Redemption Song

by BlondeBard

Disclaimers: Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA and Universal Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.

This story contains fairly graphic violence. It also contains a consensual relationship between two women. If this is not legal where you are, or you are not of age, then read another story.

The characters contained in this story are mine, and mine alone. Do not copy or distribute this story without my consent. Characters within this story bearing resemblance to persons dead or alive are unintended.

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Part 2

"Would you mind driving for a while?" Megan asked.

"Sure, no problem. Everything alright?"

"Yeah, just getting a little tired that's all." Megan had purchased a couple of books on tape to while away the hours and they had been listening to Hannibal by Thomas Harris. She pulled off the highway into a gas station. They topped off the gas, stretched their legs and grabbed a couple of hot dogs and chips to munch on.

"I really liked Silence of the Lambs," Megan remarked as they continued their journey. "Even though it was completely unnerving."

"Yeah, me too," Toni shared. "What was that line? 'I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti,'" then she imitated that maddening slurping sound he followed it with.

"Yuck, cut that out. Ugh, it gave me chills."

"Sorry," Toni said. Seeing that she hadn't upset Megan, she chuckled. "Where are we going again?" she asked.

"It's not far from Louisville," Megan answered, pronouncing the name of the town Lou a vul. She stopped when Toni began to laugh. "What? What's so funny," she demanded.

"Sorry. Where did you say we were going again?"

Megan repeated herself, pronouncing it the same way, and Toni began to laugh harder. She didn't mean to laugh, at least not at Megan. She just found her pronunciation of the town's name so charmingly funny that she couldn't help herself. "I'm sorry," she repeated. "I guess I've always heard it called Louie- ville. I didn't mean to laugh, honest." Megan looked a bit sullen, so Toni impulsively took her hand and squeezed. "I really wasn't laughing at you. It's just so charming the way you said it. I'm sorry," she apologized again, and again she squeezed Megan's hand gently hoping that she would be forgiven. When she felt a tiny squeeze in response she relaxed, but didn't let go.

"It's okay. My mother's side of the family is from Kentucky. That's just how the natives pronounce it."

"The countryside is beautiful," Toni offered. "I've always been surrounded by concrete and steel and I've never seen such green grass. It's amazing."

"Yeah, it is beautiful isn't it?" Megan asked rhetorically. "Do you want to listen to the rest of the story?"

"Pop it in," Toni responded enthusiastically. She liked the fact that Megan used her free hand, and didn't relinquish her grip. They continued their trip, holding hands while listening to the chilling continuation of the Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling story.

Several hours of travel later. "I can't believe they ended it this way," Megan said stunned.

"Yeah," Toni agreed, "I'm a…" she paused. She was about to say writer, but changed her mind. "I'm a big fan of the unexpected, but I never saw that ending coming. Of course, now that the story is over, I can look back and see him leading us to this ending, but I would have never guessed. I suppose that is a mark of a truly gifted writer, huh?"

"If you mean truly sick, then yeah I agree," Megan said.

"Did it really bother you that much? I mean, you've told me you have read most of Anne Rice, and this shocks you?"

"Well, not shock, maybe. I guess I didn't see it coming, and I hate to be blind-sided. Most of the time when I read something, I guess the ending before the author tells me. Maybe I'm just chagrined that I didn't guess this one. I mean, coming from the man who created Hannibal 'the Cannibal' Lecter in the first place, I shouldn't be put off by being surprised. I mean…it didn't really shock me, I'm just used to guessing the ending of most stories. I suppose I'm a little disappointed in myself."

"Hey….C'mon, what fun is there in reading the book if you could have written it yourself? If someone started you off with a premise, and asked you what happens next, then it wouldn't be any fun to read if you could predict what the author would say, now would it?"

"No, I suppose you are right. I can't stand to read things that are predictable. I suppose that is why I've never liked any sort of romance novel. You've got your basic 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds a way to get girl back' sort of plot. And then you have authors who are entirely too prolific, like Danielle Steel. I've tried to read a couple of her books. My mom likes that kind of crap, so our bookshelves were filled with them. I would be bored and try, but her characters are so one-dimensional. And you don't care enough about them to invest in the whole story line about how they lose almost everything, but come back kicking and screaming to overcome some major obstacle and live happily ever after. I love stories where characters have flaws. I mean real flaws. Things that you can relate to, that they have to overcome."

"Like what? I mean…what kind of a flaw would draw you to a character?" Toni asked.

"I don't know." Megan thought for a moment. "Maybe something like terminal shyness."

"Shyness huh? That's a flaw?"

"Well, it can be. Well, I can't consider myself shy, because I grew up in such a large family that it wasn't a luxury. But I had a friend who was almost painfully shy. It took the longest time for me to get her to even talk to me. The thing that got me the most…the flaw of shyness…was that people, who didn't know her, thought she was stuck up…standoffish. I used to try and act as a buffer for her. I knew the guys were just dying to ask her out, she was so cute, but every time some guy came up, she would stare at her shoes. I tried my hardest to convince her that they really wanted to get to know her, but she doubted it every time. I lost contact with her after high school, but I got a call from her about three years later. She had met a guy and was going to get married, and she asked me to be a bridesmaid. I couldn't imagine why. Then she told me that in our four years in high school together, that I was the one person who knew who she was. And that I had supported her. She wanted to ask me to the most important event in her life because of that. Needless to say I was stunned. But I accepted. We've been good friends ever since, and her husband is a doll. Whenever I visit down south, we make it a point to meet up. They have a little girl and a little boy now. And I don't think, aside from my parents, that I've ever seen such a happy marriage."

"Do you have any flaws I should know about?" Toni asked teasingly.

Megan thought for a moment. "Yeah, doesn't everyone?"

"You didn't answer my question."

"I'm not sure. I think I have lots of flaws. Should I pick one out?" she challenged.

"I can't think of one flaw you might have. I bet you can't either."

"Yes I can!" Megan protested. She paused, "see there, I'm contrary."

Toni began to laugh. "Oh C'mon, you're just trying to think things up."

"No I'm not! See there, I'm being contrary again."

Toni laughed harder. The little green-eyed pixie beside her had her charmed to no end and Toni could find no flaws. And her pout? Toni had never seen anything so endearing in all her life. She found Megan to be intelligent, quick-witted and beautiful. What a combination she mused. 'My God, has she captured my heart already?' Toni wondered.

"Okay, I'm impatient. That's a flaw."

"What are you impatient about?"

'You,' thought Megan impulsively. "Well, I don't suffer fools lightly. Isn't that how the saying goes?"

"I think so." Toni noticed an exit approaching that boasted an Ice Cream Churn. "I've got to take a bathroom break. Mind if we stop?"

"No," Megan retorted quickly, "I'm way too impatient to get where we're going."

Toni looked at her for a long moment, sure that she was serious, and then burst into laughter again, followed by Megan's own chuckles. Unfortunately for Megan, she had never been able to keep a straight face. They used the facilities, gassed up the car, and ventured inside. The hometown looking gas station had several dozen flavors of what they said was homemade ice cream. It all looked really good.

"What are you going to get?" Toni asked Megan. Megan studied her choices carefully, finally selecting a double scoop of Butter Pecan.

"And you?" the clerk asked handing Megan her prize.

"Double scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip," Toni ventured. She had never had either flavor that the two of them had ordered, but had decided to be adventurous. They left the tiny store and stood enjoying their ice cream cones. Toni immediately admitted to herself that Mint Chocolate Chip was the best flavor of ice cream she had ever eaten, and relished every bit of her first scoop. They stood savoring their cones knowing that neither one of them would be particularly comfortable driving and trying to handle an ice cream cone. Megan began to notice Toni eyeing her ice cream surreptitiously.

"Do you want a taste?" she asked.

"Trade ya," Toni offered.

Megan tried to hide her amusement, "Deal," she said.

They handed each other their cones and tasted what the other had ordered. "MMMMmmm" seemed to be the mutual response.

"I think this is the best ice cream I've ever eaten," Megan told Toni.

"I've never tried these flavors," Toni admitted. "They're fantastic."

Between licks Megan inquired, "You've never eaten Mint Chocolate Chip before?"


"Then why did you order it?"

"So I could try something new."

"Please, don't tell me that the only flavors you've eaten were vanilla, chocolate and strawberry."

"I did try one of those Ben and Jerry flavors once. Chunky Monkey, I think it was. It had bananas in it. Awesome."

"You've never tried Cookies N' Cream?"


"Um…how about peanut butter and chocolate?"


"A banana split sundae?"

"Never had one."

"Oh my God woman, you have totally not experienced life until you have had a properly made Banana Split Sundae. It is the most exquisite creation on Earth. And you've never had one?"

"Does that make me deprived?"

"More like depraved!" Megan kidded.

"I mostly used to get a soft serve vanilla and chocolate swirl. I thought that was pretty much the top of the list. I loved them. Made my dad get me one any time we were near an ice cream shop."

Megan immediately noticed the wistful look Toni got in her eye when she mentioned her dad.

"You miss him a lot huh?"

"Yeah," Toni admitted looking at her boots. "He was a great guy, and my best friend, until he was murdered." Her look became far away, and Megan was hesitant to intrude. She figured if Toni wanted to talk about something, she would, without her prompting.


They entered the outskirts of Louisville without any problems and began to search for a hotel to spend the night in. They found a nice little budget hotel and got a room. Again with two beds, though neither of them knew why. Lately, even if they started off in separate beds, they ended up in one. Megan's nightmares were more pronounced than Toni's, but she had them too. Already Megan had been awakened by Toni mumbling and crying out, and her first instinct was to go to her, and comfort her as Toni had done when she suffered, and she had. It didn't seem to matter who sought to comfort who, but it became apparent to both that they needed that comfort. It was something that had been lacking in each of their lives, until they met. Neither of them was sure why they continued the charade. The whole goodnight process was such a strain on both of them, but neither was willing to admit what? Defeat? Need? Desire? They tried. Each on their own tried to rationalize their desire to be close to the other, but both were slow to admit, that the reluctance was brought on by a need to be closer than they currently were. And when one or the other awoke from nightmares, in the other's arms, they were embarrassed and uneasy.

Megan knew that her attraction to Toni was far from professional. And she tried to stay physically away from her for just that reason. But each time that the nightmares took her, she would awake to find that she didn't want to be anywhere else but in Toni's arms. She felt safe, loved and protected.

As for Toni, she had never been this comfortable with anyone, aside from her father, in her life. A good portion of her 'friends' knew her preferences. And either they accepted them, or didn't associate with her, which was fine with Toni. But even though she had had lovers of both sexes, the one thing they all had in common, was her desire to leave once the 'event' was over. She had only slept, that is, spent the entire night in bed with two people, and she had hated every minute of it. Every time the other person had moved, she had woken up. She found herself the victim of elbows and unfortunate fingers, and she was not, what she would consider an affectionate person. But now she found herself in her own bed, in the same room with the one person she had ever…ever, wanted to hold through the night, and her only excuse for doing so seemed to be Megan's unfortunate nightmares. It galled her to think that she almost wished bad dreams on Megan just because it gave her an excuse to climb into bed next to the tiny redhead and hold her. She often mused that she could be honest with the young Deputy, and tell her that she was attracted to her, but every time she tried, her mouth dried up, and she found herself unable to speak.

Megan thought about her past relationships. She thought she had been in love with her ex, Laura, but when it was over, and the pain stopped intruding on her every waking thought she realized that Laura hadn't loved her. You don't hurt the people you love, despite the cliches. But her heart had been broken, and she didn't trust others at all after that. For a while she just had sexual relationships that in the morning left her feeling emptier than she had felt the night before. And always, there were promises to call that amounted to nothing. She felt guilty about that. She knew that she wasn't really going to find comfort in a one-night stand. So why try? But sometimes that was easier said than done. Yet now she found herself confused. She knew that a sexual relationship with Toni would be wonderful, but would it be enough? She was terrified that they might go that far and then decide that it wasn't what they really wanted. Or that maybe it would be enough for Toni, but not enough for her. She wasn't sure who was supposed to make the next move. But she knew that she wanted to offer Toni more than one night.


They awoke the next morning with no specific plans. Neither woman had had any nightmares, so they had spent the entire night in separate beds, much to the chagrin of each.

"Did you sleep okay last night?" Toni queried, hoping for the answer that would encourage her to be able to cuddle with Megan again.

"Yeah, I guess," Megan ventured. What she really wanted to say was, 'I would have had a much better night's sleep if you had been holding me.'

"Well, that's good to hear," Toni told her, trying to put on a front that hid her disappointment. Megan tried to read the look on Toni's face and was unable to determine if it was relief or regret. They went to the little restaurant that was part of the hotel to get some breakfast.

"Is there anything to do around here?" Toni asked. "Or did you just want to hang out here?"

"Actually, I wanted to take you to a place we went a couple of times when I was a kid."

"Where's that?"

"I want it to be a surprise," Megan told her grinning.

"I'm not much for surprises. If I guess, will you tell me?"

"Sure, but somehow I don't think you'll be able to guess this one."

"Okay…" Toni said taking up the challenge. She had always been pretty good at twenty questions. "Is it indoors or outdoors?"

"Both," Megan replied cryptically.

"Does it have animals?" Toni tried, thinking it might be a zoo. After all, it was apparently a place a kid would get a kick out of.

"I'm sure it does, yes."

'That was a big help,' Toni thought. "Might I have been to a place like this?"

"I seriously doubt it," Megan responded, "but I suppose it's possible."

"Does it have rides?"


"Will there be walking involved?"

"Yes," Megan answered, pleased that Toni was making progress, but still wanting their adventure to be a surprise.

"Is it a park?"


Toni was stumped, curious and somewhat frustrated. "What the hell kind of kid enjoys walking around a park with some animals and no rides?" she blurted out.

Megan was suddenly crestfallen. She got the sinking feeling that Toni might not enjoy some of the same things she did and that maybe this trip was a mistake.

Toni quickly realized that what she had just said had made Megan very quiet. "I'm sorry," she volunteered. "I didn't mean for it to sound like that. I told you I wasn't very big on surprises. Forgive me?" she asked giving Megan a little pout.

Megan looked at her expression and began to laugh. "Stop that," she told Toni giving her a light slap on the arm, "you're forgiven. Do you want me to tell you where I'm dragging you off to?"

"No. I'll wait until we get there," Toni replied smiling widely. "So, you grew up in a big family?" Toni questioned.

"Yeah. I have two older brothers, an older sister and three younger brothers," Megan told her.

"Wow, that's quite a brood. And you would come here when you were a kid?"

"Actually Patrick and Colin were born here…well in Lexington. My parents moved to Miami just after Colin was born. We came during the summer every couple of years or so for family reunions."

"Sounds like you didn't need to go anywhere to find a large gathering of your family," Toni chuckled. "Must have been pretty confusing with so many of you in one house."

"It was sometimes, but I never lacked for anyone to play with."

"I don't know if I could stand not ever having any privacy."

"You don't realize you don't have it if you've never had it," Megan told her.

"Makes sense," Toni agreed. "I didn't have any sisters or brothers. I never could stand to be around too many people at once. Makes me feel crowded."

"What was it like growing up in New York?" Megan inquired.

"I loved it," Toni remembered fondly. "There was never a dull moment. You could feel the city humming around you, even in the middle of the night. It was never quiet like it is here."

"Oh, it was never quiet at our house. We were always fighting, until Dad would go get his leather belt. He would snap it together once or twice and we would just stop in mid-sentence." Megan noted the look of concern on Toni's face. "He never used it, well except for once. Some of the neighborhood punks broke into an empty house on the other side of the block. Sean had been forbidden to hang out with them, but he did anyway. The little creeps convinced Sean and some of the other younger kids that they had found bikes and all kinds of things left behind. So of course they were all curious and went to have a look for themselves. When they got there, they were shoved inside and the bigger kids put the chain lock on the door and the younger kids couldn't reach it to get out. When the bigger kids finally let them out, the little old lady in the house next door called the police. Much to my father's displeasure, he was informed that his son had been hauled in with a bunch of other kids for breaking and entering, and trespassing. Needless to say, when my father got Sean home, he was unable to sit for a week," she chuckled at the memory. "I mean, it wasn't funny at the time, and I think it hurt Dad more than it did Sean. But he never hung out with those kids anymore."

At first Toni had been concerned that perhaps Megan's father had been a belt-wielding tyrant, but relaxed when she realized that the belt had been used for intimidation purposes, not for actual punishments. She even found the story quite amusing and had hoped Megan would just keep talking. She found that she loved the sound of Megan's voice, and although she was a storyteller, Megan could weave quite the tale. A road sign caught Toni's eye. It was a brown sign that read 'Mammoth Cave National Park 20 Miles'. "Well, I guess I know where you are taking me," Toni observed.

"Ah, you've found me out," Megan chuckled.

"You're taking me to a cave?"

"It's not just any cave. You make it sound so ordinary. Have you ever been in a cave?"

"Does the New York Subway count?"

"No," Megan replied laughing. "It's really incredible and beautiful, you'll see."

"I'm going to have to take your word on this Megan," Toni replied pretending to be serious, until they both started laughing.


They arrived in the park and purchased tickets for the Grand Avenue Tour. The tour would take a little over four hours and they would walk through four miles of cave. The tour guide told the group that Mammoth Cave was the largest cave system on Earth with over 350 miles of explored and mapped caves. She explained that there were five known levels of interconnecting passageways and the ambient temperature in the caves was a nearly constant 54 degrees.

As Toni stood much taller than Megan's 5'4" frame, she stood behind her while listening to their guide. Toni noted that the caves were lit with small electric 'torch lights'. They had walked about a hundred yards into the cave when the tour guide stopped the group of about 40 adults and children.

"Now," the pretty young guide told them, "if I can get everyone to stand absolutely still and be very quiet, you will get to experience something most people never do in their lifetime, the complete absence of light and sound."

"This is my favorite part," Megan told Toni enthusiastically. Toni smiled at her, not sure what to expect.

"If anyone is bothered by this, please, grab hold of someone you know, because when we turn out the lights, you won't even be able to see your hand in front of your face," the guide told them.

Toni was gripped by the urge to grab hold of Megan, but instead, placed her hands on Megan's shoulders. Then the lights went out. Toni's grip suddenly increased and she found herself holding her breath. The guide had been true to her word. Toni could hear nothing and despite the fact that she had her hands on Megan's shoulders, knowing that she was only a half step in front of her, Toni impulsively put her arms around Megan pulling the smaller woman against herself. She was relieved when she felt Megan's arms wrap around her own. Although the lights remained off for only a minute, it felt more like ten to Toni. Never one to be afraid of the dark, this was nonetheless, very different. She had experienced brownouts in New York, but despite the darkness, it had never been accompanied by the utter stillness she was experiencing now and she then she was suddenly relieved when the lights came back up. She could hear the collective gasps of others in the cave. It seemed that she wasn't the only one holding her breath. When she found her bearings she realized that she was still holding Megan, and Megan was peering up at her over her own shoulder.

"Sorry," Toni told her as she relaxed her hold.

"Don't be," Megan told her, "it's pretty intense isn't it?"

"Intense, yeah. Even knowing that you were standing right there, I felt as though I was alone. I really couldn't see anything."

"Are you okay?" Megan asked, concerned for her friend.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, it was just…" she paused searching for a word.

"Intense," they both finished at the same time then began to laugh.

The tour continued with the guide telling them how the caves were formed over 250 millions years and how they were still forming. She explained to the tour group that there were many different inhabitants of the caves. There were at least 15 types of trogloxenes or 'cave guests'. These were animals that lived above ground, but visited the caves for food or protection. These included bats, crickets and salamanders. The ones that lived in dark, damp environments were known as troglophiles or 'lovers of caves'. These included crickets, beetles, spiders, insects and cave salamanders. Finally there were 27 known types of troglobites, those that spent their entire lives in the caves, including white crayfish and blindfish which lived in the lowest part of Mammoth Cave in the Echo River. They had to rely upon their antennae and sensors to find food in the water the guide explained.

Toni stayed close by Megan's side during the tour. She admitted readily to herself that she was absolutely fascinated. The natural formations of the caves were breathtaking and she quickly understood why Megan had liked this place as a child.

Megan, in turn, watched Toni out of the corner of her eye. She saw the looks of wonder cross her face many times and was pleased with herself that she had brought Toni here. Of course, she knew that her motives for watching Toni weren't just simple curiosity at her reaction, she found her subject extremely attractive. She loved the way Toni's soft brown hair fell in waves just past her shoulders and her eyes. Megan had wanted to know how the Italian woman had come to have blue eyes, but couldn't bring herself to ask. They were the most beautiful shade of blue Megan had ever seen, almost cobalt in color. She then remembered that she had brought her digital camera with her and she produced it out of her bag.

Toni snapped out of her reverie when she noticed Megan aiming a camera at her. "Whoa," she told Megan as she put her hand in front of the lens, "what are you doing?"

"I'm going to take your picture," Megan replied softly, a little hurt at the rebuff.

"Why would you want my picture?" Toni asked curiously.

'So I would have something to remember this moment by,' Megan thought to herself, but said, "So you would have a momento of your visit. You don't want me to take your picture?" Megan asked trying to mask her disappointment.

"I'm sorry. I'm just not fond of having my picture taken," Toni admitted. She never had been. She would always cut class on picture day at school, and when her grandmother would insist on having her in a photograph at the holidays, she would always duck behind her father just as the photo was snapped. "How about if I take your picture," she offered trying to soften the obvious look of disappointment that Megan was unable to hide.

"I could take a picture of you together," a young boy offered, hearing their exchange, and startling both women. "I mean, I could if you would like," he tried again.

Megan looked at Toni and her expression was clear. "Please?" is what it said. Toni softened and agreed. Megan quickly surrendered her camera to the boy, who assured her that they had a similar digital camera and that he knew how to use it. Megan moved to Toni's side and was delighted when she felt Toni's arm rest on her shoulder. She quickly put her own around Toni's waist and they both smiled brightly as the young boy took their picture. They thanked the young man learning his name was Thomas, and surveyed the results.

"I look terrible," Toni said looking at their image in the viewfinder.

"You do not," Megan countered. "If I photographed as beautifully as you, I wouldn't have spent my youth as the official family photographer." This is definitely going to be my new wallpaper, Megan smiled happily to herself.

"Are you kidding me? You look great," Toni told her with a genuine smile on her face, and noted with satisfaction that Megan blushed beautifully. Toni suddenly realized that her relationship with this vibrant young Deputy that was charged with keeping her safe for the next three or so months was the closest thing she had ever had that resembled a friendship, and this realization made her happier than she ever remembered being in her entire life. She hoped that Megan felt the same way and she thought that maybe she did. Otherwise she wouldn't have wanted a token of their visit, right? Toni questioned herself, or was it just wishful thinking on her part. She hoped it was the former.

The tour stopped for a break in the Snowball Room, so called because the gypsum formations resembled icicles and snow. There were cafeteria style tables in the large cavern and a concession where they could buy sandwiches and sodas. They bought lunch and sat down.

"What do you think so far?" Megan inquired.

"You know, if you had told me three hours ago that I was going to thoroughly enjoy myself, I would have said you were nuts. But I don't think I've ever had so much fun," Toni told her honestly.

"I'm glad you're having fun," Megan beamed at her.

"I'm sorry I doubted you earlier. It's beautiful here Megan. Thanks for bringing me," she smiled widely at young redhead. They finished their lunches basking in the glow of their easy companionship. After lunch the tour continued. Toni reluctantly allowed Megan to take her photograph several times and enjoyed teasing her by making faces every time her picture was snapped. She insisted that she be allowed to do likewise, and Megan would surrender the camera upon request. Young Thomas managed to wrestle the camera from each of them a couple of more times and took pictures of them enjoying their day together.

Not long after they resumed, a sudden excitement enveloped the group when several winged creatures flew over their heads presumably heading for an exit. Several of the women and children screamed. Toni reflexively ducked and grabbed at Megan's hand. "Holy Mother of God!" she exclaimed, "were those bats?" she asked nearly crushing Megan's hand in hers.

Megan laughed as the tour guide calmed the other visitors. "Yeah," she told Toni menacingly. "Probably vampire bats coming to suck your blood," she teased doing a bad Dracula imitation. Toni was embarrassed by her reaction and drew Megan towards her in an effort to stop her teasing.

"Listen you…"

"What?" Megan asked breathlessly.

Their eyes locked and they both saw desire reflected within. Slowly Toni leaned towards Megan, who responded to the overture by tilting her head upward giving Toni access to do what Megan had so hoped she would do. Toni's lips lightly brushed against Megan's, her eyes still holding Megan's steadily. She stopped and seeing no hesitation from Megan, leaned in again. Their kiss was tender and held within, a great deal of meaning for both women. After a few lingering moments, Toni broke the kiss. "Thank you," she said softly to Megan.

"For what?" Megan inquired her breath uneven.

"For bringing me here," Toni told her, "and for this," she added gently brushing Megan's lips with her fingertips. She leaned in again for yet another kiss, lingering and enjoying Megan's lips against her own, when Megan suddenly broke off and looked around. Apparently the tour group had continued on without them, unnoticed by either.

"Um, I think we had better catch up," Megan said. "We wouldn't want to get lost in here."

"No, we wouldn't want that, now would we?" Toni smiled at her sweetly.

"Um," Megan stammered still having trouble speaking. She didn't want this perfect moment to end, but she knew that eventually someone would be looking for them and would probably find them in a very compromising position. She tugged on Toni's hand and led her towards the sound of the tour guide's voice. At the end of the tour, a bus took them back to the parking area.

They ended the tour hand in hand, both smiling happily at the turn of events, when Thomas approached them. "Here," he said to them shyly, producing Megan's camera, "I forgot to give this back to you."

"Thank you Thomas, for everything," Megan smiled sweetly and then impulsively kissed him on the cheek, "I'd completely forgotten about this," she told him.

"I guess you were just busy enjoying yourselves," he replied blushing, then stumbled off towards his parents.

"What was that all about?" Toni wondered aloud.

"Don't know," Megan told her, "but I think he had a crush on you," she teased.

"On me? No way, you should have seen the way he was looking at you," Toni teased right back.

"He was not!" Megan protested.

"Was too," Toni told her grabbing her hand, "and when you kissed him, I thought for sure that he was going to faint," she laughed. Megan blushed furiously as Toni laughed harder. "You are beautiful when you blush," she said seriously.

"Flattery will get you everywhere Toni Ferenci."

"I hope so Megan O'Reilly," she replied, then lightly added, "c'mon, let's go. I'm starving." As they made their way back towards the car, Megan stopped suddenly.

"Um, Toni?" she said to get her attention. She had been examining the camera to make sure it was turned off. Toni approached her and looked intently over her shoulder. The last image on the digital camera screen was one of them kissing.


The car ride back to their hotel was spent mostly in silence. Each woman was contemplating the events of the day. Neither of them knew what to say. Toni spent the ride wondering whether her actions had been rash. At the same time, she had never had anything close to the relationship she had currently embarked upon. Sex, yeah, she'd done that. Was she good, yeah, so her former partners had told her. But she had never made love to anyone. She had never really cared. No physical contact that she had shared with another had meant anything to her. But Megan, yeah, she meant something. Something more than sex. Something more than a one night stand, but she had no idea how to relate this to Megan. Having had no experience in the act of love, she had no idea how to approach this young woman that she desired beyond the physical.

Megan spent the car ride in a near state of euphoria. Not only was she very attracted to Toni, but Toni had made it abundantly clear that she was attracted right back. She knew that hers had to be the next move. She had to let Toni know that she felt exactly the same way. But she didn't want to rush. She felt Toni's skittishness. Megan wondered if maybe Toni was afraid to go further. She realized that Toni probably hadn't trusted anyone in a very long time. And that it was unfair of her to assume that Toni would just trust her without reason, no matter their attraction. She had to convince Toni that she was for real. That she felt something more than mere physical desire for her. Megan was pretty sure that she was falling head over heels in love with Toni. 'Whoa, wait a minute,' Megan paused in her thoughts, 'where the hell did that come from? How do I know if I'm in love with her? I wonder if there is a book of symptoms that I could check for,' Megan mused wryly.

So, the ride continued in silence. Both women wanted to say something, but neither knew what. When they finally neared the hotel, Megan suggested that they get their dinner at a local steak house. They ordered and ate with very little small talk. They were both ravenous and not hungry at the same time.

"I really did have a great time today Megan,"

"Me too. I'm glad you liked it."

"I've never experienced anything like it," Toni told her. Although she was referring to their kiss, Megan assumed she meant the caves.

"I was absolutely incredible wasn't it? And to think that we saw only the tiniest fraction of it kind of makes me feel small in comparison."

"You should never let anything make you feel small Megan," she told her gently taking her hand across the table, stroking the back of her knuckles with her thumb. She hadn't meant for the gesture to be in any way erotic, but somehow it had been, sending a tingling sensation down her spine and a blush across Megan's face.

Megan had never been so nervous since her first date with Laura. A friend, Linda, had set them up thinking they would hit it off, and they had. Megan now wondered what she ever saw in Laura. Yeah, she was cute. She had a great sense of humor, at first. But isn't that the way it went at the beginning of most relationships? She and Laura were together for nearly a year before Laura decided that Megan was lacking. In other words, Laura had been dissatisfied. But she had other excuses for why she didn't want to see Megan anymore. Megan had asked her if there was someone else, but Laura had denied it. And Megan spent months analyzing her own behavior, blaming herself for every little fight that they had had. She had even begged Laura not to leave her. But Laura had. And ever since then, she had felt incapable of maintaining a meaningful relationship. She figured that every time things had gone wrong, that she should be the one to blame. And so far, no one had altered that opinion of herself even one little bit. And now here she was, on the verge of what? She wondered? 'If we were to have a relationship, I would surely screw it up. So why bother? Why even try? I know that I would be the one hurt the most. And I don't want to hurt her.' That was the thought most on her mind. Megan didn't care if she was hurt again. But she had no desire to hurt Toni. That thought surprised her. She didn't want to hurt Toni? What about herself? Might Toni hurt her? What if she gave herself willingly and Toni simply used her? It had happened before. Again Laura. She pushed those thoughts out of her mind. Toni wasn't like that, Megan assured herself. She wanted more, right?

Toni watched as Megan drove towards their hotel. 'I want her,' Toni thought. But what did that mean? I want her tonight? I want her forever? Yeah, forever, Toni decided. But how do I make that happen? How do I tell her? How do I assure her that it will last? Will it last? It never had before. At least not with me. Toni had never had a relationship that lasted more than a few weeks, a month at best. And usually she was the one to end it. Mostly out of boredom. No one had ever held her interest long enough for her to make an effort. She and Megan had been together now for nearly a month, of course, not in that way, but she had held her, through the nightmares, and that had meant something to her. Toni had hated the couple of evenings that she had spent with lovers through the night. She had no desire to lay with them beyond the act of sex. But Megan had been different. Since the first time Megan had had a nightmare, she felt an overwhelming desire to comfort the young woman. And she had. And Megan in return had responded to her gestures. For some reason this had changed something in Toni. Something she had never felt a desire to change her behavior towards another, but nonetheless, it had happened. She was suddenly sure that whatever this desire was that had overcome her, it would become clear. And she would wake up the next day, understanding why she was so desirous of and attracted to Megan. Until this epiphany happened, she would simply keep wondering what exactly was happening to her.

They began to prepare for bed. Megan donning her Harvard nightshirt and Toni stripping down to her sports bra and underwear. Before they could climb into opposite beds, Megan approached Toni.

She stood on her toes and kissed Toni lightly on the lips. And she was delighted to feel Toni's response. They continued to kiss for several minutes, each woman becoming quite aroused at the contact. Megan became eager and tried to tug Toni down onto one of the beds, but instead, Toni broke their kiss.

"Meg…Megan…" she tried breathlessly, "we…we have to talk," she told the younger woman, moving away from her.

Megan was immediately embarrassed. She realized that she was coming on very strong, and it was making Toni uncomfortable. Was she wrong? Megan wondered. Maybe Toni didn't like women. She had just assumed that she did. Maybe Toni was just curious. That again wouldn't be the first time.

"Megan…" Toni tried again, her breath coming in short bursts. Unsure of why she felt so lightheaded, she tried to calm herself enough to talk. She recognized the look of rejection in Megan's eyes, and quickly tried to make her understand, to see that she was not rejected, but Toni found herself doing a lousy job. Megan had turned her back and was uttering apologies for being so presumptuous as to think that Toni had desired her. All this before Toni could collect her thoughts and make them clear. "Wait," was all she could manage as she put her hands on Megan's retreating shoulders. "Please listen." Megan stood stock-still. She was so scared at her own actions, that she had absolutely no idea what Toni was going to say, and at this point, it didn't matter. Toni felt her hands trembling, and so did Megan.

"I…I don't even know how to begin. Megan…I…I…want to be with you. Since I've met you…I've never wanted to be away from you. I have no idea…what I mean is…damn," she felt her hands tremble again. "Please Megan, this is so hard for me. Look at me…please?" She waited, expecting Megan to move away from her. Slowly Megan turned to meet her eyes. They looked at each other for several moments. Toni's blue eyes never wavered from Megan's pretty green eyes. "You are so beautiful…it takes my breath away," was all Toni could say at first. Megan waited. She had wanted action, but at Toni's request, she waited. "Megan, I don't want to screw this up. What we have now. I've never felt this comfortable with anyone and I don't know what to do now. I've never met anyone like you. I mean…anyone that I wanted more than a kiss from. And now that I'm here and wanting more than just a kiss, I don't know how to ask. And even if you said yes, I still wouldn't know what to do."

"I think I understand," Megan replied, looking into those cobalt blue eyes. She leaned up and secured another kiss from Toni. It was soft and full of promise. "You want to take this slow?"

"Yes, I have to. Everything I've ever rushed into has turned out badly. I don't want you and I to turn out that way. I want to get to know you. I want to know everything about you. I want to mean something to you."

"You do mean something to me Toni and I want to do this right too."

"What do we do now?" Toni asked Megan.

"We should get some rest," she said, knowing that she would probably spend the evening totally awake.

"Yeah, rest," Toni agreed. She wanted to take the evening further but was so unsure of herself. Never in her life had she hesitated in this particular situation. But she realized that she had never made love to anyone. And that is exactly what she wanted to do with Megan. She didn't want to have sex with her, she wanted to make love to her. What a foreign concept, Toni realized. How do I tell her? How do I explain to her that in my 31 years I've never 'made love' with anyone.

Toni excused herself to grab a shower needing to cool off. Megan resisted her desire to join Toni and instead stretched out across Toni's bed because it was closer to the TV. Yeah, she convinced herself. Because it was closer to the TV. When Toni emerged from the shower, she found Megan sprawled across her bed, sound asleep. She considered briefly taking the other bed. But since she had no real desire to sleep alone, she slipped into the bed next to Megan. She made sure Megan had covers and finally drifted off herself.

When Toni awoke, she found herself holding Megan. And for the first time in her life, it didn't bother her to be sleeping that closely to someone else. In fact, relished the sensation. She stroked the young redhead's hair and breathed in her scent. Again she wondered why it had never been like this before. She wanted to make love to Megan, but she was terrified that maybe she wouldn't enjoy sex with her any more than she had with anyone else. She realized that there was already something different about the way she felt towards Megan. Maybe, she mused, I'm afraid that going to that next level will ruin what we have now. I'm not willing to give that up. She knew it was a selfish thought. Perhaps Megan needed more than just friendship. Would I be able to deny her that if she insisted? 'Hell,' Toni thought ruefully, 'I wouldn't be able to deny myself that, much less her.'


"So, what's on the agenda for today?" Toni asked as she watched Megan go through her exercise routine.

"I hadn't really thought about it," Megan told her in between sit-ups. Actually she had thought about it, but was sure that Toni would balk at the idea. She wasn't sure if she should even suggest it. "Do you want to do anything in particular?"

"Well, since I've never been much outside of New York, I don't really know what there is to do around here."

Megan finished her sit-ups and headed for the bathroom to shower. "I'll think about, and see if I can't come up with something."

When she emerged, she had steeled herself up to suggest her idea to Toni.

"Have you ever been horseback riding?" she asked, knowing what kind of response she was going to get.

"Yeah, sure, once," Toni surprised her by saying, then continued, "when I was about five, my father took me to a petting zoo that had ponies. I do believe that when he put me up on one, I screamed my fool head off until he removed me."

Megan paused for a moment and then burst out laughing, joined quickly by Toni. "You're kidding me, right?"

"Nope…still want to take me horseback riding?" she chided.

"Yeah, only this time, no screaming," Megan teased her.

"You asked for it."

About forty-five minutes out of Louisville, they came to the Bar-T Ranch. It was one of those places where you could rent horses to ride for a few hours or the day. They each had to sign a waiver which absolved the owners of any liability should they be seriously injured.

Toni leaned close to Megan after signing under one of her false ID's, "If this thing throws me and then tramples me senseless, can I sue them using my real name?" she winked.

Megan began to laugh, "You'll be fine, I'll make sure they give you a really slow nag," she teased back. Megan then explained to the stable hand, Henry, that she was an experienced rider, but that her friend 'Sophia' was a novice and that she would need a very gentle mount.

After the two horses were saddled, be brought them out to the waiting women. "Now Buck here is real spirited, but he's well trained, so just let him know who's boss and you won't have any problems. And this is Cherry, she's a sweetheart and it takes very little to control her. You've got quite the range, 'bout five miles to the west and 'bout twelve to the north. Stick to the trails if'n you're gonna go through the trees, and 'bout two miles outside the treeline is open meadow where you can run 'em if ya want."

"Thanks Henry," Megan told him, "we shouldn't be gone for more than a few hours." Henry ambled off and Megan and Toni prepared for their adventure.


"What if I said no?" Toni asked her.

"C'mon," Megan said, tugging gently on Toni's hand, drawing her nearer to the gentle Cherry. Toni hesitated and then let herself be pulled forward. "Look," Megan showed her, stroking the horse's nose, "just pet her here, like this." Toni allowed Megan to take her hand and stroke the horse's nose.

"It smells," Toni said, wrinkling her own nose.

"She's a horse Toni, of course she smells like a horse."

"I'm going to break my neck, you know."

"You're going to be fine. I'll be right next to you." Megan showed Toni how to mount the horse and held the reins until she was up on Cherry's back, then she handed her the reins. She then walked over to her own mount and expertly hoisted herself into the saddle moving Buck next to Cherry.

Toni was astounded. The large brown horse that Megan was on, was huge compared to the gray mare she was currently sitting astride. She couldn't believe that the younger woman could be so confident on such a large beast, but apparently she was in her element, so to speak. "Ready?" Megan asked her again.

"Sure," she smiled uneasily, "certain death holds quite the fascination for me." Megan grinned and urged Buck forward with a tap of her heels. Cherry immediately began to move, following after the large stallion, until she felt the reins pull back against her, and she stopped. "Whoa horse!" Toni yelped at the sudden movement. Megan looked over her shoulder to see Toni and Cherry at a stand still. She turned Buck around and came again to Toni's side.

"Here," she said, loosening the reins in Toni's hands. "If you want the horse to go left, gently tug the reins to the left, same for the right. If you want the horse to stop, pull back, again, not too hard. To make the horse go, tap your heels into her belly."

"She started moving, and then she stopped."

"Because you pulled back on her reins. Keep you grip a little bit loose, and hold onto the saddle horn until you feel balanced." She urged Buck on again, and this time, Cherry followed, with her reluctant rider. They continued on at an easy walking pace towards the forest ridge. Toni was still having a bit of a hard time, and Megan showed her how to take some of her weight into the stirrups so that she didn't get jolted with every step. Once Toni was a little more confident, Megan urged Buck into a light cantor.

Once they exited the treeline, a large meadow filled with wild blooms and a sparse scattering of trees opened up before them. Megan stopped Buck and Cherry followed suit.

"It's beautiful," Toni stated simply. Her discomfort of being atop the horse had not lessened, but she had to admit, she was again, having fun, trying something new.

"Hey, if you don't mind, I'd like to see what he has in him," Megan told Toni.

"What do I do?"

"Draw her reins in tight, so she doesn't follow." Toni did what she was asked.

"Be right back," Megan told her grinning. "Yah!" she yelled to the horse, and he took off. Cherry started, but stayed put when she felt the reins pulled tightly against her. Toni watched in awe as Megan galloped the horse down into the grassy meadow. Was she crazy? Toni wondered. But it was obvious that Megan had been on horseback quite often and knew what she was doing; yet Toni couldn't help but be scared for her. What if she fell off? 'I can barely ride this thing I'm on, how would I go for help?' Finally, too anxious to wait, Toni urged the gentle mount forward, towards Megan's retreating form. By the time she was in the middle of the meadow, Megan was galloping at full speed towards her. As Megan approached, Toni saw that she was as nearly out of breath as the stallion.

"Having fun?" she asked the young Deputy.

"Yeah, sorry, I haven't done that in a long time. It felt good. C'mon, there's a stream over here a ways, we can water the horses and take a break."

"Anything to get off this beast," Toni replied good-naturedly. They took the horses down by the stream and Megan dismounted. She went over to hold Cherry so that Toni could do likewise. Toni had a little trouble exiting the horse's back. She'd never in her life been ungraceful; but that had to be the most awkward her body had ever felt. Then she realized that she couldn't stand straight up.

"Good God, I'm bowlegged!" she exclaimed. Megan began to laugh. "It's not funny," she retorted, "I'll probably be like this for the rest of my life!" This only made Megan laugh harder. "Stop laughing, this is serious! How do I undo this?" At this point Megan had dropped to the ground, she was laughing so hard, she could hardly take a breath. Toni's legs were shaking so hard, she collapsed next to Megan on the ground. "You did this on purpose, didn't you?" Toni asked her, faking menace, as she crawled over to the convulsing Megan. "Now I know…death by bowlegs. That was your plan all along, wasn't it?" she queried, trying out an evil grimace. Megan's laughter had lightened to giggles. "Well, I'm not going to let you get away with it you scoundrel!" and then she pounced, unable to help herself she began to tickle Megan, wanting to hear the sweet sound of her laughter again. Megan did not disappoint. She began to howl with laughter and tried her best to squirm away. Megan tried to defend herself by tickling back, but it seemed that Toni was not ticklish. Toni propped herself up on one arm and looked into Megan's gentle green eyes. Megan reached up and caressed Toni's cheek, hoping that Toni would kiss her again. And Toni did not disappoint. She leaned slowly in and kissed Megan's lips very softly. They were both already out of breath from their tickle fight, and the kiss made breathing even harder.

The kiss was at once gentle and passionate. They lingered. Taking their time, exploring each other's mouths. Tongues warred and nibbles were exchanged. Each woman was lost in the sensations playing across their bodies, and surprisingly, across their emotions. Finally after many long minutes they broke their kiss, both women gasping for breath and trying to regain what little control was left to them. They smiled at each other, both trying to read what was on the other's mind.

"Wow," Megan finally ventured after swallowing several times so that her mouth wasn't completely dry.

"Yeah, that was definitely one for the books," Toni agreed. "You know Megan," she began, still trying to catch her breath, "you've done it to me again."


"Taken me on an adventure that I would have never considered in my entire life, and again, I've had a fantastic time. However, I'm beginning to suspect that it's not the adventure, but the company."

Megan blushed at the compliment. At once she found the situation both ludicrous and incredible. Here she was, a US Deputy Marshall, in charge of a key witness, who was going to testify against one of the most influential and dangerous mob families in US history, and she was rolling around in the hay with her, so to speak. It was both exhilarating and scary at the same time. Certainly she hadn't expected to feel this way about her charge. She poked at her feelings, trying to make sure that it wasn't just the excitement that was arousing her to such an extreme. And as she gazed into the cobalt blue eyes that were locked onto her own, she knew. She knew that it wasn't just a passing fancy. She knew that no matter what Toni had done in her past, that her past was just that. Done, gone. Something that neither of them could change, no matter how much they both might want to. But neither could they change the future. She had to keep Toni safe until the trial. Here it was October 7th and they had to keep moving. Keep ahead of the mob until January 17th. Approximately 3 months and ten days to go. It was too much time, and not enough.

"Where did you go?" Toni asked Megan.

"Um, nowhere, I was just thinking."

"About what?"

"Us, time, circumstances." Megan hadn't meant to just blurt that out, but there it was.

"Are you thinking that we need to move soon?"

"Yeah, soon. We still don't know who is leaking information. Whoever it is may be able to track us. They may have access to the files that contain the credit cards I've been given, I don't know. I'm pretty sure that Tate has kept the access down to a minimum, but still…"

"Reality sucks," Toni stated, as she rolled onto her back and regarded the afternoon sky.

"Yeah," Megan agreed with a sigh. They lay in the meadow, near the stream for a long while. Toni was pretty sure that she dozed off for a few minutes when she heard Megan speak.

"We'd better head back."

"Can I walk?"

"We've come over four miles I'm pretty sure, it'll take a while if you do."

"Okay, okay, you win. I don't really want to be stuck out here as bait for the coyotes."

"I don't think there are coyotes out here," Megan told her with a mischievous smile, "only wolves."

"That does it O'Reilly…you are definitely on my list," Toni laughed, launching another round of tickling. Megan managed to gain her feet and danced out of Toni's reach. Toni tried to stand and found her legs most unwilling. Megan helped her up and led her to the horse.

"You're probably going to be a little sore for a few days."

"Define 'a little'?"

"Okay, definitely sore…but you said you had fun."

"Me and my big mouth." They both mounted up and headed back to the Bar-T.

As they drove back towards their hotel, Toni said, "Remind me, the next time I want to see a horse, it will be from the other side of the rail."

"Hey, I've checked it out, Keeneland is open on October 9th. They're having some races that day. We can go if you want."

"That sounds more like it," Toni smiled happily.

They stopped to have dinner again, and returned to their room exhausted.

"Phew, I'm going to take a shower," Toni told Megan, "you can burn my clothes."

Megan laughed. There's a washer and dryer just down the corridor. I'll go throw these in," she said gathering up their smelly jeans and shirts, along with a couple of other items that needed a wash. By the time she returned, Toni was emerging from the bathroom.

"Me next," she grinned wrinkling her nose at the smell. After her shower she checked on their clothes and found them ready for the dryer. "Hey, why don't we walk over to the store down the way. I'm pretty sure I saw a sign for homemade ice cream," she tempted Toni. They had to wait for their clothes to dry anyway. They might as well kill some time.

"Sounds like a plan," Toni agreed, already contemplating what new flavor she would try. Maybe just plain chocolate chip, or pralines and cream, whatever that was.

As they made their way along the edge of the highway, towards the store, Toni took Megan's hand in hers and was rewarded with a gentle squeeze and a huge, shy grin.


The next day they decided to travel to Lexington and grab a hotel there, since Keeneland was just on the outskirts. They drove around the city, Megan pointing out where various relatives lived, or had lived. Toni was somewhat astounded by the variety of the neighborhoods. Some were multi-story wooden structures that had more character than stability, and others were redbrick houses, more recently built to withstand the colder weather. Downtown was beautifully elegant and somewhat modern due to recent renovations. They parked and strolled through the mall, noting that most of the stores sold touristy knick-knacks. Lots of horse memorabilia and other things that would remind one of the state they were currently in.

They had lunch and talked. Toni found out that Megan's father had been married before he wed her mother, and that his first wife bore him a son and a daughter, leaving Megan with a half-brother and a half-sister. So in reality, Megan had not six, but eight siblings. She told Toni that although her brother and sister were far away, they had always had a close relationship, in fact, it was obvious that it bothered Megan a great deal to be so close to them, and not be able to visit. It turned out also that between them, Megan had one nephew and three nieces, only one of whom was younger than her. She told Toni that when they were young and would visit, her nieces, especially Janet, who was only one month younger than herself, could not quite grasp the fact that she, Megan, was her aunt. They were more like cousins because of their closeness in age. Now that they were older, it was always so much fun to be introduced as their aunt, because everyone thought they were joking.

"Tell me about you," Megan prodded Toni.

"What do you want to know?" Toni asked, not wanting to sound wary, but knowing that she did.

"You went to school at Syracuse, right?"

"Yeah, almost six years."

"What did you study?"

"Liberal Arts. I also took some business classes. Mostly to learn how to play the stock market," she noted the look on Megan's face. "Boring, huh?"

"No. But you did get a degree, right?"



"Well, what?"

"What was your major? I mean, yeah you got a Liberal Arts degree, but what were you studying?"

"It doesn't really matter. Nothing ever came of it," she replied trying to get off the subject.

"Oh, okay," Megan said, realizing it was something Toni didn't want to talk about. An awkward silence grew between them as Megan grasped for another topic to talk about.

"You'll think it's stupid," Toni said quietly.

"Try me."

"I was a creative writing major," Toni shyly told her.

Megan hesitated. "Why would I think that was stupid?" she asked, a little bit hurt, that Toni thought she was insensitive.

"Everyone else did. My dad especially. I never really cared what anyone thought but him. He wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant. Something you could make a living at. It really hurt that he found my 'little hobby' so disappointing."

"I'm sorry," Megan sympathized. "I know exactly how you feel. My father wasn't too thrilled with my choice of occupation."

"I thought you said your father was a cop?"

"He is, but that didn't mean he wanted his little girl to become one."

"You went to Harvard, right?"


"What did you get your degree in?"

"Law," Megan stated casually.

"You have a law degree?" Toni asked somewhat astonished.

"Um, yeah," Megan told her, seemingly embarrassed by the fact.

"Can you practice law anywhere?" "Virginia, D.C. and Florida."

"No wonder your father disagrees with you becoming a Marshall, after putting you through law school."

"He didn't put me through school," Megan told her, the color rising in her face, "I went on a full scholarship."

"Good God, Megan, you went to Harvard Law on a full scholarship and you decided to become a US Marshall?"

"Well, it didn't start out that way," she began, "I went to work for the Justice Department right out of law school and practiced law for about two years, but something about being a Marshall just called to me. I guess I wanted to be where the action was, instead of on the sidelines."

Toni was stunned. She knew that her young companion was intelligent, but this had definitely shocked her. She wanted to say to Megan that she was wasting her time, and could be making a killing as a lawyer, but she realized that she had heard that argument from her father and Toni didn't want to sound like a disapproving parent. Toni was pulled out of her musings when she realized that Megan was talking to her.


"I asked you what kind of stories you write."

"Um, well, I've tried a little of everything, but mostly I write detective mysteries."

"Really? Have you ever had anything published?"

"No. I was planning on submitting the story I was writing for my master's thesis, but then I dropped out of college."

"All this time you were writing on those legal pads, you were writing stories, weren't you?"

Toni looked at her hands, embarrassed. "Um, yeah, it helps me relax."

"Can I read some of your stories?" Megan asked, intensely curious at this point.


"Oh, well if it makes you uncomfortable, I don't want to intrude," Megan told her trying once again to hide her disappointment at Toni's reluctance to trust her.

"It's not that…no one except my Mother has ever read my stories. Well, my classmates when I had to submit something for a grade," she paused. "Do you really want to read one?"

"Yes I do," Megan replied enthusiastically.

"Okay, well then, when we get back to the hotel, I'll dig one up for you." Toni had this sudden desire to know what Megan thought of her stories. She had never asked anyone's opinion before, except for her Mother, who loved her stories, and her professors who graded them.

They had long since finished lunch and were just sitting there talking. But now both women were eager to leave and grab a hotel room. So they did.


Frank Tate swept his office for listening devices again. This time he found one, but decided to leave it in place. He hoped that he could lead their traitor on a false trail and maybe find out in the process who was giving the Ribisi family inside information. He called the Paris office, "Tell O'Reilly to bring our charge home, the extradition papers are in order." He then went to the security office and ordered a copy of the last month's worth of security tapes of his office. He also ordered his security chief Robbie Black to run comprehensive background checks on all new hires and transfers within the last month including all miscellaneous office personnel. He wanted all the information on his desk by tomorrow, Friday October the 9th, he told Robbie. He left his office and headed for a payphone, armed with tons of change. He called the Miami Herald and responded to the ad, 'Looking for Love'.

Continued in Part 3.

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