For disclaimers see Part 1
Anne couldn't believe her own eyes. Seeing her best friend in the arms of the man she hated more than anybody was too much for her to comprehend. What is he doing here?
She was speechless, both from anger and confusion. It's not as if she has to tell you that she's seeing someone. But that that slime bag that lying, murderous son of a bitch? I can't let her do that. She'll get hurt, just like
She tried to control her anger before she opened her mouth to greet Shana. She didn't want to say something she'd regret later on. She swallowed hard.
"Hello, Shana." Her voice sounded hollow in her ears.
"Anne!" The blonde eagerly walked the few steps to her friend's side. "It's so good to see you. What are you doing here? I thought you were at Irene's."
Anne gave her an incredulous look, her glance swiping over Carlos as if he were a stinking pile of rubbish in a corner. "You seemed to have managed just fine without me," she uttered sarcastically before she could stop the words. Stop it, this is not what this is about. You have no right to be jealous. Not now, not ever. Look at her, she's totally confused. She's done nothing wrong
Shana did indeed look more than slightly puzzled at that unusual comment from her friend. What is this? She tells me she's going away over the weekend while I have to attend this stupid function and then she comes here criticizing me for having fun? I don't believe it. There's something here that I'm not getting.
She decided to stay on the obvious level for the moment and to just answer Anne's implied question. "Yes, I did have a good time. I thought I could just as well make the most of it as long as I couldn't get out of being here."
She looked up into Anne's eyes as her tall friend shot Carlos another venomous look. What's with that, anyway? She doesn't even know Carlos, yet she obviously dislikes him.
Shana decided to bring a little movement to the tableau. "I'd like you to meet someone," she said, trying to steer Anne over to where Carlos was standing.
Anne didn't move an inch.
"Okay," Shana said, her voice showing the exasperation she felt at her friend's appalling behavior. "We'll do it from here. Anne, this is Carlos; Carlos, meet Anne."
Carlos had watched the interaction with a smile, reading the two women's body language with practiced ease. He knew Anne was almost beside herself with anger and hate, because she was always this way around him. He loved it that way. He basked in the feeling of power he had over the tall woman's emotions.
Shana, he happily noted, seemed nervous and distressed. Poor kid, he thought evilly, she doesn't have a clue at what's going here. Maybe I'll be able to finish this mission sooner as I thought. Anne must not have mentioned me
"Oh, I've had the pleasure, my little one," Carlos said, throwing in the endearment to get to Anne even more than he knew he already had. "I've known Anne for almost twenty years now." He smiled, but it never reached his eyes.
The tall woman didn't say anything. She was too occupied fighting the bile that was rising in her throat. Don't lose it in front of him, she repeated in her head. Not in front of him. Don't give him this satisfaction. It took all of her considerable control to not throw up right there and then. Thinking of him truly made her sick. Seeing him face to face was even worse. She swallowed again.
Shana was really confused now. "You know each other?" She turned to Anne. "You never told me "
She stopped mid-sentence at the look on Anne's face. A variety of emotions chased each other across the beautiful face before her. Her friend might have looked uninterested and almost bored to anyone else, but Shana's trained eye could easily see pain, anger, hatred, and confusion.
Most of all, however, she could see that Anne was going to be sick. The tall woman was practically green under her dark tan.
"Carlos, excuse us," Shana said to her dance partner, "I have to talk to my friend here." She left the dark man standing and grabbed Anne's arm to lead her off to a hallway where she hoped to find the restrooms. To her surprise and relief, the tall woman followed her without resistance, their steps crunching the pieces of broken glass on the floor.
Carlos watched them leave, a smile of genuine satisfaction on his handsome face.
Glad her hunch was right on target, Shana dragged Anne towards the ladies' room she could see at the far end of the hallway. The din of the party fell away from them as soon as the door clicked shut and the blonde woman found herself absurdly glad of a little peace and quiet.
She looked at her tall friend and saw that the green color had mostly left her face. She was now white as a sheet, and Shana could almost see the clamminess of her skin. Tiny beads of perspiration stood out on the stark paleness of her friend's forehead.
"Will you be okay for a second?" Anne looked at her with a blank expression. "I want to make sure we're alone in here," Shana explained. By now she was more concerned than angry with her friend. She had never seen someone react quite the way Anne had reacted just now, and she assumed she was being witness to some sort of panic attack.
And she was sure that her stoic friend would prefer to fall apart in private rather than in front of a group of tennis- and advertising socialites.
A quick check in all the stalls assured her that only one was occupied and she went back to Anne to let her know that they would be alone soon as long as there weren't any new people coming in. Her friend hardly reacted to her.
Suddenly, the strangeness of the whole situation hit Shana and she could hardly hold back the giggles that threatened to erupt from deep within her. Look at us standing next to each other in the foyer of a ladies' room waiting for a stranger to finish her business and leave. The sounds coming from the far stall didn't make things any better. No wonder they were constantly playing Muzak in those restrooms in Tokyo
Only the presence of the shivering woman next to her helped her keep a straight face. She knew that most of the silliness she was experiencing came from pure helplessness, from not knowing what to do or even say to Anne. They were just re-establishing a friendship that she thought had been irrevocably lost and she was utterly unprepared for the emotional meltdown she was seeing before her eyes.
She also knew that laughing now would destroy the fragile bond they had been able to build over the past two months. This thought sobered her up quickly. A fit of giggles is not worth losing a friend
After what seemed like hours to Shana, but was probably just a few minutes, the woman finally emerged from the stall. She paused when she walked up to the washbasins, giving the two women there a strange look. Anne ignored her completely, being in a zone anyway, and Shana gave her a smile and a nod, pretending she was always standing around in restrooms doing nothing but fidget. The matronly woman quickly washed her hands and fled the room. She probably thought we want to make out in here. Shana paused. Now where did that come from?
With a little effort Shana managed to push the heavy metal wastepaper bin in front of the door, effectively blocking it, while Anne leaned against the wall staring into space, her hands balled into tight fists, muscles tensed to what Shana figured must be a hurtful degree. She walked over to stand right before Anne and lifted her friend's face with one hand.
"Hey," Shana addressed her friend in a calm tone, "Anne, look at me."
Her touch seemed to calm Anne down, her breathing becoming more regular now. Shana raised her other hand and held Anne's face in both hands, gently lifting the head up to look into her friend's eyes.
Anne's brilliant blue eyes had taken on an almost silvery hue that reminded Shana of a terrible evening almost two years ago. This time, however, Anne's eyes did not project a coldness, but a world of pain and confusion. And there was something else in those eyes that Shana did not recognize. It reminded her of a frightened child, but she pushed that thought away because she could not imagine her strong friend in that role.
Anne looked at her friend. Shana's hands on her face grounded her and brought her back from her hate-induced stupor. The more she returned to normal, the more she realized that what she was experiencing was a panic attack. That was not her usual reaction to Carlos's presence. Oh, God. Wrong thought. Anne felt the nausea return at the thought of the man who had very nearly managed to destroy her life.
She pushed Shana away and moved quickly into the first stall, making it just in time to lose what little she had had to eat that day. Instantly Shana was by her side, keeping back her hair, reassuringly touching the back of her neck. It felt so good to have her there.
In that moment Anne realized two things with absolute certainty.
One, she still loved Shana with all of her heart and soul.
Two, she had to keep Shana away from Carlos. I can't lose her, too. Not now when I finally found myself - and her again.
Anne got up on shaky legs and made her way to the washbasins to rinse out her mouth and refresh herself. She was disgusted at herself for losing control the way she had never had in front of somebody else before. What I wouldn't give for a toothbrush right now ...
Shana saw the miserable look Anne shot her pale reflection in the mirror. She opened her small purse and checked its contents. Aha, gotcha!
"Would you like to use this?" she asked softly, holding up the travel toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste.
"What how ?" Anne took a breath and reached out to take them. She smiled for the first time since she had entered the ballroom earlier in the evening.
"Do you always go out with a toothbrush in your purse? Why would you do that? Unless " you want to be always prepared, Anne finished the sentence silently, a sinking feeling in her stomach. She knew she should stop thinking like that if she wanted to get her equilibrium back, but her hatred for Carlos and her worry about Shana made thinking clearly virtually impossible. Her mind simply rambled on, following the downward spiral to depression quicker than she could stop it. Was she meeting Carlos here? Are they together? Does she love him? Have I lost her to him? It can't be. It can't! I won't let it. Shaking her head, Anne tried to concentrate on brushing her teeth.
Unless what? Shana looked at her friend. What's going on behind those gorgeous eyes? The implication dawned on her and she didn't know whether to be more angry or hurt by it. Oh no, you're not thinking what I think you're thinking. I am not the one who's sleeping with every groupie, player or official who catches my eyes. Her hurt at Anne's behavior over the past months won the upper hand, but she swallowed it and concentrated on the problems at hand.
"No, I don't usually walk around with a toothbrush in my purse," she said, for the moment ignoring all the implications. "But I was planning on flying out to meet you and Irene for the weekend." She checked her watch. "Actually, I should be at the airport right about now." And I guess I can forget about the weekend with you.
As fast as the depressing thoughts had settled in Anne's head they were gone when the blonde woman's words registered in her overactive brain. She quickly spat out the last remnants of toothpaste and rinsed her mouth. "You were? You were coming to spend the weekend with us?"
"Yes, I was, dummy." Shana swallowed at the hope that shone brightly from Anne's eyes. "I told you before that I didn't want to go to this stupid shindig, but I had to." She shook her head. "I mean, have you seen the walls out there?"
The blank look in Anne's eyes told her she hadn't. "Jesus, Anne, you can't miss the posters. My face is practically everywhere! Where did you have your eyes in there? What --"
"On you," came the quiet answer. Always on you.
Shana stopped her agitated rambling. "What?" Did I hear you just say that? Please tell me I heard that right
Anne was kept from answering by an insistent pushing at the door. Both women instinctively held their breath, but when the person left after a couple of tries against the unmoving metal barrier, they released it. At least they would stay alone for this discussion.
The dark-haired woman turned to face her friend and cleared her throat in a vain attempt to make talking easier. Shana looked up to her with an open, questioning expression on her face that made Anne's heart clench painfully in her chest. Please believe me, Shea. I can't explain much, but please, just trust me
Just as Anne was opening her mouth to speak, Shana beat her to it. "What's going on here, Anne?" She looked right into her taller friend's guarded eyes. "What is this all about? I've never seen you like this."
Okay, Patakis, it's now or never. "Shana, listen to me." Then she fell silent again.
After several moments Shana gently touched Anne's arm. "I am listening, Anne. What is it?"
"There's no way to put this nicely, Shana, so I'll just say it like it is. You have to stay away from Carlos. You absolutely have to! He's dangerous he's bad he'll hurt you terribly. Please, promise you'll stay away from him." With the last words Anne looked pleadingly into Shana's eyes.
Eyes that had become darker with every syllable Anne had uttered. "Why should I do that, Anne? He has been nothing but nice to me." Well, that is glossing over the events on the dance floor, but most of that was my own fault anyway. How could he know I was dreaming about you?
"I can't say anything more please, just believe me." Anne's voice was pleading now. She took a deep breath and thought about what else she could say for a moment. Memories criss-crossed her mind of a day more than ten years ago a letter a promise she gave and could not break. I won't break my promise to you, Pete. I won't.
She took Shana's hands into her own and looked straight into the eyes of the woman she still loved. "I can't explain it, Shana."
When Shana tried to turn away at the words, she gripped the smaller hands even stronger. "Please, Shea. This is not just a feeling, I'm speaking out of experience here. I know that man and I've known him for a very long time. He has done very bad things but I gave a promise that I won't break not even to you." She raised her hands and cupped Shana's face. "Please, can't you just trust me?"
Shana shook herself free and turned away. "Trust you? Trust you?" She faced Anne again. "Why should I do that?" Give me a reason, Anne. Just give me one reason to stay away from him. I won't be told what to do or who to see without a good valid reason. Not by my father, my mother or you.
Anne remained silent, not able to add anything to her plea. She looked down at her shoes.
"Give me one reason, Anne. Just one."
"You're jealous, aren't you?" Anne looked up sharply at the question. "That's it! You're just jealous of him. You hate him because he makes me feel good and because I like him." Shana did realize somewhere in her angry mind that she didn't really like Carlos that much and that he had only made her feel good when she was thinking about Anne in his arms, but these particular pieces of information were lost on their way to her tongue. As was the fact that what she thought was jealousy on Anne's part was what made her really feel good.
"Shea little one, please listen," Anne tried again. "This is not about jealousy." Although I am jealous as hell, but I can't let you know that right now. "This is about you not getting hurt."
She paused to think. "I don't know what he's up to, but the timing's too perfect. We've just found each other again, Shea and I bet he's here to get between us." She fell silent again, lost in her thoughts and still trying to come up with a way to keep Shana away from Carlos without breaking a promise.
Shana just got angrier at her friend. I hate it when someone tells me what to do. You should know that. If you want what's good for me, you'll give me a reason. She made up her mind.
"I will not be told what to do. Not by you. Not by anybody else. Give me a reason or leave me alone." Shana's voice was deceptively soft and very controlled, each syllable enunciated clearly and almost forcefully.
Anne turned away and leaned against the wall. She felt very tired all of a sudden. She knew she was between a rock and hard place, knowing indeed that Shana hated to be told what to do. She had experienced her reactions too many times to doubt that.
She was still thinking of another way to persuade Shana when she heard the metal container in front of the door being moved. She looked up in time to see Shana open the door. Shit!
"Shana, please wait." I have to make her stop " I I I'm not lying to you, Shea, and this is not a matter of jealousy. I don't want to see you hurt, please believe me. There is a reason for all of this, but "
"Give me a reason, Anne," Shana said over her shoulder, one hand on the closed door. "Just one reason."
"So, if some old promise to someone is more important than giving me a reason, it can't be all that bad now, can it?" Shana's voice was still very controlled, but Anne had no trouble picking up the undercurrent of anger and hurt. "You want to keep me away from someone I just met just because you say so? Sorry, Anne, that's just not enough."
With that she opened the door and left without another look, missing the completely defeated look on Anne's face.
"I can't, Shea," Anne whispered to the empty room. "I can't."
Shana looked at her friend's face, still half hidden beneath her black hair. I should have believed you, although I didn't know that for some years. Now I know. I just never understood why you didn't tell me what happened.
She brushed a stray hair from Anne's eyes. "We have a lot to talk about, my friend," she whispered. And this time I want some answers.
Just then, Anne stirred and cuddled even closer to Shana's body, mumbling softly in her sleep. To Shana she looked absolutely adorable.
"I love you, Anne." Now I just have to tell you some things
Irene opened the door the girls' room as quietly as she could. Dr. Hinkel had advised her to let them rest as much as possible, but he had also told her it wouldn't hurt to check on them once in a while, knowing full well that she couldn't keep away from her daughter and their blonde guest. She had made that perfectly clear before the Hinkels had retreated to their room in the late afternoon.
The sight that greeted her warmed her to the core. Anne and Shana lay in the middle of the huge bed with not a hair's breadth of space between them. The covers were pulled up to both women's shoulders; only their faces and the wildly tangled dark and blonde hair were visible above it.
Shana was lying on her back, her face turned to where Anne was pressed up against her. Anne's head lay against the smaller woman's shoulder and their faces were almost touching in their sleep.
"I knew it," Irene murmured with a very happy grin on her face. "Just get them together in a bed and everything should be okay."
She knew that things were not that simple, especially not with her stoic daughter and the stubborn blonde she loved like a second daughter, but seeing them like this gave her the feeling that everything could work out just the way she had wanted it to for the last decade. They belong together. I hope they can see it when they wake up.
The sound of the telephone ringing brought Irene out of her silent contemplation. She sighed and quickly closed the door. She hurried to the reception area and greeted the caller with a bellowed "Hello."
"Ah hello. Mrs. Patakis?" The female voice on the other hand sounded slightly irritated.
"Yes, this is Irene Patakis. Can I help you?"
"I think so. This is Deputy Langston. Sheriff Miller asked me to call you. She wanted to let you know that we won't make it out to the crash site today. There's just too much going on around here and she thought it was better to start out fresh tomorrow morning when we can actually see something."
"Oh." Irene didn't like the idea at all. If Shana was in danger she wanted to know about it and she wanted to know it fast. "Is there no way you can check the site today?"
"Unfortunately not, ma'am," the deputy replied apologetically. "There have been two major accidents on the highway and with this weather going on we're having our hands full with getting the road cleared. We just don't have enough people to cover everything. I'm sorry."
"Listen," Irene scolded the other woman. "Someone hit Shana Wilson's car this afternoon and we believe it was done on purpose. I think you should get over here as soon as possible to check the crash site for evidence. What if someone really wanted to kill Ms. Wilson? Do you want to be responsible if they try it again tonight and you haven't done anything to prevent it?"
"I apologize, Mrs. Patakis," came the exasperated voice through the line. "But there's no way we can make it out there tonight."
"Can I talk to Sheriff Miller, please?" I want to give her a piece of my mind.
"No, ma'am. She's at one of the crash sites right now. I'm just telling you what she would tell you herself."
"You're just following orders, huh?" Irene resigned herself to the facts of small-town life once again. "Is there anything I can do at my end here?"
"No, ma'am. It's best to leave the crash site as it is. The weather forecast says there won't be any more snow until later tomorrow so the site should be okay over night. We'll be there first thing in the morning to have a look at it, ma'am."
"Oh, okay. See you then."
Irene hung up and stared into the darkness outside. This sucks. She mused about the situation. This was not what she had expected from the sheriff. She had heard good things about the woman and although she had never met her, she had come to respect her work just from the things she had heard about her. Well, she just lost a lot of that respect in my eyes. I can't wait to meet her tomorrow
She shrugged, putting away the gloomy thoughts for another day. Time to make some dinner. Maybe I can get the Hinkels to join me. That might take my mind off all this trouble. I want to hear their story anyway.
Decision made, she turned and walked swiftly towards the kitchen.
The next time Shana opened her eyes it was to the sight of a pair of blue eyes at a very short distance. Am I dreaming? This is what I've been dreaming of for years now. I don't want it to be a dream anymore.
She closed her eyes and quickly opened them again. The eyes were still there, caressing her face with a quiet contemplative look and a smile that illuminated the blue even in the darkness.
"Hello, little one." Anne's voice was husky and decidedly sexy to Shana's ears.
God, I love that I-just-woke-up voice of hers. Shana felt her legs turn to Jell-O just at the thought of what else Anne could say to her with a voice like that.
"He hello." The blonde woman realized that her own voice was raspy and it was hard to press out a sound through her dry throat and lips.
"You sound like you could use some water," Anne whispered, not knowing why she felt the need to keep the sound of her voice to a minimum. It just enhanced the intimacy she felt at the moment.
She didn't want it to end.
Shana nodded. She didn't know whether she was dreaming or hallucinating, but she felt wonderful. Her body ached all over and she had a headache, but it felt so wonderful just lying this close to the woman of her dreams that she didn't want to change a thing.
She tried to remember how she had ended up in this situation. The last thing she could really remember was that she had visited Pete's grave on her way to Anne and Irene. Then she was driving along the road and there was another car then nothing.
Jumbled scenes filtered through. Bits and pieces of what she assumed happened between then and now. Someone pulling her out of her car. Anne. Anne carrying her thorough the snow. Lying in a bed. Throwing up. Anne. The baby. Oh God.
Shana groaned inwardly. The thought of what she had done at some point brought her dry throat back into focus and now she could taste the remnants of some sort of mouthwash someone had cleaned her with.
She swallowed. I need to get up. Other parts of her body reminded her of their existence and with the growing awareness of her body came the realization that she was practically plastered to her best friend all along their length. Or more precisely, her best friend was snuggled up to her.
And Anne didn't seem to mind at all. She looked absolutely content.
If I read this right, it might just make my plan null and void. Shit! I need to talk to her. But first things first.
"Anne," Shana whispered, "where are we?"
"We're at Mom's place, Shea. Don't you remember anything?" Anne's voice took on a worried note.
"No yes I don't know." Shana blinked and looked straight into Anne's eyes again. "I remember the crash and I seem to remember that you brought me here, but I don't know this room --"
"It's the room next to the library," Anne interrupted hastily, noticing the rasp in her friend's voice. "I'm going to get you something to drink now. Stay put."
Anne started to slowly move away from Shana's warm body. Shana felt the lack of contact instantly, as if a cold wind had suddenly blown under the covers. She quickly grabbed Anne's nearest arm. Oh, that feels good. She shook her head.
"No, wait." Anne stopped her movement and looked at her questioningly. "I have to use the bathroom anyway. I can get us something to drink on the way. Is it okay to use the bathroom at the end of the hall?"
Anne nodded. "But, Shea I don't know if you're able to get up. You were hurt in the accident and you have a concussion --"
"I know," the smaller woman conceded with a painful grin. "I threw up on you, didn't I?"
"Nah, not on me," Anne gave her a lopsided grin, "just next to me." She turned to switch on the bedside lamp and then looked at Shana. "Seriously though, how are you feeling? You had me worried there for a minute."
"I'm all right, I guess." Shana internally checked her body. "I pretty much hurt all over and I feel like I was run over by a truck " Which I most probably was. "But the most pressing matter now is going to the bathroom."
"Okay. I'll help you."
"Anne, I've been going to the bathroom on my own for several years now." But you're really worried about me, aren't you? You're cute when you do that.
"I know that," Anne sighed. "I just want you to know I'll be here for you if you need me."
"I know." Shana gently touched Anne's face and cupped her cheek. "I know, but I need to try this as soon as I can. You would, too."
Anne simply nodded, knowing that Shana had a valid point. She would have tried to get out of bed as soon as she had opened her eyes. Still, that didn't keep her from wanting to help and protect Shana.
The dark-haired woman closed her eyes and took Shana's hand in her own to hold it close to her cheek. Then she kissed the palm of Shana's hand tenderly and looked up through dark bangs to meet startled green eyes.
At that moment both realized that something elementary between them had changed with the events of the past day.
As if on cue, Anne released Shana's hand and Shana pulled it back. Both cleared their throats, but it was the taller woman who broke the silence first.
"You wanna try it now?"
Shana exhaled slowly. "Yup. But if I end up on my butt, I expect you to be there and carry me to the bathroom."
"I will, milady, I will."
They chuckled, glad that the intensity of the moment had been lightened a bit. They both realized that now was not the time for a serious talk. The connection that had made itself known between them would be enough for now. With a groan Shana sat up on the side of the bed and put her feet on the ground.
That's when she realized she was practically naked. "Anne?"
"Oh." A pause. "I need something to wear if I want to go out there." She didn't turn to look at Anne.
Anne looked around the room and tried to remember where she had put Shana's clothes. Oh yeah, mom took them Hmm, need something else. She thought for a second. Ah.
With her one good hand, she pulled off the shirt she was wearing.
"Here," she said, holding the shirt with her outstretched arm. "Take this."
Shana turned and took in the vision before her. Any response she could have made got stuck in her throat and she blushed furiously as she took in the sight of Anne clad only in her sports bra. She quickly turned around again and pulled the shirt over her head, groaning as the movement aggravated her strained shoulders.
"Thanks," she croaked and then walked towards the door as fast as her injured body would allow her.
Leaving behind a tall, dark-haired woman with a smile that lit up the room.
TBC in Part 13