Tie Break

By Bonnie

Part 22


For disclaimers see Part 1



Chapter 30

Waking up had never felt so good.

Okay, so she wasn't really ready to wake up yet, but she felt better than she had in a long time. Every single cell in her body was relaxed and rested with a feeling of satisfaction. With a sigh of utter contentment she burrowed deeper into her pillow, absorbing its wonderful scent with every pore.

She smacked her lips in appreciation and in doing so realized there was something between them. Opening her eyes slowly, one at a time, in the pale light of the early morning, she was mildly surprised when she saw that she had a firm hold on a breast with her hands, and that a nipple was captured between her lips.

Realization dawned on her. God, I fell asleep on her last night. She let go of the tasty bud and blinked her eyes a couple of times to rid them of the sleep that still clung to them. I must have tortured her like hell. How could I fall asleep like that? On the other hand, what a way to sleep. She grinned.

"Why are you grinning like that?" came a husky voice from above her head somewhere.

Shana looked up to see blue eyes watching her contentedly. "Um … did I torture you last night?" she asked as she raised her head. She looked down at Anne's breast and back to the tanned face. "I mean with falling asleep while I was …" She blushed, and stopped speaking.

"While you were making love to me?" the brunette asked lovingly.

Shana only nodded, rubbing her chin along Anne's breastbone while doing so. The dark-haired woman let out a sigh at the feelings that stirred in her. "No, you didn't torture me. To be honest, I'm not even sure who fell asleep first."

The truth was that the events and exhaustion of the day had crept up on them so fast after they had made love that she couldn't even remember closing her eyes or succumbing to the tiredness in her body. All she could remember was that she had made love to the woman she loved with all her heart and that it had been the best sex ever. Well, except for that first time. The embarrassment of coming like that still mortified her.

"About last night …" she began hesitatingly, but stopped when she saw the sudden fear in Shana's eyes.

Shana swallowed. Okay, now she's going to tell me that I'm not what she expected, that I totally sucked …

"What is it, Shea?" Anne's question interrupted the blonde's thoughts.

Shana disentangled herself from Anne's long limbs with some difficulty. God, how could we sleep like that? I don't even know which parts are hers and which are mine. She shook her head sadly at the thought that she might never have that again. Rolling over, she sat up in bed, her back to Anne, but when she tried to leave the bed, long arms sneaked around her waist and held her back.

"Please talk to me, little one," Anne said quietly. "Did I do something wrong?" Damn, it was too much, too soon. Maybe she didn't like it. I knew I'd ruin everything. "Don't … don't you want … me anymore … now?" She had to know, better now than later.

She just didn't have a clue what she'd do if Shana said yes.

The pain in Anne's voice startled Shana out of the doubt she was wallowing in. She turned and looked into her lover's sad eyes. "No, no, you didn't do anything wrong. I just thought …"

"What did you think?" Anne asked when Shana failed to complete her sentence.

No more secrets, Shana thought. There are already too many between us. She sighed. "When you started about last night in that tone, I thought I probably sucked and that you were trying to tell me that I wasn't what you expected from me and --"

The lips that covered hers gently stopped her in mid-sentence. The kiss was undemanding, tender, and a confirmation of the feelings between them. When they parted, Shana saw that Anne's eyes were misty with unshed tears.

"Don't ever scare me like that again, Shea." Anne's voice was raw with emotion. "I love you. I need you." Each word was accentuated by a butterfly kiss on her eyes, nose or mouth. "And what we shared last night was the best experience of my life. I wouldn't want it any other way." Well, except for maybe that shooting off like a teenage boy on his first date.

Shana breathed a sigh of relief. She leaned down to kiss the lips that beckoned to her to explore them, not having it in her to deny that pull. Then she remembered that Anne had tried to tell her something. "What did you want to say about last night, honey?"

Anne wasn't sure anymore whether to bother her lover with her own doubts, but decided that it would probably be a good idea. She was sure that Shana's revelation must have been hard and now she needed to reveal her own fears. She cleared her throat. "Well, I … um … I wanted to apologize. For last night. For not being able to hold out longer. I'm so sorry that I couldn't make it the experience you deserved." She dropped her eyes and watched the creases in the bedspread intently.

Oh, sweetheart. You don't understand at all, don't you? Shana reached out and cupped her lover's head, lifting it so she could look into a pair of eyes that tried to avoid her. "You know, Anne, for someone so intelligent, you sure can be stupid sometimes."

At that, blue eyes finally looked up. "Yes, you," Shana continued. She brushed the back of her hand across Anne's right cheek. "Don't you know that last night you paid me the biggest compliment with the way you responded to my touch? I loved the way you reacted to me, loved how I could make you feel. I love you, Anne."

She kissed Anne lightly. "I didn't know what to do, what to expect last night, but when I was able to --"

"To reduce me to a puddle of need?" Anne asked with a self-depreciating shrug.

"To make you lose control, to give me power over your body, over your needs, I felt so strong. What you gave me last night, honey, was love, and the power to love you." A tear escaped her eyes, but she didn't really know why.

"You have all the power, Shana," Anne replied with feeling. She wiped away the tears on her lover's face with a fingertip. "You are the only one for me. Nobody ever came close to what I feel for you. Nobody ever could do to me what you can do to me with just one look, or word, or touch."

She took Shana's hands in her own heavily bruised ones, holding them gently. "I am yours," she said after a pause, and kissed the hands she held. Her heart was filled to overflowing with love for the smaller woman before her, and when she looked into green eyes, she held her breath at the love and desire that shone from them.

Their lips met, first gently, tenderly, then with ever-growing abandon. Anne's tongue traced an upper lip and was welcomed between parting lips, then sucked into the warmth of Shana's mouth. The kiss deepened, tongues exploring, dancing, playing with each other. A groan escaped Anne's throat at the need that pooled in her lower belly at the intensity of their kiss.

Anne's hands wandered up and down Shana's naked body, tracing lines from her shoulders to her hips and back, ignoring the pain that shot through her sprained hand when she moved it too much. She marveled at the change in Shea's breathing at the tender touches, how it hitched, then continued, faster and even more uneven than before.

Their lips parted and Anne moved her mouth to Shana's neck, nibbling, licking, whispering over skin that erupted in goose bumps wherever she went. The surge of power that went through Anne was unbelievable, the knowledge that she alone would ever make her lover feel that way making her lightheaded. She gasped loudly when Shana's hands cupped her breasts, and thumbs played over rapidly hardening nipples. The moan that came from her mouth was low and sensual, and Shana moaned simply in sympathy at the sound.

Two sets of hands explored, teased, touched until neither women could stand the air between their bodies any longer. Anne leaned back, pulling Shana with her, and both women groaned when their naked bodies came into full contact. "Oh, Shea, I want you so much," Anne breathed into her lover's ear, sucking the lobe into her mouth for good measure.

"Oh, Anne," the blonde groaned when she felt the discovered that her earlobe had a direct connection to her core. "I want you," she growled. All she knew was that she wanted to feel Anne inside her, hard and fast. Their lovemaking the night before had been slow and gentle, and Anne had never entered her, but something told Shana that that was not what she wanted now. "Take me, Anne," she breathed, "make me yours, please."

Anne looked into her lover's eyes and saw a need in them that matched her own. She opened her mouth, but before she could say anything Shana interrupted her. "Don't ask me if I'm sure, love," she said firmly, and pushed her wet curls into Anne's mound to show her how ready she was.

The brunette growled and in one fluid motion rolled them over so that Shana lay on her back with Anne between her legs. "Yes," the blonde breathed when Anne's lips closed around her nipple, sucking and biting. "Oh, yes!" Her hips began moving of their own accord, pushing up into Anne, showing her lover that she wouldn't hold out long this morning. Anne moved from one nipple to the other, leaving behind a wet trail.

Shana feared she would come just from the way Anne was making love to her breasts, but that wasn't what she wanted. She entangled her hands in Anne's black mane and tried to push her lover to points further south. "Anne, please … please," was all she could moan when the relentless attack on her breasts didn't lessen.

"Please what?" Anne asked before she could stop herself. She hadn't wanted to play the power game with her lover, but the question came so easily. So easily.

She was surprised when Shana answered with complete trust and without reservation. "I need you inside me," Shana ground out, "please … inside … me."

Anne couldn't stop the tears that streamed down her face. How did I ever deserve this woman? She vowed there and then that she would do whatever Shana wanted from her, now and forever, protecting her, loving her, and, right now, giving her release. She let go of the wonderful breasts she was feasting upon and began a slow trek down Shana's body, alternating licks and gentle bites all over her lover's stomach. When she dipped her tongue into Shea's navel, the blonde groaned loudly, giving Anne a preview of sounds to come. Almost too soon she reached the blond curls that covered her lover's mound, and she placed a kiss just above them.

Shana's whole body was burning, fire pulsing through her veins and little sticks of dynamite exploding wherever Anne's lips touched her body. She arched her body into her lover's touch, pressing as much of herself as possible into the woman she loved, needed, wanted. Her hands were wrapped in silky black hair, clenching and unclenching. When Anne let loose with a groan that sounded more like pain than pleasure, Shana loosened her grip and grabbed the headboard instead, needing its solidity to ground her.

Anne trailed her fingertips through Shana's damp curls. "God, you're so wet for me, baby," she breathed in excitement. Shana's body lifted almost completely off the bed when Anne's finger grazed her swollen clit. "Oh, Anne, yes… yes!" was all she could think of or say.

The brunette delighted in her lover's reactions and for a second regretted that it would be over soon. But she wanted to give Shana what she wanted, so she traced her fingers along her lover's outer lips with gentle determination.

Shana felt as if her body was completely out of control. It writhed in passion and need, overwhelming her with feeling. She couldn't think, only feel, and she realized somewhere in between sensations that she had never felt that good. It was even better than the night before, and she had never thought that possible. When she felt Anne's long fingers pausing against her entrance, she pushed her hip up in an attempt to draw her lover inside her.

Anne slowly, carefully entered her lover for the first time with one finger, restraining herself, not wanting to push too hard when all her instincts told her to fill Shana as deeply as possible. She moaned at the feeling of hot silkiness surrounding her finger, and she had to put conscious effort into not coming herself at the sensation. She pushed her aching clit against the mattress, trying to alleviate the pressure that was building up inside her.

Shana wanted more, needed more. The pressure was becoming more and more difficult to bear, but still she needed more. "More, please," she pleaded with her lover who reacted almost as soon as the words were out of her mouth. Anne's finger eased completely into her, as far as it would go, but still it wasn't enough. "More, baby, please." Shana's voice sounded almost as if she was in pain.

Anne almost followed her instincts and Shana's pleas and pushed more fingers into her lover, but she stopped herself at the last second. Would that hurt the baby? She had never slept with a pregnant woman before and was suddenly insecure.

"Anne, please," came another demand.

"What about the baby?" Anne got out between breaths. "Will it be okay?"

"Oh, yes, it's … going to … be okay," Shana panted, and cried out when Anne's fingers filled her completely. Anne pushed two fingers deep inside her lover, and began stroking her in a rhythm that matched the movement of Shana's hips against her. When her lover's movements got more frantic, Anne pulled out and added another finger, stretching Shana's inner walls, which clenched around the fingers almost immediately.

Shana saw colors exploding behind her closed eyelids and her heart stopped beating as she felt Anne pull out and enter her again, filling her even more. "Oh, God, yes!" she cried as everything seemed to crash inside her and all around her, the world tilting for one glorious moment. She came, hard, yelling Anne's name, letting go of the headboard and digging her fingers into Anne's shoulders as her body gave in to the ultimate pleasure.

Anne knew she was close to coming herself when she felt her lover's orgasm begin. Shana's muscles clenched around her fingers, holding them in place, tightening as wave after wave of pleasure pulsed through her lover's body. When Shana cried her name and gripped her shoulders, Anne pushed deeply once more. In reaction, Shana raised her leg, bringing her knee up against Anne's painfully swollen clit, pushing her over the edge as well with a sharp cry. "Oh, Shea!"

Anne didn't know how long she had been lying there, her fingers still buried deep inside Shana, when she felt her lover pawing weakly at her back. She looked up and met tear-filled green eyes. "Please, hold me," Shana whispered.

Anne withdrew her fingers from Shana's body, and watched the aftershocks ripple through her body. She placed kisses on her lover's stomach and nipples as she crawled up her body. Then she gathered the blonde into her arms and kissed her head. "I love you, Shea," she whispered hoarsely. "You are so beautiful."

Shana tightened her hold on the woman she loved, telling her with her complete body that she returned the feeling. The intensity of her feelings made her cry, but she didn't want to stop the tears from falling.

"Are you okay, darling?" Anne asked when the first tear hit her breast.

"Yes," Shana nodded, splashing another tear on her lover's body. "Intense." She couldn't really say anymore, but she also knew that she didn't have to.

"I know," whispered Anne as she closed her eyes, "I know."

She lay on her back with the love of her life in her arms, listening to Shana's even breathing and watching the sun crawl across the sky outside of their little haven. She knew that beyond the door of their room problems awaited them, but all she could think of was the peace she felt in her body, her heart, and her mind when she held her lover in her arms.

I gotta ask her to marry me, soon.

And with that thought she followed Shana into the land of dreams once more.


Anne opened her eyes some time later, still feeling wonderful. She looked at the woman who lay in her arms, one arms across her waist, one leg thrown possessively over Anne's thighs. She had never been able to sleep that close to another body before, except for Shana, and now … Wouldn't want it any other way.

She thought of her sexual encounters in the past. Most of them were based on sex as a tool of power, and she had dominated the women who had come to her bed. Some she had even humiliated if it suited her needs or if she felt like it. Some encounters she couldn't even remember since she was too drunk at the time. Some she had forgotten because they had simply been forgettable. One, she hoped, she would never have to talk about to Shana. That one still filled her with shame. And then there was Carol.

She let her mind wander back to that time, several years ago. They had met in New York, the week Kevin was gay-bashed. Carol had suddenly appeared in the bowels of the tennis stadium and had told her she was a new security officer. She hadn't left Anne's side. Anne had been cool and aloof, being her irritating and cruel younger self. The self she had been since her brother's death and the incident with Shana.

But Carol had been relentless in her pursuit, and one day Anne had agreed to go on a date, more to get rid of her than anything else. She had never liked to be hunted--she was the hunter, 'the killer'--and she had decided to teach that young blonde a lesson.

And what a lesson it had been. They had met in the bar of Anne's hotel and had very soon gone up to Anne's room, where they had spent the night. Anne had pulled out every demeaning trick in the book, knowing it would turn her on and humiliate the blonde. She had tied Carol to the bed and had brought her to the brink of orgasm several times, but had always left her hanging. She had fucked her, repeatedly, without ever allowing her the release she craved.

The blonde had begged, but Anne had not relented. In the early hours of the morning, Carol had practically crawled on her knees before her, and Anne had finally given her release, more out of pity than anything else. Carol had passed out in her room, while Anne had gone out to find a bar where she proceeded to drink until she didn’t feel anything anymore. When she had returned to the hotel hours later, Carol was gone.

Throughout the whole night, she had never even taken off her clothes, let alone allowed Carol to touch her. She felt like shit about the encounter. She had taken the handcuffs, leather straps, whips and dildos she had used that night, stuffed them in a bag, and thrown them away. She had left the hotel, checking into another as soon as she had been sober enough to do so, just hoping that Carol had had enough and would stay out of her way.

Unfortunately, she hadn't. The blonde had wanted more, something Anne still couldn't understand. But the blonde kept asking her for repeat performances, swearing that she was in love with Anne. And with every passing day, Anne hated her more, hated what she herself had become. But she never touched the blonde again.

Then, the day before the final, Anne had returned from a run to a completely destroyed hotel room. Nothing was missing, but everything was strewn about the room. She had not been able to prove anything, but she had known it was Carol. Her gut had told her so. The one hint that had confirmed her suspicion was that in the center of the bed her most valuable possession had lain. A photo of Shana. Shredded beyond repair.

After that day, Carol had been gone from her life.

Now she was back, and Anne didn't have a clue if it was coincidence.

Shana stirred in her arms and brought Anne back to the nice things in life. She tightened her hold on her lover and gently kissed her to wakefulness, lips exploring a sleep-warmed mouth until it opened and responded.

"Good morning," Anne said after their lips had parted.

"Good morning," Shana beamed. "Can I wake up like that every morning?"

"As long as you want to, baby," Anne replied, "as long as you want to."

Now that they were both awake, Anne was determined to ask Shana to marry her, but she needed a few minutes by herself for that. She didn't want to root around in her haphazardly discarded clothes from the night before in search of the ring that was still in the pocket of her khakis. Before she could come up with a way to get the blonde out of the room for a couple of minutes, her lover squirmed in her arms and mumbled, "Bathroom," before she moved out of Anne's arms and the bed.

Great timing, Anne thought and let go of her lover with a huge smile.

Shana pulled on the robe she had worn the day before. With a last kiss and a smile she turned and left the room.

As soon as her lover was gone, Anne jumped up and headed for the last known location of her clothes.


Shana floated down the hall on a cloud of happiness. If she had felt good waking up, she now was totally elated. This must be love, she thought with an ironic smile, knowing full well that it was. Why the hell did I wait so long? Why did Anne wait so long?

She shook her head ruefully, thinking that it was probably just as well. She tried to remember the girl she had been when she had met Anne fifteen years earlier, a girl who had forged an instant friendship with the most beautiful girl in the world. A friendship based on …

Based on what, Shea? The blonde closed the bathroom door behind her as she contemplated that thought. She had never thought about the basis of their early friendship; it had just come as easily as breathing to her. Now, with the accumulated knowledge and sometimes frustrating feelings of fifteen years, she could see that there had always been an attraction between them.

She thought about several nights and days that should have told her that what she felt for Anne was way more than mere friendship, that she had been in love with her best friend for years even before the incident at Pete's birthday party.

The night they had gone out to play tennis in the dark, when she had realized for the first time how beautiful her tall friend really was, and how sexy her voice sounded when she roused from a sound sleep.

The night in Auckland they had spent touching each other, without really doing anything. With a smile, she acknowledged that she had totally denied the feelings that ran through her that night, had refused to think about the consequences, shoving it all away into some dark corner of her mind where she didn't have to look at it or give it a name. The next morning, she now realized, she had blown off Anne who had reached out for her and her heart. And had still given her a beautiful bone carving.

She still wears mine, she thought with a happy smile while she freshened up a bit, eager to return to the woman she loved, willing to make up for the lost years.

How could I ever live without the love she gives me?

And then she realized that she hadn't had to for a long time. It had been years since they had found their way back to each other, years since the tournament when Anne had killed that man in a freak accident, years since they had been a part of each other's lives again. No, the love had been there. She just hadn't recognized it.

Suddenly she needed to get back to her lover as soon as possible, needed kisses to make her fly and touches to ground her. Wanting to make up for all the hurt with all the love in her heart, willing to make Anne forget that they had missed out on a large chunk of their life together already.

Never again, she thought as she left the bathroom and walked quietly back to the room she shared with the tall woman. When she reached the door she heard a dull thud coming from within the library. She opened the door and silently stepped inside to investigate.


Carol wanted to see Anne. The need to see the dark-haired woman was getting stronger every second now that she was close to her again. She had never forgotten the night with Anne, or what Anne had done to her, and now she knew they would have another chance.

She loved the dark side of Anne Patakis, the woman who could torture for hours on end, so pleasurably, so knowingly, so wonderfully relentlessly, only to give pleasure at the ultimate moment, just when she thought she couldn't possibly take any more.

Carol had been devastated when she woke up alone in Anne's hotel room after that one night. She had stayed for hours, waiting for the dark woman's return, but then duty had called and she had been forced to leave. Knowing there would always be another day–another night–she had left to go to work.

But there never had been another day or another night. The next time she had met the tennis player, the blue eyes had been icy cold and filled with something close to disgust. In the beginning, Carol had thought it was part of the game, another way to torture her, to make her beg for more pleasure.

So she waited. Waited for days for a sign from her dark lover.

And when no sign was coming, she had indeed begged, but still Anne hadn't relented. Carol had thought that Anne must be planning something really good for her, the way she was treating her, but she had never found out what that was.

Then, the day before the US Open final, she had watched Anne without the taller woman noticing it. Anne was on the court, simply playing a few balls, just to keep in touch with her game for the upcoming final against Shana Wilson. There were a handful of spectators around, making the atmosphere almost private.

One spectator had stuck out in the sparse crowd. A blonde woman dressed in white shorts and a tank top had been watching Anne's every move. Shana Wilson. Carol had tasted the name, knowing the face from her ten days of working security for the tournament. She had also heard that Anne and Shana had a history, but nobody had known any specifics. Carol had settled in for a long watch.

When Anne had finished on the court, Carol had expected her to leave immediately, but the smaller blonde had taken over the court for her session and the dark-haired woman had sat down across the court from Carol and watched the blonde, just as the blonde had watched her before.

Shana Wilson had stayed on the court for maybe 30 minutes, but in that time Carol had learned to hate her. That was all it took once she noticed the looks Anne gave her former friend. Anne had felt unnoticed and had let her guard down, and her face had shown such longing, such pure desire and love that just seeing that look had made Carol sick.

She had left, going straight to Anne's new hotel room, talking her way into the room. Then she had methodically ripped everything she could lay her hands on to shreds. In one of Anne's books, she had found a picture of a younger, happy-looking Shana Wilson, and she had torn the picture apart in a surge of jealousy.

Afterwards, she had placed the parts of the picture in the center of the bed lovingly, displaying them as a flawed puzzle as a gentle reminder that she was the one Anne was supposed to be with. She had known that Anne would understand and would one day come to her. And now she had.

The sheriff had made her way silently to the room next to the library late the previous evening. But what she had heard there, through the door, had been enough to drive her back to her room and a restless night. She had heard the passionate moans Anne and the blonde had made all night long.

Now, it was early morning and Carol was on her way to see Anne again, hoping the irritating blonde was long gone. After slipping into the library, she moved as quietly as possible to the door that connected the library to Anne's room.

All was quiet at first, but then she could hear low voices and increasingly louder, more passionate sounds, leaving no doubt as to what was going on behind that door.

Carol was livid. Will there ever be a chance to talk to Anne again? Without that blonde? She decided to settle on the loveseat in front of the fire to wait, but soon got restless. She wandered around the room, picking up this and that, looking out the window and at the pictures on the wall.

She heard the door of the room next door open and close again, and decided to wait a few more minutes to make sure the pesky blonde wouldn't return. She was sure that it was Shana who had left the room. Carol took another look around, her eyes falling on a rather old book.

She picked up the volume and checked out the title. "Orlando," she murmured before opening the book. "Never heard of it." Absent-mindedly, she leafed through the pages of the old book, not really registering anything she saw there. Until her eyes met the inscription under the book's title which ended with Love, Shana.

Aaargh! Shana, Shana, Shana! Enraged, the sheriff threw the book against the far wall, watching the impact with something close to satisfaction. Then the door opened slowly, and she stood face to face with Shana.


Shana slowly peeked her head through the door and, seeing Carol standing in the middle of the room, walked in confidently.

"Good morning, Carol," she said. "What are you doing up at this time of the morning?"

The sheriff took a good long look at the woman before her, taking in the short robe, which gave way to tanned muscular legs, and the disheveled hair. She ignored Shana's question, opting instead for an arrogant smirk.

"So," she said after a while with a grin that under no circumstances could be described as friendly, "had some fun last night, eh?" Her voice was condescending, making it very clear what she thought about Shana's ability to have fun.

Shana was taken aback by the coldness and the unprofessional behavior of the woman in uniform before her. "Sheriff Miller, I think you're way out of line here." She valiantly fought the urge to explain herself, but couldn't win, so she added, "and what I do at night is none of your business."

Again, Carol completely ignored what Shana said. Slowly, like a predator about to have fun with its prey, she walked towards the smaller woman. "I wonder what she sees in you," she said conversationally, almost as if speaking to herself. Shana was sure she wasn't really supposed to answer the question, and in a way she was glad since she didn't have a clue what to say anyway.

"You can never be what she needs," the sheriff continued in the same fashion. "You could never take it." She stood directly in front of Shana now, towering over the tennis player by a good four inches.

Shana fought the urge to step back and look up. She was catching on to what was happening now, realizing that there was more between her lover and Caro than she had assumed. She had known, deep down, that Anne had a history with this woman, but now she knew that for Carol that history was far from over. At that realization, Shana's possessive streak broke out in full force, but before she could say anything, the sheriff continued.

"She must be holding back with you," the tall blonde murmured. "God, she must be so disappointed that she can't be who she is with you." She mustered Shana from head to toe, clearly dismissing her as insignificant. Then she asked in the same conversational tone, "Did you know she’s into domination? Hmm? Did you know she likes to torture women until they beg her to take them? Not giving them what they want unless they tell her exactly what they want? Did you know that she likes to inflict pain? No?"

Shana remained quiet. No, she hadn't known, but she had heard rumors. As much as she had wished she were, she wasn't deaf; she had heard stories about Anne's sexual exploits, had heard about 'games,' but interestingly enough, never from the women Anne had slept with.

She also knew that Anne was the most gentle person she knew. What if she fought the pain inside that way?

Anne's question earlier came to mind. "What do you want?" the tall woman had asked, but Shana had not considered it a question of power, only of a need to connect, of wanting to know what she, Shana, wanted. And so she had answered freely, without a second thought. Was that what Carol was talking about? Probably not.

Shana decided not to play Carol's game and to be as friendly as possible. "Yes, I know all that," she half-lied. "Is that important?"

Carol stopped in her tracks. What kind of question is that? Doesn't that woman understand anything? She should know that a woman like Anne would never change, could never change.

"Of course it's important!" Carol's voice got louder now, and neither woman noticed that the connecting door was opened a crack. "She can't live without power, without control. And she needs someone who can take that kind of power, who loves that control!"

"Someone like you?" Shea asked, deceptively friendly, asking herself all the time if the sheriff realized how much of herself she was baring.

"Yes, someone like me," Carol answered smugly. "I can give her what she wants. I love the way she handles power, how she wields her power like a whip." Her face was contorted in a mixture of pleasure and pain, and she looked almost as if she was in a trance.

Shana looked over Carol's shoulder as she spotted movement from the corner of her eye. A tight smile and a reassuring nod from Anne told her to go on talking to Carol. Shana turned her eyes to the dark brown eyes in front of her. "So you begged her?"


"And you would beg her again." A statement more than a question. Behind Carol, Anne quietly walked further into the room.

"Yes," came the sheriff's response, albeit a little slower than the previous answers. She felt that the conversation wasn't going the way she had planned. By now, the young blonde should have been running for the hills instead of talking to her about submission and dominance. She mentally shrugged her shoulders. Who knows what's going on in that head.

"And it could never be the other way around?"

"No!" Carol almost yelled the syllable. No. In her mind the thought that Anne would beg anyone was inconceivable. She wouldn't be the same woman. It all wouldn't be the same. She, Carol, wouldn't want that.

Behind Carol, Anne gave her lover a smile and nodded. Good one, Shana! And before Shana or Carol could say anything else, she took a loud step, coming within arm's reach of the sheriff.

Carol turned on her heels at the sound of someone approaching, knowing who it would be. She smiled winningly, sure the dark-haired woman would take her by the hand now, leaving the small blonde behind.

Anne gave Carol a cold smile, then turned towards Shana. "Are you all right, love?" she asked, then moved to stand behind her lover. She wrapped Shana in an embrace, holding her with loving tenderness. At Shana's nod, she asked innocently, "What were you two talking about?"

"About love," Shana replied before Carol could open her mouth. "About love, and about sex. Seems the sheriff was curious as to what we do to have some fun."

"Oh, we have a lot of fun, Carol," the dark-haired woman purred sensually, shooting little fires up and down her lover's spine. The dark head bent down and placed a kiss on Shana's neck.

"Anne, you can't … not with this … you need --" Carol sputtered.

"You don't know anything about what I need," Anne said, her voice reflecting a cold rage now. "So stop pretending you do."

But Carol was not to be deterred. "You need someone like me, who understands you, who loves who and what you are --"

Anne stopped her with a look of blue fire. She thought about what to say for a second before settling on the one thing she could think of that might make Carol stop haunting her. She smiled sweetly at Shana before turning towards the sheriff again. Then she spoke in a very quiet, very serious tone.

"Carol." She waited until she had the blonde's full attention. "Shana doesn't need to beg. I don't want her to beg. I love her." She paused, hesitating for only a second before continuing. "With her, Carol, I'm the one who's begging. I would crawl over broken glass to kneel down before her, begging for a kiss."

The sheriff blanched, and Shana could practically see how her world order was tumbling into chaos. She turned and walked towards the door.

"Carol." Anne's voice stopped the sheriff, but didn't make her turn around. "I'm sorry."

The tall blonde left the room without acknowledging the sentiment.

Shana turned in Anne's arms and hugged her lover tightly. "I'm sorry you had to get into this. I could have done it by myself, you know."

"Yeah, I know," Anne conceded, "but I feel better like this, okay?"

"Okay." Shana's green eyes grew very serious. "You need to talk to her, Anne. Whatever happened between the two of you needs to get out in the open. She won't let go if you don't talk to her."

"Yeah, I know," Anne said again. "I'll do that later." She smiled down at her lover, her joy of the morning slightly tempered now. "But now, I want to do something else," she said as she guided them over to their room.

"And what is that?"

"I want to be alone with you."



Chapter 31

Anne took a deep breath as soon as the door closed behind her and Shana. For a second she had thought Shana would tell her that she wanted to see her beg, just as she had told Carol. And for that split second she had wished she hadn't thrown out all her toys after that fateful episode with Carol. She didn't mean it like that anyway, she mentally shrugged. But the thought kept coming back.

I wonder if she'd like anything in that bag … There was a low tingle in her stomach at the thought of trying some of the more pleasure-oriented toys with her lover. She had no intention of causing Shana pain, not even for the sake of pleasure. Somehow, that thought didn't appeal to her any longer. Well, we hopefully have years to find out what we both like.

That thought brought her back to the present and her plans. She looked around the room until her eyes settled on Shana, who stood in front of the bed looking a bit lost. Anne's eyes wandered along her lover's body, which was just barely covered by the robe she put on to go to the bathroom. She's so beautiful. I really want to spend the rest of my life with her.

Anne walked over to Shana and gently sat her lover down on the bed.

"What --?" Shana's question was interrupted by two long fingers on her lips.

Blue eyes looked at her with all the love they could muster. "Please, let me do the talking for now, Shea," Anne whispered. She felt like a ton of bricks had settled on her shoulders and she kneeled down in front of Shana, unsure of whether her legs would hold her weight if she continued to stand.

She reached under the bed for the ring box that she had put there before going out to rescue her lover from the sheriff. She panicked slightly when her fingers didn't encounter the velvet box, but after a second of fumbling, her fingertips touched the material.

Shana had taken the opportunity to tangle her hands in Anne's dark hair, since the tall woman had to lean over a bit in her attempt to reach the box. This had placed her head in Shana's lap, and the blonde lost herself in the feel of the silky strands between her fingers.

Letting out a sigh that was as much contentment as relief, Anne relaxed a bit and lay her head on Shana's tanned thigh, not resisting the urge to place tiny kisses on the muscles she found there. In pure reflex, the blonde opened her legs wider, wanting more of the touch.

Anne raised her head and looked into green eyes that were filled with desire. She knew Shana wanted her as much as she wanted the blonde and she had to fight the need to just take her lover right this very second, but she wanted to make this right. Her hand closed tightly around the velvet box, and she sat up on her knees and stared deeply into her lover's green eyes.

"Shea," she began, but had to stop to clear her throat when small determined hands traced a path down her torso. She tried to stop the blonde's hands with her free hand while trying to keep the other out of sight. When she blew out a slightly frustrated breath, Shana stopped her movements and looked at her questioningly, still not saying anything per Anne's request.

The brunette tried again. "Shea, I love you." Well, that was good as a beginning, wasn't it?

"I love you, too," the blonde replied, unsure of where this was leading, but willing to go along with whatever Anne had in mind.

"That's good to hear," Anne grinned, relaxing a bit. "Makes saying what I want to say a little easier." Then she stopped again, her throat too tight to continue.

Shana was getting a bit worried at the look in her lover's eyes. "Anne, what is it?" she managed to get out before Anne stopped her again.

"You're so beautiful, Shea," Anne continued, "I can't stop looking at you." Her eyes focused on the green eyes before her and she spoke what was on her mind and in her heart. "I can't look at you without wanting to touch you. I can't touch you without wanting you. I can't want you without having you. And I can't have you without not letting you go. I don't ever want to let you go, Shana."

Anne brought up the hand that was holding the ring box so that Shana could see it. "I love you, Shana Marie Wilson, and I will love you until the day I die." She opened the ring box. "Will you marry me?"

The room was utterly silent after the question. Not even breathing could be heard. Anne was holding her breath in anticipation and fear of rejection, while Shana was simply stunned out of any ability to react.

Anne's audible swallow after a lengthy silence broke Shana out of her shock and she released the breath she had been holding. The air she expelled forcefully felt like a caress on Anne's face and the brunette closed her eyes in reflex, hoping that her lover would just say yes.

Shana was trying to understand what was happening. Did she just ask what I thought she asked? She decided she had to make sure. "Did … did you just … propose to me?" she asked, her voice a quiet mixture of hope and insecurity.

Anne opened her eyes and gently cupped Shana's face with her free hand, the other still clinging to the ring box as if it were a lifeline. "Yes," she said simply, trying to put all her feelings into one syllable. Please say yes, say yes, say yes. "I can't live without you."

The fact that Shana hugged her for all she was worth told Anne that she had probably said the last bit louder than she had planned. Well, it's true, isn't it? She held her lover as tightly as she could, whispering words of love into the ear that was right beneath her lips.

After a moment, the blonde let go and sat up straighter. Shana smiled at Anne, the tension thick between them.

"Do I get an answer?" Anne asked, hope shining through in her voice.

"Do I get to see the ring?"

Anne grinned at the playfulness in Shana's voice and brought the open ring box up again for her lover's inspection. It was a rather simple ring, made for an active hand. It was a broad titanium band, into which three very small stones were set: a diamond, flanked by a sapphire and a lapis lazuli.

"It's meant to last forever," Anne said quietly as she picked up the ring.

Shana nodded, somehow knowing that Anne wasn’t just referring the material the ring was made of. She held out her hand, ring finger stretched out, and said the only answer that wanted to come out. "Yes."

Anne slid the ring onto the finger and was surprised that it fit so perfectly. She had taken a ring of Shana's to get her ring size, but that had been years ago. It's a good thing that some things don't change, she thought as she gathered her lover into her arms. "I love you," she sighed before she kissed the blonde's lips.

"Thank you for that," Shana replied after they came up for air. "I love you, too." She kissed Anne again just as a thought hit her. She broke away from the kiss breathlessly. "Um, Anne," she began timidly, "what about Mishka?"

"What about him?" Anne didn't want to get out of her perfect little world where only she and Shana existed.

"You know I promised to marry him," Shana gently reminded her, knowing full well that Anne had not forgotten that particular little detail. "He needs me, he --"

Her words were stopped by a pair of very insistent lips that stole her breath and all her distracting thoughts. "I know," Anne murmured after a while, "but we'll find another solution." Then she kissed her lover again before the blonde could form a coherent answer.

"But --" Shana tried again after a while.

"But nothing," Anne reassured her. "I promise you, we'll find a way." She looked deeply into Shana's green eyes, seeing only love and trust. "I promise," she repeated. "I just couldn't bear to see you married to someone else." She swallowed and looked away. "Can you understand that?"

Shana touched Anne's face tenderly and brought it back to face hers. "Yes, I understand. I couldn't bear if you married anyone else either, so I do understand. But we need to help Mishka, I promised him. Do you understand that?"

Anne nodded, understanding completely. Before she could marry Shana, she had to find a solution for Mishka's problem and probably for everyone else's as well.

As if reading her thoughts, Shana continued. "You also need to speak to Carol."

Anne nodded again, suddenly not too happy anymore. Why couldn't everyone just go away and leave her and Shana alone?

Shana saw the melancholy in Anne's blue eyes and engulfed her in a hug. "I know it's not what you want right now, sweetheart," she whispered, "but remember, at the end of this day you'll be here in this bed with me, and I'll hold you and make everything better."


"I promise."

They sealed the promise with a long, deep kiss before they were strong enough to let reality back into their lives.

"Meet you in the kitchen for breakfast?" Anne asked after a long while.

"I'll be there."



Anne first went to the reception are to find out which room her mother had assigned to the sheriff. It was easy, considering that she knew exactly which rooms Mike and Kevin, Mishka, and the Hinkels were in. When realized which key was missing, she grinned with evil delight. She couldn't even remember the last time a guest had seen that room, much less slept in it.

Climbing up the stairs, she mumbled to herself, "Boy, Mom, you really don't like Carol much, do you?" She wasn't sure if she should be filled with glee or pity at the sheriff's fate. The truth was, she really liked and appreciated the protective streak her mother had where Shana was concerned, and she knew that Carol's behavior towards her lover was had determined her present accommodation. You could have had one of the many very nice rooms in this house with a nice soft bed, she mentally told the sheriff, but you had to drag our past into this.

Irene had given Carol a room that was as far removed from Anne and Shana's as possible while still in the same building. It was the only room on the uppermost floor, directly under the roof and next to a large storage area, and once upon a time it had served as a huge closet more than a room. Nowadays, it only housed a small twin bed, a table and chair, and a small closet

The room also tended to get hot as hell in the summer and as cold as the snow that surrounded it in winter. Usually, Irene didn't rent out that room at all. It was a spare bedroom that served as a spare when all other spares had already been filled. She only used it if she just couldn't put a late traveler anywhere else and couldn't turn him away, usually charging hardly anything for the room in those instances.

If Carol was a paying guest, Mom would probably charge her $100 per night for the room, just to annoy her. And that would be getting away cheap, she chuckled.

Anne stopped on the last stair, pondering what she'd say to her ex-lover. She knew she had to bring some closure to her past dealings with the tall blonde, but she didn't have a clue what to tell Carol so that she would maybe forgive her and move on.

She also realized that she needed Carol's cooperation and perhaps even one or two favors if she was to find solutions to the various problems surrounding them. The sheriff was the one who needed to find out who drove Shana off the road, and she would also be their best bet to find out more about the Hinkel's long-lost daughter and Carlos' supposed slave ring.

Anne released a long sigh. You better make this good, Patakis. Just imagine it's the U.S. Open final and get on with it! Having talked herself into battle mode, she walked straight towards Carol's door and knocked before her doubts could assail her again. Her knuckles had barely left the door when she heard Carol's sultry "Come in". She tried the handle and was not very surprised to find that the door wasn't locked.

What did surprise her, however, was a very naked sheriff, who threw her a smoky come-hither look from her position on the bed. Anne swallowed and slowly entered the room, her eyes trying to avoid the body that was so blatantly presented to her. She managed to stifle the exasperated groan that threatened to come out full force at the display, but she had to clear her throat before she was able to speak.

Carol beat her to it. "I knew you'd come to me, Anne." As she spoke, she leaned up on her elbows, emphasizing her breasts even more.

Anne was feeling rather sick at the behavior she found extremely degrading for a small-town sheriff. "God, Carol, can't you put some clothes on? I came here to talk, not look at your … body." Her voice faltered a bit when Carol started to touch her breasts while Anne spoke. The brunette quickly turned around to face the open door, giving the blonde time to get dressed or at least covered up. She closed her eyes when Carol moaned loudly.

Carol grinned when she saw Anne's shoulders slump at her exaggerated groan. She knew she was getting to the other woman; that was the whole reason for her actions. When she had returned to her room, she had realized that sooner or later Anne would feel the need to come and talk to her after that scene in the library, and she had hoped that Shana would force Anne to come sooner rather than later.

She also realized after the confrontation with Shana and Anne that her obsession with the tall brunette was not what it used to be. That was new. She had found their behavior disgusting--all that sweetness, that love. And when Anne had proudly declared that she would beg Shana to love her, to give her what she desired, it had made her totally sick.

It couldn't be that this was the same strong woman she had been so wonderfully dominated by so many years ago. It just couldn't be that Anne had changed so completely. But she could not deny that what she had seen between them looked very much like love, and trust, and happiness.

She had decided to test Anne's resolve, to try and get her to betray Shana and return to what Carol thought was her real self, but now that she was lying naked in her lousy room staring at Anne's back she wondered if it was really worth it. Did she really want to hurt Anne just for the fun of it? What did she want?

Carol Miller had never seen herself as a heartless or relentless person, but her current behavior made her wonder. She knew she had her dark sides, and she respected them and allowed them as much freedom as she could, but she also respected people who were different. Usually.

So why couldn't she accept that Anne would never belong to her, even if Shana didn't exist? Because she used me. Because I gave her my soul and she handed it back to me torn and made whole at the same time.

Carol quit the movements of her hands, feeling nothing anyway. She had wanted to shock Anne, had wanted her to come into the room, find her, and snap out of that mushy love thing she had going with Shana. But the contempt and the pity she had seen in Anne's eyes the short moment the blue eyes had met her own had made the futility of that perfectly clear.

She stared at the other woman’s back, wondering what Anne wanted. "Why did you come here, Anne?" she asked as she sat up and grabbed her uniform shirt. She quickly got dressed as she waited for an answer. In the silence that was interrupted only by the rustling of her clothes, she realized that Anne was waiting for her to make herself presentable before answering.

"I'm covered. You can turn around now," she said, letting only a small amount of sarcasm show.

Anne threw a look over her shoulder to verify that statement before she turned fully around to face the blonde.

"So, again, why are you here?"

There was a slight pause before Anne answered. "I came here to apologize, to tell you how sorry I am."

It was the last thing Anne expected to say, and the sincerity with which she had said it surprised even her. With a start she realized that she was indeed sorry for all that she had done to the woman standing before her. Her heart clenched at the thought of the person she had once been, but she knew that back then it was the only thing she could do. Carol had definitely met her at a very bad time in her life and had to suffer the consequences.

It was also the last thing Carol expected to hear and she was struck dumb for what seemed like minutes, but were probably only seconds. Then she finally found her voice. "What for?"

Anne eased her body onto the only chair in the room and looked up at the blonde woman now towering over her. She was tired of power games. "Why don't you sit down, Carol?" she asked almost gently. When Carol sat down across from her at the edge of the bed, Anne looked her right in the eyes, deciding right then that she would be as honest as possible.

"I'm sorry for what I did to you … back then. I wasn't a really nice person when you met me, and I let it out on you. I didn't want to, but in the end I felt as if you didn't leave me a choice anymore. You seemed to want me so much and I hurt you … because of that, because you weren't who or what I wanted. For that, I'm sorry." She blew out a long, unsteady breath. "For all it's worth now, I think I hated myself more than anything back then. I was a brutal bitch, playing around with anything and anyone … trying to hurt myself, trying to hurt —" She stopped.

"Trying to hurt her?" Carol finished the sentence for her, not unkindly.

Anne nodded.

"And how is that supposed to make me feel better?" The sheriff knew that what had happened between them wasn't entirely Anne's fault, but having her in this position felt good. She also felt that the brunette was telling her the untarnished truth, and she wanted to get as much of that as possible.

"It's not supposed to make you feel better," Anne muttered. "I'm just trying to apologize here and tell you what happened back then."

"Telling me that you're not that person really and that you want me to leave you and the love of your life alone."

Anne looked up sharply at the astute observation.

"I'm not stupid, Anne," Carol continued. "I know you never loved me, could never love me. I always knew that you belonged entirely to her. Remember, I was there, watching you. I watched you watching her, and I knew."

"Why did --?"

"Why did I want you anyway?" Carol lay down across the bed and stared at the ceiling. "You were breathtaking in your fury, Anne. I'd never seen so much raw power in a human being before." She sat back up and looked into blue eyes. "I thought I had found a kindred spirit … but I was wrong. And I almost lost everything because of it."

Carol's face spoke of her anguish at the memories, and Anne could see the pain she had brought to Carol. But she also got the feeling that there was more to it than the hurt of a rejected lover. Suddenly, she remembered a question she had asked herself at that time. Where had Carol come from? She had seemed so much more than just a security officer working at Arthur Ashe Stadium, especially since Anne never saw her speaking to the other security personnel that worked the catacombs.

"Who were you, Carol?" she asked, almost as if speaking to herself.

Carol closed her eyes, apparently thinking about whether or not to answer the question. She shook her head and opened her brown eyes which focused on the small window, looking out into the still early morning.

The decision was so hard and so easy at the same time, Carol thought. Sitting here, listening to the woman she had once believed she loved — definitely past tense, she realized — she contemplated how she wanted to live her life from now on. Being haunted by past demons? Or trying to build a life, forgetting about them?

The strange thing was that being around Anne again after all those years showed her that she, too, had moved on, and she was honest enough to acknowledge that she had only wanted to hurt Anne and Shana out of spite and jealousy.

She also admitted to herself that she actually liked Anne, the real Anne, the person her former lover was now. Telling Anne that, however, was something else entirely, and so she opted for talking about herself and the person she had once been.

"I think I need to tell you a little story," Carol began hesitatingly, but with more warmth in her voice than Anne had ever heard.

The tall blonde looked at Anne and shot her a wistful smile. "You know," she began, "I think I actually was a very nice person until I met you." Her gaze moved over to the window, not exactly knowing why she had just said that. Starting with a conversation stopper usually is not the brightest idea if you have to say something.

Her eyes lingered on the snow-laden trees in front of the house, and her mind drifted for a second. Seems like the weather is letting up. Maybe I should just drive home. It's my day off anyway … She shook herself out of her wayward thoughts and tried to concentrate on her story instead. God, I'd love a good cup of coffee right about now.

As if on cue, Anne spoke. "Um … what do you say if we continue this downstairs? I'd really love some coffee, and I thought maybe you'd like something too." The brunette actually sounded a bit embarrassed that she didn't seem to know whether Carol drank coffee, tea, or anything else in the morning.

"Sure, coffee would be great," the sheriff sighed in relief, and the two women made their way down the stairs and towards the library. After checking if it was empty, Anne left Carol there and went on a mission to find some coffee. She found her mother and a full coffee pot in the kitchen.

"Morning, Mom," she greeted the older woman.

"Good morning, honey. Did you sleep well?"

"Yup," Anne answered, trying to keep the conversation to a minimum. She felt she should get back to Carol fairly soon.

"Ah," Irene looked at her daughter and smiled. "No coffee, no conversation, eh?"

"Hmm," the brunette grunted, although she would have loved to talk to her mother for a while. Curiosity, however, was pulling her strongly towards the library.

"So, you're not talking to me at all this morning," Irene said more to herself than Anne. "Did I do something to deserve that treatment?" she teased, but Anne stopped dead in her tracks, instantly feeling guilty.

"Oh, Mom, I'm sorry." She walked over to where Irene was standing and hugged her, kissing her on both cheeks for good measure. "It's just that …I'm talking to Carol right now, trying to make peace with her …" She stopped, unsure of what else to say.

"What would you do that for?" Irene went into full mother mode, in voice as well as posture. "She tried to get between you and Shea, she's rude, and she doesn't care a bit about Shea's accident. She's —"

"Mom …Mom!" Anne interrupted her mother's tirade, knowing that Irene was right, but that she herself had played a large part in Carol's behavior. "I need to talk to her. You know, it's not all Carol's fault." She hesitated. "I haven't acted very nice to her in the past. In fact, I treated her —"

"Like dirt, probably," her mother cut her off, disclosing to her daughter how much she really knew about what had been going on in her daughter's life while she was separated from her family. Anne nodded, stunned and just a little hurt to hear the statement from her mother's mouth. She knew it was undeniably true, but she hadn't expected that. She dropped her gaze to the floor, unexpected tears stinging at the back of her eyes.

"What does Shea have to say about all of this?" Irene asked after what seemed like minutes, her voice gentle and laced with concern now. She knew she had hurt her daughter, but she was wise enough to know that Anne hurt more because of what she had done in the past than her mother's remark.

Anne looked up to see a warm smile on her mother's face. She would never in all of her life completely understand this woman, but she loved her for being her mother, and she never would have wanted another in her place. A half-smile appeared unbidden at the thought of her lover. "She's the one who told me to go and talk to her," she admitted with a sheepish expression.

"Then I better not stop you," Irene mocked her. "You should always do what this woman tells you to do." She became serious for a second. "She's good for you, you know."

"I know, Mom, I know," Anne replied, equally serious. Then she grabbed two mugs and the coffee pot and walked out. At the door she stopped and turned around. "Oh, and Mom?"


"Just in case Carol has to stay longer because of the weather … could you please give her another room?"

Chagrined, her mother sighed deeply, but nodded in agreement.

"Thank you," Anne said with a smile and left to find Carol. On her way to the library she had to restrain herself from checking in on Shana when she passed the door to what now seemed to be their room. The closer she came to the door, the stronger the urge to see her lover became. To just peek in, maybe touch her fleetingly or blow her a short sweet kiss … or even just smell the scent of her and their lovemaking in the room.

Feeling proud of herself and lousy at the same time, she walked past the room and entered the library next door. Carol had started a fire, which was by now flickering merrily, giving the room a warm glow and heating it up as well. The blonde was sitting on the floor, her back to the love seat, her legs stretched out before her, feet almost touching the stone fireplace. Her gaze was turned inward, and she looked as if she was miles away.

Seeing her like this, Anne suddenly got a feel for the woman that might lay beneath all that tough exterior, and she found that she was really looking forward to hearing Carol's story, to getting to know her better. Strange, that, she thought as she plopped down next to Carol after putting down the mugs and the coffee pot. Maybe Shea is rubbing off on me. Her lover had a reputation of being nice, of seeing the good in people. As long as they didn't hurt anyone she loved or cared about, Anne thought and grinned, knowing only too well that she was right on top of the list of people protected by her lover's fierce protective streak.

"Hey," she said quietly, handing the blonde a freshly poured cup of coffee.

Carol shook her head as if she was coming back up from a long stay underwater and took the mug with a small smile. "Thanks." The exchange was short, but both women felt that something between them had changed. The road ahead felt a little smoother right now, and the two women inhaled deeply, savoring the rich aroma of the coffee.

They spent a few minutes in companionable silence sipping coffee and staring into the flames before Carol began to speak again. "When we met, I wasn't really working for stadium security," she spoke into the fire. "That wasn't my style then. I was young, I was ambitious, and I had just made it into the FBI as an agent."

Anne nearly dropped her mug in surprise, so quickly did she turn around to face the blonde by her side. "You were with the FBI?" she asked incredulously. "What were you doing at the stadium all the time? Who were you after?"

Carol chuckled, enjoying the surprise on Anne's beautiful face. She took another long sip of her coffee before answering. She turned her head to look right into the deep blue eyes of the woman who had unwittingly played such a big role in her life, her career.

"You," she said, reaching out to steady Anne's hand that was threatening to drop the mug for certain right about now.


To be continued in Part 23

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