Legal disclaimer: There's no Xena and no Gabrielle, just a few people who happen to share an amazing likeness to them (wink wink, nudge nudge)... the characters were borrowed for my own amusement only, with no intention of making any profit from this, and I'll put them back when I'm done playing with them.

Explicit content and sex warning: This story features consensual sex between two adult women. The works, OK? If this kind of love bothers you, please read some nice general fiction story instead. If itís illegal where you live, move. Bondage, domination, sadism, masochism and all their pals featured as well. Nothing too perverted and/or illegal though, and no sexual violence.

Drug usage warning: Drugs, their use and effects are possibly featured here. Nothing glorifying and/or disturbing.

Extreme violence warning: Whereís Xena or one of her descendants, thereís violence. Canít help it. If her batting average gets worse than two cracked skulls per day, sheíll get all aggravated and nasty. And we donít want that, right? Right. In this story, extreme violence and its aftermaths are depicted in a realistic, graphical way. Lots of anatomy and blood, since I'm that kind of gal.

Language warning: Proper English, featuring the f-word, the s-word, the c-word and the rest of the alphabet soup. I wonít go on the bleepiní bandwagon even if Scully does it.

Sequel to The Kink and How to Work It.

The Kink and Ways to Enjoy It

© Penumbra 1998

The shirt declared that Paranoia is just Heightened Awareness in bold dark blue letters over white cotton. A long finger traced the last two Sís of the sentence in a repetitive pattern, until the body inside the shirt shook in laughter.

"Stop it! It tickles."

"Oh yeah?" another voice, a rich contralto rumbled and brilliantly blue eyes twinkled in mirth.

"Yeah," Della said, slapping playfully at the hand still resting on her stomach.

They were reclining on the luxuriously lush grass, trimmed in the British way that could be described as anal-retentive to the extreme. Della was sure someone had trimmed this lawn with toenail clippers and a surgical scalpel, so even and smooth it was. But as such, it was also very comfortable.

The blonde detective stretched out fully on the grass, her hair forming a bright halo around the delicate features of her face. She folded her hands on top of her stomach that was feeling pleasantly stuffed from the pub lunch they had had a little earlier and closed her eyes.

"Where did you get that ridiculous shirt anyway?" Her companion, a tall and exoticly beautiful woman asked. She brushed an errant strand of her coal-black hair behind an ear and adjusted the elbow she was propped up on, half facing the fair-haired woman on the ground.

One hazel-green eye popped open and rolled to gaze sternly at the slightly smirking tall woman. The blonde eyebrow over the eye scrunched in mock indignation.

"Itís not ridiculous."

"Yes it is."

"No, itís not. I got it from a friend of mine when I entered the Academy. Heís a huge X-Files fan," she added as if that explained all. The other green eye appeared as well and they squinted against the bright midday sun. She smiled as she remembered the look on Garyís face when she had told him she was going to be an FBI agent. The manís eyes had bulged and had he had the means wouldíve turned green from envy. Della had patiently explained him that the real work in the Bureau differed remarkably from the seriesí portrayal of it.

Well, not that much, she thought as she focused on the person next to her. The woman was staring into nothingness, the strong predatorial profile catching Dellaís eye. It was, in a way, the Bureauís fault she had met this remerkable woman that had turned her life upside down in mere moments. Had the Bureau not had an exchange programme with Scotland Yard she wouldíve probably never ended up in England, in London and in the dark womanís club in Soho. And without the Bureau, she wouldnít recline on this plush English lawn of an inner courtyard of Magdalen, one of the colleges of Oxford University.

The dark woman fished a pocketwatch from the front pocket of her black jeans and popped open the lid. The perfect dark eyebrows rose. "We better get going soon so we have time to change."

Della grunted in acquiescence and stood up, brushing the excess grass off her jeans. She extended her hand for the other woman, still reclining on her side, to grab in assistance. She did so but instead of hauling herself up, she gently yanked it and made Della lose her balance and stumble with a short squeal.

The blonde woman landed on the taller woman who deftly caught and wrapped two long arms around her, squeezing the detective to herself. Della dredged her hair off her face and looked up.

It was the most brilliant of blues and as familiar as the eyes were, every time she looked into them she was just as smitten with their vivid colour and the mischevous twinkle in them. She felt as if she had known the eyes forever and more but they still made her breath catch as they looked at her, slitted and smoky, brimming with passion. So she just melted into the embrace and as an irresistible smile creeped on her face. She gazed into the two wells of arctic ice blue, so close and the corners gently wrinkled in laughter.

"Ghis... I thought you said we were in a hurry."

A dark eyebrow over one blue eye rose. "I said no such thing."

Della opened her mouth to protest but no sound came out. The lips were covered with a set of ruby red ones that were so soft and divine Della felt goosebumps rise on her forearms. The kiss became a long, passionate one and the blonde woman wrapped her arms around the muscular, strong body under her. When they came up for air, Dellaís cheeks were flushed in a lovely shade of rosy pink. The detective took a deep breath and stared accusingly at the dark woman.

"Ghislaine du Plessis, you are incorrigible."

The addressee just smiled a wicked leer. She grabbed a good hold and with little effort, straightened up and stood, still cradling the smaller woman in her arms. She gently let her down but the blonde detective wouldnít let go. She stood there, hugging the taller woman and humming against the chest of the slightly starched white shirt Ghis was wearing. The scent of the clean cotton and the mix of musk, spices and something citruslike that was the other womanís familiar scent made her feel like snuggling.

Ghis chuckled and extracted the woman from her. Wrapping one arm around her shoulder, she guided the detective towards the exit, a stone archway almost covered in ivy.

The Magdalen college was the oldest of the numerous colleges that formed the Oxford University. Thus, it housed the oldest faculties, most remarkably that of theology. The one Ghis and Della were headed for was much younger, the main building dating back to the 17th century, compared to Magdalen that was established in the mid 14th century. The cobbled alley was narrow, dark and save for the young, contemporarily dressed students that milled about the streets everything about it was very medieval.

A few student heads turned their way as they paced down the alley. Della nudged Ghisí sleeve.

"Theyíre staring at us."

The dark woman leaned down to whisper to Dellaís ear. "Nope. Theyíre staring at you."

Della stifled a laugh. "No, I think itís your frock and funny hat thatís catching their eye," she whispered back and yanked the sleeve of the flowing black gown Ghis was wearing.

The reason they were at the rural college town of Oxford was that Maria, Ghisí friend and colleague and long-time friend was defending her doctorís thesis. Della had asked what the subject of the thesis was but had lost her after the first word. It had something to do with cognitive theory and paralled with her research on machine and interface usability but that was the extent of Dellaís understanding.

Ghis herself had made her thesis on cryptology, a very obscure and highly theoretic sliver in the field of mathematics, right here in Oxford. So, she was forced to wear her official academic outfit - íparty frock and silly hatí, she called the contraption - and it caught some eyes. She was visibly uncomfortable in the getup but Della had insisted she wear it. "You gotta have some reward for all the studying," she had quipped and had been forced to duck behind a desk to avoid the pillow that came sailing her way with deadly accuracy.

The hall was already half full though they were early. Academic-looking men and women milled about and Ghis chatted a few words with a paunchy grey-bearded man that had been one of her professors. They found seats in the middle and sat on the uncomfortable wooden seats. Della looked around the ancient lecture hall. It was very different from NYU where she had spent her academic years.

"Gods, this place is old."

"One of the charms of the place"

The announcer pounded his cane on the floor and announced the moderator and debaters. Last of them was Maria, her silver-white hair in stark contrast to her solemn black dress. They took their places and the debate started.

Della lost track of the dialogue after two sentences. Instead, her attention was focused on the warm hand that had settled on her thigh and the shoulder that slightly brushed hers. She decided to take a huge dare and leaned minutely against the shoulder and was rewarded by a squeeze from the hand. She kept her eyes fixed on the mercurial woman on the stage who was explaining her ideas with a rapt look on her face, arms flailing wildly. But her mind was on day before yesterday.


"Ooooo, this is so... cute."

"Yeah. Uck."

Uck indeed. Neither were overly romantic people and thus felt no emotional pull to any object that could be described as cute, quaint or rustic. The room in the Bed&Breakfast was the latter. Everything in mid-brown wood, paneled wardrobe doors and all, topped with frilly lace-rimmed curtains and matching decorative pillows.

Della settled her suitcase on the floor and sat on the large twin bed. The springs were sturdy and she bobbed up and down.

"At least the bed is comfortable," she hummed, waggling her eyebrows suggestively. Ghis chuckled and pounced on the smaller woman and the bed waggled wildly as they started an imprompty tickling contest that ended up in something far more hotter.

They managed to pry away from each other a few hours later. Exiting the B&B and ambling towards the centre of the town in search of some nourishment, Della was again struck how old England was. Some of the buildings dated back centuries and centuries, to a time when the World was perceived to be flat and a whole lot smaller. Cobblestone streets, replicas of academic regalia and actual mementos from the 15th century and even farther beyond, buildings that had seen ten or twenty generations of inhabitants. History was palpably a part of the place, topped with the uniquely charming sunny drowsiness of English countryside that was nonexistent in the bustling and contemporary London they had just left. It was Dellaís holiday and when they found a charming pub called Kingís Head, sat on a tables outside and ordered a robust lunch, it started to feel like one as well.

She leaned against the rough stone wall, her fingers tracing the patterns countless visitors had carved to the sturdy wooden table. The wood was blackened from heat, weather and the years but it still felt solid and reliable. She rested her chin on one hand and her eyes traversed to Ghis. The dark woman was taking a sip of her milk (the fact that she drank milk wouldíve surely generated lots of snippy comments had she not nipped attempts at levity at bud with one of her freezing looks she had perfected over the years) and the blue eyes fixed on the pair of misty green ones.

Della reached over the table and took Ghisí hand into hers. Gently squeezing the digits she was cupping, she smiled and was rewarded with a dazzlingly bright one right back at her. The smiles Ghislaine gave her were somehow able to melt her brain into porridge and she, usually so prolific in oratory, found herself speechless.

The dark woman squeezed back. "Thanks for coming with me."

"No, thanks for inviting me with you. Iíve always wanted to see the place, after all the stories youíve told from your study years."

Ghis lifted her gaze and let it flick over the small square whose one corner housed the pub. There was a miniature park in the middle with exactly four trees and one bench, the square surrounded by old houses that had little shops selling mostly books in the ground floor.

"Itís very peaceful."

"And romantic," Della replied with a twinkle in her eye. She flipped a mental coin and as it returned heads, she leaned over the table and kissed the woman she loved.



It had been a busy winter and spring, save for their three-week vacation bout in Paris. Dellaís work had been on erratic hours, as police work tends to be, and there had been lots of it. With increasing rapidity, the city of cities she was working in had become familiar as the back of her hand and she just adored her job. It was never dull, never repetitive and when she had a free night, she spent it at the Rapture.

The Rapture was Ghislaineís club and the regulars there had became almost a second family to her, albeit an odd one. The circle was a close-knit one and everyone knew everyone. Ghislaine was one of the most recognised personalities in Londonís BDSM-fetish -scene and when she had made it implicitly clear she had found her partner, many a heart had been broken. One guy had sent her a dozen roses every day for over two months, her office at the club had drowned in the red flowers.

Thankfully the debate ended before Dellaís behind had a chance to became numb enough to hurt. They went outside to the foyer and as expected, a quarter later Maria emerged from the back rooms, face flushed from excitement.

"Congrats Kid, it went well," Ghis said, shaking the offered hand with great warmth.

"Thanks! Hullo, Della," the woman said and shook the detectiveís hand. "Look, I got something important to tell you."

"Shoot," Ghis rumbled.

"Actually," the platinum blonde said, flicking her eyes between the two women, "I need to warn you, both of you."

Two sets of eyebrows shot up and they started a question simultaneously. "What do-" "How am-" Maria put a finger to her mouth and shhed, silencing them. She glanced back where a league of professors were arriving, ready to flood her with scientific conversation. She sighed.

"Look, meet you for breakfast tomorrow? Iíll explain it all."

"I think Iím being followed."

Dellaís fork froze in mid-move, the nugget of scrambled eggs on it wobbling slightly. "What?"

"I said Iím being followed."

"How so?" Ghis asked and took a bite from her bran muffin. If there was something of Della that had rubbed off on her, it was healthy and abundant breakfasts. Her usual starter had been a cup of tea and a slice of toast and that was that, she had never liked cooking. The detective had introduced her to the joys and good sides of a large breakfast and she was hooked. That morning, she was on her third muffin and had watched Della almost inhale her eggs, toast and marmalade.

Maria entwined her fingers and stared at them. "My phone is probably tapped and I get the feeling someone is following me." She raised her hand to indicate there was more.

"Nothing concrete, I know. It was just a strange feeling first but about a week ago I got an email from a friend in the USA. There was something odd about the re-routing data and I called her to check the data in her copy in sent-mail." A pause. "The time stamps differed with about ten minutes."

She scratched her short, wild hair. "Now, that was most definetely odd. I ran a few checks and found out that the mail was re-routed via an Oracle anon server, efficiently hiding the routing data before that. But what the interceptor didnít know is that I used to do some business with Oracle." A wicked smile. "I still got a root ID for that server."

More techno-babble followed, the core of it being that someone with great skill had been checking on her business email. Most of it was encrypted so no real harm done but it was alarming nonetheless.

"Look, I canít be sure of anything. Iím just telling you, be careful." She shifted her gaze to Ghis. "Youíre a known figure in the computing world and your connections with Relative are public knowledge. And corporate espionage is one of the hot topics at the Yard, if Iím not mistaken," she added, smiling at Della.

Corporate espionage. Della had been almost sure that Maria was overreacting and the email oddities were either a glitch or the work of some kid with too much time and way too dangerous skills but her shirt did have a point. Paranoia was not always a bad thing. The two words came back to her one Saturday morning a few days after they had returned from Oxford. On page 16 of the Guardian, a one-paragraph news pronounced that Hi-tech Firm Looted and there was a small picture of a dismantled computer. The caption read, Relative Gravity, Inc and their late server. Della grabbed the paper and ran downstairs to the phone.

She caught Ghis on her cell phone, the woman liked to wake up early. The clubowner had gone for a jog while Della had continued sleeping and when she answered, her breathing took some time to settle.


"Itís me. Where are you and did you read the morning paper?"

"At the south end of The Serpentine and no. Why?"

"You better get home soon."

"Okay." Ghis sounded puzzled but unlike Della she was usually able to contain her curiosity. Experience had taught her the hard way that sensitive things were best talked in private, face to face.

While she waited for Ghis to return, Della made coffee and perused the rest of the paper in the large kitchen, covered entirely in sleek Orizzonte kitchen furniture. It was a mystery to Della why the clubowner had decided on such an expensive kitchen when all she used to do in the kitchen was to eat ice cream. Since they had met, she had practically lived at Ghisí. Her own home was only a few blocks away but somehow, she liked the Mayfair house better. It was bigger, had a larger bed and of course, Ghis was there. Della had a feeling that wherever Ghis was, that place would be her home as well.

The door sounded and soon the dark woman came into view. She was clad only in loose shorts and a black sport top, the unusually warm spring and early summer permitting such minimal clothing. Sweat glistened on her tanned skin, small droplets running at her temples. She wiped her face in a towel and murmured a morning before kissing Della. The shoulder holster that held her cell phone was dropped on the table and after fetching a gass of water and downing it in three gulps, she sat down. Della handed her the paper and watched the steady rise of the perfect dark eyebrows as the woman skimmed the news.

"Well," she said and set the paper down. Della could almost hear the high-tuned brain behind the pale blue eyes kick-start into analysis.

"Indeed. Seems there was something behind Mariaís talk."

"We better make a visit."

The place was a mess, to put it mildly. What used to be Relative Gravityís cutting-edge computers were now useless junk, the Octane and Onyx2 workstations ripped open and their insides fiddled with both a screwdriver and a hammer. Mariaís room was always a bit messy but now the floor was almost invisible under the clutter. Every file cabinet had been broken into and contents sweeped to the floor. Amidst the clutter stood the blonde woman with her assistant Celia who was about half as tall as her boss and twice as wide. Looking mildly distraught, Celia twirled the bracelet in her wrist but was otherwise calm.

Maria picked up a display adapter card and turned it in her hands. A resistor came loose, clinking to the floor and the blonde woman huffed in frustration, throwing the card back to the pile of machine parts.

"Lovely decor, isnít it," she commented wryly to Della and Ghis that stood on the door. She dusted her hands and jumping over the mess, came to the door. They went to the cleanest part of the offices, the kitchen. Maria sat down on a chair and gestured at the teapot.

"Help yourself."

Ghis poured four cups of tea and sat to the table with Della. She asked what had happened.

"Well, someone came in, stole all hard drives from the computers and the server and smashed everything else. Weíre covered by insurance and Iíve got secure backups at my home Alpha but still." She pounded her fist on the table and the mugs jumped. "If I ever get my hands on the worm who did had the gall to take a hammer on my Octane, I swear Iíll whack him so hard his nose comes out of the back of his head."

"Oh, calm down Maria or your blood pressure will shoot through the roof," her more level-headed assistant smiled. Maria was well-known for her capricious nature and quick temper.

The police had been there all morning, dusting for prints and asking questions. It wasnít the equipment that was expensive (not to say it was cheap) but someone had gotten hold of all their project data. That was more than serious, considering the Ministry of Defence was one of Relativeís customers, not to mention many big companies that hired Relative to do things they couldnít. The firm was specialised in cutting-edge stuff, doing things no-one had done before. As it was, they made astronomical profit. This incident seriously jeopardised both their schedules and the secrecy their customers often insisted on the projects. Whoever was behind this, that person or persons ware to be caught fast.

"... But, Iíve put some locks and other restraints on the data. Itíll be some time before they can extract the information," Maria added.

They went past Salís room and exchanged a few words with the man. Usually ever-smiling, even he was very serious that morning. Ghis told him to call if she could be of any help and he promised to do so.

The late morning was clear, no clouds were in sight. The summer was still young and temperatures didnít rise to unbearable levels but it was most definetely t-shirt weather. As it was, Ghis and Della decided against the tube and walked in Camden Town, where Relative was situated. They paced slowly along the sunny Camden High Street, dodging rastafaris and people who smelled of incense and other refreshingly eccentric people that crowded this artsy part of the city. When they came into Bloomsbury, Dellaís stomach was voicing its need loudly so they decided on an Indian restaurant.

"Whoo, this chicken is spicy enough to loosen my toenails," Della said and sneezed. She nibbled on a bite of her chicken and swallowed it, a warm feeling following the bite. Ghis poured her another glass of water and chuckled at the detective whose cheeks had taken on a rosy tint.

"Iíll check with the Corporate division first thing Monday morning if they know anything about the case," Della managed between bites. She just loved bashmati rice. "The thing I donít understand is, why did the burglar smash everything?"

"Mustíve been someone with a grudge," Ghis said. "Someone with a grudge, lots of physical power and also, lots of skill." The break-in to the facility hadnít been violent. Someone had known the door and lift codes and as soon as the entry logs could be processed, the number series would say on whose code the nightly entry had occurred.

They finished their lunch with ice cream, scandalizing the middle-aged couple in the next table by feeding it to one another.

Saturday was of course club night and so, when day started to turn into night Ghis nudged Della who was slumbering against her shoulder on the sofa. The nudging produced no effect so Ghis put her book away and shook a shoulder.

"Hey, sleepyhead. Itís showtime soon."

"Iím up, Iím up," Della mumbled but didnít move.

It took some more time to wake the drowsing detective but at last, they were off. On weekends and special occasions and whenever Della had time, she would join Ghis at the club. The place was now like a second home to her, or third to be exact. They usually walked the half an hour journey to Soho. It was really amazing how quickly the posh, upper-class and sophisticated Mayfair turned into the nightlife central that was Soho of London. Warm chandelier light exchanged for garish neon lights, peaceful streets mutating into colourful, wild and populace-rich narrow alleys and lanes of Soho. Three blocks before Rapture that Della suddenly stopped and hit her forehead with her palm.

"Shit. I forgot my shoes at St. Christopherís Place."

"Do you need them?"

"Yeah. Look, Iíll go fetch them and come to the club later, OK?"

"Sure. Do you need a taxi?"

Della decided against one and started to walk back. She muttered a curse at her own stupidity. She had bought new shoes just that week but instead of hauling them to the club where most of her clubbing wardrobe was, she had taken them to her home and forgot them there.

Ghis watched the retreating back. Della turned at the end of the street and blowed a kiss her way. She smiled and waved back and then the detective was gone. Ghis turned to continue but just at that moment, her cell phone rang.


"Mistress, you better come here soon!" It was Andrea, her newest and youngest sub. The girl sounded hysterical and her breathing was rapid as it rustled in the phone.

"Calm down, Andrea." Ghis tried to soothe her but to no avail. The girl babbled uncontrollably in English and in her native Mandarin Chinese.

"Andrea, stop babbling and breathe. Whatís wrong?"

"There has been a robbery!"

A sharp bark of an expletive left Ghisí lips. "Call the police. Iíll be right there," she said, pressed the off-button and took to a quick jog, deftly dodging people on the streets. It took her exactly four minutes to reach the back door of the club and then fifteen seconds more to reach her computer room. She stopped at the door.

"Andrea. Donít touch anything."

The girl was crouching next to the computer desk, her eyes fastened on Ghisí computer. Or what used to be her computer, the clubowner sighed. As with Relativeís computers, her clone dual-PII was ransacked and then trashed. Even the flat-screen display was hammered to mush, the liquid in the crystals seeping out and pooling on the desk to form a dark-blue meandering pond. Her mail had been checked, she was sure since it was in a haphazard pile and Viv always made it into a neat one. Also, the contents of the movable chest of drawers were emptied on the desk. The window was open, indicating the entry and exitway of the intruder.

At the voice the girl looked up and her tear-streaked face lighted up. She took a few quick steps and was at her Mistressí feet. She kissed the worn combat boot and hugged Ghisí leathered thigh in great relief. Ghis patted the girlís head and tried to calm her. When the girl stopped babbling, Ghis sent her to rest.

Andrea had called the police but since it was Saturday, their response time to non-violent alarms was longish. They had promised to come that night but not immediately and advised that nothing was to be touched until they had a chance to dust for prints. Ghis entered the room and consciously touching no surfaces, peeked inside her computer. As she had guessed, the hard drive was gone.

She went back to the balcony that circled the first floor of her club and where her private office and other rooms were. The railing of the balcony was cool to touch as she looked down at the deserted dancefloor that would be jam-packed in two hours. She took out her cell phone and Della answered hers after two rings.


"Itís me," Ghis rumbled. Whenever she was angry, her voice took on a silky smooth tone that thrummed an octave lower than usual. She was angry now and the steel railing took the brunt of her anger as she squeezed it to contain her rage.

Della was instantly alarmed by the tone. "Whatís wrong?"

"My computerís been combed through as well, just like at Relativeís."

"But... why?"

"I donít know. Maybe they thought I had some info on the firm on my machine or something."

"Iíll be there in fifteen minutes. No objections," she added before Ghis could say she didnít have to come. The seriously determined but at the same time calm and level-headed tone made Ghisí wrath dissipate somewhat. It was really amazing, the effect Della had on her and what was more amazing was that there was someone who truly, deeply care about her, no strings attached. It was definetely a new and welcome feeling.

"OK. Iíll see you in fifteen."

True to her word, the blonde detective was at the club in a quarter of an hour. She found Ghis at the ground floor, chatting with her lead bartender. Salome was her name and she was of biblical proportions, towering even over Ghis and weighing about two times as much as Della. Big-boned gal, her father wouldíve called Salome. Despite her threatening appearance, the bartender was one of the funniest people Della knew, never too tired or busy to exchange a word or two with the apple of her employerís eye. At the moment she was going over the inventory with the dark clubowner. Show must go on, Della mused.

"... so we need more whiskey, right?"

Salome nodded. "Yeah. Chivas Regal or perhaps a mild single malt brand."

Ghis made a note in her papers and a small smile formed on her face as she felt the approaching presence before the detective even touched her. "Hi, peaches," she rumbled, finished the list and lifted her gaze.

Della smiled in return and stood on her tiptoes to receive a peck from Ghis. A blonde eyebrow arched and the detective folded her arms, tapping her foot on the ground. "Is that all I get?"

The taller woman smiled a wicked smile and winked at the pouting woman. "If you insist but..." she whispered and before Della had time to react, swooped her into her arms and kissed the living daylights out of the smaller woman.

"Whooo," was all Della could utter after being smooched so thoroughly and she could hear the twin chuckle from Salome and Ghis. She backhanded the clubowner in her washboard stomach. Her hand was rattled from the impact on the stone-hard muscles and she shot a mock accusatory glance at Ghis, shaking the bruised limb.

"Ouch. Remind me never to do that again."


She shook the hand one last time and leaned against the long cherrywood bar. "So, wanna let me in on the happenings?"

Ghis explained all she knew and instructed Salome to tell the staff that if and when the police arrived she should be notified immediately. The brunette behind the bar nodded and polished yet another glass. It was an hour before opening time and show did have to go on, no matter what the circumstances.

"Whatíll you be wearing today?" Ghis asked as they undressed in the privacy of her office. It had been spared of search, probably becuse it held nothing informative and looked as much. It was her audience room and thus, decorated to be impressive, not utilitarian. She wanted the place where she had her computer to be designed for usability and so, she had a separate room for that.

Della struggled with the laces of her shoes and grunted in satisfaction as the double knot relented. A drop of sweat gleamed on her forehead and she wiped it away. The dayís warmth was effectively trapped in the room, making the temperature high but not uncomfortable so. "Umm, Iím in the mood for something light, so... the DeMask corset you brought for my birthday, I think," she said and winked.

Ghis nodded and whistled. On cue, Sara, one of her subs appeared and bowed. "Get the DeMask for her and for me, the black Kurt Veith with the headgear. And bring Viv with you, I need help with the dress." The girl bowed again and went to fetch their dresses. Ghis sat down to remove her shoes and she noticed that Della sitting utterly still, her eyes not in this world. The dark woman reached out a bit awkwardly and gently grabbed a shoulder.

"You OK?"

The blonde detective jumped a bit. "Ah... sorry. Just thinking. I mean, why your machine? You donít work for Relative."

Ghis shrugged and reached for her left shoelace. "Iím willing to bet itís someone who knows my connection and figured that there could be some info on how to access the Relativeís files, since itís bound to be encrypted. Mariaís paranoid to perfection," Ghis said and yanked off her shoe with a small grunt.

The two girls came in with their outfits and the complicated progress of dressing and make-up began. They werenít even half-way through when the doors were opened and people started to pour in. It took them a good three hours to finish their dressing, not aided by the fact that talcum powder always made them playful and Viv had to polish Ghisí dress two times due to Dellaís attacks with the white powder. Ghis replied to the act of war by grabbing the semi-naked detective and hanging her upside down from her ankles. She squealed and Sara and Viv tried vainly to stifle their laughter.

At last they were finished and Della was starting to get into the party mood. The muted music pounded through the walls and the floor shook with the powerful bass. One final adjust to the lacing of her corset and she was done. She clapped her hands in satisfaction and turned to look at Ghis.

Sara was making final touches to the clubownerís outfit, setting the metal plates and swirls of the corsetlike middle part of the dress in order. Ghis put on the matching metal headpiece and finger extenders and she was done. She flicked her eyes to Della and took a pose. "How do I look?"

Della took an exaggerated pondering stance and hmmmed. Stunning, was the first adjective her brain could come up with, closely followed by gorgeous.

Ghis was that. The long black rubber mistress dress was shining vividly and the metallic swirls and loops that accentuated the perfect body inside the dress were mirror-bright. The headpiece reminded Della of a lightweight helmet but it did nothing to hide the raw beauty of the face of the clubowner, the planed high cheekbones and piercing blue eyes.

"Letís put it this way. If that dress wasnít so hard to remove Iíd ravish you right then and there."

Ghis chuckled and stepped closer, tilting the younger womanís face up at her with a gentle yet firm hand on her chin. The steel-covered thumb of the hand caressed the silky skin of the detectiveís neck and cheek and Della unconsciously held her breath as the sharp nail-like extension gently scratched her skin. The blue eyes of the dark woman had taken on a smoky bedroom shade, tinted in the shade of violet Della had come to associate with the extreme pleasure of the most intense moments.

"I could say the same," the deep voice thrummed and Della closed her eyes at the vibrations that voice made inside her chest. Lips that were light as a feather descended on hers and the room and the people around them vanished.

It was a small eternity before Della could focuse on her surroundings again. It was when the lips left hers and she reopened her eyes, finding two blue ones smiling at her.

"Time to go," Ghis hummed and grabbed Dellaís hand into hers, guiding her outside with Sara and Viv in tow. Della ventured a glance at the girls and bit her lower lip to avoid smiling. The girlsí eyes were round and big as dinner plates and they were whispering quietly. Della almost felt sorry for them, they had such huge crushes on Ghis, the clubowner having only a mild idea how big ones.

"Can I buy you a drink?"

The question was asked, or rather shouted by a mildly paunchy woman in a red rubber dress. Della shook her head and declined the offer with a smile. The woman wouldnít take no for an answer though but sat on the sofa next to Della.

"Címon. Just one beer."

"No, thanks," Della said, trying to stay polite.

"Aww, why not?" the woman asked and leaned closer.

"Because sheís with me," a new voice said and a hand with long metallic spikes that thinned to needles at the fingers descended on the red-rubbered shoulder. The woman looked to her side and up, up and higher, until her eyes met those of the clubowner. The blue chips of ice held an equal mixture of dare and mirth.

"Sorry," the woman said and vanished.

"Newcomer," Ghis commented and sat with casual grace on the Chippendale sofa that was made of steel and nubbed industrial rubber, designed to last. She handed Della her drink, a non-alcoholic cooler and adjusted her corset. A shapely eyebrow rose as she toasted with her champagne. "I canít leave you for a moment, can I?"

"Thanks for the rescue," Della smiled and sipped. This was her first chance to sit the whole evening and finally she had time to look around.

The variety of people in the club never ceased to amaze her. People came here to dance, to strut their stuff and pose in their new outfits, ranging from restrictive, total-enclosure rubber to colourful fantasy creations. The dancefloor was so full you couldnít fit another person there with a shoehorn and the sea of rubber, leather and bare flesh jumped and lived to the primal music. The dancefloor was partially circled by a platform and on the raised part were a few sofas, chairs and assorted furniture for people to sit in, lay on and be tied to. This sofa was the biggest of them all and by mutual unsaid agreement it was the de-facto throne of the Mistress of the house, Ghis.

She rarely sat on it, though. She know most everyone there who was in the inner circle of the scene and she did her job as a hostess by circling, chatting and socializing. She didnít have to fetch her own drinks, all she wouldíve needed to do was to snap her fingers. This time, however, she had felt like choosing her drink by herself. She sipped the pale yellow liquid and felt the characteristic light, nose-tingling feeling as it slithered down her throat. Della had already inhaled her drink and Ghis leaned to her.

"Díyou want another one?"

Della smiled and nodded. Sara was kneeling next to the sofa and the dark woman instructed her to get another lime cooler. When she returned with the drink, she had Herc in tow. The doorman rarely left her post and Ghisí eyebrows furrowed.

"What is it?" she asked the massive blonde man that was wide as a wardrobe, his pecs like two solid pillows. He bent down and Della could almost hear the rubber of his skimpy outfit complain at the strain it took when the manís thighs flexed.

"Mistress, itís the police. Theyíre at the front door."

Detective Hills yawned so hard his jaw was close to dislocating. It had already been a long day, Saturdays tended to be that and he had already been on a dozen burglary sites. He rolled his neck around and sniffed at the funny-smelling air of the foyer of the club. Had he had a defibrillator it wouldíve malfunctioned from the bass beat wafting through the heavy twin set of noise-dampening curtains that were the entrance to the club. Finding the place had been hard enough and then the doorman had left him and his partner, Det. Chestershire standing there, to find íthe mistressí, whoever that was.

Hills was young to be a detective. He was barely past his 22nd birthday and hungry for more. He did like the squad he was in now but wouldíve preferred Homicide. He scratched his thick mid-brown hair and stared at the candelabrums that flanked the curtains through which the doorman had disappeared. Hills had taken a momentary pause at the manís outfit but he seemed genial enough so no problem there. The detective just wanted to get home to his girlfriend as soon as possible.

The curtains parted, admitting a blare of sound and the blonde doorman. The man stepped aside as he reached the detectives and revealed a woman. And what a woman.

Towering a good two feet over Hills, the woman was straight from a cyberpunk wet dream. Muscles gleamed in a fine sheen of sweat, the fantasy outfit giving off reflections of the candles as the woman ambled closer with the fluid and weightless gait of a jungle cat. Hills felt his neck pop as he craned his head to be able to look at the woman. She extended her hand. It took the detective a good two seconds to get his motor control back.

"Watch out for the nails," she articulated smoothly and gently grabbed the hand, taking care with the metal spikes.

"Mistress Riva, this is Det. Hills and-" Herc introduced and shifted his gaze on the other man who was in the process of collecting both his eyes and jaw from the floor, "Det. Chestershire."

She shook the other manís hand as well and smiled one of her patented charm smiles. "Pleasure. If youíll follow me..." she said and made a 180, re-entering the club.

After a pause and a gentle prod from Herc, the detectives followed. Chestershire almost got let back when he stopped to stare at Eppie in play with her slave but a cough and a nudge from Herc made him quicken his pace. Ghis took the officers of law upstairs, to her office. The closing door shut out most of the noise.

"Herc, fetch the detectives some coffee. They look like they need it," the clubowner intoned and gestured for the detectives to sit on the midnight-blue alcantara divan. She herself sat on the edge of her massive desk, sipping from her champagne glass and then setting it on the blackwood surface. She peeked through her eyelashes and bit the inside of her mouth to stifle the irresistible smile she felt coming on.

The detectivesí eyes were fastened on her toolrack, situated smack across the divan. The metal net contraption held an abundance of the tools of her trade, everything sharp, stinging or uncomfortable, as it should be. Ghis rapped her metal nails to the desk, ingnoring the tension in the silent room. Her patience was legendary and if the detectives had questions, they had to open their mouths first.

Herc came in with two mugs of coffee and Della. He left but she came to stand next to Ghis, smiling warmly at the dark woman.

"Hello, dear," the blonde detective said and kissed the clubowner on the mouth. Two dark eyebrows shot up but she replied to the kiss. When they broke the contact, one eyebrow stayed up.

"You imp," Ghis whispered. Della smiled a wicked smile and just winked back.

The dark woman heard one of the detectives clear his throat and dragged her eyes off the smiling blonde. "Yes?"

"I didnít... catch your name," Hills said, his voice cracking at the end of the sentence.

"Ah, yes. Iím Ghislaine du Plessis, I own and run this place. And this is," Ghis said, "Detective Covington of Scotland Yard." Della nodded her head, her smile increasing at the widening of the detectivesí eyes. She rounded the desk and sat on the plush executive chair, the black leather complaning quietly.

"You... reported a burglary."

"Yes. Well, it wasnít me, it was Andrea."

"Andrea?" Chestershire asked, puzzled. "Could we talk to her?"

"Of course. Andrea!"

The door to the side room opened and the thin, young girl came in. She bowed and intoned politely, "Yes, Mistress?" Della was sure that if Hillsí eyebrows wouldíve inched any higher they wouldíve become a permanent part of his hairline.

"Show Detective Chestershire here the computer room."

"Yes, Mistress. In here," she said and the detective rose, glancing one last curious look back at Ghis before the door closed behind him.

"Krhm... can you tell us if thereís anything useful you know?" Hills asked, loosening his tie. The coffee was excellent and he sure as hell wasnít feeling sleepy anymore.

Ghis told him the story, her connection with Relative and what had been lost. The young man wrote everything down, his eyes wandering from his notepad to Ghis and from there to the smirking Della and the tool rack and back to the pad. Della was entraced by the warm, even tone of the clubownerís voice, laying out the details with no hesitation. She watched Hillsí eyes wander over the curvaceous body perched on the edge of the desk and then quickly dart back to his writing. One time the manís eyes had traversed down the black rubber dress and then shifted to Dellaís. The blonde detective had smiled a small knowing smile and arched her eyebrow. She was rewarded with a blush from the young man on the divan and for the rest of the narrative he carefully avoided Dellaís eyes, scribbling furiously on the small pad.

Chestershire came back and Hills rose. They promised to get back to Ghis if something came out of the investigation. Ghis shook Hillsí hand warmly and the poor manís Adamís apple wobbled up and down. His eyes were at the exact level of Ghisí breasts and he searched furiously for something else to look. The clubownerís deep voice made his spine tingle.

"Thank you for visiting. Hereís my card." She handed the slip of transparent plastic that was her card to the detective who vainly tried to gulp down his blush. "Viv!"

When the brunette appeared, Ghis instructed for her and Andrea to escort the detectives outside. One last quick glance from Hills and they were gone. Ghis sat back on the desk and turned to half-face Della, still cocooned in the chair. At the devilish smirk on the blondeís face, Ghis raised an inquiring eyebrow.


Della pursed her lips, thinking. "Letís just say you got a new addition to Mistress Riva Fan Club."

Ghis glanced at the closed door and back. "How so?" she asked, genuinely puzzled. Della rolled her eyes.

"That Hills couldnít get his eyes off you."

"Oh. Didnít notice," Ghis shrugged and sipped the last drops of her champagne. She leaned across the desk, the rubber of her dress groaning in stress. The blue eyes tilted closer, drawing Della nearer. "I have eyes only for you."

Della rested her elbows on the black smooth wood and tweaked the royal nose in the tanned face. "Ghislaine du Plessis, that was definetely icky-sappy." She was rewarded with a dazzingly brilliant smile.

"I know," was the answer and Della felt metal on her skin, the sharp points of Ghisí needlelike nails raking over her heated skin on one shoulder. Her eyes slitted at the sensuous touch and just as the hand was leaving, she grabbed the wrist. Bringing the dangerously pointed digits to her face she spread the thumb from the rest of the fingers and gently sucked and bit the soft flesh right where thumb and forefinger joined. Green eyes locked with the brilliantly blue gaze.

"Sappy declarations need to be proved. Law of the wild West," Della whispered and placed the hand on her breast. The thumb pressed gently, pricking the smooth skin on the breast about an inch above the edge of the corset and squeezed out one drop of ruby red liquid. Dellaís breath caught and the hazel-green eyes took on a glassy look, her hands never leaving the one on her chest.

"As you wish," the rich contralto voice rasped, so close the detective felt the hot breath on her cheek.

"Remove you corset. Slowly."

It was a command issued in a voice that tolerated no objections, yet was filled with gentle loving. At the words Della felt her heart start to beat faster, hammering against her ribcage as it pumped blood that flushed her cheeks. She rose from the chair and paced around the desk, to stand in front of the divan Ghis was reclining on. Voyeurism was one of Ghisí small but no means insignificant vices and she tended to enjoy it thoroughly. So, she leaned back, filling her glass and sipping on the bubbly liquid. It was no wonder monk Dom Perignon compared champagne to ídrinking the starsí, it was that sweet.

Della stood absolutely still, her ragged breathing and the muted music wafting through the walls the only sounds in the room. No, not quite. She could feel the blue eyes on her and so electrifying was the gaze she would swear she heard it humm and strain to contain the spirit and primal power that projected it.

The corset was a complicated contraption, consisting of a separate bra and the corset-underpants part. She reached for the first hook and taking a deep breath, undid it. Slowly and one at a time they all came undone and the corset fell to the floor, the bones in it clattering faintly. The cooler air of the room made goosebumps rise on the exposed skin and her abdominal muscles quivered under the burning blue eyes that made her nervous.

"All of it."

Della lowered her gaze to her chest and gently let her fingers brush against the now almost vanished wound the sharp nail had inflicted on the soft skin on her breast. She undid the clasp of the bra and that too fell on the soft carpet. She was now wearing only her shoes and a sudden surge of self-consciousness grabbed her. She hugged herself, smiling sheepishly at Ghis who was grinning like the proverbial cat at the cream bowl.

Ghis settled down the glass with a small chink and rose with negligent grace. She towered over Della, settling her hands on the smaller womanís shoulder.

"Close your eyes," she whispered.

Della did as told and she felt slight cool breeze when Ghis paced around her, the rubber of her dress slipping against her skin. The fingers descended on her shoulders again, the sharp pinpricks of the nails raking gently her neck and down her chest and circling to her back. The hands guided her to motion and she was led to the adjoining room that Della knew housed a bed. She settled on the slippery sheets on her stomach, toes cringing inside her shoes for the initially cold fabric. She heard the muted clang of metal plates and whisper of rubber as someone helped her mistress out of her dress. She held her breath.

Faint footsteps paced closed and climbed on the bed. A weight that was warm and just perfect settled on her bare buttocks and she felt the silky skin of Ghisí on hers. The sensation made a small gasp escape her lisp and she squeezed her eyes shut tighter. The metal points traced her spine and curves of her muscles with a slightly rasping motion, making small marks but never breaking the skin. Della shivered in anticipation of what was to come.

The first puncture she felt was near her right shoulder, just above the shoulderblade. She inhaled sharply at the pain that soon transformed into a huge endorphine rush, making her head swim in a red haze. The second sharp pain came from the opposite side, at the mirror point of the first. Alternating sides, all of ten times she felt it, each time her mind lifting higher and higher, her hands squeezing the satin sheets near her head so hard she mustíve left clawmarks on them. The pain came in waves, matching her breathing that was ragged and threatened to stop when Ghis ran her hand at the sharp objects, making the needles in her skin tremble and the colours in her head explode.

Sitting on Dellaís behind, Ghis gazed down at her handiwork. The trembling detectiveís skin was a rosy shade from neck up and the dark woman could see the rapid moves of the eyes behind her eyelids as she vainly tried to steady her breath. The sharp claws she had worn were now off and in two gleaming arcs they shone in Dellaís back, like a pair of silvery wings, embedded deep in her skin.

Little or no blood was let and the few drops that were there Ghis licked away, leaning so close her breasts brushed Dellaís back and her breath was on the needles, jolting them slightly. She moved her head closer to Dellaís head and let her tongue travel along the edge of one delicious ear. Satisfied at the reaction of her actions, she got back up and moved off Della.

"Get up."

Dellaís eyes moved wildly at the quiet words and she tried to get her bearings right, still without opening her eyes. It took her about five seconds and she started to rise. Strong hands stopped her when she reached a sitting position.

"Kneel," the voice said, the syllable thrumming in her ears.

She knelt on the bed, her shoulders trembling from the effort to not to move a muscle. The needles produced a new sensation every time she moved or even breathed. Quiet swish signified that Ghis had come near her again and in her highly aroused state she could smell the womanís sweet scent and feel the heat of her skin, so near.

"Open your eyes."

She was close, kneeling in front of Della in all her dark glory. She, too, was naked , wearing only her piercings and a small smile. Reaching around the blonde woman, she plucked one steel nail loose and brought the sharp instrument to her lips. A deliciously pink tongue appeared and licked the nail clean of blood, the dark liquid contrsting vividly with the light colour of the nubbly surface. This was done to all the nails and they were settled on the bedside table, in two neat rows. At the end of this torturingly slow show Della was sure she was going to lose her mind if the woman didnít touch her soon. She didnít dare do it herself.

As if Ghis had heard her silent prayer, she leaned forward and kissed Della. When she tried to distance herself again, however, Della grabbed her sides and brought her down with her. Ghisí eyes flew open as she landed on Della, the younger womanís strength surprising her. Della had inhuman powers when she was desperate, it seemed. Ghis smiled against the assault of the lips and grabbing Dellaís wrists, she forced them away from herself and behind the womanís neck. Dellaís back arced and she was forced to let Ghis go.

A shapely dark eyebrow rose. Ghis licked her lips, tasting Dellaís blood and passion on them. She smiled at the woman straining under her, green eyes wide and gleaming in a shade of green that brought images of thick forests and deep seas.

"Uppity, are we?"

A small breath left Dellaís mouth and then it too curved into a smile. "Can I have you? Just this once..."

Ghis pursed her lips as if pondering.

"Please," Della whispered. For Ghis, it was all she needed to fulfill the detectiveís wish. The shapely lips curved into a wicked smile. She wasnít going to be easy though.

Ghis lowered herself on Della again and licked the skin between her breasts. Moving slowly to a side she could feel a frantic heartbeat pound against her lips. Nearer they got to a lovely rosy nipple and she licked around the aureola, stopping millimetres short of the centre. Della let out a strangled sound.

"Letís play a game," Ghis rasped and descended her mouth on the nipple. Another strangled moan escaped Della but this one continued longer. She strained against the steely hands holding hers but they wouldnít budge nor let her go. The assault on her breast was draining away all her thoughts and focusing them on the few points that craved for attention. Ghis sucked and then bit the hardened nipple, making Dellaís moan end in a small gasp. And then she went away.

Della opened her eyes and straightened to a sitting position again. Ghis rolled off the bed and ambled to a chest of drawers. She pulled out a small jar and a pair of wrist restraints and returned to the bed. An eyebrow made Della turn and the leather cuffs were fastened to her wrists and then together. She was gently guided to a kneeling position and her gaze captured by two chips of ice that were white hot.

Ghis uncapped the jar, dipped her finger inside and brought it to Dellaís lips. Honey. The sticky material clung to the detectiveís phenomenally dry lips and she licked the sweet taste away. Ghis touched the pulse point at Dellaís collarbone and let her lips gently touch the place. The pulse jumped and with a satisfied growl, Ghis bit down, hard.

"God," Della moaned. Her upper body swayed with the waves that zipped straight down.

Ghis let go of the womanís neck and leaned back on the pillows. Della watched in rapt attention as she settled herself comfortably, muscles rippling in strong limbs. A deep purr, like a huge cat rumbled somewhere deep in the dark womanís throat. She dipped two fingers in the honey and crooking one, beckoned Della closer. The detective clamped her mouth around the fingers, sucking off the sweet coating.

Ghis hummed in delight. Her eyes were two thin slits, only a ghost of the vivd blue visible. What the detective was doing to her fingers, it felt entirely too good. Time to move on.

She extracted the two digits from Dellaís mouth, the blonde woman following them until she threatened to topple over. She had no control over her balance since her hands were bound to her back but damned if she was going to let the fingers go easily. She did have to relinguish them though.

The fingers dipped in the jar and came out with the golden coating. Ghis slowly spread the fingers, the honey in them stretching and showing off its sparkle. It was a very thinly veiled innuendo and Dellaís mouth dried at the vision. The raven haired woman smiled broadly and brought the fingers to herself. She traced a path from her chest down, over the smooth hills and sharp valleys of her abs and stopping just short of her mound. She offered the fingers to Della again and when the woman eagerly applied her mouth on them, she pulled her closer. Della shuffled closer until she was kneeling between Ghisí legs. Her mouth was gently guided to the beginning of the honey trail and she bowed her head to reach it.

Ghis buried her hand in the silky hair on her chest. It was of the same colour as the honey on her, the texture cool and smooth to perfection. She felt Dellaís hot breath and tongue on her skin and smiled. It was just the most perfect of sensations, the connection they shared. It wasnít born of exploration, it had been that way when they had met.

Della progressed lower, over the powerfully expanding ribs and to the slightly quivering abs. The muscles contracted under her lips and she went even lower, almost there... but she was stopped by a firm hand on her chin just as she was about to reach her prize. Two sticky fingers brought her head up and Ghis rose to a half reclining position. A grunt of disappointment was squeezed out of Della.

"Please," the detective panted, her breathing erratic and deep. The leather of her restraints groaned when she flexed her arms, the wiry shoulders bunching in effort. But the binds wouldnít budge. Ghis brought her closer, resting the shivering woman on her chest so that their lips were bare millimetres apart. The honeyed hand came up to stroke one rosy cheek. Della gulped in an attempt to calm her hammering heart.

The other hand was brought up and offered to Della. It took the barest of pauses for the taste to register. When it did, Della convulsed in desire as her lower abdomen cramped. She growled deep in her throat, the green eyes glazing in passion. She licked every last drop of Ghis off the fingers, the musky wild taste that was hot as liquid mercury.

"Can you taste what you are doing to me," Ghis whispered to the woman who wouldnít let go of her fingers. She did get them out, pulling firmly and stroking the other cheek.

Blood pounded in Dellaís ears. It sounded like a massive thunder that was in sync with her heartbeat, rushing around and causing havoc in her brain The deep voice that caressed her ear, the aftertaste still in her mouth and the deep scent of passion, love and blood she could smell in the room, it brought her higher until the blood vessels at her temples felt like they were going to explode.

"Please...," she begged in a voice thick with desire.

Ghis smiled and nodded faintly, her eyes never breaking contact with the misty green. Reaching around Della, she undid the restraint lock, setting the two wrists free but let the leather cuffs be, knowing that the smaller woman preferred them on. The hands shot around and grabbed Ghisí thighs and sooner that she could utter a word, Dellaís mouth was on her. An involuntary moan was ripped from the dark woman at the wave of deep red pleasure that shot trough her. She let her head fall back on the pillow.

Della was good, no doubt about that. It was almost instictive the way she felt where Ghis wanted her. She nibbled at the sensitive skin on the insides of her thighs, the two strong tendons in her groin that were taut as a drawn bowstring. Dellaís eyes drooped almost close at the scent of Ghislaine she felt so close. She inhaled deeply and buried her face in the apex of the dark womanís legs, grabbing the piercing there with her teeth and moving it slowly.

Ghis sucked in a breath at the surge of pleasure and her eyes opened wide. She felt Dellaís lips on her, the smooth tongue and small teeth on her center, pulling the small metal ring there. Oh god, it felt good. Exquisite. Every small breath, every move, every lick brought her closer to the edge, the ravine and heaven beyond it approaching rapidly and with blinding light.

Under her fingers Della could feel the massive thigh muscles of the clubowner tremble in an attempt to stay still. Moving her hands higher she felt the tension spread everywhere else as well until Ghis was like a tightly coiled spring, brimming with energy ready to be unleashed. Feeling a burning gaze, the blonde detective lifted her eyes. They met a pair of blue, rimmed with both violet and passion. The eyes were steady and didnít blink as they bored into Dellaís. The woman felt like she was drowning and it was the most wonderful thing in the world. Highly recommended. Oh yes.

Della watched, drinking in every detail of the perfect woman she was loving. The low, languid moan Ghis had let pass her lips died out and the tendons in her shoulders showed clearly through the heated skin. The dark woman grabbed the sheets of the bed in a death grip, every cord in her neck standing out.

"Oh gods," she breathed in a light breath and she crashed from her peak, tumbling down and up, floating in the ripping, rolling waves of her silvery white pleasure. Her eyes rolled up let out a long steady groan at her release.

Della rode out each wave, stubbornly keeping her hold on the woman, drawing out every last drop of passion she could produce. It was the divinest of feelings, she felt the almost visible connection between them shimmer brightly.

A forever is an entirely too little time, Ghis decided. All too soon she felt herself floating down from cloud nine, into another soft could. No, it was the bed, the satiny sheet soked with honey, sweat, blood and their juices. And the feel and scent of the woman she loved, resting on top of her, a finger gently tracing her eyebrow. She opened that eye, to see a dazzling smile. Ghis felt a smile edge itself on her face as well. The small wrinkle on the bridge of the detectiveís nose that formed there every time she smiled, it was just damn too endearing.

"Thank you," the blonde woman whispered, quietly, not wanting to break the moment. Ghis kissed the eyelids of both green eyes, the colour blended with small brown specs that eluded her gaze, like sunspots on the face of the centre of her universe.

"My love," the dark woman purred, the pleasure still tinging her voice to vibrate in a hoarse, deep tone. She brought the smaller woman closer to her and smiled gently down at the blond head that was snuggling to a comfortable position against her breast. Stroking the lean limb wrapped around her chest from shoulder to elbow, she wondered what good deeds she had done to get enough positive karma to deserve Della.

The folder flew in a perfect hyperbolic arc over a coffee mug and landed on top of the foot-high pile of other such pale yellow carboard folders, filled with all things mysterious and nasty. The pile tilted dangerously but by some mircle or loophole in the law of gravity managed to stay upright. The navy blue mug was lifted and raised to rosy lips, the dark brown liquid slipping past them and into the detective.

Della frowned at her coffee. The brew was excellent, it was she who had made it after all. It were the files that bothered her. Or rather, in the big scheme of thing, England.

She loved the British people (especially one of them), loved London and she found even the accent to be quaint in an elitistic sort of way. But if there was one thing Britons excelled in, counting out tea and literature, it was bureucracy. She had spent the entire morning dabbling in the labyrinthe realms of red tape she had to weave and tie every day. She had blown her top once when she had to make a four-page report on why she had fired one extra shot at the firing range. For a while there she was tempted to use another extra shot, to the fossilised corpse that was the departmentís bookkeeper.

The chair groaned under her as she leaned back, entwining her fingers behind her head. Her neck was sore beyond painful, typing tended to do that to her. She couldnít fathom how Ghis could stay in front of a computer for hours on end, ohhing enraptured, fiddling with the thing and the gadgets and widgets she had. Della smiled at the mental image of the dark woman, grinning broadly, demonstrating her newest whatnot-tweakee. She rubbed the hard nubs in her neck. Maybe she would lend Andrea for a backrub tonight.

Andrea. The girl was so young. Della adjusted her position and sipped at her cooling coffee.

She had initially been jealous of the girls. Polygamy had never been her thing and she had told Ghis as much. The dark woman had patiently explained the nature of her relationship with the other women and men but it had taken Della some time to understand it. It wasnít about love with them, neither was it sex. It was more a mutual agreement. The girls wanted to stay there and serve her and in return, she granted them a session or two with one of the mistresses in the house. She didnít do that herself anymore, in fact she had never been a paid mistress. With her, it had always been out of personal need. And with Della, she had found the reciprocal, the recipient and someone who shared her need and was always there for her, in more ways than just the physical ones.

The detective rubbed her thumb against the smooth ceramic handle of the FBI mug. She had understood what Ghis was trying to tell her that one day. Monday, it was. She had just come to the club, straight from work and found Ghis sitting at the edge of the brightly lit, empty dancefloor. She had been deep in concentration, dark brows knotted together as she fiddled with some piece of an electronic equipment or another with a small screwdriver. The clubowner had an uncanny hearing, Della knew that much but that day, she had been extra quiet. Despite her tiptoeing, the dark head had lifted from its task when she was more than ten yards away.

It was in the eyes, as always. When they looked up, Della had a strong sense of deja-vu but it didnít touch just some particular moment of her past but rather, it seemed to span a longer time. Days, years, millenias. The eyes had always been there, for her. And suddenly she felt so sure, sure that Ghis is the one for her. At that moment, Delaney Covington figured out that she was truly, madly, deeply in love.

She had jumped the taller woman, startling her with a shower of kisses. She had wanted to scream out her discovery, jump at the highest of mountains and shout it down but she had settled on sitting next to Ghis and taking her hand.

"I love you," she had breathed.

"I know," had been the reply and it was all the words that were needed.

Della smiled at her outlined reflection in the monitor. The screen saver was on, a simulated display of fireworks was playing on the screen. It was hypnotic, the bright colours reflecting off Dellaís eyes in bright fans of rainbows. Back to work, she admonished herself and tore her eyes off the screen.

The police had found nothing on the two similar crime sites. No prints except those that should be there and no other clues. No trace of the eleven stolen hard drives either but that meant nothing. Della was frustrated even though she wasnít on the case, in fact it wasnít in Yardís jurisdiction at all unless its designation would be changed from ordinary robbery to corporate espionage or something similar. Now there was insufficient evidence to do that. Well, if Iím frustrated imagine how Maria is feeling. The volatile blonde had taken the robbery personally and pity the poor schmuck who had had the audacity to touch her babies. Her computers, that is. Geeks, Della thought and rolled her eyes.

Reluctantly, she set her mind on the pile of paperwork on her desk and started to waddle through it. Just as she was about to call it a day, her phone rang.

"Scotland Yard, Det. Covington," she replied, still eyeing the last file missing her signature.

"Hi, itís Maria. Can I ask you a favour?" the voice on the other end said.

"Uh, hi. Sure," Della said, puzzled.

"Could you call Ghis and ask her to pick me up? I canít remember her cell phone number and itís unlisted."

Della scribbled down. "Sure. Where are you?"

"Iím at the University College Hospital."

Dellaís eyes shot up from her note. "What? Are you OK? What happened?"

"Long story, Iím here with the police and... well, it would be nice if you came as well. I bet you could persuade Constable Neanderthal here to accept the fact that Iím OK and I can go," Maria said. Della told her to stay put while she organised and called Ghis.

In ten minutes, Ghis rang and said she was waiting outside the New Scotland Yard building. Della went down, to discover it was raining cats and dogs and she had no umbrella. The downside to a office whose window gave to inner yard, she had no way to tell the weather. Shit.

She lifted up the collar of her leather jacket and ran to the gates and straight into the sleek, well-restored Karmann-Ghia that was Ghisí town car. Shaking the loose drops of rain off her hair, she brred at the cold water that ran down her back.


"Hello," Della smiled and returned the small kiss.

The revved engine roared into life and shook the slimly padded low seat and the car shot away. It was her partnerís very own silver arrow and though it had taken some time to get used to its Spartan comforts and loud noise, Della had fallen in love with the fast, smooth-lined car that took curves with irresistible suction and ate miles off a highway like a starved lion.

It was dinnertime and so traffic was slow in this part of town, even though it was Friday. The car zipped past blocks with dizzying speed and sooner than soon turned to the hospital. They rushed through the rain to the emergency room and in curtain four, they found Maria.

"What happened?" Ghis asked, taking in the sling and cast in one arm and a thick bandage in her calf. The picture was crowned with three stitches at Mariaís eyebrow, the butterfly bandages contrasting with the dark brows. Maria pursed her lips and focused on the tips of her green sneakers.

"Celia got... kidnapped." She raised her good arm to stop the threatening stream of exclamations. "Iíll tell you all." She cleared her throat.

"We were walking away from work and... we both take the tube. Near the Camden Town station thereís a shortcut we usually take, through the backyards. It wasnít exactly dark and I donít know why I didnít notice them. I was too busy dodging the rain and chatting nonsense with her, I guess."

She went on, telling that they were surprised by three men who grabbed them and started dragging them away. Maria had fought but managed only to scratch her own leg. A kick had set her free but one guy had smashed her spokebone with something heavy, a piece of lead pipe or some other classic item. Another graze at her temple and she had been half unconscious. They had gotten away with Celia. It had taken her god knows how many minutes to clear her head enough to be able to find the nearest phone.

Her arm was going to be a-okay in a while "... but no matter, I got no work to do since some son of a gun stole all of it," she smiled, stinging irony in her voice. Ghis held her good shoulder and squeezed it slightly.

"Itís gonna be fine," she said in a smooth voice that sounded dead calm but what Della kenw to be the voice of a trained killer. It was silky and toneless, as if to compensate for the rage visible in the blue eyes. This wasnít just a robbery anymore. It was war.

It was that moment the constable decided to return. He yanked the curtain to a side and upon seeing the visitors, grabbed Ghisí arm. "Hey! Whoíre you?"

The blue eyes bore into his and his hand withered away. "Your worst nightmare if you ever touch me again," Ghis gritted through clenched teeth. She saw the tendrils of rage at the edges of her vision, threatening to block it entirely. Until she felt a warm hand on her arm, rubbing the tensed cords there.

"Easy, tiger," Della whispered. To the police, she showed her Yard badge and the manís eyes widened. He mmbled something to the effect that they were done and Maria was free to leave and kind of you to come and so on. He backed away and they were alone again.

"All your gear here?" the clubowner asked and Maria nodded. "Good. Letís get you home."

The place was a veritable burial ground of old computers. Della recognised about half of the intact equipment and that spanned everything from Vic20ís to ATX motherboards. The rest were utter mysteries, covering the roomís floor and piled on the shelves and tables and even on the chairs.

"Thatís the clutter room. I lost my TVís remote there two years ago. Havenít been able to find it yet."

Della turned her head at the voice, to the wanly smiling face. The dark eyes were reddish, a few broken vessels marring the whites. The detective laid her hand on Mariaís, hesitantly. Her feelings towards her were still ambiguous. She knew that Ghis and Maria had a history but of its nature, she knew nothing.

"Theyíre gonna find Celia. Donít worry," Della said, the tone sounding hollow even in her ears.

"I canít understand why they took her. She doesnít know anything." Maria squeezed the detectiveís hand and tried to find reassurance there. Della couldnít think of anything else to do but to squeeze back and nod.

"All clear," Ghis intoned as she emerged from the kitchen. Her subconsciousness was in protective mode so without conscious thought she wrapped her arm around Dellaís shoulder. The blonde woman looked up, into the serious face of her partner.

"Should we-" She got no farther before being abruptly cut out by Ghisí finger on her lips. She saw the taller womanís ears twitch as she listened. The dark head turned to the junk-filled room and pointed.

In the dark room, a machine had come to life. Next to the slumbering Alpha station on the desk a green light blinked in the laser printer. The machine whirred softly and started to spew out paper. Maria stepped into the room to hover over the machine.

"I have a software fax emulator," she explained and turned her attention back to the document being born. Slowly the paper came out and when the machine lulled back to sleep, Maria grabbed the sheet with her good hand and turned it to face herself. Even in the dim light Ghis and Della were able to see that the womanís pallor intensified significantly. Wordlessly, she handed out the paper.

Remember me? the caption to the picture read. The picture itself was a fuzzy black-and-white photo taken with too little light but the person in it was recognizable enough. It was Celia, bound and gagged in a chair next to a dark brick wall, her eyes wide as dinner plates. There was a frightening mix of pleading and fear in the eyes that stared straight into the camera.

Ghis muttered a curse that suggested something nasty about the recipientís ancestors and what he liked to do with dead fish on his spare time, in private. "Call the police," she ground out between clenched teeth, her knuckles as white as the sheet of paper she was crushing.

The police came once again and took statements. The matter was turning into a serious one, kidnappings landed in the Yardís jurisdiction and big wheels were set to motion. íBig wheelsí in general were a good thing but like everything huge, they took their time to start rolling with some momentum. Della suspected that with the weekend coming and the actual threat of the message quite unclear, it would be well into next week before something concrete would pop out. She prayed it would be so, since all action before that would come from the malicious mind behind this and it couldnít be nice.

Maria ushered them out after the police left, saying she was going to be OK and they needed some sleep as well. The rain had thankfully stopped when they emerged back outside, the Big Benís arms showing clearly that it was well past midnight when they drove over Westminster Bridge and towards Mayfair. Through the water-streaked window Della gazed into the dark St. Jamesís Park, the streetlights reflecting off the wet leaves of the trees at Horse Guards Road. She ventured a glance at Ghis but the woman was like a stone statue, her hands two vices on the wheel. It didnít take an Einstein to figure out that something was troubling the dark woman, something beyond concern for Celia.

"Whatís wrong?" Della asked softly when they got home.

Ghis fiddled with her keys, jingling the small metal pieces together before she found the right one for the front door lock. She pushed open the black glemaing door and stepped inside, chewing on her lower lip while thinking how much to tell the young woman. She turned and hesitantly met the hazel-green eyes. She saw curiosity there but mostly it was concern. The care the younger woman gave her, it was deeply moving. How could she deny Della anything. She deserved the truth, no matter the consequences.

It was just that the truth tended to hurt, especially her.

"Iíll make some tea and tell you a little story from time gone by," she said enigmatically and took to the kitchen.

The reddish Harrodís Special Blend was just the thing for a humid, dark night. Della propped her mug against her chest as she slouched on the sofa, eyes fastened on Ghis that sat with her other leg on the pillows, her arm draped over the backrest. Della raised an eyebrow and Ghis gulped down her nervousness.

It was a sad and tragic story, all in all. It had happened on an unnamed mission where they got false intelligence data fed to them and had walked straight into an ambush. The first one killed had been her Sergeant, a tall gaintly man with the quietest of walks. He had died instantly on the mine he had triggered, the thin body shredded to pulp between neck and knees. He had been single and without parents so no telegrams were delivered on his account. The second one, a Private, was caught in the shrapnel fire of the mine.

Pvt. John Sinclair had justified his membership in the elite squad of soldiers by both his expert knowledge on explosives and his ruthlessness. A small, hirsuite man, he was a sombre figure, never joking and rarely smiling. Sharp small pieces of metal had flown to him and eaten up his side, his intestines falling out into the dusty ground. Ghis had heard the bloodcurling scream and had just been able to see a glimpse of the red spray of blood that drenched the man next to Sinclair. Johnny had screamed and fallen to the ground, his hands feebly trying to push his innards back to where they belonged. He had died in five minutes, his scream of agony ceasing only when his eyes dimmed.

"The worst part was that they were never given a military burial, nothing. The op was an illegal one and so, the deaths were reported as traffic accidents," Ghis said, smiling grimly. "Sinclairís big brother had connections though, and he managed to figure out the truth."

The dark woman lowered her gaze to her hands that were nervously turning the mug around. "The worst part is, he never stopped blaming me for the death of his bro." She took a gulp of the warm tea, tasting the honey in it and smiling faintly at a memory. "I guess heís right."

"No, heís not."

The sure voice brought up Ghisí head, the blue eyes sad with memories best forgotten. Della took her hand and squeezed it, making the clubownerís eyes focus on hers.

"Heís not right, Ghis. You got false information and you acted on it as best as you could." The blonde woman scooted closer and laid her head on Ghisí shoulder. "Youíre the kindest, gentlest person I know."

The blue eyes shot to Della, widening. "You canít be serious. Me?"

"Yeah. You," Della whispered and tickled the nose in the startled face, muffling a smirk that threatened to form on her face at the sight of the round blue eyes, staring at her like sheíd grown horns or something. "But what has Pvt. Sinclair to do with Celiaís kidnapping?" The clubowner stroked Dellaís cheek and focused back on the far wall.

"The brother, Jameson Sinclair, has tried to get my restaurant licence revoked many times, not to mention other attempts on my property and person," She smiled a small smile. "But I have my connections as well and so far heís been unsuccessful. Lately heís been laying low, until now that is."

She rose and went to the hall and came back with a slip of curled-up fax paper. "Heís in the software business, almost the same thing as Relative does, just less successful. Iím positive I got this from him about three years ago. It arrived on the anniversary of Johnnyís death."

In the paper was an exact mock-up picture of the bound and gagged Celia Mariaís fax had produced, with three differences. One, there was no text and two, it was Ghis who was bound and gagged in the chair, a clever picture manipulation if Della ever saw any.

Three, she was looking very still and very dead in the picture, a fake bullethole glued to her forehead.

Della set the paper in her lap and it recurled itself. The green eyes were bright with disgust. "I canít believe someone would do a thing like this."

"The word has it, he went a bit mad when his sweet little bro died." Ghis retieved the paper from the detective. "He canít get to me so heíll hurt my friends and gets a nice profit from Relativeís stuff, two birds with one stone. Seems he hasnít been able to crack the encryption on the dates, though. No reason for him to kidnap Celia otherwise."

Della snaked her arms around the tense woman and rubbed the tight muscles at her lower back. Ghis closed her eyes and consciously tried to relax her muscles, succeeding only partially. She was feeling tense and alert, the rage simmering inside her making her muscles twitch and flex. A primal reflex of some sort.

"What are we gonna do?" the detective queried softly, smoothing the warm ribbed material of Ghisí white tank top. She set her cheek against the dark womanís chest, hearing the slow, powerful heartbeat thud with an even meter.

Ghis brought the blonde woman closer and rested her chin on the fair hair. "Iím goiní to get Celia back."

"We are," sounded a muffled correction against her chest. Della lifted her head, locking gaze with Ghis. "We are. Not you, we."

The clubowner opened her mouth to protest. Della lifted her chin minutely in a challenge, daring Ghis to deny her this. The mouth snapped shut and opened again. It stayed that way for a minute and closed with a click. Della smiled and patted a tanned cheek.

"A lovely imitation of a goldfish." She got up from the sofa with a slight oof. "Címon, letís get some sleep."

It was dark and it was dank. It was a frustrating feeling, not being able to see no matter how much she blinked and turned her head. A pipe gurgled nearby, water flowing from somewhere above. The noise died away and it was quiet again. The water was the only sound sheíd heard on these long hours of solitude, save for the faint humm of a powerful engine that whinnied on a regular basis past the roof of wherever she was.

Time was a hard concept in the dark. She had no idea how long she had been in the dark place, the only sign of the fact that time did pass was the numbness that slowly enveloped her hands, creeping from fingers towards her elbows. The wrists were bound tight as were her ankles and her buttocks were like two pieces of plywood.

A small sliver of light appeared and it widened quickly. She had to squint her eyes to small slits, the bright light hurt so much. It was partially blocked for a while and then she felt the gag yanked from her mouth. With watering eyes, she craned her neck to look into the shadowed oval that was, in all probability, a face.

"Whereís the code?"

She had heard the question many times, pronounced in a deep, arrogant voice that had an odd tempo to it. She had come to fear and dread the question, since she didnít know the answer. "I... donít know," she parroted her reply again with a voice hoarse from dehydration.

She didnít see it coming but had anticipated it and when the hand slapped on her cheek so hard her teeth rattled, she felt dizzy but didnít lose consciouness. She swallowed the blood that had gushed from her gums and a small sob was forced out of her mouth, brought out by the pain. She was sure a tooth had been broken but she couldnít tell exactly, so numb and swollen had her face gotten from hours of the same pain.

"Why are doing this to me? I donít know anything," she groaned, trying to get sensible sentences past her cracked lips.

The oval face went farther away and Celia slumped minutely, out of immediate danger. "I know that. But if I canít get her, I can at least hurt her friends."

"Who?" Celia asked, her curiosity winning over the dull pain pounding in her face. The captor hadnít talked this much in all the time (years, was it? Or centuries?) she had been here, bound and gagged.

"That heartless cunt your boss used to fuck with," he growled and slammed the door shut behind him, leaving Celia in the dark with her pain and thoughts.

As far as she knew Sal was happily married to a woman who had the strength of a tractor and made divine pasta but why did he use a past tense? If itís not Sal, itís Maria and the only one of her exes I know is... Ghislaine. The revelation and the stream of unanswered questions that followed the discovery occupied her mind so that she almost forgot the pain in her cheek and mouth.

She knew the tall and dark only by what Maria had told her and from the few times they had met, chatting a few words about the weather but that was it. But she was definetely intimidated by the woman. Celia knew she was good at reading people and what she saw in Ghislaine made small tingles go up and down her spine. There was something so electrifying in the blue eyes.

Celia had once seen a nature documentary about the animals living in extreme climates and places. One segment had been about the Rocky Mountains and a photographer had captured a rust-coloured puma, lounging near a killed deer. The eyes had had the same look, a shade of colour that was primal, wild and utterly... dangerous. Yeah. Fear me, had the pumaís eyes said.

She had made the connection one day, when Ghislaine had come to a visit Relativeís new offices in Camden Town. She hadnít seen or heard her coming, had just felt a humm of static electricity make the hackles of her neck stand up and then the voice had thrummed behind her, inquiring politely as to the whereabouts of Maria. Celia had turned and then, she had seen the eyes. She had had an urge to run away, the natural reaction evolution has taught to all those in danger of falling to prey. Run when you see a predator.

Celia yanked at her bonds but as before, they wouldnít budge. She settled her hands back on the worn wooden armrests and felt a small salty drop edge down her cheek. But in the darkness, there was no-one to see it, nor the others that followed it.

It was as if from a painting she had once seen, at the Louvre. It had been by one Russian master or another and measured over eight square feet, all roiling hills and valleys of snow in the winterly Siberia. The cold morning light turned the virginly white sheets into a landscape from years back, the memory from a time when she had been a shell of a human, all dark inside, completely lost.

And now she was found. She rotated her head carefully and looked down at the smaller woman splayed across her, the blonde hair falling in wild curves and loose ringlets all over the Siberian landscape of the bedspreads. Ghis brushed her forefinger lightly over a fading bitemark in the pale skin of a lovely shoulder, a memento from their nightís love.

It had been almost frenzied, their loving. It was as if they wanted to bury the evil memories they had dredged up under the avalanche of white hot passion, forget all evil in the world in the feel of their bodies sliding, the contact of bare skin on heated skin and their spirits melting into one. Ghis smiled at the memory. And they had done so, finding strength in their love and from the fact that they had each other.

The woman on her twitched softly and woke up. A dissheveled head rose and it took a hand three tries to get all the hair off the face.

"Morning," Ghis whispered, not wanting to break the early morning silence.

She got a kiss on her collarbone as a reciprocal gesture and Della smiled, repositioning herself so that she could better gaze at the woman. She traced a long, thin scar on the pectorial muscle she had used as a pillow.

Della had memorised most of the countless small and bigger scars on Ghislaineís sleekly muscled body. They varied infinitely in their shapes and sizes. Some were neat and straight like this one, probably a knife wound. Others were more ragged and torn, some roundish and sometimes clustered, formed when someone had taken a gun or a shotgun at her love. She rarely asked about the scarsí origins. The detective was sure she could live without the knowledge of who had tried to kill Ghislaine and failed and probably also payed dearly for his or her attempt.

The pec twitched, a strong corded mass that expanded up and stretched the white scar minutely.

"Youíre very comfortable," Della quipped.

That drew a chuckle from the dark woman, an explosive rumble that shook Della. "Gee, thanks," was the wry answer, pronounced in the raspy voice Della loved so much, topped with a crooked, droll smile. "Breakfast?"

It was the magic word that always got Della out of bed like a rocket. This time, her eyes twinkling, she brrred at the pec and set the sheets flying off them. She stood and stretched her lithe and completely naked body, looking out of the window to the almost deserted peaceful street in Mayfair. Saturday morning was always calm, no people hurrying to work. She turned to face the bed, to see a wide smile plastered on Ghisí smile as the woman stared at her, upper body propped up on an elbow. The detective raised a querying eyebrow.

"Just enjoying the view. Do continue," the dark woman hummed and made an encouraging wave with her hand..

The blonde eyebrow rose even higher and Della threw a pillow at the now openly chuckling clubowner. "Last one downstairs gets no coffee!" she blurted and dashed to the stairs.

"Oh, big incentive there," Ghis shouted after the blonde lightning. "I donít drink coffee."

She was on her second cup of English Breakfast and third croissant when Dellaís bag buzzed. The smaller woman dived her hand into the bag and fumbled around there for a moment, before she was able to retieve her cell phone.

" íLo?" she answered, puzzled as to who would call her so early on a Saturday. Her eyes cleared. "Oh, hi- no... umm, but-... yeah, Iím not going anywhere... but-... okay," she finished and pressed the button with the little red phone. For a minute, she just stared at the small gadget.

"Trouble?" Ghis asked lightly, a bit concerned at the detectiveís sombre expression.

"Yeah, you could call it that," the woman said, smiling grimly. "My parents are coming over the big pond for a visit next Sunday."

Part 2 -(End)

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