The Rhythm of a Broken Heart

by Alex Tryst

Copyright January 2005



Disclaimers: Well, first off I must say that all songs contained this is book are copyrighted to their owners. They are not mine. I just borrowed them for character development. No infringement was intended. That goes for the references about Billy Joel and Donald Trump as well. This is the continuation of the short story “Blue Eyes”. Enjoy! And feel free to drop me a line at


Blaring music pumped through Dylan's veins as she stood at the bar watching the sea of people on the dance floor. The myriad of lights made it almost impossible to see anyone's true identity. She had been coming here with her friends for the past several weekends, just observing the crowd and wondering if she would ever find a woman of interest. Eyes straying to her friends, she saw that they were lost in the music as they danced in a small circle with each other.

Figuring she should join the fun, the redhead threw back her drink and set the glass on the bar. As she did so, she caught a glimpse of blue eyes staring at her intently from the other end of the bar. The woman looked young but intense as she brazenly gazed at Dylan. Not knowing what to do the redhead just stood motionlessly, trapped in those eyes as her admirer started for her.

“Hi,” the shorter woman greeted when she reached Dylan.

“Hello. How are you?”

“Wonderful now that I've laid my eyes on you,” she flirted with obvious confidence.

Dylan smiled brightly and gave a small chuckle at the line. However, she was intrigued, so she inquired, “May I buy you a drink? You look like you're almost out.”

“Sure. Dirty martini.”

Waving to the bartender, Dylan summoned him over. “The lady would like another dirty martini, and I'll take another pint of Guinness.”

“Guinness, how can you drink it?” the stranger asked conversationally.

“It's like milk to us Irish. Life just wouldn't be the same without Guinness.” She paused a moment to pay the bartender when he set the drinks down on the bar. Turning back to her guest, she handed her the fresh martini and asked, “So, what's your name?”

Blue eyes twinkled in the light as the brunette replied, “I'm not telling you.”

“All right. Well, do you want to know mine?”

“Not yet. Right now I'm still enjoying the anonymity. Is that okay with you?”

“I'm game,” Dylan answered. “How about how old you are? Will you give me that much?”

“I'm twenty-seven. How old are you?”

“I'm twenty-four.”

Dark brows quirked at the answer. “No offense but you seem much older.”

“I know. Life experience shows on my face. We New York firefighters are like that.”

“Firefighter, huh?” the brunette questioned, reaching out to touch Dylan on the forearm. “No wonder you're wearing that t-shirt. I was wondering if that was the real thing or just a nod to our city's finest.”

Letting the warmth of the stranger's hand suffuse her skin, Dylan decided to play along further. Leaning in she whispered near the brunette's ear, “I'm the total package. Been doing this for three years now.”

“Three years. Then you must have lost a great deal of friends when the Towers fell.”

“I did. Worse, though, is the guilt of having been stuck in the rubble and surviving. That screws with one's psyche.”

“I'm sure it does, but look at you now,” the shorter woman said, taking a step closer to Dylan. “Strong, sexy, a survivor. I bet you make women's heads turn when you walk the street.”

Feeling an arm snake around her waist, Dylan just grinned. She liked how direct this woman was. “Enough about me. Tell me about you. What do you do?”

“As little as possible,” she replied, taking a large sip from her glass.

“An uptown girl?” Dylan asked.

The blue-eyed woman nodded. “Daddy's girl and proud of it. Occasionally though, I like to come downtown,” she sexily uttered as her eyes moved down the firefighter's body.

“Don't we all?” Dylan responded. “So, then how do you spend your day if you don't work?”

“However I want. I do what I want, when I want, and how I want.”

Emboldened by the older woman's subliminal signals, Dylan slid an arm around the brunette's waist. Pressing her lips to the stranger's ear, she inquired, “If that's the case, then tell me what you want from me.”

Locking eyes again the woman answered, “I want you to ask me to dance.”

Dylan nodded. Taking her beer from the bar, she quickly downed it before turning to her company. “Would you like to dance?”

“Yes, I would,” she answered, taking the last sip of her martini. She took Dylan's outstretched hand and let herself be led to the floor.

The firefighter had every intention of staying at a respectable distance at first, but it was obvious her guest had other ideas, because they were soon pressed body to body. Dylan groaned lightly at the feeling of this sexy stranger against her. The petite frame she possessed felt so good against her own body mass. It had been such a long time since she had felt a woman this closely.

Deciding to get bolder, Dylan let her hands roam over the brunette's back across her hips before resting against the seat of her slacks as they ground together sensually with the music. Blue eyes met hers at that action, but the shorter woman didn't protest. Instead she responded in kind, her hands slipping into the back pockets of Dylan's jeans.

Leaning toward the stranger's ear, Dylan complimented, “You are incredibly beautiful. Did you know that? You have such sexy eyes.”

“Thank you for thinking so. That means a lot coming from someone with such a hot body. Muscles turn me on so much,” the older woman said as her hands began to move again.

Dylan groaned slightly as fingers shot up the back of her navy t-shirt, nails scratching lightly over her skin. For a brief moment her mind pondered if the smaller woman did that during sex. Dylan always enjoyed the feeling of a woman's nails digging in, clutching fiercely to her in the throes of passion. She gave a shuddering exhale. Blue eyes gazed at her knowingly.

Dylan knew at that moment that the woman knew exactly what she was doing. She was intentionally trying to seduce the redhead, but that fact only served to heighten Dylan's arousal. Her long hiatus, coupled with the enigmatic beauty in her arms, pushed her suppressed need to the surface. Trying to engage her company even more, she nuzzled the dark hair and commented, “You have the softest-looking mouth I have ever seen. It makes me wonder how good you taste.” Dylan felt the brunette's chuckle reverberate in her chest as hands found perch in red hair.

Teeth scraping over the firefighter's earlobe, she responded, “Why wonder? Find out. I promise you won't be disappointed.”

With that encouragement Dylan decided to go for it. Threading her left hand through the stranger's long brown hair, she cupped the back of her head. Their eyes met, green catching blue in a fierce gaze. Somehow Dylan didn't think this lady was looking for a tame, chaste kiss, so she went with her instincts, diving forcefully onto the brunette's mouth. She heard the deep moan as arms clung to the muscles of her bare back. The kiss was a passionate encounter as they both dueled ferociously, neither wanting to be the first to pull back. However, the shorter woman finally yanked her head back and gasped for breath.

Even though she was panting, her eyes told the story of want. “I think I need some fresh air,” she said.

Dylan nodded and took her hand. Together they left the club. Once on the street, the firefighter walked them around the side of the building to the alley. She pulled the brunette into it far enough that they wouldn't be easily seen but still in the soft glow of the street lamp. Pushing the brunette up against the concrete wall, Dylan wrapped her arms around the stranger's waist. “Better?” she asked quietly.

“Better,” she whispered, pulling Dylan's head down toward her again to resume their activities from inside.

Going with the tide of emotions, Dylan allowed herself to be drawn in further to the mysterious woman's game. She knew she wanted the woman now, and furthermore, she thought the feeling was mutual. Trying to dictate their direction, the redhead pushed her right thigh between the brunette's smaller ones. A gasp ensued as petite hips rocked forward, meeting the movement. Breaking their kiss, Dylan started on the supple neck, kissing and licking a path down from the stranger's ear to her collarbone as her hands found the buttons of the cream-colored blouse the brunette was wearing. Fingers quickly slipped them from their holes until the blouse was hanging open, exposing the treasures beneath it.

“God, you're beautiful,” the firefighter groaned as she filled her hands with warm femininity. She felt her t-shirt being frantically raised and allowed the brunette to pull it all the way off her body, leaving her in only a sports bra and jeans. Moments later two hands were all over her torso, taking in the feeling of her skin and the muscles resting just beneath. Dylan didn't even know or care that her favorite shirt had just been discarded in the mire of the dirty damp alley. The only thing of which she was cognizant was those fingers raking over her skin and the humid New York summer night causing perspiration to appear on her frame.

Their bodies ground together frantically, and Dylan knew there was only one thing left to do. Reaching her right hand between their bodies, she opened the button and zipper of the chocolate-colored pants the stranger was wearing. Slipping her hand inside, she cupped the juncture of the woman's thighs, moaning loudly at the wetness that awaited her.

However, a gasp and strangled cry greeted the action. “No, wait,” the brunette objected.

Confused but always gallant, Dylan froze in her movements and met blue eyes. “What's wrong?” she questioned. The woman shook her head as if trying to clear her thoughts. She reached down and took the firefighter by the wrist, extracting Dylan's hand from her pants. The redhead stepped back, feeling that somehow she had crossed the line with the woman. Putting her hands in the front pockets of her jeans, she gently asked, “Are you all right?”

The older woman shook her head as she began to button her blouse to hide herself. “I'm sorry. I, uh, I think I better go,” she stated.

Perplexed at the unexpected statement, Dylan asked, “What? Why?”

“I just think it's best,” she answered, putting the rest of her clothes back in place.

“You're kidding. I don't understand. What just happened here?” the redhead inquired.

Blue eyes roamed over Dylan's body before meeting green eyes. “I'm sorry,” she repeated, starting to move away from the taller woman.

Going with her emotions, the firefighter reacted quickly, slamming her hands against the wall on either side of the strange woman to block her escape. “You're not going anywhere,” she forcefully said. Once again blue eyes met hers, but where there was once arousal now there was fear. Dylan had to take a deep breath to calm down a little. “I'm sorry. I would never hurt you,” she tried to assure, but she could tell she hadn't been completely successful. “Look, if you changed your mind, that's okay. I can accept that, but I deserve to know why. Why throw yourself at me like you want me to screw you and then try to run as soon as I try to do just as you want?”

The brunette broke their gaze and kept silent for a moment. Finally though she looked back into Dylan's eyes. “I never intended this.”

“Bullshit. You had this in mind since seeing me in the bar. You were not shy about what you wanted. You've been playing games with me all night.” She paused before asking, “Is this a part of that game? Are you some sort of tease?”

The brunette looked around uncomfortably. “Let me go,” she demanded, not answering the question.

Figuring she was not going to get her answer, Dylan stepped back. Quietly the woman stepped away and out of the alley. The firefighter watched her, wondering what had just happened to her. Reaching down she grabbed her now dirty wet t-shirt. Instead of putting it on, she merely held it in her hand as she followed the smaller woman, who was obviously looking for a cab, to the curb. “Hey, wait a minute.”

The stranger looked over her shoulder. “What?”

“Why don't I take you home? You're not going to find a cab at this hour easily, at least not without going over a few blocks.”

“I'll be fine.”

“No, seriously, let me give you a ride. No strings. I promise.” She could tell the woman was contemplating the offer for a moment.

“Okay. Where's your car?”

“Bike actually. It's just down at the end of the block. Come on,” she said, extending her hand. Getting to the motorcycle, Dylan casually climbed onto it, holding it upright and then assisted her passenger. Since her shirt was still wet, she simply held onto it with one hand as she started the bike and then raced off into the night. Feeling the brunette grasping her bare waist, the firefighter wondered if she would get another chance at her once they were back at the stranger's place. She wanted one, but she had promised that she would be on good behavior. Nevertheless, the woman's body lightly pressed into her back was refueling that fire that had started to dwindle.

Twenty minutes later they reached the woman's building. Dylan drove the bike onto the sidewalk up near the door. The night doorman greeted them both politely. Shutting off the engine, she assisted the brunette off before getting off herself. “Well, here you are, safe and sound.”

“Thank you for the ride.”

“You're welcome. Should I escort you the rest of the way, or will you be all right?”

The shorter woman looked toward the bellman who was obviously trying to ignore their conversation. “Perhaps you should see me up,” she replied.

“All right.” Turning to the doorman, Dylan asked, “Would you mind keeping an eye on my bike?”

“Not at all.”

“Wonderful. Thank you.”

“Come on,” the brunette said, leading the way through the glass doors. They walked silently through the lobby. Dylan could feel the eyes of the lobby attendants on her naked torso, but she tried to ignore the stares. Not a word was said as they rode the elevator up to the older woman's floor. Getting to the door, she turned toward Dylan again. “Would you care to come in?”

“All right. Sure.”

Moving into the apartment, Dylan's eyes became wide. Her entire place could have fit in the foyer of the home. “You live here?”

“This is my father's place.”

“Oh. And where is he?”

“He and his third wife are in Europe somewhere. I like to stay here when they're gone. My real place is just a few blocks down.”

“Wow. I've never seen anything like this,” the redhead mentioned, following her hostess into the kitchen.

“Would you like something to drink?” the blue-eyed woman asked.

“Sure. Beer if you have it.”

The other woman laughed. “You won't find beer in this house. Wine or liquor are your only choices.”

“All right. Well, how about some water then?”

“Water it is.” Dylan watched as the woman moved about the kitchen, getting a glass from the cabinet and filling it with ice and then bottled water. Walking up to Dylan, the short woman shyly handed the water to her guest.

Meeting blue eyes, Dylan saw that there was still an attraction between them and hoped all was not lost on their evening. “Thank you,” she said taking the glass. Her hand brushed against the other woman's and caressed it gently before bringing the glass to her mouth. Her audience watched as she finished it off in several large gulps. Seeing blue eyes watching her every move, Dylan knew she should take another chance. She put the empty glass down on the counter next to her and then stepped to her hostess, closing the distance from a few feet to none. Her hand came to rest hesitantly on the woman's side.

“I thought you said no strings,” the stranger shyly reminded.

“I meant it. I just see something in your eyes that keeps drawing me to you. What is it? What do you need? I can give you whatever it is. You just have to tell me.”

The dark head lowered for a moment before a soft answer came. “I need you to stay here tonight.”

“All right. Anything else?”

“I need you to know the truth.”

“Then tell me.”

“You were right. The moment I laid eyes on you at the bar, I had intentions of seducing you.”

“Then once you had succeeded why did you push me away?”

“Because I couldn't do it. I couldn't use you like that. I was just angry at my ex who happened to be at the bar, and I took it out on you. I'm so sorry.”

Dylan nodded. “Well, that certainly makes sense. Wicked ex-girlfriends are the worst. It's all right. I understand.”

The brunette nodded. “So, why don't I get you a clean shirt to wear, and we can wash this one?” she suggested, taking the soiled garment from the redhead's hand. “I'll be right back.” Several minutes later she returned with another t-shirt. “This should fit you. I'll just put yours in the wash.”

Taking the gray shirt, Dylan slipped it on. It was a little small in the shoulders, but it would do for the moment. While her hostess was gone, she took it upon herself to look around the spacious apartment. Her curiosity led her to the balcony in the living room where there was an expansive view of Central Park . Several minutes later her thoughts were interrupted by a noise behind her. She turned to find the brunette just watching her closely. “So, did you want to do something in particular?” She shrugged. “Well, it is getting a bit late, and I have to work in the morning. Perhaps we should just call it a night?” she proposed.

“Of course. I forget about that working thing sometimes. Come on.”

Gamely, Dylan followed her leader up the staircase to the second level. Neither said anything as they moved into one of the bedrooms. “Is this your room?”

The woman nodded. “Yeah. This is my old room. Wait here and I'll get you something to sleep in.”

“That's okay. This shirt is fine.”

“What about on the bottom?”

“I have a pair of shorts under my jeans.”

“Oh, well, okay. Make yourself comfortable. I'll be back in a few minutes.”

Being left alone the firefighter slipped off her shoes and jeans. Removing her sports bra, she laid all her clothes over the loveseat that was in the sitting area of the room. She couldn't believe she was doing this. Not only was she not getting laid, she was consoling a woman with a broken heart who had led her on cruelly just to get back at her ex. She wondered if she was crazy, but there was something about the brunette. Those eyes said so much more than her hostess did, and she was drawn to finding out their depths. Ten minutes later the brunette returned, looking bashful as she stood there rocking back and forth on her feet. Dylan gave a supportive smile. “Let me just go to the bathroom, and then I'll join you,” she said, moving by her into the bathroom from which the woman had just come.

By the time she came back, the brunette was sitting in her queen-sized bed, the nightstand light on a low setting. Neither woman said anything as Dylan came to the bedside which was unoccupied and casually slipped into it. On the inside she questioned what she was doing, but she acted as normally as she could. Once she was settled, the brunette turned out the light.

Silence ensued as both of them tried to get comfortable. However, Dylan instinctively felt that her hostess needed comfort that could only be provided with a physical presence. Slowly reaching over, she placed an arm across the brunette's body. Instantly she turned and faced Dylan. “Is this okay?” the firefighter asked. The brunette nodded. For several minutes they simply gazed into each other's eyes as they grew accustomed to the dark. Those blue eyes even then were so intense. Unable to control herself, Dylan reached up and caressed the face close to her own. “You really are incredibly beautiful. Whatever happened with your ex, she was a fool to leave you.” A small smile was the only response. Leaning into the brunette's forehead, Dylan kissed it softly.

Meeting eyes again, she saw the openness there and the need to be loved. Carefully Dylan inched her mouth toward the brunette's, hovering near those lips she knew were so soft and waiting for a response. It only took a moment before the brunette reacted, meeting Dylan's mouth gently. Leisurely they kissed. They were in no rush this time nor was there an agenda. There was simply the methodical touch of a stranger, lavishing gentle attention to a soul torn by emotional anguish. In fact, Dylan was hardly even aware of how far they progressed. The pace was so unhurried that she was lying between the blue-eyed angel's trim bare thighs before she even realized they were in fact about to consummate their short relationship.

Knowing that she should play her part of a chivalrous supporter, Dylan sweetly kissed over the stranger's dark right brow. “We'll only do this if you want,” she whispered.

The dark head nodded. “Please,” the only word of asking.

With that, Dylan completed the connection that had started hours before in the smoky bar. She wanted to love the woman in her arms in a way that would be remembered. She wanted to show her the kindness that she had so obviously not gotten from her former girlfriend. Bearing that in mind, she gently gave herself to the brunette's pleasure until the woman expressed her exhaustion.

A few hours later, Dylan woke with the sun. Turning over, she read the clock and realized she had little time before needing to be at work. She looked over at the woman with whom she shared a bed. The brunette was lost in sleep, those blue eyes closed, but still looking as beautiful as Dylan had imagined the night before in her alcohol-induced state.

Regretfully she slipped from the bed. Dressing in her clothes from the previous night, she even put on the t-shirt the brunette had given her. She didn't want to leave just then for fear she would never see this beauty again, but she knew her duty called. Deciding to take a chance, she scribbled her name and work phone number on a slip of paper and placed it on the nightstand next to the sleeping woman. Unable to resist, she kissed the dark head and then left.

Upon arriving at work that morning, her friends from the bar the night before all gave her a knowing grin. “So, you left early last night,” one of her fellow partners playfully chided.

“Yeah, I know.”

“I saw you all over that hot girl. You get laid finally?” another firefighter inquired.

“Shut up, man. That's none of your business,” she remarked but the blush on her face gave her away.

“Oh, you did. Good for you. Tell us about her.”

“Not much to tell.”

“What's her name?”

Dylan shook her head. “I don't know.”

“You don't know? You fucked a woman without even knowing her name? You're a bigger stud than we thought.”

“Shut up. I didn't fuck anyone. She got burned by an ex-girlfriend and just needed someone there for her.”

“This is getting even better. A sympathy fuck. She's too hot for that,” they joked.

“For the last time, I didn't bang anyone. Now just leave me alone about it,” Dylan protested, sulking out into the garage. She hated the way her co-workers were jibing her about her activities the night before. If they only knew what had really happened. It was something special to Dylan. For once in her life she felt as if she had lived in the moment and loved another woman completely. She hoped that the brunette would feel the same and reach out to her. The ball was no longer in her court, and all she could do was wish for another moment with the mystery woman.

By that afternoon, the firefighter had pushed thoughts of the petite woman from her mind as she exerted energy on washing the fire engine with several other colleagues. They were all involved in their work and the music blaring from the stereo when Dylan heard a couple of the guys on top of the engine cat-calling. Curious as to who could cause such a commotion, she turned toward the sidewalk.

Dylan's heart started pounding wildly as she saw her standing there. The brunette was wearing a pair of dark jeans, accentuating her trim legs and plain white blouse. On her head was a Burberry bucket hat and sunglasses hid her eyes. Nevertheless, Dylan knew without a doubt it was her mystery lover. Standing up she took a deep breath and tossed her sponge into the soap bucket. Cautiously she made her way over to the brunette. A tentative smile greeted her.

“Dylan,” the brunette stated in simple greeting.

“Blue eyes, hi. How are you?” she asked carefully, stepping into the woman's personal space. She wanted to touch her, but she wasn't sure how it would be taken.

The shorter woman removed her sunglasses, revealing those eyes that drew her closer. “I woke up, and you were gone.”

“I'm sorry. I had to work.”

“I understand. I figured you wouldn't have left your name and number if you didn't want to see me.”

“I hoped I would.”

Breaking their gaze, she said, “I just wanted to thank you for last night.”

“You're very welcome, blue eyes.”

With another timid glance, the petite woman leaned up on her tiptoes and planted a sweet kiss against Dylan's cheek. “Well, I should let you get back to work.”

“Wait. You can't leave yet. There's something I need to know.”

“What's that?”

“Your name,” the redhead stated as if it should be apparent.

“Oh yes. How could I forget? After all that's happened, I feel like I've known you such a long time.”

“So what is it, blue eyes?”

“Anna. It's Anna,” she softly said.

“Anna,” Dylan repeated, trying the name out. “It suits you.”

“Well, I should go,” she said, again trying to leave.

“Anna, just a minute. After last night I was hoping that we might be able to get to know one another,” she hopefully posed.

She saw her answer before Anna said anything. “Really? Even after the way I treated you?”

“You told me the truth. That takes courage. You could have picked anyone last night, but you picked me, and as soon as you walked over I felt a connection to you. I just want a chance to get to know you. Just give me some time, Anna. I promise to be good to you.”

The woman smiled brightly. “I felt it too, Dylan, from the moment you kissed me. I'd really like to spend time with you.”

Confident in her feelings, the redhead slipped her arms around the brunette's waist and leaned down toward her lips. Anna responded eagerly, pulling the firefighter closer and exchanging a loving kiss. Hollering broke out from on top of the fire engine as one of Dylan's co-workers blew the horn. Both women laughed. “Come on. Let me show you around the firehouse,” she suggested.

Anna shook her head. “I can't right now. I was on my way somewhere. What time do you get off?”

“Around eight.”

“I'll come back then if you want.”

“I definitely want. I'll take you to dinner.”

Anna smiled, making her blue eyes sparkle even more. “How about this? I'll make you dinner at your place?”

“I look forward to it, Anna, more than you could know.”

“Oh, I know, Dylan, I know.” With that she kissed the redhead sweetly once again before walking off down the street. Dylan smiled as Anna disappeared into the crowd. She knew this was the beginning of something, and she couldn't wait for it to start.


That evening Dylan watched the clocked as her shift was close to its end. She knew Anna would be coming to see her, and she was thrilled to be able to spend time with the brunette. Through the rest of that day, her co-workers teased her about her new girlfriend, but she knew it was all in fun. The men and women that worked with her were like her family, so she felt they truly had her best interest in mind even though they tormented her unmercifully.

With just a few minutes to spare, the redhead was standing on the sidewalk in front of the firehouse with a backpack strung over one shoulder anxiously waiting. When she saw Anna walking up the street, she couldn't help but smile at the small woman. However, she resisted the urge to come to her, instead staying where she was until the woman reached her.

“Glad to see you're ready to go. I'm starving,” Anna said with a smile and peck on the firefighter's cheek.

“So am I. My bike is in the garage. Just hold my backpack for me a minute while I get it.”

When Dylan got the bike out onto the sidewalk, she got on and then helped Anna do the same. Then the duo took off uptown toward the firefighter's place. They arrived in the Theater District 20 minutes later at a scraggy five-story building. The bottom floor consisted of a loud Irish pub called Flannery's. As they started to slowly turn the corner, one of the servers waved to them from the window of the bar, and Dylan responded with a mock salute. Alongside the building was a garage, and the brunette was asked to slip off the bike at that point. She did, waiting patiently as the redhead opened the garage door. Dylan put the bike away and then pulled the door shut once more, securing it.

“Well, I have to admit I don't have much food at my place. There is a grocery on the next block, or we can grab some food at the pub. I'm a regular there.”

Anna laughed. “I couldn't tell. Let's go to the grocery. I promised to make you something.”

“All right. It's this way,” she said, taking Anna's hand. Together they walked the short block.

“So, what do you want for dinner? I was thinking something sort of simple. Maybe pasta and salad.”

“Only if it's alfredo sauce. I'm not a fan of red sauces.”

“All right. I think I can manage that. Do you want some bread?”

“Of course and Guinness.”

Anna shook her head. “No Guinness. Wine tonight.”

“But it's good for a growing girl like me. It gives me strong bones and muscles,” she teased.

Cracking a smile Anna just patted the redhead on the forearm. “I don't think so. Just for once play it my way.”

“All right. Fine. I suppose I can sneak down to the pub for a Guinness while you're cooking,” she joked.

“Only if you want to be wearing your dinner instead of eating it.”

Dylan shook her head. “I wouldn't do that to you, Anna. The boys can survive without me for a night.”

“I'm glad to hear that. Now the sooner we get this stuff, the sooner we can get back, and you can get cleaned up a little.”

“You mean you don't like the dried sweat look on me?”

Anna smiled. “Oh, I don't mind it. You still look good to me. I just figured you would want to shower.”

“Well, a hot shower would be nice after the day I've had.”

Half an hour later the two women returned to Dylan's building. As soon as they entered the small foyer with stairs leading up to the next floor, the sound of the pub overwhelmed them. Dylan motioned for her guest to follow up to the third floor. Anna noticed that it appeared to be the only apartment on that floor and curiously wondered what the redhead's place would be like. Following her inside, she waited until the lights were turned on.

“Sorry it's a little messy. I haven't been here in a few days. I've been sleeping at the firehouse.”

“No. It's fine. It's nice,” she said, looking around at the small living room. There was a loveseat and a coffee table littered with mail. Along the longest wall there was a bookshelf and TV cabinet containing tons of video and audio equipment. She then trailed behind the firefighter into the kitchen area. It was also small but efficient. A bistro table with two chairs was up against the far wall. Anna put the bags she was carrying down onto the counter as Dylan did the same.

“Um, there's more. Do you want the official tour?” the taller woman asked nervously.

Feeling the anxiousness coming from her hostess, she wondered why Dylan was so uncomfortable “Sure. I'd like to see it.”

Nodding her head, Dylan took her hand and headed back toward the living room. Moving into the bedroom, she flipped on the lights. “This is it.”

Anna looked around the room. The queen-sized bed was neatly made and the room tidy. Eyes traveling toward the bookcase, she saw an electric guitar but then her gaze was drawn to a makeshift shrine on top of the dresser. Lured to it, she moved further into the room, taking in the photographs of a man around Dylan's age in a firefighter's uniform as well as a few of Dylan with three men of various ages. Picking up that one, she asked, “Is this your family?”

“Yeah. That's my Da Keane, my oldest brother Davin, and my Irish twin Danny in our firefighter's uniforms.”

“Davin, Danny, and Dylan,” Anna repeated. “Your parents were fond of the D names, huh?” The redhead shrugged. “What's an Irish twin?”

“That means we were both born within a year of each other. We're only ten months apart.”

Putting the photo back in its place, she leaned down to get a better look. Pinned next to the largest picture was a newspaper obituary. Anna felt her throat starting to close as she read it, reading of Dylan's brother's heroism and death in the Towers of 9-11. She didn't even know what to say. Looking back at Dylan, she went to embrace her, but the firefighter held her at bay. “I'm so sorry,” she offered.

“He was supposed to be off that day,” the younger woman whispered with controlled emotion.

“And you were there too. That must be difficult.”

“We were all there that day.” Voice cracking with feeling, she mumbled, “It's hard to talk about.”

“We don't have to talk about it if you don't want. I'll tell you what. Why don't I start on our meal? You can take a nice long shower.”

The firefighter nodded in agreement. “Thank you.”

Anna leaned up and kissed her on the face tenderly. “Come back to the kitchen when you're ready.” Leaving the bedroom, the brunette went to start dinner. She heard the water go on in the bathroom. She could tell Dylan was feeling somewhat fragile after revealing something so intimate to her, and she wondered what she could do to help the firefighter. Opening the refrigerator, she found her answer. With a grin, she popped open a can of Guinness and poured it into a glass for the redhead. Then she headed back to the bathroom and knocked before cracking open the door. “Dylan, I have a surprise for you.”

“What's that?” she inquired, pulling back the shower curtain just enough to stick her head out and meet the shorter woman's eyes. Seeing what Anna had in her hand, she smiled brightly. “God bless you as a saint, woman!” she exclaimed.

“I'll just leave this here for you. Take your time.”

Once Dylan was alone again, she stepped out of the shower to grab her beer. She took several long sips of it, letting the dark liquid swirl in her mouth before swallowing to get the full experience. She would have taken more time to enjoy it except she knew she had a gorgeous woman waiting on her in the other room, which motivated her to complete her shower as quickly as possible.

Heading into her bedroom, she pulled on a pair of jeans and a plain white t-shirt. Leaving her feet bare, she returned to the bathroom to comb her wet hair and get her beer. Then she moved into the kitchen to see what Anna was doing. However, the brunette was not in the kitchen but the living room, thumbing through the CD collection. Going up behind her, Dylan slipped her arms around her waist and rested her head on the smaller woman's shoulder. She felt Anna tense in her embrace when her lips brushed over the side of her neck. “What's wrong?” the redhead asked softly, curious as to the response she received.

The other woman shrugged as she managed to free herself from Dylan's arms. She wouldn't quite meet green eyes. “I guess I... I'm not sure what I'm doing here,” she admitted.

Unsure of what response to give to that, Dylan tried humor to ease the tension. “Well, I seem to recall you inviting yourself over to make me dinner.”

“That's not what I meant.”

“Then tell me what you do mean.”

Turning so they were facing each other, the brunette's eyes roamed over the firefighter's body. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before exhaling slowly. “All day I've been thinking about this moment, dreading it and yet knowing I have to say this.”

“Okay. Go on then. Say whatever it is you feel you need to.”

She nodded and then forced herself to look into green eyes. She knew it wasn't going to be easy, but it had been bothering her since she found Dylan's phone number that morning. “I guess I just don't want you to have the wrong impression about me. I don't typically sleep with women I just met. I'm not like that. Last night was sort of a rare moment for me.”

Nodding her head Dylan just said, “All right. I understand.”

“But I have to know if you sleep with women you've just met. Was last night new for you, or have you done that before?”

“Yes, I've done that before, Anna. I haven't done it a lot, but I have done it.”

“Did you leave your number with them?”

“No. You're the only one that got a phone number.”

“Why did you give it to me?”

Dylan shrugged. “Because I like you, I guess.”

“You like me or you thought I'd sleep with you again?”

Uncomfortable with the question, Dylan shoved her hands into her jean pockets and shrugged. “What's this about, Anna? Why are you grilling me about this?”

“I don't know. I just feel awkward after last night. I mean, I do like you, Dylan, but I don't necessarily think sleeping with you was the right thing to do.”

“So, are you saying you regret what happened?”

Anna shrugged, pausing to find her courage. “Yes and no, I guess. Yes, because I don't know anything about you really. No, because last night was almost surreal.”

Sensing emotional frailty from her guest, Dylan embraced her, pulling Anna's body to her own. The brunette willingly allowed herself to be drawn into the hug. “Anna, it's okay. I think I understand what you are trying to say. You don't want me to think of you as a pretty girl who's a convenient lay. You don't want me to think of you as a slut. Am I right?”

She nodded shyly. “I'm sorry, Dylan. I just feel weird. Last night I acted so unlike myself, and when you kissed me this afternoon I thought maybe you expected me to act that way tonight.”

“Just be yourself, Anna. I saw the real you last night at your father's house. I know the woman at the club wasn't really you. If it was, we would've done our business in the alley and never seen each other again. Just relax. I wouldn't hurt you.”

The smaller woman smiled up at her hostess. “Thank you. I'm sorry for bringing this up now.”

“It's fine. I'm glad you did, so we can enjoy ourselves. Let's go in the kitchen. I'm famished.”

“Okay. I'll go check on dinner. Put some music on for us, will you?”

“Sure. What do you like?”

“Whatever you want. I don't recognize half of your collection.”

“That's because it's all Irish folk music,” she explained to the retreating form. Flipping through her CDs, she thought about what she might be able to do to make her guest feel more at ease. Finding one of her favorite New York singers, she placed the CD in its player. Suddenly the sound of Billy Joel filled the small apartment. She picked the song that she wanted and then walked to the kitchen as she started singing “For the Longest Time.”

Immediately she got the reaction she wanted from the brunette. Anna blushed lightly and smiled. “You sing?” she inquired. However, her question was ignored as Dylan came up to her and continued to bellow the lyrical tune.

When she finally stopped singing, she smiled at the petite woman. “I've been known to sing on occasion. That song just seemed appropriate. Billy Joel is my favorite singer. When I was a kid, I wanted to be just like him. I begged my parents to let me take piano lessons.”

Anna laughed. “Most kids beg not to take piano lessons. Did they let you?”

Dylan shook her head. “Nah. They couldn't afford it. With three kids it was hard to keep us all fed much less entertained. However, there is a piano in the bar downstairs, and I finally learned to play on that. Now when I have a few too many Guinnesses and want to pretend to be Billy, I can amuse my faithful fans.”

“I bet that is funny to see.”

“Well, maybe sometime you'll have to come down to the pub with me. It's another world down there.”

“Well, dinner is ready. If we could just have some plates, I can feed you,” Anna mentioned. Dylan grabbed plates for the two of them and then set the table while Anna served their meal. “What about wine glasses?” she questioned.

“I don't have any of those, because I never drink wine. I only have pint glasses.”

“All right. Well, how about a corkscrew?”

The redhead shook her head as she reached for the bottle of white wine. “Actually, I might have one on my pocket knife. Hold on.” She disappeared into the bedroom and returned moments later with a triumphant grin. Opening the bottle for them, she poured two glasses of wine into her drinking glasses.

Anna chuckled as she took a sip from her glass. “I haven't had wine from a cup like this since college,” she said as they sat to their simple meal.

“Oh. Where did you go to school?”

“ Smith College .”

“Never heard of it. Where is it?”

“It's in Massachusetts . It's a women's college. My mother went there, and her mother went there. It's sort of tradition.”

“Did you like it?”

“It was okay. There were a lot of girls to choose from,” she said with a sly smile.

“I bet. I bet it's like heaven on earth. All those girls, especially if you're hot like you are. I bet you had everyone you wanted.”

Anna blushed and shook her head. “It's not quite like that. Even at Smith that has a bit of a reputation for that, there is still certain decorum you have to follow. It's not quite a free for all. It's not a party all the time. My parents expected me to act a certain way with my suitors. My father was especially particular with whom I spent my time.”

“So, they know about you being into women?”

“Yes, which was fine as along as I chose appropriately.”

“What does that mean?”

“They were always in my business about who I was dating. If she wasn't exactly the right girl from the right background and family, they rode me pretty hard about it. I finally got them off my back when I met my now ex.”

“Why's that?”

“My parents thought she was perfect. I met her when I was in my Masters program. She's the daughter of one of my father's colleagues, and she was a young hotshot attorney just out of law school. Back then she was the best and brightest, and she knew it. She was full of confidence, and I was attracted from the beginning. Both of our parents were thrilled at the match.”

“So, may I ask what happened?”

“I caught her cheating on me.”

“Damn. What a bitch. How is that possible? You're the prettiest girl I've ever met.”

Anna shook her head as she fought back tears. She didn't want to cry about her ex-girlfriend in front of Dylan for fear it might seem like she was not over her. In fact, she was over the hurtful woman, but not over the pain of being treated so horribly. “I was just young and stupid. Looking back I realize she was cheating the whole time with this other attorney who worked at her firm. The two of them were always working late together, but she would come home smelling like dried sweat and sex. I guess I just wanted to pretend everything was okay for my parents' sake, but I couldn't when I went to surprise her at work one day and found them together. To make it worse, everyone at that office knew, but no one bothered to tell me.”

“That sucks. She didn't deserve you, Anna.”

“That wasn't the worst part. When I asked why she had done it, she said that I was frigid. She said that I was a terrible lover.”

“She didn't?” the firefighter inquired with complete shock. “That's an awful thing to say to someone.”

“When I saw her at the bar last night, those words came to mind. I guess I just wanted to prove her wrong. I wanted her to see what she'd lost. That's when I saw you sitting alone at the end of the bar, and then I decided to act like the bitch she was. I can't believe I actually stooped to her level.”

“You were upset. It's understandable. But may I ask why me?”

Anna shrugged. “You looked like you weren't attached to anyone there, and I thought you were cute. Truthfully you looked like an easy target,” she admitted.

Dylan nodded. “Well, I guess I was.”

“Tell me why you allowed me to be that way.”

“Are you kidding? It's a dream to have a hot girl come on to you at a club. Even better when she's acting like she wants to jump you. I was intrigued the moment I met your eyes. I could clearly see you were on the make, but I wasn't going to let the opportunity pass. After all, I have no prior relationship commitment. You just happened to pick a free agent. If I were attached, I wouldn't have allowed it, but I'm not. Besides it was nice to get some attention. Not a lot of women are into redheads. I get turned down quite a bit.”

“That's shallow. I don't believe it.”

“It's a fact. That's why I try to dress a little more revealing. I might as well take advantage of the assets I do have. The fire department has given me this great physique. I might as well use it.”

“You're cute, Dylan. Surely you get dates.”

“Exactly, Anna. I'm cute, not pretty, sexy, or even handsome. I just have a cute face or at least I used to. Now I think I just look old. The stress of fighting fires has done a number on me. I feel like I've aged a decade in the last few years,” she said, breaking their gaze.

Sensing the conversation was heading into an area that Dylan didn't want it to go, Anna changed it, requesting, “Tell me about your family.”

“Not much to tell. There's Da, Keane Flannery. He's a retired firefighter who now owns a bar. He's the best man I've ever known. He was always there for us as kids even though he worked all the time. He always had a way of making us feel special. Then there's Davin and his wife Stacie. They have two kids. My nephew Davin, Jr. is eight, and my niece Ainsley is four. Davin and I work in the same company. That's about it.”

“What about your mother?”

The redhead sighed sadly, thinking on her mother. “Her name is Patricia. She died when I was fifteen. I get my green eyes and red hair from her. She's a saint. She would work the opposite schedule as Da, but she always had a smile on her face, and she always hugged and kissed us goodbye whether she was going to work or going to the store on the corner. As a kid there was no better place than to sit on her lap with your head on her chest. She would rock you when you were scared and sing Irish lullabies. There was no safer place than in her arms.”

“How did she die?”

“She was hit by a drunk driver walking home from work one night. They blew through a red light. I guess they didn't see her crossing the street. At least that was their story. They are thinking about that now in prison, but it doesn't change the fact that she's gone. The police said she was killed instantly, but it doesn't make me feel any better. I find no solace in that. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing she and Danny are watching over me now from heaven.”

“Danny. Will you tell me anything about him?”

“Not only was he my brother, he was my best friend in the entire world. We really acted just like twins. We would get into so much mischief together. He also worked in the same company with Davin and me. The Flannery trio is what they called us, a bunch of rambunctious hellions into pranks and good times. It's all gone now though. We don't prank and joke the way we used to.”

When Dylan abruptly stopped speaking about her brother, Anna knew that course of conversation was closed, even though she could tell there was so much still left unsaid. Retreating into her own quiet for a little while, she ate the rest of her meal and watched as the younger woman did the same. It was only after Dylan finished off multiple plates of pasta that she said, “You certainly do eat a lot.”

“I'm a growing girl. Actually I can out-eat Davin and Da, but I burn it off quickly. I work out every day at the station, and I just have a fast metabolism. Get used to it because I'm always hungry.”

“Well, I will remember for next time. I thought you would have leftovers. Guess I was wrong about that.”

“It's great though. You make some good food.”

“It's just pasta and salad.”

“But it's always better when someone else makes it.” Seeing that they were finished, Dylan picked up the bottle of wine and her glass. “Come on. I want to take you somewhere. Get your glass.”

“Where are we going?”

“It's a surprise. Come on.”

Doing as she was told, Anna picked up her glass and followed the taller woman out of her apartment and up two flights of stairs until Dylan opened the door to the roof. Stepping out onto it, Anna saw a large rooftop garden. “Wow. This is beautiful.”

“This is Ma's garden. I've been taking care of it for her since she died,” the redhead mentioned. “Come sit with me under the arbor.”

“This is a like a small piece of heaven in this busy city.”

“Yeah. We like to have parties up here for our friends sometimes. In fact, we're having one next month. Maybe you'd like to come.”

“I'd love to. I would like to meet your friends. Will Davin and your father be there?”

“They should be.”

Sitting for a moment in silence, Anna gazed around at the beautiful roses that covered the arbor. She felt at peace for a few moments in a city of chaos. Looking back at her hostess, she asked, “Will you sing me another song?”

“Sure. What do you want to hear?”

“I don't know. Sing me an Irish song.”

“Okay but be forewarned most Irish songs are about drinking, loving a woman, or losing a woman, sometimes all three.”

“All right.”

“Do you know ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling' by chance?” The brunette shook her head. “Well, I'll sing that one, because it doesn't make you want to cry in your beer or wine as the case may be.” Singing the short old Irish favorite, Dylan smiled down at the other woman.

“You really do have a wonderful voice,” Anna complimented.

“Thank you. Da says I have Ma's voice. The voice of God he calls it. I remember sitting in the pews of St. Patrick's on Sundays and listening to her voice as she sang with the choir. She was always so beautiful.”

“Do you still go to St. Patrick's?”

Dylan shook her head. “I stopped. It got too hard after she died. Da still went up until Danny died. Then he sort of just lost his faith. I know we all should probably go, but I just don't agree with the Catholic Church's message. I refuse to believe I'm going to hell for loving another woman, and I told the priest as much the last time I was at confession. Needless to say, he and I aren't on the best of terms. What about you? Do you practice a religion?”

“Not really. I guess I believe there is a God, but I haven't really seen any religion that fits my thinking. I don't really know what to make of religion anyway. It's like the concept of the chicken and the egg. Which came first? Was there a God that made humans or did humans make God? If there is a God, then why did he make humankind and why does he allow suffering? Or did people make him just as a way of dealing with the unexplainable events in their life?”

“That's an interesting point, Anna. I think we all wonder why God allows suffering sometimes. I wish I could answer that one.” Both of them sat quietly pondering the statement as Dylan gently pushed the arbor swing back and forth with her feet. Looking over at the brunette, she sighed. She hadn't had much in the way of a relationship in years, so she wasn't confident in what she was doing. However, she knew she liked being with the little woman. Wanting to get a little closer, she slowly curved her arm around Anna's shoulders. Instantly blue eyes met hers in question. Bringing her left hand up to Anna's face, she cupped the soft cheek in her hand. “You really are the most beautiful woman I've ever met,” she confessed.

The woman flushed under the adoration. “Thank you, Dylan,” she whispered as she copied the redhead's action. Her hand slid into the damp chin-length red hair, taking in the texture and weight of it. She knew she was about to be kissed and leaned in as soon as Dylan made a move to do so, capturing the firefighter's mouth in a soft kiss. However, as she felt arms bring her closer, the kiss grew in intensity. Even though Anna had kissed Dylan with more feeling the night before, she felt shy this time as the younger woman tried to escalate their intimacy and slowly pulled back.

“What is it?” Dylan quietly questioned, moving her mouth to Anna's cheek and then jaw.

The brunette sighed as the feelings of the previous night came back to her. Dylan's gentle attention felt so good, just as it did right then. Even though she wanted to take things more slowly, the feeling of the firefighter's lips working over the side of her neck was too good to ignore. Instead she indulged in it, cradling the redhead closer. “Dylan,” she whispered.

“That sounds so good like that,” the taller woman murmured, meeting soft lips again.

Anna kissed her back with equal emotion. They carried on that way for several minutes, but when Anna felt Dylan's hand move from around her back to her breast, she gently pushed the redhead away. “Dylan, remember that conversation we had earlier about moving too fast?”

“Yeah but there's nothing wrong with touching you, is there?” she asked. “You're just so beautiful, Anna. I have to touch you.”

The older woman shook her head slowly and sighed. “You know, maybe I should go. It's starting to get late anyway.”

Knowing she was being rebuffed, Dylan just nodded. “I'll take you home.”

“Actually, I'll just take a cab.”

“Well, let me ride with you, so I know you got home safely,” she offered.

Anna shook her head as she stood. “I'll be fine. I got around this city just fine before I met you, you know.”

Dylan rose as well, grabbing the glasses and wine. “I know. It would just make me feel better.”

“I'll call you when I get there then.”

Knowing she was not going to win, Dylan surrendered with, “All right. That would be nice.” Both of them walked down to the firefighter's apartment quietly. Dylan put on a pair of shoes and then escorted the brunette down to the street to hail a cab. “Call my cell phone when you get there,” she said.

“Okay. Hold on. Let me put it in my phone, so I won't forget it,” Anna said, digging into her purse. She punched in the number that Dylan gave her. “What's your home number while we're at it?” When she was finished, the firefighter wanted to do the same with her cell phone. Anna hailed a cab after that. When one finally pulled up to the curb, she opened the door before turning to the taller woman. “Well, thank you for having me over.”

“Thanks for making me dinner,” she said, leaning toward her. However instead of kissing her mouth like she wanted, Dylan settled for kissing Anna's cheek tenderly.

“I'll call you,” promised Anna. Dylan just nodded. “Good night, Dylan.”

“Night, Anna.”

As the cab started to pull away from the curb, Anna looked back over her shoulder to see Dylan disappearing into the door of the pub. She sighed as her mind thought over the night. Dylan was more than she expected. After the night before, she knew that the redhead had an incredible kindness about her, but at the same time there was a lot of pain behind those green eyes. She couldn't even imagine losing her family the way Dylan had. She could tell the younger woman had a great deal of unresolved issues over her mother and brother, but she just didn't how she would react if she were in the same position.


Two weeks later Dylan was babysitting her niece and nephew when her phone rang. She was surprised to hear Anna on the other end of the line since she hadn't heard from her since that night they had dinner together. Their last conversation had been so brief that the redhead had figured Anna had been upset with her. However, she sounded fine on the other end of the line. “Hey, I was just wondering how you were,” Anna said.

“I'm okay. How are you?”

“Good. Listen, I was wondering if you wanted to do something tonight.”

“Oh, I wish I could, but I can't. I'm babysitting right now, and then I have to work tonight.”

“Well, can you have visitors at the firehouse?”

“Actually, I'm not working at the firehouse. I work part-time at the pub. They called and said they needed some help down there.”

“You mean you work at Flannery's? Is that your dad's bar?”

“Yeah but you're more than welcome to come by. I'll be there until close.”

“Maybe I will,” she said. Hearing the phone suddenly go crashing on the other end, along with screaming kids in the background, Anna wondered what was going on.

However, moments later Dylan was back. “Sorry about that. These monsters think it's okay to use their Aunt Dylan as a trampoline. I really should go before they break something.”

“Do you need some help?”

“Of course but there is no help to be found. Davin and Stacie are both at work, and Da's down in the bar. It's my turn to face these two on my own. Now I know why Da laughs at Davin. This is God's way of making him pay for being such a hellion of a child. I'm never going to have kids just for this reason. Flannerys are a raucous brood. I really should go. These two monkeys are climbing all over me, driving me crazy.”

“Dylan, do you want me to come help you?”

“That's nice of you, Anna, but I don't think that's a good idea. Davin made me promise not to have girls over when I had the kids. He doesn't want me to get distracted, because these two will burn the building down if you have your back turned for two seconds. Thanks for offering though.”

“All right. Well, if you change your mind, just call me. I guess I'll talk to you later then.”

“Yeah. Let's get together soon.”

“Okay.” Hearing another crash she said, “Good bye.”


As soon as Dylan put the phone down, her niece jumped into her lap. “Who was on the phone, Auntie D?”

“A friend of mine.”

“A girlfriend?” her nephew asked curiously.

Confounded as to where Davin had gotten that idea, she asked, “Where did you hear that word, Junior?”

“Da and Ma were talking. She said you needed a girlfriend.”

“Did she? Well, your ma is right.”

“So was that a girlfriend?”

Dylan shook her head. “Not a girlfriend. Just a friend, Junior,” she stated, ruffling Ainsley's hair.

“What's the difference?”

Smiling Dylan replied, “That's complicated. I should let your Ma and Da explain it to you.”

“No, you,” he pouted.

“Fine. Well, you know how Ma and Da live together and spend a lot of time together?” He nodded. “Ma thinks I need someone to live with and spend time with is all.”

“That's boring,” he replied.

Dylan laughed. “Yeah. It's boring, Junior.”

“What fun is that?”

“Well, you know you have special friends that you like to play with?”


“Ma thinks I need a special friend to play with.”

“But you have Ma and Da and Ainsley and me to play with.”

“I know, but there are some games that you play with certain friends. There are some games I can't play with you all. They're grownup games.”

“Why does Ma think you need a girlfriend?”

“Because she thinks I'm lonely.”

“But we're here.”

“I know. I'm never lonely with you and Ainsley here,” she said, bringing her nephew into a hug. “Now what should we do before Ma gets home?”

Further uptown Anna sat on the sofa in her apartment. Over the last few days she had avoided Dylan, because she still felt awkward about their good bye. However, she did have the urge to see the woman again. Knowing she wasn't able to though, she called up her best friend Blair. “Hey, what are you doing?” she asked.

“Absolutely nothing. You?”

“Same. Want to go for some coffee?”

“Sure. Meet you at the usual spot in half an hour. Is something wrong?”

“I've met someone.”

“Oh. You have to give me the dirt. See you soon.”

The brunette was sitting in the café where she always did when she met her oldest friend for coffee. They hadn't seen each other in awhile, because Blair had been out of the country for work. When the elegant woman entered, Anna waved and instantly the fair-haired beauty rushed over. They kissed each other on the cheek. “How are you?” Anna asked.

“Great. I have so much to tell you. Just let me get a drink. I'll be right back.” A few minutes later she returned. “Now before I get into me, let's talk about you. Tell me about your new someone.”

“We met a couple of weeks ago. It's nothing serious, at least not yet.”

“Give me more than that, girl. What's the hottie's name? What's she look like?”

“Her name is Dylan, and she has dark red, almost auburn, hair and green eyes.”

“And? What about her body?” Anna flushed. “That good?”

“That good. Blair, she's totally buff. Her body is amazing. I've never seen anything like it.”

“Better than Julie's?” she asked, referring to Anna's ex.

“Much better than Julie's.”

“Oh, I wish that bitch could hear you say that.”

“Well, that's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“You want to talk about Julie? Why?”

“I sort of met Dylan at a club, and Julie happened to have been there with that whore.”

“God, did she see you with Dylan?”

“Yeah. She looked pretty pissed actually. In fact, she called me the next night, said she wanted to see me.”

“Oh, drama, girl. What did you say? I hope you slammed down the phone in her ear.”

“I did, but she's called two more times and left messages. I don't know what she's trying to accomplish.”

“She probably realizes what she's lost and wants to try to win you back. You can't let her do that.”

“Oh, I won't. I'm not interested in Julie any more.”

“What did Dylan say when you told her your ex was calling you?”

“I haven't told her.”

“What? Why not?”

She shrugged. “I guess I just feel weird about it. The night we met I was not acting like myself.”

“What do you mean?”

“I sort of pulled a Julie.”


“I had sex with Dylan,” she confessed, staring into her cup of coffee.

“You what? Anna, you're not that kind of girl. What possessed you to do that?”

“I saw Julie dancing with that slut, and I got angry. I wanted to get back at her, so I targeted Dylan to do just that. It just sort of happened. I know I shouldn't have done it.”

“Well, so you got a sneak peak of the feature film. Tell me it was good at least.”

The blue-eyed woman nodded. “It was good, Blair. Julie never treated me as well as Dylan did. She was gentle and giving. I can only imagine what it might be like if feelings were involved. She was definitely the best I've ever had,” she conceded.

“Why do you sound less than thrilled about this?”

Anna shrugged. “Because I'm afraid of what's going to happen when my father finds out. I haven't even told him that Julie and I have broken up. He loves Julie. Not only that, Dylan isn't exactly like us, Blair. She doesn't exactly come from money.”

“So she works for a living. There's nothing wrong with that. Julie worked.”

“Yeah but Julie is an attorney in one of the most prestigious firms in New York and the daughter of one of my father's business partners.”

“Well, what does Dylan do?”

“She works for the fire department.”

“Doing what?”

“She's a firefighter.”

Blair shook her head but smiled. “You certainly know how to pick them, don't you? No wonder she has a hot body. Did she go to college?”

“I don't know. She's twenty-four and worked as a firefighter for three years, so I'm thinking she didn't.”

“She's twenty-four. Stamina to boot,” Blair teased her friend. Anna didn't laugh. “All right. I see the problem. You're in love with a blue-collar worker with no education and a hot body who can make sultry passionate love. Anna, are you thinking with your brain on this one or something else?”

“First of all, I never said anything about love. Secondly I don't know what I'm thinking. That's why you're here to help me.”

“Well, Daddy is definitely going to have a problem with this, Anna. You know that?”

“Yes, I know that. What do I do?”

“Maybe time will take care of this for you. You just met. Maybe you'll find out that you have nothing in common other than great sex. That can only sustain a relationship for so long. So Dylan can be your rebound girl. You can have lots of hot sex without commitment, and then find the real woman you're supposed to be with once that well runs dry. Is she into you?”

“I think so. I mean, I know she's into the sex. I can just tell, but we've spent most of our time talking about her. She hasn't really asked about me.”

“Sounds like she just wants your ass then, which isn't necessarily bad. I mean you could have some fun with this, Anna.”

“But it's just so not like me, Blair. I don't have sex for the sake of having sex.”

“Then maybe you should start. It's a fun pastime. Look, the way I see it you have two options. You either drop Dylan all together, or you have your booty call whenever you want for the next few months, which will do wonders for that hurt ego you have. What you won't be able to do is bring her home to Daddy, and unless you can do that, you know it's not worth getting serious. It's just not going to work in the end. You'll get hurt, and you'll end up hurting her in the process.”

Ann nodded in agreement. “You're right. I know you're right. I guess I just need to decide what to do.”

“So, when do I get to meet this girl?”

“Actually she invited me to come to the bar where she works tonight. You want to go with me?”

“Sure. Yeah. I want to see what this girl has that has you so wound up.”

“Good. Maybe you can help me figure this out then.”

“Well, in the meantime let's do something that will make you feel better. How long has it been since you had a spa day?”


“Well then, we're going to go change that. Come on. I had a massage, pedicure and manicure scheduled for later this afternoon, and you're going to go in my place. While you're doing that, I'm going to go find you a new outfit for tonight.”

“Blair, that's really not necessary.”

“Oh, yes it is because tonight we're going to make you over, so Dylan won't be able to keep her eyes off you. And tonight you're going to go home with her and get laid long and hard.” Anna blushed as her friend dragged her to her feet. “Let's go. You're doing this.”

Later that night after Blair had made over her friend and taken her to dinner, they took a cab to Flannery's Pub. When they got out of the car and started for the door, Anna noticed the large crowd through the windows. She could hear the noise from the street. “Geez, it's crowded in there.”

“Do you see her?”

Looking for a moment, Anna nodded. “She's behind the bar.”

Blair leaned into the window to see for herself. “Oh my. You weren't kidding. Come on. Let's get in there.”

Managing to squeeze through the door, they found a small table near the window and took a seat. A server came to them almost immediately, greeting them cordially. “Welcome to Flannery's. What can I get you, ladies?” he inquired with a dashing grin.

Recognizing him right away from a picture in the redhead's apartment, Anna asked, “Are you Davin?”

“Indeed I am, gorgeous. Who are you?” he asked with a playful wink.

Breaking into the conversation, Blair introduced herself. “My name's Blair and this is my friend Anna. We're friends of Dylan's.”

“Of course you are,” he answered with a teasing roll of his eyes. “All the cute girls are friends of my sister. What can I do for you? Drinks, maybe some food?”

“Actually I'll have a Cosmopolitan,” Blair said.

“Dirty martini for me,” added Anna.

“Right away.”

“Thanks, handsome,” Blair said to his retreating form.

Anna leaned over and said, “Don't even try it. He's married with two kids.”

“But he's so cute.”

“I know, but he's taken.”

“Too bad. Does Dylan have any other brothers?”

“Her brother Danny but he died.”

“Oh, how horrible.”

“I know. Dylan doesn't like to talk about it.”

Over at the bar Davin grabbed his sister by the sleeve of the shirt as she was serving other customers. “You've got company, Dylan.”

“Yeah? Who?”

“Some hot chicks claiming to be friends of yours. They're sitting in the window. They ordered a dirty martini and a Cosmopolitan. Why don't I take over so you can say hi?” Casting her eyes toward the window, a smile immediately came to her face. “Uh oh. I take it one of them is more than a friend,” he teased.

“No. She's just a girl I met a couple of days ago. I'll make their drinks and take them over.”

“Cool. I'll fill in for you in the meantime.”

Mixing two drinks, Dylan put them on a tray and them shuffled her way through the crowd toward the table. “Anna, you made it. I'm so glad,” she said, eyes roaming over the brunette's body.

“Dylan, this is my friend Blair. Blair, this is Dylan.”

“Blair, a pleasure to meet you,” the redhead greeted with a grin as she stuck out her hand. The Swedish beauty exchanged the handshake with a smile of her own. Without even asking who each drink belonged to, she placed the dirty martini in front of Anna. “Well, I'm working the bar tonight, and it's swamped, so I'll have to check in with you a little later. I'm so glad you two came by.”

“Don't worry, Dylan, we aren't going to go anywhere. Take your time,” Blair said with a cunning grin.

The redhead flicked her right brow slightly at the two, wondering what they might be up to. Anna's friend clearly had a rakish personality, which intrigued Dylan immensely. “Well, I'll be back soon.”

As soon as she was gone from the table, Blair leaned over to watch her go. “Damn, Anna. She has a tight ass. No wonder you're melting over this one. Hell, I would be too. And she knows what you drink. That has to say something,” she mentioned, taking a sip of her own beverage.

Anna nodded. “She looks so cute in that outfit.” For a few moments she just watched Dylan at the bar and circling through the pub tables. The brunette could feel her own body start to warm as she gazed on at the firefighter in the green t-shirt and jean shorts with a white apron around her waist. Dylan's toned legs were on display for everyone, and with the way the redhead had her sleeves rolled up on her shirt, the entire bar could admire her strong biceps.

“Oh boy. Someone's in lust. What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing,” Anna said.

“Liar,” Blair joked. “Geez, Anna. You're practically begging her to take you on this table with that gaze.”

“I don't know what it is about her. She just looks at me, and I'm...”

“Horny,” her friend supplied. “That's what a booty call is all about. She's watching you, Anna. Every couple of seconds her eyes come over. She can't help herself. Watch her. She wants your ass bad.”

Looking over toward the bar, Anna did as Blair instructed and watched Dylan's movements. Sure enough green eyes came her way every few moments. “My God. You're right.”

“Of course I'm right.”

Back over at the bar, Dylan tried to stay on task. Serving up pint after pint though was easy work, leaving her time to let her eyes and mind wander. Anna looked incredible that night. She had gotten her hair trimmed a bit, leaving it a little above her shoulder blades, and it appeared as if she had gotten some highlights, making the hair framing her face a lighter brown. Her clothes were as always wonderfully stylish. In fact, Dylan could hardly believe that Anna was sitting there in that outfit, because she felt as if she belonged on a billboard in Times Square as a model for those clothes. The blouse she had on was obviously silk and see-through enough that the redhead could just see a hint of lace beneath, making her wonder and want to find out what it was.

Suddenly her musings were broken by her father saying, “So you have an admirer, do ya?”

She shook her head. “Just a girl I know, Da.”

“She's a looker as is her friend.”

“I know.”

“You be careful with that one, Dylan. Your eyes are like the clovers of the meadow on a misty Irish morning when you look at her.”

“I like her, Da.”

He gave an unconvinced chuckle. “Yeah. You like her or her bed, Dylan?” pointedly he questioned. She didn't answer him. “That's what I thought. You know I don't condone casual sex.”

“I know, Da.”

“That's why I'm telling you to be careful. That lass could hurt you. She's not one of us. Long term this won't work between you. You might be able to have some fun, but don't lose you heart to this one. She's not worth it. You need a good Irish girl who understands your life.”

Dylan just nodded her head, effectively dismissing her father's warning before turning to tend to her customers again. A few minutes later one of the patrons asked that she sing for them, but she declined. However, with her denial came pressure from other customers to sing for them the way she usually did while she worked. Sighing with resignation, she realized she would not be able to get out of it so easily, even though she felt a little shy performing in front of Anna and her friend. “All right, you drunks! I'll sing! Jesus fucking Christ!” The crowed yelled loudly in drunken jubilation as Dylan climbed onto the bar in usual fashion. As soon as she stood towering over the lair of besotted Irish folk, everyone hushed and raptly watched her.

As soon as she began a traditional Irish drinking song, Blair turned to Anna. “So, your girl has other talents as well.”

Anna nodded. “She's a great singer. She actually serenaded me when I made her dinner the other night.”

“Really? What did she sing?”

“Two songs. The first one was Billy Joel's ‘For the Longest Time', which was so sweet. Then later that night when we were sitting in her mother's rooftop garden, she sang ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling'. I could listen to her for hours. She has an amazing voice.”

“An amazing voice, a hot body, and sweet. You could be in trouble.”

“No. I refuse to become emotionally involved. I can't. You're right. Dylan is good for the sex, and that will have to do for now.”

Blair shook her head. “Anna, I'm not so sure this is a good idea anymore.”

“Are you kidding? This is the best of both worlds. You do it all the time.”

“Yes but I'm different. I can keep my feelings separate. I can go to bed with someone without becoming attached to them. I'm telling you. You're running a risk of falling for her. I see it in your eyes, Anna.”

“I won't fall in love with her. She can't give me what my father would expect of any of my girlfriends anyway. I know this is temporary. I might as well have fun with it.”

“And get lots of mind-blowing sex in the meantime. All right. Don't say I didn't warn you.”

“It will be fine. I promise. I'm a big girl. I can handle this.”

For the next several hours, Dylan worked every once in awhile stopping by their table to check on them and chat. Finally a little bit after midnight , the crowd started to dissipate, and the redhead's father decided to let her leave early. Removing her apron, she immediately went to the table where Anna and Blair were still sitting.

“Well, I'm free finally. I thought this night would never end.”

“Yeah. It's starting to get late,” Blair mentioned, consulting her watch. “I think it's time for me to go.”

“So soon?” Dylan asked.

“I'm afraid so. I have to get some beauty sleep. I have a photo shoot tomorrow afternoon.”

Just then Dylan's green eyes lit up as she said, “Of course. Davin and I have been trying to figure out how we know you all night. We couldn't place you. You're a swimsuit model. You're on the calendar that we have at the firehouse.”

The Swedish woman smiled and laughed. “Oh, I am, am I? Well, there's nothing better than being admired by New York 's hottest firefighters. Maybe sometime I could come down to the firehouse and see for myself?”

“We'd love it, Blair. The rest of the crew is going to be so jealous when they find out Davin and I met you.”

“Then we'll have to change that. For now though, I really must go.”

“All right. I have to work tomorrow morning too. Let me walk you all out at least.”

Going to the curb, Dylan took the liberty of hailing a cab. When one pulled up, she opened the door. The Swedish model smiled at the chivalry and then moved to kiss Dylan on the cheek. “Thank you, Dylan. It was wonderful to meet you.”

“You too, Blair. Thanks for stopping by with Anna.”

Turning to Anna, Blair kissed her as well. “Call me later, Anna.”

“I will. Talk to you soon.”

“You're not going?” the redhead asked in pleasant surprise.

“Well, I was hoping we could spend some time together if that was okay. If you'd rather not, I understand.”

“No, of course it's okay. I'm always glad for your company, Anna. I just thought... it was late, and you might want to leave.”

“I'd like to stay longer.”

“Great. Then come on. Let's go upstairs and let Blair get home.” Going up to the firefighter's apartment, Dylan flipped on the lights and then said, “Make yourself comfortable. I just want to grab a quick shower. I smell like beer.”

The brunette just nodded. When she heard the water go on in the bathroom, she took a deep breath. It was time for her to do as she planned. Blair had been right in the coffee shop that day. A relationship was out of the question, but knowing how good it felt to be in Dylan's arms, she wanted that experience again, and she felt certain after the way the firefighter had looked at her the entire night that she could get what she wanted.

Moving into the bedroom, she thought about how to go about her seduction. First there was mood music as she quickly found the most sultry music she could in Dylan's collection and put it in the CD player. Next were the lights. She shut them off, instead using the candles Dylan had on the bookshelf for a soft glow. That finished, she knew she had to be ready when the firefighter came out of the bathroom or she might lose her nerve, so she shed her outer layers of clothing and slipped on a t-shirt she found in Dylan's dresser. She looked at herself in the full-length mirror on the back of the bedroom door. The shirt hung almost to her knees, but the imprinted logo of Flannery's made her keep it on. Figuring that would have to do, she went to the bed and stood there thinking about how to lie on it to look enticing.

A few minutes later Dylan finished her shower. Under normal circumstances she would have taken longer but with Anna there, her desire to be with the brunette outweighed her affection for long showers that moment. As soon as she turned the water off, she could hear music coming from the apartment. She listened to it as she dried herself, thinking the awfully alluring selection might only serve to heighten what she was already feeling, instead of impede it. Nevertheless, she sort of enjoyed the torturous game they were playing with each other and figured she would see where it led. Slipping on her green robe, she opened the door to step into her bedroom.

As she did so though, her eyes became immediately drawn to her bed and a pair of bare slightly staggered legs. One lay flat on the bed, the other bent with the foot resting against the mattress. Mesmerized her eyes trailed over them to the juncture where they met. She could see just a hint of colored material obstructed by a long green t-shirt. Eyes moving higher, she saw breasts obviously free of their normal confine, the peaks outlined lightly against the cotton. Ogling still higher, she was met with a smoldering blue-eyed gaze.

Neither said anything for a moment, but Anna knew just by the green eyes that she had Dylan's rapt attention. Trying to sound confident, she whispered, “You said to make myself comfortable.” Dylan heard the waver of nervousness through that enticing line, but she didn't care. Her body had already made up its mind as to how it wanted to respond to the gift on her bed. Walking across the room, she paused at the foot of the bed momentarily. Their gaze never broke. Seeing that the redhead was spellbound by her presence, Anna felt a surge of power through her body. Embracing it she held out her hand to the firefighter and demanded, “Come here, Dylan. Come lie with me.”

The redhead did as she was told. Putting one knee and then the other up onto the bed, she crawled up the lithe frame but paused when they were face to face. Her body hovered over Anna's, waiting. The smaller woman's eyes roamed over Dylan's robe that now gapped open, revealing the top of her chest and the slopes of her breasts. Hands mapped over the area for a moment causing the tall woman to shudder.

With an uneven breath, Dylan whispered, “You look so pretty laying here like this. I like what you've done with your hair.”

“Thank you. That's sweet of you to notice,” she whispered, trailing her hand up to Dylan's face. Fingers combed through dark red hair as her other hand managed to find the tie on the robe. Anna pulled one end causing the knot to collapse and allowing the material to fall open.

As soon as it did, Dylan's body seemed to come alive. She leaned in to Anna's face and started to gently kiss over her forehead. Her dark brows were next followed by the bridge of her nose, and then finally Dylan kissed Anna's lips softly.

The brunette lightly moaned at the gentleness. No one else had ever touched her this way, and it escalated her need to be touched further. She tried to bring the firefighter's body down to her own, but Dylan wouldn't budge. Instead she continued to hover as the fingers of her right hand traced lightly over Anna's soft neck and across her shoulder before shifting downward to her chest. Methodically the firefighter kissed her and fondled her through the thin cotton shirt until she squirmed and called Dylan's name.

“What is it, sweetheart?” Dylan whispered, capturing Anna's earlobe between her teeth.

“Please,” she whimpered.

Green eyes met blue. “Don't worry, beautiful. I'm going to please you, but it isn't a race to see who can reach the top first, Anna. I like taking the long route and stopping to see the sights. I like feeling and tasting everything, to experience the journey. We'll get there when we get there,” she murmured, her head moving down towards the brunette's chest.

Anna moaned as strong hands found their way under the shirt she was wearing. Fingers roamed along her sides, taking in the soft skin as teeth scraped over the crest of her right breast through the t-shirt. The brunette once again tried to bring their bodies together without success, so she switched tactics and pulled the robe from the redhead's body, leaving her completely naked. Then her hands started their own adventure, taking in the feel of the body above hers. Hands kneaded the powerful thighs and gluts before roaming the firefighter's taut back. Unable to stop there, her hands found the front of Dylan's body and cupped the small breasts. Instantly Dylan groaned as Anna massaged them and tweaked their tips just hard enough to elicit a response. Moving on, nails trailed down the muscled stomach until she reached the coarse damp hair between the redhead's legs.

Dylan quaked slightly and mumbled, “Sweet Jesus, Anna.”

Not waiting on an invitation, the brunette made herself at home, slipping inside and beginning to pump in and out at an unhurried pace. The action practically incapacitated her lover, whose legs started to shake. Dylan's forehead dropped into the crook of her neck, leaving the redhead's ear and neck open for an oral assault. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Anna licked the rim of her ear as she quietly asked, “Do you like that?” Dylan managed to nod. “Say it, Dylan. Tell me. Please. I want to hear you.”

“It feels so good, Anna. Please don't stop.”

“I won't. You feel good, Dylan.”

The redhead didn't even move from her position hovered above Anna. Instead she just clung to the brunette's shirt and nestled her head into her shoulder as the shorter woman brought her to climax. It was only when Dylan reached the pinnacle that her body finally collapsed, falling onto the one under her own. Her whole frame shivered as she panted for breath. Anna remained where she was, stilled inside her lover, but her free hand caressed red hair lovingly. When it appeared Dylan had recovered, she managed to regain her balance and poised herself above Anna. Green eyes met blue once again.

Dylan had no idea what to say just then. The first time they had been together Anna hadn't touched her that way. In fact, the brunette had only been receptive to her attentions, not giving of her own. She could also tell that Anna wasn't used to being a grantor of affections either, so to have that gift bestowed upon her must have meant something. Not knowing what though, Dylan said the only thing that came to her mind. Kissing the brunette sweetly, she whispered, “Thank you.”

“Anything for you, Dylan,” Anna answered unexpectedly, but as soon as the words left her mouth, Anna knew the truth of them.

When the redhead had regained enough of her strength, she continued on her measured path of Anna's pleasure. Lifting the t-shirt from the brunette's frame, she settled between her thighs and lavished her attentions on the smaller woman's chest. Anna clung to the back of Dylan's head, clutching her tightly as hands traveled downward and over the tops of the brunette's thighs. Anna could feel them inching closer to their goal. However, Dylan's mouth decided to join them as she kissed down the brunette's smooth stomach and over Anna's left thigh. A knowing gaze passed between them. It was obvious Dylan was waiting for permission, and only after a moment of deliberation did Anna give it, guiding Dylan with a hand at the back of her head. Feeling Dylan's mouth against her heat, the brunette felt her head begin to spin. Never in her life has someone touched her this way, not even Julie. That gifted mouth that had sung angelic music in the bar an hour ago was now worshiping her body in a whole new way. Anna was helpless to the new sensations as her body surrendered to the feelings. She could barely register that Dylan paused and held her tenderly as tremors moved her, but once they had subsided, the redhead was back to freely give more of her love to the woman in her bed.

For the rest of the night they went back and forth, each taking turns at pleasing the other until light began to filter through the blinds. Dylan sighed when she saw it and rolled onto her side. Curving her arms around the brunette, she pulled her closer and kissed her temple sweetly. Neither spoke as green eyes surveyed the room. The candles had extinguished themselves, having burned to the bottom. There was no music, the CD player having turned itself off hours ago, and in her arms, Dylan had the most amazing woman she had ever met. She didn't want to cease their activities, but she knew she had to leave for work shortly.

Kissing the nape of Anna's neck, she whispered, “I don't want to stop, but I have to get to work.”

“Do you have to go?”

“Yeah. I don't think I can call in and tell them I decided to stay home to make love to the most beautiful woman in the world. As envious as they would be, they'd be pissed off too. They need me there.”

“You wouldn't have to tell them. You could just say you were sick.”

“I don't get sick. I've never called in sick in three years. Besides I'm sure Davin would suspect the truth. He's knows me too well. I have to go.” Anna pouted as Dylan rose from bed. “Don't give me that look. This is hard enough to leave you. Now I need to take a shower, and it would be really helpful if you could be dressed by the time I got back as to not tempt me any more than I already am.”

“But I don't want to.”

“Fine. Then why don't you join me in the shower? We both could use it.”

The brunette shook her head. She wasn't quite ready for that yet. After all, it was one thing to allow herself to be seen under the mirage of soft light, but she wasn't ready to expose Dylan's gaze to her body under unforgiving bathroom lights for fear the redhead might find something less than flattering after their night together. “I think I'll make us breakfast,” she said.

“All right.”

Once she was alone, Anna slipped back into the green t-shirt she had worn the night before and made her way to the kitchen. She busied herself with a meal for them while the firefighter got dressed. Half an hour later Dylan appeared in her uniform of navy t-shirt sporting the FDNY logo and navy pants. On her feet she wore the standard issue boots. “You look so adorable,” the redhead mentioned, entering the kitchen and slipping her arms around Anna's waist. “Not to mention completely delectable.”

The brunette blushed. “Here. I made you some eggs and toast. I thought you might want coffee as well.”

“Thank you. It looks good,” she complimented, taking her plate to the table where a glass of juice and cup of coffee were already waiting.

Anna just stood at the counter and watched the redhead while she ate a piece of toast and drank a cup of coffee herself. She didn't know quite what to say just then. The night had been much more than she expected, leaving her confused as to what to do. She sensed that she was beginning to care about Dylan more than she should given their stations in life and wondered if the redhead had similar thoughts. However, she didn't ask for fear that she was one-sided in her emotions.

When Dylan had consumed her breakfast, she looked over at the brunette. “Do you want me to give you a ride home?”

“That's okay. I'll take a cab.”

“Well, I really should be going, but you're more than welcome to stay here. You can catch a nap or a shower before you leave. I'll give you my spare key, and then you can just lock up when you leave.”

“All right. Thanks.”

The firefighter nodded as she brought her dishes to the sink and rinsed them off before placing them in the dishwasher. She then opened the cabinet next to the refrigerator and pulled out a key. Handing it to Anna, she said, “Just slide it back under the door when you lock up or keep it until I see you the next time.”

“Okay,” she nervously replied, taking the key from Dylan's grasp.

The redhead smiled gently as she slipped her arms around Anna's waist. She leaned down and kissed her softly on the lips. “I'll call you later,” she promised before heading out the door.

Once Anna heard the door close and lock, she looked around the kitchen. There she was standing in Dylan's apartment alone after a night of astonishing sex. It didn't even compare to their first night together. Dylan was even more open and loving than she had been the night they met, and for her own part, Anna thought about her own actions, surprised that she had participated so fully in their encounter. It was different for her, as in the past, Julie didn't like it when Anna had tried to give her affection. Instead their sexual interactions had become so one-sided that it was almost as if Julie was taking what she wanted from Anna instead of giving, and the brunette's body had just been a convenient source for sex when she wasn't able to get it from her mistress. Anna had become so used to it that she had forgotten what it was like to touch someone else.

However, with Dylan it was different. She didn't try to dissuade her from reciprocating. In fact, even though it was obvious the redhead was used to being the dominant person in bed, she seemed to enjoy the chance to receive attention as well. Sighing into her coffee, Anna wondered what was going to happen between them. Blair was right. Sex couldn't sustain a relationship, but getting involved with Dylan posed special problems. Nevertheless, Anna enjoyed the redhead's company, so she decided to let time set the course of their relationship.

That day when Dylan arrived at the firehouse, Davin was already there retelling the tale of their brush with celebrity. Seeing Dylan he said, “I was just telling the guys about your super model friend.”

“Blair Halsten? Yeah, she's hot. Trust me, boys. She's better in person than on the calendar. She said she would come visit us sometime.”

“Damn, Dylan. How do you get all the luck? Last week it was that pretty brunette. This week it's a super model. I didn't know being a lesbian was so lucrative. Maybe I should convert,” one of the guys joked.

“Sorry, guys. Even if you did, the ladies love me and no one else. Now you all get back to Blair. I have to hit the books for school. I have a big test coming up next week. If you need me, I'll be in the office.”

Wandering upstairs, she greeted her captain and then took a seat at the computer. Logging on to her school website, she checked her assignments and then began to study for her test. However, her mind began to wander to a certain brunette who was probably still at her apartment. She wondered what Anna might be doing just then. She guessed that the woman was taking a shower, which made for a diverting fantasy from her schoolwork. She was so into her daydream that she jumped when she heard the fire alarm sound. Instantly coming back to the present, she jumped from her chair and headed out of the office. Everyone was clamoring as they got into their gear. Joining her crew, she slid down the pole into the garage and grabbed her stuff, slipping into it as she ran to take her place in the truck.

The truck pulled out moments later, racing down the busy New York streets to the call of distress. It was several long minutes through traffic until they reached their destination, a ten-story apartment building. Most of the residents appeared to be spilling out from the sidewalk into the road as they pulled up close enough to assess the scene. The top two floors were flaming wildly, and they saw people on the top floor leaning out the window screaming for assistance.

Grabbing Davin by the jacket, Dylan went into motion as she took the lead heading into the building. Both Flannerys raced up the stairwell to the top levels as their counterparts worked on the outside. They screamed out trying to detect if there were any trapped people and heard responses from several places on the top floor. Seeing fire in the hallway though, Dylan and Davin both stopped in their tracks a moment.

“Dylan, come on. Keep moving,” Davin instructed, pushing her in the back. She didn't move for a moment. “Dylan, snap out of it! These people need us!” he screamed, shoving her harder to get her moving.

She nodded her head in understanding, but her heart was pounding profusely as she ran through the flames. Together they worked quickly, assisting people from their apartments through the fire and toward the stairs. Getting to the last apartment, they saw smoke coming from under the door. Both of them yelled before Davin kicked it open, and they proceeded inside. Hearing screams for help, they managed to find the woman they had seen yelling from the window as well as a young girl.

Going to the two of them, Dylan immediately scooped up the child while Davin did the same to the woman. Both of them rushed from the apartment. Just as they cleared it into the hallway, they heard an explosion behind them as flames shot out the apartment door. Nevertheless, both Flannerys kept running, taking their cargo safely outside. Several other of their fellow comrades followed right behind them announcing that the building had been cleared. Both Dylan and Davin took their victims to the awaiting ambulance for inspection and then raced to assist with taming the raging blaze.

By the time it was all over, the top two floors had been gutted, but no one was hurt. Dylan sighed when it was over, thankful that the ordeal was finished for her. Leaning against the back of the truck, she was trying to catch her breath when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Looking up she saw the woman Davin had saved holding her daughter.

“Thank you so much,” she said.

Dylan simply nodded. “You're welcome, ma'am. Just doing our job.”

With another smile for the firefighter, she turned and left. Dylan watched her go up to a man in a business suit standing a few feet away. She watched them embrace and hold each other tightly. The man kissed the little girl affectionately on the head, making the firefighter smile. Just then she heard Davin's voice next to her.

“What happened in there, Dylan?” he questioned in concern.

“Flashback,” she mumbled, covering her face with her gloved hand. “They almost died, because I didn't react,” she said. “That man would be without his family if it weren't for you, Davin.”

He put his arm around her shoulders. “Without us, Dylan,” he corrected. “Look, I know it's hard for you after Danny, but you're going to have to try to move beyond this if you want to be a good firefighter again. Danny would want that from you.”

“You didn't kill him, Davin!” she yelled.

“Neither did you, Dylan! He ran into the building on his own!”

“Yeah, he ran after me! If I wasn't so zealous to prove myself, he'd still be alive!”

Her brother shook his head. “You don't know that. Both of you took that risk to save other people's lives. Both of you got to the crash site to help people. No one thought the Towers would fall, Dylan. No one could have predicted that. Truth be told, when I saw that building come down, I thought I had lost you both.”

“You weren't there, Davin! You don't know what happened up there, so just shut up!” she yelled, stalking off.

Back at the firehouse, Dylan went back to work on her schoolwork, but her captain interrupted her. “Dylan, we need to talk,” he said, shutting the door.


“Your behavior today. I do not tolerate my team yelling at each other the way you screamed at Davin today. I don't care if he is your brother. You don't yell at your team like that ever.”

“I'm sorry. I just lost my temper for a moment.”

“It's more than that,” he said. “Something bothered you when you were up there. I saw it in your face. Do you want to talk about it?”

She shook her head. “I'll save it for therapy,” she snarled.

He nodded. “How's that coming anyway? I know they said you were fit for work again, but you haven't been the same since you came back from the Towers. You aren't the same person.”

“Would you be if it happened to you? Would you be the same if you lost your brother and then laid in a pile of rubble for two days waiting to be rescued?”

He shook his head. “No. I wouldn't be the same either, but if it means anything to you, the firehouse isn't the same. Danny was our family too, Dylan, just like you are. You two were the only ones we lost. Even though we found you, you've been lost since. We share your pain, Dylan, and we just want to help. Taking it out on your fellow firefighters isn't acceptable, though. I don't want to see that again.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now, tell me. How many times a week are you going to therapy?”

“Once a week now.”

“Up it to two. Go during working hours if necessary. You're head isn't in the game the way it should be. I need you to have your head here. I'll call and make the arrangements with HR.”

“Yes, sir. May I go back to my studies now?”

“Sure. How is school coming along?”

“Good. I only have three semesters after this summer.”

“Great. Keep up the good work. I know you can do it. Your dad is quite proud of your efforts, you know. He told me so last time I saw him. It makes him proud to know that a Flannery is finally going to graduate from college.”


A few weeks passed until Dylan saw Anna again even though they found reason to talk on the phone several times a days. She had a rare day completely free of all obligations, so she rode her bike to Anna's place. It was the first time she had been to the brunette's apartment. When she arrived, the little woman was standing on the sidewalk waiting for her. “We need to put your bike in the garage,” she mentioned, slipping onto the back. “Turn the corner, and you'll see it on the right.” Dylan did as she was told. Pulling up to the security box, she waited while Anna put in her code, and then the gate opened. “Go down to the fifth floor to space fifty-five. You'll have to park behind my car. I have a double space.”

Getting to the space marked as fifty-five, Dylan saw a little black convertible sports Audi. Carefully she maneuvered her bike in behind it, making sure not to touch the car. When it was in place, she cut the engine and took off her helmet. “Cool car you have there.”

“Thanks. I hardly ever drive it, because there's no place to park in New York . Cabs or the subway are a much easier way to get around. Come on up,” she said, taking the redhead's hand.

Taking the elevator, neither spoke as they went up to Anna's tenth-floor apartment. When the brunette opened the door, she gestured Dylan in ahead of her. The firefighter's eyes widened. “Great place,” she complimented.

“Thanks. My father bought it for me when I graduated school. His second wife didn't like the idea of me living with them, and my mother's fourth husband was just a jerk.”

“Fourth husband?”

“Yeah. She's on number six now. Marriage is her pastime. For her she spends about a year dating the guy, nine months planning an outlandish wedding, and then about six months actually married before she gets bored with him. Of course she keeps upgrading every time she marries. She's married to some hotshot Hollywood director now, not that I care. She likes to flaunt him like he's a catch. I know that it's just his money she's after.”

“I sense some hostility there.”

“Not really. I know what she is. A lot of women around here marry for things other than love. The disadvantage of being straight I guess,” she teased.

“Doesn't sound like just a straight problem by the way you tell it. You mentioned your dad was into monitoring your girlfriends. I wonder what he'd think of me. He'd probably kick my poor butt to the curb, huh?”

“Well, he wouldn't be rude like my mother would, but I would certainly hear about it.”

“I guess it's a good thing we aren't dating then, huh?” hesitantly she asked, wondering what the response to the statement would be. She had wondered where they stood, and this was a chance to find out what was going through the smaller woman's head.

“Yeah, definitely a good thing,” Anna answered quickly, ignoring the disappointment nagging at her heart. “He probably wouldn't be thrilled that we were sex buddies either, though.”

“Is that what you rich girls call it?” Dylan inquired, disregarding the sinking feeling in her stomach at being called that. “I thought you said you weren't into that.”

“Well, that was before I met you,” she said with a smile. “When you meet the best, why not accept it?” she tried to compliment.

Dylan nodded and smiled, acting as if she was flattered by the comment. However, she suddenly felt weird about being there. “You want to go somewhere? You said something about a movie.”

“Yeah. I thought we might have lunch first and then go. You want the rest of the tour?”

“The bedroom is all I'm interested in,” she said with a raise of her brow, trying to sound tempting, even though she wasn't feeling much like intimacy at the moment. It just seemed to be the best response.

“Right. Of course,” Anna stated. Inside she felt her heart slip even farther into her stomach. “Well, we don't have time for that before the movie. Why don't we save the tour until afterwards then?” she suggested, not feeling secure in having Dylan there at the moment. She sensed something amiss with the younger woman that gave her a sense of doubt about being there just then. “Come on. The restaurant I want to go to is just a few blocks from here.”

Quietly they walked to the restaurant and were seated for lunch. Immediately Dylan ordered a beer while Anna decided on a bottle of water. “So, what's good here?”

“Everything. What are you in the mood for?”

Dylan scanned the menu. The prices were more than she expected, but she didn't let on as she thought about her choices. “I guess I'll have a salad.”

“Well, unless you plan on ordering about three of them, you should pick something else. That will never fill your stomach.”

“Well, what's the biggest thing on the menu?”

“The chicken Parmesan is big. You get tons of pasta with that and a salad.”

“Fine. What are you getting?”

“A salad.” When their beverages came to the table, Anna asked, “May I ask you something?”


“Do you always drink beer? Every time I'm with you, that's all you drink.”

“I happen to like beer, Anna. It's like water to me. Why do you ask?” she questioned.

Hearing the edge to Dylan's voice, she sensed that she hit a sensitive subject. “I was just curious.” Dylan rolled her eyes. Seeing that the brunette asked, “What's your problem today? Is something wrong?”

“I had a tough few days is all,” she lied. “Enough about me. Let's talk about you. Tell me more about your family. Your mother sounded pretty interesting. You said your father has also been married a few times.”

“Yeah. He's been married three times.”

“Any brothers or sisters?”

“I have some step-siblings, but I'm both my parents' only child, and I'm my father's little girl, always have been. No matter what happens with his wives and the other stepchildren, he's always treated me like his golden child. I guess that's what came between him and wife number two.”

“Does that get lonely?”

Anna shrugged. “I'm used to it. My parents sent me away to boarding school when I was in high school, so I'm used to not having family around. I have Blair. She's my best friend. We met in kindergarten and have been friends since. We went to boarding school together and school in Massachusetts . She's like my sister.”

Dylan nodded. “Blair is great. She made quite an impression on Davin. He was talking about her at work the very next day.”

Anna laughed. “She's a big flirt. Davin left an impression on her as well. I told her he was married, though.”

“Good because I would hate to see Blair's early demise if Stacie got hold of her. Talk about a woman with an Irish temper. Whoa. She's fiery. Davin assures me that has its advantages though,” she joked.

“I'm sure it does.”

“So, tell me. What does your father do?”

“He's in real estate mostly, owns several properties in New York City and across the state.”

“Like a Donald Trump?”

“Sort of, better looking than Donald, though.”

“Well, let me be the judge of that. What's he look like?”

Anna fished into her purse and pulled out her wallet. Turning to a photograph, she presented it for Dylan. The firefighter studied it for a moment. There was Anna, obviously a few years younger, standing there with an astute, fashionably dressed gray-haired man with steely blue eyes. He stood with his arm around his daughter's shoulders on what looked like her graduation day. Dylan could see the adoration clearly in his eyes. “You have his eyes and his face,” she mentioned.

“I actually have his hair too. He used to be brunette. The only thing of my mother's I have is her body type.”

“Do you have a picture of her?” Anna nodded and flipped the page to reveal the next photo. It was of the same day. Dylan looked at it before turning the next few pages on her own accord. The rest of the miniature album was of Anna and Blair. “You and Blair are quite a duo,” she said.

“She means everything to me.”

“What does she think about me? Did I make a good impression on your pseudo sister?”

Smiling Anna answered, “Blair thinks you're a hot commodity. It's a good thing she's into the fellows, or she would have given me a run at you.”

“That would have gone over well at the firehouse. They were crawling over Davin for details about her. I have plenty of single macho firefighter brothers that would love a shot at her.”

“Well, if they look anything like Davin, she might take you up on that.”

Through the rest of the meal the two talked mostly about the movie they were going to see later. Dylan found her ire from earlier start to fade once she had some food and a couple of beers. As for Anna, her uneasiness also began to disappear, but she found it interesting that Dylan consumed so much alcohol during their short meal. When the check arrived at their table, the redhead reached for it, but Anna did as well.

“Anna, allow me to pay for lunch,” she said.

The brunette shook her head. “No. This was my idea. I should pay.”

“But I don't feel right about that,” she explained.

“Exactly why is that?” she questioned pulling a credit card from her wallet.

“Because...” When an answer wasn't forthcoming, Anna just shook her head and handed the bill to the server. “Hey,” Dylan protested.

“What, Dylan?” the brunette pressed.

“I just, I'm not used to having women pay for things for me.”

“Well, I would like to buy you lunch, so that's final. If you feel that strongly, you can buy the movie tickets.”


Once lunch was finished, the two of them headed to the theater. Dylan paid for the tickets and their snacks before they went into the darkened theater to find seats. “Where do you want to sit?” the shorter woman asked.

“I like the back. Can you see from there, or do you want to sit closer?”

“The back's fine. You want the back row?”

“Yeah. Back row on the aisle,” she requested.

Anna slid into the aisle and took a seat, wondering what might happen between them sitting all the way in the back alone. However, as Dylan took a seat, she merely put an arm around Anna's chair and kept her eyes toward the screen. For the next two hours, the firefighter sat perfectly still with eyes riveted to the movie.

Anna sat watching as well, but she felt tension in the redhead's body. It was obvious that Dylan was upset but wasn't saying so. The brunette figured it had to be over the lunch bill but didn't know how to make it better, so she just hoped they would be able to moved beyond it once they were back at her apartment.

By the time they went back to her place, the afternoon was turning to evening. As Dylan stood at the window looking out at the scenery, the brunette offered, “Could I get you a drink?”

“What do you have?”

“Wine, water, juice.”

“No thanks.”

“What about a Guinness?” she asked.

“Yeah, that would be great if you have it.”

“I have it,” she said, turning to go into her kitchen. Heading to her refrigerator, she pulled out the beer she had gotten for Dylan a few days ago. Popping open the can, she poured it into a glass with a long sigh. Returning to her den, she extended it to the redhead.

“Thanks. That's sweet of you to remember what I like to drink.”

“It's hard to forget,” she mumbled under her breath.

Not hearing her, Dylan inquired, “What was that?”

“Nothing. I just said of course I remembered.”

“Oh. Well, so what are your plans for the evening? You and Blair hitting the streets to find trouble?”

“Not tonight. She's in California for work.”

“I've been meaning to ask you. What exactly do you do all day since you don't work? Like go through a day for me.”

Anna shrugged. “I don't know. I usually get up around nine. Eat breakfast and then go to the gym. After that, I shower and usually have lunch out with friends, sometimes my dad. In the afternoons I like to go to the park and read or go to a museum. Sometimes I go shopping. Coffee around four most days. Dinner either at home or out with friends. Then at night I usually go out.”

“Do you get lonely? Is that fulfilling?”

“Well, most of my friends don't work, so I don't usually get lonely. However, there are some times when I wish I did something else. I just don't know what to do with myself really.”

“What's your degree in? You said you had a Masters.”

“It's in communications. When I was in college, I actually had an internship with MTV for a couple of summers. I really enjoyed that.”

“Did you get to meet a lot of celebrities?”

Anna nodded. “That was fun, but what I liked best was the other people. By the time I graduated, I was helping produce shows for them.”

“That sounds neat.”

“It was. Actually they called me recently asking if I would be interested in working on one of their reality shows, but I turned them down.”


“I didn't like the concept. There are so many New York based shows, and that one didn't seem very original to me. Of course since meeting you, I've come up with a concept myself for a reality show.”

“What's that?”

“The fire department. If any other firefighters are half as interesting as you, there would be plenty to work with. Of course I don't know how much red tape I'd have to go through to make that happen. It might not be worth it, but I've been thinking about pitching it to them.”

“That would be cool.”

“Life in front of a camera though is tough. Just ask Blair. Assuming that it could work, I wouldn't ever put you on camera just for that reason. You deal with too much as it is, and having a camera in your face all the time would be the last thing you need.”

“Oh come on, Anna. I want to be in it,” she pressed teasingly.

“We'll see. They might shoot it down all together. It's just an idea right now.”

Just then the doorbell interrupted them. Wondering who it might be, Anna went to answer it while Dylan stayed in her position overlooking the city. Opening the door, the brunette was surprised to see her ex-girlfriend standing there. “Julie, what are you doing here?” she questioned in shock.

“I came to talk to you,” the blonde replied, pushing the door open far enough to enter even though she hadn't been invited in. “You haven't been returning my calls.”

“That's because I have nothing to say to you, Julie,” Anna stated after her retreating form as her ex moved toward the den.

As soon as Dylan heard the movement, she turned from the window to see someone she didn't know staring at her. Both women just stood speechless for a moment as Anna entered. Finally Julie turned toward the short woman. “Oh, I see how it is. This is the reason you're not calling me back. Your hookup at the bar is still hanging around. You never could just fuck someone, Anna. You always had to get involved.”

“You say that as if I should be ashamed of it. I'm not like you, Julie. I don't just fuck women for the hell of it, especially when I have a girlfriend at home!”

The blonde shook her head. “Look. I didn't come to fight. I came because we have to work this out. You know it's expected of us. Perhaps if your guest would leave, we could do that,” she suggested, staring at the redhead again.

Dylan just stood there taking in the scene, quickly realizing this was the notorious ex. Anna looked at Dylan and then back at Julie. “Dylan isn't going anywhere.”

“Fine. Then come here,” she demanded, grabbing the brunette by the hand and dragging her into the dining room. For a moment Anna went along willingly like she always used to when they were together. When they were alone, the blonde looked down into blue eyes. “Anna, you know as well as I do that we can't go on like this. Our parents think we're still together, and your father has invited my family to dinner next week. I know we needed a little time apart, but you know as well as I do that when we go to dinner next week, we need to be our happy selves again. Anna, don't ruin this for us.”

“I'm not the one who ruined it, Julie! I'm not the one who fucked my law partner on the desk at work!” she fumed.

Julie sighed. “Look. I'm sorry you had to walk in on that.”

“Yeah but you aren't sorry you did it, are you?”

“I'm sorry you got hurt. I tried to keep you all separated.”

“You shouldn't have kept us separated! You shouldn't have slept with her in the first place! What I want to know is how long! How long did I actually play the fool? Six months? A year?”

Staring at Anna, Julie answered, “Five years, Anna.”

“You bitch!” the brunette screamed. “That was our entire relationship!” she yelled, shaking with anger. Unable to control herself, she struck her ex across the face as tears streamed down her cheeks. She never expected that answer, for it made it seem their whole relationship had been a sham. All the time she had put into making a life with the blonde and it was all a lie whenever her ex made love to her.

Instantly Julie grabbed her by the shoulders. “How dare you hit me?” she shouted, raising her own hand. However before it could descend, an iron clasp held it suspended in mid-air. Both Anna and Julie turned, almost stunned at Dylan's sudden presence.

Squeezing Julie's wrist tightly, the redhead growled, “I wouldn't do that if I were you.”

“Fuck off! This is none of your business!”

“I disagree. As soon as you raised your hand to Anna, it became my business. Now I suggest you just step back,” she demanded, wedging her way between the fighting women as she released her grip. When the blonde didn't heed the instruction, Dylan pushed her back several steps.

“Don't touch me! That's assault!” the blonde attorney bellowed, stepping into Dylan's space.

“Do you actually think I'm scared of you? If you can't play nice with Anna, you have to go through me now. I will not tolerate you hitting a lady.”

The blonde stepped back on her own and just stared at Anna. “Anna, you know I'm right about this. We have to patch this up.”

“Julie, I can't. What you did was unforgivable.”

“I know you can. If you were that set in not taking me back, you would have already told your father we were broken up, that the wedding was off, but you haven't, because you know I'm right. He thinks we're still engaged, and I'm going to make sure it stays that way. It's what he wants, and you know it. I'm willing to walk that aisle with you, Anna, for the sake of our families, but you have to make concessions too.”

“I have no concessions to make, Julie. I didn't cheat. I gave you everything, but it wasn't enough for you. As far as I'm concerned, we're finished. I said that weeks ago, and I'm saying it again now. I don't want you in my life.”

“Well, too bad because I'm here to stay if you father has anything to say about it. Get over yourself. You know this is about their agenda, and the two of us are going down that aisle next summer whether you want to or not. You know how it works. Marry for money and notoriety and find your sexual solace elsewhere. You can even keep your working class girl here. I don't care. All that matters is that the plan has been set in motion, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Neither of us can stop it. Our fathers have made up their minds.”

The brunette shook her head. “Julie, I want you to leave now. As far as I'm concerned this is over. There is no more us. There is no wedding. There will be no marriage between us. I don't care what our fathers want.”

“Yeah, okay. I'd like to see the day you stand up to your old man. If you think he's going to like this poor wretch over me, you're a bigger fool than I ever thought. Wedding's on even if I have to drag you kicking and screaming to the service myself. As soon as you get that through your head, we can work on us again.” Looking at Dylan, Julie snarled, “Don't ever let me catch you here again. You want to screw my fiancée, that's fine. You might even be able to teach her a thing or two but not in this house.”

Shocked that someone would ever say such a thing, Dylan gave no reply. There was nothing she felt she could even say. She just stood there as the blonde excused herself and made her way out of the apartment. Hearing the door close, the redhead turned to Anna. “What just happened here?” she inquired.

“Julie just happened,” the shorter woman whispered with tears falling freely down her face.

“Are you all right?”

Anna didn't answer at first. Instead she wrapped her arms around the firefighter's neck and buried her head into her chest. Dylan responded by putting her arms around the little woman. “I'll be fine,” quietly she said.

A few minutes passed in silence as they just stood in their embrace. Dylan could feel Anna's tears wet her shirt. Trying to console her, she ran her hands through the dark hair and kissed the top of her head. “It's going to be okay,” she assured.

The dark head nodded. Taking a deep breath, she looked up at Dylan. Blue eyes looked at those green ones that were so full of concern. “Thank you for being here, and thank you for protecting me. She's never tried to hit me before.”

“You're welcome. It's never right to hit a lady.”

Feeling that emotion that had been creeping into her heart since the night she and Blair had visited Dylan at work, Anna decided to take a chance on expressing it. Gazing into caring green eyes, she whispered, “Especially if she's your lady.”

Taken back slightly the redhead just thought about that statement for a moment as she searched those blue eyes for meaning. She found exactly what she suspected there in those depths. Anna had just offered herself in a way she never had. With a gentle smile, Dylan nodded. “Especially if she's my lady,” she affirmed, taking the gift that had just been given.

Anna gave a beautiful smile as she leaned up to kiss the firefighter's mouth tenderly. “Well, why don't we take that tour we didn't get to earlier? I believe you haven't seen the whole place.”

“Sure. Lead the way,” the redhead answered, taking her girlfriend's hand.

Anna led the way from the dining room down the hallway. “This is my second bedroom,” she explained. “Blair stays over a lot, so most of that stuff is hers. Then this is the hallway bath. At the end of the hall is my room.” Walking through the door, she flipped on the lights.

Dylan's eyes scanned the large room. She had never seen anything like it. The queen-sized bed was made to perfection with pale linens and mounds of pillows. Nightstands flanked either side with matching lamps. On the right side there was a long dresser with pictures of Anna with various loved ones in her life, mostly her father and Blair, as well as jewelry scattered haphazardly near a jewelry box. On the wall with the door was a large entertainment center and bookshelf containing tons of books and movies. Finally on the left wall there was artwork and two doors. Curiously she inquired, “What's this?”

“That's my closet,” Anna replied as Dylan opened the door and flipped on the light.

The redhead's eyes expanded at the sight of racks upon racks of clothes in a room as large as her own bedroom at home. The far wall alone had only shoes floor to ceiling. “Wow. This is impressive.”

“That back wall actually opens further. Watch this.” The brunette demonstrated how the two panels popped open to reveal even more footwear.

“Wow. You could go a whole year without wearing the same thing,” she joked.

“Seems like I always wear the same old things, though. Sometimes you just can't beat your favorite outfit.”

“I know what you mean. I have this pair of jeans that I've had since high school. They are so worn, but I can't give them up. They are just so comfortable. Too bad they wore a hole in the seat, or I'd wear them out in public.”

“There's one last stop. My bathroom,” announced the smaller woman, taking her hand.

Dylan agreeably followed, intrigued what could be so wonderful about a bathroom. However as she cleared the doorway, she realized why it was the highlight of the tour. The room had double sinks on the left side with white granite counter tops. There was a double-headed stone and glass shower to the right, and then at the very back there was a large tub. Interested in that, Dylan moved over to it. It was clearly meant for more than one person by its size. “Is this a hot tub?”

“Jacuzzi,” the brunette corrected. “You want to try it out?” The taller woman nodded vigorously. “Great. I'll tell you what. Why don't you go back into the den and finish your beer while I get it ready?”


“Give me ten minutes. Then come back.”

Dylan nodded. Doing what she was told, Dylan went back to where she had left her beer earlier and consumed it. Figuring she had time, she went to the kitchen to retrieve another. When she opened the refrigerator, she found an entire case of Guinness there on the bottom shelf. Fishing out another can, she opened it and then proceeded to drink directly from it as she put her empty glass in the dishwasher. After a long ten minutes, she deposited her now empty can into the recycling bin and then headed back to the bathroom.

When she got there, she paused in the doorway momentarily taking in the sight before her. The lights were off, and in their place candles aglow around the tub. Sitting on the edge of the tub was the most beautiful sight she had ever seen. The petite woman was wearing a long red silk robe that brushed the floor. The folds were parted just enough to reveal one of Anna's naked legs up to her thigh. Her dark hair was pinned up off her back, exposing her neck, and she sat there adding something to the water, unaware of Dylan's admiring presence. In fact, it was Dylan's voice that finally alerted her.

“You are absolutely a mesmerizing sight.”

Anna smiled even before she looked up at the firefighter. When she did, she saw in green eyes what was coursing through her body, desire, desire to know the feeling of heated flesh and hear fevered cries of pleasure. Standing up she softly beckoned, “Come here.”

Dylan obeyed, crossing the room with several long steps until she was in the brunette's space. The firefighter didn't dare touch her for fear the illusion would fade as soon as she reached for her, so she merely stood there, watching and waiting. Without words between them, the brunette raised her hands and started to unbutton the redhead's shirt. She didn't look into green eyes, because she knew if she did she would be swallowed by the intensity of their gaze. Instead she focused on the buttons of the shirt, slowly working each open. When they were, she pushed it from broad shoulders. The t-shirt under it was next. Anna felt Dylan's breath becoming labored as she slipped her hands under the shirt and over her skin, but the firefighter stood still. Continuing her work, Dylan's bra followed, dropping to the floor. Finally the brunette moved her hands to the redhead's belt buckle. Hands trembled as she opened it, and her own body began to feel incredibly sensitive to the firefighter's breath along her neck. Working open the jeans, she pushed them off their owner's hips along with everything under them, leaving Dylan with her pants around her ankles.

Anna stepped back enough to kneel. She slipped one tennis shoe and sock off and then the other set before tugging the firefighter's pants all the way from her body. The shorter woman let her eyes roam up Dylan's powerful legs as her hands trailed up the back of her thighs. Risking a glance up to the taller woman's face, she found more than she expected. The fire was undeniable, but something else consumed those eyes. A hand under her chin guided her back to her feet.

Unable to remain stationary, Dylan gave in to her urges to kiss her girlfriend. “Sweet, sweet woman,” she sighed, mouth moving over her ear as her hands delicately removed Anna's robe. “I need to make love to you more than I need to breathe. Please, Anna. Let me love you.”

The dark head nodded as she softly replied, “Please, Dylan.”

With consent granted, the strong woman scooped Anna into her arms and stepped into the tub. She carefully placed the brunette into the water and then lowered herself next to the body she desperately needed to touch. Focused solely on her lady, Dylan began to lead them through the intimate dance they had shared before, but this time seemed different to both of them. They were completely equals in their sentiments to each other, each giving freely of themselves.

Neither had concept of time as they stayed in the tub long after they should have. However, when exhaustion claimed the redhead, she gave a long groan and rested her head against the tile. Idly she played with the tendrils of hair that had fallen loose from Anna's clip as the older woman's head rested against her shoulder. Her other hand traced lazy patterns along the small of the brunette's back as she just took in the feeling of Anna's frame laying on top of her own.

“I've never been so relaxed in my life,” the firefighter mumbled. “I could fall asleep just like this.”

A moan greeted her statement. “We should get you out of the tub and into bed.”

“Not yet. Let me hold you like this a little longer,” she requested.

The brunette didn't respond but knew she wouldn't deny her lover such a simple pleasure, so she merely pressed herself closer to the body under hers and clung tighter to Dylan's neck. “There really is nothing quick about your love making skills, is there?” she teased lightly.

“Not a thing. That's not a problem, is it?”

Anna shook her head. “I guess that just rules out unexpected romps.”

“Yeah. I don't like to do that. I wouldn't be satisfied. It's like having just a sip of Guinness and expecting to be appeased. I won't be fulfilled until I have it all. A taste of you simply won't do. I have to have the entire meal. Although I'll admit, I'm not sure I'll ever be sated when it comes to you. I always want just a little more. Even when my body says it's had enough, there's something in you that begs for continuation, and I feel helpless to do anything but oblige,” she confessed as her right hand slid between their bodies and cupped Anna's heat. Immediately hips undulated into her to increase the pressure. “See. Just like that. One little movement and I'm on fire for you again.” Going with the feeling, Dylan slipped inside of Anna once more where she was welcomed with a rising moan of need. Sitting them up so the brunette was straddled across her hips in the water, the firefighter kissed along her girlfriend's neck and jaw, softly murmuring confessions of Anna's loveliness and worth as she took the woman to another pinnacle.

Shuddering in delight, Anna clutched the red head to her tightly uttering, “Oh God, Dylan. I love you. I love you so much.”

Without hesitation the firefighter avowed, “I love you too, Anna.”

Blue eyes immediately met green ones. Anna hadn't meant to say those words even though she had known they were genuine, so she was surprised but pleased to have them reciprocated. Those green eyes told her all she needed to know. Dylan's words were truth. Smiling down at her girlfriend, she requested, “Take me to bed, Dylan.”

“Of course.” Picking her girlfriend up out of the water, Dylan carried her over to the towel rack and deposited her. Quickly they both dried off and, then Anna was off her feet and in the firefighter's arms once again, being carried to the bed. Dylan lay her down on it before clearing the pillows and pulling down the covers. “You want to wear anything to bed?”

“Just you,” she answered, pulling her lover down into a kiss.

Much later as they settled for sleep, the redhead said, “I need to get up at six tomorrow. Would you set the alarm?”

“Sure. Why so early, though?”

“I have a doctor's appointment in the morning before I go to work.”

“Oh? You're not sick, are you?”

“Not that kind of doctor. My captain asked me to see my psychologist twice a week instead of once like I had been. He thinks I'm still having adjustment problems.”


“Over Danny,” she answered.

Anna nodded her head. “I think he's probably right. I mean I don't know you the way he does, and I sense you have issues about Danny. Does it help to go?”

Dylan shrugged. “I've been in therapy since it happened, started with five times a week while I was in the hospital recovering. Over time I kept dropping a day until I was down to one, but I feel like I've just hit a wall. Davin doesn't have to go any more.”

“Well, you shouldn't compare yourself to your brother. Everyone's pain is different, Dylan. That doesn't make him stronger or weaker, just different.”

“That's what they keep telling me. It's just that no one was there that day. It was just Danny and me. No one could understand what that was like.”

“That doesn't mean we don't want to try though, Dylan. I'm here for you if you ever want to talk about it.”

“Thanks but I'd rather not. I don't want to subject you to that. Let's just go to sleep.”


That weekend Anna and Blair were invited over to the Flannery's roof party, so the two women dressed to impress, Anna to impress the other Flannerys, namely Dylan's father, while Blair took on the great task of looking wonderful for all the firefighters she knew would be there. When they arrived in their cab, they could already here the noise and music coming from several stories up. Anna led the way inside and up the staircase to the roof.

As soon as they walked out onto the roof, the whole audience seemed to sense their presence as a curious hush fell over the usually loud firefighters. Hearing the silence, the redhead looked up to see her brother headed for the two women. Handing her duties off to a friend, she did the same. “Anna, Blair, good to see you both,” she said with a smile and wave. “You two didn't have to dress up, you know.”

“You promised me hot men,” Blair joked, kissing the redhead on the cheek. “And boy did you deliver. I wanted to look my best.”

“Knock yourself out. These boys aren't shy. Just stay away from Davin,” she teased, hitting her brother playfully on the arm. “Davin, you remember Anna Porter, my girlfriend,” she announced proudly, slipping her arms around the brunette's shoulders.

“Not as such. Nice to finally meet you officially, Anna. Dylan won't shut up about you,” he teased, extending his hand.

“It's nice to meet you too, Davin. This is my friend, Blair.”

“I couldn't forget your friend. Blair, allow me the honor of escorting you into the lion's den,” he said with a bright smile.

“That would be great.”

Once the two were alone, Dylan smiled at Anna again. “Thanks for coming. My da has been anxious to meet you. Are you ready to meet him?”

“Ready as I'll ever be. Lead on,” she answered, taking the redhead's hand.

Crossing the party they went over to a gray-haired gentleman sitting on the swing with two kids. He looked up and smiled as he saw them approaching. “Da, I want you to meet someone. This is Anna Porter. Anna, this is my da, Keane Flannery.”

“Anna, wonderful to finally meet you,” he said, standing to shake her hand.

“And these are my niece and nephew, Ainsley and Davin, Jr. Kids, this is my girlfriend, Anna.”

Leaning down to their eye level, Anna greeted them politely. However, Junior asked, “Girlfriend? I thought you said that was boring stuff, Aunt Dylan.”

Anna laughed at his comment. “I'm boring?” she quipped, putting her lover on the spot.

“I never said you specifically.”

“Uh huh. I'll remember that later,” she joked.

“Thanks, Junior,” Dylan teased, ruffling his hair.

Just then they were interrupted by Stacie saying, “Well, this must be the famous Anna. I'm Stacie, Dylan's sister-in-law. She hasn't stopped talking about you in weeks.”

“Why does everyone keep saying that?” the redhead asked with a flush.

“Because it's true,” her father answered. “Now, Anna, what can we get you to drink? Are you hungry? Dylan's been cooking up some good food while she counted the minutes until you got here.”

Throwing up her arms in playful provocation, Dylan jested, “You all are making me sound some pathetic sap.”

“Last time I checked that's what you were,” he father said with a smile, slapping his daughter on the shoulder.

“Don't pay attention to them, Anna. They make it sound as if all I do is talk about you.”

“And that's a bad thing?” the brunette teased, joining the fun.

Scoffing at the idea that her girlfriend was teasing her, she shook her head. “I'm going back to the grill to mind my own business. You fend for yourself.”

Anna smiled after her retreating form before turning to Dylan's family. “She's not really mad, is she?”

“Not a chance. She knew we were going to give her a hard time about having you here, but she knows it's just in fun. It's been such a long time since she's dated anyone,” Stacie informed her.

“Really? That seems odd. I mean she is a great catch if I can say so myself.”

“Dylan's a sensitive soul, Anna. Her emotions run deep,” Keane said. “But I'm sure you've already figured that out.”

The brunette nodded. “Some things I have yet to figure out about her, though.”

“Like what?” Stacie pressed in interest, but Anna didn't respond at first. “You know what, Anna? Let's go get a drink, shall we?” Seeing the reprieve, Anna agreed and was escorted away. Once she and Stacie were alone by the beer cooler, Dylan's sister-in-law said, “Spill it. Something's troubling you about Dylan that you didn't want to say in front of Keane.”

The brunette smiled at Stacie. “You are quite the observant one, aren't you?”

“Have to be in this family. All the Flannerys carry their emotions so deep within themselves, you have to be quite the investigator. I think I have the hang of it after being married to one for a decade, though. Now what's on your mind?”

“A couple of things actually. First I guess is Danny,” she hesitantly said. “She won't talk about him.”

“Well, that's not just your problem. Dylan won't talk about Danny with anyone except sometimes Davin. She's suffered a great deal since he died, more so than when her mother did. Something happened that day, something so horrific that she just can't voice it, but I see it in her eyes. I see her sorrow.”

“The other night we were falling asleep and talking about her therapy, and she said something to me. It's the only time she's ever mentioned him.”

“What did she say?”

“She said that it was just the two of them that day, and that's why no one could ever understand. Do you know what she was talking about? I haven't been able to stop thinking about that.”

Stacie shook her head. “I've never heard her say that, and Davin's never said he heard her say that. That actually makes a great deal of sense to me. I see why she carries her grief so close to her heart. If it truly was just the two of them, she probably feels responsible for whatever happened up there.”

“But she's not,” Anna protested.

“We can say that, but until she believes it, it doesn't do any good, Anna. She carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. She has since that day she was rescued.”

Both women looked at the topic of the conversation. Dylan was engrossed in conversation with some other guests as she manned the grill. “May I ask you something else?”

“Of course. What is it?”

“You've known Dylan a lot longer than I have, so you're probably a better judge of this than I am.”

“I've known Dylan her entire life.”

“Really?” Anna inquired in interest.

Stacie nodded. “Davin and I met at Sunday school at St. Patrick's when we were six years old. I remember Patricia being pregnant with Danny and Dylan. There is a seven-year difference between Davin and Dylan, so there were plenty of times when Davin and I were dating in high school that we babysat those two. The two of them were so wild together, a lot like my own kids. I see Danny in Davin, Jr. everyday,” she mentioned with a sigh. “I'm sorry. We were going to ask me something.”

“That's okay. What I was going to ask is if any of you thought Dylan had a drinking problem.”

“A drinking problem? No. Why do you ask?”

“She just drinks so much when I'm around her.”

“Well, all the Flannerys are big drinkers. They'd hardly be Irish if they didn't knock back a few. We joke that Davin, Danny, and Dylan were all born with a pint of Guinness in their hands,” she joked. When Anna didn't laugh though, Stacie stated, “You're concerned over this.”

Anna nodded. “I don't know if it's just a cultural difference, but I find it a bit excessive.”

“Well, give me an example.”

“Well, we went to lunch the other day, and she drank four beers in less than an hour. We went to the movies, and when we got back to my place, she had two more.”

Stacie nodded. “That seems about right for Dylan. Drinking is a way of life in the Flannery house. It might just take some getting used to. Speaking of which, here she comes for a refill,” she mentioned.

Dylan smiled at her sister-in-law and Anna as she approached them. “Are you telling all my secrets?” she playfully accused Stacie.

“I wouldn't be a good sister-in-law if I didn't.”

“Well, leave a little mystery, will you? Anna will get bored with me if she knows everything at once.”

“Somehow I don't think I'll ever be bored with you, Dylan,” the brunette said, touching her on the shoulder. She received a raised eyebrow in response and wink before leaving them again. “Oh, I know that look.”

“I think she's about ready to have you here in front of everyone,” Stacie said with a laugh.

Anna nodded. “She gets that way at the weirdest times too. I guess I didn't realize the capacity she had for that when we met.”

“Oh, from what I've heard, Dylan's quite the lover.”

“From what you've heard? Where did you hear that?”

“From the excessive parade of women that have come in and out of her apartment. We live right upstairs. Her bedroom is right under ours, and for some reason we can hear her through the ductwork at times. She was quite the Casanova.”


“She got serious about someone when she was nineteen, and they dated for over a year. Then September 11 th happened, and Dylan just cut everyone off, even her girlfriend. Dylan broke up with her, and she hasn't dated anyone else since.”

“She hasn't dated in three years?”

“No. I've seen the occasional women in and out of her apartment, but there's been nothing serious until you. She loves you, you know.”

Anna smiled and nodded. “I love her, Stacie. When we met I had no idea things would go this far.”

“How did you two meet? She hasn't told me.”

“We just met at a bar. Actually I was sort of mad, because my ex was there with the woman she cheated with me on, so I was out to get back at her. I saw Dylan sitting alone at the bar and went over to talk. Now a month later here we are.”

“Well, she's taking big steps with you, Anna. We're proud that she finally seems to be putting her life back together. You've been a good influence on her. Although I should let you in on a little secret.”

“What's that?”

“I heard her talking to Davin about you one night. She said she was having some issues with the money. I didn't quite hear all of it, because I was trying to get the kids in bed.”

“I know what you're talking about. I think I bruised her ego one day by buying her lunch.”

“That certainly would have done it. The woman has such gracious notions about courting someone. She's never dated someone with a different background, and I think she's still trying to figure out the best way to handle it.”

“That would make two of us.”

Later that evening as the more firefighters joined them after work, the crowd started to get rowdy as the alcohol flowed freely. As was usual with the group, the unruly company began singing drinking songs headed up by the youngest member of their troupe, the fiery redheaded Flannery. Anna and Blair watched from a distance with Stacie as the firefighters went through song after song. However, then she noticed Dylan huddle her boys for a moment.

Stacie turned to Anna and whispered, “I think you're about to be serenaded.”

Sure enough, after a moment of deliberation between the redheaded woman and the other firefighters, they all turned toward Anna. With a smile only for her girlfriend, she started to sing with her fellow comrades as accompaniment,

“She's got a way about her
I don't know what it is
But I know that I can't live without her
She's got a way of pleasin'
I don't know what it is
But there doesn't have to be a reason
She's got a smile that heals me
I don't know why it is
But I have to laugh when she reveals me
She's got a way of talkin'
I don't know what it is
But it lifts me up when we are walkin'
She comes to me when I'm feelin' down
Inspires me without a sound

She touches me and I get turned around
She's got a way of showin'


How I make her feel

And I find the strength to keep on goin'

She's got a light around her

And everywhere she goes

A million dreams of love surround her


She comes to me when I'm feelin' down

Inspires me without a sound

She touches me and I get turned around

She's got a smile that heals me

I don't know why it is

But I have to laugh when she reveals me

She's got a way about her

I don't know what it is

But I know that I can't live without her


As the voices faded and the boys started to high-five each other on their singing accomplishment, Dylan came over to her girlfriend. Anna grinned and blushed as the firefighters started to chant for them to kiss. “Should we oblige them?” the brunette questioned, wrapping her arms around her girlfriend's neck. Nodding, Dylan dipped her while at the same time landing a smoldering kiss on Anna's mouth, much to the exultation of her co-workers. Knowing the taller woman was showing off, Anna allowed Dylan her moment, but when it was over, she whispered, “We're going to talk about this later.”

“I have other plans for us later,” the woman said with a brazen gaze.

Seeing Stacie and Blair suddenly try to find something else interesting, Anna knew they had heard Dylan's declaration. “I'm sure you do, but rest assured, we're going to have this talk first about your behavior.” Looking around she decided they could slip away for a moment and took Dylan's hand, dragging her into the stairwell. “I don't like it when you do that.”

“Come on, Anna. I'm just playing around.”

“I know, but it makes me uncomfortable when you do that in front of the guys.”

“Why? They're like my family. They just want us to be happy.”

“Well, I just don't like being sexual in front of people I don't know. It makes me feel sleazy. You can't honestly say they want to see us kissing for our sakes.”

The redhead laughed. “Well, probably not. I'm sorry. I won't do it again. Can I still sing to you, though?”

“Of course. I love it when you sing to me,” she whispered, caressing the firefighter's face sweetly. She couldn't help but notice the smell of beer circulating through the air between them, the aroma of the dark ale that clung constantly to her lover. It permeated Dylan's clothes and hair, and she tasted it when the firefighter gave her a stirring opened-mouth kiss.

“Good because I love singing to you,” she admitted. “Now unless we go downstairs to my place and have some hot sex, I need to get back to this party. They'll notice if I go missing.”

“I know. They wouldn't know what to do without their ringleader. Who would tell them what to sing?” Anna teased lightly, thankful for the small reprieve from intimacy. At the moment she felt less than inclined as she had watched her lover over the course of the evening. When Dylan was with her peers, she was a completely different persona than when they were alone. In fact she acted more macho than her masculine counterparts as if she felt the need to parade her own sense of virility to fit in with her adoptive brothers.

Late that night after the crowd had thinned to just a few stragglers, Blair said that she had to go. Anna saw her opportunity to slip away with her and commented she too should be going. Dylan nodded at both of them even though Anna could tell she was disappointed that she would be going to bed alone. “Let me walk you two out,” she said, tossing back the end of her beer. Seeing that her brother was still there with the other guests, she waved the two women toward the door heading back downstairs. However, as she hurried down the stairs in front of them, she ended up tripping.

“Dylan!” Anna exclaimed in concern as she saw her girlfriend slip down several stairs onto the landing.

A moan was the only response at first and then she mumbled, “Fuck that's going to leave a mark.”

“Are you all right?” Blair asked as both women assisted her to her feet.

“I'm fine. Just took the stairs too fast. I'll be all right,” she assured.

Anna looked at her friend a moment as they held the firefighter by either arm. “I'll tell you what, Dylan. Why don't I help you into bed before we leave?” she suggested.

Green eyes flashed in excitement at the prospect. “Fine by me,” she growled playfully.

Anna rolled her eyes at Blair as the duo took Dylan to her apartment. “I'll be right back,” she told her friend as she assisted the redhead to the bedroom. Sitting Dylan down on the bed, she quickly started to undress her. However, her girlfriend had other ideas as she began to kiss over the brunette's neck. “Not now, Dylan,” she complained. “Let's get your clothes off.”

“You're going too fast. You know I like it slower than that,” the younger woman pouted as her shirt was ripped from her body.

Anna ignored her as she did the same with Dylan's jeans. Kneeling by the bed, she started to take off the redhead's shoes, but as she did so, she realized Dylan's ankle was bruised and swelling. “Does that hurt?”

“I can't feel it.”

“Well, it's going to in the morning. I hope you don't have to work. Here. Put your pajamas on while I get you some ice,” she charged, tossing the cotton pajamas on the bed. Moving into the kitchen, she passed her friend standing in the living room. “Dylan sprained her ankle when she fell. She's going to be in so much pain when that alcohol wears off. Maybe I should stay here.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. She might need to go to the hospital. I'm too worried to leave her.”

“All right. Call me tomorrow then.”

“I will.” Getting some ice from the freezer, the brunette returned to the bedroom to find Dylan stretched out on the bed in her pajamas inspecting her ankle.

“That's going to smart in the morning,” the firefighter commented.

“I hope you don't have to work.”

“Actually I have to work lunch shift at the pub.”

“Well, I don't think you can walk, Dylan. Your dad will just have to find someone to cover for you.”

“I'll be fine. I've shown up for work in much worse shape than this. Don't worry. You'll see. Now come here,” she said, trying to pull her girlfriend down onto the bed with her.

However, Anna resisted. “I have to wrap your foot. Here. Prop it up. Do you have a wrap for it?”

“In the bathroom under the sink.”

The brunette went into the bathroom and found the bandage. Coming back to the bed, she carefully wrapped her lover's ankle and then applied the ice. “Now just rest it.”

“But I had other plans,” the firefighter mentioned, reaching for Anna's hand.

“Not now you don't. You're in no shape for it. You need to just go to sleep. I'll stay here with you, but you need to close your eyes and rest,” she said, pushing Dylan onto her back. Curling up next to her, Anna just held her lover, and Dylan soon was snoring lightly.

The following morning the brunette was up first. The firefighter hadn't moved much during the night as she slept with her ankle still propped. Anna took the opportunity to examine it. It was twice the size it was normally and sported dark bruising along the foot. She knew her lover would not be able to walk in that condition and decided to take it upon herself to tell Keane of the situation before Dylan made herself worse by trying to work. Getting out of bed, Anna took a quick shower before throwing on some of the redhead's smallest clothes. Being that it was shortly before eleven, she knew the bar was probably already open in anticipation of lunchtime, so she walked downstairs and around the corner.

No one but Keane was there when she entered. He looked up and smiled. “Morning, Anna. To what do I owe this pleasure? Dylan's not here.”

“I know. Actually I came to talk to you about that. She's upstairs in bed. She sprained her ankle last night and can't walk.”

He shook his head in disappointment. “Damn, kid. I kept telling her that if she drank that much she'd end up hurting herself one day. She's just lucky it's a sprained ankle instead of a broken head. I worry about her drinking all the time. Now what am I going to do? Lunch starts in less than half an hour.”

“Is there something I can do to help?” the brunette inquired.

He shook his head. “Unless you were a waitress in another lifetime, there's nothing you can do. I need a healthy body in here.”

“Well, I could help you with customers. How hard could that be?” she inquired.

He looked at her with a raised brow, much in the same manner Dylan did. “Anna, that's sweet of you, but I can't subject you to these men. They're drunks.”

“I'm sure it's not that bad. What would I have to do?”

“Well, take orders and deliver food mostly, but I can't. You're not even on the payroll. It would be a liability to have you working here.”

“Mr. Flannery, with all due respect, you said you needed someone, and I'm free to help. I don't care about the money, and I'm not going to sue you if something goes wrong if that's what you're worried about.”

He looked at her seriously as if he were contemplating the offer. “All right but just until I find someone else to cover the shift. I doubt you would even make it that long anyway.”

“I can do this, Mr. Flannery. I eat out all the time. I know what to do.”

“I'm sure you do, but it's different when you're on the other end of the table, kid. These drunks will run you all afternoon to chase down their beers,” he grumbled. However, then he grinned and said, “Seeing as you're working here now, you better get used to calling me Keane. And I will pay you for today if you fill out an application that I can submit to my payroll company.”

“It's fine, Keane. I'm not doing this for the money.”

“All the same, if you work here, those are the rules. Even Dylan, Danny, Davin, and Stacie had to do it, so let's get you the form while it's still quiet,” he said, gesturing toward the back.

While they were sitting in the office filling out paperwork, Anna tentatively asked, “Did I hear you say you worried about Dylan's drinking?”

“That's right. Why do you ask?”

“Because I thought I was the only one. I thought she was a bit excessive, but Stacie and Davin seemed to think it was fine.”

Keane shook his head. “They might, but I don't. She drinks more than Davin and I put together. Sometimes I think she uses it to suppress her feelings of what's bothering her. After Danny died, she really took to the bottle in a way I've never seen anyone do, and it's been a concern of mine for some time. I had hoped it would wane over time, but I just don't see that happening.”

“Do you think she's an alcoholic?”

He shrugged. “That's hard to say. Flannerys by nature are heavy drinkers, but Dylan's taken it to a new level. She uses it as an escape. That much I know.”

Back upstairs Dylan awoke to realize she was running late for work. Panicking since it was her father who she had to answer to, she immediately picked up the phone to call him. “Da, hey,” she said when he answered the bar phone.

“Dylan, how are you feeling? I heard you busted up your ankle.”

“Yeah. I sprained it pretty badly. How did you find out about that?”

“Anna told me.”

“Oh. Well, I'm going to try to get dressed here and then be down. I'll be there as soon as I can.”

“No. You should stay where you are. Anna said you could barely walk. You don't need to be on it if it's hurting that much. Besides, I got someone to cover your shift.”

“Who? Stacie's busy.”

“Anna's down here busing tables and doing a damn fine job of it if I may say so myself. The customers love her. I may have just found my new favorite employee,” he joked.

“My Anna is busing tables? Da, she can't do that.”

“Why not? She offered. I wasn't going to let her, but she talked me into it.”

“But she can't handle those miserable drunks.”

“Well, that's what I thought at first, but then I realized if she can handle you, she can handle them.”

“Is that supposed to be a joke?” Dylan inquired irritably. She was upset that her girlfriend was doing her job.

“One Irish drunk or twenty, it's all the same. She's actually quite the worker. I didn't think she had what it took, but I was mistaken. She's a natural with these guys.”

“Da, I'm getting dressed and coming down there. She will not be working there. She's too good for that.”

“What are you saying, Dylan? We aren't good enough for her? She apparently doesn't feel that way. Now you stay where you are and rest that ankle, and whatever you do, stay away from the Guinness, will ya?”

“Da, this is no joke.”

“I'm not joking, Dylan. Now I have to go. I'm working the bar. Bye.”

Irked that her father ended their call so abruptly, Dylan rolled out of bed and stood. Pain shot up through her ankle into her leg, but she limped to the bathroom anyway to shower. That accomplished she managed to put on her work clothes and then hobble to her closet where she had her crutches stored from her last major injury. With those in place, she decided to see the spectacle of her high-class girlfriend working in the bar.

When she made it down to the pub, it took her a moment to get through the door with her crutches, but then she found an empty table near the bar where she could observe. Her eyes instantly found what she was looking for. There was Anna dressed in some of the firefighter's shorts that were so large for her she had them bunched up in the back with a belt to keep them from falling. She was also wearing a Flannery's pub t-shirt, and her hair had been pulled into a loose ponytail. Dylan's eyes wandered down the brunette's legs to discover her favorite pair of tennis shoes on her lover's feet. When Anna turned around to take care of a customer at another table, Dylan noticed the apron she had tied around her waist. She just watched as Anna greeted the customers with a large smile and diligently wrote their order. For a moment the firefighter thought she looked so natural being there as if she had always been a part of the notorious drinking hole.

However, when Anna looked up and saw Dylan sitting at a table, her face became serious as she came to where she was sitting. “You aren't supposed to be out of bed,” she said without greeting.

“And you aren't supposed to be working my shift. Why are you doing this?”

Anna shrugged. “Your dad needed help, and I was available.”

“You don't have to do this, you know.”

“I wanted to, Dylan. I wanted to make a good impression.”

“Well, I'd say you did that. Now take off that apron. You look silly.”

“No more than when you wear it. What's your problem with my working here?”

“You deserve better,” she countered.

Anna shook her head. “You know, I don't want to talk about this. I have tables to wait on. Are you going to order something or not?” she huffed.

“Yeah. Get me a Guinness, gorgeous,” she said with a smile.

Rolling her eyes, the brunette went to the bar. Meeting Keane there, she said, “I need a couple of Guinness.”

“What's Dylan doing here? Is she bothering you?”

“She just came down for a beer and to be snide.”

“Well, I think she's had enough beer for awhile. Take her this instead,” he said, filling up a cup with water. “She shouldn't be drinking if she's taking medication for that ankle.”

Taking the water, Anna returned to the redhead's table. “Here you go. A special drink from the bartender,” she quipped.

“This isn't even close to a Guinness,” the firefighter complained.

“If you have grievances, talk to the management,” the brunette said before heading off to see to customers.

A few minutes later Keane approached her table as she sat there pouting and sipping her water. “What's the cross face for, Dylan?”

“Anna. I asked her to get me a beer, and she brought me this.”

“Well, if it's any consolation, I'm the one who told her not to. You drink too much as it is. I won't have you drinking on medication. Now have you taken anything for that ankle? It looks like you did a number on it.”

“It's just a scratch. I'll be as good as new in no time.”

He nodded. “That's what happens when you get intoxicated, you know. You end up doing stupid things like this.”

“I wasn't that drunk,” she protested.

“You were drunk. That's enough.”

“So was everyone else,” she pushed.

“Well, you aren't everyone else, Dylan. I've let this go on for far too long. Anna's worried about you and quite frankly so am I. Next time it might not be your ankle, kid. Next time it might be your life. You need to cut back on this drinking habit of yours, or you're going to find yourself in a world of hurt.”

“Like I'm not already,” she mumbled, lifting her leg from the chair on which it was propped.

“You don't know the pain I'm talking about, but keep this bad habit up and you will. Now you just sit here and be quiet. And whatever you do, don't go harassing Anna. She's working.” Dylan nodded in understanding. “Do you think you're going to be okay to play tonight?” Keane inquired.

“I'll be fine, Da. Get me a barstool to sit on. Besides it's my left ankle, so I can still play the piano. If I start to feeling bad, we'll just change the set, but it shouldn't pose a problem.”

“All right. Well, I suppose I'll have to help Davin set up for this gig since you can't walk. I told Anna she only had to work until I could find a replacement for your shift, but she's doing so well, I think I'll just let her work the whole thing. Is she coming tonight?”

“I hadn't mentioned it to her. I'll ask later. If I asked now, you'd think I was pestering her.”

Her father smiled and ruffled the redhead's hair. “Well, if you need anything, let me know.”

That night when the brunette was finally told her shift was over, she went to the table where Dylan was still sitting. “You feeling any better?”

Dylan shrugged. “I'd be better if I had a Guinness to numb the pain, but seeing as I can't get one of those around here, I suppose I'm fine. Could you do me a favor, though? I think I might need help getting upstairs to change for work tonight.”

“Work? What do you mean work? You can't work, Dylan.”

“I can do this kind of work. My band is singing here tonight, and I need to get dressed. Davin and Da are going to set up the stage since I can't move. All I have to do is sit and sing. Is that okay with you?”

Anna nodded. Assisting the firefighter to her feet, she said, “I didn't know you were in a band. What's it called?”

“Firehouse 5. We sing here all the time.” Looking for her father, she yelled over to him, “I'll be back in a bit, Da. Anna's going to help me upstairs to change.”

“All right. Anna, I just want to thank you for what you did today,” he said, making his way over to them.

“I had fun, Keane.”

“Well, if you want, I can let you take all of the cripple's shifts until she's better,” he proposed.

“Sure. That sounds good.”

“Wonderful. You two take your time. The show doesn't start until nine anyway. Have some dinner and relax a little.”

Heading upstairs the two women made it into the firefighter's place only after a great deal of effort. Once inside Anna placed Dylan on the loveseat in the den. “I need to shower after the day I've had. Will you be okay here for a little bit?”

The redhead nodded. “I'll be fine. I'll just be sitting her thinking of what you look like in that shower,” she teased.

The brunette flushed lightly as she smiled. “I'm sure you will. When I'm finished, I'll make some dinner, and then we can get you dressed for tonight.”

As Anna turned to go, Dylan grabbed her by the hand and asked, “Aren't you forgetting something? You haven't kissed me all day.”

Shaking her head and smiling, she gave her girlfriend a quick kiss before disappearing into the bedroom, returning twenty minutes later in a pair of Dylan's sweat pants and a t-shirt. “Now what to do about dinner? What are you in the mood for?”

“Whatever you are. Do you want some help?”

“No. Just stay there. You'll be more of a hindrance than help in your condition.” Doing as she was told, the taller woman sat reclined on her sofa watching TV as Anna made them dinner. When it was ready, the brunette brought it to her along with her own. “So, tell me about this band of yours. What kind of music do you sing?”

“We do a lot of Irish songs of course. Then I like to throw in different stuff, usually something where I can play the piano, Billy Joel, Elton John, stuff like that. Of course we take requests. Sometimes I'll pick a guitar song, but Davin is a better guitar player than me, so I usually just leave him to that.”

“And who is in this band with you?”

“Well, it's Davin and two of our friends from the firehouse. You might have met them last night, Peter and Michael. Then I'm sort of the lead singer now, but we all sing as well as play instruments. Sometimes if we can catch Da in the right mood, he'll play with us.”

“How did you end up with the name Firehouse 5?”

“There were five of us, and we all belonged to the same fire company. It's kind of goofy but catchy, so we kept it.”

“Who was the fifth member?”

“Danny. He was our lead singer for a long time. We just don't have the heart to replace him or call ourselves anything else. We have quite the reputation in the pubs across the city. You know, we are all hot firefighters that sing. Can't get much better than that,” she joked.

“No you can't,” Anna replied.

“So, do you have plans tonight? Do you want to watch us play?”

“Of course I want to watch you play. I love listening to you sing. Why would I pass up that opportunity?”

“Good. I was hoping you'd hang around. I'll even sing you something special.”

Anna smiled. “I love it when you do that.”

That night when Dylan's band took to the stage at Flannery's Pub, Anna took the chance to call Blair as she had promised the night before. “Hey. Sorry I didn't call earlier. It's been quite a day.”

“It's fine. Where are you? What's all that noise?”

“I'm still with Dylan. Her band is performing at the pub tonight.”

“Her band? I didn't know she was in a band.”

“Neither did I until I few hours ago. You want to come down?”

“Are there cute guys there?”

“Yeah. Michael is here from last night. He's in the band.”

“I'm so there,” Blair joked. “He's hot. I wonder what he looks like without his shirt on.”

“Don't know but I'm sure he'd let you see if you asked him. He asked me about you before they went on tonight.”

“Oh, guess that means I better bring some protection, just in case,” she mentioned with a chuckle.

Anna laughed. “Just get down here, you glutton. I'm sure he'd be more than happy get in your pants, but you have to be here for him to do that.”

“All right. I'm on my way. Don't let him out of your sight.”

“Hey. I have my sights elsewhere. Dylan looks so sexy up there. Makes me almost forget the shit she pulled last night. That girl has me worried.”

“I know, but we'll work it out. For now just enjoy the music. I'll be there soon.”

As Dylan sang that evening, she could hardly keep her eyes away from Anna as she sat at the far end of the bar, whispering conspiratorially with Keane and Blair. However, as the set started to come to a close, she knew she had promised her lady a song and hushed everyone to make her announcement. “All right. Tonight I want to break from tradition for a moment to sing a special song to a woman some of you may or may not know. Over in the corner there, is my girl Anna, and I promised her that I would sing her something. The boys and I thought of just the perfect song, and so we'd like to sing it now. As most you know, my favorite singer is Billy Joel, and he wrote this song for his then ladylove, and now I want to sing it to mine. If you feel so inclined, feel free to sing along as we serenade her with words that are especially appropriate, ‘Uptown Girl'. Let's go everyone. You all know it. Sing with me.” Even though she couldn't walk, the redhead stood and gazed fondly at her girlfriend as the entire bar lifted their voices to belt out the words of the lively ballad.

Anna and Blair both sat attentively and listened as all the men in the bar took great pleasure in bellowing the words to the classic song. As the music died though, the model leaned to her friend's ear and teased, “Looks like Dylan's getting laid tonight.”

Anna swatted Blair on the arm as she blushed. “You make me sound like a slut saying that.”

“You are a slut when it comes to that woman. As for me, Michael is about to become one lucky man. Excuse me.”

“Have fun.”

“Oh, I will. You too.”

As Dylan slowly made her way through the crowd to where Anna was sitting, she noticed where Blair was headed. She laughed as she got to the brunette. “I see our little girl is on the prowl.”

“Blair is a woman who isn't afraid to go after what she wants. I just hope Michael can handle it.”

“Oh, he'd love to die trying at the very least. If he calls in sick at the firehouse tomorrow, we'll all know why. Did you enjoy the show?”

“Very much. You all are really quite talented.”

“I felt a little off tonight. Must be the pain in my ankle. It was a little difficult to play the piano as well as I normally do.”

“I thought it was wonderful all the same. I especially liked my song.”

“I thought you would. Billy has a song for every occasion.”

Leaning to her lover's ear, Anna whispered, “Does he even have one for making love?”

Green eyes flashed brightly as she answered, “Most definitely. Perhaps you'd like to hear it?”

“I most certainly would but upstairs.”

“Let's go then.” Standing up, Dylan looked for Blair. “Is she going to be all right down here alone?”

Anna nodded. “I'll just tell her good night quickly and ask Keane if I'm scheduled to work tomorrow. Then we can go.”

“You're not on tomorrow. I'm supposed to be at the firehouse, not here.”

“You're not going to be able to work.”

“I have to go all the same. Let me just make sure Davin can help me get there. He's working tomorrow too.”

After each other them ran their respective errands, the brunette helped Dylan upstairs to her apartment. The two of them made their way back to the bedroom where the redhead took a seat on the bed. Anna smiled at her and asked, “What do you want to wear to bed?”

“You have to ask?” she questioned with a smirk.

Shaking her head, Anna replied, “After that, Dylan. Any preference?”

“None at all. Just do me a favor and hand me my guitar. I believe I promised you a song.”

“No guitar. Just your voice but wait until I'm ready. I want to get ready for bed first and so should you.”

“This sort of takes the spontaneity out of it, you know.”

“It's still going to be good, because you're singing it,” the brunette assured. “Now just give me a few minutes.”

Shrugging the redhead answered, “Fine. You're running this show. We'll get ready for bed first. It'll save time later anyway.”

Both did their nightly routine using Dylan's toiletries before changing into some of the firefighter's pajamas. As they stood together in the tiny bathroom, Anna mentioned, “I really should bring some clothes over here seeing that I'm here almost every night. You're clothes don't exactly fit me.”

“Well, you're more than welcomed to. I have some space in my closet even though it's nothing like yours.”

“I think I'll do that. It's either that or just walk around naked while I'm here,” she teased.

“On second thought, that sounds even better,” Dylan said, leaning to kiss the brunette on the neck softly.

When the two were ready, they both got in bed, but being that the firefighter had to sleep with her ankle propped, she merely lay on her back as Anna curled up into her shoulder. Once she was comfortable, she said, “Now tell me about this song. What's it called?”

“It's called ‘The Night is Still Young', and I've always imagined it's for a moment just like this, for two lovers entwined in each other's arms late at night.”

“Sing it to me,” Anna murmured.

With a nod Dylan obliged her lover, softly singing the intimate words. When she was finished, she smiled as she gazed lovingly into blue eyes. “You know, I've never sung that song to anyone before. That's always one I've wanted to have reason to sing, and now I do.”

Anna gave a dreamy nod as she kissed her lover. “You certainly do, but for now you need to do what you just promised me in that song,” she mumbled, tossing her hair to one side as propped herself up on her arm.

“Anything you want, Anna,” Dylan vowed, pulling the smaller woman on top of her body as she met her lips in a gentle kiss.


Over the next few weeks Dylan and Anna spent lots of time together, but as hot August turned into September, the brunette sensed a change in her lover. Dylan was starting to act more reclusive, not interested in doing much other than work and spending time at the pub. Even more, the redhead's drinking habit had begun to increase, making Anna and all of Dylan's family concerned, but the twenty-four-year old wouldn't hear of it. During that second week of September Anna managed to convince Dylan to come to dinner at her house with her father and a few of her friends, to which the redhead reluctantly agreed.

That night when the firefighter arrived, she parked her bike in Anna's spot as usual before heading up to the apartment. Even though she had a key to the place, she decided she better knock, since she hadn't met Anna's father before. Moments later Blair answered the door.

“Dylan, hey. Come on in.”

“Thanks. How are you? I haven't seen you in awhile, but from what I've heard you've been keeping Michael busy,” she joked.

The other woman smiled wickedly. “You better believe it. Michael's actually here. Thought you could use a friendly face since you've never met James before.”

“Thanks. Is he here yet?”

“Yeah. We were just waiting on you. You'll be fine,” she assured, leading the way to the kitchen.

When they entered, Anna smiled as she went to hug her girlfriend. Dylan returned the embrace but didn't try more as steely blue eyes studied her behind wire-framed glasses. She wasn't sure what Anna might have told her father, so she played it safe. Once the brunette released her, Anna turned to her father and said, “Dad, I want you to meet Dylan Flannery.”

He smiled at her as he extended his hand. “James Porter. Nice to meet you Dylan.”

“Hi. Nice to meet you too,” she replied, taking the offered hand.

Anna could sense the redhead's nervousness but didn't say anything as she announced, “Well, dinner is ready. Why don't we all go into the dining room?” Everyone agreed, adjourning to the room next door. Anna quickly pointed out where everyone was supposed to sit, allowing her father and Dylan to be at opposite ends of the table.

As the redhead took her seat, she smiled. “You learned how to draw the shamrock in the head of the Guinness,” she observed, picking up her beer.

“That's cool, Anna. Did Keane teach you that?” Michael asked, looking at his as well.

“Actually Davin showed me how. He said that was the traditional way to serve it, so I might as well learn it.”

“What do you all have down there? Is that Guinness beer?” James questioned.

“Yes, sir,” Dylan replied.

James smiled. “Oh, that takes me back to when I was your age. Guinness was my favorite too. Anna, do you have another one of those?”

“You want a beer instead of wine?” she asked in dismay.

“If it's okay.”

“Sure. I've just never seen you drink a beer in your life.”

“Well, tonight I feel like a change.”

“All right. One Guinness coming right up. Blair, do you want one?”

“Can't. I have a big shoot tomorrow morning.”

With that Anna disappeared into the kitchen to get another beer. When she brought it to her father, he thanked her. “That is neat how you drew that shamrock on there. Where did you learn to do that?”

“Dylan's brother Davin taught me. Their family owns a pub. Not too long ago Dylan had sprained her ankle, and I offered to fill in her shifts until she was on her feet again.”

“You've been working at a pub?” he questioned.

Seeing the look on her father's face, she explained, “Just for fun and to be helpful.”

He shook his head slightly but didn't comment further. Instead he took a sip of the beer. “Oh, that's nice. So, Dylan, your family owns a bar?”

“Yes, my father does. It's Flannery's Pub down in the Theater District. The rest of my family and I work there on occasion.”

“So what do you do then?”

“I'm a firefighter. Michael and I actually work in the same fire company.”

“And we're in a band together too,” Michael added. “Dylan's our lead singer.”

“Oh really? What kind of music?”

“Mostly Irish but we also do contemporary stuff. Anything that has a part for the piano is always good, because that's my main instrument. Michael is the bassist. We play different pubs around the city. We're actually playing at my father's pub on the 11 th . We love to have an audience of people we know, so please feel free to join us. I hope Anna and Blair are going to be there.”

Anna nodded. “I wouldn't miss it.”

“Neither would I,” Blair added.

James smiled warmly at Dylan. “Well, thank you for that invitation. I may just have to join them if it fits my schedule.” For the rest of the meal the four younger people carried on conversation as James merely observed. Every once in awhile, Dylan would look up and see him staring intently at her, but after a couple of beers her uneasiness with it waned. However, once dessert and coffee were on the table and a lull in chat occurred, James turned to his daughter and mentioned, “It's a shame Julie couldn't be here tonight. I haven't seen her in awhile. The two of you have kept me so out of the loop on your wedding plans.”

“Wedding plans?” Michael inquired in confusion before Blair could deter him. “You're getting married, Anna?”

The brunette didn't answer at first as her eyes immediately went to Dylan. The firefighter showed no emotion at the comment, but she could tell it had upset her. “Yeah, Anna's engaged. I take it you didn't know?” James asked.

“I knew,” Dylan stated.

“Have you met Julie yet? She's quite a prize for my little girl.”

“I've had occasion to cross paths with her,” the tall woman answered.

“It doesn't sound like you were impressed.”

Dylan shrugged, trying desperately to hide her own feelings of hurt that Anna hadn't even bothered to tell her father the truth about them. “I just don't take kindly to anyone that would raise a hand to a woman, but that's me. Their relationship is their business, and Anna's going to do what's best for her. I suppose Julie can take care of her better than anyone else.”

“What? Julie tried to hit you?” he questioned his daughter in concern.

The brunette tried to downplay it. “It was just a misunderstanding, Dad. I don't want to talk about it now.”

However he didn't appeared satisfied with that answer as he stared at the redhead. “Dylan, what happened?”

She shook her head. “That's between them, sir. I won't tell a lady's secrets.” Just then her cell phone rang, breaking the awkwardness. Fishing it out of her pocket, she saw it was her brother and silently praised him that he had remembered to call as they had agreed. “Excuse a moment,” she said, rising for a moment and then answering it. When she was in the privacy of the den, she whispered, “Am I glad you called. This is awkward as hell. Michael's here with Blair and Anna's father just brought up her ex in conversation. You have to get me out of here.”

“Didn't you tell Anna that you had to babysit tonight anyway?”


“Well, tell her that I called to remind you and then make me your excuse to leave. Tell her we decided on an earlier movie or something.”

“But Michael's here. He knows you're at work.”

“Say Stacie asked you to watch the kids, so we could have an evening to ourselves. I get off soon. Say she wanted you to take them now, so she could prepare the apartment. Say something and then get out of there.”

“All right. I'll think of something. God, and this evening was okay until James mentioned their upcoming wedding. Michael looked totally lost and confused. He was genuinely shocked.”

“I'm sure he was, considering he's seen the two of you sucking face for the last two months. I can't believe she hasn't told her father she broke up with that woman. That's just awful.”

“Yeah, well, she's scared, but still I thought I was going to meet him tonight as her girlfriend, and it just hasn't turned out that way. I don't even know what to think right now.”

“Well, just tell them you have to come home. We'll sort it out when you get here.”

“All right. Thanks for remembering to call. This is just torturous. I owe you.”

“Just get here safely. That's all I need. See you soon.”

“Okay. Bye.” Taking a deep breath, Dylan returned to the dining room, glad to see that everyone else had gone about eating in her absence. “I'm sorry about that. That was Stacie. She was just reminding me that I had to get home to babysit. I'm really sorry I have to cut this so short, but she's planning a special evening for her and Davin, and I said I'd take the kids.”

“You can't leave now. You haven't even touched your dessert,” Anna said with a pleading look. She could tell Dylan was upset, but she didn't know how to correct it at that moment.

“I'm really sorry, Anna. You know they don't spend enough time together as it is. I'm just trying to help them, and you know I would do anything to help my family.” Moving to where James was sitting, she extended her hand. “Mr. Porter, it was nice to meet you. I'm sorry I have to end this night so early.”

He stood and shook her hand. “That's all right. I understand. Family is important.”

With a nod she turned to Blair and Michael and said good bye. “I'll see you at work tomorrow, Michael.”

“I'll walk you out,” Anna said.

“Don't do that. I know my way out. Thank you for dinner. Good bye.”

“Good night, Dylan. I'll talk to you tomorrow.”

Silence encompassed the room as the redhead left. Anna just stood there looking at her retreating form until the front door closed before moving to the blue eyes of her father. She could tell he was suspicious of something as he looked at her quizzically. Finally he remarked, “You better be careful with that one, Anna. She looks at you with stars in her eyes.”

“I know,” she admitted quietly, breaking their gaze. Looking at her friends, she tried to compose herself as she asked, “Anyone want more coffee or dessert?”

Blair shook her head. “No. We should probably be going too. Michael and I both have early mornings.”

“But it's early,” she objected.

“All the same. I think it's time to go.”

“Well, okay. This was not the way I had intended dinner to go, though,” the brunette said as she let her friends say good bye to her father. Once she had walked them out, she went into the dining room, but her dad wasn't there. She found him in the den, looking out the window.

“That was certainly an interesting meal,” he said, not turning from the view.

“It didn't go exactly how I intended.”

“And exactly how was it supposed to go?” he inquired, turning to look at her. “Did you actually think I wouldn't notice that something was going on between you and Dylan? Tell me. How long?”

“Dad, you don't understand.”

“Don't understand? Oh, I understand what I saw. She couldn't keep her eyes off you the whole night, Anna. She tried. I suppose it was to throw me off, but she failed miserably. That woman has feelings for you. That's obvious. What I want to know is how long this has been going on and if Julie knows about it?”

At the sound of her ex's name, Anna fell into the couch. Her father immediately came and sat next to her. “A few months,” she whispered as tears flooded over her face. “And yes, Julie knows.”

“You can't tell me she's okay with it.”

“She's not.”

“Did she break up with you? Is that what Dylan's story was about her trying to hit you?”

Anna shook her head. “I broke up with her, Dad.”

“Hopefully not for Dylan.”

“No. We broke up before I even met Dylan.”

“So, you've been broken up for months? Why didn't you tell me?”

“I was afraid you'd be mad. You love Julie. You talk about her all the time. You were so proud of your future daughter-in-law, and I just didn't know how to tell you.”

He nodded. “Why did you break up?”

“I don't want to talk about that.”

“Well, then why did she try to hit you? I won't stand for that.”

“I don't want to talk about that either, Dad.”

“Then what do you want to talk about? You have some explaining to do.”

“I know, but if it's all the same to you, I'd rather not talk about it now. Right now I have to think of a way to make this right with Dylan.”

He nodded. “Well, if I were her, I would be mad at you, Anna, but I would be able to forgive you too. You should be able to work it out. Tell me though. Is this serious between you?”

She shrugged. “I love her, Dad. I can't help it.”

“She's a firefighter. She doesn't make a lot of money, Anna. She can't care for you that way. I want someone who can take care of you. Not only that she puts her life on the line every day. Is that something you can live with? I don't think I could if she was my daughter-in-law. It would drive me crazy to think of her out there.”

By the time Dylan got home that night, she bypassed Davin and Stacie's place in her anger over the way the evening turned out and headed straight for her own apartment. Slamming the door she bounded into her kitchen and grabbed a case of Guinness sitting in her refrigerator before heading up to the rooftop for solace. She took a seat on the swing under the arbor as she popped open her first can and took a long sip. The feeling of the dark liquid sliding down the back of her throat made her sigh. She couldn't believe what had happened. She had tried to hide her feelings from Anna's father when he mentioned Julie but wasn't sure she had quite been successful. She just couldn't believe that after two months of them being together the brunette still hadn't confessed the breakup to her father. It made her feel used, far more so than even the night they met, and her heart hurt deeply from Anna's inconsideration.

For the rest of the night, Dylan stayed on the rooftop consuming her case of beer and thinking about everything in her life. Suddenly her relationship with Anna didn't seem as strong as she thought it had the propensity to be, but even more her thoughts lay elsewhere. Danny plagued her as she thought of him. She recalled that day to herself, the way she did everyday, but after three years, it was still as fresh as it had been when it happened. The pain of losing her brother, her best friend, her confidant, was just not something she could even express, much less overcome, and she knew she would never be able to have the world's understanding of her anguish.

In the morning the redhead slowly rose from her seat on the roof, knowing that she had to go to work. She knew it was not going to be easy to go that day, but it was her duty. Heading down to her apartment, she showered and then took the subway to work instead of her bike. When she arrived, no one said anything to her except a morning greeting. She knew without asking why, because when she saw Michael, he gave her such a pained expression of sympathy. However, she ignored him and stumbled to her locker. Opening it she just stared into it aimlessly until she heard her brother's voice behind her.

“Morning, Dylan. How are you feeling?”

“Life sucks, Davin,” she grumbled, looking over her shoulder at him.

He nodded but then looked at her closer. “Dylan, are you drunk?” he whispered, looking around to make sure no one else could hear them. “Your eyes are bloodshot.”

“What if I am? What are you going to do about it?”

“You can't be here drunk. You know that. Do you want to get suspended? You have to go home sick. You can't stay here like this. It's dangerous. You aren't going to be able to pull this off.”

“I'll be fine.”

“No, you won't. Don't be stupid.”

“I'm not stupid, Davin! I said I'd be fine!” she screamed, pushing by him.

“Dylan!” he yelled, following her into the garage.

“Don't yell at me, Davin! I know what I'm doing!”

“The hell you do! If the captain sees you like this, you're going to be in trouble!”

“If I see her like what?” their captain questioned, interrupting their heated exchange.

“Dylan's sick. She needs to go home,” Davin tried to explain.

The captain shook his head as he approached the redhead. “What's the problem, Dylan?”

“No problem, sir.”

“You mean other than the fact that you are staggering drunk?” he jabbed. “In the office now.” The woman sighed and rolled her eyes at her brother but did as she was told. When they were alone, he sighed as he crossed his arms across his chest. “Look, Dylan. I know tomorrow is the anniversary of Danny's death, and I know you're fighting with Anna, but that does not excuse you from showing up here like this. You know the policies. Intoxication at work is intolerable. You leave me no choice in this matter. You either tell me you're sick right now, and I let you take a sick day, or I have to suspend you. Now are you sick as Davin suggested?”

“I'm not sick, Captain! I'm perfectly capable of doing this job!” she snarled.

He shook his head. “Dylan, don't make me do this. Your father would never forgive you. You come from a long line of firefighters, and no Flannery has ever received anything other than commendation. Don't mar your family's name by doing this, Dylan. Just tell me your sick, and you can go home to try again another day. This is your last chance. Think about it.”

“I'm not sick, Captain. I'm here, ready and willing to do my job.”

“You're not here, Dylan. You haven't been here in three years. You haven't been ready to do this job for three years. Physically you're fine. You're in the best shape of your life, but mentally you're still at the World Trade Center . You haven't left that place. You haven't left that moment, whatever that moment is. Maybe time off is what you need. You're on a two-week suspension starting today. Now get out here and find your head. Next time you will be fired.”

Without a word the redhead left the office. She didn't speak to anyone, not even Davin, as she immediately stormed out of the firehouse. She didn't know where to go just then. There was no one she could confide in, because everyone in her family was working, and she was still mad at Anna. Her world felt as if it was collapsing in on her suddenly, and she didn't know where to turn. Hopping on the subway, she headed down into the Financial District and then walked to the now gaping hole where the Towers had once stood. Leaning with her head against the chainlink fence as a misty rain drizzled over the city, she just stared into the pit as she thought of Danny.

Life had just not been the same without him, and Dylan wasn't sure it ever would. She just couldn't move on the way the rest of her family seemed to have done. She knew she held the secrets of that horrific day deep inside her heart, secrets that made it impossible to forgive or forget what happened. He had meant everything to her, and she had lost her most beloved companion that day. She had lost her soul in that pile of rubble. Now even all of that had been removed to make room for a new beginning, but she just didn't know if she could do the same or if she even merited a second chance at life. Danny never got that opportunity, and she felt he had been far more deserving. Turning her head skyward, tears cascaded over her face, mixing with the rain.

For the rest of the day, Dylan stayed there just glaring at the place where her life had forever been changed. What once had been full of happiness and hope had twisted itself into an excruciating torment. Every breath pained her, for it was one more that Danny didn't get a chance to take. Finally as dark covered the city and the lights of the memorial came to existence, the redhead turned to go. Her head and heart hurt in unfathomable pain from the emotions and lack of nourishment. Not wanting to go home though, she walked a few blocks to a tiny pub she had visited with her band before, and she remained there stuck on a barstool drowning in her only shield from agony until it closed. Loaded up on food and alcohol, she returned to that place where she had stood the entire day, to resume her vigil.

It was only when morning came, and she heard the bells of various churches signal their continuing remembrance of the city's tragedy, did she turn to leave. People were starting to gather, and she did not want to be amongst a mass of the grieving. Returning home she immediately crawled into her bed and cried herself to sleep. It was late when she roused from a restless sleep. Immediately she went into the kitchen to seek out her old friend, always faithful, sitting in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. Taking that first swallow, she tried to relax her mind. She hit the blinking light on her phone to listen to the messages waiting there. Three from Anna. One from Davin and one from her father. She erased them all and checked her watch. Her band had a show to do in three hours, and she needed to be down in the pub to set up for the concert.

Going through the motions, she showered and dressed before heading downstairs. Her father was not there, but she wasn't surprised. He usually took that day off himself but knew he'd be around later. Immediately taking advantage of that fact, she poured herself a pint and then headed to help her band set up their equipment. No one spoke to her though unless absolutely necessary, but she knew it was only because they had been trained to stay away from her when she was in that kind of a mood.

It was only when she handed out the play list for the night that Davin spoke to her. “Dylan, what the hell is this?” he asked, pointing to the last song of their set.

“It's a song, Davin. What's it look like?”

“You never sing this song. You always refuse. Why start now?”

“Because I feel like fucking singing it. Even if I'm the only one up there doing it, I'm singing it tonight. If you don't want to, you don't have to.”

Her brother shook his head. “Don't do this to yourself, Dylan. Intentionally inflicting pain on yourself isn't right.”

“It's for Danny, and I'm doing it. I don't care what you say,” she snipped, stalking off to get another beer.

Uptown Anna and Blair sat in Anna's apartment debating whether or not she would attend the concert that night. “She hasn't even bothered to call me, Blair. I don't know if she would want me there.”

“Well, I'm going for Michael. I think you should go. I'm sure she could use your support, Anna. This has probably been a tough few days for her. Michael told me she got suspended from the firehouse. The girl is obviously in pain over Danny. If you love her as I know you do, you should be there even if she still is mad at you.”

“You're right. I know you're right. I just don't want to fight tonight, and I know we're going to as soon as she sees me. I could tell she was angry when she left here the other night, and given that she hasn't returned any calls, I'm expecting a huge blowup.”

“Well, you should have handled things with your father differently.”

“I know. I'm glad it's out in the open, because Julie's finally stopped harassing me, but I knew he was going to be less than thrilled with Dylan.”

“Did he actually say that?”

“He just said she couldn't care for me the way I deserved and that the fact that she's a firefighter is unnerving. He would worry about her out there. It's hard enough to let her go and do that, but to have my father worrying as well, it's too much. I love her though, more than I've ever loved anyone. I just don't know what to do.”

“You need to do what's best for you if even it means telling your father he's wrong. If you really feel that strongly about her, you're going to have to take that stand. I think he'll come around given enough time.”

“I don't even want to think about that right now. We should get going to this concert. It's starting to get late,” she said, checking her watch. “Let me just go change.”

Half an hour later they arrived at the pub. As usual it was packed with patrons, but they all greeted Anna and Blair as the regulars they had become as they made their way over toward the bar. Keane was serving the drinks that evening and smiled at the two of them pleasantly. “Anna, Blair, what can I get you two?”

Both declined a beverage. “How long have they been on?” Anna asked.

“Not too long. You've only missed a couple of songs. I should warn you, though. Dylan's in rare form. I've never seen in this bad a shape.”

“She seems to be singing all right.”

“Yeah. She's singing fine, but she's in a nasty mood, and she's had a lot of Guinness. You might be better off just steering clear.”

The brunette nodded at Keane's warning as she watched her lover across the room. Outwardly Dylan looked drunk as she sang but not upset. However, she knew Keane was a good observer. Even more she could see the redhead look her way once and stare for a long moment before breaking their eye contact, not to gaze at her again for most of the rest of the concert, which was a sure indicator something was amiss.

Dylan did her best to ignore Anna and Blair, but her rage at Anna started to simmer through the pain she was trying to suppress. She didn't like having her there on such a night. However, she knew there was nothing to do, at least until she left the stage, so she carried on the best she could. Finally at the end of the night just before the band sang its last song, Dylan looked at her brother. He shook his head at her, but she ignored it. Casting her eyes back out over the crowd, she swallowed hard.

“All right everyone. As we close tonight, there is a song I want to sing. Looking out over this crowd, I see that I'm among friends here, and as friends of mine, you all know that three years ago today my brother Danny lost his life at the World Trade Center trying to save the lives of other innocent people. In his memory, I would like to sing a song. It's an old Irish favorite, one that I have refused to sing for long time until tonight. The song I'm going to sing is called, ‘Danny Boy', and if you know the words please feel free to sing along in my brother's memory.” Finishing off her last bit off beer in her glass, she cleared her throat as a hush fell over the crowd and began singing with tears already starting to flow down her face,

“Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling


From glen to glen, and down the mountain side

The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying

'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow

Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow

'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow

Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

And if you come, when all the flowers are dying

And I am dead, as dead I well may be

You'll come and find the place where I am lying

And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.

And I shall hear, tho' soft you tread above me

And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be

If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me

I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.”

When she finished with her song, she silently left the stage and headed outside to get some fresh air. Leaning up against the window of the front of the bar, the tears streamed down her face as she allowed herself to feel the pain in her chest. She was so far removed from her surroundings that she jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Dylan looked up and saw Anna's blue eyes. Suddenly that pain transfused into anger as she spat, “What are you doing here?”

“I came to watch you sing. I've been worried about you since the other night.”

“You shouldn't be! After all, I don't seem to mean enough to you that you'd tell your father about me!”

“I'm sorry about that, Dylan. I should have. It was a mistake, but I love you.”

“Well, I don't love you, Anna, not any more! You know I've never felt as out of place as I did that night! You might as well marry Julie! You're as bad as she is! As far as I'm concerned, this is over between us! I never want to see you again!”

“Dylan, please, you can't mean that,” she pleaded as she began to cry.

“I mean it, Anna! Julie's right! You two are meant to be together! You deserve each other! Apparently all I was to you was a distraction! You wanted some lover to heal those wounds that she inflicted! Well, I did that for you, Anna, and as she asked, I probably taught you a thing or two along the way! Now just go back to where you belong!” she yelled, starting to walk away. She heard the door of the pub open as she turned the corner of the building. However, she didn't bother to see who it was as she went to the garage and fumbled with the lock.

“Dylan, what are you doing?” Davin abruptly inquired from behind her.

“I'm getting out of here! I don't want to see the sight of her any more!” she screamed, thrusting a finger in Anna's direction as she opened the lock. Throwing open the garage door, she went over to her motorcycle.

“Dylan, you are not getting on that bike!” Davin yelled. “You're drunk!”

Ignoring her brother she shouted, “Just try to stop me!”

Davin grabbed her by the shirt as she tried to back the bike out of the garage. “You're not going anywhere!”

“Oh, yes I am! Now leave me the hell alone!”

“I will not let you get on this bike! You're going to kill someone with the shape you're in! I will not let you turn into a murder like the guy who killed Ma!”

“I am not drunk, and you can't stop me from going, Davin! Now just get the hell off of me!” She shoved him back as she continued to maneuver her bike out toward the street.

Nevertheless, he grabbed her again, muscling her away from the motorcycle. It landed with a loud crash against the pavement. “You want to go, Dylan, you do it over my dead body! I'm not going to let you kill yourself or some innocent person! Now just leave it alone!”

“No!” she screamed.

Before Anna even realized it, a scuffle ensued as the siblings tried to wrestle each other to the street. Finally though Davin pushed his sister so hard, she stumbled, losing her balance. Landing hard against the cement, her head smacked against the brick of the building. She groaned in pain but remained slumped against the ground. Anna screamed as she saw blood start to saturate her lover's hair. Instantly Davin was on the ground next to his sister. “Oh God, oh God! Anna, get Da! We need an ambulance!” Turning to his sister, he whimpered as he cradled her. “Dylan, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry.”

Rushing inside the pub, Anna grabbed Keane by the sleeve. “Keane, we need an ambulance! Dylan's been hurt!” she exclaimed frantically.

He shouted at the bartender to call an ambulance and then followed Anna out to the street. A crowd started to trail behind them. He knelt next to his kids. “What happened?” he asked of Davin as he gently parted his daughter's hair to try to find the wound.

“We got in a fight. She wanted to leave on her bike, and I refused to let her. We started shoving each other, and she hit her head against the wall,” he whimpered in remorse. “I didn't mean to hurt her.”

Keane nodded calmly but instructed, “Get that bike back in the garage, Davin. I don't want the cops showing up and thinking she was trying to drive drunk.” Turning to the brunette, he dug some keys from his pocket. “Anna, go up to my apartment and get my first aid kit. It's in the kitchen under the sink.”

Anna did as she was told, rushing up to Keane's apartment. Getting back downstairs, he had apparently found the cut on his daughter's head and was applying pressure with the apron he had been wearing. She handed him the kit and asked, “Is there anything I can do?”

“No. She's going to be fine, just needs a few stitches. Everyone just go back inside the pub, even you, Anna. She's been ranting about you, so just go away. Davin and I will wait with her until the ambulance gets here.”

“But,” she began to protest, but angry brown eyes glared at her. She knew Keane wasn't upset with her, just the situation, but she couldn't help cowering a little. Nodding her head, she whispered, “Okay.”

Heading back inside the brunette stood at the door, watching for the ambulance. She was worried about the redhead, even though her heart hurt for what had been said. Dylan had broken up with her, and she was still in shock over it but had no time to think as she saw flashing lights zoom by. Unable to stay where she was, she went outside once again and hung around at the corner to watch from a distance. The EMTs carefully loaded Dylan into the ambulance, and then Keane joined them before they took off once again. Seeing Davin just standing there holding his head in his hands, she approached cautiously.

The man looked up at the sound of her footsteps. “She's going to be okay, Anna,” he tried to assure.

She nodded her head. “Are you?”

He shrugged. “It was an accident. I didn't mean to push her that hard. I just didn't know how to keep her off her bike.”

“You did the right thing, Davin. She could have killed someone.”

“I think that was the point,” he mumbled. “I just don't know what to do for her. She's out of control.”

“You just keep loving her no matter what.”

He nodded. “I'm sorry she ended things with you. You're a nice girl, and I thought she loved you.”

“I thought so, too, but I guess it's over. She made it pretty clear she doesn't want to see me again,” the woman said as she began to cry.

Davin put his arms around her. “You deserve happiness, Anna. Dylan's just not able to have a relationship right now, not with you, not even with herself. You shouldn't sell yourself short. Life is too precious to take less than the best.”

“But I love her, Davin.”

“You're a good woman, Anna. She was lucky to have you, even for a short while, but it's over now, and she's going to suffer for that.”

Clinging to him a little tighter, Anna just tried to take deep breaths. After a moment she asked, “How do you do it? How do you cope with Danny's death? What do you do that she can't seem to do?”

He shrugged as tears wet his eyes. “It's hard. Don't get me wrong. He was my little brother, and he had such a full life ahead of him. When he died, I wasn't sure I was going to make it either, but I had people counting on me. I had a wife and son and daughter at the time who needed me. They were my reasons for living. They were my reasons for getting out of bed everyday and putting on my gear to go to work. They needed me then, and they need me now. Whenever I feel like it gets to be too much, I just look in Stacie's eyes, and I remember the reasons for living. Danny didn't get that chance, so it's my obligation to live enough life for the both of us. Dylan didn't have anyone counting on her when Danny died. She had a serious girlfriend, but they were twenty-one years old. Their relationship couldn't stand up through the stress. If I hadn't known Stacie for most of my life, I'm not sure ours would have either. Dylan just became so far removed from everyone that cared about her, and she remains that way until this day. My relationship with her has never been the same, because she keeps me out. She keeps Da out. She will not talk about her pain. You know, the last time I saw the two of them together, they were racing up the stairwell of the first Tower. I watched them go, but I never once thought I wouldn't see him again. Something happened up there, and whatever it is, it's keeping Dylan in anguish. I think I know, but I've never been able to ask her. I think she was the last person to see Danny alive, and that is what makes it so difficult.”

Anna sobbed into his shoulder as they held each other closely for several minutes. She could feel Davin's pain acutely, but the man seemed to at least have his life in perspective, even in his grief. She just wished Dylan did as well and mourned the fact that she had been dismissed from the redhead's life when she knew she had love and support to extend. Knowing there was nothing she could do though, she reluctantly pulled herself out of Davin's strong arms. “I guess I should go. Dylan's lucky to have you for a brother. Please take care of her.”

“I'm going to try,” he promised. “I'm sorry she's caused you this pain, Anna. I wish I could make it better.”

The blue-eyed woman shook her head. “This was my fault. I brought it on myself. I just never thought it would end this way. I'm just going to go now.”

“Take care of yourself, Anna.”

“You too, Davin, and if you get a chance, tell Dylan I'm sorry.”

Going back into the bar, she found her best friend sitting with Michael. “Are you all right?” Blair inquired.

“No. Dylan broke up with me. I'm going to go home now.”

“I'll come with you.”

“No. You stay here. I'm just going to go to bed and try to forget these last few months ever happened.”


The following afternoon Anna was still in bed when she heard the doorbell to her apartment chime. Blair had left about an hour ago, so she ignored it, but it continued for a few minutes before she heard the sound of a key in the lock. Wondering who it was, she sat up and peered out her bedroom door down the long hallway. She saw her father standing there with a bouquet of flowers. “Dad,” she called.

Hearing her voice, he came down the hall, stalling in the doorway of her bedroom. “Sweetie, Blair called me this morning. She told me what happened and said that you might need a shoulder to cry on,” he explained, coming to the bed and taking a seat. He set the flowers on the nightstand.

Instantly the brunette was in her father's arms, weeping uncontrollably. “It's over. She broke up with me,” she muttered into his suit jacket.

“Because of the other night?”

She nodded. “She said she didn't love me any more, Dad.”

“I'm sorry, sweetheart, but I don't see how that could be true. I saw the way she looked at you. I don't understand how someone can look at another person with such adoration and then three days later say they don't love you. Are you sure it wasn't something else?”

“She said I made her feel like a distraction and that I should just go back to Julie. She said that I used her to mend my own broken heart over the way Julie treated me, and I didn't think she meant enough to me to tell you the truth.”

“Did you tell her that you had told me the truth?”

“No, I didn't get a chance. She starting fighting with her brother and ended up cracking her head open against a brick wall.”

“That's some fight,” he mentioned.

She nodded. “Last I saw her she was being put into an ambulance. I just can't believe it's over, Dad. I love her more anything else in this world,” she sobbed.

He brushed back her long hair in sympathy. “I know. I could see it in your eyes when she was here. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it actually.”

“I know you don't think she's good enough for me, Dad, but right now that's the last thing I need to hear,” she warned, tensing in his arms.

“That's not what I was going to say. You know, when I introduced you to Julie, I really did think she was a great match for you. I wouldn't have done it otherwise. However, over the years I began to think that maybe she wasn't what was best for you.”

“Why didn't you say anything?”

“You seemed happy. You seemed in love, and I didn't want to taint that with my opinions.”

“But you had never been afraid to tell me what you thought before.”

“Well, I know, but that was more out of not wanting you to get caught up with the wrong people. I saw what it did to Blair, and I didn't want the same thing to happen to you. That's why I was so hard on who you dated. I thought Julie was perfect for you, but sometimes even I can make mistakes. In fact over the last year, I began to think you shouldn't marry her, but I wasn't going to say that, because you seemed so happy.”

“I wasn't. I was just trying to hide it from you.”

“Well, I'm sorry for that, sweetie. I never wanted you to think you couldn't be honest with me about your girlfriends. Out of curiosity, what did happen with Julie?”

“She cheated on me. She had another woman on the side through our entire relationship, but I didn't know that until I walked in on them one day on top of Julie's desk at work.”

“The law partner?” he questioned.

“How did you know that?” she asked in confusion.

“I just suspected. I noticed the way that woman looked at Julie sometimes, and Julie seemed to be more interested in what she had to say than you. I'm sorry you felt you had to stay in that relationship for me. I still don't understand how she had the capacity to try to hit you as Dylan said, though.”

“Oh, well, one night Julie came over here and found Dylan. She was ranting on and on about us having to still get married, and I was yelling at her about cheating. I was so mad I hit her, and she raised her hand to strike me back, but Dylan jumped in and stopped it.”

“Such a valiant one, that Dylan. I knew I liked her the moment I met her. I saw something in her I never saw in Julie.”

“What's that?”

“The way she looked at you. Even if she was trying to hide it, she wasn't successful, and I'm glad. I saw what had been missing all along in your relationship with Julie. Dylan looked at you with pure love and adoration. She hung on your every word. She gazed at you like you were the most important person in the room. As soon as I saw that, I knew if Julie wasn't already gone, she would be shortly. You just can't compete with someone who dotes on you the way she did.”

“But she's not like us, Dad. She doesn't have money. She doesn't have anything.”

“That's where you're wrong. That's where I was wrong. She has something far greater. She has love for you, Anna. She has love for her family. I admired how she jumped at the chance to help her brother and sister-in-law. I thought having someone to take care of you was the most important thing in the world, and even though I am right, I was misguided in what I thought that meant. She showed me what that truly meant. Having someone to take care of you emotionally is of far greater importance than financially. I've taken care of you financially your entire life, and I will continue to do that. That's my job as a father. I'd much rather have to take care of you and Dylan, knowing that she's giving you all you need emotionally than leaving you in the hands of someone like Julie, who although she's financially successful, can't seem to find time to take care of your needs. The look in your eyes that night when Dylan walked out that door was all the proof I needed. She has a good heart, and she loves you.”

“Then why did she break up with me?”

“I don't know the answer to that, but I do know she loves you, Anna. She can't pretend otherwise. Why don't you try to make amends?”

“I don't know if she would take me back.”

“You won't know unless you try. Just think about it. Would it help if I talked to her?”

The brunette shrugged. “I'm sorry, Dad, that I've kept this from you all this time.”

“It's all right. I'm sorry you felt you had to. Just promise me you'll always tell me the truth about this stuff. I love you, and I just want what's best for you. I just want you to be happy, and I've never seen your face light up the way it did around Dylan that night. She could be the one, Anna, and if that's the case, I can come to accept that. I'm not going to like that she's a firefighter, because I'll always be worried for you both, but I'll take solace in the fact that my little girl has the love of her life.”

“It is hard to think about her out there,” she admitted.

“Look. Now that all this is out in the open, I want you to promise me something. No matter what happens with Dylan, promise me that you will not marry for anything but love. Don't make the same mistakes your mother and I have. You almost did with Julie, thanks in large part to me. Even if I don't agree with your choice, remind me that I said this to you,” he said with a gentle smile.

“I will, Dad. Thank you.”

“Anything for my girl. You deserve only the best, Anna, and if Dylan is what's best, then I'm for it.”

Lying back down against her pillow, the brunette wiped her cheeks with her hand. “I just don't know if she'll take me back.”

“Don't give up if she's the one you want. That's the only advice I can give you. Now let me put these flowers in water for you. Be right back.”

Down at Dylan's apartment, the firefighter was sitting on the floor in her living room, leaning against the wall and nursing her seventh beer of the day when there was a knock on her door. Rising to get it, she frowned when she saw Blair on the other side. “What are you doing here?” she grumbled.

“I came to get Anna's stuff for her.”

“Oh, well, help yourself. It's all in the bedroom,” she said, closing the door as Blair came in. Dylan resumed her position on the floor as Anna's best friend went back into the bedroom.

Half an hour later she reappeared with a suitcase full of stuff. Dropping it by the door, she came and squatted down in front of the redhead. “Have you had all of these today?” she asked, eyes scanning the floor littered with cans.

“Since I came back from the hospital,” she confessed, finishing off the one in her hand. She tossed the can aside and opened another that was sitting next to her. “Want one?”

Blair took the one from her friend's hand for a sip. “Tell me something, Dylan. Why do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“Drink like you're guzzling poison to kill yourself. That is the point, isn't it? To kill yourself?” she sharply inquired.

“Shut up, Blair. You have no idea what you're talking about.”

“You don't think so? Oh, I think I understand you better than anyone. You see, I've been there, Dylan. I know what it's like to be in such a dark place that you think there is no way out, except in my case it wasn't Guinness I used as my crutch.”

Intrigued by the comment, the redhead asked, “What was it?”

The model brushed the empty beer cans aside to make a place for herself next to Dylan on the floor before sitting. Taking another sip of beer, she answered, “Cocaine. I was in college, and I was modeling. I was living such a fast life, and I had a ton of supposed friends, but on the inside I was hurting. I was lonely. I hated myself. I wanted to end it all.”

“Did you try?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I did. One night I got high and decided that I couldn't take it any more. I took a bunch of sleeping pills and just went to sleep, hoping never to wake again. That should have killed me, but for some reason I survived with hardly even a repercussion.”

“Does Anna know?”

“She was there. She found me and got me to the hospital. She's the one who saved me. You see, Dylan, I felt like I didn't have anyone that cared about me, but she proved me wrong. Anna loved me enough to fight with me until I saw the light and got into rehab. She was there the entire time, but I just couldn't see her through all my pain. You have so many people that love and care for you, Dylan. You just can't see them through that hurt you're feeling, and alcohol is just making it worse. You think you feel better, because you're numb, but in the end it's just making it more difficult to see the truth. You're never going to get past this if you don't face that grief you have inside you.”

A moment of silence passed between them as they shared the open can of beer. “You know, that day started like any other. Davin, Danny, and I all took the subway down to the firehouse, because we were working the day shift. It was a bright morning, hardly a cloud in the sky. I remember that the three of us were standing in the garage telling jokes with some of our other co-workers when we found out that the first Tower had been hit. We were sort of in shock, but soon the call came for us to assist, even though it was out of our jurisdiction. As usual we jumped into our gear and headed out in the truck. I never could have imagined what it would look like when we got there. When we pulled up on the scene, the other Tower had just been struck, and there were frantic people everywhere. It was chaos, but we all just did what we had been trained to do. Davin, Danny, and I led our company into that first Tower. There were just so many people trying to get out that Davin and the rest of the group dispersed themselves out in the stairwell to try to direct traffic, but Danny and I kept going. Higher and higher we raced those stairs, trying as fast as we could to get to the crash site to see if there was anyone up there that needed assistance. I could feel my heart pounding and sweat pouring down my back. It's a lot of work to run seventy-plus stories, but I could feel Danny just on my heels, and it kept me going.”

Dylan paused for a moment and took another long swallow of beer. She slowly stood and walked over to the bookshelf where she picked up a firefighter's glove that had been sitting on the second to top shelf. She gazed at it for a moment before squeezing it tightly in her fist. Moving again she stood in front of the window, gazing out before bowing her head. Her forehead touched the glass as she began to cry.

“I've never seen or felt a fire so incredibly hot in my entire life. I felt like I was cooking in my suit, but Danny and I still wildly began to search for anyone that might still be alive up there, and then we heard a loud rumbling sound. We looked out where windows once were and saw the other Tower start to crumple. It fell on top of itself, and we heard the screaming of people from the street even as far up as we were. It was in that moment I realized the danger we were in. I started to crack. It was just too much to take, but Danny remained strong. He kept looking even as I began to get hysterical. Finally I just grabbed him by the jacket, and I screamed, ‘We're going to die, Danny! We have to get out of here!' I saw it come over his face. He realized I was right, so we started back toward the stairwell. I was running so hard, but I turned to see if he was behind me. When I did that, I tripped on something. I don't know quite what. Everything was so hot up there it was literally melting. It could have been a desk or a body for all I know. I fell to the ground, and he was so close behind me, that he tripped and fell as well. We were all tangled as we tried to get back to our feet. He reached down to take my hand and help me up when we heard that rumbling noise again. Both of us froze and stared at each other. I'll never forget that look of absolute fright in his dark eyes. I'm sure I was looking at him the same way, and then that was it. That was the last time I ever saw him.”

Feeling arms embrace her, Dylan turned and placed her head into Blair's shoulder. “It's going to be okay, Dylan.”

The firefighter shook her head. “At one point while I was lost in the rubble, I thought I might have been cognizant. I couldn't feel anything but heat. It was so black that I thought I was dead. I thought to myself that I had died and gone to hell. I don't know if that was real or a dream though. I came to in the hospital a few days later, and they said when they pulled me out, I was clutching this glove in my hand but that I was wearing both of my own,” she said, holding it up for Blair to see. “This is Danny's glove. It's the only thing of him that's ever been found.”

Blair put her hand over her friend's that held Danny's glove. “Do you blame yourself for what happened?”

“He may have made it if I hadn't fallen,” she explained.

“Neither of you may have made it if you had been in a different location. You just don't know. Do you believe in God, Dylan?” The redhead nodded. “Do you believe that Danny is with God?” Again the firefighter nodded slowly. “Do you believe one day you'll see him again?”

“Yeah,” she confessed.

The blonde nodded her head. “Then it seems to me that you are wasting your life mourning someone that you know you're going to see again. Maybe not today or even tomorrow, but you believe in your heart that you will see Danny again, and you'll be reunited with your brother. Do you think he'd want you to spend your life worrying and hurting over his disappearance?”

“He's dead, Blair.”

“I know. I know that it can't be easy to love someone so deeply and then to have them just lost to you so abruptly. If you believe that he's with God and that you're going to see him again, you must believe he's sitting up there watching over right now.”

“Of course I do.”

“Do you think he likes what he sees?” she questioned.

Dylan didn't answer, but her taut frame began to relax in the model's arms. “He'd want me to live my life the best I could.”

“Are you doing that?”

“No,” she replied.

“Then change. If you can't change for yourself, change for him, Dylan. You know he'd want you to live your life to its fullest. Do it for Danny until you can learn to do it for yourself again.”

The redhead sighed and dropped her head forward into the blonde's hair. “You're a good friend, Blair.”

“I care about you, Dylan. I know it's hard, but you have to try for him.”

Dylan nodded. “I'll try,” she whispered.

She reached for the Guinness can in her friend's hand, but Blair didn't relinquish it. Instead she looked into green eyes and said, “This is where you start. You have a decision to make here, Dylan. You can drink and you block out all that pain, or you can not drink and deal with it. You've done the hardest part already. You faced your pain. You named it. To beat it, you have to be stronger than it, and you can't do that if you're drunk.”

Dylan nodded. “All right. I'll try it this way.”

“Good. I think you'll see that I'm right in time. Now I think we should try to get you into the shower. You still have all this dried blood in your hair. Do you need some help with that?”

For the first time that day, the redhead cracked a grin. “How could I say no to that offer? One of the world's best looking women offering me help in the shower? I'd be a fool if I said anything but yes,” she joked.

The Swede laughed. “You know what I meant.”

“I think I can manage, Blair, so stop hitting on me.”

With another chuckle and a swat on the seat of the firefighter's jeans, she said, “Get in there. I'll be here when you get out.”

“Naked on my bed?” she pressed.

“Maybe,” she teased with sparkling brown eyes. “Go on. I'm going to get these cans off the floor.”

Dylan went into her bathroom and started her shower. She took her time, making sure all the blood was out of her hair before washing the rest of her body. When she was finished, she pulled on her robe and headed into her bedroom for a clean change of clothes. She smiled when she saw the model lounging on her bed, flipping through a magazine. Not saying anything to her though, the firefighter went about her business of getting dressed. Dropping her robe onto the floor unabashedly, she pulled on a pair of boxer shorts and a t-shirt before turning to the bed. She saw Blair quickly advert her eyes, pretending she hadn't been watching. The redhead gave a devious grin. “Like what you see?” she pried, poking her friend lightly in the side as she joined her on the bed.

“Hey, you're the one that put it on display. I just wanted to see what you had under there. No wonder Anna gets all hot and bothered whenever you're near. You're as hot as Michael.”

“I'll take that as a compliment. After all, between him and Davin, they are sort of the firehouse hotties. At least from the way I overhear the straight girls talking about it.”

“You have straight girls in your fire company?”

“Three actually. They don't hang out with us much though outside of work.”

“What do they think of you?”

Dylan shrugged. “I think they think of me as just one of the guys, which is fine. That's all I've ever wanted. It took awhile, but they see me as their equal.”

“Actually, from the way Michael tells it, you're more than their equal. You're their leader, even though you're the youngest.”

“It's the Flannery charm,” she said with a smile. “The fact that I ogle women as well as they do helps.”

Blair nodded. “They're into that.”

“Really? What have you heard?”

“Oh, Michael just said that some of the guys talk about you and Anna in the showers. They think you're pretty good with the ladies.”

“That's because I am,” she stated with a cocky grin.

“Yes, I can definitely see that now. You know, I remember the first time I saw you. We were at the pub, and Anna was nervous about seeing you. You came to the table and flashed that smile, and suddenly my own head started to spin. When you walked away, I actually stared at your ass,” she confessed with a laugh. “I told Anna she had to get in your pants. What I didn't tell her is that I wanted in those same pants.”

Dylan flushed lightly as she propped her head up on her arm. “Really?”

Blair nodded. “I've never been into women, but you definitely have something about you, Dylan, that turned even my head. If Anna hadn't been so head over heels for you, I might have tried to sample some of the Flannery goods.”

“The Flannery goods are still up for grabs, you know,” she said with a laugh.

Blair smiled at her friend. “And if Anna didn't love you so much and I didn't love her so much, I'd be the first to grab them. But she loves you, Dylan, more than I've ever seen her love anyone.”

“I love her, Blair. I love her so much it hurts inside.”

“Then why did you break her heart like this?”

“She deserves more than what I can give her. She's deserves a woman who is a great success and has lots of money, who can take care of her. I can't give her those things she wants. I can't even buy her clothes or jewelry. Hell, I can barely afford to take her out on a real date. You all go out all the time and have fun. You spend money like it grows on trees, and I just don't have that. Julie has that.”

“She doesn't want Julie. She doesn't care about the money, Dylan. If she did she would marry Julie and turn a blind eye to her infidelity, but she didn't do that, because she knows she deserves love.”

“If that were true, she would have told her Dad about us a long time ago.”

“She told him that night after you left dinner. She told me that he saw the way you were looking at his daughter and knew there was something between you. The love there is so deep you can't even hide it when you try. You know, James loves her but can be a bit overbearing. I know if he just had a chance to get to know you, he'd see what Anna and I see.”

“What? That I'm hot?” she jibed, half in jest.

“No, silly. He would see what a good person you were and that you really cared for Anna. She's never been happier than with you these last few months.”

“Well, I've loved her being around, but she deserves someone who has stability. I don't have it. Everyday that I go to work, it could very well be my last. What I do is dangerous but I love it. I love the excitement and the rush, the adventure of it. Most women can't handle that though, and I don't blame them. I don't want Anna to worry about me every time I go to work.”

“But she already does whether she's with you or not, Dylan. I'll be honest with you. She's not thrilled with the firefighting thing, but what has her concerned is not that as much as it is your drinking problem. That is what worries her. Last night you tried to ride your motorcycle drunk, and you may have succeeded if Davin hadn't stepped in. Who knows what might have happened? Every time she sees you drinking, she gets worried. She's seen me go down that spiral, and she doesn't want that to happen to you. That plagues her more than the fact that you run into burning buildings while everyone else is trying to run out.”

“I didn't realize it's such an issue for her.”

“It's a huge issue for her. Not only do you get drunk, I've seen that you have the propensity to become a bit of an ass when you do.”

“I do not,” she protested.

“Hello, last night was a perfect example of that. Your rooftop party is another. You don't have to always be one of guys, Dylan. She loves you for you, not who you pretend to be with the rest of your crew. You know, she's told me that she finds you most charming when it's just the two of you, and you're gazing deeply into her eyes. She says she can feel the love you have for her by looking in those green eyes. She says she feels it all the way in the bottom of her soul.” Giggling, she flushed lightly as she continued, “She said other things too.”

“Like what?” Dylan inquired in interest.

Blair propped up on her elbow as she faced the redhead. “I shouldn't tell you.”

“Oh, you can't do that. You can't lead me on like that and then just drop me. Don't be a tease,” the firefighter growled, putting her hand on the blonde's hip.

The model laughed. “Anna is so right about you. You do have a certain essence of dangerous adventure about you that is incredibly sexy.”

“She said more than that.”

“Yes, she did. Actually told me what it was like to be with you,” she admitted, breaking their gaze for a moment.

“Really? Tell me.”

“She described it in one word. Heavenly. She said what she likes most is that you're never quick to be finished. You like to enjoy all of it. It's not just about reaching the summit but about the joy of the ascent. She said that you said that to her once in similar words, and that was the moment she knew she was going to fall hard for you.” Meeting gazes again, she said, “And she has, Dylan. Please, I beg you. Make amends if you still love her. No matter what, the two of you can get through this. She was there for me when I needed someone the most, and I know she wants to be there for you. She just wants to love you with no strings, no expectations of what you are to become. She wants to be with you, the woman you are right now, problems, pain, and all.”

Dylan nodded. “I want that too, Blair.”

“Good. Now I think I better get going. I told her I'd be back at her place a long time ago, but seeing you naked was more important,” she teased.

“My only regret is that I didn't get to see you naked,” Dylan joked, as both of them rose from the bed.

“Oh, please. You have a swimsuit calendar at the firehouse with me in it practically naked. How much more do you want to see?” she asked with a bat of her lashes. Dylan didn't answer the question, but her eyes did the talking, with a sweep of her gaze. “I'll tell you what, Dylan. Why don't you just ask Michael all about that?” she questioned with an innocent smile.

“Yeah and get punched? I don't think so. I suppose you'll just have to remain a mystery.”

“Some things are better left that way, don't you think? Leaves a little room for your imagination to work.” Putting a hand on the firefighter's face, Blair gave her a warm smile. “I'm going back to Anna's now with her stuff. Don't call her yet. Give me a chance to talk to her and help smooth some things over. Can you wait to talk to her until tomorrow?”

“If you think it's best.”

“I do. That will give her some time to figure out the best way to approach you. She's still upset that she hurt you, and I know she's going to want to apologize for that somehow. Just give her a little time, and then call her tomorrow morning. Maybe the two of you can meet for breakfast or coffee.”

“All right. I can do that.”

“Good. This means a lot to her and to me that you're willing to try, Dylan. I think both of you will be better off for it.” Pausing for a moment, the blonde smiled at her friend before suddenly threading her hand through red hair and pulling Dylan to her for a gentle kiss on the mouth.

Slightly breathless when Blair pulled away, Dylan asked, “What was that for?”

“For loving Anna enough not to stray, for loving her enough to try to give up your addiction. You could have ruined it all back there in your bedroom, but you didn't. Julie hit on me the first time she was alone with me, put her hands in all sorts of inappropriate places, so much so that I slapped her. I didn't tell Anna about that, and looking back I should have.”

Dylan blushed as she said, “Well, I did flirt with you a little.”

“But somehow I know had I tried to seduce you, you wouldn't have let me. You love Anna that much.”

“I love her that much, Blair,” she confirmed.

“She's a lucky woman, because you can kiss,” the Swede teased, patting Dylan's face again affectionately. “That will just be our secret, though. You can live with the fact that you're the only the second woman I've ever kissed, can't you?”


“Good. I'm going to tell Anna I did that, but don't tell Michael. He'll want me to do it again in front of him,” she jested.

“That's probably true. Will she be okay with that?”

“Sure. I asked her if I could. Besides, she's the first woman I ever kissed.”

“As friends or more than friends?”

“Wouldn't you like to know?” Blair laughed. “I have to go now. I'll see you later.”

Dylan nodded. “Thanks for coming over, Blair, and thanks for listening. I feel better now that I've told someone the truth.”

“I was glad to be here for you, Dylan, and Anna will be glad to listen whenever you want to talk. Is it okay if I tell her what happened?”

“I think it would be easier if you did.”

“Then I will. Take care of yourself.”

“Hey, wait a second before you go. I want you to have something.” The redhead disappeared into the kitchen for a moment, coming back with an opened case of Guinness. “Will you take this with you? I don't think I should have any here in the apartment.”

“Sure. I'll be glad to take it. I'll see you soon, gorgeous,” she said with a wink before she was out the door on her way down the stairs.

Anna was still with her father when Blair returned. She put the suitcase of her friend's belongings down in the living room and then took a seat on the sofa next to Anna. Greeting James, she put her arms around the brunette and kissed her on top of the head. She didn't talk much after that until James took his leave of them a little later. Then she asked, “How are you doing?”

Anna shrugged. “Did you see Dylan?”


“How was she?”

“A lot worse than you. She was drunk.”

“Even after last night? I can't believe it.”

“We had a long talk, Anna. She told me about Danny.”

“What do you mean she told you about Danny? She never talks about him. What did she say?”

“She told me what happened that day. She told me about being in the World Trade Center when it fell. She told me what it was like to watch her brother die. She's never told anyone that story.”

“But she told you? Why?”

“Because I told her about the time you saved my life. I told her I knew it what it was like to be so depressed you wanted to kill yourself. That just sort of opened the door, and she slowly walked through it. It really was the most horrific tale I've ever heard.”

“Will you tell me?” The blonde nodded. She recalled the events to her friend and held her as Anna started to cry. When she was finished, the brunette was bawling. “My poor Dylan. I can't believe she's kept that in for the last three years. The pain of it.”

“She seemed to feel better after getting that off her chest. I convinced her to try to stop drinking to allow herself to work through it all. She agreed to give that a shot.”

“Oh, Blair, thank you.”

“She still loves you, Anna. She wants to be with you. I told her that you had told you dad about her, and she told me some of her insecurities about thinking she didn't have enough money or stability to make you happy. You two have a lot to work out, but she's willing to try if you are.”

“You know I am.”

“Well, I advised her to give you a little time to figure out the best way to apologize for what you did. I know you feel bad about it, so I knew you'd want to try to make that up to her, but she wants to see you. I told her to call you tomorrow morning.”

Smiling at her best friend, Anna hugged her tightly. “I don't know what I would do without you, Blair. Thank you.”

“It's the least I could do. I love you so much, Anna. I just want you to be happy.”

“I talked to my dad or more like he talked to me about Dylan. He's okay with it.”

“Good. I'm glad he's giving you some breathing room. You are an adult after all.” Sighing the blonde said, “Now I have something to confess.”

“What's that?”

With a grin, Blair admitted with a laugh, “I saw you girlfriend naked and was she fine!”

“Did you really? How did you manage that?”

“Careful planning. I saw her coming out of the shower. Man, does she have a body. We were right. And the girl can kiss too.”

“You kissed her? You naughty woman,” Anna reproached with a grin of her own.

“I just snagged a little smooch, no tongue or anything. That girl loves you, Anna. I gave her the bat of the lashes, the sexy smile, even the brush against, and she was all about you.”

Anna laughed. “You wanton hussy, don't tell Michael you did that.”

“Never. She's quite the keeper, Anna. Take her back before I decide to drizzle hot fudge all over her body and lick it off with painstaking speed.”

“I'm going to tell her you said that,” Anna teased. “You know I'll take her back. In the meantime though, I have to find a way to apologize. She deserves that much. What do you think I should do? I want it to be something meaningful.”

“She's a singer. What about a song?”

“I can't sing.”

“What about finding a song that explains how you feel? She'll relate to that.”

“Well, that's a thought. I wonder if there is a Billy Joel song that would do it? He's her favorite.”

“Let's find out. Get dressed. We're going on a music shopping spree.”

The next morning Dylan called early, but Anna was eager to hear from her and suggested they meet at her apartment for a private breakfast to talk. When the redhead arrived, she was wearing a pair of khaki pants and a pressed blue shirt. In her hands she held a dozen roses. “Good morning,” she greeted shyly. Anna was in a stylish mini-dress that perfectly matched her eyes.

“Hi. Come on in. You're dressed up.”

Dylan shrugged. “I thought you might like this better than some ratty jeans and a t-shirt. These are for you.”

Taking the flowers, Anna smiled. “Thank you. They're beautiful. Breakfast is ready. Come into the kitchen.”

The firefighter followed Anna into the kitchen to where the table had already been set with everything but the plates. “Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked politely.

The shorter woman shrugged. “Just take a seat. I'll bring it to the table.”

Moments later both of them were seated. Neither said anything at first as they quietly ate, but their lingering looks at each other were enough of a connection. Dylan knew that she had to say something though, so she finally broke the stillness. “Anna, I just want you to know that I'm so sorry about the way I acted the other night. There was no excuse for that. You know, the last three years without Danny have been extremely hard, and that night I just lost it. I shouldn't have treated you like that, and I never should have said what I did. I didn't mean it. I love you, Anna. I love you so much that it scares me. I'm scared of hurting you or being hurt by you. I just thought somewhere in my mind that you would be better off without a miserable drunk like me.”

“You're not a drunk, Dylan. You have a drinking problem, but I know you've been using that as an escape for the pain. I'm worried about you, though. Your own mother was killed by a drunk driver, Dylan, and to see you try to get on your bike the other night was scary. You could have hurt someone.”

Dylan nodded. “I know, and I'm sorry I did that. Davin did the right thing.”

Anna gave a supportive nod. “Blair told me everything about Danny. I'm so sorry about what happened and the fact that you thought you had no one to tell. I'm also really sorry about what happened with my dad. I should have told him, but I was scared of what he might say. It turns out I didn't have to worry as much as I thought I did. He likes you. He respects you, more than he ever did any other girlfriend of mine. He sees what I see when I look at you. He sees a good heart. I want to be here for you, Dylan, and I want to love you. Because I wasn't sure how to say what I wanted, I actually found something for you that says it better than my own words ever could.”

“What's that?”

“A song. It says just what I want to be for you, Dylan.”

“Are you going to sing it?” the redhead questioned. She had never heard the brunette sing before, so she was intrigued.

“You know I can't sing, so I'm just going to read it to you,” she replied.

“The cold hands
The sad eyes
The dark Irish silence
It's so late
But I'll wait
Through the long night with you
With you

The warm tears
The bad dreams
The soft trembling shoulders
The old fears
But I'm here
Through the long night with you
With you

Oh, what has it cost you
I almost lost you

A long, long time ago
Oh, you should have told me
But you had to bleed to know

All your past sins
Are since past
You should be sleeping
It's all right
Sleep tight
Through the long night with me
With me

No, I didn't start it
You're broken hearted
From a long, long time ago
Oh, the way you hold me
Is all that I need to know

And it's so late
But I'll wait
Through the long night with you
With you.”

When she was finished, blue eyes met green. “That's beautiful, Anna. Thank you so much for that.”

Cracking a small smile, Anna said, “You once said there was always a Billy Joel song for every occasion.”

“I was right, wasn't I?” the redhead inquired, reaching across the table for her girlfriend's hand. “Will you give me another chance, Anna? I guarantee to do it better this time.”

Nodding her head, the smaller woman smiled as she put Dylan's hand against her cheek. “It's the only thing I want. I want us to be together. I want to help you get through this, Dylan, and I want us to be happy the way I know we can.”

Smiling at the woman she loved, Dylan leaned over the table and kissed Anna gently. “I love you. I promise to make you happy.”

“You already do,” Anna whispered, pulling the redhead closer. “You already do.”

The End

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