Disclaimers: These two ladies may seem familiar, especially if you read the Invitational's here at the Academy. The previous story, Just Like Old Times , came from Delaney's point of view. Here's a chance to get to know Gib a little better, and show you how they got together.
The names, persons, places and events depicted in this story are completely fictional. I worked at a State Park back in 1980, but in no way am I an expert on the Texas State Park system. So, for any inaccuracies, forgive me.
I'd love to hear from you and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Also, check out my website for stories, info, and just the heck of it – www.CarrieLCarr.com . Thanks to the Academy munchkins who do so much for us all. You are the best!
Dedication: This story is for the one woman who means everything to me – my wife, Jan. Forever and always, my love.
The early morning sun was warm against her neck, but the passing scenery was lost on Gib. She sat with her injured leg stretched out along the backseat of the Lexus and stared out the window across from her. Although she was happy to be out of the hospital, she hated knowing she'd be dependent on Delaney for an extended period of time. The week-long hospital stay had depressed her and not even her lover could bring her out of her dark mood. Gib's heavy sigh didn't go unnoticed.
“Honey? Is everything all right?” Delaney asked with a quick glance in the rear view mirror.
“Yeah, I'm fine.” Gib pasted a smile on her face. “Thanks for bringing me to the cabin. I know I can't go in, but I really appreciate you getting some of my things together.”
“It's no trouble at all. As a matter of fact, with you along, I won't be able to forget anything.”
Gib smile turned genuine. “I doubt that. The drugs they have me on make my brain fuzzy. I'm lucky I can even talk.”
“Aww.” Delaney blew her a kiss and turned her attentions back to the road. She turned onto the entrance to the park and soon parked next to Gib's truck. “I'm surprised they haven't moved your truck.”
“Clint talked me out of it,” Gib explained. “He wanted it at the office so they could keep an eye on it. He also promised to start it at least once a week.”
Delaney opened her door. “That's nice of him.” She climbed out and poked her head back into the SUV. “I'll be right back.”
Gib had to chuckle. “I'm not going anywhere.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry.” Delaney closed the door softly and headed toward the office.
As muddled as her head was, Gib still enjoyed watching her lover walk away. “She's got a nice…damn.” Her pleasure was rudely interrupted by Clint stepping outside.
Clint used his hand to block the sun and looked toward the Lexus. He grinned and waved.
Gib sighed and wriggled her fingers. “Don't come over, don't come over, don't come over,” she whispered. “Shit.”
Waving the keys in front of him, Clint sauntered to the SUV. He opened the front passenger door and stuck his head in. “How are you doing, Gib?”
“I'm all right. How are things here?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “About the same. Looks like Hoover's going to be here permanently. And I heard that Conroy finally made bail.”
Walking up behind Clint, Delaney overheard his last sentence. “Are you expecting any trouble from him?”
“Nah. He's a cowardly little pissant.” When Gib glowered at him, Clint turned to Delaney. “Pardon my language, Ms. Kavanagh. I meant no disrespect.”
She laughed. “That's quite all right, Mr. Wright.”
“Please, call me Clint.” He held out his hand, blushing when she took it.
“As long as you call me Delaney.” She pulled away, holding Gib's keys. “Slick, Clint.”
Gib laughed at the confused look on his face. “Better check for your wallet, Clint. She's quick.”
He patted his back pocket. “Still there.”
The office door opened and Kennie bounded outside. She joined the others by the vehicle. “Hey, Gib. Nice to see you out and about.”
“It's good to see you, too. How are you feeling? You're not doing too much, are you?”
“No, Mama Bear. I'm being good.” The blonde climbed onto the passenger seat and carefully patted Gib's thigh. “You're not giving your lady a hard time, are you?”
Gib opened her mouth, but Delaney's laughter stopped her from answering.
“Mama Bear? That's perfect,” the redhead giggled. “She's got you pegged, honey.”
She considered growling for effect, but Gib shook her head and grinned. “I'll have to come up with a suitable nickname for you, Kennie. Clint, don't you have something for her to do?”
“Not at the moment.”
Delaney rattled the keys. “We need to get going. We're supposed to meet someone at my place in less than an hour. But you're both welcome to stop by the apartment anytime. Right, Gib?”
“Uh, yeah. Sure. As long as it's okay with you.” Unable to stop it, Gib yawned. “Sorry, guys.”
Kennie gave her one last pat and backed out of the Lexus. “You take care of yourself.”
Clint nodded. “Don't worry about a thing. George has been itching to get out in the field, and Hoover's going to make sure he's trained right.”
“Speaking of Gloria, where is she?” Gib asked.
“She's scheduled to be in at noon. I'm sure she'll be upset that she missed you.”
Delaney snorted. “I'm sure she will.” She gave Kennie a hug. They had become well acquainted during Gib's hospital stay, and she had a soft spot for the young Ranger. “Don't be a stranger.”
“Not a chance,” Kennie assured her. “Take care of Mama Bear. She's pretty special,” Kennie whispered.
“I will.” In a louder voice, Delaney said, “Ready to go, honey?”
Fighting off a wave of lethargy, Gib nodded. As glad as she was to be out of the hospital, she couldn't wait to get to Delaney's and lie down. “Yeah. Maddy will be at your place, soon. We'd better get a move on.” She tried not to grimace as Clint slammed the door.
After a few more goodbyes, Delaney climbed into the Lexus and carefully closed her door. “Is he for real?”
“Yeah. I don't think I've ever met a guy so old-fashioned.”
From the backseat, Gib chuckled. “He's a great guy, though. And you should see how he treats his wife. She brought him lunch one day, and he walked all the way out to her car and opened the door for her. Probably one of the last gentlemen on the planet.” After the SUV hit a rough patch of road, she bit her lip.
Delaney could see the pain on her lover's face. “Are you going to make it?”
Gib took a cleansing breath. “Yeah. But I'll be glad to get settled at your apartment.”
“Me, too.” Delaney backed out of the parking space. Before long, she had them out on the highway and heading for the lake. She slowed as they turned onto the lake road. “I'm glad we repaired this road,” she muttered to herself.
“So am I,” Gib answered. “It made getting to work a hell of a lot easier.” She frowned. “Although I guess that's not going to be a problem for a while.”
Delaney slowed the SUV to a crawl. She watched the road carefully in an attempt to miss any bumps or potholes. “You can always think of it as a vacation.”
“I don't need a vacation,” Gib grumbled.
“Well, then think of it as a chance to spend some time with me.” Delaney parked in front of the cabin. “Do you have a suitcase?”
“Yeah. It's under my bed.” Gib looked down at her leg and started picking at the splint. “I, uh, don't have a lot of casual clothes. I was going to buy some new stuff once I got settled, but never got around to it. What little I have should be in my dresser.”
The redhead rolled down the window Gib faced. “Don't worry about it. If you need more things, I'll be glad to pick them up for you.” She got out of the SUV. “Give me a few minutes to play in your underwear drawer, and I'll be right back.”
Gib laughed at the silly look her lover sported. “Only you would have fun doing that.”
“Well, I'd rather play with what goes in the underwear, but,” Delaney winked, “I'll be patient.” She jogged up the steps while Gib laughed, wriggling her rear for good measure.
Slowly rising to consciousness, Jessica didn't know which was worse: her excruciating headache or the rampaging nausea. She blinked her crusty eyes open, confused when she didn't recognize the room.
“Good morning,” a much too perky voice greeted.
Jessica rolled onto her back and carefully sat up. “Where,” she croaked. After clearing her throat, she tried again. “Where am I?” With a gasp, she realized she was naked. She jerked the sheet up over her and frowned.
Gloria, dressed in her uniform, brushed the younger woman's cheek with the back of her knuckles. “You don't remember last night?”
“What did, I mean, how,” Jessica stammered. “Oh, god. Did we?”
“I should be upset.” Gloria watched her face for a reaction. “Especially since you were all over me at the bar.”
Jessica shook her head, then winced and cradled her head in her hands. “Fuck.”
“Hey, now. It's all right. You don't actually think I'd take advantage of a woman who was drunk, do you?” Gloria walked across the room to the sink area, where a coffee pot gurgled. She poured two cups and carried them back to the bed. After handing one to Jessica, she sat next to her.
“If we didn't, um,” Jessica took the coffee, “you know, then why don't I have any clothes on?” She took a cautious sip of the dark brew and made a face. “Ugh.”
Gloria also sipped her coffee, but didn't seem to mind its strength. “You really don't know, do you?”
“What's the last thing you remember?”
Jessica closed her eyes against the vertigo and swallowed the urge to vomit. “I'm not sure.” The gentle touch on her arm made her open her eyes. “Dancing.”
“Ah. Yes. That was fun, wasn't it? You were so tense, I thought a couple of drinks would help you relax. So we drank, we danced and then I asked you to come back to my room with me. Which you happily agreed to, by the way.” At Jessica's horrified look, Gloria couldn't help but laugh. “Wait, it gets better.” She drank more of her coffee, watching Jessica over the brim of the cup. “As we were leaving, a woman stopped us.”
“Oh, yeah. Darla. She's the friend who told me about Little Sisters. We went to high school together. I kind of remember seeing her.” The bitter coffee, mixed with the acid in her stomach, was more than she could bear. “I gotta—” She jumped from the bed and raced to the bathroom, barely making it before the coffee returned with a vengeance.
Gloria placed her coffee on the nightstand and followed Jessica. She wet a washcloth with cool water and stood by the tub. While Jessica continued to retch, Gloria placed the cloth against the back of her neck. “Easy, now.”
“God, just kill me now,” Jessica moaned. She gagged and spit into the toilet. “Ugh.”
“Sssh. It'll be okay.” Gloria took the towel she had draped over the curtain rod and covered Jessica's shoulders. “Let's get you back to bed.”
Jessica shivered and leaned into the strong body. “I'm such an idiot.”
“Nah.” Gloria waited while she rinsed her mouth at the sink. “Are you scheduled to work today?”
“At three. Why? What time is it?”
Gloria led her to the bed and tucked her in. “Eight-thirty. Think you'll be able to make it?”
“Yeah.” Jessica closed her eyes and sunk back into the pillow. Her eyes popped open again. “What happened after we saw Darla?”
“Well, this is where it gets kind of interesting,” Gloria sat on the edge of the bed. “She started teasing you about roaring out of the closet. Then she challenged you to a drinking contest.”
Jessica covered her eyes with her arm. “I didn't.”
“Oh, yeah. I tried to talk you out of it, but you were pretty insistent. After each round, you kissed me.” When Jessica groaned, Gloria laughed. “Very well, I might add.”
“Argh.” Jessica started to cough, then grabbed her head. “Ow.”
Gloria retrieved a glass of water. “Here. You're probably dehydrated.” She helped Jessica sit up and held her as she sipped. “Slowly.”
After she had her fill, Jessica closed her eyes as Gloria lowered her to the pillow. “Thank you.”
“Tell me more, please?”
“Are you sure?”
“After a few more shots, you stood up, thanked the bar and announced you were going to get laid.”
“Was I loud?”
The older woman laughed. “Oh, yeah. Everyone was cheering us as we left. When we got outside, you tried to get me to dance with you. Then you threw up.”
Mortified, Jessica pulled the sheet over her head. “Oh, my god.”
“You begged me not to tell your father, so I brought you here and cleaned you up.”
The sheet was lowered just enough so that Jessica's eyes were visible. “You did that for me?”
“Yeah.” Gloria shrugged and looked away. “Even an asshole like me can be nice every once in a while.” She appeared embarrassed. “I'm going to run get some breakfast, okay?” She stood and brushed the wrinkles from her pants. “Get some rest and I'll bring you something back.”
“All right.” Jessica lowered the sheet until her face was uncovered. Before Gloria could open the door, she called out to her. “Gloria?”
The older woman turned around. “Yes?”
“Don't mention it, kid.”
Jessica was too miserable to argue the kid comment. Instead, once the door closed, she covered her face again and tried to keep from throwing up.
On the sidewalk of Delaney's apartment complex, Gib and Maddy were arguing. “Maddy, stop.” Gib slapped at her friend, who dodged out of the way. “I can do this by myself.”
“I told you I was sorry.” Maddy apologized. “If you hadn't spun around so fast I wouldn't have hit your leg with the suitcase.”
“I know. And I told you it was okay.” The pain in her leg was making Gib short-tempered. “But I need to be able to get myself around without any help.”
The door opened and Delaney stepped out. “What's the problem? I've got the other stuff upstairs already.”
“Nothing,” Gib muttered. “Could you hold the door for me, please?”
Delaney opened the door wide. “Here you go.”
“Thanks.” Gib wheeled herself through, ignoring Maddy's sputtering.
Once the injured woman was out of earshot, Maddy whispered, “I feel sorry for you.”
“Why?” Delaney motioned for Maddy to precede her through the door.
“Because you have to put up with Ms. Grumpy Ass. I hope the doctor gave you some good tranquilizers. You're going to need them.”
“I heard that,” Gib said, her voice carrying across the marbled foyer.
Maddy stuck her tongue out at her friend. “I stand by my statement.”
“Ladies, please.” Delaney pushed the button for the elevator. “Every time you two get together, I feel like a referee.”
“She started it,” Maddy muttered.
“Did not,” Gib countered.
Delaney held the door open for Gib. “That's enough, children.” She giggled as the two women poked at each other and laughed.
“I'm sorry, Maddy. You're right. I've been grumpy.” Gib held her hand out toward her friend. “Forgive me?”
“Of course, you big goof.” Maddy kissed the top of Gib's head. She stood behind the wheelchair. “Now, enjoy the help while you have it.” When the door opened, she handed the suitcase to Delaney and pushed Gib forward. “Do you think you can handle her, Delaney?”
The redhead opened her apartment door and held it open for them. “I think I can manage. But I have your number on speed dial, just in case.”
“You're both so funny,” Gib crossed her arms as she was wheeled inside.
Maddy thumped her on the head. “Behave.” She stopped in the living room. “Where do you want her?”
“'Her' is capable of answering for herself,” Gib answered. She rubbed her head where she had received a second thump. “Ow. Stop that.”
“Quit your whining, Gibsy.”
Delaney could see the exhaustion that Gib was trying so hard to hide. “Honey? How about getting settled in the bedroom?”
“Sounds good.” Gib snapped her fingers and pointed. “Well? Onward, woman.”
After they had Gib tucked into bed and medicated, Maddy followed Delaney to the kitchen. “I meant what I said on the phone this morning. If you need someone to stay with Gib, let me know. I can have my brother take care of the restaurant and be here in ten minutes.” She sat at one of the bar stools while the redhead opened a cabinet.
“Thanks. I appreciate it. But I think we'll be fine.” Delaney fiddled with her coffeemaker and stood nearby as it began to percolate. “I don't have any new projects at the moment, so having her here is a blessing.”
“Well, the offer's open. Do you think it's a good idea to spend so much time together? I've known happily married couples who cracked under too much togetherness.”
Delaney poured them each a cup of coffee. “How do you take it?”
“Let's go to the living room where it's more comfortable.” Delaney led the way and they were soon seated on opposite ends of the sofa. “I appreciate your concern, Maddy. But I think we'll be fine.”
Maddy leaned back and crossed her legs. “I know you say that now. And I swear I'm not trying to butt into your relationship. I've never seen Gibs so happy. It would break my heart to see anything mess that up.”
The smile on Delaney's face widened. “Can I tell you a secret?”
Delaney turned and tucked one foot beneath her so that she was facing Maddy. “We've spent days at a time together, and it's never seemed like enough. If this hadn't happened, I was on the verge of asking her if we could move in together.”
“Yeah. Crazy thing is, I've always valued my space. I never even liked sleeping overnight with someone. But with Gib,” she sighed. “I don't know what it is about her. She makes me a better person. And I've laughed more since we've been together than I have my entire life.”
Maddy touched her knee. “I'm glad you two have such a good time. But, forgive me for asking this, is that enough? I would hate to see either one of you hurt.”
“If it was just the fun, no. It probably wouldn't be enough. But there's a deeper connection, Maddy. One that I never thought was possible.” Delaney's voice softened. “I love her with everything I am. I don't think there are words to describe it.”
“You just did,” Maddy assured her. “And it was beautiful.”
Once Maddy left, Delaney stood in the doorway of the bedroom and watched her lover sleep. Even with the dark circles of stress beneath her eyes, Gib had never been more appealing to her.
As if feeling the scrutiny, Gib murmured and stretched her arm out across the bed until her hand was on Delaney's pillow.
Unable to resist the temptation, Delaney walked across the room, removing her clothes as she went. By the time she was beside the bed, all she had left on were her shoes and socks. She sat on the edge of the bed and soon lost those as well. She scooted beneath the covers and snuggled against Gib.
“Mmm.” Gib's arm automatically encircled Delaney. Her eyes slowly opened when she realized the body beside her wasn't a dream. “Dee?”
“Hi, love.” Delaney kissed Gib's shoulder. “I'm sorry to disturb you, but I lasted as long as I could.”
Gib wearily chuckled. “Don't ever apologize for that, sweetheart. I'm glad you're here. I'm guessing Maddy's gone?”
“About five minutes ago.”
“You lasted longer than I would have,” Gib teased. She kissed her lover's head. “If I haven't mentioned it, I really appreciate you allowing me to crash here. I promise I'll be out of your hair as soon as I can.”
Delaney traced her finger along Gib's chest. The ancient, gray tee shirt she wore was soft as butter. “You know, Maddy offered to give me a ‘break' whenever I needed it.”
“Um, okay. That's nice of her.”
“I thought so, too. There's only one problem.”
Gib smiled when Delaney looked into her eyes. “Yeah?”
“Uh-huh.” The redhead raised herself to lean over Gib. “If it were up to me, you'd never leave.” She lowered her head and kissed Gib tenderly. The feel of her lover's hand in her hair spurred her on, and soon they were both panting. Delaney reluctantly pulled away. “We need to slow down.”
“Why?” Gib asked, tugging her forward again.
“Your leg.” After being kissed senseless, Delaney gasped and pressed her forehead to Gib's chest. “You're going to kill me.”
“Yeah, but what a way to go. Come here.”
Chapter Twenty Two
Gloria signed her name to the log sheet and gave George a nod. “How's it been this morning?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “About the same. Things won't heat up until after the Fourth of July. Then we get truckloads of people.” He motioned with his head for her to come closer. “Um, listen. It's none of my business, but maybe you should be careful.”
“About what?” She leaned on the counter and propped her chin in her hand.
“I overheard Jessica on the phone to someone earlier, and she's, uh,” his voice lowered, “she was going on and on about you.”
Gloria straightened up and frowned. “You're right. It's none of your business.”
“Look, she's just a kid. A young, impressionable kid. And you're—”
“Old enough to know what I'm doing,” she finished for him. “She's an adult and can make her own decisions. So back off.”
George held up his hands. “All right. I just thought you should know, before she moves in with you.”
“Apparently she's in love. At least that's what she told her friend on the phone.”
The blonde's face turned a sickly shade of white. “Love? But we didn't, we haven't, uh, shit.”
“Well, whatever you've done, be careful. Up until now she was mooning over Gib. But more like a crush. I think she's serious with you.”
“Fuck.” Gloria flipped her hair over her shoulder. “That's what I get for being nice.” It had been a week since that night at the bar, and she had purposely avoided the younger woman since then.
“Gloria?” Clint called from his office door. “Could you come in here, please?”
She turned and fought the urge to curse again. “Sure. Be right there.” After Clint disappeared into his office, Gloria tapped the counter. “Thanks for the warning, George.”
He nodded. “Good luck.”
Like a woman headed for the gallows, Gloria walked slowly to Clint's office. She stood at the door. “What's up?”
“Could you come in and close the door, please?” Clint asked from behind the desk.
Gloria did as he requested and sat in the chair across from him. “Is there a problem?”
“No, not at all. I got a memo from Austin. With Gib out for months and Dan awaiting trial, you've been assigned here indefinitely.”
“What about my request? I was promised a post closer to a big city if I took this temporary assignment. And I'm tired of living in a motel room. Don't they understand what an inconvenience this is for me?”
Clint nodded. “I'm sure they do. It's not permanent. But we had no way of knowing that Gib would be laid up for months. If you're just patient—”
“Patient? I'm bored out of my mind! Nothing against you or the park, but Benton isn't even a blip on the radar. I have to go across the county line just to buy a bottle of wine. There are only four bars and at least three dozen churches. How screwed up is that?”
“Hey, I totally understand. I thought the same thing when I was first assigned here. But after a few years, Benton's grown on me. Maybe it will you, too.”
She shook her head. “Not likely. I need more stimulation than a rodeo or garden club can give. In Austin, there was always an art show or theater to go to. Here, it's big news when the high school has a play.” She slapped her hands on the chair arms. “I can't stay here, Clint. I'll go crazy.”
“All right. Let me see what I can do. Would you be okay with the assignment until Gib returns? We really need a senior Ranger or Officer around. George has another year of classes before he's qualified.”
“Damn.” Gloria lowered her head into her hands. “I don't have much choice, do I?”
“Not really. I'm sorry.” Clint shuffled through the papers on his desk. “We have another rental cabin by the lake that will be available in a month. Can you hold out until then?”
She raised her head. “A month? I suppose so. I haven't been able to find a furnished apartment that allows for month-to-month rent, so I guess I'm stuck.”
“Maybe something will turn up sooner,” Clint offered helpfully. “Have you talked to Gib? Since she's staying in town, maybe you can use her place.”
Gloria chuckled. “Oh, yeah. I'm sure that would go over real well. Especially with Red.”
Clint's mouth formed a small o. “I hadn't thought of that. But why would it bother her?”
“You don't listen to the office gossip, do you?”
He shook his head. “I wasn't aware there was any office gossip.”
“Gibson and I dated when we were both posted near Austin.” She eyeballed him. “You really had no clue?”
“No. Why should I? As long as it doesn't affect your work, it's really none of my business.”
Her laugh surprised him. “Clint, you're an unusual guy. Nice, but unusual.” Gloria stood and adjusted her duty belt. “Is that all?”
“Uh, yeah.” He scratched his head as she left, still laughing.
Delaney put the finishing touches on an email before standing and stretching. She checked her watch. “Damn. I've been in here for hours and it's past lunchtime. Poor Gib's probably starving by now.” She shut down her laptop and headed for the kitchen. “Gib?” Not hearing an answer, she stepped into the living room. “Honey?”
She caught a motion out of the corner of her eye and turned toward the sliding glass doors to the patio. “Ah-ha. There you are.” She made her way over and opened the doors. “Hi.”
Gib turned her head and smiled. “Hey there, beautiful. How's it going?”
“I was going to ask you the same thing.” Delaney edged around the wheelchair. She sat in the plastic lawn chair she had recently bought so they could sit outside together in the evenings. “Are you okay?”
“Sure.” Gib held up a book that was in her lap. “Been doing a little reading. There's a nice breeze today.” The week out of the hospital had returned her normal, tanned coloring and erased the lines of pain around her eyes and mouth. Her light, brown eyes held a sparkle as she grinned at her lover. “Did you get caught up?”
Delaney returned the grin. “Mostly. Are you hungry?”
“I could eat,” Gib remarked, as her stomach grumbled its displeasure. “What time is it?”
“Around two. I totally lost track of time. I'm sorry.”
Gib maneuvered the chair so that she could see Delaney without twisting. “Hey, don't worry about it. I was enjoying the day and didn't think about it. Need some help in the kitchen?”
Delaney stood. “Are you up to a field trip? We could always go surprise Maddy.”
“That could be fun.” Gib wheeled through the door that Delaney opened. “Thanks.” She followed her into the living room. “I'll buy, since you've cooked for me all week.”
After gathering her purse and keys, Delaney held open the front door. “Sounds fair to me. But I'm warning you, officer. I'm going to order dessert.”
“Mmm. Flan,” Gib moaned. She grabbed her wallet from the table near the door. “Would you mind carrying this in your purse for me? I don't seem to have any pockets.” She was wearing a pair of sweats with one leg cut off and a navy blue law enforcement tee shirt.
“Sure.” Delaney took the black leather wallet. “You trust me with your credit cards?”
Gib laughed as she headed toward the elevator. “I don't have any. Just a debit card. So you're out of luck.” Once they were inside the elevator, she took Delaney's hand. “But if I did, yes. I'd trust you completely.”
After the doors opened, Delaney pushed Gib into the foyer. She waved at the older woman sitting behind the desk. “Good afternoon, Theresa.”
“Good afternoon, Delaney, Gib.” The concierge met Gib earlier in the week, when the officer had wheeled downstairs to get Delaney's mail. “We've got a good chance for thunderstorms this afternoon, just so's you know.”
Gib nodded. “I saw that on the news this morning. Do you think the weatherman got it right this time?”
“I sure hope so. My garden needs it,” Theresa lamented. “You two have a nice afternoon.”
Delaney held the outside door open for her lover. “You too, Theresa.” Once they were on the sidewalk, she patted Gib's shoulder. “Why don't you wait here for me? It'll be easier to get you into the car.”
“All right.” Gib watched her lover's backside as Delaney walked away. “Shake it like you mean it,” she hollered, getting a one-fingered salute in retaliation. The cell phone clipped to the waistband of her sweatpants rang, and she was still laughing when she answered. “Proctor.”
“Hey, Gib. How's it hanging?” Roger asked. He was making loud chewing noises, obviously eating.
She rolled her eyes. “I'm doing pretty well, thanks.” The Lexus parked next to the curb and she waved to Delaney.
“Good, good. Hey, I heard a good one in the breakroom today.” He related an extremely nasty joke with two lesbian protagonists. “Get it? In the garden?”
“Roger, I've asked you not to tell my that kind of crap. I don't think it's funny.”
“You're a prude, Gib. The coaches who told it thought it was funny.” Roger smacked as he continued to eat his lunch. “You missed a good time at Six Flags. Saw some pretty hot babes in tank tops. Just your speed.”
Gib waited while Delaney opened the back door for her. “You know, Roge, just because you're a dog in heat, doesn't mean everyone else is. I've got to go. Bye.” She turned her phone off, in case he decided to call back.
“Who was that?” Delaney asked, seeing Gib upset. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah. Let me get inside and I'll tell you.” Gib wheeled to the SUV and flicked on the chair brakes. With Delaney's help, she rose to stand on her good leg and turned to sit on the seat. Using her arms, she pulled herself across the seat until she was sitting behind the driver, with her injured leg stretched out. “Whew. That was a workout.”
Delaney loaded the wheelchair into the back and got behind the steering wheel shortly after Gib was settled. “Maybe I should rent a van.”
“Nah. How would I get my exercise?” Gib joked. “Don't worry about it. If things go well, maybe I can get a walking cast in a few more weeks. Then I can sit up there with you like a grownup.”
“Does that mean you'd have to act like one?”
Gib stuck her tongue out at her lover, who watched her in the rear view mirror.
“You just proved my point,” the redhead crowed. As she pulled out of the parking lot, she asked, “Who was it on the phone that upset you?”
“Roger. Usually he only calls me when he wants something, but today he had a dirty lesbian joke he just had to share.”
Delaney stopped at a red light and turned her head. “Does he do that often?”
“Not as much as he used to. I asked him to stop, but he thinks he's funny. It's not a big deal.” Gib tapped on the headrest. “Green light.”
“Thanks.” Something had been bothering Delaney since she met the Proctors. “Honey? Can I ask you a question?”
Gib nodded. “Sure.”
“You don't have much in common with anyone in your family, do you?”
“No, not really. Mom doted on Roger constantly, and now lives for his kids. My dad always had these certain expectations for me. I think I disappointed him when I didn't go to law school. He's always told me that I haven't lived up to my potential.” Gib looked out the window. “Maybe he's right.”
Delaney frowned. “You don't really believe that, do you?”
“Sometimes,” was the quiet answer.
“Well, I think he's full of shit.”
Gib couldn't help but grin at her lover's anger. “Now you see where my brother gets it.”
“Isn't that the damned truth,” Delaney muttered. “Do you like what you do?”
“Yeah. I enjoy being outdoors, and I've always wanted to be in law enforcement. I thought it was the best of both worlds.”
Delaney pulled into the parking lot of Rodrigo's. “Then don't let a bitter old man ruin it for you.”
“Don't worry, I won't.”
“Good.” Delaney got out of the Lexus, took the wheelchair from the back and helped Gib out. “Let's go pig out. I'm starving.” She glanced around. Seeing they were the only ones outside, she leaned down and kissed Gib lightly on the lips. “I love you, Officer Proctor.”
Gib brushed her fingers across Delaney's cheek. “I love you, too. Come on, I hear fajitas and flan calling us.”
After a long, hot day at the park, Gloria had been in the motel room for less than fifteen minutes when there was a knock on the door. Barefoot and with her uniform shirt unbuttoned, she looked through the peep hole. “Damn it.”
Another knock. “Gloria?”
“Fuck.” Gloria slid the chain off the door and opened it. “Jessica. What do you want?”
“Can I come in?”
Gloria backed away and motioned for her to enter. “What are you doing here?”
“I haven't seen you all week.” Still in uniform as well, Jessica stood close to Gloria and ran her fingers down the older woman's bare stomach. “I've missed you.” Her hands were grabbed and she frowned. “We never got to finish what we started.”
Jessica jerked her hands free and stepped away. “But, I thought you liked me.”
“I do, Jess. That's why we can't do this.” Gloria buttoned her shirt, but didn't tuck it in. “Why don't you sit down?”
With a sultry smile, Jessica stretched out across the bed. She raised her arms over her head. “How's this?”
Gloria closed her eyes and silently prayed for strength. Although her ego was flattered by the attention, her seldom heard from conscience overruled. “That's not exactly what I had in mind.” She took a seat in the chair across the room. “What happened last week was a mistake, Jess. We have to see each other every day at work. I don't think getting into a relationship is a good idea.”
“But, at the bar,” Jessica sniffled, as she rolled to a upright position. “You danced with me.” She wrapped her arms around her knees. “You kissed me.”
“Yeah, I know.” Gloria lowered her head. “I wasn't thinking very clearly. We'd both had a lot to drink, and the music, the lights.” She sighed and covered her face with her hands.
Jessica got off the bed. “So, you don't love me?”
The blonde's head snapped up. “Love? What the hell gave you that idea?”
“Well, the way you treated me.” Jessica sat on the bed. “I talked to Darla, and she said that since you didn't sleep with me, it meant you must have loved me too much to take advantage of me.”
Gloria felt like tearing her hair out. Instead, she moved to sit beside Jessica. “Jess, I do care for you.” She put her arm around the younger woman's shoulders. “But as a friend.” She softened her voice. “I'm sorry.”
Jessica began to cry in earnest and she rested her head on Gloria's upper arm. “You must think I'm the biggest idiot in the world.”
“No, not at all.” Gloria pulled her into her lap. She stroked the dark head while Jessica continued to sob. “Sssh. It's going to be okay,” she murmured.
“But I love you,” Jessica bawled, clutching Gloria's shirt. “I love you so much.”
Although she felt as if she had been kicked in the stomach, Gloria kept her composure. “No, hon. You don't. All we had was a night of dancing in a dark, smoky bar. That's not enough to fall in love, trust me.”
Jessica raised her head and looked at her tearfully. “But I do.”
Gloria wiped the younger woman's face with her fingertips. “Can I ask you a question?”
“You said before that you'd never been with a woman. Have you been with a man?” The flush on Jessica's face was all the answer she needed. “That's nothing to be ashamed of.”
Jessica lowered her face. “I don't want to be a virgin for the rest of my life.”
“You won't,” Gloria assured her. “But don't let it be someone you picked up in a bar. Wait for someone special.” She kissed the top of Jessica's head. “I'd like to be your friend, if that's possible.”
“Really?” Jessica sat up and wiped her face with the palms of her hands. “Even with me being a stupid kid?”
Gloria laughed. “I'll give you the kid part. But you're far from stupid.” She brushed the hair away from Jessica's eyes. “Let's go get something to eat. I'm starving.”
Jessica nodded. “Me too.” She gave the older woman a hug. “Thanks.”
Since she couldn't get her leg wet, Gib sat in the living room watching the news while Delaney took a shower. When the intercom buzzed, she wheeled over and answered. “Hello?”
“Hi, this is the concierge. We have someone down here that's requesting access.”
“Who is it?” Gib asked.
The concierge, a young man by the name of Alan, cleared his throat. “Um, she said, 'just tell Laney to let me come up.' I'm sorry, ma'am. She won't give her name.”
Gib had a pretty good idea who it was. “I'll be right down. Thanks, Alan.” She rolled to the living room and picked up Delaney's keys. It wasn't easy, but she was able to get through the door and to the elevator.
When the elevator door opened into the foyer, Gib's notion was confirmed. Standing next to the concierge desk was a slender, dark-haired woman, who turned toward the elevator. Gib slowly wheeled herself into the foyer. “Thank you for contacting us, Alan.”
“Sure, Gib. Let me know if I can do anything else.” He pointed to the phone and mouthed the word 'police'. He looked concerned when she shook her head.
Chris glared at Gib. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I think it's obvious,” Gib replied. She pointed to a waiting area to the left. “Why don't we sit over there where it's quiet?”
“I want to talk to Laney.” Chris followed the wheelchair and plopped onto a black leather loveseat. “I know she's home because I saw her SUV in the parking lot.”
Gib rolled closer, but kept her injured leg out of Chris' reach. “I understand you're upset. But you need to move on.”
“Upset? Did you know that because of you, I have to do fifty hours of community service? I've been getting up at dawn and picking up garbage beside the road. Fucking garbage!” Chris stood over Gib. “Laney's mine!”
“She's her own person, Chris. And you were given community service because you attacked me. You're lucky they didn't put you in the county jail.” Gib refused to be cowered by the woman, who stood over her with her fists clenched. “And just in case you've forgotten, I'll tell you again. I'm a licensed peace officer in the state of Texas. You could have been imprisoned for years in the state penitentiary for assault on a police officer.”
Chris looked as if she was about to explode. “Fuck that!” She grabbed the armrests of the wheelchair and got into Gib's face. “You stole my girlfriend, bitch!”
Gib smiled and took hold of one of Chris' thumbs. She bent it at an unnatural angle, causing the younger woman to howl and drop to her knees beside the wheelchair. “I think I've been pretty nice to you so far, Chris. But if you ever bother Delaney again, I'll make you sorry you were ever born.”
“Aaah! Let go of me!” Chris cried.
“I want you to promise to leave us alone. Can you do that?”
Chris slapped at the wheelchair with her free hand. “Stop! Please!” Her head went closer to the ground when Gib put more pressure on her thumb. “Okay! Okay! I promise!”
With a rough shove, Gib released the hold she had on Chris' thumb. She unlocked her brakes and kept on her guard, in case Chris tried anything. “I think you need to leave.”
Chris stayed on her knees and cradled her hand to her chest. “What do you think Laney's going to say when she finds out what you did to me?”
“I'd say, 'you'd better be glad it was her, and not me, or you'd be needing a doctor',” Delaney called out from where she had stepped out of the elevator. Dressed in sandals, shorts and a tee shirt, her hair was still wet from her shower. She moved to stand behind Gib's chair, where she put her hands on her lover's shoulders. “Are you all right, honey?”
“Yeah. Chris was just leaving. Weren't you?” Gib said, moving the wheelchair closer to the woman on the floor.
Still cradling her hand, Chris got to her feet and backed away from Gib. “I loved you, Laney.”
“No, Chris. You wanted to own me. That's not love.” Delaney squeezed Gib's shoulders. “I know what love is, now. Please go.”
Chris looked at the two women for a long moment. She lowered her eyes, and with a slight nod, turned and walked away.
Once Chris had gone, Delaney moved to kneel beside Gib's chair. “When I noticed you had left, I came down to see what was going on. I'm glad I did.” She caressed her lover's face. “Are you all right?”
Gib caught her hand and lovingly kiss the palm. “More than all right.” At the sound of Alan clearing his throat, she laughed.
Delaney stood and pushed Gib toward the elevators. “Do me a favor, Alan?”
“If that woman comes in again, call the police and report her as a trespasser. Her name is Christie Fannin, and she has no business with us.”
He nodded and wrote it down. “I'll pass it along, Ms. Kavanagh. But I think she's learned her lesson. Nice move, Gib.” He pulled a wooden baseball bat out from under the counter. “I was about to help when you took her down. That was awesome.”
Gib chuckled. “Thanks. Glad to know you had my back.” She waved as Delaney pushed her into the elevator. “Have a good night, Alan.”
As they rode the elevator up, Delaney released a heavy sigh.
“Are you okay?” Gib asked. She tried to turn in the chair to see her lover's face.
Delaney patted her shoulder. “I'm disgusted with myself for ever hooking up with her.” The elevator door opened and she pushed Gib's chair out.
Once they were in the apartment, Gib followed her into the bedroom. “She had to have some redeeming qualities, at least at one point.”
“I thought so, at first.” Delaney sat on the bed and took off her sandals. “She's the cousin of a guy at our company, and he set us up on a blind date. She was so attentive and sweet. I was actually flattered by all the phone calls. She'd call and tell me good morning, then call me at lunch and tell me how much she missed me. It was a nice change of pace from my previous girlfriend.”
Gib moved closer until she was aligned sideways next to the redhead. She took Delaney's hand and held it gently. “I'm sorry.”
Delaney kissed Gib's hand. “Thank you. After a while, I only stayed with Chris because I didn't want to start dating again. I never really loved her, although I did care for her. But for the last couple of months of the relationship, I did everything I could to avoid spending time with her.” She looked away. “I'm such a self-absorbed bitch. I don't know how you can stand to be in the same room with me.”
“Dee,” Gib tugged on her hand, “look at me.” She waited until she had her lover's full attention. “I love you. All of you. And I completely understand staying in a relationship like that. I stuck with Gloria for years, hoping that she'd change. But she didn't. She wanted me to change to fit her ideal, and that wasn't going to happen, either. So we're all guilty of holding on too long. It's not the worst thing in the world. And we all survived. Chris will, too.”
“How did you get so smart?” Delaney tearfully asked.
Gib grinned. “I hooked up with a pretty redhead. She seems to bring out the best in me.” We she saw the tears trail down her lover's face, she held out her arms. “Come here, sweetheart.”
Delaney carefully crawled onto Gib's lap and tucked her head against her shoulder. “I love you so much, Gib. Please don't ever let me hurt you like that.”
“As long as we keep talking to each other, that's not going to happen, Dee.” Gib kissed her on the forehead. “All you have to do is tell me when you're tired of me.”
The laugh that escaped her lips turned into a half-sob. “Oh, god. That will never happen. But I don't think I'd survive if you quit loving me.”
Gib used her finger under Delaney's chin to raise her face. Once they were looking into each other's eyes, she said, “You have nothing to worry about, sweetheart. I love you with everything that I am, and that's never going to change.” She wiped the tears from the redhead's face. “Do you believe me?”
Delaney stared into those warm, brown eyes and could feel her heart almost burst from the love she received. “I do.” She hooked her hand behind Gib's head and pulled it forward, putting everything she had into the kiss. “I love you, too. And I always will.”
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