Passion's Bright Fury

Part 4

by Radclyffe

Chapter twenty-five

"I'm sorry, I can't give you that number."

"Look," Jude said, attempting valiantly to contain her temper while reminding herself that it was not Naomi Riley's fault that she couldn't find Sax. "It's important that I talk to her. If you can't give me her number, how about this-could you page her and ask her to return my call?"

"Yes, I can do that. But I have to warn you, it's very possible she's left the city and won't respond."

"What about letting me have her grandmother's number then?" Jude tried.

"I'm afraid that would not be possible," Sax's secretary replied, her tone distinctly cooler now. "Ms. Castle, it's already after five p.m. Doctor Sinclair left the hospital shortly after she finished surgery. She was on call last night, and I don't expect her back in the hospital for at least twenty-four hours, if then. The best I can do for you is to page her."

"All right, I understand. Here's my number-212-555-1783. Please tell her it's important if you reach her."

Two hours later, Jude was still pacing the confines of her apartment and waiting for the phone to ring. The rational thing would simply be to wait until the next time she was scheduled to be on-call with the trauma team and try to find time to talk to Sax then. Forty-eight hours-less than that now. That wasn't very long to wait. Except she knew that she couldn't-all she could think about was the last few moments on the rooftop that morning-the way it had felt to hold Sax and be held by her. The hunger lingered still. And it wasn't only the physical sensations she remembered and longed for that made her so anxious to see Sax. Those fleeting seconds when pain and disappointment had flickered through Sax's normally guarded eyes tormented her. She couldn't bear for the misunderstanding to continue a moment longer. It didn't even matter that it didn't make sense, because very little had since almost the first moment she'd seen her. Maybe from the first instant she had opened her eyes, alone and in pain, and found something solid to hold onto in Saxon Sinclair's sure steady gaze. When it had started, where it had started, how it had started-none of that mattered anymore. All she knew was that she wanted her.

When she accepted that Sax was not going to call, Jude marched into her bedroom and threw a few articles of clothing into an overnight bag. On her way out the door, she grabbed her car keys off the hook along with a light jacket and hoped that her sense of direction did not fail her.


Jude tapped hesitantly at the door, holding her breath while trying furiously to think of a greeting or some kind of explanation that would make sense. Unfortunately, none came to her, and when Maddy opened the door, Jude simply said, "I know it's late, but is she here?"

"Yes," Maddy said as if it were the most natural thing in the world for her to receive late-night visitors, or for her granddaughter to arrive disheveled and haunted looking, only to disappear immediately into the barn. "She's out back making a racket, and apparently she's forgotten about supper. I'd be grateful if you could get her inside for a meal."

"I'll try," Jude said, suddenly shy. She couldn't imagine what Madelaine Lane thought of her showing up like this. But the smile and warmth in the other woman's voice alleviated some of her anxiety. That, coupled with her relief at actually finding Sax at the end of this ill-planned search probably accounted for her next unexpected question. "Is she all right?"

"That's a question I don't how to answer," Maddy said truthfully. "Something tells me she'll be a lot better now. Why don't you go find her and let her know you're here? You can go through the house and out through the kitchen. I imagine the noise will direct you after that."

"Yes, thank you," Jude said gratefully.

The sounds of hammering led her through the dark and across the yard to the barn where a light shone through the cracks around the side door. Opening it carefully, Jude stepped in the dimly lit interior. Sax was across the room, her back to Jude, nailing a sheet of plywood to the wall.

"Sax?" Jude called.

Still turned away, Sax paused, hammer in hand, her left forearm braced against the wood, a long nail held between thumb and forefinger. Jude's voice, so distinctively rich and smooth, reached out to her like a caress. "The window blew out in a storm. I'm just covering it until I can order a new one."

"Do you need any help?"

"No," Sax answered slowly, driving in the nail and then carefully placing her tools on a wooden bench to her right. She pivoted, her expression wary. "How did you find this place?"

"I have an aptitude for global positioning. I only have to go somewhere once and I can draw the route on a map."

"That makes sense," Sax mused, resting her hips against the counter behind her and slipping her hands into her pockets. "That probably explains why you're so good at chess. You should be able to predict future moves after only one glimpse at the positions of the pieces."

Shrugging, Jude nodded. "I can. I seem to have extremely strong visual pathways, which is probably why film is such a powerful draw for me."

"You are a fascinating woman--in so many ways," Sax responded softly, almost to herself. Then, she regarded Jude intently. "So, what prompted this?"

"We didn't finish our conversation this morning," Jude said evenly as she crossed the room, carefully avoiding the open tool chest and stack of lumber piled on the floor. She hoped that she sounded more confident than she felt, because she was anything but sure of her welcome, and Sax, as always, was very difficult to read.

"What conversation was that?" Sax asked, watching Jude approach and feeling the room grow warm. Or maybe it was her.

"The one where you wanted to meet me for lunch, but I wasn't free. I never got to explain why."

"You don't need to explain to me," Sax said, trying to keep her voice even as Jude stepped to within inches of her. It was hard to think entirely clearly with her this close. In fact, it was getting more difficult all the time to concentrate when Jude was anywhere nearby. "A simple no is all that's required. If I made you feel uncomfortable, I'm sorry."

"You know damn well what you made me feel," Jude snapped, her patience at an end. "Even if we hadn't already slept together once, and practically managed it again--fully clothed on top of a roof where anyone could have walked up on us, I might add--I'd still want you to know why I was declining your offer."

"Jude," Sax said wearily, "did you ever think I might not want to know? I keep thinking I'll stop wanting to touch you every time I see you, but I haven't yet. I keep thinking I'll stop thinking about you even when we're not together, but I can't. I keep hoping I'll stop dreaming about you at night, but I still do. So maybe I just didn't want to hear about your girlfriend."

For a second, Jude didn't know what to say. Finally she asked, "Why didn't you say something about this the night we slept together? I would have told you then that I was seeing someone but that it wasn't-oh god, I don't know-committed, I guess is the term."

"Because I didn't realize how much I wanted that night to happen until it happened," Sax said sharply, pulling her hands from her pockets and then clenching them by her sides. "And then I was so scared by it, I wasn't sure I wanted it to happen again."

Jude's stomach tightened when she realized that she might be alone in her feelings, but she needed to know, for her sanity. "Why? Why does it scare you?"

"Because you make me forget everything," Sax whispered hoarsely, her eyes meeting Jude's. "You make me forget where I am; you make me forget to be cautious. You make me forget about everything except how warm you feel, and how…" She ran a trembling hand across her face and stared beyond Jude's shoulder into the past. "You make me feel… so much."

"That's not bad, is it?" Jude asked gently. She found Sax's hand and laced her fingers through Sax's, closing the distance between them, moving nearer until their thighs lightly touched. "You make me feel things, too. When I'm with you, I feel like all of me is in one place at the same time-whether we're in bed together or just together. I'm not watching myself go through the motions when I'm with you; I am myself when I'm with you. All of me. I like the way that feels."

"I'm afraid of what I feel," Sax said desperately. If she hadn't had her back to the workbench she would have stepped away, because feeling Jude against her body made her blood race. And then she couldn't think, and then she couldn't hold onto her control.

"Why? What do you think will happen?"

"I've worked very hard to build a safe life," Sax said, her tone forced as she struggled to ignore the way her palms tingled under Jude's light touch. "Everything seems better if I don't feel very much; everything is under control then. You make everything crazy--no, you make me crazy."

Jude regarded Sax intently, beginning to suspect that Sax was talking about something more than what was happening between them. She was trembling, and Jude had never ever seen her do that, no matter how stressed, no matter how tired, no matter how pressured she was. "Tell me why you're afraid," she said very softly.

"God, you are the most persistent woman I have ever met," Sax pronounced, laughing a little unsteadily. She didn't have the strength to walk away, and she couldn't lie to her. Then she took a deep breath, and because she really couldn't think what else to do, she told her. "Do you know who Benjamin West is?"

"Uh…" Jude stuttered, taken off guard by the question. "As in West Enterprises? International trade consortium, Fortune Five Hundred?"


"I know who he is. I mean, who doesn't."

"He's my father."

Jude stared, confused. "I don't understand."

"My given name is Saxon Sinclair West. The Sinclair is my mother's maiden name--Maddy's last name, too."

"Of course," Jude murmured, struggling to make sense of the abrupt turn in the conversation. "Lane is Maddy's stage name, isn't it?"

"Yes," Sax replied, "but she's used it for years, even privately. I'm sure most people have forgotten that she was ever Madelaine Sinclair."

"Wait-so you go by your mother's family name now. Why?"

"Because it was legally changed when Maddy became my guardian. I was fifteen years old at the time." Sax swallowed. It was even harder than she had anticipated, but then she'd never said it all out loud before.

Jude tried frantically to recall what she could about the West family dynasty. As far as she knew, Benjamin West was still living, although she couldn't remember if children were ever mentioned in the articles she had read. Fifteen. She said she was fifteen. Something struck her about the timing, and she did some mental arithmetic. "When Maddy became your guardian, she stopped acting, didn't she?"

"Yes," Sax said quietly.


"Because I was… in trouble." She closed her eyes for an instant, and when she opened them, they were shimmering with tears.

"Sax," Jude murmured, taking Sax's other hand in hers, cradling them both lightly in her palms. "You don't have to tell me this. Not unless you want to. It hurts you-I can see that."

"No," Sax objected, resting her forehead briefly against Jude's, "it hurts me to keep it a secret."

Jude lifted her head and pressed her lips to Sax's before urging gently, "Then tell me."

"I can't explain it completely; no one has been able to. When I was a child, they thought I had a learning disability…"

"You?" Jude asked incredulously. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt-but why? I mean, I've seen your CV. I've seen you work. Hell, I've played chess with you."

Sax shrugged, uneasy. "My attention span was limited. I was very active--hyperactive apparently--and I didn't perform well on standardized tests. Finally, when I was nine the doctors decided I had an attention deficit disorder and began treating me with medications. The problem was, I didn't have a neurologic disorder, at least not in the sense of pathological. I do seem to have a highly sensitive nervous system--I don't sleep much, and when I do, the REM patterns are unusually accelerated. Specialized psychological assessments eventually demonstrated that I assimilate information faster than normal, so that when I was young what everyone interpreted as an attention deficit was just boredom."

"How long did it take them to figure this out?" Jude asked. And just how high is your IQ?

"A long time," Sax confessed, her tone anguished as the still vivid memories resurfaced.

"Sax," Jude said, starting to feel apprehensive because Sax was sweating, and the room was cool. She looked pale, practically gray, and it was scaring the hell out of her. "Maybe we should go inside. You can tell me the rest a little later."

"No, I want to finish."

"All right. Of course," Jude said quickly.

"Well," Sax continued, swiping impatiently at the moisture running into her eyes, "the medications only made me worse. Drugs work well for some kids, the ones who have immature or altered neural pathways, but I didn't-mine weren't abnormal, just different. The older I got the more problems I got into, because the psychotropic drugs were altering my brain chemistry, making me-" She stared at Jude, her misery nearly palpable. "It was a vicious cycle. The more they tried to control me with drugs, the worse I became. Part of it was a physical dependence; part of it was drug toxicity. Finally…I cracked."

Jude put her arms around her and pulled her close, holding her tightly, her chest aching so badly she couldn't speak. She couldn't believe it, couldn't even conceive of how frightened Sax must have been, how confused, how lonely. Finally, when she thought she could talk without her voice shaking, she leaned back so she could see Sax's face, but kept her tightly in the circle of her arms. "And then?"

Sax shrugged, her voice a bit stronger. "The doctors thought I was having a psychotic break and my parents had me committed. Fortunately, the first thing you do in those circumstances is stop all the medication, and once they did that, I started to come around. As soon as I started to feel normal, I refused to take any drugs at all. There was a huge battle between Maddy and my parents about what to do with me, since I refused to go home. It's not easy to keep something like this quiet when you're a high-profile industry mogul, and my father was very paranoid about any suggestion of mental instability in the family. They agreed to let me go with Maddy."

"Thank God," Jude whispered vehemently.

"It took a long time for me to feel like they weren't going to come and take me away, and it took me even longer to feel like I could trust myself--trust my life."

"Does anyone know?"

"No," Sax said. "I'm fine. But it could be difficult for me, I suppose, if someone wanted to make it difficult. I don't really think about it very much anymore."

"You didn't have to tell me," Jude said, smoothing one hand over Sax's chest, wanting so desperately to comfort her. "I'm glad that you did. Are you?"

"Yes," Sax said without hesitation. "I told you because… because you're the first person I've ever wanted to spend more than a night with. Except…"

"Except?" Jude asked, fearing that the answer was going to hurt.

Sax laughed, and this time the laughter reached her eyes. "Except maybe now you understand why it worries me that you make me crazy."

"Saxon," Jude murmured as she leaned close to kiss her, drawing back after a second to whisper, "I might make you feel crazy…" and then kissing her again. After a long minute, she managed to add through a throat tight with desire, "I hope I do…good crazy, at least." Sliding her hands over Sax's back, she lifted her eyes to those blue ones and said firmly, "But you are the least crazy person I've ever met."

And then she kissed her again.


Chapter twenty-six

Sax wasn't sure how long the kiss lasted, but when she finally became aware of her surroundings again, her legs were trembling and she had forgotten every single reason why being with Jude Castle was a bad idea.

"You're doing that 'making me crazy' thing again," Sax whispered, her lips brushing the outer rim of Jude's ear.

"Oh good," Jude murmured against her neck. "I was hoping that would happen."

"You got your wish."

"Is there any way at all that I can keep making you crazy?" Jude asked, leaning hard along Sax's length, loving the solid strength of her. "Or should we go back to the house and be sociable? Maddy expects me to deliver you for dinner."

Sax slipped her hands under Jude's shirt and ran her fingertips lightly up and down Jude's sides, repeatedly drawing her hands over the underside of her breasts. Smiling as Jude pressed even closer against her, she replied quietly, "The only thing I have an appetite for right now is you."

"Deb says you have incredibly fast hands," Jude breathed, insinuating her hand between their bodies and cupping Sax through her jeans.

Sax swallowed audibly, her eyes going cloudy as Jude's touch made her hard. Hoarsely, she asked, "Does she now?"

"Uh huh," Jude affirmed, catching the seam of Sax's jeans with her nails and tugging slightly. "That's what she says."

"Well, she's pretty smart," Sax gasped, pushing insistently into Jude's hand, rocking against her palm. She'd be in trouble if she weren't careful, but it felt too good to stop and she'd been wanting it since the moment they'd parted two nights before. "So if that's what she says, she must be right."

"Prove it."

Jude squeezed and Sax groaned, closing her fingers around Jude's breasts, gratified to hear her groan, too. Glancing desperately around the barn, she couldn't see a single place clean enough or comfortable enough in which to make love to Jude. Then, through the archway, she caught sight of the answer. Reaching down between her legs, she grasped the hand that was rapidly working her to a fever pitch and pulled it away from her body. Lacing her fingers through Jude's, she said urgently, "Come on."

"What?" Jude asked in befuddled astonishment, her attention still focused on the way Sax's fingers felt squeezing her nipples. But she had no choice but to follow, because Sax was already pulling her across the room.

"Just wait," Sax muttered as much to herself as Jude, moving on unsteady legs, ready to go up in flames at any second. She fished a key ring out of the front pocket of her jeans and pointed a remote at the elegant dark gray Rolls Royce sedan.

"You've got to be kidding," Jude exclaimed as the headlights flashed twice and the muted sound of door locks thudding open reached her ears. "I don't think I made out in the back seat of a car even when I was a teenager. I'm certainly too old for gymnastics now."

"You have no idea what these are like inside," Sax said as she hurriedly opened the boot of the car and pulled out a large flannel blanket. "For emergencies," she commented while opening the rear door and leaning in to spread the blanket on the seat. Turning, she extended a hand and said, "Would you join me, Ms. Castle?"

Laughing aloud, Jude took the offered hand and slid into the spacious back seat beside Sax. "This is crazy. You know that, right?"

"I told you that," Sax replied, regarding her solemnly. Then, eyes dancing, she fell back against the plush leather seat and pulled Jude onto her lap.

Jude thread her arms around Sax's neck and curled into her body, meeting her lips with urgent intensity. Beneath her, Sax spread her legs and Jude rocked her hips into the tight vee between those long thighs. Sax lifted her hips to meet her thrusts as their tongues sent promises of pleasure to come. When the kisses became frantic and the air grew thick with hunger, Jude eased away for an instant, stripped off her shirt, and let it fall behind her. A second later, Sax's mouth was on her breast.

Jude moaned with the quicksilver flash of excitement that streaked from her nipple into the pit of her stomach. Working both hands into Sax's hair, she pulled the surgeon's head tightly to her breast. "Bite me," she whispered urgently, her breath catching in a soft groan as Sax complied. She closed her eyes, wanting only to surrender to the heat and the fury of needs too long unanswered. "You can't know... what... that does to me," she cried faintly, her cheek nestled against Sax's hair.

"Oh, yes, I can," Sax said, her voice deep and sure. "I know…" she bit lightly, "that I could make you..." She bit again. "come..." And again. "like this..." And once more, harder.

"Don't..." Jude whispered, her voice breaking as she tightened inside. "Not yet."

"No," Sax growled, gathering Jude into her arms and shifting quickly on the seat until they were reclining, Jude beneath her, their thighs intertwined. "Not just yet."

She kissed Jude's neck, the angle of her jaw, the corner of her mouth, her lips--hard enough to bruise but backing off just short of pain. She wanted her--wanted to possess her, devour her, drive her beyond sanity--she wanted her so much it was nearly paralyzing. Her heart felt like it would explode. Trembling, aching, she moved her lips slowly down the center of Jude's body, her hands between them working the redhead's zipper open. Moving lower still between Jude's legs, Sax whispered, "Lift your hips." Pulling the fabric down over her legs and finally off, she rested her palms on the insides of Jude's thighs. Pressing firmly with splayed fingers, Sax opened her, then lowered her mouth to enclose her clitoris. Pulling her gently between her lips, tasting her arousal, Sax moaned, and her mind dissolved.

Jude arched under Sax's mouth, every fiber contracting with the exquisite sensation of slick hot pleasure. "Go slowly," she murmured, "it's so good..."

Sax was already lost. She followed only the rhythm of Jude's heart beating, flowed only to the sound of her soft moans, knew nothing but the call of her flesh. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful... When Jude came in her mouth, Sax's mind blossomed with white heat, absorbing every fragment of the moment, treasuring each sound and scent and tremor. She whimpered, twitching inside her jeans, as Jude's passion swept along her nerves and ignited her own need. Her thighs tightened, her stomach clenched, and she came hard on the heels of Jude's release.


"You know," Jude murmured, "if you keep coming without me even touching you, I'm going to start feeling superfluous."

"Believe me you're not," Sax assured her, grinning as she shifted on the broad seat, settling Jude more comfortably against her. "Something happens to me when I touch you. I get…"

Jude bit her neck. "I know…crazy."

"Yeah, that," Sax agreed.

"Well, then, let's see what happens when I touch you," Jude mused, flicking the top button open on Sax's fly. "Maybe you'll have better control."

"I…don't…think…so," Sax warned as Jude slid her hands inside her jeans. "Uh… everything about my nervous system is fast. I don't have anything to say about it most of the time."


"Jude," Sax protested as fingers grasped her firmly and her head nearly blew off. "Jes...wait. Give me a minute."

"Okay. Fifty-nine, fifty-eight…" Jude intoned, punctuating each count with a quick stroke over Sax's length.

Sax grit her teeth and tried to remember her on call schedule for the next three weeks. When that didn't help diminish the rapidly escalating pressure between her legs, she considered the quarterly budget. No luck. "Stop…for a…second."

Jude relented. Sax's heart was pounding so hard beneath her cheek it was almost scary. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah. Oh yeah," Sax managed, backing away from the edge. Taking a deep breath, she added, "Just…sometimes quick reflexes are a problem, you know?"

"Ah-does this have anything to do with not sleeping and all that restless energy you have?" Jude questioned quietly, stilling her motion but keeping her hand on her.

"Probably. It gets away from me…and I don't want it to, not with you." She swallowed, pressed her lips to Jude's temple, whispered, "I want to feel it all."

"We can do that," Jude murmured. This she could give her. Gently now, she began again. With her touch she soothed her even as passion stirred. Easing off when she felt Sax shudder, she led her steadily higher, timing her motion to the cadence of Sax's heart. "Tell me when you're close."

Wordlessly, Sax nodded, feeling Jude beside her, inside her-standing between her and oblivion, guiding her surely home. "What you're doing…I'll come."

"Are you ready?" Jude asked softly, but she knew the answer. Sax's entire body trembled, every fiber poised to snap. She was already there.


Speech disappeared in an avalanche of sensation and Sax turned her face to Jude's shoulder, crying out once, sharply, and then she was gone.


"Do you have any idea what time it is?"

"Eleven-forty," Sax replied.

Jude rolled over and raised her head, peering at the dashboard in the dim light filtering in from the barn adjacent to the attached garage. After a second, she settled back against Sax's chest. "Remarkable."

"A lot of people can do that," Sax murmured, adjusting her back so that the door handle didn't poke her in the shoulder blade.

"Are you always that accurate?" Jude queried, resting her hand against Sax's bare stomach.


"Does that have something to do with your... heightened nervous system?"

"Probably. We get all kinds of cues from our environment that we don't really think about that allow us to orient ourselves in time and space. For me, sensory input is processed and categorized very quickly, automatically, and I don't even pay any attention to it anymore."

"It's not dangerous, is it?" Jude asked quietly, unable to forget Sax's story of being hospitalized. "I mean, you can't get... overloaded... or anything, can you?"

Sax pressed her lips to Jude's forehead and then nuzzled her ear gently. "No. Not as long as my system isn't altered in some way. I'm very sensitive to any kind of drug, but I know that, and I'm careful to avoid them."

"And... uh… sexually? Are you always primed?"

Sax sat up a little straighter on the seat so that she could look into Jude's face. "If you're asking me if my sexual response is indiscriminate, the answer is no. I'll admit it's convenient to be able to relieve physical tension and stress with a quick and easy orgasm. That night you saw me in the bar..."

"That wasn't what I was talking about," Jude said quickly, although she had wondered if their physical intimacy meant the same thing to Sax as it did for her. She'd be lying if she said she didn't hope this was more than just a casual romp for the surgeon. Whereas once the memory of Sax being pleasured by an anonymous woman excited her, now the idea nearly made her insane. She wasn't at all sure that she could handle the thought of anyone else touching her. Still, she recognized that she had no right to make Sax feel uncomfortable. "I wasn't talking about your relationship with other women."

"Weren't you?" Sax responded mildly, running her fingertips along the edge of Jude's jaw. "Well, I'm going to talk about it. I've never attached very much importance to sex, because it was never emotional for me--it was just biology. That's what you saw. It was an orgasm; it was a momentary release; it was an instant of escape. By the time it was over, I had already forgotten it. That's not what this is, Jude." She held Jude's chin in her palm and held her gaze with fierce intensity. "When I'm with you, I feel so much it's hard for me to breathe. When you touch me, you reach all the way inside me. When my hands are on you, I feel like something inside of me is breaking, and it hurts so much I think I'm dying. And I've never been so happy."

Jude was silent a long moment, struggling with emotions so unexpected and so powerful they left her speechless. Never had she wanted anything as much as she wanted Sax's words to be true. The intensity of her longing was frightening, even more so because it made no sense at all. She had never imagined wanting anyone, needing anyone, so badly. She was terrified to believe a single word that Sax said, and even more terrified to think that her words might not be true. Finally, her voice shaking, she said, "I wouldn't mind if I were the only one taxing your nervous system from now on."

Sax laughed and pulled her close. "I have a feeling you'll be taxing a lot more than just my nervous system." Then, her tone completely serious, she added, "I can't imagine anyone making me feel what you do. I don't want anyone else to. And I want you all the time-so damn much. You don't have to worry about where I'll be at night."

"I wouldn't ask you, Sax," Jude murmured softly, "if I weren't mad about you."

Sax grew very still. Jude's words echoed first in her mind, and then filled her heart, and finally touched her soul. "I wouldn't make the promise if I didn't feel the same."

Chapter twenty-seven

A single light glowed in the kitchen and several covered dishes rested on the counter. The aroma of baked chicken and apples nearly brought tears to Jude's eyes. The clock said twelve-thirty.

"I am so hungry," she announced fervently.

"Do you want to eat down here or shall we take something upstairs to our room?" Sax asked, lifting a casserole lid and sniffing appreciatively.

Jude regarded her speculatively. "Our room?"

"You can't really think I'm going to let you sleep anywhere except with me tonight?" Sax queried, an amused expression on her face. "And the Rolls has served its purpose for the evening."

"Uh...I hadn't really thought about know, sleeping together. Here, I mean."

"I never would have figured you for shy," Sax laughed, enjoying the blush that stole to Jude's cheeks, and enjoying too the signs of their recent lovemaking. Jude's hair was disheveled, her shirt untucked, and her lips just short of bruised. Remembering the way those lips had teased her, tormented her, and finally delivered her, Sax's mouth went dry and her knees grew weak. Oh, man, I am so so lost. Suddenly she forgot all about dinner. She advanced on Jude, her eyes ravenous.

"It's just that if we get into bed together, I fully intend to spend most of the night making love," Jude announced, recognizing the shift in Sax's expression from playful to predatory. She figured they had maybe five minutes before they were naked again. If Sax touched her, less than that, because her skin was already burning. "Maddy's your grandmother. Your choice."

"Maddy's room is on the first floor," Sax rasped, backing Jude against the counter, her arms around her waist. She kissed her neck. "And all I want is my skin next to yours for the next twenty-four hours. At least."

"Well then," Jude replied huskily, slipping one hand into the back pocket of Sax's jeans and squeezing, "we're going to need nourishment. Immediately. Because I don't plan on waiting long to have you."


The room, with its large four poster bed, fireplace, and oak dressers was very much like the one Jude had used only a few days before, but it had a lived-in feel that the guestroom had not. The large Oriental carpet was worn by the side of the bed from years of footsteps and a stack of books rested on the nightstand beneath a reading lamp. The large walk-in closet door was open and she could see shirts and jeans and more formal suits arranged within.

"This is really where you live, isn't it?"

"Yes," Sax replied, her tone distracted as she hastily unbuttoned her shirt. They'd eaten quickly; she couldn't remember now how it had tasted. She was wound tight inside, desire coiled so tautly she was in danger of incinerating.

"When," Jude asked, mesmerized by the pulse thudding in Sax's neck. She wanted to put her teeth on that spot--leave a mark. Her mark. She barely recognized herself.

"Maddy and I lived in her apartment in Manhattan the first year that I was with her, but then she bought this place. This has been my room, my home, ever since." She tossed her shirt on a nearby chair and was about to start on her jeans when it finally registered that Jude wasn't moving. Concerned, she asked, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I'm just enjoying the view," Jude replied a bit breathlessly. And the minute we lie down together the only thing I'm going to be able to think about is the way you feel. And this matters. "What happened after you moved in with Maddy?" she asked, valiantly trying to ignore the buzzing in her head.

"I finished high school with home study soon after I was released from the hospital," Sax answered, moving to the foot of the bed, naked from the waist up, a faint sheen of desire misting her skin. Jude stood a foot away, leaning against one of the bedposts, still fully clothed. Sax rested her fingers on Jude's bare forearms. "Nine months later I left for college."

"You were young." A steady pounding between her legs kept time with the beat in Sax's neck. Her vision blurred.

"Yes." Sax lifted a finger, ran it slowly down the center of Jude's throat. "Is this a test?"

Jude swallowed, her voice strained. "How long did it take you? College and medical school?"

"Four and a half years," Sax replied, watching Jude's pupils dilate. She lifted the shirt slowly over Jude's head. Her hands shook. "Why?"

"Because I want to know who you are," Jude whispered, desperate to bury her face in the soft curve of her shoulder. Wait, Jude, can't you? Just wait. What is wrong with me?

"You do," Sax murmured, unbuttoning her jeans. "You know what I need right now, don't you?"

"There's a lot you aren't telling me, isn't there?" Jude said quietly.

"Not so much. Nothing that really matters," Sax said gently. Closing the distance between them, she took Jude's hands and placed them inside the waistband of her jeans. Then she looked into her eyes. "You know more about me than anyone else in the world except Maddy. And there are some things you know that no one else will ever know."

"I like that," Jude whispered, pushing down on the denim, exposing her.

"Yes," Sax said huskily. "So do I."


Sometime late that night, Jude sensed Sax leaving the bed.

"What's wrong?" Jude mumbled, sitting up, naked in the moonlight.

"Nothing," Sax murmured. Shirt in hand she leaned down to kiss her gently. "I never finished that work in the barn. I got distracted earlier."

"I remember," Jude said softly. "Have you slept?"

"Not yet."

"Lie here with me for five minutes," Jude requested, grasping Sax's hand and pulling her back down beside her. "Then you can go."

"That's a tough order," Sax whispered, stretching out beside her. "But I'll do my best."

The last thing Sax remembered was Jude stroking her face, the comforting warmth of her body, and the sweet tender touch of her mouth. The next thing she knew, she was awakening to sunlight on her skin. Opening her eyes, she found Jude watching her.

"What time is it?"

"Don't you know?" Jude asked, smiling.

"Actually, no," Sax admitted, stretching contentedly. "God, I feel great."

"It's nine o'clock."

"How long have you been awake?" Sax asked.

"About fifteen minutes."

"You have a very pleased smile on your face," Sax observed, slipping her hand into the mass of rich red curls at the base of Jude's neck. She pulled her close and kissed her. After a moment, she asked, "What were you thinking?"

"That I liked it that you slept all night with me," Jude replied quietly, her thigh across Sax's leg. "And that you're so beautiful it makes my heart hurt."

"Jude," Sax murmured, watching Jude's eyes grow hazy. "I don't know how I managed before you."

"I know," Jude answered, feeling walls tumbling and doors opening down the hallways of her soul.

They reached for one another at the same time, arms and legs entwining as they joined. They promised constancy with each kiss, pledged devotion with each caress. With their hands, they found one another's need and eased it. With their lips, they sought one another's desire and reveled in it. With their hearts, they heard one another's dreams and answered them. They climbed together, soared together, came together, calling one another's name as passion burned brightly.


"I'm sorry we missed breakfast," Jude said as she gratefully poured her first cup of coffee from the pot that Maddy had thoughtfully brewed and left on the counter. Sax, finally giving in to restlessness, had preceded her downstairs by about five minutes and was nowhere in sight. However, she didn't feel the least bit self-conscious, probably because she was just too damn happy to feel shy.

"Don't give it another thought," Maddy said, smiling up from the kitchen table where she sat reading the morning paper. "There isn't any timetable when you're here. And like it says at the old-fashioned diners, I serve breakfast twenty-four hours a day."

"I'd like to help," Jude said.

"There's not much to do, really. And besides, I enjoy it."

"If you're sure..." Jude acquiesced. "Did Sax get her coffee?"

"She took a cup with her out to the barn. She said to tell you she'd be right back. Apparently there was something she wanted to finish."

Jude laughed. "Well at least she managed to wait until daylight."

"That's rare for her," Maddy remarked, regarding Jude astutely. She didn't need a script to read this scene. She knew where the two of them had slept. Much more importantly, she knew that her granddaughter had slept, and when she had appeared, smiling and clear-eyed, Maddy could have wept.

"So I understand," Jude replied carefully. She didn't want to infringe on Sax's privacy or betray her confidences, but she could see how much Maddy loved her. "She never stops going."

"She's never been able to tell when she's exhausted. She doesn't feel it. She'll run on empty til she drops."

"I'll remember."

"That's fine, then," Maddy announced with a nod, briskly rising to begin breakfast. "So... tell me how the film project's going."

"I can do better than that," Jude announced with a pleased smile. "I have a tape in my bag and I can show you what we're doing."

Maddy turned to look at her, her face alive with delight. "Oh, Saxon has done well finding you."

"Thank you," Sax said smugly from the door, grinning.

Jude blushed and sent Sax a look that promised she would make her pay for that remark later.


Chapter twenty-eight

"Do be careful, you two."

"Absolutely," Sax responded as Jude climbed onto the bike behind her, then reached around with both arms to encircle her waist. It still gave her a pleasant jolt every time Jude did that. Covering one of Jude's hands with her own where it rested possessively in the bend of her thigh, she grinned at Maddy. "We'll be fine."

"Yes, I can see that," Maddy replied. To her knowledge, her granddaughter had never had a relationship of consequence, but knowing Saxon's volatile nature, she very much doubted that she was inexperienced. She suspected, however, that what was happening with Jude was something different altogether. She'd observed the way the two of them had looked at each other all day, and it was clear to her they were both seriously smitten. Even though they didn't seem entirely aware of it yet, it was still a lovely thing to see. "And I'll expect you both to visit again soon."

"We'll be back the day after tomorrow to pick up Jude's car," Sax reminded her. Jude had wanted to ride back with Sax on the motorcycle, which was fine with her. She hadn't wanted to say goodbye quite so soon.

"I wasn't talking about a pit stop, Saxon. I had something more civilized in mind."

"Don't worry, Maddy," Jude said, smiling at the woman for whom she was quickly acquiring real affection. The afternoon had passed in easy conversation with Maddy while Sax busied herself with a number of odd jobs around the grounds. When it had gotten too hot for her to work, Sax had joined them, and the three of them had talked of current films and other news. Finally, after dinner, Jude and Sax had reluctantly prepared to leave. "I'll make sure of it."

"Good, because Saxon tends to lose track of such simple things as time, and two months between visits is too long." Although this time, knowing that Jude would be nearby, she would worry less about Saxon's well-being while she was gone.

"Maddy," Sax said ruefully. "You're going to give her a bad impression."

"Nothing she doesn't already know, I'm sure," Maddy said sharply as she leaned forward to kiss Sax on the cheek. Absently, she stroked her arm as she straightened and stepped away, thinking how much she loved the happiness glinting in her granddaughter's normally guarded eyes. "I love you."

"I love you, too," Sax replied firmly, disengaging the kickstand with the heel of her boot. "We'll see you soon."

Maddy waved once as she watched Sax wheel the large motorcycle around in the center of the lane. As the engine roared and the powerful machine leapt into motion, she saw Jude tighten her hold on Sax, leaning against her, at once protected and sheltering. She had often wondered if ever a person would come who would be able to match Saxon for drive and strength and tenderness. Jude did all that, and more. Oh, what a marvelous pair they make.


Sax pulled to the side of the road as they entered Manhattan. It was a little after nine p.m.

"Where to?" she asked, turning on the seat to look at Jude. She knew what she wanted, but she was a little reluctant to make assumptions. The last thirty-six hours had been like a dream. After Jude had declined her offer for lunch the day before, she had driven to Maddy's in a fury of temper and pain, certain Jude's refusal had been because she was seriously involved with another woman. Sax had wanted her so much, but it wasn't just the physical frustration that had made her wild with rejection and aching with loneliness. When they were together, she was happy. More than happy, she was soothed in some primal part of herself that never truly rested. Once that longing had been unleashed, it tormented her, her heart crying out for the peace that only Jude seemed able to bring. Then, miraculously, Jude had come to her and claimed her--every inch of her--body and soul. Now, as she contemplated leaving her, the night loomed longer and lonelier than any she could recall. More barren even than those desolate nights when she had lain awake in the still, hushed dark of the hospital praying for Maddy to come for her. Maddy had ended her isolation then, but as the years had passed her needs had changed, and Maddy could no longer banish her demons. But Jude had. Jude had. She waited, wondering how she would make it through the night alone.

Jude sensed Sax waiting for an answer, but she had already taken enough risks. She'd followed her to Maddy's and practically-hell, not practically-wantonly seduced her. She'd made clear her desires. Deliberately, she asked, "What do you want to do?"

Sax glanced down once at Jude's hand still resting on her thigh, contemplating whether she could afford to let these feelings loose. She wasn't certain she could contain them; wasn't certain she could ever stop the wanting if she set it free. Then, knowing she had been headed for this moment since the first day they had met, she looked into Jude's eyes and said clearly, "At six-thirty tomorrow morning I have to go to work. Then, for thirty hours or so, my life won't be my own. Until then, I want to be with you."

"You know the way to my place."

Ten minutes later they pulled up in front. Once inside the door, Sax dropped her bag on the floor and waited while Jude walked around turning on lights in an apartment that was a perfect reflection of its occupant.

"What?" Jude asked hesitantly, watching Sax look around with a faint smile on her face.

"It's you," Sax observed, glancing at the array of recording and other electronic equipment fitted into the niches of an antique apothecary bench along the far wall. Beneath the warmth of color manifest in the paintings on the walls, the textured fabrics of rugs and throws, and the lush greenery of living foliage, there was a sense of order and utility. Sensuality and reason, creativity and intent, form and function--the artist revealed.

"It's passionate and purposeful," Sax continued, moving deeper into the room, indicating the space with a sweep of her arm. "You work here, and you live here, and they're the same thing for you, aren't they?"

Jude stared at the woman in the tight black T-shirt and faded black jeans, a handsome, dangerous stranger who knew things she shouldn't and touched her in ways no one ever had. "You scare me."

Sax cocked her head, stood still, studied Jude's eyes. Green--they were deep, deep green verging on black. They looked like that when she was aroused or angry, and now, Sax knew, when she was frightened. "I think it's too late for safety."

"So do I," Jude murmured, walking to within inches of her. "What do you want?" she asked again. How long will it be before I can stand this close to you and not want my hands on your skin?

"I want to do to you what you do to me," Sax said fervently, searching desperately for some way to explain to her how she had changed everything.

"What?" Jude asked, her voice low and husky. "What is it that you want?"

"I want to abide in your secret places and catch your tears before they fall."

"I should make you leave," Jude breathed. You can't know what you're asking. You can't.


"You could hurt me."

"I won't."

"You can't know that."

"Yes. I can."

"What if I don't want you in those places?"

"Then you should make me leave."

Jude ran her fingers lightly over Sax's face, tracing her eyebrows, the steep slope of her cheekbones, the rich curve of her lips. "It's too late."

"Yes. For me, too."

For a moment, they didn't speak, they didn't move. Then, Jude took her hand and led her across the room through a doorway on the opposite side. Once inside her bedroom, they undressed wordlessly, unhurriedly--eyes locked on one another--slowly revealing themselves in slow, mesmerizing glimpses of denim and cotton falling from candle-lit flesh. When they were naked, Jude turned down the covers and slid between the sheets, beckoning to Sax with an extended arm. Sax stretched out on her side facing her, her palm lightly resting on the arch of her hip, amazed at how much she desired her and surprised even more by how exciting it was to wait. She was wet; she was hard; and she wanted the wanting never to end.

"You know, I hated to leave Maddy's," Jude whispered in the flickering light, raising a hand to brush along the curve of Sax's breast.

"Why?" Sax asked, hearing the wistful, almost sad note in her voice. She leaned forward enough to press her lips to the hollow below Jude's collarbone. "We can go back."

"Because," Jude murmured, wondering if she were foolish to say these things out loud, and unable to stop. "I was afraid something would change when we got back to the city."

"What?" Sax inquired gently, moving her hand to Jude's back, pulling her closer until their breasts met and melded. Her body hummed, electrified.

"I'm afraid you'll disappear." It took all her strength to say those words, because admitting how very much she wanted her was terrifying. She slipped her fingers into Sax's hair, pulled her head near, sought her mouth. You are real; I can touch you.

"No, I won't," Sax said deliberately when Jude released her. She ignored the thunder of arousal as Jude's hand stole lower over her stomach, fingers seeking to claim her. She caught her wrist before Jude could touch her, because she knew she would be beyond words then. Raising the hand to her lips, she kissed the palm tenderly, then placed it over her own heart. "Do you feel that?"

"Yes," Jude whispered, her eyes searching Sax's face. In the yellow glow of the candles, her blue eyes were black.

"It's yours."

"Why hasn't someone else claimed it before this?" Jude asked, her throat tight with desire and tears. "It's so precious."

"No one ever wanted it before," Sax murmured, her lips moving gently in the fine hair at Jude's temple. Carefully, she skimmed her palm up the inside of Jude's leg to the vee between her thighs, catching her breath at the slick, welcoming heat.

"I can't believe that," Jude said throatily, her hand still resting on Sax's chest. "You're handsome and brilliant and sexy as hell."

"And arrogant and stubborn and secretive," Sax added with a tremulous laugh. God, she wanted to take her, just take her. Her arm trembled with the effort it took to go slowly.

"Yes, true," Jude agreed softly, turning onto her back, drawing Sax with her. "But it balances out…in the end."

"I'll remind you of that one of these days when I've aggravated you too much," Sax murmured, leaning on one elbow, stroking her now, fingers gliding over engorged flesh, parting her gently.

"Good idea," Jude agreed, her voice shaking, losing focus.

"Jude," Sax said tenderly when she heard the faint whisper of uncertainty still in her voice, "you make it safe for me to be myself. I am not afraid when I'm with you."

Slowly, watching Jude's expression dissolve as her lids fluttered, Sax moved inside her.

"Thank you," Jude whispered, laying her head where her hand had just been, against Sax's heart. Closing her eyes, listening to the sure steady beat, she yielded all her secrets.

Chapter twenty-nine

Personal Project Log - Castle

September 7 - 9:45 a.m.

[Note: Episode title-Call to Battle] Holiday weekends are even more difficult than normal, because when people party, they get into trouble. Trouble comes in many forms--bar brawls, car accidents, domestic disturbances, robberies, gang altercations. What it means in practical terms for the trauma team is that there is more work, fewer people to do it because of vacation schedules, and a general sense of stress and anxiety about what might be coming next. I should qualify that--Sinclair and Stein don't seem particularly worried. The two of them are almost unnaturally calm, as if they know that they'll deal with whatever fate may deliver. Confidence? Self-assurance? Maybe just simple experience, at least on Sinclair's part. The rest of the staff are keyed up--from the nurses to the ancillary personal to the security guards at the front doors--you can see it in their faces and hear it in their voices. Excitement mixed with dread, like the kind of ambivalent anticipation you feel looking at one of those ridiculously large amusement park rides, wondering if you'll vomit or laugh half way down.

Labor Day weekend is the end of summer and underneath the gaiety is a thread of anger and sadness.

Today's Saturday, the first full day of the long weekend, and the team just finished rounds in the TICU a few minutes ago. Stein and Sinclair are already in the operating room doing emergency exploratory surgery on a patient who was shot three days ago. Apparently, she is having episodic spiking fevers and they suspect an abscess somewhere in her abdomen. Because Sax and Deb are also the admitting surgeons for the day, the backup team, all of whom have been here since six o'clock yesterday morning, has to stay until this surgery is over and the two of them are free.

Jude turned off her recorder and randomly selected a tape from the pile on the desk. She slid it into the VCR and pushed play, leaning back in the swivel desk chair and propping her feet on the wastepaper basket. It only took a few minutes for her to recognize the scene as one in which Sax and Deb had been working on a New York City police officer who had been injured in a high-speed crash while pursuing a suspected dope dealer up the West Side Highway. Parts of the tape were dizzyingly shaky because Mel had been jostled by the dozens of police crowding into the trauma bay trying to find out how their fallen comrade was faring.

Leaning forward, she muted the volume. She wasn't interested in the conversations. She was only interested in the dark-haired surgeon whose face was a study in fierce concentration and whose hands moved like magic over the landscape of flesh and bone. As Jude watched, images unexpectedly fused and blurred, her memory transcending time. Sax leaning over the officer became Sax leaning over her in the trauma bay at Bellevue and then suddenly it was Sax leaning over her in bed the night before-hands playing over her skin with unerring certainty, finding all her tender places, making her molten, making her scream, making her come.

She caught her breath at the swift stab of pleasure that accompanied the memory and closed her eyes. This had been a bad idea. She'd only wanted to see Sax's face for an instant because she missed her, and now she ached in a way that she knew was going to torment her for hours.

"Jude?" a curious voice behind her inquired. "You okay?"

Swinging around, she grinned sheepishly at Mel. "Yeah. Fine…just woolgathering. Waiting for Deb and Sax to finish up."

"And the silent movie?" Melissa asked, pulling over a chair, nodding toward the tape that still ran on the screen.

"Oh…that…nothing…I was just…" She stopped, unable to think of an explanation that wasn't ridiculous, as if the truth weren't ridiculous enough. Shrugging, she sighed and admitted, "I wanted to look at her."

Mel followed Jude's gaze and watched Sax and Deb work for a few seconds. It was good footage. They were captivating women. But Jude looked more than captivated; she looked stunned. "You really are nuts about her, aren't you?" she asked, a touch of awe in her voice.

"Seems like," Jude acknowledged. She glanced at Mel self-consciously. "Crazy, huh?"

"Not as long as it's mutual," Melissa replied carefully, mindful of the fragile line between caring and intruding. "Is it?"

Jude smiled, recalling Sax in the shower that morning, head thrown back, eyes closed, fingers laced through Jude's hair, moaning Jude's name.

"Yeah. Uh huh. Seems like."

September 7 - 1 p.m.

DRM 15,860

We're on the roof waiting for South Star to bring in two patients found unconscious in a burning crack house. Preliminary reports indicate burns and inhalation injuries. As I look around, Nancy Stevenson--Aaron's replacement-and a respiratory technician, a med tech, and Sinclair and Stein are standing in a cluster, faces turned to the sky, poised to move. You can almost feel the tension rippling in the air. It's not as hot today as it has been, and there's a breeze. In the distance, I can hear the rotor blades thumping. There are stretchers with equipment piled onto them awaiting the wounded. No one is talking. The silence is eerie.

"The blades aren't that low, but watch your head nevertheless," Sax advised as Jude stepped up beside her.

"Understood," Jude responded, keeping an eye on Mel who was filming as they all moved forward in anticipation of the chopper's arrival. She had to be sure that her photographer was clear of the landing site as the helicopter descended. Looking up into the sky, she held her breath, waiting for the drama to begin.

"It's odd how all sense of time, everything actually, disappears when the injured arrive," she observed almost to herself. There was a terrible pain in her leg…she found herself staring into a huge silver disk with a hot white bulb in its center… a silhouette took shape in her field of vision, backlit by the bright light…features began to emerge …a face bending near-blue eyes, so dark they were almost purple, intense and penetrating-black hair, thick and unruly… "Everything recedes into shadow except the space around the patient, and that's like a spotlight in the center of a darkened stage."

Sax glanced at her, struck by the pensive tone in her voice. They hadn't been alone together since they'd parted at the hospital doors six hours before. The sun on Jude's burnished copper hair glinted like shimmering firelight, reminding her that when she had awakened that morning, those glorious tresses had been scattered across her chest and Jude's face had been nestled in the crook of her neck. She had lain awake a long time the night before after Jude had shuddered to a climax in her embrace. Still, she had been more than content to rest with the soothing sound of Jude's soft breathing whispering in her ear. Finally, she had truly slept, and it had been a sleep without dreams or anxiety. She moved a step closer, her arm brushing Jude's. "Time is suspended. There is only the now. No past, no future, no hopes, no dreams. Only the indecipherable reality of life. If you spend enough time on call, you'll forget there is any other world."

"That's frightening," Jude observed quietly. I don't want to forget what I feel when you touch me. I don't want you to forget what I make you feel.

"But very effective. It's difficult to be efficient and focused if you're worrying about a dinner date or a birthday party. Everything about the training is oriented toward isolating us on some level from everyone else, even if it's never truly acknowledged."

"Here comes the chopper," Jude remarked with a sigh, knowing that their time was at an end, excited by what was about to happen, and indescribably sad that in the midst of it, she and Sax would be distanced even further.

"I still know you're here, Jude," Sax murmured, watching the helicopter grow larger against the backdrop of blue. "I still feel you on my skin."

"You say things that make my heart stop," Jude breathed shakily, staring at her in amazement. Sax stood with her face in profile, a smile lifting the corner of her mouth. "And at the damnedest times-like now, when I can't touch you, and it's sure to make me wild. You're so damn impossible to predict, it drives me crazy."

Sax's grin widened. "No, I'm not. Just because I understand the game, doesn't mean I choose to play. I won't go away. I'll always know where you are."

"Sax..." Jude began, but her words were drowned out by the descent of the helicopter, and Sax was already racing forward, one hand guiding a stretcher. Jude watched her go, and even though she knew the surgeon's mind was entirely focused on the wounded men being lowered from the helicopter onto the waiting gurneys, she felt connected. What they had shared in the night had not ended with the coming of the dawn or faded in the harsh, bright light of life on the front lines.

"Are you getting it?" she shouted as she rested one hand on Mel's shoulder and steered her to an open space where the sight line was better for the camera, maneuvering her around the group of medical personnel administering to the injured almost before they had been lowered from the helicopter.

"Of course I'm getting it," Mel shouted, never looking away from her viewfinder. She trusted Jude to make sure she didn't lose the top of her head to one of the rotor blades, because if she missed the shot, she'd lose her entire head to Jude's temper. "Just keep me in the clear and I'll get you what you want."

"Roger that," Jude called, riding high as everything in her life came together almost as if it had been scripted-- she was doing the work she loved and watching the woman she lov... Oh, no. Do not go there. No, no, no. Not now. No way.

Jude kept well back as Sax swung the gurney around, Deb steering the second one, and they all headed down the ramp toward the elevators at a run. Running to keep pace, Jude tried not to think about how mindshatteringly sexy Sax looked. 


En route to the trauma admitting area, both men had already received pain medication and loading doses of antibiotics. One had been intubated by the paramedics, and the breathing tube extending from his trachea had been connected to a respirator. Sinclair and Stein bent over him, discussing the plan of action in low measured tones. Jude and Mel edged closer to capture both the picture and the sound.

"What's his pO2?" Sax asked.

"Lousy--eighty-four on a hundred percent oxygen," Stein replied, glancing at a computer printout she had just collected from a nearby terminal. "His carbon dioxide level is high despite being ventilated, too."

"What you think?"

Deb studied the young man who didn't appear to be much older than his late teens, lying naked on the stretcher connected to a plethora of monitors and intravenous lines. Much more remarkable than this array, however, was the circumferential rubbery scar tissue encircling his chest which indicated a full thickness burn. The rest of his body was fairly untouched and it appeared as if his shirt had caught fire, probably from his crack pipe.

"I think the burn scar is constricting his chest movement and preventing efficient ventilation. If we can't expand his chest, we can't fully aerate his lungs and it doesn't matter what we pump into him, he's not going to breathe well," Deb summarized.

Sax nodded in evident satisfaction. "Agreed. Your recommendation?"

"He needs scar release-escharotomies-right now."

"Here or upstairs in the OR?" Sax queried, leaning back against the counter, arms folded over her chest, her tone conversational, as if she were discussing the latest sports scores. Her eyes, however, belied her casual demeanor. They were fixed on Deb's face so intently that Jude thought perhaps Sax could actually see what Deb was thinking.

She's marvelous, Jude thought. She's always watching Deb-evaluating her, testing her, guiding her-and all the while she's allowing her to grow and become independent.

"Breathe, Jude," Melissa murmured in Jude's ear. "It's going to be a very long day and you're going to need all your strength. Maybe you should just let me film and you try not to look at her. It seems to do something serious to your system-like shut it down."

"Shut up, Mel, or I'll be forced to hurt you," Jude whispered back, but she couldn't hide her sheepish grin. God, she loved to look at her and couldn't imagine that ever changing.

Deb Stein shrugged her shoulders and came to a decision. "I think we can do it right here. The burn scar is insensate so he won't feel it, plus he's got narcotics onboard even if there is some discomfort. We need to stabilize his cardiopulmonary status before we do anything else, so we might as well get to it."

"Go ahead," Sax suggested, moving out of the way so that Deb could open the instrument packs and prepare the area where she would make the incisions. "It's your show."

Stepping back next to Jude, Sax asked quietly, "You okay?"

"Yes," Jude replied. "Is he going to live?"

"Probably. He's young; we got him early. We'll know better in a few days." Craning her neck to see over Deb's shoulder, she instructed, "Put that lateral incision a little more anterior, Stein. And don't go too deep or he'll bleed all over the place."

Jude watched Deb work, aware that Sax, despite her casual demeanor, was watching her intently as well.

"You free for lunch?" Sax asked after a moment, her gaze following the sweep of the scalpel blade in Deb's hand.


"I'll treat you to the street carts out front."

"Wonderful," Jude responded, catching Sax's grin and thinking she'd never had such a perfect invitation.


Chapter Thirty

Sept. 8 - 5:48 AM

Jude came awake with a jolt, startled from sleep by the sound of shouts and running in the hall outside the on-call room. Beside her, Melissa was sitting up reaching for her jeans.

"What's going on?" Mel asked, fumbling into her clothes.

"I don't know," Jude replied as she jumped from bed and stepped into her chinos. As she was pulling on her boots, there was a sharp knock on the door and Sax's voice calling, "Jude?"

Jude crossed the room to the door in a matter of seconds, pulling it open as Melissa crowded behind her. The two women stepped out, joining Sax, as Jude questioned anxiously, "What is it? What's happened?"

"A tanker overturned in the tunnel. It's blocking the exit on this side and there's a huge chain reaction pileup behind it underground. Mass casualties--that's all I know at the moment. I'm taking the first response team out now. Deb is organizing the second team. I'll let you know as soon as I get--"

"Mel, get the portable videocameras and all the tape you can carry," Jude interrupted urgently as she kept pace with the trauma surgeon, who was already hurrying down the hall. Interpreting Sax's quick frown to mean that she was concerned about delays, she added, "Don't worry, we won't hold you up. We'll get our gear, join Deb's team, and meet you there. "

"Jude," Sax began, too many things on her mind to be circumspect, "it's going to be a mess out there. We'll be first on the scene because we're practically right on top of it. I'm not even certain yet that the tunnel is structurally secure."

She didn't need to elaborate that if the stretch of highway carved out of bedrock under the Hudson River collapsed, the casualty count would soar.

"Let's go find out," Jude answered impatiently, electrified by the opportunity to be one of the first photojournalists on the scene. These were the moments of human tragedy and human greatness. These were the moments she lived to immortalize.

No. Sax wanted to tell her to stay behind; she wanted to tell her it would be chaos and insanity out there; she wanted to tell her that she couldn't work worrying about her. She didn't say anything, though her stomach clenched with apprehension, because she knew if the situation were reversed, nothing would keep her from doing what she had to do. Instead she grabbed Jude's hand and squeezed it briefly. "Fine, but I probably won't see much of you. Just... be careful...okay?"

"Okay," Jude responded instantly, unconcerned about her own welfare. Suddenly, however, she realized that as the leader of the first response team, Sax could be in danger. The initial moments in situations like this were always so unpredictable. The tanker could blow, the tunnel could flood, vehicles could explode. God. Tugging on Sax's arm, she halted her in midstride and pulled her around until they faced each other. "Don't be a hero, understand? I couldn't…"

Sax smiled, lifting a hand to rest her fingertips on Jude's cheek. Unmindful of hospital personnel moving around them in the hallway, she closed the distance between them until their bodies nearly touched. Softy, her eyes holding Jude's, she assured her, "I wouldn't think of it. Just you be careful, too."

Before Jude could respond, Sax kissed her swiftly and then was gone.


"Look at this mess," Deb exclaimed as the three of them stood on the sidewalk in front of the hospital, surveying a scene out of a disaster movie. "We'll get there faster on foot. Let's go."

Street traffic was completely gridlocked. People were standing outside their cars, trying to see what the hold-up was, shouting at one another. Scores of police were hastily erecting barricades and trying to divert traffic. Emergency vehicles, sirens blaring, were forced at some points to detour onto the sidewalks, making painfully slow progress in the crush of stalled or immobilized trucks and cars. The noise level made conversation almost impossible.

"What about the rest of the team?" Jude questioned, indicating the ambulance edging out into traffic from the emergency entrance of the hospital.

"They'll catch up," Deb pointed out, already moving. Mel, with her camera braced on her shoulder, was beside the young surgeon, tape rolling. Jude fell into step with them, the decision clearly made.

It wasn't hard to tell where they needed to go. The tunnel was only a few blocks away, and even if they hadn't known that, they could have navigated by the reflection of flashing emergency lights against the undersurface of the gray dawn clouds or followed the sound of screaming sirens. As she ran, the second camera tucked under her arm, Jude wondered if Sax and her team were already at the crash site.

"How many cars are trapped?" she asked, hastily clipping her network badge to her multipocketed khaki vest.

"At least twenty," Deb informed her. She was in scrubs, a stethoscope dangling precariously from her neck and a handful of rubber tourniquets streaming from her pockets. "According to the first radio report there are as many as a hundred injured, but you know how inaccurate that can be."

Deb stopped short and Jude nearly collided with her. Mel drew alongside, breathing hard from the added effort of carrying the extra gear. She didn't look tired though; with her blond hair poking out from under her baseball cap and her baby blue eyes sparkling with excitement, she looked exhilarated.

"Holy cripes," Melissa gasped.

They all stared, speechless, for a moment their mission forgotten. The four lanes leading from the mouth of the tunnel into Manhattan were completely blocked with dozens of emergency medical and police vehicles, many parked haphazardly with their light bars flashing. A huge fire engine nearly blocked the mouth of the tunnel--men clambered over it, unraveling thick hoses, disappearing with them into the billows of black smoke that poured out, engulfing them in acrid air and ash. It was impossible to see very far inside the tunnel through the dense clouds, but there were already a dozen or more injured men and women who had found their way out staggering about in the midst of the pandemonium.

Jude stood rooted to the spot, staring into the face of her nightmare. She knew exactly what it was like inside that tunnel-she knew the sounds, and the sights, and the smell. Twisted metal, broken shards of glass; the pungent odor of electrical fire and burning rubber; confused shouts; screaming. She knew the pain and the fear and the helplessness, too. She wanted to run-from the memories, from the reality, from the terror that surged into her chest with all the force it had on that morning five years before.

"I need to set up a command post and a triage center," Deb shouted, suddenly finding her voice and mercifully jolting Jude back to the present. Pointing to several emergency medical vehicles closest to the tunnel ramp, she added, "That looks like the best place."

"What about Sax?" Jude asked, running next to Deb again, trying to avoid colliding with firemen and police officers and emergency paramedics, all of whom seemed to be running as well. "Where is she?"

She didn't go in there. Of course she didn't. Why would she do that? No one would do that. That would be insane.

"Don't know. She probably went inside to assess the number of injured. There must be people trapped in vehicles in there, too."

A new rush of fear seized Jude by the throat, and for a moment she couldn't breathe. Sax is not inside that tunnel in the midst of smoke and fire and God knows what else. She said she would be careful. She said she wouldn't be a hero. She promised. Glancing frantically about, Jude searched for Sax's distinctive figure in the churning mass of people. Now that they were closer, she could see paramedics beginning to emerge from the tunnel carrying stretchers with injured, leading those who could walk, and shouting for assistance.

In a voice that sounded startlingly calm to her own ears, she directed, "Mel, I'm going inside. You stay with Deb."

"No way," Melissa objected, looking up from her viewfinder-she'd begun filming in earnest as soon as they'd gotten close. "This story is in there, and I'm going, too."

"We don't have time to argue about this," Jude said sharply, her temper flaring with a mixture of worry about Sax's whereabouts and her own terror of walking into that dark hole in the ground. "We need footage of Deb for the documentary."

"We'll have plenty of time to get that later. Right now we need to be where the action is, and you know damn well that's inside that tunnel," Mel insisted. "You stay with Deb and let me go in."

She wanted to agree. Everything she feared was in there. And so was everything she cared about. If it had just been the story, she might have given in to the nausea that clawed at her throat and turned her blood to ice, and sent Melissa in alone. Maybe. But Sax was in there, too. She couldn't stand outside and wait. She needed to go in there, for herself and everything that mattered.

"We'll go together," Jude said firmly. She grabbed the sleeve of Mel's jeans jacket. "Come on, before they get organized and try to keep the press out."

"Stay close, will you," Melissa shouted as they ran. "I don't want to lose you in there."

"Don't worry," Jude assured her. "I'll be right on your back--just like always."

"Today I won't mind," Melissa said fervently, making a hard right around a barricade the police were setting up to prevent unauthorized people from going into the tunnel.

Melissa and Jude ignored the shouts calling them back, and in a moment they were obscured from sight by the dense curtain of roiling smoke and plumes of fire.

Chapter Thirty-one

The main overhead lights were out, the rescue teams had not yet rigged the portable arc lights, and the only illumination came from the safety lights at ground level which were working sporadically at best --entire sections were nonfunctional, casting the underground highway in patches of murky yellow and foreboding shadow. Fortunately, the air was still breathable despite the noxious smoke pouring from around the overturned truck. Firemen were already hosing it down with flame retardant foam as Jude and Mel skirted the throng of workers at the entrance.

"Follow these guys," Jude shouted above the din, pointing to emergency medical personnel identifiable by their tackle boxes of medical equipment who were inching their way past the rubble at the mouth of the tunnel to reach the stranded motorists deeper inside.

Climbing over bits of concrete and debris from the wreckage, the two of them emerged on the other side of the tanker and got their first view of the real scope of the disaster. Cars were piled up as far as they could see, several overturned and burning, and the first rescue workers on the scene were rushing from vehicle to vehicle trying to assess the status of the occupants. Victims were sitting or lying beside many of the wrecks, some being attended to by paramedics while others waited, confused and disoriented, for someone to lead them out. Here and there EMTs were starting IVs and intubating the more seriously injured.

"Do you see Sax?" Jude asked urgently. The faces of many of the rescue workers were already smudged with smoke and grime and in the murky light that flickered and flared as electrical circuits burnt out and small fires began, everyone had the eerie appearance of figures in a waking dream. Until she was right up next to someone, she couldn't even be certain if they were male or female. Most of the emergency workers were garbed in some form of hospital apparel and only the firemen in their heavy asbestos coats were easily recognizable. "Do you see anyone from St. Michael's?"

"No," Mel replied grimly, trying not to think about the extent of the carnage. "Let's just keep going and see how far this goes. They must be somewhere close by. Eventually we've got to run into them."

"Look at the ground," Jude remarked hollowly, trying not to let her fear show. There was six inches of water in the tunnel. There were tons of rock and water above their heads, and she wondered how long the damaged infrastructure could sustain the tremendous pressure without flooding or collapsing completely. She glanced ahead and could see only darkness beyond the first thirty feet. Every instinct in her body screamed for her to leave. She craved daylight and fresh air with an exigency that bordered on frantic. She bit her lip, desperately trying to stave off the wave of dizziness and surge of nausea that threatened to bring her to her knees. She tasted her own blood.

"What do you think?" Mel asked, staring at the water slowly eddying around her boots. "Turn back or look for them?"

"Keep going."

Jude reached into one of the cargo pockets of her vest and found her halogen flashlight, switching it on to supplement the progressively poorer light. As they passed the wreckage of the deadly early morning commute, she spied a few motionless forms inside crushed vehicles, lying in the awkward poses that could only be obtained in death. Fortunately, most of the victims she saw appeared to be alive, although many were not ambulatory. The fact that the rush-hour congestion had already begun by the time that the accident occurred meant that traffic had been moving fairly slowly. She prayed that would mean fewer mortalities despite the large number of apparent injured.

"Over there," Mel exclaimed, pointing in the direction of several demolished vehicles headed north in the southbound lane. "Isn't that Nancy?"

Jude followed the direction of Mel's arm, squinting into the gloom, and felt a surge of relief as she recognized the head trauma nurse. "Yes! Sax must be with her."

She didn't wait for Mel's reply, but hurried as quickly as she could between the jumble of vehicles toward the team from St. Michael's. As she drew near, she could see Sax leaning through the door of a capsized four-wheel-drive vehicle. Jude's heart jumped, and her first instinct was to run to her. What she wanted to do was touch her, just touch her, and feel the solid certainty of her body. Instead, she forced herself to slow down, took a deep breath, and said, "Just keep the focus on Sinclair, Mel. She'll be recognizable to every viewer. We can't get anything better than this."

Moving carefully around open instrument packs and tackle boxes filled with drugs, Jude edged closer to the car until she was nearly touching Sax's shoulder. A man, apparently the driver, was trapped by the collapsed steering column.

"Nancy, get another flashlight in here will you," Sax said tersely without looking around. "I need to tie off this bleeder and I can't see a damn thing."

"I've got one right here, Nancy," Jude said, holding hers aloft and pointing it into the interior of the front seat. The car was on its side, and the bucket seats were angled nearly perpendicular to the ground. The unconscious middle-aged man was suspended in midair by a spear of metal penetrating his shoulder.

Sax glanced up quickly at the sound of Jude's voice. "It's treacherous down here. I'd be happier if you were doing your thing outside somewhere."

"Ditto," Jude replied. "But here we are. Can I do anything besides hold this light?"

"You think you can pass instruments to me? That'll free Nancy up to check other victims," Sax said, turning her attention back to the deep gaping gash in the man's upper arm. "Seeing as you're staying and all."

"I can manage. If I don't know what it is, just describe it to me." Jude allowed herself one brief caress along Sax's shoulder. "And I missed you, too."

"All right, Ms. Castle," Sax replied, registering the touch and smiling to herself. "You're hired. Hand me a hemostat."

Melissa got as close as she could and for the next eight minutes she documented some of the most exciting footage she had ever shot. Sinclair worked without a single break in her concentration or the slightest hesitation in the swift, smooth rhythm of her hands as she clamped and sutured and tied, controlling the bleeding and dis-impaling the motorist so that the paramedics could lift him out onto a backboard.

"Okay," Sax said with a sigh, resting back on her heels as her patient was taken away. She wiped her forehead with her bare arm, managing only to smear the sweat, smoke, and blood splatters around. Glancing at Jude, she smiled dolefully. "A success, I hope. Let's pack up this gear and keep going. Nancy will be triaging so keep an eye out for her. If there's anyone that needs acute surgical attention, she'll call for me. Otherwise, we'll just direct the paramedics to the ones that need to be evacuated first."

"Understood," Jude replied, hastily rearranging supplies in the drug box.

Thirty minutes later they were nearly at the end of the line of involved vehicles. Rescue workers were approaching from the New Jersey side of the tunnel, although several vehicles burning out of control at that end had hindered their progress. Others worked steadily behind them, transporting the injured to safety as quickly as possible. It seemed to Jude that the water level had risen several inches.

"Looks like most everyone is out," Sax said, watching as the EMTs moved a woman with a fractured leg onto a stretcher.

"Things don't look too stable down here," Jude observed. "I think we should consider getting out ourselves."

"I think you're right. Let's turn around and check all the vehicles on our way back to the Manhattan end."

They had nearly reached the beginning of the pileup, just behind the tanker, when they ran into Deb coming in.

"The structural engineers are afraid part of the ceiling is going to give way," Deb shouted when she saw the three of them approaching. "We're double-checking to make sure all the injured are clear."

"All clear back there," Sax said with a jerk of her head indicating the area they had just come from. "Who's running the show outside?"

"Kirkland showed up," Deb said, indicating one of the attending surgeons from Sax's department. "I just left long enough to do this final canvas."

She didn't mention that she had gone in against the orders of the police because she knew that the three of them were still inside. "Let's get..."

A low rumbling that rapidly built to a roar drowned out her words. The ground beneath them seemed to lift and undulate as if shaken by some giant hand. The four of them struggled to keep their footing as bits of concrete and tile began to rain down on them.

"This section is going to collapse," Sax shouted, grabbing Jude and Mel by the shoulders and pushing them in Deb's direction. "Run!"

The four of them and the few remaining paramedics still in the tunnel began to sprint toward daylight, a distance of fifty yards that seemed like fifteen miles as debris began falling faster. Even Melissa finally gave up filming and simply cradled her camera against her chest. She put her head down and ran. One by one they vaulted over the final barrier of twisted metal and chunks of concrete, while behind them clouds of pulverized stone bore down upon them. Jude had just cleared the tunnel mouth when she realized that Sax was no longer by her side. Barely able to see through the billowing dust, she reached out and caught Mel's sleeve.

"Did Sax pass you?" she screamed over the roar of destruction rapidly closing upon them.

"No! She's right behind..." Mel yelled back, looking over Jude's shoulder, her expression one of dawning horror. "Oh god. She's still in there."

Jude turned and ran back down into the darkness. "Go back," she screamed as Mel caught up to her.

"No way."

"There!" Jude exclaimed, pointing to a swatch of blue next to the overturned truck, just barely visible under a powdering of stone and ash.

Sax was lying face down, a trickle of blood streaming down her neck. A three-inch gash on the back of her head bubbled with blood, bone visible at the base. Jude fell to her knees next to her, unmindful of the shards of glass and metal and jagged rock that tore holes in her jeans. Tentatively, she reached toward her. She was afraid to touch her. She had no idea what death felt like and she was afraid that she might find out. Her fingers hovered just above Sax's shoulder, the shoulder she had caressed not long before. This can't be. She isn't supposed to get hurt. She's the one that makes everything else all right.

"Can we move her?" Melissa yelled, her fear making her voice shrill.

"I don't know," Jude said harshly.

"We've got to," Mel said urgently, watching huge slabs of concrete slide from the walls onto the roadbed. "We don't have any time."

Suddenly, Deb's voice instructed calmly, "Let me in there, Jude." As she slid her fingers under Sax's jaw, checking for a pulse, she said, "It's a good thing I saw you two lunatics running back this way." After a few seconds she raised her head and met Jude's gaze. "She's alive."

"She's not moving. Her head..." Jude's voice was rising rapidly, and she felt things begin to break apart inside. She clenched her fists so tightly that the nails dug into her skin. "Deb... what about her neck..."

"I know, Jude. But we have to get her out of here. I'll stabilize her neck and shoulders if you two can lift her body. Can you do that?"

"Yes. Yes, of course."

Together, they maneuvered the trauma surgeon's unresponsive body clear of the tunnel and onto a stretcher. The three of them piled into the back of an ambulance, Deb quickly beginning the routine resuscitation maneuvers. As she wrapped a tourniquet around Sax's upper arm, she yelled to the driver, "St. Michael's. And call ahead for the neurosurgeon. Let them know we're bringing Dr. Sinclair in. You got that? Tell them Dr. Sinclair is down."

Jude knelt by the stretcher, completely unaware of what Deb was saying or doing. If there was a world beyond this six by six foot space, she had no memory of it. Everything that mattered to her was just inches away in the form of the dark haired woman who lay so frighteningly still.


Chapter Thirty two

As the double doors of the ambulance swung open, Pam Arnold climbed up onto the rear running board and peered into the interior. She hadn't truly believed the frantic, garbled radio transmission, but as soon as she'd heard it she'd hurried to see for herself, leaving her resident alone in the trauma bay to continue with the evaluation of a fireman who'd fallen from an extension ladder while humping hose up to douse a burning vehicle. Blinking in the glare of the vehicle's ceiling lights, she surveyed a scene she would not soon forget. For a few seconds, trying to absorb the reality of it, she forgot why she had been called.

The trauma fellow, her back braced for balance against the partition that separated the transport section from the cab, was attaching EKG leads to the chief of the division of trauma, who lay unresponsive on the stretcher, naked from the waist up, an IV running into her left arm and a stiff cervical collar immobilizing her neck. The film person-the redhead-was on her knees next to the gurney, Saxon's left hand clasped between both of hers. The look she gave Pam as she turned at the sound of the doors opening was wild--not with hysteria--but with some kind of ferocious protectiveness. In the far corner of the small space a grimy, bedraggled blond in a ratty baseball cap held a camera at eyelevel. Pam shook her head. This was not happening. Saxon Sinclair was not lying on that stretcher.

Pam squared her shoulders and narrowed her gaze, focusing on the patient. As she stepped inside, she asked brusquely, "Is she stable?"

"Vital signs are rock solid," Deb answered steadily, pulling the sheet up to cover Sax's breasts while watching the blood pressure monitor. "Pupils are equal and reactive, but sluggish."

"No respiratory problems?" Pam asked, leaning down to flick her penlight into first one, then the other, of Sax's eyes. She edged aside a few inches to allow the EMTs to pack up the monitors so they could remove the stretcher from the ambulance.

"Nope--she's breathing fine all on her own. She never lost her pulse or pressure."

"Was she ever conscious in the field?"

"No, she's been unresponsive since we found her," Deb said a bit dispiritedly, "but I think we're dealing with just the closed head injury."

"What about the blood?" Pam asked, nodding toward the stain on the sheets and the streaks down Sax's neck, lifting and flexing Sax's limbs as she talked. "Good tone, no hypereflexia," she muttered.

"Her head is cut-something hit her," Jude murmured, wincing as she stood up. Her legs were sore from the lacerations she'd not noticed earlier and her muscles were cramped from kneeling on the rough corrugated floor of the ambulance.

"Stein?" Pam asked, glancing from Jude back to the trauma resident for confirmation as the paramedics slid the gurney from the truck. At Deb's nod of assent, Pam added, "I want to get her right to the CT scanner. They're holding it for us. You good with that?"

"Yes. I'll go with you, just in case there's a problem," Deb replied as she climbed out, Jude and Melissa right behind her.

Hurrying alongside the wheeled stretcher being steered by the paramedics, Pam was about to suggest that the civilians wait in trauma admitting, but one look at the redhead's face made her change her mind. Mentally sighing, she figured it couldn't be any more of a zoo than it was already going to be, seeing who the patient was, and it didn't look like anything short of a nuclear blast could budge the woman from Sinclair's side.

"What's your name?" Pam asked as they commandeered an elevator.

"Jude Castle," Jude replied distractedly, watching Sax's face for some kind of movement. Sax, wake up, for God's sake. Just open your eyes. Just-just come back. Unmindful of Pam's intent stare, she smoothed the backs of her fingers over Sax's cheek. "Can you tell anything yet?"

The eyes she lifted to Pam's were dark with anguish. Pam had seen the look a thousand times. She would have given her the stock answer-Too soon to tell, I'll know more later--not because she didn't care, but because she couldn't share every single person's pain and still be able to work. But it was Saxon Sinclair lying there and this woman so obviously loved her.

"There's no sign of focal injury-no paralysis or anything else to suggest major brain damage," Pam said gently. "That's good. That means there's probably no surgical problem that's causing pressure on one part of the brain. The CT scan will tell us that for sure."

"Then she'll wake up soon? She'll be all right?"

Pam hesitated. "Look…"

"Please," Jude said quietly.

"If it's just a concussion, she'll have a mega headache and nothing else to show for all of this," Pam acquiesced with a sigh, hoping she hadn't just shot herself in the foot by breaking her own rule never to prognosticate. Glancing at Mel, she asked pointedly, "I'd prefer not to have this conversation on tape."

"Sorry," Melissa said, quickly terminating the tape. "It's automatic. You're welcome to see it and we'll erase…"

"Fine, fine," Pam said curtly as they began to disembark, her mind already back on her patient. Stopping at the double doors to the CT suite, she added, "You two will have to wait out here. As soon as I see the scans, I'll let you know. Has anyone called her family?"

"Oh god," Jude gasped. "Maddy-I don't even know her number."

"Try Saxon's on call room-there should be something in her wallet…"

And then the neurosurgeon was gone, and so was Sax. The heavy windowless doors swung shut and Jude was left standing in the stark, harshly lit hallway, wondering how everything had changed so quickly.

"Jude?" Melissa asked softly. "Who's Maddy?"

"Her grandmother," Jude said dully. "I need to call her."

"She'll be okay, you know," Melissa began uneasily. Man, she felt inadequate. She'd never needed to comfort Jude before. She couldn't ever remember her being really upset even, not personally, not about the kinds of things that people usually got upset about--a love affair gone south or a professional setback--nothing that had ever hit her somewhere deep like this had. Jude was always in control; Jude always managed to stay a safe distance away from all the upheaval that plagued most people's lives. "Jude-these people are not going to let anything happen to her. She's…hell, she's…"

"She's just flesh and blood, Melissa," Jude bleakly, "and she's vulnerable, just like all of us." She passed a trembling hand over her face, then seemed to pull herself together with conscious effort. "Come on-let's go see if we can get a key to her on call room."


As she opened the door and stepped into Sax's on call room, Jude thought about the first morning they had met--Sax standing a few feet away, peeling off her faded jeans, looking unconcerned and wholly oblivious to just how damned attractive she was. And totally unaware of the effect she was having on Jude. Jude realized now she'd been hooked from that moment. First her body, then her mind, and now-so much more. Everything. There was a small kernel of panic growing in the pit of her stomach, and she had to work very hard not acknowledge it.

She's going to be fine. You're not going to lose her now.

"Her jacket's on the chair," Melissa observed, watching Jude cautiously. Her friend was standing still, her expression distant, her entire body rigid with tension. "Want me to look?"

"No," Jude replied softly, forcing herself to concentrate on what needed to be done. "I'll do it."

Crossing the room, Jude lifted the black leather jacket, caressing her palm over the surface worn smooth by years of use. She thought of the times she had rested her cheek against it while pressed against Sax on the motorcycle. She wanted to rub her face on it, to search for some lingering hint of the heat of Sax's body or a breath of her scent, but she felt the pockets instead, finally locating the wallet in the inner left hand one. Opening it, she found Sax's driver's license in a clear plastic slot with several other cards behind it. Sliding them out, Jude shuffled through them, noting a medical license, a health insurance card, a donor card, and a finally a card with In case of Emergency typed on it. Maddy's name and number were there.

"She even looks good in her license photo," Melissa remarked, peering over Jude's shoulder, trying to distract her friend from her worry. "That's not fair. Nobody looks good in those."

"Mel," Jude asked, her voice tight, "do you think we need to bring this…donor card?"

"Jeez, no," Melissa said sharply, watching Jude's hands tremble. "Put it back. She's probably awake by now."

"Yes, of course, you're right. I'll call Maddy from radiology and let her know what's happened. The CT scan must be done."

They were almost there when they heard the overhead PA system blare.

Code Blue…Radiology STAT…Code Blue…Radiology STAT…Code Blue…

They looked at one another and ran.


"She's seizing," Deb announced breathlessly as she careened through the doors of the CT room, nearly plowing into Jude and Mel on the other side. "Fuck. Where do they keep the crash carts around here."

"What happened?" Jude cried, her fear building as she realized that Deb looked-scared. "Deb?"

"I don't know. We were moving her out of the CT scanner and she started…shaking…sort of." As she spoke she grabbed a red cart on wheels and began pulling it behind her. "The code team should be here in a second-I've got to get back in there."

Deb pushed the doors open ahead of her with her shoulder and Jude and Melissa followed her inside, never even stopping to discuss it. Pam was bent over the stretcher, lifting Sax's eyelid with one hand, peering intently at her pupils.

"It's the damnedest thing," she muttered to no one in particular. "It looks like REM, but it isn't. Not like anything I've ever seen before."

Straightening, she frowned at Jude and Melissa, who were flanking Sax on the other side of the bed, but she dismissed their presence as one factor she could not control. "We'd better dilantinize her just in case this is some kind of brainstem instability," she said to Deb. "Can you find a loading dose on the crash cart somewhere?"

"I'll have it mixed in a minute," Deb replied tersely, breaking open a vial and drawing the medication into a syringe.

"That's an anti-seizure drug, right?" Jude asked, watching Sax shiver all over while her lids fluttered rapidly. Resting her palm against the surgeon's jaw, she stroked her face softly.

"Yes," Pam answered distractedly, checking Sax's vital signs on the portable monitors. She waved away the members of the code team who had just barreled through the doors ready to start CPR. "Hold off-her signs are all stable." What the hell is this?

Jude thought she felt Sax's cheek press into her palm. In her mind she heard Sax's voice. I'm very sensitive to any kind of drug. I know that now. I'm careful to avoid them. Turning to the neurosurgeon, she asked, "Can I speak to you, please?"

"I can't tell you anything right now," Pam said sharply. "In a few…"

"It's about Sax. It's important. I think that the dilantin could hurt her."

Pam's looked quickly from the monitors to Jude, her eyes narrowing. "Do you know something about her medical history? For god's sake…"

"I didn't realize…"

"Never mind. Just tell me now." Pam took Jude's arm and led her away from the bed, directing over her shoulder, "Stein, hold the dilantin but watch her vitals carefully. If her pO2 drops, push it." Facing Jude, she said, "Go ahead."

Jude hurriedly related what Sax had told her about the misdiagnoses in her childhood, the problems she had as a result of the drug therapy, the unusual REM patterns that no one could explain, and her altered neurologic responses. Desperately, Jude added, "I just thought the usual meds might not work or that they might hurt her."

"You might be right," Pam agreed, hiding her surprise and her intense curiosity about what Jude had just told her. Saxon Sinclair was an astounding woman in more ways than one, and she would dearly love the chance to learn more about this aspect of her life. The fact that the very private surgeon had chosen to share such confidences with the redhead suggested to Pam more powerfully than anything else could that she wouldn't be getting to know Saxon quite so intimately. "We need an EEG before we do anything else. She doesn't seem to be in any kind of trouble, at least not at the moment."

Turning, Pam instructed, "Let's move her to trauma admitting, Deb. We'll get a bedside EEG there."

As Deb nodded and started to wheel the gurney out of the room, Jude stepped over and reached for Sax's hand. Linking her fingers through Sax's, she said firmly, "I'm coming, too."

"Could anyone stop you?" Deb asked with a faint grin.

Jude's heart twisted a little as she realized how much Deb reminded her of Sax at that moment, but she managed to smile back. "Not in this lifetime.


Chapter Thirty-three

atypical EEG...WAIT...look at this... accelerated or...NO...focal anomaly...seizure it isn't...more like REM...cycles unusual...what the HELL...

Fighting to open her eyes despite the piercing glare, she found herself staring into a huge silver disk suspended above her head, a hot white bulb in its center. Oh, god. Waking up...just like before. Alone. She recognized the lights...the smell. Hospital. Her chest tightened. She tried to move her arms, tried to lift her legs. Restrained. She struggled, moaned at the swift surge of pain. Suddenly, a silhouette took shape in her field of vision, backlit by the bright light. She tried unsuccessfully to focus. "Please..."

Gentle hands touched her cheek; a soft voice spoke. "You're in the hospital. You're going to be all right."

Lies. They tell you lies; they give you drugs; they make you lose yourself. She shuddered. She closed her eyes. Please.

"Can you hear me? You're safe."

Lies. Tender fingers brushed her forehead. They lie.

"Sax," gently pleading now. "Wake up, please."

She knew that voice; she knew that touch. Frantically she tried again to focus. Features began to emerge from the shadows, giving her something to cling to in the sea of confusion and pain. A face bending near-green eyes, caring and reassuring. Dark red hair, shimmering with gold, a perfect face. The look in those eyes-strong and steady and sure. Tightening her fingers on the hand holding hers, she asked desperately, "Jude?"

"Yes, right here," Jude soothed, seeing the bewilderment in Sax's eyes. She's trembling. She's terrified. "I'm right here." Reluctantly, because she had to, she looked away for a second, calling to the doctors still bent over the EEG tracing, "She's awake."

"Don't go," Sax said urgently, struggling to sit up. She wasn't sure where she was. She wasn't sure what was happening. They can hurt is here. This is now, not then. Jude. "Don't go," she asked again.

"Of course not," Jude said, one hand on Sax's shoulder, caressing her even as she guided her back down. Sax's obvious fear was tearing at her. Her chest ached with the need to comfort her, but she knew it wasn't her sympathy Sax needed, but her resolve. "Sax, you're at St. Michael's. Everything is all right."

Pam moved to the head of the bed opposite Jude. "Welcome back," she said with a fond smile, but her eyes were searching Sax clinically--examining, assessing. "Do you know who I am?"

Sax studied the tall, lithe figure, her initial panic subsiding second by second as she realized that she did know who the woman was. Even more importantly, she knew who she was. "Pam Arnold. Neurosurgeon. And I'm Saxon Sinclair." She turned her head as far as the restraining collar would allow. "And this is my trauma unit."

"Excellent," Pam affirmed with a nod, hoping that her intense relief didn't show. She had so not wanted to put a drill to Sax's skull.

Sax looked from Pam to Jude, aware for the first time that Jude's face was smeared with soot and streaked with sweat...or was it tears? "What happened? Are you hurt?" She tried again to sit up. The two women by the bedside answered simultaneously.

"No, I'm fine. Lie still," Jude assured her, pressing one palm to Sax's shoulder.

"You got cracked on the head and sustained a significant concussion, but no serious long term damage," Pam stated.

"You're sure you're not hurt?" Sax asked again, her eyes searching Jude's face.

"I am just fine." Jude smiled, the burden of fear she had labored under for the last sixty minutes finally relenting. "Everyone is."

Satisfied, Sax lifted her left arm to the extent that the arm board taped around it would allow and saw the plastic catheter in her vein. "Did you give me anything?" she asked, looking at Pam, her face losing the last of its color. Not again. God, not again.

"No. Nothing," Pam assured her swiftly. At Sax's look of surprise, she added, "You have Ms. Castle to thank for that."

"Thank you," Sax murmured, glancing at Jude and linking her fingers more tightly through hers. She took a deep breath, feeling infinitely more settled. Time to move on. "Pam, can you get this damn thing off my neck?"

"Yes, your spine is clear on the CT," Pam informed her, releasing the velcro straps on the molded cervical collar and removing it. "Do you need something for pain? Let me finish my exam and I'll order some morphine."

"I'm fine," Sax lied. Her disorientation, while lessening dramatically, had unfortunately been replaced by a throbbing headache. A trade she was happy to accept. She pulled at the strap that ran across her chest pinning her to the narrow table. "Let me up."

"As soon as Stein closes that laceration on your head, we'll get you upstairs to a room," Pam informed her as she began checking reflexes and motor tone.


"I'm sorry?" Pam asked, raising her head to meet Sax's implacable expression.

"I'm not going to be admitted."

"Saxon, this isn't negotiable," Pam said, an edge in her voice now. Perfect. Lovely. Just what I need-a power struggle in the middle of a goddamned mass casualty alert.

"I'm sure you have something better to do than argue with me," Sax said reasonably, as if reading Pam's mind. "I'll sign the 'against medical advice' form if you insist, but I'm not staying."

"Now look..."

"Can I talk to her for a minute...alone?" Jude interrupted calmly. Sax's voice was strong and her eyes were clear, but she was pale as the sheets and the hand that lay in Jude's palm shook. It was clear to Jude that she was in pain.

"Be my guest," Pam replied in clipped, angry tones. "I'm going to check on my other patients." She glanced at Jude, who was softly stroking Sax's arm, and added tersely, "Talk some sense into her."

"As if I could," Jude said with a smile. Before Sax could make any kind of argument, she leaned down until her lips nearly touched Sax's ear and whispered, "Do you have any idea how much I love you?"

Sax carefully turned her head until their eyes met, their lips barely inches apart. Jude's irises were so many swirling shades of green she almost got lost in them. She forgot what she had meant to say. "How much?" she asked softly, just because she wanted to hear her say it.

"So much I can't even imagine being without you," she admitted. She'd said it. It was the truth, and the truth of it was amazingly simple to accept. I love you. Yes. "I was scared to death out there when we found you. I can't go through that again."

"Oh, that's not fair," Sax murmured, wanting desperately to hold her. She reached across with her unrestrained right hand and stroked Jude's cheek, traced her fingers along her jaw, rested her thumb against the corner of her mouth. "I love you. I'd do anything for you."

"Then stay here," Jude said softly, leaning closer, kissing her.

"I'm scared."

Jude's heart twisted, because she knew what that admission cost her. "I'll stay with you."

Sax turned her face away, struggling with old terrors, wanting desperately to embrace new trusts. She felt Jude's touch, knew she was not alone. She drew on that strength, relied on that constancy, as she searched for reason and fought to conquer fear.

"Just overnight."



She awoke drenched in sweat. Rivers of it soaked her hair, the hospital gown, the sheets. The room was dim, illuminated by a faint light from the bathroom. Nighttime.

Pushing the covers aside, she slowly shifted toward the side of the bed. The movement didn't seem to produce any adverse effects. Headache-nearly gone. Nausea-minimal. Vision-clear. Excellent.

"What are you doing?" Jude asked from the chair a few feet away where she had been dozing.

"I need a shower."

"I don't think you're supposed to get up," Jude remarked as she went to Sax's side. She brushed the hair from her forehead. It was wet, but Sax's skin was warm, not clammy.

"I'm fine," Sax replied, sitting up. No dizziness. Good.

"What's going on then-you're soaked."

"It happens to me sometimes-it's probably just the tail end of the trauma. Like when a fever breaks, I guess," she said, reaching for Jude's hand. "Don't worry."

"Is Pam going to flay me when she discovers I let you get up?" Jude asked only half-teasingly. The neurosurgeon's last words to her had been, "Make sure she stays put."

"With any luck we'll be gone before she shows up." She took two steps, felt fine, then a few more. All systems go.

"Sax," Jude said, holding her back with a hand on her arm. "You have me at a disadvantage here. I don't want you to hurt yourself. Tell me you're not being stubborn and foolish."

Sax turned, met her eyes. "I need about two days before I can drive or work, but I'm okay. I can rest at Maddy's a lot better than I can here. I won't take chances. I promise."

"Then let me give you a hand."



"These weren't designed for two," Jude observed, bumping her elbow against the shower wall as she carefully worked the lather into Sax's hair.

Sax pressed her hips into Jude's pelvis, observing mischievously, "Maybe they were."

"Stop," Jude breathed, liking a little too much the slick feel of Sax's skin against her thigh. She'd been so scared that she would lose her, and now she was so damn glad to have her back. God, it feels good. Too good. "There are so many reasons why we can't do this here, I can't even count."

"Mmm, I know," Sax remarked distractedly, running her fingers along the edge of Jude's breast, watching her nipple harden. "What were they again?"

"Do that for another second and I'll forget, so...stop."

"Jude," Sax said quietly, her hands resting on Jude's waist, her expression suddenly serious. "Thank you for this morning. For being there, for talking to Pam about the meds."

"Sax..." Jude started to protest, her palms on Sax's shoulders, their breasts lightly touching, their eyes holding one another.

"No wait...I'm not done," Sax interrupted, smiling faintly, wanting to say the words. "You took care of me, and I...I needed that. I needed you. So I...just..."

"Sax, I love you," Jude said. Firmly. Clearly. Tenderly. "I need you."

Sax closed her eyes, rested her forehead on Jude's. "God, I love you."

"Good," Jude whispered, and kissed her. So very good.

After a moment, Sax moved her mouth to Jude's ear and murmured, "I can't remember why we weren't supposed to do this."

A sharp knock resounded on the bathroom door, clearly audible even above the pounding of the running water.

"That would be one," Jude said dryly. She turned the knobs to off and slid the curtain back. "Yes?"

"Sinclair better be in there," Pam Arnold warned from the other side.

"Uh, could you give us a minute?" Jude called.


"We need to get dressed."

"I'm not hearing this," Pam's voice announced ominously. "I'm really not. Five minutes."

When they emerged, Sax in the jeans and tee shirt Jude had retrieved earlier from her on call room, and Jude in the clean clothes Mel had delivered from her apartment, they found Pam waiting in the one chair, legs crossed, looking elegant and decidedly cool.

"You agreed to stay overnight. It's 9:30pm," she said, fixing Sax with a piercing stare.

"I'm fine," Sax replied.

Before Pam could snarl a response, the door opened and Deb Stein entered, followed closely by Melissa.

"Hey, boss," Deb called, smiling with delight. "You're up!"

"Hi," Mel added.

"Wonderful. Now we can have a party," Pam growled, rising to her feet. "You two," she said to the newcomers. "Out."

As they looked from her to Sax and Jude in confusion, the door opened yet again.

"Whoa," Melissa blurted before she could stop herself as a woman stepped inside.

"Maddy," Sax exclaimed. "I told you on the phone not to come."

"I know that, Saxon," Maddy remarked, smiling at Mel, who was staring unabashedly at her. "But you can't drive that motorcycle; Jude's car is parked behind the house; and I thought you would be about ready to leave by now."

"How did you get here? Tell me you didn't drive the Rolls," Sax cried.

"There's a very nice policeman right out in front of the hospital who is watching it," Maddy explained, her eyes twinkling. Saxon appeared fine, just as Jude had said, but she felt better seeing for herself. She knew what being a patient would do to her granddaughter.

"Oh my god," Sax moaned. "I have to go right now."

"Wait a minute," Pam said, very nearly shouting.

"Ah, let me make introductions," Jude said quickly before the scene could deteriorate further. As she went around the room getting everyone acquainted, even Pam began to relax.

"Madelaine Lane," Melissa said reverently. "You're Sax's grandmother. Whoa."

"And you're Jude's DP. Lovely work," Maddy rejoined sincerely.

Melissa blushed and was, for once, speechless.

Maddy fixed Pam with an assessing stare. "So, may I take her home? Jude will be there to see that she behaves."

"Maddy," Sax groaned while Jude grinned.

"She seems fine," Pam admitted reluctantly. "I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea, however."

"How about if Deb comes along?" Jude suggested.

"Check," Sax whispered to Jude, too low for anyone else to hear. She watched with pleasure as Jude deftly moved the pieces with surgical precision.

"Yes," Maddy agreed. She looked from Mel to Deb, and added, "And you are welcome, too, Melissa. I've lots of room."

"Well..." Mel replied hesitantly, looking at Deb with a question in her eyes.

"It's fine with me," Deb answered, grinning at Mel.

Jude moved a little closer to Sax, resting her hand on her back. "Do those arrangements satisfy?" she asked Pam.

"It would seem I've been outmaneuvered," Pam conceded, a wisp of a smile softening her face.

"And mate," Jude whispered, firmly taking Sax's hand.


Twelve months later

"Who is it?" Sax called, her scrub shirt half off over her head.

"It's me," came a deep voice from the hallway outside her on-call room.

Hastily, she pulled down her shirt and quickly crossed to the door. "What do you want?" she said hurriedly, peering out. "It's already twenty after six."

Clearly, he was on schedule. He looked dashing in black-tie, every blond hair in place as always. Raising an eyebrow at her obvious state of un-readiness, he said, "I know precisely what time it is. I was just checking to see if you were ready."

"No, Aaron, I'm not ready. Do I look ready? Are you planning on helping me get dressed? Because if you're not, would you please go away and leave me alone?"

Aaron Townsend was enjoying Sinclair's nervousness. It wasn't often, make that never, that he got to see her the least bit off her stride. Nervous was just not a word that applied to her. "Well, if you want me to, I could probably accommodate you."

"Aaron, just because I might once have said I missed you, I've forgotten that by now. Don't push, or you could be back doing float work on the medical floor."

"Deb just left. She looked-outstanding. Nice ride, too," he continued, walking into her on call room and completely ignoring her empty threats.

Sax raised an eyebrow. "Let me guess. Grey Rolls? Mint condition-"

"Uh huh."

"Please, please tell me that my grandmother wasn't driving."

"Nah-some scruffy little blond-" When Sax moaned, he laughed and took pity on her. "No-a gorgeous chauffeur's driving-tall redhead with cheekbones like Jodie Foster. And Deb's date looked great, too. Melissa's hot."

"The three of them together out on the town with the Rolls. It's terrifying." She put a hand on his chest and shoved. "Get out."

"Where are your clothes?" He still hadn't moved.

"The tailor is dropping them off." Exasperated, she added, "Now goodbye." She gestured toward the hallway and began nudging him in that direction.

"What time is she picking you up?"

"20 minutes, and I still have to shower. So will you please get lost."

"Yes, Doctor," he said, mockingly as he finally stepped back out into the hall. "I'll see you there."

"Yeah, yeah," she muttered, closing the door resoundingly behind him and finally shedding her shirt. She had untied her pants and was about to step out of them when the knock came again. "I'm not kidding," she shouted from her side of the door. "Disappear, as in vanish, unless you intend to come in here and help me off with the rest of my clothes."

For a moment, there was total silence, and then Jude spoke from the hall. "I'm trying to decide who you think might be standing out here. The only one I can reasonably come up with is Pam Arnold, and if that's the case, I'm coming in there to kill you."

Sax pulled the door open for a second time and peered out. "What are you doing here? It's not time yet. Is it?"

Jude didn't reply. She leaned against the doorframe, shielding her lover from the view of passersby in the hallway, and stared. Sax was standing a few feet away, nearly naked, her scrub pants halfway off her hips, her chest and stomach bare. Despite the fact that Jude had seen her step naked from the shower that morning, and by now she should probably be used to it, the site of Saxon undressed never failed to drive every other thought from her mind. Her palms actually tingled with the urge to touch her. Finally she managed, "Who were you expecting?"

"No one. Aaron was just here a minute ago bothering me."

"And you invited him to help you get undressed? That's an interesting twist," Jude remarked with a grin. "Something I need to know?"

Sax grinned back. "Not to worry. It was a threat."

"Not to me," Jude murmured as she crossed the threshold, tossed the garments she had been carrying over one arm onto a nearby chair, and kicked the door closed behind her. In one continuous motion she closed the distance between them until her breasts were against Sax's, and her hands were buried in her hair. Pulling Sax to her, she swallowed Sax's gasp of surprise before slipping her tongue into her lover's mouth. Always so good.

When Sax managed to draw a breath she rasped, "Are you crazy? We have to be there in forty-five minutes. We're not even dressed. Don't... I mean it... don't touch me..." and then they were kissing again, and Sax was not resisting.

Coupled, fused, joined by hands and mouth and lips, they slowly moved across the room, never breaking the kiss. When they reached the door to the bathroom, Jude finally lifted her head and whispered, "We can be late."

"No, we can't," Sax groaned desperately. "Your documentary is one of the selections. This is the New York Film Festival, for God's sake, and we can't be late for the premier."

"I can't sit through four hours of speeches thinking about your hands on me," Jude insisted, pushing Sax into the room and against the small sink, then insinuating one thigh between her legs. She watched Sax's eyes grow hazy and knew that she had won. Gripping the sink on either side of Sax's body to hold her in place, she lowered her head and caught a nipple between her teeth.

Sax gave a sharp cry, arching her back as a swift jolt drilled through her spine and sparked fire between her legs. "Oh. Please...if you start..."

"I've already started."

Sax knew she wouldn't last, and if she was going to blow at the first touch, she damn well wasn't going to be alone. Adroitly, she worked the zipper down on Jude's slacks and in the same motion slipped her hand in. She groaned again, this time not from the insistent pressure between her legs or the exquisite point of pain in her breast from Jude's teeth, but from the wet heat she found waiting for her between Jude's thighs. "Oh yeah--you're ready," she gasped as they both shed clothing.

"I was ready at the door," Jude rasped, moving her lips to Sax's neck, her teeth to the skin just below her ear. "I saw you naked and I got hard."

"Jesus," Sax whispered, her head about to explode. She circled Jude now, pressing her from base to tip, losing herself in Jude's soft moans. She ached, and thrust faster against Jude's thigh. Each of Jude's sharp cries made her twitch and she worked her even harder, waiting until the last second to enter her. She thrust and Jude rocked. They were synchronized, leading and following, rising and falling together.

Raising her head, Jude's eyes met Sax's and she caught her lower lip between her teeth, trying to hold back her orgasm. She was losing, but it was a wonderful surrender. She whimpered as Sax filled her; Sax groaned, the muscles in her neck taut, as Jude's thigh rode hard on her clitoris.

"I'm going to..."


"now... right..."

"... now..."

Sax shuddered, Jude shivered, and they held tightly to one another, pummeled with pleasure until they were both sobbing.

Finally, Sax gathered herself enough to ask, "Did you happen to bring my tux?"

"Of course," Jude said with a shaky laugh, lifting her head from where she had been resting it on Sax's shoulder. "I brought both of them."

"I love you," Sax whispered. "You're going to win, you know."

Jude took her hand, thinking of the last year, and tugged her toward the shower. "I already have."

The End

This work is copyrighted by Radclyffe at Radfic productions.

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