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 email@example.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.
The fifty-five inch television's surround sound drowned out the rumble of the dryer, while the two women relaxed on the leather sofa. A loud explosion through the speakers caused them both to jump, knocking the bowl of popcorn over between them. Maddy turned the volume down. “I hate that none of our teams are in the finals. But, maybe a shoot ‘em up wasn't the best movie idea today.”
“Oh, I don't know. It's not like we haven't seen it dozens of times.” Gib yawned and stretched. “What time is it?”
“After four. Tired of my company already?”
Gib tossed a piece of popcorn at her. “No. Just curious.”
“Speaking of curious,” Maddy turned in her seat to face her friend, “wanna tell me about your slumber party?” She had been after Gib to talk ever since the other woman had arrived, but so far, had no luck. “Come on, please?”
“God, you're nosy.” Gib took a sip of beer. “I had dinner at Delaney's Friday night.”
Maddy bounced up and down. “Dinner, huh? Wait. Friday ?”
“Yes, damn it. Friday. We spent Saturday together, and I went home today to do some laundry. Satisfied?”
“Probably not as satisfied as you are, Gibsy.” At her friend's groan, Maddy laughed. “Oh, come on. What good is sex if you can't talk about it?”
Gib shook her head. “I never ask you about your sex life.”
“That's because it's mostly self-service these days,” Maddy lamented.
“Ew. TMI, Maddy. I didn't need that visual.” Gib fake-shivered.
Maddy tossed several pieces of popcorn at Gib. “Smart ass. You're just jealous ‘cause I'm straight.”
“I keep telling you, all you need to do is meet the right woman.”
“Nah. There's only one you, and it seems like you're taken.” Maddy scooted closer. “So, how was it?”
Gib looked offended. “I'm not going to tell you!” Her face flushed blood red. “I, I couldn't.”
“Ooh. This sounds serious.” Maddy leaned against her. “Is it?”
Staring hard at the bottle of beer in her hands, Gib nodded. “I think so. I mean, it is to me.” Her voice became softer. “I think I love her, Maddy.”
“You can't be serious.” Maddy stared at her friend, who refused to look at her. “Oh, my god. You are.”
“One weekend of hot sex, and you're in love? Really?” Maddy poked her in the ribs. “I mean, sure, she seems like a nice person and all, but love? Hon, you haven't known her long enough for that.”
The silent woman drained her beer and placed the bottle on the coffee table. Gib stood and stared into the fireplace. “I can't help the way I feel.” She turned to face Maddy. “There's just something about her, Mads. I feel complete when I'm with her, and lost when I'm not.”
Maddy closed her eyes and shook her head. “No, no, no. Don't do this to yourself. You could be setting up for a hard fall.”
“I can't help it.” Gib's face broke into a beautiful smile. “I really think she feels the same. Every time I look into her eyes, I can see it. The way she touches me, kisses me, shows me exactly how she feels.” She sat down again. “I do love her, Maddy. I know I do.”
“All right.” Maddy squeezed Gib's knee. “Just try not to move too fast. Take your time and see where it goes.”
Delaney had planned on spending her Sunday sleeping. But a phone call from her parents, inviting her for dinner, changed her plans. After a refreshing shower, she dressed in a pair of casual grey slacks and a black, sleeveless top. In no time she was on her way to their house.
The Kavanagh house, where Delaney grew up, was situated in the older part of Benton . Well-cared for homes were set on half-acre lots, most of them occupied by the original owners. The outside of the two-story home was red brick, with white columns along the front. Tasteful landscaping completed the suburban package, and when Delaney parked in the circular driveway, the Lexus looked right at home.
She opened the front door and stood in the entryway, listening. The sounds of a car race came from the den, so she headed in that direction. Her parents were in their usual places. Her father, stretched out in his recliner, “watching” the race while snoring. Her mother was doing a crossword puzzle while perched on her favorite end of a floral-print sofa. “Hi, Mom,” Delaney whispered, joining her mother on the couch.
Maureen took the remote and lowered the volume. “Hello, sweetie. I'm so glad you could come over today.” She marked her page in the puzzle magazine with her pen, and placed it on the end table. “I hope my call didn't ruin any plans.”
“Not at all. I was going to be lazy today, but I'd much rather spend it with you.” Delaney leaned over and kissed her mother's cheek. After she returned to her previous spot, she turned so she could face Maureen. “Anything exciting going on?”
The older woman studied her daughter and her eyes sparkled. “Not a thing. I see you and Christine have made up.”
“What? No.” Delaney shook her head. “Actually, I broke up with her a couple of weeks ago. She just can't seem to get the hint.” She began to feel uncomfortable with her mother's scrutiny, and glanced down at her shirt to see if it had a stain. “What?” she repeated.
“Gone out to sow your oats, have you? Not that I blame you none. I always thought Christine was too possessive over you. Your father told me that you'd broken up, but after she came to the office with those flowers, I wasn't too sure.”
“Mom, what are you talking about? I haven't gone out,” her voice trailed off when she saw where her mother's gaze zeroed in. “Oh, hell.” She covered her throat. “Does it look bad?”
Maureen laughed. “Not at all, dear. If that shirt didn't have such a low neck, I would have never seen it.” She touched the blemish, right above the neckline, not far from Delaney's right breast. “So, if Christine didn't do it and you haven't been out running around, have you been attacked by large mosquitoes?”
With a roll of her eyes, Delaney swatted her mother's leg. “You're nuts. No, I've, um, met someone else.”
“Someone else? So soon?” Maureen lowered her head as if to peer over glasses. She had traded her eyewear for contacts years ago, but had never lost the habit. “Oh, I see. Your park ranger.”
“Park police officer,” Delaney automatically corrected. “Her name is Gibson Proctor, but she goes by Gib.”
“That's an unusual name.”
Delaney chuckled. “She's an unusual woman. Well, not really. But I don't think I've ever met anyone quite like her before.”
“Tell me about her.”
“I'm not sure what to say. She does things sometimes that totally surprise me. Opens my doors, holds out my chair, things like that.” Delaney's smiled grew. “And she makes me laugh. A lot. I don't think I've laughed so hard in years, as I do when I'm with her.”
Maureen nodded. “I've noticed that you've been a lot less, shall we say, prickly, lately. If that's because of this Gib, I can't wait to meet her.”
“Well, I don't know about that. We're pretty casual right now. Nothing serious.”
“Really?” Maureen raised one eyebrow. “Seems like it's serious enough to let her do that,” she said, pointing to her daughter's neck.
Delaney shrugged. “We're having fun, but no. I've just gotten out of a nasty relationship. I'm in no hurry to jump into another one,” she argued, although she felt disloyal for saying so.
“Friends with benefits?”
“Mom! Where did you hear that?” Delaney asked, her face turning bright red.
“I wasn't born under a rock, you know. And your father and I have quite an active sex life.”
Delaney covered her ears. “I don't need to hear about it. Nah, nah, nah, nah.”
“Silly child.” Maureen swatted her. “Don't wake your father. He'll want to cook on that nasty grill of his, when we have a perfectly lovely one in the kitchen.” She stood and brushed the wrinkles from her slacks. “Follow me to the kitchen, and you can help with dinner.”
“All right. But no more talk about,” Delaney lowered her voice, “s-e-x. I don't think my fragile psyche could handle it.”
Maureen had to cover her mouth to keep from laughing too loudly. “I don't know where I went wrong with you, girl. You're such a prude.”
“I am not,” Delaney argued, as they left the living room. “But there are some things I don't think I'll ever be comfortable talking to you about. I may be scarred for life, as it is.” She yelped as her mother swatted her on the rear. “Stop it.”
By noon on Monday, not even thinking of Delaney could brighten Gib's day. She had already gotten into a nasty argument with Jessica over dispatch procedures, and was now stuck driving the snotty woman around, per Clint's orders.
“Look, Middleton, I don't like it any more than you do. But Clint wants you to be familiar with the fire roads.”
Jessica had her arms crossed over her chest. “I'm perfectly capable of checking them out on my own. I haven't needed an escort since I was ten.”
“It's no picnic for me, either.” Gib drove past the construction site. She didn't see Delaney's Lexus, but hadn't expected to. “But honestly, some of the roads back around the lake can be a little confusing, if you're not used to them.”
“Yeah, right. Dirt roads out in the middle of nowhere are so scary. Total bullshit,” Jessica added under her breath.
Gib turned onto another road. “This one goes back behind the lake, but doesn't actually go to the lake. But it's mostly a firebreak, to protect the cabins on the north side. It dead ends at the top of that little hill,” she pointed to the right. “Kids have a tendency to park up here and party. I try to check it at least once a night, during the warm months.”
“Why not in the winter?”
“Because we lock the gate to the road in the winter. Only the main park gate and the gate to the lake are open. We still have a few old guys who come out and fish in December or January, but not very often.”
Jessica nodded. “Do we check their permits?”
“Nah. Most of them have been fishing here since before the state took it over, so we tend to leave them alone.”
“But what about the rules?”
Gib counted silently to five, trying to calm down. Jessica had questioned every single thing she had told her all morning. “Sometimes, to keep good relations with locals, it's best to let some things slide. No one's being hurt by some old guy sitting on the shore, drinking a beer.”
“Public intoxication? Come on, Proctor. Even you wouldn't allow that.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
The look Jessica gave her was one of mild contempt. “I figured you'd be a stickler for rules and regulations, that's all.”
“Oh, come on. I've known women like you. They seem to thrive on being able to lord over everyone else.”
Gib stopped the truck and turned to look at her co-worker. “Women like me? And what kind of woman am I?”
“Oh, no. You started this. Go ahead.”
Jessica opened her door and got out. “I need some air.”
“Hey, wait.” Gib got out and walked around to the other side of the truck. “Be careful. I've run into gopher holes in this area.”
“For god's sake, Proctor. I'm not a child,” Jessica snapped, walking across a grassy area.
“Sure act like one.” Gib walked close by, keeping her own eyes toward the ground. “So, what kind of woman am I? Old? Tall? What?”
Jessica quickened her pace. “Just shut up. You know what I was talking about. It's like you're proud of it, or—” her foot went into a hole and she yelled. “Fuck!”
Gib took a step and put her arm around Jessica, to keep her from falling.
“Let go of me, you fucking dyke!” Jessica screamed, pushing Gib away and hitting the ground. “God damn it!” Her hands went to her right ankle after she fell onto her rear.
“I told you to be careful.” Gib squatted next to her. “Let me see.”
Jessica slapped at her. “No. Don't touch me!”
“Would you just settle down? I'm not going to attack you.” Gib waited to see what Jessica would do. “We're out here alone, Middleton. You've got two choices: let me help you back to the truck, or sit here indefinitely. What'll it be?”
“Bitch.” Jessica slowly stood, keeping all of her weight on her good leg. “I can make it back by myself.”
Jessica tried to stand on her injured ankle. “Fuck!” She immediately raised it off the ground as tears fell down her face.
“Jessica, please. Let me help you,” Gib asked softly. As much as she disliked the other woman, she couldn't just stand there and let her suffer.
“No! I can do it.” Jessica took one hop, the motion bringing renewed agony to her injured ankle. “Oh, my god, it hurts.” She dropped to the ground and rocked back and forth, crying.
Gib had seen enough. “That's it.” She knelt beside Jessica and easily picked the smaller woman up into her arms.
“Don't touch me!” Jessica slapped Gib across the face. “Let go of me!”
“Just shut up,” Gib puffed, as she carried Jessica back to the truck. She grunted as the woman continued to hit at her, first in the chest and then a hard slap to the side of her head. “One more time and I'm going to leave you here,” Gib growled.
Jessica pulled back her hand and made a fist. “I'm going to turn you in for sexual harassment!”
“Whatever.” Gib set her down outside the passenger door. “Think you can get in by yourself?”
“Fuck off, Proctor!” Jessica opened her door and slammed it behind her.
“You're welcome.” Gib rubbed her cheek as she walked around the truck. “Sexual harassment. Funny.”
After leaving Jessica and her sprained ankle at the Benton Community Hospital , Gib drove back to the park to write up a report. She ignored the sneer from Dan, who was working the counter, and went directly to Clint's office.
Clint looked up as Gib tapped on his open door. “How is she?”
“Sprained ankle. She'll be on crutches for a couple of days. Although the way she was carrying on, it may be more like a month.”
He grimaced. “We're running out of people, Gib. Although George should be back by Wednesday.”
“That's good.” She stepped into the office and closed the door. “I want to give you a head's up, in case she follows through with her threat.”
“Threat?” Clint sighed. “Now what?”
Gib sat in the chair across from him. “She said she'd turn me in for sexual harassment.”
“We were talking while we were driving around, and she kept hinting around about ‘your kind of woman' to me. I kept asking her what she meant. She finally got pissed and took off across the gopher field.”
He nodded. “With you so far.”
Gib blew out a breath. “After she fell, I offered to help her. She kept screaming for me to not touch her.” She held out her hands. “I didn't know what to do, Clint. She obviously couldn't walk, and I didn't want to leave her for the snakes.”
“So, I picked her up. And she started screaming and hitting me, threatening to turn me in.” Her hands dropped to her lap. “What was I supposed to do?”
His chuckle surprised her. “That explains the scratch on your face. Seriously, Gib. I would have done the same thing. If she brings it to my attention, I'll take her report. But it won't go any further than my office. And if she goes over my head, I'll handle it.”
“All right. Thanks, Clint. I didn't want you getting blindsided with this.”
“If she's got any sense, she'll drop it completely. I'm one complaint away from having her transferred.”
Gib grinned. “From your mouth to headquarters' ear,” she teased.
Delaney stretched out on her bed and sighed. She never minded working at the office, but the lack of sleep during the weekend had caught up with her. The room seemed silent and lonely, and she cursed at her neediness. “This is ridiculous. We spent one weekend together. I've never needed anyone around before.”
She fluffed her pillows and opened a book. “Once I get engrossed in my reading, I'll quit being so stupid.”
Her cell phone rang. Delaney dropped the book to the floor and answered it immediately. “Hello?”
Delaney fell back against the headboard. “Chris. Hi.”
“How are you doing? I've been thinking a lot about you.”
“Chris, please don't do this.”
“Why not? Can't I even think about you anymore?” Her voice turned soft. “I really miss you, Laney. My new job is going well, and I'm hoping to get a new place in a few weeks. I'm sleeping on my brother's couch for now.”
Delaney closed her eyes and silently prayed for strength. “I'm glad things are going well for you.”
“Of course I am.”
“Since I've got a job now, will you go out with me again, Laney?” Chris begged.
“No, Chris. I won't. I'm sorry.”
The sound of a lighter being flicked could be heard. Chris took a deep breath and exhaled. “Why not?”
“I broke up with you, remember? Now please quit calling me, Chris. Goodbye.”
Delaney hung up the phone. “Damn her. Why doesn't she get the hint?” She got off the bed and went into the kitchen for something to drink. She took a diet root beer out of the fridge, grabbed her usual bag of cheese puffs and headed for the recliner.
The sound of the television did nothing to stop her thoughts, as Delaney replayed her conversation with Chris in her head. It seemed that no matter what she said, her ex-girlfriend wouldn't take no for an answer. “She'll probably find someone else to latch onto, sooner or later. At least I hope so.” She crammed a cheese puff into her mouth just as her phone rang. “'lo?”
“ Dee ?”
Delaney chewed and swallowed as quickly as she could. “Hi, Gib.”
“Is everything all right?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Delaney popped the top on her soda and tried to wash the stubborn cheese puff goo out of her mouth. “Sorry.”
Gib started laughing. “Did I catch you enjoying a snack?” She had been introduced to what Delaney claimed was the ‘world's greatest snack food' during their weekend together. “Are your fingers orange, yet?”
“No, smartass, my fingers aren't orange. I had just eaten one puff when you called.” Delaney took another puff from the bag and daintily nibbled on the end.
“I hear you,” Gib teased.
Delaney purposely crunched into the phone. “Did you hear that?”
“Uh-huh.” Gib lowered her voice. “I miss you.”
“Aww. That's so sweet.” Delaney sighed. “I've missed you, too. This bed is a little lonely,” she admitted.
“I know what you mean. I've had a hard time getting to sleep. Silly, huh?”
Delaney's laugh was gentle. “No, it's not silly at all. Are we still on for tomorrow evening?”
“I sure hope so. I've got a couple of steaks to grill, if that's all right with you.”
“Sounds good.” Delaney took her soda and snack to the bedroom and stretched out on the bed. “Guess where I am now?”
Gib took a deep breath and released it slowly. “Why don't you describe it to me?” she asked softly.
“Well, I'm lying down in this big old bed, all by myself.” Delaney looked down at her body. The long tee shirt had a cartoon cat on it, holding a cup of coffee.
“What are you wearing?”
“Um, well.” Delaney smirked. “Remember that thong from Friday evening?”
Gib sputtered and choked. “Ahem. Yes, I do. Quite well, as a matter of fact.”
“Less than that,” Delaney teased.
The other end of the phone went silent.
A sudden wheeze, then coughing. Gib hacked a few times before she was able to speak. “Are you trying to kill me?”
“What were you doing?”
Gib coughed twice more before her voice was clear. “I was trying to eat my dinner.”
“This late? Gib, it's almost ten o'clock.” The answer was unintelligible. “What was that?”
“I said, I wasn't that hungry. But I figured I might as well have something before I go to bed. Not all of us own stock in the cheese puff industry.”
Delaney laughed. “And what great meal did you come up with?”
“Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and corn.”
“Wow, I'm impressed. I thought you said you didn't normally cook big meals for yourself.” Delaney propped up against the headboard and nibbled on her cheese puffs, which paled in comparison to the meal Gib described.
“Uh, well, it wasn't too hard. All I had to do was cut a slit the plastic covering and pop it in the microwave.”
Delaney snorted and spit a half-chewed cheese puff onto her chest. “Ugh. Gross.”
“Hey, they're not that bad.”
“No, not that.” Delaney used a tissue to pick up the gooey mess and tossed it in the trash. “So, do you eat a lot of frozen dinners?”
Gib paused. “Yeah, I guess I do. It's no fun cooking for myself, although I did have a really great kitchen when I lived in Austin . I'm not a chef, but I do okay.”
“I'm looking forward to having you cook for me. I usually run over to my parent's house when I want a decent meal. Like you said, it's no fun to cook for only one person.” Delaney stared at the open bag and finally pushed it away. “Now you've got me wanting something besides my usual.”
“Poor baby. I'll share my congealed steak and overcooked potatoes with you.”
The thought made Delaney queasy. “No, thank you. I think I'll hold out until tomorrow night.”
“Sounds good.” Gib sounded like she wanted to say more, but instead she sighed. “I guess I'll see you tomorrow, then?”
“You sure will.” Delaney softened her voice. “Sleep well, Gib.”
“You too, beautiful. Pleasant dreams.”
Once Delaney hung up the phone, she rolled onto her side and looked at the pillow that Gib had used during the weekend. Her hand caressed the smooth, cotton case. “I wonder what she'll dream about. Me, maybe?” She laughed at herself. “Yeah, right.”
All the windows in the cabin were open, allowing a fresh, clean breeze to cool the interior. Gib paced from room to room, keeping an eye out for anything that looked out of place. She had swept the wood floors twice, scrubbed the bathroom until it gleamed and made then remade the bed. She peered out the front window, looked at her watch, then turned and searched the living room again. Nothing had changed. “Good grief. I've lost my mind.”
Gib stepped away from the window and walked to the back door. She glanced through the screen and verified that her grill hadn't burst into flames. She would wait until Delaney arrived before she put the steaks on. The sound of tires on the graveled driveway caused her to sprint across the room and stand with her hand on the doorknob. “Calm down,” she ordered herself. After taking a calm breath, she opened the door and stood on the porch.
Delaney got out of her Lexus and waved. She was wearing her work attire, a black pencil skirt with a cream colored sleeveless top. She opened the rear hatch and took out a small, overnight case. Before she could close the hatch, Gib had jogged over and taken the case from her. “Thank you.”
“You're welcome.” Gib put her free arm around Delaney's waist while they walked up the steps and into the cabin. “It's good to see you.” She hadn't been able to stop thinking of the redhead all day.
“It's nice to be seen,” Delaney teased, hip-checking Gib before they went through the door. She stopped and gazed around the room. With all the doors and windows open, everything appeared bright and airy. “Wow. This is such an amazing place, Gib.”
Gib placed Delaney's bag near the bedroom door. “It really is. I wish I could afford to buy it, but I don't make that kind of money.”
“Something like this is expensive?”
“Right on the lake? Oh, yeah. And I'll enjoy it as long as I'm allowed to rent.” Gib opened the refrigerator. “Would you like something to drink? I have that white wine you like.”
Delaney sat at the bar. “I'd love some, thank you.” She watched Gib open the bottle and pour one glass. “Aren't you going to have any?”
Gib handed her the glass. “I'm not big on wine. I've got a Corona open by the grill.”
“You drank wine at dinner the other night,” Delaney pointed out.
Her bashful shrug spoke louder than any words. Gib turned and took the platter of steaks off the counter. “Since you're here, I'll go ahead and get these started.” As she stepped around the bar, Delaney stopped her by touching her arm.
“Hold on a minute, please?”
“Sure.” Gib put the platter on the counter and gave the redhead her undivided attention.
“I know it's probably none of my business, but why did you drink wine the other night, if you don't care for it?”
Gib started to say something silly, but the serious look she received stopped her. “I guess I didn't want to embarrass you.”
“How would ordering what you wanted embarrass me?” Delaney tugged on Gib's belt to bring her closer. She rested her hands on the other woman's hips. “You don't eat with your mouth open. I would have noticed that.”
“Cute.” Gib shrugged again. “It was a pretty classy restaurant, and they brought us a wine list. I figured if I asked for beer they would have laughed, and you would have gotten embarrassed. It's not a big deal. I'll have a glass of wine with a meal, but I prefer beer.”
Delaney pulled her closer and locked her hands behind Gib's head. “You're sweet. Deluded, but sweet.” She gave her a gentle kiss. “Gib, I like you just the way you are. Please don't try to be something you're not, just to please me.”
“All right.” Gib gave her a quick peck. “Now, let me get those steaks on, so we can eat.”
“Do you need any help?”
“Nah. But you're welcome to come out and keep me company. I have a table and chairs out on the back deck. Since it's so nice, I thought we'd have dinner under the open sky.” Gib led the way through the house, smiling her appreciation when Delaney opened the back door for her.
Delaney was impressed with the back deck, which opened out toward a grassy clearing. “This is great! Sure beats that little patio I have at the apartment.” She stood at the round, glass table, which had been set for dinner. “Very nice.”
“Thanks. I love it. I've even seen a few deer grazing back there. Truth is, I'd like to have a place like this someday. One of my favorite things is to watch the sunrise come off the lake.” Gib opened the gas grill and put the steaks down to cook.
“I bet it's beautiful.”
Gib turned and smiled at her. “I'd love to show it to you tomorrow.”
“You would, huh?” Delaney stepped to her and touched Gib's cheek. “I think I'd like that, officer.”
“Yeah?” Gib turned and kissed her palm. “So would I.”
After their dinner remnants had been cleared away, Gib talked Delaney into changing into something more casual and taking a walk along the lake shore. The sun was beginning to set, so the colors on the water were something to see. Gib held her lover's hand as they walked. “So, tell me more about your family. I've met your brother. He seems like a pretty good guy.”
“Dylan is actually my favorite. We're the closest in age, since he's three years older than me. I have two other brothers. Thomas, who's forty-six, and then Richard, the oldest, at forty-nine. Neither of them is in the business. Thomas is a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company in Dallas . Don't tell my folks, but I think he's gay. I can't remember him ever bringing a girl home.” Delaney's grip on Gib's hand tightened as they stepped over a log.
“What about Richard?”
Delaney made a disgusted sound. “He's a jerk. After I came out, he kept telling me I was going to hell. He's a ‘real' Catholic. Or at least that's what he tells us. He's married to some holier-than-thou woman he met online, if you can believe that.”
“Any nieces or nephews?”
“Dylan and his wife, Marsha, had four kids.”
Gib stopped. “Four? And she's let him live?”
“So far. I have three nephews: Alan, who's twelve, Brandon, who's nine and Charlie's seven. And one niece, Diana, who's four, going on twelve.”
“Working their way through the alphabet, are they?”
Delaney laughed. “I've always teased them about that. They argued so much about naming Alan, they finally opened a baby-naming book and picked one. Since it worked so well, they continued the tradition.”
Gib stopped. “Hold it. Look over there.” She pointed about fifty yards ahead, where a raccoon was busy washing something at the edge of the lake.
“Oh, wow. Look at him go,” Delaney whispered. “I wonder what he's got?”
“There's no telling.” Gib pulled Delaney closer and wrapped her arm around her. “The sun's about to set. Want to head back?”
Delaney nodded and linked her arm around Gib's waist. “Sure. Thanks for this evening, Gib. I never really took the time to enjoy the outdoors like this.”
“Give me a chance, and I'll show you all sorts of things,” Gib promised with a kiss to Delaney's neck.
“Oooh. Sounds good.”
After a simple dessert of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, the couple sat together on the back patio, their reclining deck chairs side by side. Both were looking into the night sky.
Delaney was fascinated by the amount of stars they could see. “This is so strange.”
“I'm sorry. If you'd like, we can go inside,” Gib offered.
“No.” Delaney squeezed the hand she held. “I mean, the sky. I've looked up into it at night and never saw this before.”
Gib returned the squeeze. “You've lived in town all of your life, haven't you?” At the redhead's nod, she explained. “That's the reason. The city lights always make it hard to see the stars.”
“Well, of course. But what I mean, is that even when I've been out where it's darker, I never took the time to appreciate the stars like this.” Delaney turned her head to look into Gib's eyes. “Thank you for showing me.” She leaned so that their lips could meet. Seconds later, Delaney found herself stretched across Gib's body. “I hope this chair can hold both of us.”
“I'm sure it can. You don't weigh that much.” Gib's eyes widened as the heavy plastic chair beneath her creaked. “On second thought, would you like to take this inside?”
Delaney giggled and started trying to get up. The chair crackled as she shifted. “Uh-oh.”
“Carefully,” Gib warned. She had her hands on the redhead's hips. “I'll push while you sit up.”
“All right.” Delaney raised her leg to swing it over Gib's body. “Here I go.”
Another creak, a loud pop, and the chair legs snapped off. Gib grunted as Delaney landed directly on top of her. “Ugh.”
“Oh, my god. Are you okay?” Delaney asked, her face inches from Gib's.
“Your knee,” Gib managed to get out.
“What?” Delaney wriggled and moved closer. “I couldn't quite hear you.”
Gib placed one hand between them and grabbed Delaney's leg. “Please move your knee.”
Delaney looked down between their bodies and giggled. “Oops. Sorry.” She moved her leg and rolled onto the deck, while Gib exhaled. The redhead knelt over her lover. “Are you going to live?”
“Probably,” Gib admitted, finally stretching out. “Ow.”
“Where does it hurt?”
Gib grinned. “If I tell you, will you kiss it and make it better?” She sat up, keeping her hands behind her to hold her up.
It took her a minute, but the redhead finally understood. She growled and pushed Gib down. “You are such a brat!”
Gib was laughing so hard she couldn't get up. She rolled and grabbed Delaney, ending up on top. “Who are you calling a brat?”
Delaney looked into her eyes. “You,” she answered, her voice softening. “Has anyone ever told you that you have beautiful eyes?”
“Me?” Gib's voice was just as soft. “Not that I can ever remember. But thank you.” She lowered her face and gently kissed Delaney. “ Dee —”
Things had gotten too serious as far as Delaney was concerned. She raised her hands and tickled Gib along the ribs.
“Hey!” Gib tried to get away, but was pounced on immediately. “No fair!”
They rolled around the deck together, laughing, until Gib finally begged her to stop. Delaney sat straddled the other woman's hips. “Give up?”
With tears of mirth rolling down her face, Gib nodded.
“Now,” Delaney asked, running a finger down Gib's shirtfront. “What should I get for winning?”
“Anything you want.”
Delaney's smile widened. “Anything?” She unbuttoned the first two buttons on Gib's shirt.
Gib squirmed, but didn't say a word.
“Hmm.” Delaney popped open two more buttons. “Ooh.” She fingered the white, satin bra. “Nice.” She wriggled her hips and moved down so that she could unbuckle Gib's belt. Once she had the belt loose, she undid the button on the jeans. “Still anything I want?”
“Y—,” Gib had to close her mouth and swallow to be able to speak. “Yes.”
“Good.” Delaney slowly unzipped Gib's jeans, exposing the matching white, satin panties she wore. “Very nice.”
Gib took a deep breath. “They're comfortable.”
“Mmm-hmm.” Once she completely unbuttoned the shirt, the redhead opened it to the night air. “Cold?”
Unable to speak as Delaney's hands traced a light pattern on her bare stomach, Gib could only shake her head.
“So,” Delaney started, her finger skimming across the bra, “If I were to say,” her hand cupped Gib's breast, “a certain something, what would you do?”
Delaney jumped to her feet. “Last one in the bedroom is a rotten egg,” she yelled, taking off across the deck and into the house.
Gib got up onto unsteady legs and took a single step, before her pants fell down. “Damn!” She pulled them up with one hand and headed after her lover. “You will pay for that!” The laughter from inside the house caused her to smile. “And I'm going to enjoy every damned minute of it.”
Warm breath on her neck woke Delaney. Lying on her side, she yawned and tried to stretch, but was hampered by the body tucked against her. Gib's arm was draped over her body, and her hand was splayed across Delaney's stomach. She started to scoot away so she could get out of bed, and felt a light kiss on her back.
“Hey, it's early.”
Delaney turned her head slightly. “Nature calls.” She felt, more than heard, Gib's answering chuckle, but she was released so she could move. “Thanks. Be right back.”
Gib watched her lover's mad dash out of the bedroom, enjoying the view immensely. She propped her head up with her hand and waited for Delaney to return. A quick glance at her alarm clock showed that they didn't have to be up for a couple more hours, which Gib hoped they could fill with more lovemaking. The evening before had been more intense than she had expected. Delaney's playful side slowly morphed into a woman who couldn't seem to get enough of Gib, much to the officer's delight. Gib stretched, feeling the ache of body parts that had been neglected until very recently.
The pitter patter of running feet announced Delaney's arrival into the bedroom. She hopped into bed and snuggled against Gib. “Brr. Wood floors are cold in the mornings.”
“They can be.” Gib enveloped her as best she could. “How's that?”
“Better.” Delaney rubbed her freezing feet against Gib's legs.
“Aaah!” Gib tried to scoot away, but found herself running out of bed space. “You're evil.”
Delaney mock growled. “I think I've heard that from you, before.” Her feet continued to chase Gib's legs.
“Watch it, woman,” Gib growled, edging off the bed. She stood and tried to maintain her dignity, which wasn't easy, considering she was naked. “Just for that, I'm going to the bathroom.” She strutted out of the bedroom, causing Delaney to break out into giggles.
When Gib returned, she saw the redhead reclining on her side, posing sexily. “Well, what do we have here?”
Delaney crooked a finger at her lover. “Why don't you come over here and find out?”
“Hmm. I guess I could. But maybe I should investigate before jumping to any conclusions.” Gib walked around the bed, rubbing her chin and staring at Delaney from all angles.
“Have you figured it out, yet?”
Gib tsked. “I'm still deliberating.” She ran her finger lightly across Delaney's hip, causing the other woman to jump and squeak. “Interesting.”
“Proctor, you'd better join me soon, or I'll start without you.” The redhead squealed when her comment was answered by a swat on her rear. “Gib—”
Delaney rolled onto her back. “I'm going to start counting. Don't let me get to three.” She held up one hand. “One.” Her index finger rose. “Two.”
“Three!” Gib pounced on the bed. She effectively pinned Delaney, straddling her body. “How ‘bout that. I can count, too.”
“Ha. That's only because I got you started,” Delaney teased. She wriggled, although didn't seem to be trying too hard to free herself.
Gib placed a quick kiss on the tip of her lover's nose. “Such insubordination! How should I deal with you?”
Unable to free her hands, Delaney used her knee, lifting it slowly until it made contact. She grinned triumphantly when Gib's eyes closed. “What was that, officer?”
Delaney moved her knee back and forth. “Problem?”
“Not at all.” Gib lowered her face and passionately kissed the redhead.
The shared shower took longer than Gib expected, but they were both dressed and sitting on the front porch steps just as the sky began to lighten. Delaney was on the step below Gib, who had her arms wrapped around the redhead and her chin resting on her shoulder.
“This is nice,” Delaney commented, leaning into the strong embrace.
“Yeah, it is. I'm glad you came over last night.” Gib nipped at her ear. “Although I'd better replace that lounge chair soon. If Maddy comes out and sees it broken, she's gonna give me hell.”
“You've been friends a long time, haven't you?”
Gib nodded. “She's the best friend I've ever had. Crazy thing latched onto me in grade school, and demanded that I be her friend.”
“How old were you when you came out to her?” The laughter behind her wasn't what Delaney was expecting. “What's so funny?”
“I guess I never really did. After graduation, I left town so fast that you'd have thought my rear end was on fire. I knew I was gay, but was terrified of anyone I knew finding out.” Gib sighed. “Funny thing is, when I came back a few months ago, it was like I had never left. We picked up our friendship right where it left off. Maddy gave me hell, because she said she had always known about me, but didn't think it was that big of a deal. But she was pissed because I never trusted her enough to talk about it.”
Delaney kissed the only thing she could reach, which was Gib's arm. “I don't blame her. I'd be pissed off, too.”
“I'm not real big on talking about stuff like that. With my family, it just wasn't done.”
“How did you discuss family issues?”
Gib chuckled. “If my mother wanted my brother to know something, she's whine to either me or my dad. Then we'd go talk to him. I don't think we ever spoke to the person that was actually involved. Lots of hinting around, but no real discussions.”
“Wow. My family is big on talking.” At Gib's laugh, Delaney poked her leg. “Hush. You know what I mean. We discuss everything.”
“Sorry. I couldn't resist.” Gib kissed her on the neck as an apology. The sun began to glint off the water. “Here comes the sunrise.”
They watched in silence as the sun slowly rose into the morning sky, casting a beautiful glow onto the peaceful lake. The only sounds were birdcalls, and the occasional splash from the jump of a fish.
Once the sky was light, Delaney turned in Gib's arms. “You're right. That was absolutely beautiful.”
“Not as beautiful as you.” Gib kissed her tenderly. When she pulled away, her eyes shone with love. “I realize we haven't known each other very long, Dee , but I lo—”
Delaney felt a knot in her stomach as she covered Gib's mouth with her hand. “Gib, no. Please, don't.” The sadness in Gib's eyes broke her heart, but she added, “I don't think I'm ready to hear that. Not yet. I'm sorry.” She removed her hand and kissed Gib gently on the mouth. “I think I should go.”
“No, don't. I'm sorry. I knew I shouldn't have said anything.” Gib tried to keep her from getting up, but missed.
Delaney struggled to hold back her tears. “I'm sorry,” she whispered, before going inside to get her purse and overnight bag.
Gib never moved, but watched as the redhead left. As the taillights of the Lexus disappeared into the morning light, Gib lowered her head and cried.
After calling Clint and requesting the day off, Gib drove into town. At a loss as to what to do, she went to her parent's house, in a desperate attempt to make some sense of what happened with Delaney. She parked behind her mother's old Buick and, because it was so early in the morning, rang the doorbell.
Ida opened the door and frowned. “Gibson? What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at work?”
“I'm off today.” Gib hid behind her sunglasses, not wanting to appear too vulnerable. It was an old habit. Their family tended to show their affection by teasing, and if someone had a weakness, it was like a bull's-eye on their back. “Are you busy?”
“No, not really. Your father has already left for work, and I'm watching my talk shows. Come on in.” Ida stepped back and allowed her daughter to enter, then followed her to the living room. “Would you like some coffee?”
Gib shrugged. “Sure.”
Ida sat on the sofa and held out her cup. “While you're in there, give me a refill, please.”
“Okay.” Gib took the cup and went into the kitchen. After she filled her mother's cup, she took a mug from the cabinet and filled it as well. She returned to the living room and handed Ida her coffee. “Here you go.”
“Thank you, dear.” Ida waited until Gib sat in the chair across from her. “To what do I owe this pleasure? Do you need money?”
Gib was offended by the remark. “Of course not. Why would you think that?”
“Well, it's usually the only reason I see your brother. Either that, or he needs a babysitter. I'm sorry. I shouldn't assume you're like him.”
“I'm nothing like Roger.” Gib tightened her grip on the coffee mug in an attempt to keep her hands from shaking.
Ida nodded. “That's true. You've always been independent. Certainly nothing like your brother in that regard. Have you talked to him lately? He still owes me this month's car insurance.”
“No, I haven't. You might want to call and remind him.” Gib had long since quit trying to get her mother to quit paying most of Roger's bills for him. Ida had always taken care of Roger, even after he married. She claimed he was too busy to do things for himself, which always aggravated Gib to no end.
“Well, I would, but you know how busy he is right now. After all, he's an assistant coach for Trevor's baseball team. I'd hate to bother him.”
Gib sighed. “Mom, whatever you do is between you and Roger. I'm not going to get into the middle of it.” She could feel her blood pressure start to rise. “Look, I'm sorry I bothered you today. I'd better get going.” She stood and took her untouched coffee into the kitchen and dumped it in the sink.
“Why did you come over?” Ida stood behind Gib as she poured out the coffee. “It wasn't to waste my coffee, was it?”
“Do you want me to pay for it?”
Ida shook her head. “Of course not. And why are you wearing your sunglasses inside?” She removed the dark eyewear from Gib's face. “Have you been crying?”
“No, it's just allergies. You know how it is this time of year.” Gib took her sunglasses back and hung them in the neck of her golf shirt.
“Stay for a while. We don't get to talk much anymore.” Ida gentled her voice and led Gib to the living room.
Gib sat next to her mother on the sofa. “All right. Are you busy for lunch? I thought we could run over to Rodrigo's.”
“That sounds wonderful. I'll have to put on something more appropriate, though.” Ida stood, but the ringing of the telephone stopped her. She picked up the cordless receiver that sat on the end table beside her. “Hello? Oh, hi, Roger. No, I'm not doing anything.” She covered the mouthpiece and looked at her daughter. “It's Roger.”
Gib fought the urge to roll her eyes.
“What? No, not really. Hold on.” Ida turned to Gib. “He may come over on his lunch break today. I'll need to stay home, just in case.”
“Right.” Gib stood and kissed her mother on the cheek. “I'll call you later.” She left as her mother continued to talk to Roger, barely waving goodbye to Gib.
Back in her truck, Gib rested her forehead on the steering wheel. Her heart was broken and she didn't know what to do. “How could I have read her so wrong? I thought Delaney felt the same as I did.” She started the truck and drove away from her family's house.
The thought crossed her mind to stop at Rodrigo's, but she didn't feel like playing twenty-questions with Maddy. Her best friend could always read what was going on in her mind. “I might as well be working,” Gib grumbled. She headed toward the highway out of town.
Delaney sat in her home office, staring at the plans for the dam. Because of the mild weather, they were almost a full week ahead of schedule. She slapped her hand on the desk. “Why did she try to say that? She can't love me.” Her vision blurred as tears filled her eyes. “Damn her!”
Unable to concentrate on work, Delaney left her office. She roamed around the quiet apartment. Everywhere she looked, something reminded her of Gib. “Why couldn't she leave things like they were? We were having fun.”
The empty kitchen held no answers, and even the ever-present bag of cheese puffs didn't appeal to her. Delaney walked into the living room and stared at the old recliner. She remembered snuggling with Gib, who loved to tease her about the chair. Delaney picked up the maroon blanket off the arm of the sofa, curled up in the recliner, and covered herself. She didn't try to stop the tears.
At the sound of her cell phone ringing, Delaney's heartbeat picked up. She struggled to pull the phone out of the pocket of her sweatpants. “Gib?”
“Who? Laney, is this you?” Chris asked.
“Chris? What do you want?” Delaney cursed at herself. One of these days, I'm going to learn to look at the caller ID before I answer the damned phone.
Delaney closed her eyes. “What do you want?” she repeated.
“I was hoping to leave a message on your voice mail. My boss gave me two free tickets to the Monster Truck Rally at the Coliseum on Friday, and I wondered if you'd like to go.”
“I don't think so, Chris. We're no longer together. Haven't we had this conversation at least half a dozen times?”
Chris' tone grew angry. “Why do you have to be such a stuck up bitch? I thought we could be friends. You know what a friend is, don't you?”
“I know exactly what a friend is, Chris. And I also know that there's no way in hell that we could ever be real friends, not now.”
“You are a cold bitch, you know that?”
Delaney's eyes were swimming in tears. “I know,” she whispered.
“I loved you, Laney. But you're not capable of that, are you?” When she didn't get an answer, Chris cursed. “Well, fuck you, Miss High and Mighty!” She slammed down the phone.
Delaney tossed her phone onto the sofa and pulled the blanket up under her chin. “Would Gib ever try to control me like that?” She sniffled. “Why am I so afraid to find out?” She lowered her face into the blanket. “Not like I'll ever get a chance to, now.”
To be continued in part Seven
Return to the Academy