Disclaimers: See Chapter One of Storm Surge for all the legal yada, yada.
On the short drive over to the 'Amelia Yacht Basin, Conner told Alex a little about the 'Shady Lady'. This was one asset Conner possessed that she had paid for with her own hard-earned money. The boat had been seized during an arrest on the open sea. The Coast Guard had boarded the boat, owned by a south Florida couple, and found twenty-five kilos of marijuana.
Conner had always loved sailing. After the case was tried, the Coast Guard auctioned off the boat. She had heard about the auction while in the office at the yacht basin, and immediately registered as a bidder. It had been a tough auction, with many interested parties, but in the end, she had won out And now the 'Shady Lady' was hers.
As they got out of the car, Conner began to tell Alex a little about the 'Shady Lady'. She's a Morgan 41 Classic, has a center cockpit, with wraparound seating. Below there are two cabins, two heads, a salon, a U-shaped galley, and a captain's workstation. She has a 13'10" beam, and a 4'6" draft. She is powered by a 27 hp Yanmar diesel engine...what?
Alex could not contain her laugh. Conner's excitement over her boat shined through during her commentary, and reminded Alex of a little kid.
"OK, I guess I do get a little carried away talking about her. Although I haven't paid much attention to her lately, she is my pride and joy...much like a child, I guess."
As they stopped before the 'Shady Lady', Alex thought of how majestic, she looked. She had a gleaming white hull, with sparkling cleats and stanchions. The companionway and grab rails were made of very fine honey-colored teakwood. There was a dark blue stripe circling the craft at the deck line, and a biminie of the same deep color. On the transom were the words 'Shady Lady' written in a bold script.
Climbing aboard the boat, Conner continued her narrative. "She was named the 'Shady Lady' when I bought her. It's supposed to be bad luck to rename a boat once she's berthed, so I decided to leave it as it was. I sort of think it's appropriate--I do live and work in the shadows."
Conner climbed below and turned to help Alex down the ladder. She gently placed her hands on Alex's waist in case she needed some support. At least that's how Conner defended her actions to herself.
"Be careful, it's a little dark down here until I get the hatches open."
Alex descended the ladder then turned to take in her surroundings. The salon was paneled and floored in the same honey-colored teak wood as was on the upper deck. The hatches were covered with floral curtains, and there were matching pillows and cushions on the benches and chairs.
"Conner, this is beautiful. Did you decorate it yourself?"
"Yeah, you should have seen how bad she looked when I got her. The previous owners used her for nothing more than a transport boat for their drugs. The outside was sparkling, so that she wouldn't draw any unwanted attention. However, the area down below was in shambles. It took Sam and me almost a year to get her presentable."
This was the first time Conner had referred to her and Sam's relationship. Alex was curious about their past, but decided to let Conner set the pace on any disclosures.
They stowed their supplies away and went back up top so they could get underway. Conner expertly maneuvered the boat out of the slip and they were soon motoring down the channel to the intercoastal waterway. Alex sat back, watched, and listened as Conner provided a guided tour of the area, and the structures that they passed. They went by the City Marina, which was in the historic section of the town. Conner told her of the annual shrimp festival and the parade of boats.
"...on the Sunday morning of the festival, all of the local shrimp boats are decorated like floats in a parade. They line up and slowly pass the end of the pier, where a local priest sprinkles holy water on the deck and blesses the boat and its crew. It is a symbolic gesture for a fruitful and safe shrimp season, which has turned into a tradition. I'll have to bring you back out in next March for it, I think you 'd really like it Alex."
"I think I would, too, Conner, we'll have to plan on it then."
"You bet," Conner said smiling.
Alex and Conner sat in comfortable silence as they watched the inhabited landscape fall away, and the unspoiled and lovely landscape of nature took its place along the Amelia River. Alex asked a few questions about the area as they made there way through St. Mary's Channel, finally reaching their destination off the shores of Cumberland Island. Conner cut the motor engine and dropped anchor. "This is the place I want to come to when I die." Conner spoke quietly, looking off towards the shoreline.
Alex was a little taken aback by the declaration from the other woman. "What do you mean, Conner?"
"I mean this place is so peaceful and serene, I can't think of any other place on earth where I would want to be for eternity, so it's written in my will that I want to be cremated, and my ashes spread here, where we sit."
Seeing the look in Alex's eyes, Conner regretted bringing up the topic of death. "Oooo, OK, on to lighter subjects...want a beer to go with all this sunshine?"
"Yeah, a beer sounds great, but let me get them. You've been doing all the work this morning, it's time I earned my keep here."
Alex went below to get their drinks, and Conner about the woman here with her today. It had been a long time since she had had any interest in another woman for more than just a night. Alex was special and Conner wanted to get closer to her, but she just wasn't sure how close was safe for her or Alex.
Conner knew the case she was working on involved the man suspected of killing Feryle. She also knew she needed to tell Alex, but was afraid the news would push her away from involving herself in Conner's personal life. Alex had already lost Feryle to this killer, and Conner knew Alex wouldn't risk getting close to someone else that would soon be in his sights.
Alex climbed back on deck, and noticed the contemplative look on Conner's face. She knew the woman was lost in her thoughts, but thoughts about what, Alex didn't know.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Alex asked.
"Oh, deep ones I'm afraid. You know the ones contemplating life. Can't let those go cheap, I'm charging a quarter for those," Conner teased, and let Alex decide if she wanted to pursue the question further.
"Mmm, well I just happen to have a few quarters, and a good ear...ahh...that is, if you want to talk," Alex said, handing Conner her beer and sitting down closely beside her.
Alex had been thinking a lot about Conner the past few days. Somehow, this woman had gotten through the shields she had barricaded herself behind, and made her want to explore the possibility of living again. Although the pain of losing Feryle was still raw, somehow this woman beside her lessened the ache in her heart. Alex wanted to know more. She wanted to explore the possibilities, but somehow she wasn't sure how to begin.
Conner looked back out towards the shore, and spoke in a quiet voice. "Well, I've sort of got a problem. See I've met someone recently that I think I really like and want to get to know, but I'm not sure if she wants the same thing." Conner ran a hand through her hair, and then took a long pull from her beer.
"The thing is, I'm afraid if I let her know and she isn't interested, then she'll just disappear."
Alex's heart fell a little at the thought of Conner having feelings for another woman. She knew she had no rights to feel this way, but nevertheless it still pained Alex to know she may never have the opportunity to explore her feeling for Conner further.
"That's kind of a tough place to be. Does this person have any idea how you feel?"
Conner rolled her eyes, and blew out a long breath. "Not likely, it's not like I have much experience in putting words to my feelings. I guess it's the thought of being rejected as well. I sometimes think the pain of rejection would be harder to take than the pain of not knowing. You know what I mean?"
"Well, what is this woman like?" Alex asked, wanting to learn more about the woman that was about to take her chances with Conner away.
"Well, she's probably the most beautiful woman I have ever met." Conner's eyes lit up as she described the woman. "She's about my age, a little taller than me, and a great body. It takes all I can do when I'm around her to keep from reaching out and touching her. She has dark hair, deep blue eyes, and a mouth you just want to consume." Conner's eyes had turned dark as she spoke of the woman. Her feelings for this woman were apparent in her husky voice. "...and the cutest dimples I've ever seen pop out when she smiles." Conner smiled with the last statement, feeling she needed to lighten the conversation.
Alex felt her heart skip a beat. Could it be true that Conner is talking about me? Alex thought. The description is pretty accurate...well all except the great body part. Suddenly she felt like she had to know.
"Sounds like an interesting woman. Where did you meet her?"
"Umm, sort of through work." Conner realized she had offered a much too detailed description to Alex, and was sure she was about to be busted.
"Well, I can only advise you to be patient, and maybe things will work themselves out the way you hope."
"Yeah, I know, I'm just afraid I'll lose my chance if I wait too long. I mean, she's a gorgeous woman, and I don't think she will be available long, if I know the women in this city." Conner felt her frustration rising, running her hand once again through her hair. She finished off her beer and stood to get them fresh ones from below.
When Conner left Alex, she took a deep, exasperated breath. She could only wonder if the woman Conner was referring to had been her. She hoped it was, in a way; then again, she was also afraid of the possibility. She felt guilty for having these feelings so soon after Feryle's death. Although it had been almost a year, she still felt like she was betraying what they had had together.
Conner had been gone for a while. Alex was wondering what the woman was doing down below. "You OK down there?'
"Yes, I decided to make us some sandwiches. I thought we could dinghy over to the island and have a picnic on the beach." Conner stuck her head through the companionway. "Umm, if that's OK with you, or we could just stay here and sun on the boat."
"No, that sounds like fun. Need some help down there"?
Although Conner wanted Alex close, she also knew the galley was small and would require a nearness to the woman, she didn't think she could handle at the moment. She had decided to make the sandwiches as an excuse to give her more time to settle her nerves and heartbeat.
"No, I'm almost done. Why don't you change into your suit while I'm finishing up?"
"OK, if you're sure you don't need any help," Alex said as she climbed down the ladder.
"I put your things in the forward cabin," Conner said pointing the way for Alex.
When Alex walked into the cabin, she was struck with the attention that had obviously been paid to the décor. It was a very intimate and sensual arrangement. The colors were dark greens and burgundies. Bookshelves had been built into the walls. Several pillows were thrown on the bed, inviting long sensual evenings of reading and cuddling when it was too cool to be topside. The overhead hatch provided an unobstructed view of the sky above. Alex felt a warm heat pulse through her as she envisioned herself there with Conner. Shaking her head to clear the thoughts, Alex changed into her swimsuit and headed back towards the galley.
Conner looked up, and her eyes immediately went dark as Alex appeared from the passageway. The boiling heat Conner felt raging through her body threatened to overcome any patience she had promised herself to adopt with Alex. She knew that Alex could see the need in her eyes, and for once, she didn't care.
When Alex's eyes met Conner's, the naked truth was exposed once and for all. The look on her face told Alex that she indeed was the woman in Conner's thoughts a few minutes ago. The look of ragged need was so apparent on the other woman's face it gave courage to Alex as she stepped closer and closer. Alex could see Conner's barely controllable breathing, and as she moved even closer, she could see the pulse throbbing in her neck.
When Alex came within her grasp, Conner put the knife she had been using on the counter and reached for her. Alex walked gently into the other woman's arms and both gasped as their bodies responded to the sudden contact. They could feel the heat from each other's bodies. They held each other for a long moment, not knowing exactly what should happen next. Conner was trembling, as Alex finally pulled away and looked into her eyes.
"How did you know?" Conner asked, knowing Alex had discerned that she was the woman in Conner's earlier description.
"I wasn't sure until just now. I can tell you, however, that I was getting very jealous up there, hearing you talk about another woman. I'm surprised you couldn't tell from my reactions. I didn't think I was hiding them too well.
Conner smiled and pulled the other woman closer, their lips only inches apart. "Well, you don't have to hide them any longer, Agent Montgomery," She pulled the other woman down and gently brushed her lips across Alex's.
The heat from the brief contact surged through Alex's body. As Conner slowly pulled back from the embrace, she tightened her embrace urging the other woman closer, letting Conner know with unspoken words that the brief kiss was not enough to sate the desire surging through her body at the moment.
Alex took Conner's face in her hands and lowered her head to taste her once again. Her thumbs gently massaged Conner's cheeks as their lips tenderly explored each other. Conner fell into the embrace and wrapped her arms even tighter around Alex's waist.
As the moments passed, the women felt the heat surge lower in their bodies, and when Alex gently parted Conner's lips with her tongue, both women let out a yearning moan. Conner hands moved slowly up and down Alex's naked back and circled around to stroke her stomach. Alex gasped as the nerve endings in her abdomen responded to the touch, and pulled away to look into the dark sensual eyes of the other woman.
"God, Alex, I want you so bad right now, but I know you're not ready for any kind of..."
Alex placed her index finger over Conner's swollen lips. After she had quieted the words, she leaned down and gently kissed the inviting lips again.
"Conner...God, you taste so sweet. It's not that I don't want you...I do." Smiling and almost shyly looking down into Conner's eyes, she continued: "I have felt the same way almost since I met you in the precinct. I don't know what it is about you, but I do know I want to explore whatever it is we are feeling for each other."
Alex pulled back a bit, but didn't break the embrace. "I think we need to take things slow and see where they go from here. I know I have several unresolved issues in my life right now, and I don't want those to come back to haunt us later."
Conner listened as Alex spoke, knowing that what she said made sense, even though her body argued the contrary. Letting out a teasing growl, Conner smiled. "Yeah, I know you're right. However, if I'm going to stand a chance of not imploding right here, I think we need to head out for our picnic...like...now."
Alex snickered, and pulled the woman close for one more kiss, then reluctantly backed away, breaking the sweet and torturous contact.
"OK, why don't you go change and I will take this feast you've prepared for us up to the dinghy."
"Deal," Conner replied, leaning in to steal one more kiss from Alex before sliding past her and disappearing into the cabin.
Continue to Part Ten of Storm Surge
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