sucked in a deep breath right before her breathing turned ragged. "God, baby you. . .someone will see." Still, she couldn't resist and applied firm pressure to the blonde's mound. The resulting moan made her blood catch fire. She slowed the car and looked back and forth from the road to the blonde's flushed face. Taylor turned into the security booth, but hastily covered the whereabouts of her hand with the caseworker's large purse. For now, it only looked like she was touching the caseworker's thigh. She kept up the constant pressure and almost whimpered when Cory began to hump her hand. Green eyes dared her, called her, begged her not to stop. She didn't. Giving the guard a brisk wave, Taylor turned the corner with one strong hand and drove toward her parking space.

Once the car stopped, Cory turned to the side, facing the admin. She grabbed the large hand once more and splayed her legs open over the gear shift. She wrestled with her pants, unzipping them, and Taylor watched on in rising arousal. Her heart beat painfully against her chest, her lungs burned, and sweat covered her upper lip. Before Taylor knew it, her hand was engulfed in wet heat. They cried out filling the car with sexy noises.

Taylor cupped the blonde's mound once more, reveling in the moist inferno. She pressed down, massaging in a firm circular motion that set Cory's blood to boil. She arched her hips upward to meet the appendage with her own lusty thrusts, whimpering with each upward stroke. It wasn't enough. She wanted it. . ."Oh yesss. Harder!" Cory cried out.

The admin obliged her and slipped two fingers in between puffy lips. She groaned out loud at the feel of heated velvety folds. The well placed fingers slid around the slippery, erect nodule, caressing with rough intention. Taylor watched the blonde in erotic fascination. Her body bucked uncontrollably, her mouth was open and moans so sensual that they tore into the brunette's sex, making it throb. Through it all green eyes held hers and refused to turn away, refused to close. She could see the pleasure, the need, the lust, and the love all laid bare. She has no idea how much I want her. How much she turns me on.

She began to stroke with more assurance, causing the moans to turn into high pitch keening sounds. Her own groin contracted in erotic empathy, making her wet and ready. Nipples had long since hardened and scraped against the fabric of her bra. The blonde's next move almost sent the admin careening over the edge she teetered on. Small hands raised to her own chest and begin to pinch raised nipples through her shirt. Taylor threw her head back and groaned at the sight. She resisted the sudden need to impale the caseworker on her fingers by only a fraction. It was so hot, so fast, and she wanted nothing more than to rip the pants from the Cory and sink into blazing wetness. Unable to help herself, the admin leaned over and forward, capturing open lips in her own. The kiss was crushing and sensual. Lips met sloppily and tongues fought vehemently for space.

Cory moaned into the admin's mouth and celebrated the slip of her control. For this moment, she didn't care who saw. She didn't care who said what. She only wanted to feel loved, ravaged, and cherished. She sucked on Taylor's tongue and whimpered in frustration at the fingers teasing her opening. Nothing could be compared to this. Not living, not dying. It was more. It was perfection. Cory tore her hands away from aching breasts and wound them into black silk, making the kiss harder, wilder.

The sound of a blaring horn and a man's triumphant whoop tore them apart. Needy eyes met instantly. Chests heaved and breaths came out audible and husky. Taylor ground down with her hand, loving the way slim hips bucked in reaction. Then with the only ounce of will power she had left, she pulled her hand from its dewy home. Cory mewed in protest and wanted to cry at the sudden sense of loss. "Please. . ." Her thoughts were scattered, and the only thing she could focus on was, Never knew it could feel like this, so raw and urgent.

Taylor looked into fiery green then at swollen lips. She swallowed, and whispered. "Let's go inside and finish this."

Don't think I could ever finish with you. Cory clung to the thought and tried to will back coherence. She fastened her pants with shaking hands, and they finally exited the car leaving briefcases and bags behind.

The elevator was blissfully empty. Taylor went to one end while Cory went to the other. Their eyes met, smoldering the air between them. Pale blue studied the blonde, leaving not an inch of her untouched and making her feel each gaze like a palpable caress. All mine. Taylor licked her lips as if she could taste her lover already.

Coryís heart slammed against her ribcage, and she tried unashamed to push air into burning lungs. The silver-blue eyes ripping the clothes from her body further hindered matters. Her skin felt scorched, tingling and alive. Can I survive this? No oneís ever looked at me like that. . . That idea pushed her higher. Suddenly, the blondeís skin felt too tight and her head too cloudy. She felt like screaming in hopes of relieving the building pressure, but instead she settled for words. "You want me." It wasnít a question but a husky statement of fact. There was a ding as the elevator went from floor to floor. The admin didnít even have to think as she replied just as huskily, "You have no idea."

Cory leaned her head back against the padded wall, hoping to get a hold of the overwhelming need coursing through her body. Cory moaned out loud. I have to touch her, feel her. Straightening up, she walked across the elevator with purpose. Within a few seconds, they were face to face. Taylorís breathing picked up once more as she stared down in to the blondeís face reading the unmasked desire there. "Cory, we canít, not here. They may have camer. . .God!" The last word was a groan. Having taken the last step to close the gap between them, Cory molded their bodies together. She whimpered at the blistering heat between them and firmly attached her warm mouth to the adminís exposed neck. So sweet.

In automatic reaction, Taylor wound her hand through golden hair, keeping the blonde where she wanted. She then gasped at the feel of teeth scraping across skin. With one last ding, the elevator stopped on their floor, but Cory ignored the sound. The admin snaked out an arm to keep the elevator open. "Our stop," she said breathlessly. Cory only bit down harder on the corded tendon in the adminís neck, causing her hips to buck. "Oh God, baby. . ." Sheís gonna make me come right here.

The elevator rung in protest at being open so long. Gathering will power from reserves, Taylor wrapped her other arm around the blondeís torso and shuffled them both out the elevator and down the hall. When they got to the adminís door, she was somehow able to disengage herself from the caseworker but not by much. She groaned hoarsely at the heat of the body on her back and warm fingertips trailing up her arms.

Taylorís hands shook as she fiddled with the key and almost whooped in triumph when it finally opened. Cory closed the door and leaned against it, and they gazed at each other from across the room, making it seem smaller. The blonde licked her lips in anticipation and tracked shining blue as they followed each movement. Look at her. She has no idea how much I want her or what I want to do to her, with her.

With a predatory gleam in her eyes, the caseworker walked closer. Suddenly propelled by urgent need, she felt as if she was running. With unknown strength, she pushed the admin into the far wall with a smack, crushing their lips together in a hungry moan. The kiss was hot, wet, and carnal. Tongues slid moistly from mouth to mouth in a battle of dominance that no one was looking to win. Cory wound her hands through dark tresses, balling them into fists and pulling the admin down hard into the kiss.

She whimpered at the feel of large hands palming her bottom through the material of her pants then cried out as the same hands skimmed over panties and went straight for hot flesh, kneading the tight fleshy globes and parting them to get to the sensitive nerves beneath. Unable to help herself, Cory ground her sex against the adminís conveniently placed thigh. Taylor urged her on, guiding and squeezing pliant flesh. It wasnít enough. Cory tore her mouth away but continued the gyrations. "Wanna see you."

Heavy lidded green eyes bore into blue, and without waiting for permission, Cory tore at the adminís shirt, loving the sound of ripping material and scattering buttons. The caseworker whimpered in frustration at seeing the bra but growled in determination as she lowered her head to a silk encased breast. Nipples stood tight and proud, making her mouth water. Without warning, she flicked the one closest to her mouth. The answering whimper urged her on, making her tongue work fast and furious over the turgid tip while busy fingers plucked at the other breast, keeping it from being lonely.

Taylor felt as though she was dying and being born at the same time. Her body throbbed and everywhere a fine ache permeated right down to the bone. The look in Coryís eyes made her blood sing, made her want to do naughty things, made her just want to scream.

She had been dripping wet before, and now, moist heat flowed like wine between her legs. Her whole sex tingled with a life of its own. She should have been irritated at her loss of control of things, but a good lover knows when to take and when to give in completely. Never had she expected Cory to be like thisódemanding, raw, and uncontrolled. So, she went with it gladly, instinctively knowing it was what Cory wanted, what she needed right now.

The feel of soft flesh in her hands and the mound pressed against her thigh were having mind-numbing effects but continued to bring her body to life. With each touch, the petite woman released a tide of emotion that transformed into the most exquisite pleasure Taylor had ever known. The urgent sound of ripping material only made her wind tighter, go higher. She loved every minute of it.

Now, semi-exposed, her breasts were swollen, tender, and aching with nipples standing out like the hardest of diamonds, waiting to be discovered, and Cory found them with a tongue dead set on driving her insane. Each flick strummed like a tightly wound cord to her sex, making it pulse and her stomach tighten. Unable to and not wanting to hold back, each lick and tweak brought a harsh moan from the adminís lips. She pulled the blonde into her body, wanting to absorb her, to get inside her, to get under her skin. Her hips arched helplessly into the blondeís stomach in hopes that the rock hard surface would provide some relief.

The sounds, oh God the sounds coming from the blonde tied her belly in pleasurable knots. Each small whimper of enjoyment coming from the blonde corresponded with her own moans. The adminís world expanded to that of bright light when lips parted and the caseworkerís mouth opened wide taking in as much of her breast as possible. "Ohh, f. . ." The word ended with a high pitch whimper when teeth joined with the warm suction. The whimper turned into a keening sound as the suction became harder, wetter as if the blonde were trying to pull substance from the ravaged tip.

Cory almost shook with delight, but the need for more was overwhelming. She pushed the bra up revealing brown tipped, full breasts, and using both hands to lift one toward her mouth, she latched on with a fury. The scream that ensued made her buck hard against Taylorís thigh. The taste of her was intoxicating, reminding the blonde of something wild and earthy. She pulled more in to savor and remember. Fair brows drew together in concentration as she continued to lap deliciously.

Taylor made the mistake of looking down. It was almost her undoing, seeing full lips encasing her breast. The sight was erotic, and she couldnít tear her eyes away. The wet heat was addictive but draining. The admin could feel her legs go weak, unsteady. Through ragged breath, she husked, "Need to . . .lay down." Cory started to pull away, but Taylor mewed in protest and pulled her back. She had her own plans. On shaky legs, she shuffled them to the doorway leading to the bedroom. Four arms shot out, using the doorway as an anchor, when the adminís balance wavered. During the whole time, Cory stayed burrowed in between glorious mounds of flesh, treating the smooth valley to a tongue lashing.

Now inside the bedroom and near the foot of the bed, Cory gave her lover a little push and watched her fall backwards onto the bed with a little bounce. With piercing green eyes, Cory caught the blue gaze and refused to release it. Breathing hard and shallow her voice was breathless but powerful on impact. "Watch." Look at me and show me how much you want me. Make me feel alive. Make me enjoy being alive. Sky blue eyes widened then turned to slits of fire as the admin observed in silent anticipation.

Using the heels of her feet, Cory pushed off her shoes. Then, eager hands snaked underneath her shirt, thrusting her breasts forward as she released the catch in the back. With one swoop, she removed both shirt and bra, letting them fall to the floor in a disorganized heap. In a wanton display, Cory cupped her breasts and squeezed them before hands traveled to her slacks. Within seconds, they fell away, leaving only a slip of silk in the way. Feeling the wet heat coat her thighs, Cory let fingers venture inside. She groaned when they contacted moist flesh. It wasn't as compelling as when the admin was touching her but pleasure still resulted.

Taylor watched wide eyed. She groaned in frustration. She wanted to be the one touching, palming, and cupping the caseworkerís tan, supple flesh, but the show she was getting was highly arousing and tantalizing in its own right.

Through playing, panties disappeared in the blink of an eye, and Cory climbed on the bed, making her way up the admin's lithe body with deliberate purpose. Her warm, wet mouth caressed the length of legs from calf to thigh, stopping and nipping at slick inner thighs teasingly. The blonde hummed in delight as she licked at the spilled juices, but continued her journey upward to the admin's taut abdomen. The smell of her, the taste of her, beckoned the caseworker to feast, but she had made up her mind to save that for later.

Taylor bit her lip and whimpered in need. She parted her thighs wide to make room for the lounging blonde. Her body surged upward at the feel of full breasts nesting against her sex. Then they were gone, and Taylor cried out in disappointment. A slight weight covered her abdomen, and when the admin opened her eyes she groaned at the sight of naked Cory leaning over her, straddling her. It was too much. Sweat covered her face, making her hair wet and fine. She didn't care. "Please. . .can't take. . .ohhh!" She moaned loud and long at the feel of Cory's wet slippery sex grinding into her stomach. Not knowing what else to do, she grabbed hips and urged her on until the grind became a pounding.

Cory shook her head, moving sweat slicked hair out of her eyes. She wanted to watch as well as feel. She took in the admin's flushed face and moist lips, having never seen her more beautiful. The pounding of flesh against flesh sent jolts of electrically charged pleasure from her sex to the tips of her fingers, and she shouted her enjoyment of it to the ceiling. Cory bent forward, allowing their breasts to touch, to scrape. They both hissed at the contact. Lips met in open mouth kisses that were no more than a moist meeting of tongues. The caseworker reared up suddenly, and Taylor almost followed her, deterred only by small hands pushing her back.

Cory began to move her hips in a deep circular grind, smearing her arousal everywhere. She moaned loudly and wanted the admin to feel the same, to do the same. Simply put, she wanted to hear Taylor scream her name. Grabbing her lover's right thigh, she lifted the leg higher until she could grasp it and bring it almost fully extended into the air. Twisting her body to the right, Cory brought her own bent left leg over the admin's side. She whimpered in satisfaction as she looked down. Slick lips were in the perfect position to touch. Cory reached down and spread her own wet flesh as she closed the distance between them. Making sure the admin's leg would stay elevated, she did the same for her lover and brushed the erect nodule with her thumb for added emphasis. Their open, sopping mounds met in perfection, causing them both to cry out in sheer delight.

Taylor closed her eyes and balled the sheets up in her tight fists. She met Cory's thrusting grinding motion with one of her own. Her whole body shivered in reaction, and pure fire ravaged her body. The time was past for a slow seduction. From the beginning, that time never existed. From the car to the bedroom, it had been a fast, all consuming burn, and Taylor welcomed it. She cried out Cory's name as if it was a sacrament, meeting the now slapping thrust with equal fervor.

She should have wanted to preserve the fragile connection between their bodies. She should have taken it slow. She should have done a lot of things. Cory knew this, but she also knew none of the above were options. The sound of their smacking bodies, Taylor's cries, and her own need to pull life out of the death she had seen today saw to that. With her abdomen contracting in pleasure, she grunted with each movement, putting her all into it. Sweat covered their bodies, making the sheets slippery and wet enough to slide on. Vulgar things fell from her lips in the form of questions, and Taylor answered them all with nasty replies of her own.

When she spoke again, Cory's voice was just as hoarse and husky as before. "Feel me. . .touching you. . .inside you. You. .like it?"

Taylor arched her back and yelled her answer, "Yes, oh God, yes!"

Cory sobbed. Ecstasy assaulted her body, creating a world of existence between her legs. It hurt to breath. It hurt to think. It all just hurt so good. She redoubled her efforts feeling the inevitable tingling from far away. Her head turned and she bit into the flesh of Taylor's raised leg, soothing it with sucking and her tongue. Thrusts became uneven and frantic, but she only pushed harder, feeling the tingling turn into electric shocks. Cory bit into flesh again as the shocks pummeled her body. Tearing her mouth away, she whimpered and whispered thickly, "Come. . . with me."

Taylor watched from under hooded eyes. She saw the pleasure/pain in her lover's face and knew it must mirror her own. Fire licked her body with a white hot flame. It seemed as though it took her forever to get here, but she could feel it coming, sneaking up on her like a thief in the night. The steady pressure on her groin and whispered words of lust dangled her on the edge. Cory's impassioned plea had her hanging on by a thread. Her lover's loud cry and jerking body pushed her over completely.

Orgasm flooded their bodies thick and sweet like the best honey, leaving their bodies helplessly undulating against each other to draw it all out. Feeling the rush of wetness shared between their bodies, Cory groaned. She had gotten her wish. It still rung in her ears.

Long minutes later, Cory lowered herself to Taylor, covering her body. Still winded, she whimpered slightly at the feel of a large hand caressing her sweaty back. Taylor blinked, finally feeling like she had returned to her body because for a while, Cory had owned it lock, stock, and barrel. Her limbs felt blessedly heavy, and her heart pounded against her chest in the most pleasing rhythm. This is what it feels like to make love. I've been in the dark for a long, long time.

Cory stretched slightly. Her body still hummed with energy--no where near satiation. It demanded more, and she meant to get it. She moved up slightly and opened her mouth wide over the admin's neck as she did the same with her legs, imprisoning one of Taylor's thighs between hers. Her nose flared as she took in the smell of sex and arousal, and her mouth watered, remembering the wild taste that waited between the admin's thighs. More. I have to have more. She sucked and bit at the flesh of Taylor's neck, absorbing the taste and rubbed her still soppy sex across the admin's thigh. The burn started again. This time slower but just as urgent.

Taylor moaned softly at Cory's change of position. With large hands splayed over slim hips, she guided her lover. I don't think she has any idea what she does to me. "Cor-y, what do you do to me?" Her voice was hoarse from overuse.

Cory paused as her head hung over heaving breasts. "Whatever you want." She bent down and licked around a hardening nipple. "Just. . .need more. . .please?" Her request dripped with need.

Taylor's back arched, eager to get the caress repeated. Without another thought, she murmured thickly, "Yess."

Cory took her time drawing out caresses and kisses until arousal was almost painful. She groaned in delight when legs hefted over her shoulders and crossed behind her back. The groan turned into a languid moan as she thrust her tongue deeply into the admin's sex. The results were the same. She still heard the echo of her name in the now quiet room.


Chapter XLII: The Morning After. . .

Taylor woke just before the alarm went off. She reached for the clock to get a good look at the time and knocked empty Haagen Dazs containers onto the floor. The admin smiled, recalling how she watched as Cory padded out of the room stark naked only to return with ice cream, spoons, and a devilish glint in her eyes. She turned around cautiously, trying not to disturb the sleeping blonde. Taylor whimpered slightly when she contacted warm flesh. Yesterday and last night had been incredible, unbelievably so. Cory had made her cry out so many times that she wondered if she even had a voice this morning. Feeling like a well fed cat, she stretched, whimpering again as her flesh slid over Cory's. How could she know? Everywhere to touch, to kiss? It was like she already knew me.

I didn't think I could love her anymore than I already did. I was wrong. Taylor burrowed back down in the covers, melding her body to Cory's and nuzzling her face into fragrant blonde hair. I don't want to leave thisóthis morning, not now, not ever. I hope I was able to give her what she needed. Seeing that boy like that tore something in her, and she needed me to fix it. I hope to God that I did. Taylor sighed and kissed the top of the blonde head.

Cory felt movement behind her back but refused to open her eyes. Everything was perfect right now, right at this minute. I don't want to open my eyes and see that it's all been a dream. I still can't believe she's real. She heard a sigh then felt a kiss at the top of her head. A smile spread slowly over her face. It was real. All of it, including last night. She felt the naked flesh against her body. She replayed last night in her mind, remembering the smells, the sounds, and the touches. Her stomach clenched in pleasure. Last night defied definition. There were no words to describe it because she had nothing to compare it to. Everything before Taylor had just been practice. This was the real thing.

Cory moved slightly, taking inventory of her body. She felt light headed, light hearted, and her mind was clear. The smile got bigger. She had been expecting the customary guilt and shame, but it never came. There was nothing she could have done about Robert, and she wasn't even going to go into what ifs. There was no need to. Cory hated that he died, hated that CPS was going to lose yet another casemanager, and she hated that the system fostered this. Hopefully with the interview she had given to TV and local radio stations that was present, she would start some wheels into motion, but right now, she focused on love.

Cory turned over and peered up into pale blue eyes. Taylor blinked in surprise and smiled brilliantly. "Hey, sleepyhead." The admin reached out to caress flushed cheeks with a finger.

"Hey. You're up early."

"Just wanted to get up and tell you something." Taylor smirked mysteriously.

"Oh, really? What?" Cory waited expectantly.

"I love you more than I thought I could love anything or anybody."

The customary flush started at Cory's neck and worked its way up. She buried her head in Taylor's naked chest, inhaling the scent of sex and the spicy smell that was all Taylor. Yeah, I'm gonna melt every time.

Taylor chuckled and raised the caseworker's chin with a well placed finger. Blue eyes held green. "I mean it." The smirk returned. "And last night was way up on the 'whoa' meter."

Cory pulled herself up and brushed the admin's lips softly with her own. Biting her lower lip, barely hid her smile. "Thank you for everything."

Taylor leaned in for another kiss. "Anytime."

They both jumped at the sound of the DJ. "Now for local news."

"Right here in Lake County a nine year old boy was murdered by his foster mother. The boy's grisly remains were discovered by Cory Donovan, a caseworker for Family Service Agency, and Taylor Wilson, her boss. Ms. Donovan had this to say about the incident."

"This death should be the last straw. There have been too many when there shouldn't be any at all. The system of foster care needs to play catch up with today's society. If necessary, we need to implement policy changing procedures that ensure children are watched closely by their caseworker's and extensive background checks and interviewing processes for potential foster parents. Parents should even be screened in emotional situations, and their friends and family should be interviewed to make sure no more children end up like this young man did."

"I had a colleague from CPS tell me today that there were too many children and not enough of case mangers. The state needs to pay more to get the better trained casemanager. These are children not just a collection of files and papers. Real children live behind all the paperwork. I challenge the bureaucrats and politicians to do something not just talk about it. Do something before one more child dies when he didn't have to." Cory's voice ended and another one begin. "There has been no reply from local officials on this subject but I have no doubt that there will be. Now for the weather. . ."

Taylor peered at the caseworker trying to gage her reaction. "You okay?"

Cory nodded and smiled. "Yeah, I did what I had to do. Now, let's see what happens. Hopefully, they won't blow too much smoke."


Chapter XLIII: Meanwhile. . .

Barb watched her husband saunter to the bathroom to get ready for work. She sat up and swung her legs to the ground. She stared at the phone, wanting to hear the familiar voice of someone who knew the job and knew her. Waiting a beat, she reached for it and punched in familiar numbers. It rang and rang and rang until the now customary sound of a voice mail message greeted her. Barb slammed the phone down as unidentified emotion raged through her. "What are you doing, Cory? You don't give a damn about anything anymore except her!" She glared at her husband as he trudged out of the bathroom. 'Someone has to talk some sense into her before it's too late. Surely one day early won't make a difference,' she said to herself. Barb got up, kissed her husband on the cheek as he passed by and made her way to the bathroom.


I hope you laughed in some places, cried in others, and thought a lot. You should really check out that article in Time the November 13th issue. It's a real eye opener. Let me know. Minerva




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