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.
Maddy slammed the phone down so hard that a stack of papers beside it fluttered to the floor. “I'm going to kick her ass!” she growled. She bent to pick up the inventory sheets. “I'm sick and tired of her ignoring me.” Once the papers were back where they belonged, she opened her office door. “Tomas!”
The head chef of Rodrigo's turned from what he was doing. “ Sí , querida hermana ?”
“Don't ‘sister dear' me,” Maddy grumbled. “I'm going to go kick Gib's ass. Can you keep things under control for the rest of the night?”
Tomas grinned. “Of course I can. It's Thursday evening. We should be fine. Where's Gib been lately, anyway?”
“That's why I'm going to kick her ass. Every time I call her, I get ‘sorry, Mads. I'm too busy right now' out of her. I'm tired of being brushed off, so I'm going out to her place.”
“Good luck.” Tomas kissed her on the cheek. “Tell her I still love her.”
Maddy swatted him. “Like that's going to matter. You know you're not built right for Gib.”
“I can dream.”
“And I can tell your wife,” Maddy tossed over her shoulder as she left through the back door.
Traffic was light, and in fifteen minutes, Maddy drove over the new road to Gib's cabin. “Wow. I wonder when this got done. And why didn't that rat tell me about it?” She parked behind Gib's truck and was surprised to see her friend standing on the porch. Maddy shielded her eyes from the setting sun as she walked toward the cabin. “Hey, Gibsy.”
“Maddy? What are you doing here?” Gib was dressed in black jeans and a black golf shirt with an embroidered badge over her left breast.
The dark-haired woman stomped up the stairs and stood directly in front of her friend. She punched Gib hard on the upper arm.
“What the hell was that for?” Gib asked, rubbing her shoulder.
“You're lucky I didn't punch you in the face, you big jerk.” Maddy put her hands on her slender hips and glared at Gib. She noticed the dark circles beneath Gib's eyes. “What's the matter with you?”
“Nothing.” Gib turned around and walked into the cabin. She held the door open for Maddy, then closed it once they were both inside. “Do you want something to drink? I'm going out after dark, but I've got some time.”
Maddy sat at the bar. “Bottle of water, if you have it, would be nice.” She watched Gib take two bottles from the fridge. “Where are you going?”
“I've been trying to catch the poachers. We keep finding where they've gutted their kills, but that's it. I'm going to go out every night until I find those bastards.” Gib opened a bottle and handed it to Maddy. “What are you doing here?”
“I've missed my friend. You won't return my calls, and when I do catch you, I get a lame excuse.”
Gib slammed her bottle onto the bar. “Lame? These bastards are out there, probably every damned night, killing out of season. It's only a matter of time before they run out of wildlife and maybe start killing cattle. And I'm not going to let that happen.”
“Hey, calm down. You've obviously been working day and night for the past week. What does Delaney have to say about that?”
“Not a goddamned thing.” Gib turned away and found something interesting to look at through the window over the sink.
Maddy took a sip of water and watched her friend. Gib's hands were on her hips, which usually only happened when she was really angry. “What's going on between you and Delaney? I thought you two were all hot and heavy.”
“Drop it, Maddy.”
“No, I won't. One day you're telling me you think she's the one you've been looking for, and the next time I see you, it looks like you haven't slept in a week.” Maddy stood and stepped behind Gib. She softened her voice. “Come on, Gibsy. Talk to me.”
Gib slowly turned around. “There's nothing worth talking about.”
“Right. Like I believe that.” Maddy moved closer, seeing the pain in her friend's eyes. “Hey, this is me. What's going on with you?”
“I think I blew it, Maddy.”
“Blew what?” When Gib lowered her head, Maddy sighed. “Oh, no. You told her.”
Gib blinked a few tears from her eyes. “I'm such an idiot. I should have listened to you. I guess I was nothing but a good time for her.”
“Oh, Gibsy.” Maddy pulled her friend into her arms. “Honey, maybe it was just too soon. Not everyone falls so hard, so fast. Give her some time.”
“I haven't heard from her since that night. She obviously didn't feel the same.”
Maddy patted her back. “I don't know. I mean, the few times I've seen her, she can't seem to keep her eyes off of you.”
Gib shook her head and moved away. “Yeah, right. You know, maybe this was a dumb idea, coming back here. My family has moved on just fine without me. My brother is the same self-absorbed jerk he always was, and my mother,” she blew out a breath. “She's so busy with my brother and his kids it's like I'm not even here to her.” She sat on a barstool. “I should just move on.”
“Oh, no you don't!” Maddy got into her face and grabbed her shirt. “I ought to shake some sense into that thick skull of yours!” She growled and released her grip. “I like having my best friend around again, thank you very much. You're not going to run away again.”
“I didn't run,” Gib argued defensively.
“Like hell you didn't! The moment you graduated, you took off. Now I know why. You knew you were gay then, didn't you?”
Gib lowered her eyes. “Yeah.”
“Why didn't you tell me?” Maddy's voice was full of hurt.
“I was afraid you wouldn't be my friend anymore.”
Maddy threw up her hands and screamed. “Aaah! You make me so damned crazy, chica!” She jabbed her finger into Gib's chest. “I…have…never,” she poked the hardest on the last word, “judged you, have I? No, of course not. You're just a big, fucking coward!”
“I am not!”
“Like hell you're not!” Maddy lowered her voice. “It's time you stopped running, Gibson Susanna Proctor. Or I'll start calling you Susie!”
Gib's eyes grew large. “You wouldn't!”
“All right. I'll stay.” Gib pointed at her friend. “But don't ever bring up the S word again, got it?”
Maddy grinned in triumph. “We'll see.”
After spending the night at Gib's drinking more beer than she should, Maddy dragged herself into Rodrigo's. As she stumbled through the kitchen she pointed a finger at Tomas, who was about to speak. “Not one word.”
He laughed, but otherwise kept quiet.
Maddy ignored him and went into her office. She carefully closed the door. “One of these days I'm going to learn not to try and out-drink Gib.” With a pained moan, Maddy lowered herself gingerly into her chair. She closed her eyes against the bright light and thought about the previous evening.
Once Gib had admitted the redhead's response to her near admission of love, it took all Maddy had not to call Delaney and curse her out. Instead, she held her friend while Gib cried, something Maddy had never seen her do before. When they were in fourth grade, Gib had fallen off her bike and broke her left wrist. Even then, the stoic child had only bitten her lip, never shedding a tear. But to see Gib completely fall apart, and over a woman, was almost more than Maddy could bear.
By early afternoon, Maddy felt more human. She stepped out of her office and poured a cola from the kitchen's soda dispenser. As she sipped she checked the kitchen and then headed for the dining room. Once she was assured that everything was going well, she returned to the kitchen and tapped Tomas on the back. “Hey, bro.”
He turned and grinned. “You look a lot better.”
“Thanks. I need to take off for about an hour or so. Think you can handle things?”
Tomas sniffed her drink. “No, you're not drinking. Two days in a row? You trust me to handle the restaurant twice in one week?”
She shoved him. “You are a jackass.”
Maddy laughed and handed him her drink. “I'll be back later. Try not to burn the place down.”
“ Usted me había herida querida .” Tomas clutched dramatically at his chest. “Wounded, I say.”
“I'll do more than wound you, if you keep fooling around.” She ducked around Tomas and left through the back door.
Maddy knocked on the apartment door and was taken aback at how disheveled the redhead appeared. “Hey. Are you all right?”
“Have you come to kick my ass?” Delaney asked sadly. She was dressed in an oversized black tee shirt that said Texas Peace Officer, and a pair of gray, stained sweatpants. “Because right now, I'd probably give you a hand, if I could.” She walked away from the door and went to return to her nest in the recliner.
“Not kick your ass. But I would like to know why.” Maddy sat on the end of the sofa nearest her.
The redhead lowered her gaze and picked at the blanket. “God, I hate myself right now.” She blinked tears from her eyes. “When I first met Gib, I was sorta in a relationship.”
“Yeah. I'd been dating this woman for close to a year. But every time I'd think about getting more serious, she'd pull some crazy stunt, or start acting like she owned me. So I'd back away.”
Maddy nodded, but allowed Delaney to keep talking.
“Before her, I was with a woman for about three years.” She wiped her face with the back of one hand. “Everything was going great, until we moved in together. Then she got really possessive and we started to fight all the time.”
“Fight? You mean—”
“The first time she hit me, it was just a little slap across the face when I cursed her out. Then Carmen started crying and apologizing, and we made up.” Delaney shook her head. “I should have realized then what a mess she was. But then, we'd go out dancing with friends, and she'd start up again. We had it out in the parking lot of the club, and she slammed me against the car and started choking me.”
Maddy held her hand and squeezed it. “That's horrible. What happened?”
“Our friends came out to see what was going on, and had to pull her off of me. We were both screaming and cursing, and the cops came and took her away. While she was awaiting bail, I got all my stuff and moved out of her apartment. Once she got out, I told her that if she'd leave me alone, I wouldn't press charges. She moved to Memphis to be near her family, and I got this place.”
“Sounds like you've had some really bad experiences, hon. But you can't think that Gib would be that way, can you?”
Delaney stared at their linked hands, unable to look Maddy in the eye. “I didn't think that Carmen or Chris would be crazy-assed freaks, but that's how they turned out.” She wrapped the blanket around her shoulders.
“I've known Gib practically my entire life. I've seen her at probably her angriest, and even then, she never lost control. She'll yell, stomp her foot, and even cuss up a storm. But never, ever , has she gotten physical against someone. It's not in her nature.”
“Really? Never?” Delaney finally looked Maddy in the face.
Maddy nodded. “That's right. And, if you've met her brother, you'd be surprised that she's allowed him to live this long.”
“That's true. He seemed like a real piece of work.” Delaney let out a weak laugh. “I would have knocked him into next week.”
“Me, too.” Maddy scooted forward on the sofa. “Now, tell me how you're doing.”
Delaney gave a half-hearted shrug. “I'm okay.”
“You're about as good a liar as Gibsy.”
“Is she all right? I haven't heard from her since,” Delaney paused. “Anyway, how is she?”
“She's about ready to request a transfer,” Maddy answered truthfully.
Delaney sat up in a hurry. “No. She can't! I, I,” she looked around helplessly. “I can't let her do that.”
“Why not? She's pretty much decided there's nothing for her here.” She followed Delaney into the bedroom and stood by the bed as the redhead entered the walk in closet. “What are you doing?”
“I'm going to go talk some sense into that mule-headed idiot,” Delaney growled from the closet. “Just because I wasn't ready to hear her say,” her voice trailed off. “Well, anyway, I'm not letting her take off just because of me.”
Maddy sat on the bed with a grin on her face. “Well, you can't really blame Gibsy. She's had her heart stomped on so many times, it's a wonder she even tries anymore.”
Delaney stuck her head out of the closet while she pulled on her jeans. “What do you mean?”
“I probably shouldn't say anything.” Maddy stared at the floor.
“Oh, no. You've got to tell me what you meant. I won't say anything.” Maddy grabbed the first available blouse and buttoned it.
“The last woman Gib was with, well, she dumped her because she was too butch. Gib has always been very sensitive about how she looks. You were the first woman in a long time to seem to like her for who she is. At least she thought so.”
Delaney sat beside her and put on her sneakers. “I love who she is.” She stopped and became completely still. “I do,” she said quietly. “I love her,” she added with more conviction.
“Do you really? Because this past week has almost killed her. If you go back to her now, you'd better be damned sure.”
“I am, I promise. I just thought I blew it with her, when she never called.” Delaney kissed Maddy on the cheek. “Thanks for coming here, Maddy. Come on. I've got a woman to talk to.”
The speed limit on the small, winding park road was posted at twenty miles per hour, but the blue pickup crawled along at half that speed. Gib's gaze roamed from side to side as she kept vigilant for anything out of place.
She raised her sunglasses and rubbed at her eyes, which burned from lack of sleep and the hangover she blamed on Maddy. They had stayed up past three in the morning, talking and drinking. “I'm too old to be doing that, especially on a work night.” After the long conversation, Gib had promised to call Delaney and talk it out, but still hadn't worked up the nerve.
“You're such a lousy coward,” Gib grumbled. She flinched as her radio buzzed.
“Proctor, what's your location?” George asked.
Gib pushed the mike on her lapel. “Southwest road, near campsite sixteen.”
“Your presence is requested at the construction site.”
“Did they say what was wrong?” Her heart rate picked up as Gib made a sloppy U-turn. “George?”
“Nope. Just that they needed to see you.” The tone in his voice showed his confusion. “Do you think I need to dispatch BPD?”
Gib sped up, taking the hairpin turns of the park road at a faster speed than was safe. “Not yet. It could be only a case of vandalism. I'll let you know if I need any kind of backup.”
“Gotcha. Oh, hey, the boss wanted me to pass along that our new ranger should be here by the end of next week. That should give you some relief, right?” Gib was pulling double shifts, since Jessica had been suspended for a week. The surly woman had made the mistake of mouthing off to Gib, within range of Clint. He wrote her up and sent her home, without pay.
“Yeah.” Gib's mind wasn't on the new ranger, but the fear that something was seriously wrong at the construction site. She sped past the office, not bothering to acknowledge George's wave from inside.
With no traffic on the highway, Gib was able to zip across quickly. Her truck slid when she turned onto the dirt road. She saw the usual vehicles near the construction site and skidded to a stop in the middle of the road. Out of the truck before the engine died, Gib jogged to where she saw Dylan talking with several other men. “Dylan!”
He looked up and said something to the men, who all nodded and left. “Gib. Thanks for coming.”
“Sure.” Gib looked around the site, but could see nothing amiss. “What's the problem?”
“Um,” he looked around to make sure no one else was listening. He pointed north. “One of our people was taking a break and noticed something past those pens. I told them to stay there until you could check it out.”
Gib nodded. “Great. Thanks for letting me know.” She jogged to her truck and left as quickly as she came.
As she passed the holding pens, Gib could see a white pickup on the side of the road. She parked behind it and strolled to the passenger's side. When she looked through the open window, all thoughts left her head. “ Dee ? What are you, I mean, Dylan said—”
“Get in, Gib.” Delaney took a deep breath as if to gather her strength. “Please?”
“Um, okay.” Gib climbed in the truck and turned to look at her. “I take it there's no problem out here?”
Delaney held out her hand. “Actually, there is.” She cleared her throat. “There's a huge problem, and I'm hoping to fix it.” Her thumb rubbed across Gib's hand. “I'm so, so sorry for last week.”
“No, I'm sorry. I should have never said that. It was too soon, and wasn't fair to you.” Gib used her other hand to rest over Delaney's. “Can we just go back to how it was before?” When Delaney shook her head, Gib tried to pull her hands away. “I know. That was stupid.”
The redhead scooted closer and took Gib's sunglasses off her face. “You're anything but stupid, darling. I want to see your eyes when I tell you this. It's something I should have said last week, but—” Her free hand caressed the officer's cheek. “I love you, Gib.”
“What? But, I thought,” Gib babbled. “You said—”
“I know what I said, and I was a cowardly fool. I wish I was half as brave as you.” Delaney kissed her lightly on the lips. “I love you. Will you forgive me?”
Gib's answer was a half laugh, half sob. “Forgive? You?” She put her arms around Delaney. “God, Dee. I love you so damned much.” She put all her love into the kiss they shared.
Delaney sighed against Gib's chest. They had been sitting in the truck for the past half hour. “I know we still have a lot to talk about. Can you come over after work tonight?”
“Sure.” Gib kissed the top of her head. “I can skip a night of searching for those blasted poachers. Not like I've had much success, anyway.”
“You're still looking for them?” Delaney raised her head. “And you've had no luck at all?”
Gib brushed the hair away from Delaney's face. “Not really. I'll come across where they've entered the park, but by the time I get there, they're long gone. And I don't know how they're doing the hunting – I don't hear any weapons being discharged at night. It's damned frustrating.”
“I'm sure it is. Are you the only one going out at night?”
“Yeah. We really don't have the manpower for anything else. And I'm not on the clock.”
Delaney kissed Gib's jaw. “Please be careful.” She sat up and brushed her hands through her hair. “I guess I'd better get back to work.”
“Me, too.” Gib opened the passenger door and stepped out. “I guess I'll see you tonight.”
“Come around to my side, officer,” Delaney ordered gently.
Gib did as she was asked and was soon leaning on the open window. “What?”
The redhead hooked a finger into Gib's shirt and tugged. “I wanted to make sure you remembered something.” She kissed Gib passionately, pouring her heart and soul into the kiss. When she finally pulled back to catch her breath, Delaney brushed her thumb over Gib's glistening lower lip. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Gib grinned at her bashfully. “It feels so good to say that.”
“Yes, it does. What would you like for dinner tonight?”
Gib shrugged. “I dunno. Do you want me to pick up something on the way?”
“Sure. I don't mind cooking, but if we have take out, we can spend more time,” she wriggled her eyebrows, “talking.”
The officer's face turned pink. “Um. Chinese okay?”
Delaney giggled. “I'm sure whatever comes through my door tonight, I'll enjoy.” She fell over in the seat, laughing hard at the look on Gib's face.
Dressed in faded jeans and a white, button-down shirt, Gib juggled a couple of bags full of food as she knocked on the apartment door. It opened immediately. “Hey.”
The wide grin Delaney wore lit up her face. She was barefoot, wearing only a tee shirt and gray sweat pants. “Hi. Can I help?”
“I think I can get it.” Gib followed her into the apartment and placed the bags on the bar. “I got a little of everything, because I forgot to ask you what you wanted.”
Delaney kissed her on the cheek. “You're too sweet.” She helped unpack the bags and placed all the containers on the table. “Would you mind getting the wine out of the fridge?”
“Sure thing.” Gib opened the refrigerator. “How did you know what brand of beer I drink?” She took out red wine and a bottle of Corona .
“I remembered you drinking it at the cabin.” Delaney put her hand on a chair. She smiled when Gib's hand covered hers.
“Thank you.” She settled herself as the officer pushed the chair to the table. “You really do seem too good to be true, you know.”
Gib sat to her right. “Trust me, I'm anything but that.”
“You sure seem like it to me.”
They filled their plates and began to eat, both seemingly comfortable with the lack of conversation. While she added a second helping to her plate, Gib noticed her lover appeared uncomfortable. “What's the matter?”
Delaney wiped her mouth with a napkin. “I have so much to tell you, but I'm not sure where to start.”
“I don't need any explanations, Dee . We're here now, that's the important thing.”
“No. I mean, yes, it's important that you've given me another chance, but I'd really like to try and explain why I freaked out on you.”
Gib took Delaney's hand. “All right. But you can stop anytime.”
The redhead smiled weakly and held onto Gib's hand as if her life depended on it. “I've had such rotten luck with the women I've become involved with,” she kissed Gib's hand, “until now. I guess you could say I was a late bloomer. I never had any feelings for anyone, other than friendship, until college.”
“College? You were a virgin going into college?”
Delaney nodded. “I had guy friends and girl friends throughout high school, but never clicked with anyone. I was more interested in my studies than dating. And when I got to college, my roommate was a lesbian. I'd never known anyone like her before.”
“Did you, um, experiment with her?” Gib became puzzled when Delaney broke out into laughter.
“Sorry. No, Ranelle was a little too feminine for me. She was more like my big sister. Not to mention, her girlfriend would have kicked both our butts. But the first party I went to, a woman tried to pick me up. I was intrigued, and came back to the dorm to tell Ray all about it. She didn't laugh, but instead helped me work through my feelings.” She finished her wine.
“Refill?” Gib asked.
Delaney shook her head. “No, thank you. Anyway, I dated off and on during college. I think my longest relationship was probably three or four months.” She lowered her gaze and stared at her half-empty plate. “It seemed like I always picked the wrong kind of woman. They'd start out nice, but by the end, we'd fight over everything.”
“Lots of couples get into arguments, Dee . Heck, we've had some good ones.” Gib scooted her chair closer and put her arm around Delaney's shoulders. When she felt how stiff her lover was, Gib kissed the side of her head. “Did any of them ever hit you?” The body she held grew even more rigid. “Sweetheart?”
“One of them did,” Delaney whispered. “About ten years ago, I met Carmen. God, she was so strong and beautiful.” She raised her head and looked into Gib's eyes. “A lot like you.”
The blush on Gib's face made her blonde hair stand out even more. “Um, thanks.”
Delaney patted her leg. “The first time I saw you in your uniform, I nearly swooned.” She fanned herself. “Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. Carmen. We did really well for the first two years. I really thought we'd be together for life. But once I moved in with her, she got so possessive and controlling. A couple of times she slapped me or pushed me around, but I usually provoked her. She'd always apologize, and my parents liked her, so I kept trying.” A few tears fell down her cheeks. “The final straw was when we went out dancing with our friends. She kept thinking I was flirting with other women. When we went outside to talk about it, she started to strangle me.”
“I rarely wish violence on anyone,” Gib muttered. “But I would certainly like to meet her someday and teach her to pick on people her own size. No matter what you did or said, she had no right to touch you.” She pulled Delaney into her arms and held her. “I promise you, Dee . I will shoot myself before I ever lay a hand on you. Or I'll give you my gun and you can shoot me.”
“I'd never shoot you. Whack you with a softball bat, maybe. But I really don't care for guns.” The gentle stroking of her hair calmed her and Delaney found herself relaxing in Gib's embrace. “You really are too good for me.”
“Nah. I think I'm just right. Have you had enough dinner?” The nod against her chest was all she needed. Gib stood, holding her lover in her arms. “Come on, beautiful. Let's go get more comfortable.”
Delaney put her arms around Gib's neck. “Gib! You're going to hurt yourself, hauling me around. I can walk.”
Gib laughed, but didn't put her down. “You're kidding, right?” She walked through the living room. “Here or the bedroom?”
“Bedroom.” Her heart lighter than it had been in a week, Delaney giggled as Gib pretended to struggle, by walking with a wobble. “You're crazy, you know.”
“Of course.” Gib dropped her onto the bed. “Crazy about you.” She tickled Delaney's bare feet before kicking off her own sneakers. “Mind if I join you?”
Delaney held out her hand. “Please.” She pulled Gib down, laughing as the larger woman growled and wrapped her up in her arms. “God, I love you.”
“I love you too, Dee .” Gib lowered her head and kissed her tenderly.
When Delaney woke and saw the time as one-thirty, she had to take a moment to remember what had transpired before she dropped off. After they spent over an hour kissing and gently getting reacquainted, they curled up and fell asleep, still fully clothed. Now wide awake she rolled over and watched her lover sleep.
Gib was lying on her back, one hand behind her head and the other resting on her hip. Her hair was mussed and her unbuttoned shirt was still tucked into her jeans. The belt she usually wore had been removed by Delaney and tossed somewhere in the room.
Unable to resist, Delaney used her index finger to skim lightly across Gib's exposed stomach. She started to giggle when the other woman's breathing changed, but her eyes remained closed.
“Giii-b,” Delaney sang softly.
A slight grin broke out on Gib's face, but there was no other movement.
Delaney took her lover's inaction as a challenge. “Oh, Giiiibsssy,” she sang softly into Gib's ear. Her tongue traced along the outside of the ear before she bit down lightly on the lobe. “I loooooove you.”
Gib opened her eyes and started laughing at the ticklish feeling. She rolled over to face her lover. “I love you, too. What time is it?”
“Oh! Did I wake you?” More giggles ensued when Gib's fingers found Delaney's most ticklish spots. “Aaack! I give, I give! It's around one-thirty in the morning.”
Gib rolled until her body was over Delaney's. She put the majority of her weight on her hands. “Is there any particular reason you woke me?”
“There might be.”
“Are you planning on telling me?” Gib lowered her face until she was only an inch away. Her lips hovered about Delaney's as their breath intermingled. “Well?”
Delaney licked her lips. “Kiss me.”
“Hmm.” Gib started to, but backed away. “I dunno. You wake me in the middle of the night and expect me to kiss you?”
“Please,” was the breathless answer.
Gib's face lowered and she barely touched her lips to Delaney's. “How's that?” Her laughter was cut short when Delaney grabbed two handfuls of hair and pulled her down, crushing their lips together. Clothes were lost as the two lovers were enveloped in the passion which flared between them.
The sun was barely up when two laughing, wet women emerged from the bathroom. Gib tried to get her towel back from Delaney, who had whipped it off of her with a leer. “Come on, Dee . I need to get ready for work.” They had spent the entire weekend together, only leaving the bedroom long enough for food.
“Uh-uh. I like you just the way you are.” Delaney danced away from her lover's hands. “What's the matter? Don't you believe in drip-dry?”
Gib held out her arms and stalked her. “Deeeee.”
“Um,” Delaney backed away. “Heh.” She waved the towel around. “I'm guessing you want this?”
The back of Delaney's legs hit the edge of the bed and she became nervous. “What are you thinking?”
“I'm thinking,” Gib's voice trailed off right before she lunged at the redhead. At the last moment, Delaney moved out of the way, and Gib ended face down on the bed. A heavy weight landed on her back. “Ugh.”
“Ha! Gotcha!” Delaney crowed. Her nude body was molded against Gib's. “Now what are you going to do?”
The officer laughed. “Guess I'm stuck here.”
“You bet your,” Delaney slapped her on the rear, “ass you are. I may keep you here indefinitely.” She squealed as her lover rolled over and pinned her to the bed. “No fair!”
“All's fair in love and,” Gib blew a raspberry on her throat, “war.” The raspberry turned into a kiss. She indulged her libido for several minutes before raising her head. “Unfortunately, I've really got to go home and get ready for work.”
Delaney groaned and put her arms around the blonde's neck. “No.”
“ Dee —” Gib's voice was muffled as her face was pulled into Delaney's chest.
“Uh-uh. I'm going to keep you as my love slave. Aaack!” She pushed Gib away and wiped at her chest. “Did you lick me?”
Gib smacked her lips and grinned. “Yup.”
“Gross.” She smiled at the silly grin her lover wore. “I'm going to have to think of something equally disgusting to do to you, sometime.” Delaney touched Gib's cheek. “You're beautiful when you smile.”
The comment made Gib blush. “Thanks. Um, I guess I'd better get ready to go.” She got off the bed and looked around for her clothes, which were scattered across the room. “Have you seen my bra?”
“Not since last night.” Delaney rolled onto her stomach and propped her chin on her upraised hands. She kicked her legs back and forth as she watched her lover get dressed. “Do you have any plans for Wednesday evening?”
“I don't know. Do I?” Once her jeans were zipped and buttoned, Gib sat on the edge of the bed to put on her shoes and socks. She grunted as her rear was swatted. “What?”
“Smartass.” Now on her knees, Delaney crawled to drape herself over Gib's shoulder. “Actually, if you're up for it, I'd love for you to meet my parents.”
Gib turned to look at her. “Really? Are you sure?”
“All right. Wednesday night sounds good.” Gib tied her shoes and tried to stand, but was stopped by a firm grip around her shoulders. “Sweetheart, I need to go.”
Delaney wrapped her legs around Gib's waist. “Nope.” She giggled as the officer got to her feet, bringing Delaney with her. “Guess you'll just have to go to work like this.”
“That could be fun. We're supposed to get a temporary transfer from Big Bend this week. I can always tell them that you're a perk.” Gib jumped as her ribs were poked. “Careful. You wouldn't want me to drop you.”
“I trust you,” Delaney whispered in her ear. She climbed off of her lover and stood in front of her. In total seriousness she spoke what was in her heart. “I love you.”
Gib's hands rested on the redhead's bare hips. “I love you, too.” After sharing a tender kiss, she reluctantly stepped away. “Call me later?”
“You bet I will, officer. Be careful?”
Monday afternoon was going well for Gib, until her radio took her from her daydreams. “This is Proctor, go ahead.”
“Proctor, return to the office at once,” Jessica ordered.
“Is there a reason I'm needed there?” Gib asked, turning her truck around in the parking lot of the swimming pool. The radio crackled with an inaudible answer. “Repeat, please?”
“Just get here. That's per Clint,” Jessica added snidely.
Gib grinned and made a silly face at the radio. “Sure. Be there in less than five.” She laughed as she imagined the look on Jessica's face. The woman had been more subdued since her suspension, but Gib knew it was only a matter of time before she lashed out again.
After she parked in front of the office, Gib got out of her truck whistling a tune. She walked in and her smile widened when she saw a familiar blonde sitting near the counter. “Kennie!”
The other woman stood and met Gib halfway. “Surprise.”
“And a great one it is, too,” Gib told her as she embraced her. “When will you be back at work?”
“Hopefully in a few weeks.” Kennie led them to a sitting area, out of sight of the disgusted Jessica. “I'm still trying to get my strength back, but the doctors tell me I'm ahead of schedule.” She held Gib's hand while they talked. “Thanks for all the flowers.”
Gib squeezed her hand and smiled. “You're welcome. How is your family doing?” She had met Kennie's family on her visits to the hospital.
“They're great. Mom's staying with me for another week or so, but my dad and little sister went home this past weekend.”
“That's good. You still have my number if you need anything, don't you?”
Kennie laughed. “Yes, mom. I do.” Her face turned serious. “I don't think I can ever thank you enough for saving me that day, Gib. Even though I was wearing a life vest, they said I would have died if you hadn't—” Tears welled up in her eyes.
Gib knelt beside her. “It's all right. I know you would have done the same for me.” She was nearly knocked off her feet when Kennie lunged into her arms. Gib held her as she cried.
“Figures,” Jessica snarled from the doorway. “Do you always entertain your little conquests while you're on duty?”
Gib released Kennie and stood. “What exactly is your problem with me, Middleton?”
“Oh, no. You're not going to get me suspended again.” Jessica moved closer and lowered her voice. “But one of these days, I'll get a chance to tell you exactly what I think of you.”
“No matter what you think, I had nothing to do with your suspension.”
Jessica rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right. You and Clint are buddies, don't try and deny it. He wouldn't dare let anyone say a single thing against you.”
“You're wrong. We're colleagues, Middleton. Nothing more. Your rotten attitude got you suspended.”
“Bullshit.” Jessica stepped as close to Gib as possible, without touching her. “Don't think I haven't seen you mooning over that slutty-looking redhead,” she whispered.
Gib's hands curled into fists. “You can say whatever you want to about me, but don't you dare talk about her that way.”
“What's the matter? Not used to being caught making out with your flavor-of-the-week?”
“Shut up,” Gib growled.
Jessica gave Kennie a cruel smile. “You'd better watch out, Wyatt. Your cute little ass might be next.”
Kennie laughed. “I should be so lucky.”
Gib took Jessica by the arm. “Come on. We're going outside to talk where we won't be interrupted.”
“Get your hand off of me, or I'll scream,” Jessica threatened.
“Shut up.” Gib turned to Kennie. “How long will you be here?”
Kennie got out of the chair. “I'm on my way home. My mother's in the parking lot waiting for me.” She gave Gib one final hug. “I'll call you later.”
“All right.” Gib blushed when she felt soft lips on her cheek. “Take care of yourself, Kennie.” Once the blonde had left, Gib turned to Jessica. “Are you ready for our little chat?”
“You can't make me.”
Gib led her through the office. “George, we'll be back in a few minutes. Let Clint know, will you?”
“Uh, sure. There's not much going on right now, anyway.” He moved behind the desk and answered the phone.
Once they were outside, Jessica jerked her arm out of Gib's hand. “I don't appreciate you manhandling me.”
“Then maybe you should start acting more like an adult.” Gib gestured to the passenger side of her truck. “Go on, get in.”
Jessica did as she was told, slamming her door closed as hard as she could. “What are you going to do, take me out in the boonies where no one will find my body?”
Gib ignored her and started the truck. She took the road toward the campgrounds. A few minutes later, she had found a vacant campground and parked the truck. She unbuckled her seatbelt and turned to face the other woman. “All right. It's just you and me here. Would you like to tell me what your problem is?”
“I don't have a problem.”
“Yeah, right. From day one, you've been antagonistic toward me. No matter what I do or say, you pop off with some smart-ass remark. Why?”
Jessica stared straight ahead, with her arms crossed over her chest. “Why did you choose Wyatt over me that day?”
“You two seemed to hit it off right away. She got to go with you in the bigger boat, while I was stuck with Conroy.” She looked at Gib. “He hates you.”
Gib shrugged. “Tell me something I don't know.” She considered what the other woman said. “Wait a minute. All this time, you've been pissed at me because I chose Kennie over you?”
“Well, yeah, I guess so. And every time I'd go up to visit her at the hospital, you'd be there.” Jessica sniffled. “And then, not long ago, I saw you and that redhead that's with the construction company. She was looking at you like you were dessert.”
The entire conversation was becoming too surreal for Gib. “You're jealous ?”
“No! I'm not gay!” Jessica screamed. “I'm not!” She covered her face with her hands and began to cry. “I can't be.”
Oh, shit. Now what? “Jessica?” Gib cautiously touched the younger woman's shoulder. “Hey.”
Jessica jerked away. “Don't!” She wiped her eyes on her shoulder. “I'm not a dyke.”
“I never said that you were. But even if you were, it doesn't matter.” Gib removed a handkerchief from her back pocket and handed it to Jessica.
“Ha! Tell that to my father. He hates queers.” She blew her nose. “Thanks.” She started to hand the soiled cloth to Gib, but was waved off. “”He saw you on the news.”
Gib tipped her baseball cap back. “What?”
“My dad. There was a report on the news about the accident, and they showed your photograph. He told me to stay away from you.”
“You live with your folks?”
Jessica shook her head. “No, I have an apartment in Benton . But it's not far from my parents. Does your family know about you?”
“You mean, that I'm a lesbian?”
Gib nodded. “They do. I think they figured it out before I did.”
“Do they give you a lot of grief about it?” Jessica no longer sounded nasty, just curious.
“Not really. My mom thinks if she ignores it, it'll go away.” Gib laughed at how Ida never really spoke of her sexual orientation, but danced around the subject. “Our family doesn't really talk about stuff like that. But my dad seems okay with it.”
Jessica looked at her. “When did you know? I mean, was it a big epiphany, or what?”
“Um, well.” Gib frowned as she tried to remember. “You know, I don't think I ever just looked in the mirror one day and said, ‘Yeah, I'm gay'. It was like I always knew.”
“Oh.” Jessica started to bite at her right index nail. “Were you ever scared that someone would figure it out? And hate you, or worse?”
Gib gave the question serious consideration. “Not really. I mean, I was kind of nervous when I moved back here. I had this entire life down in Austin that no one here knew about. But coming back to Benton , I felt like the teenager that left, not the grown woman I'd become.” She softened her voice. “The one person I was worried about the most, didn't care. My best friend just chewed me out for worrying about it, and for not telling her sooner.”
“Yeah. I'm not going to lie to you, Jessica. A lot of people feel like your dad. And some of them wouldn't think twice about hurting someone, just because of who they love. But when you find that special someone, it's the most amazing feeling in the world. How old are you?”
Jessica lowered her face and stared at the floorboard of the truck. “Twenty-two. I'm sorry for being such a bitch to you, Proctor.”
“Call me Gib. All my friends do. And don't worry. You've got a lot of time to figure out just what you want. Don't rush it.” Gib held out her hand. She smiled when Jessica took it.
Delaney breezed into her father's office and sat on the edge of his desk. “Hi, Dad.”
He looked up from his laptop. “Afternoon, honey. What's got you so chipper?”
“What? Can't I be in a good mood?”
“Of course you can. It's just that, no, never mind.” Colin took off his glasses and rubbed them with a cloth. He scrutinized them carefully before returning them to his face. “It's nice to see you happy.”
She laughed and messed up his thick, gray hair. “All right. I know I can be a cranky bitch at times.” At his snort, she shook her head. “Right. Most of the time.”
“Not cranky, exactly. Just very focused and business-like. But lately, you've seemed almost giddy.”
Delaney circled the desk and hugged him. “I am.” She kissed her father's cheek. “I'm in love.”
“Really?” Colin turned to look her in the eye. “This is rather sudden, isn't it? Or did you and Chris work things out?”
“Uh, no. Chris is history.” She returned to her perch on the desk. “Remember the park police officer? Gib Proctor?”
He nodded. “Your friend, right? I should have realized it would turn into something more, especially after talking to your brother.”
“What has Dylan been saying?”
Colin scooted his chair away from the desk and stood. “He may have mentioned a thing or two in passing.”
The grin on her father's face should have warned Delaney off, but she asked anyway. “Like what?”
“Like how your face would light up whenever she was near, or the way you constantly talked about her.”
Delaney blushed and nervously rubbed the back of her neck. “I'm going to kill him.”
“Don't do that. I've finally gotten him trained to handle the on-site work,” Colin teased. “So, when are we going to meet this woman?”
“That's actually the reason I came in here. I wanted to know if you two are busy Wednesday evening.” She scooted off the desk and took his hand. “Let's go check with your better half, since she's the one who handles your social calendar.”
Colin released her hand and put his arm around her shoulders. “I can't help being disorganized, you know. It's the main reason I married her.”
“I'll be sure and tell her that,” Delaney teased, as they walked out of the office.
Light rain began to fall on the truck as Gib headed home for the day. It was the last thing she wanted to see, since she had decided to go out after dark and continue to search for where the poachers were cleaning their kills. A camper had come across the dumped remains of a deer earlier in the day, making Gib more intent than ever to put a stop to the hunting.
She parked in her usual space and was halfway to the cabin when the skies opened and drenched her. “Crap!” Gib's walk turned into a run. She slipped when she hit the second stair, but kept her balance and made it to the door.
Once inside, she dropped her keys on the side table and was removing her duty belt when her cell phone rang. “Proctor.”
Maddy's happy voice came through the Bluetooth a little louder than necessary. “Is this the great Officer Proctor?”
“Good grief, Maddy. Please tell me you're not already wasted.”
“Only on life, my friend. What are you doing?”
Gib hung her belt up and unbuttoned her shirt. “Changing clothes. You caught me as I was coming in the door. Why?”
“Have a hot date?”
Maddy laughed at the dejected tone. “Aw, poor baby. Well, perk up. You do now. Meet me at Tony's in half an hour.” The pizza joint was near Maddy's apartment, promising cheap prices and big portions of pasta favorites.
“What?” Gib hung up her wet shirt over the shower bar.
“You heard me. Get changed and get your butt into town. I'll see you there at six-thirty.” Maddy hung up so that Gib couldn't argue with her.
“Damn.” Gib turned and looked into the bathroom mirror. “Why do I continue to let her do that to me?”
Twenty minutes later, she hit the city limits of Benton . The rain hadn't let up, making her wiper blades struggle to keep the windshield clear enough to see. She passed the road that led to Delaney's, and had to struggle to keep from turning around. “Good lord. I need to give that poor woman some space.” With a renewed determination, Gib found a parking space near the front door of Tony's.
She stood under the outside canopy and shook off the worst of the rain, before going inside. The single dining room held about twenty round tables, with cheap plastic red-checkered tablecloths. Old, mismatched cheap-pleather chairs didn't help the ambiance, but the smells coming from the kitchen were enough to make up for the décor. Faded posters of Italy adorned the walls.
Gib headed toward a corner table, where she could see her best friend speaking animatedly with another person. When she arrived at the table, Maddy stood and gave her a hug.
“Hey, Gibsy. Thanks for coming.”
“Like you gave me much choice,” Gib grumbled good-naturedly. She released Maddy and looked up when the other occupant of the table stood. At six-feet tall, he was several inches taller than either woman. His dark hair and equally dark eyes sparkled in the bright light.
Maddy grinned. “Robert Winslow, this is my best friend, Gibson Proctor.”
Gib shook the handsome man's hand. “Call me Gib.”
“Rob,” he answered. “Madina's told me a lot about you.” He held out Maddy's chair and helped her get seated. The table had three glasses of iced tea, paper-napkin wrapped utinsils and a basket of breadsticks.
“She has, has she?” Gib sat across from the pair. “I'm sorry I can't say the same.”
He laughed. “No, I guess you couldn't. We only met a few days ago.”
Maddy gave her friend a warning look. “This is our first night out together, Gib.”
“Ah.” Gib picked up a breadstick and took a bite. After she swallowed, she nodded. “So, Rob, how did you meet Maddy?”
“I dropped a case of wine at her feet.”
Gib choked on the breadstick as she struggled not to laugh. She coughed a few times and took a drink of tea. “I bet that went over well.”
“I don't think I've ever been cursed out that,” Rob paused, “colorfully, before.” He winked at Maddy, who blushed.
“Did she go directly to Spanish? ‘Cause that's when it gets fun,” Gib asked.
Rob laughed. “She started in English, but I think she ran out of words.”
“Laugh it up, you two.” Maddy shook her head. “And I still can't get the wine smell out of those shoes.”
The look Maddy gave Rob was one of fondness, and it brought a smile to Gib's face. She had been waiting years to see such a look. She patted Maddy's hand and mouthed, I like him. Out loud, she said, “So, Rob, what is it that you do?”
“I'm the regional manager for Randolph 's Liquor. One of my guy's was out with the flu, so I was working his route.” He exchanged looks with Maddy. “I'm going to have to give him a raise when he gets back.”
Gib's eyebrow rose when she heard her best friend giggle. Giggle? Oh, boy. She's a goner . “I really appreciate you asking me to dinner, but I need to get going.”
Maddy finally tore her eyes away from Rob. “What? But you just got here.”
“Yeah, but,” Gib paused when the couple returned to staring at each other. She pushed her chair out and stood. “It was great to meet you, Rob. You two have a great evening.”
Rob began to get up, but Gib waved him down. “That's okay.” She leaned to whisper in his ear. “Take care of her.”
“You got it, Gib. I'm hoping to get to know you a lot better.” He shook her hand then went back to smiling at Maddy.
Gib shook her head. She stood outside under the awning and took out her phone.
“Hello, officer,” Delaney answered softly. “I was hoping you'd call.”
“You were? Did you know that the phone works both ways?” Gib teased, as she walked through the rain toward her truck.
Delaney laughed. “Really? I had no idea. What is that noise?”
“Rain.” Gib opened her truck and got in, shaking her head to dispel the worst of the water in her hair.
“Where are you?”
“I was in the rain.”
“My god, you're a bigger smartass than I am. Okay, I'll bite. Why were you in the rain?”
Gib grinned as she started the truck. “Because it's raining, of course.”
“Gibson Proctor, you should be ashamed of yourself.” Delaney continued to laugh. “Hey, what's your middle name?”
“Oh, no. I can't tell you that.”
Delaney's growl would have been more menacing if she wasn't giggling through it. “Why not?”
“Because, well, just because. Are you busy?”
“Busy talking to you,” Delaney shot back. “Ha! Two can play that game, officer.”
Gib switched to her Bluetooth. “Other than picking on me, are you busy?”
“Have you eaten?”
Delaney's tone turned sultry. “Is that a proposition?”
“It could be. I find myself in Benton , with nothing to do. Would you like for me to bring you some dinner?”
“I'll make you a deal,” the redhead bargained, “you show up, and I'll throw together some pasta and frozen garlic bread.”
Gib thought about the lasagna at Tony's, which she swore was heaven-made. “That's the best offer I've had all day. I'll be there in five.”
“The door will be unlocked,” Delaney promised.
Even over the sound of the Norah Jones CD playing in the living room, Delaney heard the door open. “I'm in the kitchen,” she called.
Moments later, a drenched Gib walked into the kitchen. “You know, leaving your door unlocked isn't very safe,” she chastised.
Delaney turned away from the stove. “It is here. They don't let strangers come up, you know.” She frowned at the drowned rat imitation from her lover. She took the dishtowel from the cabinet door and wiped the water from Gib's face. “Do you not know how to use an umbrella?”
“Um, well, yeah. I do.” Gib stood still and allowed Delaney to towel her face and hair dry.
“Then why don't you?”
The towel wandered lower, getting the worst of the water from her shirt. Gib's mind went blank as she felt her shirt being unbuttoned. “Huh?”
“You're going to catch pneumonia if you keep running around soaking wet,” Delaney continued, oblivious to the effect she was having on Gib. “I have one of your tee shirts you can change into, while I put this in the dry—” her words were cut off when Gib's mouth pressed against hers. The dishtowel dropped to the floor and Delaney's hands tangled into her lover's hair.
Gib backed her to the counter, as she continued to kiss her. She raised Delaney's tee shirt and groaned at the feel of silky skin beneath her hands. Her kisses trailed down to her lover's throat. “You make me so hot, Dee .”
“Yes,” Delaney cried, tipping her head back to give Gib better access. She pulled her closer.
The sound of water boiling over caused Gib to stop what she was doing. “Whoa.” She took a single step back, breathing heavily. “Sorry about that.”
“I'm not.” Delaney took a shaky breath. She turned and gave the stove her attention, while Gib stood behind her and nibbled on her neck. “Baby, if you don't want me to ruin dinner, you,” she moaned, “Gib, please.” She dropped the spoon into the sauce and moved Gib's hands from her hips to her breasts. “I need you.”
Gib turned off the stove. “Dinner can wait, but I can't.” She led Delaney to the bedroom, suddenly hungry for more than spaghetti.
To be continued in Part 8
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