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.

I would also like to thank my beta readers Buxxer and Mercury for their support.

All comments can be sent to

Part 3

They secured a room at the Marriott near the Lexington airport, and conveniently near Keeneland racecourse. This time there was no pretense. The room was occupied by only one king-sized bed. Megan changed into her nightshirt as Toni rummaged through her duffel bag finally pulling out nearly half a dozen yellow legal pads. She looked through them and selected one, which she handed carefully to Megan.

"Just exactly what did you think I was writing?" Toni wondered curiously.

"I thought that you were making notes of what you would tell them at the trial," Megan told her.

"Oh…well…I'm…um," Toni stammered nervously, "I'm going to take a shower." She knew she wouldn't be able to sit and watch Megan read her story so she found a reason to excuse herself at least for a little while. She turned the water as hot as she could stand it, then just stood under the spray. 'What do I care what she thinks?' she wondered. 'It's not like anyone else is going to read them. I guess Pop was right, my writing turned out to be just a hobby. So much for making a living as a best selling novelist.'

Megan flipped through the legal pad before she began to read. She saw that nearly all of the hundred pages had been written on. She settled under the covers and began to read. She was instantly captivated by the story. She noted that this probably wasn't the first story Toni had written using this character and that maybe she would get Toni to let her read others. She hardly noticed when Toni emerged from the steamy bathroom and climbed into the opposite side of the bed.

Toni grabbed the remote control and aimlessly flipped through the channels. Every once and again she would glance at Megan, trying to gauge her reaction. Trying to watch TV was a futile effort. She was bored, and even the free HBO offered nothing to distract her. Toni glanced again at Megan and noted that even in her oversized Harvard nightshirt, she was cute. Her brow was wrinkled over her bright green eyes, which concentrated on the page in front of her. Toni noted that Megan's ears were pierced but she wore no earrings, and her earlobes were tiny and perfect. The only indication that Toni had, that Megan was even reading was when she flipped the page. Finally she found that she couldn't take anymore. She got up from the bed and pulled on her jeans and a T-shirt. She was tugging on her boots when Megan noticed something was different. She looked up from the engrossing tale.

"Are you going somewhere?"

"Yeah, I'm just a little hungry. I thought I'd go downstairs and get a bite to eat. Want to come with?"

Megan hesitated, reluctant to put the story down.

"Or I could just bring you something…so you can keep reading," Toni offered.

"Okay, a cheeseburger with fries would be good," Megan told her, hoping that she wouldn't be offended by her desire to stay in the room.

"Sure, no problem," Toni replied crossing over to Megan's side of the bed and sitting down. She lightly brushed Megan's bangs away from her eyes. The bangs reached just below her brows and it looked as though she would need a trim soon. "How can you read with your hair in your eyes like that?"

Megan looked at her, her eyes shining and a mischievous grin forming on her face. "You sound like my mother."

Toni laughed. "Good God, I hope not," she told Megan, but knew that she did. Well, maybe not Megan's mother, but her own. "So…are you enjoying it?" She asked shyly.

"It's fantastic!" Megan enthused. "I can't put it down."

"Good," was Toni's reply. Inside she was beaming as she leaned in and captured Megan's lips for a soft kiss. "I'll be back soon, okay?"

"Okay. Don't be too long. I think I just might miss you," Megan told her with a wide, honest grin. Toni laughed again and grabbed a key card as she left the room. Megan watched her go and then touched her lips with her fingertips. They were still tingling from their kiss. 'She's so shy about her writing,' Megan mused. 'How could anyone with this much talent be shy about it?' she wondered.

Toni sat at the bar and ordered them some dinner to take back to the room. She ordered herself a Maker's Mark and coke. "The finest Kentucky bourbon, in my humble opinion," Megan had told her just a few days ago, and she had to agree. It was the smoothest bourbon she had ever tasted. She wished that she had all of her stories with her. But she had scanned them into her computer from her legal pads, as longhand was her preferred method of writing, and had made hard copies, which were now in a safety deposit box in Hoboken NJ. She had reformatted her hard drive before she left, knowing that she could not take her computer system with her. And she had destroyed the hard copies in her fireplace. It was the hardest thing she had to do, considering some of the journals she kept, and the stories she had written were from her youth. She hoped that someday she would be able to retrieve the contents of the safety deposit box, but wasn't entirely sure it would be possible. "Is there a liquor store nearby?" she asked the bartender, deciding that she wanted to buy a bottle of the Kentucky bourbon so they could have a drink when they wanted one.

"Just up the road in the next plaza," he told her.

"Be right back," she said placing a twenty on the bar to cover their dinners and her drink. True to his word, there was a liquor store in the shopping center next to the Marriott. They closed at ten, and as it was only 9:43 according to her watch, she didn't look too much like a desperate drunk, she chuckled to herself as she made her purchase. She got back to the hotel as they were placing the dinner order on the bar. She took the check and made sure that the twenty covered everything plus a very nice tip, and headed back up to their room.

She found Megan just as she had left her. She placed her purchases down on the dresser and pounced on the bed. "Did you miss me?" she asked playfully bouncing up and down straddling Megan's outstretched legs without touching her.

"As a matter of fact, I did," Megan responded tossing the legal pad aside. She leaned forward and gently caressed both of Toni's cheeks with her hands. She placed a light kiss on Toni's lips noting that it seemed to calm Toni of her nervousness. She moved in again for a deeper kiss. Their tongues danced lightly, playfully. Finally Toni drew back, breathless.

"I…brought us something to eat," she tried. Megan didn't seem to care. She kissed Toni again. Toni's arms began to tremble after a minute and she sat up on her heels. "I brought something else," she teased, waggling her eyebrows.

"Oh yeah?"

Toni jumped off the bed and grabbed the bottle of Maker's Mark and displayed it proudly to Megan.

"Ooohhh, I could really go for a Maker's and coke about now. How did you know?"

"Well, you did tell me it was the finest Kentucky bourbon out there. How could I not know? Plus I brought you your cheeseburger, you need to eat something, you haven't eaten since lunch."

"You're right," Megan agreed.

"I'll go get some Cokes from the machine," Toni told her and then left the room.

Megan grabbed her Styrofoam container and realizing just how hungry she was, began to eat. Toni returned a couple of minutes later with several cans of Coke.

"Just how much of that bottle do you think we are going to drink tonight?" Megan asked, a slight grin on her face.

"I…I don't know…I just thought…" Toni then realized that Megan was yanking her chain again. As soon as the realization showed on her face, Megan began to giggle. "Listen you, you are already on my list, now you've just moved up a notch."

"You mean I'm not at the top yet? Damn, but I've been trying," Megan teased.

"You are very, very close," Toni told her with her most menacing look. Megan just laughed harder, a problem that was becoming ever more present. Toni was entranced by Megan's laughter. It was so honest and it had an almost musical quality. She had an overwhelming desire to hear it always ringing in her ears. 'I think I would like to be a writer of comedies now,' she thought, 'if it means hearing her laugh.'

"Mix me a drink already woman," Megan ordered, loving the incredulous look on Toni's face at her demand.

"Yes Ma'am." Toni fixed them both a drink and grabbed her own burger to munch on. They sat on the bed eating their dinners and sipping their drinks.

"Toni," Megan began, "your story is…"

'Here it comes,' thought Toni. She was so nervous, she almost didn't hear what Megan had to say.

"…Awesome. It's been a very long time since I was unable to put a book down," she paused, unsure whether Toni was actually listening to her. She knew that Toni letting her read the story was a big step in trust, and she was not sugarcoating the truth. This tale was the most captivating thing she had read in years. She found Toni looking at her hands, something she did when she was nervous, Megan noted. "Toni, I'm not trying to flatter you. I really like it. It's gripping and fast paced. And your heroine, Jessie, is so believable, I'm beginning to wonder if this is actually a work of fiction."

Toni looked up at this comment. It was just a story she had made up. "You think it's a true story?"

"It sounds like one to me. How else could you convey so much detail."

"It's not," she told Megan, "honestly. I made it up. It's not about anyone real." She thought that maybe she sounded defensive, but it was fiction after all, and she knew that.

"Jessie sounds so lonely," Megan told her.

"She is," Toni replied. "I didn't know how else to write her."

Megan suddenly realized that there was a lot of Toni in Jessie, her fictional detective. She wanted to keep reading, hoping it would reveal more of Toni to her than Toni had, but didn't want to offend her friend by rejecting her for her story. Toni climbed out of the bed taking their empty dinner containers and placing them in the garbage can. She sat on the edge of the bed and removed her boots, and then her jeans and T-shirt. She crawled into bed, but had to pick up the legal pad Megan had tossed aside. She wanted so much to tuck it back into her duffel bag; instead she handed it back to Megan. "You want to keep reading… don't you?"

"Yeah, I do…do you mind?"

"No, not at all," Toni tried to sound nonchalant. "I'll just watch some TV." 'Like that worked so well the last time,' she thought. She tried to concentrate on a movie and finally drifted off to sleep, Megan still pouring over her tablet.


Morning came. Toni found Megan pressed against her with her head resting on her shoulder and one leg draped over hers. She spied the legal pad lying across the covers, turned to the last written page. She guessed that Megan hadn't gone to sleep until she had finished what was written. The young woman was snoring very lightly, as was her habit when she was deeply asleep. The sound amused Toni almost to the point of chuckling. But she held it back and reveled in the feel of Megan's body pressed tight to her own. Slowly, she drifted back to sleep.


Megan woke and extricated herself carefully from Toni, as not to wake her. She did her exercises and then showered. When she emerged, she found Toni fully dressed and studying a small booklet.

"Whatcha looking at?"

"The racing form. We are going to the races today, aren't we?"

"Yeah, yeah…well, I've never been to a horse race before," she stated simply.

"Are you telling me that you can ride a horse, but you've never been to the races?" Toni asked incredulous.

"Um…no, unless you count racing a horse against someone else as a friendly bet."

"Good God, I'm going to be one up on you? I can't believe it. You're putting me on right? You're probably some sort of racing guru and you just don't want to embarrass me today."

"No, really, I've never been to an actual horse race."

"But you knew they were racing today."

"I looked it up on the Internet before we came to Kentucky. It's always been something I've wanted to do, but have never done. So I thought I'd put in a little research."

Toni was delighted beyond words. Finally, a place she could take Megan that she knew pretty much everything about, and here Megan was telling her she knew nothing about it. 'Wow! I can't wait.' Toni thought

It took only ten minutes to get to the Keeneland racecourse, but it took another 25 minutes to park. The place was busy to say the least. They wandered around a little, making silly comments about the way others were dressed for the event. It was as if they were in high school, trading gossip. The ladies all had their hats on, which was a tradition at horseracing events, especially in Kentucky. The guys wore suits, and although the weather was a brisk 67 degrees, they looked overheated. Both Toni and Megan were glad they brought jackets with them. The track was beautiful. They browsed the gift shop at Megan's prodding. Megan purchased a green T-shirt with the Keeneland logo on it as a souvenir. Toni was busy studying her racing form and making notes in the margins. Megan peered over her arm and looked at the entries for the first race.

"Oh yeah, definitely the number 3 horse," Megan stated confidently.

"Why do you say that?" Toni wondered. Hunches were just as lucky as the odds when it came to betting.

"It's my favorite number, plus I like the name, House Virgin." Toni chuckled at her choice. The horse was currently a 40:1 longshot. But would yield a nice return if it won. She placed her bet, and Megan's 'hunch'. Unable to get a good position near the rail because of the sheer number of people, they staked out seats where they could watch the monitors. Megan was disappointed when her horse came in 8th out of ten horses. But Toni's bet had won. Her four-dollar bet had yielded a return of nearly $60. She tipped her vendor $5 and rejoined Megan who was studying the racing form, trying to figure out who would win the 2nd race.

"How do you do this?" Megan asked Toni.

"Do what?"

"Know who's going to win?"

"It's pretty much all odds. Statistics. That's why they provide the information, so you can make an informed bet."

"You didn't answer my question. How do you know who is going to win?"

"I just told you. You look at the racing form, you look at how the horse has done on similar courses, you take into account the current odds, consider how the jockey has been doing lately and then you pick the horse whose name you like," she added smiling smugly.

Megan hesitated and then got the joke. She laughed and poked Toni in the ribs. "You are picking on me aren't you?"

"Yeah…you're so easy," she smiled back. Toni felt an overwhelming urge to kiss Megan, but felt that they were in such a public place that it would make both them and the people around them uncomfortable, so she resisted.

Despite the fact that the horse she had picked had nearly completely lost the race, Megan was already having a great time. In fact, she was almost certain that Toni had been about to kiss her and she really wanted her to, but it didn't happen. She wondered, for a moment why, but then realized that this was not the place for them to share a display of affection. It pissed her off. She looked around at the other milling couples, 99% of them were heterosexual. They had their arms around each other, they kissed, held hands and displayed other similar acts of affection, and no one even batted an eye. But she knew that if she and Toni were to kiss here, they would be an object of scrutiny for the rest of the afternoon. And she wanted to enjoy herself, and she wanted Toni to do the same. She didn't want to ruin it by having others be uncomfortable. Still, she railed, it was unfair. Why shouldn't she be able to hold Toni's hand and not have it be a big deal? She was aware that public opinion was still against same sex relationships, no matter how long this had been common practice. History hadn't yet caught up to History. Especially in such a conservative state as Kentucky. She shrugged it off, as best she could and was determined to enjoy the day, despite its limitations.

"So, what horse do you like in the second race?" Toni asked her.

Megan looked over her program and had decided on another name she liked but hesitated. "Well, using my scientific method, I would chose the number 8 horse, Jessie's Runner, but the odds are 20:1, so I would probably be wrong, right?" she tried. She chose the horse again because of the name. Jessie was the heroine in Toni's story.

"Well, I wouldn't want to dispute your scientific method. In fact, 20:1 odds are a pretty good bet. So, are you picking her to win, place or show?"

"Um…yeah," Megan tried.

Toni laughed. She gave Megan a quick rundown of what win, place and show meant, and explained a couple of the finer points of betting. She watched as Megan's eyes began to glass over at her prolonged explanation, and laughed again. She found herself charmed by Megan's naivete at certain things. Not that she expected Megan to be some expert at placing bets, but considering her astounding intelligence, it amused her that Megan could be befuddled by anything. Toni found Megan's innocence refreshing and alluring. It was one of the many qualities that had attracted her to Megan in the first place and she didn't want that to change, not for any reason.

"So, what bet are you going to place?" Toni asked her.

"Jessie's Runner to win," she replied confidently.

"You got it," Toni grinned at her. Her own bet, a trifecta included Jessie's Runner.

Although they weren't able to get a position where they could see the horses ride from the rail, they were able to watch the horses being led onto the track by their handlers, with their riders astride. Toni could tell that the beautiful mounts being paraded by them thrilled Megan. She tried to see past the odds to the actual beasts, but wasn't quite sharing Megan's view. After having ridden an actual horse, it still didn't affect Toni they way it obviously affected Megan, and she was just a little jealous at Megan's ability to see beyond the animal to the personality beneath.

Jessie's Runner won the race, Toni's third pick came in fourth, negating her ticket, but Megan's bet won her $140. Megan jumped up and down in excitement. Toni explained how you tipped your vendor, almost like you would a waitress, and always, when you won. It was good luck for the next bet you placed.

Toni explained to Megan that they had a pick six for the next six races. You placed you bet, and if you picked the winners of the next six races in a row, you would win $10,000. They both tried their hand at this little adventure. Toni played the odds, and Megan mostly picked horses by names she liked. By the third race, Toni's pick six was done; the horse she picked didn't come in first. But she continued to win small sums on each venture, by playing the odds. By the time the 7th race was over, and Megan's picks had all been winners, Toni was very nervous. They both placed bets for the 8th and final race of the pick six and couldn't help it, but found themselves holding hands as they watched anxiously. Toni even began to jump up and down along with Megan when Delightful Darrin pulled out in front around the homestretch. They each held their breath, their hands squeezing almost painfully together. As the horses neared the finish line, Delightful Darrin and the odds on favorite, Luck Be A Lady were neck and neck. The race finished and they both waited for the numbers to appear on the screen, when they heard the announcer say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a photo finish!"

"A what? What does that mean?" Megan nervously asked Toni.

"A camera is used to take a photo the moment the horses cross the finish line. When they come across it so close that you can't tell immediately which horse won, they look at the photo to determine the outcome."

"Well…who won?" Megan asked excitedly.

"It takes a little while for them to determine in a photo finish," Toni told her. They both fidgeted while they waited; their hands still clasped tightly together.

"What's taking so long? The suspense is killing me."

"Patience, Megan, patience," Toni intoned, although she was dying to know the outcome herself.

After what seemed like a lifetime, the announcer's voice came up, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner of the 8th race is the number 4 horse, Delightful Darrin. Luck Be A Lady to place and SloeGinFizz to show." Neither of them heard what the announcer had said beyond Delightful Darrin as the winner. Megan's knees suddenly gave out, and she collapsed into her seat. Toni sat down quickly beside her.

"What…what do we do now?" Megan asked in a whisper, her mouth so dry she could barely get the words out.

"For one thing, you should give me that ticket," Toni told her, prying open her free hand. Megan watched her as if from a distance, then she realized that she had crushed her winning ticket in all the excitement.

"Oh God, I didn't ruin it did I?"

"No," Toni chuckled at the stricken look on Megan's face, "I'm sure it's fine," she assured her. The grip that Megan was maintaining on her hand had caused her to lose the feelings in her fingers. She wiggled them, trying vainly to move some blood to her tingling digits to no effect. "Um…Megan…" she prodded getting the excited young woman's attention. She then looked at her captured hand, Megan's eyes following her lead.

"Oh…Toni…I'm so sorry…I didn't mean…" she stammered as she released Toni's hand.

"Ssshhh…it's okay, I'll live," Toni assured her, caressing her cheek with her free hand while opening and closing her stricken hand to get the blood flowing again. "I guess that was pretty exciting, huh?"

"I don't think exciting quite covers it," Megan replied. "Amazing…astounding…heart-stopping is more like it. But…what do we do now?"

"Well, you won. Don't you want to claim your prize?"

"Sure, I mean, yeah, but how?" As if on cue, the announcer came over the loudspeaker again.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, tallies indicate that we have a winner for our $10,000 pick six grand prize. Would the lucky ticket holder please proceed to Gate A, window 10 to claim your winnings." They watched as the crowd around them began to applaud for the winner, and saw many of the people double checking their tickets to see if they had overlooked something.

"Shall we?" Toni inquired standing and offering her arm for Megan to take.

Megan sat, still trembling for a moment, then stood unsteadily and grasped Toni's arm. Together they made their way towards Gate A. Two armed guards stood at the ready outside window 10. They approached and Toni offered them the crumpled ticket. They nodded and opened the door for the two that led into an office behind the ticket window. As soon as they crossed the threshold, an alarm sounded.

"Don't move," one of the guards demanded. Megan's sidearm had obviously set off the alarm. They both slowly moved their hands into the air. Inside the room were two more guards. All four of them had drawn their guns, but were pointing them judiciously at the ground.

"I'm a Federal Marshall," Megan quickly assured them, "my ID is in my inside left pocket," she indicated nodding towards her jacket. One of the guards holstered his weapon and slowly opened her jacket and removed her ID and her badge. He studied it and showed it to his partner. They nodded at its validity and indicated to the others that all was safe.

"Sorry Deputy," said the one, whose name badge said Ryan, "can't be too careful these days. Please, have a seat," he responded handing her back her badge and ID. "Well, it looks like it's your lucky day," he told her with a smile, taking the proffered ticket from one of the guards who had escorted them in. He handed the ticket to an older woman who looked remarkably like an accountant, which she was, and she began the process to determine that it was indeed the winning ticket. Megan fell into a polite conversation with Officer Ryan who had inquired as to what had brought her to Kentucky, and specifically Keeneland on this glorious day. She briefly told him that her mother's family was from these parts and that she had never been to an actual horse race and had wanted to come. Of course she didn't expect to win, that was just luck. But it tickled her nonetheless that it had happened. Toni sat quietly and watched as Megan's captivating charm worked it's way across the room, even eliciting a smile from the dour little accountant. Finally it was official, the ticket was deemed authentic and now they simply wanted to know in what form did Megan want her money.

Megan looked at Toni, unsure of what to say. Toni spoke up and asked for five cashier's checks each in two thousand-dollar increments, the last, minus the state taxes that would be taken out.

"Wait!" Megan suddenly exclaimed, startling everyone, including Toni. "Take out…five hundred dollars from the last one," she told the accountant. Everyone looked at her for an explanation. "Tip…for Donna, at…" she looked again at Toni.

"Gate F, ticket window 3," Toni provided, and then smiled at Megan for remembering the courtesy. Megan asked for something to write on and included a note to Donna for being so nice and so very patient with her when she was placing her bets.

"We should escort you to your car," Officer Ryan offered, "there's going to be quite the mob out there." His odd choice of words suddenly struck both women at once. They glanced at each other, unsure of what to do.

"Um…Officer Ryan," Megan started, "is there another way out of here besides the one we came in?"

"Well, yeah, we could take you through the back, down towards the stables, but it's not close to the parking lot at all."

"That's fine," Megan told him, "we, I mean, Deputy Wilson and I are undercover, and if the boss found out that we were taking our time off having fun, and people were snapping our picture, then, well…you know…our cover would be blown," she finished. Obviously he did understand and nodded to his partner. The other two guards returned to their station outside the office door as Ryan and his partner escorted Megan and Toni back through some interconnected offices, past several heavily locked doors, towards the stables. When they emerged nearly a mile behind the Keeneland racecourse, they were driven by Officer Ryan to their car, in one of the courses utility trucks. Unseen by anyone, an enterprising young photographer was snapping pictures of the grand prizewinner as she and her companion exited the stables escorted by the two guards.

Toni drove them back to their hotel, as Megan was still trembling at her incredible luck. When they entered the room, Megan sat heavily on the bed, again, not trusting her legs to hold her up. She wondered how long it would be before this feeling passed and she would be able to walk normally again. Her hands still shaking, she removed the five cashier's checks from her jacket pocket and stared at them in amazement.

"Wow…wow," she breathed in a hushed voice. Toni leaned against the dresser watching Megan with amusement. The childlike wonder that played across her expression delighted Toni beyond words. She watched the young redhead and found herself more excited than she had ever been in her life. She walked as calmly as she could over to the bed and knelt down in front of Megan.

"Hey there," she whispered, her hands resting on Megan's knees. Megan looked up into those captivating cobalt eyes and found herself even more lost than she had been only a moment before. 'Please kiss me…please,' Megan thought. As Toni moved forward to capture her lips, she was suddenly sure that she had voiced her thought out loud, but didn't care one little bit. The result was exactly what she desired. Their kisses were light and both kept their eyes open, searching for signs of hesitance, which neither of them found. The kiss deepened. Mouths opened and each took turns exploring the other with their tongues. Megan's hands were suddenly tangled in Toni's wavy brown locks, and Toni's hands slid up Megan's thighs, thumbs rubbing maddeningly near her center.

Megan slid off the bed and onto her knees opposite Toni. Their bodies were pressing together as if independent of their owners. Toni's hands left her thighs and began a slow journey up Megan's back, underneath her shirt, much to Megan's delight. She returned the gesture, working her hands across Toni's shoulders and down her back. They continued their gentle explorations, eyes now closed. Megan started to get frustrated, until she successfully pulled Toni's T-shirt loose from her jeans and her hands now caressed the warm flesh of Toni's back. They delighted in this new discovery of each other, until Toni decided her knees couldn't take anymore. She broke the kiss, eliciting a disappointed sigh from Megan. She stood up on shaky legs and turned off the overhead light leaving them with only the bedside light to guide them.

She took Megan's hands, encouraging her to stand, turned around and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Come here," she asked gently tugging Megan onto her lap. Again they kissed, hands explored backs. 'I'm going to die of this,' Megan thought. 'God, please touch me, Toni. Anywhere. No, not anywhere, my nipples, please, please touch them,' she thought frantically trying to convey her thoughts through the kiss. As though reading her mind, Toni's hands slid towards her midsection, her thumbs making lazy circles just under her aching breasts. Megan pressed herself against Toni trying to make her needs known.

Toni was thoroughly enjoying their tantalizing foreplay. She wasn't trying to tease Megan, but when she started to hear the young woman's ragged moans, and felt her press her body against her own, she realized that Megan was ready to go farther than she was, and she knew that she needed to stop right away, or not be able to stop at all. Again she broke their kiss. She felt Megan's head drop against her shoulder, her breathing short and ragged. "Toni…please…don't stop…please," she begged.

"Megan…I…want…" she tried, her own breathing uneven, "I want this to be special. I don't want to rush," Toni said, trying to articulate her own shortcomings in one short sentence.

"We're not rushing," Megan breathed as she gently kissed and nipped at Toni's neck.

Toni was lost again in the sensation. She reveled in it, not wanting it to end, but knowing that it had to. "Megan, please…please don't make this hard." With that, Megan stopped her advances. She wanted Toni more than she had anyone else in her entire life, but it was suddenly obvious to her that the attraction, the need, was one sided. Embarrassed beyond belief, she tried quickly to get off Toni's lap. "Wait…wait," Toni demanded suddenly, aware that Megan was misunderstanding her, she tightened her grip and wouldn't let Megan leave her embrace. "I want this to happen. I want you…I do…believe me."

"Then what? What is it? What keeps stopping you?" she asked, trying to renew her struggle to escape Toni's arms. Tears were rolling unbidden down her face. Toni felt them dropping gently onto her shoulder as she held Megan even tighter.

"I don't want to screw this up. I'm not good at this," she said, trying again to reveal her worst nightmare. "I'm not good at relationships. You're…you're the first real friend I've ever had. I don't want to lose that." Megan tried to listen to Toni's words, but her heart ached so at the rejection she thought she was facing that she didn't really hear them. "Megan, look at me," she paused until Megan's tear stained face came off her shoulder and they were looking into each other's eyes. She took one look at Megan's stricken expression and gently brushed the tears away. "I…I love you Megan," she said very clearly and then gently kissed her lips. She waited for a moment to see if the meaning registered. She could hardly believe she had just said that herself and wouldn't be at all surprised if Megan had laughed in her face. Megan looked at her, her eyes wide.

"Say that again, please."

"I love you," came instantly and easily out of Toni's mouth. She had never uttered those words to anyone in her life aside from her parents, but knew that it had to be true, because she had never wanted to say those three words to anyone until this very moment. That's how she knew it was real. She had always known somewhere deep in the back of her mind, her heart, that if she told anyone that, it would be gospel. Completely unsolicited, not in any way forced, just there. On her tongue and out of her mouth before she could stop the words. Before her mind had a chance to rationalize them away. Of course, she never thought she would get the chance. In fact, she was so completely convinced that she was incapable of feeling that way towards another human being, that she herself was caught by surprise at how easy it was to say to Megan.

Megan was dumbfounded. She'd heard those words before. From someone else. And had convinced herself that she would never trust anyone just because they uttered that particular phrase. But, God help her, she believed Toni. And the sting that just a moment ago felt like rejection, suddenly revealed itself to be pure, unadulterated fear. She suddenly knew just how hard it was for Toni to tell her how deeply she felt about her. And it thrilled and scared her at the same time. She couldn't stop the tears, but now they were flowing for a different reason. She laid her head on Toni's shoulder and tried to stop sobbing. "I…I…" she tried still unable to catch her breath.

"Ssshhh, it's okay," Toni assured her while holding her close and gently rubbing her back. She was unsure whether her admission had upset or delighted Megan. She chose to think the latter as Megan was still in her arms.

Megan tried again to speak what was in her heart, but her efforts brought forth a new problem. "Toni, I…hic…I…hic…damn…hic…it," Megan stopped trying to speak out of sheer frustration, but the hiccups continued. Toni suddenly found the situation amusing and couldn't help herself, she began to chuckle. Megan looked up into Toni's eyes, most of her tears had been wiped on Toni's T-shirt, but her face was still wet. "It's…hic…not…funny…hic…don't…hic…laugh," she managed to blurt out. This only increased Toni's fit of laughter, but she eased it as she began to place tiny kisses across Megan's tear-streaked face. She felt Megan's breathing ease and the hiccups lessened and then finally ceased. She continued her kisses pulling Megan in close to her again.

"I feel so alive when I'm with you," Toni whispered into her ear, "and I just don't have the words to tell you."

"You just did," Megan replied, her voice husky from crying, "thank you. Oh, and Toni…I love you too." They sat, just holding each other closely, for a very long time.

Toni was sure her heart was going to burst from the way it was pounding in her chest. She felt as if she were on some sort of drug. Having never experienced the myriad of emotions flowing through her now, she wondered if this was what it was like to be truly in love with someone. She had no basis of comparison. Nothing in her life had ever felt this strong, this overwhelming. She took a mental evaluation of her current situation; just to be sure she wasn't having some sort of elaborate dream. 'It's October 9th, I'm in Lexington, KY, I'm on the run from the mob, in my arms is the most charming, adorable person I've ever met…and I'm in love. Well, there it is,' she thought. 'Plain and simple, I'm in love, and I'm going to totally screw this up, aren't I?' she questioned herself. 'Now, where the hell did that come from,' she wondered. 'I can do this, right?' She was suddenly as unsure of herself, as she had been confident only a short time ago when she admitted her feelings to Megan. She noticed then that Megan's breathing was easy and even, and was charmed by the fact that she had just fallen asleep in her arms.

She hooked one arm under Megan's legs and stood up, carrying her around to her side of the bed, and easing her down. As she released Megan, she awoke her eyes suddenly wide with uncertainty. "Toni, please don't go," she asked quietly.

"I'm not going anywhere," Toni assured her, sitting on the bed beside her and placing a gentle kiss on her lips. "I'm just going to make us comfortable, okay?" Megan was instantly calmed by the sweet smile she saw on Toni's face. Toni bent over and unlaced her boots, kicking them off. She quickly climbed out of her jeans and turned her attention to Megan. She unlaced Megan's high top Converse sneakers and tossed them on the floor next to her boots. She pulled off her socks and found herself relieved that Megan had unzipped her own jeans and was tugging them off herself. She got up and retrieved Megan's nightshirt out of the dresser drawer. She swallowed hard when she turned. Megan had also removed her shirt and bra and sat on the bed clad only in her underwear. Toni had seen her several times like this when she was changing, but it suddenly made her feel as though she was taking advantage, when it was just the opposite. The other times, she was spying, this time, Megan had obviously wanted her to look. She had an overwhelming urge to just toss the nightshirt at Megan and turn her back, but she didn't. She crossed the room, trying in vain to work some moisture into her dry mouth as she handed the garment to Megan. "Here," was all she could manage. As calmly as she could, she turned and went into the bathroom closing the door behind her.

Megan was somewhat embarrassed at her overture. It was patently obvious that it made Toni uncomfortable despite the way she claimed to feel about her. 'That was unfair,' Megan thought, 'I believe her, I do believe her. But I have no idea what is scaring her so badly. Maybe Toni has never had a sexual relationship with another woman. How would I know? I've never even asked her.' Self-consciously she put on her nightshirt, knowing that it would make Toni feel more comfortable. Toni emerged several minutes later looking more composed. She sat down on her side of the bed and pulled her T-shirt over her head, tossing it on the floor and climbing under the covers.

"Megan…Toni," they spoke at the same time. They both waited a heartbeat and tried again, "You go…," they said again at the same time. They looked at each other; shy grins aimed at one another, as they giggled at the absurdity.

"Jinx," Megan suddenly blurted out.

"What?" Toni asked, confused. Megan was grinning even broader than before.

"Haven't you ever been jinxed?" Megan asked, then seeing that Toni was about to speak, turned towards her and placed her fingers over Toni's lips. "You can't speak again until I say your name," she told her, amused at the look of confusion on Toni's face. "It's a game. Didn't you ever play it when you were a kid?" Toni shook her head, no; Megan's fingers still in place. "Whenever two people say the same thing at the same time, the first one to call jinx gets the upper hand. The other person can't speak until someone says their name," Megan explained the childhood game to her. Toni nodded yes, that she understood the rules of the game, a slight smile warming her lips where Megan's fingers touched them. She was curious to see what Megan would say to her if the rules demanded that she not speak again until the taboo was broken. Megan slowly removed her fingers at Toni's tentative agreement to play by the rules.

"I just wanted to tell you," she began, as she straddled Toni's legs, careful not to get too intimate, "that I had a wonderful time today. And it wasn't just because I won. It was because of you. You showed me something new today. I had so much fun, but only because you were there." She leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on Toni's lips, still careful not to push. "And when I told you that I love you, I meant it, with all my heart and soul." Toni nodded a mute yes, though her eyebrow raised in question. "Yes, I believe you," Megan told her, her eyes filling again with tears. Toni was doing her best to play along, but decided that seeing Megan cry was not something she was the least bit fond of. "Toni," Megan gasped, releasing her from the confines of the childish game.

"Megan…please…don't cry," she begged, sitting up and hastily brushing the tears away. "Please tell me that I'm not making you cry…please."

"No…yes…no," Megan found herself stammering again and hoped that she wouldn't get the hiccups again. "It's not like that. I mean…I don't know why I'm crying," she noted that her words were nearly incoherent and Toni looked hurt and confused by the combination of her words and her tears. "I'm so happy. Please believe me," she said.

"I don't understand. Why do you keep crying?"

"I really don't know," Megan told her honestly. "I want you to say that to me…I want…it makes me feel so good. I guess…I'm overwhelmed maybe? I don't know how to explain it. And I can't stop it. I'm trying, but I can't." She was being as honest as she could. She had no idea why the thought of Toni stating her love would make her burst into tears, but once they were engaged, the waterworks didn't seem to be in any way controllable. "Please…I love you too Toni…believe me…please," she pleaded. She laid her head against Toni's shoulder again trying desperately to get close and to calm herself.

"Okay, okay. I understand…I do," she told Megan as she held her tightly, Megan's lighter frame resting atop her own. She reached down and pulled the covers up over them both and continued to hold Megan until she calmed again.

"I'm probably crushing you," Megan said, trying to move herself to make Toni more comfortable.

"No. Stay here. It's right. It feels so right," Toni assured her not wanting Megan to move an inch. This she decided, was what she had been missing her whole life. This beautiful young woman she now held in her arms. The one person that she wanted so very close to her, that even physical contact wasn't enough. She wanted to open herself up and draw Megan inside so that she could have this feeling with her always. But for now, she was content to have Megan in her arms. "Are you comfortable?" Toni queried, realizing that maybe Megan wasn't relaxed lying as she was.

"No, I mean, damn it…nothing I say is coming out right. If it doesn't bother you, I would rather stay like this," she finished.

"It's perfect," Toni told her, a grin spreading across her face. She kissed the top of Megan's head, and found herself nearly exhausted. She yawned broadly spurring the same action from Megan. Within minutes they were asleep, content in a way neither had ever been.


They hadn't asked for a wake-up call, so both women woke at their leisure. Their positions had shifted a little during the night, but they were still holding each other, Megan snug against Toni's side. They opened their eyes almost simultaneously and regarded one another for a moment.

"Morning," they both said with a grin. Megan's eyebrows shot up and Toni clamped her hand instantly over her mouth.

"Don't even try it," she smiled wickedly and didn't remove her hand until Megan lowered them.

"What? What ever are you talking about?"

Toni halted Megan's flirtation with a soft kiss. "You…in the shower now," she demanded of Megan, "I'm going to see what they left us for breakfast and then I'm next." Megan was reluctant to release Toni from her embrace, but again, she didn't want to push it. With a heavy sigh, she marched into the bathroom and turned on the shower. Toni laid in the bed for a few minutes, still feeling the heat where Megan's body had been pressed against her own, then finally went to the door to fetch their continental breakfast order that had been placed on the door knocker when they had entered the previous evening. Next to their tray was a complimentary issue of the Lexington Herald. She picked it up along with the tray and placed it on the dresser. She removed the cover revealing several English muffins with butter and jelly and several slices of bacon. She absently picked up a piece of bacon and began to munch. When she turned away from the dresser she accidentally brushed the newspaper onto the floor. Absently she bent to pick up the paper and stopped, almost choking on the bite of bacon she was chewing. The bold headline stated "Mystery Winners Flee Keeneland". And underneath the caption was a blurry, but recognizable picture of Megan and herself, along with Officers Ryan and Webb. She dropped the paper as if it was on fire. "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit," she repeated as if it were some sort of mantra. She dashed to the bathroom door and pulled it open.

"Megan! Oh shit, Megan!" she shouted at the startled Deputy who immediately turned off the water and flung open the curtain to find out what was happening.

"What? What?"

"We've got to get out of here! Now!" she shouted at the Deputy again. Megan jumped out of the shower and immediately began to dry herself, the shampoo still unrinsed from her hair.

"Toni, what is it?" she demanded as she bolted into the main room behind her. She saw Toni frantically dressing herself in the same clothes she had worn the previous night, mainly because they were so easily accessible.

"The paper! Oh shit…oh shit," she kept saying as she threw their belongings into her duffel bag. Megan retrieved the newspaper from the floor where it had been dropped and saw what Toni's sudden fear was all about.

"Okay…calm down…Toni! Calm down," she tried, grabbing the taller woman by the arms and trying to get her attention. She grabbed the bag from Toni, mainly because she had thrown Megan's clothes into it as well. She dug out her jeans and T-shirt and threw them on. Ignoring the lack of shoes, she and Toni did a quick survey of the room. Megan suddenly noticed the discarded cashier's checks lying at the foot of the bed. She retrieved them and secured her holster, settling her jacket around her, so that it was not obvious. Again she tried to get Toni's attention. "Listen to me damn it!" she yelled shaking her again. "We need to leave here quietly, okay?" Toni's expression was frantic. "Did you hear me! We need to leave quietly," she shook Toni again, finally getting her attention. Toni's eyes met hers and calmed.

"Okay," she told Megan unsteadily.

"Do we have everything?" Megan asked her.

"Yeah, yeah, everything's in our bags," Toni replied. Megan took one more, quick look around and slowly opened the hotel door. She peeked outside and seeing nothing unusual, motioned for Toni to follow her. She had her gun in her hand and had given Toni the bags to carry. Quietly they moved down the corridor towards the stairs. Cautiously they went down from their fourth floor room to ground level. Megan looked through the safety glass. The door led outside to the parking lot, but paralleled the lobby. She indicated that Toni should wait as she went for the car. Trying to be somewhat nonchalant, she walked calmly to their car. She noted nothing out of the usual. Other guests were leaving as well; none of them even gave her a second glance. She quickly checked the car for any signs of tampering and finding none, started it, and quickly drove through the parking lot towards the exit where she had left Toni. When she pulled up, she popped the trunk and got out of the running car to help Toni store their bags. Toni jumped into the car and they exited the hotel.

Megan was disturbed to say the least. She had never been given the singular task of hiding a witness by herself. And so far, she felt she had done a truly dismal job. 'What was I thinking?' she chided herself as she drove out of the city. 'For God's sake, I could have gotten both of us killed. And why? Because I was having such a good time, that I totally lost sight of my objectivity, my professional duty. Christ, Megan, why not take out a front page ad that says, "Here we are, come get us!"' She was disgusted with herself. As she drove out of Lexington she kept an eye on the rearview mirror, checking frequently to assure herself that they weren't being followed.

Toni hadn't said a word since leaving the hotel. She had just recently stopped shaking and her heart rate was slowing to a more normal pace. She glanced over at Megan trying to determine whether the young Deputy was angry or scared. Probably both she thought gauging by the white knuckled grip she had on the steering wheel. The pervading silence was becoming unbearable, mostly because it made her feel as if she were alone again. She realized then that the thought of being alone scared her more than the thought of the Ribisi family finding her.

"What are we going to do now? Where are we going to go?" Toni asked, the tension in her voice evident.

"I'm not sure yet. I don't think anyone knew we were there, but it was a safe move to leave as quickly as we did. Christ, I hope I didn't screw this up so bad that Tate takes me off the assignment."

"Do you think he'll do that? Separate us?"

"He might. Let's just hope I can cover our tracks. Though he might be so pissed at my making such a rookie mistake, that he might yank me regardless."

Toni took in Megan's words and her heart began to pound in her chest again. 'I can't be separated from her,' she thought, 'I won't survive. God help me, I've just found my first real friend ever and they might take her away from me? I can't be alone again. I can't do this without her.' She began to feel a tightness in her chest as the panic washed over her. She was suddenly unable to draw a breath and her vision began to swim.

Megan looked over at Toni when she heard her gasping for air. Toni's normally bronze complexion was nearly white. "Oh God, Toni…Toni," Megan yelled at her tugging on her arm trying to get a response. She saw an upcoming exit and nearly ran another car off the road as she crossed two lanes to get to it. She pulled into a gas station and slammed the car into park. Jumping out she raced around to Toni's side and yanked open the door. Quickly she realized that Toni was hyperventilating and she pushed the taller woman's head down between her knees. "Ssshhh, it's okay…it's okay," she assured Toni as she gently rubbed her back and squeezed her hand. "Take a breath, c'mon…easy…easy," she whispered trying to calm the other woman, as she finally began to draw in ragged breaths of air. They stayed like this for several minutes, Megan gently calming Toni with her words and touches until finally Toni began to breathe normally.

Toni tried to sit up, but a wave of dizziness hit her and she dropped her head back between her knees. "Easy there," Megan told her as she helped her to sit up slowly. Toni rested her head back against the seat, her eyes closed. "You stay here, I'll be right back," Megan told her as she started to stand.

"No…don't leave me," Toni suddenly cried out gripping Megan's hand like a vise, her eyes wide with fear.

"Hey…hey…ssshhh…I'm just going to go get us some water, okay?" she asked caressing Toni's cheek.

"Megan, what if…what if your boss does take you off the assignment?"

"I don't plan on letting him. Okay? We're going to see this through together, no matter what." After several moments Toni nodded. "Okay? I'll be right back," she assured Toni and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. She went back around to her side of the car and released the trunk latch. She fumbled around in her bag looking for socks and shoes. In their rush to exit the hotel, Megan was still in her bare feet and they were freezing. She couldn't find her high-tops, so she grabbed her boots and returned to the driver's side to sit so she could put them on.

Toni watched her for a minute. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" Megan asked.

"I think I kind of freaked out," Toni said a light blush rising in her cheeks.

"Are you okay now?" Megan asked still worried.

"Yeah, I think so. I didn't mean to scare you. I'm not really sure what happened."

"I think maybe you had an anxiety attack," Megan told her as she laced up her boots.

"Is that what that was? I thought I was going to pass out, I just couldn't catch my breath."

"Stay here and relax. Do you think you might be able to eat something?"

"Not really. I feel a bit nauseous."

"All right, I'll only be gone a few minutes." She couldn't resist. Gently she brushed her fingers against Toni's cheek again. This time Toni responded. She captured Megan's hand and placed a soft kiss on her palm.

Megan returned quickly with her purchases, several bottles of water, a quart of orange juice and a box of assorted donuts.

"What is it with cops and donuts?" Toni teased, regaining a bit of her more normal self.

"Hey, don't knock it. It's the breakfast of champions," Megan smiled back. Both of them feeling calmer, they resumed their journey.


Megan drove them to Louisville International Airport where they turned in the rental car and had the rental agency drive them to the terminal.

"I thought you said we couldn't fly anywhere," Toni inquired.

"We can't," Megan told her, "I'm hoping to create a diversion." She approached the United Airlines counter and purchased two one-way tickets to Seattle Washington, using the credit card and ID she had been using while they were in Kentucky. They went into the ladies room, and she retrieved her bathroom kit from her bag. Pulling out a pair of scissors, she cut the ID and credit card into tiny pieces. In the very bottom of her bag, under the lining she pulled out a small envelope. Inside was another ID and credit card bearing her likeness. This one identified her as Paula Ingalls from Houston Texas. She put those in her wallet. Storing everything away, she took the airline tickets and laid them on the sink counter and washed and dried her hands, putting the discarded paper towel over the tickets to make it appear as though they were accidentally left behind.

They exited the concourse through the arrival area and hailed a cab, securing a ride to one of the rental car agencies. She told the rental agent that they needed a luxury rental, as they were returning to Houston and would drop the car there.

"So, we're going to Houston?" Toni asked as they stored their bags in the trunk of the large Buick Roadmaster.

"Nope, but anyone who checks will think we are," Megan told her.

"Oh, I get it, more subterfuge," Toni smiled at Megan's clever diversions. "So, where are we going?"

"I thought maybe we would head south for about an hour, grab a hotel and some dinner, and I would be able to rinse the shampoo out of my hair. It's making my head itch. Other than that, I'm open to suggestions. Is there anyplace in particular you would like to see?"

Toni gave this a bit of thought and came to a decision. "New Orleans. I'd like to see New Orleans," she told Megan.

"New Orleans it is," Megan agreed happily. She headed the car towards I-65 south. After driving for a little over an hour, Megan decided to stop in Elizabethtown. She roused Toni who was restlessly dozing on the seat next to her.

They got a motel room, Megan grabbing her kit and dashing for the bathroom to shower and relieve her itching scalp. "Save me some hot water, remember I didn't get a shower this morning," Toni yelled after her.

After they both showered and put on fresh clothes they left the hotel in search of food. Both women were starving at the end of this harried day, having subsisted only on orange juice and donuts. They found a little diner, ordered their dinner and began to plot their route to New Orleans. When they returned to the motel, Megan excused herself. Toni knew that she had to call and check in with her boss. She turned on the TV and waited for her to return.

Megan went to the motel lobby pay phone armed with change and dialed the number, which would allow her to hear the responses to her ad in the Miami Herald. After nearly 30 responses she heard the one she was looking for, or dreading in this case.

Frank Tate's voice was instantly recognizable, as was his anger. "O'Reilly? What the hell is going on? I told you to lay low, not get yourself splashed on the front page of the Lexington Herald. Call me when you get this," he growled leaving his pager number which Megan knew by heart. She sat by the phone for nearly fifteen minutes before it rang.

"Hello," she answered.

"What the hell is going on?" Frank Tate demanded from the other end of the line.

"I'm sorry, sir. It was just dumb luck. We tried to leave through the back entrance. I had no idea anyone would get a picture of us," she replied as honestly as she could.

"What were you thinking? Going to a racetrack? Don't you think the Ribisis keep up on this sort of thing? For crying out loud, they're bookmakers! Jesus Megan, do I need to send you to the nearest field office to turn our charge over and pull you off this assignment?"

"No sir. No sir, I can handle it. I'm sorry. It was a stupid mistake. It won't happen again."

"Megan, let me explain a little about what has been going on here. For one thing, I've found a bug in my office, courtesy of whoever is leaking information. I left that bug in place yesterday in order to lead them off your trail. Now that option is shot to hell. For another thing, we have a contact in the FBI, who has someone in place with the Ribisis, who informs us that they have already found out that it was a Deputy Marshall who won $10,000 at Keeneland racecourse yesterday. Now how do you suppose that happened?" he demanded.

"I had to identify myself. My sidearm set off an alarm. Otherwise we would have been arrested, and the story would have been even worse."

Frank Tate was silent on the other end for a few moments, which worried Megan more than his yelling had. "All right," he finally remarked, "Deep six the ID and credit card…"

"Already done."

"Good. I take it from your area code that you are not currently in Seattle Washington?"

"No sir."

"Good as well, maybe we can make this work to our advantage…And Megan?"

"Yes sir?" she asked swallowing hard.

"Do as you are told and lay low for a while. I don't want to have to take you off this case. You're a good Deputy. I don't want there to be any black marks on your record. Okay?"

"Yes sir," she agreed, much more upbeat than she had been only a moment before. "Thank you Frank," she told him finally relaxing a little and using her more familiar tone with her boss, "I won't let you down. I promise." The line went dead and Megan held the receiver for a minute trying to calm herself before replacing it in the cradle. She headed back up to their room, stopping to get a couple of sodas. She definitely needed a good stiff drink at this point.

She related the conversation to Toni who was relieved to know that Megan wasn't going to be pulled from the assignment. She retrieved the bottle of bourbon from her duffel at Megan's request and poured Megan and herself a straight shot. She noted that Megan's hands were shaking as she downed the shot.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Yeah, yeah I'm fine," she replied when she noticed Toni's worried glance at her trembling hands. "I think the excitement finally caught up with me." Toni poured them both a drink, this time adding a liberal amount of Coke and ice. "Nothing that a good night's rest and a change of scenery won't cure."

As they leaned back against the headboard, sipping their drinks, it was a very natural feeling for both of them when Toni put her arm around Megan's shoulders and Megan's head rested into the crook of Toni's arm. After a while, both women became drowsy. Toni placed their half-empty drinks on the nightstand, settled in and pulled Megan in tight against her. Exhausted, they were both asleep within minutes.

Continued in Part 4.

Back To Main Page