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.
Gib tied her shoes while Delaney stood in front of the mirror and brushed her hair. She moved behind the redhead and put her hands on her lover's hips. “Are you going to be out at the job site today?”
“No, I've got a ton of stuff to do at the office.” Delaney put the brush down and turned. “What exciting things do you have planned?”
“Probably the usual. Patrol the park, ignore Dan, and hope the temporary ranger comes in today.”
Delaney put her arms around Gib's waist. “Is he still giving you a lot of trouble?”
“Not really. I haven't had much contact with him. Clint schedules him as far from me as possible.” Gib lightly kissed her. “But I don't care about Dan.”
“When you kiss me, I don't care about anyone or anything,” Delaney admitted. “I'm really glad you came over last night.” She snuggled closer and sighed. “Can we go back to bed?”
Gib chuckled and hugged her. “I wish. But we'll see each other tonight.”
“Yeah, with my parents. Yippee.”
“Hey, if you don't want—”
Delaney shook her head. “No, I really want them to meet you.” She looked into Gib's eyes. “I love you, and I want to show you off.”
“Show me off? You're kidding, right?”
“What do you mean?”
Gib backed away. “Come on, Dee . I'm definitely nothing to show off. I'm surprised you'll be seen in public with me.”
“Hey.” Delaney grabbed two handfuls of Gib's shirt and pulled her close. “I happen to think you're beautiful. My god, who wouldn't? You've got the most amazing eyes,” her voice softened, “and the most beautiful soul I've ever known.”
“Sorry. Old ghosts tend to jump up and bite me in the ass every now and then.” Gib closed her eyes when she felt her lover wrap her in an embrace. She suddenly sounded very vulnerable. “Do you really feel that way about me?”
“Oh, sweetheart,” Delaney cried. “I do. And I'm so sorry I haven't told you before now.” She tightened her arms around Gib. “I love you so much, Gib. I keep thinking you're going to figure out that I'm not good enough for you, and run.”
Gib buried her face in Delaney's hair and sighed. “I love you, too. And I'm not going anywhere. Looks like we've both got some ghosts to fight.”
“As long as we do it together,” Delaney added.
“Yeah.” After taking a cleansing breath, Gib gave one final squeeze and stepped back. “Have a good day at work.”
Delaney found herself getting lost in Gib's eyes. “You, too.” She caressed the officer's cheek. “Believe in me, Gib.”
“I will.” Gib lowered her face and kissed her.
It hadn't taken Gib long to get home and change into her uniform. She was on her way to the office when her radio beckoned.
“Proctor, please report to the office,” Jessica's voice was polite and professional, which was a welcome change.
“Sure thing. Is there a problem?”
“No, but the temporary ranger has arrived, and I believe Clint wants you to show them around.”
As her truck drove over the muddy lake road, Gib was grateful for the construction company's work. The heavy rain from the previous evening would have made the road impassable before. Now she was able to drive from her cabin without too much trouble. She stopped before turning onto the highway. “All right. I was on my way, so I should be there in about two minutes.”
Once she parked beside an unfamiliar Jeep Wrangler, Gib walked into the office, softly whistling a tune. She noticed the back of the new ranger, speaking to Clint and Jessica. “Hey, Clint. Didn't you explain to our newbie that getting here before eight wouldn't garner any overtime?”
The new ranger turned to face Gib, wearing a knowing smile on her face. Tall, blonde and more suited as a model than a park ranger, Gloria Hoover gave Gib a visual once-over. “Hello, Gibson.”
Gib stopped dead in her tracks, her good mood evaporated. She plastered what she hoped was a professional look on her face. “ Hoover .”
Clint, oblivious to the tension, patted his newest employee on the shoulder. “Gloria was just telling us that she worked with you in Austin , Gib. Small world, isn't it?”
“Yeah.” Gib nodded to Jessica. “How's it going?”
“All right.” Jessica glanced from Gib to the beautiful blonde. “I guess I'd better get on that paperwork. It was nice to meet you, Hoover.”
Gloria barely glanced at Jessica as she continued to stare at Gib. “Same here. Call me Gloria.”
Jessica rolled her eyes. “Sure. See you, Gib.”
“Well, since we've all been introduced, Gib, why don't you show Gloria around?”
Gib swallowed hard. “Clint, can I speak to you for a moment?”
“Sure. Come into my office.” Clint pointed to a far wall. “Gloria, there's a map over there so you can familiarize yourself with the area before Gib takes you out.” He closed the door behind Gib. “All right. What's the problem?”
“Is there anyone else that can play tour guide? I'm still trying to find the base camp for the poachers.”
Clint sat behind his desk. “Tour guide? Come on, Gib. Two pair of eyes are better than one. Don't tell me you have a problem with Gloria. She spoke very highly of you.”
“She's always had a selective memory,” Gib muttered. She dropped into his guest chair. Not wanting to delve too deeply into her personal life, she tried to come up with a good reason. “Um, how long will she be here?”
“That's up to me and her. At least until Kennie comes back. And if everything works out, she could be here permanently.”
Gib sighed and closed her eyes. “Great.”
“Are you going to have a problem?”
She stood. “No. I'll take her around, and then she can patrol on her own this afternoon. Is that all right?”
“Sure.” Clint cocked his head as he studied her. “Are you sure there's nothing you want to tell me?”
“Nah. I'm probably grumpy because I didn't get much sleep.” Gib adjusted her duty belt. “Buzz me if you need me.” Her purposeful strides took her to Gloria's side. “You ready?”
Gloria turned and smiled. “Definitely. Your vehicle or mine?”
“Let's take mine. I'll bring you back later for yours.” Gib led her outside to her truck. She waited until the other woman was buckled in before she backed up and started down the main road through the park. “We have mostly developed campsites, and each has to be signed in at the office. I usually go in every morning to see where we have campers.”
“I've missed you.”
Gib continued as if she hadn't heard. “We also have a swimming pool, hiking trails, and two screened shelters that are used primarily for family reunions.”
“Gib, please. Can't we talk about this?” Gloria tried to touch Gib's arm, but was shaken off.
“There's nothing to talk about.” Gib slowed down and pointed. “Over there is the first of three emergency phone stations, that go directly to the office. The emergency number is forwarded to an on-call ranger or officer after hours.”
“I made a mistake.” Gloria slapped the dash. “Damn it, Gib. Won't you give me a chance to explain?”
The quiet woman shook her head. “You have nothing to explain. I believe you made it perfectly clear when you broke up with me.” Gib drove past the public pool. “I'll show you a back road to the lake. It's off limits to the public. But it's faster than driving all the way around to the office. Let's try to keep our conversation on work, okay?”
The normally clean desk was covered with blueprints, as Delaney tore through her pending projects with vigor. At the tap on her door, she looked up. “Hi, Mom. What's up?”
Maureen leaned against the door jam. “I was going to ask you the same thing. You haven't stirred from here since you arrived this morning.” At her daughter's wave, she slid into the guest chair.
“I haven't been doing much work on the weekends, so I was trying to catch up.” Delaney sat up and brushed her hair away from her face.
“Do I want to know what you've been up to?” Maureen teased. “You know, I'm rather looking forward to dinner tonight.”
The subject change was so abrupt it took Delaney a minute to process. “Uh, yeah. I know you're going to love Gib. She's just an amazing woman.” She noticed the twinkle in her mother's eye. “Moooommm…don't you dare.”
“Please, please, please ! Don't start tormenting Gib until she at least gets used to you. Promise me?”
Maureen grinned. “Torment? Whatever do you mean?”
Delaney covered her face with her hands. “Mom, please.”
“You're such a spoil-sport. Don't tell me she's some sort of shy little flower? I can't imagine you dating such a woman.”
“No, no.” With a groan, she uncovered her face. “Gib's very open and honest, and a lot of fun to be around. But she's not used to a family like ours. So, if you don't mind, can you hold off on the teasing until she's more acclimated?”
“She must really mean something to you. I don't think I've ever heard you protect someone this much before.” Maureen lowered her head and peered through her invisible glasses. “You are truly serious about her, aren't you?”
Delaney nodded. “More than anyone, ever.”
“Then I'll try to behave myself. At least for tonight.” Maureen stood and brushed off her slacks. “Oh, by the way. The reason I came back here was I have a message from Dylan. He wants you to call him whenever you get a chance.”
“I wonder why?” Delaney shrugged. “You could have just buzzed me.”
Her mother shook her head. “Your line was out.”
“Really?” Delaney moved some of the blueprints off of her desk, and found the phone receiver sitting awkwardly off the hook. “Oops.”
“See? And here you acted as if I were lying.” Maureen laughed and walked out of the office, making off-handed comments about silly children.
Delaney rolled her eyes and hit the speed dial for Dylan's phone. “Hey, Dyl? What's up?”
“ Del , thank god. You need to get out to the site. The rain last night caused a shift in the dam and I'm afraid it might not hold if we get more rain.”
“Calm down. You're overreacting, as usual. We didn't change the structure enough to have any major problems.”
Dylan cursed. “You haven't seen it. Could you please get your butt out of that cushy desk chair and come see? It doesn't look good.”
“All right. I'll be there in about half an hour, okay? Can you keep from coming unglued until then?” She opened the lower desk drawer and removed her purse. “Dyl?”
“Yeah, yeah. Just hurry, will ya?”
“Have you lost your ever-lovin' mind, Dyl? It's just mud.” Delaney kicked at the mud and glared at her brother.
He looked sheepish, but stood his ground. “How the hell was I supposed to know? It looked like half the blasted dam washed away during the night.”
“Are you serious? This is nowhere near the amount of debris the dam would leave.” She pointed to the top of the dam. “As you can see, the structural integrity is intact. I'll walk across it, if you want me to.”
“No!” Dylan turned red. “Okay, so I panicked. But this job was going so well, so ahead of schedule that I figured we were due a disaster.” He tucked his hands into his pockets. “Sorry to have dragged you out here.”
She shook her head and laughed. “That's all right. Maybe I can catch Gib while I'm here.”
“No wonder you're not tearing me apart. This is a good excuse to see your sweetheart.” Dylan ducked as Delaney halfheartedly threw a punch. “You're losing your touch.”
Delaney narrowed her eyes. “If I wasn't wearing my good jeans, I'd show you,” she threatened.
“Yeah, yeah. Talk tough. What are you gonna do? Get your girlfriend to beat me up?” He stuck out his tongue and danced backward.
“I don't need her to. I've always been able to kick your ass. Or did you forget your sophomore year in high school?”
Dylan frowned. “Hey, I slipped on the ice.”
“Tell me another story, bro. I knocked you on your ass in front of your friends, after you teased me about my freckles. Or have you conveniently forgotten the bruise on your chest where I hit you?”
He shrugged. “Whatever.” The very welcome sight of a blue pickup truck coming down the road made him smile. “Speaking of girlfriends, here she comes.”
Delaney turned around so quickly that she almost fell. Her face broke out into a silly grin. “I bet she's going to go check on the buffalo calf.” She playfully pushed her brother. “You can thank Gib later for saving you.”
“Yeah, right,” he called after her, as his sister traipsed through the mud toward her SUV.
Gloria stared at the heavy thicket of mesquite trees as they turned onto a gravel road. Where are we going now?”
“This is the last of your tour,” Gib muttered. “A fire road that goes beside the lake. I thought since we were out, I'd show you our small herd of buffalo and longhorns.”
“Wow. You really lead an exciting life around here, Gibson.” Gloria had always refused to use the diminutive for Gib's name, saying it sounded too butch. “However do you stand it?”
Gib sighed as they passed the construction site. She was so focused on her passenger, she didn't notice Delaney's Lexus parked by the other vehicles. “It's a nice place, Gloria. Of course, there's not much to keep you entertained out here in the ‘boonies', as you call them. But I like it.”
“We used to keep ourselves entertained.” Gloria tried to bring the conversation back to their previous relationship. “Remember our long weekends?”
“I don't want to talk about it, Gloria.” Gib slowed as they passed the empty pens. “I think we're up to maybe six or eight head of longhorn, and around four buffalo. If you're lucky you'll get to see the newest member, who was born a few weeks ago.” She pulled off the road and turned off the engine. “Hop out, but don't slam your door. They're right over there.”
Gloria looked in the direction Gib pointed, and saw two adult buffalo and one longhorn. “God, they're ugly.” She stepped out of the truck and joined Gib at the fence, standing as close as she could. “Would you give me another chance?”
Gib turned, almost bumping the other woman. “No. You haven't changed, Gloria. But I have. And I've found someone who loves me for who I am, not who they think they can make me.” Her eyes grew wide as Gloria leaned in and kissed her.
It didn't take Delaney long to get into her Lexus and follow the blue pickup. She saw it parked beside the road and slowly came to a stop not far behind. It wasn't until she was out of the SUV that she realized Gib had someone with her.
Before Delaney could call out, she saw a striking blonde step forward and kiss Gib. I should have known! Gib isn't any different, after all. She was geared up to speak her mind, when she saw Gib shove the woman away.
“Damn it, Gloria. I told you no!” Gib wiped her mouth and crawled through the fence, away from the blonde.
“Gib!” Delaney yelled, startling the grazing animals. They turned away from the people and into the brush. The redhead struggled to climb through the fence, ignoring the orders from the blonde.
“Lady, get back here. This isn't public property,” Gloria shouted, but made no move to follow.
With her back to Gloria, Delaney held up both hands, with only her middle fingers extended. “Bite me,” she tossed over her shoulder, never losing sight of her lover. “Gib, wait up.”
Gib stopped not far from the brush, but didn't turn around. She stuffed her hands in the front pockets of her uniform pants and lowered her head. “Damn it.”
“Honey?” Delaney stopped a few feet from Gib.
“If you're going to yell at me,” Gib's voice was hoarse, “can it wait? I'm really not up for a fight right now.”
Delaney moved closer until she could put her arm around Gib. “I'm not going to yell. I may kill that blonde bimbo, but I think you're safe.”
“She's my ex,” Gib explained. She leaned against Delaney and closed her eyes. “I swear, I didn't do anything to encourage her.”
“I believe you.”
Gib raised her head and looked into her lover's face. “You do?”
“Yes. Although I'll admit my first thought was that you were cheating on me.”
“But, I wouldn't—”
Delaney kissed her lightly on the lips. “I know you wouldn't. You're not capable of something like that. But, if she touches you again, I'll kick her ass.”
Gib laughed and hugged her. “I'll sell tickets. Come on. I'll introduce you.” She kissed Delaney on the neck and whispered, “I love you, Dee.”
“I love you, too.” Delaney pulled her head down and gave her a passionate kiss. “All right. Now that I'm through marking my territory, let's go.” She held her head high as they walked hand in hand to the fence.
“Here.” Gib held two strands of wire apart so that Delaney could step through more easily. She followed, smiling when the redhead took a firm grasp on her hand.
Gloria angrily crossed her arms over her chest as the pair approached. “That's a new technique to capturing trespassers.”
“Delaney, sweetheart, this grump is Gloria Hoover. She's here to help us while Kennie recovers.” Gib never released her lover's hand, instead grinning at Gloria. “Oh, and she's my ex.”
The redhead nodded. “Hello. I'm afraid Gib has told me nothing about you, Gloria. Welcome to Benton .”
Gib was barely able to control the urge to giggle at the look on the blonde's face. She tossed her keys to Gloria. “Why don't you take my truck to the office, Gloria? I'm going to ride with Delaney.”
“Whatever.” Gloria caught the keys and stormed away.
Once she was out of range, Gib turned to Delaney. “Thank you.”
“For what, darling?” Delaney released her hand and put her arms around Gib. “That was a lot more fun than kicking her ass.”
“I love you so much,” Gib proclaimed, right before she lowered her face and kissed Delaney.
Twenty minutes later, Delaney stopped the Lexus near the side door of the office. “I guess I'll see you around seven?”
“Yep.” Gib unfastened her seatbelt and leaned across the vehicle. She grinned when Delaney mirrored her actions and met her halfway. “I'm looking forward to it.” The quick kiss they shared didn't keep her from wanting more. “I don't know how much work I'm going to get done between now and then, though.”
Delaney fingered the layers of windblown hair around Gib's face. “Tell me about it. I have enough at the office to keep me busy for days, but I doubt I'll even look at it.” She glanced over her lover's shoulder. “We've got a voyeur.”
“Gee, I wonder who?”
An evil glint appeared in Delaney's eyes. “Wanna give her something to look at?”
“It's very tempting, sweetheart. But I do have to work with her for the time being.” Gib kissed her again and grabbed the door handle. “See you in a few hours.” She was about to close the door when Delaney called out to her. “What?”
“I love you.”
Gib's smile lit up her entire face. “I love you, too. Be careful driving back.” She closed the door and watched until the Lexus disappeared from view. Still wearing the grin, she went into the office and stepped past Gloria. “Enjoy the show?”
“You know, Gibson, I don't remember you being so rude before,” Gloria whispered. She took a step back when Gib turned around and moved toward her.
“No, you remember me being your lap dog. But those days are over.” She held out her hand. “Keys, please.” With a wink, Gib walked away from her, twirling the key ring on her finger and whistling.
Behind the counter, Dan glared at the officer. “What are you so happy about?”
Gib stopped in front of him. “It's a beautiful day. Why wouldn't I be happy?”
“Well, we still have those poachers running around,” Dan taunted. “You haven't found many clues about them, have you?”
“Not yet. But, I have a feeling my luck is changing.” She tapped the counter. “Have fun working the desk today. I'm going out to enjoy the sunshine.”
Dan glared at Gib's back. “Bitch,” he grumbled.
Gloria overheard him and walked to the counter. “Problem?”
“Yeah. She thinks she's hot shit.”
“Oh, I don't know. She has been with the department for over fifteen years and is a senior officer. Must know something.”
He snorted. “Yeah, right. I'd think she was sleeping her way to the top, but she's a,” Dan lowered his voice to a whisper, “dyke.”
“Really?” Although not enamored with her ex-lover's newfound independence, Gloria still held hope for reconciliation. She decided to keep an eye on Dan. “Well, then I doubt she was able to get far that way.” She drummed her manicured nails on the sign in clipboard. “You and I will have to stick together, won't we?”
“Sure.” Dan's eyes lit up. “Hey, what are you doing after work? I know this great place in town—”
Gloria cut him off. “Oh, sorry. I have to unpack. Maybe some other time.” She winked at him and left the office.
Gib followed her lover into the steak house, surprised that the “family” dinner would be held in the moderately priced restaurant. She had expected the meal to be somewhere with dim lighting and linen tablecloths. The Wrangler had been a part of Benton 's culinary scene for over forty years. Rough-hewn walls were decorated with burnt-on cattle brands while dim light flickered from the hanging wagon wheels. They were led to a large, round table in one of the semi-private rooms, where four others already were seated.
Gib held out Delaney's chair and helped her get settled. She took the final chair between Delaney and Dylan.
“Nice to see you could make it,” Dylan teased his sister. “Hey, Gib. You look a lot different out of uniform.” He flinched and glared at the dark-haired woman sitting next to him. “What?”
Delaney rolled her eyes. “Let me get the introductions out of the way. Gib, you know my brother, Dylan.”
Gib nodded. “Hi, Dylan. You clean up pretty well, youself,” she joked.
“And his wife, Marsha, who should earn a medal for putting up with him.”
Marsha looked surprised when Gib stood to shake her hand. Slightly overweight, with her dark hair cut stylishly short, she was the epitome of a soccer mom. “It's nice to meet you, Gib.”
“My pleasure, Marsha.” Gib walked around the table. She held her hand out to Maureen. “Mrs. Kavanagh, I'm Gibson Proctor.” She shook Colin's hand next. “Mr. Kavanagh, thank you both for coming tonight. Delaney has spoken very highly of you.”
Colin got to his feet and looked Gib in the eye. “It's our pleasure, Gib. Our daughter raves about you constantly, so it's nice to finally meet you.” He motioned to his wife. “And please, call us Colin and Maureen. I've left the shotgun in the car, so you're safe. For now.” He grinned at the panicked look on her face.
“Dad,” Delaney sighed. “You promised to behave tonight.”
“A man has to protect his little girl, doesn't he?” He slapped Gib on the back. “Take it easy. We won't talk about the wedding plans until dessert.”
“Wedd—” Gib choked. At the laughter from the entire table, she relaxed. “Now I see where Dee gets her sense of humor.” She returned to her seat and exhaled in relief.
Delaney rubbed her shoulder. “I'm sorry, honey. My family takes a little getting used to.”
Marsha nodded. “That's so true. Gib, when I first started dating Dylan, I wasn't sure what I was getting into. But you'll never have to worry about what they're thinking, because they'll be more than happy to tell you.”
A server brought three baskets of rolls to the table and took everyone's drink order. Once she left, Dylan smiled sweetly at his sister. “So, Gib. What do you do besides harass innocent citizens all day?”
“I mostly patrol the park. There's not a lot to do right now, but once summer comes, I figure to be pretty busy.” Gib took a sip of her iced tea. “Although harassing innocent citizens is a perk.”
Colin laughed. “She's got you there, son. Say, Gib? What do you do for fun?”
“I like to fish when I get a chance. And since my cabin is within steps of the lake, it's something I can do whenever I want.”
Maureen poked her husband. “Don't say it.”
He tried to appear innocent. “What?”
At Gib's questioning gaze, she explained, “My husband is a huge fisherman. He'd be out on the lake every minute of every day, if we lived there.”
Gib nodded. “You're welcome anytime, Colin. Just give me a call.”
“You shouldn't have said that, honey,” Delaney stage-whispered.
Maureen was the one who answered. “Because you'll never get a moment's peace.” She politely thanked the server who placed her iced tea in front of her.
Everyone laughed at the chagrined look on Colin's face. He shrugged. “If I can ever get my kids to take over the business, I can retire and fish full time.”
“Yeah, right,” Dylan snorted. “You'd last about a week before you begged to be back at work.”
Everyone chimed in their agreement, while Colin shook his head.
Once all of their orders were taken, Marsha scooted her chair away from the table, giving Delaney a tip of her head. “If you'll excuse me, I need to freshen up before the food arrives.”
“Um, yeah. Me, too.” Delaney allowed Gib to pull her chair back. She touched her lover's hand and whispered, “Thanks.”
After the two women left, Gib felt the weight of Dylan's stare. “What?”
“Are you trying to make me look bad?”
“I don't understand. What did I do?”
Dylan shook his head. “Gib, Gib, Gib. Isn't it enough that you've domesticated my sister? Do you have to try and steal my wife, too?”
The elder couple chuckled at Gib's apparent cluelessness. Colin tried to help. “Don't listen to him, Gib. He's just jealous because you're a better partner than him.”
“I don't know about that, but thanks. And, since we're talking about it, I want to thank you for this evening. It's been a lot of fun. Reminds me of when Dee and I are together.”
“That's the funny thing,” Dylan told her. “My sister has always been a very serious person. It's only been recently that her playful side has come out, and we have you to thank for it.”
Gib frowned. “Really? I find that hard to believe. We're always laughing or playing around, and she instigates it as much as I do.”
“Don't misunderstand. Delaney is a wonderful woman, and we're all very proud of her. But she's been much too serious, for as long as I can remember.” Maureen raised her tea glass. “I hope you two continue to have fun, and enjoy all life gives you.”
Gib raised her glass as well. “Thank you, Maureen.”
In the restroom, Marsha cornered Delaney. “Is she for real?”
Delaney couldn't help but grin. “Jealous?”
“Hell, yes. I don't think Dylan ever held out my chair for me, even when we were dating.” Marsha washed her hands and looked at her reflection in the mirror. She fluffed her hair. “Looks like it's time to hide the old woman again. My hair grows too fast, and I spend most of your brother's money at the salon hiding the gray. Now, back to Gib. Does she do that sort of thing often?”
“Constantly.” Delaney stood next to her and also looked in the mirror. “When I first met her, I kept thinking the same thing. There's no way a person in this day and age can be so gallant. But that's just how she is.”
Marsha stuck her tongue out at their reflections. “I hate you.” She giggled, causing Delaney to crack up as well. “Think she'll give your brother lessons?”
“Good luck with that one,” Delaney laughed, bumping hips with her sister-in-law. “Do you think I'm crazy, to have fallen in love so quickly?”
“Honestly?” Marsha turned and looked into Delaney's eyes. “I've only just met her, and I'm a little in love, too.” She embraced the redhead. “And if only a slight bit of her rubs off on Dylan, I'll be thrilled.”
They were still giggling when they returned to the table, which was loaded with food. Delaney smiled her thanks to Gib, who once again helped her into her chair.
Marsha glared at Dylan, who quickly jumped to his feet and followed suit. “Thank you, honey.”
“Uh, sure.” Dylan frowned at Gib, who was trying hard not to laugh. “Shut up,” he grumbled.
In the parking lot after dinner, Gib and Delaney waved to the family as everyone headed for their cars. They had already agreed to a cookout at the lake the following weekend, much to Colin's delight. “I hope you know what you're getting into,” Delaney teased, as Gib held open the driver's door on the Lexus.
“Come on, Dee . It'll be fun. Marcia wanted to go to the pool with the kids, and your dad is really looking forward to fishing.” Gib glanced around, and seeing no one, gave her a quick kiss. She jogged around to the other side and got in. “It's still pretty early. What would you like to do?”
Delaney gave her a saucy wink. “I know of several things I'd like to do. But, since I don't want to waste us both being so dolled up, how about we go dancing?”
“Sure.” Gib glanced down at her clothes. Her neatly-pressed black jeans and a starched gray shirt were dressier than usual, along with polished black boots. “What kind of music does the club play tonight?”
“I'm not sure.” Delaney started the SUV and backed out of the parking space. “I think it's country. Is that all right?”
Gib laughed. “Sweetheart, as long as I can hold you in my arms, it's all good.”
“Keep talking like that, and we're skipping the dancing.”
“And that's a bad thing?”
Delaney giggled. “Not really. But, I really enjoy going out with you.”
“Of course I do. Why wouldn't I?” Delaney stopped at a red light and looked at her lover. “I'm not her, honey.”
Gib sighed and nodded. “I know. It's just going to take a little time to get past these stupid insecurities.”
“Anything that involves you is not stupid.” Delaney held out her right hand until Gib took it. “We both have some places that are raw, but I'm looking forward to getting past them, together.”
“I like that.” Gib brought their hands up and kissed Delaney's knuckles. “Take me dancing, pretty lady.”
Since the club wasn't very crowded, they were able to find a table next to the dance floor. Gib helped Delaney sit, and then headed for the bar to get their drinks.
The bartender, a woman with multiple tattoos, gave her a friendly nod. “What can I get for you?”
“White wine and a bottle of water, please.” Gib placed a ten dollar bill on the bar.
“There's no charge for the water,” the bartender told her.
Gib grinned. “Keep the change, then.”
“Thanks.” The woman nodded toward the dance floor. “Are you with Delaney?”
“I am.” Gib leaned closer and lowered her voice. “Is there a problem?”
“Not at all. I'm Lisa, Kate's ex.” Lisa held out her hand. “You know, Terri and Kate?”
Gib shook her hand. “Nice to meet you. I met Terri and Kate a while back. Dee 's really fond of them.”
“So am I,” Lisa admitted. “Kate and I dated during college, but decided we'd be better friends than partners. A year later, she met Terri, and the rest is history. Anyway, tell Delaney I said hi.”
“I sure will, thanks.” Gib took their drinks to their table and sat next to her lover. “Lisa says hi.”
Delaney turned and waved toward the bar. “She didn't give you the third degree, did she?”
“Nah. Just a little history.” Gib sipped her water. “Ready to hit the floor?”
“I thought you'd never ask.” Delaney stood and took Gib's hand. There were only four other couples on the dance floor. She snuggled close to Gib and sighed happily as the officer's arms snaked around her body. “I've needed this all evening.”
Gib kissed the side of her head. “Me, too.” She shuffled her feet and guided them slowly around the floor.
They danced for three songs before a fast beat chased them away. Gib took a seat at their table, surprised when someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned her head. “Yes?”
“Didn't expect to see you here this evening,” the muscled woman replied.
Delaney ran around the table and happily embraced the woman. “Hey, Terri!” She was lifted off her feet and swung around. “Where's Kate?”
“At the bar, picking on Lisa.” Terri kissed Delaney on the cheek and shook hands with Gib. “Nice to see you again, Gib.”
“Same here. Would you like to join us?”
Terri considered the offer. She smiled as Delaney sat as close as possible to Gib. “Are you sure you two wouldn't rather be alone?”
Gib put her arm around her lover, who leaned into her embrace. “We can be alone later. Have a seat.”
“All right.” Terri pulled out a chair, which was instantly occupied by her partner. “You're welcome,” she teased.
“Hush.” Kate placed their beers on the table and slapped Terri on the leg. “Hi guys.”
Delaney laughed at the playful banter of her two friends. “How's work?”
“Busy, as usual. Not that I'm complaining. I know it's only going to get worse as it gets hotter.” Kate was an administrative assistant for a landscape and sprinkler company. “How's the work at the lake going?”
“We're ahead of schedule. As a matter of fact, if the weather continues to cooperate, we should be done almost a month early.” Delaney sipped her wine and watched as Gib drained the bottle of water. “Would you like me to get you another one, honey?”
Gib shook her head. “Nah. I need to run to the restroom, so I'll pick up one on the way back.” She stood. “Anyone else need a refill?” Both Terri and Kate responded negatively, so she headed for the hallway off the dance floor.
She passed a slender woman in the dark hall and pushed open the ladies' room door. Just as Gib stepped over the threshold, she felt a pair of hands slam hard into her back. Knocked to her knees, Gib turned and was barely able to ward off a kick toward her head. “What the hell?”
“You fucking bitch!” the woman spat, as she jumped onto Gib. “You stole my girlfriend!”'
Gib rolled until she had the dark-haired woman face down on the floor. “What are you talking about?”
“She's mine! Laney's mine!” Chris blubbered as she tried to squirm out of Gib's hold.
“I didn't steal anyone.” Gib pulled her up and leaned her against the wall.
Chris continued to cry. “I had her first, you know.”
“I don't care. She's with me now, and that's all the matters to me. Why don't you go home and sleep it off?”
“Fuck you!” Chris powered her head forward, slamming into Gib's face. “I love her, and she's mine, you fucking bitch!” She blinked as her vision swam from the force of the hit. A drunken smile covered her face when blood began to drip from Gib's nose and mouth. “Ha.”
Gib twisted Chris' arm and forced her face into the wall, just as another woman stepped into the restroom.
“What's going on here?”
“She stole my woman,” Chris bellowed, as she tried to break free of Gib's hold.
Gib turned to the woman and identified herself. “I'm a Texas Peace Officer. Would you please have Lisa at the bar call the police?”
The woman's eyes were wide. “Uh, sure.” She hurried out of the room.
“You're a cop?” Chris asked, still struggling.
“I am. And you're under arrest for assault.” Gib tightened her hold on Chris' bent arm, raising her hand higher against her back. “So just shut up and be still.”
“Ow! Police brutality!” Chris slammed her head into the wall. “Help!”
Gib kept one hand holding Chris' wrist, while she brought her other arm around the woman's neck to bring her away from the wall. “You idiot. Stop that.”'
The door swung open again, allowing Terri and Delaney access. “Police are on their way,” Terri advised. “Need any help, Gib?” She was pushed out of the way by a fuming redhead.
“Goddamn it, Chris. What the hell have you done?” Delaney wet a few paper towels and tried to clean Gib's face. “Are you all right, honey?”
“No! This fucking bitch attacked me,” Chris screamed. “Laney, I love you!”
Delaney clenched her fists. “I wasn't talking to you, jackass.”
“Want me to take her so you can get cleaned up?” Terri asked Gib.
“Fucking bitch,” Chris kicked at Terri. “I never liked you.”
Terri laughed and stepped back. “The feeling's mutual, moron.”
Two uniformed men stood in the open doorway. One kept his hand on the butt of his gun, while the other came into the room. “Could everyone clear out, please?” the one at the door asked politely.
Delaney looked as if she was about to argue, but she sighed and nodded. “I'll be right outside,” she whispered to Gib.
Ten minutes later, a bawling and handcuffed Chris was led through the club by the officers. She tried to stop at the table where Delaney sat with Terri and Kate. “I love you, Laney. Please don't hate me.” She stopped crying when Delaney stood and walked toward her, but had to be dragged away as the redhead passed and went directly into Gib's arms. “No!”
“Shut up,” one of the officers ordered, as they pulled her to the front door. “Remember those rights we explained to you? Now would be a good time to exercise the silent one.” His partner opened the door and the three of them stepped out into the night.
Gib, holding a damp paper towel to her lower face, joined the trio at the table. “That was fun.” She pulled the towel away and looked at it, grimacing at the new blood. “Damn.”
“I can't believe Chris would do something so stupid,” Delaney growled. She took over the towel and began to clean Gib's face.
“She kept telling me that you were hers.” Gib watched her lover's face, which darkened with fury.
“Like hell I am. As soon as she gets out on bail, I'm going to kick her ass.”
Terri nodded. “I'll help.”
“No, you won't,” Kate asserted. “That sorry waste of skin isn't worth you or Delaney getting into trouble over. Right, Gib?”
“Right.” Gib moved away from Delaney's attempt to wipe the blood from her shirt. “Don't worry about it.”
Delaney's chin quivered as she tried to control her emotions. “I'm sorry, Gib. She's been acting a little weird lately, but I never figured her for that.”
“What do you mean? Acting weird, how?”
“She just wouldn't take no for an answer. She kept calling me and calling me, even after I told her to leave me alone. I don't know why she got so fixated on me. It's not like we were very close at the end of our relationship.”
Kate patted Delaney's hand. “You never did seem very happy with her. Even when you first got together, I don't remember ever seeing you laugh.” She smiled at Gib. “Not like you do now.”
Gib took Delaney's hand and held it in her lap. “Why didn't you tell me you were having trouble with her?”
“Honestly? I didn't think it was that big of a deal. She'd call and whine, and I'd tell her off.”
“All right. But do me a favor, next time?”
Delaney touched Gib's face. “I'll tell you, I promise.”
Terri blew out a breath. “Well, I think it's time we got going. You guys going to be okay?”
“Sure.” Gib stood and fished one of her business cards out of her wallet. “Give me a call, and we'll all get together. Maybe y'all can come out to the lake some weekend.”
“We'd like that,” Kate answered. She hugged a surprised Gib, and then moved on to Delaney. “Take care of this one,” she whispered in the redhead's ear. “She's a keeper.”
Delaney nodded. “I know. And I plan on it.” She hugged Terri. “See you later.” Once their friends left, she turned to her lover. “Can I interest you in a long soak in a hot bath?”
“Are you going to be there?” Gib asked with a grin.
“Perhaps.” Delaney looked closely at Gib's face, which was beginning to bruise above her lip. “I'm so sorry.”
Gib took her into her arms, careful to keep Delaney away from the blood on her shirt. “I'd rather she go after me than you. And you have nothing to apologize for. It's not your fault the woman was unbalanced.”
“No. Do you blame me for Gloria's behavior?”
Delaney shook her head. “Of course not. But that's not the same.”
“It's exactly the same. We can't take credit when others do great, so why should we take the blame when they get stupid?” Gib waved to Lisa as she and Delaney left the bar. “Will it upset you that I plan on pressing charges against her?”
“Hell, no. If there were any extra charges I could get added on, I would,” Delaney snapped. “I still want to kick her ass.” She sighed as Gib chuckled. “I could, you know.”
Gib held her close. “Of that, I have no doubts.”
A cool draft woke Gib. She blinked in the gloom and tried to get her bearings. The soft breath on the back of her neck, along with the arm wrapped around her stomach, brought a smile to her face. The emotion was short-lived when her lip broke open again. “Damn.”
“Whassa' matter?” Delaney mumbled, tightening her grip.
Gib patted the hand on her stomach. “Nothing. Go back to sleep.”
“Mmm.” Delaney snuggled close, her bare thighs brushing against Gib's. “What time is it?”
Delaney lightly bit the back of Gib's neck. “Wanna fool around?”
Gib rolled over and wrapped her arms around the redhead. “Again?”
“Always.” Delaney gave her a slow kiss, while her hands mapped out the contours of Gib's body. She pulled back and licked her lips, grimacing. “Your lip is bleeding again. Let me go get a washcloth.”
“It's okay,” Gib assured her, hanging onto Delaney's hips so she couldn't leave the bed. “It'll stop in a while.”
With a heavy sigh, Delaney broke away and got out of bed. A minute later she returned to sit beside Gib. “Come here.”
“ Dee —”
“Please, don't argue with me.” Delaney switched on the bedside lamp. “Honey, maybe you should get that stitched.” She carefully dabbed at the cut.
Gib caught her hand. “Give it a couple of days and you won't even be able to tell, I promise.” She frowned as tears welled in Delaney's eyes. “Hey, what's wrong?”
Delaney pulled her hand back and used a shaky finger to trace along Gib's mouth. “It's my fault you got hurt.”
“No.” Gib kissed the finger. “She did it all on her own. Even when she found out I was a peace officer, she didn't settle down. The woman has some issues, and they have nothing to do with you. Don't give her that power.”
“My head says that, but my heart,” Delaney sadly shook her head, “my heart tells me otherwise. How could I have been in a relationship with her for a year and not know what a nutcase she was? Am I that bad at judging character?”
Gib smiled. “I sure hope not. Or are you trying to tell me something?”
Delaney swatted her. “No, you loon.” She caressed the arm she had slapped. “Do you think she'll go to jail?”
“Has she been into any trouble before?”
“Not that I'm aware of. But then again, I really don't know that much about her.” Delaney felt Gib's hands cover hers in her lap. “I think I know more about you than I do her. I've never met her family, and she's only met mine because she'd come to my office.”
Gib cocked her head and looked directly into her lover's eyes. “Really? Even after a year?”
“Sounds odd, doesn't it? The more I think about it, the more I realize how wrong it was to be with her for so long. She didn't deserve to be treated that way.”
“You're kidding, right?”
Lowering her head, Delaney looked at their joined hands. “We met through a blind date. She seemed so sweet. We dated for a couple of months before we got serious. Once we became,” she lowered her voice, “intimate, everything changed.”
Gib's voice was almost as quiet. “Changed, how?”
“She became more…possessive, I guess. Always wanting to know where I was, what I was doing. At first, I thought it was kind of sweet, like she missed me and couldn't wait to see me again. But, when she would sit outside my office and wait for me to come out, it made me uncomfortable.”
“And yet, you stayed together?”
Delaney shrugged. “Honestly? I didn't want to go back to blind dates or meeting someone at a bar.”
“Did you love her?”
The answer was immediate. “No. Maybe that was the problem. She would tell me she loved me, and I'd never reciprocate. I cared for her, at first. But later, I kept making excuses to keep away from her. I think I was afraid of being alone. I'm such a selfish bitch.”
Gib leaned back against the headboard and tugged Delaney with her. “Come here.” She held her lover in her arms and stroked her hair. “It would have been worse if you had lied to her. A relationship takes two people, sweetheart.”
“Maybe so, but I should have stopped it sooner. She kept wanting more, and I kept backing away.” Delaney raised her head and looked into Gib's eyes. “Don't let me do that to you, please. You mean too much to me, Gib.”
“Don't worry, Dee . I'm not going anywhere, and I won't let you go, either.”
The enticing smells of breakfast woke Delaney. She rolled over and snuggled into Gib's cold pillow, her mind warring between trying to get a few more minutes of sleep, or seeing her lover in the kitchen. A smile crossed her face when she remembered how Gib usually cooked breakfast. Delaney scooted out of bed and put on the nearest shirt, which happened to belong to her lover.
She stopped in the doorway, content in watching Gib work in the kitchen. She couldn't help but smile at the woman wearing only a pair of cotton briefs. For someone who claimed to be a novice cook, the officer did a fine job on anything she decided to prepare. Delaney leaned against the doorframe and crossed her arms under her breasts.
Gib looked up from the stove and smiled at her lover. “Good morning, beautiful.”
“It certainly is,” Delaney agreed, pushing off the door and joining Gib by the stove. She put her arms on Gib's shoulders and linked her hands behind her neck. A gentle tug brought Gib's lips close, and Delaney gave her a heartfelt kiss. “Now it's even better.”
“I've got to agree with you on that one. Are you about ready to eat?”
Delaney grinned. “Is that a proposition?” She laughed at the look on her lover's face. “Okay, okay. Would you like me to set the table?”
“That would be great.” Gib swatted the redhead on the rear when she turned away.
“Hey!” Delaney spun and glared at Gib. “What did you do that for?”
Gib grinned. “'Cause it was there, of course.” She dodged the slap headed for her arm. “No beating on the cook.”
“Why do you get to make all the rules?” Delaney gathered two plates, silverware and poured two cups of coffee, all the while keeping her eye on Gib.
Once the omelet was done, Gib took the pan to the table and doled out equal portions. She returned the pan to the stovetop and took a seat beside her lover. “What are your plans for the next couple of days?”
“I've got a client meeting at ten on Friday morning, so I have quite a bit to do in order to prepare for it.” Delaney took a bite of the omelet and moaned. “How do you manage to find something edible in my apartment, when I can't?” She frowned. “I know I didn't have mushrooms.”
Gib shrugged. “I ran to the store earlier.” She had her fork almost to her mouth when Delaney's arm swat knocked it away.
“But you're not dressed!”
“I was. But I like the look on your face when you see me cook, so I unchanged when I got back.” Gib switched hands and started to eat.
“Think you're pretty clever, don't you, officer?”
Delaney leaned closer and whispered in her ear. “I think you are, too.” She kissed Gib's neck and returned to her breakfast.
After they jointly cleaned up the morning dishes, they took a quick shower together. Delaney could feel Gib watching her as she pulled on her pantyhose. “See something you like?” she asked over her shoulder.
“Always.” Gib buckled her belt and sat on the end of the bed to put on her socks and boots. “Would you like to come out on Friday night and stay for the weekend?”
“Sure.” Delaney chose an electric blue blouse to go with her black skirt. She fluffed her hair out of the collar and added small earrings to finish the look. While she put a minimal amount of makeup on, she watched her lover's reflection in the mirror. “Gib?”
Gib looked up from her boots. “Hmm?”
“Are you all right? You seem kind of quiet.”
“I'm fine. Just being stupid.” Gib stood and joined Delaney at the dressing table. “You look beautiful.”
Delaney turned to find herself in Gib's arms. “Thank you. Did you know that you're one of the few people who tell me that, whom I believe?”
“Yeah. Usually when someone would say something like that, it was always a precursor to getting me into bed with them.” As Gib's arms tightened around her, Delaney snuggled closer. “But with you, I know it's not like that.”
Gib kissed the side of Delaney's head. “As much as I enjoy our time in bed, I enjoy just being with you, like this, more.”
“Definitely. I'm enjoying learning all about you. And to me, this intimacy is much more important than just sex.” Gib paused. “Not that the sex hasn't been amazing, but—”
Delaney laughed and squeezed the breath out of Gib. “I know exactly what you mean.” She sighed and released her stranglehold. “Come on, officer. This isn't getting either of us to work.”
“I know.” Gib lowered her face and kissed Delaney, pouring all her love into the connection. When they finally broke apart, she felt her lover's finger on her lips. “Got me again, did you?”
“Uh-huh. Although I think it's a good shade for you.” Delaney squealed when Gib started tickling her. “No fair!”
“All's fair in love and horseshoes,” Gib stated, as she stalked her prey across the bedroom. “Come here.”
“Oh, no. You're not going to get me, this time.” Delaney took off out of the bedroom, with Gib close on her heels. They ended up in the kitchen, where the redhead took the sprayer from the sink and aimed it at her lover. “Not another step, officer.”
Gib stopped a few feet away. “You wouldn't dare.” At the grin from her lover, she held out her hands. “ Dee , you wouldn't want to make me late for work, would you?”
“Only if you're foolish enough to come closer.” Delaney held the sprayer in front of her like a gun. “Don't do it.”
Gib took a step. She sputtered as her face was hit with a blast of cold water. “Aarrgghh!” She rushed Delaney and flipped the screaming redhead over her shoulder.
“My clothes!” Delaney whined, ineffectually kicking her feet.
“I can't believe you sprayed me.” Gib carried her prisoner into the living room and dumped her onto the sofa. She leaned over Delaney, water dripping from her hair onto the redhead's face. “Now you will pay!”
Delaney's giggles quickly turned into moans, as their wet clothes were peeled away.
They were both late for work that morning.
To be continued in Part Nine
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