Snap Shots: Part 2
Chapter 10


Disclaimers: Please see Part 1.


Moving without the cane, mainly due to her now complete familiarity with the layout of their house, Nikki made her way through the kitchen and on to her office. Trailing one hand along the wall, she counted the usual ten steps from the side kitchen door, past the dining room until she reached the entrance of the office. She pushed the door open and walked into the quiet room.


Sitting on the stairs, Tess pulled her mobile from the inside pocket of her denim jacket hung haphazardly over the banister. She hit the speed dial button seven, instantly connecting her with the veterinary surgery. The brunette waited, drumming her long fingers on her right knee as she waited for the call to be answered. Seconds later an elderly voice reverberated down the line.

Tess spoke briefly with the veterinary nurse; discovering that Leto had indeed come around from her anaesthetic calmly and quietly. The golden hound was now sound asleep in a large cage and would be ready to go home the day after tomorrow. Tess was a little disappointed that she had to wait until Monday before she could bring Leto home, but she understood that it was in the dogs' best interests.

Disconnecting the call, the photographers stomach rumbled, reminding her that none of them had really eaten much today. At least she'd had her 'nutritionally void' snack, but Tess was sure Nikki hadn't eaten much of anything all day. Walking into the kitchen the photographer pulled open a small drawer and picked up the nearest Indian take out menu. She perused the selections. “HEY NIK?” She yelled.

“Yeah?” Came a distant voice.


“Sounds good to me.” Nikki answered in a raised voice.

“Great…I'll go and ask Lisa.” She said wondering where the teen was; knowing Lisa had been upstairs for quite a while now. Chucking the menu down, it slid along the varnished surface of the table as Tess exited the kitchen and approached the stairs.


As a child Nikki loved to sit in her bedroom and listen to storybooks on tape. Rosalind was never one to read her daughter bedtime tales and refused to do so, believing her daughter had to be as normal as possible and not rely on others. It didn't seem to register to the woman that a parent reading to her children was a normal occurrence anyway. She had objected greatly to the blonde attending a school for the visually impaired, but Richard had insisted, pointing out the many benefits it could offer the younger girl. So Nikki had started school; learning Braille quickly and soon reading became one of her favourite relaxing past times.

During his spare time James himself learned to read Braille; also helping a young Nikki with her reading and did on occasions read to her when her parents were out for the evening, though Richard Morris did when he had the time, read to his daughter. It was obvious to them all Nikki's passion for books and fictional stories, and on many occasions Richard would go out of his way to purchase as many books for Nikki; taking time out on his lunch hours to visit book stores in the city.

Standing in the office, Nikki turned to the right and headed straight for her bookshelf, but as her hand reached out and found purchase of a row of familiar books…she froze. The feel of the room, the whole atmosphere had changed, sending an icy chill of fear down her spine. Moving away from the shelf Nikki turned around; senses alert as she tried to gage her distraction. Somebody was in the room. “Who's here?” She asked shakily. There was no response but Nikki sensed a sudden shift in the air to her right. Fear escalating; she felt the sudden urgency to leave the room, but as she made her way towards the exit an unknown hand reached out, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her backwards into a hard body. Nikki whimpered as a hand covered her mouth and a familiar sensation of cold steel pressed against her throat.

“Déjà vu!” Said the recognisable voice. “Hmm…you know I get the familiar feeling that I have done this before; don't you think that is strange?”

Terrified, Nikki struggled against the strong hold but the grip just increased, holding her securely.

“Ah ah ah, if you are wise you will keep still, and if you shout or scream it'll be the last thing you ever do, understand?”

Nikki nodded and the hand moved away from her mouth. “What do you want Bradley?” Her voice trembled with restrained fear.

Bradley pulled Nikki over to the entrance leading to the rest of the house and closed the door, before moving to the exit, dragging the blonde along with him, “You know my name? So my squealing brother did tell after all!” He opened the door and pulled Nikki out into the night air. “Well after I have finished here I may need to go back and teach him a lesson about lying to family.” Still holding the sharp knife against Nikki's throat Brad dragged the stumbling and frightened blonde over to the closest crop of bushes.


She had mounted the stairs quietly, wondering where Lisa would be hiding herself. It was obvious that teen was upset about the recent turn of events and the subsequent allegations. But although inside Tess didn't want to believe CJ was as corrupt as she had insinuated, she could only go with the facts. And the facts were rather indisputable.

Walking along the landing, Tess spotted the light from the bathroom shedding a small ray from the gap at the bottom of its door. She approached it quietly and rapped her knuckles on the solid wood. “Lisa?”

A few moments of silence past before a quiet voice gave permission to enter. Tess walked into the room and looked at the slight form of the teen sitting on the edge of the bathtub. Red swollen eyes and a handful of tissues told the photographer all she needed to know. “Um…are you alright?”

The teen nodded mutely.

Come on Tess think. “Err…we are ordering in if you would like something to eat.”

Another silent nod was her reply.

Damn it! Tess scanned the bathroom as if looking for insight. Jade eyes followed the blue/grey swirls of the surrounding tiled design, then looked upon a wide cabinet screwed securely to the wall. She looked at her reflection in the mirror and shook her head at the uncomfortable expression staring back at her.

Walking further into bathroom Tess closed the distance between her and the bath, before sitting down on the edge beside Lisa. “Um…I know I could be wrong you know… If CJ doesn't have anything to do with this then we will soon find out for sure wont we.” She placed her hand upon Lisa's shoulder and inclined her head. “Lisa?”

The teen nodded. “Yeah, but the more I think about it the more I am scared that you are right… it all makes sense and that's what bothers me. What if he was using me all this time?”

Tess sucked in her bottom lip; chewing on the soft flesh. “It really isn't worth thinking about any of this until we know what is going on for sure. Nikki doesn't believe CJ's intentions were bad and you know not to mess with her intuitions!”

Lisa laughed. “Yeah I've kind of realised that over the years.”

Smirking the brunette placed her arm around the teen shoulder and pulled her in. “So let's not go making any more assumptions until we have our facts straight okay?” Hmm these delicate conversations aren't that bad; Tess thought relieved I can do sensitive! “Yeah?”

Nodding Lisa smiled. “Yeah okay.” She looked up to the tall woman still slightly surprised that this was the same Tess Alexander who was reputedly as reticent as they come.

Tess pulled away and rose to her feet. “Want to go down and make an order? Nikki is probably waiting right now with menu and phone in hand wondering where we are.”

Lisa nodded, and together they left the bathroom.


It was painful to move, almost too painful at the beginning, but as CJ dove into his Civic and made the journey towards Riverside Farm he became accustomed to the sharp pains that assaulted his body with every sharp turn and swift movement the vehicle made. It was fast approaching nine o'clock and the sky was already dark; street lamps having illuminated the roads almost an hour before.

Entering the narrow driveway that led towards the farmhouse, CJ drove his car carefully over the bumpy track, trying hard not to jar his already abused frame. And as he approached the bridge he slowed the Civic down further, moving over the wooden structure at a dawdling speed.

The front security light shone down upon the young man as the car stopped and he climbed cautiously out the drivers seat. Once the door was closed, he quickly approached the front of the house, his body already feeling the effects of over exertion.


Tess and Lisa descended the stairs as the front bell chimed, startling the smaller of the two brunettes'. Both thinking it was the Mayor; they approached the door together, Tess reaching over the teen and unlatching the lock. What they saw instead caused a look of shock on the photographer and horror on the small teen.

“CJ!” Lisa stated, moving quickly away from the doorway so the young man could enter.

He stumbled in, clutching his side with obvious pain. Dry blood still covering the side of his face and mouth; one eye swollen shut, even Tess had to grimace at the sight. Instinctively she looked outside, taking stock of the young mans car; well it least it doesn't look like a traffic accident! She thought. Turning back to CJ, she took a strong hold of the young mans elbow and helped him towards the stairs, the nearest place for him to sit.

“Thanks” he replied, closing his eyes with relief.

Worry etched deep into her brow; Lisa moved to his side eyes wide with alarm. “What happened? Have you seen a doctor, I think you should go and see one…what happened?”

CJ looked at Lisa then to the tall woman looming over him. He was just about to answer when realisation hit; he was going to have to come clean about everything. Who he was, who his brother was, and more importantly, what his brother wanted. Not that he knew any specifics of that part, just that he intended getting revenge on Tess; but knowing Bradley the way he did, anything was imaginable.

Placing his right hand over bruised ribs the tall man cleared his aching throat. “This is all…” he coughed, wincing as the pain sliced through his body. Lisa moved forward concerned but he held up his hand halting her movement. “No…this is all my fault.”

Lisa frowned. “What do you mean CJ?”

“He asked me to watch you all; get close and learn your movements, but I couldn't do it.”

Tess bent down. “CJ look…”

“No, you don't understand,” he interrupted. “My brother Brad? I am sure you can remember him from the shopping centre. I don't know what happened there, but I know he came away pretty beaten up…” He looked deep into Tess's eyes.

The photographer shook her head. “It's okay CJ, we know.”

The young man frowned and looked quickly at Lisa before turning back to Tess. “What do you mean you know…what do you know?”

“Your brother is Bradley White. He was the guy that attacked Nikki at Gallowtree shopping centre. He has been watching us for over a month now, and earlier today he tried to kill Leto.”

Brown eyes widened in shock. “Leto… is she alright?”

Tess nodded. “She will be; right now I want to know what happened to you.”

CJ nodded. “Brad saw me here today; needless to say he wasn't very happy to think that I might be fraternising with the enemy.” He looked beseechingly at the teen. “I'm sorry Lisa. I know I should have said something earlier, but I was afraid that it would jeopardise what we had together… and I didn't want that.”

Lisa nodded, tears clouding her eyes.

Tess rose to her feet. “Where is your bother now CJ?”

The blonde looked up at Tess nervously. “That is just it, I don't know. When I came around earlier he was gone, but after the rage he displayed I can only assume he has stepped up his plans of revenge. I had to get round here and inform you before it was too late.”

Nodding Tess looked around the hallway. “Right, then I…” she frowned. “Nikki?” She called suddenly, wondering why the blonde hadn't emerged at the sound of another voice.

There was no answer.

“NIKKI?” Still frowning, Tess looked quickly to the couple sitting on the stairs before taking off towards the front room. Seeing no sign of the blonde, Tess retraced her steps, heading instead to the kitchen and on into the office. She opened the door and looked inside, finding the room empty.

From behind Tess heard a rapid set of approaching footsteps and turned to see a concerned looking Lisa. “Tess?” The teen noticed the look of apprehension on the photographers face. “What's wrong, where's Nikki?”

Tess looked back into the office, wishing she knew the answer to that one simple question. “I…I don't know. She said she was coming here to get a book.” Tess re-entered the office and tried the handle on the other door. It easily swung open, allowing a gust of cold air into the heat radiated room.

“Did she go out to the stables?”

Shutting the door Tess shook her head. “No; her cane was in the front room and she never goes out there without it.”

Lisa turned to see CJ slowly approaching; the worried look in her eyes sent sudden alarm bells ringing in the young mans head. “What is it, where's Nikki?” He asked.

Shaking her head Lisa moved out of the way as Tess entered the back passage.

CJ's eyes widened. “You don't think…”

“No time for speculations.” Tess interrupted; “We don't want to jump to any conclusions here, we just need to find Nikki… now.” She didn't allow the terror she was feeling inside to affect her outer calm; it wouldn't help the situation. But she did have an awful feeling and wanted so desperately to be wrong. “Right… so we have to check the house and surrounding area.” Tess looked towards CJ; “How are you feeling because I could really do with your help.”

The young man stood tall; not wanting to let any of the women down, he had done that enough already. “Just tell me what you want me to do.”

Tess nodded once. “Right, Lisa you check the house, look around the rooms upstairs and down.” She turned to CJ. “Can you check the back of the house; while I look around the front. Then I will come around and meet you out back.”

Giving affirmed nods, the three set off in separate directions.

With urgency Lisa moved around the house; entering each room she scanned the area thoroughly, but found nothing. She even checked the laundry room and the cupboard under the stairs but found nothing more than sports gear. A deflated football, fishing rod, tennis rackets and a rugby ball covered with a multitude of signatures. Closing the door Lisa turned to the stairs and made short work of the fifteen wooden steps. Reaching the landing she checked Tess's dark room; the remainder of the bedrooms and both bathrooms, but still she found nothing. Concern mounting, she hoped Tess or CJ were having better luck outside.

CJ walked swiftly out to the back of the house, holding his injured side gently. The outside security light instantly illuminated the area as he started searching his surroundings. The young man didn't have very intimate knowledge of the vicinity, so he decided to just check everywhere he could. If Nikki had come out side, and he hoped that was all she had done, he hoped to find her.

Tess entered the courtyard, moving into sensor range of the security light. She looked around deciding her best method of detection was to basically to keep moving.

“Nik?” Tess shouted as she approached the bridge, almost afraid to look down into the murky waters of the shallow stream below. “NIKKI” more desperate this time. She peered into the bank of the stream but found nothing out of the ordinary. Cursing, she turned back continuing her search by checking the rest of the courtyard. “NIKKI?” Damn it where are you? Fist balled almost painfully by her side Tess headed back into the house.


Holding the small blonde firmly within the confines of the over grown shrubbery, Bradley white kept his hand clasped firmly over Nikki's mouth. He was waiting, sooner or later that photographer would come out looking for her, and then he would strike, using the blonde as a means of stacking the odds firmly in his favour.

Nikki grimaced, kneeling silently in the dry soil. She was held in a tight grip; pulled firm against the body behind her, but at least the knife was no longer positioned against the soft flesh of her neck. She swallowed hard, finding it difficult to breath with the large hand so tightly wrapped around her. Nikki fought to fight hyperventilation; she was scared, more so than before, and the added pressure on her lungs wasn't helping. She didn't know how much more she could take.

“Mupfh.” She whimpered, shaking her head slightly from side to side, desperate for oxygen.

Bradley growled deep in his throat, pulling the blonde's head back to rest upon his shoulder. “Quiet!” he warned.

Nikki nodded, thankful at least that the movement had allowed her more room to breath; she took in a gasping lungful a fresh night air.

“I said quiet.” He warned in a tight whisper. “This isn't personal you know.” He trailed his knife along the contours of her heart shaped face; “I wish it were, but this is all about that bitch you're shacked up with. I'm not going to hurt you…” he grinned maliciously; “Unless it hurts her for me to do so that is.”


Nikki's sensitive ears picked up the sound of her lovers voice.


It was louder this time; Bradley jumping at the unexpected sound of the photographer. He had been waiting for her of course, but with his sudden change of plans all thanks to CJ, Bradley was a little unsure of how he would carry out his means of vengeance. Whatever happened as long as was able to pay back the photographer he really didn't care. Looking around hastily, Brad inadvertently loosening the grip on the small blonde within his grasp.


Acknowledging the opportunity and knowing she may not get another chance, Nikki struggled unexpectedly, fighting against the arms around her. She kicked her legs out, twisting within the circle of strong arms and released an elbow, driving it back into Bradley's stomach.

Brad curled in sudden pain; winching as he held his stomach, not a sound leaving his mouth. Looking towards the blonde, he noticed her taking off into the dark night. Growling with rage he climbed to he feet in pursuit of the small woman slightly ahead.

Nikki panicked. “Tess?” she shouted, and stumbled as her foot caught an errant root sticking up through the ground. She fell to her knees hard; feeling the skin rupture underneath the lightweight sweats she wore. Still Nikki didn't acknowledge the pain, pure adrenalin forcing her to get up and keep moving. If only she knew where she was.

She kept running, hearing the rapidly approaching footsteps of Bradley from behind. Suddenly however she found herself colliding with a solid stone structure, and as the shock wore off she realised it was the stable. Feeling around she found the latch of the door and opened it wide, an impact hitting her from behind as she and Bradley fell onto the hay-strewn ground inside.

Bradley sat on top of Nikki as they grappled for control of her arms. She lay face down; struggling under the larger man and winced in pain as her arms were pulled savagely from behind. She cried out helplessly.

“Nikki… is that you?”

They both froze as Brad recognised the voice of his younger brother. He leant down to Nikki's right ear and whispered hoarsely. “Stay here and if you make a sound I will kill him…understand?”

Tears stung the blondes' eyes. “You would kill your own brother?”

“He betrayed me, he's not my brother anymore…now stay.” He punctured his words with a hard thrust into the middle of Nikki's back.


Tess jogged desperately through the house, her fear mounting with every passing second of the blonde not being by her side. Her feeling of dread increased; she can't just vanish into thin air for gods' sake. Her mind fluttered back to the last time she had spoken to Nikki. She definitely sounded okay then. “Damn it!” Entering the kitchen Tess bumped into a worried looking Lisa. “No sign?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

The teen shook her head. “Nothing I was kind of hoping you might have found her by now.”

Tess clasped her hands together, rubbing the palms roughly against each other, as her eyes darted around the room nervously. “No, I haven't.” She turned to Lisa; “You keep on looking and I'll try one more time as well; if we still find nothing I've got to call the police.” Tess closed her eyes; she so desperately didn't want to think Nikki could be in danger… she just had to find her.


CJ approached the stable warily; he was positive he had heard Nikki's voice, and was also sure that that stable door had been shut last time he checked. Still holding his side that had now eased to a low tolerable ache, the young man walked cautiously towards the entrance.

He stopped dead in his tracks; hiding his surprise as his brother emerged in the doorway. CJ looked directly at Bradley; taking in his tousled appearance and the malevolent gleam in his grey eyes. “Brad.”

The older man smiled. “Bro…what are you doing here?”

“Looking for you.”


Why, that was a good question…what was he supposed to say. He desperately wanted to placate his brother, but wasn't sure how to go about this, the man was walking a thin line of stability as it was. He stared deep into Bradley's eyes, desperately trying to find a glimmer of the brother he'd grown up with, who had taken care of him after their parents had died; but there was nothing. All that was left was a shadow of the man who had sold out on everything he once believed in, in order to fund his addiction without conscience or regret. He closed his eyes; remembering the day he had found his brother in a secluded room at a friend's party. Strap tight around his upper arm, syringe still in hand… he had known from that moment things had changed forever.

CJ opened his eyes. “Where's Nikki?”

Bradley frowned. “You mean the blonde…why?”

“Is she alright?”

Brad stepped closer, his hand falling to his side knife firmly within his grasp. The younger man could just make out a splatter of blood upon the blade.

“What have you done to her?”

Inclining his head to the side, Bradley frowned. “You disappointed me bro, I would have expected loyalty from my own blood kin, but no…you go and take their sides…AFTER ALL THAT BITCH DID TO ME…LOOK AT MY FACE!”

CJ stepped back, alarmed at the volatile rage mounting in his brothers' eyes. He held up his hands. “Brad…please…” It was Bradley's own decision not to get to the hospital and have his nose set. The more he thought about it, CJ realised that should have been the first sign that his brother had been up to no good. Not going to the hospital for fear questions may have been asked.

Bradley pointed his knife towards CJ. “Now you're next.” He stated and lunged forward.

CJ moved out of his way, much to Brad's anger as he advanced again, storming towards his brother with an angry growl. He managed to move again, but not before the large blade made contact with his forearm. CJ winced and grasped a hold of the wound as blood commenced flowing rapidly from the deep gash. He turned towards his brother, knowing that his only hope was a full a contact collision and as Bradley advance once more; they came together with surprising force, both falling to the ground with a heavy thud.

From inside the stable, Nikki had heard the brothers altercation and as they both hit the ground; she realised this was her perfect time to make an escape. She had travelled back and forth between the stable and the house countless times already and she was positive she could make it to her office door as quickly as possible. Then she could get help; to in turn help CJ before it was too late.

Bracing one hand against the stables doorframe, she listened closely, hearing the sound of the brothers' struggle to her left. Thankful of this fact, she turned right and headed back towards the farmhouse. She moved as swiftly as she could, concentrating on her steps; arms out stretched desperately as she felt around for looming objects and buildings.

Once again she felt herself slam into a brick building, and feeling around she soon found the door leading to her office. With monumental relief she fell into the house, unaware of the approaching figure advancing from behind.


Tess ran along the landing and approached the stairs. There was still no sign of Nikki so she had no choice but to call the police; she didn't want to fear the worst, but the indescribable panic escalating within was rapidly forcing rational thought from her mind. As she descending the stairs, her booted foot hitting the first step…Tess froze.


Eyes wide, Tess moved faster down the stairs, not bothering to reach the bottom as she grabbed a secure hold of the banister and vaulted her long frame over the wooden railing. She landed on the ground with a solid thud. “NIKKI?” Tess couldn't keep the desperation from her voice.

“Tess where are you?”

“I'm coming!” She called, moving in the direction of the blondes' voice; she stopped suddenly as her eyes met Bradley White, standing menacingly in the kitchen doorway.


Lisa had decided to once again try looking around the outer boundaries of the farmhouse. She started at the front, moving round the far side of the house and around to the back. The silence was overwhelming, and her periodic calls of her sisters' name had all gone un-answered, causing her apprehension to grow. What was more, she had yet to meet up with CJ.

Approaching the stables, she noticed the door wide open and knew from experience that Nikki always kept at least the lower half of the barrier closed. Lisa picked up her pace, moving swiftly towards the brick structure when an unrecognisable form to the left caught her eye. She frowned wondering what it was, and as she reached the prone figure her throat constricted in shock. “CJ!” she cried running towards the apparent lifeless body, she fell down to her knees grabbing hold of the blondes' shoulders. “CJ!”

CJ jumped, feeling an unexpected jolt through his body; dark eyes opened at the sound of Lisa's familiar voice. “It's okay, it's okay.” He assured her.

Relief flooded through the teen. “I thought something had happened to you.”

The young man grimaced. “I though it better…to pretend…” he struggled for breath; “I was out for the count than continue to let him pound on me.” CJ winced. “I think my arm is broken.”

Lisa looked worriedly down at the blonde. “We need to get the police; I think he must be in there with Tess and Nikki… I'm scared CJ.”

With effort CJ pushed himself to a sitting position, aided softly by Lisa. “My mobile is in the car… we can call from there.”

“Yeah okay, come on then…I'm not leaving you here.” Lisa held out her hand and helped CJ get to his feet. His body throbbed with repeated abuse. Putting her arm around the taller mans side; Lisa led CJ back towards his car. All the time looking frantically around, desperate to make sure Bradley was not lurking in the shadows, ready to stop them from reaching the phone.


A slow malevolent grin spread across the thin lips of Bradley Whites features as he came face to face with the woman he had been plotting against for months. Tipping his head to the side he stared curiously at the tall woman who had yet to speak. “What…no emotional reunion?”

Tess took a step forward. “If you don't get out of here now the only reunion today will be that of my fist with your face, Bradley.”

Shaking his head the smile left his features. “You caught me by surprise last time; you'll not get that chance again.” He too took a step closer until they were standing less than six feet apart. “It's my turn now Tess.”

Tess stood her ground, feeling the mounting surge of apprehension on the inside yet she still appeared outwardly cool. “Where's Nikki?”

Bradley lifted his shoulders with an expression of nonchalance. “Around I guess; why should I care, it's you I want.”

“If you've hurt her I'll…”

“…What?” Bradley questioned holding up his knife; “Oh I hurt her alright.” He twisted the wooden handle between his fingers, the contrast of dark red blood and shiny metal glinting in the artificial light.

Tess stared at the sharp object with an inner horror. She took a breath, trying to remain calm; I heard her; she called out to me; she has to be okay.

The look on Brads face turn to one of absolute hatred; “Now it's your turn.” With a swift step he lunged towards the tall woman, swinging his arm out savagely. Tess jumped back, eyes wide with shock as she dodged the sudden charge of the blade.

He moved again, charging Tess with full force and they came together with a violent impact, both bodies hitting the wall and knocking a framed print from its angled position. It fell to the ground with a clash; glass shattering over the wooden floor around their feet. Tess desperately grabbed the arm holding the knife and held it away from her body; twisting Bradley's wrist until he grunted in pain and dropped the sharp weapon from his grasp. That too fell to the floor; hitting the shards of splintered glass.

Tess gasped as a hand clamped around her throat, and in defence her knee came up, hitting Bradley solidly in the stomach. He released her in shock and moved away winded but Tess approached, advancing on the man as she hurled her body towards him, kicking him violently in the stomach once again. He fell backwards into the kitchen, landing with a thump onto his back.

Anger seething; Tess stepped towards Bradley ready to grab him once again but he kicked out, effectively knocking the photographer off her feet. She fell to the ground, half on the floor half upon the man who had already found a new weapon… a sharp piece of splintered glass from the frame.
With a savage growl he lashed out, slashing the glass from the brunettes' ear to her chin. Tess cried out clutching the stinging wound, feeling the moisture underneath her hand. Bradley grinned in triumph and pulled his hand back again, driving his weapon towards Tess's shoulder but she swiftly moved her body to the side and he missed her by a mere centimetre. Tess grabbed the hand, thrusting it hard against the floor. It hit another slither of glass, slicing into Brad's hand and he released his weapon helplessly and with a growl of agony.

They traded blows then; frantically moving around the floor as each tried to get the upper hand over the other. Grabbing a hold of the photographers' sweatshirt, Bradley rolled over, trapping Tess under his own large frame. He grinned down at her and laughed. “Look what I've got!”

Tess sneered. “You got nothing.” She growled and lifted her knee up and in between their bodies, planting her foot on Brad's stomach. With adrenalin induced might, she kicked out hurling the man back towards the kitchen doorway where he landed with heavy thud. Tess pushed to a sitting position breathing heavily; looking at the man as he warily pulled his own body to an upright position.

Suddenly the lights went out.


Throughout the struggle, Nikki had frantically tried to get her bearings. She was confused, frightened, and her body ached with tremendous fright. Moving along with her back against the wall, she desperately searched for a way to get to Tess and help her.

Arms out wide, she felt around for anything that could possibly help and as her left hand moved back to the wall, something caught her attention. It was a wooden box fitting securely to the wall; Nikki knew that inside that box was the complete set of circuit breakers for the entire houses electricity supply.

Pulling open the small wooden door, she felt inside, her fingers running over a row of small plastic flip switches, all connected to and controlling different areas of the houses power supply. Without much thought and only a brief hope that she was doing the right thing, she swept her hand across the row of switches, cutting off all power and instantly rendering the whole house in complete and utter darkness.


Hitting the termination button on his mobile phone, CJ looked up suddenly as the house became shrouded in total blackness. If it wasn't for the fact that the car door was open and the vehicles inside light was shining, he too wouldn't be able to see anything.

Lisa looked down at the blonde man. “What was that?”

“The power just went out.” He carefully pulled himself up from his seated position in the car; sitting side ways with his legs out on the ground below. Gingerly, he walked into the courtyard only slightly lit by his cars cab-light. “Everything's gone…not even the security lights are working.”

Lisa stayed by the car; she swallowed tight. “How long until the police arrive?”

CJ shrugged. “About ten minutes they said.” He took a step towards the house; “I've got to go in there.”

“NO!” Lisa shouted. She approached CJ; “You are hurt enough as it is, hell you only have the use of one arm.” She looked towards the house. “We won't be able to see a thing in there…right now, Nikki is the one with the upper hand.”


Tess pushed herself along the kitchens tiled floor, moving rapidly away from the unknown whereabouts of Bradley White and hitting a solid leg of the pine table. Swiftly she pulled her exhausted body to its feet and backed away, reaching for a way out. She moved through the kitchen; following a row of appliances until she reached the side doorway and instantly left the room. She found herself in the back passage and helplessly made her way to what she presumed was the entrance of the dining room.

Lifting her head Nikki listened as she immediately recognised her lovers' footsteps. “Tess,” she whispered.

“NIKKI?” Tess looked around blindly.

Nikki moved towards Tess's voice and instantly found the tall woman, wrapping her arms around the taller body with profound relief.

“Oh thank god!” Tess held Nikki tight, squeezing the smaller body into her own; “I was so scared.” She laid the uninjured side of her face against blonde locks.

“Are you alright?”

Tess smiled in relief. “I am now.”

From somewhere in the house they heard the sound of bumping and clashing. Nikki jumped and wrapped her arms tighter around the photographers' body. The knowledge that Bradley was still out there almost over-rode her relief to have Tess safely in her arms.

“Are you alright Nik?”

“Now that you are with me yes.”

“I've got to get back out there… what happened to the lights… did you do that?”

Nikki nodded. “I didn't know what else to do.” She lifted her face towards Tess; “All I knew was that I had to stop him.” She reached out; her hand coming into contact with the injured side of the brunette's face, Tess hissed and pulled back in pain.


“It's nothing, really.” Tess said, knowing that wasn't exactly the truth. With the pain and size of the wound she knew she was going to be scarred permanently. “Just a lucky shot. Listen Nik, I've got to stop him, I've got to get the lights back on.”


“Nikki! I can't see a damned thing.” Tess whispered harshly.

“I'll help you.” The blonde replied, laying her hand upon the photographers' shoulder; “Please trust me, just do as I say and we can beat him.” She needed Tess's co-operation and she needed it quickly; not knowing how long they would have before Bradley would find his way to the back of the house again.

She didn't need to think twice. “What do you want me to do?”

Nikki smiled taking the hand upon her shoulder and kissing the injured knuckles. “Close your eyes.”

“I can't see anything anyway, and you want me to close my eyes?”

Nodding. “Yes, Tess you may not be able to see anything but you are still trying to look around aren't you. You said it yourself, for people who can see, being in complete darkness is worse because of the desperation you feel to get back your sight. I want you to just accept this and close your eyes, listen instead.”

With only a moment's uncertainty, Tess closed her eyes hesitantly.

“Tess, tell me what you feel, what you smell and hear.”

She frowned in the darkness. “I feel fear, and I'm scared for you… that you may get hurt or worse, that I may get hurt and not be able to protect you.”

“What else?” Nikki asked desperately.

Tess opened her senses. “I hear my heart beat, it's loud in my ears and both our breathing.” She smiled. “And I can smell your shampoo, the scent of the apples.”

Nodding Nikki held on tightly to Tess's arm, “What else do you hear?” she asked, feeling rapidly rising fear.

She listened hard. “I hear the sound of the ticking clock in the hallway and I…” her face dropped, “I hear footsteps…coming our way.”

“It's him.” Nikki stated gravely.

Taking both arms Tess turned to Nikki. “Get out of here now…through the patio doors.”

“NO!” the blonde whispered savagely.

“Yes Nikki, please…its me he wants; please just trust me.”

“I'm not leaving you Tess.”

They both turned as the sound of footsteps stopped outside the entrance to the dining room. Tess took a hold of Nikki's face and kissed the softly. “Get behind that armchair in the corner…now.”

Knowing not to argue this time Nikki did as told and easily made her way to the chair, moving out of harms way.

Tess stood by the table in the dining room; keeping her eyes tightly closed as the door slowly creaked opened. She did as Nikki instructed and opened her senses to the changes around her. Tess heard Bradley enter the dining room.

“If you are in here I will find you.” Came the taunting voice.

Tess remained still, forcing her eyes tightly together, she heard Nikki whimper.

Bradley smiled in the darkness. “I know somebody is here.”

Praying Nikki wouldn't make another noise the photographer remained open; suddenly she was besieged with a multitude of sensations. Her hearing picked up the close approaching sound of slow footsteps and breathing. Her sense of smell detected the aroma she identified immediately as Bradley's, the strong stench of body odour and unwashed clothes. Then as the man came within three feet of the woman; she felt the change in the air around her, the density increased and a sudden gust to her left gave away the mans very position.

With sureness Tess kicked out to the side; her foot instantly slammed into Bradley's groin. He howled in unexpected agony and leaned forward only to cry out again as the tall woman's foot connected with his face. His head whipped back as his whole body fell against the wall. He didn't even have time to react as the foot once again smashed into his stomach before he felt Tess's elbow to his chest; followed by her fist in the side of his throat. His world dimmed to blackness as his unconscious body slid to the ground with a heavy thud.

The sound of heavy breathing filled the air and Tess trembled as she opened her eyes to total darkness. “Nikki?” She asked timidly.

The blonde rose to her feet. “Tess, I'm here…I'm coming.” She moved forward, easily finding the brunette and engulfing her in relieved embrace. “Is he…?”

“No.” Tess sighed; “He's alive.” She leaned down kissed Nikki's forehead relieved yet still scared, as they both heard the sound of approaching sirens.


Thirty miles away and on the outskirts of the city two plain clothed officers stood by the front door of a large three-bedroom maisonette. The taller of the two lifted his arm, rapping harshly on the PVC barrier. Seconds later the door opened and a small middle-aged woman with light greying blonde hair came into view. “Yes?”

The taller officer looked at his pad briefly. “Mrs Rosalind Morris?”


“I'm Detective Sergeant Faribrass, this is DC Brian, we would like you to accompany us to the station for questioning.”

The woman looked alarmed. “For what reason.”

DC Brian took a step forward. “We would like to question you about your dealings with a Mr Bradley White, Mrs Morris.”

Rosalind blanched. “Am I to believe I'm under arrest?”

“No Mrs Morris.” Fairbrass replied, much to the obvious relieve of the small woman. “Not yet!” He added meaningfully.


Power to the house restored, and accompanied by the multitude of flashing red and blue lights, Tess decided that Riverside farm very much resembled Blackpool illuminations. Five police cars and two ambulances were parked in the courtyard; surrounded by a multitude of uniformed and plain-clothes officers and medical personnel.

Tess sat on the back of one ambulance, Nikki by her side as a male paramedic efficiently taped a long strip of padded gauze to the side of her face. He had already treated Nikki, covering her arm; the only wound Bradley had been able to inflict on her, in a similar fashion with a piece of square gauze.

Richard Morris had arrived not ten minutes before, alarmed and horrified as he witnessed the scene ahead. He now sat with his youngest daughter in the back of the ambulance as another paramedic assessed CJ's injuries; it was obvious that the young bleached blonde had physically come out the worst in all of this. Suffering numerous broken bones and internal bleeding at the hands of his brother.

Tess looked up as the two paramedics from the other ambulance emerged from the house, both carrying a long stretcher holding Bradley Whites now fully conscious body. She watched them closely, assessing the man lying prone upon the stretcher, taking note of his every move and making sure he stayed exactly where he was. Once the man was carried into the ambulance, followed by two uniformed officers Tess turned her attention back to Nikki. The blonde hadn't spoken a word since the police had arrived and Tess knew they would soon be questioned about the frightening events. She could tell Nikki was in shock. “Hey?”



Nikki turned her face towards the photographer. “Tess.”


“Is it over now? I don't think I can take anymore.” Sapphire eyes filled with heavy tears.

Heart breaking at the sight, Tess wrapped her arm around the body by her side, “Yes, it's over now…I promise it's over.”

Nodding, her lip trembling Nikki let her head fall to Tess's shoulder. “I feel so empty…so…I don't know; my head hurts and my heart hurts.”

A single tear ran down Tess's cheek, soaking into the gauze along the side of her chin.

“How can you even stand to be near me? When it comes down to it Tess, all this happened because of me. All this pain, Leto, you, Lisa and CJ…all because of me and my own selfish desires.”

Exasperation swept through Tess and she pulled away, jumping off the back of the ambulance and standing in front of the blonde. She grabbed a hold of Nikki's chin and gently pulled the face to meet her own, “Never say that again…that is your mothers way of thinking. Everything you wanted Nikki, was nothing more than you deserve; none of this is your fault…none of it.” She sighed jade eyes looking deep into clear blue. “As hard as all this was, I want you to know that I would go through it all again for you…you mean so much to me Nikki, I never want to lose you and I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe and happy… do you understand?”

Tears fell from Nikki's eyes. “But you could have been killed, we all could have.”

“But we weren't…we are all going to be fine Nikki.” Tess let her hand roam to the side of the blonde head; “It's over now remember?”

A slight nod; “I hope so.”

“Well I know so…please trust me Nik.”

“I do trust you Tess.”

Smiling the photographer leaned down, taking the blondes lips in a gentle kiss. “Thank you.”


Tess looked up and to her left to see the paramedic who had been treating her, standing holding the left side of the vehicles double doors. “Miss, we are ready to leave for the hospital now, if you would like to get inside.”

“I'll stay here.” Tess stated.

“I'm sorry Miss Alexander, but your wound requires at least seven stitches; it is advisable that you accompany us to the hospital.”

“I don't care!”

“Tess!” Nikki held onto the brunettes' hand lightly. “Please let's go with them, if you need stitches then we should go now…please!”

Looking down into sightless blue eyes the tall woman sighed. “Okay.” She looked at the paramedic; “But it better be quick, there is a lot that needs taken care of.”

Tess helped Nikki into the back of the vehicle before climbing in herself. She took one last look at the house and surrounding commotion knowing it would still be there when she returned; then moved back as the paramedic, dressed in an all-in-one dark green suit, closed the double doors and moved around to the passenger side of the ambulance. The engine started; lights instantly flashing as vehicle made its way through the crowd of officers and on towards the hospital.

Chapter 11

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