For disclaimers see part one.

Note: It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, for which I’m sorry. RL can be a bit irritating sometimes. Thanks to everyone who’s emailed, encouraging me. You know who you are!

Feedback:  Please, don’t hold back. Good, bad or indifferent, I would like to hear your views. After all, it’s all about the readers.

Chapter 6

June 2005

Taylor guided Chris back inside the house, settling her on the couch.

“Have you eaten yet?” A quick shake of the head was her answer, and she sighed as she contemplated her fridge. She had boasted that she could back up any offers on juice, but there wasn’t much food wise. Everyone loves pizza. She decided, and placed a quick order for delivery. She went back into the living room, and found Chris curled up watching the tv. “Pizza’s on it’s way. It’ll be about half an hour. I hope that’s okay with you.” She hoped it was. Chris smiled as Taylor sat at the other end of the couch.

“That’s great, thanks.” She said shyly. “I’m sorry about earlier.”

“Don’t be.” Taylor said simply, meaning it. Chris shook her head.

“Right. I’m sure when you invited me over for coffee you expected me to go mad when I was here.” Taylor laughed.

“Well, you certainly know how to keep things interesting, I’ll give you that.” Chris grimaced.

“Sorry.” She muttered, looking away. Taylor touched her foot to get her attention.

“Chris, it’s okay. Stop apologising.” Chris looked over at her, as Taylor tried to show her sincerity. “That’s what friends are for. To be available for all planned and unplanned spaz moments, right?” Taylor was pleased when her comment drew a grin from Chris. “Well, I’m glad we got that settled. Now, unless you have plans, I suggest we have dinner, and talk. About anything you want to.” She said hurriedly, seeing the panic in Chris’s eyes when she mentioned talking.

“I’d like that.” Chris said. “And I believe I promised to tell you more about your new home. Still want to do that?” Taylor smiled.

“Sure.” Chris enthusiastically launched into a history of Dunston while they waited for the food to arrive. Once it turned up the conversation died off as they occupied themselves with the serious business of eating. Taylor pulled out a bottle of wine to go with the pizza, pouring them both a glass and leaving the bottle close to hand for top-ups. Since Chris hadn’t eaten anything all day, feeling far to queasy to eat until now, she quickly devoured over half off the pizza, as Taylor watched in astonishment.

“Next time remind me to order a larger pizza.” She said as Chris finished off the last slice. She looked around for more food, pouting when Taylor told her that was the last of it. “Although I’m sure I can fix you something if you’re still hungry.” Chris laughed at her.

“No thanks, I’m good. If I eat any more I’ll burst. Although a larger pizza is recommended for future reference.” She teased. They sat back in comfortable silence, watching the news and enjoying a cigarette as dinner digested.

“So are you okay now?” Taylor asked as the adverts came on.

“Yeah.” Chris said, not sounding fine at all. Taylor snorted.

“Sell it to someone who’s buying.” Chris shot her a glare, which Taylor promptly ignored. “Look, I don’t have any answers about what you should do. But I have been told in the past that I am a very good listener if you want to talk. And I have nice broad shoulders available for crying on anytime, day or night.” Chris smiled, although it didn’t reach her eyes.

“Thanks for the offer, but…” she trailed off, head down.

“Yeah.” Taylor breathed out, having expected her words. A glance at the clock revealed that it was almost midnight. “Look, it’s late and we’ve both got work tomorrow. Would you like to stay here tonight?” Chris glanced at her watch in surprise.

“God, I had no idea how late it was.” When she didn’t say anything else, Taylor pulled out the big guns to encourage her to stay. She was enjoying the company, and didn’t want it to end quite yet.

“I’ll throw in breakfast.” She tempted, rewarded when Chris suddenly agreed.

“Well, if I get breakfast, then sure.” She drawled, smiling sexily. Taylor’s breath caught in her throat, blues eyes locked in a graze with green. God, what a smile. After a few moments, she managed to look away, taking a sip of her wine, finding her mouth suddenly dry.

“”Great. Do you want something to sleep in?” she asked, standing up and stretching. Chris nodded. “Alright. Let me go set you up with some linens and sweats.” Upstairs she grabbed a fresh set of sheets and made up the spare bed. A set of sweats got tossed on top. She changed into her own sleepwear, some boxers and a baggy t-shirt and headed back downstairs. She found Chris flicking idly through the channels.

“Rooms all set up.” she said, settling next to her on the couch. “Anything interesting on tv?” she asked, sipping her wine. Chris just sighed, finally settling on a sports channel with the sound down low. Taylor glanced over at Chris, who was staring morosely into space. She leaned closer and nudged her. “You okay?” Instead of answering Chris just leaned into her. In reflex Taylor wrapped an arm around her shoulders, holding her close. It felt right to hold her close.

“Jus’ thinking.” Chris murmured, snuggling in. Taylor relaxed, offering her silent comfort. Two sets of eyes closed, and neither noticed when the other fell asleep.

“Ow.” Chris groaned, and tried really hard not to move. Pain radiated down from her neck, which had acquired the crick from hell overnight. After staying still for a minute she realised that she would have to move, and begrudgingly opened an eye. Since when do I fall asleep on the couch with the tv on? she wondered, before her slowly waking mind provided the answer. Since you fall asleep cuddling someone you barely know. She froze, not even breathing, before she risked a glance at her pillow. Eyes closed, breathing even. Still asleep. She closed her eyes in relief, only to have them pop open again. She looked around for a clock, finding one on the wall above the tv. Still early. Her pillow moved, and she eased away.

Taylor groaned before opening her eyes. Chris smiled at the adorable sight of Taylor looking around with half open eyes, blinking sleepily. Finally the wandering gaze settled on her. “Guess we fell asleep on the coach last night, huh.” Taylor just grunted, moving her head around gingerly. Apparently she wasn’t the only one with a sore neck. Chris dragged herself up from the couch. “I’ll put a pot of coffee on.” She assumed the grunt was one of agreement and glanced behind her to smile, only to see Taylor leaning over, one hand on her leg, apparently in pain. It stopped her in her tracks. “Are you okay?” she asked, belatedly remembering about the knee injury that had forced Taylor to retire.

“I’m fine. Little stiff.” Taylor lifted her head and looked at Chris, a tight smile on her face. “Hot shower, painkillers and a brace later, I’ll be just fine.” Before Chris could say anything the proud woman got up and limped out of the living room. Chris stared after her, then decided on discretion. She headed into the kitchen, then stopped, looking around.

“If I were coffee, where would I live?”

Taylor made her way downstairs, distracted from her bad mood by the smells coming from the kitchen. Coffee, eggs and bacon if she wasn’t mistaken. When did I buy bacon? she wondered, before entering the kitchen. Chris was at the counter, arranging something on plates, her back to the room. Taylor took a moment to admire the sleep rumpled form, before Chris turned around, bringing two plates to the breakfast bar. She transferred her attention to the plates.

“Wow. I didn’t even know I had bacon. This looks great.” She sipped the coffee next to her, and tucked into the plate with gusto. Breakfast passed in silence, as they both concentrated on the food in front of them. Taylor had finished and was sipping her coffee when something occurred to her. “Wasn’t I supposed to be cooking breakfast?” she asked. Chris shrugged, cradling her own cup to her chest.

“You can get it next time.” Next time. Taylor rolled the words around in her head, liking the way they sounded. She smiled.

“Okay.” She glanced at the clock. A while yet before she started, but.. “What time do you start work?” she asked. Chris glanced at the clock.

“In an hour. Okay if I grab a shower?”

“Sure, there’s a towel on the bed you didn’t need.” Chris nodded, and left the room. Taylor puttered about, tidying up the dishes and pans, quickly washing up the breakfast dishes. She paused, and looked out over her garden. “Next time.” She smiled. It sounded good to her.

By the time Chris came back down, wearing a borrowed shirt that Taylor had put out for her, it was twenty to nine, and they both had to get to work. They walked out of the house together, stopping at Taylor’s truck.

“I had a good time last night.” Taylor commented, not quite ready to leave yet. Chris smiled up at her.

“Yeah, me too. We’ll have to do it again some time. Perhaps less emotional meltdown…” she trailed off uncertainly. Taylor chuckled.

“That wasn’t a proper meltdown. More a ‘mini meltdown’. A hint of things to come. Trust me; it takes a lot more than that to scare me off.” Taylor said lightly, trying to ease Chris’s embarrassment. Chris smiled gratefully.

“Oh I forgot. Big hard police officer, right?”

“Darn tootin’. I’ve seen things that would make your toes curl.” she said soberly. “So don’t worry about it, okay.” Chris nodded, sensing how serious Taylor was. As much as she wanted to continue chatting, they both had jobs to do. “Well, guess we both have to get to work.”

“Yeah, I’ll call you later.” Chris started walking towards her bike, pulling her helmet on. Taylor took a moment to admire the view, before getting into her own truck. She was smiling as she started the engine.

Chris pulled up to the garage, and went through her normal routine. When she found herself starting the paperwork she paused. This is Blues job. After debating with herself, she just carried on. She had set it up this way, and it wouldn’t be fair to wake up one morning and change the rules on everyone. Even if the rules changed on me, she grumbled to herself mentally. Since her outburst the night before at Taylor’s, she thought about it constantly. There had to be a way for her to get recognition for her skills without anyone getting hurt in the process. She was so deep in thought that she didn’t hear or see Blue approach.

“MORNIN’ LITTLE BIT!” She practically levitated off the bench as he bellowed in her ear, banging her knees on the table so hard it shook, spilling some of her coffee. Hand on heart, which was pumping wildly, she glared at him as he sat down, chuckling.

“Jesus Christ. You tryin’ to kill me or something? That just took ten years off my life.” He ignored her outburst, grinning broadly at her.

“Jus’ saying howdy.” he protested innocently. “Not my fault you were in your own little world.” She continued to glare at him, but he just grinned unrepentantly at her, and she gave up. “So what were you thinking about so hard?” Chris abruptly stood, grabbing her now empty mug.

“Nuthin’. I’m gonna get started on the orders for this week.” She stalked inside to hide in the back office and bury herself in paperwork. Sat at the desk she realised that she was acting like an ass, but couldn’t quite bring herself to apologise for her behaviour. Daddy would kick my ass if he knew how I was behaving, she thought to herself, wryly acknowledging the fact that she was only getting away with it because somewhere down the line, he’d stopped noticing her at all. Mid-morning she took a break, and decided to soothe some ruffled feathers. Bringing two fresh cups of coffee with her, she grabbed Blue’s attention by kicking the trolley he lying on. A muffled thump and less muffled curse caused her to grin. “Come on old man, time for you to take a break.” Without looking to see if he was following, she made her way to the picnic bench, setting the cups down and emptying the ashtray. By the time he had joined her there was a cigarette next to his coffee cup, and a sheepish grin on her face. “Sorry ‘bout startling ya.”

Blue snorted. “No you’re not. But I figure it makes us even for this morning.”

“Yeah, about that. Didn’t mean to bite your head off.” Blue shrugged.

“S’okay.” Chris couldn’t keep his intent gaze, dropping her eyes to study the tabletop. I really should get around to varnishing it again. Starting to look a little worn around the edges. Across from her Blue sighed. “Whenever you wanna talk about whatever it is bothering you little bit, you know where to find me.” Chris closed her eyes. How did things get so weird, so fast? On Monday, things were fine. Its only Thursday for crying out loud! She shot a hand out to grab his, preventing him from getting up.

“It’s nothing bad Ben, I promise.” she said earnestly. “I found something out the other day, and I have to figure out how to deal with it on my own.” He frowned worriedly.

“You’re not sick or anything are you?”

“God no, nothing like that.” She hastily reassured him. She scowled. “I’m making a real pig’s ear out of this, aren’t I?” She blew out a frustrated breath. “Look, I’m not dying or anything like that. It’s just….” she trailed off, not sure how to explain. Blue took pity on her and patted her hand awkwardly.

“It’s okay hun. Whenever you’re ready, I’ll be here. ‘Till, then, just take care of yourself.” Looking uncomfortable with the conversation, he got up. Squeezing her shoulder in a gesture of comfort, he went back to work. She watched him go, emotions in turmoil. For years, he had been her go to man, the one guy she could always count on to steer her straight at work. Now it slowly starting to appear as if the solid truths that she had built her life on for the last fifteen years had been a sham. Closing her eyes to stave off tears, Chris did what she did best. She buried her real feelings deep inside, fixed her confidant mask in place, and went back to work.

Taylor puttered around the shop, straightening up shelves, returning errant books to their proper places, and listening with half an ear to her boss.

“I swear that kid will be the death of me. He phoned up at the weekend, to tell me he was in Colorado. Colorado! Last time we spoke he was working in a lawyer’s office in Boston, and all of a sudden he’s in Colorado, unemployed, and living with Patty, whoever that is.” Taylor smiled as Marion grumped about her son, a wayward soul if there ever was one.

“Did he say what he was doing in Colorado?” she asked, glancing over her shoulder to look at her. Marion was sitting at the till scowling.

“Of course not. Why would he need to tell me, his mother, anything like that?” Marion shook her head, still annoyed. “Girl, I hope you never treated you’re parents the way he treats Me.” she said, looking pointedly at her assistant. Taylor turned back around to face the books. Unfortunately, she had treated her parents, her whole family that way, and worse.

“I don’t speak with them anymore.” she admitted in a low voice. She still hurt inside about the way they had split.

“Why not?” Marion asked softly.

“We had a disagreement on the direction my life was taking.” Taylor said simply. She remembered the last time she had spoken with anyone in her family.

What the hell do you mean youre quitting the force? Taylor sat opposite the couch, looking into her fathers bewildered eyes. Why? She didnt answer him, and she could see the wheels starting to turn in his head. His eyes suddenly narrowed as he came to some sort of conclusion. Its true isnt it? Youre on the take. he accused.

Of course its not true. How can you even ask that? Taylor felt a little angry that he thought so little of her, but couldnt really be surprised that he assumed the rumours were true. They had been around for months now, getting worse every day. That she was taking bribes from dealers to keep them out of jail, or even dealing the drugs herself. Despite her best efforts, Taylor had been unable to find the source of them. Going into work was no longer the pleasure it had been, as friends and co-workers who used to be close friends, now treated her with suspicion and outright disdain. It was just a matter of time before the taunts and threats got physical.

Then why are you leaving? Her dad got up off the couch and stood in front of her, towering over her. If the rumours arent true, why are you running away? he yelled at her, going red in the face. His sudden anger took Taylor by surprise, and she tried not to show how afraid she was.

Im not running away. she lied, looking away and fixing her gaze on the floor. Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she continued to share her news. Ive been offered another job, and Ive accepted. I start in two months. She had put off having to tell her father that she was leaving the job, and the town, sure that his reaction was going to be bad.

Where? She blinked, her train of thought derailed by the simple question. Her father had sunk back down to the couch, colour more normal. He seemed resigned to the situation.

Germany. she admitted in a small voice, cringing slightly. Im going to work for Peter in Munich. This was the biggest risk, telling him that she was going to work for a man he had hated since his youth. Angry eyes locked on her, and this time his rage was white hot. He exploded off the couch, and she stood just in time to be punched hard enough to drive her to the ground. She laid on the floor, dazed, ears ringing.

You dirty coward. If you think Im going to let you skip town and leave us to clean up your messes, youve got another think coming. he hissed, grabbing her by the front of her shirt. He hauled her up and started dragging her to the front door.

Dan! Tay! What the hell is going on? Taylor glanced over to see her mother standing in the doorway, wringing her hands nervously. If the grip her Dad had on her had allowed her to breathe, she might have answered her. She tried to speak, but could only choke instead. Her father had reached the front door and flung it open. He glanced over his shoulder at his wife.

Im throwing out the trash. The next thing Taylor knew, she was lying at the bottom of the steps, with a bad headache and blood in her mouth. She looked up at the man who was once her hero, and saw a stranger in his place. You are no longer welcome in this house. He said firmly, shutting the door on her. Taylor just groaned, and closed her eyes. How did it go so wrong? It started to rain.

Taylor rubbed the side her face, almost able to feel the sting of the blow, all these years later.

“Well, I hope your son is happy in Colorado. Nice weather this time of year.” She commented absently.

Marion snorted. “Darn sight better than here, that’s for sure. Summertime in Dunston is not for the faint-hearted.” A pointed look at Taylor, who shrugged.

“I spent three weeks in Chile during a heat-wave. I got through that without melting into a puddle, so…”

“Oooh.” Marion breathed eyes excited. “What were you doing there?” Taylor cast her mind back, remembering the job, where it was, who it was for. Drawing all the details forward she smiled unconsciously.

“I was installing a security system for a customer at his home. A pretty simple job, and to be honest, the only reason I took it was the chance to go to Chile. It turned out to be one of my more exciting business trips.”

“How so?” Marion was fully involved in the story now; resting her chin in one propped up hand, their work forgotten.  

“The client was an honest to god drug baron.” Taylor said, laughing at the shocked expression on Marion’s face. “He had a mansion for a house, guards armed with sub-machine guns, government agents sniffing around. I spent three weeks looking over my shoulder, waiting for something bad to happen. I remember one morning, about twelve days in; the whole house was woken up early when-”

They were interrupted when the door opened, ringing the little bell that hung over it, and a customer entered, bringing with her a blast of heat and the sudden, shocking sound of the traffic outside. The three of them stared at each other, frozen in place, until the door swung shut. The bell ringing again brought Taylor to her senses, and she stepped forward, a professional smile on her face.

“Hi. Can I help you with anything today?”

“Uh, no thanks, just browsing. The young woman, barely more than a girl, said, a little uncertainly. Taylor smiled as reassuringly as she could, trying to put her at ease.

“Okay. If you do need anything, just holler.” Leaving her to her own devices, Taylor puttered around a little, before glancing at Marion and pointing to her watch when she was sure she had her attention.

“Back in five.” she mouthed at her, indicating that she was stepping out back. Marion mock scowled, but magnanimously waved her away, allowing her to indulge in her ‘dirty, stinkin’, anti-social little habit’. Once out behind the store, in the loading bay shared with the shops around them, she sat on a handy crate, looking up at the cloudless sky. Despite her attempt at changing the subject inside, no matter how successful it had been, the pain of remembering that final, fateful conversation with her father still lingered. The brutality he had displayed still shocked her. She exhaled slowly, and tried to put it out of her mind. Her grandfather’s wisdom, shared with her during one of her many holidays at his farm, came to her now. You got eyes in the front of your head for a reason. Thats because you gotta face life full on, always looking forward. Dont spend it looking back wondering on the things you coulda done, or shoulda done. Life lived like that, aint really a life. “Thanks granddad. You always know just what to say.” she whispered.

The rest of the day passed quickly, as there was a steady stream of visitors to the shop. By the time she got home Taylor was more than ready to chill out. She entered the house, dropping her jacket on the couch and wandering through to the kitchen to make some coffee. Seeing the breakfast dishes on the draining board brought a smile to her face, and she held the cup that Chris had used, enjoying the feeling of contentment it brought her. For reasons she wasn’t ready to admit to yet, she left it out on the side, although she didn’t use it.

Once the coffee was made she sat in the living room with her feet up. She still felt restless. “Damn.” She scowled, and put the TV on. Even the droning in the background didn’t help. “Over a hundred channels, and still nothing worth watching.” she complained bitterly, barely resisting the urge to throw the remote at the TV. She slumped back on the couch, decidedly out-of-sorts. Glancing at the clock, she saw it still early. I wonder if Chris is home? She picked up the phone to call her and find out, but paused mid-dial. They had spent a wonderful night together, and the morning had been fun, true; but Chris hadn’t given any indication that she wanted her to call. Taylor frowned. Would it be too needy or clingy to call her? After all, nothing much had happened today that was worth sharing, and Chris had said she’d call her. The doubt and uncertainty made Taylor  put the phone back down, and she stared morosely at the TV, not seeing the screen.

“Bugger it.” Sitting alone feeling sorry for herself was not her idea of fun. Switching the TV off, she grabbed her jacket and keys, and headed out.

The bar was quiet when Taylor pulled up. Only a few cars were in the lot, and she smiled when she recognised one of them. Thought it would be a little busier on a Thursday, she mused, glancing at her watch. It is early yet. Maybe itll pick up in a little while. She entered The Commercial Arms, and weaved through the mostly empty tables to the bar. She sat at the end, towards the back, and waited for Brad to serve her. With her back to the room, Taylor indulged a life-long habit, and studied the rest of the patrons. A group of young student types clustered near the jukebox and quiz machine, pumping money into both, and laughing a lot with each other. Frowning, she tried to remember a time when she felt that young and carefree. I was already in police training when I was their age, she mused, and I had to live up to the family reputation as well prove a woman could do the job as well as a man. Sighing, she realised that she had never felt able to relax and enjoy life just as it was.

“So is it a beer or coffee night?” Brad’s voice cut into her musings, and she mustered up a smile for him.

“Beer.” she stated emphatically. “Definitely a beer night.” He raised an eyebrow in query, but set a sweating bottle of lager in front of her.

“Bad day?”

“Eh.” She shrugged. “Something like that.” To cut off further conversation she took a long pull on the beer, wincing a little when it was colder than she expected. She felt Brad’s eyes on her, and glared at him. Irrationally, she was angry, and had to chew on her lip to keep from lashing out. She closed her eyes, and counted slowly to ten. You arent angry at him, youre angry at Dad. Let it go. She opened her eyes, and stared at her beer. Brad decided that discretion was the better part of honour, and drifted back down the bar after placing another beer in front of her. She took her time drinking after the initial gulp, brooding over the day. She wasn’t even all that angry at her Dad. The years had dulled the pain of betrayal and rejection to a manageable level. Taylor had to admit that the situation with Chris had left her unsettled. Not knowing where she stood, or what to do did not sit well with the normal iron clad control that she preferred over her life.

Taylor let herself wallow in her bad mood for one bottle. When she started on the second, she forced her feelings inside, and gave Brad the first genuine smile of the night. He immediately came over, an answering smile on his own face.

“Now that’s what I like to see! A happy customer.”

“Yeah. I was feeling grumpy earlier.” He gave her a look clearly saying ‘no, really?’. She shrugged in response.

“Want to talk about it?” He offered, tossing her empty in the bin. She had to laugh.

“Hell no. That’s why I came here.”

“Fair ‘nough.” He walked away again to serve his customers, leaving her to people watch by herself. Nursing her beer and concentrating on the pool tables, she was surprised when someone took the seat next to her. Taylor glanced over, noting one of the students smiling at her.

“Hi.” Taylor just grunted in response, not wanting to talk to someone young enough to be her daughter. When did I get old? The peppy brunette beside her obviously wasn’t getting the hint. “How you doing? Can I get you a drink?”

“No thank you, I’m fine.” Taylor tried not to sound too irritated, and succeeded better than she intended as the one-sided conversation continued.

“I saw you sitting here by yourself, and thought you might like a little company.” The brunette leaned on the bar, edging closer. Taylor sighed. Subtle wasn’t working. She pinned the woman with a glare.

“Listen kid, I was enjoying myself until two minutes ago. I appreciate the offer, but I prefer to be alone. Go back to your friends.” She turned back to her beer, tuning out the woman beside her. After she had moved back down the bar, Brad approached, putting a fresh bottle in front of her. She eyed it suspiciously.

“Chill Stretch. This one’s going on your tab like the others.”

“Thanks.” Brad leaned in, ostensibly wiping the bar.

“She walked away as red as a tomato. What on earth did you say to her?” Taylor checked that the area was clear before replying.

“I just told her I was happy to be alone.” Brad glanced behind her, studying something critically.

“Why? She’s friendly, good looking, blatantly not shy,” he paused and looked at her, “and I bet she’s a tiger in the sack.”

“I’m not interested Brad. We’ve been over this before.” She looked at her would-be companion, and shook her head. “I’m old enough to be her mother. Cradle-snatching has never been my idea of a good time.”

“Some people would disagree with you on that point.” Brad pointed out.

“I’m sure they would. But that’s not going to change my mind.” Taylor said firmly. Brad just shook his head, but left her to finish her drink in peace.

Chris entered her apartment, and dropped onto the couch in a sweaty mess. After a tense day at work, she had decided that running was the best therapy. Now she was regretting that decision. Sweat was still pouring off her, and she knew that she was going to regret the punishing six mile run in summer heat. The pounding in her head had been replaced by lead weights in her arms and legs.

“Ugh.” Ill be lucky if I can get out of bed tomorrow. The phone started ringing, and Chris groaned. “Go away.” she yelled at it. The phone didn’t oblige, but it quickly went to the machine. She listened to her outgoing message, then the beep.

“Chris? It’s your mother dear. I just wanted to ask if your young David had any meals he particularly enjoys? Your father is so looking forward to meeting him, and I thought if I prepared him something special the evening would go better. Sigh. Anyway, please get in touch. Take care dear.” The machine beeped twice, letting Chris know that the caller had hung up, but she didn’t hear it.

“Oh god. I’ve died and gone to hell.” How the hell am  I gonna convince David to go along with this? She glanced at her watch, and saw that it wasn’t too late yet. If I hurry, hell still be there. David and Paul were regulars at the bar, and if she managed to find the energy to pull herself off the couch, she might catch them before they went home. She made her way to the shower, wondering how, and if, she could persuade him to go along with her plan. “I could appeal to his sympathetic side…nah, he hasn’t got one of those. Oh well. Guess I’ll just have to ply him with vodka like normal.”

By the time she pulled up to the bar on her bike she had changed her plan half a dozen times, and she was regretting the whole situation. Carrying her helmet in with her, she entered the bar and immediately headed to the booths that lined the far wall. She smiled as she heard David before she saw either of them. As she got closer it was obvious he was holding court again, and she was surprised to see Taylor sitting with them. She smiled reflexively, and slid into the seat next to her.

“Hi guys, Taylor.” she nodded at Taylor, who grinned back at her. Chris placed her helmet on the bench next to the guys and leaned back.

“Chris, darling, it’s good to see you.” She smiled at David’s exuberant greeting, and Paul’s simple nod. Taylor stood as she sat down.

“Do you want a drink?” Chris swooned in answer.

“God yes. Anything so long as it’s cold and there’s a lot of it.” she exclaimed, holding her throat. “I’m parched.” Taylor’s cheeky smile made her want to call her words back, but she was gone before Chris could say anything. “I’m gonna get something weird now, aren’t I?” she asked the men, who laughed at her.

“Probably.” David was quick to agree with a laugh. “So how are you doing? Haven’t seen you in here during the week for a while.”

“Well, kind of a funny story actually…”she trailed off, and checked to see that she had both men’s attention. “I need to ask you a small favour.” she said, emphasising the small to David.

“Anything, you know that. What is it?” Chris looked down at the table briefly, swallowing any hint of pride she might once have possessed.

“How would you like a nice home cooked meal at my mothers house on Tuesday?” He looked understandably confused at the question, so she turned on the charm. “You know that she’s a wonderful cook, and I’m sure she’d like to show you her latest paintings. I know you’re a fan, and I’ve seen one she’s just finished; it’s a beauty.” David still looked lost, but comprehension seemed to be dawning on Paul’s face. “You’d lend him to me for a couple of hours, wouldn’t you? I promise I won’t compromise his honour.” she teased. Paul chuckled, and David gave them both stern looks.

“What are you both laughing at?” He exclaimed.

“Nothing Dave, nothing. So what do you say? Dinner on Tuesday?” His eyebrows drew together in thought as Chris held her breath. God, I hope we can settle this before Taylor gets back.

“What’s the catch?” David finally asked. Chris steeled her nerves, and took his hand.

“You’d be going as my boyfriend.”


“What?” Two exclamations clamoured for attention. David’s was loud and shocked. The one that came from behind her was more confused. Chris spun round, and saw Taylor staring at her, holding a glass of water and one of what looked like orange juice. “Boyfriend?” Chris winced. This was not going as planned. Before Chris could say anything Taylor handed her the glass of water, and placed the juice in front of her.

“I thought if you were that thirsty you would appreciate a glass of water before anything else.” she said weakly, sliding into her chair beside her. Chris drank the water, surprising herself by downing it.

“Yes, thanks.” She put the empty glass down. “That hit the spot.” An uncomfortable air hung over the table. Giving Taylor a glance out of the corner of her eye, she saw that she was avoiding eye contact with everyone, fiddling with her lighter. Chewing her lip nervously, Chris pressed on, her need for help over-riding her want of Taylor. “So how about it David? You in?” she asked, sipping her orange juice, which was surprisingly alcohol free.

“Well, normally I’d say yes, but why do you want me as your boyfriend?” David said eventually. Chris sighed, wondering if he was being deliberately obtuse.

“My mother is under the impression that I am dating someone called David, and if she doesn’t meet him soon, I’m afraid that her meddling will get worse than normal.” She could see the penny finally dropping for him, and let out the breath she had been holding.

“Well, sure. I think I can pull it off for a couple of hours.” He looked to Paul, who nodded his consent to the ruse. “We wouldn’t have to kiss or anything would we?” he asked worriedly. Chris winced, shaking her head firmly.

“Absolutely not. Hand holding and hugs is perfectly acceptable for my parent’s.” He looked relieved at her answer.

“Great. Great.” Taylor, who had been silent up until now, looked at Chris, who wished that she was able to discuss this with her in private.

“So, I take it you’re not out to your parent’s then?”


“But I thought that you had a good relationship with them?” Chris’s bad mood came back in full force at the questioning, and she replied in a sharper tone than normal.

“Yes, I do. And I’d like to keep it that way.” Taylor’s brow drew in confusion, a hint of regret in her eyes. She held her hands up in a conciliatory fashion.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just trying to understand.” Chris scowled, still feeling hurt at the judgment she had felt at Taylor’s questions.

“I’m not upset.” she snapped, although she was. “I just don’t need someone who doesn’t have relationship with her own parents judging mine.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she wished she could pull them back, but it was too late. She could see Taylor’s face fall, before she gave her a completely blank look. The warm blue eyes had been replaced by chips of ice.

“Fair enough.” Taylor made a show of looking at her watch, before standing. “Well it’s getting late and I have to go. I’m supposed to open up the shop tomorrow.” The guys muttered goodbye, and she was gone, swallowed up by the crowd before Chris could say anything to her. The guys gave her slightly incredulous looks, and she groaned, dropping her head onto the table with a thump.

“I am such an asshole.” she muttered into the wood. Her headache was back full force.

Continued in Part 7

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