Disclaimers: See Chapter One of Storm Surge for all the legal yada, yada.
The room was dark. The air conditioning provided the only noise in the house. She rolled towards the middle of the bed and felt its emptiness. How long had it been since she had awakened to find someone there? Lately, the only encounters she had allowed in her life were not even one-nighters. They could be more easily described as half-nighters since once the sex was over she made sure she disappeared into the night and was gone.
She never brought anyone to her lair, but would always accompany her latest conquest to their own apartment, house, or hotel. It was a protective mechanism that allowed her to remain aloof, and alone. She didn't need anyone, and except for the occasional primal need that rose from her soul, she allowed no one to get close.
Conner threw the covers back and felt the cool air flow across her naked body. Wanting to languish in the comfort she sighed, rolled, and sat on the edge of the bed in one graceful motion. Running a hand through her hair, she stood and headed down the hallway, anticipating the smooth full flavor of that first cup of coffee, the only thing she needed at the moment.
" Damn, damn, damn," Conner mumbled to her self, as she looked at the still sleeping automatic coffeemaker. She stumbled to the freezer and retrieved the coffee beans, ground up three scoops, poured in the water, and watched the proverbial pot boil.
"You would think in this age of technology, someone would invent a damn coffeemaker that you could put a pound of beans in, connect it to a source of water, program it, and miraculously have a cup of java each and every morning without this daily ritual of grinding pouring, waiting." Conner complained to the empty kitchen.
Conner trudged back down the hallway to the bathroom, deciding to shower while the coffee brewed. Stepping under the spray, she allowed her muscles to relax and allowed the warm water to wake her. She stretched out her arms toward the wall, tucked her head, and let the spray wash the shampoo from her hair. She was surprised to find not only the warm water from the shower, but tears gliding down her face when she raised her head.
"What the hell is wrong with me this morning?" Conner bellowed, as she stepped out of the shower. Counting the days, she assured her self that it wasn't a bad case of PMS, so what the hell was it. She thought back to the lonely feeling she had had when she woke this morning, now this. Surely she wasn't going to start falling apart like this on a regular basis. She didn't need anyone in her life, she had her job, and there wasn't enough room in her life for both.
Conner looked sideways at her reflection in the mirror, and chastised herself for the emptiness that she saw on her face. "OK, snap out of it, shut it out and get moving...this is no time to be losing it, I have to go to work." She dried her body, and pulled on her silk robe, heading once again down the hallway towards the kitchen.
Reaching in the cabinet for a cup, Conner felt a presence in the room, and all of her senses went on full alert. Thinking quickly, she remembered her Sig-Sauer 9mm under her pillow. Not turning she reached into the drawer and instead of removing a spoon, grabbed a knife and spun around facing her attacker.
Conner slumped against the counter, and cursed. "What the fuck do you mean sneaking up on me you little shit? If you weren't the owner of my partner, I would de-fur you right here." The tiny cat just meowed again and stared at Conner.
Conner replaced the knife in the drawer and started once again for the coffee. Throwing her most vile look at the cat, she leaned back and took a sip, trying to ignore the stares of the fur ball at her feet.
" OK, OK, already. Geez, you're just like Seth, always hungry, and always vocal about it too. How did I let him talk me into keeping you for a week while he went traipsing around the country?"
Seth had dropped Magnum and his luggage off last night. Conner had stared unbelievingly at the huge backpack that contained the cat's personal belongings.
"He'll miss me," he had said with an embarrassed look on his face, as he opened the pouch. "I just thought he might get along better having some of his toys and stuff.
"Damn, Seth, what's that smell? Don't even tell me that I have to feed this cat sardines and other rotten shit for the next week."
With an even more embarrassed look on his face Seth pulled out an obviously well worn, seldom washed piece of cloth that he called a T-shirt.
"No, it's not sardines, Conner," he said a little harshly, "It's just a old T-shirt. I thought he might feel better if he had something that had my scent on it while I was away."
"Please put it away," Conner said while pinching her nose, failing in the attempt to hide her teasing smile beneath her hand.
After a few more minutes of playfully arguing over the cats routine, Seth left for his long awaited vacation. Once Seth had gone the cat had cried unmercifully until Conner dug through the backpack and, using only two fingers, brought out Seth's dirty T-shirt, and tossed it in the farthest corner of the room.
"That's fine, Seth, spoil the damn cat, but did you have to bring the dirtiest thing in the hamper?"
Oblivious to the smell, the cat immediately ran over, curled up in the shirt and went to sleep. "Well, I'll be damned," Conner mused, "Who'd have ever believed it?" That was the last time Conner had thought of the cat. She had turned and headed for bed, falling asleep almost as quickly as her head touched the pillow.
She opened a can of cat food and spooned it into the personalized bowl Seth had brought over the night before, along with enough toys to make any kid envious. The cat curled around her legs, rubbing his scent onto her body, marking his territory. "Damn men, you're all alike. Spend one night with a woman and you think you own her. Well, I've got news for.... OK, Conner, you are really losing it now. Conversing with a cat, what the hell has my life come to?"
Conner finished her second cup of coffee while reading the morning newspaper and went to the bedroom to dress for work. She pulled on a pair of faded Levi's and a white cotton tank top. She strapped on the shoulder holster, pulled the Sig from under the pillow, tucking it nicely under her right arm. She topped it off with a brown leather jacket, and her Doc Martens. Conner glanced in the mirror, not vainly, but checking for any cracks in the façade, she called her cover. Nodding her head in approval, she headed back down the hallway to the living room.
Magnum had finished his breakfast and was in the midst of contorting himself to better reach parts of his anatomy that shouldn't be reached. The cat continued to wash himself and was oblivious as Conner made her way to the door. She picked up her keys, and walked out into the cool early morning heading for her Jag. The car started with a roar, and she pulled quickly out into the street. This was really her home, the streets.
Feeling the Jag's energy under her she smiled at the power it gave her. For some unknown reason, driving an expensive machine such as this instilled a sense of awe from others. Little did they know that the Jag was hers only because it was part of her cover. A possession of the JPD, courtesy of some busted drug dealer.
It was a thirty-minute drive to downtown. Conner lived on Amelia Island a small island just north of Jacksonville. Living on the island provided Conner with the anonymity she needed to protect her personal life. She didn't converse much with her neighbors, nor did she have any close friends on the island. That didn't mean that she had no close friends--she did. They all lived inland and came over for an occasional weekend of barbecuing, sailing, and beachcombing.
The drive also provided an opportunity to transform herself into the persona that she worked under. Conner was thirty-four years old and had worked under cover for almost two years. Sometimes it was more difficult to make the transformation from her professional to private side. It somehow seemed easier to not feel, not care, nor love. However, there was something in her that screamed to be set free.
Shaking her head to clear her thoughts she drummed her fingernails on the steering wheel. Conner had heard too late over her hand-held scanner that there had been an accident on I-95, the main north-south corridor leading into Jacksonville, so for the moment she was stuck in a traffic jam, impatiently waiting for the lanes to be cleared.
Conner picked up her cell phone and, like a hundred other people in the traffic jam, called work.
"Hey Buet," Conner replied when Mack Buetford answered the phone.
"Got a pile up out on 95 south, and I'm stuck in the aftermath. I'll be in as soon as I can break free."
"Just don't think that snazzy Jag can give you the power to fly, Conner. Get here when you can, and by the usual means, we'll leave a light on for ya," Buet said with a hefty laugh.
"OK, see ya soon Buet." Conner pressed the end button breaking the connection, and started to toss the phone into the passenger seat. On second thought she flipped the tiny phone open and dialed.
"Hey there you sexy thing got any clothes on at the moment." Conner said in a low, sultry voice.
"Yes, and even if I didn't, I don't think I could ever drag your attention away from work long enough to get you to do anything about it. "How the hell are you, Conner? It's been way too long." Sam smiled into the phone.
Conner smiled back and pictured Sam's face on the other end of the line. "Well, I was wondering if you wanted to get together for dinner tonight. It's been a while and we have a lot of catching up to do."
"Oh my god, something terrible has happened, right?" Sam almost screamed into the receiver as she tried hard to suppress the laugh that begged to escape from her chest.
"Ha, Ha, very damn funny, Sam. If you're just going to heckle me, I'll just find someone else to spend my evening with," Conner teasingly said into the cell phone.
"Like hell you will. Meet me at Mikes at 7 sharp, and make sure you're driving that cool machine you call a car. I may just feel the need for a drive up the beach, and I want to feel some power under my body tonight."
"You're insatiable, you know. Always thinking about getting laid. If I were smart I'd take advantage of that by getting you drunk and..." Conner was cut off by Sam's teasing voice on the other end of the phone. "Well, Conner, hanging around all those drug heads must have mushed your brain. If I remember correctly you have already been there, done that...and walked away. I don't give second chances to just anyone. And anyway Kelly loves you like a sister, but I think she would draw the line at you providing that kind of comfort while she's out of town.
"Well lover, or maybe I should be politically correct and say ex-lover, I'm not just anyone. However you're probably smart by denying me the pleasure, I would only screw it up like the last time," Conner said with more than a little sadness in her voice.
"OK, enough heavy stuff, see you at 7, and don't be late." With that Conner heard the line go dead.
Sam hadn't hung up on Conner; she had just simply hung up, a trait that Conner had grown to know well. Sam never was good in uncomfortable situations and chose to avoid them whenever possible. That in itself had made their pairing difficult. Conner always believed in spilling it all out, and dealing with problems head on. Sam, on the other hand, tended to let everything simmer until it one day exploded.
Sam had a difficult time dealing with Conner's work. Never knowing when or if she was going to come home. Every time she did walk through the door Sam immediately scanned Conner for any injuries. Too many nights she had had to help her to bed, too tired or hurt to get there by her on volition. Somehow, she had always made it home, only to collapse once inside the safety of her lair.
What Sam could not deal with was the thought that one day she wouldn't make it home. Conner loved Sam like no one else she had ever loved before, but she also knew that the same love that kept them together would tear Sam apart one day, so she did the only thing she could do, and that was to walk away. Sam knew what Conner was doing was the only way for them to salvage anything in their relationship, but it hurt nonetheless. Eventually, they had fallen back on the friendship that was the foundation of their love, and had found peace with one another.
The kidding and jesting was, for each woman, a way of letting the other know that the love they had shared still remained, even though neither would ever do anything to rekindle the flame. Sighing sadly, Conner eased the car through the remnants of the accident, and headed into the River City.
Conner walked into the station house, and headed for her desk, but was intercepted by Buet who always had a cheerful word for Conner. Buet was the in-house archive for gossip and politics in the department. At 56 he had come to the hard realization that too many days on the beat had worn out his knees, and decided that the streets were a part of his past. Everyone in the department knew Buet missed the street, so they always included him in their after shift get-togethers at one of the local pubs.
He had known about Conner's alternate lifestyle for several years, and was one of several who never let it come between them. He somehow found out about her breakup with Sam two years ago, and let her know in a subtle way that he was there for her if she ever needed to talk.
Conner had always protected her personal life, by not bringing it into the station. However, cops would be cops, and some investigated Conner after trying their best to get her into bed. She had been with the department about 5 years when her preference for dates was made somewhat public information. Most of the officers that had worked side by side with Conner had accepted the news with a shrug. Some however didn't and she often wondered if those officers would just look the other way and simply fail to cover her back when trouble came. Conner chose not to dwell on the things she couldn't alter. Choosing instead to focus all of her energy on her work, and making sure she never got into a situation that would depend on one of the unfriendly officers covering her back.
Conner was resting her elbows on the counter casually chatting with Buet when she heard a quiet "excuse me" come from just behind her. Conner stood and turned, just as Buet spoke. It was a good thing Buet still had his voice, for Conner's was buried somewhere in her stomach at the moment.
Looking into the bluest eyes she had ever seen, a chill ran up her spine. The only thing she couldn't figure out was if the chill was caused by the beauty of the irises looking back at her, or the danger that lurked just beneath.
"Can I help you" Buet asked the woman.
Holding Conner's eyes, the woman handed her identification to Buet. "Yes, I have an 8 AM appointment with Captain Peterson."
"Sure, if you would like to have a seat, I'll let him know you're here," Buet said while looking at Conner.
"Um, well, see ya later Buet, I've got a ton of paperwork waiting." Conner barely got the words out of her mouth; afraid she would choke on each of them as they came out.
As she walked towards her desk, she could feel the heat of the woman's eyes on her back. As she turned the corner into her cubicle, she dared a glance back, and sure enough the woman had sat so her line of sight was directly down the corridor Conner had just walked.
Conner pulled the first of a stack of papers from her in box, and proceeded to finish off the paperwork she had allowed to overwhelm her desk. Only at the order from Captain Peterson had she been forced to take a desk day and get it done. Conner was the best undercover officer the department had ever had stationed here. With an 80% conviction rate on her collars she was allowed to essentially come and go as she pleased. Until of course, the evidence of her own crimes, that of abandoning her required follow-up paperwork, had grown too strong that even she couldn't escape its sentence.
Conner sat growling, "I hate this damn paperwork shit. I need to be on the street doing what I do best, not in this damn cubby-hell-hole pushing a pencil."
From behind her Conner heard a sultry voice say, "Think of the collar as a great date with the paperwork being a good night kiss. Together they pack quite a punch."
Conner spun around in her chair just in time to see the mystery woman from the front desk walk purposely into Captain Peterson's office and close the door. Conner sat for a moment looking at the closed door wondering why the mystery woman was seeing Cappy. I hope it has nothing to do with anything I'm ever involved in since I just made a complete ass of myself, she thought.
As she sat in front of Captain Peterson's desk, she couldn't help but smile at the reaction from the officer outside. She also couldn't believe that she had allowed herself to relax, and to tease the other woman, it was so against her style. Oh well, I'll never have to see her again, what harm could it possibly do.
Peterson relaxed and rested his elbows on the desk in front of him. "Well, Shadow, you seem to be in a good mood for a change."
The woman's eyes turned a deep blue, showing the danger that such a comment twisted within her. Peterson shifted back slightly in his chair and raised his hands in a gesture of peace. "Ease up. Shadow, just happy to see you are still among the living."
The woman purposely relaxed her shoulders, "Sorry, Jack, I had a long trip and I'm still a little tired. Give me a few days and I'll be back to my old jolly self."
Jack looked at the Shadow, and knew the words were hollow. She would never be back to her old self, not after the hell she had been put through. "If you want a few days, before you jump in the game again, just say so, I've waited a long time to have you back in the city, a few more days won't make me change my mind."
"Really Jack if you don't mind, I would like a few days to get settled. It's been a long time since I've been home and I would really like to get the house in shape and a few good nights rest before I get started. I was thinking of next Monday, if that's OK with you."
"Take all the time you need Shadow, we'll be here waiting." With that said Jack stood and extended his hand across the desk. The woman shook his hand firmly, and when she began to pull her hand away, Jack held it a little tighter. "It really is good to see you again, and I'm glad you decided to come home where you belong." He then released her hand and led her across the room opening the door for her to leave.
Halfway out the door the woman turned and looked Jack Peterson in the eyes. "One more thing, Jack...the Shadow died the last time she was in town, she's not coming back...ever. If she is what you want, maybe you should do some thinking yourself between now and Monday morning. Give me a call if you change your mind between now and then." The woman turned and started walking away.
From behind her, she heard Jack say "See you Monday, 8 AM, and make it sharp."
As the woman walked past the officer's cubicle, she couldn't help but glance inside. Conner was buried elbow deep in the paperwork before her. The woman stopped turned around and stuck her head in the cubicle in one quick motion startling Conner and making her spill her coffee.
The woman smiled the most blazing smile Conner had ever seen. "Must have been a hell of a date officer." And just as quickly as she appeared, she was gone.
Continue to Part Three of Storm Surge
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