Iron Rose Bleeding

Chapter 8

Anne Azel

To: Inga, Lisa, and Susan, thanks for your help.

The Anne Azel's World web site is now found at

Note To The Reader: All the information used in this story about trends and concerns on our planet is current and accurate data. In the next fifty years, our world will change completely.

These are the events as we know them.

We recorded them factually and objectively.

And now we report them to you.

Courtney had no time to think in the next few days. She had hours of reports to read and sessions with Tap to be questioned on what she had learned. She was fitted for several suits, a beige raw-cotton suit jacket with several straight cut skirts and another with two sets of slacks. Her shirts were linen or silk and cut with a conservative collar and short sleeves. On the day they were to leave, she found her suitcase packed and ready for her along with a passport and tickets. A helicopter would take them to New York where they would pick up the Concorde to fly to Paris and then a commuter flight on to Rome.

Courtney wore the underwear and suit that had been delivered to her tent that morning and carried the black briefcase she had been given for any notes that she wished to take with her. The briefcase was labeled in gold: C. Hunter - TAP

A Lincoln pulled up to the main gate and Courtney recognized two of the security officers sitting in the front seat. It wasn't until this time that Tap arrived. She wore a soft, tan suede pant suit with a black silk shirt. Courtney had a hard time keeping her eyes off her.

"You are ready, Court?"

"Yes. My passport says I have diplomatic immunity. By whose authority?"

"Mine. Shall we go?"

For most of the trip Tap read. Courtney did her best to follow her boss's example but she was too excited. She had never been in such a luxurious car before, never been in a helicopter, and had never flown. Now here she was sitting in the leather seats aboard the Concorde. She watched everything with the excitement of a child.

"Do you ever keep still?" Tap's voice showed her irritability. Irritability is often a sign of deep stress and the cause of the irritability is rarely what it seems.

Courtney froze. Tap had been grumpy for the last few days but now she looked really angry. "I'm sorry. I'm excited. I've never traveled before and today I have been in both a helicopter and the Concorde. Pretty good start, huh?"

Tap looked at her with a mixture of surprise and wonder in her eyes. "I forget sometimes that there are more people on this planet that have never used a telephone than have seen a computer."

"I can use a computer." Courtney did not like to be seen by Tap as inexperienced. She would be surprised to learn that it was some of Courtney's experience that Tap found most upsetting and was the main source of her boss's irritation.

Tap simply nodded, however, and went back to her reading. Tap was upset for a number of reasons. First, the incident at the park and the dream she'd had were of great concern. It was a very delicate matter and she would have to be very careful. Hopefully, the incidents were isolated and simply some strange reaction to the strain that she was under. It was very important that her brother not find out until she had resolved this issue.

Second, there was the report on Courtney Hunter that was in her briefcase. She had read it over and over and the emotions she felt when she did confused and upset her. Court had lived an unconventional life with her birth parents and a lonely and restricted life in foster care. She had shown remarkable strength and determination in getting her education and bringing her life in order. There had been lovers. A long and steady relationship with a boy at university that ended when Courtney turned down his proposal. Then two short, casual relationships with women. It was the detailed data on Court's private life that upset Tap. She was not sure why she could not remain objective about this information but she realized she couldn't. It ate at her. She would have liked to question Courtney Hunter about it but knew this would not be appropriate.

They worked in stony silence, each reading reports with studied intensity that neither really felt. Tap's mood deteriorated even more when her vegetarian meal was served. She sniffed at it suspiciously and sighed. Courtney looked down at her own filet mignons with delight. Then she shyly reached into her bag and brought out a container of grain porridge and cut vegetables that she'd had prepared in the kitchen before they left and slipped it onto Tap's tray. "Thought you might like this."

Tap looked at her in surprise and then smiled. It was a real smile of delight, not the stiff, strictly controlled smile that she had seen in the past. Tap's smile made the effort worthwhile. Tap had a lovely smile, Courtney thought.

"Thanks, Court."

"You are welcome."

The rest of the trip was uneventful. Boss and trainee worked side by side in happier frames of mind, reading and preparing for the lectures. It was hard going for Courtney who was too excited about her day to stay focused for long on the reports. She also found economics boring and usually totally out of step with social needs. When she expressed this view, Tap patiently reminded her that business dealt with fulfilling societies' wants at a profit and not with meeting social needs at cost.

It was late in the afternoon, Rome time, when they were finally through customs and had registered in their hotel. To her surprise, Courtney found she was sharing a suite with Tap and next to them was a room shared by her security personnel. They were staying in the small but luxurious five star Bernini Bristol. It had been built in 1870 and renovated in recent years.

Courtney looked in wonder at the elaborate and rich design features, the 18th century tapestries, and the antique furnishings. This was another world and one that Courtney Hunter knew nothing about. Once their room had been checked by Ali and Jason, the two security officers with them, and their bags had been brought in and the porter tipped, Tap disappeared into her bedroom. A few minutes later Courtney could hear the shower running.

Courtney unpacked and hung up her clothes. She felt trapped and frustrated. Here she was in Rome and it looked like her first experience traveling was going to be reading in a hotel room and lectures at the Club of Rome, the understanding of which were way over her head.

She showered, dressed in blue jeans and a t-shirt that she had managed to smuggle along in her carry on and tried to read yet another report. Her restlessness led her from one seat to another until she finally ended up on the salon couch, gazing wistfully from the window. It was a business trip she knew but she couldn't be asked to work twenty-four hours of the day. Her jaw set in a familiar strong line and she slipped off her seat to walk over to Tap's bedroom and knock on the door.


"Tap, if you have nothing planned for me, I think I'll go out for a bit and see what I can of Rome."

"That is not possible. You may not leave until your month's training is up." This was a mutter from behind a report that Tap read as she lay on her bed wrapped up in one of the hotel's thick terry-cloth bathrobes. The silence that followed made Tap look up with concern.

When their eyes met, Courtney tried once more. "But, I might never see Rome again!"

Tap put down her papers and looked at Courtney with interested eyes. "The Bernini Bristol is located at the beginning of the Via Veneto. We are within walking distance of the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. These places I could take you to now. Would this suffice?"

"That would be wonderful, Tap, if you don't mind. I don't want to take you away from your work." Tap would have liked to answer honestly that Courtney Hunter had already done so but she had leaned that such statements required not truth but a show of willingness to be put out. Tap was not willing but felt she might learn from the experience and so had agreed. Still, she did not respond but got up to dress for the outing.

Courtney beat a hasty retreat as Tap stood and slipped from her robe. There was just so much excitement that a girl could handle in one day, she was to explain. Tap for her part was amused by Courtney Hunter's uncomfortable retreat, pleased that the woman was impressed by her body.

They walked side by side down the Via Veneto. It was a lovely evening of the sort when the gold of the setting sun mellows old stone and brick into enchantment. Flowers and colourful banners hung from street lamps and balconies. The area was scented by spicy sauce and garlic as evening meals were prepared. They talked little and simply enjoyed the sights and sounds that are Rome.

Tap stood and watched Courtney with pleasure as the smaller woman stood in delight in front of the elaborate backdrop of the Fontana di Trevi. "It was built in 1735 by the architect Salvi under Clement XII.. The statues and bas-relief around are designed in the Bernini School. That is, the underlying pattern is very geometric and the arrangement mathematically balanced for shape and form. It was designed really as part of the facade of the Palazzo Pol.i

Coutrney was only half listening. She fished into her pocket and came out with a coin to throw into the clear, cold water. Legend had it whoever drank from the fountain or threw a coin into its waters was sure to return to Rome again.

"Are you superstitions, Court?"

"No. Just a romantic. Here, Tap, you throw a coin too." Courtney gave Tap a coin and this is how Tap came to participate in this pagan act.

"But I have been to Rome many times and will come again."


Tap nodded her consent and after looking around to make sure that no one was likely to notice, she threw the coin over her shoulder into the fountain as she had seen Courtney do.

They walked in a big circle as they strolled down the picturesque streets until they reached the .

Piazza di Spagna. Tap explained in her serious way that the famous Spanish Steps, all 1772 of them, had been designed to harmoniously follow the slope of the hill and that the pool and fountain at its base, known as the Little Boat, had been designed by Bernini.

Courtney listened politely to her tour guide-boss and then with sheer devilment in her eyes, she grabbed Tap by the hand and ran her down the stairs to the water's edge. With a playful laugh, Court grabbed Tap to stop her forward motion on the very last step. They stood for a minute close together, laughing, eyes sparkling at each other, the warmth of their bodies intermingling. The Tap stepped back.

"It is a beautiful place," Tap observed. This was not so much an observation but a quick change in mood. Tap had found herself very close to wanting Courtney Hunter. That realization was now less shocking and more tantalizing, she realized, than when she had first felt it. What would be the harm? It would be just another element of her study. Naturally, she rejected this train of thought almost as quickly as it had come. Her position and her name would be ruined by such an act.

They stood for a while admiring the beauty that is Rome but the moment had been lost and they walked quietly back to their hotel in the gathering dark.

They ate in the luxurious dining room, Courtney enjoying immensely the wonderful food and wine. Tap ate her vegetarian plate with disinterest and drank a good deal more wine than the archivist. Upstairs again, they retired to their separate rooms to work until sleep came.

Tap found herself on the Spanish steps again. Music played softly in the back ground. It was a haunting, spiritual melody, more the whisper of wind through ancient hills than structured notes.

The fountain was a cool touch on her hot skin and Courtney Hunter was in her arms. She felt their lips touch and then return to deepen into a joining of passion. She could taste the wine they had drunk as their tongues sought each other. Tap's hands stroked up under Courtney's shirt sensing the woman's passion as her back arched into Tap's touches. One hand slipped around to cup the weight of Courtney's breast and Tap felt herself close to the brink as she touched and played with hard bud of the smaller woman's nipple.

They were falling then, softly to the ground. Tap's hips already nestled between Courtney's legs as she dropped kisses of passion on exposed, soft flesh. Tap woke from her dream with a gasp feeling the hungry need in her like a gnawing animal needing satisfaction. There was no denying what was happening anymore. Tap lay staring in the darkness for a long time, trying to come to terms with the enormity of the situation.

Courtney was awake too. She'd been having an honest talk with herself about just what she was up to. The truth of the matter was that she was in way over her head and if she had any sense at all she would be paddling for shore with all her might. The second truth that she had to face was that this whole thing had nothing to do with Courtney's curiosity about and interest in Tap and everything to do with the attraction she had felt for the woman from the first time they had met.

The bottom line was, Courtney wanted Taylor Alexandria Punga with every pore of her being.

Did Tap want her though? At times she had thought so but this evening when Courtney had dared to be playful, Tap had firmly moved away. Courtney sighed in frustration. Every ounce of her common sense was telling her that she was going to get hurt playing this game. Every ounce of her body, however, was begging her to get on with it.

Who was Tap and what was she up to? There was something not quite right about all this and nothing that Courtney could really put a finger on. It was very late in the night before Courtney drifted off to sleep.

A heavy banging at her door brought Courtney awake the next morning in a drowsy stupor. "Court, we must leave in 93 minutes," Tap stated through the door.

Courtney rolled from the bed more in fear of her boss's disapproval than by any great desire to face the day. She showered and dressed quickly and was ready with her briefcase when Tap walked from her own room. Ali and Jason waited downstairs with a limo and once the women were safely inside they headed over to the meeting. Other than saying hello to Court, Tap ignored her, reading through material on her palm top instead. Annoyed, Court soaked up the sound and sights of Rome through the tinted window.

At the lectures, Court was impressed by how many people knew Tap and treated her with the greatest of respect, even at the Club of Rome where people were used to mixing with the famous and powerful. Who was she and what hold did she have on so many? Court felt more than intimidated. She followed one step behind Tap in the lobby and once in the lecture hall she sat quietly, listening intently to the lectures. It was a very stressful day. This was not a world that Courtney was used to and she was more than nervous about how little understanding she had of the complex economic structures and trends that were being presented in a series of lectures during the day.

When they left in the evening, Court had a splitting headache and felt dazed by the facts and figures that had been bombarding her all day. "You are uncharacteristically quiet, Court," Tap observed as their limo pulled silently away from the kerb.

"I think my mind has blown a gasket," Court groaned, rubbing her temples wearily.

"You are ill?" Tap asked with some concern.

Court looked up into eyes both worried and curious. "No, just a headache. I meant that I feel tired from the stress of trying to understand what I heard today. I'm sorry, Tap, most of it went over my head.

"I anticipated that it would." Tap shrugged, relieved that there was not anything seriously wrong with her trainee and turning back to the papers on her lap.

"What does that mean?" Court demanded, turning to look at her boss.

Tap looked up and frowned in puzzlement. Courtney Hunter mood swings were unpredictable.

"It meant that I was aware that you do not have either the knowledge or intellect to understand some of the concepts discussed today," Tap clarified.

"Thanks a lot!" snapped Courtney, her green eyes blazing like emeralds caught in light.

Tap's frowned deepened. "You are welcome," she said neutrally after a second or two of consideration, then went back to her reading not knowing how else to deal with Court's unusual reaction.

Chapter 9

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