Heart's Resolve

By Carrie Carr

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 cbzeer@yahoo.com . 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.

Part 4

Chapter Seven

The black Lexus parked in front of the one story, ranch-style house. Delaney turned to Gib, who had a frown on her face. "What's the matter?"

"My brother's here."

"Is that a problem?"

Gib shook her head. "Probably not. I just wasn't in the mood to entertain him."

"Let me take you home, then. I know you said you felt better, but you still look worn out."

"No, we're here. Come on, I'll introduce you to my family. Although I'm going to apologize in advance for them." Gib took a deep breath to strengthen her resolve before she opened her door.

Delaney quickly exited the vehicle and joined her friend to walk up the paved path to the front door. She stood quietly by as Gib opened the door and poked her head in.

"Knock, knock," Gib called loudly, holding the door open wide and motioning for Delaney to go before her. They stood in the entry hall and listened. "Sounds like they're in the kitchen. Come on." Gib rested her hand against the small of Delaney's back and led her into cramped living room. Two mismatched sofas, a recliner, end tables and a coffee table filled the small space. A large flat-screen television was on, its animated program playing to the empty room.

Voices in the nearby kitchen were fighting for dominance. Two children, a man and a woman were all speaking over each other, each trying to be heard.

"Mom, I'm telling you. This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal. You could make a lot of money, with just a small investment."

"Daddy, Daddy, Trevor won't let me watch my Disney movie."

"Grandma, tell Morgan to quit bothering me. You said I could watch Spongebob."

"I don't know why you think I'm made of money, Roger. You'll have to talk to your father about your idea."

Gib stood in the doorway of the kitchen, while Delaney cautiously stayed behind her. The only person who noticed them was the two year old in the high chair, waving his hands wildly.

"Bib! Bib!"

"Hey, kiddo." Gib hurried to the table to keep her nephew from falling out of the chair. She ignored the gooey animal crackers he had squished between his fingers and pulled him into her arms. "How are you doing, buddy?"

"Bib, Bib," he continued to chatter.

Delaney stood beside her. "Wow, he's adorable."

"Isn't he? This is my nephew, Chase."

Ida finally noticed the new arrivals. "Gibson, it's good to see you." She walked to her daughter and gave her a one-armed hug. Eyeing Delaney she asked, "And who's this?"

"Mom, this is my friend, Delaney Kavanagh. She's going to give me a ride back to the lake, so I can get my truck." Gib laughed as Chase tried to feed her some of his cookie. "Thanks."

"Yum, Bib." Chase pushed the goo toward his aunt's lips.

Delaney held out her hand. "It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Proctor."

"Nice to meet you, too." Slender and not quite five and a half feet tall, Ida pulled herself up to her full height. Her brown eyes were clear from behind the wire framed glasses she wore. Her gray, wavy hair was cut short in an easy to care for style. She brushed her hands down the front of her pale knit top and navy slacks. "I wish you would have called and told us you were bringing company, Gibson. I would have been dressed better."

"You look fine, Mom." Gib nodded to her brother, who was leaning against the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee in his hand. "Roger."

"Gib." He raised his mug in salute. Roger was about the same height as Gib, but slender where she was stocky. His blonde hair was thinning, and a pot belly showed his lack of physical activity. His teeth were crooked and stained, from the cigarettes he thought no one knew he smoked in secret. "From the way Mom talked, I thought you'd still be in the hospital. You were supposedly on death's door."

She shook her head. "I'm fine."

Ida stared at her. "Did you sleep in your clothes?"

"I may have napped in them." Gib moved her head away when Chase tried to touch the bandage on her forehead. "Chase, no."

"Aunt Gib," the blonde little girl tugged at Gib's shorts. "Make Trevor put in my movie."

Trevor left his father's side and started for the door. "It's my turn to watch TV, Morgan." He ignored his aunt and Delaney as he returned to the living room. Morgan trailed behind him.

"I wanna watch my movie," Morgan whined.

Delaney stared after the boy. With his imperial attitude, he looked and sounded like the man on the other side of the kitchen. The thought wasn't a compliment. Some of Maddy's comments started to make more sense to her.

"You look horrible," Ida scolded her daughter. "You should lie down." She held out her hands. "Here, I'll take Chase."

"No, no, no," Chase babbled. He hung onto Gib's shirt with both hands.

Gib kissed his sweaty hair. "Go to Grandma, handsome." She handed him off to Ida, who tsked and took him to the kitchen sink.

"I swear, you're wearing more of that cookie than you ate." She set him on the counter and used a damp paper towel to wipe him clean.

There was one person missing, as far as Gib could tell. "Where's Ann?" she asked her brother.

His answer was the same as always. "She's got a migraine, so I brought the kids over here to visit Mom." His wife tended to get her headaches whenever the children were out of school. He tapped his head and looked at hers. "Concussion?"

"No, I don't think so. Just a bump." Gib put her hands in her pockets. "Um, Delaney? This is my brother, Roger. He's a teacher a Benton Junior High."

Roger winked at Delaney. "Assistant counselor and teacher of American History," he bragged. "Nice to meet you, Delaney. You're a friend of my sister's, huh?"

Delaney nodded. "I am. It's nice to meet you." She didn't offer to shake his hand, since he made no move to cross the kitchen. "And as her friend, I think I'll take her home. She needs her rest."

Gib turned to the redhead. "I do?"

Her brother placed his coffee cup on the counter and moved closer. "So, are you a friend like Maddy, or a closer friend?" He waggled his eyebrows.

"Shut up, Roger," Gib warned.

Not concerned with Roger, Delaney moved closer to Gib and wrapped her fingers around Gib's arm. "Let's get you home."

Roger grinned. "Ahh. I see." He pulled out a kitchen chair and sat. "I saw the news last night. You guys made a real mess at the lake. I hear they may close it to watercraft for the rest of the week."

Gib shrugged but didn't say anything.

"So, what happened? Did you see a hot babe in a bikini and lose track of where you were? There were plenty of them for the news cameras. Hell, I might have crashed, too."

Ida handed Chase to his father. "That's enough, Roger. Gibson, you're not leaving so soon, are you? Your father should be home from work in another hour or two."

Gib closed her eyes momentarily. "I'll try to get back over this weekend, okay?"

"I suppose. Are you coming to Trevor's baseball game Saturday morning? I think it's at ten." Ida sat at the table with her son. "Isn't that right, Roger?"

"I think so."

"I'm not sure what my schedule looks like, Mom. I'll let you know after I go in to work tomorrow morning." Gib turned when she felt Delaney's fingers dig into her arm. "What?"

Delaney shook her head. "Nothing."

"Back to work?" Roger asked. "You can't be serious." Before he sounded too concerned for his sister's welfare, he continued, "You aren't being suspended for the accident?"

"Not that I'm aware of. But I haven't talked to Clint, yet." She took the second squeeze on her arm as a hint. "We've got to run. I'll call you tomorrow, okay, Mom?"

Ida sighed. "Of course. But you're both invited to stay for dinner. I think we're ordering pizza, since that's what the kids like the most."

The thought of eating the cold cardboard that they got from a nearby pizza delivery place gave Gib a nauseous feeling. "Um, thanks, but no. I think I'll go on home and get some rest."

"If that's what you want to do." Ida allowed. "It was nice to meet you, Delaney."

"Thank you, Mrs. Proctor. It was nice to meet you, too."

Roger turned toward them and put one arm over the back of his chair. "Come over anytime, Delaney." The flirtatious tone in his voice belied the fact that he was married.

Before Delaney could tear into her brother, Gib turned to leave. "We'll be seeing you," she said, mainly to her mother. "Bye." She led Delaney out before the redhead could say anything to Roger.

Once they had closed the front door behind them, Delaney growled. "I know he's your brother, but-"

"Yeah, Roger's an ass. I'm sorry about that." Gib followed Delaney to the Lexus. "He thinks he's god's gift to women."

Delaney laughed. "With that belly and those teeth? Not hardly. Even if I wasn't a lesbian, I wouldn't give him the time of day." She turned her head and studied Gib. "Were you adopted? Because other than the hair and eye color, you don't look like either of them."

"I often wondered that myself," Gib admitted as the got into the SUV. Roger and Mom favor each other a lot. I'm more like my dad. Except his hair was darker when he was younger."

The car was started and Delaney pulled away from the curb. "Was it true what you told them? That you're planning on going back to work tomorrow?"

"I don't know. I do need to call my boss, but I don't know if he's going to want me there, or not."

"What do you mean?"

Gib sighed and relaxed against the leather seat. "Maybe Roger was right. For all I know, he's going to suspend me or fire me. The accident was my fault."

"Like hell it was. I saw the news, and I read the report in the paper. Did you?"


"According to the paper, which got its information from 'Park Manager Clint Wright', it was an unfortunate accident, brought on by someone driving their recreational boat too fast. He said, and I quote, 'Only the quick actions of my staff kept it from being worse.'."

Gib turned her head. "He said that?"




It was after five in the afternoon when Delaney parked next to Gib's truck. She kept the engine running, hoping not to wake her passenger. But as soon as the SUV stopped moving, Gib moaned and opened her eyes.

"Damn. I'm sorry I fell asleep." She sat up and rubbed her face. "Thanks for the ride."

"Sure." Delaney watched her friend gather her things. "Do you mind if I follow you up to your cabin? It would make me feel better to see you get settled."

Gib gave her a tired smile. "Sure. I'll see you in a minute." She took her holster and belt with her and got out of the Lexus.

Delaney waited until Gib's truck was headed away from the dock before she backed up and followed. She smiled proudly as the Lexus had no trouble navigating the narrow road, which her crew had evened out well.

The Ford pickup was parked not far from the front porch, and Delaney eased her vehicle behind it. She got out the same time as Gib, and hurried to catch up. "Nice road," she joked.

"It is, isn't it? I'm going to have to thank your brother," Gib returned, flinching as her arm was lightly slapped. "Kidding." There was an envelope taped to the door and she took it down and tucked it beneath her arm. She finally got the door unlocked and held it open. "After you."

"Thank you." Delaney walked in front of her.

Gib tossed her keys on the table by the door. She placed her holster on the kitchen bar. "Would you like something to drink?"

"No, thank you. I'm fine." Curious about the envelope, Delaney asked, "Are you going to open it?"

"Huh? Oh. Yeah." Gib carefully tore the envelope open and pulled out a note. She glanced over it, nodding.

Delaney waited as long as she could stand. "Well?"

"It's from Clint. He said they got me a new phone and it's at the office. I can pick it up tomorrow when I come in to work."

"So, you really are going back to work tomorrow?" She had hoped that Gib had changed her mind.

"Of course." Gib placed the note on the bar next to her holster. "Why wouldn't I?"

The redhead moved closer. "Maybe, just maybe, you should take another day or two off. You were almost killed yesterday."

"Nah. Besides, they're shorthanded right now and it's hectic."

Delaney sighed. "Hectic or not, I don't think you should rush back so soon."

"I'm fine."

"God! You are the most pig-headed, stubborn woman I've ever known! You're not the only person who can work. I'm sure there are enough people around here to give you another day off, if you ask."

Gib frowned. "But I'm the only licensed peace officer here. It's Spring Break, when all the kids seem to lose their minds. Underage drinking, sneaking into the park after hours, crazy pranks. And I still haven't found whoever is responsible for hunting out of season."

Delaney threw her hands up. "Aargh! You make me crazy!"


"Don't 'Dee' me, Gib. Damn it!" Delaney felt like shaking Gib. She pointed to the bandage that stood out against the officer's tanned skin. "That could have been a lot worse. You could be the one in the hospital, or," her voice choked and she stared at the floor.

Gib put her arms around Delaney. "Look at me."

Delaney struggled to break free. "No."

"Come on, Dee. Look at me, please." Gib's voice was soft. "Look."

Delaney raised her head and looked into Gib's eyes. They were clear, no longer full of pain.

"I'm really okay." Gib's hands moved up Delaney's arms until she was holding the redhead's face tenderly. "And I'll be extra careful, I promise." She lowered her face and covered Delaney's lips with her own.

When they finally broke apart to breathe, Delaney tightened her fist in Gib's shirt. "It's hard to stay mad at you when you can kiss like that."

Gib grinned. "All part of my plan, beautiful." She leaned her head against Delaney's and sighed. "Thanks for letting me crash at your place, and for taking care of me."

"I'm glad you came." Delaney raised her face. "Do me a favor?"

"What's that?"

The redhead lightly touched above the bandage. "No more of these for a while, please?"

"I'll do my best." Unable to fight it, Gib yawned. "Sorry. It's not the company."

"I know." After a short peck on the lips, Delaney backed away. "I'm going to leave so you can get some rest. Call me when you get your new phone?"

Gib nodded. "You'll be the first person I call," she guaranteed. "Maybe for a dinner date?"

"Sure." Delaney knew if she didn't leave now, she'd end up following Gib to bed. "Call me," she repeated, before she closed the door behind her.


The drive back to town was quiet. Delaney didn't bother with the radio, instead going over in her mind the events of the past few days. She barely knew Gib, yet couldn't get the woman out of her mind. Their time together was filled with so many emotions that she was partially afraid of what would happen if their relationship grew more serious. She had to laugh at that thought. "I think I'm already past the point of being able to stop."

Delaney considered her feelings. "Is it possible to fall so hard and so fast for someone?" she muttered. "And is Gib for real? Opening doors, being so considerate. Does anyone really do things like that anymore?" She stared ahead, where she could see the city of Benton take shape. "If she's so great, why hasn't someone snatched her up by now?"

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of her cell phone ringing. "I bet she left the minute I did, just to get her phone." With a big smile on her face, Delaney dug the phone out of her purse and answered. "Hey."

"Who was that woman?"


The angry voice on the other end of the line got angrier. "I saw you with a woman."

"Are you following me?" Delaney looked in her rear view mirror as she asked the question. The road was deserted.

"No. Who was she? Is she the reason you broke up with me? Am I not good enough for you anymore?"

Delaney crossed into the city limits and tried to keep calm. "You know very well why I broke up with you, Chris."

"Yeah, right. 'Cause you thought you were such hot shit, and I was just some trash you felt sorry for."

"That's not true, Chris. When your brother first introduced us, I thought we had fun. Didn't we?" Chris' brother, Ray, worked for Kavanagh Construction, and when he found out Delaney was gay, thought his sister would be a good match for her. He introduced them at a company picnic, and they had hit it off. Delaney drove past the entrance to her apartment complex, on the off chance Chris was waiting for her.

Chris' voice broke. "Ray thought you'd be good for me." She cleared her throat. "You're not going to fire him, are you?"

"Of course not. My father hired Ray, and he's a great guy. Why would we fire him?"

"You used to think I was great, too," Chris whined. "And then you dumped me, for no reason."

Delaney was quickly losing her temper. "I broke up with you because you were overly possessive and tried to control me."

"So, you picked up some Mexican? You really decided to slum, didn't you?"

"What in the hell are you babbling about, Chris? What Mex-" Delaney suddenly realized that Chris had seen Maddy, not Gib. "She's just a friend. Not that it's any of your business who I see. And for the record, she has more class in her little finger than you'll ever have." She hung up and tossed her phone onto the passenger seat. "Why on earth did I spend almost a year with that crazy woman? I need to have my head examined."


Gib wandered around her cabin after Delaney left. Although tired, she couldn't seem to get her brain to stop. The fiery redhead was fun to tease and gave as good as she got. "She's a damned good kisser, too."

She walked into her bedroom and looked at the bed. "Nah." She went to the closet and removed a pair of jeans and a blue golf shirt. After quickly changing clothes, she left the cabin and headed for the park office.

In no time at all, Gib drove through the open gate that marked the entrance to the Benton State Park. She parked in the last available "official vehicles only" spot and stepped into the office. She gave a wave to George, the ranger at the counter, who was busy explaining the park rules to a family of six. Coming to a closed door, she tapped lightly.

"Come in," Clint yelled.

Gib opened his door and stepped into his office, closing it quietly behind her. "Looks busy out there."

Clint looked up with something akin to relief in his eyes. "Boy, am I glad to see you. How are you doing?"

"I'm okay." Gib sat in one of the guest chairs. "I'm so damned sorry about that mess, Clint." She lowered her gaze, unable to look him in the eye.

"Hey, no. We've interviewed at least two dozen witnesses, and every one of them says that your boat saved the angler from being cut in half. Kennie did the best she could."

Gib raised her head. "How is she? I haven't had a chance to run up to the hospital to visit."

"She's awake, and mad as hell." Clint chuckled. "The doctors won't release her until Friday, at the earliest. I've been able to talk around it, but she's really going to be pissed when I have to tell her she's on extended leave until she gets complete medical clearance."

"How long will that be?"

Clint shrugged. "I've been told it could be as little as six weeks, or as long as four to six months. All depends on how well her head heals." He tapped his forehead. "How's yours?"

"I have a bit of a headache, but no other symptoms. That's one of the reasons I stopped by. I wanted to let you know I can be back at work in the morning, if that's okay."

"If it's okay? Are you kidding me?" Clint opened his desk drawer and took out a box. He tossed it to Gib, who caught it easily. "Poor George is going nuts, having to work the desk and cruise the park. We'd both be extremely grateful if you'd be able to take the day shift."

Gib opened the box and took out a phone that was identical to the one she lost. "I'd be glad to. Eight to eight?"

He sat back in relief. "Oh, god. That would be fantastic. Are you up to it?"

"Sure. But I guess this will put the search for the poachers on the back burner."

"For now. I don't mind you keeping your eyes open for anything suspicious, but the safety of the park guests has to come first."

Gib stood. "Of course. What about Dan and Jessica? How are they?"

"Jessica has to wear a sling for the rest of the week, so I've assigned her to the office. Dan's out patrolling, but he's not happy about it." Clint got out of his chair and walked around to the front of his desk. "Don't overdo it your first day back, Gib. If you start feeling bad, let me know and I'll have someone cover for you." He held out his hand. "But I'm damned glad you're okay."

She shook his hand. "Thanks, Clint. I should be fine, though."

"All right." He clapped her on the shoulder. "Get some rest. You still look like hell."

"Thanks a lot." Gib laughed and left his office, ready to go home and call a certain redhead.


It took a lot of self-restraint, but Gib refrained from calling Delaney the moment she returned to the cabin. Instead, she took her gun cleaning kit from the coat closet and sat at the kitchen bar. She spread everything out and began to clean her weapon, a Glock Seventeen. In no time at all, she had disassembled, cleaned and reassembled the gun.

Gib put away her kit, washed her hands, and wandered around her cabin. She looked at her watch. "Almost eight. That's not too soon, is it?" Mad at herself, she decided to kill more time. With her new phone in hand, Gib grabbed her address book from the table beside the front door and sat on her sofa. She began the time-consuming task of entering all her phone numbers into the cell phone.

Forty minutes later, her task complete, Gib looked at her watch. "Close to nine. Hopefully she doesn't go to bed early." Unable to sit still, she stood and decided to go outside. After dialing Delaney's number, she paced restlessly along the front porch.


Gib couldn't help but smile when she heard Delaney's voice. "Hi, this is Gib."

"Good evening, Officer. I take it you didn't go to bed after I left?"

"I was going to, really, but I wanted to talk to my boss about tomorrow." Gib sat on the front steps and watched the moonlight reflect off the lake. "I'll be working eight 'til eight, at least for the immediate future."

Delaney was silent for a moment. "Twelve hours a day? Are you sure you're up to that?"

"Sure. Most of it's driving around and being a visible presence. There's really not much to it."

"I see."

Gib stretched out her legs and crossed them at the ankles. "Dee? Are you mad?"

The heavy sigh was its own answer. "No. Not mad, exactly. Why would I be?"

"I don't know. That's why I asked."

Delaney's voice softened. "Gib, I know you're an adult, and you have a job to do. But I can't help but worry."

"Oh." Gib stared out at the lake, thinking about what Delaney said. "You know, I've been doing this for over fifteen years, and the other night was the first time I've ever drawn my gun."

"Really?" Delaney giggled. "I thought I was going to wet my pants. You scared me to death."

Gib laughed. "To tell you the truth, I was a little nervous myself. All I could think about was how I was going to explain to you how I let someone get inside one of your trucks."

"Are you scared of me, officer?" Delaney asked in a breathy tone.

"Uh." Gib's mouth went dry. "I wouldn't say scared," she finally got out.

Delaney's mirth was contagious, and soon they were both laughing. The redhead was the first to recover. "So, about your work schedule. Is that every single day? Or do you get time off for good behavior?"

"That's what I was calling about. Are you doing anything on Friday evening?" Gib braced herself for the rejection she was expecting.

"It depends. Are you asking me on a date?"

Gib cleared her throat. "Let me try this again. Ms. Kavanagh, would you do me the honor of going out with me on Friday evening?"

"Why, Officer Proctor. You do know how to turn a girl's head," Delaney answered, in an exaggerated southern drawl. "I would be delighted. What do you have in mind?"

"Dinner, for sure. I wish there was someplace we could go dancing." Gib liked the idea of having an excuse to hold Delaney in her arms. "If we were in Austin, I know of several places. But, this being Benton-"

Delaney cut her off. "You like to dance?" It was another bone of contention with Chris. The woman refused to even attempt to go dancing. When they did go out, Chris ended up getting drunk, while Delaney fended off other offers.

"Oh, yeah. Love to dance. Always have."

"So do I. And I know of the perfect little place to go. So I hope you have a good pair of dancing shoes."

Gib grinned. "I'll see what I can do. Is eight-thirty on Friday too late?"

"It's perfect. I'll be waiting for you, officer. Now get some rest, so you'll be sharp for work."

"Yes, ma'am."

Delaney snorted. "And don't call me ma'am." She softened her voice. "Goodnight, Gib."

"Goodnight, Dee. Sleep well." Gib waited until Delaney hung up before she set her phone beside her. "Hurry up, Friday."

Chapter Eight

The splatter of fat raindrops hitting her windshield caused Gib to frown. It was Friday night and she was on her way into Benton to pick up Delaney for their first real date. She didn't want anything to spoil their evening, but it appeared that Mother Nature had other ideas. Her truck had just crossed into the city limits, when the sky opened and Gib was suddenly in the midst of a torrential downfall.

She cursed and clicked on the wipers, straining to see through the heavy rain. Visibility was poor, so Gib slowed the truck. She checked herself in the rear view mirror. The haircut she had received the evening before looked okay, although once the rain touched it, all bets were off. Her collar-length hair was usually straight, until it became damp. The way the ends curled made her wish she had remembered to bring a hat to protect it from the rain.

Soon, Gib parked beneath the covered parking at Delaney's apartment. She was three cars away from the front door. After she unbuckled her seatbelt, Gib leaned over the seat and searched for an umbrella. "Ah-ha!" It was small, but would definitely be good enough to protect her date.

She jogged through the rain and almost slipped when she got inside the foyer. The same man was at the desk that she'd seen before, so she nodded her greeting and walked carefully across the marble in her boots.

Once she was in front of Delaney's door, Gib nervously wiped her free hand across her black shirt and matching jeans. She tapped lightly on the door, not surprised at all when it opened immediately. Her brain short-circuited at the vision in front of her. "Uh."

Delaney stood in the doorway with a very pleased look on her face. "Good evening, officer. You look nice." She was being truthful. The black shirt and jeans fit Gib as if they had been tailored for her.

"Wow," was all Gib could say. She blushed when she realized she had spoken aloud. "Um, hi. You look really fantastic."

"Thank you." Delaney stepped back. The navy blue silk dress accentuated all of her curves. Since it was sleeveless, her toned arms were highlighted as well. "Come on in."

Gib was so busy staring at Delaney that she almost ran into the door. She blushed and tried to keep her feet going in the right direction. "Thanks." She joined Delaney on the sofa, with only a cushion between them. She twisted the umbrella in her hand. "It's raining."

Delaney grinned and looked out through the sliding door to the patio. "Yes, it is." She leaned over and brushed her fingers through Gib's damp hair. "Did you not use the umbrella?"

"Oh, no. I brought it for you."

"Honey, you could have used it to come inside."

The thought hadn't even crossed Gib's mind. "Damn." She shook her head and laughed. "I think I've lost my mind."

"You're so cute." Delaney's hand drifted from Gib's hair, across her forehead and down her cheek. The stitches had been removed, and all that was left from the accident was a thin, red line. "I've missed seeing you this week."

Gib leaned into the touch. "I've missed you, too. Talking on the phone every night isn't quite the same." She closed her eyes when Delaney moved closer and kissed her. Gib's hands couldn't stay still and she moaned as they slid up and down along Delaney's sides.

"Gib," Delaney gasped, as she tipped her head back. Gib's lips soon began to blaze a path along her throat, and Delaney tangled her fingers in Gib's hair and pulled her closer. "Oh, baby, yes."

The whispered words urged Gib on. Her hands soon drifted lower and she started to raise the dress, when she realized what she was doing. She sat back and blinked. "Uh, I," she stammered. "Damn, Dee. I'm sorry." She carefully lowered the blue dress and tried to smooth it out with her hands. "I didn't mean to get so carried away."

Delaney's eyes, which were glazed with passion, slowly cleared. She used a thumb to wipe her lipstick away from Gib's mouth. "Honey, it takes two to tango. I wasn't exactly fighting you off, was I?"

"No, but-" Gib was stopped by Delaney's finger on her lips.

"As much as I'm enjoying this evening so far, you owe me a nice dinner, and then an evening of dancing. And I plan to collect."

Gib grinned. "Yes, ma'am." She moved out of the way when Delaney tried to slap her arm.

"Don't call me ma'am," Delaney growled playfully.

"Whatever you say, beautiful lady." Gib stood and held out her hand. "If we're planning on dancing the night away, we'd better eat first." She helped Delaney to her feet and spun her around. "I hope those shoes are comfortable."

Delaney laughed as she was twirled around the room. "They are, don't worry. Take me dancing, Gibsy."

"You got it, Dee." Gib danced her toward the front door, laughing.


The lighting in the Italian restaurant was dim, with candles on the tables for ambiance. Subtle instrumental music played in the background, reminiscent of Italy. Delaney looked across the table at her date. "You seem surprised that Benton has a place like this."

"I am. Before I left, I think the nicest place was Fran's Cafeteria. We all thought it was a big deal because a lady would come by and refill your drinks right at your table."

Delaney laughed. "We'll never be Dallas or Austin, but Benton's got a little bit of class, now." She held up her wine glass. "Here's to a classier Benton."

Gib touched her glass with Delaney's. "Amen." They both started laughing at the toast. "I don't think I've laughed this hard in ages," Gib admitted.

"Me, either." Delaney loved how the candlelight reflected in Gib's eyes. "I've been wondering something."

"What's that?"

"How'd you get your name?"

Gib continued to grin as she tore a breadstick in half. "The entire time my mom was pregnant with me, they thought I was a boy. Her father, Gibson Llewellyn Jameson the third, harped at them until they finally agreed to name the firstborn after him, at least partially. When I was born, I think my mother got back at him by still naming me Gibson." She shrugged. "He died before I turned one, so I don't remember him."

"Wow. Remind me never to piss off your mom." Delaney rolled her fettuccine on her fork before popping it into her mouth. "Mmm."

Gib cut into one of her lobster raviolis and took a bite. "I don't know what kind of sauce they use, but this is really good."

"It's a vodka sauce." With a devious smirk, Delaney tore off a piece of her breadstick and dipped it into Gib's plate. She moaned as she put it in her mouth. "Very good."

"You're a tease," Gib accused.

Delaney winked at her and licked the sauce from her lips. "You think?"

It was Gib's turn to moan at the erotic display. "Behave." She took a deep breath and used her napkin to wipe her chin. "Watch out for paybacks."

"I can't wait." After slipping out of her shoe, she slid her foot along the inside of Gib's knee. The other woman jumped and sputtered. "Problem, officer?"

"Nothing I can't handle," Gib choked out. She reached beneath the table and caught the foot before it could travel any higher. "Look what I found."

Delaney tried to tug her foot away. "Gib," she warned.

"I wonder, could you be ticklish?" Gib used her other hand to run a finger across the bottom of Delaney's foot.

"Aah!" Delaney kicked and almost knocked over the table. "Gibson Proctor," she drew out slowly.

Gib grinned evilly. "Yes?" Her finger took another pass along the nylon-clad foot, which kicked again. "Problem?"

"I'm going to," Delaney gasped as her foot was tickled again. "Stop! Please!" she begged.

"Ha." Gib caressed the top of the foot before releasing it. "There's your payback."

Delaney slid her foot back into the shoe. "Uh huh. Just wait."


Little Sisters, the only lesbian bar/club in Benton, was filled to near capacity by the time Delaney and Gib arrived. Delaney exchanged words with the brawny woman at the door, who gave her a hug and allowed them to enter. They were assailed by loud country music the moment they walked in.

Gib put her mouth close to Delaney's ear. "Come here much?"

"Maybe," Delaney answered coyly. She tugged on Gib's arm. "Come on. Let's grab something to drink and try to find a seat."

For her part, Gib was more than happy to tag along behind Delaney, her eyes rarely leaving the shapely behind that wriggled so enticingly in that slinky dress. She was surprised by the amount of women who waved and greeted her date, yet felt a little kernel of pride at being the one walking with her. She had to stop suddenly when Delaney paused and turned around.

The redhead grinned. "See anything interesting?" she asked.

"Definitely." Gib moved to stand beside her. "You look fantastic."

"Thank you." Delaney kissed her on the cheek before pointing to a group of tables near the bar. "If we sit over there, the music's not so loud."

"Perfect." Gib put her hand on the small of Delaney's back and allowed her to lead the way. She held out a chair for the redhead, before taking the one closest to her. They had barely gotten seated when a heavily pierced woman with a tray stood at their table.

"Hey, ladies. What can I get for you?"

Delaney smiled at her. "I'd like a rum and coke." She turned to her date. "What about you?"

"Whatever beer you have on tap is fine, along with a glass of water," Gib ordered. She gave the woman a twenty dollar bill. "Keep the change."

The woman's eyes brightened and she gave Gib a sultry grin. "Thanks. Be right back."

When they were alone, Delaney couldn't help but laugh. "I think you made a new friend."

Gib shrugged. "They work hard and don't get much pay. I could afford it."

"You're just too sweet." Delaney scooted her chair closer until there were only a few inches between them. "Are you always like this?"

"Like what?"

Delaney waved her hand around. "So, I don't know, chivalrous?"

Gib stopped a moment to think. "I don't know about that. I just try to treat everyone with the same respect I'd like to get." She leaned forward when Delaney put a hand behind her and pulled her closer. Her eyes closed when soft, moist lips touched hers.

After breaking from the kiss, Delaney brushed her thumb across Gib's lip. "I've marked you again."

"Is it my shade?" Gib joked.

"It can be."

Gib grinned. "I'm beginning to like lipstick." She gave her date another light peck. "Do they always play country music here?"

"Most of the time, although Saturday is Eighties Night, and Tuesday is rock. I know other nights are different types of music, but I can never remember them." She looked up when two women came to the table. "Oh. Hi."

The taller of the two, a muscular brunette, had her arm around the shorter, stockier blonde at her side. "It's good to see you here again, Delaney."

"Terri and Kate! It's been months." Delaney got up and immediately embraced each woman separately.

Kate, with her blonde hair cut in a bob, looked at Gib inquiringly. "I see you've traded up," she teased the redhead.

"What?" Delaney turned to Gib. "Oh, definitely. Guys, I want you to meet Gibson Proctor. She's a Police Officer for the State Park."

Gib stood and held out her hand. "Nice to meet y'all. You can call me Gib."

Terri shook her hand. "Pleasure's all ours, Gib. Have you known Delaney long?"

"A few weeks." Gib held out Delaney's chair, gently pushing her up to the table after she sat. "Would you like to join us?"

"Are you sure we won't be interrupting anything?" Terri asked.

Delaney shook her head. "Not at all. Right, Gib?"

"I wouldn't have offered if I didn't mean it." Gib stayed standing until the other two women sat across from them. "I just recently moved back here, so it's nice to be able to socialize." She smiled as their server brought their drinks. "Thanks."

"You're very welcome," the woman told her. She noticed the two additions to the table. "What would you ladies like?" After she got their orders, she gave Gib one last flirty smile and left.

Terri whistled. "I can't believe you let her live, Delaney." She didn't think the woman would have been as lucky, if her attention had been on Kate.

The redhead laughed. "I'm not worried." She heard a slow song start playing and turned to her date. "Ready to dance?"

"Sure." Gib stood and pulled out Delaney's chair for her. "I'll try to be gentle on your toes."

They found an empty spot on the dance floor and Gib took Delaney in her arms. She released a content sigh as they fit together. As they slowly moved along the floor, she felt the redhead tuck her head against her chest. The feeling of contentment grew and Gib rested her cheek on Delaney's hair.


Gib stood at the door while Delaney worked her key in the lock. She couldn't keep her eyes off the smooth expanse of skin available, her hands nearly itching with the desire to touch those creamy shoulders.

Once the door was unlocked, Delaney stepped inside and tugged on Gib's hand. "Would you like to come in?"

"Sure." Gib grinned. The grip on her hand was so tight she didn't have much choice. "I had a great time tonight."

"Me too." Delaney gently pushed Gib onto the sofa, kicked off her shoes, and climbed into the other woman's lap. "You made me feel like a princess tonight."

"I did?"

Delaney nodded. "Mmm-hmm." She linked her hands together behind Gib's neck and brought her face close. "I don't think I've ever been treated so well before."

"You deserve it," Gib whispered, right before their lips met. She ran her hands along the redhead's shoulders and caressed the skin that had tantalized her all evening. The sudden feel of cool air against her chest caused her to pull away from the kiss. "Dee, wait."

"Why?" Delaney continued to unbutton the black shirt. She started to push the shirt off Gib's shoulders, nipping and kissing the exposed skin.

Lost in the haze, Gib struggled to remember why this was such a bad idea. "I, uh," she gasped when a warm hand found its way inside her bra. "Dee."

Delaney raised her head and captured Gib's mouth. She straddled her lap and couldn't seem to get enough of her.

Gib got a heavy taste of the tequila that Delaney had enjoyed earlier. Gib was the only one who refused the shots, saying she had to drive home. The alcohol returned her misgivings. She pulled away. "Sweetheart, wait."

"Don't want to," Delaney muttered. She lowered her face to bite Gib lightly on the throat. "You taste good."

"Damn." She put her hands on Delaney's chest and gently pushed her back. "We can't, Dee."

Delaney glared at her through glassy eyes. "Why the hell not?"

"Because you've had too much to drink, and I don't want any regrets tomorrow." Gib adjusted her bra and buttoned her shirt. "Sweetheart, don't look at me like that."

"I'm not drunk," Delaney argued. She tried to climb off Gib's lap and ended up on the floor. "Fuck."

Trying not to laugh, Gib stood and held out her hand. "Here."

"Don't laugh at me," Delaney snarled. She crawled to her knees and tried to stand, but couldn't get her balance. After Gib put her hands under her arms and raised her to her feet, Delaney swatted her hands away. "I didn't need your help." She would have toppled over if Gib hadn't caught her. "Damn it."

Gib got tired of watching her struggle. She put her arm around Delaney's waist. "Come on. Let's get you ready for bed."

"Only if you're going to join me." Delaney leaned into Gib.

"Not tonight." Gib led her to the bedroom. "Can you get undressed while I get you some water?"

Delaney's sultry smile should have been a warning. She turned her back to Gib. "Unzip me?"

"Sure." Gib lowered the zipper. The more skin that appeared the harder it was to keep her resolve. Especially when she noticed Delaney wasn't wearing a bra. She backed away. "I'll just get that water now."

The dress dropped to the floor and the redhead stepped out of it. Clad only in a dark blue thong, stockings and shoes, Delaney turned around. "Oops."

"Ah, hell." Gib inhaled sharply. "You're not making this easy."

"Oh? What's the matter, officer?" Delaney started to move forward and got her feet tangled in the dress. She started to fall forward, when Gib lunged and caught her. She raised her head and grinned. "Looks like I fell for you."

Gib rolled her eyes. "Woman, you're trying my patience," she growled. Tired of fighting, she scooped Delaney into her arms and carried her to the bed. She dropped her onto the down comforter and leaned over her. "You are an incredibly beautiful woman."

"Kiss me," Delaney demanded. She grabbed Gib's head and drew it down. When their lips met, she wrapped her legs around Gib's waist. "Oh, god." Delaney pushed Gib away suddenly.

"What's wrong?"

Shaking her head, Delaney covered her mouth. She tried to sit up but wobbled.

Gib understood all too well. She picked her up and headed quickly for the bathroom. Arriving just in time, she placed Delaney in front of the toilet just as the redhead's stomach heaved. Gib held her hair away from her face and covered Delaney's shoulders with a clean towel to keep her from getting chilled.

Once her stomach was emptied, Delaney leaned back against Gib. "I don't believe this." She tugged the towel around her. "This is not how I planned on ending the evening." She began to tremble.

"Come on, let's get you off this cold floor." Gib helped her to her feet. She waited while Delaney rinsed out her mouth and washed her face, then helped her back to the bed. As gentle as she could, she took off Delaney's shoes and tucked her into bed. "Are you going to be all right?"

"I think so."

"Okay. Let me get that water for you now." Gib kissed her on the forehead and left the room. When she returned, Delaney was sound asleep, snoring softly. She placed the water on the nightstand and sat on the edge of the bed. "You're really going to feel this tomorrow, Dee." She considered her options. Since she'd only had the one beer, she was more than okay to drive home. On the other hand, Delaney had gotten sick, and Gib would worry about her all night if she left. She sighed. "I hope I don't regret this." She got up, walked to the other side of the bed, and took the extra pillow. "At least the sofa's comfortable."


The heavy pounding in her head woke Delaney. She cracked open her eyes and groaned at the intense light. "Oh, god." Even the ragged whisper brought pain. She smacked her dry lips and almost gagged. "What crawled into my mouth and died?" she asked hoarsely. She raised her body into an upright position and swayed. "Ugh." She swung her legs over the bed and had to close her eyes as another wave of nausea hit. Once the room stopped spinning, Delaney slowly opened her eyes and looked down at her body. "What in the hell?"

After brushing her teeth, washing her face and taking care of other business, Delaney stopped at her dresser and put on a long tee shirt. She struggled to remove the nylons and thong, before leaving the bedroom in search of coffee. The sight on her sofa startled her and she let out a scream.

Gib sat up quickly and looked around. "What?"

"What are you doing here?" Delaney closed her eyes and grabbed her head. "Damn it."

"Are you okay?" Gib got up and put her arm around Delaney. "Why don't you sit down?"

Delaney slapped her hands away. "Stop it." She wobbled and slowly sat on the recliner. "Why are you on the couch?"

"I was worried about you." With her shirt tail out and her hair mussed, Gib looked unusually scruffy.

Delaney couldn't help but smile at the sight. "You can't be for real." She remembered all too well how Gib fended off her drunken passes the previous evening.

"What do you mean?" Gib tucked her hands in the front pockets of her jeans. "Um, would you like me to make you some breakfast?"

Just the thought of food caused her stomach to roll. Delaney shook her head. "Not today." She crossed her arms over her chest. "I guess I owe you an apology, huh?"

"For what?"

"Don't be coy with me, officer. I practically threw my drunken self at you last night." Delaney brushed her hand through her hair and grimaced. "God, I'm so embarrassed."

Gib sat on the end of the sofa nearest her. "Are you kidding? I was angry with myself for almost taking you up on it."


"Oh, yeah. When you," Gib blew out a breath, "um, stepped out of that dress, I almost had a heart attack."

Delaney sighed. "Yeah, bet I was real sexy when I was throwing up." She covered her face with her hands.

"Well, no, you weren't sexy," Gib admitted quietly. "All I wanted to do was hold you and make it all go away."

The heartfelt words touched Delaney's wounded spirit. "Oh, Gib. I don't deserve someone like you."

When Delaney began to cry, Gib dropped to her knees in front of her. "Don't say that, Dee." She put her hands on the other woman's knees and gently squeezed them. "You're a smart, beautiful, sexy-as-hell woman. I know I'm not the most sophisticated woman in the world, but I really enjoy being around you."

Delaney sniffled and looked into Gib's eyes. The honest affection she saw was almost more than she could stand. "You must be a glutton for punishment."

"I've been called worse." Gib kissed the tip of her nose. "Look, I know you've got the hangover from hell and could probably use a lot more sleep. If you can hold down some dry toast, I'll get out of your hair for a while. Is there anything I can get you before I leave?"

"No, I don't think so." Delaney touched Gib's cheek. "Do you have any plans for today?"

Gib shrugged. "Not really. Got some laundry to do, and maybe run a broom around the cabin. Why?"

Lowering her gaze, Delaney stared at Gib's hands. "I swear I'm not usually like this, but," she stopped for a moment.


So quietly that she could barely be heard, Delaney asked, "Could you stay here with me?" She damned herself for being so weak. "No. Never mind."

"Dee?" When the redhead didn't look at her, Gib placed her fingers under her chin. "Hey." The unshed tears in those blue eyes caused a similar ache in her heart. "I could use some sleep myself." She gently kissed her. "Thanks for being brave enough to ask."

Delaney smiled at last. "You could be so dangerous," she mumbled, before she leaned forward and put her arms around Gib's shoulders. "Thank you."

After two pieces of toast, a bottle of water and two cups of coffee, Delaney felt much more human. She sat on the edge of her bed and waited for Gib to come out of the bathroom. When the door opened, she couldn't help but grin. "You look cute."

Gib stood in the doorway and put her hands on her hips. "Cute? I'm supposed to fill hearts with fear." She had gone to her truck for her extra clothes. The soft cotton shorts and matching gray tee shirt were slightly baggy. The shirt had large lettering proclaiming Texas Peace Officer in black letters across her chest. She posed with her arms in a muscle pose. "Scared?"

Delaney giggled and fell back onto the bed. Her giggles turned to squeals when Gib raced across the room and tackled her. "Aaah!"

"Are you scared now?" Gib asked, straddling Delaney's hips. She leaned over the redhead and bent her fingers into claws. "Admit your fear," she threatened.


"Admit it, or pay the consequences." Gib lowered her hands and tickled Delaney's ribs.

The redhead squirmed and laughed. "Stop it," she yelled.

"Admit it!"

"No!" Delaney tried to avoid the fingers, but ended up rolling around the bed with Gib. "Evil woman!" Her screams silenced as she was wrapped up in Gib's strong arms. "Oh, god. I haven't laughed that hard in ages," she sputtered, trying to catch her breath.

Gib rolled onto her back, allowing Delaney to rest on her chest. "Me, either." She looked up into the other woman's eyes. "You are so damned beautiful."

Delaney cupped Gib's cheek. "So are you." She lowered her face and gently kissed her. They spent a few minutes enjoying the contact, neither one in a hurry to rush things. Delaney finally pulled back and laid her head on Gib's chest. "Am I squashing you?"

"Not hardly. Are you comfortable?"

"Very much."

Gib kissed the top of her head. "Good. Get some sleep, Dee."

"Okay." Delaney yawned and closed her eyes. "Goodnight."

Gib looked at the sunlight coming through the blinds. "Yeah. Sweet dreams."

To be continued in Part 5

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