Tie Break

by Bonnie



For disclaimers see Part 1.

Part 11

Chapter 13

Irene asked the Hinkels to follow her into the kitchen, one of the coziest places in the house for a nice chat. She could have chosen the library, but she didn't want to disturb the two women sleeping in the room next to it. The elderly couple shared a small look and readily agreed to have a cup of tea with their host.

Once in the kitchen Irene directed her guests to the large table in a corner that was partially brightened by the snowy twilight coming in through two large windows. This was Irene's favorite place in the house, the light from the windows giving it a certain airiness and offering a wide view of the grounds. In the distance she could see the small wood that formed the border between her own land and the small cemetery. She loved sitting at this table with a cup of tea, looking over to the cemetery, enjoying the sense of connection with her son those quiet moments gave her.

She brought over the heavy teapot and three mugs of different sizes and colors before joining her guests at the table. She saw the amused glance Mrs. Hinkel directed at the assorted mugs, but poured tea for everyone before she gave the older woman an explanation.

"Interesting collection of mugs, isn't it?" she asked with a smile.

"Yes, it is indeed," Mrs. Hinkel replied.

"You know, Anne has this hobby. Wherever she goes, she buys two mugs that are either alike or fit together really well. Most of the mugs end up in my kitchen because she's rarely at home. They remind her of all the places she's been to, and she always remembers where she got each mug."

She pointed to the mugs in their hands. "Fritz, yours is from Berlin. Hilde, yours is from New York City." She smiled when the elderly couple examined the mugs a little closer now, trying not to spill the tea.

"What about yours?" Dr. Hinkel asked after a while and a good long sip from his bright yellow mug.

"This one," Irene pointed at her enormous mug painted in a garish red-pink-orange, "this one was made by my son, Peter, for my thirtieth birthday. He always said the colors represented my most favorite roses, but he admitted that he had never seen them in that combination before. I love this mug, but I don't use it too often." She smiled, her face a mixture of pride and wistfulness, amusement and sadness.

"Why not?"

Irene grinned. "Because I want to keep it whole for a long time to come and I'm afraid looking at it too long or too often will make me blind." She laughed at her own comment and soon her guests joined her.

"God, I needed a good laugh right now," Irene said moments later. "That's why I got out this mug today it always makes me feel good."

"So, where's your son?" Dr. Hinkel asked.

"Peter died almost eight years ago," Irene replied quietly. She heard the strangled gasp that came from Mrs. Hinkel and looked up just in time to see the look that passed between the German couple. So, there really is something there. And it has something to do with a child, I bet. Okay, I'll go with the most direct approach. That always works with Anne, maybe it will work with them, too.

"We are so sorry, Irene." Mrs. Hinkel said with feeling. "That must have been so terrible. Losing a child is ..." She let her sentence trail off.

Looking right into the older woman's eyes Irene could see that Mrs. Hinkel really felt with her and for her. She put her hand on the older woman's arm and patted it lightly, her sympathy.

"Thank you, Hilde," she said simply and then waited a beat before continuing. "Would you like to talk about what's bothering you two?" She slightly emphasized the 'you'.

The older woman withdrew her arm and looked at her husband in alarm.

"What do you mean? Talk about what?" Dr. Hinkel asked after several moments, obviously surprised or confused or both.

But, Irene decided after a moment, he didn't seem angry. That's a good sign, I think

She thought for a few minutes, trying to come up with a way to explain her question. Stay direct. Just tell them it's a gut feeling you have. She cleared her throat and looked at the not-so-patiently waiting couple.

"You've been coming here for seven years now, ever since I opened this hotel. You come back every year and stay for three weeks. And you always look like you've lost something that you're desperately trying to find again."

She saw the shock on their faces and quickly reassured them. "No, it's not that you're so obvious about it. In fact it took me quite a few years to figure it out, but last year a friend of mine lost her beloved dog and for she missed it terribly - still does, as a matter of fact - and I realized that you looked a lot like she did the first couple of weeks."

She paused, wondering whether the couple thought she was a rambling fool by now, but their eyes reflected quiet acceptance more than anything.

"So I figured that you might have lost something or someone and that you missed them a lot. I was, of course, curious," she laughed a little at what she called her only vice, "but I thought that if you wanted me to know about it you'd have told me."

She stopped and waited for the inevitable question. Why now, then? She was surprised when both Hinkels just nodded. Dr. Hinkel made a gesture for her to continue.

"Today, when you were taking care of Shana and Anne, you were sharing a look that made me think that who you're missing so much could be a child, and with the way you reacted to hearing about Pete's death, I was pretty sure. I guess that's why I'm bringing this up now." Her voice got a little unsure, as if questioning her intent. "What I'd like you to know is that I'm very grateful for all the help you offered today, and that I'll be here if you want to talk about it or if you need any help finding what you're looking for."

She got up to leave the elderly couple some space, but stopped after three steps when she heard Mrs. Hinkel's quiet voice.

"Thank you, Irene. I think I'd like to tell you about our history." She looked at her husband. "We would like to tell you what we're looking for." The elderly man just nodded and took his wife's hands in his own. "But right now I think you should call the sheriff. There's time for this later - it's a long story."

Irene gave her a smile, understanding that she indeed needed to make the call, but that the elderly couple needed some time to regroup as well.

"Maybe we'll find some time after dinner for your tale. I'd really like to hear it. Maybe I'll be able to reciprocate your kindness." She left the kitchen to use the telephone in the lobby, leaving the elderly couple nursing their tea in silence.

After a while Dr. Hinkel smiled at his wife. "Sie ist nett, oder?" She's nice, isn't she?

His wife nodded. "Vielleicht ist es Zeit vielleicht hat sie eine Idee " Yes, maybe it's time to talk about it. She might have an idea what else to do


Shana came out of her deep sleep realizing several things at once. One, it was much too warm where she was - much warmer than it should be in a car on an icy road. Two, she wasn't in a car anymore, nor was she on an icy road. Her senses told her she was in a bed or at least in a place where she could relax in a horizontal position. That thought made her realize that her whole body hurt. Everywhere. She was one big ache. She swallowed and decided to add sight to her somewhat jumbled sensual experiences.

She knew that was a mistake the second her eyes had opened to a tiny slit. Daggers were poking at her eyes and laser beams were shooting through her skull. Just the mere thought of opening her eyes wider made her sick to her stomach. She closed her eyes tightly, hoping for the best, but the nauseous feeling didn't go away.

She knew she had to get up before she made a mess of whatever it was she had been sleeping in. When she tried she noticed that she was trapped, held in place by something that was lying across her stomach. Something heavy and unmoving.

It was impossible to get up. Shana bit down on her lower lip, fighting to keep down the bile that threatened to make an appearance any time now. Making a decision based on nothing but a good dose of hope, she opened one eye again and checked out what was holding her in place.

An arm. In a bandage. With a blue gel pack. Tucked into the bandage.

The color did it.

Before she could turn around to see whose arm was holding her so intimately, she knew she would throw up. There was no way she could get up in time, even though she tried as hard as her aching body would allow her. Which wasn't much.

She raised her upper body a few inches, the cramping in her guts forcing her head higher than she thought was possible the way her body felt. She tried to sneak a glance at the body next to her. She wanted to at least know whom she was going to throw up on, but that movement broke the last barrier she had put in place. As fast as she could she turned away, still unaware of who the person next to her was.

Too late, she thought with disgust and just let go, hoping she wouldn't hit the other person too badly.

"What's going on?" came a sleepy, confused voice from the body next to her just as she fell weakly back onto her pillow. She knew that voice. Recognition hit her with a vengeance. Anne. Oh my God. I just threw up all over Anne. Please God, let me die.

Then she was out again.

Anne sat up, still feeling a little disoriented from the shortness of her nap and the brutal awakening. What she saw and smelled turned her guts and made her stomach twist around itself. She clamped down hard on the feeling, unwilling to contribute to the mess.

She realized that Shana was out again. "Out like a light, huh? Leave me with the mess, huh?" she mumbled, trying to wake up fully. "You're so lucky I love you like I do "

She didn't even realize that it was the first time she'd said those words to Shana aloud.

Reluctantly she took a closer look and noticed that Shana had turned her head so that neither she nor Anne had been hit. She thanked her friend for this small kindness. Cleaning a naked and hurt Shana was not on her priority list right now.

Cleaning up this mess, however, was.

She got up and pulled most of the blanket with her, revealing Shana's almost naked body. She tried not to stare at the woman on the bed, but her eyes wandered over the bruised body nonetheless. You're still the most beautiful woman on earth, Shea. I'm so glad you're going to be okay. Let me just clean this mess and I'll be by your side again.

Using her good right hand with a little help from her bandaged left, she folded the blanket in on itself, hiding the mess somewhere in the middle of the packet. That was the easy part. What now?

She checked the bed over with her eyes, but then grinned at her own behavior, recognizing evasive tactics when she saw them. She knew she had to get closer to Shana to check the sheets for any mess, but she also knew she was reluctant to do so. Slowly she made her way along the length of the bed, her eyes never leaving the sheets. She was relieved when she saw that she wouldn't have to do anything about them right now. I couldn't do it anyway, even if I had to. Mother's gonna have to help with them later.

She walked over to the closet and got another blanket, which she spread over Shana to keep her warm. Then she took the messy blanket and walked over to the French doors that led to the garden. She opened the door and was about to throw the blanket into the snow when she heard her mother's unmistakable footsteps walking the hall outside their door. The steps stopped long enough for Anne to know that her mother was debating with herself whether to sneak a peek at her two patients

She walked quickly over to the door. The door opened a bit just as she reached it. I knew you couldn't pass this door without looking in, Mom.

Irene was clearly surprised to see her up, but when she saw Anne's face and smelled the blanket in her hand, she quickly came to the right conclusion. "Shea was sick, huh?"

"Oh, yeah," Anne said. "I'm glad I didn't join in."

"You didn't?" Irene knew just too well that this was the easiest way to get her sturdy daughter sick.

"I couldn't, Mom. I had to take care of this mess first."

"I'm very proud of you, Anne." And she was, knowing from experience what the last minutes must have cost her daughter.

"Yeah, it's okay," her daughter waved her off. But it's sure nice to hear that. "Can you take care of this for me, please? I don't know how long I'll be able to -"

"No problem, honey." Irene took the blankets and turned to leave. After half a step she stopped. "Did you clean up the little one, too?"

Anne shook her head. Damn, didn't think of that. "Is that bad? Could she have hurt herself? Should I get the doctor?" Panic was starting to rise in her voice, both because of her inability to handle the situation alone and out of fear for Shana's health.

"No, it's not bad, honey. Let me just check her over and then you can get some rest again." She dropped the blankets and walked over to Shana's side of the bed, with Anne following her like a lost puppy. "Honey, why don't you close the door to the garden before we all freeze to death and then sit down in that nice chair over there?"

Anne retreated instantly, her behavior again almost childlike.

This whole thing must have shaken her up pretty badly, Irene thought. She's never like this.

Irene cleaned Shana's mouth and upper body with a small towel, more to refresh her than because it was absolutely necessary. She's going to hate herself if I let her sleep like this. Irene thought for a moment, then came to a decision.

"Anne, could you get me some mouthwash from my bathroom, please? I'd like to make her a little more comfortable." Her bathroom was on the far end of the large house and she hoped it would take her daughter a while to get there and return. Especially since the mouthwash won't be easy to find

Anne left the room as soon as Irene had finished her sentence.

When she returned, her mother had started to remove the sheets with Mrs. Hinkel's help. Irene had been delighted to find the elderly couple still in the kitchen when she took the soiled blanket to the laundry room. She had asked for help again and had given a quick description of what had happened.

When the two older women had changed the sheets and had put new blankets on the bed, Dr. Hinkel checked the still sleeping Shana over and declared that everything was all right and that the nausea wasn't unexpected with the mild concussion she had suffered. He was rather happy that she had woken up, and asked Irene and Anne to wake her up again in a couple of hours. Then the Hinkels left for their room, leaving Anne and Irene alone with Shana.

"Get into bed again, honey. You're an ice block."

Without comment Anne crawled back under the sheets, keeping her distance from Shana so as not to shock her with her icy limbs. "Oh, Mom, have you -"

"Yes, I've called the sheriff, dear, She's going to be here as soon as she can, but they had a huge accident in town as well and with the weather conditions the way they are it might take a while." She walked over to the door and opened it. "I'm going to get you when she arrives. Sleep now." With that, she left the room.

Anne lay back down and closed her eyes. Damn that was not how I wanted our meeting to be.

She grinned self-critically. And I sure as hell never had that reaction from a woman in bed before.

"Sleep tight, love," she said and made herself comfortable under the covers.

As soon as she was asleep, her body snuggled up to the object of its desire.

Chapter 14

The next time Shana woke up she felt much better. The nausea had subsided and her head wasn't pounding that much anymore. She just lay there for a minute, trying to get a sense of her surroundings and the situation she was in. Things were a little fuzzy and she tried to concentrate on her body before she tortured her mind to recall what had happened to her.

She collected what little information she could while her eyes were still closed. I'm still lying in a bed. There is someone next to me. Very close. Feels familiar. There's something on my stomach. Also familiar. So it wasn't a dream that I threw up Oh shit!

Her eyes flew open. To her surprise, that didn't make her feel worse. Maybe that was because by now it was almost completely dark outside and the light didn't shoot daggers at her brain anymore. Or maybe she was just feeling better.

She turned her head to her left side where a warm body was cuddled up to her. The sight that greeted her brought a smile to her face and made her forget everything else.

Anne lay on her right side, her face pressed against Shana's left biceps. Her black hair was fanned out over her pillow, dark bangs hiding part of her face. Unable to resist, Shana raised her right hand, stifling a moan at the sudden pain the movement caused in her strained shoulders. Uh oh, this is so not good. She bit back another moan when she moved her arm over to where Anne's head lay. With infinite tenderness she brushed the bangs out of Anne's eyes.

I wish it could always be like this, Anne. I love you and I want to wake up with you every single day of our lives. I just never thought it was possible after all that's happened to us.

Mindful of Anne's obviously injured hand, Shana put her arm down carefully alongside Anne's. She tried not to touch the bandaged arm, but her fingertips remained connected to her friend. I have to ask her about that when she wakes up

While her fingertips unconsciously caressed her friend's shoulder, Shana stared at the ceiling and let her mind wander back to the past.

After the incident on Pete's birthday, Shana had believed that she had lost any chance to be ever loved by her friend. And after Anne had treated her like she didn't even exist for several months, she even thought it was a good thing. Her parents had been very happy because the only place where she and Anne now met was the tennis court.

The one thing that had worried her parents was that Shana seemingly had lost her touch when it came to beating Anne. For eighteen months Shana had been unable to win a single match against her strongest opponent. It hadn't much mattered that she had beaten every other player on a regular basis. All her parents had cared about was her beating "that Greek," as her mother so venomously put it at every opportunity. Janet Wilson had also still used every chance to make Shana feel guilty for almost anything - for her feelings and sometimes for existing at all.

It also hadn't mattered to her parents that Shana was hurting; they hadn't even noticed. If they had, they never mentioned it and never tried to do anything about it.

The Anne-less time, as Shana called it privately, had had its good side for Shana as well. She had started to see her parents for what they were - self-centered, arrogant, delusional, controlling - and had begun to drift away from them.

Her mother had tried every manipulative trick in the book to bind her daughter to her in an endless spiral of guilt and bad conscience. But although Janet Wilson turned guilt trips into an art form, Shana still drifted from her grasp. The blonde woman blamed her parents for the loss of her best friend and the love of her life and she had never found it in her heart to forgive them.

Then, after Anne had accidentally killed the umpire, she and Anne had become closer again. The process of getting reacquainted with the woman she had once known like her own heart had been slow and careful, but step by step they had moved back to where they had been before Pete's birthday.

They never mentioned that day or what happened in the months after. What Shana knew about her friend's actions in the months since that day, she knew from other players or the papers.

Shana blinked away a tear and sighed. We still haven't really talked about that time I guess we might have one day if it hadn't been for Carlos. She looked at Anne. I still don't understand why you hate him so much. Well, except for this one thing

She had met Carlos Vila at a Christmas party two months after getting back into contact with Anne. She hadn't really wanted to go because Anne had invited her to accompany her to Irene's for the weekend, but her main sponsor had thrown the party specifically for her and in honor of their new advertising campaign. Her attendance had really been unavoidable.

"It was a great party," Shana whispered to her sleeping friend. "But I still should have come here with you." We could have talked about everything then and just maybe we would have been able to bridge the gap that was still between us. Well, I guess there is no use in crying over spilt milk or lost opportunities.

December 1995

The huge room was decorated with posters for the new campaign, which was based on the devastatingly simple concept that she and the company shared the same name. Shana groaned when she saw that her face was smiling down at her from every wall. I can't believe they did that. This is a Christmas party, for Christ's sake. Who am I Santa Claus?

She had arrived alone, against the wishes of her parents, who had wanted to accompany her. She had told them that they would be free to attend the party, but that she was going by herself. The truth was that she had no desire whatsoever to be at this so-called party and she wanted to use her own car to be able to get away if she wanted to. Secretly, she was still hoping she could join Irene and Anne for the weekend. She had a packed duffel bag in the trunk of her car and a first-class ticket for the last flight out.

The evening was as boring as she had feared it would be. There were a couple of speeches by company executives and the representative of the advertising agency who had come up with the campaign. Listening to them, Shana had the feeling they all behaved as if they should receive at least a Nobel Prize for their witty slogan, which consisted of one word: Wilson.

As soon as the speeches were over Shana decided to leave. She was on her way to the door when her parents arrived. With them was one of the most handsome men Shana had ever seen.

He had jet-black hair that was styled in a very trendy haircut. He was tall and even under the impeccable suit he wore, the blonde woman could sense his muscular figure. He wore a neatly trimmed goatee that gave his face the look of an adventurer. He could just as well have just stepped off a pirate ship to claim the virgin daughter of the island merchant with nothing but his smile. When she looked into his eyes, she saw that they were a very clear blue.

In two words, he was extremely handsome. And he could have been Anne's twin brother.

He was older than Anne, though, but it was hard to tell the age lines from the ones that the sun had carved into his face. His good looks and boyish grin made him look fairly young, but Shana guessed that he was about forty.

Her father introduced him as Carlos Vila, business partner and friend, which surprised Shana because she had never heard her father mention his name before. She had, however, heard his name from other sources and knew that he managed several players, both male and female.

Before she could say anything, her parents left her standing there with Carlos and walked over to the rapidly filling dance floor just as the band got into their first set of the night.

"Would you like to dance?" Carlos asked with a friendly. He shook his head, indicating that he was perplexed at her parents' behavior.

Shana really appreciated the gesture since she herself was more than puzzled. They never dance But she felt comfortable in this dark man's presence and decided that as long as her father had left him in her care anyway, she might just as well enjoy it. "Why not?" she replied with a smile and put her hand on his gallantly presented forearm. If he dances as great as he looks, it could be an agreeable waste of time until I can finally leave.

The handsome man led her to the dance floor with sure, confident steps. They were a striking couple and Shana noticed that a lot of the people around them were watching them from the corner of their eyes.

He really is a fantastic dancer. Shana enjoyed herself thoroughly, much more than she had ever thought was possible at an event like this. Her companion guided her around the floor expertly and with ease, making small talk with a charming smile on his face. They shared stories about his home country, Argentina, and talked about mutual acquaintances in the world of tennis.

God, it is as if he's known me forever, Shana thought after a while. Indeed, it felt as if her dance partner was completely attuned to her. He was interested in her ideas about tennis management, something her father had never encouraged, and he seemed to have an innate understanding of her feelings and her person in general. It was as if he knew what she thought about certain thing as soon as she thought it, and he always reacted smoothly to every turn in the conversation. As if he knew what she wanted to hear before she knew it herself. In short, he treated her like no other man had ever treated her before.

After another round of dances, they sat down at a table and continued their animated conversation over a glass of wine. Somewhere in the back of her mind Shana registered that her parents had obviously already left the party and she was surprised yet again by their strange behavior.

"Carlos, did you see my parents leave?"

"No, I didn't," he replied in his slightly accented voice, "but I wouldn't have noticed them anyway. Since I first saw you, I've only had eyes for you."

Shana blushed, even though she found his answer quite a bit over the top. Yeah, Mister Charming. Still, it felt good.

"I just think it's strange because you arrived with them. I thought that you maybe had business to discuss with my father." This was, after all, predominantly a business function. "By the way, what is this project that the two of you are working on, anyway?"

"Ah it's just normal business, the things we do every day. Nothing important."

Shana decided to let his rather evasive answer go for the moment. He clearly wasn't in the mood to talk real business with her and he confirmed her impression with his next words.

"Let's not talk about such dreary matters anymore on this wonderful night. I'd much prefer to dance with the most beautiful woman in the world." He got up and offered her his hand.

The blonde let herself be guided to the dance floor again. The most beautiful woman in the world, huh? I wonder if he's ever seen Anne

The next set was a medley of Latin dances and he twirled her around the floor as if he had never done anything else in his life. Shana felt wonderful in his arms; light and sexy, beautiful and desired. There was something about him that made her forget where she was or who she was with. Something that spoke to her on a deeper level. She thought about that for a while until it finally came to her. The smell it's Anne's. They must use the same cologne

All in all, he made her feel wonderful. He was a very talented man.

"You're a great dancer," he said after several rounds on the crowded dance floor. Shana could only nod, her mind a jumble of lightness and the memories that had crept upon her during their last dance, which had been a very slow rumba. It had reminded her a lot of the dance she had shared with Anne nearly two years ago. The one that had led to the very disturbing scene at Pete's birthday party.

God, that was a great dance. With that thought, the noise of the crowded room dimmed and Shana was back in Anne's arms feeling light and safe and very erotic. Very soon she was lost in her fantasy. It was Anne who held her close now, gently guiding her around the floor. Anne's muscular shoulders she held onto and her body that shielded her from other couples that threatened to invade their dancing space. Anne's hand that was placed safely on her lower back, much lower than necessary or usual.

Shana opened her eyes and fell into pools of blue. Closing her eyes again, she put her face on her dance partner's shoulder, forgetting who was who and just enjoying her memories and the decidedly erotic haze she was falling into.

Carlos very obviously enjoyed her closeness. He pulled her even closer, his right hand straying perilously close to her butt. The woman in his arms didn't seem to mind, but then again she looked as if she wasn't even there with him. He didn't care. He was on a mission and he was going to accomplish it. Hopefully, that night.

When the song ended, Shana looked up, her longing and desire for Anne clearly written all over her face.

Encouraged by this, her dance partner slowly raised his hand and stroked Shana's face. Then he tried to pull closer, his mind already going in for the kill.

Shana resisted, finally figuring out that there were certain differences between her vision of Anne and the very male body that held her so closely.

Much closer than she felt was necessary now that she realized who she had been dancing with - much closer than she what she considered appropriate or comfortable.

Carlos wasn't easily discouraged. He took a good hold on Shana's waist and on the pretense of dancing pulled her closer to his body again. There was a predatory gleam in his eyes that the blonde had not seen before, but that reminded her vaguely of Anne. Carlos pulled her closer still and dipped his head, clearly intending to reach his goal this time.

He didn't say anything, but his smile said it all anyway. I'm going to get you, little girl. You're mine.

All sound receded. The only thing Shana could hear at that moment was the sound of a glass shattering on the floor very close by, which made Carlos suddenly stop his pulling motion. Relieved at the interruption, the blonde woman turned around in the suddenly loosened hold and looked to where the noise had come from.

Right into Anne's eyes, which were as cold as a hailstorm in November.

TBC in Part 12.

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